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Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Worship and Praise”

Putting God First

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What is your greatest treasure? What is your most precious possession? The Bible mentions our connection to this treasure. It is a heart connection.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Luke 12:34 (NKJV)

If our heart treasure is money and success, we should take heed to Matthew 6:24. This scripture warns we cannot serve two masters. It is impossible to serve both God and money. Many a greedy man has been doomed by his ambition for power, wealth, and success. Queen Esther certainly played a part in Haman’s demise (Esther 7). His thirst for power and success was his ruination.

God is to be our first priority, in all things and in all ways. Putting a child or family member above God is a form of idolatry. Genesis 22 tells of how God tested Abraham. Abraham adored his son Isaac, but that did not hinder his obedience to God.

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2 (NKJV)

God waited until the very last moment, watching Abraham lift his knife to slay his son, before intervening and providing another blood sacrifice. God witnessed Abraham’s obedience. He saw the heart of his servant. Isaac was greatly loved, but Abraham had not placed him in a position above the Lord. He trusted God would fulfill His promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen 22:17).

“But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

So he said, “Here I am.”

And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Genesis 22:11-12 (NKJV)

So, it is good to ask this question periodically. “Is God my top priority and how do I actively put Him first?”

We are told to Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” Proverbs 3:6 (TLB)

Putting God first, in everything we do is not easy in this fallen world. There are so many distractions and temptations that keep us from our fellowship time with God. It is easy to get involved in family matters or work related issues first thing in the morning. Yet, in the life of a saint, God must be first. Our relationship with our Creator needs to be a priority. If we wait to pray, worship, and read the Word of God, it is easy to place Him on the back burner. We trudge through our busy day and come home weary and ready for bed.

As we drift off to sleep, God calls out to say, “I missed you today! I wanted to share some words that would have encouraged you and others. I had wisdom to impart and I wanted to teach you about ______. Am I your first love, your first priority?”

Jesus and other Bible characters are noted as early risers who sought God in prayer. Abraham, Hannah, and Job are just a few examples.

And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.Genesis 19:24 (NKJV)

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.1 Samuel 1:19 (NKJV)

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus, Job did regularly.Job 1:5 (NKJV)

I encourage you to carve out a set time in the morning to fellowship with God. Sing His praises and read the Bible. The Word of God is what feeds our spirit. The Holy Spirit will store what we have read and supernaturally bring it back to memory when necessary.

Pray in the morning, before you get entangled with work and the cares of this world. Prayer is our way to communicate with God. It is also one way He communicates with us.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” John 8:2 (NKJV)

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

Plant A Seed In My Heart, Lord

Ancient Olive Tree:Garden Gethsamene

Plant a seed in my heart, Lord                                                                                        WATER it, so I thirst no longer

Make the seed that of an Olive Tree                                                                            Steady in its growth                                                                                                        Fruitful, feeding many who hunger

Roots deep                                                                                                               Supported by the words Jesus spoke                                                                         While in the Garden of Gethsemane

Make me an ancient tree                                                                                               With a substantial trunk                                                                                         Patiently waiting for the Lord’s return                                                                                A quiet witness of Your noble worth

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                   TEND it with Your loving hand

Make the seed a mustard seed                                                                                      Small and humble but eager to grow                                                                             Quickly sprouting to an amazing height

Faith resounding                                                                                                             No doubt present                                                                                                          Mature in the assurances of God’s Word

Make me like Joshua                                                                                                 Who called upon Your power                                                                                          To hold the sun and moon still                                                                                            Trusting Your faithfulness

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                  GAZE upon it, a flower of infinite beauty

Crush the buds, enjoy my fragrance                                                                         Transform me into perfume and oil                                                                            Wear my love, blessed Savior

Make me a seed                                                                                                               Sow where You desire                                                                                                             I know I’ll grow… No matter the soil.

Creator of all beauty                                                                                                  Sower of every seed in my heart                                                                                                                        I praise You!

*Inspired by my recent trip to Israel and the Garden of Gethsemane              https://www.facebook.com/cherylzelenkaauthor

Adore Him

 

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Psalm 2:12 speaks of “kissing the Son.” This is an example of adoration. But the actual words, adore and adoration, are not found in Scripture. To adore God is to express reverence and homage; worship. Jews demonstrated their adoration for God in several ways, including taking off their shoes, and prostration.

