Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

God Gives Us One Another

Some of my family at the lake: Front row–my sister Jennifer and my mom; Middle row–my sister Brenda and I; Back row–my sister Renee, sister-in-law Tonda, cousins Mary Ann and Helen, and Aunt Kathy

I looked around at the many different faces surrounding me, and I whispered a quiet prayer of thanks. “Lord, I love each one of them so much. Thank you for making them a part of my life.”

The many faces belonged to my relatives—strong, loving, wise, gentle, witty, and  compassionate souls I had known for most of my life. We all had gathered at my sister’s lake house for a weekend of fun and fellowship. My mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and cousins were in attendance, and we had already laughed and shared our hearts a great deal.

Family. Whether it’s the one we grew up in or the church members we love, family remains a great gift from God. My weekend at the lake in Ohio reminded me that family is a place where we can:

Be Changed

Proverbs 27:17, NASB, says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In other words, we are shaped by the people around us. We learn from and respond to both the good and bad qualities of other people. We aspire to be the like the good people we know, and hopefully, we desire to be different from the difficult ones.

The Spirit of God aims to develop the qualities of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” in us (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). Often, He allows us to experience those qualities in others so we will be motivated to become like them. My mother is one of the most kind, compassionate, and loving people I know. I’ve always said I want to be like her when I grow up! My sister Brenda and I joked once that it would be impossible to be as great as Mom, but it’s a good goal to set for ourselves.

Here’s something I have learned:  If I want to be a kinder person, I need to hang around someone who is kind. If I want to be wiser, I need to spend time with someone who is wise. I pray a lot to know the Lord better and love Him more. He gave me my friend Phyllis for a season (before she went home to be with Him) because she knew and loved Him with her whole heart.

I have prayed to be more hospitable, and the Lord has allowed me to spend time with my sister Jennifer, who always knows how to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Once when I stayed at her house, she presented me with two bed pillows and asked if I preferred the flat or fluffy one! She created several gluten-free foods for me when I visited her recently because I am gluten-intolerant. How kind and thoughtful. I want to be like her too when I grow up!

I’ve learned about patience and gentleness from my sister Renee, courage and facing life with a sense of humor from my sister Danielle, and hard work and perseverance from my sister Brenda. (This is not an all-inclusive list.)

Just like our family of origin, God’s family is called to “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NASB. That’s what we are supposed to do for one another. That’s why we are told to keep spending time with each other (Hebrews 10:25) so that we can “consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24, AMP).

We also are changed when other Christians share God’s Word with us. We are transformed as our minds become renewed and renovated with the truth (Romans 12:2). We come to know the truth of God’s Word, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

Be the Change

Just as we are changed by God’s people around us, we can allow the Lord to use us to impact others for His kingdom. My grandma told me a story once about her son, my Uncle Pat. She said he was hanging out with “a young hooligan” in town during high school. One of her friends took her aside and asked her if she was worried that her son would start becoming like the young man who was always getting in trouble.

My grandma told me she replied to the friend, “I’m not worried one bit. My son is not going to be changed by him. He is going to be changed by my son.” My grandma looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “That’s exactly what happened!”

Jesus says He wants us to be good influencers in this world. He tells us we are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Salt is full of flavor and acts as a preservative, stopping the spread of decay. Light dispels the darkness and points the way out of it. If we listen to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, He can use us to point others to Jesus, who says, “’I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’” (John 14:6, NASB). As we allow the Holy Spirit to develop His fruit in our lives, Jesus can be seen more clearly in us, and hopefully, more people will be drawn to Him.

Since we know and love the God of the Word, we can dedicate ourselves to learning and applying the Word of our God.  Over time, we can become living epistles, known and read by all (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). As my pastor once said, “Your life might be the only Bible someone ever reads.” Of course, the Holy Spirit can also lead us to speak God’s Word in love to others, and that can impact their lives as well (Ephesians 4:15). God’s Word is alive, powerful, life-changing, and full of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63). When we fill our hearts and minds with it, then God’s Word can flow out of us to be the change in a world that needs it.

