Learning to wait….

In order to grow as believers, you and I must learn to wait on the Lord. While waiting God to answer prayers to happen in our lives, there are a few things that we must do. First, I continually bring our request before Him in prayer. We also must surrender to His timing, and live our life as the Bible instructs by seeking the Lords kingdom first. If we are truly trying to die to ourselves and live for Christ daily, I know that we are in the will of God. This makes the process of waiting easier. When we do this God will suddenly show up in great way in our lives when we keep trusting Him and waiting for His perfect timing to make things happen. When we keep our focus on loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength He will lead us.

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“For since the world began no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! Isaiah 64:4

God has a plan for each one of us and wants us to know what it is. Every time we take a step of obedience, He sheds more light on our path. But sometimes He asks us to pause awhile, and we may not know why. We long for direction in a particular matter, but our prayers just aren’t being answered, and we wonder, Why does He delay?

When you aren’t seeing any answers, it doesn’t mean that God is not working. He’s still actively involved in your life, but He works in ways that are not always visible He orchestrates circumstances, changes people’s hearts, and protects His children from making hasty decisions that will have disastrous consequences. Perhaps the Lord knows you’re not yet ready for the next leg of your spiritual journey. Waiting times are opportunities for growth in character, obedience, and faith. He may also need time to train you for future responsibilities and ministries.

When you intentionally choose to be still, God unleashes His mighty power on your behalf. My prayer is that we would learn to wait on His answer—and do it joyfully. Why? God’s Word says that He acts on behalf of those who trust in Him. No, He doesn’t promise to give us everything we want. But when you and I watch for His provision, it will come—every time.

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Seeking God each morning!

“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation”  ~~ Psalm 5:3

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David was called a man after God’s own heart. He knew God and saw incredible miracles throughout his life. But notice in this verse what David did. He set the tone for His whole day by spending time with the Lord every morning. It didn’t matter what was going on his life, David had his priorities set. Even though he was mistreated by his family, manipulated, made fun of, hunted down by King Saul, and even made some major mistakes on his own, David realized that each morning held the promise of new hope.

Just like David, if you’ll make spending time with God a priority in your life, you will see Him move mightily on your behalf. Make it a habit to seek Him first every single day. No matter what is happening, seek Him in the morning.  Let Him set the tone for your day and set you on the course for victory in every area of your life!

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“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”

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What has been filling your thoughts and occupying your mind in recent days? Perhaps a loved one who is sick, an employer who is difficult, an injustice that you have observed, a longing that you have, or a sorrow that you feel? Or maybe all of the above. In spite of my many tangled, confused, and anxious thoughts—the psalmist says to the Lord—your comforts delight my soul. Although there are an onslaught of anxious cares and doubts filling his mind he insists that the comforts that God has provided far outweigh and exceedingly outnumber the stresses of life. I hope this message will minister to your heart in your time of need.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:19

In fact the psalmist expresses that the encouragement that God has provided in His Word is so intensive and so uplifting that he has been led, not only to be consoled, but to be delighted. This speaks of a transcending comfort that is powerful and substantial enough to reverse the very trend of the mind toward worry or fear.

Have you experienced the soul-delighting comforts of God’s Word as of late? Has your tendency to worry or fret or grieve been overruled to such an extent that the inertia of your thoughts is now toward joy and peace and satisfaction?

When one looks at the love and faithfulness of the cross, at the wisdom and majesty of creation, at the sweetness and surety of God’s promises, the anxiousness of life is overwhelmed by the comforts for the soul.

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Have a wonderful day as you allow His comfort to give a renewed hope and cheer. Love you all.

Continually seek Him!

The way we can appropriate God’s strength is to spend time in His presence, seeking His face, and developing a deeper relationship with Him. If we want to live the abundant, victorious life that Jesus died to give us, then we are going to have to spend concentrated time seeking Him on a daily basis. How do you get to really know someone? You spend time with them, of course. You communicate with each other, and you share yourselves with each other. Our relationship with God is no different. Getting to know God takes time and effort, but it is most definitely worth it.

Search for the Lord and for his strength, continually seek him.” Psalm 105:4

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We also acquire God’s strength by spending time in His Word–reading it, studying it, meditating upon it, and applying it to our lives and circumstances. By exercising these biblical principles, we literally fill ourselves with God’s Word. And a Word-filled believer is a powerful believer.

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As soldiers of Christ, we are in a constant battle with Satan and the forces of evil. The Lord never meant for us to be weak and weary warriors; He re-created us in Christ to be over comers. And we can find boundless strength from devoting ourselves to God’s Word.

