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Christmas Traditions That Teach Our Children pt. 3

Part 3 of 4

In two earlier blogs I began to share some ways to make your celebration of Christmas a joyful time, instead of a period of tiresome, meaningless rituals that have little to do with the birth of Jesus the Christ, and leave you an exhausted, bundle of raw nerves. You and your family need to first refocus on Jesus. Then you can properly . . .

Focus On Others

1. Emphasize to your kids that Christmas is a time for giving, not getting. Teach them how to be generous toward God by giving to others:

a. As a family, help to serve a meal in a soup kitchen on Christmas Day.

b. Let the kids help to make and serve a special Christmas meal in your own home to which you invite homeless people, or neighbors who have no place to go for the holiday, or people from your church who have no family in the area–single people, elderly adults, or foreigners and aliens residing in your town or neighborhood.

c. Visit someone in a nursing home or a children’s hospital on Christmas Day.

d. Bake cookies for neighbors, shut-ins, or service people (the postman, garbage collector, etc.), considering dietary limitations if you are aware of them, such as those of diabetics.

e. Send a money gift to a Christian organization that deals with world or national hunger, housing for the homeless, etc., in the name of someone on your list who is hard to buy for. Have your children write a card to the person in whose name you are making the gift, explaining what your family did in that person’s name.

2. While your child is still young, teach him/her about personal generosity that reflects God’s generosity to us. Let’s face it: none of us were born with natural generosity. We learn how to be generous by example and teaching from others.

David and I have some friends who encouraged their young son to select a few of his Christmas gifts, before opening them, to take to less fortunate children. He learned to give. Today, as an adult, he donates time and money to such enterprises as Habitat for Humanity. Several other families have their children give some of their toys that are in good condition to children who have none; or to spend some of their own money to purchase gifts to send to a less fortunate child somewhere in the world.

More to come . . . Part 4

©2011, Marcy Alves

edit and re-post 2012


Christmas Traditions That Teach Our Children Pt. 2

Part 2 of 4:

In spite of the commercialization of Christmas, there are ways to put Christ back into the center of the Christmas celebration. It may take a great deal of effort to correct old, ingrained habits, but the rewards will be great as you find your energy and enthusiasm increasing instead of dissipating during the holiday season.

Here are some valuable tips to aid you as you re-invest the Christmas season with awe for our wonderful Savior; as you teach your children how to celebrate the incarnation — the coming of God to earth in human flesh.

Focus on Jesus:
1. Read the Christmas story together as a family at dinnertime or as a part of other family “together” time. Perhaps combine the reading with the lighting of advent candles and read the Scriptures that relate to each candle. This would space out the Christmas story over a 5 week period. Have a different family member read each time from an age appropriate Bible – i.e., a young child could read from a children’s Bible. Talk about why God sent His Son into the world in a human body and follow it through to the cross and the empty tomb.

2. When entertaining guests during the holiday season, both Christians and unbelievers, emphasize the real reason for celebrating Christmas:

a. sing carols together, with someone accompanying on guitar or keyboard;

b. share testimonies or personal stories from other Christmas seasons;

c. suggest special prayer for others who may not be having a happy Christmas, such as: our troops overseas, the homeless, nursing home residents, those who have experienced recent personal losses, or those who do not know Christ’s love;

d. read aloud stories with a Christmas theme;

e. watch videos or DVD’s with Christmas related themes that teach Christian values. Talk about the story themes.

More to come . . . Part 3

©2011, Marcy Alves

Trials and a Thankful Heart

Thankful heartI love holiday celebrations: Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day – steadily marching by in a series of remembrances of festive family gatherings, tasty seasonal dishes, decorations and lighting displays, parades and numerous holiday social events. Thanksgiving and Christmas rank the highest for me because they hold the most meaning in my life.

I was reading recently about a Thanksgiving celebration which took place in 1623 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the summer of that year Massachusetts crops were threatened by a shortage of rainfall “from the third week of May until the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat.” Fasting, rather than feasting was ordered by Puritan governor William Bradford, who recorded in his History of Plimouth Plantation, 1606-1646:

“They sett aparte a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble and fervente prayer in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer . . . Toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to raine with such sweet showers as gave them cause of rejoycing and blessing God. Afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers with enterchange of faire warme weather as through his blessing, caused a fruitfull and liberal harvest to their no small comforte and rejoycing. For such mercie, in time conveniente, they also sett apart a day of thanksgiving.” (Reported in Jeff Kacirk’s Forgotten English calendar July 15, 2014)

It’s interesting that the Puritan’s trials produced humility, followed by fervent prayer, which resulted in blessings, that produced thanksgiving. Most of us would prefer to skip the first two steps: trial and humility.

