Godly Living

Addressing the Fear of Financial Ruin

I have been having discussions recently regarding the fear of financial ruin.  This fear of or the reality of not having enough money to cover your debt can cause such a ripple effect in your life.  Some people allow fear of their own expected and/or looming financial disaster to create so much anxiety that they will avoid opening bills and financial statements because they don’t want to think about it.  The idea of ‘not thinking about it’ or not answering the nagging phone calls from debt collectors seems to them a better alternative than learning.  Learning the truth about exactly how much they owe, exactly how much money they have, exactly how much money they spend on other things, and how much God loves them.  The truth will set you free.  The person who hates correction is stupid (Proverbs 12:1 NIV) and the person who gets wisdom loves his own soul. (Proverbs 19:8a)

Another person I learned has been avoiding the IRS for years, refusing to open letters, and acting as if throwing the letters away or burying them in a huge pile of other unopened obligations somehow makes the problems go away.  There’s an old saying that says, ‘ignorance is bliss,’  but that is not found in God’s Word.  God has something very different to say about ignorance and avoidance.  God tells us that His people die because of lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)  Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and when you fear God, follow His ways and believe His promises you will not fear debt, the IRS, bills, or anything else.  God sees your debt and knows what your situation is.  Our God is a God of details, He counts the very hairs on your head and He most definitely is able to count the pennies in your bank account.  God has so many promises of His provision for His children.  When you choose to not gain wisdom and knowledge by avoidance, your actions convict you of a lack of faith. 

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Let’s learn from the event that occurred with the widow’s oil from 2 Kings 4 (AMP) and we will pull action items from this which I’ve listed in bold below:

The Widow’s Oil

4 Now one of the wives of a man of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha [for help], (Step 1, Ask a wise, godly person for help & counsel) saying “Your servant my husband is dead, (Step 2, Acknowledge the income source and any problem that exists there) and you know that your servant [reverently] feared the Lord; (Step 3, fear God) but the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves [in payment for a loan].” (Step 4, acknowledge who is owed money and what they are requesting as payment) 2 Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have [of value] in the house?” She said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a [small] jar of [olive] oil.” (Step 5, determine what you have of value) 3 Then he said, “Go, borrow containers from all your neighbors, empty containers—and not just a few. 4 Then you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out [the oil you have] into all these containers, and you shall set aside each one when it is full.” (Step 6, create a plan) 5 So she left him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing her the containers as she poured [the oil]. (Step 7, act in faith) 6 When the containers were all full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” And he said to her, “There is not a one left.” Then the oil stopped [multiplying]. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. He said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (Step 8, obey and trust God to help you pay your debts.  God is able to multiply, redeem, and provide a plan to help you in your time of trouble.)  I found it interesting that God stopped multiplying the oil once there were no more jars left.  He provided for as much as they prepared to receive.  What are you preparing to receive?  Do your actions convict you of fear or faith?  

When fear is running your life, you are a prisoner being driven by fear which is in direct relation to your unbelief in God and His promises.  God wants you to be free from the prison of fear and be led by faith instead.  In Him, all things are possible.

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:13

Written by Jamie

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

How To Escape the Snare of ‘Fear of Man’

As she approached me, a feeling spontaneously arose within me…the feeling of dread. When in this woman’s presence, I feel judged by her; as if I don’t measure up to her standards; and that she is looking to find fault with me. I’m not saying that I’ve ever heard her say anything derogatory about me, nor that she has any intention of intimating me, or even any awareness that she does: I am just saying that's a feeling I often have around her.

Is there a person in whose presence you often feel intimidated? Have you thought what is behind the feeling, and how you can respond in a God-pleasing way when you feel judged and intimidated by someone?

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The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe (Proverbs 29:25 ESV). We need to recognize whenever we feel intimidated by another person that Satan is at work to try to entrap us. Usually we fall into Satan’s trap by succumbing to one of the following responses: we develop vain imaginations about the person and assign a negative connotation to their verbal or non-verbal communication, which can lead to our ‘becoming offended’ and in turn, retaliating against the person by gossiping about them, and/or becoming fearful of, resentful, or bitter toward them. We can wonder ‘what’s wrong with me’ that the person would treat me in such a way, and then fall prey to negative self-talk that can lead to despondency and depression. If we think a person is intimidating, we usually choose to avoid them, as well as situations where they may be present. I know of people who have left jobs or who’ve stopped attending church because of a person who intimidates them. 

It is so important that we don’t respond to other people based upon our feelings, but out of obedience to God and His Word.

