He Calls Me Friend

For the last almost two weeks I have been down with the flu. It’s been rough, still have this horrible cough, but I feel better. It’s put me out of commission, and I haven’t been able to get to church or be on the Worship Team because of it. What has been nice is hearing from church friends who have inquired on how I was doing, saying they missed me and were hoping to see me soon. I have been one who hasn’t had a lot of close friends, in fact, I have only one best friend besides my sister, and she’s been a friend since we were kids. I have never seemed to be able to be the popular one who had a lot of friends gathered around. In today’s Bible Journaling, we find out that we have One who is our Friend, and He never leaves us. In John 15:15 we read, “I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.” (CSB)

As I was working on my Bible Journaling page, I thought back over the friendship I have with my best friend. We have done some neat and some silly things in the past. Once we both got married, we kind of lost touch with each other, but every time we got together, it was like we had never been apart. We just picked up where we left off. When she came to visit me when I lived in Montana, I remember being so excited that she was coming, and when she showed up at my work, I jumped up from my desk and threw my arms around her and gave her a big hug, and tears came to her eyes. I was a little surprised I guess, but I felt the same way. It had been so long since I had seen her, I was just over the top with excitement. Last year we went to Wisconsin and visited her and her hubby, and we had a blast! That friendship has lasted for 60 years and is still so special.

It is so awesome having a close friend like that. They know you inside and out and accept you with all your frailty, bumps, bruises, and missteps. Did you know, Jesus is just like that? Proverbs 18:24 tells us that God is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He never leaves or forsakes, (Hebrews 13:5), He puts us in His inner circle! We matter to Him! Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” (NIV)

I love how He listens to me, no matter if I’m complaining about circumstances, or if I’m singing to the top of my lungs! He cries over my hurts, He rejoices over my victories, He guides me when I go astray, He holds me accountable when I mess up, He doesn’t judge, and still, through it all, He loves me and calls me “Friend.” He never fails, He doesn’t desert me when I’m going through a rough road, He wraps me up in His arms and comforts me when life is just too much. These are the marks of a true friend.

For those who don’t know what it is like to have Jesus as their friend, it’s very simple. Jesus is calling us to friendship. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV) When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts, forgive us of our sins, and accept His free gift of salvation, we become a friend of His. He comes to live inside of us to be our Lord, Master, Savior, and Friend! We then begin a life journey with our Best Friend. I often have said that since becoming a Believer, life has been an adventure! Jesus has taken me places I never dreamed I would be. He always has the best in mind for me, and if you ask Him to, He will forgive you of your sins, make you one of His, be your Best Friend, and show you His best for you.

Do You Know Your Identity?

We are beginning a new series on our identity and thriving in that identity. Who are we? Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture is I Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (NASB) Today, I had a very difficult time doing my Bible Journaling page. It took me three times before I got it right. As I was beginning to get frustrated, the thought came into my head, “Satan doesn’t want this to get out.” I immediately told Satan, “Ok, Satan, leave me alone. I’m going to do this journal whether you like it or not. Go away!” That’s when it began to come together.

Did you know we can do that? As a Born-Again Believer, we can tell Satan to take a hike! That’s part of our identity. Most of the time when someone asks us who we are we say things like, “Oh, I’m a wife, mother, daughter, and I like to do…” But that isn’t who we truly are. If we have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we are saved, redeemed, loved, we are a child of the One and Only God, who is our Father and the King of all Kings. We have been given authority over the enemy that allows us to tell him to leave us alone when he comes to trip us up or cause us pain.

The Bible tells us who we are. Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (NASB) I love that it tells us that we have been chosen! That’s who we are…CHOSEN! We are chosen because God loves us. 1 John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (NASB) That’s also part of our identity. We are LOVED!

We are also SAVED and REDEEMED. Jesus took the punishment for our sins on the cross. His blood wiped away all our sins past, present, and future. We are clean before God. We are made ACCEPTABLE in God’s eyes. Ezekiel 20:40 says, “For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts along with all your holy sacrifices.” (NIV) Israel was God’s chosen people, just as Born-Again Believers are, and He accepted them as His own, just as He accepts us when we come to know Jesus as our Savior.

Our identity is in who God says we are. He calls us loved, He calls us redeemed, He calls us chosen, He calls us accepted, and He calls us BEAUTIFUL. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7 NIV) God looks at our hearts, not on the outer appearance. I think that’s where a lot of us get tripped up. We look at the outside of ourselves, and if you’re anything like me, we tend to not like what is looking back at us in the mirror. But God sees us as beautiful. He created us just as we are, and what He creates is good.

