Encourage Yourself in the Lord

Several years ago, I got an offer to go work for a company in Dallas. I drove down to check everything out. Wow. I couldn’t believe rush hour traffic. Rush hour started at three o’clock and lasted until seven o’clock every evening. That is four hours. Your commute from home to work could easily be ninety minutes to two hours. My friends did it often. They would leave for the office by 6 a.m. so they could beat traffic on the way to the office, and they would come home at seven. I thought about the quality of life, and I turned that job down quickly.

In rush hour, you are never alone. There’s traffic everywhere. Everywhere you look, you see people, and you can wave and smile at people. On the other hand, sometimes if you’re driving at night on a country road, you may not see anyone for an hour.

                                      

Scripture says there is a wide path and a narrow path. I think of it in terms of traffic. The wide path is like rush hour traffic. It’s busy. Most people are on this road, going in the same direction. They’re all on a mission to get somewhere, from here to there, point A to point B. The narrow path is the less-traveled road. The people on it are few and far between. You might be walking all by yourself for a while before you see another person passing by.
I think the narrow path in Christ can feel lonely at times. You can look around and see the busy rush hour traffic, but you don’t jump in and join it. You choose to take a secondary road. It’s like deciding, “I’m getting off of interstate 40 onto this side road. I’m going to take the backwoods route.”
Think about it. When you get off onto those secondary roads, they’re more peaceful and winding. They’re beautiful. But sometimes the rest stop is a backwoods mechanic shop with a filthy bathroom. The towns are few and far between. Sometimes you have to pee in the grass. It can be challenging to take the narrow path of God because it isn’t traveled by as many people.
Christians can fall into the trap of doing things because everyone else is doing them. Sometimes we don’t even think about it or we figure, “It’s okay for this family, so it’s okay for our family.” I see Christians doing this every day. They give their kids wider and wider boundaries. What they are doing is taking them from the narrow path to the wide path. Their children start exposing themselves to entertainment and other influences that may jeopardize their purity. Before you know it, instead of following God, they are following the world.
As Christians, we need to protect the wellspring of life that is our heart and make good choices. I believe Christians should be out front. People should want to be like us. They should be following our way and wanting to make the choices we’re making because our fruit is awesome. We don’t look like the world. We love the world, but we don’t look like the world. We’re in the world but not of the world.
I will tell you right now, making the decision to stay on the narrow path no matter what is lonely at times. You are going to find that your friends on the narrow path are a wide range of ages, say seventy down to twelve. There are so few people that you have to change your perspective of what your friendship circle should look like so you can be close with people who you know are making these choices with you.
I would encourage you to connect, but when you feel lonely, encourage yourself in the Lord. Keep yourself encouraged like David in 1 Samuel 30. Don’t look to anyone else to encourage you. Enjoy their encouragement when it comes along but don’t rely on it. Don’t stand on it for strength. Stand on the Lord and His strength and remember what He has done for you already.

One Key to Happiness: Family




Everyone’s searching to belong. We search to belong to a family, a friend circle, or some other sort of group.


I’ve recently started taking back my health. I joined a gym and signed up with a coach. There are like a hundred of us fighting to take back our health. What is incredible is the community and the fellowship with like-minded people. It is ridiculous. We’re all fighting, we’re all standing, and we all encourage each other because we are in the same race. It is awesome.

When people become Christians, they start searching for where they fit within the community of believers. They wonder, “Where do I fit in? Where is the place of community for me? Where am I going to be encouraged and loved? Who will hold up my arms when I’m about to fall into temptation?” We’re striving for the kind of community I have at my gym.

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.” (Genesis 28:3 NIV) 


I think we can find what we’re searching for within our own families. The problem today is that families are dysfunctional. Parents don’t stick together. They get a divorce. Strife steps in and tears down the bonds in marriage and families. It tears mother from daughter, father from son, sibling from sibling, and families splinter.


