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Our thought life is where the battle is won or lost. Not unlike food, each day, several times a day, we are offered a thought or idea we might be tempted to ingest. Some ideas are life-giving while others leave a bad taste in our mouth.

Here’s a little story. I’ll call it The Bitter Pill.

I’m having a conversation with a coworker and something she says hits me the wrong way. I could choose to ignore it, to not take it personally, and move on. I’ve done so in the past, but this time I’m caught off guard. She’s done this before, I think to myself, and no sooner have I thought it, I’ve ingested a chunk of bitterness.

Later that night, while I’m brushing my teeth, I feel something in my throat. I spit it up and realize it’s that piece of bitterness. It tastes worse now having been partially digested, and carrying the nasty residue of another bitter pill I’d swallowed a few days prior. I have an opportunity to spit it out, but I’ve taken offense, so I chew on it some more and swallow it all over again.

When I wake the next morning, I don’t feel so great. The bitterness has taken effect and now it’s in my bloodstream poisoning other areas. I take another dose by talking the situation over with a friend, thinking it will act as an antidote. It doesn’t. Instead, I feel worse. I read the side-effects on the back of the pill bottle. I don’t like what I see, but even so I commit to another dose, and another, and one more for good measure.

Eventually, my body can’t process the intake, and I get toxic. I stagger to the Doctor with my sickness. He asks me what I’ve been eating. A steady diet of bitter thoughts, I tell him. He suggests I need to detox my system. I assure Him I understand it would have been better if I hadn’t ingested the pills in the first place. He gently reminds me I have a choice, and offers me this prescription for next time:

“…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

How? I ask. He says the next time I’m tempted to swallow a bitter pill, I instead toss it away. If I hold onto it, even for a short time, let alone swallow it, well, you know what happens. Instead of accepting the offered thought or idea, He tells me, I have the choice to reject it. Once I do, I’ll feel healthier and will even thrive. As an added bonus, He tells me this will help too:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It takes practice and discipline, he continues, it doesn’t happen all at once, but He assures me it’s a habit I can change with His help. I ask what happens if I mess up. He tells me, just say sorry and start over…as many times as needed.

I feel satisfied with that.

And maybe you do too, knowing that whether you’ve taken a bitter pill, an anger pill, a dishonest pill, a fear pill, a you-name-it pill, there is always the opportunity to not only say sorry and begin again, but lean on the Physician’s prescription for next time. His word, His strength, His love, and His forgiveness are readily available.

Know that you aren’t defeated. You CAN take every thought captive. You CAN forgive. You CAN overcome those habitual patterns of thinking or behaving! After all, we’ve been redeemed, given a Helper, and are dearly loved! It doesn’t get any better than that!

You’ve got this, because He’s got you!

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  1. Take a moment and make a list of habitual thoughts or actions that are harmful to yourself or others.
  2. Now ask God to help you focus on them one at a time until you begin to default into taking your thoughts captive. You might also find new life-giving habits to replace the old ones. My example was taking offense which lead to bitterness. Ideally, I choose to take my thoughts captive, and refuse to get angry or take offense. But if I fail to do that, I have a second opportunity to forgive quickly, pray for and bless the offender, and disallow any other bitter thoughts a parking place.

 

 

 

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The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33:27

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A friend of ours has his own carpet cleaning business. Sometimes he posts pictures or videos of the disasters he has to clean up (think flooding from a burst sewage pipe). It helps that he has a sense of humour – wading through fecal matter requires that kind of character and internal fortitude!

How do we respond in the midst of life’s messes? How do we react when the floods come and the water grows murky? It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you are a good Christian, you’ll simply pull on your rubber boots and dance through the dung. Or you may believe the opposite – that it will never get cleaned up. But don’t.

It’s true that swimming in rising water is exhausting, and sometimes circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. People sinning really does hurt. Sickness is daunting. Loosing a loved one can bring us to our knees.

