Is Negative Thinking a Choice?

I am an optimist; in case you did not know. I believe the best in people, until I am proven wrong. Even when people have bad intentions, I have seen God change their heart or bring good out of the situation.

I have experienced firsthand God’s mighty power and transforming my lemons into lemonade, time and time again. So, I can have faith that He will do it again, in any circumstance. It brings me peace to be positive. Does that make me naïve? For a very large portion of my life, I would agree. I was very naïve. But, God…you know the rest. Today is a very different story. I came through the fire and I am still positive. I know there are people I cannot trust as far as I can throw them- which is not very far; but I do not dwell on that.

When I see others who lean on the side of negative thinking and pessimistic views, I wonder- is that a choice? Is it in their DNA? Have they genuinely tried (with God’s help) to choose another path? The path of peace. Can they envision the concept of making lemonade? What if they were able to intentionally push out negative thoughts every day and choose to think positive? Would that be a life changer? I am truly curious and ask out of sincerity.

For any pessimists out there- please do not take this personal and respond too quickly without taking time for thoughtful reflection. I do know that I have times of doubt and fear- I do not linger there. I ask God to help me push it out so I can return to a place of peace. I guess I choose to think positive in that way. So as a natural optimist- is it easier for me? Probably. But does that mean it is not possible for a pessimist to do the same thing? It may be more difficult – but I think it is possible. What do you think?

Big ‘G’ or Little ‘g’

I thought I would expand on the Scripture I used in last week’s blog to dive a little deeper into Joshua’s challenge in 24:15 to ‘choose this day whom you will serve’. By this time in Joshua’s journey, he was in the last stages of his life, and he had seen many people be disobedient and the consequences that came from it.

As an assistant to Moses, he saw firsthand the idols and gods the previous generation worshiped in disobedience to God’s commands. He also had the opportunity, as a faithful servant, to succeed Moses to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

We can relate the gods and idols of that generation to ours today. Anything we place ahead of GOD is an idol and a god (little ‘g’). I would venture to say we have many gods, although not in the form of a golden calf, but still just as detrimental to our lives if we place them before God and allow them to become the ultimate thing in our life instead of putting Jesus at the forefront.

Joshua was challenging the generation whose fathers had been disobedient. He was setting an example and asking them to choose if they were going to fall back into the patterns of the generation before them or serve the one true God. They continued to choose to serve God as they had seen what He did for them as they overcame many obstacles, saw miracles when God parted the water for them to pass, when the walls of Jericho fell after circling it for seven days, as God instructed, and the land given to them that God had promised, not to mention the many battles that were conquered with God’s help due to their obedience and putting God in His rightful place in their lives.

We may not have the same circumstances, obstacles, and challenges that generation had, but there is still a lesson to be learned. Just as we see the promises fulfilled in the OT in Moses and Joshua’s day, we can trust God to fulfill His promises through eternity by way of Jesus. Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew- symbolically, by faith and obedience to God, Joshua led Israel into physical salvation in Canaan, and Jesus leads all who believe him into eternal salvation.

The importance of Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel is still relevant to us yet today- “choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)  

But God…

Today, many of us are reflecting on the past year as we all want a fresh start, a do-over, and an end to the virus, hate, and injustices seen the last few months. In my reflection this morning, I was reminded of all the great things God has done this year. Even during a pandemic, God showed up in a big way to bring good to many. We can rest assured He is with us and still in control.

At this time last year, I had no idea I would be in school, working from home, and getting ready to welcome a new daughter (in law) to our little family. I sit in gratefulness and awe of an amazing God and Father who loves us and wants good for us. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:4-10 when Paul makes what the ESV study Bible calls, “the greatest short phrase in history of human speech”. “But God!” (emphasis added) Just before this, Paul paints a bleak picture of our sinful nature. We are hopeless and helpless on our own, following the devil and his sinful nature that we, as descendants of Adam, inherited at birth. Just when things are the darkest and all hope is lost…God steps in with mercy, kindness, and love; for those who are joined to Jesus Christ are saved from the terrible consequences of their sin and enjoy the benefits of Christ’s resurrection.