Even in school, what do we do? We promote segregation of the family. You go into your grade, and your siblings go into their grades. You don’t see each other all day long. When you do, the older one probably looks down on the younger ones because they are not the same age. School categorizes everyone by age.

I believe the ultimate community we are all searching for is provided through the family. A family doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be united. I think God set it right there in front of us: “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples” (Genesis 28:3 NIV). Ask people from big families. They have built-in friendships and bonds that small families may not experience.
Pray with me:

I pray today, Father, that the walls we have built up in our families and close friendships would be torn down and we would choose unity over having our own way. I pray that we would be like-minded, that we would be one as Christ is one with God. I pray that we would choose to lay down our life over taking up our platform or grievance against each other. I pray that we would no longer be easily offended by one another and that we would encourage each other every single day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Our Skewed Views of God

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Beautiful song, super long-lived.


As I catch myself singing it this morning, I’m thinking the amazing grace isn’t that we were saved from hell. It isn’t that we were lost and now we’re found and have a new destination. Amazing grace is that God loved us so much He provided a sacrifice for us while we were awful. That is amazing grace. Amazing grace is that He loved us so much He provided a way for us to have a relationship with Him. It wasn’t so He could torture us and we could be His disciplined children whom He beats into submission. He didn’t want an army. He wanted children. He wanted a family.
It is breaking my heart this morning to think about our skewed view of God: that He is the big boogeyman in the sky with His club ready to strike us when we mess up.
God is not like man. No matter what you think, He is not like that. He doesn’t even remember our sins. They’re completely washed away. When He looks at us, He sees righteousness.
It’s like looking at your children. You love them even when they mess up and have their hands in the cookie jar when you told them not to get a cookie. It’s crazy how much He lavishes His love on you and me. It’s crazy how much He adores us and wants to spend time with us. I think God is more like a grandparent. He is delighted to have you. He is not in the child-rearing years. He pours out His love on us.
It’s such a shame that we think He doesn’t actually love us enough to tell us the things to come or to keep us from being hurt.
This morning, I repent of my own skewed view of God. I hope you’ll join me and ask the Father to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Him better:
I want to know You, God, more deeply and intimately. Will You open the eyes of my heart where hardness has covered up the ability to know You? Whatever callouses are on my heart, would You remove them so I can know You, God? Will You reveal Yourself to me today? In Jesus name.


Build a Miracle Wall

In Psalm 78, the Word describes the Israelites and what happened in the wilderness. These people began their journey by walking through parted water on dry ground, but from the start they couldn’t help but think about the comforts they left behind. Freedom on the other side was beautiful, but they had to walk a long road, experience some miracles, and take possession of the Promised Land from giants.

They weren’t willing to do it. They quickly forgot that God had parted the Red Sea for them—that He had provided the way out and was looking out for them. God doesn’t force His will down people’s throats. Instead He works through people to bring His will to pass. This can take some time. But the Israelites were impatient.


In Psalm 78:41, it says they “limited the Holy One of Israel” (KJV). Matthew Henry’s commentary explains how they did that: “They limited him to their ways and their timing.” We can do the same every single day. We have the ability to limit God to our understanding and our timing. For instance, we say, “God, You didn’t move, so now I’m going to take it into my hands.”

How many people do you know who do that? Ask the Lord, “Have I given up on You and taken this into my own hands?” 

We do that when we forget what God has done already. Even if you can’t think of anything God has done for you, remember and say, “He parted the Red Sea, and the Israelites walked on dry ground. Hallelujah! He fed them for forty years in the wilderness with bread falling from the sky.” He provided fuel for them for forty years!

What we do in our family is write down on sticky notes what God has done and what miracles He has performed. I actually had a rug made with our twenty greatest miracles written down on it. Every time our feet pass, we remember, “This is what God has done for us.” You can also write them on rocks with a permanent marker. Write down on a rock, “Hey, here’s what God did for us.” Keep these rocks in a bowl, and as your family is sitting in the living room, review them. Talk about them: “Remember when God did this? Remember when God did that?” It makes for a fun time, and it builds and sharpens your family’s hope and faith.