But during, or even after a crisis, take comfort in these:

1. God never leaves you or turns away from you. 

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. ~ Deut 31:6

God is not mad at you. He has not turned his back on you. Nothing you can do, or fail to do, will make Him love you any more or less. He is there for you with open arms. You are accepted.

2. No matter where you are or what is happening, God loves you and desires an intimate relationship with you. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. ~ Isa 65:24

Just knowing God longs to be with us gives us hope and courage. Being with Him reminds you of who you are. And you are loved by Him! Sit with Him and your soul and spirit will be revived and renewed.

3. You can tell God all about it. Your disappointments, your feelings of betrayal, your deep wounds, your broken heart. He knows anyway. He won’t judge; He’ll heal you.

Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. ~ Psalm 55:22

God wants to carry your burdens for you. It is not His desire that you struggle alone. So go ahead and pour out your heart to Him. Hand over your heavy weights and grow lighter and more free.

4. He can give you the strength to forgive. 

Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~ Eph 4:32

Forgiveness is tough. It’s a journey. It takes diligent effort. It can’t be done on our own strength without God’s help. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, when we agree with God’s plan for forgiveness, we can accept His help to forgive.

5. It’s never too late. When you turn to God, He will restore and redeem all that you thought was lost.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, our God, will get you out of there…He will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God… ~ Deut 30:3-6

Sometimes we think a circumstance, a situation, a relationship, or our life is beyond broken. Don’t believe it. God can do anything! It may not look the same, may never be the same, but God has a way of restoring lives beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

6. You can exchange anxiousness for thankfulness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Phil 4:6

Try giving thanks in the midst of crisis. Thankfulness doesn’t mean denying that what you are going through doesn’t exist, but rather the proclamation that God is good and there is always something to be grateful for.

7. You will come to deeply understand the goodness of God.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 106:1

Those who have walked through crisis, and hung on to their mustard seed faith with whitened knuckles, know beyond a doubt that their God saw them through it and never ceased to help and love them.

8. You will come to live in His abundance. 

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

It’s true, after the crisis, nothing will look the same. The past is gone, but God miraculously makes things new. He heals and helps your heart align with His. Your desires begin to line up with His and you begin to recognize His overflowing goodness and love, even in the midst of the circumstances, but especially when you look back on them.

Don’t give up or give in! These present trials will not remain forever, but you can be sure God’s love for you always will!

I bless you that you will know that God is with you no matter what!

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  1. Which of the above truths resonate most fully with you? Which one the least?
  2. Ask God to help you grow toward greater freedom and understanding in your areas of doubt or struggle.

Angry at God?

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? …But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6)

Thinking things over

It may have started as an unanswered prayer, a person who hurt you, a baby unborn, or a sickness unhealed. Disillusionment, disappointment and distrust settled in. You might have even turned your back on God, or believed the lie that He had turned His back on you.

Maybe you felt as though God had forgotten you, that your prayers weren’t important enough, or thought, how could a loving God let that happen? 

It may have been only a few days, perhaps a few months, or you may be going on several long years since you started questioning God, but no matter the amount of time, the feeling that God abandoned you in your need can be difficult to shake.

Living life can hurt from time to time. The hurts come in many forms, but whatever form they take, they may cause us to hold a grudge against God – sometimes even to the point that we stop talking to Him.

I once witnessed a woman struggling to forgive a deep wound inflicted by her father in her childhood. When asked if she could forgive him, she shook her head. Then, she was asked if she could forgive God for allowing it to happen. She was able to do so. Only after that could she go on to forgive her father and move toward deeper layers of healing.

Strangely…sometimes we need to forgive God.

I’ve seen people come to a place where they are not only able to accept a past hurt as a part of their unique story, but are able to thank God for what they formerly believed was for their ruin. Then, because of the authority they have gained from their experience, they not only heal, they move on to minister to others, helping them in their struggle. It aids in the fullness of their own healing, and they are thankful when they realize how far they’ve come.

You may never fully understand why the circumstance was allowed in your life, but know that God doesn’t waste a thing.

