WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Victory”

Spiritual Footholds

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The Bible warns us not to give the devil a foothold. But what is a foothold and why is it so dangerous?

And do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:27 (NIV)

When I hear the word foothold, I imagine a mountain climber scaling a steep incline. A foothold is a place where a person’s foot can be placed to support them securely, especially while climbing. It is a reliable position from which further progress may be made. A foothold can be a good and necessary thing. But when you add the devil to the equation look out!

We are told that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to our earthly bodies as a tent in 2 Corinthians. As you read on, consider your body a type of residence.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.2 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)

The warning God speaks of has to do with our emotions. The devil preys upon feelings of anger, bitterness, depression, guilt, shame, fear, and worry. Examining the verse in front of Ephesians 4:27 provides us with more information. It explains how we provide the devil with footholds.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)

Ephesians 4:26 is not referring to a just anger due to sin or unrighteousness. Rather, sinful anger hurts others. Proverbs 22:24 tells us to avoid those who are quick to anger and Proverbs 29:11 calls those who give full vent to their rage, fools.

It takes discipline to take every thought captive, but it is a sure way to keep the devil from our door. When we succumb to self-pity, depression, or any other negative emotion, we allow the devil to get a foot inside our house. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us to deal with our anger before the setting sun. In other words, do not let anger fester in your heart for very long. Take care of it quickly. Resolve the matter otherwise, it can lead to bitterness and a multitude of negative emotions. This can be applied to worry, fear, shame, depression, or any other emotion that does not glorify God. Seek help in prayer and through the Body of Christ.

When we provide the devil with a foothold and we do not slam the door on his foot, he will push his way into our abode. Once inside our home, he is no longer a foothold but rather a stronghold. He has gained more control. It will take a lot of “work” to evict him. So, slamming the door on footholds and bolting the lock as soon as the devil withdraws his sore foot, is a much wiser option. The robber and thief would love to usher in havoc and rob your peace of mind. Prayerfully consider your emotions and ask God to rid you of any footholds the devil may have in your life.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

Do You Stick Out?

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The Bible tells us we are aliens and strangers in this world. This is a reminder to all Christians that heaven is our eternal home. The Greek translation for alien is a sojourner, stranger, and foreigner. A foreigner is one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. Our citizenship is with God and in the heavenly realm.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wave war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 (NABS)

 But, for now, we must run a spiritual race; working out our salvation by making the most of the days God has allotted us. Every person has a specific number of days to live in this world. No spirit or man can snatch us from God’s hand or steal a single minute of our life. Through the sanctification process, God equips us to fulfill those works He Created us to execute for His glory.

A person’s days are determined; You have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.Job 14:5 (NIV)

 When we live as followers of Christ, we will stick out.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.Galatians 3:27 (NKJV)

Non-believers shall take notice and question our thoughts and actions. If we go against politically correct ideas, warped by the Ruler of this World (John 12:31-32), we will find ourselves judged by the ones he has deceived. The devil has many names including: God of this Age (2 Corinthians 4:4), Deceiver (Revelation 12:9), Enemy (Matthew 13:39) , Liar (John 8:44), Adversary (1 Peter 5:8), and Accuser (Revelation 12:10). They define his character and his actions.

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)

Our Christian character and faith will be attractive and repulsive to the lost. Some will find themselves drawn to our inner peace and love, while the conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause others to react with judgment and hate. Conscious of sin, but not willing to admit it as sin and turn from it, a spiritual battle incurs.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

Times are changing. More and more Christian beliefs are viewed as ignorant, backward, unrealistic, and behind-the-times. Words such as archaic, old-fashioned, and out-of-date, will find their way into judgmental conversations. But what the world does not understand is thatJesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV). Additionally, God does not adjust His living Word to accommodate our lusts and desires. He is unchanging.

