September 21, 2017

Wise Men

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Three believed without a doubt
Saw a guiding light
Found Him in a lowly place
And knew He was divine
Wise men, wise men, wise men
Still look for Him

Giving gifts of thanks and praise
They called Him a king
Feeling joy that knew no bounds
They fell down worshiping
Wise men, wise men, wise men
Still look for Him

Surely angels still sing when someone comes so far
Traveling the distance from the depths of one’s own heart
Searching for salvation, they need not wear a crown
He’s still here for all who seek and He wants to be found

Letting God’s Word be their guide
They went home again
That’s where their story leaves us
And where ours begins
Wise men, wise men, wise men
Still look for Him

Allen Krehbiel
written with Trish Matthews

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Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

Matthew 2:1-12 NLT

As Christmas has passed and we are all cleaning up and getting back to our routines, it’s possible that we may unintentionally be leaving our focus on Jesus behind.

We say that we want to keep our minds on Jesus…but do we?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

We don’t know the details of the lives and work of the wise men, but it is fair to say that they studied the stars. They were knowledgeable enough to recognize that something new and important had appeared in the night sky. They were scholarly men who studied various literatures, which included what we refer to as the Old Testament, specifically the prophecies. We could say that they were ‘full of knowledge.’ What made them wise was how they accepted that knowledge and used it for good. With their knowledge, they wisely committed to look for…and find…the prophesied Messiah. According to the prophecies, the King of the Jews had been born; and not an ordinary king, but one so great that He was worthy of their time, their gifts, and their worship.

{Here is an interesting article from the Institute for Creation Research…}
When They Saw The Star

I know some of us are saying, “I took time out from my daily life to focus on Christmas. Now I need to get back to my family and work routines to keep things running smoothly.” God knows all of that is necessary, and He certainly doesn’t condemn that. But He also knows that focusing our hearts and minds on Jesus is important to all aspects of our lives and the lives of our family.

This story of the wise men leaves us with a very good lesson. The wise men used their knowledge to personally seek the king of the Jews, the Messiah. That is wisdom. As we “travel” into the new year, 2016, let’s make the same commitment that the wise men did. As we daily study God’s Word, we will gain knowledge of God and His plan for us. With God’s Word as our guide, we will wisely seek Jesus in a more personal way, and our very life will reflect Him. “He’s still here for all who seek and He wants to be found.”

You will seek Me and find Me,
when you seek Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Wise men—and women—still seek Him.

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Lord, many of us have heads full of knowledge, but we know that doesn’t equate to being wise.  In this coming year, please help us through Your Holy Spirit to be more committed than ever to study Your Word, and then use it wisely to grow closer to You, more like You, and draw others to You. In the Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen, It Is So.

Worry versus Thankfulness

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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.
Philippians 4:6 NLT

Do not be anxious or worried about anything,
but in everything [every circumstance and situation]
by prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.
Amplified Version

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God does expect us to care about our lives (and about the lives of others).  But when that caring becomes filled with anxiety and fear, it is counterproductive and wrong.  Life presents us with many things to worry about—family, friends, relationships, jobs, finances…and on and on.  There’s no end to this list if we let ourselves go there.  However, God’s Word tells us to do something very different about all those things.  He tells us not to worry, not to be anxious about anything. That’s a tall order, but it is possible.  How?  God says, “Pray.”

I urge, then, first of all,
that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving
be made for all people.
1 Timothy 2:1

These Scriptures in Philippians and 1 Timothy tell us to pray about everything-–every circumstance, every situation, every person in our life.  We are to tell God about everything we need (and even the things we perceive we need.)  Why? Because He cares about you (each of us.)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—
whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.
Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?
Matthew 6:25

When we pray, our focus is more on God and His mercy, grace, and provision. The more we pray, the more our mind is filled with Him.  It leaves less room for worry.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You,
all whose thoughts are fixed on You!
Isaiah 26:3

How often do you start your prayers with “Thank You, God….”?  I know I do pretty often.  In spite of my needs at the moment, I have so much to thank God for that I can’t pray without saying, “Thank You.”  He gave me the gift of salvation many, many years ago.  God has protected my family and me over the years.  He has seen me through many trials, and supplied for my needs.  Because of His faithfulness in the past, I can trust Him to care for me now and in the future.  Even as I write this, I am compelled to stop and say “Thank You, Lord!”

