Faith during Hard Times

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I would like to consider myself a person of Faith.  However, lately that has been put to the test.  We all go through tough times in our lives, times of heartache, confusion, grief, challenges, sadness, depression and we may even wonder if God is really there.  It’s easy to have faith when everything is going the way that we think that it should, but the moment that changes is a test of how much we truly trust God’s plan over our own.  Sometimes His plan doesn’t look or seem good to us, but it is.  He loves His children and promises us all a bright future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11)  He is our strength, our peace, our provider, our comforter, our refuge, and so much more.  He is EVERYTHING that we need.  The only way to truly get to know Him is by reading His word and asking Him to reveal Himself to us.  He will in such amazing ways!  This doesn’t mean that the challenges in our lives will stop.  A lot of times, as we are growing in our faith, we may actually have even more challenges.  In James, chapter 1 we learn how the challenges strengthen our faith, and once we work through the emotions that naturally come up during these times, patience will be developed inside of us.  This is a process and does not happen immediately, but over time.  The same way that we grow physically, we grow spiritually.  At first, we are like babies and our needs are so many, but as time goes on and we begin to grow, then God helps us learn that we have all that we need inside of us.  How? Because His Son, Jesus died to give us life.  This life is the spiritual growth inside of our heart that allows us to experience joy in the midst of pain, peace in a world of chaos, love when we feel alone and abandoned, wisdom when there doesn’t seem to be a way out, patience to joyfully walk through the “desert” to get to our “promise land”.  Knowing this is great but it doesn’t change a thing until we believe it and live it each day in each moment.  It’s a choice, seems to be an easy one, but that’s not necessarily so.  I’ve found it to be extremely difficult at times, but always worth it.  God has a plan for us, we just need the heart to see it.  We have to rid ourselves of anything that is not of Him and ask Him inside of our hearts to fill us up with all that He is.  This is not a one time choice.  But one that we must make regularly.  Making the choice to have faith in God rather than worrying and doubting helps us mature spiritually and as we do, we learn what “life” really is and eventually are able to even say “thank you” to God for the times in our lives that we used to complain about.  And then our heart changes to become more and more like His.  This is the greatest gift of all.

John 15:10 – Living Words

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I’m sitting on my patio as the cool morning breeze dances across the sky.  Isn’t it neat how one word can make our minds think differently?  How many of us focused on the word “dance” in the last sentence and what kind of thought did this put in our minds?  Can we visualize the breeze dancing through the sky, through the trees, dodging the leaves?  The breeze blows, the breeze dances, it’s doing the same thing yet it sounds so different.  We have put labels on words, however when we open our minds to understanding that the meaning can possibly be so much more than we first see, perceptions change.

The Bible is called the “living word” but why is this?  So many people argue over the meaning of this book, and it can be found in so many translations which can alter the meaning quite a bit.  So, how do we go about reading it and understanding it?  They are just a bunch of words in a book, that people wrote years and years ago, aren’t they?  What I have found is that these words give life to my heart and provide an understanding to life, about God, about others, about ourselves, about any circumstance that we could imagine and then some.  All of the answers to life’s questions are found in this book.  Today we are going to focus on one verse, found in John 15:10 NIV –

“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.”

Opening prayer:

“Good morning Father,

Open the eyes of our hearts today, to see the meaning that you have in these words for us.  Lead me as I meditate on your word and share with others what you share with me.  I ask that your word penetrate our minds and saturate our hearts preparing us to receive all that you have planned for our lives.  May your words transform us into the ones that you created us to be.  We were made in your image yet this world has covered up our true identities.  Help us find ourselves, by finding you.  In Jesus’ sweet name I pray.

Amen.”

How do we remain in the love of Jesus? First, we must know the love of Jesus. The word “love” is used so much in our world, yet it has lost it’s true meaning. The love of Jesus, is something that we don’t see as much as we could see. It’s here, but it’s like a buried treasure, just waiting to be found. It’s everywhere. We walk around with blindfolds covering the eyes of our hearts and that’s why we don’t see it. It’s more than a feeling, yet we feel it. It gives life to our souls while killing the humanness that sometimes hold us back from seeing, from experiencing this perfect love. We search for it, out there, when all along it’s inside of us. We even turn to religion and try to be a better person and earn our way to Heaven, when we can’t, really. We can try to love others, when inside we kind of judge them anyway, what is this doing to our hearts? How do we keep His command to love? Truly? I ask God to show me the answers to these questions because they are questions that I’ve asked over and over again? I’m learning, kind of. But there’s still so much to unpack here. Again, it’s one verse, one command to remain in His love and He even tells us how, by keeping His commands and He has even done the same, kept His father’s commands and remained in His love. So, why is it so confusing and so difficult? Am I the only one that feels this way? He tells me that what our minds are filled with directs the course of our hearts and what we focus on helps us see. When we search for His love like the buried treasure that it is, once it’s found a relationship begins. As we walk with Him, He begins to romance our hearts. When life gets tough, He holds our hand and walks with us. When life is great, He’s there too to celebrate the joy that we have found. When tears fall, He comforts us and wraps His strong, gentle arms around our entire being and a peace floods our souls. He is our strength, our friend, our Savior, and the one who fills our hearts with EVERYTHING good! When we receive all of this, then we are truly remaining in His love and we can’t help but keep His commands because it becomes our hearts desire. We change from the inside out, not the other way around. So when we live in His love we can begin to view life through His eyes and it becomes a BEAUTIFUL view.