God tells us that we have no need to fear others, and that’s true whether we perceive them to be judging or attacking us, or if they do in fact taunt or revile us. 

“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness (right standing with God), The people in whose heart is My law and instruction; Do not fear the reproach and taunting of man, Nor be distressed at their reviling. Isaiah 51:7 AMP

Whenever I allow myself to feel intimidated by someone, my focus is upon myself—or the other person— and not upon God, who should always be the object of my focus (Col. 3:1; Hebrews 3:1; Psalm 119:6; 12:1-2). When my focus is fixed upon God, I will know that there is only one opinion of me that matters: and that’s God’s! And He says that I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, His child, and lavishly loved by Him! (Psalm 139:14; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:32; 37-39; 1 John 3:1) When my focus is upon God, then it won’t be on me and my subjective ‘feelings’; I won’t become fixated on the real or perceived ‘offense’ and become judgmental myself or buy into self-deprecation. Instead, I will be asking questions like,“How can I respond in a way that pleases and glorifies God in this situation?” and  “How can I be a blessing to the person and reveal to them God’s heart of love for them?”

The only reason to look to yourself when you feel intimidated is to examine your own heart toward the person, and ask God to give you a ‘clean heart’ before Him so that you don’t fall into Satan’s trap and become offended or downtrodden (Psalm 51). God’s word tells us that ‘love is not easily offended’ (1 Corinthians 13:5), and we are always to respond to others in love (John 13:34). God’s desire may be for you to humble yourself and go to the person to see if you might have offended him/her (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15), and to do whatever God leads you to do to pursue a harmonious relationship with them (Romans 12:16-18; 14:19; Colossians 3:12-13; Hebrews 12:14). People who intimidate others because of a condescending, judgmental spirit  reveal they don’t fully understand God’s love for them, His love for others, and His desire that people love others ‘as He has loved’ them. So, rather than focusing on yourself, you can look at the situation as a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to the other person the love that Christ has shown to you! When you feel intimidated by someone, ask God to give you His view of and love for them, and the strength to respond to them with the grace and love He has extended to you!

So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another in [unselfish] love. Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful]. Ephesians 4:1-3 AMP

Prayer: Lord, help me to keep my focus upon You and Your will at all times, and give me the faith to believe that Your view of me is the only one that matters so that I do not succumb to the fear of man. When I do succumb, immediately convict me so that I do not sin against You by believing the lies of the enemy about myself, or by having unloving thoughts about or actions toward the person I find intimidating. May my identity be firmly rooted in the truth of who you say I am, based upon Your lavish, unchanging love for me! Lord, help me to be a vessel through which your love flows into the lives of others—-those who are easy for me to love, and especially to those who intimidate me and are impossible for me to love in my own strength. Give me Your heart of love for them, remembering at all times that they too are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made in Your image’ and precious to You! May the people I find intimidating become rooted and grounded in Your love so they will have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for them— love that surpasses all knowledge—so that they will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of You!

 (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

5 Reasons You Need to Stop Saying This Word

The word never, is only beneficial when describing things that God has said will never happen or to keep a person safe.  Here are a few examples:

God is never going to change

God will never sin

God will never flood the earth again

Never do drugs

Never drink & drive

dictionary.com defines ‘never’ as:


Nev-er

1. not ever; at no time:

2. not at all; absolutely not:

3. to no extent or degree:

Often I hear people use this word in a way that does significant damage to their spiritual walk.  Here are a few examples about the times we may be tempted to use this word:  

“We know that’s never going to happen….” in response to a relationship problem, marriage issue or work dilemma.

“She’s never going to change” in response to a person

“He’s never going to get accepted” into that program/college/trade school

“They will never agree to that” in response to a governing body or place of employment

“I would never do that” in response to judging someone else’s sin

“He would never say/do that” in response to a bad report from a teacher about your child

“God will never answer this prayer/perform a miracle for me/care about this.”

The word ‘Never’ is a life killer, dream stealer, hope thwarter, and prayer thief.