Look for Jesus

All the wonderful qualities we experience in others are a reflection of the beautiful and profound qualities found in Jesus. They give us a glimpse of Him. The word Christian means “little Christ”. The Bible says here’s the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB).

The word glory in the New Testament means to manifest, give an estimation of; hence [resulting in] praise, honor, glory. In other words, the Lord wants Jesus to be seen in us so others can come to know Him too. He wants us to look for His Son in others too so we can experience more of Him every day, so we can be encouraged and continue to grow.

It’s an ongoing process. Second Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB) says it this way, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

That’s why the Lord tells us He can use everything in our lives to make us more like His Son Jesus (Romans 8:28-29), especially the people around us. God gives us one another for this reason. May we continue to bless and be blessed by the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Question: How have you experienced Jesus through the lives of others? Comment at the link below.

 

Proverbs 27:17; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24-25; Romans 12:2; John 8:32; Matthew 5:13-16; John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Ephesians 4:15; Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63; Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:28-29

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The Woman on the Plane

“I think they double-booked our seats.”

I looked across the aisle at the petite, curly-haired woman, who appeared to be about my age. She was talking with a young couple, who were occupying two seats together on the airplane. After studying their tickets, everyone realized the young woman from the couple was supposed to be seated next to me.

“Why would they give us seats that are across the aisle from one another?” she asked the young man who was with her.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Well, I don’t mind sitting in your seat,” said the older woman, “if it’s okay with everyone else. Is it okay with you?” she asked, directing her focus to me.

“Sure. That’s fine,” I said.

She settled into the aisle seat next to mine.

“My name’s Dawn,” she said. “Are you going to Canton on business or for pleasure?”

“My name’s Susan,” I said. “This is definitely a pleasure trip,” I added. “I am meeting my mother, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunt, and two cousins for a long weekend at my sister’s lake house. I am really looking forward to having some time with family.”

“Me too,” she added. “I’m going to my nephew’s wedding.”

We talked about our families and where we lived for a while, and somewhere within our conversations, we discovered we both loved Jesus. After that, our talk took a decided turn toward joy. We shared how we came to know Him. We talked about our trials and how He made Himself known in them. We talked about the Lord’s faithfulness and our gratitude for His presence in our lives. We expressed our desire for others to know His wonderful love for them. We were jump-up-and-down happy to praise God together.

Then it hit me: There it is—another kindness from the Lord. I remembered that just last week, I was telling the Lord how much I missed my friend Phyllis. She went home to be with Him suddenly and unexpectedly a few months ago. Phyllis and I used to have lots of these jump-up-and-down, praise-the-Lord moments together. Now, at 30,000 feet, I was having another one of those experiences with a newfound friend.

“Thank you, Lord,” I silently prayed.

Dawn and I talked and talked until the plane landed in Canton, Ohio. The flight seemed to only last a few minutes. I was overwhelmed by the Lord’s kindness. He taught me some valuable lessons through the woman on the plane:

God’s blessings are all around us.

I know the Lord brought Dawn and me together. He decided to bless us just because He can. He blessed mankind when He first created them (Genesis 1:28), and He still desires to bless His own (Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37). We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Lord’s activity around us, to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart tendered to His voice (Matthew 13:13).

Halfway through our conversation, Dawn said to me, “It wasn’t a mistake that I got to sit next to you. That was God’s plan all along.” She saw the blessing, what God had done. She heard the blessing, in the encouraging words we spoke to one another, and she felt the blessing in her heart.

At a women’s conference years ago, the speaker shared that the Hebrew word for happy is asher or esher, which means a psychological awareness of the movement of God. Seeing God at work around us truly can make us happy. I know I experienced that on my American Airlines flight.

God wants to use us to bless others.

I told Dawn, “The Lord says to ‘encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today,’ (Hebrews 3:13, NASB), and that’s what He is leading us to do for one another. It can be a hard world out there, and we need this as God’s people.”

Dawn agreed.

Jesus Himself said, “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35, NASB). When the Lord uses us to bless someone else, we discover a profound and often unexpected joy. I remember one year on Valentine’s Day when my daughter Katie was discouraged because she didn’t have a boyfriend. I challenged her to find someone she could bless on Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on her plight. She and several friends offered to prepare dinner and babysit for a young couple in our church. They all received a blessing from the experience, and Katie announced after it was over, “This has been the best Valentine’s Day ever!”

