Jesus Shows Up in Your Storm!

Have you ever read a passage in Scripture and wondered what the main focus or take away from it was? That was the case when I read John 6:15-21. On the surface it’s the story of Jesus walking out on the water in the storm and the disciples were in the boat scared that what they were seeing was a ghost coming at them. Now, I read this over and over and I have to admit, I couldn’t see what the purpose of this story was or why it was recounted in the Bible. I journaled this page months ago, but never finished because I just couldn’t see what I needed to see, and I just put it away for a while.

To set the backdrop of the story, Jesus had just performed a miracle by feeding the five thousand. That’s pretty amazing considering all He had to start with was five barley loaves and two fish. Now, the disciples saw this miracle as did everyone else there. Then people were talking about making Him king right then and there, and He discerned that they would take Him by force to make Him king, so He went to a mountain to pray and to be alone. The disciples decided to get in the boat and head across the sea. When they got to the middle of the sea a very strong storm blew in. That’s when they saw Jesus walking on the water. The storm was all around them and they were becoming fearful of the storm, but when they saw Jesus walking on the water, they really were frightened because they didn’t know it was Him, they thought He was a ghost. One commentary I read said that they were more afraid of the ghost than they were the fierceness of the storm.

The main take away I got from this encounter is, when you are going through a really hard trial, a storm if you will, Jesus shows up in the middle of the storm. One of the commentaries I read said that when Jesus went to the mountain, He was praying for the disciples to be strong in the storm, to not be fearful. So, that tells me that He knows I’m in the storm and He is interceding for me to be strong in spite of all that is going on around me. But then, He shows up in the middle of the storm to assuage my fears, to comfort me, and give me strength to persevere through that trial to victory on the other side.

The story goes on to say that once Jesus got in the boat, they immediately landed on shore to where they were going. Remember, the storm was in the middle of the sea, where they were, about halfway between where they left to where they were going…and the Bible says, immediately the boat landed on shore. Jesus performed another miracle just for the disciples, to strengthen their faith.

Now, does this mean that when Jesus shows up the trial is over immediately? Not necessarily. It’s possible that He would end the struggle right then and there, but sometimes we have more to work through. The good part of that is, He is standing right there encouraging us, helping us to endure and that builds up our faith, so that the next time we go through a trial, we are stronger going into it than we were the last trial.

I’m encouraged to know that I don’t have to deal with the hard stuff of life all on my own. I have a Heavenly Father who loves me, and knows exactly what I’m going through, where I am in the process, and how to help me through that storm. He has me covered from the beginning to the end, and His Son, Jesus, intercedes for me and steps in the middle of that storm to help me. This strengthens my faith and helps me realize that I can rely on Him for everything because He’s got my back!

Advertisements

Power


What do you think of when you hear the word, power? Do you see a strong man lifting heavy weights? Do you think of the overwhelming intensity of lightning, or of an engine equipped to do heavy work? The Bible says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

Some people talk as if the Holy Spirit is a thing. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and as such, is a living being, not an “it”. In my church we sing a song called, “Send it On Down”. It is a song asking for the Holy Spirit to come and inhabit our worship. However, my Pastor doesn’t like the idea of calling the Holy Spirit, “it”, and so we sing, “Send HIM on Down”. As such, we give the Spirit of God His rightful honor and ask for His presence to reveal Himself to us.

The book of Acts says the Holy Spirit will give us power. If the Holy Spirit was an “it”, I can’t imagine a thing being able to give us power. However, as a person in the God-head, He is able to endue us with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) So, what kind of power are we talking about? Let me give you a testimony from my own life.