5 Reasons Why We Need to Stop Using the Word ‘Never’:

1. ‘Never’ is faithless word & without faith we cannot please God  

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6 NIV

2. ‘Never’ brings death to a situation vs. hope & life which God is the author of

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Proverbs 18:21 NIV


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3. ‘Never’ is not the truth  (unless you’re repeating something God said will never happen.)                                                                  

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ Matthew 19:26 NIV

4. ‘Never; completely diminishes the power of God in our lives because it is a lie

“Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” Psalm 40:4

5.   Saying ‘Never’ is worse than doubt, it is making yourself ‘God’ over that situation or person you are praying for or talking about.  The word ‘never’ declares that you are the authority in the matter and it is blasphemous and idolatry.  Our God is a redeemer, an expert in the restoration of all things, He makes all things new, He regenerates people from death to eternal life, and specializes in the impossible!  When you say you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and with the same mouth proclaim that He will “never” fix your marriage or change your friend you are a double-minded man!  Look what James 1:6-8 says: “But he must ask in faith, without doubting, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  (bold letter added for emphasis) 

The use of the word ‘never’ in your life keeps you from living a life of faith. 

I challenge you to stop using the word ‘never’ and begin today to replace it with life-giving words of hope and truth from God’s Word.  

“You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.”  Isaiah 57:10 ESV

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping–believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, "That’s how many descendants you will have!”  Romans 4:18 NLT

In what situation do you find yourself in that there may be ‘no reason for hope’ as was the case with Abraham?  Choose to keep on believing in God’s truth today. 

What are you hoping for?  Write out some Bible verses to study and repeat that will bring hope to your life.

Our God specializes in the impossible!

Written by Jamie Shaver

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

Got Regret? What to Do If You'd Like a 'Do-Over'

Another hour ticked away on the clock as I lay awake tossing and turning, going over and over again in my mind the purchase my husband and I had made earlier that day that was not able to be returned. We were stuck with our choice, like it or not.. I felt tormented by thoughts that we had made a foolish decision, one that we would regret. Had we been led by FOMO—the fear of ‘missing out’— on a good deal?  I knew that our choice was not ‘sinful’ per se, and that most people wouldn’t understand what I was feeling; however, I felt the weight of regret that we hadn’t truly sought the Lord’s counsel before making the decision. I was keenly aware that I always felt peace after making a decision where I knew that we’d been led by the Lord, which was in sharp contrast to the unrest I was feeling for having ‘jumped the gun’ before hearing a clear word from God. I knew the conviction I felt was good because it was a sign of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, and necessary to cause me to recognize where we ‘missed the mark’ so we would go back to God in repentance. However, I was also overwhelmed by a feeling that was far more than conviction; I was battling against Satan—the Accuser of the Brethren—who was working overtime to heap condemnation upon me, drown me in guilt, and create a breach in my relationship with God, my Heavenly Father.

As I considered the decision we had made—a decision that people make every day without giving a second thought to consulting God, it occurred to me that before becoming a Christian, I too had never bothered to seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom on everyday— or even major— life decisions. Other decisions I had made throughout my life flashed before my mind, and I realized how often I could’ve avoided regret and heartache had I only sought the Lord and His counsel, rather than relying upon my own wisdom! As a committed believer for over 25 years who knows the joy of walking with the Lord and relying upon Him and His counsel, I was grief-stricken that I had fallen prey once again to my presumptuous sin of pride, for it was pride that was at the root of our not consulting the Lord. As I lay there tossing and turning that night, I pictured Jesus dying for every one of my sins, including my sin of doing things ‘my way’ rather than looking to and following Him Who is ‘The Way’. Oh, what a merciful Savior we have whose blood shed on the cross covers our sins of commission, but also our sins of omission— like operating in our own wisdom and understanding rather than seeking the Lord’s wisdom and counsel before making decisions!

So, what about you? Have you ever made a decision that you later regretted? A time when you sorely wished you could have a ‘do-over’? Maybe you bought what you thought was your ‘dream home’, but it turned out to be a money pit instead. Or perhaps you moved from a small town to a big city hoping for ‘great adventure’, but once the newness of the big city wore off you regretted leaving your family and friends. Or maybe you took a job you really didn’t want because you felt desperate for the income, but once on-the-job, you felt stuck there when the job market changed. Or, maybe you bought a used car and it turned out to be a lemon. Or,  perhaps you bought a non-returnable, expensive dress while on vacation but you never lost the weight you’d hoped to so it  remained unworn in your closet. Or, far more importantly, maybe you raised your children based upon the world’s wisdom or in your own understanding rather than according to God’s instructions as found in the Bible, and you now so regret that you have ‘reaped what you have sown’. Whatever the decision you made that you later regretted, you may look back now and think, as I did: What if I had consulted the Lord and not relied upon my own understanding before making that decision? Perhaps you would’ve made the same decision, perhaps not. However, if you’d first consulted the Word of God and obeyed His leading, you would have had the peace of knowing that God, Who is All Knowing and All Wise, had led you to make the decision, and you would have been able to rest in that knowledge and assurance, even if the results were not what you might have desired. His ways are ALWAYS the right and best ways, even when we can’t understand them from our limited perspective!

