Hope That Brings Strength

 

Today we are looking at a very familiar verse to most Christians, Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (KJV) That kind of strength comes only from God! Our hope is in God. Remember, we have said that the kind of hope we are talking about is confidence…confidence in God, confidence that He will do what He has promised, confidence that no matter what we go through, He has our back, and that no problem is too big or too small for Him.

There are days we go through when it just seems like it’s too much. Everything seems harder than it should. We can barely keep ourselves together, much less accomplish a task. That’s where hope in God’s strength comes into play. We rely on His strength to get us through. When we feel we can barely crawl, He gives us the strength to walk, then to run. Our hope, our confidence is in knowing we are not alone, He walks with us, sometimes, He carries us.

Our Scripture reference talks about mounting up with wings as eagles. If you have never seen eagles fly, it is an absolutely amazing thing to see. When I lived in Montana, in the fall, the eagles would fly over the canyon in their mating ritual. It was awesome to see them do their mating dance and see the strength they had in their wings to be able to grab their talons together and fly hooked to one another. God gives us that kind of strength. We are held by God, He gives us strength to persevere through each circumstance, and our hope, our confidence, grows with each situation we face.

I know for me, God has given me strength in several instances. My husband and I have gone through a hard time over the last two years. We were married March 25, 2017, and right after that he went to the doctor for a yearly physical. The doctors found something wasn’t right and he had to have a biopsy. We waited to go on our honeymoon because my niece was getting married in May, and we decided to take it then. While we were on our honeymoon, the doctor’s office called and told us that my husband, Kraig, had prostate cancer. We both were rocked to our core. But God held us both up through the whole process of Kraig’s treatment. After having radiation treatments, a lot of prayer from family, church, and friends…Kraig was declared cancer free on October 23, 2017! His last test a few months ago showed an improvement in his test scores, in fact they were lower than previously! He still is being watched by the doctor, but for all practical purposes, there is no more treatment needed, just to keep an eye on things. We are rejoicing for God’s goodness and care. I thank Him for the strength He gave us and the hope of knowing that He is a healer.

That hope, that confidence, that God would do as He promised is what held us together and kept us from falling apart. It not only strengthened us spiritually, but also strengthened our commitment to one another. We found out that we could go through anything if we could go through that. We both held on to God, believing in His healing power for Kraig, and we gained strength.

Our Scripture says we are to “wait upon the Lord.” That means to trust His timing on things, trust that He knows our situation and knows the solution, and have the confidence that nothing that happens to us goes without notice by Him. Then we can fly like the eagles, we can run and walk, and not faint.

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His Love Leads Us

 

As we continue to look at aspects of God’s love, today’s verse tells us that His love leads us. Exodus 15:13 says, “In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them in Your holy habitation.” (NASB) I love the idea that God leads us through each mountain and valley of our lives.

As I was thinking about this verse, I began to think back at my own life. I can see God’s hand guiding me and I see where He led me even though I had no clue which way to go. I became a Christian at the age of 11 in a Youth Group meeting on a Sunday night. I had been having disturbing dreams for a few weeks, dreams of not being a Christian and finding myself in Hell. I know God was talking to me through my dreams, trying to draw me to Himself. I don’t know why I didn’t accept Jesus after having those dreams, but I didn’t. One Sunday night, a guest came to our Youth Group and asked this question, “Why are you a Christian?” She asked it to the whole Youth Group. Each person gave their reason for why they asked Jesus to be their Savior. When it came my turn, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t give her an answer because I wasn’t a Born-Again Believer, and I admitted it. It was then that my pastor asked me if I would like to ask Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. God just wouldn’t let me get out from under His loving invitation.

He guided my life in a miraculous way, at least I think so. When I was in my mid 20’s I wasn’t in the habit of listening to the Christian radio station in our city, but one day I was having a really bad day and decided to tune in. It was then that I heard a promo for their singing group, asking those who wanted to join to come to an audition. I decided I didn’t have anything going on, and it might be nice to be part of the group. I went to auditions and was accepted and it was there I met my first husband. God led me to decide to listen to that station at that particular time, and it changed my life! It began almost 40 years of ministry in broadcasting as my husband and I served Christian radio and television stations for the majority of our lives. I’ve often said God has taken me on an adventure. I had no inkling that broadcasting would be in my life. In high school that was the farthest thing from my mind.

The hardest day of my life was when my husband died. God led me through that dark valley for six years. Being a widow was very hard for me, but God was right there carrying me through that dark time. In the midst of that valley a guest speaker came to our church and he spoke a prophetic word over me, telling me that I would minister to people all over the world using journaling. That troubled me, because I wasn’t a good journaler…very sporadic. But his words haunted me, and about 2½ years ago I found Bible Journaling. Another one of the ways God has led me.

