Protection from Hardships

Today, my prayer has been for God to show me what I am doing right. Also, to show me what I am doing wrong in my life. No areas is to be excluded. I want to know how I challenge myself to do better… be better.

I was able to begin checking out a new devotional book I received by Dr. Charles Stanley. It has an “ask” section where Stanley answered a believer’s question about the hardship he was facing as a result of sharing the Gospel with a co-worker. As I read and thought about what we are called to as believers, I am reminded that it does mean hardships. It means a different life–one with eternal blessings, but also temporary sufferings.

King David, in Psalm 7, wrote of the hardship he was facing–where someone was pursuing him. Often in life, there are others that desire to hurt us and be our “pursuers”. There are many who would love to destroy us. There are many who would love to bring cruel words to “tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces”. I know the great hope I have: the Lord is my shield and deliverer. I am not one who has to fight my own battles; The Lord fights my battles. I can boldly come to Him–trusting and knowing he doesn’t leave me or forsake me.When opposition comes, it is gut-wretching. It brings on great fears, and changes the way I think or go about my day. But, what about the hidden benefits of them?In Matthew 5, it says:”They are blessed who are persecuted for ·doing good [doing what’s right;the sake of righteousness]for the kingdom of heaven ·belongs to them [is theirs]. 11 “·You are blessed [Blessed are you; or God will bless you] when people ·insult [mock; abuse; revile] you and ·hurt [persecute] you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things ·about [against] you because ·you follow [of] me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. ·People did the same evil things to [They likewise persecuted] the prophets who lived before you.” (10-12)We will experience hardships, but it grows us and helps us to be reminded of this great treasure we hold inside. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead, because of God’s great love for us. He came to bring us salvation and new life. We can rejoice and be glad, because we know that we have the greatest kind of rewards in Heaven. We know we will have ALL we need! He is our provider. He will continue to walk with me no matter what fiery trial I will face.


We notice these hardships when they come.
But, do we notice how often we are protected from possible hardships?
Do we recognize how much we are protected by the Father from hardships or others’ words?

I think it is really easy to focus on what we don’t have. That is when we feel like we are lacking, whether it is friends, significant other, or family. It is really easy to notice those things especially around the holidays. Those are the things we notice. We seem to be better trained to notice ways we stand out from others in this world, rather than taking time to notice the great blessings we have been giving. I know he uses these times to teach me, but also protect me.

May we take the time to recognize the blessings and protection from the Father we have been given, but often overlook.

Enemy of God or Child of God?

Enemy of God or Child of God?
Slave to religion or Friend of Jesus?

Turning to other gods or Focused on Christ?
Focused on doing or our Relationship with Christ?

Every day, we make choices. Our choices become habits. Our habits define us. We choose who we will follow. We choose to model our lives after the world, our friends, co-workers, the media, or choose to follow Jesus Christ. Each decision we make is influenced by something or someone.

We will either be a child of God or His enemy. Period. There is no in-between. It is only when we completely turn to Christ that we find freedom, peace, and are no longer separated from God. It is in this place where we choose Him instead of sin…when we choose to follow Him instead of other things. Friend of God or Enemy of God? We determine where we end up…Jesus is the only way to God and to Heaven!

What would it look like to live as a friend of Christ?

Trusting in Jesus:

Trusting in Him. It is realizing we are sinners. We are—we mess things up. We have gone down the wrong road and made mistakes that caused us to be separated from God. It is turning to other things and trying to live our own way instead of turning to God. Still while we were refusing to follow Him and obey Him, He sent his son Jesus to come and die on the cross for our sins, taking our punishment, and giving us His freedom! It is not because of anything that is in us that brought Christ to take our sins. It is because of God’s goodness and His overflowing love for us! Trusting in Him means accepting His free gift.

Realizing the amazing love the Lord has for us! Choosing Him. Choosing to give our lives to Him as we reflect on the great sacrifice He has made on our behalf.