Last year during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, I faced a trial of my own. I had been diagnosed with breast cancer 5 ½ years earlier and prescribed with mastectomy, to be followed by chemo and radiation. I was set to go that course when friends from several different places put me onto naturopathic treatment as an alternative consideration. For almost three years I followed a very holistic diet, exercise, and supplement regimen which resulted in a remission of the breast cancer. Then life got busy and the diet and health routine became harder to follow.

During the fall of 2012 a tumor began to grow in the same breast, and in the spring of 2013 surfaced from the breast. By late summer, there was a large tumor with periodic bleeds which were hard to stop and twice sent me to the emergency room. You may be asking why I did not seek medical treatment earlier.

Back in 2008 with my first diagnosis I had sought the Lord immediately about a treatment decision. At that time He gave me 5 specific words: 1. Don’t be afraid. 2. Trust me, I’m with you. 3. This is not just for you, but also for others. 4. Wait on me. 5. Be still and KNOW that I am God.

After the cancer returned, I began to pray fervently that the Lord would continue the healing which I had experienced those first three years. But that did not happen. Gradually through times of continued prayer for guidance, I met someone who had undergone moderated traditional cancer treatment; I sensed that this time the Lord was taking me in a different direction. I felt that He wanted me to experience His presence and healing in the more traditional approach, but to keep following His original five words to me.

I first consulted with a surgeon, to whom my primary care doctor referred me, who told me she could not operate on the tumor because it presented a stage 3+ cancer, and was of too large a diameter to afford proper healing if she were to remove it. I was referred to an oncologist, and a radiologist who had experience in the use of lose-dose radiation on such tumors, and was willing to take my case.

From early November through mid-December of 2013 I experienced five weeks of lose-dose radiation treatments, accompanied by a form of chemo pill. I began to turn the visits with the doctors and the radiation treatment sessions into times of prayer. Prayer for safety from the cancer treatments, for God’s healing hand in the cancer treatments, and prayer for anyone I met in the departments of oncology and radiology at the Paysen Cancer Center at Concord Hospital – doctors, technicians, nurses, office personnel, and other cancer patients and their families. I sensed God’s comforting presence during each visit.

The results of this trial and seeking God in it were, and are, many answered prayers: the complete destruction of the presenting tumor, a clearing of the cancer in the breast – all treatments without sickness or pain of any kind from the tumor – which I consider to be a miracle – I attribute this to God’s gracious, loving answer to my prayers and those of my family and many friends around the world.

There are other things from that trial for which I am thankful: remember God told me when first diagnosed not to be afraid? Even with the emergence of the large tumor and the sometimes severe bleeding, there was no fear – aggravation, yes, but no fear. I have been drawn into a deeper relationship with my heavenly Father, my husband, and our daughter (who, without being asked, took time off from work to accompany me to the hospital, just to be with me and to give my husband a break from the daily treatment routine). Also, many people have shared with me that my situation has caused them to trust the Lord more. Plus all the treatment bills were met, without any debt remaining!

I am thankful for every day of the life God has granted me on this earth. My husband has commented to others that he can see a deepening of my faith, a quieter more peaceful spirit. Each time I take a shower and see the scar from the tumor, I whisper a quick “Thank you, Father” to God for His loving hand on my life.

And I am thankful for the encouragement of Scripture:

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-13  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Romans 5:3-5  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

If you are going through a trial right now, let it take you deeper into God and into faith in Him; this will result in a true heart of thanksgiving – appreciation for all that you have that is really important in life.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

Other posts on Thanksgiving:

Words of 2 Presidents:Heart of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A State of Mind – An Expression of Faith

Thanksgiving: A Time of Reflection

©2014, Marcy Alves

Hands Off: I Can Do It Myself!

As we enter this New Year – 2013 – I’d like to encourage you to ask, and allow, God to direct your life this year. This article is a re-post from two years ago; I believe most of us need a reminder, from time to time, to place our life in the Potter’s hands – and fully trust Him to shape us according to His master design. Enjoy and apply.

Have you ever taught a Sunday School class? There are priceless lessons to be learned there from the children.