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 (NKJV)

Since God is the greatest thing in existence… or ever will exist, to adore and worship anything besides Him is sin. We are commanded to worship God and He deserves our praise and adoration.

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:8-9 (NKJV)

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11 (NKJV)

Yahweh is so great and marvelous that there is no other by whom He can swear, so He swears by His own Name.

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” Hebrews 6:13 (NKJV)

 Additionally, God is passionate for His own glory. God’s ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of His name. He defends it and will not share it with any other.

For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off.  Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.Isaiah 48:9-11 (NKJV)

Mankind was created for God’s good pleasure. In return, shouldn’t our good pleasure be to adore the Creator? Our greatest service may very well be to worship the Almighty now, and throughout eternity.

During the holiday season, when the world is consumed with parties and gifts, it is easy to worship God with lips alone. A heart of adoration is a heart of purity free of distractions. It is a heart of thanks. Thanks for life and eternal salvation, regardless of circumstance.

The night Christ was born, an angel appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. “The glory of the Lord shone all around them” as the messenger spoke of the Savior’s birth.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14 (NKJV)

Jesus was the gift then and Jesus is the gift now. Our offering, or gift to the Son of God, is our worship and adoration. This December consider the magnificent sacrifice of love the Father made on our behalf. Jesus has given us hope and new life. His birth, death, and resurrection freed us from eternal death and damnation.

Showing love though the giving of gifts is wonderful. Enjoy your family, friends, and the season of Christmas. But consider once again the shepherds. They were given a mighty gift the night Christ was born, but they had to seek it out. They found Jesus and were forever changed. With adoration, they stood before the manger and worshiped the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. May the heart of worship and adoration be with you this season and throughout the New Year.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.Psalm 95:6 (NKJV)

 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.Jude 24,25 (NKJV)

 O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant
Oh come ye O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him born the King of angels;
O come let us adore him Christ the Lord.

Holy Fear

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There is a fear of God that adoration enfolds with arms of thanks. It acknowledges the absolute power of the Creator and the inconsequence of man. This holy and reverent fear is the beginning of wisdom, for it is wise to know one’s place in this world…and in the next.

“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:27 (NKJV)

The Bible gives many examples of believers showing reverence for God. Abraham (Genesis 17:3), Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:5), Daniel (Daniel 10:15) and Joshua (Joshua 5:13) all fall on their faces in humble piety and devotion. In the New Testament, Mary Magdalene demonstrates her esteem for Jesus by pouring expensive perfume on His feet and using her hair to wipe them clean.

Because of pride, man often thinks too highly of himself and claims credit for that which God has achieved. It is dangerous to be wise in your own eyes and the Word tells us that “pride comes before a fall.” Stealing from God is no small matter, be it His plunder and goods or acts of might. Consider what happened to Achan (Joshua 7:20-25) and the arrogance of David’s soldiers when they demanded spoils for an unmerited victory. God had gifted them the spoils and the battle conquest, it was not won by mere flesh and blood (1 Samuel 30).

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” Proverbs 3:7 (NKJV)

When we live a life of contentment and satisfaction we provide the enemy with fewer foot holes to tempt us with. A fulfilled life leaves the adversary little room for traps. Temptation is harder to achieve with a saint living peacefully with what God has provided. Evil will readily slip past the door of a contented man and seek out easier and less satisfied prey to devour.

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.” Proverbs 19:23 (NKJV)

Certainly a holy reverence is due our God yet we have fallen away from positions of prostration during prayer. No longer is it a common practice to bend a knee during times of intercession or during solitary moments of thanksgiving and praise. Where has our reverence for God flown?

In mercy and grace the Savior freely gives atonement for sin. Yet, do flippant confessions and petitions show up in the throne room with an expectation of unquestionable forgiveness? This is my answer offered back to you in a question. Is not a broken and contrite heart the sacrifice God expects when delivering His gifts of redemption?

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 (NKJV)

Consider how you have been approaching God as of late. Are you entering into your prayer time with an awareness of His righteous sovereignty? Do you toss petitions at His feet without any thought for quiet meditation? Forgiveness is a precious gift and your prayers should be made with reverence and offered in awe.

