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Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the tag “Christian Faith”

Shod Your Feet With The Gospel Of Peace

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The Christian spiritual race is an uphill climb, full of snares and rough places. A smart runner selects shoes that will carry him through every type terrain. Our spiritual armor includes shoes, and we are instructed to “shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15).

The gospel of peace is the story of God’s love for us. Jesus carried and nailed the sins of the world to the cross. By His death and resurrection, the blood of Christ covers us. Through the forgiveness of sin, our fellowship with God has been restored. We have the promise of eternal life, so long as we declare Jesus the Son of God and our Redeemer. The word shod simply means… to wear footgear. Our spiritual footgear is the story of God’s love and sacrifice. This is our comfort and our calling. Through Christ Jesus we have victory over death, a message we are commanded to share with the lost world.

Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)

However, this does not mean everybody should quit their day jobs and sail off to Africa as missionaries. Indeed, some are called to preach the gospel in other lands, but there are also everyday opportunities to share the Good News. If led, we can point our feet to the house of a sick friend or lonely neighbor, and be the hands of Christ. With an open door, we can speak words of encouragement, which will accomplish much, though we might not realize it at the time.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)

Persuasive and timely language is a most effective balm to a hardened mind or heart. And like “apples of gold set in silver,” they are a beautiful and joyful thing to receive.

Believers possess a special treasure, the promise of eternal life and the joy of a personal relationship with God. How can we not share this good news with those around us? How will others believe in Him if we keep silent?

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)

God will often prepare the hearts of those whom He has called, thus giving the messenger of Good News fertile soil to plant His seed. The heavenly Father requires our faith and action to fearlessly speak the truth. Compromise is not of the Lord. His Word will stand without sugar coating, so long as we speak with gentleness and respect. Useful scriptures will suddenly come to mind, helping us in our task of loving the one in need. The Holy Spirit will give us the words and actions necessary, so laying aside our own agenda and personal strength is key. We are to rely on God’s leading and supernatural power, for those acting on their own authority are guilty of robbing God of His glory. We are the messengers of God but He is the Savior.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Any time we step out in faith, the enemy will try to interfere with our efforts to share the gospel. Utilize the entire spiritual armor of Christ. Pray. Harassment should not be a surprise to the believer. Rather, our perspective should be that any spiritual annoyance and intimidation is confirmation we are walking right with God. Gaining back the ground Satan has stolen is never easy. The prowling lion that looks to devour is a mighty foe, but the Lion King of Judah has already won the battle. The victory is already His and we share in the victory through Jesus Christ. Let us all make an effort to share the gospel of peace with someone new every day.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)

“Of course you’ll encounter trouble. But behold a God of power who can take any evil and turn it into a door of hope.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Haphazard Plans?

_God In Control

God’s way will turn a man’s thoughts inside out and upside down. We can’t forecast the way God works. The wisdom of the world would argue that God is haphazard, but He is not calculable in His providence. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.

’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

God’s sovereignty is a reality. His love for us is undeniable. There is no other Father who has sacrificed His only son for the redemption of mankind. So, when life seems to be out of control, even hopeless, we must remember God is behind the scenes working things out according to His perfect will.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Matthew 18:2-4 and Mark 10:15 both mention children. Their innocence and faith should be our example. By taking on a cloak of humility, we can submit to the Father’s will and trust where He has placed us, even if it is within a turbulent storm. Why? Because He loves us!

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV)

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NKJV)

The ‘whys’ in life can plague a person’s heart. The proper place for our questions is at the feet of Jesus. But, when we lay them down, we can’t assume He owes us an answer. He owes us nothing. He might not reveal His reasons for our discomfort. But with the innocence of a child, we can trust our Savior and believe that our present circumstances are for our benefit.

God does not punish His children. However, because He is a loving Father, He will discipline us. Rooting out sin, character flaws, and transforming weaknesses into strengths will not occur overnight. And the time it takes a believer to lay aside self-will, surrendering everything to God, is different for everyone.

