Sufficient Grace

Amid the chaos we are experiencing now, it is easy to find ourselves wondering how we are ever going to get through this. Many times, we go through trials and it just seems like it is never-ending, and we just can’t make it through. Today’s Scripture gives us a solid rock upon which to stand. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”

For a little background on this passage, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Corinthians at this point and telling them that God gave him a vision, and in his vision, he was taken to Heaven but was told not to talk about what he saw there. Then he says that a messenger from Satan came to torment him so that he would not boast because he was able to see Heaven. That form of torment came as a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Now we don’t know what his thorn in the flesh was, and it really doesn’t matter, but Paul tells us that he asked God three times to take it away, and God told Paul no and that His grace was sufficient. That thorn was given to Paul to keep him humble and not exalt himself over others.

Thorns can come in many forms, physical, financial, relationally, any number of things can be a thorn. Currently, our world is experiencing a thorn in the flesh with this Coronavirus pandemic. Notice, Paul said that Satan brought the thorn…not God. The same is with this current crisis. Now, God may have allowed it, just as with Paul, but God didn’t send it.

Personally, we each have thorns with which we deal. For me, it seems to be finances and pain in my back and knees. The pain in my back from Scoliosis, Osteoporosis, and Arthritis, seems to be the more intense thorn. Like Paul, I have asked God to heal my back numerous times, and yet I still must deal with it. But today’s verse tells me that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and so because of God’s grace I can endure the pain. I may never know the reason why I need to deal with this thorn, but I know one thing for a fact, God’s grace gives me power in the middle of my weakness.

Paul goes on to say in verse 10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NASB) Through God’s grace, we can withstand any weakness or difficulty.

One of the worst trials I experienced was when my first husband had 2 strokes and was sick for seven years and then passed away. Looking back, I can see where I became stronger because of it. God never left me, He held me, He walked me “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4 KJV) and gave me the strength to put one foot in front of the other. I have a better understanding now of what a relationship with Him is like. Maybe your thorn is a relationship situation. It could be that God has allowed this so that you will lean on Him and seek Him to find solutions or find that your relationship with Him is more important. Maybe you are distressed and fearful because of the pandemic. It could be that God is wanting you to learn to trust Him completely and not fear. God can take anything that Satan throws at us and use it for our good. (Romans 8:28) Thorns can be a good thing in our lives, even though it doesn’t seem so. Just remember, God’s grace is sufficient!

Our Identity – We Lack No Good Thing

Today as we continue in our study on our identity in Christ, we are reminded in today’s verse that God will not withhold any good thing. Psalm 34:10 says, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.” (NASB) As I was looking at this verse and thinking of the significance of this verse, my mind did not go toward material things like money or our “wants”, I went immediately to thinking about the current frenzy over the coronavirus. We have seen so many in the news who are drowning in fear over this disease.

The Word says God will not allow us to be lacking in any good thing…and that includes our health. God loves us with an everlasting love, (Jeremiah 31:3) and His plans for us are good plans. (Jeremiah 29:11) In today’s verse, it tells us that if we seek God, we will have everything we need. Not necessarily everything we want, but what we NEED! That includes wealth, health, people who love us and want the best for us, and if we have asked Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, He gives us eternal life. All of these are good things that we will not lack.

Instead of being covered in fear, we need to look to Jesus! God also tells us that He does not give us the spirit of fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (KJV) That’s another good thing that we will not be lacking. That sound mind includes looking at things like this current pandemic with common sense. Instead of heading to the stores and buying up every last bottle of hand sanitizer or roll of toilet paper, use common sense…what would you do for a common case of the flu? God gave us a mind and He expects us to use it and expects us to use the common sense He has given us.

We also know that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are covered by His blood. I Peter 2:24 says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (NASB) We also know that God has promised protection over us. Psalm 91:10 says, “No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent.” (NASB) A prime example of God’s protection goes back to the Exodus of the Israelite people from Egypt. (Exodus 12) Those who placed the blood over the doorposts were saved from the calamity God brought to the Egyptian people. The death angel passed over the homes that had the blood on the doorposts. If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are covered by His blood.

When we realize that God has everything in control, and this crisis comes as no surprise to Him, and He loves us, we have nothing to fear. He will not withhold any good thing! His love for us is far greater than we can ever imagine.

The Bible tells us not to fear 365 times! That is one verse for every day of the year! Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NASB) Remember, God does not give us the spirit of fear! Trust that He knows all about what is going on in your life and that He has only good things planned for you! Your identity in Christ? YOU WILL LACK NO GOOD THING!