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1 Peter 5:8 – Be Alert but Not Afraid

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This was my verse for yesterday, and even though I haven’t made time to do this every day, I’m still going to complete 21 days in the word, and blogging on each days verse even if it’s not for the day that I should have.  Why am I saying this?  Because I feel like it matters.  I have been getting so distracted by things beyond my control and they have brought me to a place of total confusion and frustration.  Is that a coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Here’s why:

1 Peter 5:8 NIV “Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”

If I’m sharing what God is saying to me, to us, then the enemy wants to stop that.  If one person here’s the truth and no longer dwells on the lies of the enemy but learns about life giving salvation, then it begins to change the course of our world because it begins to change the course of our hearts and the thoughts that we allow to take up space in our minds.  It is a big deal, what we think about!  It is a big deal, what we mediate on regularly!  It really matters!  The things that we allow to occupy space in our minds plant a seed in our hearts.  Those seeds grow and impact our lives, as well as the lives of those close to us and those placed along our path each day.  So, it makes sense that this is the area in which this devil works the most.  In our minds.  The enemy does everything that he can to bring ruin to your holiness.  He doesn’t really care about your happiness.  In fact, he will whisper tempting lies that promise happiness.  We have all fallen for it.  I believe.  But temporary happiness can sometimes lead to future pain and even deep wounds.  He knows what he’s doing.  However, Jesus came to give us life by bringing joy and peace to our hearts as we are growing closer to our Holy God and following His plan for our lives.  He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, but Stay Alert!  When Jesus comes into the story, everything changes.  EVERYTHING CHANGES!  We all begin to live, hearts are healed, hope is found, comfort and strength and peace flood our souls, and Heaven comes to earth.  Could this happen?  Yes, and one day it will.

Until then the enemy is guarding the Jesus inside of our hearts from coming out, the same way that the enemy guarded the tomb of Jesus after he died.  It didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now.

Put on your armor of God and fight the good fight

Ephesians 6:10-18

John 15:17 – Every Rose Has it’s Thorn

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Now, I am a few days behind on my writing, but it’s my favorite day of the week, Sunday.  I have the day off of work and I get to see my church family.  I have a lot going on in my mind and my heart and I have some time on my hands to write now, so maybe I can catch up and really soak in all that God has to say to me.  I really wanna get more focused on Him.  So let’s do that now.

John 15:17 NIV says, “This is my command: Love each other.” … That’s it.  Two small sentences consisting of 6 words that sum up the entire meaning of the bible and God’s plan for our lives.  Have we ever really thought about what this means?  What if we memorized this verse and every time that we became frustrated and angry, disappointed and hurt, we meditated on this verse and ask God, “In what way would you like for me to live out this verse in my life RIGHT NOW?”  How differently would our words be?  Would we handle a situation in the same way?  How would we view life’s circumstances or the actions of another?

Loving each other is selfless, and by doing so we can learn to have faith in God’s guidance by allowing Him to speak and act through us, ESPECIALLY when we don’t feel like it.  When we feel like being alone, so that we can dwell on the horrible things that are happening all around us.  We feel like no one wants to listen or really cares.  If we take this opportunity to express God’s love to another in need, He finds beautiful ways to express His love to us.  Our hearts begin to live again, and smile through the tears that no one sees.

The enemy wants to steel our joy, and sometimes he will do so by trying to convince us that temporary happiness is what we need.  This is a lie.  True joy is what our hearts desire, the joy that is found in living a life in relationship with Jesus.  When we learn this we become a threat to the one who wants our hearts too.

