My Thorn

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul shares about his “thorn in the flesh.” Theologians have tried to determine what that “thorn” was for centuries. Other than what we learn from Scripture, that he felt it was to keep him from pride, we don’t know that much.

We do know that Paul repeatedly asked God to remove this affliction, but God simply reassured him: “My Grace is sufficient.”

I am Paul. I have a thorn too. It’s called anxiety. Now, I am well aware that bi-polar disorder and depression are issues in my family. I get the science. I also know that my childhood was particularly anxiety-triggering, so I get the psychology.

Several years back, I spent about three months on an antidepressant, and twice in my life I’ve had to keep anti-anxiety medication at hand for those times when it got out of control. As a Christian, I hate this. Like Paul, I feel like I should be able to pray the right prayer or quote the right Scripture and it be gone forever, but I’ve learned it doesn’t always work that way.

“My Grace is sufficient,” God said…and still says. The Word also says, in 2 Corinthians 9:8, that God will cause all grace to abound towards me so that I will have every sufficiency for every good work. And this “every good work” may well be the key.

I heard something the other day that struck me: “Good lumber doesn’t come with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees.” Hearing that woke me up, in a sense. It’s the battles that make us stronger. Paul was a mighty man of God, strong and fearless. Why? Because he’d fought many battles – and won many battles. I think that thorn in the flesh, or rather his ongoing war with it, helped keep him spiritually strong.

And I think the same thing is true about me. Like Paul’s thorn, the anxiety is an almost ever-present thing. I’m constantly at war with it, fighting and winning most of my battles, and losing a few. It’s intentionally, purposefully, faithfully fighting those battles that helps me grow stronger spiritually.

Knowing that I deal with this, and must DEAL with it rather than whine about or ignore it, keeps me aware of the importance of not letting my guard down, of staying vigilant and being careful to properly tend to both body and spirit.

Do I like waging a constant battle with it? Not on your life. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do appreciate, however, is the way God uses something that originated in the pits of hell to help me become stronger in so many ways.

God’s grace is sufficient.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Don’t Just Read

Inspire Bible – NLT

When I first started actively serving God, I thought I was doing great just to read a few verses every once in a while. I loved it when what I was reading fell in line with things I was experiencing or what ministers were teaching me. Even so, all too often it was ONLY reading.

By that, I mean that… It’s hard to know how to express it. I had trouble making connections, probably because I didn’t have much of a scriptural foundation. I also found myself reading, and then forgetting what I’d read. It was frustrating.

Things changed when I started using tools. Bible studies helped me make connections, and those connections helped me remember. Learning that it was ok to write in my Bible also made a huge difference because those notes reminded me of things I’d already learned. I considered dipping my toes into tried-and-true Bible commentaries because I knew that’s what a lot of wise people did, but the very thought intimidated me for some reason.

Now, with smart phones, things have changed. We have even more access to tools, and my current favorite, the Through the Word Bible app, has revolutionized my Bible experience. You can simply listen to the app, which is how I started, and it’s great. For months, it was my go-to for my drive to work.

I then moved on to first reading and making my own notes and highlights, then listening to the commentaries and making more notes. I’ve read these verses who knows how many times, but I’m getting more out of my reading today than I ever have before.

Yeah, I don’t just read anymore. I’ve changed the way I experience the Bible, and the Bible is changing me in increasingly greater ways.

We will live by the Word forever – starting right now. Don’t just read it; make it yours so that it can change you into who God wants you to be.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Hindsight and the Future

How many adults, with twenty twenty hindsight, wish they had given more while in high school…or in college..had put more effort into preparing themselves for their unknown future? Hindsight serves one important purpose; it helps us learn which mistakes to not make next time.

And there is a next time. We were put on this earth just as we were put in school – to prepare ourselves so that we will be ready to live the future that waits for us in Eternity. It is our responsibility, while we are here, to develop the closest possible relationship with God and to learn His Word, which we will live by forever.

My memories of school, and all the things the adult me would have done differently, help keep me aware of this truth. While I do forget and deviate from my preferred path on occasion, I try to continually be growing in the things of God, learning all I can about His Word and His will for my life, and getting just as close to Him as I can. I don’t want to just make it through the ultimate graduation; I want to excel now so that God can use me exactly the way He wants to in the next phase of my life.

Life is the childhood of our immortality. -Goethe

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Reading Through the Bible

I originally posted this on Facebook two years ago today. When it showed up in my memories, I decided it needs to be shared again. The Bible is IMPORTANT my friends.

Reading through the Bible is powerful, especially reading through it quickly enough that you still remember previous books while reading the current one. Im always in the process of a readthrough, though some have taken me longer than others – this time being one of those.