I go to an Assemblies of God Church, and we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I first went to that church, it was a foreign concept to me because I was not raised in a Pentecostal denomination, my background was Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, and Covenant. I often describe myself as a “Christian Mutt.” After being part of this church for a couple of years, the desire to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit became very strong. I wanted a deeper relationship with God. I began praying and asking God to fill me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One Sunday night I went forward for prayer as I had before. This Sunday night, He granted my request and I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. My Pastor at the time, told us that when we received the Holy Spirit, we had access to power given by Him. At the time, I didn’t know or really understand exactly what that meant, but a few months later my first husband had a stroke, and then a year later he had another, more devastating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side, could only repeat things back to you, but not carry on a full conversation. However, God allowed him to retain the ability to sing, he even sang duets with me, which I found amazing and I am so grateful God didn’t allow that to leave him. My husband was sick for seven years and was in a nursing home until he went to the hospital with pneumonia and heart problems and died.

Those seven years were the most difficult I had ever experienced in my life. There were days that I felt that I had no strength to take care of my husband. But it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do the things that needed to be done. I HAD to rely on God for EVERYTHING. I truly believe that I would not have been able to take care of my husband, work a full-time job at a Christian television network, be on the worship team at church, and try to keep my house together without the power of the Holy Spirit helping me along the way. There was a time of depression and despair, I’m not going to say that I didn’t go through that, but it was then that I realized that there was no where else to go but to God. My current husband says what I went through was a Job’s Trial, and I truly believe he is right. It certainly felt like a trial.

That is one way the Holy Spirit gives us power. He also can give us power in doing ministry work. Some are given the gift of healing and so, the Holy Spirit gives them power to perform their ministry of healing. Some are given the gift of preaching and the Holy Spirit gives them the power to preach messages that bring us into the presence of God and instruct us in righteous living. The Holy Spirit releases power in us for various giftings, circumstances, and situations.

Now, the last part of our verse gives us a mandate. We are to go and be witnesses! The Holy Spirit also gives us power to go and tell what God has done in our lives. That can be accomplished in words, but the most effective tool is to live out our lives in front of people, so that they see Jesus in us. When we let others see the impact He has on our lives, they will want what we have, and that is the person and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to utilize the power given to us from the Holy Spirit to be a witness to a lost world. That mandate, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19), is our purpose as Believers. We are to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus through His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. We are to bring people to Heaven with us. Are there people in our sphere of influence who know that we belong to Jesus, or if asked, would say they don’t know? Are we speaking and living in a way that leaves no doubt in their minds that we are Born Again Believers? It is time we take stock of our lives and how we appear before others. If we aren’t living and speaking so that others see Jesus, then we need to repent and be intentional in our witness.

So, my final question to you, dear reader, is…. are you utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Sheltered in the Arms of God

Yesterday I woke up with an old Dottie Rambo song going through my head. My first husband, Allen, and I used to sing this song at church for special music, so it has a special meaning to me. The name of the song is, “Sheltered in the Arms of God”. I had intended to do a Bible Journaling page on the resurrection, but God had a different plan. The song just kept playing over and over in my mind, and so I said, “OK God, if that’s what you want me to do.” I remembered a verse in Deuteronomy that talks about being in the everlasting arms, Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you. He drives out the enemy before you; he cries, ‘Destroy them!’”

I began searching on the Internet for pictures of outstretched arms and couldn’t find anything that I really liked. But then I found a picture on Pinterest of Jesus holding a woman as she laid her head on his chest. I immediately identified with this woman, for there have been many times I’ve felt His arms around me as I poured out my heart to Him. I love the idea that Jesus is holding her tight in her hour of need. Often there are times in our lives when we feel all alone, struggling, sometimes, just to breathe! But, He is always with us, always ready to reach out and hold us, to bring us comfort and strength in the midst of trial. I love what Deuteronomy says about God being our refuge, how He holds us, and then tells the angel hosts to destroy the enemy!

Oftentimes, the trials we go through are brought on by the enemy, Satan, the liar and deceiver. For those of us who are Born Again Believers, his goal is to get our eyes off of Jesus and onto the problem. He wants us to be defeated, dejected, and in despair. He knows that if we stay close to God we will win the victory over him. He will try anything he can to keep our relationship with Jesus at a standstill, not growing, not moving forward, not learning, strained…anything that will possibly lead us to turn our back on God.