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So, what should you do once you realize that you relied upon your own wisdom rather than upon God’s and you made a decision you now regret:

1) Turn to God and ask Him to forgive you for not consulting Him, for trusting in your own wisdom rather than seeking and putting your faith in His wisdom. I encourage you to picture yourself going to God as your Heavenly Father and pour your heart out to Him. I know that when I pictured doing that during the night when I was ‘tossing and turning over my decision, I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me, “You know that your earthly father would forgive you for not consulting him, so how much more will your Heavenly Father forgive you?”(Matthew 7:11) Peace flooded my soul as I sensed His lavish grace extended to me!

2) Receive and live in the reality of the forgiveness that the Lord purchased for you on the cross, and do not allow Satan to torment you with guilt for your decision once you’ve acknowledged your sorrow to the Lord. When Satan comes in ‘like a flood’ to heap condemnation upon you, remind him that you are a blood-bought child of God who is fully forgiven, and that NOTHING can separate you from the love of your heavenly Father!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death….

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1-2,38-39 ESV

Also, remind Satan that God is able to make something beautiful even from your poor choices—like using them to remind you of how desperately You need God’s wisdom, and to remind you that God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to pay the price for your every bad decision even before it was ever made! The purchase that I had regretted making so much that night has now become a daily reminder to me of God’s Father’s heart for me and His unwavering grace in my life!

3) Be prepared and willing to face the consequences of a decision you made based upon your wisdom rather than God’s. Yes, you are forgiven by God and your sin is removed ‘as far as the east is from the west’ (Psalm 103:12), but that does not necessarily mean that you won’t endure some painful consequences for acting in your own understanding rather than seeking God’s. In fact, the consequences we face can be the very instrument of God’s grace in our life that He uses to humble us and cause us to become more reliant upon His always trustworthy counsel. Make sure to inquire of the Lord and obey His leading as you go through whatever consequences you may have to face for the decision you made. For example, I know a couple who purchased what they thought was the best home in their area for the price they could afford—they leaned on their own understanding— but after the purchase they encountered major issues that could be very costly. Besides pouring their heart out to the Lord and asking for His forgiveness for not seeking His wisdom prior to their purchase, they need to invite God into their current situation, seek His counsel, and rely upon His wisdom as they respond to the consequences of the house choice they made. 

4) Determine in the future to seek the Lord’s counsel before making decisions, and ask God to convict you every time you act as if your life  and your resources are ‘yours’, rather than His. Remind yourself that you have been created by God for His purpose and His glory, bought with the blood of Jesus so ‘your life’  really belongs to Him, and it is only by His power that you ‘live and move and have your being’. (Isaiah 43:7; 1 Corinthians 6:20;Acts 17:28) Invite God to come into and take over every area of your life so that you are always trusting in Him rather than in yourself and your limited understanding.

5) Praise God that His grace abounds and that He is rich in mercy! Praise Him that every sin, every poor choice you have ever made or will ever make was laid at the cross and covered by the blood of Jesus and you bear your sin no more! And praise Him that He can work ALL things together for your good—even the poor choices you have made based upon your human understanding, and even the poor decisions you may make in the future (Romans 8:28) In fact, our poor decisions showcase our desperate need for God’s wisdom! If we desire to be wise and want what’s best for us, we will learn from our poor choices that we need to fully trust in and rely upon God at all times and for all of our decisions, for He will lead us in paths of righteousness for our good, and for His name’s sake! (Psalm 23:3)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 

It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV

Lord, forgive me for the many times I have failed to consult you before making a decision. Forgive me for my pride that assumes that I don’t need You, or that I know more or better than You, and my rebellion that sometimes wants things ‘my way’ rather than Your way. I acknowledge that You are All Knowing, All Wise, Lavish in Your Love, and that Your ways are always so much higher than mine! I need You, Lord, oh, how I need You, every hour I need You! Help me to trust You at all times and for all things. I praise You for Your unconditional love, and that You are able to make all things beautiful and something that declares Your glory, even the ‘ashes’ of my poor choices!  Amen.

Written by Julie Van Gorp

Are you curious to know how much fear, worry and anxiety is impacting your life? Take our free quiz to learn how fearful, worried and anxious you really are?

