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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Back-Door Blessing

As I reflect back over these past three plus years of unemployment, the lessons I have learned go far beyond just “finding another job.” Indeed, I still haven’t found that elusive job yet, but what I have found is absolutely irreplaceable. In my devotional reading this morning I  happened upon the following devotion titled “Back-Door Blessing” by Dr. Charles Swindoll in his devotional book, Day by Day,” and it was such an encouragement to me that I want to share it with you:

“I had lunch recently with a businessman who runs his own company. As we talked, the subject of wisdom kept popping up in our conversation. So I asked, ‘How does a person get wisdom? I realize we are to be men of wisdom, but few people ever talk about how it is acquired.’

“His answer was quick and to the point: ‘Pain.’

“I paused and looked deeply into his eyes. Without knowing the specifics, I knew his one word answer was not theoretical. He and pain had gotten to know each other rather well.

“It was then I quoted from the first chapter of James: ‘When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence’ (James 1:2-4, Phillips).

“There is no shortcut, no such thing as instant endurance. The pain brought on by interruptions and disappointments, by loss and failure, by accidents and disease, is the long and arduous road to maturity. There is no other road.

“But where does wisdom come in? James explains in the next verse: ‘And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God–who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty–and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him’ (1:5).

“ ‘As I see it, it is a domino effect. One thing bumps up against another, which, in turn, bumps another, and in the long haul, endurance helps us mature. Periodically, however, we will find ourselves at a loss to know what to do or how to respond. It’s then we ask for help, and God delivers more than intelligence and ideas and good old common sense. He dips into His well of wisdom and allows us to drink from His bucket, whose refreshment provides abilities and insights that are of another world. Perhaps it might best be stated as having a small portion of  ‘the mind of Christ.’

“When we have responded as we should to life’s blows, enduring them rather than escaping them, we are given more maturity that stays with us and new measures of wisdom, which we are able to draw upon for the balance of our lives.”

By accepting life’s tests and temptations as friends,
We become men and women of mature character.

From: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll,
Word Publishing (Thomas Nelson), 2000, p. 186.

Nobody likes pain. Had I known what I would be going through these past three years on the day that I was fired, I would have, no doubt, tried to excuse myself from the lessons I’ve had to learn. I would have much rather just found another job immediately and moved on with my life. But God definitely had other plans, and you’ve read about them in my previous blog posts.

There is no quick and easy way to learn maturity in following Jesus Christ, and I still have a long way to go, too, but as James 1 tells us: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.”

I’ve heard lots of people (including myself) over the years say they want more faith. Well, here’s how you get it–through trials and tribulations; they test your faith, and if you pass and not give up half way through, they will produce endurance, and when endurance is fully developed, you will become a person of mature character. So don’t truncate God’s work in your life through the various trials and temptations that come your way. Give them to God, and don’t give up or give in half way through. And don’t make any excuses, either. Let Him do His perfect work in you. Trials and temptations really are friends, if you don’t demand your own way in the process of going through them.

This particular devotion was especially meaningful to me today, and something I really needed for encouragement as I continue along this path of unemployment. And it is my sincere hope that it will be encouragement for you, too, no matter what you might be facing in your own life right now.

So be encouraged!

And . . . never, never, never give in. The lessons are too valuable to miss. Instead, give it to God and let Him work it out in His way and His timing.

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Take Action

“Instead of placing our faith in Him, we panic and try to solve the situation ourselves” (quote from reblogged post below). Oh, how often do we do that? We need to catch ourselves in the very act of trying to fix the situation on our own and reach out, immediately, to ask God for His help.

