Overcoming discouragement brings great blessing

 Are you a “big picture” person?

(My Note: Considering the previous message on the site today, I think this one was also “right on” and meant for me to contemplate today.  Funny how that happens, huh?)

Who but God goes up to the heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fist? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name — and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

Proverbs 30:4 NLT

Impressive panorama

When people understand events clearly, we often say that they “see the big picture.” This passage in Proverbs makes the point that the clearest view of the “big picture” will always include God. The sequence of rhetorical questions helps us consider the awesome identity and capacity of God. Much like the litany of questions that God showered on Job (Job 38:1-41:34), these push us toward humble and silent worship.

Agur was feeling overwhelmed (30:1), insignificant (30:2), and limited (30:3). But when he turned away from his smallness to contemplate God’s greatness, an atmosphere of confidence filled the rest of the chapter. He began with a little picture, no bigger than himself, but he soon looked at the big picture and forgot that he was weary and worn out. God gave him a new and refreshing point of view.

WISE WAYS  One of the best remedies for a weary and tired spirit is to contemplate the majesty and greatness of God. How have you found that to be true?

Dear Lord, when I look at all you have made, I know it makes me feel smaller, but it also fills me with wonder over how great you are! I worship you.

Adapted from The One Year® Book of Proverbs by Neil S. Wilson, Tyndale House Publishers (2002), entry for January 30.


Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Look up!

God wants you to stop being “absorbed with the things right in front of you.

Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—

that’s where the action is.

See things from his perspective”.

(Colossians 3:2 MSG)

If I ever needed to hear this verse, today was the day! I’m having a rough time facing the fact that my sister’s leukemia has now progressed and she will be starting chemo soon.  Also, it seems, people who are “supposed friends”, just simply “aren’t”.  So I need to look up, and try to see it all in “God’s perspective”.

Have a blessed New Year!

Just wanted to wish you all a blessed New Year…full of happiness, love, warmth, encouragement, healing, discernment, wisdom, praise to our Lord, humility, gratitude, forgiveness, grace, mercy, hope, faith, spiritual growth, victory, and all the good things our Lord has in store for each of us.

 

Sharon & Erick

Merry Christ mas to all of you!

More of Christ!

In Bethlehem, the human being who best understood who God was and what he was doing, is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. As Mary looks into the face of the baby.  Her son. Her Lord.  His majesty—she can’t take her eyes off him.  Somehow Mary knows she’s holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel.  “His kingdom will never end!”

He looks like anything but a king. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. Majesty in the midst of the mundane.  Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat.  Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

God came near!

“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.

Luke 1:33″

~ Max Lucado

It seems today is the day to emphasize “Forgiveness”

forgiveness5

Everywhere I turned today, I ran into new tidbits about “Forgiveness”.  I don’t believe in coincidence, because I believe in the verse Romans 8:28  which reads . . . And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. NIV

So . . . it seems He is trying to bring home to me a truth that needs to be reexamined!

forgiveness6

dont-judge1forgiveness4

forgiveness God's promise

forgiveness3

 

Forgiveness is an act of love and obedience

It isn’t dependent on who the person is, what the person has done or how many times they have done it.

In fact it really has nothing to do with the person who hurt you.

It is all about you and your relationship with God.

I’m so thankful that He loves me enough to command me to do this. Because at the end of the day I know I can say, “God of second chances and new beginnings … here I am again, Please forgive me…

Daniel 9:18

We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.

Today is your best day

In God we boast all day long, And praise Your name forever.

Psalm 44:8 (NKJV)

Here are four reasons why today is your best day.

– Today is your best day because you are here. God has placed you in this moment of time for a purpose, and the things that happen to you today will be an unfolding of that purpose.

– What happened to you yesterday, however easy or difficult, was used by God to help prepare you for what He has for you today.

– God will use what happens today to prepare you for what He has for you in future days.

– God has used your past and worked it all together for the good, and He will use this day to add to the good that He has already worked in your behalf.

If you are in Jesus Christ and your heart is committed to God’s plan for your life, it means that today is your best day.

Today is your best day because you can grow a little more in your faith, a little more in your maturity, and a little more in your intimacy with Jesus.

