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Moving forward though trials persist

   

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Trials and Temptations

     2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

    Once we grasp the truth that God has a plan for our lives, (and that hopefully happens early on) we begin to move forward in that plan. As we exercise our faith muscles, our faith increases in strength. The more mature our faith grows, the wiser we become.  The expectation is that we would move forward consistently as our faith develops. 

     Our new nature, given to us at our spiritual birth, desires to please God. Yet, we will always struggle with our old nature always wanting its way.  Trials come and trials go, but with every one our character is improved upon. 

     But what about those trials that refuse to ‘go away’? They perhaps contain the strongest of life lessons.  You know, those every day trials that prevent us from living life victoriously. 

     Trials of this nature usually involve learning how to get along with others.  Nothing we say or do brings improvement in them or the relationship. Instead of growing wiser and resolving the situation, despair sets in. Satan manipulates and deceives our flesh, our old nature. Lying to us about what is wrong and setting our focus on ourselves. 

     We are primed to become distracted by human reasoning and false assumptions. Without realizing it, we have become influenced by Satan to do his will.   We get mired down in these kinds of trials with every lie cast upon us by the enemy. We take on the attitude that nothing is going to change and spiritual growth and/or pleasing God fades into the mist. Blindness rules on both sides of the equation.

     Perhaps accepting things the way they are in these situations may be the best way to move forward through them. By moving on we leave it up to God to make changes in His timing and will. Forgiving and accepting permits us to throw off the shackles of judgement and condemnation. The liberty to breathe free is ours to claim by the power of God’s word. This sort of example, is a lifeline for those  searching for comfort in their own stubborn trials .

     So, when trials persist without bringing the desired solution, there is still a way to move forward. Moving forward is possible but it takes a mindset that requires a high level of trust in God. A trust that even though the desired solution has not been realized, our confidence that God is in control and is working out His plan remains steadfast.

 Remember: God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than ours.

He ALWAYS knows what is best.

Weathering the storms…

    peter-sinking

 

     The years 2020 & 2021 have completely upended our lives! We have been challenged to seek solutions to problems that are unprecedented.  Our days are interspersed with highs and lows. Nothing seems constant. And just when we think we can breathe easy, pow!  Suddenly, we are knocked off our feet again!!!!

     Trying to live life under these circumstances with any measure of victory is humanly impossible. As Christians many are looking to us (whether they or we realize it or not) watching for any clue as to how to stay afloat as the storms rage.

     We know to cry out to the LORD but I wonder how long do we wait around to hear His voice? If He doesn’t remove the problem, bring the healing we ask for, or miraculously intervene to make everything better, we throw up our hands in despair. 

     I’m learning that when it gets this rough, there are choices we can make that will rebuff the enemy and strengthen our witness. First of all, we need to examine our expectations. Do we really think that being a child of God’s means we will know nothing but blessings? Suffering will be minimal and problems will be easily resolved? Do you know any Christian whose life can be described as such? I sure don’t!

   The fiery darts’ intent is cause us to feel abandoned by God, feel overwhelmed by our problems, or wander around aimlessly when we fail to understand why God allows us to suffer.  By focusing on negative thoughts such as these, the truths of James 1:2-4 are hidden from our view. We are of little help to ourselves or to others. 

     If God removed every problem, healed every sickness, or never allowed us to suffer what would that accomplish? Satan doesn’t want us to consider that question. For he knows that solutions are never realized unless there is a problem  to resolve. It is in the exertion of muscles that increases strength.  A diamond becomes a precious jewel due to intense and lengthy pressure. Satan doesn’t want us exercising our faith muscles. We might get too strong for him, if we do!

Here’s the point:

     Like Peter, we will sink when we allow the storms of our days to overtake us. Cooperating with God as He protects and strengthens our witness through the storms will be a lifeline to others to weather their present tempest. 

The Cross – God’s plan to save humankind; Satan’s plan to destroy humankind

 

 

Good Friday, is aptly entitled! Know why? Jesus’s sacrifice for humankind sets every one, who believes in Christ and accepts Him as their Savior, on the path to heaven. Certainly, that is Good News! The cross and resurrection affirm that. 

But there is a lion (a desperate, hungry lion) roaming about seeking whom he may devour.  His diabolical deception and manipulation have set humankind on a path of destruction. His evil influence will attempt to convince us that God does not exist. Jesus was just a man, if he existed at all. Believing the Bible is for fools who desire to believe in myths and fairy tales. Or, this is a strong one; Go ahead and believe in God if you like, but don’t take Him seriously enough to pray and read His word every day. (The Bible exposes Satan and clues us in on how to defeat him. It’s no surprise as to why he is going to make sure you never have the time or desire to delve into God’s word or pray!)

