Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

My husband and I decided to surprise our two older children a couple of years ago by bringing them to the movie theatre as a special little outing. We saw a cute little movie in theatre which got me thinking…..! One single line in this film stuck out more than any of the others:

“Don’t hate the player; hate the game.”

Immediately following this line, Ephesians 6:12 popped into my head. This little metaphor truly sums up this scripture, doesn’t it?

Has someone ever come up to you and randomly told you off?! How about through an email or social media?! Or worse yet, how about if you found out someone was slanderously talking about you behind your back? Personally, I wish all was ALWAYS right with this world. But, life just isn’t like that sometimes. Sometimes it seems there is a revolving door on those that want to pick you apart or negatively criticize you.

My heart rate usually increases exponentially. My hands and feet get extra sweaty. My head begins to pound and an all-too-familiar sickness forms in the pit of my stomach.

This verse reminds me to look at conflict in a different way. To not battle with the person who would rather talk bad about me behind my back than encourage or uplift me. To hold my breath and just listen as that person randomly vents their anger aimed at me. To consider the fact that this human being is loved by God just as much as I am, and that this conflict is not against me or this individual; instead against the game that the enemy so badly wants us to play.

My friends, don’t fall for it. Rise above the enemies schemes to throw you off the course that The Lord has set before you. Matthew 5:44 says: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

It isn’t easy to love those who hurt you. Trust me, I know. Our fleshy pride would like nothing more than to tell that person just how you feel and serve them a big slice of justice. But, if in those moments of conflict, and more so during the temptation to be vengeful, you can wrap your head around the idea to ‘love the player; hate the game’ just think of the victory that will be accomplished!

I DARE you to PRAY for those who persecute you.

Jesus, we thank You for the truth Your word gives us. We thank You that Your grace is sufficient. We desire to extend Your grace to those who have caused us hurt either in the past, in the present or to those who will cause us hurt in the coming days. Thank You for showing us that the battles we face are not against flesh and blood- but against the enemy’s attempt to strum up a fierce game of defeat. God help us to love the ‘players’, because You loved them first. We know that we are no greater than them and we want to love them like You do through any hurt we may feel. Jesus, I pray that instead of getting hung up on emotions, You will stir up in us a rage against the battles the enemy wishes and attempts to begin. Equip us and train us to fight victoriously against ‘the game’ showing love to one another in the process, praying for one another through conflict, victoriously conquering the battle in Your precious name. Thank you Jesus, Amen!

Senseless Expectations

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I have been married for almost thirteen years and in my marriage experience I can attest to the fact that two ARE better than one.

I love my husband….but I will admit that I sometimes shift him into the place in my heart where only God belongs. I sometimes expect him to know what I am thinking. I sometimes expect him to say or do something that will bring me peace or make me feel better about a situation. When I am feeling lonely, I sometimes even think that if he was with me….things would be so much better.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I forget that the God that I serve is the omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (he’s everywhere), Prince of Peace!!!

While my husband is amazing, I need not expect him to be the things that only God is. Furthermore, when I am waiting in expectation for my husband to be these things, I am taking away the opportunity from God to move in my life and have him truly be my all in all.

Sometimes I make this shift in priority without even realizing it. But, the enemy would like nothing better to sneak in when (and where) we least expect it and swipe the carpet right out from under our feet. Guard your heart, sisters.

What things do you crave more than God?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31,33)

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of marriage. Please keep me mindful of those times that I shift my marriage ahead of You. You designed and created marriage; and it is good. But Jesus, please help me to keep a healthy balance. For my sisters out there who are struggling with cravings greater than You….please be with them. Shine light onto the areas that they need to pull into balance and claim the spot in their heart that is Yours. We desire to seek You first, Jesus. Thank You for all that You will, and all that You are doing. In Jesus name, amen.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Humbled

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Have you ever thought a little more highly of yourself than you ought? I sure have, too many times to count in fact. After all, I have got skills and talents and abilities that would amaze you. God given skills and talents and abilities at that! I know what I am good at and what I love to do and I do it with amazing amounts of gusto! I am a confident, intelligent, competent and passionate woman…of God.

Right? Or is my perceived confidence simply corrupt pride? Is my treasured intelligence simply misguided truth? Is my beloved competence simply masked insecurity? Is my fiery passion simply flawed flesh? Outside of the grace of God they are just that!

I remember the first time, in my late teens, that God drastically humbled me for His purposes. This wouldn’t be the first time He would have to take me down a few pegs to keep me in the palm of His hand and at the center of His plan.

I had been singing in church circles since I was three years old and had been part of chorales, choirs, cantatas, plays, duets, trios and quartets for as long as I could remember. As the years passed, my talent flourished, opportunities to sing kept coming my way and the compliments abounded.