Scripture says: ” Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” Psalm 119:49-50 The Bible is filled with thousands of supernatural promises that have the power to strengthen us in hard, and seemingly hopeless, times. If we will claim them in faith, we’ll receive all the help of heaven in every situation we face.

No matter what difficult places you may be walking through today, the Lord wants to transform them into places of blessing and refreshment. Call upon Him now, and let Him fill you with the strength that only He can give. His plan is good!

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JESUS DOESN’T WANT YOU TO “ASK HIM INTO YOUR HEART?” Why?

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I’ll never forget it. I was in grade school. All around me were other school kids crying. Hardly anyone was standing. It was a powerful moment—so much so that even now when I think about it a range of emotions come over me. Where was I? I was at a youth camp. It was the last night where everyone “asked Jesus into their heart.” Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine” was playing while the camp speaker asked all the kids to bow their heads and close their eyes. He would then say, “ok whoever wants to receive Jesus repeat after me….”

Sound familiar?

Have you ever asked Jesus into your heart?

Now first let me say this—I am not arguing in this blog that Jesus doesn’t save through this method (because He clearly does). Also, John 1:12 would suggest we do need to receive Jesus in some way or another. But my question is why has it become so mechanical? So forced? So calculated? Receiving the grace of Jesus is a beautiful thing. We tell people it is free (which it is), but we forget to tell them it will cost them their life (which it will). I’m humbly submitting that this might be the main thing contributing to our lethargic, apathetic, and consumer based Christianity that’s plaguing our nation right now.

Doesn’t it haunt you that this “prayer” is never uttered in the New Testament?

Have you ever asked yourself why?

Doesn’t it haunt you that people never made a “decision” but rather gave up all they had to follow Jesus?

Why is the life we are calling people to, so different from what the original disciples called them to?

When I first became a Christian about 8 years ago, the church I went to would give an “invitation” at the end of every sermon. It was very similar to the experience above. He would have people bow their heads and close their eyes, and “accept Jesus into their heart.” He would then usually say something like “I see your hand, God sees your heart.” I think about 15 people would get saved every service. At this time they were probably a 3,000+ person church with multiple campuses in a tiny town. I remember thinking after about a year, that if 15 people were getting “saved” a service in a town of around 10,000 this city should be upside down for Jesus. But Monday through Saturday nothing seemed much different. Why? Also why do they bow their heads and close their eyes? I struggled with the fact that if someone can’t proclaim Jesus is Lord and that their heart has been changed by His grace in the safest of all places—a church full of people who already love Jesus!—then do we really think they would proclaim Him boldly out in the world, where He’s hated?

Let me clarify though before my email inbox fills up with not so happy Christians defending this method. I don’t care how you preach the gospel, as long as its the gospel that’s actually being preached. Is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the focus? Is there blood? Is there cross? Is there persecution? 2nd Timothy 3:12 says all who seek to follow Jesus will face persecution. Too many times we proclaim “your best life now”, instead of a rugged cross. If they are being called to more than a stirred heart, but called to an abandoned life, then by all means do it. But, people aren’t being called to die for the sake of God’s glory and His mission, then I’d be careful to call it the true message of Jesus.

Jesus isn’t after people “accepting Him into their hearts” He is after people boldly giving up all they have and following Him by faith, death, and suffering.

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Nothing makes me tremble more at night then knowing there are millions of people (most likely in churches) who don’t know Jesus at all, and are being led to hell under the pretense that they are “good to go” because they prayed a prayer. In fact the main reason they stay distant from Jesus is that they think they’ve already “taken care of that.” The truth is, if a boulder dropped on top of you, you’d look different after the fact. Why is it then that supposedly when the most glorious, holy, amazing, and beautiful infinite God of the universe “drops” on us we don’t look any different? You are saved by grace, but real grace changes you.

Is that you? Do you actually know Him?

I’m not asking do you struggle or wrestle (you should) but I’m asking do you know Him? Do you love Him? Do you want more of Him? Even if you are struggling, if you can answer yes to those questions, you are in a safe place. But, if you are simply clinging to something you did years ago, but you have zero intimacy with your Creator, I’d tread softly.

From now on what do you say we….

Stop asking Jesus into our heart, and start asking Jesus to change our heart.

Stop receiving Jesus,  and start following Jesus

Stop raising our hand for Jesus, and start raising our obedience for Jesus.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”

Luke 9:24-25

 

Armor needed

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10

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In my quiet time this morning I was led to read about putting on the whole armor of God, but in particular this passage to share with you. Let’s face it we all need strength. There are so many circumstances in life that bring us to our knees. All of us have a story. None of us goes unscathed.