Be an Oreo, A Lesson From a 16-Year Old Girl About Overcoming Comparison

When I was younger, back in 4th grade, I used to run cross country.  Now based off of my reputation nowadays, some of you may believe that it was voluntarily and that I was happy about it. Only half of that is true. My best friend at the time was huge into running, and she was really good and loved it. She was the type of girl that everyone loved because she was athletic, fun, she worked hard, and was herself, and I wanted to be all of those things. So she persuaded me to join cross country and I thought that through doing it, I would become more like her.  In the spring, the cross country season had started and I was ok with running. Didn't love it, didn’t hate it, but what I really did start to hate was the fact that my friend would always beat me. We ran approximately 2.5 miles and she would always get ahead of me by about 15-30 seconds, so everyday during the run I would start to cry. I would cry that I wasn’t fast enough and that I wanted to be faster but my legs hurt and I felt like I was never going to win. I started to hold on to some bitterness towards her because I was jealous of her success and that began to build a wall in between us. Once, I had praised her for her success and was genuinely happy for her, but throughout the seasons of cross country in 4th, 5th and 6th grade I began to hold them against her in a way.  I wasn’t happy for her anymore, instead I would look at her almost as an enemy because she had everything I wanted and was better at it. This not only hurt me but also our relationship. 

Often, when we see other people and their success and realize we want it for ourselves, it can create an obstacle between you and that person.  It hurts the chance that you may be able to become good friends with them in the future. Comparing yourself to others also can cause you to create doubt in yourself until that comparison comes true, to where they are better at whatever it is because you have chosen to waste time focusing on why you aren’t where they are yet.  Maybe you are someone that compares yourself to others based on their appearance, or maybe if it’s not about looks, maybe you compare yourself to others because they are smarter than you or at least you may think they are.  Maybe you compare yourself to the success of your siblings, or the money so and so has.  Maybe you compare yourself to who has more happiness or joy than you.  And often you may even begin to focus so much on how to get what they have through outward things, instead of evaluating yourself and learning how you can grow yourself in the relationship you have with God and His goals for your life.  God specifically talks about this in Galatians 6:4, where He says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So let’s tackle the first part of this verse first, and to remind you it says, “Each one should test their own actions…” now you may be thinking to yourself, what does this mean? Or maybe what the heck is she talking about? But hold on, because this will make a lot of sense as we go through it.  We need to test our own actions by examining ourselves, and doing this inside and out. Look at outside actions first and ask yourself, what am I choosing to spend my time on that is either getting me to this goal or isn’t getting me to this goal? Also, look on the inside and ask yourself, how is my attitude about this person or about their success holding me back from getting there or doing those things? Is my attitude creating a barrier between me and that person? This, then, opens us up to the rest if the verse, “Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” So by examining ourselves, it allows for us to see where we need to grow in order to acknowledge our own achievements and gratefulness because God is who made those achievements possible, and this would allow for us to do that without lusting over someone else’s success. This will not only allow for us to be happier for others, but also it will bring us inner joy that can only come through Christ because when it is just you and God working together without the obstacle of jealousy (because God has a plan for all of us that is very unique), we can soar in joy in both ourselves and others.

Oreo

In fact, when I was thinking through this, I thought of an Oreo. In an Oreo, there are the two outside sides of the cookie and the inside is the good stuff, now some of you can disagree with that but the inside of the Oreo is definitely the best part.  But instead of thinking of this cookie like the typical Netflix snack, picture this… (holding an Oreo) this side represents when we are content in ourselves and our own success, and this other side represents when we are happy for others, and when those two are together, what it contains on the inside is the sweetest, and best part of the cookie. When we celebrate others and not look at them through eyes of jealousy and hate, it starts to form an inner joy and peace in our hearts that fills the inside. Now, God also talks about this in 1 John 4:7 as He is speaking through John He says, “Dear friends, let us love another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” When we love one another, that love is not coming from our human nature because that is very much unloving, we actually are loving by the one Who is love. The love we give others is the love God first gave us and when we love others with this love, it says we begin to know God and that we have been born in God. In knowing God, we also know that God has a lot to say about us that quite sadly we forget about or we take it for granted. We, instead, think way too much about what others think of us. This feeds the issue of comparing ourselves to others because others’ opinions can shape how we act, dress, or carry ourselves which can also have a huge impact in what we choose to focus on in terms of our goals. I was like this a lot last year while I, as many of you already know, attended a public school.  I was so concerned about what others thought of me and how I could be like everyone else, or how I can “better myself” to be more acceptable or more celebrated amongst my peers. This caused me to go through a whole series of changes. I changed how I acted, I changed how I talked, how I carried myself, how I thought, I changed my values, morals, and I quite honestly reshaped my goals and completely changed my reputation. I did this all for the cause of wanting to be like everyone else to achieve the amount of friends so and so had and the list went on. I was so obsessed with achieving the happiness and fullness I thought they had that I nearly lost myself and who I was through the process. I lost sight of my goals and where I wanted to go.  I had tunnel vision.  So, now having left that public school and having the summer before coming here to find who I wanted to be and rediscover my values and goals, I have grown tremendously, and none of this could've been done apart from God. He told me all throughout this process by showing me that I was loved and that I was enough.

