Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Someone has said, "God never uses anyone unless He puts them through the test of suffering and pain." Doesn't that just make you flinch? Ugg...suffering and pain is sooo not fun. It is scary and very difficult. But, read it again...don't you want to be used by God? We don't like to be "used" by fellow humans but oh to be used by God...that's the ultimate! So, instead of turning from the suffering of a trial, we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. We must be willing to say "Do with me whatever You may. Your will be done with me." Take up your Cross...what does that mean? Remember, Jesus was not only crucified and tortured on the Cross but He had to carry His own Cross. If you've seen "Passion of the Christ", you know how horrific carrying the Cross was. (By the way, I believe every Christian should watch the Passion...it will totally change and/or enhance your view of Jesus' sacrifice...mmm what love.)
We have to carry our crosses just as Jesus did. God will not take the suffering from us. If He did, He would be removing the opportunity for us to become more like His Son. Yes, it IS an opportunity! We must endure emotionally what Christ endured physically. (Our suffering may be of a physical nature but I find so many times it's of an emotional nature.) So, God will not remove our suffering, what will He do? He will enable us to endure with His strength. He will provide the grace we need to see us through the trial...not around it but through it. Once we have gone through the trial, He will turn our test into a testimony. What greater reward than to have an outstanding testimony for God...the Savior who died for us all!! What does a testimony provide? It provides an opportunity: 1) to praise God for seeing you through it, 2) to relate to Jesus' suffering on a much smaller scale, 3) to console others enduring the same fire, 4) to testify for the development of your character.
I'm sure you all know what James says about suffering. It is one of my favorites. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). I know you are asking "how"? That's a good question. We've discussed this several times in Bible study and it is a hard concept to grasp. However, James tells us in verse 3 how we can do this..."because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." As I reflect on my own suffering, to be able to grasp and fully appreciate what James is telling us to do - "consider it pure JOY" - I must focus on what good has come from my suffering. I reflect on the character He has built in me, the ever so close walk I have with Jesus, the stamina and strength He's providing me, the patience I have acquired. The list goes on and on. What Jesus has done in me and hopefully through me is worth any cost. That's still hard to say but it does get easier. I would trade the world to turn back time and not have the suffering of my current trial but since that can't be done I know what the Lord's done in me. I consider THAT pure joy because I know regardless of my deep pain of suffering, I know I have the Father ever so close to me. It's not an easy road but it is a safe and secure road with Jesus. My hope is in Christ and His power to continue to make good out of my suffering. I believe He will fulfill what He's said and promised to me in His timing and in His way. That too is how we consider it pure joy!
Imagine also how many people you can reach through your suffering. You never know who is watching and what they will take from your suffering. They very well may decide to take your Jesus that you are so committed to even though you are suffering so deep. Now, isn't your suffering worth that...to see one more soul saved by grace because of YOU, your testing, and what becomes your testimony!
This was supposed to be a short posting. When the Spirit speaks, He speaks. Or maybe I'm dragging it out because I love being close to Him while I write. (smiles). Let me leave you with some powerful scriptures.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5
The fire refines us to the image of God. I'm sure you've all read the email that's circulated for years on the Refiner's Fire. I'll post that sometime as it is one of my all time favorites. When you think your life is bad and your suffering is too much, think of Job and what all he endured. Not only that, ponder on his reward for staying faithful to God. He received back twice everything he had.
But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. Job 36:15
I used to have a not so positive view of the Psalms because some of it is hard to understand. However, I find myself coming across so many great Psalms thinking "oh that's a good one, oh that's good too."
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. Psalm 119:50-51
Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. Psalm 119:153-154
If I may quickly point out here a common factor just in these two verses...we must not turn from God's law...We MUST be in His Word to adhere to His laws and be obedient to Him. Here's a great verse. Vs 8 instructs us on His Word and vs 9 encourages to be strong and reminds us of His presence EVERYWHERE with us.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:8-9
Be Blessed In Him,
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Do you trust God? Is it easier to trust man or God? I'm sure your first thought is "duh, God." God never fails us and man does so "God...final answer." But have you ever pondered on this? We are not to base our life and decisions on feelings but does it sometimes feel like it's hard to trust God? Does it depend on the situation? Let me try to explain. Sometimes, it can be easier to trust man than to trust God. I say this because with man, we can choose when to trust and when not to trust. We can decide when and with whom to share our hearts, kids, possessions, tasks, etc. Right? We don't have to tell "Jane" our secrets and get hurt. We don't have to let neighbor Bob watch the kids and be fearful the whole day. We don't have to lend the mower to Uncle John and let him break it once more. We don't have to ask co-worker Mary to do a task and worry with the accuracy. We in a sense can choose who we trust, when, and with what. So, if we choose not to trust any of the above, then we don't have to worry with getting hurt or let down with the outcome, right? Notice in all these situations (and many others) WE are in control. We control the situations and thus can control the outcome.
