Monday, June 27, 2011

SOAP Devotion: The Disciplined Mind

After using the SOAP format for a few weeks, I've found that I really like it. Well enough to switch my devotional posts over to a collaborative blog I'm doing with a dear friend of mine, where we are both searching for God's pure, unadulterated Truth.

I've begun studying a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, along with the companion study Walking In The Truth. I'll be using the SOAP format to post what Truth God is revealing to me through this study.  Today, I learned about having a disciplined mind.

So, grab a cup of coffee and head on over to A Cup of Truth and join us as we discover just what Truth is...

A Cup of Truth:  The Disciplined Mind
Do you ever pay attention to your mind? Do you “take every thought captive”, as the Word admonishes? Or, are your thoughts running amok throughout the day? God doesn’t tell us to take our thoughts captive for no reason…we have an enemy bent on destroying us and all that we hold dear.  [read more here...]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SOAP Devotion: 2 Kings 8

go signIf you are a Christ-follower, you probably want to be obedient to what God wants you to do, right? Of course, we all struggle with that spirit-led desire to truly follow Christ and our flesh’s desire to do whatever it wants. But what about when God tells us to do something that doesn’t seem to make sense? What about when He asks us to leave everything we know behind and go somewhere else? How quick are we to obey…and what are the consequences?

Today’s Reading is 2 Kings 8

Scripture:  The woman acted at once and did as the man of God had said - she went with her household and stayed in the land of the P'lishtim for seven years. 2 Kings 8:2

Observation:  The woman acted at once and did what God told her to do, through His servant. There was no questioning, no negotiating, no arguing…she just did what she was supposed to do. Later, everything she left behind was restored to her.

ApplicationSometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense…although in the case of the woman in this passage, leaving the land where she was because a famine was on the horizon definitely makes sense. But she had to leave her home, lands, income – everything she had known.  And it sounds like God left it up to her where to go, as Elisha told her to “Move away, you and your household, and stay wherever you can”(v. 1). The directive was simply to leave the land, with her household, because of the coming famine.

What is our response to God when He asks us, or tells us, to do something radical? Do we immediately obey or do we try to argue with God? Or negotiate? Maybe make some bargains…you know, “God, if You change Your mind on this, I promise I will (or will never do ______ again)…” Do we just decide not to do what God says and keep on going, pretending that we never heard what God said?

The woman immediately obeyed. She left everything and stayed gone for the seven years of the famine. What happened when she returned? A divine encounter! She came to the king to make a claim on her house and land which she had left behind. It just so happened that the king had just asked Elisha’s servant to tell him of the great things Elisha had done, and the servant was telling him about the woman whose dead son was brought back to life. She was that woman! And the king appointed a special officer and told him:

"Restore everything that belongs to her, including the income her fields have produced from the day she left them until now."

Did you catch that? Not only did he restore her home and land, but all the income she had lost out on for seven years! I don’t know how much that is…I imagine it was quite a bit, as she was a  wealthy woman, but seven years’ income in a lump sum would be welcome in my home, that’s for sure!  And she went to the king to make a claim on what was rightfully hers…not to beg for it to be returned.

God knew what was best for her and her household. He told her to leave and she quickly obeyed. What if she hadn’t? What if she had dragged her feet? Delayed obedience is still disobedience. What blessings would she have missed out on by doing that? What blessings do we miss out on because we do not immediately obey?  If God has told us to go, and we stay, we have no right to complain about our circumstances. We had the chance to get out of the famine, but we chose to go our own way…and chose the consequences ourselves.  We can’t blame God for that.

We can’t let fear rule our decision making. Even when something doesn’t seem to make sense, we must remember that God knows our end from our beginning. He knows what is coming down the road, regardless of whether or not we can see it. We have to trust that He has our best interest at heart, that He knows what is best for us and our family, and that He would never ask us to leave something behind without already having made provision for its restoration…and then some…in the future. When we need it. At just the right time. And we don’t have to beg for it…

PrayerFather, you know what I am struggling with inside. I believe You have asked us to do something, and we have not done it. Partly out of fear, partly out of doubting our ability to hear You, but if we’re honest we’d probably say mostly because we just didn’t want to do it. There seems to be famine in the land, but we chose to stay in it. Forgive us for not quickly obeying! Help us overcome the fear and the willfulness of our own flesh. Help us to have confidence in our ability to hear You, so we can quickly obey without question. And Father, I thank You now for the provision You have ordained for us as we move forward in Your will.

(blogger won't let me put in the graphic for some reason!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Daniel 1

Recently, I heard a teaching on resolving your Yes’s and your No’s…saying yes to the things that encourage growth in your walk with the Lord and saying no to the things that hinder it. Daniel an excellent example of doing just that. It all starts with a choice…

Today’s Reading is Daniel 1

Scripture: But Dani'el resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food or the wine he drank, so he asked the chief officer to be excused from defiling himself. Daniel 1:8

ObservationWe live in a world that has set itself against God. It is up to us to choose to follow His ways or the world’s. We must purpose, or resolve, in our hearts to obey the ways of the Lord. And when we do, He blesses us and leads us through whatever comes our way.

