Christianity 201

July 28, 2015

The Prayer Jesus Prayers Before He Rests

Today we pay a return visit to Gordon Rumford Ministries. I pored over several excellent devotions before choosing this one. Click the title below to read at source and then take a few minutes to look around at some of the other items available there.

Into Your HandsA Good Night’s Rest

“Into your hands I commit my spirit” Psalm 31:5 (NIV)

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We are told very little about the upbringing of Jesus. The Gospels are very silent except for one incident in Jesus’ life when He was twelve years old (Luke 2:41-50). However, there was a custom among the mothers of Jesus’ day that we do know about. When a Jewish mother put her young children to bed it was the custom for them to teach their children certain prayers.

In particular one prayer the mothers taught was to have the child recite Psalm 31:5. There is little doubt that Mary taught her remarkable son Jesus to say this prayer. So this is one thing about our Lord’s childhood of which we may be reasonably certain. Jesus likely prayed this prayer each night at least during His formative years. Perhaps He prayed it every night as an adult as well, we simply do not know.

However, we most certainly know that in His darkest time, when He hung on the cross to pay for His people’s sins, He uttered this prayer. It is the last of the seven things He said while on the cross.

During the first three hours on the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of the people gathered around the cross. Now that the physical alternatives were exhausted, the people turned to verbal abuse from about 9 am to noon. Then for the next three hours from noon to 3 pm, a darkness hung over the land and Jesus was forsaken by the Father in order to save sinners from eternal destruction.

The first three words of Jesus from the cross addressed the needs of others. The last four spoken in quick succession gave expression to His own needs. Jesus always saw to the needs of others before attending to His own concerns.

Having now gone through the trauma of being forsaken by God, He can once again address God as Father just as He taught us to do. And, when He is about to dismiss His spirit and die, He says the last of the seven words from the cross. The last thing Jesus said was, (Luke 23:46 NIV)

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit”

This prayer of Jesus is a remarkable one for us to pray as we endure suffering in our lives.

Jesus, as we have said, had just endured to worst the people could inflict. Now, as He is about sleep the sleep of death He prays this prayer perhaps for the last time.

The lesson for us is that we need to become children of God in order that we may pray this inspired prayer in our times of trouble. In fact, becoming a child of God is, in one sense, committing ourselves to the Lord for Him to save us.

We pray to God and dare to address Him as “Father”. Then we place ourselves into His hands. Putting ourselves into God’s hands means that we come under His control. We submit to Him in everything. What we commit to the Lord is our spirit, our eternal being, our essential selves.

My great desire is that everyone who reads this devotional would pray this simple prayer. Fancy words or prayers written by others are not needed. We can simply take this verse of the Bible and use it as the one to bring salvation to ourselves.

If we are suffering and asking God for help in our situation, then this prayer would be a wonderful way to end the time of prayer. Will you submit to what God has for you as long as He will receive your spirit? Will you call out to Him and use the tender word “Father”?

Do so today. He is waiting to hear from you.


Image: Cathedral of the Rockies, Boise ID

July 20, 2015

Happy is not always Joyful, and Joyful isn’t necessarily Happy

Today, as yesterday, we’re highlighting a multiple-writer devotional blog featuring women authors for the first time here at C201. This one is called Putting on the New, and the particular devotion we’ve chosen today is by Tina Dorward. Click the title below to read this at source, and then look around the rest of the blog.

Happiness Versus Joy

For quite a while, that song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams was extremely popular to the point that people were making their own videos lip syncing to the song. It is a catchy song and I think everyone wants to be happy right? We do stuff we enjoy, spend time with people we like, and get a job where we hope to make a difference all with the intention of helping us feel happy. All of these activities are things we do; they are external things we to some extent feel we can control. Yet in life, there are so many things that happen to us that are sometimes of our doing and sometimes completely out of our control that aren’t good. How are we supposed to be happy then?

In Scripture, the word most often used isn’t happiness but “joy”.  I began to consider why this is and I’ve come to learn that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is often dependent upon our circumstances. When life is going well, we feel happy. But when life isn’t going well, when circumstances around us are not good, we aren’t happy and yet as Christians, we are encouraged throughout Scripture to be joyful in spite of our circumstances. James reminds us in chapter 1, verse 2:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

How do we do this?

While happiness is often more externally dependent, joy on the other hand is internal, it comes from within our spirits and can be present in spite of the circumstances we might find ourselves in. I’m not speaking of a polly-anna fake happiness but a joy that allows us to continue to shine Christ’s light to others, to exude a warmth and a contentment regardless of what curve balls might be coming our way. It’s easy to get caught up in our circumstances; let’s face it, life can be really tough at times.

A year and a half ago, I was going through some rather difficult circumstances. I went to help my Dad take care of my mom who had advanced emphysema and was just starting home hospice. What the hospice workers thought would be a few short weeks turned into 8 weeks, all but 11 days of which I was there, four and a half hours away from my husband and kids helping take care of my dying mother and trying to be a comfort to my father. They were some really special times with both my mom and dad that I will treasure forever and yet they were some of the most horrible days of my life as I watched my mom cling to life here and her body waste away. Many days, although I was incredibly sad, I continued to feel joyful as I thought about how my mom would no longer be suffering, how her breathing would return to normal and how she would soon be praising God in person! I played Christian songs for her that spoke of the hope we have in Christ. I knew she was a believer and where she was going after she died and that some day I would see her again.

The promise of Christ, His saving grace, the encouragement and truth of Scripture, all of these things enabled me and enable all of us to feel joy in spite of what we face here on Earth. The key is we need to remember to allow those truths to be forefront in our minds and to keep our focus on Christ and Christ alone so we don’t succumb to the temptations that try to draw us away.

 

July 19, 2015

It’s Not a Vacation if You Take Everything with You

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Maybe it’s the pace of life increasing generally, but more and more devotional writers are turning to the theme of rest. Today’s thoughts are from the blog Inspire a Fire, appearing here for the first time. The author of this post is freelance writer Cathy Baker. Click the link below to read at source.

