Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Music Soothes Our Souls

Do you ever stop and wonder why music makes us feel the way it does? It can make us sad, silent, give us pause for reflection on the past, patriotic or joyful beyond measure. I would encourage you to think about that the next time you're happily singing along to your favorite tune. Ask yourself why is it your favorite? What emotion does it make you feel?

One of the ways I begin my mornings is to listen to praise and worship music. It provides me with about 30-45 minutes depending on how long I take to get myself ready once I am out of the shower and often times I find I already have a song on my heart when I wake up. Sometimes it's a silly song from my childhood or something I have heard repeatedly on the radio, and often times one that I hear my husband or daughter singing and then it gets stuck in my head. I call the ones that I wake up with that stay with me throughout the day, my "soul songs." I believe God puts them there as a way to get me to reflect on the meaning of the song's lyrics or the way it makes me feel. Some of my favorites are Toby Mac's Speak Life, Jamie Grace's Beautiful Day and Hold Me, and Mandisa's Stronger.

I have found that when I am struggling in my life with stress or anger that I know I need to let go off, the easiest way to get my focus off those things is to listen to music, preferably Christian music. My reason for listening to Christian music is that the lyrics often times contain scriptures from the Bible. My husband was recently struggling to memorize scripture verses from the Bible and when I gathered a handful of songs like Matthew West's Hello My Name Is.. I knew he knew the words to, I played them back to him watching to see if he would easily remember those scriptures. I took it one step further and looked them up for him and began to quiz him on those verses and surprisingly even now, he can remember them.

God's got a point in using music to speak to our heart and soul. God can work through music to heal our troubled souls much like he did for King Saul when David played for him when he was troubled by evil spirits that were tormenting him.

1 Samuel 16:23 NIV ~ "Whenever the spirit from God can upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him."

I believe the same is true for the praise and worship music that we find in church from rock bands to the old classic hymns, people are drawn like moths to a flame by the call of God to our heart and soul through music. It can get us through tough times and get us to focus on other things besides ourselves and our troubles. This is one of the reasons I love the first thirty minutes of being in church is just singing those amazing songs like 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), Amazing Grace, Lay Me Down and Awake My Soul. You can't focus on what you left behind at the door when you begin singing songs like that. They are designed to encourage, lift us up and change us in unremarkable ways.

This is what happened with Paul and Silas. Their surroundings wee dreary. Their circumstances were disappointing. Their prospects were discouraging. The only thing in their situation not depressing was their attitude.. Paul and Silas didn't blame God for their imprisonment; they worshiped Him in spite of it. Even though their bodies were locked up, their spirits soared free as they sang praise and worship songs to God.

And they didn't just praise for a few minutes; they praised for as long as it took. Verse 25 says they were praying and singing hymns at "about midnight" when God shook the jail cell and they were freed. They didn't stop at 10:00 p.m.; they didn't give up at 11:00 p.m.; they praised until their problem crumbled before them.

Joyce Meyers said it best in her book You Can Begin Again, "I want to encourage you to develop a life of praise. Regardless of what you are going through today, find something to praise God for . You may be on top of the world - the kids are getting good grades, you job is not feeling like "work," your spouse is helping out around the house, your health is great, and you found some great sales at the mall - well, praise God! Take time to worship God in your quiet time for all of His blessings.

Or you may feel like the world is on top of you - your kids are causing trouble, your job is stressful, your spouse is driving you crazy, you got a bad medical report, and the sale clerk overcharged you - well, praise God! Keep worshipping God for His goodness even when it feels like you are in a dark circumstance. Like Paul and Silas, find the good in every situation, and praise God with all of your heart. Your praise is the path to your victory."

Psalm 63:4 NIV ~ "I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."

How do you use music to help get you through the day? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's the Things We Can't See We Have To Worry About

Spring is finally here! Everyone is saying it from all forms of social media the message is clear. Spring is in the air. Although for some, winter still presides like a sentry that won't give up its post. We know it's coming but it certainly is taking its time getting here. For me as I sit here at my desk typing this blog post, I am looking at the window watching tiny snow-like pollen drift into the winds that are blowing westward to some unknown location. For us here in the desert in California, we have had only two days of rain that made up our "winter." It spells disaster because we are already suffering from a horrible drought. Every time I drive past the water reservoir in Gilroy, it deeply saddens me. Every lake is well below the drought lines more so than ever before and its frightening. For us, the season hasn't changed like we had hoped. Winter simply never showed up and that means it will be a brutal summer.