Whether we are in a happy or sad place, we can always ask the Lord, “Please show me someone I can bless today in Your name.” When we do, we take the focus off ourselves (getting) and focus instead on giving. In the end, both parties get blessed. The Lord promises His people in Genesis 12:2 that they will be a blessing. He empowers us through His Holy Spirit to be so. We just have to allow the Spirit to lead and operate through us.

I once heard it explained about the Dead Sea this way: It is dead, and there is no life in it because it has an inlet (always receiving) and no outlet (never giving). People can be that way too. If we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and He is a Giver, then we should be too (1 John 4:7-12). He gave the greatest gift of all—His only begotten Son Jesus—to save us from having to pay the penalty for our own sins (John 3:16).

It’s all for God’s glory.

After the plane landed and Dawn was getting ready to disembark, I prayed over her the prayer I would always speak over Phyllis before she left our bi-weekly prayer and praise sessions: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26, NASB).

I told her, “The Lord named you Dawn for a reason. Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, ‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’ Keep shining for Him.”

“Oh, I wish my life were like that,” Dawn said. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m making any difference for Him.”

“Oh, you do!” I said. “You did exactly that for me today. I see Him in you, and I am praising Him that He allowed our paths to cross.”

Dawn smiled.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

The Lord grants us unending blessings and makes us glad with the joy of His presence; His unfailing love keeps us going (Psalm 21:6-7, NIV). That’s what I encountered through the woman on the plane. She revealed more of the Lord’s kindness to me. The Lord used her to show me some of His glory.

That’s the greatest blessing of all—to know Him better and love Him more as we experience Him in the world around us. He can always take us to new heights—whether we are at 30,000 feet or have our feet firmly planted on the ground. Look for Him today, beloved. He is all around you and wants you to see, hear, and feel His great love for you . . . and then share it with others.

Question: How have you experienced the Lord’s blessings in your life? Comment at the link below.

 

Genesis 1:28; Psalm 3:8; Matthew 23:37; 13:13; Hebrews 3:13; Acts 20:35; Genesis 12:2; 1:26; 1 John 4:7-12; John 3:16; Numbers 6:24-26; Matthew 5:16; Psalm 34:8; 21:6-7

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Inside the Furnace

Do you see how well she is teaching these girls? She is so clever and relatable. You are not. These girls are going to be so bored when you teach!

The ugly voice snarled inside my mind and caught me by surprise. I was getting ready to teach the last of three Bible Study sessions to a group of high school and college girls.

And who do you think you are anyway to teach others? You have lots of faults and weaknesses. You shouldn’t even be here.

My mind staggered under the assault. All those flaming arrows were aimed right at some of my greatest vulnerabilities. The enemy knew where to aim. I hate to admit it, but some of those arrows hit their target, even after I just wrote a blog about “Taking Thoughts Captive” a few weeks ago. It all happened so fast that I was in the middle of it before I realized what was happening.

Sometimes, you can be going along in life, and all of a sudden, the enemy turns up the heat. You find yourself inside the furnace, and after you are exposed to the heat for a while, you feel sort of weak and trembly. That’s what happened to me on that Sunday night.

I knew I needed help. I slipped into another room and prayed, “Lord, please help me. I know these feelings are not from you. I know you called me to teach these girls. I am just going to step out and be obedient. I am going to seek to please you rather than people because I am Your bondservant (Galatians 1:10),” I said.

I did teach those girls, and they were very receptive to God’s Word. It thrilled my soul, but I felt shaky part of the time I taught and even afterwards. I had to get alone with the Lord and ask Him to help me process what had happened. Here’s what He showed me:

Condemnation is NOT from God

When we experience thoughts that make us feel horrible, dirty, bad . . . those are not from God. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NASB). The word for condemnation is katakrima and means a damnatory sentence. If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, there is no sentence against us. We are free and “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, KJV). There is no charge against us. We are not condemned, because God has justified us (declared us to be righteous in His sight) because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.

