“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
Over the past 12 months so much has happened, it’s difficult not to take a minute to reminisce. I’m not one for grandiose new year’s resolutions however I am a strong believer in new beginnings. Each new day, each moment can be a new beginning. Christ’s birth was the beginning of human redemption, a new beginning for everyone.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3
This year has brought growth, and restoration, it has brought blessings and challenges (also blessings but messier); through it all God has remained Sovereign! I am constantly reminded that through it all (and I mean ALL) God is, and will always be sovereign, His hand is on everything and in everything.
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-12
It seems natural on January 1st that we look ahead; what will this next year hold for us, what will we do differently, what will define who we are, who we want to be, how will we grow? I have been thinking over the past several weeks what this year will mean for me and my family. The one word that continues to come to my heart is simplicity.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-15
This year I start back to school to complete my Theological studies after an almost 15 year hiatus. I continue in my role on staff at Tucson Central Church working alongside God’s people in obedience and expectation of the amazing things He will accomplish, humbled that I get to be part of it.
If I have any words of encouragement to offer it is this, you are not alone. The sovereign God of the universe is deeply in love with you. He cares about the large and small things in your life, in fact there is nothing too large or to small to escape His notice or his attention. There is nothing you are going through now or that you may go through in the future that He can not handle, if you let Him.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Challenges come in many forms, none of which are unique, all of which have been experienced before. I don’t say that to in any way minimize your struggles, but to give you hope in the knowledge that you are not alone, that you can find comfort in knowing that whatever challenge you are facing, they have been faced and overcome through God’s faithfulness.
My challenge to you, to all of us, is to lean on God’s promises more than ever before. If we did that one thing, simply put God first, then all else will fall into place, His place, which is far better than anything we could do on our own.
I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20
Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me“. Hear the words he is saying, Being crucified with Christ means that we have partaken with Him in His death and resurrection. We have been made a new creation, and now instead of living as we were, being who we were it is Christ who lives in us. We are to identify ourselves with this single statement, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Can you come up with any greater statement of worth? If then we no longer live but Christ lives in us, shouldn’t we then live as He lived, love as He loved and give as He gave?
I have noticed that people who understand and know their value, I mean really know their value, always (and I mean always) value other people. It’s like knowing who you are gives you permission to treat those around you with respect and dignity. People who know who they are in Christ don’t need to establish a pecking order or earn respect via their status, appearance or possessions. They know who they are, so that kind of attention doesn’t matter to them.
In Matthew, Jesus is asked by the pharisees’, “what is the greatest commandment”, to which Jesus replies. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 28:34-40
I have had the opportunity to share this scripture several times over the past week and it continues to inspire me. Jesus is stating that you love God first, (yes Betsy we all know that part) but second is not to love others, as it is often quoted. The second part is to, “love your neighbor AS YOURSELF“. Yes, my dear ones, we are to love ourselves, we are to know our worth, only from loving God first and knowing who He is can we know who we are and thereby be able to love others.
This statement needs to ring true for all of us, regardless of where we are in life, what we face, what we’ve done, how much money we have or don’t have. You matter! Knowing who you are, really knowing who you are is the key to being able to show Christ’s love for others. Christ died for us, He died for you. You are worth more to Him than you could ever imagine. You should never settle for less than what you know God would want for you.
I want to shout out to several of my dear friends, and to some others that I know this is meant for. If you are currently struggling with a decision, I would ask you to consider the situation as if Jesus was physically standing there with you. Not because I want you to feel guilty, on the contrary, I want you to see the love on Jesus face as you make your choices. What decision would you make then, standing face to face with your Savior, knowing how much He loves you? How might that change the way you chose?
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
“Keep a close watch on all you do and think. Stay true to what is right and God will bless you and use you to help others.” 1 Timothy 4:16
These words from Paul to Timothy ring true for each of us. Keep a close watch on all you do and think, and then stay true to what is right. If we do this God will bless us and use us to help others…wow.
I shared earlier how important it is to keep our thoughts focused on what is good. We can’t let our sinful nature take up residence in our thoughts and never leave. Our thoughts often hold us hostage to the point that we are paralyzed, rendered useless not only to ourselves but to others. We are so caught up in our own issues and troubles that we stop looking around us.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
I suffer from night terrors. (Now that’s an awesome way to start a blog.) It’s not something that I like to share as they make me feel like a helpless child unable to overcome my silly fears. They started the summer before I began my freshman year of high school. It was during the summer and my father was traveling quite a bit. The anticipation of which would throw me totally out of whack. My dad made me feel safe, secure and basically untouchable. When he wasn’t there, I was a wreck.