Today you can take another step higher as He takes you from glory to glory; take another step deeper as you grow in His love; take another step further as you obediently walk with Him.

Today is your best day because it has brought you one day closer to the coming of the Lord.

Devotional excerpt by Roy Lessin, from his new book Today is Your Best Day.

Deliverance from Fear

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 34:4

 Prayer positions us to receive the peace of God. It is when we seek Him that we see Him. It is when we see Him that we are secure. As we travel across the choppy sea of life’s circumstances, we can become dizzy and fearful if we look down at the water of wonder. But if we keep our eyes fixed ahead on a stable object, we remain secure and feel safe. Jesus is our immovable object of belief. He is our secure Savior who is there for us when fear assaults our attitude and threatens to highjack our heart. When we seek His face He reciprocates by flooding our countenance with His peace. He replaces our furrowed brow of fear with a calm face of faith. He gives the righteous a radiant face that is never to be covered with shame. The Lord hears our prayers by extending His peaceful presence.

No one has ever been sorry for seeking the Lord. It takes time and effort but it is your best investment. Process your problems with prayer and you will be the most productive. We cannot come to the best solutions in our own strength. One dimensional problem solving only leads to average results at best. Why be satisfied with a perspective limited to your experiences, intelligence and giftedness? It is seeking the Lord that unlocks a treasure trove of truth that leads us to possibilities we would never imagine on our own. The fruit that comes from replacing fear with faith is unlimited. We can rest assured as the Almighty leads us down a new path. This is what may happen in the process of seeking your Savior. He delights in determining a better way for you.

This next season of your life is the Lord’s reward for your faithfulness all these years. You have sought Him unashamedly and obediently. Money has not been your motive. Pride has not prodded you. Fame has not been your forte. You have sought Him with your unselfish service. You have sought Him with your humble obedience. You have sought Him by ministering to the needs of others. Because of your faithfulness in seeking Him, He has grown your faith and marginalized your fears. Therefore, see this next season as an extension of His blessings. There is no need to fear because God is near those who seek Him. There is no safer or more secure place to be than in the process of seeking Him.

Moreover, God expects to hear from you before you can expect to hear from Him. If you restrain prayer; He may refrain grace and mercy. The more you think upon the Lord, and less of yourself, the better off you become. Seek Him, lose yourself, and you will discover the best way. Furthermore, there is no need to fear your next transition as your Heavenly Father has your hand and He is guiding you. There is no need to fear the cessation of this phase of your career as He is in control. There is no need to fear the breaking off of a relationship as He is in the business of mending broken hearts. There is no need to fear provision for your family as God is your provider. Seek Him and He will deliver you from your fears. Seek Him and you will be secure in Him. Seek Him before, during and after trouble comes. Then the process of seeking the Lord becomes second nature to your soul. Then fear fails its mission. Indeed, seeking Him fossilizes your fears!

Taken from Reading #23 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

Prayer positions us to receive the peace of God. It is when we seek Him that we see Him.

Be patient and tough

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Psalms 32:8
Be patient and tough.
Someday this pain will be useful to you.
You will never realize your true strength until being strong is your only option left.
Until you are broken,
you won’t know what you’re truly made of.
Pain doesn’t just show up in your life for no reason.
It’s a sign that something needs to change –
it’s a wake-up call that guides you toward a better future.
A Sunday School teacher once gave me this same advice.
Whatever we go through prepares us for something
that is going to happen somewhere down the road.
The experience will make us strong enough to stand it.
~ Sharon

Are you filled with Joy?

Are you filled with joy?

I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

John 15:11 NLT

Full Joy

In many ways, we live in bleak times. Millions feel disillusioned with life while millions more feel uncertain about the future — especially young people. Many of you in Generation X have been victims of a great social experiment in which parents who never grew up cast aside time-honored moral values and, in the phrase of the 1960s, did their own thing.

Nevertheless, there is someone to believe in, something to grasp, and someone to trust. You need to go to the next letter of the alphabet, to Y — as in “Why do I exist. Why was I created? And what am I living for?”

