I’m a lighter fluid kind of flame-starter girl. Let’s get this party rolling and get cooking! Now my husband, on the other hand, possess’ the fine skill of “fire-starting.” I’ve watched him build many fires as he places the crumpled up paper at the bottom of the teepee he has built with some small kindling mixed in with it. He will set a piece of paper on fire and then slowly start to blow…or “fan into flame” the campfire. If the wood is a little damp it can take even greater patience and “fanning” to create the flame.

Yes, this process can require perseverance, because sometimes, just as quick as that flame lit up, it burns up its immediate source of fuel and “poof,” it’s out. You must be diligent, standing near, keeping watch of the fire until you have a roaring, crackling bonfire.

In 2 Timothy 1:6-7 Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame” the gift of God which was in him. He goes on to remind and encourage that the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, and was under a lot of scrutiny for his youth and association with Paul, who was in prison in Rome. I’m sure that Timothy appreciated these encouraging words and they probably came at a very timely moment when he really needed to hear them.

We need to hear them too. How easy it is to give up on our dreams, or to think they’re not a priority and stick them on the back-burner where all dreams eventually die.

Now, there are different kinds of dreams. I’m not talking about the “bigger house, more luxurious car, vacation of a lifetime” dreams, but the dreams that God places in our hearts that align with His purposes for us in how He uniquely designed each one of us. He fashioned each human being with a creative mind, a sense of humor, the ability to give love and be loved, and the need to produce and contribute to make a difference. He has given us different dreams to fulfill His purposes, and walking in the faith of these dreams will take each of us down different paths based on the talents and gifts He has given us.

If we break down verse seven, it says God does not make us timid…or fearful, or lacking courage. Okay, so if God doesn’t make us timid, who does? Our enemy, Satan. If he can make us timid, his job of keeping us from fulfilling God’s highest and best plan for our lives just got real easy. He doesn’t have to defeat us, because if he can instill timidity in us, we will defeat ourselves.

The verse then goes on to tell us what God did give us. Power, love, and self-discipline. These are all super-natural gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit as Christians.

The gift of power that God gives us is the super-natural ability to overcome anything the devil throws at us. God’s power, which He fills us with, has already crushed and defeated any power that sets itself up against God. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Understanding this truth is the first key in overcoming timidity or fear.

The gift of love that God gives us is the super-natural ability to see people the way God sees them. To love them enough to care about their souls; to see beyond their pain and the behaviors stemming from that by understanding their source of pain. It is the super-natural ability to be able to forgive, to pray for our offenders, to love the unlovable. This kind of love is secure in its position as “child of the King” and doesn’t quiver under threats or intimidation. This is courageous love!

The gift of self-discipline is the super-natural ability to live by faith, obeying and fulfilling our calling, even when we don’t see results yet. Even when we don’t have all the answers and we don’t know the exact path. We can be diligent to follow through on what God has revealed to us thus far, and trust Him that He’ll show us the next step in His perfect timing. We do our part, and God does His part…and trust me, our part is miniscule compared to His part!

So, do you know what these three gifts need? They need the gift of perseverance, fanned into flame, so that we can stop the enemy in his tracks. Join me in committing the gifts God has given us, and drawing on His abundance of everything we could possible need, to shine for Him in a dark world that needs the light of Jesus so badly.

Onward Christian Soldiers!

Stress Less

People…so many people! People in cars, people walking on the streets, people in restaurants, people on the beach. Pushy sales people, over-priced food, ridiculously expensive art work. Smelly seals, smelly sidewalk sewers, smelly car fumes….yes, it was a very nice day.

Walking hand in hand with my sweetheart, watching the sunset from the boardwalk, looking at visually stunning works of photography and learning about the shots and photographers, sipping coffee on a patio with balmy seventy-some degree breezes, enjoying the scent of the salt water that hung in the atmosphere….relaxing in the pleasure of knowing I’m on vacation.

Truth. Both interpretations of the day are accurate. Perspective. Where will my focus be…on the negative or positive? Isn’t this an everyday scenario? Pain and pleasure intermixed, hassle and reward intertwined, annoyance and satisfaction interwoven into what we call “our day.”

So how do we get through a typical day in a manner that’s pleasing to the Lord, when every day is not overflowing with roses and chocolate?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Paul gives three final instructions to the church in Thessolonica. He says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I believe we can find some good practical application in this verse for handling whatever life throws at us, so let’s break it down.

1. Rejoice always… be filled with an inner joy that keeps your soul buoyed above your circumstances. The waves may come crashing down upon you, but joy is your floatation device. As you start to feel yourself go under the water, joy will propel you back up into the atmosphere where you can breathe again. It sustains you. Re…joice. In other words, do it over and over again, continually. Claim a lifestyle of soul joyfulness. And why should we be joyful? Regardless of our circumstances, as Christians we have an unmovable, unshakable, unbeatable Overcomer who has already won our battles and promised us a future too wonderful to even comprehend. NOTHING….from life to death….can take Him away from us.
2. Pray continually. We have the privilege of conversing with the Almighty God of the universe, whenever, wherever, however we desire. We can talk to Him out loud or in our minds, eyes open or eyes shut, alone or in a group, when we’re happy and when we’re sad, when everything’s going right, when everything’s going wrong, when we feel close to Him, and when we feel far away, when we’re angry, tired, overwhelmed, frightened, stressed, excited, happy or silly. You get the picture…there’s no bad time to pray…it’s ALL good, it’s ALL beneficial, and He is pleased when we are “real” with Him. Obviously this verse doesn’t mean pray 24/7, but I think we should remember Him as a first resort rather than a last. Pray first, react second. Pray first, decide second. Pray first…you get the point.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances. We’ve heard about the silver lining behind every cloud, the glass half full, and there are no flowers without the rain. This verse doesn’t say give thanks FOR all circumstances, but give thanks IN all circumstances. Whatever your circumstances are today, don’t let your perspective be shaped by the obvious truth or reality. Go deeper, go beyond, and search for the silver lining, the half full glass and the flowers among the raindrops. God wants us to experience joy in the security of knowing our future, authentic relationship with Him every day, and to fix our eyes on all we have to be grateful for; then attributing that gratitude to the One who is worthy of it, as He is the originator of every good and perfect gift…”this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”