Category Archives: Success

One Word for the Year

One Word for the Year

One Word for the Year

We recently just finished our first full month in 2018. Statistically, by now around half of people who made New Year’s Resolutions have already broken them. Honestly, I haven’t done “official” resolutions for quite some time now, much for that reason. Instead for the past few years, I’ve approached the New Year in a different way. I come up with one word, kind of a theme word, to focus on for the year.

The idea is to come up with a one word vision to focus on for the entire year. I got the idea from a bible devotional that I read on my YouVersion Bible app, called “One Word That Will Change Your Life”. It was a quick, simple 4-day reading plan. “Change your life” was a bit of a dramatic claim. I can’t say I experienced any life-altering evolutions, but subtle changes, yes. I’m a firm believer that lasting change happens little by little anyway. However, it truly did change how I approached the New Year, and my focus truly did last all year as opposed to a fleeting and failing resolution.

How does a person pick their word for the year? Ideally, God will reveal your one word to you as opposed to you just randomly picking one. However, I think that even if you struggle with determining if your “one word” is truly divinely inspired (as I did one year) or even if you just pick a word that seems good, I believe that God will work with that to teach, grow, mold, and change you over the year. Try to listen for God to speak to you about your one word. 

How I came up with my one word each year

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Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

It’s easy to lose spiritual focus and get distracted when things don’t seem to be going our way. It’s especially true when we see or experience injustices, trouble, unethical behavior or wrongdoing. However, the Bible encourages us that even, and especially in those times, we should keep our focus and our eyes fixed on Jesus.

God has been showing me some of that lately. I tend to get more frustrated and discouraged when I rely on myself and my own strength instead of remembering that I have a God that will give me the strength I need to handle and endure anything that comes my way if I’ll just look to him.

Sometimes things just get under our skin so much that we forget about God’s role and ability in the whole process. For example, state budget cuts and administrative changes have completely affected education where I live. I teach at a local community college, and we’ve experienced some significant negative effects as well.

Take this upcoming semester, for instance…

In my department alone, over half of the classes have been canceled, instructors are receiving fewer teaching assignments but still have increased workloads, and a tremendous amount of autonomy has been eliminated. It’s super frustrating for both professors and students alike. I had a class canceled this semester, and a good friend of mine did as well, even though she was guaranteed a certain number of classes in return for some uncompensated work that she did.

In these situations it’s extremely easy to focus on the injustice. It’s easy to spend time stewing and trying to think of ways that we can make things right, change our circumstances, and/or make people see the error of their ways. What I should be doing instead is just focusing on God and the things that are in my control. I have to choose to shift my focus from the negative to God. 

Park’s tree

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Prayer for Your Finances

Prayer for your finances...

Prayer for Your Finances

For some, Christmas can be a time of excitement, fun, and generosity. Unfortunately though, for others it can be a time of worry and anxiety due to finances. Sometimes the end of the year, corresponding with Christmastime, comes with extra expenses. Then on top of that, purchasing gifts can add up…especially if you have numerous events like family celebrations, work parties, church events, Secret Santa gift exchanges, outreaches or charitable giving that requires some of our finances, etc. Sometimes it can be stressful figuring out where the money is going to come from for all of that.

The wise thing to do would be to budget for the end-of-year expenses and Christmas giving. It’s a good idea to allocate or set aside a little bit of money each week or each month for this purpose. Regrettably, many of us haven’t exercised this kind of wisdom (or unexpected events and expenses have prohibited us from doing so). Because of this, when we don’t use wisdom sometimes we have to pay the consequences of poor decision making. That being said though, God still cares about our finances. He cares about the details. Additionally, even when we mess up He still cares about helping us.

Several years ago, I learned a few strategies for praying over finances. With Christmastime being a stressful time for finances for many people, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share some of those strategies and a Prayer for Your Finances. These strategies and prayer work anytime though–they don’t just apply at Christmas!