This particular summer my night terrors began. I couldn’t sleep alone, I would sneak down the hall to my parents room and sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. When my dad was away I would sleep with my mom. The thought of being alone in my room would cause me such anxiety that I would physically shake in fear. This went on all summer and finally my parents had to draw a line. I was terrified, I cried, shook, had a hard time breathing but they were standing firm. This couldn’t go on. I sat on my bed wrapped in several blankets with the light on…I grabbed a book to take my mind off and started to read. Yup…I took my mind off of my fears and anxieties, and started to read. I read till I fell asleep.
Fast forward A LOT of years to present day. Now as a grown up with my oldest starting high school, guess what happened…yup night terrors. I will wake up in a sweat shaking in fear about anything and everything. Did you ever realize how much worse things seem in the dark, when you’re tired and uncertain. It has been awful! I felt like I was tired all the time, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t function. I was trying to fall asleep with the TV on hoping that the light and distraction would help. Sometimes it did, often it did not.
About a month ago, while I was lying awake in my bed, trying to pray myself out of this ridiculous fear, I remembered something one of the youth had said about something going on in their life that was causing them anxiety. So, I began to pray for them, that they would feel God’s peace and love. That led me to the struggles of another one of my youth, then a friend I had prayed for at church and a woman in my small group. The more I prayed for OTHERS the more Christ’s peace rested in me.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
I truly wish I could express the experience! Focusing on someone else brought me peace and freedom like nothing I had experienced before. I was allowing my anxieties, and the fears in my head to holding me hostage. The moment I turned away from MY fears and toward the Holy Spirit’s leading I was rescued from my anxiety. Now whenever I find my thoughts creeping to places that they shouldn’t, or old fears creeping in, I focus on others, specifically I pray. I listen to who the Spirit brings to my heart and I lift them up. The fears fade and Christ’s peace fills my heart.
It may not be this way for everyone. Each of us have a call on our lives. I know many people who have been called to minister to the poor, sit by a bedside in a hospital, work with individuals struggling with addiction, or evangelizing on the streets. In each of these I recognize a similar peace that comes from an altered focus. A shift of perspective from oneself to others.
Doing life together means that we are constantly and consistently holding each other up. We are seeking out opportunities to put others before ourselves, to come along side and link arms and move forward together. We weren’t created to exist on a desert island, we were created to be in community, working together to share the good news and to glorify God.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
Your identity is in Christ.
That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.
In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.
No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.
Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23
It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.
God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.
“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God” Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.
All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7
I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.
Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.
“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17
“Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods’ will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
It was an ordinary day, my alarm clock went off at 5:00 am, I hit snooze, (I can actually hit snooze 3 times and still get out the door on time). I get up, feed the dog, go into the boy’s room and turn on the light then the girl’s room, making sure everyone’s eyes are open and they are moving out of bed before heading to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.
I continue to keep my cadre of kiddos moving so we can get out of the house on time. During all this activity, as I keep myself and the family moving you would never guess that something ugly has taken up residence in my mind…and I’m letting it live there…rent free.
How often do we allow thoughts in our head to take up residence and literally consume our brain to the point that our thoughts spin out of control and eventually take us with them? Perhaps it’s something that happened during the day that you haven’t been able to get past, or a conversation you had with your spouse, or the flirtatious comment from a coworker that you can’t seem to stop replaying in your head. In my case it was something that I took to heart, that probably wasn’t meant the way I took it, but it made me doubt myself, question every action I had taken. So I second guess every decision, replay conversations in my head, how should I have said this or done that. Before you know it, not only are you questioning that interaction but every subsequent one. You begin to question yourself, your value, your very viability…sound familiar?
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:22-27
When we allow (and yes, it is a choice, we do allow it) our minds to be consumed by worldly thoughts and cares we are not following Gods will for our lives. Not to mention, we are giving Satan the reins.
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-44
This is NOT how Christ wants us to live! He wants us to live free from the thoughts that enslave our lives and hold us hostage to the past, to sin, and to death. However, we seem all too willing to allow these thoughts to take up residence in our minds and control our lives. They are the thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t loved, that we are beyond grace, and that we’ve fallen too far for God to redeem. Guess what, they are LIES!
