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Entries in Trust God (8)

Monday
Nov272017

Three Women Can Prepare Your 'Christmas Heart'

In this Christmas-season UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to re-read the Christmas story from a fresh perspective, through the stories of three women.

I’ve read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke over and over again, but what struck me this year was the three women God used in the story of our Messiah’s coming and childhood.

I received the examples of these women as a gift, and their stories can help you prepare your own “Christmas heart.” Allow the Spirit of God to cultivate a heart that respond to and worships the Lord with fresh wonder.

Here are the lessons I unwrapped from these godly ladies.

1. Elizabeth - Learning to Hope in God’s Promises (Luke 1:5-25, 36-80)

The cousin of Jesus’ mother, Elizabeth played an important role of encouragement. As the wife of a Jewish priest, Zechariah, she no doubt encouraged her husband in the ministry. They were both spiritually mature, called righteous and blameless before God and obedient to His commands. But the Jewish people were getting impatient for their Messiah to come.

The Bible says Elizabeth was barren, and when we are introduced to her she was “advanced in years”—past child-bearing age. Yet God was about to do a miracle! While Zechariah served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave them not only a pregnancy announcement, but a name for their soon-to-be son: John. The child would fulfill a special prophecy; John would be the “messenger” of God, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Zechariah doubted God’s messenger and the angel imposed a penalty for his unbelief; but at John’s birth, Zechariah showed he had grown in faith. Perhaps Elizabeth’s faith grew to a higher level too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, Mary heard the good news and went to visit her cousin. Mary—also pregnant at that time—experienced the wonder of her own child leaping in her womb as the cousins embraced; and old Elizabeth declared her joy about Mary’s pregnancy even before Mary mentioned it!  

Ever the hope-giver, Elizabeth encouraged young Mary for her own journey.

In due time, Elizabeth’s son grew to minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) and she indeed saw the wonder of God’s promise.

This Christmas, I want to help people see the wonder of God’s promises, fulfilled in John the Baptist and our Savior, Jesus!

2. Mary - Learning to Trust God with our Future (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52)

Young and likely still living with her parents, Mary is an example of a woman who surrendered to God’s will and trusted Him for her future. She is described as “highly favored” in scripture, meaning she fully received God’s grace; but she acknowledged her need for a Savior. An ordinary Jewish girl, God chose to use her in an extraordinary way.

She was engaged to, and later married, a carpenter named Joseph. As a virgin, she gave birth to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. She and Joseph had no sexual union until after the birth of Jesus. (They had other children later—Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters.)

Mary is an example to us of trusting God with our future, no matter how uncertain or painful.

She knew God would do a mighty work through her son, God’s “only-begotten” Son, the One who made possible the believer’s sure hope for eternal life.

Mary never received worship, adoration or prayers herself, but she pointed all glory to God alone (Luke 1:46-49).

This Christmas, I want to worship and adore the Lord, and remember my loving Father in heaven has all my tomorrows firmly in His hands.

3. Anna - Learning to Pray until the Answers Come (Luke 2:36-38)

There are only three verses in scripture about Anna, but they are rich in truth.

Like Miriam, Deborah and only a few other women in scripture, Anna was a prophetess. She was also an elder widow dedicated to the Lord. Scholars debate whether she was 84-years-old or 104 when she met Jesus.

Regardless of her age, she never left the temple after her husband’s death. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

God's people were waiting and waiting for the Promised One, the coming Messiah.

Anna prayerfully waited too. And her prayers of faith were richly rewarded.

Simeon was a fellow-servant in the temple (verses 22-35). Simeon set the stage for an important response by Anna. After he saw Jesus and said his eyes had seen God’s “salvation”—the one who would enlighten the Gentiles and bring glory to God’s people, Israel—Anna spoke up.

The Bible says she came to the place where Jesus was being dedicated in the temple that very moment and began to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Her prayers, all Israel’s prayers, had been answered. The Messiah had finally come!

This Christmas, I want to thank my Father God for the Messiah’s coming, and recognize Him afresh as the Promised One ... MY Promised Savior.

Join with me this Christmas:

  • Hope in God’s promises.
  • Trust God for your future.
  • Pray with confidence and expectancy.