Adjusting to God’s Plan for Your Vision

I’ve been gone for three weeks on vacation, which is why you haven’t seen anything of me lately. My sister and her husband renewed their wedding vows in Las Vegas, and since I couldn’t be at her wedding 13 years ago, I wanted to be there. So, we traveled to Las Vegas to witness the ceremony. On the way back we traveled through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, stopping to see the sights. One thing we needed on our trip was direction…Google Maps was a great help! God gives us direction also as we work to see our vision realized. We are finishing our series on Vision today, and one thing we need to remember is that sometimes, God’s idea of how we accomplish our vision may be different than ours.

Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (KJV) When things don’t seem to be going the way we have planned; we need to adjust our way of doing things to God’s plan. What we may want to do maybe alright, but God may have something better in store.

Kind of like my Google Maps, we need to “recalculate”. On our vacation, sometimes, we would get off track, and my Google Maps, which my husband and I named Melissa because it has a woman’s voice, would say, “recalculating” and she’d get us back on track. Sometimes that’s what we need to do when we start off going one way, and God says, “Wait a minute, let’s try this.”

Accomplishing our vision successfully must be in line with what God has planned out for us. There may be several avenues to take, but one is better than the others. That’s the way it is with God guiding us. We may have good ideas, but God may have a better one.

We need God’s wisdom in helping us adjust to the plan He has laid out for us. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given you.” (NIV) Then we need to trust Him. Trust that He knows what He is doing and that He would never guide us into something that would bring us harm. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Sometimes, our timing may not be in sync with God’s. Isaiah 55:8-11 tells us that God’s ways are not like ours. “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.’ God’s Decree. ‘For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.’” (The Message)

When we adjust our plan to God’s plan, we may find that He is directing us to learn something new, or He is orchestrating things to fall right in place for us to accomplish the goal of seeing our vision realized. Adjusting our plans sometimes can be difficult, but when we line up with God’s plan, we find that the fruits of our endeavors seem to run smoother. That isn’t to say that there may not be snags in the way, but when we learn to trust God and the direction He leads us, we will find we have peace with making changes to our way of thinking and doing what God has called us to do. Today, let God direct your path, you will find the way isn’t as rocky.

A New Thing

It’s 2020! A new year is upon us and we have a whole new slate to start with, in living before the Lord for this year. Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Isaiah 43:19, “For I am about to do something new. I have already begun. See, do you not see it? I will make a new pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (NLT) We will be looking at vision this month, but I received a prompting from God to start here.

As this year begins, we do need to have a vision of where we need to be, where we want to go, and where God is leading us. But more than that, we need to be open to God doing new things in our lives. Maybe this is the year God says, “It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.”

As Believers, from time to time, it’s good to take stock of where we have been and look at where we are going. Before coming to Jesus, we were wrapped up in doing the old things we had done before. Then Jesus came into our hearts and lives and He started a new thing. Life became so much better. Does that mean there have not been hard times? No, but we found that we didn’t go through those things alone…God was with us! That was a new thing!

God tells us in Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (KJV) God does new things in our lives, and He does these things out in the open, not in secret. He tells us what is to come. Sometimes, we feel like He is silent and the road we are on is confusing, but He loves us enough to plan only good things for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)

One of those “new things” that God does, is that He makes new creatures out of us. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (KJV) When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gives us a new heart. The old man is gone, and the new man has come, and we are born-again! From that point on we are on a new pathway. That’s a new thing!

God tells us in Revelation 21:5, “Behold I make all things new.” (KJV) God wants to do new things in us. It is up to us to accept the new things He is showing us and leading us into. If you are like most people, getting pushed out of your comfort zone, is uncomfortable and downright scary! This is where learning to trust that God has our best in mind for us comes into play. He wants us to grow in a manner that will give glory and honor to Him and will bring us joy, peace, contentment, and a greater love for Him and those around us.

Be open to new things! Seek God’s face in prayer, asking Him to direct your steps. If you are feeling a prompting to do something that scares you silly, trust Him enough to know that He isn’t putting you out there alone, He will go with you. Trust that He will never ask you to do something that you can not do, but always will be something to help you grow to the next level of relationship with Him. You may find that it has been something you have always wanted to accomplish but were too afraid to take the first step.

When we step out in faith, we can accomplish so much more, and who knows, we may find that when we step out into a whole new area of experience with God, it will not be as daunting as we first thought and actually will blossom in that new pathway. God is saying, “I am doing a new thing.” Trust Him and take that first step!

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.

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!