ApplicationThis message was good to hear. It’s making me think about what I purpose in my heart to do or not do. We were to make a Yes List (things that encourage growth and intimacy with the Lord) and a No List (things that hinder growth and intimacy) and honestly, I’m having a hard time coming up with a No List. Not that I’m so perfect  I never do anything wrong…quite the contrary! But I’m not out there every day lying, stealing, cheating on my husband or killing people, so I have to really look at what I’m doing or not doing that hinders my walk with the Lord. It’s just not that obvious to me. Maybe it is to someone else…they have that unique advantage of being able to see what I don’t! But, there are “little foxes” that nibble on the vine and destroy it over time. It’s those little, subtle things that draw me away from God or get between Him and I that I need to diligently seek out and remove from my life.

The Yes List is so much easier…more prayer, more time in the word, more self-control, more grace for myself when I fail. I know that as I seek His heart, He will show me what needs to be on the No List…and then I have to make that choice. I have to be like Daniel and purpose in my heart to avoid those things no matter what others around me may think or say. God’s opinion of me is the one that matters first and the most. Daniel was blessed, promoted and prospered because he decided from the beginning that he would not do anything that would compromise his beliefs or go against God's ways.

PrayerFather, show me what needs to be on that No List! What am I doing or not doing that gets in the way? What thought patterns and attitudes are hindering my ability to hear from you? What little foxes have gotten into my heart?  Help me to always be able to resolve in my heart to follow you no matter what happens or what others think. Help me always to put You and Your ways first

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Isaiah 6

hands raised
Do you remember times in your life when you eagerly wished to be chosen for something?  In school, you might have wanted to be picked for a sports team, a play, or just to be on the right side of the dodgeball game. As an adult, maybe you wanted to be picked for a job, to win a prize or some other exciting thing. And probably, there were others clamoring for the same thing. How many times can you remember being the only one saying “pick me!” Serving God isn’t always glamorous or easy, and often times the assignments can be difficult. But are you willing to say “pick me, Lord” when no one else is?

Today’s Reading Is Isaiah 6

Scripture: And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8

Observation:  God is looking for those who are willing to go where He sends them. His call is to all who will hear and heed…am I listening? Am I willing to put up my hand and say “pick me, Lord!”?

Application:  I can’t say I’m one of those people who is always out in the forefront…wanting to be noticed or picked for things. I like staying home in my nice little world and not being bothered by things around me. But that is not what God wants me to do…to cocoon myself away and not participate in the world. Sure, we are not to be “of this world”, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t to be in it. Aren’t we urged to be salt and light in the world? Salt doesn’t do much tucked away in the cupboard, and a light hidden in a closet isn’t being used to its full potential, either.

As I read this passage this morning, I was  convicted of my selfish desire to shelter those I love and also be sheltered myself from all the evils of the world. I’m certainly not advocating throwing caution and wisdom out of the window…there is definitely a need for that, especially when it comes to young children. But do I make myself available to go where God says to go and do what He says to do? Do I talk to a stranger or offer to pray with someone I don’t know very well, or am I afraid to step out of my comfortable little zone?  I have something amazing and wonderful – a life redeemed and restored by a loving Heavenly Father – that is meant to be shared with others, not hidden away for just myself.

I think there are a lot of believers out there who are right where I am. But who among us will be willing to lift our hand and say, like Isaiah, “Here I am, Lord…send me”?  If we wait for others to do it, chances are it won’t get done…at least not near as quickly as if there are many willing hands to do the job. Will I have the courage to raise my hand…and really mean it?  Will I have the quiet spirit and mind that I need to hear the invitation and the instruction? Only if I purposely quiet my spirit and mind and actively listen to what the Father is saying to me each day. Then I must choose to be chosen, regardless of the cost.

PrayerFather, forgive me for selfishly hiding the wonderful gift you’ve given me! Help me to overcome my fears, give me boldness to share what You’ve blessed me with with others. Help me to be willing to say “pick me”, no matter what the cost. And please, help me have the quiet, receptive mind and spirit I need to hear You every moment of every day.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

SOAP Devotion: 1 Corinthians 3

building blocks
What kind of materials are we using as we build on the foundations laid in people’s lives? What kind of foundation have we laid in our children’s lives? Every word, every action is like a brick, a 2 x 4, a nail…all building and shaping who our children become. I know I’m only “supposed” to use one verse, but these two need to go together, so I’m cheating a little bit…

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 3

ScriptureSome will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation; while others will use wood, grass or straw. 13 But each one's work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire - the fire will test the quality of each one's work.  1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Observation: Everything we do or say influences and builds on another’s foundation. From the moment our children are born, we are laying a foundation and building upon it. What materials will we use? Anything made of wood, grass or straw will burn up and not last, and it will not make the structure stronger, but weaker. The same is true for me…others have built on the foundation of my life. What is wood, grass or straw…what is gold, silver and precious stones?