And rejoice! The Redeemer has come!

Do you need hope, faith, a more expectant spirit? How can the example of these three godly women encourage your heart today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic of Mary and Elizabeth, a painting by Sebastiano Del Piombo.

 

Tuesday
Jan242017

3 Ways Worry Hurts Your Kids

Cindi McMenamin is a wise woman with a heart for women and families. In this Parenting UPGRADE, she asks us to examine how our worrying might not just be our own problem.

“It’s natural for a mom to worry that her children will be hurt," Cindi says, "but do you and I ever consider how we might be hurting our children by worrying about them?”

Whenever I (Dawn) see a mom in a worried state, I watch her children. It's so apparent how a mom's worries and fears affect little ones!

Cindi continues . . .

Take a look at what worry does to us, and ultimately, to our children:

1. Worry Stresses Us Out - Which Stresses Out Our Kids

Worry causes stress—and stress kills. Literally.

Stress not only impacts a woman's health, appearance, relationships, and overall quality of life, stress prematurely ages us. Worry is also linked to ulcers and other health problems.

So when you are worrying and stressed out, you are stressing out your children, as well.

By choosing not to worry, you are investing in your health, which is a gift to yourself and your family.

2. Worry Pushes Our Children Away.

One of the reasons children grow up and stop telling their parents what is going on in their lives is because they “don’t want mom to worry.”

When I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I asked daughters, ages 12-40, about their relationships with their moms. Through their answers, I discovered that most daughters, regardless of their ages, said their moms worried about them too much.

They knew mom cared for them, but it concerned them, and at times annoyed them, that their mothers worried so much.

By choosing not to worry, you are investing in your relationship with your children and keeping the channels of communication open with them, regardless of their ages.  

3. Worry Models Mistrust to Our Children.

Worry says to our children and others: "God can't work this out." Therefore, worry is the sin of having no confidence in God.

I know that you, like me, aren’t consciously thinking those words when you worry. But I also know you don’t want to display that type of mistrust to your children.

How we live will, to a great degree, impact how our children live. What we worry about, they will tend to worry about.

On the flip side of that, where we put our trust will greatly impact how they will choose to handle situations in life, too.

Even if they don't imitate your faith or degree of trust, they will know on Whom you rely (or don’t rely) and it speaks louder to them than any lecture. 

The choices we make—including whether we decide to worry or trust God—will no doubt influence our children's choices well into their adulthood.

We tend to think that how much we worry is an indication of how much we love our children. But it is actually an indication of how little we know God. Because the more we get to know God as the all-knowing, all-loving, Perfect Parent, the more easily we will trust Him with what is most important to us and experience peace, no matter what happens.

God gave us a formula in His Word to help us stop the worry:

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

The very next verse tells us how to stop the worrying, so we can experience that kind of peace that comes through praying about everything:

"… Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (verse 8).

There it is.

  • Think about what is true, not what “might happen.”
  • Focus on the facts of the situation, not your fears.
  • Think on God’s character—that which is honorable and pure and lovely and admirable—and what He can do, not the worst possible scenario.

As you focus on God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s ability to control all that you cannot, there is no room in your mind for fear or worry.

Trust God with your children. He can control all you think you must and all you are convinced you can’t. And He knows exactly what He’s doing in your child’s life – and yours.

What will you start doing today to stop worrying about your children and start trusting God with them?

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and popular author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter,  and her  newest book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of stocksnap.io.

Tuesday
Sep132016

Trusting the Trustworthy God

Rhonda Rhea is just plain funny. Until she's not (on purpose). Rhonda's spiritual depth always amazes me, like when she's sharing about the character of God and how we relate to Him, as in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

"Sometimes people agree with me without even thinking it through," Rhonda says. "Of course, let’s face it, that shouldn’t happen all that often. Still, when something happens only occasionally, it makes every occurrence that much sweeter."

Have you ever had anyone trust you that much? I (Dawn) have, and I can testify how sweet that is!

Rhonda continues . . .

When someone agrees before even fully knowing what I’ve said, it makes me feel like I’m sort of the “terms and conditions” of people. Oh, the power.