During this Thanksgiving season, make it a point to “thank Him for all He has done,” (Philippians 4:6) for all He is doing, and for all that He will be doing in your life.  Then make it a way of life to thank Him daily.  When caring starts to turn into worry…stop and pray with thanksgiving…reminding yourself how much He has done for you, and how much He cares for you.  Prayer, petition, and thanksgiving will bring you closer to God and farther away from anxiety and worry.  That’s what we all want, right?

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Dear Lord God, as humans we are presented with things to worry about almost daily.  But You said, “Don’t!”  Instead of worrying, You said, “Pray!” And pray “…about everything!”  Lord, we need our hearts and our minds open to Your Holy Spirit to help us to pray without worry, and to pray with thanksgiving.  We have so much to be thankful for, and when we take time to be thankful our trust level goes up, and worry is pushed back.  That’s what we want, Lord.  Thank You for caring for us even beyond our comprehension.  May we grow in our trust that You will see us through the hard times.  You have done and are doing so much for us, thank You, thank You!  In Jesus’ Precious Name we pray, Amen.

I Can Pray

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I may never sing a song that brings people to their feet
And mighty men of world renown I may never get to meet
But I have an invitation to hasten to His throne
To lay my burdens at His feet and make my petitions known

I can pray
Though the storm around me rages
I can trust the Rock of ages when I pray
And the peace I can’t explain when I call upon His Name
I just know I’m not the same when I pray

When it seems the road I’m trav’ling on just doesn’t have an end
I have found that He will be my brother and my friend
For He never will forsake me; He will always hear my plea
Because He stands beside the Father, interceding just for me

If my people
Who are called by My Name
Will humble themselves
Will humble themselves and pray

Singer/ Songwriter: Kim Culpepper
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I heard this song several months ago, and it spoke to me.  I put it in my ‘maybe’ list of songs to blog, not knowing when or if I was to share it.  Over the past two months a 16 year old young man in our church has been struggling with a deadly illness and has been through several brains surgeries already, with the almost certain need for more.  Our congregation, friends and family, both near and far, are praying for this boy!  What more can we do?!

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers,
letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness,
everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

The songs I sing will never bring people to their feet, and won’t heal Zach.  The mighty men of world renown can visit him at his hospital bedside, but they can’t heal Zach.  This road that Zach and his family are traveling on seems to have no end.  This is a storm that is too great for any human to conquer.  Perhaps you, too, (physically, emotionally, or spiritually), are on a rugged road that seems to have no end, and are in a storm too great to conquer.

BUT GOD!  Each of us has an invitation to hasten to the Throne of the One and Only God, the Rock of Ages, Who can do anything, including heal our dear Zach and calm your storm. That is exactly what Zach’s parents, and we are doing daily, even moment-by-moment, and I encourage you to do the same.

Where else can we find peace?
Who else assures us that He hears our prayers?
Who else promises to never leave us or forsake us?
Who else can calm the storm?
Who else can heal Zach?
Who else can smooth your road?
No one, BUT GOD!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
There we will receive His mercy,
and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 14:16 NLT

Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock.
Isaiah 26:4

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge.
Psalm 62:8

As one song says, “Our God is an awesome God, Who reigns in Heaven above, with wisdom, power, and love, our God is an awesome God.”  With that assurance, we run into God’s Throne Room, and lay our “burdens at His feet and make my (our) petitions known.”

It is there

  • we have the assurance that He hears our prayers
  • we know that Jesus is interceding before our Father for us
  • we find our peace
  • we find our answers
  • we are “not the same when I (we) pray.”