During this particular time, I was singing in the youth group band. Our church music director spotted me and added me to the main church worship team. Our church had a “kicking” worship department that ministered to fifteen hundred people every Sunday! Eventually I was asked to do solo work, which for every singer is the pinnacle of all opportunities. I finally had my “big break.” As my budding “solo career” took off, and yes, that is what I called it back then, I became very SELF absorbed!

One fateful Sunday morning, I got up in front of those fifteen hundred people to sing a song entitled “Another Time, Another Place.” An old Sandi Patti original. I was ready to sing for Jesus and bless the people, but secretly looked forward to showcasing my talent and await the accolades that would follow. As the opening notes to the song began, God in His tremendous grace, reached down and plucked EVERY word of the song from my brain. I stood there dumbfounded, motioning to the soundman to roll back the tape to start again.

I had exactly 30 seconds, as the opening notes replayed, to recover from the embarrassment and get my heart in the right place, asking God to forgive me of my folly. Thankfully, I made it through the song, though singing one of the tag lines in the chorus miserably wrong. I chuckle every time I recall singing, “Where all my hope and dreams will be SHATTERED with one look at Jesus’ face.” This would be one experience I would never forget and be eternally grateful for.

To this day, every time I sing in church, in whatever capacity I am asked to do so, I remember that morning! It keeps me humble and thankful for the talent God has given me. It allows me to reset my motives and keep my mindset on glorifying God. It prompts me to bless His people and lead them into His presence. The first 30 seconds of every song I sing are very near and dear to me. I cling to those seconds and reach out to God so that He can reach out to others through me.

The scriptures tell us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6) I no longer need to lift myself up. My job is to humbly come before my Lord, presenting my life to Him for His use and bringing Him all glory. He will choose the outcome. This is a lifelong task and one I will continue to work on until my last breath. Daily humbling myself for His glory!

Life on Purpose: Snapshot

Written by: Emily Pelley

I recently downloaded transcription software on my computer. The purpose of it was to take audio files and transfer them in to text. How it does this is the software will search your computer and try to learn how you talk and what words and subjects you use often. I even had to read one of its prescribed texts so that it could learn my voice and intonation.

Pretty impressive, right? A great idea in theory, I grant you. But sadly it failed; comically failed. When I uploaded an audio file to be transcribed, the text that was produced had NOTHING to do with the audio content! After I had a good laugh, I uninstalled the software and got on with my work.

As I read the garbled text that was produced, I noticed that there were definitely some themes. Looking at this text you could see what I spend a lot of my time talking about and working on: babies, Jesus, refugees, love, gluten free, trafficking, church. While the final product didn’t make sense, I could see that it had drawn from real emails and documents on my computer.

This got me thinking. What would it look like if this transcription software could be used on your life? What words would be drawn to the surface? What attitudes? What dreams?

In the book of Luke, chapter 6, it says this:

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

If we are going to live life on purpose, we need to look deeply and honestly at where we have placed our heart because from it will come the rest of our lives.

God and Children

Written by: Christianne Williams

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14)

How many questions does a child ask in a day? An hour? A single minute? I’m not sure of an exact number but I am sure that there are hundreds of questions asked over the course of a day. Multiply that by the number of children that reside in your house and that could equal a whole lot of conversation! I know that the four I have keep me thinking, and perhaps a lot of the time, just answering questions mindlessly. The older they get, the more attentive I find myself, probably because I view their need for advice or information more seriously. After all, they won’t want my opinion forever. I’m scared that’s the way I’ve viewed spiritual questions also.

The last few months I’ve been thinking about the minds of our children. What goes on in their heads? What questions run through there that they may voice only to have them lost in the monotony of all the other things that need to know at the moment? I wonder how many important teaching moments I may have missed because I had lost focus in the midst of a barrage of sentences that begin with mom and end in a question mark. I’ve always felt children are capable of experiencing God in ways much deeper than we aware of.

I began reading a book that is filled with the accounts of children who have met with Jesus in very special ways. They have been filled with wisdom that only comes from face to face encounters with the Saviour, they have taken adventures with Him, and been delivered of all sorts of fears and anxieties. As I was reading how one child shared knowledge about a country she had never heard of before her adventure with Jesus, I realized something that had been in my heart for a long, long time: we send our children off to color pictures because we believe that’s all they’re capable of and give them very shallow answers to their questions when really God wants us to encourage them to open their hearts and minds to Him.

He wants to teach them and heal them and encourage them. He wants to reveal His life plan for them and give them wisdom that goes beyond their years. Kids have great imaginations and I believe that scares us. We’re scared to create an environment that will allow young hearts to come in contact with Him because they may experience Him in a way we don’t understand. I’ve never felt comfortable with keeping children out of worship services or prayer meetings, citing that it’s ‘above their heads’, when really its because we don’t want them to interrupt our time with God. It’s not above them. We serve a God who wants to engage us all, no matter the age. In fact, I believe that children learn so much by observing how we interact with Him, how we show love and adoration, it becomes natural for them to follow.