Application: As I read this, I thought of both what I’ve used to build in my children’s lives and what has been used to build in my own life growing up. It hasn’t all been gold, silver and precious stones. There is comfort in knowing that it will be burned up at some point…but that seems like such a waste. Can it be removed and replaced with gold, silver and precious stones that will not be burned away?

Buildings can be restored. It can take a long time and a lot of work, but it can be done. Repairing mistakes and damage before the building is finished seems like it would be much easier than after the building is done…after it has aged and weathered and settled.

Following the blueprints and directions will ensure the building is built soundly and correctly. Even when the ground shakes, the building can stand. But when the building is built haphazardly, not to code, and with substandard materials…even the smallest shaking or adverse conditions can cause the building to be damaged or be destroyed.

God’s Word and Holy Spirit are the blueprints and directions we are to follow when raising our children. The gold, silver and precious stones we are to use are all of the good things of God – love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control – that shape and build their hearts, minds, souls and character into the people that He has designed them to be.

While we can’t control what others do, and unfortunately there will be “non-union” workers who show up on the job, we do have control over what we choose to do and say and where we allow our children to be. As they get older, we have to let them go a little bit…and trust that the foundation we laid and have built upon is strong and sturdy.

God allows us to build as we wish…but we then have to accept the consequences, and pay the price, for not following the directions.  I’m so glad that he is not like some earthly bosses who will fire you for making mistakes…His grace is abundant and mercy unceasing. But I have to remember it’s not just me that is affected here…my children are, and potentially my grandchildren. I must be purposeful in my parenting, and must strive to always follow the blueprints and the directions while building upon my children’s hearts, minds and souls.

PrayerFather, I so wish I wasn’t just “getting” this concept now. My precious daughter, whom You used to turn me back to You, is now almost 11 years old. 11 years of not always following the blueprint for her life. 11 years of not always seeking Your direction in how to parent her. I know I have used some wood, grass and straw to build in her life…please help me find it and remove it so it can be replaced with what is truly valuable and lasting. And my son, too…even he, in his short 3 years, has had some substandard material added to his foundation. Forgive me, Lord, for not always taking seriously this job before me…for letting my own wants and desires cause me to use anything but precious metals and stones to build in their lives. Help me to restore what has not been done correctly so that they are standing upon a strong, solid, and impermeable foundation. And me remove in me what was laid there by others that doesn't belong and weakens this temple of yours. Replace it with what it good, pure and true and will last for eternity.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Romans 3

Ever have one of those mornings (or whenever you have your quiet devotional time) where you just can’t seem to focus on what you’re reading? As I asked the Lord what to read today, one verse kept running through my head…I couldn’t remember where it was exactly, but knew it was in Romans. I thought Romans 8, and read that…but that wasn’t it. So I looked up the verse and it was Romans 3…I had to struggle to stay focused this morning…perhaps it’s the Pharisee in me that didn’t want to hear truth today…

Today's reading is Romans 3

Scripture:  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Observation: There is no one above sin, not me or anyone else. I should not hold another to a higher standard than I hold for myself.

Application: It’s so easy to judge others. I know the Bible says, and unbelievers are quite quick to point out, “judge not, lest ye be judged”, but still, it’s human nature to point out the flaws in others while ignoring the same, and sometimes even worse, flaws in ourselves.  It is completely wrong to expect someone to live up to standards that we ourselves can’t…or won’t…live up to…and yet, we still do just that.

I try to keep in mind that God is working on everyone, not just me. Everyone in the world is in varying stages of the process of perfection…from completely raw material (the unbeliever) to an almost polished gem (a precious saint moments away from finally seeing glory).  What's harder to do, however, is to remember that I often struggle with the same sins and flaws as the person who’s character I am critiquing.

ALL have sinned…even me…and fall short of the glory of God…even me. If I can remember that, will it be easier to find grace for those in my life who are difficult to deal with? I struggle with that fine line between grace and enabling. It’s not always so clear. That is where I just simply must be able to hear the Father’s voice, directing me in what to say and do in order to best help a person.  Being too harsh isn’t any more helpful than being too lenient…there just has to be balance. God has to be in the equation to balance things out.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your grace and mercy…even though I sin and sin again. Help me to be able to show the same tender love, grace and mercy to others. Help me to not condemn another for a sin I also commit…help me to have compassion, to hear Your voice directing my words and actions. Help me to remember to allow You into the equation in order to find balance…for You cancel out the negatives in me and add the positives that are lacking. Thank You for what You have already done in my heart and mind toward those who have, in the past, been hurtful. Thank You for helping me see that You are diligently working in their lives too.


