Overcome Evil with Good & Romans 12:19

This will be another post on the things my husband and I talked about this weekend on our long drives.  Although it’s a not really a “feel good,” romantic post, I thought it was a good spiritual growth topic to cover here.

How do you overcome evil with good, especially when someone has done something truly evil against you or someone you love?

How do you deal with Christians like that – true believers who engage in character defamation, spreading slander about you or your family, or worse, who make false accusations against you or your family members, and then go on to feel zero guilt over it?  So disturbing right?  And rightfully angering.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s much better to trust that God will be your Defender against such people, that He will help “set the record straight” when the time is right for things to be exposed.  And I do believe things are always eventually exposed.  It may take a long time, but God is a just God, and He brings to light that which people would want to be kept in darkness.  You can be sure He doesn’t let evil doers get away with evil acts.  Even more so His own children (Christians), as the Bible warns He punishes those He loves… because it’s the right thing for Him to do.

It’s good to trust God knows what He’s doing.  I personally find so much peace in resting on that promise.  And if you’re going through persecution for speaking truth, you can also rest on the promise that you are suffering through something that will ultimately be a blessing to you.

 

      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 

12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To me, this is a beautiful promise… we have hope through persecution, and can trust that God will deal justly with those who do insult us, slander us, and falsely accuse us of all kinds of evil.

It’s God’s job, ultimately, and it’s our job to trust He does right by us.

When we run around and try to “correct” any and every person who is mocking or insulting or even spreading falsehoods about us (which I definitely tried to do in the past… unsuccessfully), we’re more concerned about “people-pleasing,” and protecting our reputation than in trusting God.  I don’t think it’s always wrong to try to confront someone falsely accusing you of something, but in trying to, you take on the risk of being more tempted to sin.  So in my opinion it’s best to stand back and allow God to deal with ALL of it, I’ve found it’s much easier to have peace that way – which is what He would want. 

I have found I am able to trust that not only will He provide protection (and He has, God is so faithful!), but He also gives us the promise that He repays and takes vengeance for us.  As unChristian as that sounds, it’s right there in the Bible for a reason (probably to scare people away from doing evil):

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written,

‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’

said the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Some commentary from Barne’s Notes on this passage and verse:

“For it is written – Deuteronomy 32:35.

Vengeance is mine – That is, it belongs to me (God) to inflict revenge. This expression implies that it is “improper” for people to interfere with that which properly belongs to God. When we are angry, and attempt to avenge ourselves, we should remember, therefore, that we are infringing on the prerogatives of the Almighty.

I will repay … – This is said in substance, though not in so many words, in Deuteronomy 32:35-36. Its design is to assure us that those who deserve to be punished, shall be; and that, therefore, the business of revenge may be safely left in the hands of God. Though “we” should not do it, yet if it ought to be done, it will be done. This assurance will sustain us, not in the “desire” that our enemy shall be punished, but in the belief that “God” will take the matter into his own hands; that he can administer it better than we can; and that if our enemy “ought” to be punished, he will be. “We,” therefore, should leave it all with God. That God will vindicate his people, is clearly and abundantly proved in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10Revelation 6:9-11Deuteronomy 32:40-43.

The part that my husband assured me of this weekend was so comforting to know.  That if someone does need to be punished, God will do it in His own time (or maybe He already has and you just didn’t witness it).  We don’t need to worry about infecting our souls with the poison of bitterness or hatred – although is it ever tempting to feel those feelings when you see someone get away with evil against someone you love!
My husband said that when someone gives in with actions to those toxic emotions and desiring revenge on their enemies, it affects them and makes them stoop to the same level – even disqualifying their witness.  It’s ok to desire justice, even through a legal system if need be, but it’s not good to take pleasure in seeing someone suffer more than they deserve.  Which is why it’s best to leave vengeance up to God – only He can truly understand “how much” punishment is deserved for someone who has wronged you.  There’s no way we could make that call, although I think it’s totally human (and biblical – think David in Psalm 109 where he asks for God to destroy his enemies in the cruelest of ways possible) to have those feelings.

My husband had me read some verses this weekend along these lines while in the car, and it was so good to hear his opinion on my questions.

One of the passages was David asking God to make his enemies ashamed and disgraced for what they’d done to him.  It’s so comforting to know how human King David was 🙂  I totally relate to his passage of desiring to see enemies be disgraced and ashamed of their actions.  It’s nice to know that he felt those feelings toward his enemies, and yet He was called a man after God’s own heart.  God doesn’t seem to hold our humanity against us regarding our strong emotions, ❤ but He loves us too much to let us stay in those emotions to the point where they would destroy us (and others).

Which brings me to the second passage my husband had me read with him 🙂 which was Jesus’ thoughts on loving our enemies:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor(fellow man) and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, [n]love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. 46 For if you love[only] those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers [wishing them God’s blessing and peace], what more [than others] are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles [who do not know the Lord] do that?48 You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I seriously laughed at how these two passages seem so at odds with each other… and told my husband outright that I much preferred David’s response! 😀  I knew of both of them, but it’s always wonderful to hear my husband explain these things and talk it over him candidly. ❤

They do seem at odds… one calling for your enemies to be ashamed and disgraced for how they’ve treated you, and the next claiming that if you don’t also love them, you haven’t achieved spiritual maturity.  In reality, the second passage also lines up with overcoming evil with good in Romans 12:14-21.

14 Bless those who persecute you [who cause you harm or hardship]; bless and do not curse [them]. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty [conceited, self-important, exclusive], but associate with humble people [those with a realistic self-view]. Do not overestimate yourself. 17 Never repay anyone evil for evil. Take thought for what is right and gracious and proper in the sight of everyone. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for God’s wrath [and His judicial righteousness]; for it is written [in Scripture], “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for by doing this you will heap [e]burning coals on his head.”21 Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

It ALL makes sense when you view it through trusting God to be the ultimate Judge and Avenger of wrongs.

We are supposed to be able to overcome someone’s evil toward us that may have truly harmed us by not allowing their actions to destroy our peace and love in our own lives.  The only way to do that is to be able to FULLY rely on God that He will repay, that we can be kind to them (which heaps burning coals on their head), and understand they are in God’s hands and that we don’t have to concern ourselves with their punishment.

He is just, and like He said… He will repay.

Stephanie

 

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Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Your Beauty Will Fade & That Will Be Beautiful

growing old together

I just caught up with Lori Alexander’s post on beauty fading from a Christian (Proverbs 31 wife) perspective.  You can find it here (it’s great)!

cute

I do think about aging quite a bit, to me it’s nice, but I’m also aware that maybe it hasn’t really “hit” me yet.  When I’m sleep deprived, which is more often than not these days 🙂 , I DO feel like the Crypt Keeper lol.  But when our baby girl actually goes the full night sleeping (very rare), I wake up and feel fresh again.

But I’m getting older, there’s no mistaking that.

To me, aging is a privilege.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.”