The more obedient we are to His leading, the faster He will mold us into the perfect vessel He envisioned. But, the transformation from sinful man to that of one reflecting Jesus Christ in every way requires time. A potter molds clay and reshapes his medium over and over until it stands out, unique and worthy of his initials. Uncomfortable pressure, painful twisting, and a dizzying spin on His wheel will eventually get us the kiln. Then, agonizing heat will purify the last of our impurities. Oh, how precious it is to share in the sufferings of Christ! We can take comfort in knowing He records each one of our painful tears. They are in His record. They are valued.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

God will send the perfect circumstances our way to get this job done. We won’t understand our entire journey, but we don’t have to, right? We simply need to trust in the love of God. He is our hope, and hope will never disappoint.

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 5:5 (NKJV)

Hope in Christ! He has a plan for you and it is not a haphazard one. The ups and downs of your life were designed long before you were knit within your mother’s womb. God sees you, as you will be perfected, and purified. Eventually, when you look in a mirror, you will only see Jesus. Your reflection will glorify God and honor Him. Praise Jehovah!

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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)

“If you try to forecast the way God will work you will get in a muddle; live the life of a child and you will find that every haphazard occasion fits into God’s order.” ~ Oswald Chambers

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” ~ A.W. Tozer

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

Lessons From An Olive Tree

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The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen, which literally means “tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” which is also the Hebrew word for the “sun.”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NKJV)

Jesus commands us to shine our light before mankind in hopes of glorifying the Father and leading the lost to His saving grace. The light within us is the Holy Spirit and He enables us to live righteously within a crooked and perverse world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

The first mention of an Olive tree is found in Genesis 8:11 (NKJV) “Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” Olive trees and olive oil is regarded as a symbol of honor, joy, and favor. Many scriptures speak of using the oil from the olive tree as an anointing.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:7).  

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) 

Says the Encyclopedia Judaica, “There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1,000 years old that still produce fruit. In old age the tree becomes hollow but the trunk continues to grow thicker, at times achieving a circumference of 20 feet” (“Olive,” vol.12, Page 1361).

Have we become hollow within, like ancient olive trees? Hollow and empty of self-will and selfish desires? If so, we are in a place of spiritual maturity where the Holy Spirit can fill us beyond capacity. Have we developed strong trunks, trunks thickened by a resolve to live righteously for God, even through times of drought and suffering? Have we been filled with God’s love, wisdom, and truth or has bitterness and hate pushed aside the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It was used by King Solomon to carve cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the first Temple.  Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.” 1 Kings 6:23 (NKJV) Our strength and beauty should call out to those who are blind, to those who no longer see beauty. Although we live in a fallen world, beauty remains everywhere; we just need to look a bit harder.

And like ancient olive trees, let us strive to bear fruit for our entire lifetime. This means producing a crop that is pressed into oil, which will hopefully heal, feed, and light the way for many. Each of is has been given a set number of days. Commit to using every moment of every year to glorify God.

Make us Olive trees, Lord! Grant us thick trunks, fruitful crops, and new shoots when we are weary from the pressing.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:8-9 (NKJV)

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

Will You Speak?

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Uniquely formed by the hands of God, with special gifts and talents, each one of us has been created to fulfill a specific purpose. Understanding the cost of our redemption, a freely given blood sacrifice, humbles man into submission. Therefore, we yield our will and take up His instead. Obedience, faith, and trust draws one into Christian service, but it is our love for the blessed Redeemer that propels us forward into unknown territory.

The prophet Jeremiah was very young when the Lord called him into service. He was ordained to be a prophet, a mouthpiece for God. Understanding the importance of such a position, he was filled with fear. He felt all of his insufficiencies. But God insisted that he go where he was sent, and speak as he was commanded. God persuaded Jeremiah there was nothing to fear, saying He would be with him to provide any necessary deliverance.

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;  Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’

 Then said I:

‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’

 But the Lord said to me:

‘Do not say, “I am a youth,” for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord.”