So, how is this different or easier than trusting our Heavenly Father? For starters, HE is in control. He's in control of everything. The moment we take control out of the Father's Hands, things start to go hay wire. Trusting God, means letting go of control. It means letting go of knowing the outcome and having any part in how the results will be. When we trust God, we are laying our life and heart on the line. Is it in safe Hands? ABSOLUTELY!! Is it scarey? It sure can be. We as humans can fully trust and rely on God but because of our nature, it can still be very scarey to not have an idea of what the future holds. Though, with time and more trust extended to God, it does get easier to trust without fear of the unknown.
With human relationships, we can choose our route, the level of trust, or the level of closeness. With God, we must give it all up. We are basically at His mercy. It is a good position to be but it can be difficult at times. The times that it seems most difficult is when our heart has a stake in it...when our desires are not fulfilled, or rather not fulfilled yet...when He calls us to something and we just can't see how it's going turn out...when we want something so bad and don't know how He's going to answer. It can all be very scarey. On the flip side of that fear, we have the knowledge that God only wants the best for us. So, even though the unknown is unsettling for most, whatever the unknown turns out to be, with God at our side, we cannot fail. We will be okay because we have the only thing we need: Christ as our Savior.
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song. Psalm 28:7
In all things do we trust God? Do we trust Him with the big things and the little things? He is so worthy of our trust and He deserves for us to trust Him with all things. He desires for us to let go of control and to trust Him with everything. He only has the best in store for us but we HAVE to trust Him. Things may not always be smooth sailing but we can trust He'll NEVER leave our side. Trust is not only a key characteristic of human relationships but also with our God. We have to trust Him to allow Him to fully work in our lives. (He will not barge the door down.) It's in those times of not understanding at all that He calls upon us to trust Him the most. In turn, there is a level of trust that God also extends to us. He wants to know that we are trustworthy in the small things before He will extend the larger things into our hands. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." Luke 16:10
Are you having trouble fully trusting in God for those precious things closest to your heart? Is it hard to trust God when there is so much unknown occuring in your life? It is very hard to give up control of our life into the Hands of God but it is SO worth it. We must open our hand and let go so that God can do His work. Trust me, speaking from experience this is very hard and it is a process. One of my very favorite scriptures of all times is in Proverbs. Someone gave it to me about ten years ago. It is the verse that I probably quote to myself the most in times of worry and fear of the unknown. When the questions of how this, or why this, or what about this come....inscribe these words onto your heart to never be removed.
Trust in the Lord with all your hear and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Be Blessed in Him,
Thursday, April 24, 2008
So I've been pondering on the words to write since Tuesday and nothing has knocked me over the head. I have several topics in my draft folder but upon viewing those...again, I wasn't knocked over the head. So, when the Lord and I were mowing, I pondered on my last post (read it to better understand) and I caught myself asking and asking regarding many people and many things. Though, again, they were all good things for which I was asking. I just cried to the Lord "I don't want to ask You. I mean I know I am to go to You for everything but I feel so bad just asking and asking. I'm tired of asking." I think He understands the asking though, especially when we are so heartbroken and searching for Him and trying to please Him through obedience. I then focused on praising Him.
I then pondered on how if I ever wanted to be a please others (be a people pleaser, which can have very negative results), never as much as I do now. However, that "person" is Jesus, God Almighty, Lord and Savior. I cried to Him, between huffs and puffs, and said "I want to please You so bad. Just show me the way. Show me what to think and desire. I am at Your mercy, just show me." In the midst of that I praised Him: "thank You for this healthy body that can mow." I continued to praise Him but was distracted again. I thought about all my new friends in cyber space through blogging. I thanked the Lord for the encouragement they have brought and the blessings they are to me and a blessing to see so many women grow deeper with God. I reflected on all the prayer requests that have been shared through our Bible Study with Rachel Olsen. So many hurting women...good Christian women, loving and serving the Lord, seeking Him in all things but yet still having hurdles and heart ache.