He also led me to get on the Internet and do some online dating and at the end of that six years, I met an incredible man on a Christian dating site, and six months later we were married. God led me to him and birthed a new ministry for me. My new husband has a ministry online and I have a blog into which I incorporate my Bible Journaling.

As I look back, I see God’s Hand so plainly in my life. He has led me every step of the way. It’s good to look back and see from where God has led us. His love is so incredible!
It is because of His love for us that He leads us along the pathway He has chosen for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He guides us in His strength Exodus 15: 13 tells us. He leads us right to the gates of Heaven, His holy habitation. Oh, how I praise Him for His guidance!

His Love Endues Forever

 

As we look at love this month, we must look at the love God has for us. Psalm 136 is a chapter that echoes one theme, “His love endures forever!” Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (NASB) The Amplified Bible says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever.”

We’ve already talked about the fact that God IS love. Now we look at how long His love lasts. Forever is a very long time. It’s great to know that He loves us no matter what. He loves us even though we are unlovable. In fact, the Bible says He loved us before we loved Him. (I John 4:19) Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.’” (KJV) He gently leads us with His love. When we are wandering around, not knowing which way to turn, His love is poured out upon us as He guides us in the pathway He has chosen for us. To those who don’t know Him yet, He draws them to Himself with love that lasts forever.

Even when we turn our backs on Him, He still loves us. The children of Israel were such a rebellious people, constantly trying God’s patience, and yet, despite their disobedience, He still loved them. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34 KJV) Jesus looked over Jerusalem in sadness because they didn’t recognize Him, they were still disobedient, and they rejected His love for them.

His love isn’t like human love. As humans, we tend to love only those who are lovable, or those who can give us something we want, or those who only do good to us. God loves us regardless of those things. Even when we shake our fists in anger at Him, He loves us. It’s His love that sustains us in the difficult times. It is His love that holds us when we are in despair. It is His love that rejoices with us in times of great victory. It is His love that compels us to come to Him when we recognize that it is only through Jesus that we are saved.

God has directed us to have the same kind of love for others as He has for us. Ephesians 5:2 says, “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (NASB) John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (KJV) The reason for this is found in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” (KJV)

God has an enduring love for us that surpasses any that we’ve ever experienced, and we are to pattern ourselves after Him. We will never achieve that level of perfect love that God has for us, but we are to strive for that mark of excellence. He knows we will never be able to love Him like He loves us, but He wants us to endeavor to be more like Him every day.

Oh, How He Loves Us!


Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (NASB) This month we are focusing on God’s love for us. I love this verse because it tells me that He loves us to a thousandth generation! His love is never ending, He is faithful, and He keeps His covenant with us.

As I was working on my journaling, I kept thinking about His love for a thousandth generation. That’s a long time! I can’t even fathom that! Over and over again the Bible tells us how much God loves us, He just keeps reminding us of His love for us. The Bible gives us 310 verses in the King James Version about God’s love, 131 times in the Old Testament, and 179 times in the New Testament (info from Google). That’s a lot of reminder for us! He never wants us to forget how much He loves us!

He loves us with an everlasting love! (Jeremiah 31:3) His heart breaks when we turn our backs on Him and decide to go our own way. Our rebellion causes Him great pain. (Jeremiah 8:18-9:3) Just as when we disappoint or rebel against our earthly parents, they are in great pain, because despite everything they’ve tried to do, we rebel and go against their teachings, leading, and guidance. Then there must be discipline. When we rebel against Him, God disciplines us, and He disciplines us in love. (Hebrews 12:3-11)

He lovingly guides us along the pathway He has chosen for us. We must remember that His plan is the best plan for our lives, and that His guidance is given in overwhelming love. Agape love…unconditional love. No matter what, He loves us! When our hearts are breaking, He lovingly wraps us in His arms and comforts us. When we are rejoicing over something that brings us joy, He is right there rejoicing with us! In our quiet times, He lovingly whispers His Word to us, teaching us so that we can become more like Jesus.

His love is far above anything we can even imagine. He showed us His love by sending Jesus to die for our sins. (Romans 5:8) The Bible says that He loved us before we loved Him. (I John 4:19) John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) He gave Himself for us! John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (NASB)

He stays close to us! He keeps us in the palm of His Hand! (Isaiah 49:16), in fact the Scripture says He inscribes us…carves us into the palm of His Hand. He can never let us go! What awesome love the Father has for us!