So instead of being so concerned about what others thinks about us, we need to change that to what does God think about us because His opinion is the only real opinion that matters. It will change our whole perspective on what we are living for, lives will be changed, and you will begin to experience the joy and freedom in all the areas of your life.  In 1 John 4:16 it says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” When we live this out and love God, it shows our genuine happiness for others’ success and achievements. But it also shines a light about who God is through us and can leave a lasting impact on that person as well.

Now, another thing that came to my mind when writing this, was the song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. In this song, Lauren sings about trials and things we can feel about ourselves but immediately backs it up with what God says about her. She goes from, “I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I'm not enough, every single lie that tells me I will never measure up…” and in the chorus she immediately goes into “You say I am loved when I cant feel a thing” and “You say I am strong when I think I am weak”.  You can see clearly how she immediately combats these negative thoughts about herself that for many of us are the reasons behind our jealousy for others.  In the same way that Lauren Daigle combats these thoughts in her song, “You Say," we need to be combatting our negative and toxic thoughts with what God says as well.  So when you feel like are desperately reaching for the success, money, looks, smarts, friends, that someone else has, immediately begin to think to yourself what God says about you.  That you are loved.  That you are strong, and that you belong.  Also, if you feel like you are the one that has to keep fighting the voices in your head that say that you aren’t enough, or that you’ll never measure up... I would tell you, because this has helped me, to count the blessings in your life. All the things that you’re grateful for.  It allows for you to feel so motivated and grateful towards what you already have and really how capable you are of achieving the goals you have always had at heart.  And if there is a person you are jealous of or lusting over them in the things they have in life, pray for them.  That can be so hard to do, but when you begin to make it a habit, it will get easier and easier. I also bet you will find yourself happier for that person and maybe even find yourself in a better connection with the Lord who always gives you joy and can help give you humility, love, and perseverance.  When we grow close to God, it creates in us a feeling of fulfillment and wholeness.  It creates this feeling in our achievements and in our day to day lives, so that we can be genuinely happy for others’ achievements and success, allowing for us to get closer to people and finally, allow for us to receive that joy and fulfillment God always meant for us to have.

Written by Katelyn Shaver 




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Are You a Joy-Robber or a Joy-Giver?

As I hung up the phone after listening to a litany of complaints from a friend who’s a self-described ‘stress-mess’, I was aware that the lengthy conversation that solely focused upon her ‘trials and tribulations’ had a draining effect upon me. My heart certainly went out to her as she’s gone through several challenging ‘life issues’ in a short period of time, and I definitely understood why she felt so down and discouraged. As she shared, I imagined her as a person who’d been swept up by the ocean’s undertow who comes up for air, thinks they can finally breathe and get solid footing again, but instead gets taken under by the next crashing wave. Maybe you’re feeling that way too. Are you someone who has become weighed down by the trials and tribulations in your life and feel that you have lost your joy? Or, do you know of such a person?

 I don’t know anyone in the world who would ask to be put through really tough situations or experience a lot of suffering, do you? And most people are far more adept at finding things to complain about—even when things are going well overall in their lives-- than they are at finding things for which to be thankful. So it is truly a rarity to find a person who is full of joy in the midst of suffering. 

 This past weekend I was blessed to attend a ‘celebration of life’ service for a precious 48 year-old woman who lived her life fully for the purpose for which she was put on this earth—the glory and praise of her Savior and Lord Jesus! She battled ovarian cancer for over 3 ½ years, experiencing excruciating pain during the last several months of her life as her entire body was riddled with cancer. Despite her pain, she always wore a huge smile that radiated her love for the Lord and for others. She didn’t waste her time complaining about her health, on shaking her fist at God for ‘cutting her life short’, on grumbling ‘Why me, Lord?’ or on succumbing to despair and depression. She knew her life ‘was not her own’ and her purpose was to glorify God with her whole life (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), so she entrusted it completely into the almighty and always loving care of her Heavenly Father. Her focus was upon glorifying God and serving others even in the midst of her pain and suffering. All of those who knew her well testified that she exhibited joy throughout her life, joy which could not be extinguished by her diagnosis, or her pain and suffering. 