TAKE TIME TO READ THESE WORDS OF WISDOM AND CONSIDER THE REVERENCE GOD IS DUE

“In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.” Proverbs 16:6 (NKJV)

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV)

“The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid -that is the paradox of faith.” ~ A.W. Tozer

This devotion is found in my book Facing Adversity: Thoughts of Wisdom, Praise, and Promise. It is available on Amazon.  Here is the link…

http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Adversity-Thoughts-Wisdom-Promise/dp/1503377989/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1445567083&sr=8-4&keywords=cheryl+Zelenka

Hunger Pains

*Empty? Grace

Feeling Empty?
Hunger pains are not pleasant. They occur when the stomach empties and its walls come into contact, rubbing against each other. Eating food, which once again separates the walls of the stomach, relieves the gnawing sensation.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (NASB)

When we have an overall sense of emptiness, it is likely that we are suffering from spiritual “hunger pains.” The living Word of God is our spiritual food. There are several scriptures that speak about feeding upon His word. Ezekiel equates the eating of God’s Word to the sweetness of honey, and Jeremiah tells how eating scripture echoed the joy and rejoicing found in his heart.

“And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.” Ezekiel 3:3 (NKJV)

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV)

Our body needs food for energy and it is essential for good health. Our spirit requires the wisdom, encouragement, and instruction found in the Bible to maintain spiritual health. As we move through our day, food fuels our physical body and helps us to think clearly. Without sufficient nourishment, accomplishing tasks become harder. Again, in the spiritual realm, without the Word freshly consumed daily, we will stumble and find ourselves less effective in our witness. Meditating on the truths and promises of God aids us in facing adversity and overcoming snares set by the evil one.

Our Lord does not encourage a “feast and famine” attitude when it comes to nourishing our spirit. Just as we eat food several times a day, we are encouraged to read the Bible daily. The Israelites were instructed to collect manna daily. (Exodus 16) This bread from heaven would rot if it were left for the next day. Additionally, it was collected in the morning, as it would melt under the heat of the sun.

Viewed as an analogy, this scripture suggests we consume the Word in the morning before our day begins. It is so easy to put God on the back burner and get caught up in the cares of the day. We need to put Him first! The instruction and encouragement we glean in our quiet time will carry us throughout the day.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10 (NKJV)

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

If we feel unsatisfied with life and empty, reflection is necessary. Why are we feeling empty when we know the Holy Spirit is alive within us? Has the enemy succeeded in stealing our hope? Have we set aside God’s will and turned our focus to fleshly desires and ambitions? Is the sovereignty of God and His position as our Creator now questioned or even disrespected? Have we forgotten the abundance of His love?

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

“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)

Or, has God asked us to move in a new direction, and the fear of leaving behind that which is familiar, upsetting our peace of mind? Maybe the emptiness we feel is because God has more for us. Do we have a vice grip on the past and present? If we cannot open our hands to hold God’s hand, how can He lead us into new territory and new blessings? Trusting God to fill us with understanding, knowledge, and necessary skills is a test. He WILL test our faith!

“And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze” Exodus 35:31-32 (NKJV)

“He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4:10 (NKJV)

The Lord will add many to His kingdom through believers who walk in the fullness of Christ Jesus. Grace will abound to those who walk in obedience. Joy will fill their hearts while they sow the seeds of His love and share the promise of eternal life.

“For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” Acts 11:24 (NKJV)

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16 (NASB)

When emptiness fills our spirit we ought to look towards service and opportunities to help others in need. By turning our focus upwards and outwards, God will fill us with new joy. This joy comes from having been found worthy to serve the King of Kings. Our pleasure brings contentment since pleasing God, through our service and love, has now become our delight. Brand new and astounding desires will begin to formulate in our weary hearts that are aligned to His will.

With God, nothing is impossible. When we put Him in the driver’s seat, He will take us on an incredible journey. Expect the unexpected! Detours are not really detours after all. They are an important part of our journey, full of lessons and life applications.

When God’s will for us has become our all-consuming desire, we will not suffer true emptiness. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are indeed filled. Any emptiness that comes from unfulfilled desires or sorrows will be refined in the Refiner’s fire. This takes time and the heat of the furnace is painful. Count your trial as a blessing. Our joy is not the trial itself, but the fruit that is born out of our adversity.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Arriving at utter submission, and a state of unquestioned commitment is difficult to say the least. For we wrestle not our flesh alone but also powers of darkness. When an absolute yielding of self has been achieved, emptiness will no longer prevail. For He is the only One who can completely satisfy every need. He alone makes us whole.