So, as we focus on God’s love this month, remember, you are never alone, for He is always with you. When you hurt, He hurts, when we laugh, He rejoices with us, when we are in despair, He is right there to offer comfort and loving arms. HE LOVES YOU!

Think Carefully

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Haggai 1:5, “Think carefully about your ways.” (CSB). This month we’ve been talking about having goals, making plans, and God’s plans and promises. To give a little background on this passage, the prophet, Haggai was directed by God to give a message to Zerubbabel, who was the governor of Judah. God was displeased with the children of Israel because they had tended to their own houses and left the temple in ruins. They were supposed to be rebuilding the temple, but they were more concerned with their own personal comfort and well-being, that they disregarded God’s house while reconstructing their own homes.

God gave them a directive, “Think carefully about your ways.” He mentions this twice, in verse 8 God once again tells them, “Think carefully about your ways.” He’s dead serious about this, hence the repeating of his instruction. Their hearts were in the wrong place. They did not desire to be obedient, and God showed His displeasure with their heart attitudes. Verse 6 talks about how they planted but their harvest amounted to little. They eat and drink, but they are not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they never have enough to stay warm. God held back blessings from them because of their disobedience and disregard for His house. Therefore, He charges them to think carefully about all they have done.

As we sit down and make our goals, and make plans to accomplish those goals, we must think carefully about how we are going to accomplish what we want. Whether it’s something as physical as losing weight, or as spiritual as becoming more like Christ in attitude and action, we must carefully think about how we are going to meet that goal.

As I recently recounted about a neighbor who failed to sit down and plan out the building of his house and failed miserably, we can fail in accomplishing our goals without careful planning, thinking about what steps we must take to be successful, setting ourselves up for meeting that goal.

In a spiritual sense, not only must we think carefully about how we will be more like Jesus, but we must also consult God. Spending time in prayer and Bible study, seeking wisdom from godly counselors, all help us to accomplish our desire to be more like Him.

For me, the first step is taking account of where I am right now with Jesus. What attitudes and actions am I exhibiting? Are they reflecting a Christ-like attitude? If not, what do I need to do to change? Then I need to go to God in prayer, asking Him to help me be the person He wants me to be. As I look into His Word, I must ask Him to show me verses that will help me to succeed. Accomplishing my goal is done one step at a time. As I succeed with each trial that makes me choose the right attitude or action, I then need to thank Him for His help. When I have reached the goal then I must remember not to let pride take hold, for if I become prideful then I am like the children of Israel who disregarded God’s instruction.

Heart attitude is so important. We can cause all the good we do to be of no account because of a poor heart attitude. Then the goals we have accomplished become as nothing. “Think carefully about your ways.” Only then can we be truly successful in achieving our goals.

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.

Delay is not Denial

 

Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Isaiah 53:8-9, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.”  This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”  This week we are looking at seeking counsel, and as I began my Bible Journaling, I was having a difficult time deciding just what direction I wanted to take.  I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so to speak, as I’ve already done a post on seeking counsel, and so I was talking to my husband about what direction I should take, whether to continue with the topic of seeking counsel or go a different direction.  He said something that has kind of become his mantra.  He said that a main tenant of counseling is, “Delay is Not Denial.”

As he was talking, the idea of God’s timing is not ours, came into my mind.  We are in an “instant” society.  Everything seems to be instant this or instant that.  Instant coffee, TV dinners in the microwave, instant communication with texting, and on and on it goes.  Patience is not an idea that seems to be popular these days.  I’m reminded of the lady who prayed, “God give me patience and give it to me right now!”  As funny as that sounds, a lot of us are just like that lady…patience is not our strong suit.

But God says that His ways are not our ways…His plans for us, His ways, are higher than ours.  Psalm 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (ESV) God sees things a whole lot differently than we do, and to us it seems as if He takes way too long.  When we are seeking His counsel on a matter and we are waiting for the answer, it may seem as if He will never answer.  But remember, “Delay is NOT Denial!”  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the answer is no, it may be that it isn’t the proper time for that answer.

So, what should we do while we are waiting?  Continue to seek God regarding the matter.  Read His Word to help discern what it is God is telling us and wait patiently for the proper timing of our request to be fulfilled.  Is there something that we need to do to prepare for the answer?  Maybe there is something about ourselves that needs to be resolved first before the answer can come.  Maybe the circumstances about the situation are not all in place yet for the answer to come.  All these things may have an effect on when the answer comes.

God’s plans are for our good, He sees the end from the beginning.  He sees the big picture, where we can only see just a small part of the plan He has for us.  Many times, we don’t understand what He is doing in our lives.  Continue to seek His counsel, continue to wait on His timing, and wait patiently.