But what’s so encouraging is that we do not have to bear our sorrows all alone and afraid. We don’t have to be helpless victims. Instead, Paul ends Ephesians with this word, “Finally, be strong.” Being strong is having a resilient attitude, a hopeful spirit, a resolve to never give up, to fight and to hang on. But how do we do this? How can we get the strength we need? Listen to how Paul finishes his verse. “Be strong in the LORD and in His mighty strength.” What a difference a few words can make. We can be strong in His strength. His strength is mighty. And today, His strength is your strength. Like a child is carried in the strength of his father’s arms, God will carry you. Today, be strong; but not in yourself. Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power!

Be strong and courageous!

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We can let fear dominate our life or we can choose to be strong and courageous. I say we can “choose” but have you noticed in today’s verse it is a command? Why would God do that? Why would He command us to be strong and courageous? Because we NEED it and He is WORTHY of it! However, we do have options. We can let fear grip our heart and influence our decisions. We can rationalize why we can’t be strong or courageous. We can justify why we should be discouraged and drown in self-pity and yet what does God command? “Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Today, decide to obey the Lord. Be strong and courageous in all you face today.

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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Like Joshua we have to be strong and courageous, and remember that God will never leave us or forsake us. We know in our heads that God will never leave us or forsake us, but when a crisis hits, we often feel like He already has.

In moments of confusion or pain, we can get really disoriented The God who seemed like He was on our side yesterday suddenly seems like He doesn’t even know our names. In those times of confusion, we need to insist to ourselves what we know to be true: that He hasn’t left and He isn’t going to. He is still on our side.

Like Joshua, we face big moments of decision, times when we have to put our faith on the line and be strong and courageous. We may fear the outcome, but we don’t have to. Even if the outcome isn’t what we expected, God will be with us in the surprise or disappointment. But He will also be with us in many victories. Whatever we have to walk through, He is there.

Stake everything on that, no matter how present or absent He seems to be. Trust Him even when you can’t sense Him. He made a binding promise to be with you. And He never breaks a promise.

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Have a wonderfully blessed day in the presence of the Lord. Love you all.

Help in a whisper

How quickly we forget—when the wilderness feels too dark, too hard, too long. When we’re challenged with the season of uncertainty and the process of being made stronger so we can fight the giants ahead. There are times when we forget how hard shame-filled living is, and we’re tempted to yearn for what was familiar—to go back to our old ways. So we yield to the pressure.

We decide it’s time to open a bottle when an unforeseen disappointment surprises us, rather than call that person who’s willingly committed to helping us stay on course. Or we answer that call we know we shouldn’t and say yes to going out with the abusive boyfriend one more time—even when all of the warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of our hearts. Or we grow tired of the discipline of believing what God’s Word says we are over the lies of mean people who have always said, “You’re just a loser, and you’ll always be a loser.”

No matter how bad our past, it’s always easier to default to our old behaviors than keep forging new ones. So many of us struggle with the same temptations. But there is no drive-through breakthrough. We all must go through the wilderness to get to freedom so we are strong enough to defeat the giants who fuel our shame.

Jesus died to secure our freedom—freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to live once again as Adam and Eve lived in the garden—unashamed, having daily fellowship with our loving Creator and each other. In heaven we will fully enjoy that ultimate freedom. But we don’t have to wait to walk in freedom; Jesus offers us freedom from sin’s slavery now.

Jesus came not only for us to drop our shame-filled life, but also to lead us into a shame-free life. Free to walk into the fullness of every promise that He has for our lives. Free to be who He made us to be. Free to do all that He created us to do.

Lord, I’m strong but I’m tired. I need your hand in my circumstances.  I no longer want to control it all! Help me be strong in You!

Where is God now? Where is God when it hurts?

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The Bible teaches that God reigns over the nations from His holy throne in heaven (Psalm 47:8; Isaiah 6:1, 66:1; Hebrews 4:16). Even though we know that God’s presence is in some sense uniquely in heaven, the teachings of Scripture also make it clear that God is omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time). From the beginning of Scripture, we see the presence of God hovering over the earth, even when it was still formless and empty (Genesis 1:2). God filled the world with His creation, and His presence and glory continue to inhabit the whole earth (Numbers 14:21). There are many examples throughout Scripture of God’s presence moving on the earth, interacting with His creation (Genesis 3:8; Deuteronomy 23:14; Exodus 3:2; 1 Kings 19:11-18; Luke 1:35; Acts 16:7). Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” Jeremiah 23:24 exclaims, “‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” Psalm 139 is an amazing study in God’s omnipresence.

Where is God?
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God is with you, beside you, above you, and inside you. God’s presence and watchful care never leave you. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, God is right in front of you, inviting you, drawing you, offering you the love, mercy, and grace that He longs to give you. If you are unsure of your relationship with God through Jesus Christ, please read our article on how to “Get right with God.” Perhaps a better question than “Where is God?” is “Where are you, in relationship to God?”