Satan exerted powerful energy to block Jesus from becoming the Savior of the world. If you follow the close calls that if carried out would have destroyed the promised seed-line, it’s obvious God’s power thwarted Satan at every hand. At Jesus’s birth, Satan lunged forward in a failed attempt to kill boy babies that would have been around 2 years of age. The time the wise men told Herod they had been following the star. When that plan was thwarted, Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. That failed miserably as Jesus called on the power of the truth of God’s word to rebuff Satan at every turn.  

Satan likely thought Jesus’ death on the cross was proof that he had won. Imagine his surprise when the resurrection scene exploded! Satan’s pride and bloodthirstiness to destroy Christ, likely blinded him from understanding or even knowing of God’s plan of redemption. 

Make no mistake, Satan is out to destroy us! God’s plan is to save us. Yet, we must choose which plan we are going to cooperate with. Please ponder this!

Weapons will fail!

Is. 54:17 “ No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;

While God is speaking only to Israel here, His assurances apply to Christians as well.

As we dig deeper into God’s word, truths become clearer. On the surface I see God’s assurance that He will protect us from these weapons. But does this mean He will keep us from being attacked? I confess, for some time now that was my perception. However, more recently I have come to realize my former perception was incorrect. I’ve come to understand that while the weapons are indeed formed and they indeed come against us they will not succeed in their intent. 

We need to expect weapons to be formed against us. We must remember that Satan has a mission of destruction for mankind. He will use anything and anyone to prevent us from coming to Jesus as our Savior. Or if we belong to Jesus, Satan will attack us with any weapon in his arsenal to damage our witness. His goal is to make those who claim Jesus to become weak and ineffective. 

But the verse in Isaiah 54:17 has good news. Those weapons that are sure to come against us WILL NOT SUCCEED. Romans 8:28 explains why. “All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” For you see, when the weapons come against us, God’s plan is to prevent them from succeeding. What Satan intends for evil, God turns into good. He filled the Bible with instructions on how to foil the enemy’s attacks. God’s plan is to make us stronger and wiser in the process as we apply the truths from God’s word. 

Because sin is the reality, God has made the way through Christ’s sacrifice that will empower us to live this earthly life victoriously. Satan’s weapons will come against us, be prepared for that. At the same time, be encouraged, for his weapons will not prevail.

PEACE WITHOUT TRUTH? UNOBTAINABLE!

NO GOD, NO PEACE – KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACE

In the midst of all the chaos that darkens our country these days, peace alludes us. We cry out for peace, well some do, but there is no peace. So what’s the problem?

Perhaps the problem lies in recognizing Truth. Because until we know what’s true, we won’t have peace. To go even further with this thought, rejecting Truth has a predictable outcome. And replacing Truth with a counterfeit truth leads to destruction.

I believe it all comes down to this. Our country started out recognizing that God is Truth. God’s record of Truth, the Bible, was the foundation upon which our country was established. However, since then we as a country have drifted from what we knew to be true. The rejection of God and His word produces predictable outcomes. The Bible records the consequences of a land who rejects God/Truth in Romans 1:18-32. It reads like a commentary on life in present day America

Our country’s rejection of God/Truth begs the question, “Why would we reject a truth that was proven to be true by the odds of ten to the 21st power (1021) There were over 300 fulfilled predictions regarding Christ in the Bible. This mathematical computation was based on only 8 of those predictions being true. Just ponder that for a moment!

As a nation, and even as an individual, if we genuinely desire peace then we MUST turn to and embrace the Author of Truth. We are in the throws of the consequences of rejecting God/Truth. What more will it take to wake us up?

A Christmas of Surprises

Christmas will be minus children & children in law (8 in all), grandchildren (10). The twenty of us will be reduced to just my husband and I. And why is this happening this way? One word, COVID!

My devotional reading today focused on ‘contentment.’ Therefore, I asked myself, “In light of the drastic changes in my traditional Christmas celebration, could I claim contentment?’

Had I embraced the truth of Philippians 4:11-12?

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Phillippians 4:11-12

Honestly, I’m not too happy about the prospect of missing out on the delight of watching the good natured antics of my beloved offspring which characterizes our celebration. No reaching out to give or claim a hug is hard to accept. Listening to the squeals of delight as gifts are opened will be limited to an e-experiance via my computer. We will be minus all the delights that have characterized past Christmases around this old house!

So, how does one find contentment in this?

In our search for contentment during the tumultuous events at present, we must come to terms with some basic tactics of our enemy, Satan. His most successful trick is to manipulate our focus. He will cause us to focus on all that we have lost. Our minds will become so fixed on such that there will be only enough room for negative thinking. Those fiery darts will permeate our thought, influence our attitudes, and produce actions contrary to God’s will. 