“For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.Malachi 3:6 (NKJV)

 When we accepted Jesus as The Way… The Truth… and The Life, we died to our old self and put the righteousness of Christ. We are a new creation! So, our old worldly deeds and ways of thinking were renewed in the knowledge of God the Father. We are not supposed to compromise our thinking in order to fit in with those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We are to fellowship with all mankind and share the Good News, but never are we to water down the truth. God is black and white when it comes to His Word.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 (NIV)

 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” Colossians 3:9-10 (NKJV)

Ask yourself this question. Do your co-workers and neighbors know you to be a Christian? If not, why are they unaware of your faith? Have you been hiding your light under a bushel and for what reason?

Satan is looking for ways to tickle ears and tempt us into complacency. We must fight it! Do not settle for lukewarm Christian living. Let us all strive for boldness in our witness, living out our gift of salvation with hearts of gratitude. God is mighty to save but He also expects action. We have a responsibility to share the truth with the lost. That truth is, there is only one way to the Father and that is through His son, Jesus Christ. Being a good person is not enough to secure a place in heaven. If we love those around us, we must stick out.

Hell is a reality. When we speak the truth we are speaking in love. God hates gay marriage, abortion, sexual immorality, covetousness, and idolatry. Our responsibility is to speak the truth and share the Good News. It is God’s job to work on the hearts of the lost. Be bold! Be brave! The harvest is great and very ripe but the laborers are few.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Matthew 9:36-38 (NKJV)

 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:6-7 (NKJV)

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9 (NASB)

Obstacles

_Never Give Up

Most of us have had an occasion where an unexpected trial or obstacle has knocked us flat, interrupting everyday plans and routines. And when a stumbling block appears out-of-the-blue, a bucket full of emotions is sure to follow. Since God created us with the capacity to express our true feelings, we should do so. God values honest communication.

But once we have vented our frustration, fear, anger, and confusion over the obstacle, we must pause and consider whether God is trying to get our attention. He is a master teacher, always looking for new ways to equip and instruct His children. Once we have accepted the reality of our situation and faced our unhappy hindrance, we can move forward in a way that glorifies God. How? By embracing our new circumstances with the faith that we serve a loving and compassionate God. This is not easy but by doing so, our time in the valley will prove to be a valuable lesson filled with God’s wisdom and strength.

While we work through struggles, our spiritual eyes should search, watch, and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. Have you found yourself incapacitated, unable to move or work? Maybe God wants you to slow down, or direct you down a different path. Maybe He wants to teach you something that will better equip you for future ministry. Is a lesson of love, forgiveness, or patience in your near future? What about endurance? Do you know how to spiritually persevere? There is also the possibility He is testing your faith. He tested His disciples, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Abraham just to mention a few.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:35 (NKJV)

 Whatever the obstacle, we know God will be right beside us. We can rely on Him to be our strength. He is glorified when we are weak for He often uses our weakness to shine brightly to unbelievers. They will watch as help and provisions come our way and scratch their heads as we move through our hardship without fret.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8b (NIV)

 Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 CO 12:9-10 (NKJV)

There is no obstacle before us that has not been planned or approved by God.

He is not in the business of discouraging His children and He knows our limits. When we reach those limits and surrender our helplessness to God, we are in the right place spiritually.

Christ alone will see us through. No other but our Savior Jesus Christ will mediate our needs before God. With love, He will provide a way for us to surmount our obstacle and continue onward in our spiritual race. Do not let the challenges and heartaches in life crush you. Through Christ, we can bring the victory of heaven into our experience on earth

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)

If God is testing you, as He did with so many others in the Bible, be encouraged by the helps the Father provided for them as they dealt with obstacles. And if the devil has been given permission to sift you, remember God knows you have the ability (with His provision of strength and power) to overcome.