Proverbs 16:31

elderly

Seeing my husband get older is actually quite sexy!  I love knowing we’re “growing old together.”  It’s very fulfilling in a way that’s hard to describe.

Seeing elderly couples who you know, are actually still in love, touches my heart!

elderly love

I think I’m lucky I married a man who is a dreamer ❤ and together we regularly talk about our plans for when we’re older.  The hopefulness of grandchildren, where we’ll take them, how much we’ll just enjoy having (hopefully) a lot of family around us during the holidays.  The real test of our parenting and relationship with our children will be when they’re finally adults and whether or not they want to spend time with us.  Our oldest son has brought up pretty often that he loves being with us and will be devastated when he moves out – I’m sure he won’t be as devastated when he becomes that age 🙂 , and I do assure him he’ll be “ready,” but at least right now, he tears up and says how much he loves living with us.  Everyone gets older whether they want to or not… as sad as it seems, at least it brings new chapters in life to explore as adventures.  I’d rather embrace these things than run away screaming from them.

asian

But even with saying all that, we still look pretty young – which is good and bad.

Just today a woman at the playground I was at with my children was talking to me, then suddenly actually asked me out of the blue, how old I was lol!  This does happen sometimes, and I don’t get it… it’s a little strange to ask a complete stranger how old they are in my book!  But I told her, and she was surprised and said how it was because I look so young and yet I have 3 kids.  She told me I don’t look older than 25.  A couple of months ago an elderly woman with her grand-daughter saw me grocery shopping alone, wearing my husband’s high school football shirt (where her grand-daughter just graduated), and thought I was probably from her graduating class!  When I told her how we’d been married 10 years, and had 3 kids, her mouth literally fell open.  Still shocked, she told me I looked 18.

I do sometimes wonder if the very cushy life I’ve lived, being married to a good man, having his babies and being able to stay home with them, has led to me still look younger than I would have if I had chosen a different path.  We definitely don’t have much stress aside from his job and some financial tightness of me not working.  But overall, we both feel very comfortable and happy – we have so many blessings we feel guilt over them at times.

But this is something I want my daughter to know and understand.  Even when you beauty does fade, and you start to really show your age (whenever that magically happens), I want her to enjoy it.

Part of enjoying it is enjoying (like Lori A. said in her post linked at the beginning) the relationships you’ve built up over the years with your husband and children.

I do think a large part of why I’m not afraid of growing older is because I feel so secure in the life we live together.  The Bible does say perfect love casts out fear.  My husband’s love for me, his enjoyment of growing older together with me, is probably the source of the happiness I can feel when I imagine being a grandmother myself.

It’s like the ultimate reward for a life well-lived.

Stephanie

Criticism & Being a Stumbling Block

stumbling block

A couple of years ago, one of my mentors told me that you’re never more tempted to sin, than when you’ve been sinned against.

I think it makes a good quote deserving of all caps…

 

YOU’RE NEVER MORE TEMPTED TO SIN,

THAN WHEN YOU’VE BEEN SINNED AGAINST

 

I went to her after I had gone through a time when I was being criticized by a woman running a gossip/slander blog that has now since become private.  Every post I made, this woman found a way to turn it into something to mock… right down to attacking my husband and children.  Other women, even Christian ones I looked up to previously, jumped in on the mocking and gossip, and it was weird to see that even the supposedly Christian ones were doing this.  It lasted for a good half a year before I confronted her at her blog source, only to have the confrontation end in more pain and frustration.  Talking about it being sin with other people was labeled as “gossip.”  It was a very interesting time as I tried to figure out how to handle slander (being called a whore, slut and a bitch by a Christian man) as well as this being tailed for half the year by this Christian woman.  What was even stranger were the other Christian women who regularly commented on these posts mocking what I was writing, yet they couldn’t see they were doing anything wrong.

It’s really sad that we humans operate this way, myself totally and thoroughly included.  It’s part of our “normal” sin nature, but it’s so ugly and harmful, I surprise even myself with how easily I can give in to this temptation.  And rest assured, I’m talking about myself here, having a sin nature is not fun.  It is kind of shocking how bad we can be when we’re not actively guarding our mouths and minds and spirits.  It reminds me of Paul in Romans 7:18-22, where he wanted so badly to do good, but would sometimes find himself backsliding into the flesh behaviors that he hated in himself.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

I think it’s crucial to be honest that everyone has these feelings and temptations from time to time, even a man as godly as Paul.  I believe that, ultimately, it’s how we choose to deal with the temptations that matters in the long-run.  We have to strive to be like Paul and avoid and flee temptation, repent when we do give in to sin, and then allow for enough grace for ourselves and others when or if we backslide.

Last week I was wondering why someone would focus so much energy on giving in to sinful temptations… specifically, the temptation to engage in destructive criticism about another person (aka: Gossip & Slander).  I did an experiment to try to get someone engaging in it to see what they looked like, and to understand it within myself.  I succeeded in making them understand how bad it looked, the experiment definitely worked.  Overall, it was enlightening… and scary at how once you start (even if you think you’re only going so far) it can quickly go down hill.

I think I’ve found the answer… the root of why criticism can lead to being a stumbling block, and it comes from this quote at the beginning of the post that was told to me by my mentor:  “You’re never more tempted to sin than when you’re sinned against.”

 

Being a Stumbling Block through Criticism

stumbling man cartoon illustration

Romans 14 has always fascinated me.  I’ve written on it before, here , but I wanted to look at it again from a different perspective.

There used to be a pretty benign young woman who commented fairly frequently here.  I always had a feeling that she was trying to get me to change my views on each post I made – she was always so full of constructive criticism and gave it out freely.  Everything about me was up for criticism from this young woman – from the way I dressed to my diet and breastfeeding.  A lot of it was good, and I’d take it and make necessary changes, or try to see if I was getting it truly wrong, but overtime, it started to feel more like purposeful fault-finding or destructive criticism, and I felt myself changing inside toward her as well.

It got to the point where I would find myself starting to see flaws in her posts and arguments, whereas I’d never argued with her before over her writing.  And instead of minding my own business (something I’ve written about before!), I’d feel rightful in pointing them out to her publicly – in a “constructive” way like she did though 😉 .  I knew it was probably not the right thing to do, even if I couched it in “constructive criticism“… it’s a little much to be “correcting” someone all the time so why was she doing this?  I justified my fault-finding habit at her blog by telling myself that well, SHE was doing it to me, so why can’t I do it back to her?  Let’s just say being criticized by her nearly every week affected me lol.  I actually still try not to go to her blog because all I see are the flaws and faults in her biblical arguments.  It’s amazing how the way we act toward others has so much power over the way they in turn feel tempted to deal with us.

Why are humans like this?

I think Romans 14 holds the key to this.  Criticism, especially over issues that don’t really matter that much, make us become stumbling blocks.