Remind God of His promise provision

God is our provider. We can approach God boldly with His promise of provision. Philippians 4:19 promises us that God will supply all of our needs. Jesus also gives us an example to pray for our needs in the Lord’s Prayer. Moreover, one of God’s names is Jehovah Jireh, which means “the Lord will provide”. All throughout scripture you will see countless examples of the Lord’s provision. When praying over your finances, remind God (put Him in remembrance) of His promise of provision.

Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.” Isaiah 43:26 (ESV)

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

“Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:11 (KJV)

“Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”” Genesis 22:13-14 (NLT)

“God is my helper! The Lord is the provider for my life.” Psalm 54:4 (GW)

Take a look at this hilarious short video clip of Joe McGee when he was at a point in his life where he was frustrated financially and decided to put God in remembrance of His promise of provision.

Pray for wisdom over your finances

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Be a Light in the Darkness

Be a Light in the Darkness

Be a Light in the Darkness

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

It seems like lately there has been so much awful, negative stuff going on all around us. There have been numerous devastating hurricanes and storms one right after another. Tragedies, attacks, murders and threats are happening both on grand scales and at individual levels affecting families all over the world. Suicide is wreaking havoc on the families and friends of its victims. Racial tensions are causing division. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. A lot stuff going on in the world lately just really kind of sucks to be honest! It’s dark. It’s broken.

Be a light in the darkness...The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.

The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.

On a side note…I have a friend that’s endured a lot of dark and tough times throughout the course of her life. No matter what she has gone through or continues to go through, she continues to stay positive even during some of the toughest times. She consistently remains a light in the darkness and a beacon of hope. This year for her birthday I got her a bracelet that reminded me so much of her that said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” More Christians need to follow her example to be a light in the darkness. 

Just this past weekend my pastor did a message on “What Difference Does God Make…In the Face of Evil?” One of our pastors pointed out that in dark times it’s an opportunity for Christians to shine even brighter. One of my devotions this week also emphasized the importance of sharing hope and bearing witness of Jesus. It’s kind of been a theme that I’ve seen repeated lately—that we need to be a light.

Now, how can we practically do that?

Practical wisdom on how to be a light in scripture

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Preparing for the Storms of Life

Preparing for the Storms of Life

Preparing for the Storms of Life

Last week we talked about how we can be like palm trees through the storms of life. Jesus warned us that these storms WILL come. However, He also told us to take heart because He has overcome the world. After all, even the winds and the waves obey him!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

“The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”” Matthew 8:27 (NIV)

Sometimes we don’t have advance notice when the storms of life hit. It could be a lost job, an unfaithful spouse, the death of a loved one, or a sudden illness or injury among many other possible things. Therefore, since the timing of trouble is so unpredictable, it’s important to always stay prepared and ready. We need to make preparations in advance. We can’t wait until the storm comes. At that point it’s too late.

Just like one would prepare for an approaching hurricane by boarding up windows, gathering supplies, getting gas, and taking shelter, we too need to take precautions to be able to weather the potential storms of life that could come our way. 

Take Some Practical Steps to Prepare for the Storms of Life:

  • First, make sure to build your life on the right foundation–on God and His principles and teachings.

Homes built on sand will blow and wash away when storms come. A house built on a firm foundation, a rock, will outlast the storm. God is our rock!

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2 (NLT)

  • Next, build and develop your faith.

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Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Over the past weekend, I’ve been watching the Hurricane Irma footage. The Weather Channel‘s Mike Bettes commented numerous times about the palm trees and how they were taking such a beating but still standing. He said this was because they were so aerodynamic. It got me to thinking…We should be like these trees in our storms of life–bending but not breaking. Then I remembered that the Bible actually compares us to palm trees.

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”” Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT)

I did a little bit of research on palm trees to study some of their characteristics and what enables them to stand and survive during some of the harshest of conditions. Interestingly, it’s a lot of those same qualities that will help us to survive and thrive too. Let’s take a look!

Strong root systems 

roots of palm trees

Palm tree roots

Palm trees have a wide network of fibrous roots that create layers in the soil. These layers hold a tremendous amount of soil and are very heavy which forms an anchor for the tree. These strong root systems enable the tree to withstand immensely forceful winds without being uprooted.