If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all,
how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?…
Christ Jesus is the One who died
—more than that, Who was raised—
Who is at the right hand of God, Who indeed is interceding for us….
Romans 8:31-39

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Whatever your storm is today, dear friend, believe that Jesus wants you to come to Him with it.  Believe He will take care of your need, no matter what is it.  When you can’t do anything else, YOU CAN PRAY.  And we, your sisters in Christ, will pray with you.  Jesus is waiting and listening…and answering.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 NIV

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Prince of Peace

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For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given;
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 AMP

Glory to God in the highest [heaven],
and on earth peace among men
with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor].
Luke 2:14 AMP

Peace can be very elusive this time of year.  In some ways this has been a rough year for us—we lost our darling granddaughter five days after her birth.  This time of year is particularly hard.  Perhaps you, too, have suffered the death of a loved one or a major loss…loss of a relationship, job, home.

Maybe stress is stealing your peace right now.  {I must admit I have let a little stress sneak in as well.}  Our daughters live in other states so we don’t get to spend as much time with them as we would like.  However, they will be coming here after Christmas.  I want to have the perfect gifts for them.  I want to make wonderful memories while they are here.  And that gets me a little frantic and a bit stressed out. When the cares of this world weigh me down Romans 8:6 reminds me that,

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace

So, how do we have this peace that seems so elusive?  The peace Romans 8:6 refers to comes only from Christ and passes all understanding.  There are so many wonderful scriptures that reiterate this.  Take a minute to read through these slowly and carefully.  And let their meaning sink deep into your heart and mind.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 NASB

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.
Psalm 29:11 HCSB

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace
Isaiah 26:3 HCSB

…The chastisement {punishment} [needful to obtain] peace
and well-being for us was upon Him,
and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.
Isaiah 53:5b AMP

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27 NLT

In John 16:33 (HCSB) Jesus tells us “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.”  As I was writing this, the words of a Castings Crowns song came to mind – “It’s all because of the blood of Jesus Christ!”  Truth!  We cannot do it alone.

Christ IS our Prince of Peace.  His birth was a step towards peace.  He came voluntarily, knowing what lay ahead of Him.  I do not want to be guilty of rejecting His gift that cost so much.

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Today, I would like to leave you with Philippians 4:7 as my prayer because God puts it much more eloquently than I can.

Dear Lord, please let Your peace, which surpasses all comprehension, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen – It Is So!

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May the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace this Christmas season and all year long.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2

Active Not Passive

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Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—
with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation,
regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace,
for they shall be called the sons of God!
Matthew 5:9 AMP

Peace is so much more than a passive state.  It is not just the absence of fighting or the maintaining of the status quo.  Peace requires viewing the situation in light of the Gospel and actively setting out to promote and make peace.

According to Hebrews 12:14 we are to:
Work at living in peace with everyone,
and work at living a holy life,
for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

In Classical Greek, a peacemaker was one who strove to bring about peace: an ambassador that pursued peace, putting faith to work doing good for all.  That is what we are called to be.  However, there is one stipulation:

“Before one can be a peacemaker, one must be entirely delivered from self, from self-interest, and self-concern.  The peacemaker does not look at things in terms of how they may affect self.”

– Chuck Smith

A peacemaker seeks the glory of God above all else, placing the well-being of others above his own.  It is the “less of me, more of Him” mentality in action.

God took the initiative to make peace with us by sending His Son to die in our place.  Jesus is the One True Peacemaker.  Shouldn’t our mission be to share the Gospel of peace with others?  The inward peace only God can give?  When we choose to actively pursue peace, God rewards us with the very same peace.

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind
[both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You,
because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
Isaiah 26:3

And we will be known as His children.

The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit,
[assuring us] that we are children of God.
Romans 8:16

Peace is the evidence that we are His.  We reflect our Father’s characteristics in acknowledgment of our adoption into His family.  The family resemblance can be seen in us.

