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Thursday
Oct032013

Forgiveness Is a Personal Choice

Renee Fisher's book about forgiveness encourages us to look at forgiveness from many angles, but this focus is my personal favorite.

"The only person you have control over is yourself." Fisher writes. "The only attitude you can control is your own."

Sometimes that's tough. We hurt and wish we could make others understand. But the issue is, God wants to change our hearts.

Fisher continues . . .

We can’t control what other people do, how they act, or what they feel. We can only make choices for ourselves.

For instance, Paul knew his story was less than perfect.

Before his conversion, he persecuted Christians! But he didn’t let the sins of the past stop him from becoming a mighty Christ-follower. He received the title of apostle because he wasn’t afraid to truly let God transform him. He gave his weaknesses to God and became a new man. The former enemy of Christians became one of the most influential leaders of the early church.

For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me - and not without results (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, NLT).

When we beat ourselves over the head about our shortcomings, mistakes, and even what we assume to be failures, remember all those imperfect people who made it into the “Hall of Faith.” Remember those who have gone before us.

  • Peter denied Jesus three times.
  • Abraham slept with his servant.
  • Paul persecuted Christians.
  • Jonah ran away from God’s call.

You’ve made mistakes.

So have I.

But we can move forward.

Christ can transform you and me - just like He transformed Paul.

Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Don’t be a fool, caught forever in the trap of the same old mistakes.

You might be weak. You might be humble. But with the power of God within you, you can choose a new life.

Just look what happened to those Bible characters.

  • Peter became the rock on which Christ build his church.
  • Abraham became the father of many nations.
  • Paul became a great missionary and wrote many of the New Testament epistles.
  • Jonah went to Nineveh and helped save the city from destruction.

What’s the similarity between these men? They all had a choice, and they chose obedience.

Remember, the only person you have control over is yourself.

Sometimes God uses sin to force us to start over. Sometimes our sufferings have nothing to do with you and everything to do with others’ actions.

Ask God to help you forgive those around you who may have hurt you without realizing it. Ask God for the same measure of grace to use on yourself for being less than perfect.

God cares about you.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

God loves you because He created you and there is no one else like you.

Don’t waste his grace today.

Do you think it’s possible to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for your forgiveness back? Why or why not?

(Adapted from Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, © 2013 Harvest House Publishers.)

Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of four books including Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. Learn more about Renee at DevotionalDiva.com and ForgivingMe.com.     

Tuesday
Oct012013

How to Get Rid of a 'Little g' God

Paula Hendricks is an amazing young woman with a heart for God. She recently wrote the book Confessions of a Boy Crazy Girl, and one chapter in particular caught my attention.

In the midst of stressing to singles how a guy can be an idol, she wrote about “little g” gods in general that become idols, versus pursuing the “big G”—God Himself.

“I’m not the only one tempted to turn back to my idols,” Paula wrote. “Over and over in the Old Testament, God’s people crushed their idols only to remake them and go right back to them.”

Paula’s insights about idol-making make me question why I sometimes allow idols to linger,  unsmashed, in my own life.

She continues …

Turns out, crushing idols and turning to God isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience but a moment-by-moment journey. That’s why, nearly every morning, I pray Psalm 90:14: Satisfy [me] in the morning with your unfailing love, that [I] may rejoice and be glad all [my] days.

Thomas Chalmers was a pastor in nineteenth-century Scotland, and his sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” captured my heart immediately.

The gist of it is that you can’t talk yourself out of loving someone or something. Your emotions simply won’t cooperate. But you can find someone or something even more lovely to delight in.

I experienced this principle firsthand the month my doctor put me on a strict diet without sugar, bread, and lots of other yummy foods. It sounded like torture, pure and simple. I honestly didn’t know how I’d survive. I was certain I’d spend the entire month dreaming about and drooling over iced sugar cookies, Nerds, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

But an astonishing thing happened. I didn’t even miss my beloved sugar. You know why? Instead of snacking on raw broccoli all month (yuck!), I went to the health-food store, researched interesting recipes, and spent hours in the kitchen preparing unique dishes.

Was it a lot of work? You’d better believe it. But was it even tastier than processed, refined sugar? Absolutely.

That, my friend, is how you get rid of an idol—by investing your time in relishing something (or Someone!) better.

It’s what Psalm 34:8 tells us to do: Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man [and girl] who takes refuge in him!

As you pursue Christ with everything in you—as you put extra effort into tasting and seeing His goodness—you’ll find that your “little g” gods don’t appeal to you like they once did.