I have seen through this online study the power of the Almighty working. I can tell that He is really reaching and touching His children. So many women are closer to God through this study. Hearts are being transformed. We are all desiring a deeper walk with the Lord and we are seeing it come to fruit by being in His Word daily and seeking Him and learning from other women's experience and knowlege! (That's very important.) Remember, we talk to the Lord in prayer but He talks to us through His Word. If we are not in His Word, we won't be able to hear Him. He desires fellowship with us and He wants us to really know Him better and that is through His Word. This study has been a very unique experience and I hope Rachel has the stamina to continue past the current study.
Okay. So you say that's great, women are coming together, studying the Word, growing deeper in their walk with Christ. Well, that's not the end. We all know who hates for us to become better children and servants of the Lord and his name is Satan. You may wonder why Christians serving and loving the Lord would feel such an attack from Satan. It is because he doesn't need to attack his children; he already has them doing his work. He knows we are servants of God but if he can distract us enough to at least stop us from doing God's work, he'll be pleased. You know Satan doesn't seek out to convert all people to him because he knows it’s a lost cause and many will never falter from God. He would be satisfied with just inactivating active Christians or deceiving them into a wrong way of thinking and living. Satan very well may not bother lukewarm Christians either as he knows they are not fully serving the Lord nor doing much work for Him. However, those who are seeking the Lord in His Word are naturally going to grow closer to God. (You can't NOT grow close to God while earnestly studying His Word consistently.) And what will happen then? We will begin to speak more confidently of the Lord, we will be convicted to share the Gospel, we will begin to be God's Hands and Feet serving others in need. We will do all the things that Satan stands against. Therefore, if you are feeling attacked, you may have that feeling like "What is wrong? Why won't these feelings go away? Where is my joy and peace?" You may feel you're seeking the Lord with all your heart, growing so strong in Christ, yet, you have this gnawing feeling or depression or bad turn or bad luck or fall after fall. It is Satan trying to defeat you. But do not let him!!! Rebuke him in Jesus' name. Seriously, say it out loud. I remember months ago, near the beginning of my trial that I did just that. I was walking down the stairs of my home, and I could feel all these worried and negative thoughts coming into my head. I knew it was him trying to discourage me and to detour my faith in what God would do. I said out loud "Depart from me Satan, I rebuke you in Jesus' name." It was liberating and it felt good. There IS power in that precious name of Jesus.
I believe this posting was prompted because I too have felt Satan on my doorstep the last couple days. He's trying to deceive me and make me waver in my thought life and I refuse to listen. I felt it so strong that I saught a dear friend in a very similar situation and she encouraged and reiterated all the positive and godly things that need to be running through my thoughts. Seek a Christian friend that can encourage you in the same way and bring you back to that right thinking that God wants you to have.
Jesus came to heal, encourage, and empower. Satan is the one who came to steal, kill, and destroy! You are never out of Satan’s sight and temptation but you are always under Jesus' protection! Don't you forget that! God is our refuge and strength. The next time Satan comes to attack you and try to destroy your joy and peace from God, you tell him to depart from you. You are a child of God and NOTHING can separate you from His love and protection. Feel His love and His protection...embrace it!
Just be aware of Satan's presence. Acknowlege it so that you can rebuke him!
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Eph. 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
Then find your strength and protection in God.
Eph. 6:11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
Remember, you are not exempt from Satan's attacks and temptations. If our King was tempted, so will we be.
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Be Blessed in Him,
Monday, April 21, 2008
1Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. 6 Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. 7 In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. 8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Do you ever feel like you're always asking something of God? Whether it's for ourselves, family, community, church, we're asking the Lord to help, intervene, and provide. It seems there are so many things to take to the Lord: healing from sickness, release from addiction, salvation to be received, stressful work environments, providing a job or housing, marital restoration, children's safety, insight to our personal ministry, guidance for church and country leaders, peace in the world or in our homes, deliverance from debt and financial struggles. Have I missed anything or did I hit most of the basics in general?
