Turn Worry into Worship #13 Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

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Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.       Phil. 4:6-7

Dear Sweet Sister:

You are worried again. I see it in your tightened shoulders, your shortened breaths and your serious face.  I can tell that you are becoming withdrawn into your fearful thoughts again and not being present to those around you as you worry about what may happen in the future.  Me. too. sister. 

You care so much for the struggling people God has put in your life that they are pulling you down.  You are feeling their pain and absorbing it into yourself physically, mentally and spiritually and it is draining you…..worry doesn’t help them and it is paralyzing you.  I suspect that your hands and heart are tight with worry too.

What is worry?  I recently thought of this simple definition:

Worry is when we think that something bad might happen to you or someone you love.

Worry steals our joy in the present and most concerning…….worry reveals our lack of faith in our good and loving heavenly father.  Worry is listening to the negative thoughts while Worship focuses on the positive (what is more positive than God?) and speaks out truth.

 Worship is remembering the character of God and releasing ourselves and all our worries into His loving and capable hands.

I remember as a young girl my family praying this grace before every meal:

God is Great,  God is good and we thank Him for our food.

If God is Great.….why aren’t we trusting Him more to protect our loved one?

If God is Good.…..why aren’t we trusting that He will only allow a situation what will bring each of us  and our loved one closer to Him and to become more like Him?

Worship is opening our tight fists and hearts and letting God lift our burdens off our tired shoulders.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Today at church my husband and I held hands during the Lord’s Prayer as our outward hands were lifted up.  Single people held both hands up………..what a beautiful example of how our physically bodies ( hands open palm side up …..ready to trust and receive all that God has….and ready to give up whatever He may take back)  reflects what our minds should be doing.  Our bodies and words were as one as we prayed:

Give us this Day our daily bread.  

wow.  This is a statement of true worship and not fear. We are saying we will not worry about today because He is a good Father who provides just what we need.    Daily. Every day. Day by Day. He will Provide. He is a good father who only gives good things to His Children. (Luke 11:11-14)

So first, sweet sis,  we need to pray for our concerns. There is power in prayer and we should come to our heavenly father with our concerns. But then we need to release all of these requests  ……. with open hands …….and start praising God for who He is, showing by our open hands and hearts how we trust Him to do what is best.

And the cherry on top after we release our cares to God………the prayer that  Jesus himself prayed when he was in the garden of Gethsemane overcome with grief…… “They will be done.” 

Worship can be a phrase or bible verse declaring the truth and fighting back against the worry that blocks out God’s peace.

During desert times of great stress     …I repeat these three statements:

God is a good.              God is Love.              God is in Control.

So much of what God is doing is a mystery beyond our understanding,  but focusing on God’s love, goodness and sovereignty is a way to open our hearts to His healing touch and to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Declaring out loud the word of God (scripture) is also a powerful tool as this is a weapon when the doubts and burdensome thoughts attack you: say out loud …No, I will not worry because:

God did not give me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.                     2 Timothy 1:7

God works all things out for Good for those that Love God and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I love the following one for those that have children for as mothers we are like the ewes. God promises to care for our children.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.   Isaiah 40:11

Listening and singing along to christian music is a wonderful way to choose to focus on God and not on what is worrying us sweet sister.

Go to utube and read the lyrics of a worship song or turn on the local christian radio. My favorite song is “Blessed be your Name” by Tree63. Also, check out  “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and ” What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong. ”

So lift up your concerns to the throne of God sweet sisters and then start to praise God for who He is. He loves you and your loved one more than you could ever comprehend. He is a big God….He is on His throne.  Let Him do His job.

Always end in Thanksgiving…for example: “thank you God that you are there with my loved one”….”thank you that you rose from the dead”……”thank you for setting me free from the prison of my sins and fears”….”Help me to walk in that freedom today.”

And the cherry on the top?      Thy Will Be Done.

So Sweet Sister….when a anxious thought comes…become a funnel and lift up your hands in Worship and let God’s spirit come in and fill you with all the good things of God to replace your anxious thoughts:

Peace, Joy, strength, hope, self-control and an extra helping of Love.

How my Friendship with God Began #12 Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

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Dear Sweet Sister:

The Topic for Day #12 is on how to develop our friendship with God.

Would you like to know how I began my sweet friendship with God? I’m so glad you asked………………

Sometimes the questions that we cannot answer right away have the biggest impact. At least I know that to be true for me. It was three of these kinds of questions that set the stage for the most important decision of my life.