The devil knows he cannot destroy us. The victory is ours through Christ. But our enemy will look for every opportunity to make our time on earth unproductive. He will tempt and encourage us to sin, harass us with fear, speak lies and tickle our ears to the point where we doubt the love of God. Satan wants to steal our hope. Do not let him! Persevere while you face your trial because the testing of your faith will develop spiritual maturity, enabling you to overcome every obstacle the devil can conjure.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

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The Words Of My Mouth

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Our words indicate what is in our heart. Love stimulates words of encouragement and good will, but unrighteous anger and hatred drive us to spew remarks that cut to the very bone. The tongue, though a small muscle, is mighty in power. It is strong enough to break a heart. The apostle James stated that no man could tame his tongue, adding that it was full of deadly poison.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”    James 3:8 (NKJV)

 At one time or another we have all sinned with our words, be it a curse or active participation in gossip. Hopefully, harsh and rude comments are not flying from our mouths with little thought or reflection. We need to be conscious of our remarks and the tone that we take. Thankfully, when we recognize our sin Christ freely forgives. But even with His forgiveness, we still suffer consequences for our hasty utterances. We cannot take back words. Once spoken, the damage is done. Wounds heal but scars remain.

But what if we merely utter a curse word in a fit of anger or frustration? Who would it really harm, especially if nobody else is present? The answer is that it harms YOU and wounds God. If we take the Lord’s name in vain, we forget our position and disrespected our Creator.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:7 (NKJV)

And if we do not take God’s name in vain but utter another curse, what then is the harm? The worry is that it shows the condition of our heart. Uncontrolled anger, frustration, and bitterness are not the fruit of the Spirit. Cursing of any kind is a sign of spiritual weakness.

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  James 3:10-11 (NIV)

Do not despair, dear reader. Most poisons have an antidote, and there is an antidote for foul language and other sins of the tongue. The remedy (not absolute cure if considering Js.3:8) is God’s Word. When we fill our minds with the truth and promises found in the Bible, it helps us temper our actions and words. Scripture reminds us of our many blessings and with grateful hearts, we are less likely to speak ill of others. Memorizing the Word of God enables the Holy Spirit to bring it back to memory at opportune times.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

There are also things we can practice. Take a day to speak less and listen more. There is wisdom to be found in times of silence and it develops self-control and patience.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NKJV)

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”  Psalm 141:3 (NKJV)

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”      Proverbs 21:23 (NKJV)

 If we speak less, we are able to hear and observe more. When a person of few words speaks, his/her audience takes note and seriously considers their words.

“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”   Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”  Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NKJV)

Consider your words this week. Do they edify God and encourage others? Are your words spoken with love and do they reflect Christ, our role model? Scrutinize your vocabulary and purpose in your heart to revise/edit any word that is not pleasing to God. Ask for God’s help as you attempt to harness your tongue and control your reactions during moments of frustration and anger. Strive to speak less and hear more. Make a point to listen with expectancy when fellowshipping with God. I pray your efforts are rewarding and fruitful.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36 (NKJV)

Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37 (NKJV)

 

 

Valley of Detours: Trusting God

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Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down her self will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)

Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brother’s scheme landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.

And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)

By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.

Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.

Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)

 Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.

There were many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Dusting Away Distractions

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Everyday life is filled with distractions. Daily goals are met with enticements and diversions that hinder or impede their achievement. Then, while slipping into bed, we review our day and roll our eyes over the many different directions our rabbit trails took us. Distractions once again sideswiped our well-intentioned plan to move forward in our ventures.

When it comes to our spiritual walk, distractions are a key strategy utilized by the devil. Whether he shoots fiery arrows of condemnation and blame in our direction or the enticements of the world call out to us, fellowship time with God is curtailed. The Bible warns believers to be alert and sober minded, lest we find ourselves devoured by this prowling lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

 John MacArthur sheds light on how to fight distractions.

“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.”  John MacArthur

Focusing less time on ourselves and spending more time in fellowship with God will accomplish several things:

First, our peace of mind will increase and our stress will decrease. Meditating on the faithfulness and love of God will build up our faith and remind us that there is no life circumstance hidden from our all-knowing God. Worry and stress are a distraction. Focusing on problems is a trap. Doing so will consume our thinking, and eat us alive, leaving us with no time or energy to meditate on things that are noble and pure.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Our time would be better spent by seeking God through prayer; asking the one who loves us most, to provide solutions and to direct our path. Then, through the discipline of self-control and patience, we must let go of our frets, trusting an answer is on the way.