“Therefore let us stop criticizing one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”  (vs 13)

Why does the Bible warn us that criticism can be a “stumbling block” to other believers?  I think the answer is that when it’s not done in love, or even when it’s done over and over again in a constructive way, it’s actually sinning against the person you’re criticizing or leading them to exasperation with you.  So when you SIN against that person, you’re TEMPTING them to sin back.  Or if you’re trying to just constantly correct someone on their convictions (which Romans 14 tells us blatantly not to), you’re going to make them tempted to view you negatively.  This is especially true if you’ve been overly harsh or engaged in sinful destructive criticism, you’ve just become a stumbling block for that person, making it harder for them in their spiritual walk.

stumbling block2

Wow, right?  Pretty scary how criticism, even when we think it should be “constructive,” can be so hurtful and harmful to our Christian brothers and sisters in damaging their walks with God.

Pretty serious stuff.  Now that I carried out my own psyche experiment on this topic, I think I understand even more so just how important this post was in the past.

Instead of being a stumbling block, why not become a stepping stone to helping build others up on their spiritual journies?  I’m talking to my own inclinations here 😉

stumbling block3

Good food for thought.

Stephanie

 

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Staying Focus: Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You Because You Are Young

How Can We Know That We’ve Truly Consecrated Ourselves to Him?

In January, I embarked on a journey to read a few enlightening books on past Christians’ spiritual thoughts and books on spiritual journeys.  One such book was Stepping Heavenward, by Mrs. E. Prentiss, a book that is written in a journal style following a 16 year old girl’s spiritual journey into womanhood, and finally, old age.  It was such a fascinating little book, with a multitude of great timeless lessons to learn regarding faith, marriage, and the role of a wife and mother.

It was like a breath of fresh air to dive into this timeless wisdom written in the 1800’s.

I bought this little book at the promptings of Mrs. Sharon White, author of the Legacy of Home blog, grandmother, and daughter of a revival preacher.  She has on her site a complimentary study guide to go with this book, written by herself!  I encourage every young woman to read this book if they are wondering about the role of a wife or mother, or wondering about the impact faith can have on their life.  

I am saving it to present to the next girl in our family,

be that a daughter or grand-daughter, this is one of those rare books that will be passed down in

our family legacy.

Here is just one excerpt where the minister is writing to the young girl about her progression in faith that I found quite wonderful:

***

“Now He never leaves His work incomplete, and He will gradually lead you into clear and open vision if you will allow Him to do it.  I say gradually, because I believe this to be His usual method, while I do not deny that there are cases where light suddenly bursts in like a flood.  To return to the blind man.  When Jesus found that his cure was not complete, He put His hands again upon his eyes and made him look up; and he was restored and saw every man clearly.  Now this must be done for you; and in order to have it done, you must go to Christ Himself, not to one of His servants.

Make your complaint, tell Him how obscure everything still looks to you, and beg Him to complete your cure.  He may see fit to try your faith and patience by delaying this completion; but meanwhile you are safe in His presence, and while led by His hand, He will excuse the mistake you make and pity your falls.  But you will imagine that it is best that He should at once enable you to see clearly.  If it is, you may be sure He will do it.  He never makes mistakes.  But He often deals far differently with His disciples.  He lets them grope their way in the dark until they fully learn how blind they are, how helpless, how absolutely in need of Him.

What His methods will be with you I cannot foretell.   But you may be sure that He never works in an arbitrary way.  He has a reason for everything He does.  You may not understand why He leads you now in this way and now in that, but you may, nay, you must believe that perfection is stamped on His every act.  …

Many persons never get beyond this point (of making their whole business to study their own case to see whether they are really in a state of grace).  They spend their whole time in asking the question:

Do I love the Lord or no?  Am I His or am I not?

I beg you, my dear child, if you are doing this aimless, useless work, to stop short at once.  Life is too precious to spend in a treadmill.  Having been pardoned by your God and Savior, the next thing you have to do is to show your gratitude for this infinite favor by consecrating your self entirely to Him, body, soul, and spirit.  …

And now if you ask how you may know that you have truly consecrated yourself to Him, I reply, observe every indication of His will concerning you, no matter how trivial, and see whether you at once close in with that will.  Lay down this principle as a law – God does nothing arbitrary.  If He takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason.  If you find in the course of daily events, that your self-consecration was not perfect – that is, that your will revolts at His will – do not be discouraged, but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).  Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside conditions.  

Just think, my dear Katy, of the honor and the joy of having your will one with the Divine will and so becoming changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory!  …

You can will to choose for your associates those who are most devout and holy.

You can will to read books that will stimulate your in your Christian life rather than those that merely amuse.

You can will to use every means of grace appointed by God.

You can will to spend much time in prayer without regard to your frame at the moment.

You can will to prefer a religion of principle to one of mere feeling; in other words, to obey the will of God when no comfortable glow of emotion accompanies your obedience.

You cannot will to possess the spirit of Christ; that must come as His gift; but you can choose to study His life and to imitate it.  This will infallibly lead to such self-denying work as visiting the poor, nursing the sick, giving of your time and money to the needy and the like.”

Why is Attractiveness in Marriage Important?

Commenter Object of Contempt made a great observation about romance, passionate love, and attraction in marriage being interrelated:

I think, however, that it is part of the vows to do what you can to maintain passionate love. Being attractive is part of that. I also think it is possible to make yourself be in love with someone (having done it myself). There are limits, of course.Romance and passion are often dismissed in christian teaching about marriage, just like attractiveness and beauty are. I suspect this is partially the cause for the attractiveness issue.

His concern that Christian teachings throw out or dismiss the importance of romance & passion, or attractiveness & beauty in marriage are well-founded.  I’ve written before in Men Need an Attractive Wife, that:

Christianity sometimes overstates the importance of inner beauty, making outward care for the appearance to look like materialism and vanity. 

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain [or fleeting], but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

If you take the time to really learn about the Proverbs 31 woman, she does not sound like a woman who let herself go after marriage.  She made beautiful clothes for her family using expensive dyes that were usually reserved for royalty or nobility.  She worked from early morning until late at night – and her husband sat with important men, bragging about her, do you think he would’ve bragged about her had she just let her appearance go?  Obviously, she cared about what her husband liked as far as her appearance and presentation.

Taking care of your appearance, exercising and making sure you look your best as a woman is not selfish, in fact, if you’re married, it’s selfish not to.”

Christians do tend to, like Object of Contempt pointed out, act like outer attractiveness is “optional,” and that inner beauty is the only thing that is righteous to work toward.  He wondered if there was any proof that taking care of attractiveness, especially for a woman, was important to God.

I’m so glad someone asked this question, and I’ll do my best to give my own opinion here, but I’d really love for other people who may be reading this who feel they have a greater understanding of this complicated issue to add their thoughts in the comments (please 🙂 ).  So without further ado, this is just one woman’s thoughts and advice, take it for what you will….