One Sunday I taught a group of kids in our junior church hour.  Due to a shortage of teachers, it was necessary to combine those of kindergarten age with the kids up through 4th grade.  We were talking about God keeping His promises to us; when He says something, He does it.

I asked the kids to list some of God’s promises on the dry erase board.  Of course, everybody wanted to write on the board, including one very precocious 5 year-old named Hannah, who was just beginning to print. She went confidently to the board. I asked her to write, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  She said, “I don’t know how to write that.”  So I assigned an older child, Katie, to assist her.

Katie proceeded to take the marker from the younger child, but I stopped her and suggested that she place her hand over Hannah’s hand to help her to form the letters to spell the words.  As Katie attempted to move Hannah’s hand in the shape of each letter, Hannah persisted in trying to move the marker in a different direction.

“Hannah,” said Katie, “make your hand like Jello so I can move it.”  It worked for one letter, then, Hannah tried to take over again, though she had no idea how to spell the words.  Frustrated with the process Katie again gave the directive, “Hannah, make your hand like Jello.”

The two girls worked through the short verse, but at the last word, “you”, Hannah insisted she could do it by herself.  Katie removed her hand and Hannah formed a Y without the tail, then, a very good O, followed by an upside down U.  Katie took the marker from Hannah, added the tail to the Y, and put the U right-side up.  I did not miss the obvious lesson in that “team” endeavor.

Sometimes we think we know what we are doing and charge full-steam ahead on our own strength or know-how.  Then we realize we “don’t know how to write that”.  However, we don’t want to turn the marker over to God, so we let Him “help us”.  But the battle has just begun; we shift back and forth between letting Him guide our hand and taking the control back into our own hand.

After a while, God says to us, “let go of the controls” – in other words, “make your hand like Jello”.  When we do become Jello, things turn out well.  But we get tired of not being in control, so we attempt to take over again.  Finally He says, “Okay, do it your way.” And we proceed to do our immature, barely legible job while He stands patiently on the side-line, knowing He will eventually have to add the tail to our “Y” and put the “U” right-side up.

How about you? Is it hard for you to “make your hand like Jello”?

Habits of Faith

Do you know that faith is contagious? That living in faith can become a habit that affects the faith walks of others?

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. —2 Tim. 1:5

Timothy had a sincere faith because his grandmother and mother had passed it down to him.  He saw in them a living faith that was able to get them through the hard things of life. The faith of his father is not mentioned – perhaps his father was not in the picture? Paul became his spiritual father.

The gentle heart of Timothy enabled him to weep openly. Paul refers to the tears that Timothy shed on Paul’s departure. Timothy was timid and had stomach problems, for which Paul prescribed a “little wine for your stomach’s sake”. It seems that Timothy was not your macho man, confident, aggressive, sure of himself. But he had a sincere faith and a calling from God.

Timothy also had spiritual gifts that God gave him for his ministry to the church through the “laying on of hands”.  Paul told him to fan the gift into flame. Apparently the gift was there, but in ember form, smoldering but not giving off much heat or light. God gave the gifts to Timothy, but Timothy had to do something about it. He had to step out in his gifts.  This took great faith from this timid young pastor.

God also gives us gifts through His most awesome gift of the Holy Spirit; that Spirit is not timid, not ashamed, not self-focused.  That Spirit is our teacher to help us to learn the lessons of the school of faith. If we don’t learn to live in “sincere faith in God”, our children will not “catch the spirit of faith”.

I heard from someone recently who was speaking from another spirit than that of faith.  I felt myself pull back inside.  I wanted no part of that negative, depressing, self-pitying spirit.  My desire is to walk in “sincere faith” – real faith.

Throughout life we form habits – most of what we do, say, and think as adults comes from a lifetime of habits that have become cemented into our lives, both good habits and bad habits.

The Apostle Paul had developed such a “habit of faith” that he could say in 1 Cor. 4:8-9:.8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .”

Sustaining faith like this is what I desire to walk in; what I want to share with others whose lives may touch mine.

QUESTION: What kind of faith-legacy are you passing on to your children?  Would anyone say to your child or grandchild, “You have the sincere faith that was in your . . . grandmother, or mother, or father?”

Waiting for Hurricane Irene

There’s a strange, ominous kind of feeling in the air today – though hurricane Irene is several days away from New England as I write this blog and sun dominates the landscape here in New Hampshire.

