Be Faithful

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!   ~Proverbs 20:6-7.

When I was a child, I was amazed at how many adults did not keep their word. They would promise, “One day, I’ll _________” but, alas, that day never came, and I would be disappointed.

When I was a teenager, my mom hired a man to tune our piano. I enjoyed watching him, and he talked to me as he worked. In the course of conversation, I mentioned that I like southern gospel music. He told me he would take me to a concert sometime. At that time, I’d lived long enough to know people often said things they didn’t mean so I didn’t figure I would ever see him again. A short time later, however, he called and asked if he could take my brother and me to a concert. This was over 25 years ago, and I still remember his kindness. He could have gone to the concert by himself, and I would never know, and I probably wouldn’t remember him but he took time to honor his word, which still blesses me today.

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It is sad to me how many young people walk away from the Lord or never embrace Christianity, even when they have grown up in church and in Godly homes. I’ve fought to understand why, in order to be able to stop this trend. I believe a big reason for this is due to the hypocrisy they see in their parents and others in the Church. I know this is not the only reason an adult child will rebel but I expect it is the case in many situations. Young people pick up on whether people are real or phony, honest or crafty.

Even as an adult, I want to surround myself with people I can trust. I get so tired of dishonesty, backbiting, double lives, etc. I pray often that God will help me to be faithful. I want to be dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to be faithful to point others to the Lord, not only in word but also by example. I believe if the world saw more faithfulness in God’s people, they would desire to know this God as well.

The Purpose of Trials

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).

I am like everyone else. I have a hard time embracing the trials that come my way but I’ve known the Lord long enough to know that everything happens for a purpose. Most of the time, it seems like the trials in my life come to draw me closer to the Father. Even in ministry, it is easy to become so busy that one doesn’t have a lot of quality time to spend with the One they serve. Because of this, I am learning to embrace down times.

This does not mean I do not get discouraged. Boy, do I ever! But I continue to pray and to praise Him for the good things He has done. I know that He is doing a work in my life, and I find encouragement in that. I would much rather have some inconveniences now than to find myself so far from Him one day and not know what happened.

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We serve a faithful God. He is faithful in the good times and the bad times. He gives strength when I need it and, when He doesn’t, I have to trust that it is more important that I be still and rest in Him. Not always easy but vital.

Brothers and Sisters, I hope you are feeling encouraged today. No matter what you are going through, there is a purpose. God desires to draw you to Himself, to make you more like Him, to make you an even greater blessing to others. You simply have to trust and surrender to Him.

All trials are temporary. It will not rain always. Keep looking up, and I trust that you will see sunshine again. Your circumstances may not change but your outlook no doubt will.

Be Real

When I was young, it was discouraging to me how difficult it was to get close to people. Everyone would put on their best face and was always “fine” when asked how they were doing. This was not my reality but I followed suit. It seemed like no one wanted to really know what was going on in others’ lives anyway, unless it gave them something to gossip about.

The last few years, I have been encouraged by the people God has brought into my life who will be real with me. Now, being real does not mean being down and complaining all the time. If you can never testify to God’s goodness in some area, you are being no more real than those who try to convince you that everything is “fine.” Being real does, however, mean admitting when you are struggling, being willing to lend a listening ear or a helping hand to those who are down, not pretending to be someone that you are not. In the past, I have seen myself as a strong woman but sometimes I’m just not.

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I struggle with not wanting to bring people down and yet not wanting others to think I am someone I am not. I am a Sister who loves the Lord and wants to serve Him and encourage others but there are days when my focus turns to myself and I have to fight to not be discouraged or self-centered. I want my emphasis to be more on God’s goodness but I don’t ever want to be too proud that I can’t ask others for prayer or encouragement. I believe God will help me with this as I keep seeking Him.

I encourage you, my readers, to find people you can be real with and who will be real in return. It’s a lonely existence when there is no one who will help to bear your burdens.

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

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If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.