 

From Object of Contempt:

“And among Christian blogs, then I find many more posts that make it all about the inner beauty, and tear it (outer beauty) all down. These posts quote Peter and sound more spiritual and biblical, but I think they distort the truth by focusing on one verse.
How would someone show that God thinks visual attractiveness is important? How would someone show that God thinks passionate love is important? Does a woman have a perspective that needs a particular approach for it to be heard?”

I answered his comment below, but would like to expand on some of these concepts now that I have time:

“It really is a balance, but it’s true that the issue is complex – what matters to God. On one hand, when it comes down to it, He loves people right where they are – and every person, no matter what they look like, matter to Him and has great personal value! If a Christian is living their life, and haven’t grown in a certain area, He still loves them and values them.

But on the other hand, God does want us to be growing spiritually and becoming more complete/mature people, and a part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are taking care of themselves physically.

Making themselves attractive, enjoying that process, nourishing the passionate love and attraction in their marriage are all holy and spiritual pursuits! God wants us to have life and life abundantly – Scripture even states that the reason He died was so that we can have complete joy – joy in it’s completeness. It is very hard to have that kind of abundant life and complete joy when a woman isn’t taking care of her health and fitness, creating a passionate marriage, and flourishing in attraction between her and her mate.

So God does care about those things in the long run, but they are of lesser importance compared to a person’s salvation and having “inner beauty” – which is character and integrity.

Those things always matter more to God, because they are who a person really is, and beauty eventually fades.

In my opinion, real beauty goes beyond skin deep, and is easily seen in the way a woman radiates joy and beauty from within, which has the power to change her outer appearance and have people drawn to her.”

_____________________________________________________

A major part of spiritual growth that Christians tend to overlook is how they are presenting themselves physically, how they are taking care of the body that God gave them.  We are stewards of our body, and although God ultimately cares more about our salvation and character growth and integrity, He does expect us to take great care over the body we’ve been given so that we can effectively do His will in our life.  If we are running our bodies down, filling them up with too much food and not enough exercise, becoming overweight or underweight, we won’t have the physical or mental strength to do many of the spiritual tasks we’re called to do.  Even spiritual things require a well-rested, well-taken care of body, otherwise our emotions (due usually to exhaustion or over-extension) tend to take over and we react out of shortened tempers, grouchiness, and feeling horrible.  When a woman isn’t taking care of herself physically, it often has mental and spiritual ramifications that negatively affect her ability to minister to others God has put in her path, namely her husband and her children.

Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Part of “honoring God with our bodies,” is taking care of them, and presenting them well.

When a woman is married, taking care of her appearance is important because it’s usually important to her husband.  He was more than likely first attracted to her because of her appearance, not her personality… this isn’t to say that he didn’t come to appreciate her personality later on and love her more for it, but Christians throwing out the importance of her attractiveness in catching her husband is clearly short-sighted.  Most single women who find husbands give some thought and devotion to their outward beauty and attractiveness, so it makes sense that the tools they used to catch a husband, should also be used regularly in keeping their husband during their marriage.

What I would want to tell a woman who has set herself as Object of Contempt put it, “against being attractive,” is that this isn’t about trying to change her into someone she isn’t or has never been!  This is about a heart issue of wanting to pursue having a good marriage, caring about her husband’s visual needs of wanting to see her at her attractive, personal best, and doing what she should to create a romantic and passionate marriage!

A good guideline is to look at one’s wedding pictures, aside from normal aging, how far off are you from looking the way you did when you made your vows to do everything you could to make a marriage work?

We as women, usually take care of ourselves very well when single and as a result, we reap the benefits of our men lavishing their attention and romantic efforts on us.  A major part of marriage is learning to work together as a team, caring for each other’s needs, and understanding that our actions are forever now tied to the fate of another person – we are responsible for them to a certain extent, and should live our life caring about how our actions affect them in their own life.  If we clearly do not care about how attracted our husbands are to us, if we let ourselves go and demand he love us for “ourselves,” we are expecting him to feel the same romance and passion toward us as he did when we made efforts we aren’t making anymore.  Of course he may still love us deeply, but God created men to be extremely visual, and if we don’t look appealing to our husband, if our appearance is negatively impacting the level of attraction he feels for us, then something needs to be changed on our part.

Loving our husbands means we care deeply about what he needs.  

Sex and affection are critical to men, it is the way God’s designed them to be able to feel emotionally and spiritually close to us!

If we’ve let ourselves go and are no longer making any effort to be attractive to them or have a good sex life, or be affectionate with them, we are causing them to live in a state of emotional and spiritual torment.

This is serious, sisters, holding on to our “right” to be against being attractive for our husbands is selfish and only causes damage to our marriage, and damages the hearts of our husbands.  It’s putting up a stumbling block in his way to experiencing closeness and intimacy with us – emotionally, spiritually, as well as physically.  

It should remain obvious then, that if we care about our husband’s well-being, if we care about his needs and God-given desires, then we will also care about nourishing a passionate, romantic marriage, and staying attractive to our men.

 

Related: A Woman’s Attractiveness Reflects on Her Husband’s Appeal, Talent, and Ability

Men Need an Attractive Wife

Single Women: You Have the Power in Attracting a Man – Unleash It!

 

Staying Focus: Video Lesson

Back in the beginning of October, I wrote a post about what God had been convicting me of in August and September of this year.  I was encouraged to try to do a video series about what God’s been teaching me, there is something great about getting to hear tone of voice and see a person’s disposition that I believe was missing from my writing.  Writing and words can seem so harsh, and that’s not what I desire to convey here – a harsh message of truth without the love and encouragement of Christ.

 

Bible verses mentioned in video:

“Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above (the heavenly things), not things that are on the earth (which have only temporal value).”  Colossians 3:2 (AMP)

“Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],

Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of [b]scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.
 
And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].

 
The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so,
But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.
 
Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 
For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked shall perish.”  Psalm 1:1-5 (AMP)

Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage]
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity].”  Proverbs 4:25 (AMP)

“For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose].”  Romans 8:5 (AMP)

“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable andworthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely andbrings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, thinkcontinually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”  Philippians 4:8 (AMP)

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character],

Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].”  Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you.”  Psalm 32:8 (AMP)

The [intrinsically] good woman ( text says man) produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure[stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil woman (man)produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for her mouth speaks from the overflow of her heart.”  Luke 6:45 (AMP)

How blessed and favored by God are those whose way is blameless [those with personal integrity, the upright, the guileless],
Who walk in the law [and who are guided by the precepts and revealed will] of the Lord.”  Psalm 119:1 (AMP)

When You Doubt that God Can Use You

Like I’ve written before, this past few months and year has been quite a spiritual journey for me.  I’ve been faced with many lessons, many of my own faults and shortcomings, and with concrete truths that I had started doubting about God and what He can do.

One of things that was brought up was whether or not God could use a person.  Up until the past few months, having grown up in a Christian church and Christian school for many years, I firmly believed that God could and did use whoever He desired to use.  We were taught that anyone could be used from a young age, and taught that if we let Him, and were open to His will, that is was almost impossible for Him to not use us and our life in some way.

