Be the Light

This month we are looking at how Jesus is the light and how we can let His light shine through us. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (NASB) It’s hard for me to imagine Heaven. There is no need of sun or moon, and it is light continuously. That to me is mind-boggling! But our verse tells us that what illuminates Heaven is the glory of God and that Jesus is the lamp used to reflect that light.

Jesus has told us in His Word that He is the light. (John 8:12) He goes on to say that if we follow Him, we will not be in darkness and will have the light. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord, Master, and Savior, He comes to live inside of us and our lives are filled with His light. When we allow His light to shine through us, we also become a light to others around us. Walking in the light of Jesus requires us to be obedient to His Word and live in such a manner that Jesus shines through us. We become a vessel for His light to shine out so that Jesus is seen in us.

The adage, “Actions speak louder than words” fits so well here. Many times, what we do screams louder than what we say. I remember my parents giving me the, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” line. The only problem with that was, their actions spoke louder to me than their words. We are to be lights in this world so that others will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It is so obvious that we live in a dark world. Everywhere we look the atmosphere around us is getting darker. There are times when it can get very scary when we hear of the things going on around us. It seems that Satan is having a hey-day. Sometimes I wonder how long God is going to let this nonsense continue. But then I remember that I must do my part to put light into this darkness. When I live according to God’s Will and Plan, I am allowing Jesus to shine through me so that those around me can see the right pathway to take.

We are to live in such a way that those who don’t know Jesus will find our lives attractive, drawing them to know who Jesus is, and desire to have what we have. Our lives are to be a witness to the unbeliever. When they see us living like Jesus, it attracts them, and they desire to know what it is in us that is different from themselves. This is the reason Peter says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear…” (I Peter 3:15 KJV) We are to be that light in a dark world, guiding them to Jesus. When they ask us, what is so different about us, we can tell them it’s Jesus living in us, and then share with them our story of how we came to know Jesus and what He has done for us. We are to be a witness! We are to be that light!

When we act just as the world acts, it’s like hiding our light under a bushel. (Luke 11:33) No light gets out, and unbelievers can’t see any difference between them and us. Our actions speak louder than our words. As Believers, we are held to a higher standard. We are to be the example to them of what a Christian is and how a Christian speaks and acts. We must allow Jesus’ light to shine through us to them. Be that light that shines so that Jesus is reflected.

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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.

Who is in Control of Your Season?

As we continue our series on seasons, today’s verse is Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” (NASB) Some seasons are easily traversed while others are very difficult. Some we wish would stay longer, others we can’t wait for them to be over and done.

As much as we want to control the seasons in our lives, we can’t. Only God has control over the seasons of our lives. In our Scripture today, Daniel has been summoned by King Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream he has had. Daniel’s first action is to go to God and ask for wisdom and the interpretation to be relayed to the king. When God has given him what he has asked for, Daniel offers a prayer of thanksgiving and acknowledgment that it is God who establishes the seasons, places and unseats kings, and gives wisdom to those who seek it.

There are so many times in our lives that we wish we could orchestrate things to go the way we wish. The times of struggle are seasons that we would like to avoid completely, but once through them, even though very difficult, we have found that God allowed us to go through that season for a purpose. Maybe it was to stretch us so that we can grow stronger in our faith. Maybe it was so that our experience may be a blessing and comfort to someone who is going through the same thing. God knows our pathways; He directs each step we take. As much as we try to control each season, what usually happens is that we become frustrated because the path isn’t going the way we want it to.

When my first husband was so sick, I wanted that season of my life to be over with so badly. I wanted my husband well, back to the way he was before his strokes and seizures. I wanted him walking, talking in complete sentences, working on his pet projects, and I wanted his wacky sense of humor back. Taking care of him was very difficult and as much as I didn’t mind that assignment, after seven years of struggle, I was becoming overwhelmed. I wanted my husband healed! I prayed and cried, and still, God’s plan was not for him to be healed here, but in Heaven. I was so frustrated because I had no control over the situation.