So when condemnation comes, we have to consider the source. Our salvation cannot be taken from us, but we do have an enemy who would like to make us ineffective for the kingdom of God. In the Bible, he is called “your adversary, the devil” (1 Peter 5:8, NASB), “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10, NASB), and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, NASB). He comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). We need to recognize his voice and his tactics toward us.

One thing I learned from my encounter is that he can come at us with an ugly voice, speaking words of criticism and strong disapproval, denouncing what God has called us to do. When this happens, we are called to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10, NASB). That phrase stand firm in the Bible is a military term, which means to hold one’s position. So we hold our position in Christ, knowing “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NASB), and we choose to move forward in His power and grace (Philippians 4:13).

Conviction IS from God

In contrast to the accuser’s voice, I have found God’s voice to be gentle and loving. He convicts me instead of condemning me. He guides, teaches, and disciplines me in order to help me. Even when I mess up and sin, He loves me with an everlasting love that never changes based on what I do or don’t do.

When I came out of the side room at the Bible Study, the first teacher was finished. The organizers told everyone to take a break and visit for a while before I started teaching. I ended up speaking with the first teacher. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned something about comparisons, and the Lord gently reminded me, “Don’t compare yourself to other people” (2 Corinthians 10:12). “I made you unique (Psalm 139:13-14) for My special purposes (Ephesians 2:10). I did the same with her. Be who I made you to be, and leave the results to me (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).”

The Lord was lovingly convicting me that I was walking outside of His Word, His truth (Psalm 119:160). I thanked Him for making me aware of it. I knew He only had my best interests at heart (Hebrews 12:10-11). The Lord is gentle and kind. Through conviction, He seeks a restored relationship with Him, where we know Him better and love and trust Him more. In Psalm 32:8, NASB, He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Conviction is a sign of our Father’s great love for us (Hebrews 12:5-6).

So when conviction comes, it is a great opportunity to learn what a loving Father has to teach us. It is an opportunity to draw closer to Him. A wise man in my Sunday School class recently shared, “Condemnation seeks to pull you away from God; conviction seeks to pull you toward Him.” So . . .

Run to God

If I could have done anything differently at that Bible Study, I would have run to the Lord immediately when the negative thoughts started and asked Him to help me. I wasted valuable time trying to fight the battle on my own, when the battle was the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). In Isaiah 41:10, NASB, the Lord says, “I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

When I did go to the Lord, He gave me scriptures to fight the enemy, much like Jesus did in Matthew 4. We are told God’s Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17, NASB), an offensive weapon to use against the enemy. We are also told the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance the scriptures we need when we need them (John 14:26). That’s why it’s so important to be in God’s Word—before we find ourselves in a battle.

Finally, the Lord also showed me how we need one another in the body of Christ, His church. Once I got home after teaching, I still felt a little shaky. I picked up a devotion book written by my late friend Phyllis Keels. In it, she said if we are struggling, we should tell someone.  I texted two of my friends, and they both called me. They encouraged me in the Lord and reaffirmed my calling to teach. What a blessing! Two of the young women in the Bible Study also sent me a note that week thanking me for teaching and relating how the Lord had met and blessed them in the study. I was so thankful for their reassurance and their thoughtfulness in taking the time to write to me.

1 Peter 5:8, NASB, says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Experts on safari have observed that the lions do not go after the pack of animals. They go after the lone creature that has distanced itself from the pack. The one off by himself, alone and vulnerable. We need to stick together as God’s people and help one another.

In Ephesians 6:16, NASB, we are told to take “up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” In Biblical times, shields were as big as doors, and it took several people to hold one up together. Sometimes, we need the help of others to hold up our shields of faith against the enemy’s attacks. When we step in and fight the good fight of faith with and for one another, everyone gets a blessing (1 Timothy 6:12).

When we find ourselves inside the furnace, it is a comfort to know that the Lord and our friends are willing to stand in the flames with us and help us to come out whole, undamaged, and more prosperous from the experience (Daniel 3:25, 30).