Why Soul Rest Begins With Leaving Our Laptops At Home

 “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

What marks the beginning of your vacation? Is it the moment you fill your gas tank and begin merging with fellow vacationers onto the highway? Or maybe the sound of satisfaction that comes as you slam your car trunk for one last time before heading out?

For me, vacation actually begins a week prior to the filled tank and loaded trunk. If you’re a list-lover you know the release that’s felt while listing out all the needs for the trip, followed by the sense of accomplishment as each one is checked off before packing it away. Books, magazines, laptop and reading glasses always top off my list. Last year, however, I felt the tinge of a holy adjustment coming my way every time I glanced at the word laptop.

Granted, with three grandchildren in tow there wouldn’t be a desire nor the time to peruse the internet, check and respond to email, or write blog posts during the day hours. I do, however, admit that skimming the internet before bedtime is one way I relax so taking the laptop has always been a no-brainer.

Then I came across Emily Freeman’s post Why Rest Takes Courage. Her final paragraph clung to my soul like a child refusing to leave her mother:

The details of soul rest may look different for each of us, but probably includes some combination of silence, solitude, nature, your people, and the willingness to come into the presence of Christ and simply be ourselves.

The Holy Spirit spoke tenderly and clearly—I was to leave the laptop at home. And I did, which resulted in a few unexpected discoveries along the way:

  • I felt ambushed by the uneasiness that crept up on my holy adjustment as our departure day drew near. What did I think I’d really miss in 7 days?
  • A new-found freedom emerged as I carried out my beach days with little to no thought of the laptop. I felt no obligation to check Facebook or email. I tried to rest in the fact that if someone didn’t receive an immediate response from me, all would still be well in the end.
  • I lost nothing by leaving my lap top behind but I did gain a type of rest that was both soothing and energizing, leaving me with a renewed appreciation for God’s promptings as well as His people.

I’m not suggesting everyone should leave their laptop behind, but I don’t see it reappearing on my family beach trip list again. Ever. The soul rest Emily eluded to in the above quote was mine for the taking in the combination of silence, solitude, nature, my peeps, and most of all, in trusting that the presence of Christ was enough. More than enough.

So, how about you? Have you left your laptop or other device behind while on vacation, and if so, what’s one thing you learned as a result?

 

Taking time off is not a punishment or a dare or a rule. It is a gift.

– Emily P. Freeman

It’s taking a day to open your hands toward heaven and acknowledging that you don’t make the world go around.

-Emily P. Freeman

June 3, 2015

Recognizing God’s Voice (3)

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Today we conclude a 3-part series from Rick Warren’s devotional blog: (click the section headers to read at source). To catch up on the whole series at his site, use this link.

The Fifth Test

“We will all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards, or even our own, but by the judgment of God … it is to God alone that we shall have to answer for our actions.” Romans 14:10, 13 (PH)

If something is not your responsibility, why should God talk to you about it? Wouldn’t he just talk directly to the person it concerns? This is the fifth test to consider when you wonder if an idea or impression you have comes from God – “Does it concern your responsibility?”

In John 21, Jesus told Peter that he would die a martyr’s death. Peter’s response was to glance at John, who was standing nearby, and ask Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21 NIV). Peter wasn’t satisfied with God telling him what was going to happen in his life. He wanted to know about John’s future as well.

Jesus responded by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22 NIV).

“What is that to you?” My wife, Kay, calls that the WITTY principle. We get ourselves in so much trouble when we start comparing ourselves to others. But when we do this, God says, “What is that to you?” He wants our focus to be following him, not worrying about other people.

Have you ever heard someone say, “God told me to tell you”? My response to that is, “Are you sure about that?” All believers have a direct line to God. And God doesn’t have to tell someone else to tell you. He can talk to you directly.

Now, does God ever speak to others through another person? Of course he does. But there are three guidelines you need to follow if feel God is using you to speak to someone else.

  1. Be patient and pray. Give God a chance to speak to that person directly.
  2. God will typically use you to confirm in someone else’s life what he’s already told them. So when you share your words with someone it won’t be a big surprise if it’s really from God.
  3. God will usually use you without you being conscious of it. If God is going to speak through you to others, he will often do it in a way that you don’t even realize it was God speaking through you. But the person on the receiving end will recognize its truth.

The Sixth Test

“There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NLT)

When you get an idea and you are wondering if it is from God, the sixth question to ask yourself is, “Is it convicting or is it condemning?” If it convicts, then it is from God, but if it condemns then it is from Satan.

A lot of Christians live under condemnation, or constant guilt, and they think it is from God. It isn’t. Condemnation comes from Satan. But conviction comes from God.

Here’s the difference between the two: The purpose of conviction is to correct you on a specific issue in order to bring a change in your life, and it is motivated by God’s love. Because God loves you, when he sees an area in your life that needs change – a relationship, a habit, an attitude – he will nudge you and say, “You need to work on this thing that’s out of whack in your life.”

The purpose of condemnation is to criticize and make you feel guilty, usually in a vague way. If you’ve ever felt guilty but you couldn’t point to anything specific, or if you’ve ever had a feeling of worthlessness, that is condemnation from Satan.

But Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). God will never attack you; he will never say you’re worthless or unlovable. In fact, in Revelation 3:19 God says, “Those whom I dearly and tenderly love, I tell their faults and convict and discipline. So be earnest and repent (changing your mind and attitude)” (AMP).

As soon as you start to confess and change, you will no longer feel any conviction. It’s short-term.

But condemnation is Satan’s way of making you feel worse and worse. It doesn’t go away even after confession. It’s like the American court system. First there is the conviction of a crime in the court; then comes the condemnation, or sentencing which can last for years.

But God doesn’t work that way. In God’s justice system the Holy Spirit convicts us of what’s wrong in our life and we admit it. Jesus pays the condemnation. He serves the punishment for our sin through his death on the cross. And we are free to live the way God created us to live, to live the way Jesus enables us to live. That’s the grace of God.

