Friendly Encouragement

Confession:  Relationships drain me…..absolutely drain me!  I’m an introvert to the Nth degree.  When I tell people this, they are typically surprised.  I don’t typically have trouble making conversation…..outwardly.  But inside, I’m struggling.  After spending time with people, I need to recharge.  And to do that, I need solitude.  Anyone relate?  Any hands raised?  😉

All my life I’ve been overly concerned about pleasing people.  It has manifested itself in several ways but mostly in my performance.  I used to think it was just a satisfaction in doing things well – to the best of my ability (which in my mind means perfectly…ugh!…but that’s another blog post).  But I’m coming to realize that that is not actually what is driving me.  What is driving me is pleasing people.  And it’s tiring….draining…..exhausting.  I’m plumb worn out.

Pink and White Photo Girl Friend Valentines Card

Do you know what this is?  It’s an idol!  Plain and simple!  Over the years of my life, I’ve come to feel that it’s more important to not cause waves with the people around me instead of just offering what little I have to God, no matter what people think.  And what  a freeing thought this is!  I don’t have to make people happy; and as a matter of fact, I simply won’t make them happy all the time.  It’s not my job.  There is much more going on behind the scenes in the scope of their own lives that are not my issues to take on or take responsibility for.

But when the rubber meets the road, this is a hard habit to snap.

Lately I’ve been feeling very defeated on many fronts.  Spiritually, physically, with my health, with my relationships, etc., etc., etc.  Satan is definitely heaving lies in my directions and I’ve been believing them!

However, this morning, a new friend sent me a text that lifted my spirits.  She reminded me (without even intending to) that relationships can be fulfilling and loving and that I don’t need to be so worried about impressing.  We are ALL fighting battles.  And we can love each other.  We can have relationship by helping each other fight battles while not taking on other’s battles or state of happiness as our own.  We can pray for each other.  We can encourage each other.  THAT is relationship!  Leave the rest to God!  Thank you Jesus!

Christine

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Confessions of a Coca Cola Addict

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There are so many addictions in this world, aren’t there? And often times I think we tend to think of those who are addicted to things like alcohol or drugs when we see the term “addict”. But there are so many other ways we can be addicted to things that are not benefitting us in anyway….especially with regard to our faith.

God has been convicting me lately on my addiction to drinking pop. Since I’ve been on a weight loss journey, that pop has been of the diet variety. But in all reality, even though diet pop does not have sugar in it, there are a host of other ingredients in it that are questionable and controversial to say the least. Just google the biggie….aspartame! The internet is all over the spectrum when it comes to this artificial sweetener….including first hand stories of how life improved for many when giving it up.

C’mon. “How bad can it be?” you might ask? Lets see….on some days, I could run to town to get, say, some groceries. When I arrive at Meijer, I would run through the checkout first to grab a cup and fill it with coke zero. Their cups are 32 oz. That would be mostly or completely gone by the time I went through the checkout again, this time with my groceries. So, then there was the refill. Then, lets say that happened to be the day my husband and I meet other couples for life group. Our routine is that I pick him up from work, and head out for a mini date. We go grab a bite to eat which always would include another 32 oz (and sometimes a refill) of coke zero AGAIN! Did you add that up? Some days I could be drinking 128 oz of coke zero IN. ONE. DAY! It hurts just to type it.

And on top of that, what is an addiction really? What is it that drives us to do something we know not to be beneficial to our lives, harmful even? And as a believer, I think it comes down to searching for satisfaction in something other than God. The enemy knows exactly what he is doing when he tempts us. If we are running after that addiction, then we aren’t running as hard after Jesus! If we are running after that addiction, we are blinded. If we are running after that addiction, we are distracted. It’s an idol! Oh, but God help me!

Last night I finally confessed this to my husband! I’ve known I’ve needed to for a very long time but was so ashamed. Plus, on the one hand I DID want to be free of the habit, but on the other, I didn’t! It is essentially a drug for me I think. Ouch. That stings. I was afraid of his reaction. I was afraid I’d see his eyes widen with the enormity of the volume. Maybe even a scolding…..

But….it didn’t happen.

There was just love. There was encouragement. There was the fact that he was happy I told him. And isn’t that like God? God already knows everything single thing we have done, are doing, and will EVER do! And yet he is still there saying to us….just come to me. I will help you (Psalm 46:1). I will deliver you (1 Corinthians 1:10). I will rescue you (Isaiah 43:1-7).