Basically I’m letting you all know that you can trust me. At least part of the time. I’ll be honest and tell you that you still wouldn’t want to leave me alone in a room with your nachos.

But other than that, trust.

The trustworthiness of a promise always depends on the nature of and the power held by the one making that promise.

Let’s get real, once someone adds a layer of melty cheese, if you trusted me, I would question your trust-judgment. But our God? The very essence of who He is in nature is flawlessness. The power He holds can’t be compared to anything or anyone else. He has it all.

Paul said in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (ESV). So Paul is talking to us as believers here when he says in the next sentence, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (vs. 23).

It makes sense to have faith in the One who is faithful.

It makes sense to trust in the One who is trustworthy. His record is clear. He has never failed to deliver on a promise. Never.

God’s Word is filled, cover to cover, with one blessed occurrence after another of promises kept.

We have His nature as the basis for our trust in Him. We have His power, knowing He is fully capable of carrying out His promises. And if that’s not enough—which it certainly is, but still—we have His love for us to top it all off.

You can trust the One who loves you without limits, without reserve. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).

Our Lord loved us all the way to the cross. His love is perfect. And that leads us to trust Him without the slightest apprehension. Our faith is well-placed. “But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Psalm 86:15, HCSB).

David wrote also in Psalm 143:8, “Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You” (HCSB).

Love leads to trust. And trust leads to love. That is perfect!

Anytime you encounter a challenge, difficulty, doubt or question, it changes how you see that struggle when you remember that Your Father is trustworthy. Not part of the time. All. In every room. He is perfect, He is powerful and He loves you with a lavish love.

Those are His terms. Those are His conditions. Oh, the power!

What encourages you to trust God the most: His nature, power or love? Can you thank Him today for being your trustworthy God?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. Her new book, Turtles in the Road—coauthored with her daughter Kaley (another UPGRADE blogger)—is releasing soon. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Thursday
Apr212016

Stop Pressuring Yourself!

Kathy Collard Miller writes to help women be wise and productive. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she helps us consider the "pressures" in our life from the perspective of God's Word.

“Why does life feel full of pressure?" she said. "There’s so much to do, so much to decide. People expect a lot and every situation seems potentially disastrous.”

Pressure. Stress. I (Dawn) have thought much about this lately, dealing with some personal stressful circumstances. I'm wondering if my thought-processes contribute to the struggle. Does Kathy have a word for me? And you?

Kathy continues . . .

The pressures of life can easily add up and feel overwhelming. Even when we’re seeking God, it’s not easy to replace pressure with peace and joy.

I remember seeing how I added lots of pressure to my life without realizing it. I thought I was following God, but in my cloudy thinking, I was contributing to the pressure.

Of course, there are many ideas for diminishing pressure but here are three ideas I’ve found helpful. I hope one or more help you.

1. Downsize!

My mom taught me, my sister and my brother how to clean our rooms every Saturday. And that included washing the sheets! After I had a family of my own, I still washed our sheets every week, even though I felt mounting pressure because of a husband who worked long hours, two toddlers and trying to serve the Lord.

One day I mentioned to my neighbor Pat about washing the sheets every week. Pat casually said, “Oh really? I wash ours every two weeks.”

Shocked, I replied, “You mean it’s ok to do that?”

I realized in that moment I was pressuring myself to do something that wasn’t needed. As I began to ask myself if there were other pressures I was putting on myself unnecessarily, I found others.

What can you eliminate or do less often that will relieve some pressure?

Jesus’ said to Martha when she was trying to make so many dishes for company: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41 ESV).

Of course we know He meant sitting at his feet like Mary, but maybe He also meant she could “downsize” the meal to include only one dish!

2. Re-read your journal.

Sometimes I’ll read my journal from a year ago or years ago.

I’m shocked to see that the things I worried about and felt pressured about weren’t really that important—in the end.

I wrote about what terrible things might happen if I didn’t do something just “right.” Or about the long range consequences if I made a mistake.

But without reading my journal, I wouldn’t be able to tell you now about those pressure-making circumstances. At the time, I felt pressured to pray exactly the right thing—as if I could know the future.

God worked things out often without me even knowing how to pray.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to lean on our own understanding. I think we can diminish pressure by not expecting ourselves to know exactly how to pray.