The Seventh Test

“[God’s] peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

The final test in recognizing God’s voice is to ask yourself, “Do I sense God’s peace about it?” If you think you’ve heard from God, it measures up to God’s Word, you’ve gotten advice from other people and passed the other tests, but you still feel confused or anxious, then it doesn’t pass the seventh test.

Why? “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33 NIV). So you wait and remain patient until you sense God’s peace.

God is a perfect father. Parents don’t want their kids to feel worried or pressured when they ask them to do something. No, they want their children to feel encouraged. That’s the same way God wants to relate to you. He doesn’t want you to feel anxiety in anything he asks you to do.

The only time a sense of pressure is legitimate is when you keep saying no to God. That is a relational pressure that comes from holding God at arm’s length.

Satan wants to drive us compulsively in the things we do, but God doesn’t work that way. God wants to draw us compassionately. He’s the shepherd who wants to lead the sheep. He doesn’t drive us; he guides us. And, as sheep, we need to listen for his voice.

Philippians 4:6-7 describes the attitude you should have when you listen to God’s voice. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).

It’s not just a matter of hearing God’s voice; it’s also a matter or responding. Hearing is not enough. You have to act as well.

The Bible says that God speaks to people who do three things. “Listen to this wise advice; follow it closely, for it will do you good, and you can pass it on to others” (Proverbs 22:17 LB).

God speaks to those who listen to what he says, follow it closely, and then pass it on to others.


We appreciate being able to use these thoughts over the past three days. You can learn more and support Saddleback, Rick’s church, with these resources:

  • Foundations is a comprehensive tool for teaching the essential truths of Christian faith in a simple, systematic, and life-changing way. The 24 sessions, taught by Kay Warren and Tom Holladay, will take you on a thought provoking, life-changing exploration of 11 core doctrines: The Bible, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, Creation, Salvation, Sanctification, Good and Evil, The Afterlife, The Church, and The Second Coming.

 

 

May 10, 2015

For Mother’s Day (Because God is not Gender-Specific)

This was shared in the opening of our worship gathering this morning. Many years ago a popular Christian book portrayed God as a woman, and some people were quite outraged. But there is a variety of imagery for God used in Holy Scripture. Someone observed tongue in cheek, “Just because it says God gathers us under his wings, doesn’t mean God is a chicken.”

Although the church has used the pronoun “He” for centuries — because English lacks a suitable substitute — we see the character of God extending far beyond any male-specific definition. Also, some people see the God of the Old Testament as violent compared to the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild;” but in these verses from Isaiah and Psalms, we see the compassion and love of the God of the First Covenant.

Our Gentle Patient God

(An Invocation Prayer for Mother’s Day)

by Laura Steen

Gentle, Patient God
Today we thank God for the gift of mothers and those who mother.
Isaiah wrote that God is a mother to us, comforting and carrying us in her arms.

As one whom a mother comforts, so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13.

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

Isaiah also wrote that God will never forget us and that he
knows each one of us just as a mother knows her own children.

Can a woman forget her baby at her breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne?
 Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. Isaiah 49:15

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

David wrote that in Gods presence, he was quiet and at peace,
trusting his God like a child safe in its mothers arms.

No I hold myself in quiet and silence, like a child in its mothers arms. Psalm 131:2

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

Jesus spoke of himself as a mother, longing to wrap his arms around us like a
mother-hen gathering her chicks under her wings.

How often have I longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her
wings… Matthew 23:37

Gentle, patient God
thank you for your tender care.

May we have the power to grasp how wide and deep
and high and long your love is for your children
fully expressed in all that Jesus has done for us,
and may we share this love with others.

In His name we pray, Amen

May 7, 2015

Come Apart and Rest

Mark 6:31And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) 32They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.…

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

At first, with its “Five things…” approach, this practical article may appear more like something that should run at Thinking Out Loud, not Christianity 201; but I believe it’s a message that we need to hear. This is by Benjamin L. Corey, and to read it at source, click the link in the title. (There’s also an internal link to a previous article.)

5 Things You Need To Take A Break From To Avoid Spiritual Burnout

Yesterday on the blog I wrote about how I had spent much of this winter suffering from spiritual and emotional burnout, and that I had a hunch I wasn’t alone. Judging from your comments and emails, it turns out my instinct was correct- a lot of Christians are feeling burned out these days. As part of my own process in sorting out how I got to such a dark place, and from the wonderful insight and advice from many of my peers, I was able to identify some behaviors that I absolutely, positively, needed a break from– because that was the source of my burnout.

As I processed this further, I came to realize that even Jesus himself was aware of the potential for spiritual burnout, and made a practice of taking steps to prevent it. Jesus was on a mission to change the world, and the key avenue he chose to do it was through pouring his heart and soul into a small group of 12 friends while simultaneously kicking up against the walls of the dominant power structures of his day. I can only imagine that this led to moments of fatigue and discouragement, since scripture affirmed that Jesus was tempted in all the same ways that we are tempted. So what did Jesus do to avoid spiritual burnout?

Well, it seems that Jesus had built into his life a habit of getting away from whatever things existed in his life that could have led to spiritual burnout. In the book of Luke we find a very important statement:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” (5:16)

I personally really like the rendering of the International Standard Version of this verse, which words it: “However, he (Jesus) continued his habit of retiring to deserted places and praying.”

While there is a host of good stuff one could glean from this verse (such as the aspect of prayer which is not covered by this post), what I appreciate the most is that Jesus knew when he needed to take a break from some things. And, if even Jesus– the Son of God– had to take a break from life-draining things, why would we buy the lie that we can chug along indefinitely without taking a break ourselves?