I have other addictions in my life: busy-ness, affirmation, food…and the list could go on. But God loves me as I am RIGHT NOW. And he loves you too! He’s waiting for you to ask him for help.

And today? After finally confessing my sin? I feel so much lighter. Stronger. Ready to take it head on with the help of my hubby who said he would do what he can to walk through this battle with me. But even more so, ready to take it on in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus!

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Corinthians 1:10 – He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
Isaiah 43:1-7

“Do not be afraid—I will save you.
I have called you by name—you are mine.
2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you;
your troubles will not overwhelm you.
When you pass through fire, you will not be burned;
the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the holy God of Israel, who saves you.
I will give up Egypt to set you free;
I will give up Ethiopia[a] and Seba.

4 I will give up whole nations to save your life,
because you are precious to me
and because I love you and give you honor.
5 Do not be afraid—I am with you!


the holy God of Israel, who saves you.
I will give up Egypt to set you free;
I will give up Ethiopia[a] and Seba.

4 I will give up whole nations to save your life,
because you are precious to me
and because I love you and give you honor.
5 Do not be afraid—I am with you!

“From the distant east and the farthest west
I will bring your people home.
6 I will tell the north to let them go
and the south not to hold them back.
Let my people return from distant lands,
from every part of the world.
7 They are my own people,
and I created them to bring me glory.”

God’s Powerful Right Hand

We all, to some degree, are desperate in our search for comfort.  How often do we strive to remove any struggle or inconvenience from our lives simply because we are uncomfortable?  For me it can be trying to control my kids’ actions to achieve what’s best (in my eyes) for them to something as simple as not liking to put in the work to actually prepare and cook my food so I spend (way too much) money on gadgets I don’t need that add anxiety-inducing clutter to my home.  But what if there was a way to bring comfort (while enduring the struggle) without needing to do any of these things??  Would you want to know more?

The other night, I sat in with my husband as he read a chapter of scripture with our kids:  even though our kids are adults still in the home, this is something they do together before praying at bedtime.  They are currently reading in Revelation and that night’s verse was from Revelation 1.  In verses 17-18, John says “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one (emphasis mine).

It was late and my brain was shutting down for the night but still, for some reason, the phrase “he laid his right hand on me” struck me particularly.  Life is hard.  I feel busy but struggle to feel I accomplish anything of consequence.  Yes, I have to remind myself often, during times when I begin to feel sorry for myself, how many people have many more serious difficulties than I.  But, for anyone struggling, and lets be honest, we ALL do, we as believers can feel instant comfort at the thought of God placing his right hand on us.  But what does that actually mean?

Before we dive further into scripture, I wanted to find the specific significance of the right hand in the bible.  The Lexham Bible Dictionary says this about the right hand:  References to the right hand in Scripture refer either literally to most people’s dominant hand or metaphorically to prominence and strength. In patriarchal blessings, the preferred blessing was given with the right hand (Gen 48:17–20). To speak of someone’s right hand is to speak of their power (Exod 15:6, 12; Pss 18:35; 20:6; 63:8; 98:1). To sit at someone’s right hand is to sit in the place of honor (Psa 45:9; 80:16; 110:1; Acts 2:33; Heb 1:3).  In contrast, sitting at someone’s left side sometimes metaphorically indicates the place of disfavor (Matt 25:41). (1)

Clearly, references to the right hand in scripture hold significant importance.  The book of Isaiah is written to God’s people as they rebelled against him and were taken into exile.  In the middle portion of the book, God is comforting them about their current plight.  In chapter 41, verse 10, the ESV  states “…be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

Aren’t we just like the people of Israel?  We continuously rebel against God.  We respond to his call of repentance only to rebel again in another, or maybe, in the same way?  But God is relentless in his pursuit of us and comforts us in the process as we live out or own exile on this earth.  Furthermore, Psalm 138:7 says “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.”

So, when we are frustrated with our circumstances, feeling week or overwhelmed, feeling sorry for ourselves or simply want to feel the presence of God, remember that he is personal with us and strengthens, upholds, and comforts us with his strong and powerful right hand.  And one day we as believers (his sheep) will be placed at the right hand of Jesus (Matthew 25:32) who sits at the right hand of the Father!  What a day of rejoicing that will be!
(1) Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Right Hand. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. x
Study conducted using Logos Bible Software.