Most folks here have one eye on the weather reports and the other on precautionary storm preparations. Many are purchasing generators, flashlights and batteries, oil for oil lamps, bottled water and extra shelf food, and are filling their gas tanks.  Most people are securing their houses – especially those living closer to the coast – boarding up windows and glass doors, sand-bagging, putting away yard objects that could become damaging missiles in the expected fierce winds.

New York City and Philadelphia are closing down their public transport systems – the subways and elevated trains – and their tunnels, due to expected flooding and high winds. Lower Manhattan is being evacuated and hospital patients are being sent off by ambulance and helicopters to other hospitals located on higher, safer ground.

It’s actually sort of scary/exciting to think about this major storm moving up the east coast – sort of like those ghost stories we used to tell as children. Only this “ghost” is real – just how real, we will find out in about 24 hours in mid-New Hampshire; for this invisible menace will have very visible results.

Some, who have never gone through such a storm as Irene is predicted to be, will do nothing to prepare for her coming. Some will stay to face the storm and will  need to be rescued by others who will risk their lives in those rescues.  And some will die.

There is another storm coming – not just to the US, but to the whole world. It will be a devastating storm as predicted in Scripture – a battle to-the-end between good and evil – between God and the enemy of the souls of mankind.

Yes, I know, this battle has been going on since before the beginning of time when Satan was ejected from God’s throne room and cast out of heaven. But we have only seen skirmishes so far.

This enemy’s ugly face was revealed in space/time when Adam and Eve fell victim to the divisive, destructive plans of evil-personified, in a beautiful disguise, in the Garden of Eden – the very place which God had designed for man’s safe dwelling place on earth.

The battle for dominion of the earth and all its inhabitants has continued through the centuries since the Garden encounter.

But what we have seen so far is nothing compared to the storm that is out ahead, nor the climax of the face-off between King Jesus and his armies and the forces of the Anti-Christ.

Many who have been fore-warned of the end times have already made preparations for such an encounter, should they be alive at that time. Others will be totally surprised and overwhelmed by the flood waters of destruction left in the wake of that storm.

I’m not one of those “kooks” who attempts to set a date for the end of life on earth as we know it.  But there are warnings all around us, and if we could view things from heaven’s radar screen we would be moved to action.

First we would make sure of our own relationship with our Father God. Have we made peace with Him through the provision He has made in sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins? Have we confessed to Him our sinfulness and received the cleansing that His Holy Spirit brings when He is given access to our spirit, mind and body?

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Second, we would check our power source: are we living on the power supply of God’s indwelling Spirit? His energy generator – His source of light in dark times, His warmth when facing cold winds that blow around us, His shelter from howling storms?

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

Next, we would clean up our “yard”. We would  make sure we have we put away things from our former way of life that could become flying missiles to harm us or others in stormy times – sins, habits, selfish attitudes, knee-jerk reactions, anger, bitterness. Have we dealt with destructive words: profanity, critical barbs, sensuous talk, words that create doubt, fear, distrust; words that destroy self-worth or faith in God?

Col. 3:5-10 Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now, you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

I like to think of using the word of God – various Scriptures – to “tape up the windows of my spirit” so that fierce winds of doubt, fear and anxiety don’t shatter my walk of faith in the God who loves us.

Prov. 6:20-23 My son, keep your father’s commands [words] . . . Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.

So, are you ready for Irene? And are you ready for the final great storm?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Do You Want to Be Healed?

It was a time of celebration in Jerusalem, a day of feasting for the Jewish people. Jesus went up to participate. He stopped by a public pool called Bethesda, which is near the Sheep Gate entrance into the city. There were five covered colonnades that surrounded the pool providing shade in which a large number of invalids lay on pallets.

There was a folk-belief at that time that an angel would occasionally come down and stir up the water in the pool and that the first person into the pool would be healed.

Several of the Scripture translations say in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, that there was a multitude of blind, lame and paralyzed lying there in the portico. Among them was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. We aren’t told why Jesus noticed that man among the large number of disabled people.

Jesus asked the man a strange question. At least I think it’s strange. He learned that the man had been in this condition for a long time and asked him: “Do you want to be healed?”

Why would Jesus ask that question? If Jesus were to ask me, “Do you want to be healed?” I would say, “Duh, of course. Why would I not want to be healed? Wouldn’t anyone who is ill or invalid want to be healed?”

Not necessarily. But why not?

Some sick people have learned to live with the illness and are used to others taking care of them. They may not be able to imagine a life of wellness with all the responsibilities that go with being well.