“O God, You have refined us as silver is refined” [in the fire] (Psalm 66:10). May we experience that refinement when we encounter condemnation and conviction and the help provided by the Lord in the midst of them. He is faithful, beloved (Lamentations 3:23). He will see us through and produce something beautiful from the encounter.

Question:  What has the Lord taught you in times of condemnation and conviction? Comment at the link below.

 

Galatians 1:10; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10; John 8:44; 10:10; Ephesians 6:10; Romans 8:37; Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Psalm 139:13-14; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; Psalm 119:160; Hebrews 12:10-11; Psalm 32:8; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Samuel 17:47; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 4; Ephesians 6:17; John 14:26; Ephesians 6:16; 1 Timothy 6:12; Daniel 3:25, 30; Psalm 66:10; Lamentations 3:23

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The Tight Squeeze

I caught my breath as the measuring tape cinched around my waist.

She’s pulling it awfully tight, I thought.

Oh well, I reassured myself, I’m going to lose some weight anyway. It will be okay.

I was getting measured to order a dress that I planned to wear to my daughter Sarah’s wedding in about 4 months.

Fast forward to a little less than 3 months later (which was last week). The dress arrived, and I went to try it on. My daughter Katie, who went with me, helped me zip it up.

“I can barely breathe,” I told her. “It feels super tight in my waist.”

That’s it! I thought. Time to get serious about shedding these extra pounds!

Honestly, those “extra pounds” had been with me for quite a while, hanging out around my midsection. I knew that was an unhealthy place to carry extra weight. I felt convicted to do something about it several times, but I kept brushing it off. Maybe later, I kept telling myself.

Then came the ill-fitting dress. God used it to finally get my attention. I think God allows us to experience the tight squeeze in our lives for several reasons:

God uses the tight squeeze to shape us.

The Lord wants us to experience abundant life right here and now (John 10:10), but He needs our cooperation in that process. He teaches us the best way to live, for our own good, in His Word (Deut. 10:13). When we head off in another direction than what He recommends, He often allows us to encounter a tight spot to try to get us back on track. I have encountered that scenario many times in my life, and I am grateful for it. It shows how much God loves me. He loves me too much to let me do damage to myself without trying to get my attention and direct me into His best for me.

 

As far as the tight dress goes, the Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, NASB). I have known for months that my “temple” was getting run down. I had put on extra weight. I wasn’t eating right or exercising. The Lord had been gently nudging me to do something about it.

I asked the Lord to help show me how to eat better and exercise in a way that would be good for me with some of my physical limitations, and He did. I am asking Him to help me be consistent with these things, and He is helping me. (I sure would appreciate your prayers too, because this is an area where I struggle.) I’m glad the dress was too tight. It caught my attention and reminded me of what I knew all along: I need to commit to being healthier.

Yet, this whole idea goes way beyond physical health. God also concerns Himself with our personal character. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a tight place because He is shaping us spiritually. Romans 5:3-5, NASB says, “We also exult in our tribulations [a word that means pressure, distress], knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We can become more of who God wants us to be in the tight places. This past Sunday at church, our pastor said, “So many times, we ask God to change our circumstances when God is using our circumstances to change us.”

Finally, the tight squeeze is a place where we can know God better. I never would have known He was the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) unless I had needed comforting. I never would have known His Word as complete and utter truth (Ps. 119:160) unless it had spoken to me in the midst of my struggles. His Word reflects and is backed up by everything He is (Ps. 138:2). The Lord intends so much good for us in the tight squeeze.

God uses the tight squeeze to help others.

Other times, the Lord uses the tight squeeze to move or shape us so that we might help others. When it is time for her babies to fly, the mother eagle starts putting sharp, pointed sticks and briars in the nest. Eventually, that nest becomes so uncomfortable that the babies leave and start flying on their own. When they fly, they mother eagle stays under them to make sure they don’t fall too far or get into trouble.

In the same way, the Lord often orchestrates circumstances to move us out of a comfortable place into His plan to help others. Things become uneasy in a certain situation or relationship, or something happens to make us change. I experienced this in 1987, two weeks before I was supposed to get married. My boss called me into his office, told me they were downsizing, and said they were letting me go. It was a tight spot for me and my fiancé David. He was in optometry school, and I was our sole source of income.