10 “We hope in the living God, the Savior of all people. In particular, he is the Savior of all those who believe in him.” (1 Timothy 4:10)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Spending time with Him:

Reading His Word.
Spending time in Prayer
Listening to Him speak to us through music and friends as we place ourselves in relationships with other Christ-followers.
This is the best place to be.
How do we have a friend if we never spend time with them?
What kind of quality is that relationship? He is deserves our ALL!

“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said….Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39;42)

Obeying Him:

What we do reveals the condition of our heart. It shows the love we have. When we have a friend that we deeply love and they are sick, we desire to take action of some form. We choose to take care of them and be there for them however we can. In relationships, love is spending time with others and recognizing how valuable those relationships are in our lives… We show our love for them. We too need to show our love to Christ by obeying Him and His Word—giving Him our full attention. Giving Him every part of our lives!

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:21-24)

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12)

Examining Ourselves

The Bible speaks about the significant importance of examining ourselves. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul says: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” We need to examine ourselves to make sure we are still in the faith. Examining ourselves affirms if we are truly His, by the fruit of the Spirit we are showing. It also shows us where we have slipped up, so we can get back on track—leaning on His everlasting arms and amazing grace to help us to continue to live for Him alone!

In the Bible, there is one place of great significance about examining ourselves. We are instructed to examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:28, it says: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” This is done, because taking the Lord’s Supper is pure joy, but also a very serious thing. We do not want to go through the Lord’s Supper with our hearts not right. We do not want to abuse the Lord’s Supper. We do not want to eat and drink judgment as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:29. Paul continues to say that this is why so many have fallen asleep and are weak. Taking the Lord’s Supper wrongly, but also not examining ourselves. Examining ourselves is essential to our walk with God! We must continue to examine ourselves. Christ dying on the cross for our sins is something that should cause us to seriously reflect our lives. “Is what we are living for worth Christ dying for?”

Why examine ourselves? We are able to see where we are in our walk with God, and return to where we once were if we have strayed. We can also be bold to continue in our walk with God, and deepen our walk with God when we are aware of where we are spiritually. In Lamentations 3:40, it says: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.”

This is a weekly evaluation worksheet found in “Becoming a Vessel God Can Use” by Donna Partow, and gives us a format to examine ourselves on a weekly basis.

  1. Am I listening for and hearing God’s voice? What is He saying to me?
  2. Am I increasingly manifesting the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? What areas look encouraging? What needs prayer?
  3. What did God teach me in my quiet times?
  4. Which priorities did I live by?
  5. Which priorities did I neglect?
  6. What new thing did I learn–about life, God, my family, and the people around me?
  7. What are my specific priorities (where is God directing me) for the coming week?

See Lamentatins 3:40; Romans 12:3

Temptations

I really appreciated today’s verse. I definitely needed this particular reminder.
There is NO temptation that can overcome me.
I have a choice to make….
I choose to rely on God’s strength.
Or, I can try to rely on my own strength and fail.

The scriptures says:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ERV)
The only temptations that you have are the same temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to endure it.

There is a key point to this verse… We have to TRUST God. We have to RELY upon God. If we do not rely on Him, we will not know the way of escape..We need strength to endure it! Our strength is not enough. We need God’s strength!

The definition of temptation is the act of tempting. Tempting has a couple of different definitions such as:
A. to entice or allure to do something often regarded as unwise, wrong, or immoral.
B. to attract, appeal strongly to, or invite: The offer tempts me.
C. Provoke

Temptations take many forms. If it was spending money, one might not go to the mall. If it is junk food, one might not store junk food at home. If the temptation is watching tv, someone may get rid of cable or unplug their tv. Temptations may take many shapes and forms..

I have been praying that if I am doing something to make myself stumble that God would show me. This is exactly what He did today. I know, I have fallen prey and found myself in tough spots that I thought were something I could handle on my own. There are temptations that I did not even recognize as a temptation. It was just something that was bugging me in a sense, I suppose.