Have you ever loved something or someone so much that you set it free? You did not want to keep it, control, or manipulate it into staying with you just because you wanted it to so much. That is the picture of true love. You want to offer a choice to be with you because of love for you. God does that for us. He gave us the free will to choose Him. He sent His Son to die on our behalf so we could have eternal life, but He also asks us to choose whom we will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Do you want to choose this broken world and our sinful nature or the Father who loves us and wants the best for us for eternity?

I look forward to a new year, to see what God will do, what surprises He has in store, as I rest in the knowledge of His love, truth, mercy, and goodness. I invite you to join me in celebration of that truth, not fearing what is next because God is with us. Let us stand on a firm foundation, rooted deep in faith, serving and loving others as He loves us. I choose God. I choose joy. I encourage you to read and reflect on Ephesians 2:4-10 and just what that means for us.

I pray for restoration of relationships, and that God will close the gaps on the many divisions occurring among Christians and family members, the enemy is trying to destroy. But most of all, I pray that you will welcome the intimate relationship God is offering you today.

Happy New Year to all!  May the God of peace be with you in the coming year and beyond.

Recipe

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. ~Proverbs 2:10

We should not add Jesus to whatever we are doing like an ingredient in a recipe to justify our actions. We need to be willing to search the scriptures for His truth and change our ways to be like Him.

We can ask God for wisdom and understanding. Jesus should come first and direct the rest of our actions. If this means our actions change, at first it is uncomfortable, and we resist. But if we trust Him fully and let Him lead us, the result is even better than we can imagine.

Our plan of action leads to sin and dissatisfaction.  Jesus’ plan & God’s will in our hearts leads us by the Holy Spirit and ultimately His plan for us. Let Him lead the way to the kingdom= JOY!

On the flip side of that coin, just as we should not add Jesus to justify, we also should not leave Him out. Everything in the Old and New Testament points to Christ. This is God’s story of redemption to bring His people to Himself. Scriptures are written for our instruction and the lessons are timeless. (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11-12) Cultures come and go but God remains the same throughout the ages and His word still stands today. Christ died to give us eternal life. It is not a secret society; it is an open invitation with eternal significance and our choice has eternal consequences. Thank you, Jesus! Merry Christmas!

For the time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Armor of God

I am not going to lie, last week was one of the most challenging, energy depleting weeks that I’ve had in a long time. There are circumstances in my life right now that are the driving force behind it, so I know why, but at the end of the day I still felt defeated.

In my prayers I was reciting the scripture in my own words that tells us to put on the armor of God and hold up the shield of faith to deflect the enemy, but in my state of fatigue, I let my guard down and allowed the enemy to sneak in through a side door, the door of exhaustion.

He began to put doubt in my mind, make me question my calling and the path God has placed me on; the very things that provide the fulfillment in my life were put under attack and magnified to the extent of feeling overwhelmed and underequipped to handle what God has called me to do.

Of course, I can’t do it on my own. He is the one who equips me to do the things he asks of me. It is in that dependence on him that I am who I am. My very being and breath comes from him. But when we are mentally drained Satan has an in and if we aren’t careful, he will use it against us in an attempt to shut us down.

The armor of God are not just words to recite. They are something we need to take to heart and know the meaning and how to apply them in our lives. As Paul warns in Ephesians 6:10-18, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

As I was running the other morning, I received this message: “You wouldn’t wear galoshes to run, so why not put on all the right gear to get through the day?”

Here is list of each piece of armor and what it symbolizes:

Belt of truth

Breastplate of righteousness which is faith and love

Shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil

Helmet of salvation

Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God

Shoes are the peace that comes from the Good News, so we are fully prepared

Now that I know all of this was an attack, I am better equipped to handle it, not because I am stronger but because in my weakness, He is strong. It is not me that will handle it, but God. He fights my battles for me. It is by faith, that I follow even if I don’t know where I am going and the way before me seems steep. I also started a Bible plan based on the book, Don’t Give Up, Kyle Idlema references Abraham’s story. He put it like this, you are not too old or too broken for God to use you and Abraham could see that God was the one leading him and that was enough. Today I rejoice in where God is leading me and want to share that joy with you. If you are having a rough week, don’t give up. Press into what God is asking of you, not what the enemy is putting on you.

I Believe!

Mt. Rainier

Do you believe God parted the Red Sea as though it were dry ground? Do you believe the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down? Do you believe God shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames of fire and placed Jonah in the belly of a whale? Do you believe Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood? I could go on and on through scripture how God saved His people, preformed miracles and changed lives through the faith of His people.