When we became pre-teens and teenagers, we heard the message to not let anyone look down on us because of how young we were, not to be discouraged by people who would discount the gift God’s given us, but to know that God often uses the weak to shame the strong, the “foolish” in the world’s eyes to shame the “wise” and learned.  Our faithful and godly teachers and ministers instilled a confidence in us that was beautiful, because it was confidence and faith in God’s power to use whoever He deemed fit for His purposes, no matter what anyone else thought about it.

But recently, I had been doubting these old truths that I grew up understanding.  I had seen older women discourage younger women from ministering to others, and their reasons seemed right at first because they seemed to make logical sense.  The problem is that, God’s ways often don’t make sense to us.  His ways are higher than our ways, He can see things we can’t as He sees the whole picture and into the hearts of people.

Older women were discouraging younger women from fulfilling a calling to encourage others with their words.  Their excuses ranged from telling the women they were just too young, that they didn’t have enough knowledge or wisdom yet in life, that they haven’t lived through enough years and trials to be able to speak to people with God’s wisdom.

They may not have directly said it, but the message was loud and clear:

God probably won’t use you to encourage other women, in fact, because you aren’t in your 50’s, it’s almost certain He won’t.

This is a lie, and a lie that the Enemy wants us to believe so that we don’t even try to live lives that are bold, that are lived by faith for God in helping and encouraging others.

Why bother encouraging other women if you don’t even think you’re old enough to be doing so?  

Why dare to believe God can use you when you believe that you don’t have the necessary qualifications to even be considered?

The Bible is full of people who God chose to use because they were not well equipped, because they didn’t have the necessary qualifications according to other people.  

***

Why did God choose to use people no one else would have picked for the job?  To shame those who think otherwise, to shame those who arrogantly think they know who and how God works, or who He chooses to use for His work.

Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children and produce a people for God, Jacob was a known liar and the younger brother who technically shouldn’t have received the blessing.  Joseph was the younger son and sold into slavery, thrown into prison, and yet became second to Pharaoh.  Moses was a murderer who didn’t speak well or have the gift of speaking, and Joshua was younger than many of the Israelites he led to the Promised land.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Ruth was from a pagan group of people the Hebrews shunned and wouldn’t even let into their households.  David was the youngest son, and not who the people would have agreed would have made a great king at the time He was called.  Esther dealt with fear, inhibition in her spirit, and doubt that God could use her.  And there are MANY more examples in the Bible of people who were normal sinners, just like you and I, people who didn’t meet the “requirements” of others, and yet were used to do great things because they trusted in God and leaned on Him in their faith.

If you ever want to read a Hall of Fame of faith, just read Hebrews chapter 11.

He chose people who were not what other people would have chosen, to show His glory through the weak, smaller, younger, less accomplished people He so frequently picked to use.  He looked at people’s hearts, and even when everyone else thought God had a strange and flat out wrong pick, His will prevailed and His purposes came to pass.

It was amazing the amount of discouragement I’ve witnessed towards younger women to fulfill their calling in encouraging other single or married women.  I want to do the opposite here, I want to remind you that God can use anyone He wants.

When we discourage others in this way, we are telling them untruths, and therefore not doing the work of God.  When we discourage young women from growing in their calling of encouraging other women, we are discouraging the work of God to continue in their hearts, doesn’t that sound like something the Enemy himself would want?  Are we letting ourselves do HIS work then, instead, when we discourage others from their calling?

As a result, the person that is discouraged by usually someone older, may end up harboring doubts in her heart that God can or would use her.  She may fall into bitterness, anger, or resentment as she sees God using other people instead of her.  She may become spiritually wounded as a result of someone she believes is godly, discouraging her calling, and rendered ineffective for God to use any longer.  Her heart may become so spiritually wounded and discouraged to where she even mocks the fact that God can and often does use other women like her to do a ministry!  She may even believe that what they are doing, is not a ministry.  Planting those seeds of doubt that God can or would ever use her, doubt that she can be used while not in her 50’s to encourage other women, is evil and not godly.  It is the most horrible thing that I’ve actually witnessed here online that I’ve never witnessed anywhere else, that older women actively discouraging younger women to allow themselves to be used by God to encourage others.

***

We are actually all called to encourage one another, and biblically speaking, every believer becomes a type of minister by how they live their life as a witness to others, and in sharing their life experiences.

I’ll never forget when I was 10, I felt a strong, deep calling to be a missionary of some kind.  I had heard a missionary from India speak at our school, and the love for ministering and helping others was planted deeply in my heart.  I wanted God to use me, and my heart was fertile ground for Him to do so.  When I was 12 or 13, I publicly promised myself to be used by God in whatever way He would do so.  At 17, in my junior year, I felt called to be in the ministry (not as a pastor, I don’t believe women should hold that ministry position, but someone working for a ministry or missionary team), and talked with our family pastor about whether or not I could know for sure if this was right and from God.  He assured me that we were all called to be a minister to others the day we became Christian, He assured me that wherever God wanted me, He would use me to minister to other people, that the most important thing for me to do was to be open to His will in my life, and go where He leads me.  This was so encouraging to me and prompted me to read and study everything harder, and be open and very attentive to God’s leading.

I cannot imagine what would have happened to my faith if my pastor had actively discouraged me, telling me that I was too young to minister to others with my life, or that I didn’t have enough experience, or that I had to wait until I was in my fifties and not ovulating anymore to be used by God to encourage other women to love their husbands and children.

You do not have to be a certain age for God to use you.

You do not have to be older, post-menopausal (which can occur in someone’s late-30’s or early 60’s), or a blood-relative to be able to encourage and minister to women if God wants to use you to do this.

There are examples all over our world of women who do not fit these narrow-minded, specific and false “qualifications” for ministering to other women.

You do not have to have experienced every kind of trial for God to use you.

Just recently, I received an email from an amazing woman that has been used to reach 1,000’s of other women through her online ministry.  She assured me that all of our experiences are different, but that sharing them is beneficial and important because it might speak to where a certain woman is in her life at that moment.  Her encouragement was so beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes after what has seemed like months of receiving insults, mocking, and criticism leading me to feel discouraged in being used for God.

Having gone through trials is important and very helpful for producing more empathy, but it’s not something that disqualifies a person from God using them to encourage others who are going through trials.

As I walk and continue to grow spiritually, clinging to God, there will be trials in my life that God will continue to use if I stay open to Him using me, don’t become discouraged, and don’t doubt His power in my or other people’s lives.

And there will be trials in YOUR life, but as you work through those trials, clinging to God, He will be able to use them, sometimes even when you’re going through them, to minister to others, helping them want to draw nearer to God.

Be bold in your faith, stand firm, and don’t let ANYONE tell you that God can or will not use you to encourage others.