Today, as we think about our identity in Christ, we need to take a few minutes and contemplate who we are and make a list of how we are identified in the light of who God says we are. Maybe you don’t see yourself as God sees you. I want you to know that you are precious to Him, He loves you, and He sees you as a precious son or daughter of His. Study His Word to find your identity in Jesus, and you will come away with a totally different perspective.

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.

God Provides a Shield

 

Another thing we learn about vision is that God provides a shield for us and for our vision, and sometimes through the vision. Genesis 15:1 says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.’” Abram had just dealt with kings who had kidnapped his nephew, Lot, and Abram was able to defeat the kings and rescue his nephew. After this, the king of Sodom wanted to make a deal with Abram by asking for the people that had been taken and he promised to give Abram all the spoils of the war including money and all the goods that had been confiscated. However, the priest, Melchizedek, had placed a blessing upon Abram, and Abram made a promise to God, not to take anything from the king. In this way, God would receive the glory for all the blessings and wealth Abram would receive. God told Abram that He would be a shield to Abram and Abram would be greatly rewarded.

When we look to God and follow the vision He has placed within us, He will bless us. He will also place a shield around us and our vision as a means of protecting us against the fiery darts of the enemy. Satan, our enemy, would like nothing more than to see us defeated. He would like to see us fail in accomplishing the tasks put before us. He would like to see us fail in achieving the vision that would give honor and glory to God. Satan wants to rob God of the glory that is due Him when we succeed in accomplishing those things that God has placed in our hearts.

God’s protection of a shield not only covers our vision, but it also surrounds us. Whether it be protection over physical things, emotional trauma, or circumstances, God places a shield around us to bring forth the plans, the visions, and the dreams He has destined for us and He rewards us for being faithful.

In Abram’s case, God says that He is a shield to Abram and promises a reward. Abram tells God that he has no offspring, God makes a covenant with Abram and promises to give him a son. (Genesis 15:1-18) When we honor God by staying true to our promises to Him, He will be faithful to honor and grant our requests. When God is a shield around us and the vision He has laid upon our hearts, God not only receives the glory for the vision coming to fruition but others will see, that through our faithfulness and obedience to God, we are blessed by Him; this also brings honor to God. Blessings are always a result of obedience and faithfulness to God.

God places that vision in our hearts and His desire is to see the vision completed so that He will receive the glory and unbelievers will see how He works in our lives. As we reach goal after goal in completing the vision, it causes others to see God’s handiwork in us, and they will reflect upon how God helps us, how He protects us, and how He guides us. They then will desire to know more about God, why and how He loves us and gives us blessings. We become that light to draw others to God as they see our testimony of God’s faithfulness lived out before them.

I am so grateful for the shield placed around me by my loving, Heavenly Father. His faithfulness to me brings me joy unspeakable and full of glory. (I Peter 1:8)

Why We Need Vision

 

Today we’re going to look at vision from a Spiritual perspective. By that I mean, looking at vision strictly in relationship to Spiritual understanding. Today’s Bible Journaling verse is Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish’ but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The NIV says, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”

In J. Vernon McGee’s Commentary on Proverbs, he says that “Vision’ is actually spiritual understanding. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer to give him understanding of the word of God.’” The Hebrew word for vision is “Chazown” and it means a vision, oracle, or prophecy of divine communication. When our pastors preach, they can give forth divine communication. Vision is a mode of revelation.

Without vision, an understanding of God’s Word, we walk in chaos. Our verse today says that without a vision the people are unrestrained. We see so much of that in our society today. It is much like it was in Micah’s day, “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” There is no Spiritual knowledge or understanding and everyone does what “feels right.”

For us to walk in a manner that gives God glory and honor, we need to be students of His Word. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV) Digging into the Bible helps us to gain understanding and live according to its precepts, and brings peace, joy, and happiness.

When we study God’s Word, we bury it deep into our hearts, minds, and the very spirit of our being. We make it a part of ourselves. God will reveal His desires for us through His Word and through the preaching of the Gospel, and we find a life of order and peace, and we are walking in the pathway He has set before us.

In I Samuel 3:1, the Bible tells us that when Samuel was a young boy, he “ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” (KJV) When God’s word is given in an atmosphere where there is no understanding, then God must appoint someone to give the understanding. God raised up Samuel to meet the need of declaring God’s Word.

We see today in countries where God’s Word is scarce and preaching is condemned, the hearing and reading of the Word of God are precious. People cherish a Bible in their hands, whether it’s the full book or just a page because it is not readily available for them to read or own. They treasure it. We too should treasure the Bible, the hearing of God’s Word, and the preaching of the truth. Spiritual understanding helps us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 3:18 KJV)

God’s Provision for Your Vision

As we continue looking at the vision God has placed in our hearts, today we want to look at God’s provision for our vision. When God places a vision in us, He provides a way for that vision to be accomplished. One example of this is found in Exodus 36:5. God has asked the people to build a tabernacle for Him. Moses relayed to the children of Israel that God commanded that an offering to be taken up to build the tabernacle. In our Scripture today, we see the result. “And they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” (NASB) The workers were receiving much more than was needed and they asked Moses to tell the people to stop bringing their gifts. God provided the needed resources, financial and material, to complete the task.