Sometimes our trials are just part of life. Death, disappointment, relationship problems…all of these can be sources that can cause us to shrink away from God. But God, is always there, and He is not about to allow those things to stand in the way of His love for us. He reaches out for us, all we need to do is run to Him and let Him wrap us up in His arms to receive the comfort and strength we need to endure.

I mentioned in a previous post about my Heavenly Father, Abba, that I picture Him, not on a sterile, cold throne, but in a plush, comfortable, overstuffed chair, and He calls me to sit on His lap while I tell Him what I need. That’s my Abba! I can put my head on His shoulder and cry until I can’t cry anymore, and He will listen, wrap His arms around me, and comfort me.

I’m hoping today this post will help someone who is going through a hard time. God is the only solution! He is the only one who will bring comfort where there is pain, strength where there is weakness, and love to those who feel unlovable. He is your REFUGE!

 

Are You a Planner?

I have to admit, I’m not very good at sitting down and planning things out before I do them. That is something I just don’t seem to be able to accomplish in life. I have a tendency to just jump in without a lot of thought to where what I’m about to do could end up. That’s not always a good thing either. Today’s Bible Journaling verse comes from Proverbs 21:5, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (NLT)

As I think of this verse, I look back at my life and realize I have made some really bad decisions all because I didn’t think it through first. My Bible Journaling devotional talked about endeavoring to overcome struggles in our lives, and how it is SO important to sit down and make a plan of action before trying to conquer whatever it is that is holding us back. This whole series has been on renewal. As I stated in a previous blog, renewal must first come through spending time with God and in daily Bible reading and prayers. We are to renew our Spirit man. For me, sometimes that can be really hard to do. I get so bogged down in what seems to be the problem at the moment, that I neglect my Bible Journaling time.

Bible Journaling seems to be the one thing that has really helped me keep a more consistent time I the Word. As I begin, I read the Scripture and go through the devotional questions, thinking about what the devotion is highlighting, and then praying for God’s help in gaining victory over that particular issue or subject. Once I have done that, I do the artwork in my Bible, trying to convey the message of the devotional, or the thought that God has brought to my attention.

Right now, in this series, my issue is getting back on my diet and losing some of the weight I had gained over the past 2 months. Holiday time is a killer for me, as it is with most people. I have allowed myself to get into an attitude of lethargy where my weight is concerned, and I’ve started to gain back some of the weight I had lost. Winter time is always a hard time for me. I hate going out in the cold, so I don’t walk like I should, and since the Holidays I have neglected to do my exercises with the DVD I have. So, I need to sit down and plan out how I’m going to get myself back on track.

Today, I’ve been nudged that I need to do this sooner, rather than later. If I procrastinate, or look for excuses, (there will always be an excuse) for not getting back to this, then I will fail at keeping my goal of losing the weight I need to lose. The devotion today stated that we need to make a list of steps we will take to start on that journey to overcome the struggle or reach the goal we want to achieve. How am I going to get back on track? I’ve listed step by step how to get back into the groove of losing the weight, and with the help of God, I know I will accomplish this.

The same is true for renewing our Spirit man. We need a plan of attack, if you will, in order to become renewed in the Spirit. Sit down and write down, step by step, the why, what, when, and how, you intend to carve out time to spend with the Lord. Maybe it’s planning the time of day, or the place where you can concentrate on His Word. It could be setting the atmosphere for worship as you study and read is Word. Whatever you need to do to put yourself in the proper attitude for studying God’s Word and spending time with Him, list it out. Then do each thing on that list until it becomes second nature, and you will find success, “prosperity” if you will.