Don’t let ANYONE, even if you think they appear godly and wise, to discourage God’s pull on your life to encourage others by placing unbiblical requirements like human boundaries around what they think God uses or does.

Stand firm, cling to God, deal with others (especially your opposition or critics) with kindness and humility, understanding that they are blind or walking in spiritual darkness.

God loves you, and He can use your experiences!

 

Staying Focus: Having Joy in Spite Of

joyinspiteof

I feel like I’ve learned so many little lessons from not only this Joy study itself, but the many different things in my life during this time.  It’s amazing to experience God’s peace and joy, even in the midst of things that would seem negative, things that normally would rob one of joy or happiness or peace.

This week, we’ve been learning how to practice having joy in spite of difficult or less than desirable circumstances.  This journey over the past few months has truly grown me and stretched me, to where I’m not even the same person I was a few months ago.  I’ve heard so many messages now on what God was pressing on my heart – Staying Focus – and so many gifts of wisdom from people in my life on how to respond in better, more Christ-like ways to attacks and accusations.

I don’t retaliate anymore when I’m tempted to.  I don’t try to fight back in ways that only make matters worse.  I don’t give in to feeling ashamed when Satan uses people to bring up my past failures, things I’ve already apologized for and reconciled with them about.  I know God’s used my past failures to help me learn how to respond better in my life, and that I’m fully covered in His grace.  There is no more condemnation for my past failings.  And I know how to spot Satan’s attempts at stealing my joy – they don’t even work anymore – when he tries to condemn me for things I’ve already been forgiven for.  I know I’m covered in God’s grace, and feel no condemnation!  I still have joy 🙂

Now I actually celebrate and am actually a little excited to see insults and slander, not because of it or the pain it does cause me, but because I have the renewed chance to respond the right way this time.  To do things right.  Even last night, I decided to pray for someone that was obviously acting without self-control… again, and trying to cause harm by what she thought was a good plan at retaliation at feeling wronged.  It was exciting for me to know and decide right then at that moment, that I would not retaliate, and that I would pass that test God was giving me to learn how to deal better with sinful people.

I decided not to retaliate with insults or accusations of her past wrongs, or attacks like the last time I failed this test.  I decided I was going to forgive her, again, pray for her, and thank God for what she was doing and saying.  Sometimes we have to forgive people multiple times because they keep allowing Satan to use them.  But my reaction last night, is a far cry from what I would have done just a few months ago.  And that’s amazing!

It’s something to celebrate!  So I’m celebrating this week, for doing something I never would have been able to do with such grace this time last year.  I’m celebrating for the progress and maturity this means for me.  I’m celebrating because in passing this test, I’ll be able to move to the next level with God and be ready for whatever He has for me there.

So be encouraged readers!!  Have joy – joy in spite of.

Morning Adventures

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Yesterday morning, we went for a walk at one of our old haunts and favorite places.  It’s an outdoor mall in our city that I’ve been coming to for years.  The mall actually had it’s opening day on my birthday back in 2005, and has a rich history of our particular romance & love story.

It was a nice, cooler-than-it-looked day, and the beauty of the surroundings, especially in the late morning lighting, was just captivating to me.  You’d think after so many years, it would feel too familiar, but the familiarity seems to only endear me to it even more so.

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I think it’s good to get kids out to see the beauty of nature, whether it’s hiking, swimming in a lake or the ocean, walking on a trail or the beach, it’s just one of those things that replenishes my own joy and happiness… but seeing them enjoy it – seeing the baby captivated by the different sounds and sights of nature, is really incredible!

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The flowers everywhere still in bloom, the greenery, the vines cascading down from the roofs of the buildings… just a breathtaking place to be in the morning.  Definitely changes one’s attitude or mood if needed.

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I was talking to a sweet, older gentleman yesterday about how we’re having such a late fall here in Texas.  Everything still looks slightly like Summer, but we’re enjoying the cooler weather, me in particular, getting to wear sweaters and boots finally.

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I loved seeing this couch with the holiday pillows and wine glasses.  Reminds me of Christmas and cocktail parties that come in December.

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This red chair, along with the holiday pillow, makes it’s own statement.  So much style.

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And then we went to our favorite cooking store, when you open the doors, the intoxicating smell of delicious foods overwhelm you for a moment and leave your mouth watering.

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This woman was in the middle of cooking a delicious turkey meal, giving us some samples of Thanksgiving delights for a quick brunch.

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We have a special area my older son always loved to go see, it has clocks that tell the time of different places around the world.  We used to love going to the section and staring at the different times, and I’d explain to him what the people were probably doing in that part of the world – sleeping, eating dinner, or just waking up!  It was a romantic exercise 🙂

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I’m using my father’s camera now.  My mom thought it was a good idea to give it to me since he hasn’t (and probably won’t) be ever using it again. 😥  It took me a while before even wanting to take it out of the box. It’s a nice camera… but using it was an admission that there’s something really wrong with him, that he’s not the same as he used to be.

It does take better pictures than my old one, and maybe a part of him can be memorialized in the beauty it captures.  But it’s still a tragic change to me.

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Stay Focus: An Unexpected Sermon Series on This Topic

I’ve talked with friends before about how they knew when God was communicating something specific to them, and many times, they would receive the same message in a multitude of little ways, and from different people who would unknowingly speak the very same thing aloud what they’d been feeling God tell them.

At the beginning of September, after finding myself completely derailed emotionally and mentally, and drawn off a path that was beneficial to my husband, family and general purpose in doing God’s will, I felt God plainly show me that He wanted me to “stay focus.”  Here is an excerpt from what I was learning at that time,

With every choice we make, we are saying “yes” to something, and then also “no” to something else.

When I choose to say “Yes” to reading something ugly or passive aggressive, I’m saying “No” to something that is positive or uplifting, something righteous and from God that could have helped me on my path.  When I travel down that road of entertaining things that stem from other people’s unrighteousness, I’m straying off the course that I’m supposed to be on, that God desires me to stay on.

When I was finally convicted of this constant temptation to stray off the path of being focused on the purpose of my life, God’s Will for my life, it came after a long, wonderful evening with my parents when I was driving home on a long stretch of open highway as the sun was setting and dusk was appearing.  The wonder of the peaceful silence, the lack of cars around me, and the speed of the highway suddenly propelled my thoughts as God pricked my conscience that this was what He wanted me to do at this time.  To stay focus.

There were many exits I was passing that could lead me to places other than my purposed destination, but they would only distract me from getting to my goal (home), and finding rest and sleep – renewal and rejuvenation.  These off-roads would delay me in my journey, and pro-long my eventual arrival.  And so it is with distractions and temptations to stray off onto tangents in our spiritual journey, or to go down roads we were never meant to travel.