Provision is often thought of in terms of money, but that isn’t always the way God provides for us. Sometimes He provides the opportunity to step out in faith to do what He has placed in our hearts. Sometimes He provides the inspiration, or maybe a little push in the direction He wants us to go to take that first step.

For me, my vision is to reach people for Jesus. Writing a blog wasn’t something I had ever thought about until a pastor prophesied over me that I would reach many people with my writing. I started to journal for myself. No one else saw what I wrote, it was between me and God. Then a friend of mine suggested I start a blog. I didn’t know the first thing about it. I met someone who had a blog and I saw what he wrote and how it worked, and God put a spark in my heart that this was the direction He wanted me to go. He provided me the motivation to take that first step. One of my friends had a blog on WordPress, and I looked at their format and decided to use WordPress for my blog. Not long after that, I began to see posts all over the place for Bible Journaling. At first, I was unsure about using art in my Bible to express what God was saying, but then I began to see that using Bible Journaling was another tool to reach people for Christ. I began to incorporate the Journaling entries in with my blog and at this point, my blog page has garnered about 40 viewers just from WordPress alone. I have another 200 or so from Facebook that read my blog. I know it is a small beginning, but I am not discouraged. The Bible says not to despise small beginnings. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT) We need to start somewhere, and humble beginnings can bring great harvest if we allow it to happen.

God also provides people, as in the case of our verse today. The congregation needed to step up and give their money, material, time, talents, and other resources to complete the tabernacle. Sometimes we need others to assist us in accomplishing our vision. Maybe our vision is a business, workers are needed when the business begins to expand, and God will bring them to us so that the business will succeed.

God provides a platform and opportunity for us to complete the vision, as in my case. He also will provide ideas to help us move forward in accomplishing the vision. Whatever is needed for us to be successful in making the vision come to completion, God will provide for us. One name of God is Jehovah Jireh, The Lord will provide! Today, as we look to God for our vision, ask Him to provide what is needed to accomplish that vision.

Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out

As we look at having a vision, sometimes we can be paralyzed in fear before we even begin to work toward accomplishing that vision. In today’s Bible Journaling verse, we find that fear can stop us before we start. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (NASB) As a little background, Moses had died, and Joshua was now the leader of the Israelites. They were standing at the banks of the Jordan River about to cross into the Promised Land. God is encouraging Joshua not to be afraid to lead the people and cross over the Jordan. Why should he not be afraid? God tells Joshua, “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

When we start out to reach the goal of accomplishing the vision God has placed in front of us, fear can arise in us. Fear comes from the enemy, not from the Lord. Satan sits on our shoulder and tells us all the reasons why we can’t, why the mission will fail, others will think badly of us, and on and on it goes. These are all lies straight from the pit of Hell. We have nothing to be afraid of because God is with us. He has placed the vision in our hearts, and He will be the one to help us to achieve the goals set before us to see the vision come to pass. The Bible tells us 365 times, “Fear not!” That’s one verse for every day!

I truly believe that fear is the most damaging to Believers. It stops us in our tracks! We don’t move forward, we stand still, and if we are standing still, we aren’t growing, we are dying, we are stagnating in our walk with the Lord. The vision dies before it begins.

So, how do we conquer the fear that grips us and keeps us from the vision God has given us? Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (KJV) Our first action should be to pray! As we begin to experience fear of even stepping out to accomplish the vision, we need to pray and ask God to help us, to take away the fear. Sometimes that means to pray with every step.

We conquer fear by exercising our faith. Faith that God will help us, faith that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV) As we begin to experience faith rising in us, we can step out in faith and “Let Your Faith Be Bigger Than Your Fear!” This phrase has surfaced within the past few years and I love it! It reminds me that my faith in God and what He can do is bigger than any fear that may well up in my soul. God speaks to us and reminds us that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

God is our biggest cheerleader and He wants to see us accomplish the vision He has placed in us. The vision, whether it may be for a godly home and marriage, a ministry to reach the lost, or begin a new business, whatever it may be, is something He wants to see us be successful in and will bring glory to His name. As He is given glory, we become the light for others to see Jesus. We become witnesses of what He can do in a surrendered life and we become that sweet fragrance to the world that God loves them, and He can change their lives and put a vision in them as well.

Today, step out toward the vision, let others see how God is working in your life, and accomplish that which He has destined for you.