What we often feel is so far from what’s real.  When we love each other, we join and encourage, uplift, walk beside of and inspire another heart to see the truth.  It doesn’t always feel good.  But it is good.  Every time we do what we know is right to do when it feels like a part of us is dying, but that part that is dying shouldn’t be alive at all, we grow.  I could write about these six words from John 15:17 for hours, it could be a novel, a great story, a fairy-tale almost about how we can give life to a dieing world, just by loving them.  Oh wait!  It is a great story, a story of salvation, and how a perfect God came to earth in the form of a man to show us paradise, to bring Heaven to our hearts.  This story is found in the bible.  These words give life to our hearts and wisdom to our minds that lead us down a narrow path filled with roses and thorns.  Enjoy the beautiful journey, and even though the roses have thorns, stop and pick them anyway.  🙂  Just be careful! 🙂

The Battles that I Face

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As I’m sitting here on my patio on a cool fall evening in Orlando FL, which means its in the low 70’s :), I’m reflecting back on my morning.  I went to church, as I usually do on Sundays .  This morning I stopped to give a friend a ride and I also had with me my daughter, and we picked up her boyfriend as well.  As we drove along, I asked my friend how she was doing?  How she was feeling?  I knew that she had a few health problems, but she always has a smile on her face so it’s hard to tell.  What I expected was “fine” “how are you?” and that’s what I got initially.  But I sensed something more.  I asked again, “so how are you feeling?”  and the story that she told me blew me away.  She had recently almost lost her life, and she began to tell me her story.  The details spoke volumes of how amazing our God is.  Her words gave hope.  Her strength is incredible.  By looking at her you would have no idea of her story.  And this made me think, how many people around us do we REALLY know?  Maybe we don’t know their hearts because we haven’t taken the time to know their story and who they are and why.  Our conversation to church helped me see how sometimes God uses this story of ours to inspire others, because she was inspiring me and I don’t think that she even knew.  To hear her story, while the smile across her face seems permanent, makes no sense whatsoever.  How can someone go through so much and be filled with so much joy?  She was!  She is!  We went into the church service and ended up going in different directions.  My friend went inside, my daughter and her boyfriend to the youth class, and I met up with another friend of mine.  The worship music was amazing, as it usually is and this morning they sang my favorite song, my life-theme song “Oceans (Where feet may fail)” and I could feel the Holy Spirit fill my soul opening my heart to receive God’s perfect love and my mind to receive the wisdom that He has for me.  I feel like this is my vacation time, surrounded by friends and family, not blood family, but my spiritual family.  The ones that choose to love me and support me and walk with me down this path of life.  Our message was titled “Overcoming the Enemy”.

“It’s a mistake to only think about the devil all of the time and it’s a mistake to never think about him at all,”  were the words that the pastor spoke and then my mind began to wonder as it often does.  I prayed to God to speak to me through the message and this is what He said:

“There is a glory in our lives and it’s found in our story.  It’s in our story that His glory is seen, bringing life to our hearts and hope for others.  It provides healing by revealing His perfect peace in our darkest storm.  Then we can see His light of truth even while the dark lies of the enemy flood our minds.  We do this by praying.  Prayer impacts things we don’t see and things we don’t understand.  It also opens our minds to accept the gentle words that God is whispering to our hearts, His truths and His promises.  Therefore cancelling the lies that are screamed at us often. The enemy only comes to bring confusion to a place of perfect paradise.  When God is at work in our lives, the enemy waits for an opportunity to pause or stop this work in us, and in our lives and circumstances by occupying space in our minds.  These things that we allow to occupy space in our minds plant a seed in our hearts.  Those seeds grow and impact our lives, as well as the lives of those close to us and those placed along our path each day.  Is it really important what we think?  Is it really important what we say?  It is and it is!  It’s very important! We must be alert and aware of the schemes of our enemy as well as aware of the power of our God and the power that He has given us.  He who is in us is greater than he who’s in the world, but STAY ALERT!  And remember, when Jesus comes into the story EVERYTHING CHANGES.”

How do we stand against the schemes of the devil?  The answer to this is found in Ephesians Chapter 6:11-18:  Verse 11 NIV reads, “Put on your full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

The Armor of God consists of:

Belt of truth
Breastplate of righteousness
Feet fitted with the gospel of peace
Shield of faith
Helmet of Salvation
Sword of the Spirit, the word of God

This is a message all of it’s own, but in summary, we face the battles of life having faith in our loving God, accepting the Salvation offered through His Son and receiving His perfect peace in the midst of our total chaos filled moments.  We fight the lies by meditating on God’s truths and following the voice of the Holy Spirit.  And we do what is right, rather than what we feel like doing.  This sounds so simple.  But is it?  I haven’t found it to be.  But I have found it to be worth it all.  God has a plan in each of our lives.  This service touched my heart today and I’ve read these verses many times.  Since leaving church I watched God fill the hearts of those close to me as well as my own.  It’s at times like this that I feel like I can take on the world.  And when I lose this perception, I also lose my way.  At those times my emotions become the battle that I face and without the Armor of God, that can be a dark place.  Especially when my enemy is ready to take me down.  Let’s remember when we get up each morning as we are getting ready for what our day brings, to put on the Armor of God and get ready for battle.