When we try to take control of the season we are in, sometimes it can backfire. When I was in my 40’s an opportunity presented itself where my husband and I could possibly adopt. At that stage of our lives, we had already been married for 25 years. We had tried to adopt when we were much younger, but circumstances were such that the adoption fell through due to the situation in the country we were trying to adopt from. Now at this time, we had another chance, I thought, to try again. My husband wasn’t completely on board with the idea. However, I desired a baby so badly that I ran full steam ahead going through with the process of home study and interviews with the adoption agency. I got myself so off-track, that I rebelliously told God that I didn’t care if it was in His will for me or not, I was going through with it. However, God shut the whole process down through the agenda of a social worker who was not on board with our assessment of discipline and rearing children. Once she heard the words Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family, it was an uphill battle. She shut us down and would not approve us for adoption. It was only then that I realized that as much as I tried to control the situation (the season, if you will) I couldn’t. God did not have it in His plan for us to be parents. That was the hardest lesson I ever learned.

Once we realize that it is God who controls the season, and not ourselves, we find that as we walk through the season we are in, allowing God to orchestrate situations to fit into His plan for us, we are much happier. We must relish the seasons that we treasure and enjoy, and hold onto God through the seasons that are hard. Even if a season is one of great delight, we must relinquish control over that season and realize that our life is in His hands. He knows where He is taking us, it is ours to follow along and trust Him.

What are You Harvesting?

As we continue our series on seasons, we are continuing to look at the harvest. Hosea 10:12 says, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (NLT) As I was reading and thinking about this verse, I asked God to show me what I needed to focus upon. The more I looked at the verse, the second part of it seemed to come to the forefront. As important as it is to plant good seeds of righteousness, the thought came to me, “You can’t plant if the ground is hard or not prepared for planting.”

As I remember how my Grandpa worked in the fields on his farm, I know he had to prepare the soil for seed. The ground would be hard from the winter snows and he needed to disk it to loosen up the soil. Seeds don’t grow in hard soil, at least not very well. So, can we “plow up” the soil of our hearts on our own? The next part of the verse gives us the answer; “now is the time to seek the Lord”, why? So that He can shower righteousness upon us. We have no righteousness on our own, therefore we would not have the seed to plant unless it came from God. When we plant righteousness, our harvest is love.

To plow up the soil of our hearts, we must be willing to allow God to do a work in us that will provide a climate conducive to growth. I know in my case; stubbornness can be a real problem. God, at times, needs to work overtime to get me to understand what it is He wants of me. Even when I understand, it may be something I’m not really wanting to do. Sometimes there are things that I’m doing that may be a comfort zone for me and I’m not willing to give it up. But it may be just that thing that may be hindering me in my walk with the Lord. I must do the hard work of “plowing up the hard ground” of my heart so that I can sow the seeds of righteousness to gain a crop of love.

When we look to God, He will help us. We don’t have to try on our own to remove the seeds of unrighteousness from our hearts, in fact, we can’t remove them ourselves, and we can’t plow up the old soil on our own either. We must “seek the Lord”. It is only with His help that the unhealthy soil and unrighteous seed in our hearts can be removed and replaced with good soil and then He gives us the seed of righteousness to plant in our hearts. As we continue to seek Him, walk closely in the pathway He has provided for us, we will gain a harvest of love – love toward God and love toward others.

As I look at the context of this verse, Israel is being chastised by the Lord. Hosea was God’s “mouthpiece” to the Israelites, delivering a message from God. Verse 13 says, “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies – trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe.” Israel turned their backs on God, deciding to do things in their own strength, not relying on God to guide them. Now, the Lord has come to the point where discipline must be meted out. Hosea Chapter 11 is God’s declaration of love toward Israel, and how He wants them to turn back to Him. He catalogs their sins, and in spite of all they have done, He still loves them.

God desires for us to walk with Him. He wants us to trust Him. He wants obedience from His children, and He desires more than anything to give us His blessings. He wants to shower upon us His love and righteousness. He wants us to harvest a thriving crop of love.

Live Life – Look Up

In today’s world, we can find ourselves so focused on work and projects and doing things that we don’t take the time to stop. Life calls to us from all avenues of things that must be done, drowning out the still small voice of God. Our lives become unbalanced and we tend to become wrapped up in the hectic activity. Today’s Bible Journaling is from I Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” (KJV)

God speaks to us daily, but I think we get ourselves so involved in the busyness of living that we don’t stop and listen. Our verse today tells us that we know the things of man because we are human (the spirit of man), but the things of God are revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. But when we get so tied up in the things and activities of this life that we can’t hear the Holy Spirit speak to us, then our life is unbalanced. God gave us an example to follow. We are to rest, to stop and replenish our energy. When He created the world, the universe, and everything in it, the Bible says God rested. (Genesis 2:2) Jesus also rested often with His disciples. Mark 6:31-32 says, “Because so many people were coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, `Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (NIV). In other words, Jesus said, “Fellows, you deserve a break today. Come to the desert and we’re going to rest.” (taken from Pastors.com – article by Rick Warren)

Resting can be anything from taking a walk and spending time with God, praying and singing praise to Him, to going on vacation to relax and get away from the daily grind and enjoy life around us. Look up and see the world around us, enjoy what He has created. It also can be a time of reflection. There are times we need to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are going. If life is going so fast that we can’t even breathe, then we run headlong into a life of exhaustion and chaos.

We can get so focused on work, family duties, and putting out fires all over the place, that we forget that we need to get away for a little while and get ourselves back into a place of balance. I know some people who accrue tons of vacation time, but they never use it. From where I stand, they are running headlong into a medical crisis because they won’t take the time to relax and gain strength from enjoying some downtime. Even those in ministry can be so driven that they are constantly going and don’t take some downtime. What they don’t realize is that God doesn’t require that we work ourselves to death. Yes, He has given us a talent, a ministry, a calling and we are to fulfill that calling but not to the extent that we become ineffective in our calling. We must listen to His call to take some time and rest.

When I lived in Montana there was a period where my pastor was going non-stop because within two months we had four people pass away, and he had to deal with preparing funerals and ministering to grieving families, plus preparing for Sunday sermons, and visiting the sick. He was exhausted and yet he wouldn’t take time away. It took the Church Board to make him go on vacation to rest up; it was not a request; it was a demand. He desperately needed to get away so that he could be an effective pastor to the congregation. His life was out of balance. He didn’t look up and listen to God telling him that he needed rest. Once he was rested, we could tell that he was relaxed and able to minister to us effectively.

As our verse says today, we can’t know the things of God unless we are listening to the Holy Spirit speak to us. We must slow down and listen, we must look up to Him and take in what He says. When He says it’s time to rest, then we need to stop and rest…rest in our physical lives, rest spiritually, and rest in His arms.

Freedom to Choose

As we’ve looked at the subject of freedom in Christ, we have learned about justification, sanctification, and now we look at glorification. Our Bible Journaling Scripture for today is Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (CSB)

So far, we have learned that justification is “the act of being declared righteous in God’s sight.” We have learned that sanctification means “to be made holy”. This is a process; it is a life-long journey. Now we look at glorification, which is defined as, “God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (through salvation). When Jesus comes back to take the Believer to Heaven with Him, “we will be changed from mortal to holy immortal with direct access to God’s presence.” (taken from http://www.gotquestions.org)

God did not create us to be mere automatons. He gave us the ability to choose the path we want to go. We alone decide whether to accept Jesus as our Savior or to reject Him. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, God provides the final removal of our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. Unlike the angels, who were created to worship God entirely, we have a choice. We choose to love Him; we choose to follow His will and His purpose for us. We have a choice!

My first husband was into robots. In fact, he was so enamored by them that he made a couple of them. The last one was almost 6 feet tall and it walked, talked, and moved its arms. We named him Ottomation. But Otto couldn’t do any of those things without my husband rigging up a control panel for him to move and by providing the voice for Otto. The robot couldn’t do anything unless my husband made it do what he wanted it to do. Otto was a robot and could only do what he was programmed to do. God did not want mindless robots who were programmed only to do His bidding. He wanted His people to have the free will to be able to choose whether they would love, honor, obey, and worship Him.

The first test of this was in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) God had only one rule for Adam and Eve, they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They failed the test miserably, and because of that, sin entered the world and we have been dealing with it ever since. Because of Adam’s sin, each of us was born in sin. In order to restore the relationship between God and us, we must accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. (John 3:3, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21, 4:12) God does not beat us over the head, demanding that we follow Jesus, but He lovingly offers us a way of escape from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23) through Christ’s death on the cross.

Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are promised eternal life with Him, free from all the hindrances we face now. God accepts our repentance, we receive His grace, and we can then live a life full of peace and joy and have the knowledge that God loves us and provides eternal life for us. We are promised that we will have a glorified body, like Jesus, and we will be in God’s presence face to face. The choice is ours. The question remains, “What will you do with Jesus?” I hope that if you haven’t asked Christ into your life, that today you will choose to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. It will be the best decision you will have ever made.

We are Free from the Power of Sin

As we continue to look at the subject of freedom, today we learn that we are free from the power that sin has over us. Romans 6:22-23 says, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB) We are all born in sin, every single one of us. As babies we have the selfish desires of being the center of everything, our needs and wants are top priority over everything else. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn not to be so self-centered, but there is still that within us that wants what it wants when it wants it. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth…and as such, it is the sinful part that was handed down to us from Adam.

The Apostle Paul tells us in our Scripture today that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, He frees us from our sins, and we are sanctified. I looked up the definition of sanctification in Dictionary.com. and sanctification is defined as “to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify or free from sin.” When we become Believers, we are set apart for God’s glory and to be used by Him to be an example of what God has done in us. Our attitude, our actions, our speech, everything about us is to reflect Jesus Christ living in us. Does that mean that after we become Christians we never sin? No, of course not! We are still human and fallible. However, Jesus made a way for us to be reinstated when we fall. His death on the cross and His shed blood covers us when we come to Him and repent of our sins. Does that mean we can just keep on sinning because we can continue to ask forgiveness? No! We are not to make a habit of sinning. We are to live lives that are set apart, holy, and consecrated to God.

The Christians in Rome dealt with this very problem. Paul tells them in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) It is true, God’s grace covers us when we sin, but we are not to abuse His grace toward us. Because Jesus paid for the penalty of sin, God has declared that we are sinless and perfect in His eyes, and it is He who gives you the power to overcome sin. God has sanctified us, made us holy, and because of this, we must live our lives in a way to give honor and glory to Him.

We can’t overcome sin on our own, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us defeat those things in us that would lead us into areas of sin. Temptation is not sin, however; succumbing to it is. When we delve into sinful attitudes and actions, not desiring to repent but continue, we can find ourselves in trouble. We can put ourselves into situations where we easily fall prey to the traps of the enemy. Each one of us has areas in our lives that we battle with daily. It is then that we must turn to Jesus, ask for His help and hold onto His hand, allowing Him to guide us in the pathway we are to go.

For me, I struggle with my weight, like a lot of us I suppose. I find that my “I want what I want when I want it” voice pops up more times than I like to admit. I fight that every single day. I’m not much on exercise either. My motto has always been, “Exercise will kill ya!” (LOL) My overindulgence in eating and not exercising is, for me, sin. I need to overcome my selfishness and seek God’s power to overcome in this area of my life. I have moments where I am successful, but then there comes a time when I’m tired of being good on my diet and I’m back where I started. Living a sanctified life isn’t always easy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s leading, we can be successful. We then can experience the freedom that comes in relenting to Jesus and turning our back on those things that lead us into sin.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can put our rebellion behind us and be free from the power and penalty of sin. We can rejoice, knowing that through Him we are free!