Changing Seasons

As we enter Fall, we are looking at a new season. Summer is fading, Fall is approaching, and Winter will soon be upon us. Seasons come and go with each passing year. For me, Fall and Winter are not my favorites. True, Fall is beautiful with all the different colors, but that means that Winter will be upon us and that means cold and snow…not my favorite thing to deal with. We enter different seasons in our lives also. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” (NASB) The King James Version puts it this way, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

As we read Ecclesiastes, Solomon seems to be in a depressed mood, talking about how everything is just vanity. Then he sort of snaps out of it when he remembers that everything we experience comes under the watchful eye of God, our Father. As we read the third chapter, Solomon goes on to expound about the different seasons of our lives. As we enter different seasons in our lives, we must remember also, each season is under God’s careful care. There is a reason for each season in our lives that we face. Some seasons may be placed in our lives to help us grow and mature in our Christian walk with God. Some may be as an encouragement for others who may be going or will go through, the same thing. Learning how to navigate each season is what helps us grow.

As I went through the season of widowhood, I learned that grieving the loss of a spouse was different than grieving the death of my father. The grief was totally different. This year, my family is dealing with the death of my nephew, who died way too young, and that kind of grief is different from either of those other deaths. Through each of these situations, God is walking with us. Things have happened in my family as a result of my nephew’s death that causes my heart to rejoice! Family members have drawn close to the Lord, and I’m watching in amazement at how they are walking in peace, knowing God has them in the palm of His hand. They are drawing closer each day to Him, and being intentional in their Bible study, church attendance, and even beginning to witness. My heart is so grateful to God for taking them in His arms and helping them.

I am now remarried, and I’m finding that this season of marriage is different from my marriage with my first husband. I find I need to learn how to relate to someone who is so different, and there is a learning curve here. Even in this, God is walking with me, helping me to deal with each situation we face together as a couple. We are learning to appreciate each other more, accept the differences, and life is on a good path.

As each of us faces each new season in our lives, we must look to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) He has experienced every season we have, and He alone can help us through each experience.  (Hebrews 4:15) He knows what it is to experience loss, joy, financial difficulties, sadness, betrayal, and on and on. Everything we have gone through, He knows what it is like because He also went through those things. Therefore, we can trust Him to help us.

Seasons come and go, but we have this solid confidence…Jesus never changes, and He is our stability as we go through each season. As you face different seasons, remember, each season is for a purpose. Embrace each season with confidence, and know you are not alone!

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Living a Full Life

As we finish our look at living life, many of us find it difficult to live a life that is full of joy, peace, and fulfillment. The Bible tells us there is a reason for that. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NASB) Our enemy, the Devil, seeks to take away any peace, joy or fulfillment we can have in life. His goal is to see that as Believers, we live a life that is ineffective in reaching others for Christ. He will do anything he can to defeat us in every area of our lives.

As we look at our Scripture today, Jesus has been talking to the people with the parable of The Good Shepherd. He explains that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and will not respond to anyone else. They are so close to him that they instantly recognize his voice as he calls them. He also tells them that the shepherd is the door to the sheep pen, and anyone who enters through the door other than the shepherd is a thief and a robber. In Bible times, sometimes many shepherds had to leave their sheep in a “community sheepfold” and someone was hired to be the doorkeeper. Each shepherd would come to get his sheep and would call to them. Only his sheep knew his voice and they would follow him. If anyone else tried to call his sheep, they would not follow because they did not know their voice.

Many times, our enemy tries to call us away from the abundant life found in Christ. I looked for a definition of what abundant life meant, and Wikipedia described it as, “a life abounding in joy and strength in mind, body, and soul.” For me, it means that my life is full of peace, joy, and fulfillment. I can find that abundant life only through Jesus Christ. As I live my life in a way that would bring honor and glory to God, then I can live a life that is complete, a life that is so full that I can hardly stand it.