The thing is the Lord wants us to come to Him. He tells us so in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you!!! When we seek Him with our concerns, it is showing we know and believe in His power and control over everything. I am not going to ask my seven year old niece to fix my dishwasher but I will call the repair man. I call upon the one I know can fix it. We know God can solve our problems so we call upon Him.
I believe God is well pleased when we seek Him for help instead of relying on our inability to do it. The solutions may not be what we expect but it will be the best answer. We may hope the solution to our malfunctioning dishwasher is a simple clog; therefore, it can be a disappointment to know it's actually a bad pump and motor. (Ask me I know.) The solution may not be the most fun, the easiest, or the quickest but it is the BEST - that's why we are to call on the Best : our Almighty God.
This idea of "give me...give me" came to me as I re-read Psalm 86, which I had read a couple months ago. I had underlined some words that shouted out to me. I posted some of the scripture above. If you examine the entire text you will see what David is asking of God: answer me, hear me, guard my life, have mercy on me, bring joy, listen to my cry, teach me, give me undivided heart, grant strength, give me a sign of your goodness. I thought man David is asking, asking, asking. Though everything he's asking is honorable and good, it's still asking. I feel guilty to always go to the Lord with an asking heart and realize that we also need to go just praising and thanking Him for simply Who He is. I make it a point to have times of nothing but praise and thanks when I enter His Throne.
Though David was asking a lot from God (again all wonderful things to ask), let's also look at what he said between his asking. I am devoted to You, You are my God, I trust in You, I will walk in Your truth, I will fear Your name, I will praise You, I will glorify Your name, You have delivered me, You've helped and comforted me. David is revealing his part of his relationship with God and what he is doing to show his honor and trust in the Lord. He is showing reverance to the Lord and confirming his faith in the Lord. He also says: You are forgiving and good, abounding in love and faithfulness, there is none like You, no deeds compare with Yours, all nations will worship You, You are great, You do marvelous deeds, You are God alone, for great is Your love, You're a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger. These words show David's praise and thanksgiving to God. He is adoring the Father and praising Him for His greatness.
David gives us a great example that our prayers should not only be asking but they should also be full of praise and thanks for Who God is and what He's done. Our God truly IS awesome. Look over David's words again. There is NONE like our God and He IS marvelous and full of love in all His ways. I see two song titles just in David's praise: "You are God Alone" and "There is None Like You".
There is none like the Father, is there? Praise be to Him. What a privelege to call such a compassionate, gracious, and loving God our God and Savior!!! Aren't you thankful today that God is slow to anger? He doesn't strike back at us when we royally mess things up. He doesn't get mad when we take the wrong turn and mess up His plan. Rather, He so lovingly and gently corrects us and guides us back to His path. He makes good out of our messes...can you believe that? (Romans 8:28)
There are three things I say to God each morning as I stumble out of bed. Lord, if I do nothing else today, may I love you more. Lord, may You increase and I decrease. Lord, send someone across my path today that I can minister to in Your name. I try to make these thoughts my first so that the Lord can be first on my mind and stay there throughout the day.
Be Blessed in Him,
Thursday, April 17, 2008
May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4
These verses are heavily quoted but do we really have a true understanding of them. We must always read Scripture in the context of how it is written. The idea that God will give us the desires of our heart can be viewed in such a way that the writer did not intend. I always believed if I had good desires, righteous and honorable to the Lord, He would give those things to me and fulfill those desires in my heart to fruitition in my life. However, I believe this scripture very well may intend to mean that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, the Lord will place desires in our heart. That is, He will provide us the desires He wants for us, not that He will necessarily give us the desires that we already have in our heart. So then the desires we have in our hearts will be ones that He creates in us. Does that make sense? He will give us the desires that He wants us to follow and therefore, He will also make them succeed. I do not say this to burst anyone's bubble of what they believed or hoped this Scripture to mean. But rather to give you hope that if you don't see your desires being fulfilled, it will be okay. If God doesn't fulfill your desires then He will change them.
You have to remember that those who call upon Jesus as Savior have His Spirit dwelling within us. Many times we have desires and He fulfills those, so we think that He is giving us the desires of our heart. But rather it was Him to begin with that placed that original desire on our heart. So actually He is providing the desires IN our heart and then He is fulfilling them (thus "giving us the desires of our heart.")