When I got home, I drew out the picture I saw in my head of a road going straight that was my purpose and God’s Will for my life, and little roads that led off of it in different directions.  I named each of these little roads that led me down unrighteous paths, and each one, as I drew it out and named it, suddenly became so convicting to me how wrong it actually was, and how much of a sinful distraction it was to living a righteous, purposeful, and productive life!  The beauty of it’s clarity was breathtaking, and this picture has been burned into my mind ever since.

About a month after focusing on this idea, I felt God telling me and convicting me to “stay focus,” and to look up verses in His Word that talk about exactly that, meditate and really internalize all that it means, I suddenly heard a sermon series by an awesome black preacher my husband used to listen to in the early mornings when driving to work.  My husband just loved this man, and he looked forward to learning from him every morning, but since it was earlier than I was in the car (back when I was working) I never had the chance to be in the car to hear him when he was preaching.  Now that I hear him at a certain time in the afternoon, this message suddenly pricked my conscience and alligned with exactly what God was telling me called Unrecognizable (you can listen to it here, it’s divided into parts 1-4).  The message from the pastor was so shockingly similar to what God had already been telling me, and came on air the day after I wrote my first post sharing what God had already been showing me for the past month; it was either a strange (very strange) coincidence, or God trying to expand on this lesson in my life.

Either way, some of the notes I got from the sermons were just incredible in aligning with the verses I’d already looked up and started applying to my daily life.  Here are some take aways from the sermon series that I found helpful in staying focused:

-When in a changing Season of Metamorphosis – God is working on changing you from the inside out… the Pastor talks about Joseph, and how through the years he went through different trials, He became unrecognizable to his brothers who had been his enemies and had spent the first 17 years of his life with him.  When you just follow God, and do what He is leading you to do right now, where you are, no matter how dire your circumstances, He will still be with you.

-God is transforming me during this season, and God calls me to become focused during this time, focused on what really matters to Him, and in my life right now, where I am serving in my family and community

-God will bless and transform me so much that I will be unrecognizable to those who sought to destroy me, were against me, falsely testified against me to try to ruin my reputation, or tried to discount any wisdom I have from God.

-God called me before my condition was taken into account.  God doesn’t call us to disciple people who are “pretty good” in the first place, it is God’s calling that is going to bring about His purpose in our life.  God will take us from wherever we are, to where we need to be (we obviously help this process by obeying and staying focused).

-Joseph was called to be a Difference Maker.  The fact that he was spoiled or bratty didn’t matter, God made His mind up about Him long before he was even in existence.  Nothing in earth or hell can prevent God’s purpose in your life.

-The message is basically to not focus on people who are against you, lying about you, opposing you for whatever reason they come up with in their minds. We shouldn’t focus on what  they’re doing or what they did, backstabbing, betrayal, twisting your words, publicly trying to smear my reputation.  These things are painful, yes, but don’t spend so much time thinking on them.

-You don’t want to engage with “little people” – which are actually people who cannot rejoice with you when you’re succeeding beyond what they ever did.  You can’t tell big dreams to little people.  They don’t have the emotional, relational, or spiritual maturity to handle God blessing you more than what He’s blessing them, they can only mourn with you when you mourn, not rejoice with you when you succeed beyond what they’re comfortable with.

-Little people will act supportive of you when you fail, but will not rejoice with you when you are succeeding more than them.  They are people who are FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS.  They can only support you under certain conditions.  All of us must learn not to get close to these kinds of people… they will turn hurtful and will become treacherous for you.

-They cannot bring themselves to be in your life for your own good, they can only be in your life when it serves their own purpose.  We need to be able to let these kinds of people go, not have them in our inner circle of people we trust.  Little people will backstabb or even betray you when it benefits them… you don’t need this in your life, not only will it draw you off your focus, it is unnecessary and painful.

-You’ve never shocked God – the things that happen in your life don’t ever shock Him.  Just because something horrible happens to you, your reputation is tarnished by someone else’s lies about you, it doesn’t mean that God throws up His hands and says, “Well, that’s it!  Can’t use them anymore!”  He is never shocked by what happens to you, especially when it comes by the hand of treacherous fair-weather friends or even family members like what Joseph had.

-Shake off the shock of someone you liked or admired suddenly becoming treacherous to you (betraying you), trying to falsely testify against you or twist your words, being shown to be a deceitful person.  Some people are treacherous or crazy, and that’s normal, you can’t change them or hope that they’ll do the right thing by you.  They are dysfunctional.

-When you try to make sense of what they did – when they seemed like a good person or smart or a good friend, you are not “staying focused.”  When you do this, you take your eye off of what God wants you to be focusing on, so that He can develop you and transform you.

-The pastor relates it constantly to Joseph’s trials and how he never let his circumstances or the way evil people treated him distract him from doing the right thing and from staying focused on being godly.  God blessed his faithfulness and focus, with giving Him favor.

-Get your eyes and your mind off of people and the devil… off of your circumstances that are unjust and don’t belly-ache about what’s going on in your life.

-It’s a time to get focused.

-When you’re going through a season where everything is brand new, you’re realizing things you hadn’t before, part of the process of God taking you to an unfamiliar place is so that He can transform you.

-This pastor had the “urge” and the “nudgings” that this message was a prophetic utterance and will be meant for some specific people who are listening.

-It’s time to get serious about letting God bless you right where you are – even if you feel like what you’re doing has little importance or is little noticed.  Honor God right where you are.  Just be faithful where you are – doing what you are doing in your life – being a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a woman giving in the community.

-Focus on doing the best where you are placed.  Even when Joseph was a slave, he obeyed and God had favor on him that even Potiphar was able to spot.

-Serve where you are in a Spirit of Excellence.  Do everything that you are doing like you are doing it for God, because you are!

Avoid pitfalls at all costs.  For me this means to stay on the path God wants me to stay on – not traveling down into areas that distract me from goodness or what I should be doing.  Don’t engage with people who have proven themselves to be treacherous or deceitful.  Don’t even communicate with them.

Satan often uses Christians to speak his lies to or about other Christians (hence Peter when he tried to rebuke Christ, and Jesus called him “Satan”).  You’ve got to quit looking at a Christian giving them the benefit of the doubt, and trusting that they’re saying something right when it’s obvious that they’re wrong.  You have to realize that there is a demon force that uses even Christians.  If they aren’t walking in the spirit, aren’t discerning what they’re doing, can open their mouths and speak what the enemy wants to say to you – to destroy you.

You have to have enough discernment that when you are talking to a Christian, to know if the enemy is using them to accomplish his evil will in your life.  We have to learn to watch who we talk to.  Because these people wanted to kill Joseph, and then see what would come of his dreams… you have to be discerning.

-When you find someone who can only hang with you in private, but can’t go on the record to support you in public, who won’t let you be slandered in public, they have no business in your inner circle.  You have to discern who you have with you.  Do not associate with people who bait you in private only to use your own words against you (twisting it to mean what they want it to mean), in order to ruin your reputation.

You can’t use fair-weather friends, you need friends that will stand with you in public – that will speak out for you when you’re being slandered against.  You need people who will stand with you through thick or thin.