Therefore, if we will but seek God’s way to find contentment, we will turn to Scripture, like the one above.  Matthew 14:22-36    will alert us to Peter’s fiasco when he became distracted by the storm. Romans 8:28 will present the gifts of peace and encouragement God stands ready to present to us. If every time a fiery dart thought attempts to take root, we can call upon the weapon of our faith to extinguish it. Satan’s manipulation and deceit fizzles. We are free to find the contentment God offers.

So instead of focusing on not being able to physically connect with our children and grandchildren, we find we still have much to be grateful for. Thanks to the provision of connecting online, we will still be able to visit with each other. We will still be able to sit back and listen with great joy to the loving and playful antics of our offspring as they enjoy being together during Christmas.

However, the sweetest blessing of all is that all 20 of us will be able to focus more on the Christ child than ever before. We will all remain cozy in our homes, focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. I welcome this for my husband and I, and I welcome this for our children and grandchildren.

In addition I would love to share a Christmas story I wrote for my family. Merry Christmas and remember Jesus is the Reason for Christmas.

Last Christmas (2019) I presented my children and grandchildren with a book entitled A Christmas of Surprises. It was a chapter book of a Christmas story I had written, printed, and bound just for them. While I have not sought to have it printed, I have had the desire to share my story. Therefore, I’ve included the YouTube links below for what I hope is your enjoyment.
REMEMBER HIT THE LIKE BUTTON IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED!

Third times the charm!

First, I heard myself saying, “We just need to keep our focus on God!” Second, that very phrase jumped out at me a short time later as I was reading from my devotions. A few hours after that, I heard a pastor reminding his flock to “keep their focus on God.”

Okay, God had my attention after that third attempt, and the following resulted:

With all that is going on in our country at present, the temptation to loose our focus is hard to avoid. And when we throw personal dilemmas into the mix, it can be overwhelming.

Our enemy will wear us down with attacks, and when we are especially vulnerable, he will bombard us with what we feel is more than we can handle.

I recall such a weak period in my life. My desire was to keep my focus on God but the fight to hold it there was fierce. I knew to hold up my shield of faith. Yet, with every blast of fiery darts, I grew more desperate. I just couldn’t get a break from the onslaught. That’s when I began to pray that God would bring something outside myself to give me some relief. To help me in maintaining my focus.

Again and again over the next several weeks, I prayed that prayer. Thereafter, when a loved one, in expressing concern, offered his counsel, I resolved to give his counsel prayerful thought. And although the fiery dart was to discount and ignore his counsel, I had to acknowledge it was highly likely that God was answering my desperate prayers from earlier.

So instead of disregarding the counsel, I received it as from God. In following through, the much needed emotional relief was realized. The desperation was replaced with calmness. I was once again able to take my eyes off the stresses and turn my eyes upon Jesus.

There is a clear picture in the Scriptures that illustrates succinctly the dilemma we all face when the storm we are going through claims our focus.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Why did Peter doubt? Could it have been because he simply took his eyes off Jesus?

Our struggles, especially at present, have the potential to overpower us. But remember those struggles, however menacing they may seem, are not more powerful than God. A fact Satan would prefer we forget.

BEWARE – The Lion is Ravenous

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8



Some things to note regarding the above verse. The Bible compares the devil to a roaring lion. A roaring lion is a hungry lion. A lion who is driven by hunger is on the watch, prowling around, searching for prey that can be easily devoured. You see, it is ravenous, so the quicker it can spot its prey the sooner its appetite will be satisfied.

This begs the question, “What type of prey is easily devoured?”

Obviously, weakened prey is the most likely. Those suffering from malnutrition have no strength to be alert to danger.

Perhaps those who have become distracted by and are driven by fear. This kind of prey runs blindly away from the roaring. They become isolated. They become easy pickings for the lion.

Of course, if the prey doesn’t take seriously the threats surrounding it, they can be picked off rather easily.

What’s the analogy here?

Christians are Satan’s prey. His plan of attack is to send us contradictory thoughts (fiery darts) about what our behavior should look like. His “go to” weapon is to draw us away from prayer and bible study. He knows we receive our nourishment from these two basic sources. Without this nourishment, we will be on a steady decline spiritually. Easily manipulated.

Satan knows that the less we delve into the Scriptures and the less time we spend in prayer, the less likely we will be to recognize his tactics. He will be flying under the radar, so to speak. We won’t have the information needed to expose our enemy. Because we are unaware of Satan’s schemes, fear and doubt will rule our thinking

Do we dare ask ourselves the following questions

Do we care about reading our bibles?

How’s our prayer life?

Do we find the only time we do some serious praying is in a crisis?

How’s our church attendance?

Do we desire to be in church?

Do we talk about our faith?

Are we uneasy when others do?