While I can only guess what sorts of things Jesus needed to take a break from, I think I have a much better grasp of some things that led to my own spiritual burnout, and perhaps did yours as well. So, here is a tangible list of things that I think we need to take scheduled breaks from to help avoid another bout (or come out of your current state) of spiritual burnout:

1. Things that make you angry.

Speaking of money, the Bible says that it makes a good slave but not a very good master. I think the same thing could be said of anger– when it consumes us it masters us, and it makes a horrible master. If there’s a certain topic or issue that is constantly making you angry, take a break from it– in our era of outrage and culture wars it is likely that there will never be a shortage of things to piss you off… so just take a break from the things that fuel your anger.

2. Situations, roles, or people that/who only drain but never replenish you.

Your emotional tank isn’t any different than a bank account– there is a limit as to how much you can spend before things go really bad. Remember: Jesus is the savior of the world, you are not. Yes, let us invest in changing the world and building the Kingdom- but if even our king himself takes a break and steps away for quiet moments where no one is draining him, why would we think we should live differently?

3. Things that worry you.

Jesus warned us that not a single person has added a minute to their life by worrying- but yet we do it anyway (I myself am especially good at this). One way to address it is by a more holistic approach to sabbath keeping: for myself, I’ve been trying to practice “no work, no commerce, and no worries” on the day I practice sabbath keeping. What’s the thing that worries you most? Set aside one day a week where you purposely do nothing about it and do your best to avoid thinking about it.

4. Social media/the comment section on some blogs.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with some great readers- but this isn’t the case everywhere on the internet. The comment section in many places can be one of the most toxic environments on planet earth. If there’s a certain place on the internet (or a certain person on the internet) where reading and engaging the comment section is making you question the future of humanity– take a break and don’t go to that particular blog or comment section. Or, you can even use the “unfollow” option to remove toxic people from your FB newsfeed without the more obvious gesture of unfriending them.

5. Being in-doors.

When Jesus withdrew to take some space, he did it outside. I think far too many of us are cooped up in cubicles and need time in nature like Jesus did– plus, there are tremendous health benefits to exercise, and even some vitamins you can only get through sun exposure outside. For me, I realized that I started to turn the corner as spring hit and we started taking the dog for walks by the lake. Whether you live in the country or in the city- find a way to get outside, go to a park, or even just go for a short daily walk around the block– but get outside and take in some fresh air, because that’s one of the things Jesus did.

I think in some ways seasons of spiritual burnout is inevitable, but I think there are some concrete things we can do both to avoid it, and to pull out of it. These five things were crucial to helping me begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What about you? What frequent practices have you found to be helpful to your emotional and spiritual health?

 

January 3, 2015

When Your Schedule is Daunting

When I asked our friends at Daily Encouragement if that had any sources to recommend for us here at C201, they mentioned one and one only, a marriage enrichment blog by Sabra and David Penley called Simply One. However, you don’t have to have been married to see why their writing came recommended. We’ll probably draw from this resource sometime again soon, but for today, I chose the post below (because I really need to read it); click the link to read it at source; once there click the header to look around.

A Crazy Week

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:9-10

“…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

I’ve had a crazy week.

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Last Sunday, I checked out the calendar to see what the schedule held in store for the next seven days. Ugh!  I was not happy with what I saw! Every single day had something extra written into the allotted square. There was a doctor’s appointment, a women’s meeting, a counseling session, helping with an extra dinner at church, two meetings at my husband’s office, getting blood-work taken, a birthday, a dinner with friends, and a Sunday School party. Those don’t include the activities that were added during the week: an unexpected trip to the dentist, my husband’s lunch with prospective students, and baking a cake for the church dinner. (My husband’s activities are included here because he isn’t able to drive, and I am his driver.)

Now, many of these things would not usually cause stress on their own. In fact, they often can be pleasurable. It’s not that I don’t enjoy dinners and birthdays and parties and getting together with friends; I just don’t enjoy them coming at once. Put them all together in one week’s schedule, and certain things are pushed aside and not achieved. Just the thought of it causes me anxiety!

How does this happen, this over-scheduling?! Obviously, I’m the one who writes it on the calendar. Don’t I notice how full the days are becoming before I make the commitments?

Nevertheless, this frenzied week was upon me. And I wasn’t happy.

As I looked at the hectic schedule shouting at me on that calendar, I felt the stress pouring through my veins. My attitude took a nosedive and an overwhelming feeling took over. All I wanted to do was sit and sulk.

That’s what I desire when I get overwhelmed. I just want to shut down and do nothing. Well, actually, it isn’t nothing. Sulking and sitting are actions…like a little kid pouting when he doesn’t get his way. Yep. That’s a pretty good description. I want to pout…and sometimes I do.

Can you relate?

It seems we need to get a handle on all of this—these out-of-control schedules that wreak havoc . So, what should we do when faced with an upcoming wild week?

I found some encouragement in Ecclesiastes 3:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”  “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time…” “…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” (Eccl. 3:1, 9-10, 22).

Many times we have more on our plates than we think we can handle. But His Word tells us that if God has allowed it in our day, He has a purpose in it and it is a part of His plan. We must remember this and gain a better perspective. Each activity needs to be seen as a God-given opportunity to serve Him, to find the beauty in what we do, and to rejoice in the experience.

I’ve often heard the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time.”

This certainly applies here. A hectic agenda can be as overwhelming as trying to eat an elephant all at once. Yet, we can victoriously conquer a busy week by taking it day by day, hour by hour, activity by activity.

In praying about all this, I’ve found some steps to follow whenever faced with an overloaded schedule:

  1. Change what can be changed. Look to see if anything on the schedule can be postponed until a less busy week to allow some breathing room.
  2. Be sure to spend time with God every day. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your devotions with God, thinking you just don’t have time. Find your guidance and strength for the day from the One who has the power to make it all work according to His plan. (Matt. 6:9-11)
  3. Take it one day at a time. Spend your time and place your thoughts on what must be done for this one day only.  (Matt. 6:34)
  4. Keep your focus on the current task. Don’t spend time thinking about upcoming activities. Stay present and do your best to glorify the Lord through it. (1 Cor. 10:31)
  5. Enjoy the moment. Don’t let an oversaturated schedule ruin the joy of each activity. Find the beauty in everything. (1 Thess. 5:16)
  6. Be flexible. As you go through the week, some things may get cancelled; others may need to be added.  Some usual weekly activities may need to be postponed until next week.
  7. Always be grateful and give thanks to the Lord in everything. (1 Thess. 5:18)

When a crazy week threatens to take you down, trust the Lord’s calming grace to help you stand firm and be victorious.