Distractions also come in the form of pleasure. Taking a hike, going to a movie, shopping, getting a manicure, and having a leisurely lunch with a good friend are all pleasurable activities. But if they prevent fellowship time with God, they are distractions. Lunch with a friend is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, the Bible encourages us to fellowship with other believers so that we can lift each other up. No, lunch dates are not the problem. The trouble occurs when the cares of the world and the busyness of life cuts into our time with God. Carving out a set time to fellowship and focus on God is a good way to attack distraction issues. God needs to be a priority.

Distractions of the flesh are probably the most common. Sex, food, wine, and a lust for money have made many a prodigal. But these distractions are manageable, if we keep our focus on God. When we commune with the Lord, He will remind us that we are to live as aliens in this world. That home is heaven. To love the world is to be an enemy of God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 (NKJV)

And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Mark 4:19 (NKJV)

Another distraction many of us struggle with is ministry work. Many believers get so busy with church activities that they struggle finding time to be alone with God. A thought or word God would have revealed, had time been spent at His feet, is a grievous loss. We are to serve the Lord without distraction, but to do so, we must also learn to abide in Christ. A constant awareness of His presence, a continual lifting up of praise and worship, and a daily knowledge of His desire to speak to hearts will help to eliminate our struggle with distractions.

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.1 Co 7:27 (NKJV)

 A steadfast heart is a loyal heart of devotion. It is focused and strong. It keeps a believer from turning aside to the right and to the left. The path before them is clear and by making God our spiritual “nerve center,” forward progress happens.

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” Joshua 23:6 (NIV)

If we want spiritual growth and maturity, we must consider our fellowship time with God. Is He a priority? Do we spend time meditating on His word? What distractions keep us from Bible study and how can we change things? Periodically, we all need some dusting off and a little spring-cleaning is always a good place to start.

Easter Message: Love Requires Sacrifice

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According to John 3:16, God loved/loves the world.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 (NKJV)

From these words, we learn that Christian love requires sacrifice. God gave up His son in order to reestablish a relationship with us. Fellowship with God required atonement, and Jesus was the only acceptable blood sacrifice that could bring forth restoration. Jesus was without sin, a spotless lamb. He obediently accepted His Father’s will and took on the sins of the world and nailed them to a cross.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.Romans 4:25 (NIV)

Father God knew His only begotten son would have to endure great suffering, but He also wanted to provide us with koinonia. So, because of His incredible love for mankind, He willed Jesus to step out of eternity and down to earth, and a brutal death. Father God knows all about sacrifice, grief, pain, and love.

Jesus Christ is the very definition of love. He always put others first. He freely gave His time, energy, food, friendship, love, and grace. And at the end of the day, He offered His love, obedience, fellowship, praise, and will to His heavenly Father. He lived to serve others. His eyes were never on Himself. He looked for ways to satisfy a need, quench a thirst, teach a lesson, or please His Father. There is JOY in service. There is JOY in giving.

We are called to live a life of love.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NKJV)

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.Ephesians 5:2 (NKJV)

By looking into the Word of God and contemplating the life of Christ, we see that the power of love is remarkable but costly. Individual acts of sacrificial love have a transforming power. Consider the story of the widow in 1 Kings 17:8-16. In an act of faith, a widow sacrifices the very last of her food (a little oil and flour) and makes the prophet Elijah a cake. She was surely hungry. In fact, scripture states she was collecting wood to make a last meal before death.

And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”  1 Kings 17:12 (NKJV)

Her faith and sacrificial love was rewarded with a jar of flour and a jug of oil that would miraculously refill itself. God provided in her time of need and her life was surely never the same.

There were lepers, cripples, and blind men transformed by the healing hand of Jesus. Christ’s love transformed prostitutes, tax collectors, and fishermen. The sacrifice Christ made on the cross has transformed you and me! We were damned in our sin but His sacrifice has provided hope. We can rest in the promise of eternal life.

This Easter, reflect on the command to love one another. For if we hate our brother we do not have Christ in us. Do not love in word alone but love in deed and action. Be His hands! It will require sacrifice. This is known as Christian love.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. “ 1 John 3:15-16 (NKJV)

Meditate on the following verses and consider how you might love another with sacrificial deeds of love.