So I’ve set a goal of finishing my current Bible readthrough by mid September, forcing me to read more every day. Reading so much so fast makes a lot of things more clear, and in this case it has forcefully reminded me of two things I already knew, two vitally important things that we should all bear in mind.

  1. God DESPISES pride. Repeatedly, you see people being called down for their actions, but God forcefully makes it clear on myriad occasions that the root of those evil actions is pride. People often misquote one verse as “pride goeth before the fall.” That’s bad enough, but in reality that portion of the verse reads, “pride goeth before DESTRUCTION.” You can recover from a fall, but destruction? Pride is, literally, the devil’s sin – and he “generously” shares it with us so we can join him in destruction.
  2. It’s all about bringing glory and honor to God’s holy name. MANY times in Scripture, God rescued or promoted or chose to delay punishing His people not because they deserved it, but to protect His reputation. “Hallowed be Thy name,” is not just four words in a model prayer. We truly need to do our best, behave always in a manner that reflects that holiness, that brings glory and honor to Him.

Read your Bible. It’s the most awesome book on the planet.

Read the whole thing, from cover to cover. It will open your eyes like they’ve never been opened, and every time you read it through you’ll grow more than the time before.

Read it from cover to cover as fast as you can at least once. It will revolutionize your walk in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.

I was going to quit, but think about it. If you were to read a novel the way most of us read the Bible, a line here and there, you’d never grasp the whole story. Even if you read a novel the way most read through the Bible, you’d read maybe a page a day. How much of page/day 12 would you still remember on page/day 332? Not much.

But if you read through the Bible like you read through a novel, you REMEMBER, and you start seeing connections you’ve never seen before. It’s legit mind blowing, my friends!

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

My Lord’s Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father

Our FATHER! Not some uninterested god who created the planet and then walked away, not an angry God who has to be appeased. No. He is MY FATHER who loves me and will love me forever, who wants the best for me, who has good plans for me.

who art in Heaven

He’s not bound by Earth. He has a higher perspective. Where I can only see what’s around me, He can see everything. Where I have access only to the resources at reach, He has it all.

Hallowed be thy name

My father is holy. His very name is holy, and I commit myself to living a life that reflects His holiness, to strive to have a reputation that reflects well on my Father. Yes, living in this world can make that a challenge, so I ask, “God, help me.”

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven

Yes! It’s GOD’S KINGDOM that I want to see here on Earth, where HE rules, where HIS will and ONLY His will is done just as surely as it is in Heaven. I know it will happen ultimately, and pray it is soon. I also pray that it be in ME today. Let God’s kingdom come in the earth that is Tammy Cardwell. Let God’s will be done in the earth that is Tammy Cardwell.

Give us this day our daily bread

Yes, please provide our physical needs for the day. Even more, let me feed on God’s Word. Let me chew on it and find in it the spiritual nourishment I need for the day. Let it strengthen me and help me grow.

And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors

Ah, Lord God, give me the ability to always walk in forgiveness. I refuse to let unforgiveness poison my soul, and want to always forgive, whether or not the other person ever deserves it or asks… or even admits they were wrong. And Lord, forgive me for my sins as I forgive them.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Yes, oh yes. Lead me in every step I take, Father, so that I can stay far away from temptation and the evil that comes with it.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever

And that is the bottom line. It’s ALL about God. No one ranks higher. No one has His authority or power. He was in the beginning and will be throughout eternity.

Amen

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Staying in the Word

NLT Inspire Bible

Months ago, I shared that my word for the year is consistency. I also reviewed some things that were helping me stay consistent in my walk with God. One of those tools is the Through The Word Bible app.

It seemed right to return today and share that yes, I have been consistent. It’s taken self-discipline, sometimes in the form of a swift kick to my own backside, but I am working my way through the Bible in an eye-opening, methodical way that I’m loving. Best of all? It’s simple, requiring nothing but my Bible, pens, and one app.

I start my study by reading a chapter in the Bible – just one. I don’t ONLY read it, however. I ask the Holy Spirit to talk to me, teach me, open my eyes. As I read, I’m underlining and making notes (journaling Bibles help with that!).

Then I hit play on my Through the Word app and listen to what Chris Langham or one of his associates has to say about the chapter. While I listen, I’m making more notes as things become clear or I make connections I’ve never made before. I’ll sometimes go back again, afterwards, to make even more notes. It seems the more connections you make the more you see new connections.

It’s such an easy way to gain a greater relationship with The Word, which is necessary if we want a greater relationship with God, and a close relationship with God is an absolute necessity.