I know my spirit rebelled against this when I first heard this interpretation. So many times we hear it expressed that if we just delight in Him, serve Him, and seek Him, then He will fulfill whatever is in our heart (assuming it to not be unholy or unrighteous). I wanted to believe that if I followed Him with all my heart then He would give me my heart's desires (one specific desire that I have). Though the desire I have is good, holy, righteous, honorable and in accordance to God's Holy Word, I just don't know that that scripture applies in that manner. Rather, I believe as I continue to seek after Him, His desires will become mine. I will desire after what He wants for me. Whatever it is that He's desiring for me, is what I will begin to desire. I believe the transition is so smooth that we don't even realize that it was His desire to start but rather we just thought it to be one of our desires. That is not to say the desires on your heart won't come to life. If they are desires He indeed has placed on your heart, if they are for His glory, then we can hope they will indeed be fulfilled. Just as the desire I have on my heart very well may be from Him. Actually, I do believe it is from Him because of the nature of the desire.
This was a difficult subject to formalize into words. It is something I felt led to write but found it difficult to know if I was being clear. I wanted to address the idea that God doesn't necessarily give us the desires we have and not everything comes to fruit. But rather we may desire something and instead of Him fulfilling that, He actually changes our desire and then fulfills that. Seek Him and He will place desires upon your heart and you can watch Him fulfill them.
Our God is an awesome God. Praise be to Him.
Prayer: "Lord, I release all my hopes and dreams to You this day. If there is anything I am longing for that is not to be a part of my life, I ask You to take away the desire for it so that what should be in my life will be released to me."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Whether we are waiting on our womb to open with pregnancy, a prodigal spouse to return, difficult work situations, loved ones to come to Christ, a marriage healed, improved finances, clean bill of health, or healing from emotional suffering. For whatever we're waiting of significant importance usually it is a hardship to us. (I say of significant importance because I'm not referring to waiting in line or following a slow driver.) The Lord uses hardships because it is in those times that we must really die to ourself and see the importance of waiting on the Lord.
He is never a minute early nor a second late. His timing is impeciable! Unfortunately, it is usually only in hindsight that we can see this so clearly.
I NEVER would have thought myself to be patient. However, after enduring the trial that still surrounds me after ten months, I can say that I have indeed gained some patience. I guess when we suffer such a strike to our life and such a deep tragedy of life, we realize what is important and it really helps to give strength to waiting. We realize to definitely not complain over the petty things in life like: being cut off in traffic; following a driver going 30 in a 55 zone; waiting for someone to find their check book, pen, and ID in the grocery line; whatever causes us to wait. And in the large things like illness, divorce, death, finances, we then just begin to TRUST. Yes, patience so closely ties in with trust. Do we really trust the Father to provide His best and in His timing. If we trust Him for the best in our lives, then shouldn't we also trust that He will provide it in the right timing? And if we truly want His best, are we not willing to wait for His best? That sure motivates me.
How many times have we closed a door because we were too impatient and not willing to wait for the results of God's work? How many times did we open a window that God never intended to be open? We can get ourselves in some very big messes when we try to do things in our own timing and our own way. That is why it is ever so important to Fully Rely On God (FROG). I guess a good "rule" to go by is if you don't know what to do or if you should do anything or not, then just WAIT. Wait until you have that overriding peace that God is saying or showing you "it is NOW time." God always goes before us to prepare the way. However, if we leap ahead of Him, He will not have had the chance to prepare the way. So be careful of leaping!!!
One of my favorite songs that has helped a lot during the trial of my life is "The Waiting" by 4Him. Here are some of the lyrics:
When you're waiting
Through the hard times
Hold on, don't let go
Waiting through the hard times
Will only make you strong, hold on
I cry, you cry,
Life takes us by surprise
Before you know,
It'll catch you unaware
I need, you need,
Much more than sympathy
But through it all it's good to know
We need to know that Jesus is there
And you will never ever have to cry alone
I know there are many verses on waiting. I searched biblegateway.com for "wait" and it resulted in 135 hits. Here are three that I keep close to my heart.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7
The Lord is good to those who wait on Him; to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25
So what is it that you are willing to give up to wait on the Father, His purpose, and His timing?Be Blessed in Him,
Sunday, April 13, 2008
We all have probably both disciplined children in our lives and also been disciplined in our lives in our childhood. Discipline seems to be a very hard subject. We hate to discipline our children (for me it would be my nieces) but we KNOW it is very much a necessity and it will benefit them as they grow. We also need to discipline ourselves. It might be that we discipline ourselves with food intake, exercise, attitude, getting up on time, setting quality quiet time with God. Whatever it may be, it takes work and that is exactly what discipline is until we do it enough that it transforms from disciplining ourselves to becoming a habit of something we enjoy and even can't live without doing.
