Be Strong and Courageous

II Chronicles 32 is a wonderful example of the sovereignty of God and proof that when we place our full trust in God, He will cause us to be victorious!

I’ve been spending some time reading and re-reading this chapter to slowly digest its true meaning.  I love verses 7 and 8 in particular:

“Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him;

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.  And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah, king of Judah.”

Wow.  God was saying through Hezekiah – “Hey, I’ve got your back!  The odds may not be favorable for you but, no worries.  I’m bigger; I’m greater than your foes.”

Sometimes we place God is this super small box and believe that He is somewhere up in the sky looking down on us, probably frowning, and that He is incapable of moving in our situation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Bible says that God is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.  He cares, folks.  He has loved us with an everlasting love.  Above all, He wants us to seek Him out and to trust Him.  How can you have a relationship with someone if you are unwilling to trust them on the most basic level?

When we are able to fully trust God and place our lives in His hands, we will then begin to see Him move in our lives in ways we never thought possible.

“…but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”  Yes!

We build up our faith by reading the Word of God.  And when we do this, our faith is able to grow and we are then in a position to be “strong and courageous”, not in our own strength or might; but in God’s strength.  He will give us supernatural strength to walk through whatever valley you find yourself in today.  He is able.  He is more than enough.

Will you trust Him?

In our weakness, He is strong.   If you feel weak in your faith today, I encourage you to get into the Word of God.  It is there you will find strength.

May God bless you and may you find courage and strength in God today!

The Immutability of God

Now what does that exactly mean?  Immutable means: Fixed, set, established, doesn’t change, constant, static, enduring, permanent.  I absolutely love this!

God’s unchanging nature has always been one of the most precious qualities to me.  He will not change.  He cannot change.  He isn’t loving today and hateful tomorrow.  He doesn’t forgive me today and hold a grudge against me tomorrow.  He isn’t kind today and evil tomorrow.  He cannot change.  It isn’t in His divine nature, friend.  Isn’t that comforting to know?

Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

Verse 17 goes on to say, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Psalm 107:8-9 says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfied the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

That’s the character of the God I serve.  He is good.  He is merciful.  He is just.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

 ~ I John 4:7-8

He is loving.  These Scriptures demonstrate and reveal to us the unchanging character of God.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”  ~ Hebrews 13:8

He will not change.  He cannot change.

He has loved us with an everlasting love.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

When my circumstances change, my God does not.  When my seasons change, God remains constant.  When my bank account changes or my relationships change, God is steadfast, unmovable in His love and grace for my life.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I challenge you today, friend, to dig into the Word of God and see God’s character for yourself.  “O, taste and see, that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8). Do not neglect the Scriptures because the task seems tedious.  Our lives can become so hectic and fast paced that we lose sight of the true source of our strength.  Get into the habit of daily reading the Word of God and not merely checking off a reading list.  God is more interested in your spiritual growth than how many chapters you’re rushing through each day.  Read His love story to us and watch your spirit soar and your walk with Christ grow in ways you never knew were possible!

Blessings, my friend!  May we continually grow in His grace.  And may you be reminded of God’s constant character and steadfast love.

Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave the famous refrain in his first inaugural address:

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

That’s pretty true, isn’t it?  Some of us come by worrying and fear more naturally than others but I think the reality is, we’re all susceptible to feelings of fear at some time or another in our lives.  Now, our “fight or flight” reactions may spark fear but are intended to preserve our lives.  I’m talking about living in a constant, vicious cycle of fear.

I discussed in yesterday’s post the fact that you’re never alone and the fact that it has got to be one of the devil’s most overused tools on us, as Christians.  Well, fear has to be a close second.  It is a real bondage to be so wrapped in fear that you cannot face the future with optimism and hope.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked at an independent living apartment complex for senior citizens.  I was an administrative assistant and one of my daily jobs was to take Mrs. Augustine her mail as she was too afraid to leave her apartment for fear the mafia would come for her.  She was a sweet lady but clearly had some problems.

As outlandish as this may sound, we all have things we do or don’t do out of fear.  Now, some of those things are good.  For instance, we don’t walk in the middle of the street because we could be struck by an oncoming car.  That is a valid fear and one we should heed.  We do not submit our income taxes late for fear of being fined.  We do not place our hand on a hot stove for fear of being burned.  All very good things.

However, there are also things we do or don’t do out of an unhealthy fear.

We don’t attend church or a certain Bible study out of fear of being judged.  We don’t have a gym membership for fear of being ridiculed.  We don’t leave the house without make-up because we fear being inadequate.  We don’t volunteer for a project because we fear our talents are insufficient.

You get the idea.  These are negative fears that can impact us if repeated long enough.

This is one of my 2017 goals:

“Face life unafraid!”

Not afraid of what someone else thinks.  Not afraid of failure.  Not afraid of insufficiencies.   Not afraid of being imperfect.  Not afraid of what “might” happen.  Not afraid of someone else’s approval or response.  Not afraid of being misunderstood.  NOT AFRAID!

What if we all lived like this?

What if we took the shackles off and simply lived life the best we could?  … without all the mental clutter, all the “what if’s”, all the insecurities?

The reality is that no one is perfect.  No one.  So, your failures will not surprise anyone.   They are common place, my friend.  My goal this year is to live life to the best of my ability and rest knowing that, that is good enough.  My goal is also to face my fears, wherever I may find them, head on.  I have found that when I actually get around to doing a task on my “to do” list that I’ve been dreading, I often wonder why it took me so long.  We have to muster up our courage and run toward our fears, instead of running from them.  If our backs are facing the fear, then we are on the wrong side.

Sometimes we fear the unknown.  That is a valid fear.  After all, none of us know the future.  However, we must come to the place that, although we may not know the future, we know WHO holds the future.  And that is God.

It is said that there are 365 Bible verses on the topic of fear – one for each day.  I think that is so neat.  God knew we would need constant reminders of His presence and His grace in our lives.  He knows how weak we are.

Can I challenge you today to face your fears?  The days of sweeping them under the rug are gone.  Deal with the dust bunnies in your life and move on so there can be closure.  Don’t allow fear or anything else to keep you from forward progress in your life.  Forward momentum is what productive, happy lives are made of.  The moment we begin to get “stuck” is the moment we succumb to traps of the enemy and snares that bind us.  Determine today that with God’s help, you will move forward with His strength and face your fears.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

 

You Are Never Alone

This has got to be one of the devil’s most sharpened tools he uses against Christians.  Nobody cares.  You might as well give up.  And, all too often, we fall for it, hook, line and sinker!

Nothing could be further from the truth!  If we can dodge the “Woe is me” bullet long enough to look around us, most of us are surrounded by family who love us dearly.  Above that, God promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

This is so true.  During times in my life that I have felt the most alone, those have been times that I was not spending adequate time reading God’s Word and praying.  It is there we will find strength from God and sense His presence in our lives.

Never fall for this lie from the enemy of our souls that we are alone.  There is always someone you can reach out to.  Now, there lies the caveat.  Sometimes, perhaps too many times, we are hesitant to reach out and become vulnerable enough to let someone know we need help.  Most people would be willing to assist, but they are not mind readers.  You have to let people know of your needs.

You will find peace in God’s Word and reassurance that truly God is with you every step of life’s journey.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us acknowledging His presence and asking for His guidance and help.

The truth is:  You Are Never Alone!

Let that sink in.

The devil wants to discourage believers because if you are a weak, anemic Christian, you can’t be effective as God’s Ambassador.  However, if we can move past this lie of discouragement, we can experience the peace of God and find contentment.

You are never alone.  It bears repeating.

Now, find someone who needs to hear this and reach out to them.  It’s so important for Christians to be God’s hands and feet extended.  The world will never know unless we show them with our love.  It’s been said that you are the only Bible some will ever read.  That’s so true.  Let someone know they are not alone today.

A New Look at Psalm 23

Psalm 23 has long been a favorite passage of mine.  It calms my restless soul and brings me peace.  As I was reading it this morning, the Lord dropped this question in my spirit, “Is it possible to lie down in green pastures and be led by the still waters while walking through the valley of the shadow of death?”

I’ve read this chapter a million times or so it would seem, but I’ve always distinguished these being two separate seasons in life.  Sometimes we are at peace and God is restoring our very souls and leading us in the right paths; and others, we are suffering through a dark valley.

This question from the Lord challenged my theology, though.  What if it were possible to experience deep peace despite being in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it?

As the chapter moves on, it says:

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The entire chapter of Psalm 23 speaks of God’s presence being with us throughout our lives and the hope of heaven we have as Christians.

I don’t believe that the storms of life are indicative of God’s presence being lifted somehow from our lives.  And if He remains with us throughout the seasons of life, it stands to reason that His peace, which is a fruit of the Spirit, is also with us.

So, back to the question at hand…

Is it possible to lie down in green pastures, be led by the still waters and our very souls to be restored concurrently while we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.  Even in our darkest hours when it would appear all hope is gone, there is a peace, which comes from God Almighty, that can undergird our souls.

Lying down in these green pastures sounds so lush and refreshing, doesn’t it?  I can just picture these pastures by a huge lake on a spring day with butterflies flying around and the sun shining so brightly as it beams off the beautiful, blue water.   A slight breeze is in the air making it neither too hot nor too cold.  A perfect day.

Being led by the still waters speaks to nothing causing our souls to grieve, no anxiety.  Just stillness.  A supernatural calm.  How many of us could use some still waters today?

This peace, this stillness is available to all of us through Jesus Christ.  If we draw close to God, He promises to draw close to us.  He is as close as the mere mention of His Great Name.  We can experience this peace as we study God’s Word and spend time in prayer.

I do believe our souls can find rest even when the storms of life rage and threaten to capsize our vessel.  Jesus is our anchor.

Psalm 23 begins: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”

In Him lies everything we need.  May we all find peace for our restless souls and hope for the journey in God.  And may we receive restoration and comfort as we are being led in paths of righteousness.

I encourage you to read this short chapter today and see how God speaks to you.  The Bible is unlike any other book; it is a living book.  It is one with God and it is how God speaks to us.  To truly know the heart of God, we must study it and apply it to our own lives.  

Blessings, my friend!

~Amber

Count it All Joy

James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worth patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Why on earth would we be happy about being in a temptation or trial, as Christians?  How is this even possible?  Isn’t it a terrible thing when we find ourselves in less than perfect situations?  After all, as believers, aren’t our lives supposed to be beds of roses?

I love studying God’s Word because it lends a broader perspective than our present circumstances ever could.  We learn to look beyond ourselves and see the bigger picture.

No one is naturally happy about trials and tests of our faith.  However, when we see through God’s lens of eternity, one day we will be able to look back and realize how all the puzzle pieces fit together to form God’s plan in our lives.  It’s about trusting God’s plan and moving beyond what we see in front of us.

James talks about letting patience have her perfect work because some tests and trials (okay, probably most!) last longer than we would like.  If we can stop fighting God in the midst of our trials, we might actually learn something that would build our character and serve a greater purpose in bringing glory to God.

We have been led to believe that we should never encounter difficult times but such is life. Life is full of ups and downs and both require trusting God to continually work all things together for our good and ultimately His glory.  It’s just that it’s easier to trust God in the good times.  Somehow in the bad times, we feel as if He’s forgotten where we live.  He hasn’t forgotten.  He knows your name and mine.  He sees all.  Nothing is being wasted as you go through tests and trials.  I read this a long time ago: “God doesn’t waste pain, tears or scars.  He uses them all for His glory.”  I absolutely believe that!

Everything we go through in this life serves a greater purpose than we often see at the moment.  If we can see through eyes of faith, a time in the future where we’ve moved beyond the present circumstances, perhaps we can get a glimpse of the good that it will bring.  If we will be patient and learn to be still, we will eventually see that God’s hand was, in fact, with us during our darkest days.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  ~ Psalm 46:10a

“But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  ~ James 1:4

So, at the end of your tests and trials, the goal is that we would be mature and complete, wanting nothing.  The word perfect here does not refer to our English word perfect, but more of a complete faith, a maturing in the Lord.

If we only fed our children sugar, what kind of adults would they become?  As Christians, we cannot only experience the good things in life.  For there would not be an appreciation for them if that was our sole reality.  A balanced life causes us to fully appreciate the red letter days and times of our lives.

The challenges in life also serve to magnify our desperate need to trust God more fully.  We can say that we trust God, but when the rubber meets the road, do we really?  When you lose your job?  What about then?  When the doctor’s report comes back bad?  Still trust Him?

In my nearly 42 years of walking with God, one thing I have learned … and that is, that the Word of God is my true source of strength for whatever situation life hands me.

When I don’t know what to do, it is my compass.  When my heart is distraught, it is my comfort.  When I am wrong, it is my correction.  And when I am down, it is my courage.

The Word of God truly is:

My Compass

My Comfort

My Correction

My Courage

Praying that as we enter 2017, it will be for you also!  Blessings, my friend!

~Amber

As we close out another year…

There’s something a little sentimental about closing out the year, isn’t there?  On the one hand, we ask ourselves, ‘Did we accomplish all we had hoped to?’.  On the other, it’s an ending, a closure of sorts, and maybe that’s a good thing.

The ending of a year reminds us of how quickly time escapes us and that our days are truly numbered.  It also urges us to make the most of the time given us.

Yes, this time of year is cause for pause.  Did we spend our time wisely in 2016?  Was it invested in things that genuinely matter?

Time, unlike money, is a commodity that we cannot retrieve once it is gone.

And so, we will soon say good-bye to another year.  For some, the new year cannot come soon enough; for, with it, comes renewed hope for a better one.  Perhaps regret is what comes readily to mind when reflecting on the past year.  And for others, maybe 2016 was one of your best to date.  And still others, maybe your present situation finds you neither pondering the past nor filled with faith in the future.

Complacency is a terrible trap for it is desperately deceitful.  It assumes things will always remain the same when nothing could be further from the truth.  Life is rapidly changing.  So, if life seems less than stellar at the moment – no worries.  It won’t always be this way.  And if you’re living on life’s mountain top right now, enjoy the ride!  Sadly, mountain top experiences don’t last forever.  No, life is about ebbs and flows, highs and lows, ups and downs.  Inhale, exhale.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.”

Psalm 103:13-17:

“The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
   For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
   Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
   The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here.
  But the love of the Lord remains forever.”    

As we close out 2016 and gaze into the horizons of 2017, may we apply our hearts unto wisdom and make each day count.  Beginnings offer such hope, don’t they?  There’s something about taking an imaginary eraser and wiping the board clean, isn’t there?

Here’s wishing you and yours a clean slate where anything is possible and a place where miracles can happen if we simply look for them.

I’m often struck with amazement how a change in perspective can altar everything!  If you want to find fault with people and life in general, you will never run out of material.  Conversely, if you want to spread joy and happiness, investing in those around you, you will find fulfillment on so many levels.  Our circumstances may never change but we can control our attitude and how we respond to them.

Praying that 2017 is a year filled with possibilities, hope and miracles!  They are all around us…if we dare to look, if we dare to make a difference.

May God grant us all the faith and courage to spread His love to those around us.

We have but one life to live.  May we make it count for eternity.