Favored Because of Grace

As we continue looking at grace, today’s Scripture is from Psalm 5:12, “For it is You who blesses the righteous man O Lord, You surround him with favor as a shield.” (NASB) The King James Version says this, “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.” We have learned that grace is unmerited favor. God releases His favor upon us because of His great love for us.

I love the idea of God’s favor encompassing us with favor like a shield. He surrounds us with His grace, with His favor. How awesome! What is so cool is that He shows no favoritism but shares His grace freely to everyone who asks Jesus to be their Savior and Lord. As we learned last time, we become a part of God’s family, and as such, He showers upon us His love, His grace, His favor. He doesn’t have favorites, for God tells us that He is not a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) He looks at each one of us equally through the precious blood of Jesus. His love is the same for each of us.

It is so reassuring to know that God showers His grace and favor upon us, giving us what we need when we need it. He craves time with us so that He can love us and talk with us. He wants us to get to know Him intimately. When we seek Him out through Bible study and prayer, it’s like we are the only important person to Him at that very moment. I love times, especially when I am troubled about something when in my mind I can go to Him, crawl upon the lap of my Abba Father, and tell Him the struggles, and He wraps His arms around me and says, “It’s ok. I’m here, I’ve got this!” My life verse is Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of Grace, that we might obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (KJV) In my mind I see my Abba sitting not on some cold, pretentious throne, but in a big overstuffed chair and He holds out His arms to me bidding me to come and sit in His lap. He wraps His arms around me, and we have the most awesome time together, and He calls me daughter. When I am in despair, He lets me cry on His shoulder and He tells me that everything will be alright.

Our verse today also tells us that God blesses us. Sometimes it is difficult to think of the blessings God has given us when life seems to be coming at us from all directions. But we must stop a moment and think of all the good things God has given us. First and foremost, should be our salvation! What an awesome gift to us! We have eternal life through Jesus Christ! He has also granted us the love of our families, food on our tables, the beautiful world in which we live, and we could go on. When we become discouraged, we should take a few minutes to “Count Your Blessings” as the old hymn says. Sometimes, I think we forget how much God has given us. We need to also remember the times He has kept us from something that could bring us harm. That is a blessing also!

God’s grace surrounds us as we walk this pathway He has planned out for us. He knows everything from the beginning to the end. We can rest in the knowledge that He will extend His grace to us in every situation and we do not have to worry or be afraid. Nothing that happens to us comes to Him by any surprise. He loves us and wants to shower His favor upon us daily. Take time today to thank Him for His unfailing love and grace. Remember the blessings He has given. What a great stress reliever in this time of uncertainty…God’s grace! It will carry us through!

Our Identity as a Citizen of Heaven

Today’s Bible Journaling takes us to Ephesians 2:19-20, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners; but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (KJV) With all the craziness going on right now, it is good for us to remember that this is not our home, we are just travelers going through on the way to our Home. Those who call Jesus their Lord, Savior, and Master have no need for fear in troubled times. Our citizenship is not here, it is in Heaven.

Does that mean we have to wait to experience the benefits of that citizenship? No, as Believers, we already are experiencing some of the advantages of being a citizen of Heaven. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that one of those benefits was the peace I have in the middle of storms. I don’t have to be fearful of what happens to me here on earth. I know that whatever happens, my life is not over, I will live forever in a beautiful place where there is no pain, sickness, or sadness, where there is peace. I will be home!

As attached as we become to this earth, we need to remember that we are only sojourners. We are travelers on a long trip, and we are on our way home. My husband and I just had a three-week vacation recently, and we really had a great time! Were there difficulties? Yes, bad weather and long hours driving, but we did not become overwhelmed by those troubles. We were able to enjoy our vacation despite bad weather and being tired from driving far distances. When we were headed home, we were looking forward to being home, even though we were thoroughly enjoying our time away. We had peace in the face of the hardships, and yet we were anxious to get home.

As Believers, we also look forward to going to our Heavenly Home, whether that be in death or by way of the Rapture. And yet, we can still reap the benefits of Heaven right here on earth. I have already mentioned peace. Other rewards include knowing that we do not walk alone, God is always with us. He promises to “never leave or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) He walks this journey with us. We are part of God’s family (John 1:12) and as such, we reap the benefits given to a family. We can experience His incredible love for us and the rewards and blessings He showers upon us. We don’t have to wait to experience those things, we can have them now.

As a citizen of Heaven, I can experience God’s protection. In 2 Samuel 22:3 we read, “The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence.” (KJV) I don’t need to fear sickness, danger, or attacks from the enemy, God is my shield, my refuge, my fortress! That is a benefit of Heaven I can have right now.