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Father God, thank You for the many blessing You bestow upon us.  We are honored to be called a child of God.  Help us deny our own interests to promote Your peace so that others may benefit.  Guide our steps as we yearn to become more like You.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen, so be it!

Peace

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When I think of the word, peace, I think of the feeling of taking a deep breath and letting go of all the weight we carry on our shoulders, all of the situations swirling around us. I think of the feeling of peace we get when we know and believe without a doubt that our Father is taking care of things, that He is surrounding us with His unconditional love.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

The other day I was mentally planning my Christmas list: we’ve already bought the kids’ big gift and I was trying to figure out the little presents and stocking stuffers that we would be buying. During this brainstorm session I also began to think about all the other people we needed gifts for, and about the potlucks and gift exchanges at work and the decorations and the kid’s time off of school. I felt my peace slipping away.

This time of year peace is a word we see on almost every display, in songs, and in decorations. This time of year is also a time when that peace can seem far away when we allow the stress of the holiday season to overshadow what the season is truly about.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

It can be difficult to keep our focus on our Prince of Peace when we are thinking of piles of presents and of parties…when we have situations in our life that don’t line up with the joyous image of what Christmas is supposed to be…when we take our eyes off of Him. Christmas should be fun, filled with friends, family, and food; we should enjoy it and have fun. But throughout these festivities we need to remember the Giver of peace, and to remember what His birth did in our lives.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord let us not take our minds off of the peace You have given us. Let us find that peace in the gift of Your birth that we celebrate each year. Thank you for that deep breath we can take. Lord for those who are struggling with peace this season, please give us the words and the heart to show them love. This time of year can generate many mixed emotions we desire to keep our eyes fixed and focused on you. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

GCH: What’s on Your Plate? – Food For Thought…..

Today, I want to take a little different approach to this blog, and share some food for thought for this holiday season.  I know the holidays can be a trying and lonely time for some, and I pray that my message today will speak right to your heart!  <3

Image from
www.bibleverses.com

Isaiah 26:3

“You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”

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John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I now give and bequeath to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  [Stop allowing yourself to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]”

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Proverbs 16:7

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”

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2 Thessalonians 3:16

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways [under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes.]”

We can clearly see here that the Lord instructs us to live in peace, in all circumstances and conditions.  But what about times when “life” happens, and you just don’t feel like living in peace?  Or it’s hard to walk in peace because of the circumstances?

Sometimes we have things happen in our lives that are devastating.  They rip the rug right out from under us.  They cause much stress, anger, bitterness, and more.  How in the world are we to walk in peace during those times?

First, we have to recognize who or what is causing the stress, anger, bitterness, and lack of peace in our life.

John 10:10

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows.

The “thief” is satan.  (I refuse to capitalize his name!).  His job is to cause destruction, steal and kill my life, and my joy.  He is the god of the world (for now).  He is a fallen angel that has set his ways against God and all that God stands for.  Anything he can do to turn us from God, or cause those who are not yet walking with God to think that God’s love is not real, he will. It’s his pleasure to try to ruin the children of God!

Cancer, adultery, rape, molestation, divorce, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and more, are just a few of the tactics that satan uses to destroy God’s children!

But what about hatred, grumpiness, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, depression?  How do we enjoy life, as God wants us to, if our hearts are filled with these things?

You wake up in the morning and you just feel this heaviness that has set its sites on you.  You just can’t shake it.  You feel numb.  You feel like a zombie.  Nothing looks or tastes good.  Even the sunshine outside looks miserable to you!

You feel fat, ugly, mean, nasty, miserable.  You don’t want to talk to anyone.  You just want to be left alone to work through this, if you can.

How do you get past these feelings?  How do you live beyond these things?

____________________

I will say right here that I am absolutely NO expert in this area, but I have learned a few things over the last few years, that I would like to share with you.

