A Thankful Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Only a Season

As we continue our study on seasons, today we look at the seasons in our life. Psalm 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (NASB) The King James Version puts it this way, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Whatever we are going through, it’s just a season, it will not be forever.

This is comforting, especially when we are going through difficult times. Those times will not last forever, it’s only a season. Each season is given for a reason. Is there something God wants us to learn? Is what we are going through given as an example for someone else who may go through the same thing? Maybe God is preparing us for something greater. Whatever the case, it’s a season.

As I stated in my last post, I went through a season of grief when my first husband passed away. The grief was for a season. That was a difficult season. I am now in another season, one of happiness and learning. I have a friend who has lost her job, one she would never have resigned from on her own, but God is taking her on a journey. She is in a new season, one where she is at the beginning of creating a ministry to women. As scary as it is for her, there is a certain amount of excitement and anticipation as she makes a ministry plan and she is at peace with where God is taking her. I am excited to see what God has in store for her and to see what road He will take her down.

As we look at today’s Scripture, the first thing that I see is, “For His anger is but for a moment.” There will be times of discipline. When we look at Scripture, we can see how God would become angry with the children of Israel. Time and again they would test His patience, become disobedient, rebellious children and the Bible says God’s anger was kindled against Israel. But that anger was not forever. Discipline was needed to draw them back. When they finally came to their senses and repented, God’s anger would diminish, and He would lovingly draw them back into His arms, gathering them into His family. The next thing I see in our Scripture is, “His favor is for a lifetime.” I like how the King James Version puts it, “in His favor is life.” God’s favor is with His children forever and that favor brings life! That’s a season also! He loves us so much that He wants to grant His favor upon us. He wants to shower us with those things that will help us to grow in our relationship with Him, things and people who can help us become more like Him.

Then, our Scripture says, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” We may be going through a desperate time of darkness, one where we can do nothing but let the tears flow. That season is so hard to go through. My husband calls those times, “Job’s Trials”. God loves us, even when we go through the darkness, and He never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5). If we can trust Him through the dark times, He promises us that it will end, and joy will come at the end of the trial. Often, this season seems so long, and it feels like it will never end, but the promise of joy coming at the end of the trial, is what keeps us holding on to Him. We must remind ourselves, “It’s Only a Season!”

As we experience the changing seasons in weather, we know that Fall will give way to Winter, Winter will melt into Spring, and Spring will change into Summer, and Summer returns to Fall. Each season is for a time, it will not be forever, the seasons are ever-changing from one to the other. So, when you go through something new, remind yourself, “It’s Only a Season!”

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!

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!

With Your Plans – Pray

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that did not seem to be the best for you? Maybe a work situation seemed to be a great trial every single day, and it made the work environment one of stress and constant chaos. Maybe a health issue was rearing its ugly head, and some decisions needed to be made. There are times when everyone must face a hard circumstance, and that situation makes us want to pack up and run away. Our Bible Journaling Scripture today is Isaiah 32:8, “But a noble person plans noble things; he stands up for noble causes.” (CSB)

I know for me, there have been times when I wanted to turn tail and run, but in my heart, I knew there was a reason why I was going through that situation. I have never been the type to run from a situation if I could help it. I usually would stand and face it. That doesn’t mean I always had the proper attitude or outlook on what was happening.

In our Scripture passage today, Isaiah is talking about a righteous kingdom and how a noble person handles themselves. They plan for situations. As I was doing my Bible Journaling God nudged me a little with the thought, “With Your Plans – Pray”. When we are looking to move forward in a situation, it is good to make plans on how to proceed, but we must also pray and ask God for His plan. Is what we are planning part of His will for us? Have we prayed and asked that He guide us in our planning? If what we are planning is part of His plan, is it the right timing?

As my husband and I were talking about this, he read to me from the book, “Power in Praise”, by Merlin Carothers. It is a book on praising God in the middle of your circumstances. The book states that when we praise God when things are not going well, it releases power to us so that we can step forward and walk in that situation armed with the power God gives us through our praise. The more I think about it, that power enables us to make those plans that are needed to step forward into a future that is in line with God’s plans for our lives.

The bottom line is, when we are faced with difficult situations, we must stand firm, and not run away. We should make plans, with the help of God, on how to face our circumstances or how to move forward into what God would have for us. It may be that we are to stand and face the situation head-on, deal with what we must, and with God’s help, show the light of Christ to those around us. If He is calling us to move forward into another area, then we are to pray for His leading, maybe step back a little, access the situation, and make plans to move into the area in which He is guiding us.

As we face difficulties through each season of our lives, we can find peace in knowing that God also has a plan for our lives. His plan is to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) We know that we can trust Him to show us how to deal with the hardships of life, and know that He sets the example for us, as we take a break, and make plans on how to proceed.

We Are No Longer Enslaved By Sin

We can so easily become enslaved to sin. It’s part of our human nature. 2 Peter 2:19 says, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” (CSB) Peter was addressing the issue of false teachers in the early church. There were those who were teaching heresy to the early church and misleading new Christians away from the faith. Peter is warning them to beware of false teachers. There are those in our midst today that would lead Believers who are not mature in their faith away from the freedom found in Jesus. They deny who Jesus is, saying He was just a good teacher, or deny that He is the Son of God, or say it’s ok to do such and such and still be a Christian, even though Scripture plainly says it is sin. They cleverly manipulate Scripture to fit what they are teaching.

Peter points out that they are “slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.” That seems to be the crux of the problem. Whatever happens to defeat us enslaves us. We all have things that are stumbling blocks, things that we just can’t seem to get victory over. The enemy has us enslaved, chained if you will, and he continues to keep us in bondage until we turn to the One who can break the chains that hold us.

Faith in Jesus Christ can give us power over those things we struggle with. When we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, the Holy Spirit comes into us, and it is through Him that we receive power to be able to overcome the sin in our lives. We still must make a conscious decision to turn away from sin, but it is He who gives us the strength and power to be able to turn our back on it and walk in a way that is upright and pure.

The song, “Break Every Chain” is such a powerful song. It talks about having power in the name of Jesus. “There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain!” God does not expect us to be able to defeat the sin in our lives on our own because He knows we are incapable of winning a fight with the Devil by ourselves. It is because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that we can stand up against the enemy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtyVdC7E6Wo&list=RDEtyVdC7E6Wo&start_radio=1

I love this song because it reinforces to me that I don’t have to be chained by the sin that trips me up. I can ask for God’s help to defeat the enemy and help me overcome those things in my life that I know are displeasing to Him and break the chains that hold me.

Jesus breaks the power that sin has over us. We can then walk in freedom, knowing that when we come to a bump in the road, trip, and fall, we can get right back up with the help of Jesus and walk on the pathway He has set before us. Now, it may not be easy winning a battle over something we struggle with, but we are not alone. Jesus walks with us and He promises to always be with us. (Hebrews 13:5) We know the enemy would like nothing better than to see us fall and remain defeated. We must look to Jesus to help us to overcome our failings and the sin that “so easily besets us” (Hebrews 12:1 KJV) It is only through Jesus that we can be free from the power that sin has over us!

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!