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Overcoming Difficult Trials

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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)

Suddenly, God Moved

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There are many stories in the Bible where patience, endurance, and perseverance were necessary to obtain the promises of God. These are wonderful traits and all of them are helpful in our Christian walk. The life of Joseph and Abraham are just two examples of patient endurance. But sometimes, sometimes, God moves suddenly.

The book of Exodus tells us the story of Moses. A Hebrew by birth, he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Growing up, he enjoyed the luxuries of a royal household. But when he was grown, Moses was despondent over the Hebrew oppression and had compassion for his brethren. So much so, Moses killed an Egyptian after witnessing him beat a Hebrew slave. Pharaoh soon heard of the murder and sought to kill Moses, who then fled Egypt to dwell in the land of Midian.

It was forty years of desert living before God spoke with Moses. Speaking through a burning bush that was never consumed, He instructed Moses to return to Egypt.

“Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10 (NKJV)

God promised to deliver the Israelites from oppression and bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses took God’s Word to heart. He believed God would help the Hebrews.

In faith, Moses returned to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh. It took time, and several plagues to convince Pharaoh to “Let My People Go.” But sure enough, Moses eventually collected the Israelites and God (Pillar of Cloud or fire) led them to the Red Sea.

By now you must be wondering where it is that God moves suddenly. So far, Moses has had to endure a season of waiting, unlikely detours, demanding tests, and roadblocks. But God promised Moses that the Israelites would inherit a land of plenty, and He is faithful. As we continue on with the Israelite’s trek to the Red Sea, we discover an example of God working suddenly to fulfill His promise.

Pharaoh decided to pursue the Israelites, intent on bringing them back to Egypt. When the children of God saw the Egyptian army they panicked, thinking they were trapped. On one side stood the Egyptians and on the other side the Red Sea. There seemed to be no escape. They forgot God had promised them freedom and that He was faithful.

“And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Ex 14:13-14 (NKJV)

Moses did not know how God would deliver them, but he had faith God would find a way. When God speaks a promise to us, we must persevere until its fulfillment. Trusting God’s provision, when all around us we see impossibilities, can be a very difficult challenge. It is often a real test of faith. But for God, nothing is impossible. ‘Impossible’ is not in His vocabulary.

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4 (NKJV)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 (NKJV)

“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you. Genesis 28:15 (NKJV)

God then told Moses to move the people forward, toward the Red Sea. He then added,

“But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” Exodus 14:16 (NKJV)

Suddenly, when all seemed lost, God provided a way for the Israelites. He caused the sea to fall back, and with miraculous power God made a way for His children. They moved forward in their quest for freedom.

If God has spoken to your heart a promise, prompted you to move in a new direction, or awakened a desire that is of His will, move forward! Trust Him to make a way. There may be detours (Hopefully not 40 years of wilderness wandering), times of silence, and even disappointments, but keep the faith. Stand on His promise. Remember, He just might act suddenly. Will you be prepared to move, even if there is no clue He is about to act?

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”                 Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Consider the scriptures below and pray for God’s guidance.

“Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced that God had prepared the people, since the events took place so suddenly.” 2 Chronicles 29:36 (NKJV)

“I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.” Isaiah 48:3 (NKJV)

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

“My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.”  Psalm 89:34 (NKJV)

God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NLT)

What Does God Think Of Our Grumbles?

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What does the Bible teach us about grumbling and complaining? The Greek meaning of the word complainer means, “one who is discontented with his lot in life.” The first complainer was the very first man, Adam. After he sinned in the Garden of Eden, he complained to God that Eve was the reason for his disobedience.

“Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’”

Complaining is a part of human nature, that is, our sin nature. There is a long list of complaints throughout the Word of God. Job complained about his suffering and material losses. Jacob complained about his first marriage. Queen Esther’s enemy, Haman, complained to King Ahasuerus about the Jews in the land. Jonah even complained about the mercy and grace God showed the people of Nineveh.

Prayer is an avenue in which we can have honest conversations with our Creator. We are instructed to come boldly before the throne of God. He will listen to our grumbles and complaints, but it is best to petition for strength and understanding while conveying frustrations and disappointments. The prayer closet is a sanctuary for all believers but discontentment is a sign we have not accepted God’s plan and will for us.