Dearest Father, when we are faced with an overburdened calendar and we start to be overwhelmed, give us Your perspective and guide us in each step. Fill us with Your strength and ability to be victorious and complete each needed activity with excellence, all the while rejoicing and giving thanks. Help us to keep our focus on You, Your purpose, and Your power, trusting You to make everything beautiful in Your time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

March 16, 2014

Entering Into God’s Rest

A year ago we introduced you to Greg Winfield, the author and creator of FaithsMessenger.Com.  Today we pay a return visit with a piece that appeared a week ago at that site.  Click here to read at source, and then look around at other articles.

Entering into God’s rest is one of those scriptural topics that take on different meanings to different people. With me being the black and white person that I am, I take the verse that talks about entering into God’s rest literally.

Most of the time the example I use when describing the degree of rest I’m referring to is taken from Mark 4: 35-41. In this passage of scripture we find Jesus and the disciples getting into a boat and Jesus giving the command “let us go across to the other side”.

Entering into God’s rest is having more confidence in what God says than what circumstances have to say

The bible says that as they were crossing, a great storm arose to the point that the waves were breaking into the boat and filling it with water. But Jesus was in the back of the boat asleep on a cushion. In the middle of the storm, the disciples woke Him up asking Him if He cared that they were going to die.

They didn’t wake Him up to ask Him what they should do to save themselves and the boat. They didn’t wake Him up to ask Him to save them. They woke Him up only to find out if He cared that they were going to die. Their minds were made up that they were about to meet their demise based upon the storm they were facing.

Somewhere between the time Jesus said “let us go to the other side” and the point where they felt the need to wake Jesus up, the storm changed their minds and got them to move away from what Jesus said and onto thinking that they were going to die.

The story goes on the say that Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be still. The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Immediately He turned to them and asked them why they were so fearful and how it was they had no faith.

Entering into God’s Rest

The part of the story I want to focus on is the rest that Jesus was experiencing prior to being awakened by His disciples. This is the kind of rest I believe we all should be experiencing in the middle of the storms of life.

Sleep is the ultimate form of rest. When the Word of God has been issued concerning what we may be going through in life, we too can experience rest to the same degree that Jesus did in the boat that day.

What Situation or Circumstance carries more weight than God’s Word?

In the story above the disciples gave the storm more credibility than the words Jesus had spoken. They committed spiritual adultery by being enticed by what the sea and the waves had to say more so than what Jesus had to say.

On the contrary, Jesus was resting. What need was there to do anything else? His Words were more powerful than any storm. Entering into God’s rest is having more confidence in what God says than what circumstances have to say. Any circumstance that arises between the time the Word of God is received, and the fulfillment of that Word coming to pass in your life is merely an annoying inconvenience.

Entering into God’s rest is a quiet assurance that you have placed your faith in something much stronger than anything else you may be facing in life. Entering into God’s rest takes place after we have done the will of God in any given situation and are waiting to receive the promise.

When you feel overwhelmed with life, I encourage you to enter into God’s rest. Realize just how little control we have in most of the situations we face in life. Enter into God’s rest. Lift up the standard of God’s Word in your life by shouting “Peace, be still!” to the storms if your life. Then quietly find a cushion and go to sleep.

December 27, 2013

Peace on Earth

This article is by Dan Miller and appeared at the blog Sharper Iron, from which an article by a different writer appeared here on December 13th. There is much good reading at this site, I don’t think we’ve ever visited the same webpage twice in one month! Click here to read today’s article at source.

The gospel according to Luke records that on the night of Jesus’ birth an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in a field outside the Judean village of Bethlehem. The angel announced “good news of great joy” which included the benediction: “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:10, 14).

Peace had come to earth in a person. The “Prince of Peace,” prophesied centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah had come (Isaiah 9:6). In a mystery never to be fully fathomed, the “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” was born a child with flesh and blood to dwell on earth for a season (Isaiah 7:149:6; John 1:14). And as the Bible repeatedly demonstrates, whenever the living God comes to dwell among his people, he always brings peace.

But what is peace? The word is not difficult to define. Peace is the calm that prevails in the absence of war. It is the serenity that marks freedom from hostilities, strife or dissension. Peace is a paucity of agitation, upheaval or chaos. Although used in an array of contexts, the definition is fairly straightforward.

Peace is far more difficult to identify and experience. There is peace which is really no peace at all. False peace shatters many lives and poisons many souls. There is peace in the midst of hostility—peace that operates at full throttle in the war zones of human experience. There is peace as ethical responsibility. There is peace we desperately want, but can do nothing to attain.

In the midst of a holiday season in which peace is commonly announced but too seldom experienced, a few spiritual reflections on peace may be fitting. Many draw their understanding of peace from self-determined assumptions; I offer here meditations rooted in biblical revelation. The peace on earth announced by the angelic messengers to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth was rooted in God’s grand salvation plan. That concept of peace included several components.

Peace as an attribute of God. God is the source of all peace. Peace flows freely from his being. God executes and finishes wars, he does not start them. He is not a pugnacious God who is always looking to pick a fight. God is a God of peace who will not rest until peace reigns on earth. This goal requires war (Rev. 19:11-20:15). Yet war is a necessary consequence of sin, not a product of God’s nature.

Peace as a gift of God. The ultimate war is between sinful people and God. In his boundless grace, God issues his moral law for the good of humanity. For our good, he commands us not to cheat, steal or lie; not to yield to lust, pride, greed or gossip. He commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves. But we respond to God’s law by running our own way and doing our own thing. This rebellion renders us enemies of God in his perfect righteousness and renders us objects of his just judgment (Rom. 5:6-8).