If we continue to feel empty, our sorrow or desire has not been completely restored by God’s healing love. Possibly, our hearts have yet to lay all the disappointment and pain at His feet. An “If Only” may remain, interfering with an utterly yielded faith and hope in Christ. An absolute faith that God has permitted what is best for us, and for those we love, is still working itself out.

Our focus on “self” is what gets in the way of complete joy and peace. When HE is our all-in- all, we are filled to overflowing. But everything, EVERYTHING else must be placed behind Him. God alone and HIS good pleasure is all we should want and hope for in life.
Easy to accomplish? NO!
But deserved? Yes, YES INDEED!

“To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19 (NKJV)

“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11 (NKJV)

“And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52 (NASB)

Easter: Victory Over Death

 

*Easter

Easter is a time when Christians around the world remember the incredible love sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our Savior’s willingness to step down from His heavenly throne, take on flesh, and die in a most gruesome way, is proof of His amazing devotion and affection for us all. He looked past our sins because He desired relationship and fellowship with His creation. He bore the cost of our sins, nailing them to the cross. Thanks to HIS righteousness we too are righteous, now able to stand before God as His adopted children.

And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”     1 Corinthians 15:4 (NKJV)

Therefore, since we are now united with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection we resist all evil. We are no longer slaves to the enticements of this world. Jesus, our eternal hope, is the doorway through which all sin is conquered. Our “old man” has been crucified with Christ and we have been reborn. With hearts laid down in humble submission, eternal life is our promised reward.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”   Romans 6:4-9 (NKJV)

And since we are now in Christ, we have become a new creation. Old things… such as lustful passions, deceptions, ungodly habits, and evil desires are to be put away. We are called to walk as children of light. The light of Jesus should be so bright within us that all who are lost and spiritually dead are drawn to it, and therefore to Christ Himself.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”   John 3:6 (NKJV)

Jesus came into this world to give and serve. We too should live a life of selflessness and service. Paul passionately beseeched fellow believers in Romans 12:1-2 to present their bodies as living sacrifices, “holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

When we serve others, we serve God. The body He created for you and for me is perfect, designed exactly for His sovereign will and purpose. Every talent and gift, weakness and flaw, strength and disability was given to us for a reason. It helps to remember that when we are weak His power and strength becomes evident to all. God will use what we consider personal flaws for His glory.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

We praise Jesus for His love and sacrifice. We give Him thanks for reuniting us with the Father and for perpetually interceding on our behalf. We rejoice in the promise of eternal life, recognizing Christ’s victory over sin and death. We exalt God for His mercy and grace and thank Him for the sweet fellowship He offers His adopted children.

Jesus died on the cross because He wanted to free us from sinful wandering and restore our relationship with the heavenly Father. Unity and fellowship is of great importance to our Creator. And although we are each unique in design, we are meant to be bound together as one. As a united whole we make up the entire body of Christ. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, we too are to stand unified with each other AND with God. This can only be done if we forgive trespasses and submit to God’s sovereign authority.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”   John 17:20-23 (NKJV)

As Christ died and rose again, let us too die to sin and rise up as beacons of light.

Oh death… where is your sting? Has Christ Jesus not given us victory over you? Has He not promised all who call upon His name the gift of eternal life? Blessed be our Savior! Jesus! JESUS! Precious Jesus! There is awesome power in Your holy name!

“’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NIV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” Ephesians 2:1 (NKJV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”          Romans 6:4 (NKJV)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Romans 10:9 (NKJV

And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV)

“The only thing I can give to God is ‘My right to myself.’ If I will give God that, He will make a holy experiment out of me, and God’s experiments always succeed.”   ~ Oswald Chambers.

The Wonderful Names Of God

*Names of God

God has many special and encouraging names. I pray this video encourages you this morning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NscHCa395-M&feature=youtu.be

A Cup Full Of Hope

*Cup of Hope

How do you see your cup, half empty or half full? Do you predict the worst will happen in any given situation or are you well practiced at finding the Silver Lining? Is your hope resting on Jesus and His love for you? Hope should never be swept under a rug. It is what moves us through our day.

“Look at your problems in the LIGHT of God’s power instead of looking at God in the SHADOW of your problems.” ~ Anonymous

God knows His children well and understands our need for encouragement so He wrote a book full of inspiration, promises, and fortification. According to (bibleinfo.com) there are 3573 promises in scripture. If we claim one promise every day, it would take almost ten years to read them but once.