More than 35 years ago (I must have been in my early teens at the time), I vividly remember walking along the sidewalk at a strip mall when a stranger stepped forward and asked me,

“Do you know Why Jesus died on the cross?”

I did not have an answer.

I mumbled “I don’t know” as I quickly walked by, my adolescent shyness overcoming my curiosity. I am sure this sidewalk evangelist also offered some talking points and a leaflet, but I moved too fast and ran into a store.

However, like a persistent dog, the question followed me, nipping at my conscious and never leaving my side. In my thoughts, I sought to figure out what crime (it must have been serious) that Jesus committed to be so charged and crucified.

cross

The question lay dormant for years, just as a faithful dog rests by his owner’s feet.

Although most would have described me as a shy and sensitive girl, looking back upon my childhood, I realize that I broke several of the Ten Commandments. For example, I stole a roll  of stamps from my grandmother (my sweet, wonderful grandmother who was a widow and supported herself). When questioned about it, I added to my guilt by denying that I stole it, then I proceeded to sell it to my brother. I didn’t need the stamps (which made the deed even worse), and I sought to get rid of the evidence. However, while the physical evidence disappeared, these and my other unconfessed sins remained heavy on my conscious. I also remember my best friend and I writing a cruel letter to a mutual friend. We said we wished her pet hamster died and all sorts of other hurtful things. I fell to peer pressure and ganged up against this poor girl. Meanwhile, I protected myself and continued to make poor choices. It seemed that I sinned against the people who were closest to me and trusted me.

I am even more embarrassed to admit that I self-righteously loved to keep notes for my parents of all the terrible things my three brothers were doing. I actually kept a notebook listing the many ways my brothers disobeyed the rules of the household, so I could tattle on them when my parents returned home from a night out. So in short, I covered up my own trespasses and hypocritically enjoyed pointing out other people’s.

About the time I entered high school, I started attending Young Life meetings in the homes of fellow classmates. Young Life is a Christian youth outreach organization for high school students that included silly skits and fun music; sort of like a G-rated Saturday Night Live show.  In the packed living rooms, we swayed to the guitar music and laughed as our friends and the Young Life leaders performed humorous skits. It was such fun to sit with my girlfriends and sing and clap to songs like, “Under the Boardwalk,”  while cute boys played guitars and made us giggle with their shenanigans. My awareness of the opposite sex was growing and I would quickly became infatuated whenever one caught my eye. More importantly, my awareness of God’s love was increasing too.

The college-aged volunteers in my Charles W. Woodward Young Life chapter were such caring and committed individuals who sought to help us through our tough high school years. They spent their free time joyfully planning meetings and driving buses to weekend retreats. The same joy I experienced in the meetings, I could see in our leaders lives as they continued to love us unconditionally.

In the midst of the silly joyful and loud songs, one melancholy song struck a nerve and became my second defining question. “What’s Forever For?” by Michael Martin Murphey was a song we would often sing during the large group meetings. The song’s chorus asks:

So What’s the Glory in Living
Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore?
And if Love never lasts forever
Tell me what’s forever for?

I even remember inquiring with a volunteer about why this song was included on the playlist, as the melancholy, slow chorus seemed so sad to me. The romantic in me didn’t want to accept that Love could end. I don’t remember the response I received, but I do remember a stirring happening in my heart as I considered the end of the chorus

 

foreverlove

During  those awkward middle school years prior to this time I certainly did not feel lovable or attractive. I sported large, rounded glasses with thick lenses and wore braces and at times even a head-brace that went on the outside of my face (not very popular with the guys). Some peers called me “airbrain amber” (as I thought deep internal thoughts) and the negative teasing chipped away at my self-esteem. 

During the summer before my sophomore year, I traveled with my chapter to the Young Life camp in Saranac, NY. During the adventurous week of camp, I walked on a high ropes course and parasailed off a sandy beach. There were so many fun, new experiences, but most of all I remember sitting in an audience of scores of other 15-16 year olds as each night ended with a talk about God and His love for each of us. The end of the week approached and the closing talk focused on how a human physically suffers when crucified. I remember hearing how a crucified victim agonizingly must lift up putting weight upon his bloody nailed feet to achieve enough air to take a breath and fill his lungs.  Then the dying man would lower down pulling upon his throbbing, wounded wrists.  Learning about this slow struggle for air that caused Jesus so much pain shocked me to the core.   I thought to myself,  ” Why would a God of love allow His perfect son to suffer so”? as I imagined Jesus suffering on the cross after being whipped close to the point of death.