Our Heavenly Father disciplines us also because of His ever so deep love for us. God does not punish us but rather disciplines us with His love to ever so gently try to nudge us into the right direction. Discipline can be extremely painful but in the end it is also extremely good for us and also our relationship with Christ as we do grow during the disciplinary process. God disciplines HIS sons...if we are disciplined by God, we should consider it a blessing and evidence of His deep love for us. Please come with me as I share with you what the Holy Spirit showed me when I read these verses sometime ago and have kept the notes.
In verse 1 "we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses." We are being watched by believers and more importantly unbelievers (all the time), thus we as Christians professing to be believers in Christ have to be careful of everything we do/say. "throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles." For ourselves, for our walk, for our witness, we must get rid of anything that hinders our testimony and it is very easy for our flesh to be entangled in sin...thus we must always guard ourselves as in 1 Peter 5:8-9. "and run with perseverance the race marked out for us." We've been given a race, a challenge, and we must run not walk with great endurance and perseverance...not give up but run with confidence that God will aid us. I think it says run because if we walk we are more likely to be tackled by the devil and overcome with obstacles.
Verse 2 "let us fix our eyes on Jesus." Fix our eyes on Jesus...it can't be said any plainer. But "fix our eyes" ON Jesus....just speaks volumes. When we fix our eyes on something, we usually don't let go nor do we look at anything else but rather we will hold our eyes on Jesus. "who for the joy set before him endured the cross." For the joy...He ENDURED. Remember He asked God to remove this cup if possible. He didn't want to suffer the pain but He endured. Endured is such a strong word and it implies pain, sacrifice, and suffering but it also implies a sustaining power through and past the pain. Again, notice it said "for the joy". He knew there was great blessing and joy in His suffering and enduring the cross. He looked beyond the cross and the pain and could see the "joy". I believe enduring is always followed by a blessing from God. When He sees we've endured for Him (because He endured much greater for us), He blesses that.
Verse 3 "consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." We need to continually get the focus off ourselves and onto Him. "Consider HIM"...consider what He did for us and realize what little we can do will never repay that. If He can endure the cross for us, can we not endure whatever He calls us to in this life? Is He not worthy enough? "So that"...we consider what He did so that we can endure what He's laid before us and we will not grow weary and lose heart. Wow. When we look and consider what He did, doesn't it make it so much easier to endure and not lose heart, not give up but to trust in Him and trust He knows what He's doing and then we can endure for Christ's sake.
Verse 4 "In your struggle against sin, you have not struggled to the point of shedding your blood." Now that puts it in perspective. Whatever struggle we endure because of our own sin (or just because), we still have not suffered as much as Jesus. What a struggle His flesh must've suffered....not wanting to endure the cross but He did because it's what His Father wanted. Can we say the same? How many times do we suffer because we know it's the Father's desires? Are we now? Are we truly putting His desires above our wants or are we saying "Father, IF it be they will."?
Verse 7 "Endure hardships as discipline." Hardships are all a matter of perspective. We can be upset, angry, selfish, and bitter about having to go through them or we can simply endure and see it as what it is...discipline. And the purpose of discipline is?...to make us grow to be more like Christ...to pluck out our weeds and to grow our seeds. (Ha...I rhymed and didn't realize it...don't use that phrase as I'm going to get it copyrighted. haha)
Verse 8 "If you are not disciplined then...you are true sons." So the trials, hardships, and discipline are because He does love us and He wants to see the fruit and good in discipline. These are signs of His love for us and that we are children of His because He disciplines all His children. If we are not feeling His discipline, then are we really HIS?
