Friday, 26 October 2012
Your Investments
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Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

When the stock market took a big hit several years ago, so did our retirement account. Like many of Americans, we lost a lot of money as years worth of saving and investing were gone in instant. We may have not been robbed by thieves, but it sure felt like it! Times have been tough, but we’ve always had a roof over our head and food on the table. My trust is in the Lord and not the stock market.

More important than where we invest our money is where and how we invest our time. For some reason this week I’ve been reminiscing about when my husband and I were dating. We use to be fun. We use to go out to dinner and go to a movie. We visited with friends and went on trips. Unfortunately, we don’t do much of that anymore. Things change when you become parents. We either have the time and not the money, or we have the money and not the time. I think everyone goes through that. I am realizing that we aren’t investing enough time in our relationship. We have been drawing on what we have already banked – a history of love and commitment. However, that bank could run dry if we are not careful. He and I need to make the effort to spend more time together. While money is tight, it would be worth it to set a little aside for dinner and a movie at least once a month, even if it is fast food and a rental.

Mark 8:36
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

When we examine our lives, we need to look at how we are investing ourselves. If we are feeling run down and tired, perhaps we need to invest more time in sleep. We have been programmed by the world to cram as much into a day as possible. We are burning the candle at both ends and most Americans are sleep deprived. Are you happy with your waistline? If you are spending more time eating Oreos than exercising, you probably find that your clothes are fitting a little tighter. When you are at work, are you thinking about all the stuff at home that needs done? When you are at home, are you thinking about all the stuff and stresses at work? Remember that “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy!” Whatever we are investing our time and energy in is what we will reap, so if you aren’t seeing the fruit that you want in your life you need to go back and look at your investments.

Galatians 6:7-9
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

This is very much the case in our relationship with God. We all want the blessings of God, but we will not reap where we don’t sow. We have to have that personal relationship with Jesus to start with. Then, just as with any relationship, we have to invest the time and ourselves. Prayer, fasting, reading and studying the word of God are all ways we can spend time with and grow closer to God. It’s the most important investment we can make. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

If you can rattle off the week’s prime time TV schedule, but don’t know the books of the Bible, you might need to adjust your investments. If you can name every player on your favorite professional team but you can’t even name three of Jesus’ disciples, you might need to adjust your investments. The reverse can be true also. You might know the Bible front and back, but if you don’t know the names of your children’s closest friends and associates, you might need to adjust your investments. We reap what we sow. If we will seek Him first with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then everything else will fall into its proper place. You will get a great return on your investment.

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Posted on 10/26/2012 8:26 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 19 October 2012
Let the Light In
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Lamentations 3:22-23
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

I have been fighting my way through darkness of late. Grief has hung over my heart like a dark storm cloud ready to burst. As a result, I have been overwhelmed by the responsibilities of work, home, family, school and even church, to the point it feels like I am slowly going down into a mire of quicksand and I am almost neck-deep. I always try to give my best in everything I do, but lately my best hasn’t been that great. It feels like I am being pulled in a million different directions, with everyone – including myself – pushing me to perform. I am making mistakes that I don’t normally make and letting things go too long before I take care of them. I have been short with people, angry in tone and impatient. Just when I feel like throwing in the towel and giving up, God makes a way. A ray of light comes in the way of friend lending a hand, a situation miraculously being turned around, an unexpected respite from the world or a word from God that strengthens me. Each day has its challenges, but it also has God’s mercies. They are truly new every morning.

I know that God will bring me through this funk or phase or whatever you want to call it and that I will grow through it. From my last two articles, you could have probably guessed that I have been dealing with frustrations and trying to just go with the flow. I’ve tried to avoid the trappings of “busy work,” but I also have responsibilities that must be met regardless of how I feel.  For example, I didn’t want to sit down and write this article today. I really wanted to go back to bed and try to catch up on a month’s worth of sleep. Each day there is a battle between spirit and flesh, and we have to fight that good fight.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

When I finally dragged myself to the computer and made myself start writing, I was planning to write an article on the topic of mercy. Instead, all of this came flowing out. It’s been held in for a long time, like dammed up waters. It leads me to believe that there are others out their struggling with similar battles. I’ve been putting on my game face every day and smiling through the heartache, and perhaps you have been, too. It’s difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, but we need to know that we are not the only ones struggling. We can’t walk in our own strength – we need the strength of the Lord. Our trust must be in Him. He has to be our starting point in whatever we are doing. I have prayed my way through so many things – large and small – just in the last few weeks. I have thrown up my hands and cried out to Him for help . . . and He has answered. Great is His faithfulness.