Another benefit of Heaven we can experience now is freedom. We live under the law of Grace; we do not need to be burdened by trying to live up to a set of laws that are impossible to keep. Because of our love for Him we willingly live a life of holiness in obedience to His will for us. How awesome to be able to bask in the light of Heaven’s blessings as a citizen! In uncertain times we can rest in the knowledge that our future is secured. We can thrive in our identity as a citizen of Heaven and live a life of peace, joy, and security in our Father’s arms.

A Thankful Heart

For the past week or so, I’ve not been posting because I had cataract surgery on my right eye, and I need to let it heal. Today I decided to try Bible Journaling, and I’m finding that I may need to wait a while longer. I will be having the other done in a week, so I may be out of service for a couple more weeks or so. With that said, I need to finish our devotion to how we can be the light, and we will be working on being grateful for this month. I want to try and incorporate both of those thoughts this month somehow.

For today though, we will look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to have grateful hearts. There are so many things for which we can give God praise and thanks. Even during times of distress, there are things for which we can be grateful. As I was doing my Bible Journaling page, I listed a few things for which I am thankful that God has given me. I am so grateful for my husband. He came at the right time in my life. He ended a time of darkness in my life. God knew I needed him then, and He blessed me with another wonderful man of God! I have been so blessed to have two husbands who were/are in ministry with a heart after God. The time between them was a period of grief and darkness, but as our verse tells us today, we are to rejoice always…even in the darkness.

I am also thankful for the talent He has given me in music. I am so grateful to be able to be part of the Worship Team at my church. I find it a blessing to express my gratefulness, love, and devotion to Him through my singing and playing. I can use the talent He has given me for His glory.

Most of all I am thankful for His salvation. His grace is above and beyond anything I can even imagine. He loved me before I loved Him! He sought me out and drew me to Himself because He wanted a relationship with me. As I look at my Bible Journaling page, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess, but then I remember, He takes my mess and makes it something beautiful and for that, He gets the glory!

Our verse says we also are to pray unceasingly! Now, that doesn’t mean that we are in constant prayer, unable to do anything but pray. No, we are to be in an attitude of prayer daily. Our thoughts should be in a conversation with our Lord and Master throughout the day. In that way, we keep our relationship with God strong. It helps us to hear His voice, we become familiar to His still, small, voice even when constant chaos and noise is around us. As we listen to His leading and we spend time with Him, as we’ve been discussing, we can then allow His light to shine in and through us, drawing others to Him. As we go about our day doing the things we must do, our attitude should be that of being in contact with Him, seeking His will and asking what would give Him glory and honor.

Our verse today also goes on to say that we are to give thanks in everything! That includes times when nothing is going right. My husband is teaching me to praise God even when we don’t get what we prayed for, or when things are falling apart. He daily says, “Thank you God for this difficulty. I don’t understand why things went this way, but I give you praise for it anyway.” He is an example of giving thanks in everything. I admire him for being the example I need to see. I’m not one to say thank you for hard times, for the most part, and I need to learn how to honestly say thank you at that moment. What I notice about our verse is, it is God’s will for us to be thankful even in times of distress.

Even though this is the time of year that we are more conscious about being grateful, it is not just at Thanksgiving that we are to be thankful, it is for every day of our lives. When we show gratitude, it also allows God’s light to shine out to a dark world that needs to see a clear pathway to salvation and life.

Embrace the Season You’re In

 

As we finish our series on seasons, our Scripture today is Psalm 30:5, “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning.” (CSB) As we go through the different seasons of our lives, we need to understand that, “This too shall pass.” Especially when we are going through desert times or times of great difficulty.

I am an impatient person. I’ll just start out with that. Waiting is not a strong suit for me. Right now, my husband and I are seeking God’s direction regarding making a move back to Montana. I lived there for 10 years and I loved it. I consider it home even though I wasn’t born there. Right now, we are in a period of waiting. Looking for God to tell us what we are to do, whether we move there or not, when to move if we are to move, and how we are to go about getting rid of the house we are in now. It seems as if He is being silent. Is it, “now is not the right time?” Is it “No, don’t move?” We don’t know what God has in store for us. Our house has been up for sale over a year and we’ve had a couple of people come to look at it, but nothing. Unfortunately, we live in a state no one wants to live in. That doesn’t help our situation any.

I must cling to the part of the verse that says that His favor lasts a lifetime. I know He has a good plan for me, and I know that if I stay in that plan, it will go well with me. I tend to jump out ahead of God and try to “help.” That usually goes sideways. I must remember what my husband always says, “Delay is not denial.” I also must remember that if I lag behind God’s leading, that also can end badly. I must be in step with God’s plan for my life. Therefore, I must embrace this season of waiting. Take each day, each moment, one step at a time, holding onto God’s hand.

What season are you going through? Is it something that is such a blessing that you want to never end? Is it a time of sorrow that you wish would pass quickly? Is it a time of waiting for direction?