Be Blessed in Him,
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Sometimes I feel like I subscribe to too many email devotionals that it would be better to receive fewer and soak up what those few said. However, I have not been able to dwindled them down because there tends to be extremely goods one from each of the sources. One that really struck me was about knowing God. As I read it and felt the Lord's tug at my own heart, I also couldn't help but to think each and every one of us at some point have felt so helpless, so lonely, and so desperate. I wanted to share my thoughts in hopes that others are also blessed and encouraged.
Someone has defined loneliness as "the surprising opportunity to know God". Boy how true that is!!! It is in the pits and valleys of life that we realize we truly have no one BUT God. However, it is also then that we realize HE is the only one we need! I know we live in a world that focuses on relationships: relationships with siblings, spouses, children, parents, friends. Oh how all those are so very precious and so very important and as emotional humans we have a great need for those relationships. However, they are not to be our focal point nor our main purpose for life.
I’m sure we’ve all endured times of loneliness in which even with these relationships around us, we still feel so alone. Sometimes the loss of a relationship, whether it be a spouse, or friend, or even death of a family member, is literal and the relationship exists no more. The loneliness can then be intensified with the hopelessness of the relationship gone for whatever reason.
So, just as it is when we discover God is the only one we have and the one we need, it is also in this time…the pit and valley…that we really discover God, for Himself. We discover who He is and we become to KNOW Him better…really know Him.
Oh how I KNOW the road of loneliness and feeling of desperation is SO hard but I know it helps us a great deal to focus on the prize, focus on His work that is being done in us. Just knowing that we are choosing to draw closer to God and allow Him to comfort us, that DOES make our painful journeys worthwhile..."worth far more than the cost." Anything, and everything, for HIS glory!
It's a concept that I believe has to go past our minds and past OUR hearts’ desires and make it to our broken heart so as to transform our pain to closeness with the Almighty. It is a challenge to look past the pits and valleys and see the true prize of growing so much closer to God and truly knowing Him and even experiencing Him. What an honor and privilege to say we know the Almighty of Almighties. Is there not anything worth enduring to get to that point? We must look outside the box and outside our pain to see there truly IS! The experience of loneliness is not easy to go through, but believe me, it is worth far more than the cost. Trust me, it is a huge transformation to be able to say what we've lost or what we've endured is worth gaining the closeness with God. We want both: to truly know and have that closeness with God and not have to endure that pain, travel through the pit, or give up that dream or desire. God’s first and primary goal is not to fill our loneliness with human relationships but rather to fill us with Him and to become more and more like His Precious Son, Christ our Lord.
There is loneliness that comes to all who fail to realize that God always gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him. Stop a moment and ponder on that again.
It has been said that our Father is "the God of remarkable surprises". Now, isn’t that true. In the worst of our times, in the depths of our pains, in the loneliest of our moments, God approaches us and reveals the most fascinating things to us. Not only does He show Himself in ways we could never imagine but He performs in ways that are not fathomable. Ephesians 3:20 tells us “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Wow. How much greater is it than while in the depths of our loneliness and the trials of our life, that God does things we never conceived possible, particular in such dire circumstances. But He is God and He can do it all. Remember “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Though “with man this is impossible…” Matthew 19:26.
"When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who knows my way." Psalm 142:3
Father, something within me still shrinks away from the challenge that You are putting before me. Help me to understand that in order to know You - really know You - I must be willing, not just to trust, but obey. I must be able to see past my trials and valleys and see You standing ahead of me, preparing the way, and preparing for purposeful and glorious outcomes only found in You. There is no greater loneliness than being trapped in our own purposes and desires. Help me to be continually centered in You and not in myself or things of this world. In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.
Be Blessed In Him,
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
So, I was forwarding an email devotional that I received from christianity.com to some of my friends. I was typing a little blirp at the top of the email and just as I finished the seven or eight sentences, it struck me this is worthy of posting on a blog. I continued to think over all the emails I've written to friends about different subjects and the compliments I've received on my ability to write and express myself. At that point, the Lord spoke to me ever so silently that I do have the ability. I don't have to post every day so I don't have to over kill my creativity rather I will 'be still' and allow Him to speak to me something to share. I will post just in the same manner that the Lord leads me to forward inspirational emails to my friends.
If you've found me, please come back as I plan to post soon the inspirational and encouraging thoughts that I just emailed to friends.
Stay tuned for "Knowing Him".
Be Blessed In Him,