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV) 

When your hope is built up, you don’t ever know what is impossible. Everything is possible.

One Thing a Wife Must Know

To Wives from a Husband

Sometimes I love to paint or build my own elaborate form of art with metal wire. Inspiration happens in a moment, and my mind races through the layers and twists and turns of my hands before I ever touch a brush. I imagine shapes and moves, and more than anything else, I see meaning. Without a deep meaning or purpose larger than life for my creation, I might as well be painting a fence. With a storm of emotion inside, in a matter of minutes I can produce with my hands what my mind prophesied months, days, or minutes before.
Wives, you are your husband’s prophesy—his future.
God puts it this way: “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11–12 ESV).
His heart is the source of his demise or gain. God has given you, actually entrusted you, with a funnel into your husband’s heart. The kind of fruit you expect from him can only be harvested from the seeds you sow into the rich soil of his soul. With your encouragement, his hands will live with deep meaning and purpose as if his life and yours depend on it.


Wives …

Its Sheri. When I read this, I sometimes want to 
condemn myself.
I could do such a better job of building up my husband. Could you? 

Lets look at application and strengthen our husbands with our actions. 
Examine the fruit your husband has produced.  
Answer these questions:

    What fruit has he produced that you have enjoyed with deep satisfaction?
    What great fruit has he produced that you have not enjoyed with him?
    What rotten fruit has he produced that you would rather not see in your home again?
    Lastly, who first planted the seeds in his heart from which the harvest came?

Would you begin today to pray, ask for forgiveness, encourage, 
believe in, and trust God with your Hubby?

Milk Spill? No Problem

When I was young, everything got negative attention. Every negative thing I did was highlighted with a flashlight. When I became a mother, I vowed never to treat my kids in that manner.


One day, Chandler spilled her third cup of milk all over my floor—the carpet, of course. I thought I was going to lose it.


Chandler’s milk spill actually happened later on the same day I vowed not to lose it. So every time she spilled her milk, I responded with, “No problem.” I really said it behind gritted teeth because I did see it as a problem. I didn’t like the spilled milk everywhere; I was the one who had to clean it up. Still, I refused to respond out of my emotions, so I said, “No problem.”

God had something more to teach me through this. When my daughter spilled her milk for the third time, I realized that the spill did not define her as a person. She wasn’t a klutz. She wasn’t a spiller. She wasn’t negligent. She wasn’t irresponsible. She simply spilled her milk.


Chandler and I laughed together. We talked about the fact that God and I loved her so much and that would never change. No matter how bad the milk spill was, no matter how bad her mistakes were, God would always love her and so would I.

While I was sitting there, laughing and having a wonderful conversation with my child, telling her she’s not defined by her mistakes, I realized I did not fully believe that about myself. Deep down, I had based my whole identity on my mistakes. The constant criticism I received as a child played within me like a broken record. Every single time I failed, I was treated to that inward refrain: “You’re a failure.” Whenever I had the opportunity to try something new, I would turn it down. I would think, “Oh, I’m not good at that. I don’t want to try it because if I do, I may fail.” I wasnt willing to take risks or venture outside of my comfort zone. I was afraid of failure.


Then I read Jeremiah 1. God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (Jer. 1:5 NIV). I also read in Ephesians that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4 NIV). God chose me; He formed me. God strengthens and protects me. He equips me to follow Christ, even when it’s outside of my comfort zone. That is my identity. I am not defined by the mistakes I made. What matters is who I am in Christ.

Now I take captive all of those negative thoughts and the broken record of parental criticism, and I replace them with the truth of God’s word in Jeremiah and Ephesians.


Now I choose to believe by faith in the truth of who God says I am, even when I don’t feel that way. I know I can rely on my identity in Christ. I know who I am. I am not defined by my actions. My mistakes don’t make me a mistake. I take negative thoughts captive in my own mind, and it makes me a better mom every time the milk is spilled.