According to Jesus, you were created for joy. “These things I have spoken to you,” Jesus said, “that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

The things Jesus spoke of were His teachings about bearing fruit. We were created to bear fruit for God, which essentially means to become like Jesus: His mind becomes our mind, His purpose becomes our purpose. And there’s only one way to produce such luscious fruit, according to Jesus: “Abide in Me” (John 15:4). This is the secret of spiritual growth and the key to overflowing joy. Are you bearing spiritual fruit?

Adapted from Breakfast with Jesus by Greg Laurie (Tyndale House) p 246-48

Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Christ in You!

When grace happens, Christ enters.  Christ in you, the hope of glory!

For many years, I missed this truth.  I believed all the other prepositions:

Christ for me, with me, ahead of me.  But I never imagined that Christ was in me.

I can’t blame my deficiency on Scripture. Paul refers to it 216 times.  John mentions it 26.  No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim.  No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers.

Muhammad does not indwell Muslims.  Buddha does not inhabit Buddhists.

Influence?  Instruct?  Yes.  But occupy?  No.

The mystery in a nutshell is Colossians 1:27:  “Christ is in you!”

The Christian is a person in whom Christ is happening!  We sense his re-arranging.  He’s turning debris into the divine, a pig’s ear into silk purse.  Little by little a new image emerges!

God’s Grace!

From GRACE

~ Max Lucado

Are you wearing the “belt of truth”?

The belt of truth

Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth.

Ephesians 6:14 NLT

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” says Jesus (John 8:32). But what will the truth set us free from?

First of all, it sets us free from the snares of deception. When people know the truth, they can’t be taken in by a lie. You can’t convince people to believe in something that they know in their hearts and minds is false.

The truth will also set you free from guilt and shame. When you’ve held tightly to the truth, you don’t have to worry about a lie coming back to haunt you. You don’t spend your nights lying awake wondering what words of deception might trap and ensnare you. You are free to live with a clean conscience and an innocent heart.

Finally, the truth sets you free from judgment. When you trust in the truth of Jesus, you have no more fear of death — physical or spiritual. You know his promises to be true and his words to be life-giving. You can no longer be bound by Satan’s lies.

The belt of truth Paul writes about is the strap that holds together the entire armor of God. Without it, everything else would fall away and Satan would have an open target to your heart. So take the truth of Christ, and latch it firmly around your waist. Let it set you free!

From a devotional by Frank M. Martin in Embracing Eternity (Tyndale House) p 293

Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House

Blessings come from applying God’s Word.

God Answers the Mess of Life

by Max Lucado

You stare into the darkness. The ceiling fan whirls above you. Your husband slumbers next to you. In minutes the alarm will sound, and the demands of the day will shoot you like a clown out of a cannon into a three-ring circus of meetings, bosses, and baseball practices.

And for the millionth time you’ll make breakfast, schedules, and payroll…  but for the life of you, you can’t make sense of this thing called life. Its beginnings and endings.  Cradles and cancers and cemeteries and questions.

The meaning of life!  The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word:  grace!  Do we really understand it?

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you!”

Grace calls us to change

and then gives us the power to pull it off!

