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Hi friends,

You may have heard about the new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), that comes into effect May 25, 2018.

I want to assure you that if you sign up to receive emails from me, and you’re abroad, all of your information is secure. I do not, and will not sell any of your information to any third-party, nor will I give out your information to another individual.

My computer is secure and does routine scans to ensure the safety of the information that is given to me. My email campaign is through MailChimp, and I’ve received emails that they are in compliance with this new protection regulation.

Thank you so much for following me through the last few months. I pray that you are blessed tremendously through the words here.

Blessings!!

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Book Review: Just Open The Door

As I’ve grown older, the idea of hospitality has intrigued me. More so, the Lord has convicted me of my lack of hospitality. He’s shown me the importance of returning to face-to-face relationships and getting back to interaction that isn’t social media based. I even created a group on facebook for women called “FORTIFY: Women,” with the heartbeat of getting back to conversation and building one another up.

You can imagine my excitement when I heard about Jen Schmidt’s new book “Just Open the Door.” I didn’t even have to read the description of the book to know that this was something I wanted to promote.

I was expecting a book about the importance of community, and relationships, but I got so much more.

I learned the art of hospitality, and the difference between entertainment and hospitality.

Jen uses a quote from Martha Stewart on entertainment:

Entertaining, like cooking, is a little selfish, because it really involves pleasing yourself with a guest list that will coalesce into your ideal of harmony, with a menu orchestrated to your home and taste, with decorations subject to your own eye. Given these considerations, it has to be pleasureful.”

She goes on the say that hospitality, biblical hospitality is different.

“The posture we assume in hospitality is one that bends low, generously offering our heart to another despite whatever interruption to our own plans or comfort. Extending hospitality is about freely giving of ourselves while granting others the freedom to be themselves. Shifting our focus from us to them removes all unnecessary expectations. No need to worry about what to say or how to act. Just come as you are.

The first few chapters really whet my appetite to open my door. It convicted me because I’ve been more embarrassed by my home instead of making the most with where I’m at. Jen’s comment about not waiting until our homes are Pinterest-perfect was the key for me to step out and invite one person over.

What I really enjoy about this book is that it has practical tips to make minor changes to your home. Something as simple as adding fresh flowers to your table can make your home more welcoming. Or adding white candles to be lit when people are over.

At the end of each chapter, Jen has “Dear Jen,” where people have sent in questions about opening their homes. She also has “Elevate the Ordinary” in which there are questions to ask yourself, or statements to be challenged.

She covers making your home more welcome, stepping out and inviting people, loving people despite how they act, how to let people into your home when you have kids and how to host a get-together on a budget.

She shares some really neat statistics (and alarming). I’d like to share with you two:

“If each of us came alongside just one person each year–doing life with them, discipling and teaching them about the Bible, unpacking how it interacts and impacts all aspects of their life–and then encouraged them to do the same thing with another person the next year, do you know what would happen? In the course of our lifetime, hundreds of thousands would be touched by what we started.”

“The majority of U.S. families admit to eating only one meal together out of five days during the week, and even that one meal is often in front of the television. Sixty years ago, families and friends spent an average of ninety minutes around the table, whereas today it consists of less than twelve minutes. If any.”

It reminded me of when I was younger. We truly gathered with family around the table. Thanksgiving, Christmas. We didn’t have cell phones to distract us, or Facebook to keep in touch. Our lives were not as busy, and they didn’t mean as much as meeting with family. Aromas of favorite recipes filled the air, and laughter permeated the rooms.

My family (my momma especially) truly loves gathering with family. She loves getting around the table with her kids and grandkids and sharing the laughter and love that’s between everyone.

If you’re someone who has wanted to open your home, but felt reluctant, didn’t have the means, or just plain don’t feel like it, I highly recommend this book for you.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and I recommend that this book be right on your end table along with “Home & Garden.”

April Showers: Recap

Words are part of our identity. The words we speak to others and over ourselves help develop our belief system about ourselves. When we speak words that are critical, we are speaking a negative identity over that person.

If a parent always tells a child that what they did is not good enough and there is no encouragement to know how to do better, the child begins to believe that they will never measure up.

Our beliefs shape our view of God. So, unfortunately, if there’s a negative identity spoken over yourself or someone else, that begins to shape the view of God. We begin to believe that God is a hard-to-please Father, and it’s not worth it to follow Him.