Sin Has Consequences

“That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to His people but He does allow them, and sometimes it’s to remind us that sin has a price. Like most parents, He doesn’t give children instructions to be mean; He can see what the ravages of sin looks like, and He desires to spare us those things. He didn’t tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He didn’t want them to taste something good; He saw the destruction and devastation that would cause, and we are still reaping the effects of that today.

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As you look at your life and see the various sins and struggles you deal with, think about the effect those sins have on others. Even if no one knows what sin(s) you struggle with, everything is naked and open to God (Hebrews 4:13) and, if you are His child, and it will not be hidden forever.

If I end up writing more about this this year, it’s because I believe it is the message of 2017. Each year brings us closer to Christ’s return. We can’t afford to ignore His call to stop what we are doing, lay down the sins that so easily beset us, and follow Him. We must encourage others to do that as well but our words will have no bearing if we are not living that self-denying life.

I am writing to myself as well. The year is still young. I want to be faithful to allow God to show me my heart and the things which displease Him and trust that, at the end of this year, I will be closer to Him than ever before as I allow Him to rid me of myself and fill me with more of His love, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, self-control, and every other attribute that reflects Him.

I dealt with some physical challenges last year, and this year is starting out rough but, if I can do nothing else, I pray for God’s help to use the down times to listen to Him, hear what He would speak, and share those words with you.

Beloved of God

And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.  ~Daniel 10:11

And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.  ~Daniel 10:19

I admit I’m a bit different in the way I think sometimes. Words jump out at me and send my mind to wandering. As I was reading the Book of Daniel a few weeks ago, I was struck by the angel calling him “greatly beloved.” To me, that speaks more than just, “You are loved.” “Beloved” means “adored, cherished, treasured, highly regarded, esteemed, much loved.” Daniel held a special place in God’s heart, and God wanted Daniel to know that.

We all know that God loved the world that He gave His Son but it seems like there are some who hold an especially close place in His heart. With Moses, God talked face to face (Numbers 12:8). At one point, God stated, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3). He called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). I’m sure there are more examples I could give, but you get my point.

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I don’t write this to begin a doctrinal dispute. I just feel like it’s easy to take God’s love for granted and to think that, since God loves us, He will love us regardless of how we live. I want to study the lives of people like Moses and Daniel and David and find out what it was that made God pay special attention to them. They were just men and yet each one of them had a heart that was fully toward the Lord.

I pray that God will find me drawing ever closer to Him, that nothing will be more important than spending time with Him and taking time to hear what He would speak. I pray that pleasing Him would be my goal before anything else. I pray that He would say to me, “O daughter, greatly beloved, I am here.” I can’t think of anything that speaks peace more than that.

Reflecting on ’16 While Looking toward ’17

I’ve noticed people posting their “word for 2017″ on Facebook. There are two words that come to my mind that I feel a need to grow in: Faith and Victory.

This past year, I really struggled in those departments. It is so easy to let the cares of life bring one down and yet, when we do that, we are failing to communicate to the world that we serve a magnificent God who is greater than our burdens.

I also want to be more of an encouragement to others this year. This will require focusing on others more than myself but, with God’s help, I want to do that. There are so many hurting, lonely people in the world. I pray that I will do better at pointing others to Jesus, who is the Hope and Life that they need.

I know that I will be tested on these things. Any time God is working, the enemy of our souls is also working to discourage us and keep us from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives.

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We never know what a year will bring, but we do know that, if we walk with the Lord, He will walk with us through every storm that we face.

I am blessed with friends who have stuck with me and encouraged me this year when I felt like they should have left me to wallow in my own misery.  That is the sign of a true friend: one who will not be pushed away by negativity but will continue to be there to listen, pray for you, and just “be there” for you. I am so blessed to have people like that in my life.

This reminds me of how much we need the Body of Christ. Don’t take your Brothers and Sisters for granted. If you find that person who knows how to encourage you and is not afraid to challenge you when you need it, treasure them. Friends like that are hard to find and yet sometimes we don’t notice them because we are too busy with our own lives to pay attention.

May this coming year find you drawing ever closer to our Lord and Savior. May we all become more selfless and more God-full. May this be our greatest year yet!