From GRACE

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

I have always loved this passage in Psalm 34. Read the whole chapter (which I have copied from biblegateway.com and included it after the following message from The Life Application Study Bible).  Let it bathe over you with comfort.

~~~~~

God pays attention to those who call on Him.  Whether God offers escape from trouble or help in times of trouble, we can be certain that He always hears and acts on behalf of those who love Him.

God promises great blessings to His people, but many of these blessings require active participation.  He will deliver us from:

  • fear (34:4),
  • save us out of our troubles (34:6),
  • guard and deliver us (34:7),
  • show us goodness (34:8),
  • supply our needs (34:9),
  • listen when we talk to Him (34:15)
  • and redeem us (34:22),

but we must do our part.

We can appropriate His blessings when:

  • we seek Him (34:4, 10),
  • cry out to Him (34:6, 17),
  • trust Him (34:8),
  • fear Him (34:7,9),
  • refrain from lying (34:13),
  • turn from evil,
  • do good and seek peace (34:14),
  • are humble (34:18,
  • and serve Him (34:22).

34:8  “Taste and see” does not mean “Check out God’s credentials.”  Instead it is a warm invitation. “Try this; I know you’ll like it.”  When we take that first step of obedience in following God, we will discover that Je is good and kind.  When we begin the Christian life, our knowledge of God is partial and incomplete.  As we trust Him daily, we experience how good He is.

34:9   You say you belong to the Lord, but do you fear Him?  To fear the Lord means to show deep respect and honor to Him.  We demonstrate true reverence by our humble attitude and genuine worship.  Reverence was shown by Abraham (Genesis 17:2-4), Moses (Exodus 3:5, 6), and the Israelites (Exodus 19:16-24) showed this kind of fear of the Lord.

34:9, 10  At first we may question David’s statement, because we seem to lack many good things.  This is not a blanket promise that all Christians will have everything they want.  Instead, this is David’s praise for God’s goodness–all those who call upon God in their need will be answered, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Remember, God knows what we need, and our deepest needs are spiritual.  Even though many Christians face unbearable poverty and hardship, they still have enough spiritual nourishment to live for God.  David was saying that to have God is to have all you really need.  God is enough.
If you feel you don’t have everything you need, ask:

  • Is this really a need?
  • Is this really good for me?
  • Is this the best time for me to have what I desire?

Even if you answer yes to all three questions, God may allow you to go without to help you grow more dependent on Him.  He may want you to learn that you need Him more than having to achieve your immediate desires.

34:11-14  The Bible often connects the fear of the Lord (love and reverence for Him) with obedience.  “Fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13); “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23).

David said that a person who fears the Lord

  • doesn’t lie,
  • turns from evil,
  • does good,
  • and promotes peace.

Reverence is much more than sitting quietly in church.  It includes obeying God in the way we speak and the way we treat others.

34:14  Some may think that peace should come with no effort.  But David explained that we are to seek and pursue peace.  Paul echoed this thought in Romans 12:18.  A person who wants peace cannot be argumentative and contentious.  Because peaceful relationships come from our efforts at peacemaking, work hard at living in peace with others each day.

34:18, 19  We often wish we could escape troubles–

  • the pain of grief,
  • loss,
  • sorrow,
  • and failure;

or even the small daily frustrations that constantly wear us down.

God promises to be “close to the brokenhearted,” to be our source of

  • power,
  • courage,
  • and wisdom,

helping us through our problems.

Sometimes He chooses to deliver us from those problems.  When trouble strikes, don’t get frustrated with God.  Instead, admit that you need God’s help and thank Him for being by your side.

34:20  This is a prophecy about Christ when He was crucified.  Although it was the Roman custom to break the legs of the victim to speed death, not one of Jesus’ bones was broken (John 19:32-37).  In addition to the prophetic meaning, David was pleading for God’s protection in times of crisis.

 

Psalm 34

1 I will extol the Lord at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
and He delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and His ears are attentive to their cry;
16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
He delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20  He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems His servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.

 

 

To read this passage in the King James Version, please click on this link:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2034&version=KJV

10 Things You’ve Got to Know About Fear

I mean, that’s what they say.

That people’s “number one fear is public speaking. And number two is death.”

So some crazy comedy guy asks, “Does that seem right?

That means to the average person,

if you have to go to a funeral,

you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

And when your bags are packed and you’re 24 hours from standing with a microphone

on the Women of Faith stage, Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise,

I confess —  none of that’s particularly comforting.

But that He says it about 365 times in the Bible,

Do not be Afraid — one assurance for every day

so the women of faith believe and obey,

and the rock solid truth He won’t ever leave or forsake,

and there isn’t a thing in this world that can ever separate us from the love of Christ —