Yes, pray! But trust in God’s compassionate grace to know the right way to answer, even if it’s “no.”

3. Abide.

Lately, I’ve concentrated on living in the moment by following Jesus’ command to “abide”: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9 ESV).

For me, that has looked like being alert to God’s leading moment by moment and trusting His love can cover when I misunderstand.

It has meant believing:  

“God will give me enough time and energy to do what He wants me to do as I seek Him.”

If something doesn’t get done as I expected and I abided in Him, then that’s what He wanted to happen. I don’t have to feel pressured and beat myself up.

Which of those three insights could help you to resist pressuring yourself?

Kathy Collard Miller loves to help women trust God more through her 50 books and her speaking in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Kathy recently wrote Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today; and Choices of the Heart (Elk Lake Publishers). Visit Kathy's website/blog.

Graphic from Morguefile.

Thursday
Apr072016

The Nightmare of Lost Agendas

Cynthia Ruchti's prose is heart-healing, filled with hope. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to place our hope in God in one of the most practical areas of our lives—our schedules.

"I glared at my computer screen as if it had betrayed me," Cynthia said. "My calendar—ergo, my life—was gone!"

I (Dawn) shudder to think what that might feel like. I live by the calendar! Thankfully, there's some good advice here for people like me. And you?

Cynthia continues . . .

The calendar template showed when I clicked on the icon that nightmarish day. But all the spaces were blank.

I had no record of upcoming doctor and dentist appointments, no notations to remind me to send in a blog post before its due date, no scheduled radio interviews or contact information, no schedule of speaking events two years into the future, no record of events from the past, and NO HOPE of retrieving the information.

I checked the iPhone version and the iPad version, grasping at electronic straws.

     Nothing.

Panic remained off-stage for a while. There’s always a way to retrieve lost information, isn’t there? I’d invested in a hefty backup system.

Looked there.

     Nothing.

I contacted the company that sponsors the calendar.

     “Can’t help you, ma’am.”

I searched my files and piles of paper, thinking I might have printed off the next three months’ worth of calendar pages, at least.

     Nope.

That task—printing off the calendars—was on the To-do list on the now blank calendar.

All my agendas, lost. All opportunities, gone.

With a distressing number of phone calls and apologies to doctors’ offices and event planners, I could piece together bits of the missing information. But I couldn’t retrieve what I couldn’t remember was gone. It was on the calendar so I didn’t have to trust my brain and its sketchy recall abilities.

Days passed with no solution. I had no idea what I might have missed during those disturbingly empty days.

But I began to see what I could gain—a new perspective.

1. “My times are in His Hands” (Psalm 31:15 NIV).

They’re not the indentured servants of an online calendar.

 2. “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21 NLT).

I’d planned and planned and planned, wedging responsibilities between other responsibilities when I saw the slimmest opening. In a moment, my carefully constructed plans were gone. But God’s plans for me hadn’t and wouldn’t change.

3. “People plan their path, but the LORD secures their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 CEB).

I’d considered my calendar written in indelible ink. Instead, it was disappearing ink.

The only plans worthy of permanent ink status are God’s instructions to love, give, serve, and live according to His Spirit.

By a miracle of grace that I still can’t explain, the calendar notations reappeared days later. But not until I’d caught the significance of what it meant to lose my agendas in favor of the ones that mattered most. His.

The lesson was driven deeper when editing a book I’d written about a woman whose plans were upended by job loss and her voice silenced—blanked—by a collection of traumas. She was forced to face many of the same issues I stared at during the nightmare of my lost agendas.

That book—Song of Silence—just released.  

God misses no details.

Take a look at your calendar. Color-coded? Crammed with activity and responsibility?

  • What if all you’ve included were erased and all that remained were God’s directions for your days?
  • What would it look like then?
  • And what can you do to intentionally erase a few unnecessaries before He has to hit DELETE?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope, drawing from more than three decades writing and producing a 15-minute daily radio broadcast. She’s the award-winning author of 18 books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. To purchase Cynthia's newest book, Song of Silence, visit here, or to read about it: here. Check out Cynthia's website for information about her speaking ministry.

Graphic: "Computer Monitor," image courtesy of Teerapun at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.