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!

Never Give Up!

Winston Churchill gave a famous speech where he uttered:

“Never, never, never give up!”

He also said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going!”

I want to urge you today that if you seem to be facing insurmountable odds and life is just too difficult to go on … Keep placing one foot in front of the other!  Baby steps.

One step leads to another and before you know it, you are in a new season of life.  Life is ever changing and things won’t always remain the same.

Sometimes it’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us and we can readily succumb to the devil’s lies that we should simply throw in the towel.  Life is just too hard.

Life is hard sometimes and its load can seem overwhelming, but you and I are here for a purpose.  God created each one of us and has placed unique gifts and talents inside each of us.

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

~ II Corinthians 12:9-11

I pray that if you find the pain of your life unbearable today, my friend, that Jesus would hold you close and reveal His love to you as only He can.  You are loved by an Almighty God, who knows everything about you and still chooses to love.  That’s love, friend.  He loves with an unfailing, never ending kind of love.  I pray that God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding, would so envelope your soul that you will find rest and comfort like you’ve never known.  Lastly, I pray for God’s grace to be with you during this trying time, that God will provide for your every need and that you will have renewed hope in Christ.

This world is not our home.  We are pilgrims passing through until that day when God calls us home.  Until then, this world needs you.  This world needs to see God’s love demonstrated through your life.

May we all be strengthened in His might and His power to be a blessing to a lost and dying world.

Never give up, my friend.

Greater things are in store for you!  Your miracle and breakthrough could be just around the corner.  Don’t quit now!  Keep walking this faith walk.  God will give you the strength.  Trust Him today.

Before Goliath, A Lion & A Bear

David conquered a lion and a bear before he ever faced the greatest challenge of his lifetime – Goliath.

And prior to governing all of Egypt, Joseph ran Potiphar’s household.

Have you ever considered that previous battles in your own life were preceded by similar ones?  Battles that we survived and ones that we developed stronger faith through.

Life has a way of revolving in cycles, doesn’t it?  If you live long enough, cycles repeat themselves and you glean important lessons and wisdom.

I am thankful for the lessons of faith, courage, patience and compassion that I have learned over the years.  When we are facing the storms of life, it is very unpleasant and we tend to look for the nearest exit.  But, if we keep our eyes focused on the God who calms the seas, our faith will grow and we will be stronger because of it.

When we were rear ended by a drunk driver almost two years ago, I determined very early on that I would focus on the positives.  I was keenly aware that my children were watching my responses to the situation and that by highlighting the pain and negativity, it would only serve to prolong our healing process.

Sometimes we need to reframe a situation, to step back and focus on the unchanging truth of the Bible and God’s promises to be with us.

During difficult times, it is helpful to keep a thankfulness journal.  It is hard to remain discouraged when we keep our sights on God’s blessings.

Each of us have much to be thankful for.  Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective.  We need to realize while we may have needs and wants, most of us are more wealthy than a large percentage of the world.

Often, the feeling of being out of control is a seed of discouragement.  To counteract this, concentrate on what you can do to improve the situation.

Yes, you can’t change your spouse, but you can work on you.

Yes, you may not be able to avoid surgery, but you can occupy your mind with positive things in the meantime.

I’m not suggesting mind over matter.  I’m suggesting changing your focus in order to change your reality and ultimately your future.  Life’s realities often begin in the mind.

I am reminded of a story I heard a while back:

A lady who happened to be blind was being relocated to a new room in a retirement home. A nurse asked her how she felt about this change as she was about to be taken to her new living quarters.  The blind lady replied, “Oh, I absolutely love it!”  The nurse was astounded.  How could you love it already?  The blind lady said, “I already made up my mind that it’s going to be wonderful.”

Her situation hadn’t changed.  She remained blind.  But she was not blind to the fact that she should have a positive mindset in order to be happy.  I think that’s where many of us flub up.  When bad things happen, instead, we tend to focus on all the negative things and lose sight of the possibilities of a positive outcome.

So, if you find yourself in a raging battle today, friend, remember that, “This too shall pass.”

I think that’s another fallacy we often believe.  Life is ever changing.  Bad things come and go.  Good things come and go.  Ebbs and flows.

We will be in a better position to face today’s battle if we remember, like the Israelites did in the Old Testament, all of the previous battles along with their lessons.  They would build monuments in the desert where God performed miracles in previous battles.  We, too, should do the same.  Remind ourselves that the same God who delivered before, will again, deliver us!

“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.”!   ~ Psalm 107:6

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

The second fruit of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 is my favorite, joy!

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”

Paul was writing to the Galatians, admonishing them to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit so they would abstain from sin.  These are fruits all Christians should bear.

Joy!  That word elicits excitement and gladness, doesn’t it?  Except…when it doesn’t.

Thankfulness.

When my joy is diminishing, I try to remember all the blessings I have to be thankful for.  I have found that when I am busy counting my blessings, there is no time to be depressed.  Even keeping a “Thankful Journal” can be very useful in redirecting our thoughts.

Focus.

What are we focusing on?  If our focus is on ourselves, our joy walk can stumble into issues.  If our focus is on God and His Word, we will find joy and strength for our journey.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that ye may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  ~ Romans 15:13

Joy comes when we are aligning ourselves with God’s Word, living daily for Him and His purposes and learning to trust Him more.  Joy is not self serving.  It cannot come from within our sinful nature.  It cannot be granted from another.  Of course, people can give us joy.  But the kind of lasting joy that brings peace and balance to our lives, comes from God alone.  The joy that is our strength in troubled times that will see us through until we reach heaven’s shores…That joy comes from God Almighty and no one else.

I pray that you find the joy of the Lord in your heart today.  And if you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, I pray that you will say this prayer:

“Dear God, please forgive me of my sins.  I turn from them today and desire to live for you from here on out.  I believe that you raised Jesus from the dead and that you took my place on the cross.  Help me to live for you.   In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

 

 

The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians admonishing them to walk in the Spirit so they wouldn’t sin.

Some in the church were getting hung up on circumcision and whether it could grant them salvation.  Some said you hadn’t received salvation without it.  They needed guidance.  They were entangled in legalism.

Paul summed it up simply in Galatians 5:14:

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Verse 16 goes on to say:

“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

There are nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

Today, we will look at the first fruit, love.  What does it mean by fruit?  Think of the Christian life as a tree.

Psalm 1:3 says it beautifully:

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.”

Jesus said in John 15:2: “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

John 15:4 goes on to say, “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

Isn’t that the truth?!

When I feel my “love cup” is empty or nearly spent, I ask God to please fill it up with His love.  I know that I can only truly love others with the love that He gives me.  The Bible says that my righteousness is as filthy rags.  There is nothing good in me or in my natural ability, apart from the blessings of God in my life.  Therefore, I realize that I am desperately dependent on God to help me to love others.  It is only through His power and His supernatural ability being demonstrated through me, that I can love.

My love grows weary.  My love gets worn out.  My love is tested.  My love is measured.  My love is lacking and falls short.

But, God’s love?  His love knows no bounds.  It is limitless. God’s love endures forever!  His love is from everlasting to everlasting.

When our love cup runs dry and those around us are pushing us to our limits, just ask God to refill your love cup.  He’ll do it.  I always ask God to help me to love others the way He would.  It is easy to love those who are lovable.  It’s not so easy to love those who are mean, disrespectful and rude.  However, we should not repay evil for evil.

Galatians 5 is teaching us that in order to avoid succumbing to sin, we must bear the fruits of the Spirit.  These are attributes of God’s very nature.  As believers, we, too, can demonstrate God’s nature when we walk in love.

I Corinthians 13 is called “The Love Chapter”.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter but I will quote verses 4-8, 13:

“Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunted not itself, is not puffed up.  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seekers not her own, is not easily provoked, thinkers no evil.  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things; hopeth all things; endureth all things.  Charity never fails…And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.”

Perhaps as you read through these verses, you can think of a way your love cup has suffered drought in your own life.  Just ask God to help you and to bless you with grace and the ability to see others through His eyes.  It will change your love walk.  When we humble ourselves for a moment and ask for God’s help, He is faithful.  He will not turn us away.  No.  He loves when His children come to Him and will surely fill our lives with the love we need in order to reach those in our world.

May we fill our minds and hearts with God’s Word in such a way that His love shines through to all those around us.

“And the greatest of these is love.”

 

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