this crazy farmer’s wife putting all that in her bag.

She’s flying with that.

And these 10 Things to Know about Fear:

1. Don’t fear failing.

Fear not obeying.

2. Fear is a fraud.

Nowhere on earth is beyond the reach of God.

3. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.

4. Your fears don’t decide your fate — your fears destroy your faith.

5. We must do that which we know we cannot — to prove that it’s our God who cannot fail.
Our God appoints those who will disappointto point to a God who never disappoints.

5. Everything your Father has for you — is over the fence of fear.

6. Travel in the direction of your fears — to let God direct your life.

7. Fear doesn’t stop the really bad things as much as it stops you from really living.

8. It’s impossible to simultaneously feel fear — and give thanks.

9. Fear is always the flee ahead.

God is I AM and His presence fills the present moment.

Just. Rest. in. Him. in. This. Moment.

10. Do not feed the ducks, or the bears, or the fears.

Feed your soul — on the Word that is the Bread of Life.

So this heart’s ready — relying on Him.

Bags are packed.

Fears won’t be checked. {All lying fears have been kicked to the curb.}

Flying in the morning.

And before the sun sets here on the farm,

I see it there out the kitchen window,

there off the front porch —

That the geese are flying high — straight into the sun.

~ from Ann Voskamp’s Jesus-trusting heart to yours

Faithful Perseverance

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” Hebrews 10:36-37

The greatest example of Christian perseverance for me is Sister Alice Yuan from China. Her pastor husband, Allen Yuan, was imprisoned for almost twenty-two years for refusing to join the government controlled church in the middle 1950’s. She says:

“When my husband Allen was sent to prison in April 1958, I was told that I would never see him again. I felt completely miserable and continually blamed God. The future looked so terribly bleak. I had the care of six children and my mother-in-law. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could I keep my family alive on that?

“When it all became too much for me, one night I heard a voice: ‘My child, I have everything in My hands. These things come from Me.’ I replied, ‘If these things come from You, please protect me and my family. Do not allow me to dishonor Your name. I want to serve You and glorify Your name’

“Then I received peace in my heart. I was encouraged by Psalm 68:19, Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. In those difficult years, people let me down, but God never abandoned me. But he did put me through trials.

“The first trial was the struggle to survive. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could we get by on that? But God took care of us, in the same way that he took care of Elijah. He promised to be my shepherd and provider.

“One evening, my mother-in-law said that there was no food anymore in the house. The next morning, at five to six there was a knock on the door. ‘Are you sister Alice?’ asked a woman in her sixties, whom I didn’t know. ‘God wanted me to give you this.’ She put a package in my hand and disappeared. When I opened the parcel I found there was rice in it and some other food and a banknote to the value of about four month’s salary of a professor! Praise the Lord. Where man comes to an end, God begins! This was only one of the many miracles which kept us alive all those years.”

RESPONSE: Today I will not complain about discomforts but thank God for all His blessings!

PRAYER: Lord, You desire faithfulness and perseverance. Help me develop these qualities in my life.

“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:38-39

“The second trial came from the Communist party. Every day for nineteen years, I had to report to the police station, where for six hours, they put pressure on me. They said that I would never see my husband again, that I should divorce him and that I should give up my faith. With God’s help I kept going. Praying with my eyes closed, I endured the interrogations every day.

“The third trial consisted of the hard work. After I had been pressured by the security police for six hours, I still had to work for eight hours to earn a living. I had to push handcarts filled with building materials. The carts were much too heavy. I was completely exhausted and was already tired before I started. In the winter, it was even worse. Sometimes I had to shovel cement up onto a floor above my head. The work was dirty, hard and cold, but I achieved my quota. The others were surprised and wondered where I got the energy from.

“The fourth trial had to do with my natural desires. I was thirty-nine-years-old when my husband was taken away. The authorities put me under pressure to marry someone else. All my papers would be changed, so that I could start a new life without all the difficulties. I was offered money and clothing. God loved me so much that He gave me the strength to resist all these temptations. When I prayed to God, He gave me everything I needed, and even more than that.

“My favorite text is Psalm 68:6, God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”

It is a miracle that her husband, Allen Yuan, got out of the labour camp alive. In December 1979, he was released after twenty-one years and eight months. He was then sixty-five years old, thin but still healthy. At an age when many people are enjoying retirement, Allan again took up his vocation as a pastor. He died on August 16th 2005 at the age of ninety-one. Alice joined him in heaven in early August 2010 to hear her own “Well done!”

RESPONSE: I resolve to persevere, with faith in a good God, through all the trials that come my way.

PRAYER: Lord, may all Your children experiencing severe persecution today be filled with faith and refuse to shrink back. Help me to emulate these great examples of faithful perseverance.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission