Wednesday, November 28, 2018 7:14 PM

The Joy of Trials

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 7:14 PM
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 7:14 PM

 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4 English Standard Version)

Trials aren’t considered joyful occasions by many people. Instead they are times of high stress. Even though trials happen, we must remember that they aren’t accidents or mistakes. Trials are also under the control of God.

Does that mean that God is evil since He allows these things to happen? Of course not! Nothing that the Lord does is for evil. There’s a good reason for hardships to come our way.

One of those reasons is that God wants us to rely on Him for strength in such ordeals. When we strive to overcome the hardships ourselves, we drain ourselves spiritually and become burned out. However, if we turn to God, He’ll give us what we need to overcome, according to His will.

Furthermore, God knows what’s best for us. Whether we like it or not, trials are necessary for us to grow into to the people that we are called to be. Trials are an exercise of the soul.

Why should we depend on God when trials come? We trust in the Lord because He sees the big picture. The whole world is like a giant tapestry filled with all manner of color and themes. Each of us has a specific role in this masterpiece and everything that happens to us, both good and bad, forms us into a paint stroke, which makes the artwork more beautiful. Therefore, knowing that God sees the big picture, we can endure the trials of life like an athlete who endures hardship in training. He does so because he knows that it will produce great results in the end.

The trials that we have talked about so far are what happen when we faithfully serve the Lord. The other trials that we face happen either because of outside sources that are beyond our control or by consequences from poor choices. I am not suggesting that God does not have a say in such trials; far from it. As a matter of fact, He usually uses such situations to open our hearts and eyes, and make us see how much we need Him.          

With all this in mind, let us not run away from the difficulties when they come our way. Instead, let’s strive to find joy when we face these trials. Not because these difficulties are pleasant, but because we understand that they will help us to be strong in our faith.     

A wise man once said that it isn’t about how hard you are hit in life, it is about how hard you get hit and not go down. Let us not let hardships cause us to despair, but let us turn to the Lord in prayer. When we do, we find the strength to push on.

BIO:  Bruce Sims was born in Southern California, but the place where he was spiritually born in Christ was in North Texas. He received his Master’s in Education at Dallas Theological Seminary and teaches ESL at an Elementary School. He enjoys spending his spare time having many adventures with his wife Aimee.

His favorite Bible verse is Romans 12:1, which calls us to live life sacrificially for God. He has written several poetry and Bible devotionals, which can be found on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 8:16 PM

God Winks and Signs

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 8:16 PM
Tuesday, October 30, 2018 8:16 PM

God winks are little things that seem to happen randomly. However, some feel they are signals from God giving them direction or reassurance.

In a movie called Signs, two brothers tackle this subject. The older brother, Graham, a minister, has tragically lost his wife. He is struggling with anger and doubt. The younger brother, Merrill, asks Graham if he believes that God is looking out for them—because he is feeling afraid.

Graham responds, “People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck, just a happy turn of chance—Could be bad, could be good. Deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they're on their own. And that fills them with fear but in group number one they feel that whatever's going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See, what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs and miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way, ‘Is it possible that there are no coincidences?’”? M. Night Shyamalan

That scene struck a nerve in me. As a believer, I know that God is looking out for me. But, at times I doubt.  

 Recently, I was reminded of God’s direction when I needed to find a home for my children and me. Newly divorced, we had been living with my parents. I looked at a lot of places but couldn’t find a good fit. I felt hopeless and discouraged. I remembered a house I had briefly seen. The realtor took us to see it. While we were looking at it, I prayed silently for clarity. It was in a sweet neighborhood, very family friendly and the kids liked it.

Our home we had to sell had cardinals that would wake me up every morning. Something about that popped in my mind as we were walking through the house. When we opened the front door of the rent home, there in the tree in the front yard, were at least fifteen cardinals!

My daughter exclaimed, “There are so many!” We all started laughing and knew this was our home. 

Now you may be thinking:  It was a coincidence. But for us, it was God saying, “This is your new home.” We lived in that home for three years and never saw another cardinal, until the day we moved out.

So I ask you, “What kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees miracles or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?”

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2 NIV)

BIO: Sherry Shepherd is an experienced, adaptable professional specialized in writing for faith-based organizations. She has worked as an editor and writer for newspaper, movie guides, publishing houses, and several non-profits. Her scope of work includes, corporate and fundraising materials, advertising, web, brochures, books, blogs and biblical materials. However, Sherry is drawn to creative writing, where she can inspire others. She is the mother of three grown children, who have been the source of some of her greatest joy, laughter and material!

Sunday, September 30, 2018 4:47 PM

The Most Important Verse in the Bible

Sunday, September 30, 2018 4:47 PM
Sunday, September 30, 2018 4:47 PM

As I wrapped up studying the book of Numbers and turned the corner into Deuteronomy, I parked on the most powerful command in the Bible.

It’s the bold heading for the outline of life.

The umbrella over all the other requests of God.

In my opinion, it's the most important passage in the Bible, because if we do this, everything else falls in place. It’s referred to as the Shema, because God wants us to listen carefully, and heed the following:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

God desires for us to love him above others.

To love him with everything we have.

To love him with a whole heart, not half-heartedly.

This means so much to him that he wants us to teach our children to love him like this (Deuteronomy 6:7).

He asks us to talk about our love for him everywhere we go (Deuteronomy 6:7).

He wants us to wear jewelry that tells others that we love him (Deuteronomy 6:8).

And let visitors to our homes know we take this command seriously by posting signs on our doorframes (Deuteronomy 6:9).

Do people know you love God by the way you converse with them?