Well, I enjoyed the two extra weeks I received off work for wedding preparations, and I got on the job search as soon as I returned from our honeymoon. Within a few weeks, I landed a job with Merrill Publishing as a book editor. My experiences there helped me 27 years later when my son Patrick and I wrote our book, “Optimism for Autism.” We’ve received a lot of feedback about how our book is helping others in the struggles of life and encouraging them to trust the Lord in their challenges. In never would have known how that was going to happen when I took the book editing job, but God did.

Of course, it takes prayer and seeking God’s wisdom about whether He is working on our character or calling us to move. But He tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3, NASB), and “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8, NASB).

God uses the tight squeeze to reveal Himself in us.

Romans 8:28-29, NASB, says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” In other words, the good that God often is working out in our tight places is to make us more like Jesus, so He can be seen in us.

That’s why Philippians 2:12b-13, NASB, says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” It emphasizes to put forth effort to align yourself with whatever God is doing, because He has a plan, because He is working out something that is part of His wise and loving design. We’re told that His will is always “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2,NASB).

So I’m glad the dress was a tight squeeze. It helped me remember God’s great faithfulness and ability to use the pressures in my life to do something big—something for me, others, or Himself (and often, a combination of the three). I wish I would have listened to His promptings about my health earlier, but I even learned something in that. He is infinitely patient and loving, a Faithful Father, who waits for me to trust and move according to His best intentions.

He says, “’ In the world you have tribulation [again, a word that means pressure, like a tight squeeze], but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John16:33, NASB).

So trust Him in the tight squeeze beloved. He has so much for you there.

Question:  How are you experiencing a “tight squeeze”, and how is God meeting you there? Comment at the link below.

 

John 10:10; Deut. 10:13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 1:3; Ps. 119:160; 138:2; Jer. 33:3; Ps. 32:8; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 2:12b-13; Rom. 12:2; John 16:33

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Taking Thoughts Captive

The minute I saw Patrick’s face, I knew something was wrong.

“Mom, can I talk with you for a minute?” he said.

“Sure. How was your day?” I said.

“Terrible,” he said. “I blew the interview. I am never going to get the virtual hire!”

Patrick has been attending an 18-week computer programming immersion program. He meets with a group of students to learn and practice computer programming from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Every Monday, each student participates in an individual “interview”, so everyone can practice their interviewing skills. Either that day or the next, the instructors announce who was awarded the “virtual hire’, the person whom they would have hired if it were a true job interview. Patrick had been interviewing for 10 weeks, and he still had not been awarded the coveted designation.

“I’m never going to get it!” he repeated. “This is just like swimming in college. I’m never going to do well at anything. I’m never going to be good enough to get a job!”

Stunned, I started offering words of encouragement. They fell on deaf ears. Patrick continued to spiral down into the pit of despair, proclaiming all his perceived shortcomings.

“Lord, please help us here,” I prayed. “Help Patrick hear truth and be encouraged.”

At that moment, my husband David walked into the room. He listened to Patrick for a short time.

“Stop it!” David said.

Patrick interrupted his verbal deluge, shocked by his dad’s loud tone of voice.

“Patrick,” David said, “it’s okay to be disappointed, but you cannot allow yourself to go from disappointment to defeat. This is nothing more than stinkin’ thinkin’, and you have got to get control of it!”

“But it’s just like swimming in college,” Patrick said.

“What do you mean?” David said.

“When I got moved down from the gold (advanced) practice group to the white (intermediate) practice group,” Patrick said.

“That’s what you’re going to remember from your swimming experiences? How about winning the county and conference swim meets in two events? How about getting an athletic scholarship to swim in college? How about being chosen by all the student athletes to receive the Perseverance Award? How about your college swim coach saying you were one of the most inspirational swimmers he has ever coached? How about those things?” David said.

Patrick’s eyes cleared, and he looked at his dad.

“I have trouble controlling my thoughts sometimes,” Patrick said.

“Well, son, you have got to learn how to do it,” David said. What you think is what you are. You have to take control of your thoughts, or they can ruin your life. I’m going to give you an assignment. Every morning when you wake up, I want you to think of 3 things you’re thankful for and 2 positive things you are going to do that day. Okay?”