Today I can tell my children without reservation, without gritting my teeth and grappling with frustration, that their identity is in Christ and a milk spill is no problem.

Submit?

Just a few years ago, when a woman got married, she had to say she would “love and obey” her husband.
Well, some women got rebellious and lost respect for men altogether! I was certainly raised in a home where the man was a lazy jerk. I was well-trained in the “men are lazy butts” mentality.
Who would have thought that my definition of men would roll into my marriage, but it did. It was a strong, controlling attitude.
I would use my beauty or whatever else I could to get my way because I knew men were easily manipulated. Yes, I said it. Not all men, but certainly most!
After I was saved, I learned a new word: ‘submit.’ “What?!” I thought. That’s just a word, right? Surely it wasn’t a requirement anymore. After all, God didn’t really know what the modern-day men were going to be like, did He? (Of course He did, but we babies don’t really believe that God knows all, do we?)
A mentor of mine said, “The way you submit to your husband is a picture of how you submit to the Lord.” Ouch! That stuck me right in the heart! I knew I didn’t submit to my husband. I was a little bit smarter than he was, and I was always right—right?
I quickly learned that when I did not submit to my husband’s final decision, fear might be controlling the direction I was trying to lead us from the back seat. People in the back seat try to tell the driver how to drive, but they don’t have the same perspective as the driver in the front!
I looked up the synonyms for ‘obey’ and ‘submit’:

Obey—adjust, conform, adapt

Submit—bow, defer, accede, give in, yield, succumb
How do you submit to your husband or the authority that you are under?
Does it reflect how you submit to the Lord?

Love vs. Lust

Love is blind until the end of time … or until the other person grates on your nerves. Then you will see clearly all of those things that drive you crazy that you skipped over at first. Your vision was kind of hazy in the beginning, before you were able to see clearly. Your love was blind. Blind love does not see any faults, but sooner or later they do come up—and that’s when you hit the rocks.

Marriage gets hard because at first you didn’t scrutinize. Your love was blind, so you bought lies. You only saw what you wanted to see until the lust wore off and all you were left with was the real person underneath.

Lust will blindly accept another’s flaws at the expense of family and friends. Lust will throw others under the bus to defend itself, but in five years, the people who were in lust will be complaining of the very things you noticed and warned them of. You told them; you reminded them; you shared with them; you sent up flags. You told them there may be despair in their future, but they wouldn’t listen. Their ears were clogged. They were blind. They couldn’t see anything but what they wanted to see. 

It’s not faith. No, it’s flesh. It’s not love; it’s lust. Lust hides the flaws because the attraction is so strong. But love deals truthfully with every flaw. It doesn’t hurt others to defend the ones you love. Instead, it works together to find unity in the will of God.

One step ahead too self-development

Forgive yourself when you fail.
I’ve gone two whole months without failing. I haven’t raised my voice. I haven’t gotten angry. I haven’t been offended. I haven’t been hurt, whatever. You know that’s not true. It’s really not possible. We’re flawed human beings by design. The truth is I’ve failed already today in a big, hard way. It’s only three o’clock in the afternoon when I’m writing this. Today, I’ve been angry and bitter and holding a grudge against my husband and honestly, keeping a record of wrongs on his behalf. Because he won’t keep his own record of wrongs, I have to keep it for him and make sure that I correct him when he’s wrong.
Of course, I fail. I fail, sometimes, moment by moment. I fail in being disciplined. I fail in eating right. I fail in spending enough time with my kids. I fail in harboring bitter thoughts. I fail in becoming offended. I am a failure in so many ways.
Several years ago, I stepped into the freedom of forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I remember the day that I realized that I was truly forgiven and that I forgive myself. That day, I was set free. I have never been in bondage since.
In my Christian walk, there were times when I would get mad and frustrated, like, “Gosh I can’t believe I failed again. I’m such a failure.” Like, “Argh! Why do I keep screwing up? Why do I keep messing up? This is horrible. I know better.” I hated it. I hated myself. I was so mad.
But guess what, I wasn’t walking in the freedom of forgiveness that I once received. Scriptures said walk in the same way that you received Christ. That means if you know you’re forgiven the first day, then you’re forgiven the second day, the two thousandth day, the eighty two thousandth day, you’re forgiven. You can forgive yourself.
The Lord showed me that when I screwed up and I get up and I beat myself up about it, like, “Oh gosh, I can’t believe I did that. I messed up.” When I got up and beat myself up, that I was living in my works and my own effort and my own goodness and my own perfection. I was living in my blood as a sacrifice to God. I wasn’t living in the blood of Jesus. He showed me, “You fall, and you get right back up into my spirit, in the forgiving power of Jesus Christ. If you don’t, in that moment, in the middle, whether it’s a day or a month or year, you’re inoperable to work as my child because you’re too focused on you and what you’ve done. I need your eyes on me and what I’ve done and who I am and what I’m here to do. I don’t need your eyes on you. I need them on me.”
He showed me also that while I was beating myself up, I was saying that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough for me. Man, that’s just all out blasphemy. That is just arrogance beyond arrogance. Not only do we need to learn to forgive ourselves, we gotta forgive ourselves quickly.
You know, I think a lot of people think that means repentance. What does repent mean? They think it means crying in their closet like, “Oh God, please forgive me. I screwed up so bad. I’m a horrible person. I’m just a weak fleshly soul.” You know what they were doing when they say that? They are agreeing with their own self before they were in Christ. They’re agreeing with their old identity and completely ignoring who God says they are. Wow.
Have you done that before? I’m confident you have. I have done it. I lived that for years—just belittled myself. I talked horribly about myself. While I’m doing that, I’m completely disregarding the truth that God says: one, I am a new creation; two, I am made whole; three, I am the righteousness of Christ; four, I am forgiven and my sins have been erased forever; five, I’m his child and he delights in me; six, he’s not mad at me; seven, I don’t have to beg a God who loves me, a father who enjoys me; eight, I am whole. I’m just whole. Nothing can change my identity. My behavior cannot steal my wholeness. It’s impossible.
So here’s what God convicted me to do—I didn’t learn this from anyone. There’s no teacher who taught me, I didn’t watch it on TV. I didn’t hear it from my pastor. I haven’t heard it from a friend. But I struggled and I wrestled for a very long time, beating myself up because I wasn’t perfect. So I know. This is my story. I’ve walked these shoes. This isn’t a preacher’s message. This is straight out of the heart of God and you need to hear it.
What God showed me to do—when I messed up, he said, “Though righteous man falls seven times, he gets up.” He said, “Sheri, get up. Lift your chin. Do you know who you are in me? You’re already forgiven. Do you think what you just did was a surprise to me? It wasn’t. It wasn’t a surprise. I’m not shocked by you. I knew it already. Here’s what I love about you, Sheri. You fall and you keep choosing me and you choose me, and you choose me again because you know that I love you. You know me. We’re intimate. We’re close. Your mistakes don’t steal from our relationship.”
So he showed me when you fall down, get up and say, “Thank you father that I’m forgiven. Thank you, father, that I’m not defined by what I do. Thank you, father, that I am the righteousness of your son. Thank you, father, that I’m a new creation and I’m not of this world. Thank you, father, that I’m completely forgiven. I receive right now in the name of Jesus. I thank you, father, that you make me whole, that you make me complete. I thank you, father, that I am yours and you’re not mad at me and you’re not a mean God like my parents were. No. I thank you, father, that you are so in love with me; that you delight in me; that we’re friends; that I can come to you and talk about my struggles. You keep me whole, that my identity has not changed; that I’m secure; that Jesus Christ was enough for me.”
You know what, I get up from that with the fullness of joy like you have never known. Somebody can call me and say, “Hey, can you help over my family member who is in the hospital on the verge of dying? Can you leave  for them right now?” And I can say with everything in me, “Yes.” I don’t feel unworthy because it’s Christ who makes me worthy and I stay worthy. I remain worthy even when my behavior isn’t worthy because it’s not based on me. It’s based on the blood of Jesus Christ, his love for us and what he did for us and that alone—that’s it. Nothing more. It’s never been based on you. It’s never been dependent on you and it never ever will be.
But if you get down and you beat yourself up, guess what, it will be about you. It will be about you trying to make things right with God. It will be about you trying to get yourself back in the right place with the Lord. It will be about you and your behavior and what you’re not. It will be about you begging God because you don’t think you’re worthy to come to the throne with grace and boldness. You don’t think he wants to. You don’t think he’s delighted to give you the desires of your heart.
But he is. You have to forgive yourself and you have to do it quickly. Forgive and forget.

One Tool To Get into Your Child’s Heart

Pillow talk.
Did you know that our children’s minds review their day’s events every night? Every night in their bed, they contemplate and review everything that happened that day. Now, you have one of two options as a parent: you can stay up late as the child is processing and talk to them and stay up all night, or you can choose a tool called pillow talk.
Pillow talk is a journal that is passed between the parent and the child. At night, when a child is processing their day, they can open up their journal and write down what was the greatest thing of their day. So pillow talk journal, you may ask questions like, “What is the greatest part of your day? What part of your day was the most disappointing?” etcetera. Children remember the good, but they also have regrets at the end of the day that they process at night—regrets of failing a test or disappointing behavior that they showed or regretting the way they treated someone. They also consider their wounds.
This is actually the time of the night that they can monopolize your time until the wee hours of the morning if you let them. I have many friends that stay up all night long with their child because that’s when their heart is the most vulnerable and open.
It sounds great in theory, but if you work or homeschool or anything else that you need to do to be productive during the day, you cannot healthily live without sleep. And if you’re married, your husband may want some of your time too. I believe that if you stay up all night with you kids every night and available to them every beck and call that two things happen: one, you lose intimate time with your husband or your spouse; and two, your kids don’t learn to process and how to healthily communicate at an appropriate time. If you’re OCD, you need the time that your child is in bed to reorganize and pick up your house and clean it up for your own sanity the next day.
Rest is an important part of healing. But I also don’t wanna miss out on my time with my kiddos. I don’t wanna miss out on their sweet vulnerable hearts in the time that that they’re processing. So what can you do? Sleep, clean or have late night talks with them, help?
I personally cannot live without sleep. I’m exhausted. When it’s time to go to bed, I’m usually ready for everyone to go to bed. I want to be horizontal. I don’t need to close my eyes, but I need to be horizontal.
I found the tool that lets me into my child’s heart and allow me to sleep. Pillow talk. It’s a journal the kids and I used and it’s a fun game.
What we do is I will write a note to my child. I may write a note about my heart or maybe a way that I behave with them that I want to apologize for. I may write something that I’m disappointed in, and just my life, being vulnerable and transparent. It has nothing to do with them, but just something that I’m just being transparent about. And then I would write some questions like, “Is there anything that has been bothering you lately? Is there an area that I can encourage you more in, or an area where you’re feeling discouraged?” And these don’t need to be long answers, but the answers will help me ask and have appropriate conversations the next day when we’re alert and awake.
Then we sneak it into each other’s pillow. So I would sneak this under my child’s pillow and leave it there and when they read it at night. It also helps steer their thoughts at night. So at night it gives them something productive to think on. I may even put in a positive message or encouragement in their pillow talk journal, or put a bible verse, or a picture. Sometimes, I draw pictures. I’m a horrible artist but I draw pictures for their entertainment. So we sneak into each other’s pillows and see if we can get in there without getting caught. And it’s just a lot of fun.
When it’s under my pillow, I get to read it and I get inside to their heart. So I can be intentional about my time during the day to pull them aside and make sure I have some one-on-one time to discuss what I read. It’s an open door to have an healthy conversation with them at a time when we’re all rested and healthy.