Likewise, if we remained rooted and anchored in God, we too can withstand extreme conditions and brute force attacks. We need strong roots. The Bible says we need to be rooted in God’s love. Knowing we’re loved completely, unequivocally, and unconditionally can help us to endure quite of bit. Being rooted in God, Himself, and standing firm on His promises will keep us stable and steady. Hoping in Him will anchor us through life’s toughest storms and keep us firm and secure.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17 (NLT)

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19a (NIV)

“For they call themselves after the holy city, and anchor themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.” Isaiah 48:2 (KJ2000)

Sturdy yet flexible trunk

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Study the Devil

Study the Devil …to become familiar with his evil schemes, tactics, and ways.

Study the Devil…to become familiar with his evil schemes, tactics, and ways.

“So that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NLT)

Last week I shared about a dream I had and how I felt like it meant that the devil was studying me. I gave a few tips that came up during one of my quiet time devotions about how to engage the enemy. After some more prayer and insight into my dream, I felt like God told me to study the devil.

After I heard “Study him,” I knew I was supposed to be aware of HOW he attacks and be able to recognize some of his ways, tactics, and strategies. I needed to study the devil to start paying attention to how he does things and how/when he lies and causes trouble. Additionally, I needed to think about how he has attacked me in the past.

Now that I knew the devil was studying me, I could be preemptive by turning the tables. Two could play this game!

More insight about my dream

First, I started thinking some more about my dream and some of the possible symbolism in it. I could start by attempting to study the devil in my dream. If the man in my dream was symbolic of the devil, what could I discern from his character in my dream? Here were some of my thoughts…

He disguises himself as less threatening

The man that appeared in my dream seemed fairly unthreatening (skinny, gangly, pale guy). Likewise, the things that the devil uses to come against us might not seem harmful at first glance.

“But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14 (NLT)

He trespasses and invades into areas where he shouldn’t

In the dream I had a sense that the man was asking me questions that he shouldn’t be asking or that he might be trying to do something illegal. The devil is the same way. He tries to do things that he has no right to do. He interferes and invades in areas that aren’t his territory. The devil is an intruder.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!” John 10:1 (NLT)

He tries to make us trip, stumble, and fall

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Is the Devil Studying You?

Is the Devil Studying You? Try these 6 steps if you feel like you might be under the watchful eye (or even attack) of the devil.

Is the Devil Studying You?

A few months ago I had a weird and kind of scary dream. I remember waking up very afraid and my heart was pounding. The dream was very realistic, and I remember thinking, “This dream means something.” I don’t always think that about dreams, but sometimes you just sort of know when certain dreams do have significance of some kind. I have them from time to time. This was one of those dreams.

I purposed to remember it and then wrote it down in my journal the next morning during my quiet time. I prayed and thought about what it might mean. Over the next week or so, I slowly started getting some insight. I was also getting some practical steps to take (you know I love those!). What I’ve learned might be helpful for you too.

Let me start by sharing my dream with you…

On a mission

In my dream I was going somewhere repeatedly, back and forth. Numerous times I was having to walk around and over several boxes in my path, almost like an obstacle course. It was also like I was in a hurry too. I think I was trying to catch a plane or train or something. Additionally, I seemed to be in the process of helping others somehow or doing something on behalf of someone else.

At one point, I ran into a man. He had red hair and pale white skin and was very skinny and gangly. He was wearing a blue polo shirt tucked into khaki pants. I remember thinking that he looked like he should work at Best Buy. He was carrying a clipboard or tablet of some kind.

The man started asking me questions about the person that I was trying to help. I recall thinking that he was very nosy and that he might be trying to get information from me or do something that was illegal. It was also very frustrating because he was distracting me from being able to successfully make it through all of the obstacles that I was trying to climb over. I began tripping and started to fall. All I could think was that I needed to get away from that man. There was a strong sensation that this man was not at all friendly and might even be dangerous.

Feeling scared

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