I have a tendency to suffer from depression.  Moderate depression.  I’m not talking about clinical depression here, which is far worse and more serious than mild to moderate depression.  If you suffer from clinical depression, please seek counsel from your doctor and/or your pastor.

I do not have any degrees in counseling or psychology.

I am just a person who has struggled with these types of things in my life, and the Lord has brought me through it.  That is what I want to share with you today.  The how’s…..

People used to tell me “Christi, you just need to get over it.”  Yes, I could clearly see that.  But what I didn’t know was HOW!  How was I suppose to just “get over it”?  How do I get past the anger, bitterness, depression, unforgiveness, and even more emotions that sometimes can toy with people’s emotions and hearts?

Stay in the Word.  Stay in the Word.  Stay in the Word.

It can’t be that simple, can it?

When people would tell me this in the beginning, I would think “Right! I’m in the Word every single day! I’m still struggling!”  But you know what?  I had to keep on keepin’ on, as the expression goes.  My “cure” wasn’t going to happen overnight!  I had to learn how to be at peace with who I was and what God was doing in my life!  Without His peace, I struggled every day!!!

 I could only learn about His peace through His word!  

Staying in the word doesn’t always been reading the bible all the time!  It can also include good books by Christian authors.  Watching DVD’s from Christian evangelists.  Turning on praise and worship music to allow your mind to be filled with the word through music!  There is so much more to it than just reading the bible!

You will also notice that in order to suffocate the negativity in our lives, means that you actually have to get up and do something!

 Do something to fight the negativity!

You can’t just sit there and expect it to just go away on its own!  You have to actually do something to fight these emotions daily!  To read the bible, you have to get up, go get your bible, and turn the pages, correct?  To listen to music, you actually have to get up, go to the stereo, choose the music and then turn the stereo on, correct?  You have to ­do something first!!!

James 1:22 — “But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it…”

To be a “Doer”…

means you have to DO SOMETHING!

So what are some things that we can do to remove the negativity out of our lives?  Below I have listed some tips that have helped me over the years.  If you have other tips, I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below.  The tips below are listed in no particular order.

  • Read the Word
  • Pray
  • Listen to Praise Music
  • Go for a walk
  • Go outside barefoot
  • Call a friend
  • Go to lunch with a friend
  • Take a warm soothing bath
  • Find a hobby that will take your mind off of problems
  • Seek Counsel
  • Go for a massage
  • Get a new haircut
  • AVOIDS NEGATIVE PEOPLE!
  • Try to find the GOOD in your situation
  • Stop saying negative things to yourself
  • Practice breathing slowly
  • Read a positive book curled up in bed
  • Ask someone to be your “vent partner”
  • Practice grace under pressure
  • Be responsible for your feelings
  • Learn to meet your own needs
  • Exercise every day
  • Learn the words to a new song
  • Write a note to a far away friend
  • Keep a journal
  • Practice a monster smile
  • Quit trying to “fix” other people
  • Get enough sleep
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Volunteer at a Shelter or Food Pantry
  • Freely praise other people
  • Have a support network of people, places and things

These are just a few tips on how to get past a negative attitude and walk in peace and joy!  But truthfully, it all starts with YOU!  What will YOU do to change your circumstances?  Choosing to do something means that you give God Glory for what happens in your life, and you have put satan in his place and he does not win!  He learns that you will not tolerate the weapons that he puts in your life, to keep you down!

I will also say that these tips are not for just a quick-fix.  These are not things you get from a drive-thru window!  They are things that you need to do on a consistent basis!  You can’t just expect life to change overnight, especially if you are dealing with some pretty tough situations!

Don’t just do something….Give it time to work!  Whatever you do, don’t give up!!  Let Jesus set you free!!!!

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I pray this message reaches at least one person!  I know for myself, things did not change overnight.  I had to be patient and allow God to do what He needed in my life.  I am here to tell you that the steps I have shared with you here today, WORK!!  But YOU have to put some effort behind them first!

Be Blessed & Be a Blessing to Others,

Christi