“Let us read the Bible reverently and diligently, with an honest determination to believe and practice all we find in it.” ~ J.C. Ryle

A visual reminder of God’s promised faithfulness can be seen after a storm. It comes in the form of a rainbow. After the great flood, God created this colorful symbol to encourage Noah and his family. It is a continual sign commemorating God’s covenant with mankind and His promise to never again cause a flood that destroys all life. The next time you see a rainbow remember God is in control.

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” Genesis 9:13 (NKJV)

Jeremiah 29:11 speaks about God’s plan for us and it is not one of disaster and hopelessness. He promises us a hope and a future. However, His plan will include adversity. Such times serve as our training ground in spiritual matters while good times provide us with rest. Both seasons are opportunities to reflect on the faithfulness of God.

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)

Our perspective regarding storms should be that they are necessary and beneficial gifts. They are private refinement sessions with God. Although the discomfort experienced during our sanctification process is often great, His grace is even greater. Learning to rest during our seasons of testing will produce an inner calm of patience and peace. Others will notice the growth in our character and God will be praised.

Why do we doubt God and His GOOD plans for our future? Why do we forget the incredible love He has for us? Why do we question His plan? Like the ungrateful children of Israel wandering in the desert, we become unsatisfied with the manna He provides and cry out for meat. We forget His provisions are what we NEED. Discontent never improves life, instead it consumes our thoughts and leads to bitterness.

The next time you find yourself tempted to complain about a matter, pause and ask yourself, ‘What will my grumbling accomplish? Will my words inspire and uplift others, or will they cause discouragement?’ Will any good come from your state of mind? If not, make a decision to change your perspective.

Find something (there is always something) to praise within the circumstances you perceive as unfair or offensive. It will be a challenge at first but with a little practice, it will get easier to identify the good all around you. After adopting this new practice you will discover you have a happier state of mind.

Seeing your glass as half full will provide you with enough hope to advance through the darkest of storms. That is the power of a grateful heart. That is the power of a thankful heart. That is the power of a positive perspective. That is the power of God.

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:       I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Genesis 12:9-15 (NKJV)

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9 (NKJV)

“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)

“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)

“We ought not to limit God where He has not limited Himself.”  ~ Jonathan Edwards

“The outlook is gloomy, but the uplook is glorious!” ~ Unknown

Facing Adversity: Thoughts of Wisdom, Praise, & Promise

_Facing Adversity Cover Final jpg

The last book of my devotion trilogy, Facing Adversity: Thoughts of Wisdom, Praise, & Promise, is now available on Amazon. Here is an excerpt from a devotion titled SUFFERING UNITES US ALL

http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Adversity-Thoughts-Wisdom-Promise/dp/1503377989/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417501877&sr=1-5&keywords=Cheryl+Zelenka

“God has a plan and a purpose for everyone. Nobody is insignificant. We are, after all, created in the very image of God. This includes the homeless person living in a cardboard box and the abused child in a home of neglect. We all have a part to play in God’s divine design, and sharing in the sufferings of Christ is part of His game plan.

Suffering is an effective tool God uses to refine our spiritual character. Adversity is permitted, or sent, as a loving gift from heaven above. Perspective is critical here. God gives good gifts therefore trials are beneficial.

So how can our painful moments be of any use? How can something hurtful, shameful, or grievous actually be a blessing? Do not trials teach us valuable lessons? Do we not gain insight, knowledge and wisdom as we muddle through our adversity? Is this not something we can share with others? Healing and lessons of perseverance are not only a witness of God’s grace but also an encouragement to others.

The process of sanctification chips away self-reliance and causes even the most prideful of mankind to cry out for help, help that only God can provide. Learning to depend on the Father is a major lesson in our spiritual walk. When we trust Him with all things and remain peaceful in the midst of an uncertain fate, faith has carried us. Others will notice our manner and desire the same inner peace we exude. Life style witnessing is a powerful tool and useful in the work of the Great Commission.

Suffering unites us all. Each person has experienced pain. Therefore, we can compassionately connect with others through this common bond. No race, creed, social status or level of education can escape the reality of suffering. Because of this fact we have an open door, a first step in sharing the Good News. We can build relationships in many different ways and there is a fellowship of suffering, with Christ Jesus and with others.

Here then is the great blessing found in adversity. Because of the pain you endured, thanks to the grace of God, you are now equipped to encourage and bless others. Your victory over tribulation will give them hope.”

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