David seemed to go through times when it seemed as if God was silent. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me and heard my cry.” (KJV) David’s obedience paid off. He called out to the Lord and God heard him and answered. Notice it doesn’t say immediately, but it does say, God heard and answered. Embrace the time of waiting and know God does hear and will answer when the time is right. Know that the times of blessing are put in place to help us gain encouragement. We may want to stay in that time of “everything is going right”, but we must realize that we don’t grow in the good times, but we grow in the desert and valley times. It is in those times that our faith is strengthened. We must embrace them and value them as much as we embrace the good times.

Seasons change. We are in the time of the year when we go from Summer to Fall. Everything around us is changing. The trees are losing their leaves, the temperatures for some of us are getting cooler, everything is moving to prepare for Winter. I’m not a Winter girl, I’m a Summer girl, and the time of year we are in now is not my favorite. It just reminds me that Winter is coming, and I’m not very excited about it. Yes, I’m wanting to move to Montana and that means Winter comes in a big way. However, most of the time Winter isn’t too bad there, and I don’t mind it so much. I learned to embrace it when I lived there. So, I must embrace this season of my life right now.

Can you embrace the season you are in and know God has your life in His hands? Do you know that His plans for you are for your good, to give you a future and a hope? (Jeremiah 29:11) Take hold of this season, embrace it, and hold onto God’s loving hand and allow Him to lead you into the next season.

Resting in Christ

As we have been looking at living life and resting, I want to step away from the physical aspect of rest and look at resting from a Spiritual perspective. Today’s Scripture is Hebrews 4:9, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” (KJV) As we read the verses around our Scripture, the writer of Hebrews is talking about resting in Christ and that we as Believers can find our rest in Jesus. During the time of the Israelites’ Exodus to the Promised Land, they were people who couldn’t find rest because they were relying on Moses, Joshua, and the Law to bring that rest to them. However, none of these could give them the rest they desired. They struggled continuously, even after they entered the Promised Land, they were not able to find that peace and rest they so longed for. They were unable to conquer the entire land and enjoy all the blessings that God had in store for them because they were relying on things other than God to bring that rest.

The writer of Hebrews writes this chapter with the theme that Jesus is greater than Joshua because Christ finished the work for us on the cross to bring us that rest that we so desperately need. Joshua nor the Law could bring the rest of knowing our sins were wiped away, and therefore the work was unfinished, and no rest could be found. The people were enslaved still in their hearts because they had no assurance that their sins were completely paid for. They had to offer sacrifices for their sins. Jesus paid the penalty of death that must be paid for sin.

Because Jesus paid our penalty, we can rest in Him, not just for the payment of our sins, but also in being able to trust Him for every situation we face. Not only can we rest in the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven and the debt has been paid, but we can also rest in the fact that Jesus can be trusted to guide us through this life. When we are being blessed, we can trust Him and rest in His blessings. When life is throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink, and maybe even the kitchen sink, we can rest in knowing He’s got this. Nothing we face comes to Him by any surprise, and He will hold us through the struggle. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

We know that He is faithful to keep His promises, He is faithful to help us (Hebrews 13:6) and we can rest in Him! Sometimes I struggle with resting in Jesus, especially when I am faced with a situation that looks impossible and there is nothing I can do about it. My default is to panic or worry myself into a frenzy. I forget that God has this, and this is not coming to Him by any surprise. He’s big enough to take care of it and doesn’t need my help. That’s when I need to step back, take a deep breath, and put it in His hands, and not take it back, which I also tend to do. Resting in Jesus means remembering all the times that He has come through for me, then believe and trust that He will do it again!

As Believers, we can rest in Jesus’ arms. When we allow Him to work in our lives to fulfill His plan for us, we will find that rest. Peace will flood our souls and we know that He has us in the palm of His hand, and He will never let us go. So, today find your rest in Jesus. Allow Him to work in your life and He will give you rest!

Freedom from Fear

Fear. It’s something each of us deals with. Some people are enslaved by fear to the point that they won’t step out and tackle something new. Some are afraid of something that may happen to them. Some are so fearful that it paralyzes them emotionally and sometimes physically. Our Bible Journaling comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) Notice the verse says that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Fear comes from the enemy!

Satan’s whole purpose is to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He wants to derail us in our walk with the Lord. He wants us so paralyzed in fear that we become ineffective witnesses for Christ, and our lives are in bondage to the fear that holds us. On Sunday, my Pastor spoke about how Satan speaks to us, telling us we are less than what God says we are, degrading us, telling us we can’t do this because….” In the process we become bound by what the enemy is telling us because we allow him to demean us in our minds. We can be locked up in fear.