 

Jesus Gave Them Permission

Yesterday our Pastor spoke about dealing with those things in our lives that hinder us or lead us down the wrong pathway. His sermon was based on Mark 5:1-20, the story of Jesus healing the man from Gerasenes. This man had been demon possessed. The Bible says there were many demons, and their name was “Legion.” The demons instantly recognized Jesus and begged Him not to send them to the place reserved for them, Hell. The Bible says that the demons asked to be sent into a herd of pigs that was nearby, and then it says, “So Jesus gave them permission.”

That struck me in that the demons couldn’t just leave and go into the pigs, Jesus had to give them permission to go. I never thought of that before. The Devil can’t do anything unless God gives him permission. Wow! How amazing is that? We don’t have to be defeated, we don’t have to be beaten down, God is on our side, and Satan can’t do anything to us without God’s say so.

Even though this was not the main focus of Pastor’s sermon, when he said that, the whole rest of the time I focused on that fact that I don’t have to succumb to the whiles of the enemy either, and anything that comes my way, can only come because God allows it for His purposes. Those things can make us stronger as we lean closer to Him, or they can leave us defeated as we try to deal with things on our own.

Pastor said that no matter what storm we are going through, we must keep going forward! We must remember WHOSE we are in the Kingdom! We belong to God, and we can rest in the fact that God has our back. Anything that comes our way is for our good and for His glory! When we get bogged down in the things that cause us to fall, we don’t move forward, we are either at a stand still or we fall backward. As I think about this, I am reminded of what Pastor spoke on last week …. running the race. I remembered that he said that runners don’t look back, they keep their eyes focused on the goal. So, in order for us to move forward, we need to stay connected with God, trust Him to help us defeat those things that hinder us, and endeavor to “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us.” (Hebrews 12:1 KJV)

When we think about it, Jesus will go to great lengths to reach one person for Himself. He has great patience with us, continuing to draw us time after time, until we answer His call to ask Him to be our Lord and Savior, or we completely turn our backs on Him. He is great in patience, but there will come a time when He says, “That’s it, no more.” The Bible calls that giving people over to their “reprobate minds.” (Romans 1:28)

I am encouraged to know that nothing that happens to me comes to me on its own, but God has allowed it, and even in some cases ordained it, so that He can get the glory for the victory, and I can become stronger in my relationship with Him.

My dear reader, be encouraged! Those hard struggles you are experiencing are placed in your life by God’s permission. It’s up to you how you deal with them. You can draw closer to Jesus for strength and deliverance, or you can live in defeat, either by trying to fix it on your own, or by giving up completely. I urge you to rely on Jesus Christ to help you overcome your battles.

 

Running the Race

Today I decided to journal yesterday’s sermon that our Pastor delivered. He spoke on “Running Your Race”, highlighting Hebrews 12:1-2. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (NLT)

I was talking to someone who wasn’t completely sure they understood what that meant, and so I tried my best to help them understand. Later, I looked over my notes from the sermon and several things caught my attention, causing me to think more about them. First, once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we begin the race “set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Our goal is to finish the race, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NASB)

Have you ever watched a foot race on a track field? My brother ran track in high school. There was very rigorous training. He would practice with weights, trying to run as fast as he could, yet have the endurance to finish the race. On the day of the race, the weights came off so that he could run as fast as he could with the goal to win that race. So, we are to let go of things that could hinder us in our race. Our Pastor said those things could be sin, but they could also be things that are not listed as sinful. “Weights,” he said, “are anything that holds you back.” Anything that seems to plague us, things we deal with and are struggling to overcome.

Secondly, we are to focus on our own race … don’t worry about someone running their race, focus on what you are doing. In a race, you must not get distracted by the other runners, focus on YOUR race. Another thing, stay in your own lane. In a track race, if the racer drifts over into another racer’s lane, they are disqualified. Also, racers keep their eyes fixed on the finish line, they don’t look back to see where the other racers are in comparison to where they are. If they look behind them, they can easily get distracted, drift into another lane, lose track of the pace they have set, and end up losing their race.
Spiritually, if we don’t focus on our “finish line” – Jesus – we won’t finish well at the end of the race.

