Rivers of Living Water – A Devotional Journey to Intimacy with God

cropped-rivers-of-living-water-cover.jpgSeveral years ago, I began spending regular time meditating in the Word of God. I started with favorite verses, then expanded into beloved passages, and then grew into entire books. Meditation led to greater hunger to know the One who both wrote, and was revealed, in His Book. It has been said that the Scriptures were meant to lead us into an encounter with God. I can say with certainty this was indeed my experience.

About three to four years ago, I felt a desire rise up deep within me; something that had been long buried in the dirt of childhood dreams. I remember developing a love of writing as far back as elementary school, and my senior year English teacher telling me I had the potential to be a writer. These memories began to visit me, beckoning me to step out in faith and see what God would do. With much fear and trepidation, and the encouragement of some dear friends, I began the arduous task of turning my private journals of sweet moments with my Lord, into what would become the fulfillment of a life-long dream – my first book.

Just over two years ago, I finally held the finished product – the culmination of hours, days, weeks, and months of writing, editing, reading, editing, reading, and editing some more, until I thought I would never get done. But I did. And now, I am so very proud of myself, and grateful to those sweet friends for their relentless encouragement and prayers. You can purchase copies at any online book retailer, or get a signed, discounted copy directly from me.

To purchase a signed copy directly from me, fill out the following Google form and I will contact you via email.  https://goo.gl/forms/RJ2ccMPs3VmroIaA2

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The Struggle to Embrace Change

leaves-changing-colors_pan_24685We human beings are very resistant to change. Have you ever noticed this about yourself or about others? We will come up with a host of excuses why we shouldn’t (or can’t) change, or go through a myriad of negative emotions when change occurs that is outside of our control. It seems it is one of the most difficult things for us to do without dread, fear, reluctance, hesitation, complaining, etc. It seems innately ingrained in us that we do not want to change. I admit I don’t like it. For one, it is difficult. Old habits die hard. The longer the habit, the harder it is to break it. It doesn’t matter if the habit is as simple as our morning routine, or as difficult as changing jobs or moving away from home.

During my years in ministry, I often encountered this resistance in people who said they were desperate to be free. One lady told me on the phone she had battled depression for over 20 years and tearfully said she was desperate to be free from this torment. But during our 2nd or 3 session, when I challenged an ungodly belief (lie) she had about being a victim, and asked her to break agreement with it, and receive the truth that Jesus had paid for her healing, she refused, saying she could not believe that. The reality was she wouldn’t believe it, because it required her to change her way of thinking about and seeing herself. Believing is always a choice, and we have the freedom to choose what we do or don’t believe. She left that day, still in bondage to the depression because she refused to change.

I see the same type of behavior when teaching others about the importance of taking care of your health, using non-toxic products whenever possible, changing diet, exercise, reducing stress, etc. Changing one’s diet, or starting an exercise regimen is no easy matter when it’s been neglected for years. Until they get the diagnosis from the doctor – they have cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, or they just stay sick, run down, and lethargic most of the time. Then they might be wiling to try something different. But why does it take such drastic circumstances to get us to change?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.” We hear that and chuckle, but so many people actually live this way! My favorite question to ask people, and I’ve been asking it for years, when I recognize their resistance to change, is, “So, how’s that been working for you?” Most people will acknowledge it hasn’t, but so many still refuse to change. Our resistance to change, I believe, is because we are living in denial, and many are deceived into thinking they are not.

Yes, change is difficult and often painful, but the consequences of refusing to change are even worse. God will help us, if we are willing. What seems impossible for us can be possible when we cooperate with Him each day. I have found that when I embrace the need and willingness to change, it is seldom as awful as I think it will be. Too often, our imaginations get the best of us and sabotage our efforts before we even get started. Change is inevitable. We can choose to do it willingly and make it easier, or we can be drug along, kicking and screaming. I’ve done it both ways, and have decided it is best to embrace changes. What about you?

Freedom

1*A3VYCTO3MZwu1K1VhwGv9gWell, I have been MIA for a few weeks with a bad case of writer’s block; at least that’s what it’s felt like. I realize, too, that my transition from doing full-time ministry into the business world has caused my focus to change quite a bit. Even though I view my business as also being a ministry, I believe I am still trying to find my voice in this new and unfamiliar realm. One thing I have already noticed is that so much of what I learned from ministry is also relevant in business. My passion in ministry of seeing people set free, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, has become a passion to see them set free from sickness, harmful side effects, toxic products, and debt.

I am working through this process myself, just as I did years ago before feeling the call to ministry. I have learned from experience that you can’t take people where you haven’t been. I have been experiencing my own freedom in some of these areas and I know that will continue until I have achieved the goals and dreams God has put in my heart. Only then will I be fully equipped to lead more people into that same freedom. Though I am still very much in the early stages of this business/ministry, I am excited, hopeful, and expectant that much good will come from it – not just for myself and my family, but for those whose paths cross mine. God gave me a promise from His Word as a new believer many years ago that He causes all things to work together for good. (Rom. 8:28)

Whatever our vocation, He is faithful and will complete the good work He has begun in each of us, for our benefit and so that we may be a blessing to many others. He came to give us abundant life and paid the price for us to have freedom in every area of our lives. My desire is to walk in all that He has made possible. What is yours?