I believe because I have seen first hand in my own life how God spared my life from a tragic car accident, saved me from an abusive relationship, brought good out of my mistakes and bad decisions, and I could on and on about that as well.

We all have our blanks? How do you fill in the blank? What have you seen God do in your life that causes you to believe?

I believe because God saved me from________________________________________.

How has God changed your life so much that you know it could only be Him?

So why not trust Him with this?

Whatever your ‘this’ is right now. That daunting thing that looks overwhelming, but you know God brought you to it. It reminds me of the song lyrics, ‘I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains, and I believe I will see You do it again.’ Friend, when we’ve seen God work in our lives before, we can believe He will do it again. If we believe we can receive everything He has for us, in full measure and abundance. If we believe we will receive. Hold tight to that confidence- not in ourselves but in what God can do in and through us when we believe, have faith and trust Him with the results.

This also comes with a warning; it probably won’t look like what we thought, but we can trust God with the outcome and believe where He is leading us will be even better than we ever imagined for ourselves.

When you get a chance, read through Hebrews chapter 11. Refresh yourself in one chapter with what all God has achieved through those who believed.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Never Alone

I have learned to distinguish a cardinal from other birds by their call. Even when I can’t see them, I know there is one close by because I hear it.

We have been watching the Masked Singer lately- this is where a group of celebrities in costume compete against each other in a singing competition while a celebrity panel of judges tries to guess who they are. As they are eliminated in the competition, they are unmasked. Most of the time it is a total surprise who they are. But the last show we watched was different; one of the panelists recognized the voice of the singer- they were friends, so she had no doubt who it was. A friend recognizes the voice of a friend. She wasn’t wrong.

We can also learn how to recognize God’s voice and train our ear to listen for it; even when we cannot see Him. We can know He is near- He never leaves us or forsakes us. Sometimes we feel distant because of our sin or simply because we do not take the time to be still, learn His voice and pay attention.

God is the One person we do not have to social distance from during this time of quarantine. Quite the opposite, now is the perfect opportunity, as we have more time at home, to rekindle our relationship with the Father. If you have not experienced a close relationship with Him before, it is a great time to start one through the reading of His word, sitting in quiet time with the Spirit and asking for discernment to understand His voice.

It is also a great opportunity to pray for God’s people all over the world- as we are experiencing the same trials- (I Peter 5:9) We are not alone in our suffering. Not only are there others going through the same things; but God is always with us. He never leaves us alone or forsakes us. These song lyrics have been on my mind for several days: “I’ve seen the lightning flashing and heard the thunder roll…. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” You have a friend that is closer than a brother that you can talk to anytime. His door is always open. He is always listening and waiting for you to come to Him. He knows exactly what you are going through right now.

God’s faithfulness is everlasting. Draw near and abide in Him. His promises stand true. Trust Him to be your constant companion- even though you may not see Him. You can know that He is there. It is in the knowing and trusting that brings a peace and comfort like no other.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. John 15:4

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Faith Floats

Doubt sinks ships, but faith floats and carries us to the other side.

If we let our faith be our guide, there is absolutely nothing to fear.

At a time when I needed to rely on my faith to carry out what God had put on my heart, God pointed me to this scripture.

Hebrews 11:1-40 (V1) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

There are thirteen verses that begin with “It was by faith….” If I counted right throughout this chapter in Hebrews. the word “faith” is mentioned at least 21 times. I had to read every one of them before I got it. He wanted me to have more faith. To trust Him fully and be obedient without fear, seeking to do His will in all things.

We need to be a tree- unmovable in our faith. Deeply rooted in God’s truth.

If we rely on our faith – He will see us through. We’ve experienced what He has done for us and enjoyed a new life – now we can rest on His promises for an even better life ahead. If we remain faithful- we will receive everything we need.

I sometimes think about the things I entrusted to men in my past. Those are the things I should have feared. Yet I trusted them. I can see now where that got me. The things God asks of me are no comparison. So why should I fear Him? I know the things God is asking are good and lead to righteousness. I just need to have complete faith and trust in a God who changed my life.

Not only do we need knowledge of His truth, understanding of His word, discernment and wisdom but once He gives us all these things, we must put our faith into action.

We need to get off the bench and get in the game.

James 2:26

Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.