For me, it means that allergies are going to be worse than ever before. I now have to monitor things like the pollen forecast because of the things in the air I can see, but much worse is the things I can't see that will make me miserable. It means having boxes of tissue handy, allergy medicines and keeping the windows shut tight and avoid outdoor activities like sitting in the backyard and enjoying all the beautiful flowers that are just beginning to bloom in abundance. All those flowers like freesia, carnations and lavender that I have been patiently waiting for, I can't really enjoy because it might mean days of allergies, difficulty breathing, sneezing and watery eyes.

But you know, I can't pass up the opportunity when the winds aren't blowing or in the cooler evening hours to get outside for a short time and enjoy it as brief as I can. Sin is a lot like that. It begins in the smallest of ways. It creeps up on you when you least expect it and before you know it, you are in hot water. It begins in the most innocent of ways. Talking to people about your marriage problems with the opposite sex, even if they are simply your very best friend. Sampling a slice of bread while struggling on your diet, or taking just a bite of something you know simply isn't going to help you get to your weight loss goal. There is never such a thing as one innocent bite. That is how cravings form.

We need to be on guard for the things we can't see. The ones that destroy in the subtle ways, slowly at first. It begins in our thoughts, then moves into words and before we know it action. Sometimes we don't even realize it's happening before we are really in a place we wish we had never been before. The Bible is very clear that our enemy is always looking for a way to bring us down. To find a place where we are weak. The battle is never ending for him and he is looking for a way to devour us and lead us away from doing what we know we should be doing.

That is why we need to guard our thoughts. Nothing is innocent simply because we think about it. I mean we aren't doing it right? Wrong! Those thoughts are your own. Ask God to remove those thoughts from you and to think on things that are of God instead. Picture this if you're unsure about your thoughts...if you had a giant television screen above your head where everyone could see what you are thinking, are you okay with what they are seeing? If not, you might want to turn that program off and pray.

There is nothing like a white lie or a little sin. Sin is sin! We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't take root and make our lives miserable. It's the things we can't see, that we have to worry about things like pollen and things like sin. We have to take preventive measures to ensure we aren't miserable. For me and my allergies, it's my allergy medicine and doing the right things to prevent myself from being attacked either way. For protecting myself against sin, it's spending time with my Bible and learning more about God's truth so I can see the lies when they come. It helps me have a more happy life and set better examples for my family. It's realizing as long as I am living, those attacks will come but I don't always have to fail. With God's help, I can enjoy my life and bring glory to His name everyday walking in the life He has planned for me. It's so much better that way than trying to do it myself.

James 1: 13-15 NIV ~ "When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

Philippians 4:8 NIV ~ "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Do You Have Fire Insurance?

I remember playing the game of life and in order to make sure the money you were collecting through various spaces on the board and those "Pay Day" spaces stayed in your hands and not back to the banker, there were types of insurance you could purchase whenever you landed on a designated space or opted to buy it whenever you had enough money. You had the option of Life Insurance, Auto Insurance and Fire Insurance. If you opted to keep your money and take a chance that you wouldn't land on a space that would require you to pay a fine unless you had the right insurance required, you were taking a huge risk. I always opted to buy them all, just to be on the safe side.

However I find in life, many people are doing just that. Taking a huge risk in their lives as well as the lives of the children they raise.

And no for the record I am not talking about real fire insurance here, but it is definitely not a bad idea either.

I don't know how many of you are watching the news lately and shaking your head at the random things happening all over the world. Russia invading the Ukraine while we sit back and do nothing to help, as if they are just taunting us to do something about it. Various issues are being passed in the government without any regard to how the people feel about it and morally compromising our country in the process, from insurance that pays for abortions, to same sex marriages being considered as thought this is right. Where is seems that more wrong things are now being considered as right and anyone that questions those things are often judged as intolerant and ignorant.

It even seems that some Christians are taking an apathetic and complacent approach to these things. I mean what can one person do right?

If we look back at history, we can see how one person's actions have changed things so much that we find ourselves where we are at in this country today. Our constitution is being questioned, our rights are being challenged, and morally our country is going bankrupt right along with the economy.

People all around us have a changed attitude about things. Their attitude says "I don't care!" I mean if it doesn't concern us personally why should we care.

But I caution you, the believers are being lulled to sleep by the world.

We live our lives believing we can simply hit the snooze button and pick up back up when we feel like it. Kinda like when you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock for just another 15 minutes of sleep. We fail to realize it really doesn't make us feel any better when we actually have to get up.

Then again some believers live their lives under a false alarm. When you hear about something prophetic happening, you immediately spring into action and start acting like a believer again. Kind of like a pot that is ready to boil over we react to it to turn down the heat before it spills over and makes a mess. But Jesus turns down the burner on the events and things don't continue to escalate and we think we have more time before we need to get our heads in the game.

But time is running out! It's time to wake up!