If you and God haven’t been on speaking terms for a while, could you trust Him enough to take the ashes of your situation and form them into beauty? the tears you have shed into fountains of blessing? the despair you’ve felt into praise? and the heartache and hurt into healing? God says you will be firmly planted and will bring Him glory.  (see Isa 61:3)

No matter how long it’s been, He is still open for conversation, in fact, He’s missed hearing from you. He’s never stopped loving you and cheering for you, longing for the time the two of you would speak again. Trust in His unfailing love for you, rejoice that He has saved you, and know that He has been good to you.

I bless you with the courage to begin the conversation.

 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ~ Jesus

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A young mom recently asked me, “How can I do some deep work with God?”

What a beautiful question! I picture God smiling ear-to-ear over His kids who are seeking a climb-up-on-His-lap kind of intimacy.

I mentioned some ways to grow closer to God, such as setting time aside each day to read His word, prayer, and keeping a prayer journal, but thought it deserved a more thoughtful answer. Below are some of the specific ways that have helped me enrich my relationship with the Lord. I write them here as an encouragement to you.

  1. Read and study the Bible. Approach God’s word expectantly. What I mean by this is when you sit down to read the Bible, expect to hear from God. If a verse stands out to you, write it in a prayer journal or underline it in your Bible. Memorization also helps to hide His word in your heart for future use and timely encouragement.
  2. Pray.  Both the fall-on-your-knees and cry out to God kind, and the breath-by-breath throughout the day kind. Pray away from the crowds – just you and God, but also with other faithful, believers who expect God hears and answers in miraculous ways.
  3. Keep a prayer journal. I use my prayer journal to write prayers to God. In it I tell Him about what I’m struggling with, significant requests, and verses that stand out to me. It is amazing to look back and see God’s faithfulness documented and dated.
  4. Listen. Be still long enough to hear God’s hallowed in-between reply. The whisper in your spirit from His. The knowingness that God passed by and you didn’t miss the exhale of His Spirit releasing reassurance, peace, or a drop of deeper understanding. Let His voice be the loudest in your life.
  5. Praise.  Tell God how much you love Him. Be mindful of His many attributes. Speak, sing, dance, play, paint, or write your exclamations of praise – your worship to Him. Use your gifting for His glory. Your joyful offering pleases God and fortifies faith.
  6. Go to church. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Go to church to hear God’s word, to be encouraged, to meet with His saints and worship together. Meet regularly with other believers outside of the church walls too. Hear their victory stories, pray for them in their struggles, and love them.
  7. Choose/Practice forgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15) Jesus did it, so must we. It is a choice; a determined effort. It’s hard, they may not deserve it, but doing so frees us to live in the fullness of love and abundance Jesus died to give us.
  8. Be thankful. Don’t forget to thank God for ALL He has allowed in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it is being used to form you into Christ-likeness. Nothing  is wasted. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Even in the middle of the largest battle, we can choose thankfulness, and even in the midst of the most mundane moments we can be thankful.
  9. Choose joy. It can be found in the most heartbreaking, painful situations or can be chosen in the monotony of the day-to-day. Joy that isn’t based on circumstances but is rooted in faith that, no matter what, the God of the universe has “got” this and everything else. Choosing joy changes the atmosphere both within and without.
  10. Find a mentor/Be a mentor. Walk alongside a trusted someone who is a little further on in their journey than you. Learn from them, hear their stories, be encouraged by their triumphs and failures. Do the same for another newer or younger believer. We were not meant to walk alone.
  11. Serve and care for those in need. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27) Some sacrifice and inconvenience will be required, and you will be reminded that it’s not all about you, but your time and care will be priceless and of eternal value.
  12. Persevere. No matter the hardships, the fiery trials, the repeated mess-ups, the hurt, harm and misunderstandings, do not let anything or anyone come between you and God. Don’t let the truth of how precious and loved by God you are be stolen from you. You will, at times, be a partaker in Christ’s sufferings (see 1 Peter 4:12-14), but stay the course to end and great will be your reward (see Matthew 5:10-12).

I bless you as you do some deep work with God. 

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