But in his mercy, God provides justification—imputing the righteous standing of Christ to the account of those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection to secure their salvation from the punishment of their sin. Jesus bears the penalty of our sin and dies in our place; we receive his righteous standing and live. What is the result? “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1-2). This is the quintessential peace on which all other experiences of peace ultimately depend.

Peace as an ethical responsibility in relation to others. Those who receive the gift of peace with God are called to pursue peace with others. This is not always possible, but as far as lies within us, we are to be peacemakers on earth (Matt. 5:9Rom. 12:18). The peace God gives at the cost of sacrificing his Son serves as the ultimate motivation for his followers to seek peace in all their relationships.

Peace as a disposition of the soul. Believers who have received the peace of God as a gift, continue to battle the agitation of soul that comes with life in a troubled world. In consequence of what Jesus has done to secure peace with God, his followers are liberated to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to make their prayerful requests known to God. As they obey this directive, the Bible promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). The orientation is not to search for peace within; it is to experience inner peace by means of a dependent relationship with God.

Peace as a condition of nature freed from the curse. The peace on earth Jesus came to establish will ultimately encompass the physical universe. When Jesus calmed the storm that was riling the Sea of Galilee, he did not simply say “Stop.” He said, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). This miracle foreshadowed the day when the returning Christ will suspend the earth’s curse. The desert will blossom as a rose, the lion will lay down with the lamb, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, straight-line winds and volcanoes will all cease (Isa. 11:1-11). In that coming day, peace will reign on earth—just as the angel said it would.

May peace with God, and the peace of God, rest upon you.

September 10, 2013

There is a River

I saw this on Brian McLaren’s blog… it’s actually from the devotional blog iDisciple, the author is N. Gordon Cosby and it appeared under the original title Trust The Stream. Water imagery flows (pardon the pun) through scripture, and so we don’t forget, over 70% of the earth’s surface is water. I’ve added a related worship song video (audio only) at the bottom; Psalms Alive is one of my favorite worship song collections.


“There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city…” (Psalm 46:4, CEB).

The stream flowing through our lives is from eternity to eternity. It is artesian. It is totally adequate. Everything we need is borne by that stream. Its origin is the realm beyond, and it carries infinite resources. In this space-time realm, conditioned as we are, the stream can seem to be a trickle. It seems puny against the drugs we’re battling, against the divisions among us or the power of greed that fuels our economy.

When we’re up against all the world’s needs and lacks–the way we perceive life–the stream seems inadequate. But in fact, it is a powerful, surging, cleansing tide that purifies all it touches. It is a grace torrent. It flows irrespective of merit. It carries everything that a human being has ever needed–and could ever want. Whatever we need will flow by at just the opportune moment. Our problem is that we’re not attuned to the stream. We don’t see it. We’re not even looking in the river’s direction.

But when we wait in expectancy, looking at the stream and then recognizing what we need as it floats by, we simply reach out and take the gift. It’s an effortless way of living. Usually we’re not attuned to effortlessness. We’re too busy striving. We’re holding forth and carrying on and trying to reach our goals. The wisdom of the stream is the opposite of this. What I’m talking about is moving from a conceptual awareness of God’s care–the idea of God’s providence–to trusting the flow of that stream that carries everything we need and will bring it at just the opportune moment.

Jesus found it difficult to understand his disciples’ anxiety. He was so in the river, he was so aware that the stream carried everything that was needed, that he couldn’t understand why others were having so much trouble with the idea. What he says is to set our minds on God’s realm, God’s justice, before everything else. Everything else will be given by the stream. This is different than achievement and different than making things happen. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus says. You’ll have plenty to think about when tomorrow comes. Now the stream is flowing.

Once we get accustomed to noticing the stream, and we spend more time near the stream, taking from it what is being given, there comes another step: actually getting into the water and resting in its flow. Even when the flow is a torrent, we know we are safe. We trust the flow. We become non-resistant. We become receptive. We trust the power of the divine presence, which longs to take our one little life to its divine destination. Even if we’re in deep water, we trust the flow and are not afraid. We simply wait in expectancy to round the next bend, looking in wonder at the view. Always a new view. Effortlessness, expectancy, and wonder are how we live, rather than striving.

Faith, in the biblical sense, is trusting the flow and reveling in the view and being carried beyond all existing boundaries. Faith is being excited about the final destination, even when the destination is a mystery. When Jesus says, “Believe in God, believe also in me,” he is saying, “Get into the stream with us. It’s a stream of pure grace and mercy. Go into its depths and find us there.”

Gordon Cosby, along with his wife, Mary, established Church of the Saviour in Washington D.C. in 1947; Gordon entered into the full presence of God earlier this year, well into his 90s. This meditation is reproduced with permission from inwardoutward.org.

May 28, 2013

From My I Can’ts To God’s I Can

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There are certain ‘go-to’ blogs where I know I can always find good content. One of those is Claire in Auckland, New Zealand who writes at One Passion, One Devotion.  This appeared there at last week’s Five Minute Friday feature.

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?Psalm 123:1  I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Colossians 3:1  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

There is just “something” about lifting our eyes, about looking with a different perspective and vantage point. 

i will lift my eyes from my i cants, to God’s i can

i will lift my eyes from my limitations, to God’s nothing is impossible

i will lift my eyes from my flaws, to God’s gift of forgiveness and righteousness through Christ

i will lift my eyes from my loneliness, to God’s promise that He is with me

i will lift my eyes from my exhaustion, to God’s invitation to come

i will lift my eyes from my excuses, to God’s encouragement that i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Sometimes we may never know the WHY something happens. But we can always know the WHO. And we can be confident that God is always with us. Always. 

He is our view.  Let us fix our eyes upon Him, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” ~ Psalm 27:7-8

 With so much instability and fear in the world today, we must cling to Jesus and fix our eyes on Him and view life through the eyes of trust and faith. God is always good. In every challenge and every circumstance, He is good. He can always be trusted. He is in the business of turning anything bad into everything good. He breaks open prison doors, He sends whales as coast guards, He tells the paralyzed to get up and walk. And He raises the dead to life.