From that moment, Jeremiah lost all fear and pronounced the sad prophecies and warnings of God, without regard for the king and his strong men. This was often at the peril of his life. However, God was faithful to protect and deliver him from all harm. This is not to say he was free of trials and hardship, including time in a cistern. (Jeremiah 38)

Jeremiah lived during one of the most devastating periods in Jewish history. He saw the destruction of Jerusalem, after his warnings and prophecies fell on deaf ears. How sad it must have been to speak words of warning yet see them ignored. Once the catastrophe came, he lamented the terrible fate of his people in the Book Lamentations.

As children of God, we ALL have a responsibility to share the Good News with others. To hold on to this hope, found in Jesus Christ, and not speak of it is contrary to our calling. The Great Commission is not just for missionaries, evangelists, preachers, or teachers. We all need to be ready and willing to give a reason for the hope that lives within our hearts. Fear will try to hold our tongue, but like Jeremiah, we must trust God to give us the words to say and the deliverance from every evil.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Some will ask, “What about the Christians who have been unjustly imprisoned for their faith? How is God protecting them? So many Christians are facing dreadful atrocities, painful persecution, even murder for simply professing their faith in Christ.

Here now is the hard pill to swallow. How do we know God hasn’t delivered them? Our heavenly Father is a God of compassion. He wants the very best for us. Although our feeble minds might not fathom the purpose for such trials and suffering, should we toss aside what we do know of God’s righteous character? Surely our faith assures us that there is some good, some great work, and some wondrous reward for those who refuse to deny Christ. We must remember our inheritance is in heaven.

The heavenly Father had a purpose for Jeremiah. God’s plan was to use Jeremiah to pronounce judgment upon the people of that time. It was not a job he relished. In all honesty can we say, should an opportunity arise, that we too would speak the truth regarding our faith, even if it led to persecution? Would we deny Christ to avoid imprisonment… or even death? The day may soon be upon us when the faith of every American is questioned, just as it is now questions in Syria, Iran, and across this world.

But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33 (NKJV)

Tribulations, Gratitude, And The Holidays

Tribulation:CS Lewis

Difficult times do not go on vacation when the holidays roll in. Loved ones still die, brave fighting men and women continue to endure battle wounds, terrorists find new ways to murder innocent people, financial ruin knocks down new doors, and terminal or debilitating illnesses are still diagnosed. But the “God who foresaw your tribulation has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”  ~ C.S. Lewis

You might not feel like celebrating the birth of Christ Jesus this year. The trials of 2015 may have knocked you sideways, and an attitude of gratitude might be tucked further away than just your back pocket. God understands. Did His heart not break when we crucified His son?

He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.Isaiah 53:3 (NKJV)

Yet, Jesus rose from the grave… victorious. He ascended into heaven and once again found His way to the Father’s right hand. Although life may seem like ashes, you too will rise victoriously. Hold on to your faith.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” ~ Oswald Chambers.

God keeps watch over His children both day and night. His love for us is what strengthens and equips us, always whispering inside our hearts to persevere. When the act of breathing seems too great a burden, God makes it His business and breath for us. He understands our pain. He gives power to the weak.

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.Isaiah 40:29 (NKJV)

 When the mysteries and sorrows of life attempt to steal our hope, the promises of God are what we must claim. Write them down. Recite them out loud. Sing them to the heavens.

“We have to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”   ~ Oswald Chambers

 God is perpetually refining His children and seeking relationship. Intimacy is important to the Father and He longs for us to draw near. The Creator knows everything about us. Isn’t it remarkable that the Potter wants to confide and share His knowledge with His vessels? Dare we ask, “How well do I know my God?”

Should this holiday find you in the grips of despair or heart-wrenching sorrows, be encouraged with this good news. The PEACE of CHRIST never left you. It is still available and free. The JOY of Christ is also still present. Not giggles and smiles necessarily, but real JOY. Christian joy is knowing God. This Joy tells us that ALL sorrow will pass and eternity awaits our homecoming.