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Proverbs 12

angry female cartoon
Do you ever get angry? I mean really, explosively angry? It is such an out-of-control feeling! And far too often, others get hurt because we are out of control. 

This morning, I went back to bed after seeing my honey off to work...the little girl I babysit wasn't coming until 9:00, it was rainy and dreary and just perfect for sleeping in. I should have stayed up and had my devotion time...that helps so much when it comes to controlling be plugged in and connected with God's grace for the day. And when that sippy cup fell onto my toe - good grief, who knew a half-empty sippy cup could feel like a boulder when it hits your toe - I had a hard time not exploding.  Only a few weeks ago, I probably would have...but feeling better makes it easier to keep those emotions in check. Still, I knew I needed to get connected with God before the rest of the day happened...and happened badly.

Proverbs 12 is full of great advice. Diligence and laziness, righteousness and wickedness, the wise and the foolish. I can’t say I’m surprised at what God brought to my attention this morning…and since I am wise, I will love correction and follow this excellent advice regarding anger…

Today’s Reading is Proverbs 12.

ScriptureA fool's anger is known at once, but a cautious person slighted conceals his feelings. Proverbs 12:16

Observation: There are a good many angry fools in society today. Restraining one’s emotions requires maturity and wisdom, and a cautious person is one who can keep their emotions in check, even when slighted.

Application:  I’ve had issues with anger for many years. Thankfully, God has worked on that wrinkle in my character faithfully and steadily.  As I have matured, it has become easier to not get carried away by my emotions and blow up like a volcano whenever something makes me angry or when I feel that my “rights” have been violated. Isn’t that what we feel when we’re slighted by someone?

A fool immediately reacts to a situation, and lets himself get carried away by his feelings. Things get said that hurt others. Things sometimes get broken. And many times, others can get physically hurt.  They are only thinking of themselves and their own feelings, not at all of the other person...except maybe of hurting them in retaliation. It is selfish an immature. Ouch, God...that one really hurts.

A wise person is cautious…he considers possible responses to a situation before opening his mouth. He knows the power of words to hurt or to heal, and chooses to not use hurtful words.  He is cautious, because he knows that how he responds to the situation can either defuse it or ignite it further.

I have to admit that I’m not always wise. Some of that has been because of health issues…and while I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, it is difficult sometimes when you feel terrible or your hormones are all wacked out, to retain a grip on wisdom and prudence.  I look back at some of the things that have made me explode, and really…how ridiculous I was to allow such a little thing have so much control over ME. I am in charge of myself, not some fickle and childish emotion.

And when I see the influence my anger has had on my children, I just want to cry. I know God has forgiven me every time I blow it and repent…but I have a hard time forgiving myself. Especially when little arms have hugged my neck and precious voices say “I ‘give you, Mommy.” They shouldn’t have to say that…but I am glad that God uses even my sin to bring about Christlikeness in my children. They forgive so easily, without even a second thought…they have such sweet and tender hearts.

I long to be that quiet, peaceful, and humble-spirited wife and mother…but it just doesn’t seem to be in me some days. Ok, most days, to be honest.  I know that God created me to be that way, He just has a lot of hard rock to chisel away before it can be revealed, I guess.

Prayer: Father, forgive me again for allowing my emotions to rule my behavior. Help me to be wise and cautious…to always RESPOND instead of REACT to every situation. Help me to be a peacemaker in my home, and to model a quiet spirit.  Show me the root of my anger, and rip it out completely…I don’t want it in me! Help me, today, Lord, to be peaceful and gentle.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Esther 1

When God said read the first chapter of Esther, I thought I knew where He was going. I know the story of Queen Esther and how she saved her people by entreating the king. But that’s not the queen God was speaking to me about today at all. There’s another queen in that story…Queen Vashti. And she wasn’t nearly as noble as Esther…

Today’s Reading is Esther 1

Scripture: because this act of the queen's will become known to all the women, who will then start showing disrespect toward their own husbands…Esther 1:17a

Observation: What women do we, knowingly or unknowingly, idolize on TV? How do they influence our behavior as wives and the queens of our homes? Are we aware of how our own behavior influences our daughters, friends or neighbors?

ApplicationQueen Vashti dis’ed her husband, the king, when he commanded her to come and she refused. This, of course, really made the king mad and he consulted with his sages on how to deal with this impertinent queen. The sages wisely reasoned that the queen’s public display of disrespect and willful disobedience to the authority of the king would influence the women of the kingdom to also disrespect their husbands.

As I read this chapter today, that verse just really grabbed my attention. It reminded me of a show I used to watch fairly regularly just a few years ago – King of Queens. I always thought it was pretty funny, what with that spunky Carrie Heffernan and her goofy husband Doug and all. I don’t know why, but I quit watching it regularly. But the next time I watched an episode, I was really shocked by how disrespectful and nasty the character of Carrie was…and that I didn’t notice it before when I watched it all the time.