Another thing is, that we need to deal with those weights because they will slow us down. Take time to get into God’s word, have a daily quiet time with Him, so that we can keep our focus and remove those things that are weighing us down. Take time to have a time of refreshing, whether it’s a Bible Study, Church service, or just listening to Christian music in an attitude of worship, take that time to reconnect with God.

Weights will also slow us down. Worship is to re-energize us. We are not to be weary. Weights can make us become weary as we try to run carrying all those things that we were never meant to carry. Come before the Lord with a joyful heart, focusing on who God is and what He has done for us. That, in itself, should make us light-hearted and energized.

Lastly, the weights we carry can make us lose our focus. We get so hung up on trying to run this race carrying all those things that trip us up, that our focus gets redirected from Jesus to the weight. Satan takes advantage of those weights. He may not be able to read our thoughts, but he can hear what we say and sees what we do, and he uses those to his advantage and attacks us in the weak areas of our lives. Carrying those weights can give us a divided focus, which makes it much easier for the enemy to take advantage of our weak moments.

So, we need to take the time to deal with those weights, those “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15), that weigh us down and keep us from finishing our race well. How well are you running your race?

Are You Distracted?

Today I decided to do my devotional from the Bible Journaling Ministries (www.biblejournalingministries.com) Momentum Series, “Never too Busy”.  Tracie Rollins does a fantastic job in presenting devotional material and she is so down to earth…I just love the things she presents.  This series is all about keeping your focus on the main thing … Jesus.  Today we dealt with being distracted.  Boy, did that hit home!  Today we focused on I Corinthians 7:35, “This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

I am so easily distracted.  It doesn’t take much. I am drawn to TV and Facebook like a magnet, to the point that nothing gets accomplished in my day.  These are habits that I definitely need to break.  The problem is, Facebook is my means of keeping up with family, and it helps us all stay connected, but then I end up looking through my page to see who has left me a little tidbit to look at, and before you know it, a couple of hours are gone. Then I get hooked on a TV program, and I’ve wasted another part of my day.

In reading through the devotional, I started to ask, how is it that I am so easily distracted? Boredom plays a large part of it. That, and the fact that I’d rather be on the computer than doing anything else, which seems to be my main problem. We gravitate to the things that we would rather be doing instead of things we really need to be doing. Unfortunately, getting together with the Lord isn’t part of the first category. I am ashamed to admit that, but that is the main thrust of it.

So, I have to take myself to task. I find myself ignoring my time with God, and that can only result in a broken relationship with Him. Then when I find myself in that situation, I have to come to Him and repent and try to start all over again.

Do you have this problem? I gather most people do. It is so easy to be distracted in today’s world. Our society is so fast paced, everything is instantaneous with computers and cell phones and other things that can bring distractions. When I was a kid, we didn’t have computers and I-Pads to pull us away from important things. But even then, we could find things to do to take us away from what we needed to do.

I must admit, Bible Journaling has really helped me in this area. I’m a lot better than I used to be at finding time to have a quiet time with God. Expressing what I’m learning through being creative in my journaling has helped me focus on what it is He wants me to know. God gave each of us a creative side, whether we realize it or not. I am far from being an artist. In fact, I almost flunked art classes in school …. couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life. But God directed me to Bible Journaling and showed me that my artwork doesn’t have to be gallery perfect, but that it is all about the time I spend with Him, and what it is He is teaching me. Journaling through artwork helps me retain it so much better. I have always been a note-taker during sermons. Writing it down helps me remember. The neat thing with my Journaling Bibles is that I can go back and see where I am compared to when I started…that brings those lessons back to remembrance.

This is not an easy thing to conquer, as it is with most things that are really important and bring the greatest satisfaction, but I know that I have Jesus to help me, and with the two of us working on this, I will eventually win the battle.