Here’s an example from my own life from just this past week. For a while now I’ve known that I needed to buy a new set of tires for my 7 1/2 year old car (I bought it in Dec. 2004). The tires were the original tires (yeah, I know . . .). But I’ve been unemployed for over three years now with no income and very limited financial resources, so I kept putting it off. Well, I drove to my favorite bookstore to browse and about 20 minutes later when I left, I got in my car and drove away only to discover there was something drastically wrong with my car. It pulled to the right, made awful sounds, and my first thought was “oh no, it’s the transmission,” but once that panicked thought passed, I realized it was probably a flat tire. However, I was headed out a very narrow exit onto a street and there was no place for me to pull over right there. So I turned left on the street and a convenience store was located just a few yards down the road, so I pulling into parking area.

As I got out of my car and looked at the right front tire, it was definitely flat. My first thought was, “Okay, you don’t know anyone to call, so now what are you doing to do?” So I said within myself (not audibly), “Okay, Lord, I need some help.” I talked with the cashier inside the convenience store and he offered to get on the internet (I assume to look for a towing company) but the internet was not accessible to him (company policy). At that point it came to my mind to call a new maintenance man who is in charge of maintenance at the apartment where I live, so I did and he said he would come and take a look but it would take a few minutes for him to get to where I was. As I ended the call, I walked out of the store and stood by my car to wait.

A bunch of folks came and went while I was waiting and then this guy around my age in a pickup parked in the spot on the right side next to my car. As he got out of his pickup he looked at my flat tire and said, “Looks like you could use some help.” I smiled at him and said, “Yes,” but that I thought there might be someone coming soon to help me. He said he’d be happy to help, and I found myself not sure of what to do since I had already called someone who wasn’t there yet. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Last chance.” And I said, “I’ll take it.” Well, he got the flat off and put on that “pretend” spare tire we all have in our trunks, and helped me put air in it (no, I hadn’t checked the air in the peewee tire for a few years so it was very low). Fortunately, there was an air hose right there at the convenience store.

I offered to buy him a drink for his help and he said no, he didn’t need one because he had one of those pint-sized drinks already. So as he left I told him how much I appreciated his help, and that he was an angel sent to me in disguise. He laughed and said, “I’ll have to tell my friends that I did a good deed today as they won’t believe it.” I laughed and said, “Yes, you certainly did, and you tell them that, too.” His name is Mel–an angel named Mel. As for the maintenance man, he arrived right at the time Mel was finishing up with my tire. I apologized to him and said Mel was a complete surprise. He said it was no problem and left to go back to work.

The moral to this story is this: At the very moment I knew there was something really wrong with my car and while it alarmed me as I didn’t want to ruin my car by driving it any farther, I didn’t panic, even though at that moment I knew no one in town to call. I asked the Lord to help me as I didn’t know what to do. Now that may seem like a very small thing to you, but it wasn’t to me (I’ve learned to depend on God a LOT in these past three plus years when I’ve found myself in a tight spot). I could have panicked and tried to figure it all out on my own (you don’t even want to know my immediate first thought after it happened which would have completely ruined the rim that held my tire in place). No, I didn’t let the anxiety take control. I asked God for His help, and He sent it by way of Mel.

So often when we think we need more faith, it has nothing to do with getting “more faith” but everything to do with exercising the faith God has already given to us when a crisis happens. By allowing Him to intervene (and His answers are always better than ours), that is how we “grow” our faith. Once again, I learned a valuable lesson that if we just give God whatever it is that we are anxious or panicked about, and leave it with Him, He’ll provide the best answer in His time (and sometimes, like with my flat tire, His timing was immediate), and by watching Him work, our faith grows.

And, you’ll be happy to know I now have a brand new set of tires on my car, and my car is pretty happy about that, too. 😉 ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com

The Daily Way

As we pursue God, we discover a difficult truth: Living out the principles in the Bible is not as easy as we may think. Loving God and loving our neighbor sound like simple enough commands, but when it actually comes to showing love to a difficult neighbor, our true colors begin to show. We must ask ourselves if we truly love God as much as we say we do.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus revolted against the notion that being religious meant you loved God. The piety of the Pharisees was a mockery of what it meant truly to follow God—and Jesus went to extremes to prove this. In explaining this fact, Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Regardless of what our best intentions are, sometimes our actions don’t align with our words. While we know we should follow God and trust…

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Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58

The Message (MSG)

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation
of right-living people—

law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves
and you don’t even notice?’