Perspective matters. Perspective changes death into life. Perspective changes hopelessness into hope. Fear into faith. Crisis into opportunities to grow and trust God.

Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for God’s glorious intervention.

April 8, 2013

We Do Not Lose Heart

Heartlight is a website offering both daily devotionals and longer articles. This one  from the articles page by Tom Norvell appeared in February. You’re encouraged to read this at source, and then visit the rest of the site.

I suspect there are some reading these words might take exception to the title: “We Do Not Lose Heart”! You do not mean to lose heart. You do not want to lose heart. You know that you should not lose heart. But, that’s where you find yourself: losing heart… or at least you feel like you may be losing heart.

You have dreams that seem to be fading. You think about opportunities that have passed by or never ever came to fruition. You see obstacles that are too big and too powerful to overcome. You are faced with problems that seem to have no solution. You feel the pressure, you are perplexed, you feel you are being attacked on every side and from the most surprising people, and are afraid that if you are knocked down one more time you may not be able to get back up. You feel weak, tired, and defeated.

What are you going to do?

What can you do?

Start here. Read what Paul wrote:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 NIV).

Does that sound like you? At least does this part sound like you?

  • hard pressed
  • perplexed
  • in despair
  • persecuted
  • abandoned
  • struck down

Do those parts of Paul’s words sound familiar? And the other things — the positive things, the things of faith — not so much right now.

Read what he wrote at the end of the chapter:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Feel any better?

Does it help to know you are not alone in your struggles?

Do you find any comfort in hearing that others have experienced the same difficulties?

Maybe? Maybe not? I know. I have been there.

Before you quit, take a deep breath. Before you slump off into depression and hopelessness because you still cannot figure out how to fix all the stuff that is wrong in your world, read this third paragraph that fits between the other two. This is where Paul reveals the reason he does not lose heart:

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:13-15).

Did you see it?

It is right there in the middle of the paragraph. One sentence:

…because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

That is the secret. That is the key. That is what can keep us from losing heart. Look up. Look at Jesus. Rely on the fact that He will raise us up. Our struggles show that the Gospel is at work in us. Our difficulties will be turned into His glory. There is a lot we cannot see if we stay focused only on what we can see. This is temporary stuff. We are about the eternal.

I pray that through our faith in Jesus Christ who will raise us up we will not lose heart.

April 1, 2013

When Panic Strikes

I have always been a very nervous person. I worry, and I worry that I worry. It seems inconsistent with the life of abiding in Christ we should be living. But sometimes the circumstances of life seem overwhelming. So when Pete Wilson spoke on this verse yesterday, I was all ears. (I watch Pete at 7:00 PM EST Sundays at this link.)

Sometimes in Bible translation, there is consistency from version to version as to a particular passage, and at other times there are a wider variety of terms at the translators disposal.  This is one of those.  This appeared earlier today at Thinking Out Loud.

Last night I was watching the online version of Cross Point Church’s Sunday service; the one where Pete Wilson takes live questions after he preaches.  He mentioned that he reads a chapter of scripture a day and is always amazed at how timely it is to whatever circumstance he is facing. Then he told a story of how God used a scripture reference in an unlikely place to meet a need in his own life.

But Pete’s sermon also had something I needed — and still need — to hear. One of those verses that arrests you in your tracks. It’s the rendering of Isaiah 28:16 in the updated NIV:

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.

It’s that last phrase, which I underlined, that really got me.

The Message makes a rare use of capital letters here:

And this is the meaning of the stone:
A TRUSTING LIFE WON’T TOPPLE.

The ESV has:

‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

The CEB:

…the one who trusts won’t tremble

The Amplified:

..he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic].

The NLT:

It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
Whoever believes need never be shaken.

Finally, the NASB:

A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

Part of life in the modern world is the potential for fear and anxiety.  The translators use: disturbed, panic, shaken, trembling… This is a verse to claim for those who know what it means to panic.  Am I trusting in the cornerstone? Positionally, generally yes, but we live in two worlds and there are times I don’t allow my faith to permeate or penetrate my circumstances.

Blog Update:

While Thinking Out Loud continues to be my most visible blog project, Christianity 201 is fast becoming the more active franchise. Each day more people sign on for this potpourri of Bible study discussion and devotional thoughts culled from the widest variety of the Christian blogosphere.

At the same time, going on a daily “hunting and gathering” routine can be exhausting, so I’m looking for someone who is already familiar with the WordPress platform who might want to eventually have editing privileges here. To start, needed is someone who has been blogging regularly for at least a year themselves, so I can see where they are coming from, and then they need to be able to source out material suitable for C201 subject to the guidelines posted in the sidebar.You also need to be able to generate appropriate post tags; and need to work with HTML in terms of setting blockquotes within quotes and adding color to scripture passages and subheadings and adding to superscripts on Bible references. (Note: This particular theme is not H1, H2 responsive so you have to change font sizes.) Initially, submissions would be emailed in coded text.

A needle in a haystack person, basically; but if you feel that’s you, start by contacting me at the address on the “Submissions” page. Anyone who does not feel up to this task, but wants to send a particularly strong C201 guest post is welcomed to do that anytime by email.
 

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

October 31, 2012

Pivotal Circumstances Bring Greatest Life Lessons

This month I was privileged to meet a fellow-Canadian blogger and writer, Diane Lindstrom in person.  Last week she shared a very personal post at her eponymous blog aka Overflow, under the title, Where There’s A Front, There’s a Back.  I thought it should be shared with more of you here, but you’re encouraged to click through and get to know Diane.


Jesus Prayed

Much of life is spent getting out of bed.  Fixing lunches.  Turning in assignments. Changing diapers.  Paying bills. Routine.  Regular.  More struggle than strut.

You thought marriage was going to be a lifelong date?  You thought having kids was going to be like baby-sitting?  You thought the company who hired you wanted to hear all the ideas you had in college? Then you learned otherwise.  The honeymoon ended.