-God requires us to become more discerning about the people who we have in our life.  You have to decide that you are through with folk who say they are “behind” you, they are often so far back behind you that you can’t see them.  They’ll let and even watch the enemy beat you down, torture you, or have a parade before they ever jump in.

-You have to learn to be discerning because you’re in a spiritual battle.  God is making a trophy out of you, that he might declare through you His praises.  And the enemy is trying to mock that.  You are in a season of Metamorphosis.  He has cocooned you – not everyone can come into a cocoon.  A cocoon is where God is doing a work that is so intimate in your life, because He’s transforming things, and when you come out, the Enemy won’t even know who you are.

-Joseph had to become focused because he had to discern that God didn’t want him to focus on other people.  He could have spent years focused on what happened to him with his brothers.  But he wouldn’t have been successful that way – focusing on the wrong thing, would have led him off course of where God wanted him to be traveling.

-We need to quit romanticizing Christians.  Just because someone says they’re saved doesn’t mean that they’re safe, they’re non-toxic, that they don’t slander others.  You have to watch what they say to you, how they treat you as their brother or sister in Christ.  Are they trying to make you better or say horrible things to you that are words from Satan?  Are they acting godly toward you or allowing Satan to use them?  If you want to meet Satan, hang around Christians, he uses them sometimes more often than he uses regular people!

Staying Focused in the Valley

-God is with you, even when you don’t like where you are, and He will protect you while you’re here.  He will protect you and even help you get to where you’re going, even when it looks like you’re traveling backward.

-You can prosper even when people are trying to ruin your reputation.  You can prosper in a trial or personal trouble, God is with you right where you are.  Like Joseph, you can prosper in a place you don’t like to be in.  You can prosper being overlooked and disrespected.  You can prosper while folk are taking credit for things you did.  You can prosper raising your kids through their different seasons of life.  God will give you grace to accomplish these things and prosper.

-Joseph didn’t just prosper when you see him up in the palace, Joseph prospered as a slave.  Because he wanted to be an excellent servant, God had favor on him that was visible to everyone.  The Lord showed Himself through Joseph’s excellence.

-When you have God’s favor on your life, in your life, people won’t be able to stand it.  You will see haters rise up – that’s what they do – they don’t like seeing somebody prosper.  Don’t even try to explain it or explain yourself to them.  Joseph was focused enough where the favor of the Lord came over him.  We need to understand the importance of “focus” because I’m convinced some of us are focused on the wrong things and wrong people.

-We need to be focused on serving God and doing His will, on pleasing God right where we are, taking care of the matters that He wants us to take care of, and leave the results with Him.

-We need to have the single-minded pursuit of that goal, of wanting to please God.

Staying Focus: Guarding Against Despair

-Joseph had to be focused on becoming an excellent servant, because he couldn’t do anything about many of the circumstances he was in, he couldn’t change them – so he allowed God to develop in him a spirit of excellence.

-In order to stay focused, there are many things we have to avoid – there are some people that we just can’t spend any more time with because it takes us away from our focus.  They might be distracting us or tempting us to sin, or being used by Satan, so they become pitfalls for us.  Avoiding them is the right thing to do, but ignoring them or avoiding them actually makes those kinds of people angry, and even more likely to attack using false accusations like Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph.  They will be even more likely to try to ruin our reputation, because we won’t give them the time of day.

-It was harder for Potiphar to realize the evil influence of his wife, than to get rid of the good, godly influence of Joseph.  You have to realize that for some people who are close to evil Christians, it will be harder for them to acknowledge their evil than to shun your good influence in that place.  Where evil rules the day – where evil Christians are allowed to be leaders or in positions of authority, your good influence will not be tolerated, they will ban you because you’re speaking truth about the evil person that they don’t want to get rid of.  They’d rather keep the evil person, than keep you and your good words and good influence.

-Accept all of the above and be ok with it.  That’s also part of staying focused.  Joseph could have been upset for years after having been thrown out of Potiphar’s house even though he did nothing wrong, instead, he excelled as a prisoner.  God’s favor didn’t leave him, just because Potiphar (a good man) wanted to hold on to the evil person more than he wanted to hold on to a godly one.  How do you think Potiphar fared though, after letting go of Joseph?  All he had after that was his evil, adulterous wife.  Let Christians who want to hold on to evil influences, have their evil influences.  They are rejecting what is right, rejecting what is good and pure, and God sees it all, it doesn’t escape His notice that they are calling evil good, and what is good (your influence) evil.

-Joseph had to also guard against despair.  Sometimes we think the end-all – the most important thing in life – is justice.  Finding yourself punished or your reputation destroyed because of something you didn’t do,   Injustice is wrong… however, God can still take you, place you in an unjust situation, still get glory from it, and still get you to where you are going.

-When folks are wrong, you can tell them they’re wrong, this is not about being weak or wimpy Christians.  Where you have the ability, use your power and your ability to bring about justice for you and for others.  But in this world, you’re not always going to get justice – people will do wrong by you, and they will get away with it or at least appear to.  Justice will not always be your reality.

-Instead of Potiphar’s wife getting in trouble for lying about Joseph, Joseph got in trouble.  And he stayed in jail not for weeks, not for months, but for years – and God allowed that.  God can work through injustice, to bring His purpose to pass.

-Make sure you’re guarding against despair – don’t look at all the injustice in your life, the people who did wrong to you, etc.  I’d rather have favor from God than fairness from man.  Joseph stayed focused and didn’t give in to despair when he was wronged, he continued on and the Lord was with him.  He practiced the presence of God.

-You need to trust in God, and every morning wake up and trust that His Will will be done in our life.  No time for despair, there are people to serve and work to be done.  Even though things aren’t the way we wished it was in our life – we’re still alright.  We’re still alive and ok.  We may not have all the opportunities we want, all the money we want, but God hasn’t forsaken me.  I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken by God.

-We can spend all our time about how unfair things are, but that’s getting off focus.  Give it over to God, He knows what they did, He knows what they said, He knows who’s plotted against you – keep giving it over to God.  Despair is something that can keep coming back, you have to keep warding it off.  Despair can envelop you if you let it, but that is a major distraction from your purpose.  Depression, bitterness and anger, loneliness, and fear are all emotions of despair that are going down a horrible road leading you far off from your purpose.

-Joseph didn’t feel like being in jail… for years… but he had to learn to practice the presence of God even in jail.  The Spirit of the Lord will still be with you, and you can praise your way through unjust circumstances.

-How could Joseph get Potiphar’s wife punished for what she did to him?  He couldn’t.  There was no way for him to get justice, he wasn’t even Egyptian, he had no rights at all.  There are some circumstances where you have no control at all over the injustice that will happen to you, evil people will get away with looking like victims or like righteous Christians.  Evil Christians will get away with slandering you to others, lying about what really happened, and there will be no way for you to even remotely defend yourself or have a fair chance.