While talking with my son and some of his friends at church, one of them asked me, “how can you tell if it’s God talking to you and not the devil?” It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. A very wise man once told me that the best way to know God’s voice is to know God’s word. The Bible tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability, and will always provide us a way out, (1 Corinthians 10:13). It also tells us that we need to focus our thoughts on higher and nobler things, (Philippians 4:8).
It’s not just a matter of keeping broken thoughts out of our minds but filling it with whole thoughts. Thoughts that are uplifting, holy and pleasing to God. “Well gee Betsy what does that look like?” Well I’ll tell ya, when we focus our thoughts on the gifts God has given us, our lives, our families, the many blessings and promises He has made, who He is and His love for us, then there is no room for doubt, lies and shame.
I have found that in those times when my mind is bombarded with doubts, that focusing on who God is, and who I am in Him, works as the best eviction notice.
” For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
Knowing God’s word helps me to recognize His voice. Being able to recognize His voice enables me to know when it’s Him in my thoughts. Christ wants us to know Him, to recognize His presence in our lives. He wants residence in our hearts and minds, and He paid the price to be there.
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.
I feel the need to take a break from my normal rants to share a burden I feel. Recently I read about a young pastor in California who committed suicide. He was in his 30’s I believe, a husband and father; a beautiful family photo accompanied the article. I was dumbfounded. How is this possible? How can a man, that man in the photo, a man who dedicated his life to serving God, chose to end his life?
I am well acquainted with the hardships and trials of this world; having lost both a husband in a tragic car accident and a daughter after a long and painful battle with cancer. You can’t go through life without experiencing some form of pain and loss; however I don’t believe it’s the pain and loss that is causing so many people in our world to choose to end their suffering…it’s the loneliness.
I get to work with a group of wonderful youth, and they have had more than their fair share of struggles. I watch in amazement as they pull themselves up and continue to move forward each day, it’s truly incredible the resilience they have. However, as they get older what I see is an increased sense of isolation. The more ‘connected’ they are, the less connected they feel. They have 438 friends on Facebook, 397 followers on Twitter and Instagram, but no one to pick up the phone and talk to when they need a listening ear. They post, text, snapchcat and tweet and dozens if not hundreds of people will give a thumbs up or a smiley face, but none are a familiar voice, hug, smile or shoulder.
As we continue to age and move into the ‘real world’ the isolation increases in corresponding measure to the pressures of life; succeed, make an impact, increase profits, and look like we walked off the cover of a fashion magazine. We need to have the right college degree, the right job, make enough money to drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, etc., etc., etc. Now this is not a middle class issue, at all socioeconomic levels of our country there’s an isolation factor. We don’t want our neighbors to know we can’t afford groceries or that our child struggles with an eating disorder. We don’t want the school to put us on the list for donated clothes or to know that we don’t have a cell phone.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11
This concept that no matter who we are, or what we do, we’ll never be enough is driving our nation crazy, quite literally. I read recently that children of this generation (Millennial) experience the same level of mental stress as adults did in the 1950’s who were being institutionalized! WHAT!!!
The pressure we put ourselves and our children under is much higher than it’s ever been before. However, I still believe that it’s the isolation that causes us to break. Humans are social beings we crave interaction, intimacy and human contact. We seem to be missing these in our culture right now; in a world where we can instantaneously contact someone, send a message get an immediate response back; communication has become transactional not relational.
This vibrant young man reminded me of recent conversations I’ve had with several friends; some at church and some at work. Each of them have struggles that they don’t feel comfortable sharing. Some of them because of their position at work, some of them because they fear the reaction of those around them, and some because of the stigma attached. I myself struggle with several of these, all of which isolate me from most of the people in my life.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1Corinthians 12:26
I can’t tell you how many times I longed for a breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a friend just to share my thoughts with, and I know it’s not just me. I know there are literally millions of people in the world whose lives would be exponentially better because of a phone call, a drop by, or a surprise pumpkin spice latte (had to put that in there).
If each of us took just a few extra minutes during the day, let’s say 10, (everyone can find 10 minutes) to reach out to someone in our circle and let them know how important they are, that you are there for them, that they are loved and valued…you may be surprised at the result. You may be surprised to find one of your friends thanking you, because that was exactly what they needed to hear…you may be surprised to find you saved someone’s life.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-7
I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.