What can you start to do today to pursue Jesus with everything in you so that your “little g” gods start to lose their appeal?

Paula Hendricks graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in 2005 with a degree in Print Communication. Two weeks later, she began working at Revive Our Hearts, where she currently serves as Writing and Editorial Manager. Her first book is Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl. When Paula isn’t blogging, you’ll find her hanging out with people, indulging her insatiable curiosity by asking lots of questions.

 

Thursday
Sep262013

Is God Still Good When ...

Kathy Howard is a Bible study writer extraordinaire—I love her studies—but in this UPGRADE post, Kathy tackles a tough topic.

“I often hear other Christians say, “God is good!” she writes. “I heard it when the life of a sick child was spared. And when a biopsy returned benign. And when a job in jeopardy was saved. And when a rebellious teen turned back to God.

“But what about when the child dies or it comes back ‘cancer’ or the job is lost or the teenager never returns? Is God good then?” 

I’m so glad Kathy is addressing this. These are questions those who don’t know Christ like to throw up to Christians. “If your God is so good,” they say, “then why did He allow ….” 

Kathy continues … 

Yes. God is good all the time. The Bible says so. God cannot be good one moment and not the next. He cannot be good in one situation and not another. 

A Facebook post I read not long ago caused me to reflect on this truth. The FB friend wrote, “God is good!” And then she detailed all the recent positive happenings in her life as the proof. 

This really troubled me. See, we flawed humans tend to declare God’s goodness only when things turn out the way we hope they will. This implies that we believe God is good because our circumstances are easy. But what if our circumstances are hard? Does that mean God is not good? Or that He is good only to those who don’t have trouble and difficulty? 

Our circumstances do not dictate or define God’s goodness. God’s character dictates His goodness. God is good all the time. No matter the circumstances.

So what does this truth mean for us today? Here are a few truths from Scripture to help us develop a correct understanding of the goodness of God:

  • God’s will for our lives is good (Romans 12:2). Sometimes – in fact, often – His will includes trials and difficulty that He uses for our refinement.
  • In all things, in all circumstances, our good God is working for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  • The assurance of God’s goodness enables us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to declare in easy times and hard times, “God is good!”

How should these truths impact our daily lives? How should we upgrade the way we live and talk and relate to others? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Remember that God is good all the time. Not just when things are going the way we want them to.
  2. Thank Him for His goodness in every life situation.
  3. Be sensitive to those around you who are facing difficult and painful circumstances.
  4. Declare His goodness in every circumstance, particularly in the hard times.

Upgrading our attitudes about God’s goodness can change how we approach every circumstance of life and each person we encounter. God is good, all the time!

Let’s talk. Have you ever been guilty of declaring God’s goodness only in times of ease? Forgetting His goodness in times of difficulty? What are some things we can do to remind ourselves of His goodness in every situation?

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances of life. The author of five books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and a certificate in women’s ministry. She has been teaching the Bible for over 25 years and speaks regularly at women’s retreats and events. Find out about her books and speaking ministry and get discipleship tools and leader helps at her website: www.kathyhoward.org.

 

 

 

Tuesday
Sep242013

How to Inspire Your Daughter

Cindi McMenamin's books address topics for real women in the trenches of life. Her newest book will help moms of daughters.

"A mom starts out as the single most influential voice in her daughter's life," Cindi says, "Until the day her daughter might decide to look elsewhere for a role model."

As I watch my sons' wives raise their daughters, I'm glad to see how they are shaping these three young girls to love and serve God and people. Cindi has some ABC's for influencing daughters (and they work for sons too).

Cindi continues ...

Here are three ways that you can upgrade your influence in your daughter's life and be the one person she looks to, over anyone else, for advice, approval, encouragement and inspiration throughout her growing up years and beyond. 

A - Accept Her for Who She Is. You'd be surprised how many daughters believe they can never measure up to their moms' standards. Not feeling accepted by her mother was the most common wound I encountered as I interviewed young women to talk about their relationships with their moms.

Daughters need to know they are loved for who they are, not what they do.

In most cases where daughters didn't feel accepted, their moms were unaware their daughters saw them as critical and unsupportive. 

You can show acceptance to your daughter by supporting her dreams and ambitions even if they are different from yours. You can also show your love and support by understanding and accepting the ways she is different from you.

For example, you may be tidy and neat, she might not. You might have excelled academically, she might gravitate more toward the arts. Give her leeway to be herself and appreciate and affirm the ways she is unlike you, because those things make her unique.

