Green Is Not Your Color

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Guys, you’re welcome to read today’s devotion, but since we’ve just passed Mother’s Day, I’d like to direct some thoughts toward my female readers.

Okay, ladies, by a show of hands, how many of you heard some reference to the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 this weekend?  Yes, I see those hands.  And how many of you cringed a bit as the passage was read?  Yeah, me too.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love God’s Word, and I know it is perfect, holy, and right in every way.  It is full of encouragement and strength, but there’s just something about Proverbs 31 that tends to make me feel inferior and even downright lazy.  Can I get an “Amen”?

Of course, it doesn’t help any that when I read it, I immediately think of a real-life example that seems to fit the virtuous woman in every way.  I’m speaking of Joanna Gaines.  For those who don’t recognize the name, she (along with her husband, Chip) is the star of the popular show, Fixer Upper. In addition to being a star, she is a mom of five who owns multiple businesses and seems to excel at anything she sets her hands to.

In her “spare time,” Joanna grows her own vegetables and herbs, helps out on the family farm, and bakes delicious treats for friends and family alike.  Not only is she talented, but she’s beautiful too — the perfect hair, teeth, skin tone, and figure.  To be honest, as much I as enjoy watching Fixer Upper, I tend to come away feeling a bit green. . .with envy.

Why do we ladies do that?  Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others?  Don’t we realize that God made us who we are for a reason?  Why is it so difficult for us to understand that we’re unique in our own way?

I wish I had answers to those questions, but I’m afraid I don’t.  The truth is, I fall into the pit of envy more often than I can count, especially now that my health is holding me back in so many ways.  I look at those around me who keep immaculate homes, cook gourmet meals, and raise their families, all while holding down a grueling job, and think What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I be a better wife, housekeeper, cook, etc.?  Then, I start to feel sorry for my dear husband, and before long, I conclude that if I feel like I’m letting him down as a helpmeet, he must believe the same about me (even though he has NEVER said or done anything to make me think that.)

It’s not Jason that causes the chaos in my thoughts and turns my self-pity into self-loathing.  It’s envy.  Envy is dangerous, and it is a powerful weapon in Satan’s arsenal. . .especially when dealing with us, ladies.  Many, many verses in the Bible address envy, but this one grabs my attention every time:

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
— James 3:16

Ouch!  Envy doesn’t stop at making me feel like a loser.  It progresses into bitterness, resentment, and so much more.  It is the seed from which confusion and evil works grow.  Envy leads people to do stupid things and to cause great havoc not just in their own lives, but in the lives of all those around them.  It causes strife, heartache, and in the end, despite the progression, envy remains.  Never satisfied.  Never quenched.  Instead, it grows bigger and bigger until we, too, are never satisfied.  We want more.  We want something different.  We become so blinded to our strengths and blessings that all we can focus on is how we feel we’re lacking.  And we carry that sense of “not enough” with us into all our relationships, creating a burden for those we love.

I’ll be the first to admit that stopping envy in its tracks is laborious.  It’s so easy to allow those thoughts to creep in and take root, but we must be on guard and catch those nasty weeds before they take over the garden of our heart.  One verse that helps me do that is found in my favorite book of the Bible.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
— Psalm 139:14

Speaking this truth aloud sends the enemy and his weapon of envy fleeing in the opposite direction.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  That is what God has to say about me, and God is never wrong.  His works are marvelous, and I am one of His works; therefore, I must be marvelous.  

Now, here comes the tricky part:  my soul knows it.  I struggle with that a bit, but repetition aids learning.  So, I keep telling myself this truth as many times as it takes until it sinks in:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t make junk.  He doesn’t make worthless individuals.  I am not lazy.  I have a health condition, and that’s a different story entirely.  I may not be able to do what others can do, but they have no idea how to be me either.  Besides, I can only see what others want me to see.  I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  Sure, their home may be immaculate, but is it full of joy?  Which is more important?  I have nothing to prove to anyone, even myself.  God’s work is marvelous, and I am privileged to be His work.  And He’s also promised He’s not done with me yet, so I can take comfort in knowing I’m a marvelous work in progress.

My dear lady friend, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful, marvelous, and unique.  Don’t let envy steal your joy, strength, or peace.  Don’t allow it to cause strife and division in your home and relationships.  Stop it in its tracks by speaking God’s truth aloud.  Use the Scripture above or find your own and take it to heart until your soul knows the truth—You are amazing!

Not Today, Satan!

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From the moment my alarm went off this morning, a thousand anxious and worrisome thoughts filled my mind.

The schedule is full again today. How will I get it all done?

Why do I still feel so tired?

Yea, my headache is back. . .again!

I wonder if it’s supposed to rain today. I’m sick of rain.

Amidst the turmoil of my soul, I uttered the three words God laid on my heart this weekend: “Not today, Satan!” I don’t mind telling you I’ve had quite enough of his antics. I’m sick of him stealing my peace and joy day after day. He’s had me running in circles, and enough is enough! So, by God’s strength, I shout from the depth of my inner being, “Not today, Satan!”

When he fills my mind with anxious thoughts that cause my heart to race and my peace to retreat, I say, “Not today, Satan!”

When he urges me to be critical of those around me, “Not today, Satan!”

When my heart is overwhelmed, and I feel like giving up, “Not today, Satan!”

When I’m tempted by that piece of cake or that third helping of dinner, I cry, “Not today, Satan!”

When I feel the pull to skip my exercises and watch television instead, I shout, “Not today, Satan!”