Where is God when it hurts?
It seems we desire to know the answer to this question most when faced with painful trials and attacks of doubt. Even Jesus, during His crucifixion, asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). To the onlookers of that time, as well as to those who first read the story, it seems that God did forsake Jesus, so we obviously conclude that He will forsake us as well in our darkest moments. Yet, upon continued observation of the events that unfolded after the crucifixion, the truth is revealed that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death (Romans 8:37-39). After Jesus was crucified, He was glorified (1 Peter 1:21; Mark 16:6, 19; Romans 4:24-25). From this example alone we can be assured that even when we do not feel God’s presence in the midst of our pain, we can still believe His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). “God sometimes permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves” (Joni Erickson Tada).

We put our trust in the fact that God does not lie, He never changes, and His Word stands true forever (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 110:4; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 7:21; 13:8, James 1:17; 1 Peter 1:25). We do not lose heart over painful circumstances because we live by faith in every word that has proceeded from the mouth of God, not putting our hope in what is seen or perceived. We trust God that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all the suffering that we will endure on this earth. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, because we know and believe that what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:7). We also trust God’s Word, which says He is constantly working things together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Even though we do not always see the good ends to which God is working things out, we can be assured that a time will come when we will understand and see more clearly.

Our lives are like a quilt. If you look at the back side of a quilt, all you see is a mess of knots and loose ends hanging out all over. It is very unattractive, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the work. Yet when you turn the quilt over, you see how the maker has craftily woven together each strand to form a beautiful creation, much like the life of a believer (Isaiah 64:8). We live with a limited understanding of the things of God, yet a day is coming when we will know and understand all things (Job 37:5; Isaiah 40:28; Ecclesiastes 11:5; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Where is God when it hurts? The message to take with you in hard times is that when you cannot see His hand, trust His heart, and know for certain that He has not forsaken you. When you seem to have no strength of your own, that is when you can most fully rest in His presence and know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?

This question is similar to its opposite: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Both questions refer to what seems to be the perplexing injustice we witness every day. The 73rd Psalm is our answer to the very same questions that also tormented the psalmist. Finding himself in terrible distress and agony of soul he writes, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3).

The writer of this Psalm was a man named Asaph, a leader of one of the temple choirs. Obviously, he was not a wealthy man, but rather one who had dedicated his life to serving God (see 1 Chronicles 25). But, like us, he had experienced some difficulties and questioned the injustice of it all. He watched the evil people around him living by their own rules, enjoying all the wealth and pleasures of the world and collecting riches. He complains, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (Psalm 73:4-5).

Asaph was looking at these people who didn’t have problems. They could pay their bills. They had plenty to eat and plenty of luxuries. But poor Asaph was stuck with directing the choir and trying to live godly. And to make things worse, his choice to serve God didn’t seem to be helping him. He began to envy these people and even to question God as to why He would allow such a thing to happen!

How often do we find ourselves relating to Asaph? We dedicate our lives to serving God. Then we witness the wicked, ungodly people around us get new possessions, luxurious homes, promotions, and beautiful clothes, while we struggle financially. The answer lies in the rest of the psalm. Asaph envied these evil people until he realized one very important thing. When he entered the sanctuary of God, he fully understood their final destiny: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies” (Psalm 73:16-20). Those who have temporary riches on earth are in reality spiritual beggars because they do not have true riches—eternal life.

There are many times when we do not understand what is happening to us, nor do we understand how providence works. When Asaph entered the sanctuary of God, he began to see that there was no need for him to be envious of the prosperity of the wicked because their prosperity is an illusion. He began to comprehend that the ancient deceiver, Satan, had used lies to distract him from the reality of God. Upon entering the sanctuary, Asaph realized that prosperity is a fleeting fulfillment, like a pleasant dream that pleases us only for a little while but, when we awaken, we realize it was not real. Asaph rebukes himself for his own stupidity. He admits to being “senseless and ignorant” to envy the wicked or to be jealous of the perishing. His thoughts then returned to his own happiness in God when he realized how much more joy, fulfillment, and true spiritual prosperity he had in the Creator.

We may not have everything we want here on earth, but we will one day prosper for all eternity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Whenever we are tempted to try the other road, we should remember that the other road is a dead end (Matthew 7:13). But the narrow road before us through Jesus is the only road that leads to eternal life. That should be our joy and our comfort. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge . . .” (Psalm 73:25, 27-28)

We need not concern ourselves when good things seem to happen to bad people. We only need to keep our focus on our Creator and enter into His presence every day through the portal of His holy Word. There we will find truth, contentment, spiritual riches, and eternal joy.