The Door That Leads to the Heart of God

shutterstock_370535978My husband and I recently got to spend a couple of days with our oldest daughter who lives in the northeast and whom we haven’t seen since last Christmas. She’s been living far from home for several years now, so seeing her only a couple of times a year has been normal, yet it never gets any easier for this momma’s heart. We all laughed together, watching old home movies which always brings up memories from the past, and leaves me in a reflective state of mind for several days.

Since becoming a mom just over 30 years ago, I have found that no other experience in my life has helped me to understand the heart of God like being a parent. I’m not sure it’s possible to really feel true unconditional love until you hold your own child in your arms for the first time (and every time after that). Realizing for the first time that the tiny human you helped to create is totally helpless and dependent upon you to live, is a sobering weight of responsibility, yet full of joy and excitement at the same time. In that moment, you know that if it ever came down to it, you would lay down your life for this child. You feel the same way for every one of them.

As they grow into teenagers, you feel the pain they feel as they experience rejection from friends, heartbreak from broken relationships, fear about fitting in, stress from making important decisions. You not only feel their emotions, but you also feel the fear of letting them make choices that could alter the course of their lives. Of course, you offer counsel and advice, but often in their quest for independence, your wisdom isn’t heeded. Still, you love and pray for God to watch over and guide them. You want to protect them, but realize they have to learn from their mistakes just like you have.

When they become adults and begin their own lives apart from you, your deepest desire is that they would be healthy, happy, emotionally stable, and ready, as much as is possible, to face a vast, unknown future. Having done your best, with God’s help, to get them to this stage in life, you hope they will remember what you’ve taught them, and one day teach it to their children as well.

Through this process, God is continually allowing us to feel His heart for us, as His children. He truly loves us unconditionally, no matter what we do or don’t do, and whether we reciprocate His love or not. He laid down His life for us when we were totally helpless to save ourselves and He continues to take care of us, no matter our age. He knows, far better than we do, how totally dependent we are upon Him for everything.

He feels every pain that we experience in this life, and He weeps with, and comforts us in our sorrows. Even when we make poor choices, He allows us to learn from our mistakes rather than always protecting us from the consequences, though they be painful. He also laughs and rejoices with us in our victories. He wants us to grow to maturity, though we never reach a point where we don’t need Him anymore. He desires that we also teach our children about Him, generation after generation, that He might truly have a family, which was His desire from before creation. Truly, the ability to create life and raise our children is one of the greatest, if not the greatest privileges He has given to us as His children. It is a door that leads us straight into His heart.

Guarding Your Heart Against the Danger of Offense

Charlene S Hughes

heart_0These days, in our politically correct society, everyone is offended at something or someone, it seems. You hear it on TV; read it on social media; see it in the workplace; even in the Church. Offense has become an epidemic. According to the dictionary, offense means, “something that offends or displeases; the feeling of resentful displeasure caused; the act of attacking; attack or assault.” Everyone has an opinion, and the slightest disagreement often leads to offense. This violation can escalate to anger, hate, even violence. At times it appears that some people are looking for something to be offended about.

The biblical definition of offense means, “to cause one to stumble or fall away; to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority; to cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another; to make indignant.” In Matthew 13 as Jesus taught in the…

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Are Excuses Keeping You From Your Potential?

I-cantWe humans are creatures of comfort and ease. When given a choice, we will usually take the short cut, the easy road, the comfortable way. We tend to complain when life is difficult, things don’t turn out as we planned, or we encounter setbacks. Rather than becoming more determined to accomplish what we desire, resolving to do whatever it takes, we begin to make excuses for why we can’t do it. It has been said that if something is important to you, you will absolutely find a way. If not, you will find an excuse. This is so true. Those who are desperate are willing to do what it takes, no matter how hard it may be, how long it may take, or how much it will cost. As the old adage goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The best illustration I can think of is someone who is physically impaired in some way, yet trains for years, taxing their strength, draining their emotions, and pushing beyond their limits to achieve what most would have deemed impossible. Yet they refused to accept that because somewhere deep inside them they believed it could be done, and that they could somehow accomplish it. Why is it that some have that kind of determination, while others seem content to just give up and accept defeat? I don’t know about you, but I have often pondered that question.

I’m sure there are many reasons, but I believe the core difference is that some people seem to have an innate sense of destiny, purpose, and greatness. Not necessarily that they will be famous one day, or publicly applauded for some great achievement, but that they are capable of so much more than they have yet to attain. Trials, difficulties, and setbacks only seem to spur them on even more. The thought of quitting or settling for less is reprehensible to them. We often call such people overachievers, driven, overcomers, as if their behavior is abnormal; they tend to overdo too much, are too extreme, or don’t know when to quit. Those kinds of people make the rest of us look bad, because if they can do it, that means it can be done. Which leaves the rest of us without a real excuse. We then have to face the truth – why am I not reaching my full potential?