3-5“Well, here’s why:
“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed, cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

13-14“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance
of your ancestor Jacob.”

Yes! God says so!

From Isaiah 58 MSG

YouTube Video: Worship song based on Isaiah 58:

Photo credit here

Walls of Protection

Do you struggle with “jealousy, rage, frustration, gossip, bearing a false witness” (and the list goes on)–in other words, do you lack self-control? This is a very important post (see reblogged post below) to consider on a daily basis. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com

The Daily Way

When Nehemiah first heard of Jerusalem’s destruction, he wept and was emotionally shaken. He wrote, “For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Nehemiah suddenly realized the walls around the city of Jerusalem were in ruins. Through all of this, he had mistakenly thought they had remained in place. But when the news arrived of their destruction, he became even more burdened.

In Old Testament times, walls around a city were a symbol of strength and security. Without these, a town would be left defenseless, vulnerable, and open to attack. This was the plight of Jerusalem. It was a city without protection against even wild animals. It had lost its identity and was on the verge of being totally reduced to a mound of rubble.

A person who has an undisciplined spirit or no self-control is like a city without walls. He…

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I Am A Writer

Snoopy always makes me laugh!

I love reading almost anything on the subject of writing. And because of my love for writing and reading about writing, I volunteered to read and review a new eBook titled, You Are A Writer,” by Jeff Goins, which is available for purchase and download here.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve been unemployed for over three years now and only recently came to the realization that I would never work again in the field I spent the last twenty years working in–student services at public and private colleges and universities. While you might think this was a heartbreaking realization, it was not. Actually, I was greatly relieved! Really! It’s not that I didn’t love working with the students (mostly adult students) that I helped over all of those years, but there was another side to me–a creative side–that I left behind in the dust many years ago.

I have been writing ever since my feeble attempts at poetry as a teenager. While I never thought of myself as a writer, I have always been one even though I didn’t realize it. I was more the artistic type since I had been drawing pictures from the time I was a very small child and even before I learned to write my own name. Of course, this was with the help of my mother who was also quite artistic. However, when it came to writing, I never thought of writing as an artistic endeavor, yet that’s exactly what it is—creating pictures with words.

At the very beginning of Jeff Goins’ eBook, You Are A Writer,” he starts out with an action statement in the subtitle which states something every writer needs to say to him or herself every morning:  You Are A Writer: So Start Acting Like One. In other words, we must tell ourselves and believe—“I Am a Writer”: not, “I want to be a writer” or “Maybe someday I’ll be a writer,” but “I AM A WRITER” and do something about it right now.

To give you an idea of what you will find in the pages of this eBook, here are a few of the chapter titles: “Writers Are Born, Not Made,” “The Truth About Writing,” “Building a Platform,” “Establish a Brand,” “Channels of Connections,” “Getting Started,” “Before Your First Book,” and “What Next?” However, don’t skip over the “Forward” and “Introduction” in an effort to get to the meat of the topic. If you are the least bit apprehensive about your writing (in other words, still thinking you “want” to be a writer instead of declaring “I am a writer”) you’ll find in these two sections encouragement and motivation that will keep you from giving up at the very beginning of your journey.

Jeff states in the “Introduction”: “I’m nobody special. Just a writer who got frustrated with a broken system and decided to do something about it” (p. 9). That statement, in a nutshell, is what the rest of the eBook is all about . . . taking action.

In the first couple of chapters, “Writers Are Born, Not Made,” and “The Truth About Writing,” he brings the topic of writing home to those of us who really are compelled to write. He mentions examples like a chiropractor who longs to be a poet and “closet artists and aspiring authors, people longing to do meaningful work that inspires,” but they are not doing it (p. 12). This leads into sections on “Finding a Dream,” “Falling Back in Love with Writing,” “When You Feel Trapped,” and “Becoming a Writer.”