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?1 John 3:17 (NKJV)

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2:4 (NKJV)

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.Hebrews 13:16 (NKJV)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Facing Your GIANT Fears

David and Goliath

Giants were actual biblical figures (Gen. 6:4, Num. 13:33), which intimidated and triggered fear in man. If used as an analogy, giants are obstacles and fears that hinder God’s direction in our life. New career paths, a step into ministry, a move, an illness, or some monumental challenge are all calculable Goliaths.

Fear is innate, a healthy survival instinct. But fear should be a manifestation that produces positive action. Too often fear hinders our spiritual growth. It is a mighty weapon utilized by the devil and many saints have stood petrified before ominous figures or obstacles.

A popular phrase, “If God brings you to it, He will lead you through it,” is a true statement. The Bible backs it up, but the courage to face these giants will require faith in God’s power and His steadfast love for us.

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV)

 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV)

 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV)

 By studying the battle Saul faced when the Philistines sent their mightiest soldier,

9’6” giant Goliath, to defy the armies of Israel, we can learn much. Here was an actual giant with a clear height advantage! Saul was probably 7 feet tall and David, a young man at the time, was probably less than six feet. Although Goliath intimidated Saul and the men of Israel, David was not afraid of the Philistine champion. Why?

“And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” 1 Samuel 9:2 (NKJV)

“And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.” 1 Samuel 17:4 (NKJV)

Acts 13:22 describes David as, “A man after My own heart.” Some Christ-like characteristics manifested in David’s life include his devotion, trust, love, reverence, and faith in God. When David heard Goliath’s taunt, a righteous anger rose within his heart. He rebuked the men of Israel for fleeing in dreadful fear.

“And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.” 1 Samuel 17:24 (NKJV)

The words, which David spoke, were then reported to Saul, who sent for him.

Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:32-33 (NKJV)

With this dialogue, we see Saul assessing David’s size and ability. Surely he admired David’s courage but doubted his power to overcome the mighty giant. David then continued by telling King Saul of his shepherd experiences, defending the lambs in his charge.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock,  I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.”  Moreover, David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” 1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NKJV)

David, with all humility, recognized God as the one who delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear. He also acknowledged it would be God who delivered him from the giant, Goliath. Faith allows us to conquer our fears, as opposed to being conquered by them.

David knew exactly what God thought about a man who insulted the people of God. He knew God had promised to curse anyone who cursed Abraham’s family, the Israelites (Genesis 12:3). David also knew God had promised to conquer the Israelites’ enemies, no matter how big!

“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Deuteronomy 28:7 (NKJV)

At this time, Saul was out of God’s will. If we are out of step with God, the obstacles in our life will also seem like Giants. But if like David, we are abiding in Christ, relying on the tried and true promises of God, we will be overcomers. We are already victorious through Christ Jesus. What can man do to us if God is our righteous shield? He will strengthen and prepare us for every battle and journey, obstacle or adversary.

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.Psalm 18:3 (NKJV)                                                        
**Meditate on the following scriptures and pray over any giants now in your life.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; Therefore, I shall see my desire on those who hate me.” Psalm 118:6-7 (NKJV)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NKJV)

**Photo is from my recent trip to Israel. It is of the Valley of Elah

Please visit my fb page for more Christian encouragement. https://www.facebook.com/cherylzelenkaauthor

The Peace of Christ

**5

Jesus did not enter this world to bring peace. Rather, He came wielding a very sharp sword. In fact, this weapon is so keen and precise that it pierces between soul and spirit. With supernatural power, it discerns our thoughts and the intent of our heart.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.Matthew 10:34 (NKJV)

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

 Confusion can arise when reading John 14:27, for Jesus speaks of giving us peace. If He did not come to bring peace on earth, why would Christ speak of leaving His peace? There is a clue within the scripture, “He does not give as the world gives.”