Daily stresses can hinder us from living that abundant life. When we try to juggle work, home life, relationships, and the myriad of other things that we encounter daily, it can become so overwhelming that we find ourselves wanting to get away from it all. But, as we have seen in our series, all we need to do is look up to the One who can help us. See what God is asking for us to do. Maybe it’s just to step away from all the chaos and rest in Him. Maybe He’s asking us to trust Him in the path He is leading us, even though it makes no sense. Whatever He wants from us, that is the way to living the abundant life.

In my life, right now, I am dealing with physical pain in my knees and my back. I can let this get me down to the point of not doing anything because I’m in pain, thereby, living like a hermit and not getting out and enjoying life, or I can ask God for the strength to keep going and determine that I’m not going to let it get me down. I just spent a week at my sister’s because I had my 50th high school reunion, and while my hubby and I were there, we didn’t just sit around, we were on the go almost every day. Thank goodness for Ibuprofen and a cane! We walked more last week than I have in a long time. I was able to enjoy my high school reunion, go to a HUGE flea market, go to the zoo, visit some childhood friends, and visit the local Renaissance Faire. I lived life to the fullest despite the pain. Satan has tried his best to set me back in my walk with God, through physical pain. But I can say with firm conviction, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV)

If you are facing difficult circumstances, remember that it is Jesus who is able to deliver us, He is the One who gives us the strength, it is through Him that we have that abundant life!

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!

The Joy of Worship

This morning I woke with the chorus of a song running through my head. The name of the song is “Humble Hearts Cry (All I Wanna Do)” and the chorus goes like this:

ALL I WANNA DO IS LOVE YOU
ALL I WANNA DO IS WORSHIP YOU
ALL I WANNA DO IS LAY HERE RIGHT AT YOUR FEET
AS I LIFT MY HANDS TO HEAVEN
LET YOUR FIRE FALL DOWN ON ME
REKINDLE THE FIRE WITHIN ME LORD ONCE AGAIN!

This song has stayed with me all morning and I decided to journal about worship. I began searching for Scripture that would speak to the lyrics of the song. I found so many verses where we are commanded to worship God, and I was beginning to get frustrated because I wanted a verse where the author was worshipping God because of their deep love for Him and not because they were commanded to worship. Then I found Psalm 63:1. David is showering his love upon God by saying, “O God, You are my God, I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (NASB)

This is just what I was looking for! David echoes the longing of my heart. I love it when God puts a song in my mind, and it stays with me all day long! My heart sings to God as I think of how awesome He is. He has walked with me through joys and sorrows, through disappointments and triumphs, in the good and the bad, He has always been there! Oh, how I love Him!

I love how David says that his soul thirsts for God and his flesh yearns for Him. It is a burning desire to worship God and to keep his relationship with the Lord strong. Most of us think of worship as music – singing about our love for God and offering our praise to Him. But worship can be in many forms. It can be in the stillness when we allow God to speak to us and we marvel at how much He loves us. Worship can be reading His Word and learning more about His character. It can be seeing His beautiful creation and thanking Him for making such a beautiful world for us to live in. Worshipping God can be expressed in so many ways. For those of us who Bible Journal, that is a form of worship for us as we express what we are learning in Scripture, through our artwork. We show in visual form what God is speaking to our hearts.

God created us with a desire to worship. Everyone has that desire, Believer and Non-Believer alike. For those who don’t know Christ, worship can be anything from material goods to their job. They can worship movie stars or sports figures, people of influence. They place so much importance on these people and things and are so devoted that nothing else matters. They live for these things. But these people and things can’t give the satisfaction that comes from worshipping God.

God created us to worship Him! He placed a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled with Him. He desires for us to love Him and have a deep relationship with Him. It is only through our relationship with Him that we are complete. Our worship of God and who He is, what He means to us, and our love for Him help us live in peace, joy, and a sense of everything is right with the world. When we take the time to worship Him just for who He is, our hearts are so full of love for Him. I encourage you today to take the time to worship Him and you will find yourself full of adoration for our great God, I guarantee it!

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 Penalty of Sin

As we continue talking about our freedom in Christ, we understand that the most important freedom we have is our freedom from the penalty of our sin. Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (CSB) Jesus has paid the penalty for us!

In J. Vernon McGee’s Commentary on Romans, he writes that verse one should literally read, “Therefore now, not one condemnation.” Isn’t that an amazing thought? There is nothing for which God condemns us. We don’t need to worry about being condemned because Jesus took care of our penalty for sin on the cross. As Believers, we do at times, fall into sin. But we don’t have to stay there, and when we repent and ask forgiveness, God forgives, and we are free. He does not condemn us. If we feel any condemnation, it comes from the enemy. It is Satan who sits on our shoulder pointing out our faults and failures, condemning us, telling us we are not good enough to be a Christian, telling us that God couldn’t possibly love us and that because we failed we have lost our place in God’s family. The Apostle Paul tells us, “not one condemnation”, is placed upon us! We are justified. Justification can be defined as, “Just as if I hadn’t sinned.” The dictionary defines justification as, “the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God.” That is just what Jesus did for us on the cross. His death on the cross paid for the penalty of our sins. He took our sins upon Himself.

Our verse tells us also that “the law of the Spirit of Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” In J. Vernon McGee’s commentary, he states, ‘“The law of the Spirit’ means not only a principle of law, but also the authority which is exercised by the Spirit. ‘The Spirit of life’ means the Holy Spirit who brings life because He essentially is life. He is the Spirit of life. ‘In Christ Jesus’ means that the Holy Spirit is in complete union with Christ Jesus. Because the believer shares the life of Christ, He liberates the believers.” Isn’t that amazing? Because we share Jesus’ life, we are freed because of what He did for us.

So, how do we go about sharing in the life of Christ so that we may be liberated? We must believe that Jesus is God’s Son, was born of a virgin, lived on earth to preach and teach about who God is, was beaten, tortured, and crucified to pay the penalty of our sins, was buried for three days, resurrected, and ascended to Heaven to reign with His Father. We must repent (ask forgiveness) of all our sins, ask Him to live within us, change us, and endeavor to live for Him, and then thank Him for His grace to us. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (CSB) Once we have accepted Jesus as Savior, we can receive freedom from our sins.

If you are looking for that freedom, take that step forward. Ask Jesus to save you from your sins and live inside of you. Don’t put it off. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “…now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! You will find that it will be the best decision you have ever made. Then you will experience that freedom from the penalty of sin and death, and you will find that you are living with peace and joy in your heart.

Fear Ensnares – Trust in the Lord Brings Freedom

Fear can stop us in our tracks.  It can paralyze us; it can stop whatever dreams we have from coming to fruition.  Fear of what others say or think of us can trap us into a prison so that we just stand still.  Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (KJV) Our verse says that fear of men can ensnare us.  Trusting in God can release us from that prison of fear.

Fear of other’s thoughts and opinions of us can hinder us from stepping out into our dreams and ambitions.  However, we must trust in God’s opinions and His thoughts of us.  If He is calling us out of our comfort zone, there will be plenty of people ready, and willing, to put a damper on our desire to fulfill that call.  However, we must trust that God knows the best for us.  If He has called us into an area for our growth, He will give us the ability to accomplish it. He will encourage us to push forward.  When we put our trust in what God says about us, we can break free of the fear of what others may try to do or say to hinder us.

Our verse today says that when we trust in the Lord, we are safe!  Chains of fear are broken.  When we are fearful of failure, we can remember, “I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 CSB) When we are fearful of other’s opinions, we can go to God’s Word and read the myriad of verses of how He loves us and how precious we are to Him.  When we are fearful of a doctor’s diagnosis, we can remember that it is by Jesus’ stripes that we are healed. (I Peter 2:24)

When we are afraid, God tells us in Isaiah 43:1 “…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” (NIV) Trusting God will bring peace and joy.  (John 14:27, Psalm 94:19) We can say with David, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1 NIV) Trusting in God gives us courage and boldness.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (NIV)

We can step out into areas that we may not be comfortable in. We can also step out in faith into areas of ministry, knowing that God is with us, encouraging, guiding, and giving us the boldness to reach out to others who need to hear of His love for them.  We need not allow fear to hold us back because we know we are safe with the Lord when we trust in Him.