Archive for the ‘Strength’ Category

This painting, created by my friend Sharon Taylor, is an enlightening representation of the spiritual warfare that exists all around us. This is a graphic reminder that Satan is a very real enemy who purposefully seeks to destroy those committed to Christ. 1 Peter 5:8 says, Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Christians suffer daily for the sake of following Christ. Some are tortured physically, imprisoned, and even killed; others are tortured mentally and emotionally by addictions, broken homes, kidnappings. The methods of his attacks are never-ending. Satan and his army stand ready to attack, and we must always be on guard.

In the midst of the darkness, you can see innumerable rays of light. Each light represents those who follow Christ, those who draw near to God, and those who faithfully share the light of His love for all to see. John 1:5 says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Satan will try his best to shake our faith and to dim the light of each Christian, but we have complete assurance that we serve a conquering King, and we are not alone in this battle!

Now, notice the bright beams of light penetrating the darkness and the mass of light above Satan and his army. Isaiah 41:10 says, 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. Praise God there is light in the darkness! 1 Peter 5:10 says, The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. These times of suffering will not last forever.

The battle is real. God is our strongest defense against the devil’s attacks. We must always be alert and protect our “light” with the whole armor of God so that others may know God. Ephesians 6:10-18 says, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

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As each of four women stepped into my car, I found myself amazed by their compassion. Each woman was facing significant trials in her own life, yet making the time to pray with a friend facing the nightmare of possibly losing her baby.  All of these women from different backgrounds, experiencing a variety of trials, made the time to support another friend in need.

The first was dealing with painful health issues that just a few days before led to hospitalization.  The second young lady was struggling to be strong as a loved one battles cancer.  The third was stressed by the uncertainty of her job as fellow employees were being laid off due to financial insecurities of the business.  The last was heartbroken after the grandmother who raised her was admitted to a nursing home.

As we drove to a nearby town, I shared my surprise that they were able to make the time for this last-minute trip considering each of their circumstances.  They quickly reminded me of the trials in my own life at the moment.   We discussed each of our situations, shared concerns and fears, and encouraged one another.  We discovered that although our trials were very different, there was one key element in each.  The trials had caused each us to rely more on God.  Each situation is beyond our control, and all we can do is trust God’s will for our lives.  We were even able to laugh at how the same scripture keeps popping up in everything we read.  Isn’t it amazing that God used one verse to encourage a car full of crying, giggling women?  The scripture we came across for weeks prior to and following this night was Proverbs 3:5 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

This trip was not about the women in my car, yet God used it to provide encouragement for each one.  Finally we reached our destination and as a group we prayed for our friend and her unborn baby with our hands on his mother’s stomach.  Specifically we prayed that the heart beat would be so strong that the doctor would be amazed by God’s power.  After a week of praying for this unborn child, we received the following message:

Praise The Lord!!! We got our MIRACLE. The baby’s heart rate has gone up to 174! The doctor has no explanation for it, but I do. It’s an answer to many many prayers!!!

I would like to tell you that the situation of every woman in my car that night has been resolved, but I can’t.   What I can say is that God is carrying each of us and our trials have helped us to rely on His strength rather than our own.  Isaiah 41:10 reminds us “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Whatever you are going through, you can trust that God loves you and is right there with you through the darkest times. Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” 

Even though things may not happen as quickly or exactly the way you desire, trust that God has everything under control and has a plan specifically for you.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Trust God, call out to Him, seek His will for your life, ask friends to pray, and finally put your hope in Him.

The Solid Rock by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

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I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. – Philippians 4:11

This is a scripture that has been posted on my desk for several years. I placed it there during a difficult time as a reminder that I should be content whatever the circumstances. And even though I have read that scripture at least once a week during that time period, only recently did I comprehend what this scripture truly means. Being content doesn’t mean that I am settling for something, but instead that my focus is in the right place. My focus had been on the circumstances, but the secret is learning to trust God regardless of the circumstances.

True contentment has nothing to do with material possessions, status, or even a deliverance from problems. In verse 12 Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Paul had experienced both ends of the spectrum…being in need and having plenty, but he was able to be content in everything.

The key is that he learned to be content. It didn’t happen overnight, but the ups and downs of life taught Paul that satisfaction is not based on what we have or don’t have, but instead true contentment is based on a trust that Christ will provide the strength to get through the tough times. Paul goes on in verse 13 to say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” He learned to depend on Christ for contentment.

Regardless of the circumstances we face, we can trust that Christ will give us strength to get through it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t come naturally. It is something we must learn just as Paul learned. So how do we learn to be content?

  1. Refuse to compare your circumstance to anyone else. When you compare your life to others, yours will usually seem inadequate because you have no knowledge of their struggles. Someone else’s home may be newer and bigger, but you don’t see the difficulty they may have making the mortgage payment.
  2. Accept your imperfections as well as those of others. You will make mistakes. None of us are perfect. Accept others the way God created them rather than the way you want them to be.
  3. Accept things as they are. Surrender your expectations to God. Instead of focusing on what YOU want, focus on what God wants you to have.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down something every day for which you are grateful. The more you search for good in the midst of trial, the less hopeless the problem will seem.
  5. Be thankful for what you have. Don’t take anything or anyone in your life for granted. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8

Be Thankful

By Author Unknown

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,

for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,

because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,

because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.

They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,

because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those

who are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,

and they can become your blessings.

This poem reminds us to appreciate even the difficulties. The more we dwell on the problems, the worse our situation seems. But the more we search for good, the more blessings we can find even in the midst of trials. When things aren’t going exactly as we had planned, we must check our focus. Are we focusing on the circumstance or is our focus on God?