B - Become Interested in Her World. Our girls will want to be around others who "get" them. We can better understand our daughters by asking them questions and listening to them or, better yet, listening to the music they are listening to.

Become involved in what she is interested in by being the driver (if she can't yet drive) or the greeter (who meets her at the door after she's spent a day or evening out), or the caller (who often asks how she's doing and what she's up to).

Be creative and find a way to take an interest in what she's interested in ... even if it is not something you would've liked when you were her age.

C - Cheer Her On, No Matter What. You and I, as moms, need to be doing all we can to build our daughters up, not tear them down. When I realized the power of encouraging words on my daughter, I began to use them more often when talking to her.  That caused her to listen more, rather than shrink away.

Through the years, I've found that Ephesians 4:29  is an excellent safeguard for how to talk to our daughters in a supportive way:

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Our daughters are hard-wired to want to please their mothers and make them proud. That's why it's important that we affirm their efforts, but also let them know that it's okay to not excel at everything.  Your daughter may still be struggling to figure out what it is she does well and what she wants to pursue in life.

Give her time. Allow her to fail. And be her cheerleader every step of the way. She will want you around if you praise her more than you point out what she's doing wrong.

Which of these steps will YOU focus on in order to upgrade your influence in your daughter's life?

GIVEAWAY: Make a comment today here (or on the Upgrade Facebook page) about how you influence your daughter, and your name will be entered into a drawing for Cindi's new book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter. Drawing: 9-30-13.

Cindi McMenamin is a national women's conference and retreat speaker and the author of a dozen books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), When a Woman inspires Her Husband, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, upon which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry, or to download her free article "Suggestions for Mother-Daughter Memory-Making" see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Photo in Text: Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Thursday
Sep192013

Getting Your Creative 'Mojo' Back

Melissa Mashburn's ministry is authentic, relevant, passionate and Kingdom-focused. In this and future posts, she will share how to do ministry from the heart and to the glory of God.

“Ministry is in a constant state of change,” Melissa says. “What worked yesterday may not work today and almost certainly will not work next year.”

That is so true. With the changes in culture, there are changes in ministry opportunities, and we need to prepare for them. More than ever, we need God-given creativity.

Melissa continues …

When change comes, and we know that it will, there are a few things you can do to stay current and fresh.

That isn’t always easy when you are neck deep in an overflowing email inbox, ministry demands, the responsibilities of your family, and—let’s face it, ministry isn’t a 9-5 job. It can be overwhelming at times, that’s for sure.

Here are few things that help me get my creative mojo back:

(1) Pray First

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33 NIV). 

If I leave it up to me and my own personal creativity, then I severely limit what God wants to do through ministry. By taking time to stop and pray before you do anything else, you allow God to take over.

(2) Change Your Location

  • Get Outside - Go to the park, sit on the back porch or go for a walk.
  • Go on One-day Getaways - Visit a coffee shop, go on a scenic drive or picnic in the park for a day.
  • Go on an Adventure for the Day - Go to a museaum or play, or be a tourist in your own city.

(3) Change Your Music

If you are like me, you always have some sort of noise going on around you, whether it is the kids, the boss, the husband or the ministry team. And let’s not forget the people in the coffee shop. I love all those people and all the noises that come along with them, but sometimes you need to do more than just changing your location. You might also need to change your music.

"Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and what, whence and whereto." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Change things up a bit by changing the music you are listening to. Some of my favorite Pandora stations are:

  • Epic Soundtracks,
  • John Coltrane,
  • Classical Music

(4) Surround Yourself with Creative People

There are creative people all around you. Ask one of them to meet with you over a cup of coffee. (Hint, if you ask them, then you should buy their coffee.) You aren’t going to copy them, because you aren’t them, but hearing their heart and what they are passionate about may help to ignite a new idea for your own ministry.

Getting your creative mojo back is a process.

Taking the time to figure out what works best for you is not always easy, but it’s worth it when you can step back and see God’s hand all over it.

What are some things you do to get your creative mojo back?  Which of the four things mentioned above might be something you are going to try?

Melissa Mashburn is a woman passionately pursing God by taking her everyday, ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him (Romans 12:1-2). With authenticity and a ministry about “Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith,” Melissa shows women their uniqueness and special calling. An author, speaker, Pastor’s Wife, and Kids & Women's ministry leader, Melissa is mom to two incredible teenage sons. She and her best friend Matt, married for 20 years, live and enjoy ministry in sunny South Florida. Visit MelissaMashburn.net

Photo Image in text: Ernest Hemmingway House, Key West, Florida at MelissaMashburn.net.