How often do we idolize the women we see on TV, who are nearly always portrayed as smart, sexy, funny, ambitious and successful (while their male counterparts are typecast as bumbling idiots)? There is nothing wrong, of course, with being smart, sexy, funny, ambitious and successful…but these women also are never, or rarely if ever, shown to be respectful to their husbands…and certainly never submissive. Are we influenced by these women? How does their influence on the young and impressionable minds of our daughters shape the women they will become?

My husband told me he never liked that show, though we used to watch it often. He also told me he didn’t like Everyone Loves Raymond, another show I used to like watching…until my eyes were opened to the subtle way the entertainment industry is helping to destroy the sacred institutions of marriage and family. Our daughters are growing up believing that men are stupid, incapable morons. Our sons are growing up believing they are stupid, incapable morons who can’t do anything right, so why bother trying to be a father, to lead a family? Besides, it’s the women who wear the pants in the family, because they are the ones who are smart and capable. It is so easy to become immersed and immune to the influence of what comes out of that stupid box…it took not watching it for me to see what I was unable to see before.

As queens of our homes, we wield powerful influence in the lives of our children. Our behavior is often noticed more than our words. Biblical submission to authority and to our husbands is not being a doormat, but rather respecting the authority God has placed over us. It is not never having a say in an issue, but allowing our husbands to make the final decision, because that is the responsibility God has given him as the leader of his home and family. Our daughters learn how to be wives and mothers from us. Our sons learn what a wife and mother should be from us. As followers of Christ, then, we should strive to submit to our husbands and model for our children God’s perfect plan for the family.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for helping me to understand what submission really means. I can see, as I have learned to be more submissive to my husband, that there is peace and freedom in that submission that is not there when I try to wear my husband’s pants. Help me always to remember how I influence my children’s view of marriage and family by my own behavior and help me be the perfect example of a godly wife and mother. Forgive me for the times that I have been disrespectful or not submissive to my husband’s authority, which you have given him over me. Help me also to remember that how I conduct myself as a wife is seen by my friends and others…let me not sow discord by my behavior or by grumbling and complaining about my husband. Let all of my words about my husband be loving and respectful.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Psalm 52

gossipping women
Gossip? Really? That is what You want to talk to me about this morning? Surely I’m getting a mixed- up signal here…that can’t be what You want to speak to me about…can it?

So, this time it really was Psalm 52 I was supposed to read. I tried to find a way around it…as I didn’t like this one either. Conviction has a way of making you feel uncomfortable when facing truths about yourself you’d rather not acknowledge. But I am thankful for God’s great mercy that is new this morning, and every morning.

Today’s Reading is Psalm 52

Scripture: Your tongue, as sharp as a razor, plots destruction and works deception. Psalm 52:2

Observation: The tongue, when left to run amok, cuts and destroys…deception is its favored medium.

Application: As I read this passage, my first thought was toward a certain person in my life that has been a thorn in my side for years.  This person has used their razor-sharp tongue to plot destruction and work in deception against me many times. Then I immediately am reminded that when we hear a message and think of someone else first “who really needs to hear it”, we should also examine our own hearts to see if we need to hear it as well.  Have I done the same toward that person? Then I asked the Lord what in the world was He trying to tell me…and I hear that G-word whispered gently into my mind. Gossip. Have I been involved in gossip?

So, what is gossip? If you’re going to avoid something, you need to know what it is. I’m sure just about anyone would recognize that someone coming to you and saying “Did you hear about So-And-So? She…”, especially when that someone didn’t like So-And-So, was bringing some juicy gossip to them. Galilean Pastors has a nice study on gossip here.  Studying Joseph, who rejected the advances of Potiphar’s wife, we can learn a lot about the destructive force of the tongue:

Mrs. Potiphar devised a malicious lie fueled by anger, jealousy, bitterness, and resentment because of rejection.  She didn’t get what she wanted so she made up a lie, spreading it throughout her household servants (gossip) so her lie could be confirmed, even though none were there when it happened, they only had gossip to rely on.  Because of this chain of events Mrs. Potiphar set out to use the most powerful and damaging weapon of all--the tongue--to destroy Joseph's unblemished reputation and character, especially to Potiphar.  As expected, Potiphar became outraged, so much so that he had Joseph, his personal and trusted attendant, thrown in prison.

Joseph’s spotless reputation and character was stolen by gossip (the gossip of Mrs. Potiphar and her servants).  Now, not only were they (Mrs. Potiphar and the other servants) gossips but they were thieves as well.  Joseph had some decisions to make, was he going to be faithful and 
obedient to God or was he going to become angry and vindictive doing the very thing that had been done to him.  Joseph chose obedience in honoring God and, because of that, God’s favor went with Joseph and stayed upon him; even in prison, gaining the favor of the prison warden. (Gen 39:21-23)

When we gossip, or even participate in gossip, we are actively and voluntarily engaging in a destructive purpose, character assassination and theft.  Basically, gossip is a destructive need for personal gratification, making one’s self feel good about one’s self by destroying the character and reputation of another.

