ANX4NTN

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Every day I learn something new and disturbing about my place of employment.  I have been there for approximately eight months now and struggle with going in to work each morning.  Without getting into too much detail, it is just a very unpleasant place to be.   I truly believe that I am there to share the gospel with those around me and be a light in the darkness.  With that being said, it is not easy.  At times my frustration level soars through the roof.  I have to continually remind myself that this is a mission field, that God sent me, and my sole (or soul) purpose for being here is to lead the lost to Christ.

In many ways I feel like Jonah.  In fact, God continues to bring Jonah and his experience to my mind.  I wanted to flee from this job at very beginning, but God showed me why I had to go.  It has been an uncomfortable and challenging journey to say the least, and I just want it to be over.  The only reason I stay is out of obedience to God, but there are still many days that I want to just run away.

Last night while driving to the store and sharing my concerns about my job with my husband, a car pulled in front of us.  The license plate on the back of this car read ANX4NTN.  In case you aren’t fluent in the language of license, it said “Anxious for nothing” as in Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Ironic? No. God.

God has always spoken to me in very unique ways. This was not the first time that He has said something to me via license plate.  After getting married, my husband and I started to notice messages on license plates quite often, usually when we needed a particular answer or word of encouragement from the Lord. Strange, I know, but true.

This word of not being anxious about anything truly came at the right time.  Although, I didn’t think of myself as being anxious when sharing the details of my day with my husband, I was.  I was speaking out of frustration, desperation and emotion. I was speaking as if somehow God wasn’t in control of my situation. I was speaking about things, that while annoying, had nothing to do with the bigger picture OR my purpose for being at this place.  Yes, I am in place that I’d rather not be, but I am there on a mission. The distractions are only there to get my attention on insignificant matters and off of God and my true assignment.

Instead of whining and complaining about how bad things are, I should be praying. Instead of talking to my husband in hopes that he would agree with me, I should be taking my wants, needs and requests to the Lord.  I find it interesting that God tells us in this verse that there is NEVER a time or a circumstance that warrants us being anxious.  Never. He says BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING! Does this mean that we will never have that feeling attempt to rise up in us? No.  It means that when it does, we respond with prayer.

God also says that we are to offer thanksgiving to Him.  What?  You mean, when I am feeling anxious, I should not only pray, but begin to thank God?!  Yes.  Have you ever noticed what happens when you give thanks to God or exhibit a thankful and grateful attitude?  I have.  It changes things. It may not change the situation you’re in completely, but it changes your mind about those things.  And just for the record, I have seen it change people around me and situations for the better. With a mind of gratitude, you are able to focus on what is good, instead of what is wrong.

Next God tells us to present our requests to Him.  Most of us don’t have a problem doing this.  In fact, for many this is the only time they come to God – when they want something.  God tells us to come to Him because He is our Father, and He has our answer.  Furthermore He tells us in Matthew 6:8 that He already knows what we need, but He still requires that we come to Him.  I believe this is because coming to Him shows that we trust and rely on Him.

This verse gives us several instructions at one time – it’s a package deal.

STEP 1: DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

STEP 2: PRAY TO GOD

STEP 3: GIVE THANKS

STEP 4: MAKE REQUESTS KNOWN TO GOD

So, what’s next?

Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Wow. When we do the first part, God provides the answer – PEACE.  He promises to give us peace and after all isn’t that what we need?  We don’t necessarily need our circumstances to change; we just need to be filled with God’s peace in order to endure whatever it is we are going through.

I thank God for reminding me of this verse.  The timing, as always, was perfect.  I don’t know what you are dealing with in life, or what your specific circumstances are, but I believe this verse is one that all of us can use.  Whether you are dealing with a health scare, financial troubles, concerns for children, or maybe a new phase of life that you are unsure about, this is a great verse to apply.  We have no reason to be anxious, because we know God Almighty, Sovereign Creator of All.  Because of His great love for us, He guides us through life and provides us with the answers we need to deal with any situation.  Above all, He gives us peace – His peace.

I have no idea how long God wants me to stay at this place, but I trust Him.  I will not be anxious, and with thanksgiving, I will continue to pray and present my requests to God.  For I know that His plans for me are perfect, and that gives me peace!  (Jeremiah 29:11)

I hope you all find this verse and little note encouraging.  Be blessed.

~ Melissa

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Peace or No Peace?

Well, Troy Davis was executed last night despite all of the protests, petitions and witnesses coming forward recanting their original statements.  I will admit that I am a bit saddened by this, although I am not very surprised.  Our justice system has been making a lot of mind-boggling decisions lately in my opinion.  However, today I am not interested in discussing our justice system, but instead an entirely different aspect of this case, as well as another case.