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.John 14:27 (NKJV)

Jesus does offer peace to individuals, but He did not come to earth bringing political peace. His message was radical. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. But the message written in Exodus 21:23-25 directed Jews to act without showing grace. To understand the new message, Jews first had to believe Jesus was the Son of God. They also had to embrace the power in love, the greatest and most powerful gift of all. The blood of Jesus provided forgiveness of all sin and believers were to practice and model forgiveness.

But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)

Man often spurs political agendas. Greed, selfish ambition, and power are all motivators. Sin prevents peace in the realm of politics. It is too saturated with self.

But Christ came to us in humility, with a servant’s heart. He brought a peace beyond comprehension, yet obtainable through a sincere faith and a trust in His perfect will. He is the Prince of peace.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

When man looks to the Father, seeking the Wonderful Counselor for help, there shall be peace. When man reflects on the power of God, He who is Mighty, there shall be peace. When confused thoughts afflict and we lay our burdens at Christ’s feet, there shall be peace. For with a Savior who loves us we have hope, and in that hope we also find peace.

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.1 Corinthians 14:23 (NKJV)

The blessing, “The peace of Christ be with you” is perfect for these days of trouble. Christ is our peace. So, when political leaders attempt to force their agendas on the world, we should rest knowing God is in control. The Lord knows about every atrocity and will transform them, some how, into good.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)

It is not for us to understand how He acts, or His perfect will. But, it is our responsibility to wait, trust and believe in His character. God is faithful. He is love. He is all-powerful. He is gentle and merciful. Jesus already won the battle, which the devil is trying to overturn. The enemy should read the book of Revelation! The Lord reveals the ending and he ends up in a pit of damnation.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)

 May you find encouragement in these scriptures.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 (NKJV)

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7 (NKJV)

 

Fear Hinders Our Labor For Christ

*8

God does not turn a deaf ear to any righteous person crying out for help. The Lord hears their cry. Every believer should embrace this promise. And although God is spirit, and we are spirit encased within flesh, He hears our petitions from His realm on high.

Furthermore, God delivers the righteous out of all their troubles. This deliverance can occur in many different ways. God may simply remove our adversary or obstacle. He is able to do what we deem impossible. But, more often then an immediate or supernatural intervention, He will enable us to face and overcome our obstacle through His amazing grace. He equips us to subdue the enemy, who schemes to deceive us into thinking we have lost a battle that has already been won.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:17-19 (NKJV)

Fear is often the root of our trouble, and it is an obstacle that hinders the work of Christ. It is bondage, yet we have been set free! When we ought to love the unlovable, fears of the unknown often rush at us instead. When an opportunity to share the grace and love of God stands open before us, we cower at the possible pain a wretched and lost soul might inflict, forgetting to walk in victory our risen Lord and provided.

They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you.
For I am with you,” says the Lord, “to deliver you.” Jeremiah 1:19 (NKJV)

A time of testing, where a loved one is placed in the way of danger or adversity, can be especially difficult. But God understands this pain. He watched His beloved son, our Lord Jesus, suffer and endure the very cross that set us free. His crucifixion and resurrection brought about such remarkable good, the redemption of mankind and a restored relationship with God! Jesus’ fearless trust in His Father’s will and provision enabled Him to overcome all His trepidation while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew pain was in His future, but He embraced it, trusting His Father’s plan.

Suffering is found in the Refiner’s fire, and our refinement is a blessing. While in the throngs of great suffering, we might not understand the value or beauty it instills within us. But in time, it will be revealed. Understanding will come. But faith…FAITH in God’s character and goodness will propel us ahead to embrace the difficult task set before us. Grace… The GRACE of God will carry us through our test. Love…The LOVE of God that lives within us will soften our hard hearts and fearing nature to love the hateful that mock and persecute. With the eyes of Christ….Eyes that see us as we will one day be will be our own eyes, so long as we cry out to Him in righteousness.

Oh Lord, hear my cry. Make my eyes Your eyes! Let me see what You see when gazing upon the lost and spiritually dead. Help me to love them as You do and to love them as You love me.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  James 5:16 (NKJV)

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NKJV)

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

FEARS

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