Next, Jeff gets into the action steps, “It takes more than talent or luck to be a writer. You have to be intentional” (p. 39). Here is where he discusses three essential tools that every successful communicator needs: A platform (how to build it including his own personal story); a brand (the elements involved, mistakes to avoid, and making yourself memorable—choosing a name, designing your “look” and finding your voice), and channels of communication (building relationships, making connections, asking permission, reaching out).

Now that you have the tools, you can get started, and at this point he states, “Getting started is the hardest part.” So, at this point don’t find excuses to keep procrastinating because, “You’re ready. Ready enough, anyway. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. You just need to begin. You’ll figure out the rest as you go” (p. 63). And in his chapter titled, “Getting Started,” he explains how to do just that. The rest of the eBook gives details from getting started to what you need to know before you write your first book. And it ends with “What Next?” which is really just a beginning to your writing life. It is a journey, much like life itself.

You Are A Writer,” is packed full of great advice in an “easy to read” style from start to finish in 101 pages. If you’re serious about writing, and you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend it to get you up and running and put some “action” to your passion for writing and take yourself off of hold.

I love to write. I’ve been writing all of my life but I’ve never pursued it as a profession. I think it’s time to start. No, I know it’s time to start (thanks for the push, Jeff). I also love music but since my singing voice is not one of my talents, I’ll leaving singing to other more talented folks. However, I find a lot of inspiration in songs for my writing. Recently I came across a song sung by Glen Campbell titled, “Sing” (YouTube Video at the end of this post) and the chorus in the song goes like this:

“But if you sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing
All the love you bring won’t mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing”

I don’t know about you, but I often hear a song in the words of writers who are passionate about their writing. Their words “sing” across the page and connect like music connects with our souls. However, as this song states about singing, it can also apply to writing. All the passion writers bring to this world won’t mean a thing unless they share their writing with others.

So, if you’re reading this post and you love to write . . . then WRITE! “Sing” those words across a page–don’t keep them inside. And while I may never work in my former profession again, that’s okay, because . . .

I AM A WRITER.

And thanks, Jeff Goins, for reminding me of that!

YouTube video:  “Sing” by Glen Campbell (on “Meet Glen Campbell” CD):

Photo credit here

The Finishing Touch

Today, April 21, 2012, is the third anniversary of when I got fired from my job in Houston. I remember after the initial shock of being lead into my boss’s office where he and the HR director were waiting to tell me that that very moment would be my last there, a huge sense of relief came over me. The significant challenge that began on Day One almost seven months earlier was over although the ending was not what I had hoped for. If I had only known what I was walking into when I accepted that job, I never would have left Florida. To think that twenty years of working in higher education ended on such a sour note was not exactly the way I would have wanted to end my professional career. And, at the moment I left that building for the last time, I did not realize that my career in higher education had ended.

With all of my heart I believe that God is sovereign, and He is ultimately in control of everything that happens on this earth. Our understanding of our circumstances (or just about anything else) is microscopic; indeed, infinitesimal compared to His (Isaiah 55:8-9). Since I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord with all of my heart, soul, spirit and mind, I knew He was still in control. Sometimes the end of one thing is the open door leading to a brand new beginning–a new beginning that I did not recognize on that fateful day three years ago.

I have spent the last three years trying to find a job in my profession and not one door leading back into it has opened. I’ve come close a few times, but close doesn’t bring in a paycheck. And, to be honest, most of the almost 500 jobs I’ve applied for since that fateful day have left me with an empty feeling. As the days passed into weeks, and the weeks passed into months, and now those months have passed into years, the longer I am away from it, the more I realize I never want to go back.

