overcoming trials

Forty

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reading through the bible
Reading Through the Bible

Forty, the number, is commonly used in reference to a milestone, achievement or a set of things like years of a lifetime, even degrees of temperature. Today, forty is referring to a number of times.

Twenty-nine years ago when my life was full of challenges as a wife, mother of small children and a demanding career I found myself at a fork-in-the-road that seemed to give me a new perspective on time and purpose of living. A challenging childhood can make you aware of things that others may not even consider and not wanting to miss God’s will for my life through the busyness of life caught my attention.

I began asking Him for insight, specifically what I was placed on this earth to accomplish. Growing up, my mother spoke frequently to me about how God had a plan for my life which naturally created curiosity around how His plan would play out in my life. And so I began to ask Him specifically.

“Study My Word,” was always His response. This instruction seemed like a small thing to apply myself to and not very significant when it comes to impacting the lives of others. After all, I was great at taking my bible to church and following along with the teaching, even taking notes most of the time. But, God’s voice kept reminding my heart that His instruction was to study His Word. Eventually, I surrendered to His command and made a commitment to make studying His Word on a regular basis. I promised God that I would read through the Bible one time, believing that would result in a great achievement and spiritual growth. How little did I know!

One time through the Bible turned into six years of on-again, off-again attempts before finally accomplishing the promise that I had made to God. Obviously, it took me a minute to make studying God’s word a priority. I had to learn how to overcome the distractions of daily life by creating space in my life for the more important things before I found a way to maintain the pursuit of keeping God first in this world we live in everyday.

The first time through God’s word exposed how little I actually knew about God and His heart for me. It also exposed how little I knew about the teachings of Jesus and His will for my life. How in the world could I fulfill God’s call on my life without knowing what He had to say about the valleys and mountaintops that we will encounter on our way towards fulfilling His call on our lives? Most of all, how in this world would we know how deeply we are treasured and esteemed in His heart, to the point of sending His Son, Jesus to rescue us from all the issues of life by learning to lean on Him when life takes a turn toward hopelessness and sorrow. God knew that I needed to be taught how to become a warrior, how to run my life race as a winner.

My first time through the bible can be compared to reading a cliff note version of a book, it was too much to take in with one reading, (which of course God knew this way before I did). He worked through my circumstances and my desire to “grow in His grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 3:18) while serving/volunteering in leadership roles in the local church, eventually teaching and mentoring women.

The number forty is a significant reference in the Bible, often used as a season of preparation or duration of service to God for the benefit of others, even those who don’t acknowledge Him.

“…For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

Today marks the completion of my 40th read through the Bible representing 29 years of my life. It is true that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) I have been transformed in the process. By God’s grace I can honestly say “…that He who began a good work in you (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Knowing God through His Word was a crucial element in fulfilling His call (or assignment) on my life and will continue to be.

What has God been whispering to your heart lately? If you heed His voice by making it a priority in your life (no matter how long it takes to accomplish it), you will fulfill God’s call and your obedience will not only transform you but will also change your world.

Courage

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Courage is displayed in many facets of life in and through activities that are visible to the eye, but unseen courage of the heart, however, is another matter altogether. This is the stuff on a personal level (unseen courage) that makes life worth living, powered by an eternal hope that never dies.

“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

Setbacks are real, and they have the tendency to knock us off track of pursuing life goals. Courage is real, and it has the power to get us back on track toward pursuing life goals, the hopes and dreams that we desire. As a Jesus follower, or Christian, we are encouraged to finish the course that God has set before us, to the point of being able to say to God in the end;

“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4)

It takes courage to stay on the course of life that leads to accomplishing what you set out to do. It takes a heart completely devoted to the One who not only assigns your course but provides the courage and inspiration you will need to complete it. After Jesus fed the five thousand He instructed His disciples to get into the boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He knew that they would encounter a storm while at the same time knowing that the storm would give opportunity to make them aware of their need for courage that could only come through a relationship with Him in order to fulfill His assignment on their lives.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14: 27)

Purpose, hope and courage weave together in such a way that sets us apart from the average mindset of “what will be, will be” approach to life; these three attributes enable us to face difficulty, danger and pain with a bravery that we’re given through our relationship with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Take courage my friend!

Scripture Quoted in ESV, NIV

Success

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blessed living, success

So often we think of success in terms of attaining wealth, position and honors but what does it take to build a lifestyle of success that has a lasting effect on those around us and possibly the world? It is in how we choose to go about achieving the outcomes we desire.

King Solomon, arguably the most wise, successful and wealthiest man on earth, understood the importance of seeking wisdom from God in how to live a successful life.

“Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiates 12:13)

Solomon understood that every deed of man would come under the scrutiny of God’s judgement, not that we should live in fear but that we would be encouraged to embrace the wisdom of God’s definition of successful living. That by choosing His ways over our ways and living our lives in fellowship with Him rather than away from Him, we would live a life of lasting honor and not one resulting in judgement.

“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.” (Proverbs 2:7)

If we walk with God He promises to be a shield of sound wisdom in our lives that will protect us from straying from His best for our lives.

“Guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of His saints.” (Proverbs 2:8)

Your life may not appear all that successful at the moment but if you choose to trust in God, to live according to His ways, your life will be honored and the people around you will be blessed in ways that wealth and position can not, even though these may be a byproduct. God’s way of living is the most successful decision you will ever make. His way of living is purposeful and fulfilling, a faith journey of discovery that teaches us true success. Our greatest accomplishment and goal is to live a life with no secrets and no evil deeds that will bring us into judgement at the end. (Ecclesiates 12:14) This is successful living.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

 

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The Name

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There is power in a name based on what it represents. The name of God is no exception.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1)

God declares that His name is established forever and so powerful that whatever we perceive to be the greatest enemy in our lives is weak before Him and will have to acknowledge the incomparable name of God.