Time is short, my friends. If we’re putting off this vital aspect of our walk with God we are making a grave mistake. The day will come, soon, when there will be no tomorrow. I mean that literally. If you’ve studied the end times at all, you know what I mean.

Blessings!

Celebrating Jesus, The Word!

Tammy C

Do You REALLY Love Him?

John 14:15 ends with “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandments, even so I do.” Because Jesus loved the Father, He kept His commandments.

It’s the same for us. If you love Jesus you keep His commandments; John 14:15, 21, and 23 declare it. Likewise, if you don’t keep His commandments, you don’t love Him.

Do you love Him?

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Do I?

I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.

A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.

And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.

In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?

Do I?

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

It’s The Word

I’m going through the Flourish journey (Passion Publishing/Lifeway) with friends, and we’re studying Psalm 119. I’m also, in my private time, working my way through Job yet again. It is amazing how much the two books teach me the same lesson.

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.” Psalm 119:92-95 (ESV)

These verses also reflect a truth about Job. He could have written them, in fact. Job’s delight was in God’s precepts. They were more important to him than food. They were the most important thing in his life.

This passion is why his faith was so great that it prompted God to bring Job to the devil’s attention, and even though Job slipped near the end of the trial, the foundation that was his faith kept him from going under.

After all was said and done, it could have been Job who declared, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”

In our Flourish journey, we are sharing what God teaches us, and I love how He gives each of us our own, personal lessons while we study the same words. So far, my lessons have all revolved around this point: The Word is paramount, and making it the focal point of my life is essential. It’s not that I CAN immerse myself in it and make it a part of me; it’s that I MUST immerse myself in it and make it a part of me.

Everything else that seems important will eventually disappear. Only one is eternal: God’s Word. (1 Peter 1:24-25) That alone should be enough to make us realize how vital it is to our very lives.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

What’s it all About?

“I go late because I don’t like the music.”
“I don’t like how our preacher seems to preach the same message every week.”
“I want to make my kids happy. They want a church with a better youth group.”

I’m pretty sure that, after decades of actively serving God, I’ve heard it all. There’s one big problem with all of these statements – the word I. Want to know a secret – that isn’t a secret? Church isn’t about us, what we want, or what we like.

I mean, seriously. Do you think every Israelite man wanted to make the trip to Jerusalem to worship as they were commanded to do? Man is the same throughout the ages, so I’m pretty comfortable saying, “No.” Some of those men didn’t want to make the trek to Jerusalem just as surely as many men today don’t want to make the trip to church on Sunday morning. So why did they go?

Because they knew it wasn’t about them, that it was about God and the worship He deserves as God. No matter how many miles they had to walk hauling livestock for sacrifice, no matter how much they hated crowds and noise, no matter how long they would have to wait in line, no matter if they knew going in that they wouldn’t enjoy themselves at all…IT WASN’T ABOUT THEM.

In 1 Cor. 12:18, we are told that God plants us in the church as He wills. We want to pick and choose our churches like we select our food at a buffet. God wants us to attend the churches He has selected for us. And yes, we may at times disagree with His choices.

We may think the church is too far away, we may not like the music at all, we may resent parents letting their kids be noisy in service, we may feel we could have found a better sermon on TV… None of that matters. What matters is that God has told us, “Here. This is your spiritual home. LIVE in it.” If He hasn’t told you that, didn’t lead you to the church you’re in, go talk to Him about it. Now.

If He did lead you to your current church, He put you there for at least one reason. Just like a good gardener studies soil content, sunlight, and other factors before setting a prized plant in the ground, God carefully selected where He planted you. If you dislike things about where you are, don’t whine about it to the other plants or, worse yet, try to dig up your own roots and move. Talk to Him about it.

You may well – probably will – be surprised by what He has to say. He may be pointing out needs in the church that He wants you to help meet. He may be working on expanding your horizons of what you like. He may point out that you don’t eat only two meals a week and shouldn’t rely strictly on your pastor for your spiritual nourishment. He might simply explain that it’s time you get over your self because church isn’t about you at all.

It’s about Him. It’s about bringing our week-wearied bodies to the sanctuary as a sacrifice of worship. It’s about lifting our hearts to Him in worship and praise whether the song is a hundred years old or ten minutes old. It’s about intentionally ignoring distractions and focusing on what He is trying to say to you – not only through the sermon, but through every part of the experience.

When we shift our focus off ourselves and whether or not someone in pre-worship fellowship took the chocolate-covered donut we wanted, and turn it to the One who is the whole reason we are on this planet in the first place, our walks with God will change radically.

THAT is what it’s all about!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C