What if, instead of waiting until our children grow to an age that we feel is appropriate for knowledge, we encouraged them to sit and listen for Gods voice right now? At this very moment. And what if, we listened when they shared with us what they felt He was saying to them? What if we traded what we were comfortable with for what He wants to give them and allowed God to lead their minds and change their hearts? It’s a challenge I’m accepting, one that I’m beginning to take very seriously. I want my children, and the children in our church, to be fully aware of how special and important they are to the God of the universe, the One who loves them fiercely, and the One who has a purpose for their lives.

Respecting Daddy

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

No matter how much we love our spouse; there will inevitability be times of disagreement. Disagreements are a normal part of a relationship. No one ever expected two human beings to agree on everything.

It becomes a problem when we are disrespectful in our disagreements…. Especially when little eyes and ears are in the room.

Name calling.

Belittling.

Raised voices and harsh tones.

No matter how hurt or upset you may feel, nothing qualifies disrespect to or from your spouse. In fact, I believe it to be quite healthy for children to witness a respectful disagreement between their mommy and daddy every once in a while.

The bible speaks very clearly in Ephesians 4:29 about how to use our mouths when we are experiencing a disagreement: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Encouragement.

Respect.

Calm voices.

If your child can see and hear that you respect your husband even when you disagree, they’ll be more inclined to respect the both of you when they disagree with you. If you want your kids to “honor [their] father and mother” (Exodus 20:12a), you had better be prepared to honour and respect each other as well.

How can you work on better respecting your spouse during times of disagreement? How can you better show your support while aiming to reach a point of resolution?

Father God, Thank Your for Your wisdom. Thank You that You care enough for us to want the very best for our families. I pray for my mouth, and for the mouths of my sister-friends, please anoint them this moment and remove any unwholesome talk from their mouth. Replace any negative and destructive words with words that build up; words that edify. I ask these things in Your precious and holy name, amen.

Ditching My Hate For Wait

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Wait for The Lord; be strong and take heart and WAIT for The Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I start getting jittery when I’m doing research online and the Internet is slow, or when I ask my hubby to take out the garbage and it’s not done an hour later, or when I know a box from home has been sent in the mail and I have to wait a week to peek inside, or even when I have prayed for something and don’t hear an instant answer. I struggle with having patience….they don’t come easy for me!

In our hurry-up, need it, gotta-have-it-now culture, it’s so easy to think we should not have to wait. That way of thinking comes naturally as we are bombarded with short-cuts in all aspects of our every day life. Just take a moment and ponder our reality: in just a few moments I will click “publish” and thousands of you out there will instantly be free to read this post, in seconds we can know the weather anywhere around the globe because of Internet technology, by the click of a button we can pre-warm our vehicles while we scurry around the house getting ready for work, we can move dinner from the freezer to the table in 5 minutes thanks to microwaves, we can even eliminate a trip to the mall and shop from almost anywhere online! No wonder waiting is hard!!!

If we allow it, our waiting will bring us to an intimate knowledge of God, one that we would not have if ‘the wait’ was eliminated. Have you ever heard yourself asking “Why did God allow this to happen to me?!

God does not ignore the cries of his children. King David cried out, begged and pleaded with God for help, intervention and defence throughout the Psalms. God never let him down.

Our waiting has purpose.

What a great example King David’s life is for ‘waiting.’ Waiting is more comforting and less difficult when we allow God in to do his work during the waiting season. When we are more open to see how faithful He is to bring His plans for our lives into fullness, our children will too see this and treasure God’s faithfulness.

I love the saying “If he will bring you to it, he will bring you through it.” I’ve seen very real examples of that in my ministry as well as many other times life. How faithful and true our God is!!!

God, Please help me with ‘the wait.’ Please remind me that there is divine purpose for this period of time that I so want to resist. I want to wait well. I want to be patient as You bring Your plans for my life into fullness. I can’t do this life without You. In Your name, Amen.

Keeping Secrets

Written by: Margaret Connolly

Have you ever had to keep a secret? It’s not always easy. Recently my 9 year old daughter asked me if keeping a secret was a sin. She asked me if it was okay not to tell me something that a friend had told her. I asked her whether keeping the secret would harm or hurt someone else and she said no, so I advised her not to break her friends trust. A few days later she mentioned that her friend was scared to tell her Mother about what had happened because it involved a piece of jewelry that was special to her Mom. It was then that I told my daughter that she should probably encourage her friend to come clean with her Mom. Through this whole ordeal, I was impressed that my daughter never did tell me the complete details of the secret as she had promised her friend that she wouldn’t tell.

A few years ago I felt the sting of betrayal when a secret of mine was shared without my permission. The person I had confided in thought it would be helpful to share this with a prayer group, but this prayer group consisted of people that I hadn’t wanted to share this particular information with. I felt exposed and angry, though the friend I had originally shared my secret with didn’t see the harm in her actions. In this sad situation, the trust of a secret was turned into an opportunity to gossip, as I soon found out when my ‘secret’ was shared around to an even wider circle of people.

I’ve also had many people share very deep, dark secrets with me. I had a friend confide in me about her husband’s infidelity; another time it was a friend who struggled with an addiction to pornography. More recently, an acquaintance asked if she could share with me about an emotional affair that she was beginning to find herself embroiled in. I take this confidence very seriously, though I also understand how hard it can be to keep private information, private. The temptation to gossip is often there and can be hard to resist.

So, when my daughter came home and asked me if it was a sin to keep a secret, it made me wonder what the Bible says about secrets? Surely, God keeps secrets from us! As we know, there are many things that He says He won’t reveal to us, and things that are on a sort of ‘need to know’ basis. How about Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden? He didn’t tell them WHY they shouldn’t touch the fruit, just that they shouldn’t. There are countless times in the Bible when secrets are kept for good and for not-so-good reasons. Even Jesus instructed the two blind men that he healed in Matthew Chapter 9 not to tell anyone what He had done. The one common denominator in the Bible on this theme though, is that gossiping or slandering another is always wrong: “Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, Him will I put to silence” Psalm 101:5

The Bible also talks about how impossible it is to keep secrets from God, and that there really isn’t any point in trying. He expects us to reveal His secrets to Him if they require repentance, but even when they don’t, He knows what’s going on with us anyway!

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” Proverbs 28:13

I believe that God will honour us for keeping secrets for other people, though encouraging them to repent and offering to pray for them if the secret involves sinful behaviour. In the cases where I was made privy to very private, potentially damaging information there was always a temptation to run and tell someone. Knowing it wasn’t my place to do so, I didn’t break the trust of those who had confided in me. I did, however, pray with and for that person and encourage them to seek help. In these tricky and ‘secretive’ situations, I think that is the best we can do. And, be careful who you dish your dirt too .. you never know who won’t be able to resist the urge to gossip!

How Will We Respond?

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

Life. Aw life! It comes with many twists and turns, moments of excitement and times of deep sorrow, along with events that both sideswipe and pleasantly surprise. We take the good with the bad, hope for the best, and cherish the simple things. A baby’s giggle brightens our day and a grandparent’s last breath overshadows our happiness. It clamours on with many seasons of the heart and opportunities to grow in character.

It is a well-known fact that we have no control over what happens to us in this life, but we do have control over how we respond. It’s inevitable that “bad things” will come our way; trials, tribulations and the sort. We have no choice in this, but we do have choice in the actions that follow and must recognize God’s sovereignty in the midst of our struggles. In choosing how to respond, trust in our Lord is paramount.

“If we choose to trust God, then we will develop perseverance and faith will grow.” James 1:3

Our hearts naturally drift toward complaint, worry, fear and anger when the rough times come. These conditions often become the unwanted patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and actions. To withstand this we must surrender to God’s sovereignty in all situations and trust Him implicitly for the outcomes. Trust EVICTS these conditions from our heart. They cannot co-exist. One will inevitably push out the other and without trust we cannot weather the storms of life!

The story of Abraham in the Bible is truly fascinating. A man, who faced so many trials in his journey on this earth, yet was an incredible example of faith and trust in his God…Our God! At one point, Abraham was COMMANDED by God to leave the comfort, familiarity and safety of his home and surroundings. To simply trust God and move out from all that he knew and loved into a land filled with trial and danger. He was given the dream of the Promised Land from God and told to GO! He took his then very elderly wife, he being an old man himself, and began the journey forward. No questions asked. He simply obeyed his Lord and stepped out into the unknown, trusting every step of the way.

The Israelites, however, show us the opposite pattern of mistrust and reliance on the flesh. Abraham was their spiritual forefather and his “journey of trust” their spiritual inheritance. But they chose to respond with resistance and cultivated the very undesirable traits of complaint, worry, fear and anger. Because of this they were stuck in a 40-year pattern of wandering aimlessly through the dessert, a symbol of the spiritual wasteland in their lives.

Daughters, life is a gift not to be taken for granted. Some days are wonderful and exciting and rewarding. Some days are horrible and discouraging and unforgiving. The tides of life will ebb and flow with incredible unpredictability. But one thing remains. God is sovereign and we can trust Him. We must choose each day how we will respond and we must choose to trust Him in order to live above the waves!