Last week I watched an interview on HLN with Ms. MacPhail (the murdered policeman’s mother) and before this woman even opened her mouth, I could tell that she was angry.  Her body language spoke volumes.  As she began speaking, my assumption was confirmed.  This was in fact a woman who was extremely angry and bitter about losing her son.  Someone killed her child and someone would pay seemed to be her mindset.  She wasn’t concerned the least bit about the witnesses who came forward saying that they didn’t believe that it was Troy Davis they saw at the scene of the crime.  She didn’t seem concerned with the lack of evidence at all.  In her heart she had already decided that this was the man who killed her beloved son and she wanted him to pay for it.  I mean after all, if Troy Davis didn’t do it, who would she blame?   Who would be her “scapegoat” then?  Where would she direct her anger, bitterness and pain?  If Troy Davis was not guilty, she would have to go through the process of re-living the entire ordeal all over again in search of the truth, which would be quite painful I’m sure.

Now, I am no analyst, but this woman obviously has not forgiven the person who is responsible for taking her son’s life.  When asked by the interviewer if Troy Davis’s execution would bring her peace, she talked about possibly having closure, but no peace.  She wanted Troy Davis to die so that someone else would feel the same pain that she feels.  What she wanted was revenge, and she didn’t care who paid as long as someone paid (by death).  She wanted (equal) payment for what was taken from her….death for death, a life for a life (Leviticus 24:17).

My heart ached for her as I watched this.  Troy Davis’s death is not going to satisfy her I thought.  This woman has no peace what so ever.  The peace that this woman is looking for is not found in the execution of Troy Davis.  True peace is not dependent on our circumstances in life, nor is it found in another person.  We do not obtain peace through seeking revenge or anything else in this world for that matter.  True peace is found in Jesus Christ ALONE!  You see, Jesus has already paid our debt on the cross.  He became the “scapegoat” for us.  All of our sins were placed on Him.  He gave His life to spare our lives.  He died so we might live!  This is where we find peace.

Philippians 4:7 ~ And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prior to seeing the interview with Annelise MacPhail, I saw another interview.  The interview had nothing to do with the Troy Davis case, however it was similar.  This was an interview with Mary Johnson.  She is a 59-year-old mother whose 20-year-old son was murdered in 1993 by 16-year-old named Oshea Israel.  Oshea was convicted of the crime, charged as an adult and sentenced to 25 years in prison.   He served 17 years and is now a free man.  Mary Johnson is a believer in Jesus Christ and while she was heartbroken about losing her son, she was comforted by the Lord while her son’s killer was serving time.  The Lord was working on Mary’s heart and she CHOSE to forgive the man who murdered her son.  One day, she felt the Lord prompting her to go visit her son’s murderer in prison, so she did.  Because she had already forgiven this man in her heart, she had absolutely no feelings of resentment when she visited him (which surprised even her).  In fact, both parties described the meeting as being a blessing and very healing.  Mary described the meeting as being all about FORGIVENESS.  The two met regularly after that.  Here is what Mary said about forgiveness…

“Unforgiveness is like cancer,” Mary says. “It will eat you from the inside out. It’s not about that other person, me forgiving him does not diminish what he’s done. Yes, he murdered my son – but the forgiveness is for me. It’s for me.”

And that’s not the end of this story.  They became very close over the next few years, so much so that when Oshea was released from prison, Mary helped him get a place to live.  That place was RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO HER!  Unbelievable, right?!?!  They are closer than ever, and she looks at him like a son.  She even calls him her “spiritual son.”  Oshea is working full-time, going to college and sharing his testimony with churches and prisons all over the country.

I was so blessed by hearing this story and could not keep it to myself!

Here we have two interviews, two mothers, two very similar situations, but two very different choices and totally different outcomes.  God began to show me the clear difference between someone who knows Jesus and has peace vs. someone who doesn’t know Him, therefore does not have peace.  Some people look at this second story and think this woman is crazy.  People cannot comprehend how she could ever forgive someone who killed her son, let alone continue to have a relationship with him and even live next door to him.

I look at the story and see the power of God!  Mary Johnson knows the Lord and understands just what He has done for her.  She understands that although we (humans) are undeserving, Jesus Christ forgives us.  She understands that we have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone else.

Romans 5:6-8 ~ For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

She understands that without the forgiveness and mercy of God, we would burn in hell.  It is only by God’s grace that we are saved.

Ephesians 2:8 ~ For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

When we truly realize the magnitude of what Jesus Christ has done for us, by taking our place on the cross, it makes it so much easier to forgive others (no matter what they’ve done).  We can’t forgive until we have been forgiven, and without forgiveness, there is no peace!

I look at these two stories and I see one that is hopeless, full of sadness, death and unforgiveness.  Nobody in the Troy Davis story wins.  On the other hand, with the second story, we see an unpleasant circumstance turned around and ending beautifully.  There is life, hope, peace and forgiveness in this story.  What an awesome example of God’s power, love and mercy!