You see “misery loves company.”  Some people cannot stand the thought of someone else succeeding, whether spiritually, physically, or financially; so they search for reasons to accuse and discredit the person, ministry, business, etc. to make themselves feel better about who they are.

But can gossip be even just plainly discussing facts about someone else? Facts that are unfavorable, yet still the gospel truth? And not brought up out of a malicious heart and spirit?

Truth that does not need to be said. That is the one that trips me up. I can easily recognize and restrain myself from telling half-truths and outright lies, but many times see no problem with telling something that is the truth. And, let's face it...some people are just a well-spring of unfavorable truth,  thanks to their own choices, but that doesn't mean we need to spread that information around.  It’s been often said “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” and I think that is an apt description of gossip as well. Does what you are telling someone else, even if true, help the other person? Most likely not, if we’re going to be brutally honest about it.

I can honestly say that Psalm 52:2 does not describe me…at least not anymore. I admit to operating in that manner years ago, when I was much younger and immature, both chronologically and spiritually. But I can’t say I never gossip, unfortunately.  The majority of the time it is completely unintentional, it just happens…you don’t even realize what you’re doing until you’re in too deep. But there are occasions where the intent of my heart is not honorable when I talk about someone. Well, to be honest, it’s always that thorn in my side…never my friends…so friends, take heart and know that I’m not gossiping about you!

Even as I write this, I’m thinking I should change the wording in a few areas, so as not to be obvious about whom I am referring to. If you know me, and my life, at all…well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. But this illustration is not meant at all in that manner…it is a practical illustration of something many people struggle with. We all have people in our lives that are difficult to deal with, it’s how we handle those situations, and the temptation to gossip about them, that either glorifies Christ and brings blessing to those who persecute us or fuels the destructive, raging fire of the tongue…which is truly an unruly evil that can not be tamed. It can only be brought under submission to Christ, and that takes a very concerted and determined effort.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for participating in gossip against those who hurt and persecute me. Help me to recognize gossip for what it is immediately…and give me the grace I need to say “I’m not going to gossip about this person” instead of revealing what I know, even if it is true. Help me to bless those who persecute and spitefully use me and only speak words of life and blessing about everyone. Thank You for forgiving me…thank You that Your mercy is new every morning.


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Monday, June 6, 2011

SOAP Devotion: You Love Me Anyway

love laid down
I’ve had this song in my head for several days now by Sidewalk Prophets. I love this song…(sorry…can’t embed the video, but please click on the title to check it out on youtube…). Not sure how I will fit this in SOAP format, but I’m going to give it a try anyway…

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind
Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known

You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me

It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?

But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’
But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

But You love me anyway
Oh, God… how you love me
You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
You love me, You love me
You love me, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

Scripture: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 38-39

Observation: There is nothing I can do or say that will ever make God not love me…or my enemies…and as a believer, nothing can separate me from God’s love.

ApplicationThis past Saturday as I was out picking up the final few things for James’ graduation open house, this song was going through my head. Of course, I can not usually remember all of the lyrics to a song, just part of them…and those parts go through my head over and over and over…and this time was no exception. All of a sudden, I was just overcome with emotion at this bit of the song:

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’
But You love me anyway

The realization that I was the thorn in His crown…the sweat that dripped from His brow…the nail in His wrist…and that kiss of betrayal just completely derailed me. Obviously, I wasn’t there to actually slam that crown of thorns into Head or hammer that nail into His wrist…and oh I surely like to think that if I was, I wouldn’t have been one of the people in the crowd demanding His blood be spilled…but it is because of me, because God made provision for my sin long before I, or any of my ancestors, were ever even thought of, that He endured the injustice of the Cross. For me. Simply because He loves me.

Even when I turned my back on Him…He still loved me anyway.

Even when I denied Him…He still loved me anyway.

Even when I did every wicked thing I could, purely for the “fun” of it and to rebel against God and all authority…He still loved me anyway.

Even now, when I am too busy to spend time with Him…He still loves me anyway.

And He still loves the people in my life who are hard to love, who have hurt me, lied to and about me, shamelessly persecuted and used me, and turned those I love against me…He still loves them, and calls me to love them as well.

What form does that kind of love take? Do you become a doormat and let someone walk all over you “in the name of love”? Certainly not. Do you put on a fake smile and engage in polite conversation? I don’t think so…a “fake” smile is not genuine, so how could that be love? Do you keep putting yourself out there, vulnerable, to be burned again and again? I don’t think that’s what God means by loving someone who persecutes and spitefully uses you, either. He says be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

God is still teaching me about loving my enemies.  He set the greatest example, and on my own I can never follow it. I need His help to even make an attempt at it here on earth. I will fail, most likely, from time to time. It’s a process…one step forward…two steps back…more or less. Right now, love manifests as indifference…but that is still better than returning evil for evil, so there is progress. God’s wisdom tells me that the stove is still hot, don’t touch it again…and I won’t. But should it ever cool and He says “Reach out” again, I have a choice to make…and I hope I can choose to obey.