But at the right time, God comes.  In the right way, He appears. So don’t bail out.  Don’t give up.  He is too wise to forget you, too loving to hurt you.  When you can’t see Him, trust Him.

So what does God do while we’re enduring the pain?  Mark 6:46 says, “Jesus prayed.”  He prayed for His disciples when they were in the storm.  And when He heard their cries, He remained in prayer.

He’s praying a prayer right now that He Himself will answer at the right time.
“Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25)

~Max Lucado from A Gentle Thunder

Life just doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to go…

…but there’s a front and back to everything – the bigger the front, the bigger the back. I truly believe that the most painful trials can yield the deepest healing and the greatest joy. When I think back on my life, I recall five extremely painful, long lasting struggles, yet each experience changed me because God was there and He heard my prayer.

1. When I was in university, life was “rolling along like a song” until my nineteen year old and healthy friend died in his sleep. It was the first time that I truly understood the fragility of life and I became very fearful about death. I had never experienced such anxiety and I wasn’t equipped to deal with the intensity of my feelings. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I began to memorize scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His peace,  I was able to accept my mortality and live each day more fully.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!   Isaiah 26.3  

2. My biological father left our family when I was two years old. My mother got married two more times but I never felt close to either man – I wanted to meet my real father and I spent the next twenty years, thinking of and looking for him. My mother cut my father’s face out of all the family pictures and she refused to talk about him. She was given my father’s address but she chose to withhold this information from me. My father died and my mother made a choice to never let me meet him. I had never felt so angry in my life. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His forgiveness and I was able to forgive my mom. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4. 31,32

3. My third child was born at 11:00 pm. on August 22nd, 1988 and from that night on, for fourteen months, I experienced profound insomnia. My life fell apart. I wasn’t able to cope with three young children and I needed help. I went for counselling and slowly, I surrendered to the truth that I was not in control of my life. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I came to understand that I desperately needed God’s help every minute of the day. Eventually, I knew His faithfulness and I was able to surrender and trust Him. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55.8,9

4. In 1988, my husband left our family and threw our lives into turmoil. It was the most unexpected and painful time of my life. I was devastated.  I felt like a complete failure. I felt lost. I felt angry and  sad. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I stopped allowing my feelings to direct my life. I began to live according to His Word, not my feelings. Eventually, I knew His strength and I was able to persevere through trial. 

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. James 1.2-4

5. When my daughters were in their late teens, they went through a time of great rebellion and deep suffering. There were many dark nights for me. I lost perspective  – I couldn’t see a way out for them or for me. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I was able to step back and wait on Him. Eventually, I knew His hope and I was able to  give my daughters’ lives over to the One Who loved them more than I did. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10.23

PEACE

FORGIVENESS

SURRENDER

STRENGTH

HOPE

I’m a different person now and I am forever thankful that the bigger the front, the bigger the back. God hears my prayers and I know, without a doubt, that the greatest victories come out of the darkest times. The glorious truth is this:

Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.            Hebrews 7.24,25

~Diane Lindstrom

January 12, 2012

Strength of Character

Anyone who can’t find Biblical encouragement and devotional material online isn’t looking very well!  Today we dropped by the devotional site of Campus Crusade For Christ International…

Be Strong in Character

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4).

A friend of mine had been very successful in business, but after he became a Christian everything seemed to go wrong. Problem after problem seemed to plague him. Yet he never seemed to be discouraged or defeated.

As we counseled together, he assured me that there was no unconfessed sin in his life. So I rejoiced with him that God was preparing him for a very important responsibility in His kingdom. That is exactly what happened. He is now the director of a very fruitful ministry for our Lord. The problems and testing served to help equip him to be a better ambassador for Christ.

If you are experiencing difficulties in your life – physical illness, loss of loved ones, financial adversity – remember the above admonition from God’s Word. Be happy, knowing that God will work in your life to accomplish His holy purpose.

You can decide how you will respond to problems and temptations – you can either become critical and cynical, or as an act of the will, by faith, you can choose to believe that our sovereign, loving God is allowing this to happen in your life for your own good and for His glory.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered. “His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, KJV). He is tender, loving and compassionate, concerned about your every need.


Bible Reading:

James 1:5-12

New International Version (NIV)

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

 12Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 


 

Today’s Action Point: When difficulties and temptations enter into my life I will – as an act of the will, by faith in God’s faithfulness to His promises – rejoice and be glad, knowing that He is always with me and will never forsake me. As I trust Him and obey Him, he will supernaturally turn tragedy to triumph, and He will change heartache and sorrow to joy and rejoicing. I will trust Him in the darkest night of circumstances.

 

…and found not one, but two devotional readings to share with you…

Nothing You Cannot Do

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”(Philippians 4:13, NLT).

What would you give for the power to live a truly holy, fruitful life? Strangely enough, it is yours for the asking. If your problem is timidity in witnessing, God promises to help you share your faith with others: “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If it is victory over temptation, He reminds us that temptation is not a sin; it is only in the yielding that it becomes sin.

If you need victory in your thought-life, He promises to allow no tempting or testing above that you are able to bear – and that certainly includes your thought-life (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are invited to “cast all your anxiety upon the Lord, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

If it is forgiveness you seek, He offers it freely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, KJV).

In short, you have no burden, no problem, no need that is too big for our Lord to handle. “Ye receive not, because ye ask not,” He reminds us.

If your need is for physical healing, know that He is able to heal you if it is His will. If His answer to your prayer is no, thank Him for the sure knowledge that His grace is sufficient in the midst of pain and suffering. Acknowledge His sovereign right to be God in your life, whatever the cost may be. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him to help you do it and He will” (Psalm 37:5).


Bible Reading:

Philippians 4:6-12

New International Version (NIV)

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.

 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.


Today’s Action Point: I will begin this day – and every day – by committing everything I do to the Lord and expecting Him to help me. I will remember that I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength and power (Philippians 4:13).

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