Monday, September 16, 2013

Mini Devotional: Thoughts are Prayers

This has been on my mind a lot lately... I keep asking myself: Can your thoughts be considered prayers? There are times where, in my mind, I subconsciously ask God for certain things and realize later that in my own way I was praying. Then I started thinking: Does God take these random thoughts as prayers? You know, I believe he does! Psalm 139:2 says, "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar." If God knows your every thought, he knows that sometimes you send out prayers without physically speaking them out. In many scriptures in the bible, (Psalm 44:21, Luke 16:15, Acts 15:8) it talks about God knowing our hearts. Because God knows our hearts, he completely understands the intent behind our thoughts. Someone once told me that to pray to God, you have to physically speak it out, but I don't believe that is so. God does know our every thought and listens to what we have to say whether we speak it out, and just say it in our minds. Just know that God hears your prayers and takes every one of them into account! He does hear you! :) Take comfort and peace in that! :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Conflicted about Conflict

 If you're anything like me, timid, shy, slightly reserved... then I know how you would react to conflict. If you're anything like me, conflict is something you try to avoid because you are a tender spirit and don't want to be hurt, but also because you are just scared of conflict. Unfortunately, life does not hand us easy roads to walk down, and God never intended life to be easy. In fact, he allows us to go through trials so that we can come out stronger and better on the other side.

Most recently, I lost a dear friend of mine due to conflict... My mother and I have been mentors to her for years. She always asked us to hold her accountable if we saw her starting to go down a bad path. Well, my mother saw some questionable things on Facebook from my friend, so she questioned her about it, and used a little bit of tough love. However, you can be the nicest person in the world and say something as nicely as possible, and it still doesn't go over so well. That is why I don't like conflict. There's always that possibility of things going wrong, which makes it hard. That is why I am doing this devotional. I struggle with conflict, and can be a "peace at any cost" kind of person, which won't help others and definitely won't help me. Every time I confront someone, I cry, questioning if I did the right thing. So I prayed to God that he would help me find a balance... to not be too harsh, but not too gentle. Matthew 10:16 says, "...Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." So this devotional is about dealing with fears of conflict and how to go about dealing with conflict in the right way. 

Fear of Conflict
 Joshua 1:9- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If I haven't said, it before, I'll say it now: no one likes conflict. There are a great many things that can cause conflict, whether purposefully or by accident. However, God never intended for us to be scared of anything. People can be scared of spiders, heights, conflict, etc., but fear is still fear and it can be a crippling emotion to deal with. 2 Timothy 1:7 says: God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. I believe that fear of conflict comes from not realizing the authority that God gave us, and Satan would love nothing more than to make us cower in fear and ultimately, submit to that fear. When we submit to that fear, we give our authority over to Satan. As humans, we give Satan too much authority and glorification, and fail to realize that he is just a created being. As children of God, Satan has no authority over our lives, but he would certainly like us to think so! So just like in Joshua 1:9, know that the Lord is with you, and he will help you face your fear. He will always be with you and help you! 

How To Deal With Conflict and Hold Others Accountable In A Christ-like Manner
 First off, this is a perfect example of what NOT to do: Jonah 1:1-3 says: The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Now, there are many reasons people don't want to deal with conflict. Sometimes, out of our own desires to escape conflict, we don't see that God may have a purpose in it. Just imagine what might have happened if Jonah hadn't gone to Nineveh. Granted he was swallowed by a whale, but beyond that... What do you think would have happened to both the people of Nineveh and Jonah? God, in his infinite love, didn't want the people of Nineveh to perish. He wanted to give them a chance. However, God had a lesson for Jonah as well. It's important for us to trust God and understand that everything happens for a reason. Though we don't always like the situations that God puts us in or allows us to go through, there is a reason for it and it will be beneficial in the end. Granted, you do need to choose your battles wisely and not just come out, ready to strike at any little sign of conflict. Some things can be let go of... for example, don't go trying to speak nice to someone who is threatening to deck you. Pick your battles wisely, and have the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent.

James 1:19- Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; Sometimes, when faced with conflict, we don't know what to say, we say things the wrong way, or we say things that shouldn't be said at all.  The art of speech is a very difficult thing to master in everyday situations, but even harder to master when it comes to conflict. Proverbs 15:1 says: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. What you say in a conflict is of great importance. Matthew 12:37 says, "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." In other words, if your words are good and right, you won't have any problems, but if your words are bad and wrong, you automatically set yourself up for failure! When we speak to people, regardless of their reaction toward us, we should speak with gentleness, and love. Colossians 4:6 says: Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Galatians 6:1-2-  Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. God wants us to hold each other accountable for the things we do. We all makes mistakes and sin on a regular basis, so it isn't up to us to point fingers, but without someone to lovingly show us when we mess up, no one would be able to learn or grow from those messes. However, when going into a conversation that involves holding someone accountable, it has to be done carefully. Matthew 18:15-17 says, "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Titus was appointed the task of teaching the people of Crete how to teach each other and what must be taught. Titus 2:7-8, 11-15 says:  "In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us... For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you." When I wrote to my friend, the one I mentioned earlier, about how she was acting, not just in general, but towards my mother, I was sad because I didn't want to have to tell my friend that she wasn't behaving appropriately, but I knew that if I didn't say something, it would let her know that how she treated my mother was okay. Sometimes for the sake of others, we must step forward and say something so that they may learn from these things in the future. Like Titus says, we should set an example in everything we do, understanding that we help to shape each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." 