Prayer: Abba Father…you loved me before I was ever born…You knew how I would betray You…deny You…and set myself against You, and yet Your love for me never faltered. You also knew how my enemies would hurt me and persecute me, and yet You still love them as well. You know I desire to be obedient…to walk in the Way of Your precious Son…and You know I am weak. Please help me to love those who are hard to love, even the ones who have hurt me. Give me wisdom to know how to show Your love to them. Forgive me for the times that I have not walked in love and have been just as unlovable as my enemies. Thank You for loving me no matter what…even in my most unlovable moments…


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Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Miracle Pill (Updated 8-3-11)

Have you ever wished you could just take a pill and everything would be all better? It’s hard to believe that it could be that simple, but for me…well, I think I really have found a “miracle pill.” You don’t really know how bad you feel until you suddenly feel good. I mean really, really good. And you actually feel like living, not just surviving, each day. Let me introduce you to my new friend, Levothyroxine…

I have suspected for years that my thyroid was low, but any time it was tested, the result was always the same – normal. There’s a family history of low thyroid, so it seemed reasonable that the tiredness and fatigue, memory problems, irritability, increasing intolerance to cold, inability to focus and thinning hair just might be related to a hormonal imbalance such as low thyroid. But, if the test result is normal, then that can’t be the problem, right?

Wrong. I learned while researching thyroid problems that there is a grey area in the “normal” range…the higher the number on a TSH test, the lower your thyroid level is, so the closer you get to the upper limit of the normal range, the more likely you are to have symptoms of hypothyroidism. And when your numbers are at the high end of normal and you’re presenting with symptoms like those I listed above, they call that subclinical hypothyroidism. I discovered that while reading the book, The Thyroid Solution: A Revolutionary Mind-Body Program That Will Help You by Arem Ridha. I really felt empowered, after reading this book, to discuss my concerns with my doctor. I also feel fortunate that my doctor was willing to examine the possibility, as many doctors won’t even consider treatment for low thyroid if your test is “normal.”

Did you see that picture up there of the two tiny orange pills? Those are my “miracle pills”. I started taking the lowest dose there is, and a week later it felt like someone flipped a switch on in my head. For the first time in years - I’d say possibly for the first time in my adult life, and particularly in the last three years since having my son – I can think straight, concentrate, and focus. I have an energy level I have never, ever had as long as I can remember, which is great because I actually WANT to do things! I even physically move faster.I don’t feel like I’m wandering around in a fog anymore. In fact, I did more housework, cleaning, decluttering and organizing in four days than I’ve done in the last six months combined..or more! It’s simply amazing…one little bitty pill has completely changed my life. 

Now, if the doctor had just prescribed the Levothyroxine three months ago like I wanted to begin with, I’d have had three months of feeling good, and losing weight, under my belt…kind of makes me mad when I think about all the years I’ve spent feeling like poo and beating myself up because I just couldn’t “get it together”. 

Even though Levothyroxine is my “miracle pill”, I can’t forget that I have years of bad habits to overcome. I think it will be easier now that my brain is no longer a bowl of rice pudding, however. Because feeling good just feels amazing…especially when you realize just how bad you were feeling.


After taking levothyroxine for several weeks, I began to notice a gradual decline in energy level and motivation...returning almost to where I was before I started taking it, only I could still think more clearly. I called my doctor and we did blood tests again, the TSH test and A1C. I mentioned what I had found about metformin possibly causing thyroid levels to decrease but the nurse said "No, it doesn't do that." I find this interesting, because it was just like when I started taking metformin to begin with...initially I felt better (getting my blood sugar under control, I'm sure, was the factor there) but then after 4 to 6 weeks or so, I began to once again become lethargic and completely unmotivated and the mental fog began to increase again, after having subsided noticeably. The same thing happened here when I started taking the levothyroxine...and guess what? At the same time I started taking that, she increased the dose of metformin I was taking. A coinicidence? Maybe...but I have my doubts.  What I had read about the connection between metformin and lower thyroid levels was, of course, theory and more study is needed but it seems to me, in my case anyway, that there may be a connection.