 Her life testified to the truth of the statement made famous by John Piper: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. She was fully satisfied with God, even when her life didn’t go as she would have chosen, and her satisfaction and joy in Him led others to experience joy in her presence, and caused them to draw near to and glory in the God whom she loved. Her joy in the Lord also brought comfort and peace to her husband of 25 years, her beloved mother-- who is a dear friend of mine-- and to her three brothers and countless nieces and nephews, her church family, and her countless friends. Her joy and praising of God in the midst of her suffering not only gave her strength to carry on till the end of her life on earth, but it also was uplifting and life-giving to all those who knew her! 

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 God longs for us to praise Him-- not because He is an egotist, but because He knows that when we fix our eyes and thoughts upon Him we will be ‘lifted above our circumstances’ and realize that there is nothing too big for God! He inhabits the praises of His people; when we praise God we are taken into His Presence, where there is indeed fullness of joy! (Psalm 22:3; Psalm 16:11) We need that joy at all times, but especially when we are going through tough times! We must press through and overcome our natural tendency to focus upon ourselves and our circumstances and lift up praises to God—even, and especially-- when we don’t ‘feel like it’. When we praise Him and enter into His presence, we will find that the joy of the Lord will be our strength that will enable us to endure amidst the trials and tribulations we face. (Nehemiah 8:10)

 You might say, “But Julie, you don’t understand what I’m going through!” Perhaps your marriage is rife with conflict. Or you have a prodigal child. Or you have financial difficulties that you can’t see how to solve. Perhaps you’re in poor health, or even have a terminal diagnosis. Maybe you’re feeling like the world’s falling apart all around you and there’s nothing you can find for which to be thankful and to praise God.

 I’m sure I don’t understand all that you’re going through, nor do I need to. But I can assure you that God understands your situation completely, He’s there by your side, and He’s bigger than whatever is overwhelming to you. He longs for you to BELIEVE that truth so you will go to Him, so that you will praise Him, and so that you will find joy in His Presence…the joy that will be your strength to carry you through your circumstances, and the joy that will be contagious and cause others to look to God, the Source of your joy! 

 There is so much wisdom in the expression, “What you focus upon expands.” If your focus is upon how horrible your circumstances are, that thought will begin to consume you and ‘take you under’, like the undertow in the ocean. Being consumed with thoughts of yourself and your circumstances means you can’t simultaneously be focused upon God or upon serving and ministering to others. The reality is that if you are self-absorbed you won’t have joy yourself, and will be a ‘joy-robber’ instead of a ‘joy- giver’. Newsflash: no one enjoys being around someone whose sole focus is on him or her self, particularly if they spend a lot of time complaining and grumbling about their life! People love to be around people who are full of joy, not full of woe! For our good and God’s glory we are commanded to love God and to love others, which means being God and other focused rather than self-focused, (Matthew 22:36-40) We are also commanded to continually praise God, for our sakes as well as for His glory-- and there is always something for which to be grateful! (Psalm 34:1; 104:33; 113:3; Philippians 4:4)  I am so inspired as well as convicted by the story of Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie who praised God for the fleas in the beds in the German concentration camp where the sisters were taken, because the fleas kept the guards away and allowed them to share the gospel with other prisoners. That is definitely keeping a ‘God and other focus’ instead of succumbing to self-focus, and a clear demonstration of rejoicing in the midst of ‘trials and tribulations’!  How could she have such joy in the midst of such suffering? Because she firmly believed and stated: "There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still." (from the book The Hiding Place)

 Would those who know you best say that your focus is more on yourself and upon your circumstances, or upon praising God and serving others? Are you a joy-robber, or a joy-giver? How joyful are you when your focus is on yourself and on your circumstances?  Contrast that to the joy you have when you are keeping your eyes fixed upon God and praising Him and serving other people. 

 What are some things for which you can praise God, no matter what your circumstances are? 

 Praise Him for Who He is: consider His attributes…like Almighty, Beautiful beyond description, Creator, Deliverer, Everlasting, Faithful, Etc. Something I love to do and encourage you to do is to praise God for an attribute of His for every letter in the alphabet.