Perhaps their illness is used to get attention or to manipulate and control others.

Maybe it’s pay-back for some grievance or wound in their spirit from a spouse or family member or some other person.

Or the invalid may be full of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s easier just to be this way, depending on others to provide personal care and make decisions that seem impossible for them to handle.

Even asking God for healing is untenable for some who are ill. They are be too proud to ask God to heal them, or uncertain that He is capable of healing them, or doubt that He would even want to.

Others believe it is humble to accept illness as God’s will.

Or as we learn later about the man Jesus confronts, their illness may be due to personal sin and they feel unworthy of God’s attention.

It’s obvious that the man at the Pool of Bethesda does not know who Jesus is, perhaps because his public ministry had just begun. The man does not directly answer Jesus’ question; he tells Jesus that he has no one to put him into the pool when the angel supposedly stirs the water.

Even with his indirect answer, Jesus has compassion on the man. Jesus has already gotten His assignment from His Father, God. Remember Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing? (John 5:19)  And He only spoke what His Father commanded Him to say? (John 12:49)

The passage says nothing about the invalid’s faith, or the faith of anyone near him. The man does not even ask to be healed – he just expresses his need and his position of helplessness.

Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, ”Get up. Take up your sleeping bag and walk”. What confidence His presence must have radiated! The man did not argue “What do you mean walk? Didn’t you hear me say that I can’t walk? Can’t you tell that I’m an invalid?”

I believe the lame man read compassion in Jesus’ eyes and sensed authority in His words. Power was released as he obeyed Jesus’ command. He was healed in obeying that voice. He stands and rolls up his bed and walks.

It was only later that Jesus finds the man again and warns him: “See, you are well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” This leads us to consider that the man’s invalid condition may have been brought on by his own sinful actions. But even so, Jesus heals him and gives him a second chance.

This passage in John 5 also points out that even invalids sin – sickness does not cure the human nature of sin. But the Son of God heals both sin and sickness.

What a Savior we have!! Even if the mess our life gets into is our own fault, God forgives, heals, sets us straight and warns us away from further danger.

So how about you? Do you want to be healed? Of sickness, of sin, of bad character, of anger, of addictions, of self-righteousness, or selfishness and self-centeredness? Let’s dialogue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind – Pt. 3

Part 3 of 3

If you have not read Part 1 OR Part 2 of “Renewing Your Mind,” it would be good to go back and start at the beginning.

We ended the last installment with the question unanswered of how do you get your mind renewed. That’s where we’ll pick up here.

Because I write from a Christian perspective, where spirit is as important as mind and body, the steps I will recommend for renewing your mind have a “spirit” base. You have to start at step one and settle the question of what it means to become a genuine Christian: this involves confession and repentance of sin, acknowledgment that Jesus took the penalty of your sins upon Himself on the cross, and an invitation to the Lord to take up residence in you via His Holy Spirit. Applying the principles I recommend becomes a combination of your will (spirit) and God’s Holy Spirit working together.

After settling the first step, renewal of the mind begins in earnest. I have found the following steps to be absolutely necessary as the process of mind-renewal begins and continues to develop throughout your Christian growth experience. God is constantly working on the renewal of my thought habits, and through that, the transformation of my life and character.

1.  Practice the presence of God

If you are a true follower of Christ, a regenerated child of God, the Holy Spirit lives in you.  There is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do where you don’t take Him and where He is not involved in your actions.  Always respond knowing that He sees, hears and enables; He’s in it with you.

Is. 41:10 Fear not for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

2.  Practice “God thoughts”.  You have to see what the Lord thinks about the things going on around you. Remember that His “thoughts are higher than your thoughts”.

What does God’s word say about you (his child); personal relationships; use of money; treatment of the poor, the sick and the elderly; social justice; use of your tongue; control of your thought life; marriage and divorce; lawsuits; tithing; caring for elderly parents or children?

3.    Spend time enjoying His presence.

Develop a quiet time of prayer, scripture meditation and reflection.  Include a time of listening to God.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”

4.   Learn to say “NO to thoughts that come from the enemy or from the old nature.  Nip them in the bud, because thoughts precede actions. Use Scripture to turn those thoughts off, such as:

  • Accusing thoughts about past sins – I John 1:9 “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Negative thoughts about others – Satan is the “accuser of the brethren”.  (Rev. 12:10) I will not co-operate with him.
  • Worry or anxious thoughts – Phil. 4:6-8  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally . . .  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)


In keeping with Romans 12:1-2 that we looked at in part 2 of this series: after you present your body as a living sacrifice, after you break out of the pattern of this world, after you cooperate with the Lord in the process of renewing your mind . . .

Rom. 12:2  “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do any of you have plans to hurt your children?  Neither does God have plans to hurt you.  He has a good, pleasing and perfect will for your life. And part of that includes transforming your character.

What does the transformed life look like?  Read the rest of Romans chapter 12 to find out.

Overcoming negative, self-destructive thinking is very important.  Learning to recognize the lies you have believed from your past is a part of the transformation that God wants to bring about in your life

Dumber than Dumb

Victor Soriento was 16 years old and in high school, when his adviser strongly suggested that he drop out of school because he was “dumber than dumb.”  She felt he would be doing everyone a favor.  For the next 16 years Victor held 76 different jobs trying to scrape together an existence. At age 33 he was seeking employment at his 77th job, when the human resource director asked Victor if he had ever taken an IQ exam.  Victor said, “No.” So the resource director had him take the IQ test.  The test results revealed the truth about Victor:  he had an IQ of 161.  In one simple moment, he went from being called an idiot to being labeled “genius.”  Later in Victor’s life, Associated Press wrote a 3-column article on his brilliant research in laser surgery.  The truth is always so important!  When Victor found out the truth about himself and believed it, he had a renewal of the mind, and it changed his life.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

A renewed mind means a new way of seeing:

  • A new view of God
  • A new view of yourself
    • Your identity
    • Your circumstances
    • Your potential
    • Your purpose in life
  • A new view of the world around you
    • People
    • Events

I can assure you that if you stay in the process, your whole world will look different, your life will take on new meaning and your relationship with the Lord will be both life changing and life sustaining. What have you got to lose? Nothing worth keeping.

QUESTIONS: Which of the steps listed have you taken recently?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind – Part 2

Part 2 of 3

In part 1 of this article we looked at some of the reasons we may be on the merry-go-round of busyness, stress and futility. We know we need a change – but how do we get there?

It all starts in the thought-life; “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. So how do we get our thought-life under control? And whose control? For the Christian, “self-control” is not “self” at all, but a fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

Is. 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you (Living Bible)

The book of Romans in the New Testament has some interesting things to say about the process of renewing your mind. Let’s take a look.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Living sacrifices – In Old Testament and even in NT times, pagan religions required human sacrifices to appease the gods.  Or, as in extreme Muslim cults today, people sacrifice themselves to their god through suicide missions in hopes of reward.  But God does not want us to kill ourselves for Him or for any cause – He wants us to live for Him – that’s really harder to do.

He does not say “offer your time or your gifts or your money,” but offer your bodies as living sacrifices.  That means

    1. what we put into our bodies,
    2. what we put on our bodies,
    3. where we go in our bodies,
    4. what we do with our bodies must be in keeping with a “holy lifestyle”.  Holy means set apart to God, with the object of pleasing God, not others, not ourselves.

How do you treat your body?  I spend time exercising, try to eat healthy things and attempt to get from 7 to 8 hours sleep a night. I’m careful where I go, how I spend my time, what I watch on TV or read, what kind of music I listen to – what I’m feeding my spirit. I even try to stay away from negative thinking and speaking people.

Treating our body as the dwelling place of God, does not only have physical ramifications, but according to Romans 12: 1 it is “your spiritual act of worship

When you present your body as a “living sacrifice” to God, worship becomes daily and not just something we do in a church service on Sunday morning.

Rom. 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world . . .”

Have you made a piece of clothing? You probably used a pattern and cut around it to form what you saw on the picture on the cover of the pattern.

There are patterns of this world that we should not conform to, among which are the following:

    1. taking care of #1 – in the sense of putting yourself first
    2. doing what feels good, rather than what is good
    3. doing what’s right for you – without considering others
    4. using people to get where you want and what you want
    5. measuring success by material possessions
    6. taking part in questionable activities, such as sex toy parties
    7. use of crude language
    8. being afraid to talk about your faith
    9. looking down on people of different race or social level
    10. having your kids lie for you when you don’t want to take a phone call
    11. and many others

“. . . but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“Transform” means to markedly change the form or appearance of, or to change the nature, function or condition of something.

It is the same Greek word which is translated in Mt.17:2-8, speaking of the Jesus on the mountain being “transfigured” before the disciples.  Transfigure means: 1. to alter the figure or appearance radically,  or 2. to exalt or glorify.

You cannot change your actions until you change the way you view things.  As your thinking changes, your responses and reactions change.

How do you get your mind renewed? We’ll look at that in the third–and final–installment of “Renewing Your Mind”.

In the meantime, consider what it means that the way a person thinks determines what he/she becomes.

QUESTION: What do you see from your own life to support or refute that statement?

©2011, Marcy Alves

What, Me Worry? Or Why Pray When You Can Worry? – Pt. 3

Part 3 of 3

How do you keep God’s peace in your life in those times when your human nature tells you that you need to worry? Everything seems to be falling apart around you? Someone you love is dying? You’ve been jobless for months and the bills are mounting with no reserve? Your dinner burned because of an unexpected protracted phone call from a high pressure collection agency? Your new puppy just chewed your new pair of shoes? You daughter just joined the National Guard.

Here are some practical suggestions that really work:

      1.  Learn to function from a base of trust in God

Isa. 26:3   “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.”

If you’ve read my blog series on “Real Faith”, you know that you can’t have faith unless you trust God.

I recently was visiting in the local hospital with the mother of a very sick young woman and spoke with a nurse (a believer) who is a friend of that family. I asked her if she saw many miracles on the surgical wing of the hospital where she works. The nurse, who is from Liberia, said: “No. What I see here in the US is that people put much more faith in the doctors than they do in God. So, they don’t see many miracles.”

We’ve got to choose to put our trust in the One who has credentials that surpass any specialized, educated, experienced, highly respected medical professional; the One who is responsible for providing the earth with the “stuff” out of which all medical treatments are derived.

      2.  ”Turn negative, peace disrupting thoughts over to God

2Cor. 10:4-5   The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Once my husband, David, and I were house-sitting for some friends who owned a bed & breakfast, horse ranch.  Our first day there I looked out the window and saw the horses on the front lawn instead of in the corral where they belonged.  We went outside and tried unsuccessfully to chase them into the fenced-in area.  Then my husband got a bright  idea.  He went into the barn and returned with a bucket of feed and a rope.  One by one he approached the horses with the bucket; as they lowered their heads to eat the grain, David slipped the rope around their necks, one at a time, and led each one back to the corral.  This is a good picture to keep in mind when thinking of what it means to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.  Picture each thought as a run-away horse being lead by a rope to Jesus – hand the rope over into His able hands.

      3.  Learn to turn to God in prayer on a regular basis,

Phil. 4:6   Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

How’s your prayer life? It’s interesting how we are often prone to talk to everyone else about our problems and needs, but not to the One who can do something about them.

There once was a woman who wrote to me that her mother had a certain mental condition, which tendency can be genetically transmitted to offspring. She and her brother were worried that they might develop the same condition. I shared the Philippians passage with her and it gave her great encouragement. God has promised that when we “present our requests” to Him – with thanksgiving, He will guard our “minds”. Awesome!

      4.  Practice the presence of God.

Alexander MacClaren once said, “Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.”  More Gathered Gold, pg. 219

An elderly Christian was asked by some young believers what his secret of tranquility was.  They asked him, “Don’t the temptations [to worry] that bother us come knocking at the door of your heart anymore?”  He answered:  “The temptations that trouble you do come knocking, but I answer:  ‘The place is already occupied.’”

We need to learn to  trust in God and remain in constant communication with Him so that we know that we are not alone in our situation.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago I came home a little numbed by the experience. I was not distraught or fearful or totally overwhelmed. I was puzzled about the reason for it. I don’t believe any experience we have in this life, good or bad, is a wasted experience.

When we returned home from the hospital after that diagnosis I retreated to my favorite prayer spot and entered the presence of my heavenly Father. There was such peace there. I presented my questions to my Lord: “How? Why? What now?”. He gave me several words – which have sustained me for these three years: 1. “This experience is not just for you – I will use it in others’ lives.” 2. “Don’t be afraid.” 3. “Wait on me.” 4. “Trust me.”

I can only rest in those words from God by practicing His presence daily. And when negative, peace disruptive things come into my life – in self-defense, I run into the protection of His arms, and put my trust in Him, who is still on His throne.

May our Father bless you and take you out of a place of worry into the place of peace, as He leads you beside still waters and restores your soul.

©2011, Marcy Alves

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