This is why it is important for us to watch our words as Christians. The world around us has been given a negative viewpoint of God because of the circumstances they have gone through.

We have been called to be set apart. That means that we don’t look like the world, nor do we act like the world. I understand that it is difficult to be different when everyone is being the same. It’s easier to give in and be like everyone else instead of setting a standard of following God’s Word.

If we act like the world, who wants to follow God? There’s not a need because nothing would apparently change, it’s only changing your phraseology to “I’m a Christian.” But honestly, with the way Christians have been acting, everyone is a Christian. Does that make sense? We may say we’re a Christian, but we don’t act like one, therefore showing others that there are no steps to being one.

Over the course of the month, we have learned that our words have power. What we speak will eventually come to pass. If we are only speaking negatively about the world we live in, isn’t it spiritual law that it will become that?

There are a few studies out that depict the power of the words that we speak. One is the Plant Study, and the other is the Water Study.

In both of these studies, there are two parties. To one, they spoke life. They told it that it was beautiful and it thrived. To the other, they spoke negatively to it. The result of this was that the plant who was spoken to in a positive manner thrived and produced great fruit, while the one who received negative talk wilted.

Check out https://crystalsheal.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/the-plant-experiments-the-power-of-words/ for more experiments.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

My prayer is that as you’ve gone through this study, that the Lord has revealed to you the importance of what you speak. Words can either unite or divide, and God’s desire is that they unite us. Because when we’re united, the world will know from whom we’re sent.

If you have any questions, please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/7imOli8VswscaUy82

If there are questions for me to answer, I will do so. If there are not, thank you so much for journeying with me through this! I do ask that you would fill out this survey. Whether you’ve completed the study or only read a few days, I would like your input. (If you didn’t enjoy this, and you don’t mention it…I might end up doing something like this again…so you better let me know! Nicely thought 😉 )

Survey: https://goo.gl/forms/NwThPqcNGpJmdmJ82

April Showers: Week Four, Day Six

Focus: understanding criticism and removing it from our words and our minds

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Video:  Watch Week Four on Judging & Criticism

Criticism is icky. Have you ever been to a coffee shop (or restaurant), where someone is being loudly critical of something? I don’t know about you, but I become embarrassed for that person and then I cringe because of the lack of respect and sensitivity to the person they’re dealing with. (don’t get me started on customer service, please).

It is especially easy to be critical of our leaders: in the church, the town, state and nationally.

Maybe the Pastor preached a sermon that you thought was good, but it could have been better because they could have gone into more detail about a certain issue. Maybe they spoke of faith, and it was good and had great points, but he didn’t exactly discuss what your beliefs were on faith, so you didn’t like it that much.

And what about our state leaders? It’s easy to see all that they are doing wrong and criticize them for it, stating that we elected them to make a difference, but all they’re doing is sending our state down the drain. Even if they do something right, we still revert back to the last wrong thing they did.

“Don’t even get me started on the President,” one might say. I know that it is common to criticize our President, but I honestly feel as if President Trump has received more criticism than any other President (that I’ve paid attention to). It’s all based on his past, what he did before he came to know the Lord. Some might say that they don’t believe he’s a Christian because of the things he’s doing. What, exactly, is he doing? I think the main focus is on what he’s done. We are no less exempt from criticism because of what we’ve done… but we’ll be the first to say that the blood of Jesus saved us…well..how come it can’t do the same for President Trump? Anyway…#sorrynotsorry

Contrary to popular belief, criticism is not one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Criticism does not equal discernment. Instead of criticising our leaders, we are told to pray for them.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Prayer is very powerful, and it makes it difficult to continue criticising or judging when you’re praying for someone. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to ask the Lord where there is an issue with you. Remember the devotional on day four about being willing to judge yourself.

If we’re criticizing and judging the way our leaders are acting but not praying, what makes us think that any issue is going to change? When we pray, we invite God to move in that situation and move in that person’s life.

So, next time criticism is on your tongue: be silent. Instead of speaking critically, pray for that leader, or for that person. Ask the Lord to forgive you for the sin you’ve participated in. And then I challenge you to find two good things about the person you’re wanting to be critical of.