But our verse tells us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Instead He gives us power, love, and a sound mind. Fear can be debilitating to the point of becoming a psychological disorder. Some people are afraid of being out in crowds or around people, that is called agoraphobia, and they are holed up in their houses, afraid to step outside. I have never experienced that kind of fear, but I do have a fear.

I am totally deaf in one ear due to an illness I had as a child. My fear is that I will lose my hearing totally in my good ear and go completely deaf. To this day I don’t like being in totally quiet rooms, I must have noise, the radio or TV, in the background. A few years ago, I experienced an ear infection that was so bad that I lost a part of my hearing in my good ear. My husband could stand next to me and yell in my ear and I could barely hear him. It scared me badly. I experienced the closest thing to being totally deaf, the thing I feared the most, and I was in a panic. Praise God for His healing and antibiotics and medication to clear the ear infection. I did regain my hearing, however; my hearing was diminished a little. I’ve worn hearing aids for about 30 years, and my hearing continues to decline. Losing my hearing completely is still a fear, but God has helped me through that experience, and it no longer is as strong of a fear as it was before. I have learned a little sign language, so that I will be able to communicate with others. I’m grateful for friends who are sign language interpreters and help me out when I don’t understand something. I’ve also learned to read lips a little.

There are other types of fear that can cause us to step back and not be who we are called to be. We can also be fearful to step out into an area of growth that God is calling us into. We must believe that we are who God says we are. We must remember that it is God who gives us the ability to do what He has called us to. When I first started doing my blog, I was very hesitant. Several years ago, a prophetic word, that I was to begin journaling and I would be ministering to others, was spoken over me. First, I had never had a prophetic word spoken over me before and I wasn’t sure just how to take it. After consulting with my Pastor and talking to some others about what I felt God was leading me to, I launched out. It has been a slow beginning, but I am now beginning to see some rewards, small ones, but rewards none the less. I had to believe that I was able to do what God said I could do and not allow fear to stop me from being obedient to step into my calling.

We must go to God’s Word to reaffirm what He says about us. Romans 8:37 tells us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (NASB) God promises that He will not forsake us. (Psalm 37:25) Ephesians 4:8 tells us that He leads us out of slavery. “Wherefore he saith ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.’” (KJV) Philippians 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) Jesus gives us the strength and helps us to step out into whatever it is that we need to do.

We can follow God and His call on our lives because He does not give us the spirit of fear, He frees us from it. All we need to do is allow Him to free us from that fear and surrender it to Him.

Clinging to God Brings Life

Our relationship with God is determined by how close we are to Him. In today’s Bible Journaling, God says we are to cling to Him because this is our life. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (NASB) Our life comes from God, physically and spiritually. In order to receive the blessings of God, we must choose the pathway He has laid out for us and we must be obedient to His Word.

In Hebrew the word “L’Chaim” means “to life”. This is a common toast given at Jewish weddings. It is a blessing upon the new couple for a long and happy life. In our Scripture today God is encouraging Israel to turn from their rebellion by being obedient to Him, and walking closely to Him, thereby choosing the life God gives over the death that disobedience and rebellion brings. Israel had been contentious from the moment they came out of Egypt. They were always complaining, going against everything the Lord had directed them to do, and because of their disobedience, a whole generation were kept out of the Promised Land. Israel continued, even after being in the Promised Land, to rebel and follow the idols of other nations. This brought about judgement upon them. God had to punish their disobedience. However, He promised restoration if they chose to follow Him and live the life He laid down for them. He had given them the law by which they were to follow. If they chose to follow Him closely, life was theirs, if not then they would receive curses.

It is the same for us as Believers. God desires a close relationship with us, and He wants us to stay close to His side, live holy and pure lives, offering our last ounce of devotion and love to Him. By walking in the pathway He has for us, we receive eternal life. Blessings will be ours; a life of peace and joy will be our reward. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, and promising and endeavoring to live holy lives, we are guaranteed salvation and a life in eternity in Heaven with Him.

We must remember also that our lives are a shining example of the work God has done in our hearts. When we live pure, holy, and clean lives before the world and love God with all our heart, it is a testament of what Jesus has done for us. Our obedience brings a light that shines, reflecting Jesus’ light in us, and directs them toward God. When we live lives that are so radically different from the world, it becomes a beacon. Just as a lighthouse gives out light to keep ships safe in the harbor, the light of Jesus directs the world to a safe harbor into the arms of God and life.

When we read our Bibles in daily study and quiet time, pray, gather with fellow Believers, follow the instruction given in His word, and show love to others, we are choosing life over death and blessing over curses. Not only do we benefit from obedience to God, but so do those around us. They see how our obedience to Him affects our lives and it makes them desire what it is we have. We witness to others with our lives. The adage, “witness to others and when necessary use words” is so appropriate and true. Our lives are an open testimony of what God has done in us. Love God, live in obedience, and show His love to others. That is how we win this world for Jesus and receive life!