Not today! He may have tricked me yesterday. He may have won the battles last week. But today is a new day, and I have a choice. I can say, “No,” and I choose to do just that. I’m tired of playing the part of a puppet on a string. God gave me free will, and when Jesus died for my sin, He gave me the power over that sin. I’m no longer a prisoner. I decide each day whether to live in freedom or captivity, and with that in mind, I say, “Not today, Satan! Today, I am free, and I will act like it!”

My friend, if you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, you, too, are free. You are not bound by sin. The only power it holds over you is that you surrender to its pull. May I urge you to stand with me today and declare, “Not today, Satan!” Don’t worry about yesterday. You can’t change that. Don’t even worry about tomorrow. You’re not there yet. Consider today. When Satan comes to tempt you, distract you, discourage you, or dissuade you from following God, hold your head up high, and tell him, “Not today, Satan! This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).” Then follow through.

You may make this declaration once in the morning and live it out throughout the day, or you may have to declare your choice repeatedly throughout the day. I’ve only been up for about an hour, and I’ve already had a few occasions to say, “Not today, Satan!” But here’s the thing: we have God’s promise that if we resist the devil, he will eventually flee from us (James 4:7). He’ll see we’re no longer giving in to him. We’re no longer an easy target. And like he did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4), he’ll be on his way (though I warn you, he probably won’t stay away long; he’s persistent that way!).  

Not today, Satan. I could wallow in self-pity, but what good would that do? I could allow the demands of life to sap my strength and joy, but then how would I serve God? I could give in to the promise of an “easy life,” but why would I? I know Satan is a liar and the father of all liars (John 8:44). Why would I believe anything he says? No, thank you! I choose to listen to the Voice of Truth who tells me I’m already an overcomer. How about you?

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
— Ephesians 4:20-27
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
— Joshua 24:15

Out of My Darkness

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I love it when God gives me the message I need when I need it. Yes, He’s the God that’s right on time with the perfect combination of conviction and encouragement, which is precisely what I received this weekend.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been feeling down and defeated. The process of juggling demands and schedules was growing old and overwhelming, leaving me feeling like David in the cave of Adullam.

I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
— Psalm 142:1-4

Yup, a royal pity party, to be sure. But it’s where I was, and God met me there and gave me the strength I needed to climb out of that horrible pit. It began with a long, heartfelt talk with Jason and some much-needed (though not gracefully received) spiritual guidance. Then, as if to drive home the point, God led us to a church in Shelby for the Sunday morning service, and I got an earful.

In the Sunday School hour, the teacher taught on Jonah. As my mind condemned Jonah for his selfish choices, direct disobedience, and bitter attitude, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord whisper, “Sound like anyone you know?” Ouch, that stung, but I knew it was the truth. I had been acting just like Jonah—wanting to have my way and pitching a fit when things didn’t go according to my plans. Yikes! Talk about a wake-up call!

The morning service involved some of the best singing I’ve heard in a long time. The choir was fantastic as they lifted their voices in jubilant song, one of which was the perfect pairing to my feelings of guilt and shame after the Sunday School lesson—“I’m amazed that you love me!” The tears were flowing and continued to flow when a family group made their way to the platform and sang “Casting All Your Care Upon Him.” Now, I was bawling like a baby amid all these people who were probably thinking I was some kind of lunatic. Bless their hearts!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, the pastor (a firecracker of a man) got up and announced his morning message—“Not today, Satan.” Oh my goodness! I leaned over to Jason and whispered through my tears, “It’s like they knew I was coming.” Immediately, I realized they (the church and pastor) didn’t know I would be attending that day or that I was in need of such encouragement, but God did. And once again, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness to meet me in the low places and give me the strength to climb up out of my pit of despair and discouragement.

When I began writing this devotion, I planned to talk about the topic of “Not today, Satan,” but I think the Lord might want me to leave off until tomorrow for that. Today, I think I need to park it right here for a few minutes. Friend, God knows where you are. He knows what you’re facing. He understands the heartache and disappointment you feel. He sees your tears and hears your heartfelt cries. That’s where the latter part of David’s prayer comes into play.

 I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.
— Psalm 142:5-7

David was overwhelmed and feeling alone even though he was surrounded by 400 men. He felt no one cared for him and even implied that God had failed him. But somewhere along the way—during his darkest moments—God met with David and encouraged his heart. He reminded him of the truth and whispered comfort in the psalmist's ear, leading to David’s change of heart in the final verse: “thou shalt deal bountifully with me.”

God met Jonah in the whale's belly. He met David in the cave. He met me in my valley. God can meet you wherever you are. You are not too far gone. There is nowhere He cannot reach, and He longs to bring you up out of your despair. God will meet you where you are, but I guarantee you, He loves you too much to leave you there. I know it may seem dark, but He is the Light. Don’t shut Him out. Listen to His voice. Honestly, I was in such a state I wondered if He was through talking to me, but when I quieted my complaints long enough to listen, God’s voice was there. It started as a faint whisper, but let me tell you, by the end of the day, it was a shout! He can do the same for you. He wants to do just that. Will you let Him?

Maybe you need someone to talk to. Someone outside the box of your circumstances who can direct you according to God’s truth instead of your feelings. If so, I encourage you to seek that help. If you don’t know who to call or email, I am offering to be that listening ear. I may not understand exactly what you’re going through, but I am familiar with the valley, and God has taught me some things through my journey that perhaps I can pass on to you. Whoever you speak with, make sure that person will guide you in the truth of God’s Word not according to man’s opinions or understanding. The blind cannot lead the blind.

Dear one, you are not alone in this battle. Life is hard, but you don’t have to face it in your strength. God is and always will be a refuge for His people. Go to Him. Call on Him. Trust in Him. He’ll bring you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light!