More than ever, I am realizing just how much I need to be on my guard. I have been caught unguarded, and am experiencing temptations, because I was not well guarded. Luckily now that God has revealed this area to me, I know that I can just keep praying over it and giving it to Him. I need to continue in His Word, and let it continue to build me up and draw me closer to Him!

God is definitely still in the business of restoring broken people, which excites me. Even though I have areas where I have given into temptations time and time again, God is still FULL of Grace and Everlasting Love and Truth.. There is nothing too big for God to handle..

The key is keep on Trusting Him, and praying about this area of my life with God.

We need to be wise about the decisions we make, and think about the actions/reactions we are faced with. We need to trust that the God of the Universe wil help us in our temptations, reach out to the Church to help us, and be reminded of the spiritual battle we are always in.

Dreams and This Week’s Challenge

I started doing a devotional by a well known speaker the other day, and I thought I’d write a little bit about that today. In their devotional, it was centered on one thing: “God gives all of us dreams.” God does give all of us dreams. He plants
desires in our hearts.

Using the Word of God, we need to be wrestling with God to find out what He is calling us to do. He is calling each of us to do something, because we have a greater purpose. Each circumstance has a greater purpose. It is not about where we are in the moment, but it is about looking forward to where we can be. There is a balance between contentment and ambition that we need to be striking here. We need to learn to enjoy the seasons we are placed in. Right now, life may be very difficult… This may not be a life-long season. We are constantly meeting new challenges and we have to keep our goal in front of us at all times. God has called us to something. What that something is—-this is what we should be discovering. One thing I really want to learn is this.. I want to learn to live the dream despite the circumstances.

The concept itself is talking about God giving us dreams, but I think there is way more to the verse than simply God giving us dreams. It makes it look all happy and comfortable. But, what I got from the verse was something totally different.

Here is the verse in two different translation:

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)

Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled, but those who obey what they have been taught are happy (NCV). –Proverb 29:18

Notice the difference.
Big difference, isn’t it?

Instead of “the vision”, we see what the verse actually means. This is why I thoroughly enjoy using the Bible resources within my reach.. I love to use http://www.biblegateway.com and http://www.youversion.com which both use a number of different translations to help me grasp the verse.

Without God’s guidance or the Word of God as our guide, we become uncontrolled people with messy lives. The verse itself takes about how we need God’s Word and guidance in our lives. We cannot lead ourselves. Without God’s guidance, law and order disappear. In one translation, it states that the people run wild without His guidance. We see it all around us. When people do not follow God, chaos erupts!

I am going to connect the dots as I wrestle with “dreams” and “God’s guidance” as my study continues. When we read God’s Word does He give us guidance for our lives? Yes! Does His guidance turn into revealing what He is calling us to do? Absolutely.

Without God’s vision for our lives, we will “run wild” as one translation states. I do not know about you, but living a chaotic life does not exactly thrill me. I like a calm life with as little drama or stress as possible. According to Proverbs 29:18, I can only have this by following the guidance of God. God’s guidance can only be heard when I combine two things: Time in the Word (Bible) and spend time in prayer—talking with and listening to my Abba Father.

My Challenge..

I want to seek His guidance for my life more and more. My time in the Word and Prayer are not always what they seem. I stumble and fall. I neglect my time with my Lord Jesus, just like everyone else. I have a resolution or challenge for myself this week: I want to spend 15 minutes daily in the Word and praying about what I am reading. This does not sound like a lot to most of you. Maybe, some are thinking “that’s it!”.

I am in this for the long haul, and it is about forming habits that have an eternal value. I am hoping to blog daily about what I am reading, contemplating, and wrestling with in my quiet time, but it will just depend on a variety of things. I am hoping to write something about what I am learning even if it is a quick paragraph about each day.. And if I fail to do it, I will admit it. It is about having accountability.

I invite anyone who is willing to join me in my challenge, as I grow in God’s Word and develop a more consistent prayer life. I firmly believe that committing to God’s Word for 15 minutes a day and spending time to pray and wrestle with what we are being taught will grow us leaps and bounds.