The speaker’s words startled me, as a dog’s urgent barking awakens his master from a deep sleep – he pointed out that it was MY sins that separated me from a Holy, Loving God.  Just as in the Old Testament a spotless lamb was needed to atone for sin; God sent his precious spotless son to die in my place.

“What?” I gasped silently as my heart quickened. My sins? The answer to the question, Why did Jesus die on the cross?, all along was………………….. ME?    

The speaker explained that Jesus died on the cross because the God of the universe saw me sitting on death row in my ugly selfishness and offered up His one and only perfect son to suffer and die so that I could be with Him in heaven for eternity.

God’s sacrificial and unselfish love flooded over me as I sat alone by a tree in the woods after the talk. God did not use fear or threats of future doom to attract this tender heart. No, Love whispered my name and asked if He could come and be my forever friend. The mighty God of the universe wooed me with patient kindness.

I looked upward and responded to Jesus with these words which flowed from a heart overcome with surprise, gratitude and awe.

“You did that for me?”

What a shock to realize that the holy God of the Universe not only knew intimately my ugly selfish heart, but also loved me so much that He gave up His life in hopes that I would accept His gift of not just a future reunion in heaven but communion on this earth with me as well.

The Bible confirms this supernatural Love, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8  

As I pondered such an indescribable gift of Love, my third and final question formed as I looked upward.

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“Jesus, What Can I do for you?”

“Can we give God anything?” you may be thinking. I certainly had no gifts to offer. Just an unattractive, insecure, shy, wounded, and misguided teenage girl in the world’s eyes.  

Ever so gently a still small voice softly spoke into my spirit.

“Give me your life.”

Yes. My gift could  be myself – my unknown future, and all my dreams and hopes wrapped up in a bow.

“Yes, Oh Lord. I give you my Life.”

Alone by a tree in the woods of Saranac, the depth of my gratitude evolved into a lifelong decision of commitment.  I offered my heart back to Jesus, the lamb of God, who died to make it whole.

The closest analogy I can find on earth to describe this spiritual exchange is a bride and groom as they exchange the gift of their entire lives to each other. The bride doesn’t know what the future may hold (better or worse, richer or poorer), but she is willing to accept whatever may come if her trusted groom is by her side.   

I recently located the journal I wrote in when I returned from the trip. What is interesting about that journal isn’t what I wrote, but rather what I didn’t write.  I didn’t write about all the fun activities, cute boys, or the many new friends formed.  

Instead, I wrote,

“I just got back from YL camp in Saranac. I could go into all the details about the things we did there. In fact I may do that later on. But the most important thing that happened there or maybe in my whole life was that I gave my life (heart) to Jesus. This means that I am putting my life into his hands.”

Well, 33 years later I can state with experience that it was the most important decision of my life.  My bridegroom Jesus has proven to be my best friend through thick and thin. He has never left my side. He has given me joy and peace to overflowing.

I returned home and began attending a bible study group and found true friends who encouraged me as I learned more about this amazing God who desired to have a deeper love relationship with me. Since my self worth now was based on God’s opinion of me, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I found self control and self confidence to resist peer pressure and to have self respect for myself and the body that God has given me. Believe me, I am not saying that I no longer sinned or all of a sudden became unselfish. Sanctification is a lifelong process and I still have so far to go. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit convicts me if I have sinned, and I now know whom to go to to humbly confess my many sins and seek out ways to show that I am sorry. God has also given me the help to forgive others as he gives me compassion and understanding for others.

What is joy? To be released from your death row jail cell and to then spend the rest of your life sharing with your cell mates how they can be set free, too.

I want to be real my friend. Following Jesus does not guarantee a life free of trouble. His disciples all faced challenges and all kinds of sufferings. In fact, Jesus himself said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

I certainly have not lived a life free of pain or disappointment.  The beauty of Jesus’s friendship is that he walks with us and never leaves us alone.  Do you know when I have felt God’s peace and presence the strongest? When my premature daughter died in my arms as I held her in the NICU after 40 days of much praying for her healing. The grief following her death was not easy and I was angry when God chose not to heal my baby. He understood my anger, as I believe He hates death and what it does to those who are left behind.  He patiently, tenderly stayed close by as I slowly processed that my baby was a gift from God that I needed to surrender back to Him. Just as I surrendered my life so many years before to Jesus at Saranac. Following God’s lead means trusting Him to work all things out for good for not only ourselves but for His future heavenly kingdom. I now have a more eternal perspective. I believe in my soul that my daughter is now healed in Heaven. I have peace that my prayers were answered but beyond my limited sight on this side of heaven.

What is peace? To trust that all things are in the hands of a loving, good God who always takes care of His own.

I have now grown into a confident wife, mother, and business owner who loves The Bible and her sweet sisters. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that I have a friend who will be there each step of the way holding my hand until I can see Him face to face.

So my future sweet brother or sister, May I ask you a question?
Do you know why Jesus died on the cross?
No need to answer this right away. Just let the question lay at your feet and stay awhile.

Becoming Best Friends with God #11 The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren

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Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence Him.          (Psalm 25:14) 

What is your definition of a friend? Someone who sees the good in you? Someone who keeps your secrets? Perhaps someone who enjoys being with you and you enjoy their company as well? Someone who will forgive you? Someone who you can call at anytime and they will be there for you?

 God is the ultimate best Friend.

 People will always disappoint us, but God will never disappoint His own.

For the scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed”.  (Romans 10:11)

Yes. There will be times when we do not understand the why’s and we do not receive the answer we were hoping for. We live in such a broken, hurting world and to suffer or to watch others suffer is just. so. hard.

I always imagine God’s friendship as being both long term and short term.

Long term will will not be disappointed because we have victory in His resurrection and will be reunited as His children in Heaven.

Short term we have his friendship and during the desert times He shares in our sufferings. He then carries us on His shoulders as the Good shepherd.  During the rainy seasons when we are so joyful, I imagine Him holding our hands and jumping in the puddles with us.

As the saying goes, “A true friend doubles our Joy and divides our sorrow”.  However Friendship cannot be forced and God awaits for you to show interest in having a deeper relationship. Rick Warren writes that Love is spelled T-I-M-E.

So what can you do today to deepen your friendship with God

1. Spend TIME in prayer and reading the Bible each morning. If He is our most important relationship we should run to Him first for help, encouragement and thanksgiving.   

2.  we should chat with God and meditate on His Word throughout our day.  Do you text your friends throughout the day? Try to do this in your mind with God….For example little prayers:   Help Lord!  Thank you God for that. I trust in you. Give me wisdom, Please.     I love you.  You are an Awesome God.  Wow..You are so creative, holy, wonderful, forgiving, loving, generous, etc……….

Try to slow down and use all of you senses and you will start to sense His presence and your eyes will be opened to all the ways he is being a good friend to you.

I promise you Sweet Sister….He will not disappoint you. 

In the midst of storms…rainbows are born Day #10 Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

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The Lord is pleased with those who worship Him and Trust His Love. Psalm 147:11

Dear Sweet Sister:

Do you feel tired and weighed down by your own struggles or of those around you? I have so many people whom I love who are going through the furnaces of ….. physical pain, a broken heart, addiction, marriage struggles etc.

I use to love to quote the saying:  After the Rain…….the Rainbow. 

but a wise man once told me that rainbows can only occur when rain droplets are present as they are needed for the sun to shine through….. So it is more accurate to say….

In the midst of Storms……Rainbows are born.

For a rainbow to occur there must be both water droplets and the sun.

Jesus is the Light of the World and He is present in this dark time that you or your loved one is going through. Hold on with a trusting heart and after the darkest part of the storm is over……when the droplets are not even visible anymore…a glorious rainbow will be born.

Sweet Sister…….. God only allows these situations because He is going to turn them into something good…….For He works all things out for good for those that Love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

He is with you and He is with your loved one during this tough time and He only allows this struggle if something greater will result.

The greatest example of this is Jesus dying on the Cross….God allowed this to happen only because the greatest good of all would result from His death and resurrection….. The sacrifice of the lamb of God would take away the sins of the world.

Imagine the spectacular rainbow that is around God’s Throne.

All around Him was a glowing Halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day. This is what the glory of the Lord looked like to me. When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me. Ezekiel 1:28

 The Light of the World tranforms our stormy situations to a glorious rainbow as we trust in His love and seek to obey Him as Noah did.  

In the midst of storms    Rainbows are born

His love shines through our tears

In the Midst of Storms  Rainbows are born

He is here,  He is here.

Day 8 Planned for God’s Pleasure Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

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The Lord takes pleasure in His people.  Psalm 149:4 

The best marriage advice my husband and I received was ironically from a priest who advised us to “keep dating.”   During our over 27 years of marriage we have chosen different types of dates but the commitment to reconnect and share has always been a constant.  When our children were very young we had a neighborhood babysitter come over once a week and we would have dinner away from the chaos and distractions of our home. When we both worked outside the home,  we started to have lunch dates  together.  I remember  my in-laws asking  my husband what he wanted for his birthday and Dave requesting that the grandparents would care for the children for a long weekend so he could spend time with me. These weekly dates  and occasional longer trips were important, but daily compliments and words of affirmation, phone calls and soft touches each day were needed to ensure that our relationship continued to grow throughout each season and challenge of life.