Romans 13:11 ~ "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is neared now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (NIV)

It is time for believers to wake up from their spiritual slumber. We need to know that Jesus is coming is nearer than it was yesterday. The eleventh hour is upon us! Jesus, himself, promised that when it comes it will be when we least expect it. But he did warn us what to look for and what signs would proceed His coming for the church, or rapture.

Matthew 24:4-9 ~ "Jesus answered: Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains."

Look around you and see if these things aren't happening around us. We have places all around us struggling for power and dominance, ethnic cleansing, wars all over the globe, asteroids hitting Russia, and men's hearts are being troubled by what is happening all around them.

We, as believers, can not be complacent any longer. We need to wake up and realize people all around us are going to hell if they fail to accept Jesus as their Savior. We, as believers, are being called into battle to wage war and join God's army!

We need to be wary of those that go AWOL, Absent With Out the Lord. Some will run away in retreat and some will fall away. Others will simply jump in the nearest fox holes and hide beneath their shields of faith hoping no one will find them.

But we need to gain ground not just stand our ground. We need to gain souls for the Lord. We need to be more like David, fighting Goliath against our enemy and the darkness of the world. We need to have that boldness for Christ because if you have ever noticed that when you introduce light into the darkness it can't be put out. You can't have too much darkness that the light isn't visible any longer.

So what will you do with the time you have right now?

If you are a believer in Christ? I challenge you to wake up and spend time making God proud of your efforts instead of merely showing up in heaven through His grace escaping the fires of hell with your fire insurance! We need to make sure our time spent here is something we can use to bring glory to God's name! But let us not forget the way Jesus did it, through love, grace and forgiveness! Let us all be more like Him in the process to winning souls for God.

If you aren't a believer consider the sinner's prayer on my side bar and gain your fire insurance today! Trust me, you don't want to live one more day, thinking you'll still have tomorrow to decide. No one knows when that last day will come. If you want to talk about it, please consider emailing me at Stevenkat27@gmail.com. I'd love to talk to you about giving your life to Christ and becoming a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. I'd love to pray for you and help you enter into the gates of heaven and be assured 100% that you will be in heaven someday!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Never Supposed To Be About You!

Some days you wake up and wonder if everyday is a Monday. Certainly it feels like the weeks contain more weekdays with Monday's in them than what really happens. We could all use more weekdays and definitely a whole lot more Fridays in our weeks.

Yet I was watching the way certain people seem to handle every day stress much more easily than others. When the storms of life wash over us like a rogue wave out of no where, why do some handle it better than others. Why is it there are certainly more occassions  for us to repeat our mistakes than learn from them and move on.

Why is it that bad things continue to happen despite all our efforts to make sure they don't follow? Why does it seem like God is simply busy when we call upon His name?

First of all, there is a difference in how people hand adversity and stress as believers in Jesus and those that don't. I can't imagine all the circumstances I've had to deal with in 50 years on this earth without my faith in God. I'm not talking about those times, when all else fails and I pray. That is not the kind of relationship I have as a Christian. I have a relationship not just some belief in Jesus. I know in spite of some of the most challenging times, God is right beside me every single step of the way.

When my husband and I talk about the differences between how believers handle things like death versus the unbeliever, it is clear. Sure we have similarities when dealing with the initial loss. I can't imagine how hard it is for parents to lose a child, or loved ones to lose a family member. Despite often times, faithful prayers and the right relationship with Jesus, loss still comes. But for the believer, we never have to say goodbye to another believer. We KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, we WILL see them again and when that time comes we will never again be separated from them.

So why does bad things happen even for believers? I believe it isn't about us, it's about God. We are told numerous times in the Bible we are the salt and the light as believers. Often times, I believe like Gideon in Judges 6 - Judges 8, from the Bible who faced an army greater than he could possibly defeat, that God was waiting to show Gideon that it wasn't about what he could do, but about knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would bring them through their storm.

Too often I think we keep praying to God about what we want to see happen. Restoration for lost souls, healing for our loved ones trapped in the bonds of illness or death's doorstep, even help just to hold on when it is so much easier to simply let go. But through it all, God does a mighty work. Just like Jesus told his disciples that he would meet them on the other side of the Sea they were crossing, they seem to have forgotten it when the waves and wind became too great. They forget He said He would meet them on the other side. They simply had to believe and keep moving forward. Jesus needed this situation to happen to show them it wasn't about what they could do, but about what He could do.

We need to stop focusing on our wants and needs in a situation, but instead asking God to do His will in it. Like Gideon who has 32,000 men ready to go into battle with him even though he was seriously outnumbered by the Midianites, God told him to ask all the men who were afraid to leave before the battle happenened. He didn't want weakness in the midst of what was to come. 22,000 of those men left, leaving Gideon with only 10,000. Imagine that 2/3rd of his men left because they were afraid. How many times do we flee when we are afrraid of our circumstances.