As believers and lights of the world, should we join in conversations where grumbling is the focus? Discontent breeds bitterness, anger, and often ill will. Scripture warns us to refrain from complaining, especially in front of non-believers.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” Philippians 2:14-15 (NKJV)

Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!James 5:9 (NKJV)

With elections in the forefront, it is easy to fall into negative political conversations. It would be so much better if we petitioned God, in our prayer closet, for His pick regarding leadership. Requesting God’s will in such matters will ease our worries over political figures and provide us with peace of mind. There is no authority higher than God, and He appoints all earthly authorities.

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV)

The apostle Paul wrote about contentment, the solution to our habit of grumbling. He understood that God was our all and all, our everything. Nothing else can fill us with absolute peace and contentment. The knowledge of God, His love and sacrifice, is the key to accepting all circumstances in life.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13 (NKJV)

To wrestle with God is acceptable, but you might get your hip knocked out of socket (Gen. 32:25). To blame God and speak ill of Him is sinful. When the urge to grumble arises, consider these facts first. God’s ways are not our ways as His thoughts are so much higher than our own. God loves us unconditionally and disciplines those He calls His own. God knows our future and how to get us down the path of life. Finally, we live in a fallen world where man still has a free will.

 

God Desires Honesty

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We have the freedom to speak honestly before our King. God already knows what we think, and what we are about to say, so it is foolishness to hide our true feelings from Him. We have permission to be honest, really honest, and need not fear retribution or punishment for our transparency.

Before a word is on my tongue You, LORD, know it completely.” Psalm 139:4 (NIV)

Consider Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Jesus considered all three to be His friend. And even though He was the King of Kings in living flesh, He welcomed their honest feelings. In one story, Martha complains about Mary sitting at His feet and listening to His word, instead of helping her serve guests. She actually rebuffed Jesus and questioned whether He cared that she had been left alone to serve guests. Furthermore, she ordered Him to tell Mary to help. Jesus acknowledged her feelings but replied that Mary had chosen the good part, which would not be taken away from her.

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’

 And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)

 On another occasion, Martha, grief-stricken over her brother’s death, freely spoke of her disappointment with Jesus, for He had not been present before Lazarus passed. She did not know that her Savior intentionally stayed away so that He could perform a miracle. Lazarus was raised from the dead, which led to many conversions.

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” John 11:21-23 (NIV)

God does not look favorably upon liars. Truth is who God is. He cannot lie. Since we are called to be like Christ, we too must strive to speak truthfully at all times, even in our prayer closet.

In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of timeTitus 1:2 (NKJV)

“But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? When it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.” Acts 5:3-5a (NKJV)

If we hold feelings of hate, disappointment, lust, fear, or bitterness in our heart, it is best to acknowledge it, express it openly with God, and then ask for forgiveness. He can handle our true emotions. He knows our hidden sins and welcomes honest communication. Truth and honesty make for an intimate relationship with God. Pour your heart out to the King. Those who speak truthfully are His delight.

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.Proverbs 12:22 (NKJV)

“An honest heart loves the truth.” ~ A.W. Pink

Are You Spiritually Lethargic?

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A lack of energy and enthusiasm is called lethargy. It is a state of being in which one is drowsy. Some would describe a lethargic person as lazy or slothful. The lack of enthusiasm to pursue spiritual matters is a symptom of spiritual lethargy and the cause of spiritual immaturity and stunted growth.

Lethargy is an attitude and a dangerous one at that. The Bible warns the devil is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. If we are drowsy, we are not alert. Those with a spiritually lethargic attitude will either miss the devil’s approach altogether or discern it but lace the energy or desire to thwart it.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

The author of Hebrews exhorts believers to be sober and vigilant. Vigilance calls for hawk-eyed watchfulness and attentiveness. If we have our spiritual eyes closed, sleeping on the watch, it is likely the roaring lion will succeed in devouring us, or at the very least acquire a nibble or two.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Hebrews 13:11 (NKJV)

The book of Hebrews was written to a church struggling with spiritual lethargy. Apparently, they had settled into a deliberate state of spiritual infancy. Having received the gospel of faith, they opted to maintain a diet of spiritual milk and forgo the benefits of solid food. Healthy children do not consume a liquid only diet their entire lifetime. No, instead they move on to the pleasures and blessings found within foods that are more substantial.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Spiritual growth necessitates an investment of time and effort. It requires a determined perseverance to draw near to God. Just as children long to know more of their parents, we too should long to know our Savior more intimately.