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” When you are able to admit that you don’t like your situation, but you can trust God through it, you’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Being content leads to joy no matter what’s going on in life. Dare to be content where you are!

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The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Judges 6:12

Battles are raging all around. I see many friends struggling with the distress of situations that seem too much to bear.  These disheartening battles include cancer, heart disease, mental illness, financial difficulties, addictions, lawsuits, false accusations, broken families, and fighting an actual war. Our children aren’t even immune. Their struggles include peer pressure, eating disorders, bullies, anxiety, and even terminal illness. The list goes on and on.

The Israelites experienced many difficulties. In Judges chapter six, they faced oppression from the Midianites who, during a seven year period, often destroyed the crops, livestock, and homes of the Israelites. God appointed Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of Midian, but Gideon was afraid and confused about how that was possible when his people were the weakest in the land. God assured him in verse 16: “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

We all have battles which God has called us to fight, but like Gideon, we can be certain that God is with us. Often we feel weak and think our struggles are more than we can bear. Realistically, without the strength that can only be given by God, we probably couldn’t handle such situations on our own. What a blessing to know that he will be with us through the battles of life.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”

It doesn’t matter what we are going through, God will give us the power to overcome it through His strength! Find courage today in knowing that God will be with you through the battles of life. You are a mighty warrior through Him!

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BUILD AN ARK

The Ark used for filming was located in Crozet...

Image via Wikipedia

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.  Genesis 6:22

My family and I just watched the movie “Evan Almighty”.  Evan was depicted as a modern-day Noah whom God had instructed to build an ark during a drought.  He provided the land, the materials, and the tools necessary including an “Ark Building for Dummies” book.  Evan was ridiculed by the townspeople, his coworkers, and even his family questioned his sanity.  Despite opposition, Evan was committed and continued building.

It was an inspiring story, which made me realize that God actually has an ark for each of us to build.  The ark that God calls us to build may not affect the entire world as was the case with Noah, but it is an opportunity to serve and obey Him which will have an impact on the lives of others.

This blog is my ark, which began construction two years ago when God used a spiritual gift test to reveal that He wanted me to begin writing.  During that time, I have experienced many feelings of fear and inadequacy as I began writing devotionals that I felt reluctant to share.  At a recent meeting, God used a casual conversation to guide me to creating this blog.  It has been difficult at times, but I feel a strong need to commit and follow through with the task.

Maybe God has revealed an opportunity for you to serve, but you have been reluctant to start building your ark because it seems impossible to achieve.  When we are serving God, it won’t always be easy.  We can expect opposition anytime we are doing something significant for God, but Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  No job for God is without risk, but we can move forward with the strength and courage He offers.

In the movie, ARK stood for an Act of Random Kindness that changes the world.  You can be assured that if God asks you to build and ark, it will unquestionably be used to further the kingdom of God.  The most important part of building an ark is found is Psalms 37:5, “Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him, and he will help you.”  What is the ark God is calling you to build, and are you ready to commit to Him?

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WHAT IF

  

You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you O God, are my place of safety.  Psalms 59:9  New Living Translation

As children, we’ve all played “Hide & Seek”.  Sometimes we would be so unsure of our safety that we would run to find a better hiding spot only to be seen in the process.  We may have actually had the perfect place of hiding if we had just waited patiently for the game to play out.

We all face times of uncertainty in our lives.  We find our minds plagued with many “what if” questions which make it difficult to concentrate, sleep, or just make it through the day.  Questions of uncertainty often bring feelings of complete desperation causing us to want to run to a new hiding place which may actually be an unhealthy or dangerous situation.

The above psalm was written by David when he feared for his life because Saul’s men were coming to kill him.  Just as Saul was seeking to destroy David, Satan also wants to destroy our faith by strategically planting these “what if” questions in our minds to confuse, distract, and discourage us.  Surely there were many “what if” questions running through David’s mind, but he also knew that God had a plan.

Although we may know in our heart and mind that God is in control and that He has a plan for our lives, we can still feel completely consumed by the situation.  Lamentations 3:22 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail”.  Just as David waited for God to save his life, we can count on our Father, who loves us, to provide that fortress of safety when we feel consumed by the “what if’s”.  His love is the perfect hiding place!

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SHARE YOUR HOPE

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalms 78:4

Karen’s husband had made some decisions in his life that had caused a lot of pain and struggle in their marriage. After a few years, God delivered him from the hold that Satan had on his life. Karen and her husband were both ashamed of the turn their life had taken and did their best to keep it secret.

One day, God brought a family into their lives, which was experiencing the same trial they had. God impressed upon Karen’s heart to share how God had given her strength to stand by her husband and support him through his addictions. She was unaware, but her husband felt the same conviction and had also shared what God had done in his life. Their courage and obedience gave someone else hope at a time when it was needed most.

It is important that we share with others how God has helped us through trials. Oftentimes, it is very difficult to share the deepest pain and frustration of our lives, but it is necessary “so each generation can set its hope anew on God” (Psalms 78:7).

Simply sharing our knowledge with someone having struggles similar to what we have been through will encourage them. We all have a tendency to feel that we are the only one who has ever experienced our current problem, and it is true that no one else has experienced exactly what another has. However, we do often share similar circumstances. Just knowing that someone else has been there, survived, and grew closer to God through it can renew our hope and even our faith in God. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint”. When hope is renewed, strength and courage will follow.

Without people sharing what God has done in their lives, others may not know what God can and will accomplish. They may not know about the hope only He can offer.

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