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‘Bad Day’? It’s a Matter of Perspective.

24 Sep

I’m always surprised by how people define “bad day.” For many, a “bad day” is when:

  • You can’t find earrings at Charming Charlie’s to match your dress for caution-baddayinprogress_lolwithgod_dawnwilsona birthday party. (This almost never happens because that store is amazing!)
  • You break a fingernail, right after getting a professional manicure.
  • You can’t find a parking space a few paces away from Home Depot’s front door.
  • You discover someone ate the last chocolate chip cookie in the bag … which you carefully hid.

Really?

OK. This isn’t going to be an especially lighthearted post. But I thought about this topic after I got upset looking for that aforementioned parking space. God really spoke to my heart that day. Broke it, actually.

THESE are the kinds of real-life “bad day” issues that lead to REAL frustration or fear:

  • You can’t find your child at the mall for more than 60 minutes.
  • Your husband loses his job. Again.
  • Your cancer returns. With a vengeance.
  • Your home is burglarized, your house ransacked and you discover many treasures are missing.

And then there are “bad days” most of us will never have to face.

  • Total rejection: A woman who cannot find a job because no one in her village will hire a “Christ-follower.”
  • Horrific persecution: A pastor whose leg is broken during torture in Laos because he dared to preach the gospel.
  • Unspeakable pain: A mother who weeps because her daughter was raped because the family converted to Christianity.

A bad day is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

There’s simply no comparison between the first group and the last.

We can view the circumstances in our lives in multiple ways, and how we view them affects how we feel and respond.

One of the best ways to view circumstances—especially the tough ones (because really, with the absurd ones we just need to grow up!)—is through the lenses of trust and gratitude.

Trust when you feel abandoned? Gratitude when a crisis comes?

Stay with me here ….

There is great power in trusting God; and there is great transformation in a thankful heart.

For the Christian, there may be many bad days, even awful-horrible days; but there is more to life than even these circumstances. In the midst of great upheaval and struggle:

  • We can trust the Lord when we are afraid, and be grateful that most of the things we most fear never even happen.
  • We can trust the Lord for what we don’t understand, with gratitude that He is never perplexed and always has a plan.
  • We can trust the Lord with an uncertain future, gratefully acknowledging He will be in our future as assuredly as He has in the past.
  • We can trust the Lord to care for us, grateful for His endless resources and loving supply.
  • And we can trust the Lord when life falls apart—when we suffer incredible loss or pain—still grateful He is sovereign and will yet accomplish His will in, for and through us.

Granted, this is easier said than done. But daily practice is good heart preparation.

When we practice trust and gratitude in the simple, everyday circumstances of our lives, these habits will strengthen us when the bigger challenges and unexpected trials come.

In wisdom, we exercise our trust and gratitude “muscles,” and God (because He cares about us) wants to help us with that. As Matthew Henry wrote,*

Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God’s love….”

Believe me. I am not taking on this topic lightly.

I love and pray for The Persecuted Church and have found both conviction and great strength in the stories of God’s struggling children around the world. These believers “count it all joy” when they face trials of various kinds (James 1:2-8). Many rejoice and even celebrate, knowing God is working and they will receive great reward for any sufferings they face (Matthew 5:12; Romans 5:3; James 1:12).

How can they do this? They’ve counted the cost of following Christ and partaking in HIS sufferings (Luke 14:25-33; 1 Peter 4:13-16). They’ve  found God’s grace sufficient and strengthening in their greatest times of need (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When asked how we can pray for them, members of The Persecuted Church usually do not ask people to pray their burdens will be lightened, but rather that they will be wise to make good use of their afflictions—especially to be a strong witness to those who observe how they are suffering for Christ.

In cushy America, our concept of suffering for the Lord is so skewed. We’re constantly praying for “safety,” but not for opportunities to share Christ. Amy Carmichael wrote, “We must learn to pray far more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle wounds.”

So convicting. Especially when I lament over a broken fingernail or empty cookie bag.

It puts our petty “bad days” to shame, doesn’t it?

Are you having a bad day today? How might more trust in the Lord coupled with the practice of gratitude help your perspective … and ultimately, your responses?

 – Dawn

 * Matthew Henry, Commentary on James 1:1-22.

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Is Like Baking a Cake

6 Nov

Some of the funniest Cake Humor I’ve read is on Pinterest:

IEatCake_LOLwithGod“The only way I am eating healthy is if I write ‘HEALTHY’ on top of this cake with frosting.”

“If it’s got a candle stuck in it, the calories don’t count.”

“I just had an egg white omelet.  For flavor I added yolks, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, baking soda, flour and chocolate chips!”

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. May I suggest carrot cake?”

I recently saw a photo of a box of cake mix with a large dinner candle taped to the box. The caption?

“The Laziest Birthday Party ever!”

I read a thought-provoking statement about cakes in a book about trials and suffering (of all places). It was one of those statements that brings a fresh perspective.

In the book Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire by Carol Burton McLeod (Bridge Logos, 2015), the author writes, “Life is a lot like baking a cake from scratch.” You can read the rest of her quote here:

LifeIsLikeBakingACake_LOLwithGodIt’s true. When a baker bakes, the ingredients—all laid out on the counter—aren’t always appetizing. Some ingredients might even be bitter and we would quickly spit them out (like pure vanilla or raw cocoa powder).

But the baker knows what the finished product will be like. Ingredients are skillfully blended and the result is a tasty treat!

Ever read Romans 8:28?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Sometimes we take Romans 8:28 as a blanket statement that God will work every single circumstance in our lives individually for good, but McLeod suggests, “the cumulative effect that God evokes does not take one thing at a time and work it for our good. … God causes all things to work together for good.”

God takes the bitter vanilla and cocoa circumstances in our lives and blends them with the sweet sugar of His blessings to create something incredibly good.

“God is well able to take what is perceived as bitter by itself and turn it into a revolutionary force in one’s life that transforms anyone into possessing the character of Jesus,” McLeod says.  And isn’t that God’s purpose for us? (See Romans 8:29.)

God’s good plan (to conform us to the image of His Son) “trumps the devastation of the enemy every single time,” she says.

Everything that comes into our lives is Father-filtered. It’s true! All of life is filtered through our Heavenly “Abba’s” love and goodness.

And He is a good God. His goodness is abundant, strong and steadfast (Psalm 31:19; Nahum 1:7; Jeremiah 33:11).

We see God’s good purposes in Joseph’s life. He endured so much at the hand of his brothers and while under others’ control—and no doubt wept many bitter tears—but Joseph testified later in life: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good ….” (Genesis 50:20).

What are you going through today? Does it feel bitter? Unbearable? Are you tempted to blame God rather than embrace His goodness and praise and worship Him? 

Remember: Life is like baking a cake from scratch, and the Eternal “Baker” knows what He is doing.

– Dawn

Birthday Cake graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tempted? Here Are 15 ‘Inoculations’

2 May

I am a courageous woman … except when it’s time to get a shot at my doctor’s office. I’m like a little kid!

So, as I read about some of the things people do to help make “getting shots” less scary for children, I wondered if these ideas might work for me!Inoculations_HelpfulChoices

  • Practice giving shots to a doll.
  • Ask the doctor to use a numbing cream on the injection site first.
  • Distract! Take a sweet treat to focus on while getting your shot, or put a song on your iPod, or play “I Spy” during the process. Anything to keep from looking at the shot!
  • Remember “owies” survived in the past.
  • Ask for a kid-friendly nurse.
  • Help your child feel more in control. Put her in charge of something (like what Band-aid to apply).

Hmmm…. I could practice jabbing my hubby, take a sedative before going to the doctor … and a cookie … and some music. I could remember past visits, and how I survived the high blood pressure episodes before the shots. I could look for a really smiley nurse. And I could even bring my own Superwoman Band-aid, right? LOL!

I’m basically a needle wimp. Before I married my husband, I went to his aunt’s office for my blood test. When she approached me  with the needle for the test, I passed out! “Oh, she’s a real winner,” his auntie said.

I’m not the only one in the family with “shot jitters.” I took my dog to the vet in April for his annual inoculations. Roscoe has a love-hate relationship with his vet. He loves Moses, our friendly vet; he hates the nasty needles. Poor dear … he just about “trembled himself” off the examination table! I comforted him with hugs and a bit of bacon when we got home. (Hmmm… bacon … I could take that with me to the doctor’s office too!)

Now, I know inoculations—for people as well as animals—are necessary to produce immunity against diseases. They are good for us. Helpful.

So I was thinking today …

I wish I had a one-time inoculation against temptation. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Temptations are so daily. Yes, I have been freed from the penalty of sin, and someday I’ll enjoy freedom from the presence of sin. But in the meantime, during the sanctification process, I have to deal with the temptation to sin. But I do believe there are some proactive, intentional things I can do to reject sin and become more like Christ.

Might we consider them something like “INOCULATIONS” to help in the daily battle against temptation?

So here are my 15 inoculation suggestions:

1. Recognize Your Tendency to SinJames 1:14 explains how we are led astray by our natural desires. So don’t be surprised. Instead, get prepared!

2. Identify the Roots – We spend lots of time examining the “shoots” of sin, but seldom the “roots.” The enemy delights in using the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life  (1 John 2:15-16) to entice us to sin daily. These are the basic roots of all sins. So, what temptation do you really need to resist? Get to the core cause.

3. Figure out the Triggers – A trigger on a gun enables its firing. The power behind a trigger is the thoughts and emotions that arise—usually from a past experience. Triggers that pull us toward a sinful response can be almost anything:  fatigue, an intense desire, something visual that draws us, a sound or smell … almost anything! Because we are made in God’s image, we can respond to triggers in godly ways; but knowing our triggers can help us prepare to deal with them. Don’t try to figure them out alone; listen for God’s voice (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5).

4. Expose any Lies You Believe – Many, if not all “triggers” have a false belief connected to them. For example, if you were once betrayed by a friend, Satan—the Father of Lies who desires to devour you (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8)—would like you to believe you will always be betrayed by friends, and you might react in sinful ways to perfectly normal statements or circumstances. We give “power” to the trigger through the lies we believe.

5. Embrace the Truth from God’s Word – Attack the lies by bringing the light of God’s truth into your situation (Psalm 119:130; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Counsel your heart according to His Word. Discover the commands, values, morals and ethics in God’s Word, and determine to live according to His truth. The Word and Spirit can help us discern lies in our hearts and then “take captive” every thought to make it obedient to Christ (Hebrews 4:12-13; John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

6. Think through the Consequences – “Sin” has wages that are deadly (Romans 6:23). “Sowing to the flesh” reaps “corruption”—a crop of worthless weeds (Galatians 6:7-8), and sin separates us from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2), because He cannot tolerate our sin (Habakkuk 1:13a). Our sin will eventually be exposed (Hebrews 4:13). Sadly, when we tolerate sin, we can become blind to spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14) and develop an insatiable desire (lust) for more sin! (Ephesians 4:18-19).

7. Ask God for Help – Don’t think you can stand against temptation by yourself. Eventually, if not right away, it will catch up with you. Pray for discernment, strength, courage, etc., and especially, sanctification (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; Luke 22:40). Learn to depend on God in prayer.

8. Resist Temptation* with Scripture – Don’t just know the truth that counters lies; use the Word of God to help you choose a new response to your triggers. You can even conquer hurtful memories from the past that entice you toward sinful responses as you renew your mind with scripture (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus used the scriptures skillfully as He battled temptation, and so can you (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12, 2 Cor. 10:4-5).

9. Check Your Armor – Study the parts of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, and learn how to use it. Put on each piece—the offensive and defensive weapons! Why? “That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). There are spiritual forces of evil that are determined to bring you down. You need the armor so you can “stand firm” (v. 13). It’s always too soon to stop fighting the battle.

10. Plan for Victories, Not Defeats –  “Make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). In other words, don’t enable temptation. Don’t plan for defeat. Get rid of those things that lead you into sin, or put safeguards in place to help you conquer in holiness. How? The first part of Romans 13:14 says, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Freedom and victory are entirely possible in Christ (Galatians 5:1; Romans 6:4; 8:31, 37; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 2:10).

11. Look for the Way Out – We’re told to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but sometimes we’re thrown into situations that tempt us to compromise our purity. God’s advice then is to look for a “way of escape”—perhaps by running away, changing the conversation or using truth to diffuse lies (I Corinthians 6:1810:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

12. Replace “Sin Opportunities” – David was tempted to sin (and he fell) with Bathsheba when he stopped ruling in righteousness and allowed himself to be give in to the opportunity for lustful sin (2 Samuel 11:1-4). We fight against temptation by replacing “sinful opportunities” with more worthy distractions or pursuits. Consider some positive activities. Have ready some “quick distractions” (scripture memory cards, a photo of your spouse, a hymn book, etc.) that would help “counter” your triggers. Note: you may need to embrace change in your current surroundings.

13. Seek Help to Win – Remembering we will all give account to God (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13), an “accountability partner” can help us stay on track and encourage us to do right when we are tempted (Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 27:17). Seek the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit—He guides, counsels and helps us in our weakness (1 Corinthians 2:13; John 14:26; 16:13; Romans 8:26); but  when patterns of addiction are present, a godly, biblical counselor can also help.

14. Repent When You Fail – It’s not a matter of “forgiving yourself” for failings; it’s a matter of repenting of sin and receiving the forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:14). Any shame you feel is not from Him—it’s a lie from Satan. The biblical pattern is: recognize, repent, receive (forgiveness) and then recommit to walk in obedience to the Word of God.

15. Thank God for Every Victory – Our ultimate victory is bound up in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14), and our daily victories are possible in Him (Philippians 4:13; Romans 6:14; 8:37).

Did you notice that all of these “inoculations” are a CHOICE?

See all those action words? You do not have to be a victim. You can choose, in every situation, a powerful way to deal with temptations as they come.

Are any of these “inoculations” missing in your life? What can you do to better prepare for your times of temptation?

– Dawn

* NOTE: In some circumstances, we are not dealing with a temptation. God does not lead us into temptation (James 1:13), but He may be testing us to refine us (Psalm 26:2; Job 23:10; Jeremiah 9:7a). John Piper offered a short post on the difference between temptation and testing. Regardless of whether we’re facing a temptation or test, these “inoculations” are useful in helping us make choices between obedience and disobedience.

 

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