 Praise God that you are not alone: that He is your constant companion, with you at all times and He will never leave or forsake you. And nothing is impossible for Him!

 Praise Him for His gifts to you: Think of all that you do have because He is the ‘giver of every good and perfect gift’! (James 1:17) ! Thank Him for things like the air you breathe, your ability to see, smell, touch, hear and walk; for a roof over your head; a warm place when it’s cold or a cool place when it’s hot; running water; a bed with a mattress; food to eat; freedom to worship; medical care; your family and friends; etc. Try to come up with 5 different things every day for which to thank and praise God and you will become more aware of the myriad of blessings all around you…which will ‘keep your head above water’ and you won’t feel so overwhelmed when the waves come crashing on you…you will even be able to praise Him for the waves, and the strength He gives you to surf upon them rather than to be crushed by them! 

 Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed upon You, and not to fix them upon my circumstances and myself. Help me to see all around me the blessings that I daily take for granted; train my eyes and heart so that I see something new each and every day for which I can praise You! And when I even begin to grumble about my circumstances, immediately turn my eyes back onto You, the giver of every good and perfect gift and remind me that You know, are bigger than, and are able to meet my every need! Thank You for the trials and tribulation in my life which I know You can use to conform me into Your image if I will keep my focus upon You and praise You regardless of my situation. May I be found faithful to rejoice at all times, and especially in the midst of suffering, so that others will see that You are the Source of my strength and be drawn to You, the One Who is worthy of all honor, praise and glory!

Written by Julie 


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A Challenge This Week to Overcome Insecurity!

Do you sometimes feel insecure?  

Have you ever found yourself comparing yourself with others? Or ‘keeping score’ in your mind about what others have done or accomplished?

Do you feel like a victim sometimes?  Or feel that you are owed compensation for your losses?

Are you self-consumed and trying to outdo others for attention?  Or judge others and find yourself in self-pity or full of conceit?

Lastly, do you ever determine that you must take charge, protect your interests and manipulate the situation to get your way?  

Insecure people will often experience one of the above situations on a regular basis.  Insecurities come when we make ourselves an idol instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  When we are thinking about promises Jesus makes (the Word), the lessons His Spirit wants to teach us (the truth), or the person of Jesus (the way), we do not compare…because we recognize that we have been bought with a price.  That we are not our own, that God takes care of our interests, that He is in control and that even when you are not able…God still is!  There is always hope when we take control of our thoughts and align them with Jesus’.   

So what do you do if you want to reduce personal insecurities?  

There are several things you can do and I’m going to focus on one of them today.  

  1. Build your identity in Christ, not your performance.  Your performance does not define who you are, God does.

  2. Allow God to work in your heart and ask Him to reveal where you are too self-sufficient or self-promoting.  Ask Him to help you be more God-sufficient and Jesus-promoting.

  3. Discover & practice your God-given purpose in life, not someone else’s (stop trying to act, talk, present, or do anything the way someone else does it…do it the way you were created to do it!)

  4. Learn to give and receive affirmation.  


Giving compliments is a gift

When people are insecure, they have a hard time accepting affirmation even if they are good at giving it.  If I say, “I love your shirt, it’s really cute.” I will get a response that removes the value of the shirt or compliment that sounds like this, “Oh not really, I’ve had it forever…I got it on clearance…” as if to tell me, “it’s really not that cute, I’m not worthy and neither is this shirt of your compliment.”  If I were to tell you that a compliment from another person is like a gift that they bought and wrapped to give you on your birthday, would you still totally reject it?  When your insecurities keep you from accepting compliments, praise or affirmation at face value then you are rejecting a gift that another person wants to give you.  

In working with people over the years I have learned that often insecure people are insecure because they judge others harshly and therefore feel as though the internal thoughts of others are equally as harsh toward them.  To overcome this I want you to practice giving genuine compliments to others wherever you go.  Find something truthful, that is positive to say to brighten someone else’s day.  Your challenge this week is to genuinely compliment someone each day.  God tells us that it is a greater blessing to give than to receive.  The second part of this challenge is if someone compliments you, that you simply say, “Thank you so much,” with a big smile and receive the kindness.  

God loves you so much that He holds nothing back!  He was even willing to give His very own Son!  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  

Thank God for all that He has done for you, and receive His love and then share it with others.  You can have security when you live your life from the outpouring of His love for you and for others.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you have been given the mind of Christ~

Love ya,

Jamie

Romans 8:32
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