Tomorrow we are recapping the power of words. However, if you have questions, please fill out this form:

https://goo.gl/forms/7imOli8VswscaUy82

And if you enjoyed this study (or you didn’t like it, or this is the only day you read) I would really appreciate it if you filled this survey out: https://goo.gl/forms/NwThPqcNGpJmdmJ82

 

 

 

April Showers: Week Four, Day Five

Focus: understanding criticism and removing it from our words and our minds

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Video:  Watch Week Four on Judging & Criticism

We all know that person, or maybe we used to be that person: critical. Nothing is right, nothing will ever be right, and if you disagree, you’re the target for their negativity.

Isn’t that just negativity, though? Yes and no. Negativity is general, criticism is specific. Some people carry around a critical spirit, and there is nothing that will cause them to be less critical until they recognize it and change.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this study, I used my words as a weapon. I used them to cut down before others could cut me down. In order to hide my insecurities, I became critical of those around me. If I was wearing an outfit that I didn’t think looked good, I would choose someone in the school to point out their fashion faux pax. (blegh…junior high problems).

I would be critical of every aspect of that person so that attention would be drawn to them instead of me.

As Christians, we must cultivate relationships with one another and treat it with care. As we establish this relationship with each other and it becomes stronger, there is not much outside force that can ruin this relationship. We know the other person well and know that they would not do such a thing. However, this is also prime territory for criticism to take hold…especially secret critcism.

Have you ever been there? When your friend does or says something that rubs you the wrong way, and instead of bringing it to their attention, you don’t say anything at all to anyone–you just keep it to yourself and stew over it? You don’t extend grace either. Pretty soon, that one issue is what’s at the forefront of your mind and you begin to remove yourself from the friendship because of that one thing they said. You don’t have an in-depth conversation as much because they might say that thing that upset you again. Pretty soon, your heart is hardened toward them and the friendship may be damaged.

Tim Cameron says “The prime culture for growth of sin is in the darkness.”

It is important that we don’t let secret criticism grow in our hearts and minds. I have a great friend who called me and said that she needed to talk to me about something. We met and had a couple hour conversation about what was going on. She did not want the enemy to cause any rifts in our relationship and so she called a “family meeting” of sorts to get it out in the open. She learned my heart behind the matter was NOT what it was coming across to her, and we were able to work together to make a greater influence around us.

It is important that we don’t allow the enemy access to our relationships because his intent is to divide and conquer. When we’re operating in unity, the Kingdom of God is expanded at an accelerated rate.

If you have struggled with criticism or secret criticism, it is important that you seek the Lord. It is important that you confess the sin of criticism and judgment. In doing this, there is freedom.

Questions to Answer:

1.) Have you been the target (or the targeter) of criticism? How does it make you feel? When you’re around someone whose criticizing, what is your response?

2.) Is there an area in which you are struggling with criticism or secret criticism right now? I encourage you to confess it before the Lord and then ask Him for the time to bring it up to that person.

Challenge:

Be conscious of your criticism and secret criticism. Resolve to not let the enemy separate, but rather, come together in unity.

April Showers: Week Four, Day Four

Focus: unpacking judgment, and learning the importance of walking in love

Scripture: Luke 6:41-42; Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Matthew 23; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 John 2:18, 1 John 10-11

Video: Watch Week Four on Judging

I want to bring up another aspect of judgment that I believe we have a tendency to miss.

We must be willing to first judge ourselves before we begin to judge others. We are told in Luke 6:42 that we must first judge ourselves before we can help others with their sins.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)

Throughout scripture, we are told to examine ourselves, to make sure that we are walking in a manner worthy of the One who called us.

The word “judge” in the Greek is the word “krino” in which we make a judgment based on God’s Word. We approve of what His word says and reject what does not line up. We accept the actions and thoughts that line up with God’s Word and reject what does not.

Our natural tendency is to judge others harshly and justify ourselves, but God’s way says that we are first to judge ourselves and make sure that there is no false way in us. For example, when we see someone who has a lot of money and we say “if only they’d use it for the Kingdom,” we must first ask ourselves: “what am I doing with what I have for the Kingdom?”

Again, this does not mean that we are not to judge others in the church. We aren’t to overlook or tolerate serious sin or doctrinal issues, contrary to popular belief. (c.f., Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Matthew 23; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 John 2:18, 1 John 10-11). Jesus made it clear that we must confront a Christian who is sinning, and Paul judged the Judaizers for adding works to grace.

We are to extend mercy over judgment. What does this look like?