I am not looking for sympathy. We all go through tough times, whether they be emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, etc. When the darkness seems to be closing in on us, we have to remember to let in the Light. We have a place of refuge and comfort, and when He is in our life we are never alone.  I leave you this week with some scriptures on the strength of the Lord.


1 Chronicles 16:11
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Nehemiah 8:10
Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Psalm 20: 7-8
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 17:5
This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Zechariah 4:6
"Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit" says the Lord God Almighty

Habakkuk 3:19
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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Posted on 10/19/2012 9:08 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 12 October 2012
Go With the Flow
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Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Our Ladies Ministry group had its annual retreat last weekend in the Hinton area. Twenty-five women spent three days in a house with only six bedrooms and two bathrooms. In theory, this should have been a disaster. However, we knew the obstacles going in and everyone knew that it would be worth it. Everyone agreed to make it work and it did. People were understanding of those who needed real beds because of physical needs. Each night you could hear the hum of electric pumps filling up air mattresses. A shower schedule helped everyone get up and ready on time for worship and teaching sessions. There was no bickering or fighting or long lines for the bathroom, which you might expect with that much estrogen in one place. What we will remember from that weekend will be how close we felt to each other and to God, not how long we had to wait for a bathroom.

Galatians 5:16
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

When you can go with the flow, it makes life a lot easier. On Saturday afternoon, I used my “free time” for a little nap. Then I spent some time in a rocking chair on the back porch watching the river. In the section of river the house overlooks, it is somewhat shallow and there are a lot of rocks. A little island sits in one area in the middle. The water runs swiftly, so when it encounters these natural obstacles, it flows quickly around them. The water looks choppy and often has white caps. Once it has passed these obstacles, the water becomes more smooth and calm as it flows on toward Bluestone Dam.

Last week, I wrote about frustration. Little obstacles, problems, hurdles, irritations, etc. in our life can be frustrating. We have to learn how to be like the river and keep going with the flow as we strive for our ultimate destination. We have to learn to bend so that we don’t break. Sometimes we feel like we bend so much that we might just double over, but those times just make us stronger and more flexible. If you stop flowing, that means you are standing still and allowing those obstacles to frustrate you and stop you from what you should be doing. The part of the river I saw may have been choppy, but it was alive and bubbling. I could sit and listen to it for hours. If you were to take a walk along the hiking trail near the house, you would come across some backwaters. In these areas the water has tried to find another route to avoid the upcoming obstacles. The new route turned out to be dead end. The water isn’t moving there. It has become stagnant and smelly.

Galatians 5:25
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

That’s what happens to us when we try to run from or fight the hurdles that come up. Some people try to “drop out”, avoiding everyone and everything. We use excuses like our age, our health and even our gender to say we can’t. We look for a short cut or a way around to avoid being tested. We end up doing nothing, stuck in a rut, and become stagnate and smelly. And that’s just in the natural!

John 7:38
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

If we can’t go with the flow in the natural world, in our flesh, then how can we expect to flow with the Holy Spirit? If our response to the hurdles of the world is to shy and hide away, what is our response to spiritual challenges? We are creatures of habit and we tend to have the same responses, whether natural or spiritual. We need to get a hold of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We need to believe it and live it. Jesus said that the living waters will flow out of our hearts, which means it comes from the depths of our souls. By nature, then, we have to be flexible vessels that allow that flow. If we shut ourselves off because we think life has gotten too hard, those waters will stagnate and then eventually dry up.

We don’t want to become spiritual hermits or hoarders. Get out there every day and fight the good fight and run the race, sharing Jesus and yourself with others. It isn’t always easy, but we really can do all things through Christ. We are not alone as long as we remember He is always with us. We also have to learn to quit sweating the small stuff and let some stuff go. I know I have had to overcome some obsessive-compulsive ways and learn to let others do things. I don’t have to do it all and it doesn’t have to be done in one certain way. (It takes some people years of therapy to get there!) Going with the flow is so much easier than trying to fight my way upstream. I know that there will be obstacles to overcome, but once I get past them, the waters will be calmer and I will keep on flowing.