Would our behaviors/attitudes classify us as Christian?

What does your answers to the above questions reveal?

Goldfinches: God’s little messengers!

                                                                                                       

For two years I have actively tried to attract Goldfinches to my yard.    I hung thistle socks and  even dressed up a thistle feeder with a yellow ribbon. My desire to attract these yellow charmers was fueled by the fact that they frequented my sister in law neighbor’s yard regularly. I concluded, if they gathered in her yard, why not mine? 

Last year was a bumpy road. Potholes of problems were a constant contention. While the end of the year revealed the removal of one major issue, others stubbornly remained. Thankfully, the removal of that major issue gave me some breathing space. Though difficulties remained, God was true to His promise in Isaiah 43:2 that they would not overwhelm me. 

I recall a time early in this present year, when discouragement threatened me at every turn. Negative thoughts, aka fiery darts, tore away at my resolve to allow God’s word to direct me. 

Just as soon as my path led me to a clarifying high point, it would be followed by a dip into dismay. I grew weary of this up and down existence. Yet, the truths of God’s word sustained me and kept me on track.

Often, I would plead with God to intervene and guide me along straighter paths. The fiery dart of doubt invaded my thoughts repeatedly. The highs and the lows were too close together and my peace was dwindling. 

It was during such a time that I sought God in prayer to affirm that He was listening. He gave me Psalm 66:19-20, “However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. May God be praised! He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me.”

In my desperation to stay on track and follow God’s lead, I made a particular request. I asked God to direct the Goldfinches to my yard. Nevertheless, I was prepared to believe God was listening whether the Goldfinches showed up or not.  

6/21/20 first sighting

It was while I was sitting in my kitchen talking to my daughters, that one of my grandchildren exploded into the room shouting, “Nammy! There’s a Goldfinch on your feeder!”

Running to look, I asked, “Are you sure?” 

And sure enough, hanging on the thistle sock in the crepe myrtle bush positioned by the deck, was a bright yellow male Goldfinch. Tears spilled down my face. God’s little messengers had accomplished their mission! And the bonus is that since that first sighting, daily appearances of God’s little messengers continues to assure me.

7/4/20 Now they even feast on sunflower seeds!

Undeserved Gifts

 

I would like to give my readers a break today. Let’s focus on something other than the out of control violence running rampant in our land. After you read this, those concerns will still be there.  But may this respite of a read introduce some calmness into those concerns.

      I get to live on a farm! I’m 71 years old (next month I’ll turn 72 but that’s irrelevant). Sometimes, I feel guilty about getting to live here. Why?  Because I don’t contribute to the maintenance of the farm. But my daddy (Daddy has 4 children, 3 of us live here on the farm. We still, even in our 70’s and 80’s, refer to this man as Daddy. It’s our farm culture. The way we speak.)

     But I digress. I live here because it is a gift from my daddy. I didn’t do anything to deserve this acre of land I live on, other than being a child of my father’s.

     Wow, does that remind me of something! Isn’t that the way of things in the spiritual world, too? Let’s examine the parallels. As Christians, we are born into God’s kingdom. That spiritual birth entitles us to the abundant life and eternal life that Jesus died for. It’s our birthright as God’s children. We did nothing to deserve this life. It is ours due to our spiritual birth into God’s family and Christ’s sacrifice.  

     My life here on the family farm was ultimately provided by my Heavenly Father. It was about 26 years ago, that my family of 6 moved onto the homeplace. This was made possible by a gift from my earthly father.

     Stepping out onto my front porch while enjoying the welcomed coolness of a late spring morning, I heard the revving of the mower’s engine, signaling the first hay cutting of the season.  I won’t go into all the beautiful details of why this is one of my favorite pleasures of living in the corner of a big ole hayfield. Yet my reverie of thoughts was waylaid with the intrusion of thoughts of guilt. I was reminded (and we all know the source) that while my brothers and nephews work hard for this farm, I can make no such claim. 

     Why, on earth, you may ask would I spoil this picture of drawing in the sweet fragrance of new-mown hay, as I watched the birds perched on electrical lines anticipating the goodies the mower uncovers for them? Well, it’s Satan’s way. Attacking us with negative thoughts, for the purpose of undermining the perspective God sacrificed to give us. 

     But I know something too. I don’t have to give into such thoughts. (I call them fiery darts) My perceptive daughter in law reminded me (not long ago) that I have what I have because of who I was born to. And when I take on that perspective then I am at peace about enjoying this undeserved gift. 

    So, Satan be forewarned. Every time you try to plant that fiery dart thought into my head, I will remind you that like the undeserved gift of my salvation, my home here is an undeserved gift as well. I choose to honor both my fathers with a thankful heart for the undeserved gifts that my birth permits me to enjoy.