My thyroid test showed a slight increase in thyroid hormone, which of course would account for the overall improvement in how I'm feeling, but since I'm still experiencing symptoms she went ahead and increased my dose. While I don't have that same level of energy I had when I first started taking it, over all, I feel better and hope this increase in dose will do it. At least she was happy with my A1C reading and didn't increase that dreadful metformin. I can't wait to get off of that! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Psalm 15


Honestly, when I asked God what to read today, I heard “Psalm fiftee…and knew He was saying Psalm 15, but I remember what that Psalm is and I guess didn’t want to read it (again!) so I think I changed it to Psalm Fiftee-two…I do that sometimes…I know what God is saying but I don’t want to hear it so I change it to something else. Not a good practice, really. It’s the human in me, I guess. But, after reading Psalm 52, I knew that just wasn’t it and I had interjected my own thoughts into the answer so I read Psalm 15. Again. Have you read Psalm 15? If so, can you see why I avoid it?  God brings me back to this passage repeatedly…He must be trying to tell me something…

Today’s reading is Psalm 15

Scripture: Those who live a blameless life, who behave uprightly, who speak truth from their hearts… Psalm 15:2

Observation:  Who can live in Your tabernacle…who can live on Your holy mountain? Who can abide in Your Presence? Those who live blamelessly…uprightly…truthfully…

Application:  Um…so doesn’t that mean no one can live there? Who really lives blamelessly? Is it the all-or-nothing-ness of the way my mind works that makes me think that blameless means perfect…no sin, no mistakes. Not humanly possible!! Isn’t this completely unfair?

The Strong’s entry for “uprightly”: 
from <H8552> (tamam); entire (literal, figurative or moral); also (as noun) integrity, truth :- without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely (-ity), sound, without spot, undefiled, upright (-ly), whole.
—Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
There it is…just as I suspected…“perfect”. But also, a glimmer of hope, as “sincere” is listed there. I know, and so does God, that perfect is impossible in this life. He also knows my heart, and that I sincerely want to “get it right.” Thankfully, His Son is my strength! Through Christ, I can do all things…even those that seem impossible. And because of His great mercy, there is forgiveness when I blow it.

I think that’s why I have not wanted to read this Psalm. It just seemed like an impossible standard…one more thing for me to use to beat myself up for not “measuring up”. I will never, in this body…in this life on earth…measure up to Christ, but it is still the goal for which I strive. To love others as He did. To walk in truth. To be so connected to the Father that everything I do and say is only what the Father does and says.

Lofty goals, to be sure. Unattainable, impossible…on my own. God always has a way of reminding me that apart from Him, I can do nothing. That I need Him as much as I need air, water and food.

Prayer:  Abba Father…thank you for finally helping me to overcome the dread at reading this passage. Thank You for helping me to see that it isn’t meant to belittle or demean me, but to encourage me to keep reaching for that goal of perfection in Christ. Thank You for Your great and tender mercy that you lavishly pour out when I blow it and seek your forgiveness…the one thing I always find when I look for it! Thank You that today, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

SOAP Devotion: Isaiah 25


This morning, I woke up with a song in my head…well, part of one anyway. The lyrics went “Oh death/where is your sting?” I knew that was from a verse in the Bible, so that was where I decided to read today…only reading 1 Corinthians 15 was like reading Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice…dry and not exciting in the least. God!! Your word is alive, so why does this seem so dead? I read it again…all 58 verses…and again…and this time, it occurred to me that perhaps I was reading the wrong passage. It makes reference to a verse in the Old Testament – Isaiah 25:8 – so off to Isaiah 25 I went, and it was like jumping into a sparkling pool on a hot summer’s day…refreshing and vibrant!

Today’s Reading is Isaiah 25

Scripture:  He will swallow up death forever. Adonai ELOHIM will wipe away the tears from every face, and he will remove from all the earth the disgrace his people suffer. For ADONAI has spoken. Isaiah 25:8

Observation:  Adonai ELOHIM is my defender, my protector, my comforter, my provider…He vindicates, He lavishly pours out grace and blessings. And one day soon, death will be put in its place.

ApplicationIt was hard to just choose one verse to focus on this time. Sometimes, a verse will just “pop out” to me as I read…almost like the Holy Spirit grabs ahold of me and gives me a little shake…or a big one, depending on what circumstances are whirling around in my life at the time. This whole passage spoke to me about how my Abba Father is always there to defend me, to protect me, to destroy my enemies and vindicate me. He also comforts me and lavishes His grace and mercy on me. And the promise to hold on to here is that one day, death will be “swallowed up”…there will be no more death, no more tears, no more disgrace for His people.

As I face difficult situations…difficult people…and difficulties in general, I know that He is always there with me…a strong tower to run to in time of need. A strong pair of arms to hold me and comfort me. And gentle, loving hands that extravagantly place before me a feast of rich food and wine – His word, His Spirit – to nourish and bless me.

PrayerDaddy, thank You for always being there when I need You…and even when I think I don’t. I’m so glad You’ve got my back! You know what lies ahead for me, what difficulties I will face each coming day, and You’ve already prepared all that I will need to get through each situation. I long for the day when death will be swallowed up forever, for the day when disgrace is not a word in my vocabulary or anyone else’s, because you have restored honor and dignity. Help me to grab hold of all You’ve laid out on Your beautiful banquet table for me today.

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