Consider Proverbs 21:25, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual one as well.              The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”

When apathy becomes our attitude, we lack the energy to love and serve God. Furthermore, we are commanded to love and serve each other. A lethargic spiritual attitude does not lend itself to service.

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (NKJV)

The world should see us as aliens, holding onto a very bright light that guides. We are not supposed to fit in or see eye-to-eye with the politically correct and the spiritually lost. It is far too easy to become the frog that falls asleep in a lukewarm pot of water. As the heat is slowly brought to a boil, it meets an early demise.

So, shake off all lethargy and put on the armor of Christ. Read the Word, every day. Do not simply carry your Bible into church and allow your Pastor to spoon-feed you. Supplement the feast he provides by gathering the spiritual manna God provides within His living Word. Cast off any lethargic attitude that succumbs to bottle-feeding alone and take up your own spoon and fork! As iron sharpens iron, find someone who will sharpen and encourage you as you run your spiritual race home.

Awake, O sleeper, awake!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.Proverbs 24:30-34 (NKJV)

Obstacles

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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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Moving Forward In Fear

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Fear can petrify, but only because we’ve given it power. If we remember God is always by our side, the fears causing us to quake in our boots will suddenly be exposed as the imaginary monsters that once lived under our beds.

The phrases “Fear not” or “Be not afraid”, occur 103 times in the King James Version of the Bible. When we consider that God has selected every word in the Bible, we can draw a few conclusions. Repeated words are repeated for a reason. God wants us to pay attention and take them to heart.

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)

God understands the human condition, yet He still requires obedience and faith. Trusting an unseen God with daily life choices is hard enough, but when those choices include life and death situations, we must lasso and claim His undeniable love for us. Only then will we overcome the mysterious and painful challenges in our path.

Where we place our confidence will determine our stance when trouble comes. Consider Moses. God was met with resistance when He told Moses to return to Egypt and confront the mighty Pharaoh, demanding that he free the Israelites (Exodus 3 and 4). Moses was self-conscious and fearful about being the mouthpiece of Jehovah. (Some scholars believe Moses had a speech impediment, such as stuttering. Ex. 4:10). Instead of trusting that God had already enabled him for the work, he let insecurity rob his confidence. He had his eyes on his flesh and not an ALL POWERFUL God.

Although God provided Aaron as a mouth for Moses, he still had to decide whether he would obey God or let personal fears deter him from his calling. As we well know, Moses did move forward, in his fear and insecurity, to confronted Pharaoh and lead God’s people to freedom. His faith in God was greater than his fear.

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)

Our heavenly Father never forces us to do anything. But, like a good father teaching his daughter/son how to change a flat tire or cook a meal, He encourages us to step out in faith to learn and do things that will assist us. We can be confident He has our best interests at heart. We are under His protection and all seeing eyes.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”  Psalm 139:9-10 (NKJV)

We have the Holy Spirit living within us. He will faithfully lead us into all truth and empower us to cope with every task ahead. We should not be afraid to venture out of our comfort zone to answer God’s call to serve. As we begin our new path, we might see just one step ahead, but we cannot let that deter us! When we take that single step forward, God rejoices over our decision to trust Him and will reveal sound footing for our next step.

You may ask, “Where is God taking me? What will I need to do? Is adversity and suffering part of this journey? Why is the entire footpath engulfed in a fog?” Could it be that if you saw the obstacles and blessings down the way, you would be overwhelmed? God knows us well and He wants to encourage and cheer us forward. Just as Moses walked forward in fear, we too must build up our most holy faith and face our fears. Praise God who faithfully leads, provides, protects, and helps us throughout our journey to our eternal home!

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14 (NKJV)

 “Seeing that a pilot steers the ship in which we sail, who will never allow us to perish even in the midst of shipwrecks, there is no reason why our minds should be overwhelmed with fear and overcome with weariness.” ~John Calvin

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)

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)

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