The truth, I believe, is that most of us don’t see ourselves as worthy of achieving great things. After all, we’re all just ordinary, run of the mill folks just trying to get through each day and pay our bills, raise our families, do our jobs…right? We are content to live mediocre lives, believing that’s the best we can hope for, and to do that is better than most peoples’ lives. Besides, if we get our hopes up too much, we may be disappointed. Then we would know that we are nobody special. And therein lies the root of our excuses.

You were created for greatness by the all-powerful, all-loving Creator of the universe. You have been given destiny and purpose far beyond surviving each day. If you are a believer in Jesus, He lives within you, enabling you to do ALL things. He is with you, for you, and in you, therefore nothing and no one that matters can be against you. I encourage you to dare to believe Him. Dare to believe that what is impossible for you is possible for Him, working in and through you. When you live a life without excuses, you glorify the One who does all things well.

The Knowledge that Leads to Mature Faith

summer_landscape_with_forest_lane_path_pathway_way_going_cg1p52762453c_thA favorite passage of mine is found in John 6. To give a little background, the chapter begins with Jesus feeding 5,000 people with fish and bread. Afterwards, His disciples are crossing the lake, a storm comes and Jesus comes to them walking on the water. Later, He discusses with the crowd who He is as the Bread of Heaven, and the Bread of Life. Many doubt and question Him, and He then speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Many of His listeners became offended and because of that, many turned away from following Him. At this point, Jesus turns to the twelve. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (verses 67-69)

Peter and the others undoubtedly did not understand what Jesus meant in speaking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Yet they did not become offended like the others. Why is that? He answers this question by saying, “We have come to believe and to know…”  The Greek word translated “believe” literally means, “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit; to place confidence in.” It can also mean “mere acknowledgement of some fact or event; intellectual faith.”

The word translated “know” means “get a knowledge of, perceive; feel; to know, understand; to become acquainted with.” “It is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.” In other words, it speaks of experiential knowledge. Peter is, in essence, saying, “We have thought you are truly who You say You are; we have even been confident in what we believe, but more than that, we have come to know You personally. We have been in relationship with You, and we now know without a doubt, that You are the Messiah.”  

Many say they believe in God, in Jesus, yet they get offended with Him when He doesn’t do things the way they think He should, or the way they would like Him to. Deep down, they still believe they know what is right, they are capable of determining what is best in their situations. Rather than searching their own hearts, they decide to turn away from following Him. At some point in our lives, we’ve all done this. Some people will turn back while others will not.

If we are going to grow into a place of mature faith, however, we must truly come to know Him, just as we would get to know someone face to face. Spending time with Him, in worship, prayer, meditating on His Word and entering into His presence enable us to really know His heart. Then, like Peter and the other disciples, we may encounter situations that we do not understand, but knowing His heart will enable us to remain steadfast. Others will doubt and question Him, but we will say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? There is no one besides You. You alone are life, abundant, eternal life.” 

 

Learning to Love Yourself

love-yourselfThose who have been believers in Jesus for very long are quite familiar with the first Two of the Ten Commandments, which Jesus said were the two greatest. “‘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,” is what He said. (Matt. 22:37-40) We hear a lot about loving our neighbor, doing good for others, helping the poor, etc. But we hear little to nothing about loving ourselves. Yet, if you break down what Jesus said in terms of priority, it would be:

  1. Love God with all your being
  2. Love yourself
  3. Love your neighbor

He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we can’t love our neighbors the way He would have us to until we first learn to love ourselves. Most believers would claim that is selfish and even against what Jesus taught. But is it really? Do we ever stop and think about what it actually means to love ourselves the way God wants us to? If we think that the love He is speaking of is selfish, greedy, or self-indulgent, we are wrong. That’s not biblical love. Biblical love is desiring and doing what is best for the beloved, no matter what the cost.

So what does that kind of love look like when we refer to loving ourselves? I believe it means many, many things, but for the sake of space, I will list some of the most important ones. Loving oneself, I believe, means (not necessarily in this order):

  1. Taking care of your body – getting proper sleep, exercise, eating healthy, avoiding toxins as much as possible.
  2. Setting healthy boundaries – taking time for yourself, for leisure, hobbies, personal space, quiet time, rest. Saying “no” whenever necessary in order to have that time.
  3. Taking care of yourself emotionally – learning healthy ways to release negative emotions, receiving inner healing, forgiving those who have hurt you, be a human “being,” not a human “doing.”
  4. Taking responsibility for your spiritual health – spending time with God each day, in His Word, prayer, worship, fasting, journaling, your own personal expressions. Also just resting in His presence, letting Him love and minister to you is so crucial. Seek to see yourself as God sees you, this is key to loving yourself the way that He does.

These are just a few ways you can begin to love yourself. Each one could include a list of things you can do, and some things you need to avoid as well. I see and hear believers nearly every day say the worst things about themselves. Many go so far as to even hate themselves. When we do that, we grieve the heart of our Father who created us in His image and loves us infinitely! If we struggle to love ourselves, we are really struggling to love God. When we receive the revelation of God’s great love and passion for us, in spite of our sins, flaws, weaknesses, imperfections, failures, etc., it is easy to love ourselves the way that He does. Then we can truly begin to love our neighbors, because He loves all of them just as much.