But God wasn't done yet.

He asked Gideon to take the men to a watering hole and to observe those that lapped the water like dogs  versus those who drank it cupped from their hands. Those that cupped the water were 300 while the other 9700 drank like dogs on their knees. God told Gideon to let th 9700 men go and he would use the 300 men to fight the impossible army and win. And God did just that because he wanted Gideon to understand that to win this battle wasn't about Gideon or what his men would do, but without a doubt they would know what God could do.

Perhaps what you are going through is wearing you down more than you ever thought possible. That God must believe you are incredibly strong to weather this time in your life. But I believe God simply wants you to understand it isn't about You, it's about HIM. He wants you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will be bringing you through this time. It isn't suppose to be about YOU, it's to be all about HIM!

Let us never forget that. He may just be asking you to eliminate those distractions from your life, that are taking you away from His greater purpose in your life. For you to simply stand back and watch with unbelieving eyes that He can do the impossible if only you'd have faith.

That is the difference between believers and the world. We serve a God for who NOTHING is impossible! He will be there in all of our storms, in our trials and sufferings. Think He doesn't care? He watched the world condemn, mock and murder his only son, because He loved you enough to restore the broken relationship that happened when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. It is why bad things continue to happen but it won't always be that way. One day God will come to judge us all and those that have a belief in Jesus Christ alone will enter into a perfect heaven and earth with Him along with all the other believers and we will never have to watch the effects of sin rob us of what was supposed to be.

If you want that assurance of an eternal future, remember there is NO other way except through a belief in Jesus Christ. Are you ready to take that step? Your life will NEVER be the same again!

Simply say this prayer:

Lord Jesus,

I believe you are the Son of God! That you were sent here by God as a man to die for my sins on the cross. I believe you rose from the dead and that by believing in YOU, I can have eternal life. I ask for you to forgive my sins, to come into my life and restore all my broken places and give me hope and life again. I ask these things in your name Jesus ~ AMEN!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life. ~ John 3:16

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes iin me will never die. ~ John 11:25

I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:6

Monday, March 10, 2014

Feeling Alone

Sometimes I think the greatest battle a believer faces is that of being alone, or dealing with feelings of loneliness. Just this weekend, I watched numerous people post status updates on their Facebook pages looking for confirmation or validity that they are more than what they feel. That they have purpose, that they are needed and in fact loved. Who hasn't questioned their purpose in this life?

In fact, before reading everyone else's updates I found myself telling my confidant cat, Boba that very same thing. How is it possible to feel alone when you are in a room or home filled with people? I began to question why I was feeling this way. It was if I was very present in this life, but at the same time invisible. Everyone else in my house was pretty much in their own world, my youngest daughter, chatting away with her friends in her room via Skype, my husband watching the latest Nascar race on TV just trying to relax and me, with my never ending To Do List.

I found myself questioning if I mattered or if the things I did even mattered. I know if I failed to clean the bathrooms or did laundry eventually of course, they would notice but I found myself wanting to fill needed besides someone who took care of things so others didn't have to.

Trust me, I don't need praise to let me know I matter, but it often times seems as though we take people for granted. We gain a sense that there will always be a tomorrow. That perhaps they feel much the same as I do. If we mess up in our relationships today, we can always fix them tomorrow. I wondered how different life would be if we knew when our expiration date was and just what we would do differently if we knew we only had just so much time to spend with our loved ones and friends. How different we would be around them?

I tried to seek God's wisdom in my feelings of loneliness knowing of course, I was not really alone. The Bible tells us God is always present in our lives. He is very concerned with what we are going through and dealing with. But God reminded me I was placing my faith in people instead of in Him. I was looking for why people didn't respond the way I wanted even though in my mind I was doing all the right things. Yet even in the midst of profound wisdom, I still failed in my attempts to fix things. I said things I shouldn't have said in my effort to get my husband to understand my feelings of being inadequate and lonely. It's hard sometimes to even put those feelings into words because all he wants to do is fix it. Tell him what I need and he'll try to do it.

However, just for once, I don't want to have to explain it. Just for once I wish I didn't have to provide a "To Do" list for what I needed. All I know is that I'm going back around the mountain again with God in hopes to correct my short comings. A way to learn how to communicate without hurting, a way to learn to settle in the provision of what God has in store instead of what I expect of others. I felt like Peter who took his eyes off God and instead looked at his circumstances and began to slip beneath the waves. It's time to refocus and keep my eyes on God instead of on my circumstances.

Psalm 25:16 ~ "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted."

How about you?

Do you ever feel lonely even in the midst of being around others?

What do you do to help you overcome that feeling?

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you 'd care to share them in the comments below!