In Chapter 8 entitled Planned for God’s Pleasure, Rick Warren describes that God created us to worship God and give Him pleasure.  But God wants us to have pleasure too.  He is such a loving God that He desires to have a real love relationship similar to the passion and commitment of a husband and wife with both me and you.  Let me type this one more time as this mystery is beyond human understanding….the God of the Universe wants to spend time with you, enjoys being with you and knows that you will receive the same enjoyment from this as well.  

The last line in Ch. 8 states:

This is what real worship is about- falling in love with Jesus.

So worship Him with others at church each week in music, the scriptures   and in receiving the body and the blood. (date night) See if you can sign up for a day or weekend retreat or mission at your church.

But also seek to find little ways to worship and enjoy the Lord during each week day. For example:  Stop when a beautiful sunrise catches your eyes as you’re running out the door to work; stand still in appreciation and thanksgiving with compliments  “Wow.  Isn’t that Beautiful Jesus! thank you for sharing this with me. You are such a creative God”

Isn’t it wonderful that we were created to be loved by God? Remember Day one and the phrase “you were created by God and for God”?

I encourage you to keep all your senses open to the many ways God is showing His love to you each day. An encouraging text or word from a friend, a verse that seems written just for you and your circumstance, a stunning nature scene etc.

Then return this love with the worship of Thanksgiving and adoration.

I begin each morning with writing the words ACTS in my journal vertically.

A stands for Adoration. God you are so_____(fill in the adjective)

C Stands for Contrition    I am so sorry for ___________

T stands for Thanksgiving     I write three things I am thankful for                1.____2.____3._____

S stands for supplication    I write 10 people I am praying/ advocating for_

Following this framework helps me be less distracted and more focused in my prayer time. Notice that adoration is first. Give God the Glory He so deserves and by doing so all of your  problems will grow small in the face of the beauty, power and goodness of God.

So as a wise man once told me:

Keep Dating. 

The Grand Canyon Gap Between Holy God and Me #7 The Purpose Driven Life The Reason for Everything

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For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. Romans 3:23 

Why do you and I often feel closest to God when we spend time in nature? It is because our Father God carefully created the earth and all the creatures in it and He speaks to us about Himself and His love through His creation.   A family visit to the Grand Canyon spoke to me about God’s character, the gap problem all humans face and God’s solution.

When I first approached the Grand Canyon I stood stunned with awed surprise.  I stood mute and spellbound by the vastness of the immense abyss in the ground that is so huge that the human eye can take in only twenty percent of the canyon at a time. Mountain after Mountain of pastel layers of crumbling stone contrasting against a desert blue sky spoke of God’s beauty, power and timelessness.  My oldest daughter wouldn’t walk up to the edge explaining to us the vastness of the Grand Canyon “makes me feel like an ant”.

When I asked my children later at dinner why they thought God Created the Grand Canyon, my son declared, “Because He Loves us.” My girls chimed in with, ” To show us how Big He is….and how Old”.

A ranger explained that a camera from a Jet cannot take a photo of the entire range but a satellite from the heavens is needed. The vastness of this gaping hole in the earth reminds me of how mighty God is but at the same time speaks of a God who loves us so much that He left His throne in Heaven to come to earth to fill the gaps in our hearts and to bridge the gap between our sinful hearts and the holy heaven.   Why would the mighty God of the universe who created all the natural beauties of the world leave His throne to become like us?

Only selfless Love beyond our human finite understanding would become flesh and blood as a helpless baby born to become a bridge between holy heaven and our selfish hearts. He provided a way so our hearts would be healed and someday His creation could then join Him in Holy Heaven.

God reveals His love song through His magnificent creation. A soft love song calls all of us throughout our lives; this love song echoes and never stops calling out our names. A love song sung by the God of the universe, who is older than time and yet desires to walk hand in hand with the crown of His creation, the men and woman who have been made in His image.

  1. List all the choices that have separated you from God. 
  2. Have you ever asked God to come in and fill your empty gap in your heart with His Love and forgiveness?  God’s love is stronger than your mistakes. 

To answer this love song we must humble ourselves just as the God of the universe humbled Himself so He could give himself away.