If you’ve been following this blog, you are already familiar with my story of my experience with unemployment these past three years, so I will not repeat it here. Suffice to say I’m still unemployed and now entering Year Number Four. That God has kept me alive financially for this long is truly a miracle in and of itself.

In a previous post, Struggling With Prayer,” I’ve mentioned my struggle with prayer sometimes and about a year ago I had honestly reached a point where I just didn’t know what or how to pray anymore about my own situation and others I knew who are also in dire circumstances (and there are many out there in our world today). I mentioned to an associate pastor of a small church I attended for a few months at that time that I had reached a point where I started out my prayers with the words Jesus gave us in Matt. 6:7-13 (NIV, 1984) because I didn’t know what else to pray. Here’s that passage:

“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

And I always ended my prayer with, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” which is included in the NKJV. It was not a matter of rote memorization or casual familiarity with the passage that I did this every day, rather it was a heartfelt cry from a child that did not know what else to pray and who truly wanted the will of God to unfold in my life and the life of others that I knew truly needed it. Also, by beginning with this prayer, it sometimes lead into a longer prayer focused on Him and His will for this planet of ours.

As I look back on these past three years, the progression of change in me from who I was at the time I was fired to now has been nothing short of remarkable. And it has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. My only part in this has been to trust Him totally and be yielded to Him and His will and not lean on my own understanding (no small feat) according to Prov. 3:5-6. And, as I’ve mentioned in my last post regarding the matter of appropriating faith in our circumstances according to Romans 12:3, we must not think more highly of ourselves then we ought to “but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has already given to us.” Until we learn to get out of our own way and truly lean on and trust in Him totally with the measure of faith He has already given us, we will continue to stumble over our own feet and miss His best for our lives.

These past three plus years have been some of the hardest years of my life to navigate, but looking back I would not change a thing about any of it, even some of the most incredibly hard realizations I have had to face about myself and others. I have traveled a rocky road from fear to trust, from living by sight to living by faith, from depending on my own understanding to trusting that God knows what He is doing with my life if I will just take my own limited sight and understanding off of it. As Hebrews 12:7-8 states, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” And while “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful . . . it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” and it “strengthens our feeble arms and weak knees and makes level paths for our feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:11-13).

Healed . . . by God. As I enter “Year Number Four” of uncertainty regarding my unemployment situation, I know God has something in store beyond anything I could have imagined or accomplished with my own understanding. But even beyond what lies ahead, what He has given me during these past three years is something nothing on this earth can replace . . . He’s given me a glimpse into His heart and given me His peace “which transcends all understanding,” and guards my heart and my mind in Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:7).

So, no matter what you might be facing right now, if you will let go of your own understanding and truly lean on Him only, He can and will do the same for you.

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.
Prov. 3:5-6, NIV 1984

YouTube Video: “Hail To The King” written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg (recorded on her “Faithful God” CD, 2007):

Photo credit here

Winning The Battle

I’m starting off this post with a devotion I read this morning titled Winning the Battle in Turning Points Magazine published by Dr. David Jeremiah:

“Many people misunderstand the purpose of the spiritual warfare Job experienced (Job 1-2). The point of Satan was not to destroy Job or ruin his life by destroying his family and property. Satan’s desire was that Job would curse God for letting such bad things happen to him. Sadly, Job’s wife became so exasperated that she fell right into Satan’s hands when she said to her husband, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) Thankfully, Job kept his spiritual integrity and would not blame God for his troubles.

“The point is this: Satan’s primary purpose is to make God, not us, look bad. But he attacks us in order to tempt us to attack God. And he will use any situation at all–just as he did in Job’s life–including our finances and economic health. If you can become so anxious over the economy or money that you lose your faith in God, Satan has won the battle. We win by giving thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) [emphasis mine].

“Don’t let anything–including finances–cause you to ‘curse God.’ Rather, say what Job said: ‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ (Job 2:10, NIV)

Scars are the price which every believer pays for his loyalty to Christ’ ~William Hendriksen.”