His name is representative of all creation set in place by Him and yet He cares about and for all mankind.

“…what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Mankind is a picture of God’s loving-kindness and grace. He has crowned us with glory and honor and given us dominion over the works of His hands, putting all things under our feet. (Psalm 8:5,6)

How then are we to live in such a way that honors this magnificent gift of dominion to rule and manage all that God has entrusted to us? We are to glorify His Name with the understanding that we have only what has been given to us to manage here on earth. To do this properly we must agree with God and His purpose for creating mankind. We must believe by faith in the name of His Son Jesus, the Savior of the world.

“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Magnifying the name of God happens when we fulfill His purpose for our lives. Are you living in the light and power of Your namesake? If not, choose today to live and walk in a manner worthy of your calling. (Ephesians 4:1)

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

 

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Prisoner of Hope

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blessed living, Gods promises

The word prisoner carries a negative connotation and yet in the context of faith in God it is a positive attribute that points to a lifestyle of built on hope. Whereas a prisoner loses his/her freedom to choose and are held bound to obey a higher authority, God followers are invited into a lifestyle of eternal hope.

Hope anchored in God is described as a stronghold; a well-fortified place, a fortress and a refuge from anyone whose aim is to keep us from fulfilling our destiny according to God’s will. It is also a place of restoration in the aftermath of great lost.

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.” (Zechariah 9:12)

In seasons of hardship its easy to forget that our position of strength is to remain in God’s stronghold of protection and His promise of restoration to all those who have placed their hope in Jesus, His Son. Jesus is the fulfillment of our hope.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him (Jesus).” (2Corinthians 1:20)

Who is your stronghold and in whom have you placed your hope? In God we have the full assurance of hope until the end, the fulfillment of His promises. (Hebrews 6:11)

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

He is Hope Eternal

 

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Joy is Strength

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Maintaining a lifestyle of joy can be difficult in our world today, let alone in our own back yard. With no lack of catastrophic events near and far that create stress, worry and fear, it seems that every dimension of our lives has the potential to rid us of joy. Yet, joy is connected to our strength to endure the trials of life.

“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Perspective can drive our joy thermometer. Who and what we choose to focus on will determine our outlook on life. John the Baptist was a man who seemed to keep his life in perfect focus on the mission he was born to fulfill. He no doubt encountered misunderstanding, mocking and difficult circumstances in relationships that had the potential to derail his desire to submit to God’s will and preparation for ministry. He was the prophet of the Most High, born to go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)

“Who are you…What do you say about yourself? He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:22-23)

His joy in the Lord became his strength. Rather than allowing the issues of life to harden his heart, distract him from fulfilling his purpose, he learned that by putting God first he could rely on God giving him the strength or the joy to finish his course well.

“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30)

There is a joy that melts the hardness of the soul and it is found in Jesus. Trust Him to sustain you with His joy and He will be your strength.

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Believe God

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true followers of Jesus, blessed living

“Believe, believe, believe in Me, All your hearts desires be

Anchored in My Sovereignty, believe, believe, believe in Me.”

God has a plan for our lives that is offered to us through His patient, forgiving and gracious love. He gives us time to work out our lives according to our own wisdom and ways of doing life. He knows that eventually, after trial and failure, we will come to the end of our self-efforts. If we are fortunate enough to move through this phase of life, we will look back and realize that God was watching over us, protecting us during those years of futile self-efforts towards building a successful life. We will all conclude that there is no true wisdom but wisdom that comes from God.

“Where is the one who is wise?…Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish?” (1Corinthians 1:20)

Discovering God’s plan begins with accepting our inability to know His will without believing in Christ, His Son and our Savior. Once we accept Christ we gain access to godly wisdom that will lead us into the fruitful life God has for us based on His Word, the Bible.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Don’t be like the foolish rich man (in the Book of Luke) who focused on storing up his earthly riches while neglecting the poverty of his soul. He perished in failing to live out his life according to the wisdom of God, his self-efforts came to nothing from an eternal perspective.

“That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)

Believe in God’s sovereign plan for your life. Humble yourself and get to know God through His Son and you will discover His eternal will for your life.

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

 “Believe” by ljwillis

Run Your Race Well

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Did you know that your perspective on how you view time can have a tremendous effect on how well you run your life’s race and the training required to finish well? For starters, we must embrace God’s perspective of time, He is not limited to our 24 hour days, seven-day weeks and 12 month years.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)

Secondly, we must adopt the perspective of a soldier whose loyalty and commitment to serving a higher purpose embrace the suffering and focus required to endure and finish well by the grace provided by God through Christ Jesus.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2Timothy 2:3-4)

Third, we must learn the proper rules of running our race.

“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2Timothy 2:5)

In order to compete according to the rules we must become a student of the bible in order to learn God’s rules of engagement and how to apply it to our daily run. As we get to know God, the more inclined we become to trust in His approach to running well the race set before us.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep Your righteous rules.” (Psalm 119:105, 106)

When we decide to live by God’s word, He promises to watch over our lives forever.

“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121: 8)

Have you been running your race according to your rules or God’s rules? There was a group of Christians in the Bible that were reprimanded for not having grown in their faith-run as expected by their teacher. They had become dull of hearing and needed to be taught again the basic principles or rules of engagement according to God. They needed, once again, the milk of a child, not being able to digest the solid food for the mature in Christ. (Hebrews 5:11-13) These Christians were running their race according to their rules.

Those who run their race according to God’s rules will lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and run in such a way to endure to the finish line. They will not let distractions take them off course and are quick to bring their focus to the call of Jesus on their lives.

“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

At the end of my life’s race I want to be able to say, like Paul the Apostle;

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7,8)

How about you? May you run God’s race for your life well.

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