By Sharon Altman

 

Recently my husband Wayne and I were on a trip to Chicago – what a fantastic city! Millennium Park, the Riverwalk and the Magnificent Mile. More Shopping and restaurants than you can imagine, and sadly, many homeless and destitute people living on the street as well.

 

One afternoon, when Wayne was in meetings, I set off to explore the city. I was told I just HAD to have the Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano’s for lunch. Far be it from me to go against that good advice, I made my way down Michigan Avenue.

 

There were throngs of people on the Magnificent Mile, the shopping mecca of Chicago. While walking I passed many of the forgotten, faceless, nameless people on the street. I heard him before I saw him… a jangling of change in a cup, the sign that said “Could you please help me?”  I made a mental note of where he was on the street.

 

Later, as I sat eating my pizza, God put it on my heart to save some of my lunch for that man on the street. Not my leftovers but half of the lunch that I could have eaten. Right now, writing this, I don’t know why that was so important but I listened. I had my server package the salad and pizza separately adding plastic ware and a napkin.

 

The afternoon was beautiful! I decided to walk away from the crowds on Michigan Avenue. I strolled down side streets feeling like one of the locals headed back to work or to an appointment. Here the neighborhood was getting quieter.

 

A lone figure leaned up against a wall with a sign that said “just hungry”.  My heart clinched… God, what do you want me to do NOW? I can tell you I was VERY annoyed. I thought, I can’t help them all! Do I divide up this food? Do I give to the first or second one? I was trying to do the math, I was trying to figure it all out on my own when I heard that still, small voice that said… just ask me. I had an immediate sense of calm.

 

I quietly asked God, what is your will? Then I listened. I was immediately reminded of the scripture that says that everything the Pharisees do are for people to see. (Matthew 23:5 NIV) So there with no one watching, on that quiet street, I met Rodger.

 

I asked him if I could sit with him a while and if he might like some pizza that I had saved. Yes ma’am to both.  I asked Roger how he came to live in Chicago and he told me of a road trip long ago with his kids. I told him that my Mom was from Chicago and I had always wanted to visit. We chatted a while longer then I asked If I could pray with him. Yes ma’am. When I stood to leave I told Roger that I hoped the rest of his day was good! He said, “I think it will be.”

 

I share this not to pat myself on the back, but for what I learned that day… I learned that God won’t always give a black and white answer. I might not hear a clear yes or no. But if I listen, God will ALWAYS put the answer on my heart…he is faithful. While I know God used me to bless Rodger that day, he also used Rodger to bless me.

By Becky Olszewski

 

The constant nagging in my head tells me I can’t do it; tells me I’m not good enough.  If I’m not careful, I’ll believe it.  Not long ago, I did believe it.  The lies had twisted and coiled themselves inside my head so much that I didn’t even recognize their existence.  An idea or opportunity would present itself in my life and without even realizing it, I was telling myself “Nope, you can’t do that”; “You aren’t good enough, important enough, or special enough”.  A close friend pointed out the limits I had placed on myself.  She helped me process my thoughts and made me aware of lies I had come to believe.

 

The Enemy is so sneaky in the ways he gets ahold of our thoughts. The more lies he gets us to believe, the more we stay confined to the boundaries those lies create so that we never reach our full potential in Christ.

 

How was I supposed to serve God and follow the path He made for me if I believed I couldn’t do it and wasn’t good enough?  I had to fix it; I had to change my way of thinking.

 

Changing our thoughts takes a lot of consistent work.  First, we have to recognize the enemy’s lies that are manifesting themselves in our thoughts.  This takes constant focus and awareness of what you are thinking about.  Once we recognize a thought from the enemy, we have to cast out that thought from our mind.  The name of Jesus can help us do this!

 

Luke 10:17-19 says, “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you.”

 

It wasn’t just the disciples Jesus gave authority to, we have it too!  Say His name out loud!  “In the name of Jesus, I cast out this lie and throw it away.  I will believe it no more!  In the name of Jesus, I take away any power you think you have over me and I cast it away.  In the name of Jesus, I cover myself and others around me in the Holy Spirit who gives us strength, peace and power.”  AMEN!

 

Then we can replace the enemy’s negative thoughts with a positive truth about who we are in Christ.  Memorizing scripture about how much God loves us is a great way to do that.  Psalm 139 is one of my favorite scriptures about Gods love.

 

So, what lies from the enemy are you believing?  What truth are you going to focus on to replace the lies?  Pray for God to reveal them to you, then bind and cast the lies away and find a verse to memorize that supports God’s truth.

 

By Misty Umholtz

 

Trading in our fleshly indulgences for more of Gods Spirit in our Lives.

 

Whether this subject matter is a 40 minute break out session, a one page blog or something we are attempting to live out in our daily lives, it is certainly not an easy one to tackle.

 

What exactly are fleshly indulgences? They are anything that starts to be too much and out of balance in our lives. Something that begins to consume too much of our hearts, thoughts, time, energy, effort and bank accounts. It could be shopping, drinking, eating, working out, TV, social media, etc. You can fill in the blank.  It is anything that we are trying to use to fill our voids and fit into the God shaped hole inside of us in attempt to fulfill and satisfy us. The Bible describes them as worldly and cravings.

 

1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

 

My indulgence is shopping for clothes. I have always been a clothes horse. But no matter how much I fill my closet with cute outfits, it is never enough. It never brings me any fulfillment or satisfaction that I am longing for. What if I gave it up for a whole year? No new clothes, no new purses, no new shoes! What if I exchange those things for something better, Someone Greater, Someone that my soul truly craves. I need to ask myself if I am finding my identity and self- worth in the outfits that I wear.

 

The dangerous thing about these small things is that they can become big things that the enemy uses to distract us and get a grip on our hearts, binding us to those things. Satan is always looking for a crack to an open door to gain access into our minds, hearts and homes in hopes of destroying us.

 

Doing things God’s way leads to more of Him, more of His Spirit in our lives. Jesus is what our souls are longing and craving for. Jesus is what our hearts really want and need. Jesus brings true fulfillment and satisfaction that no one else and nothing else can. And with Jesus, He brings richer, deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around us free from discord and tensions over our fleshly indulgences.

 

We also find freedom to use more of our time and money for others when we aren’t spending all of it on ourselves in an area that is out of balance in our lives. We discovered that blessings are directly tied to obedience. Is there something or someone you have been praying for a long time for? Jesus brings blessings and breakthroughs in areas we didn’t even know were possible when we do things His way and are obedient to do what His Word says.

 

I don’t know about you but all I really want is more of Jesus in my life, He is the only One who can satisfy my soul and fill the hole in my heart. I am willing to give this Great Exchange a try even though I am nervous and a little scared, a year seems like a really long time! I am just wondering if I will find out that what I am giving up will fade in comparison to what and Who I am gaining.

 

What are you willing to trade in exchange for more of God’s Spirit in your life?