Praising God for the blessed gift of His Son, especially during painful times, is in itself a gift we offer the Father. And in the tradition of Christmas giving, I shall ask, “Will you offer this gift of praise to the One who loves you most? To the One who died for your sins and understands your pain?” You don’t have to put up Christmas lights, or even a tree. Just celebrate the reason for the season with JOY in your heart. JOY that you are His and HE is yours.

“There is a great difference between Christian experience and Christian faith. The danger of experience is that our faith is made to rest in it, instead of seeing that our experience is simply a doorway to God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

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When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”                  Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV)

 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 (NKJV)

 “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1 (NKJV)

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NKJV)

 

The Peace of Christ

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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)

 

Thank God For His Wisdom!

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“It is impossible for God to will anything but what His wisdom approves. That is, as it were, His law of justice, in accordance with which His will is right and just. Hence, what He does according to His will He does justly: as we do justly what we do according to law. But whereas law comes to us from some higher power, God is a law unto Himself.”    – Thomas Aquinas 

What is wisdom? Is there a difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom found in God? How can we obtain Godly wisdom and what is its value? The Bible answers all of these questions.

Wisdom takes knowledge and understanding and considers the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of an experience. It encapsulates intelligence, common sense, skill, insight, and good judgment. Wisdom is different from knowledge, but it also incorporates knowledge. They overlap. You cannot exercise wisdom without knowledge; because, in order to figure out the best way to achieve a goal, you have to have knowledge of many factors.

There is an earthly wisdom and also a wisdom given by God that comes from above.

First, it is prudent to recognize and acknowledge that God is wise. In fact, His wisdom is beyond our understanding and past our finding out. HE has no counselor, for God is perfect in knowledge and understanding. Therefore, He has no need to seek advice. He is never changing in His perfection; thus, there is no need for improvement.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His.” Daniel 2:20 (NKJV)

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?’” Romans 11:33-34 (NKJV)

To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”  Romans 16:27 (NKJV)

Godly wisdom is first PURE. Purity demands that we live morally and ethically clean lives. Sin taints judgment and affects actions. With a pure heart, we can discern the voice of God and perceive things without being deceived by apparent truths that are in all actuality misleading snares. Satan has tricked many men by cloaking “facts” that are seemingly obvious and palpable, but are in all reality evil.

Heavenly wisdom is pure and then…. peaceable, gentle, and willing to yield. To obtain heavenly wisdom, the surrender of self-will must be laid humbly at Christ’s feet. Where anger and bitterness once lived, mercy and the fruit of the Spirit will reign. God’s wisdom is without partiality or favoritism.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”     James 3:17 (NKJV)

There are two traits the Bible identifies with earthly wisdom; Self-seeking and bitter-envy. Self-love, self-pleasure, and self-will are all recognizable within this false wisdom. By adding “self” to the equation, it becomes impure. Additionally, the added ingredient of bitter-envy further serves to corrupt this wisdom. For bitter-envy will pursue with a poisonous zeal and in a manner of contention to prick others and cause harm. Where Godly wisdom is filled with love and mercy, worldly wisdom is filled with envy, confusion, and demonic strife.

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.James 3:14-16 (NKJV)

When we find ourselves in situations where wisdom is required, all we have to do is ask. God freely shares His wisdom, but we must ask in faith without any doubt.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. “ James 1:5-6 (NKJV)

“For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV)

 With thankful hearts, we praise the one true God, the giver of all life. His wisdom created the universe and established the heavens. Praise God who sees the wretched state of mankind, has mercy on us, and holds each one of us in the palm of His right hand! May He continue to lead us with heavenly wisdom, power, and grace.

With a reverent fear, we seek your face. Guide us, Lord! Train us with Your knowledge and teach us how to apply it, so that as we run our spiritual race, we do so with heavenly wisdom and a heart to love and save the lost.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)

 I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand.” Daniel 2:23 (NKJV)

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV)

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness.’”    1 Corinthians 3:19 (NKJV)

“The all-seeing eye of God beheld our deplorable state; infinite pity touched the heart of the Father of mercies; and infinite wisdom laid the plan of our recovery.”                ~David Brainerd

 

 

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