Not condemning. It means that when someone does something wrong, repents and is forgiven, we don’t get mad and say “that’s not fair!!” It’s like the son who’s brother came home. He responded with “that’s so not fair that you’ve allowed him to come back home.” His self-righteous attitude is exactly how we are not to act.

What about our words?

In speaking the truth in love, we speak what God’s word says about someone, not what our flesh desires to say.

So, instead of saying that someone is a liar, a thief, or a drunkard, we speak the truth of God’s Word. They might have participated in lying, stealing or drinking, but God’s Word says that if they are a believer, they are a child of God. They are precious in His sight, worthy of Jesus’ shed blood and worthy of forgiveness.

This is not denying what has taken place, or what is in front of you. It denies that label to have a right in that person’s life because you are extending mercy by calling them a child of God. We extend mercy by pardoning them, which is what Jesus did for us. We release them from the penalty of guilt and sin. When a woman who anointed Jesus was called a sinner, He told a parable of two debtors:

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”“Tell me, teacher,” he said.“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:40-47)

Like the woman whose many sins were forgiven, we must forgive much because we have been forgiven of much. We must forgive others who have sinned against us, whether or not they have apologized or repented. This includes those close to us.

Remember back a few days when we learned that with the same measure we judge, we’ll be judged. If you call someone a liar, we will have that same harsh judgment extended to us. Again, this is not denying what happened, but it’s refusing the label to stick to that person. It’s extending mercy and saying “you know what? I know God has a lot in store for them because they are a child of God, and as His children, there are great things in store for us.”

I have also heard that when you begin to judge people harshly, there will be the chance of you struggling with what you are judging them for. I remember that I thought ill of someone who stayed on their phone the entire time during bible study. I thought “they’re probably not even learning because they’re so distracted by their phone.”

Suddenly, I found it difficult to stay off of my phone during bible study, during church, and any other time. Once this was brought to my attention, I repented of not extending mercy and the desire to be on my phone subsided.

Some may think that’s silly, and that’s okay, but I challenge you to ask the Lord about this. It was something that was revealed to me, so it’s something that I see as an issue.

Questions to Answer:

1.) What has been revealed to you in today’s study? Do you have any questions about what has been discussed? (Please feel free to email me any questions or concerns you have).

2.) Have you been convicted of an area in which you’ve harshly judged someone?

Challenge:

Ask the Lord to continue to unravel judgment to you. Ask for help in extending mercy but not tolerating sin. Watch your words about a person.

April Showers: Week Four, Day Three

Focus: unpacking judgment, and learning the importance of walking in love

Scripture: Ephesians 4:15

Video: Watch Week Four on Judging

Yesterday we discussed two of the four keys that need to be in place concerning judgment. Today we’re going to wrap them up.

3.) Have you earned the right to speak into their life?

I know that this may sound silly to some, however, it is a vital part of addressing an issue with a fellow brother or sister in the Lord.

Think about it this way: say that an acquaintance approached you and told you that they noticed your involvement in something they didn’t necessarily think was right. What would your response to that judgment be?

You would probably think that it was very bold of them and uncalled for. They don’t know the whole story and they had made a judgment call.

However, if a friend of yours who you have spent hours conversing with, someone you’ve established a friendship with, someone who has taught you and mentored you, approached you and brought light to an issue, you would be more likely to listen to them and make a change.

If you don’t know the person very well, or if it involves someone in higher authority, ask the Holy Spirit for discernment on how to best approach it. He may ask you to take another person with you that has a better relationship with that person.

4.) Speak the truth in love. 

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

When we speak the truth in love, we grow up and mature. When love is present, maturity takes place. Condemnation severs growth and maturity.

When we speak the truth, we are speaking God’s Word.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

Speaking the truth in love causes us to become more holy. The iron that sharpens iron and helps us remove the junk from our lives causes us to grow closer to God and we’re called higher in the Lord.

We will go more in depth tomorrow about this point, and the importance of speaking the truth of God’s word and what God calls that person over their life.

Questions to Answer:

1.) What has been revealed to you in today’s study? Do you have any questions about what has been discussed? (Please feel free to email me any questions or concerns you have).

2.) Has there been conviction on either of the two keys mentioned today?

Challenge:

Ask the Lord to help you recognize your motive. Repent of any malicious motive in judgment. Ask Him to solidify the difference between judgment and accountability.