***


This reminded me of a song we used to sing called “The River is Here.”


Down the mountain the river flows
And it brings refreshing wherever it goes
Through the valleys and over the fields
The river is rushing and the river is here

The river of God sets my feet a-dancing
The river of God fills our hearts with cheer
The river of God fills our hearts with laughter
And we rejoice, for the river is here

The river of God is teeming with life
And all who touch it can be revived
And those who linger on this river's shore
Will come back thirsting for more of the Lord

Up to the mountain, we love to go
To find the presence of the Lord
Along the banks of the river we run
We dance with laughter, giving praise to the Son

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Posted on 10/12/2012 8:17 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 5 October 2012
Beating the Chinese Finger Trap: A Lesson on Frustration
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Galatians 6:9
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Some days I feel like I am beating my head up against the wall. And I might as well be talking to the wall as to talk to some people. It seems like I take two steps forward and three steps back. I should probably go to my room and scream into a pillow so I don’t lose my cool at yell at someone. No matter how hard I try, it seems things never go according to plan. If it weren’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all. I have to laugh to keep from crying. Is it Friday yet?

These are all phrases commonly used to express what we all deal with on a regular basis – frustration. I think it is one of the worst feelings to deal with, because you feel it for a long time before you recognize what it is. (At least if I am mad, I know why!) It is stressful and aggravating. Frustration is, by definition, a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems (Dictionary.com).  Another definition says to make plans or take actions that are worthless or of no avail; to disappoint. Yeah – been there, done that.

John 16:33
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

An old country song by Lynn Anderson said, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, There's gotta be a little rain sometimes.” Everything we do requires effort on our part and we don’t operate in a vacuum. We have to live in a world and work with people who have their own needs and agendas. We have things to accomplish and so do they, and we have to find a way to make it work. Anything you do will have highs and lows, ups and downs, pros and cons. We have to find a way to balance them – celebrate the successes and learn how to live with the rest. We can’t let every little thing get under our skin and pull us down.

Most of the time, we can find a way to deal with minor frustrations. But sometimes they become more than we can handle. You really do feel like you are beating your head against a wall and it’s bleeding. You are going nowhere fast. That’s when it’s time to put the situation into someone else’s hands. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have found that when I stop fighting a situation and give it over to Him, things get better. The impossible becomes not only possible, but it happens. Have you ever played with one of those Chinese finger traps (aka Chinese handcuffs)? It’s a woven cylinder and you place your index fingers into each end. When you try to take it off, your instinct is to pull them out, but the harder you pull, the tighter the grip becomes on your finger. The secret to beating the Chinese finger trap is to push in, which loosens the cylinder and allows you to easily remove your fingers.

Learning to let go of things and people has been one of the toughest things for me to learn. It has also been one of best. I promise that if you can grasp this concept and put it into practice, you will feel a tremendous load come off your shoulders. When I have done all that I can do or if something is out of my control, I just turn to the Lord and say, “Ok – I am giving this (situation, person) over to you. I trust that you know what is best and I know that you are working for our good. I will accept whatever happens because I trust you. You tell me what to do (or what not to do) and I will do it.”

Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Frustration is not worth the damage to your physical and spiritual health. It is not worth blurting out the wrong thing and hurting someone you love. It is not worth missing out on life because you just don’t want to deal with it. Frustration will eat away at all you have if you allow it. In the big scheme of things, most of these frustrations are meaningless. We have to remind ourselves that this is not our permanent home and that some day we will live in a beautiful place where there is no pain, sickness, fear or frustrations.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t need anybody and they can take care of themselves. While some independence is a good thing, no one can make it through this life without a little help. We need each other, but more importantly, we need God. Those challenging moments in our life are opportunities for us to draw closer to Him. James 4:8 says: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God never intended for us to be alone, and He said he wouldn’t leave or forsake us. The next time something frustrates you, go ahead and scream into your pillow and get it out of your system. Then pray and ask God for His help and give it over to Him. With His help, you can beat the trap of frustration.
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Posted on 10/05/2012 7:38 AM by Susan Nelson
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