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Ah, there’s the rub as Shakespeare’s Hamlet once said. We have no problem accepting good from God, but rail at Him when trouble comes into our lives. However, trouble is most often sent to correct us, mature us, get us back on the right track, and broaden our spiritual perspective on what this life is really all about. And sometimes, like Job who did nothing wrong to bring about his devastating circumstances, it is a test.

Of all the “troubles” that enter our lives, money issues are at the top of the list and cause us more grief then just about anything else. And depending on the priority we have personally given to money, it affects everything else including our relationships with other people and definitely our relationship with God. For example, do you know what the #1 cause of divorce is in this country? According to an article published on voices.yahoo.com by Maxwell Payne titled, The Most Frequent Cause of Divorce,” the #1 cause is financial–in other words, money.

As Jesus said in Matt. 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Yet, we try to do it all the time whether we recognize the struggle or not. Most people place far more emphasis on making money and keeping track of their financial portfolios and retirement plans then they do on God and what Jesus has to say about where our emphasis should be–“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Unfortunately, we get it reversed all the time and money ends up replacing God in our lives. And it’s idolatry . . . and it’s deadly.

Job was one of the most prosperous men on earth at the time his significant troubles hit him, but he did not place the emphasis of his life on his money or his possessions or anything else. He placed his life squarely in the hands of God. And, unknown to him, his significant troubles, which had nothing to do with anything he had done wrong, started as a result of a cosmic exchange between God and Satan (Job 1). In the flash of an eye, he lost everything . . . EVERYTHING! It was a test of monumental proportions. Even his three friends and his own wife didn’t understand what it was all about and his wife even told him to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But he never did. His response to her was, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) and he held on to God.

Because we are human and our understanding is so incredibly limited, at the first sign of trouble in our lives we react many times with the question, “Why did this happen to me, God?” And depending on where our focus is, we either wallow in the misery of it and try to figure it all out on our own, or we can give it back to God and allow Him to use it and change us in the process. Job was just as human as we are, and while what happened to him was absolutely devastating, he did not complain but chose to keep his focus on God and to wait on Him.

It was a test . . . and while it was a devastating test, Job passed it because he never lost his focus on God and did not focus on his circumstances at any point during his trial. And in the end, “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first” (Job 42:12).

There is another issue that ties into this one that I want to touch on, and that is the issue of faith. Many times in my life I’ve heard Christians say (and I have said it myself), “I just wish I had more (or enough) faith,” for whatever it was they really needed faith for in order to overcome a difficult situation. And many times instead of waiting on God, they rushed out ahead and tried to solve their problem in their own power, sometimes with devastating results. They didn’t wait on God and took matters into their own hands, and they missed out on what God had in store for them. I’ve been there and you probably have been, too.

The Apostle Paul states in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” [emphasis mine]. Part of the problem of waiting on God in the midst of our trials is that we really do think more highly of ourselves then we should and not with “sober judgment” according to the measure of faith God has given us.

Did you catch that?

Clearly, God has given each of us a measure of faith that we can use with “sober judgment” (discerning the difference between either going after what we want in our own power or waiting on God to give us what He wants in His power and timing). Therefore, if we are truly Christian, it is an oxymoron to say “I wish I just had more (or enough) faith.” God has given all of us a “measure of faith” and it’s the right amount we need to leave all of our circumstances in His hands. Our problem is that we don’t exercise the faith that He has already given to us, and we operate on “sight” instead. Our faith cannot grow if we don’t exercise the faith He has already give us when trials and tests come into our lives. We must learn to keep our hands, eyes, and understanding off of our trial and keep them on God and trust in Him totally to work things out according to His plan and His timing . . . Period. And by doing that, our faith will grow and His purpose for our lives will unfold according to His will and not ours. And we might be absolutely amazed at what He brings into our lives if we are faithful to leave the circumstances of our trials in His care and wait for His timing to bring us out of them for His glory and not our own.