Conflict and holding others accountable are two things that are never easy to deal with, but it's best that we know what to do when we are faced with it. Understand that God has a reason for everything, including conflict, and know that he won't leave you alone in any situation! Just pray for God to guide you and you will do great! :)














 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Your REAL Worth and Why Satan Hates It!

I was watching an interview the other day with Shahrukh Khan and Anushka Sharma from a popular Bollywood movie, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. In the interview, Anushka asked Shahrukh if bits of who Shahrukh is comes through in his characters. This is what he said:

 "I am uncomfortable being Shahrukh Khan. I don't like being me. I like being someone else. People who are unhappy with themselves, I think they become actors... Every morning I wake up not wanting to be me. I look at people who are comfortable with themselves and think 'God what a wonderful life they have,' yet I have this desire to be someone else every moment of my life."

When I heard this, it made me really sad. It felt nice to know that I wasn't alone in how I had felt, especially since it was coming from a big name actor, yet it still made me sad. How insecure can one person be when they don't want to be themselves, when they don't like who they are? With me, it's a combination of many things: looks, aspects of my personality, hobbies and likes, etc. There were times that I would sit down in prayer and ask God, "God, help me to see myself through your eyes." I was only seeing through my eyes, and the eyes of the world. I couldn't see too much beauty in myself.

Now this devotional is just as much for me as anyone else, because I have to take this into consideration myself. I quickly figured out why we feel so insecure about ourselves. I read this quote from a fabulous book called Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, and it said, "The wounds you have received come to you for a purpose from the one who knows all you are meant to be and fears you." Wow! Though I know many people know that their insecurities are just lies from Satan, I don't think it really sinks in. I was listening to Kat Kerr and she was talking about some scripture from Ezekiel 28 which goes perfectly with this. Ezekiel 28:12-14 says, "You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones." Then in Ezekiel 28:17 it says, "Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor..." If you look at the world now, take a moment to think about what beauty means to the world. Women strive to attain the beauty of models found in magazines. Men strive to attain the muscular stature of men in the movies and on tv. Beauty standards have changed so much over the years, that they have literally become impossible to obtain. People have spent millions of dollars in the quest to obtain beauty and some have died. But even then, it's not all about physical beauty. Satan was also known for his wisdom. People have insecurities about their personality as well as their intelligence. It's easy to see that, based on this scripture, Satan knew all about beauty and it went to his head. So because he was cast out of Heaven for this, he sought revenge on the very creations that God so deeply loved: His children.

My dad always says to be on a regular basis, "If you ain't who you are, you are who you ain't." In other words, if you act like someone you're not, you eventually become that person, and it wasn't God's desire for you to dislike yourself so much that you would change who he created you to be. Genesis 3:10 says, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." That is how many people act today. They hide behind a fa├žade because they are afraid of being emotionally naked, of being exactly who God created and intended them to be. Have you ever noticed though, that the more you try to hide who you are and become someone else, the worse things become? Sure for awhile, it may help, but it changes who you are emotionally and not for the better. I want you to take Matthew 16:25 and look at it in a different perspective, based on beauty. It says in Matthew 16:25, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it..." It is very true, in this sense. When you work so hard to be someone else, you lose the very essence of who God intended you to be.

Now, would it help you to know that you are all ready perfect just as you are? Would it help you if you were told the TRUTH instead of a lie? Psalm 8:3-5 has both the question we ask, and the answer that God gives. Psalm 8:3-5 says, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor." Wow! God loves us so much that he made us so beautifully! Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. 1 Peter 3:3-4 talks about this! It says: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

Look at the scripture above and you will see the word "worth". Most people believe that worth is based on physical beauty. There are people who are so beautiful on the outside, but their hearts are cold and calloused. Therefore, physical beauty has little to do with our worth, because it says in the bible that we will know a person by their "fruit". God has clearly shown in one scripture how he values us. In Matthew 6:26 it says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" It's so easy to fall into the trap of, "I'm not good enough" or "I'm not valuable". However, if you trust God, and let him do work in you, he can restore your wounded heart; the lies that Satan has told you about your beauty and worth. And he can help you to see yourself how you really are! A good scripture for this would be Isaiah 54:11-12. I am changing one word in it though so that you can look at in for your own perspective. Instead of using "afflicted city", use "afflicted heart". Isaiah 54:11-12, "Afflicted heart, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones."

Trust that God has your back in the battle of your worth! :) Just a few days ago, I was feeling really down. I felt a little too weird because of certain aspects of my personality and certain things that I liked. I was beginning to feel like I should start closing these areas of my life off from other people so that I couldn't get picked on or hurt. I got on Facebook the next night. On Facebook there is this neat application called Message From God. It said I had a new message. I opened it and this is what it said: "Today we believe God wants you to know that you are unique and precious. When you try to value yourself for being the best in something, you are bound to fail. Even Olympic champions are the best only for a few years. You are precious to God not because there is no one better than you, but because you are a unique creation of mind, body, and spirit- there is no one else like you,- and that is exactly what makes you so indescribably precious." I was almost in tears. My eyes started to water because I knew at that moment that God was really speaking to me through this app on Facebook. He was letting me know that I am precious and valuable and he was contradicting the lies that were stirring inside my head. I know that if God shared this message with me, surely he wants you to believe it as well. God will fight for you in any battle that you are facing! Jeremiah 30:16-17 says, " 'But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord..." 

Trust him, believe in him, and he will give you what you need :) Amen!