“Okay,” Patrick said.

We practiced together right then.

As Patrick was struggling and David was teaching, I thought about what God has to say about these sorts of experiences: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB).

Destroy speculations

When we speculate about something, we imagine all sorts of things, and those things are usually bad or involve worst-case scenarios. Yet, we don’t even know if those things are true. True to the old saying, our imaginations can run away with us, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly have us running down the road of despair.

The day after he stressed out, Patrick called me from his coding school and announced, “I won the virtual hire!” Every negative thought that had knocked him flat on his back was absolutely untrue. Those imaginary scenarios had robbed him of joy for almost an entire day.

“I’m never going to be down on myself again,” he said.

While I knew that probably wasn’t true (we all struggle in many ways), I was grateful he had learned not to just run with his thoughts all the time.

When we don’t know if something is true or not, we need to go to Jesus, the One who is truth (John 1:14; 14:6). We can ask Him to reveal truth to us so that we can be set free from fear and discouragement (John 8:32). We can choose to trust Him with all the unanswered questions in life—to bring light into our darkness, and to dispel the lies of the enemy (John 8:44), who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus wants us to have an abundant life (John 10:10), and He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us control our runaway imaginations (2 Timothy 1:7). We can choose every day to walk by the Spirit, and He can help us keep our imaginations under control.

Don’t make anything bigger than God

Whatever we face, God is so much greater. We are told He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19, NASB). In other words, there is nothing bigger, higher, or “loftier” than God.

When we give ourselves over to despair, we usually are making something bigger than God. And nothing is greater than Him.

“He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’’’ (Daniel 4:35, NASB).

He can handle everything we face. He is bigger than it. One of Patrick’s favorite Bible verses is, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB). Sometimes, we have to be reminded of that truth. We can choose to remember who God is in the midst of our struggles and His great faithfulness toward us (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Take every thought captive

Just because we think something doesn’t mean it’s true. We have to keep guard over the door to our minds and decide what thoughts we will allow to enter and dwell there.

Philippians 4:8, NASB, gives us God’s standards for our thought lives: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

That word dwell carries the idea of storing up as inventory. In other words, only allow thoughts that meet these standards to be stored in your mind. And those thoughts have to meet all of these qualifications. For example, something might be true, but it might not be lovely—out it goes! Don’t dwell on it.

Romans 12:2 says we are transformed (changed) by the renewing of our minds. The word renewing means renovating, like when you are updating your house—out with the old (stinkin’ thinkin’), and in with the new (God’s Word, His truth). God’s Word meets all the qualifications of Philippians 4:8, and every bit of it is truth (Psalm 119:160).

In fact, we are told His Word is a sword that will slice and dice the lies of the enemy and cause him to flee (Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4). The word for “word of God” in Ephesians 6:17 is rhema, and it means a specific word for a specific situation. God has a specific word (scripture) to address every situation of your life. That’s why we need to store it up in the storehouse of our minds so the Holy Spirit can bring it to our remembrance when we need it (John 14:26).

That way, we can do as it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5. We can destroy those imaginary and lofty things; we can forcefully take them down before they take us out. When we do so, according to the same verse, we are obeying Christ, who loves us and wants the very best for us. When we do so, we are allowing Him and His thinking to be seen in us (1 Corinthians 2:16). “For as he [any person] thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, NASB).

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a rhema word to combat the imaginary and lofty things in your life. He will be faithful to help you. When He does, store up that truth in your mind, and bar the door to the lies of your enemy.

Patrick graciously allowed me to blog about his experience.

“Maybe it will help somebody. Maybe it will help me,” he said.

I smiled as I thought of how God was going to bless Patrick because his heart is receptive to His truth. He can do the same for you, His beloved.

Question: What is the Lord teaching you about taking thoughts captive? Comment at the link below.

 

2 Corinthians 10:5; John 1:14; 14:6; 8:32, 44; 10:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 3:20; Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35; Philippians 4:13; Lamentations 3:21-23; Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Psalm 119:160; Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4; John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Proverbs 23:7

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