So the next time you face a trial, whether big or small, remember that it is really a test. Do you want your own way, or do you want God’s best? “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” (Prov. 3:5-6).

“This is a test. It is only a test.” So go out there and pass it, in His strength, and not your own understanding.

YouTube video: “Stay Strong” by the Newsboys:

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Love Your Enemies

loveyourenemiesI think the two hardest things we must do as Christians involve forgiveness and loving our enemies (and I also think the two are joined at the hip). Truth is, we can’t do it on our own–it is Christ living in us that makes it possible. Where are you right now in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you in control or is He? Give Him first place (which means you have to get out of your own way), all the time, and He’ll give you what you need to be able to do anything that He requires–like forgiveness and loving your enemies. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com

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The Daily Way

It is easy to be good to those who are good to us. It is much harder to be good to those who harm us. However, this is exactly what Christ commands us to do. In fact, He took this thought a step further by commanding us to love those who are our enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). Jesus admonished His followers to respond to those who hurt them with love so that His followers would become sons and daughters of God (Matthew 5:45).

If we are honest, then we must admit that often our first reaction to Christ’s words is one of defensiveness. We want to proclaim our rights and demand justice. God, however, has a different route for us to take and…

View original post 185 more words

Kindness

kindness-1How appropriate that this topic should come up today just two days after I posted my blog post titledYou Think About That… which is about my old friend who was “A Good Samaritan” in my life for 14 years. My greatest hope is that I was, in some small way, “A Good Samaritan” for him, too. Kindness is such a rare commodity in our fast-paced world today. It IS hard work; it DOES require discipline, and it comes from the very heart of Jesus Christ. May God help us to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own little world long enough to see others through His eyes and feel for them with His heart. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com

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The Daily Way

While traveling from one city to the next, a man was overtaken by robbers. Taking his clothes and possessions, they left him badly beaten. Not long after the attack, a priest traveled the same road. He passed by without stopping. Then another traveler saw the man but did not offer to help.

Finally, someone stopped—a Samaritan. He put bandages on the man’s wounds and took him to an inn for the night. The next day he gave the innkeeper money and instructions to take care of the wounded man.

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 is a wonderful example of godly kindness. It also demonstrates that kindness often requires something of us—time, plans, privacy, and desires. The Good Samaritan interrupted his travel plans to help a stranger. What better example to follow than that of Christ? He gave us the ultimate gift of kindness—He died that we…

View original post 159 more words

God’s Timing

timingI don’t think there’s too many of us who don’t get frustrated with God’s timing (see reblogged post below). It is never, or at least rarely ever, when we want things to get done or open up or change. That’s because He knows better than we do. Still, of all the virtues I personally struggle with, patience is the hardest. Three years of unemployment with still no end in sight seems like an eternity from my human perspective–but it’s really just a “blink of an eye.” So I will continue to lay down my own struggle with patience (on a daily basis), and ask God to give me His perspective on this life. How about you?

Are you struggling with patience and want God to move in your circumstances? Lay down your will and and your timing, and leave it with Him. After all, as Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Also, as Hebrews 11:6 states, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

James 1:2-4 states, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” It is the testing of our faith in the trials of life that produces patience. And only God knows what is best for us, and He always knows the best timing. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com

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The Daily Way

As we choose to place our complete faith and trust in God, we must relinquish our grip on the plans we have made for our lives.

Even though we trust in God, our actions say otherwise when we grow fearful that life may not turn out the way we hoped it would. When we devote our lives to God, we quickly learn this truth: Our plans and timing do not always line up with God’s. Yet it is with much frustration that we struggle to understand that His way, His plans, and His timing are better than ours.

Some of our greatest mistakes are made when we run ahead of God’s plan. We not only undermine our faith in Him, but we also challenge the notion that He indeed does know best. It is an arrogance that assumes we know better than God.

However, we cannot live fearlessly under such…

View original post 170 more words

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