By what you wear?

By the way your home is decorated?

I knew a woman once who wore the same cross every day. I asked her about the cross, and she replied, “I never take this off because I never want to forget who I belong to.” That was powerful.

My “fisher of men” bracelet is a permanent fixture on my wrist for the same reason. Every time I look at this piece of jewelry, it reminds me what I’m on this earth to do, to always be on the lookout for others to tell about God, and his son Jesus. Like fishing, sometimes it takes time to snag a seeker, but once they are on the hook, you have to be ready to reel them in! You will see crosses on the walls of our home, and the Shema is posted on the doorframe to our garage, so that when we leave, we are reminded to never walk out the door without God’s love as we walk into the world.

I am also wondering how God feels when we don’t love him with all our heart. When we turn away from his commands, we don’t spend time with him, and he never enters our conversation.

I believe he feels like we do when we are rejected.

Rejection is painful. Our hearts break, and it takes a long time to get over losing someone close to us. We might make repeated attempts to reconcile, as God does with us, but eventually we give them the space they desire. And if you’re like me, you beat yourself up, trying to figure out why they don’t love you like you love them.

Think about the last time you were rejected by someone. How did you feel?

I think God’s heart weeps, when we reject his love, and we don’t reciprocate. I think he is disappointed when we don’t appreciate the gifts he’s amply supplied us with. I believe the LORD wants us to stay connected to him 24/7, but he is sad, when we can’t even find five minutes to spend with him in a day.

The truth is we often ignore the most important commandment in the Bible.

So what can we do about it?

We can pray this prayer every day:

Lord you know I love you, but help me to love you with my whole heart.

Remind me that you are with me throughout the day.

I pray that you use me as a vessel of your love, so that your love and compassion will flow through me to others who I encounter.

Enable me to keep your commandments, and I pray I do nothing contrary to your love.

In the Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Psychologists agree love is one of the top needs of a human. Since God created us in his image, it’s not hard to figure out he is the one who provided us with the ability to give and receive love, because he gives love, and desires to be loved, just like us.

The Bible says God is love.

Today, place loving God at the top of your “to do” list. There's nothing more important. 

BIO: Lisa Burkhardt Worley is an award winning author and speaker, and is the Director of Special Projects for Roaring Lambs Ministries. She is also the founder of Pearls of Promise Ministries, a ministry with a goal of helping women overcome dysfunction in their lives.  Lisa has co-authored many books including: the Pearls of Promise devotional, If I Only Had…Wrapping Yourself in God’s Truth During Storms of Insecurity, and The Most Powerful P: A Child’s Introduction to the Power of Prayer. 

 

Monday, September 3, 2018 9:13 PM

Just In Case

Monday, September 3, 2018 9:13 PM
Monday, September 3, 2018 9:13 PM

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid." Isaiah 12:2a

The young woman at our restaurant table had a story, and I’m still not sure how much was fact and fiction. Danielle had stopped us on the sidewalk looking for a hot meal. She accepted our invitation to join us for lunch and gladly ordered on our tab.

She said her boyfriend had booted her out of his life, and she’d been pounding the pavement looking for a job. The conversation turned to trust. “I’ve learned that the only person you can trust is yourself,” she declared.

“You know,” I said, “You can’t trust yourself, either.” The Bible has story after story about people who tried to trust themselves. And I know from my own experience why they always failed. I make promises to myself that I fail to keep all the time. Why am I drinking this sweet tea right now, when I told myself I would start drinking more water?

Then we went briefly through the Good News that God spends all of human history foretelling—then living as a man —then dying for our sins (our ongoing efforts to trust ourselves instead of Him)—then proving His power over death with resurrection. I felt like she was letting me tell a story she’d heard a million times before, the cost of accepting a meal from a stranger. But you never know.

She may not have been convicted right then of her misplaced trust, but God was telling me plenty about my own. I kept second-guessing, “Am I telling this story well enough?”

I realized I was falling into that same old trap—wanting to trust myself with the story instead of trusting God to use whatever words He laid on my heart at the moment. What a paradox. What a reminder that my ongoing need for Jesus’ grace never ends.

Who are you counting on today? God or Self? Or maybe that question is too simple. While you count on God, are you still holding onto some expectations of your self to pull out “just in case?” So am I. But God is working on that. He’s already prepared the feast and paid the tab. May His story fall on fresh ears every day, and especially mine (and yours).

 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:4-5).

Mike Branch has had a career in magazines, marketing and copywriting. He and his wife, Sherry, have four children and are expecting their thirteenth grandchild. Last year, he published his first book, True Stories to Remind You of Heaven When Life Hurts Like Hell. His book is available at PicklePerfectPublishing.com.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 4:25 PM

God is Always at Work

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 4:25 PM
Wednesday, August 1, 2018 4:25 PM

Though we may not always feel it, God is at work in our lives. And sometimes, by grace, we have a tiny bit of “Godsight”—a small glimpse at how and why He is doing what He’s doing.

I saw God’s work in my life last week. I had ended my time volunteering for a ministry at my church, but I still felt called to serve. Five days later, I attended the writer’s conference with Roaring Lambs. At this event, an opportunity to volunteer to edit copy was mentioned. This is ideal for me, as I have “proofreader’s eyes.” I’m always on the lookout for a misplaced apostrophe or comma. I would be honored to proofread content about God and how He works in us and through us. So I contacted the organization to get more information about volunteering as a proofreader.

Additionally, I feel that God is calling me to bring to life the book I’ve dreamed about writing for most of my life. It looks different than I would have pictured it years ago. Twenty years ago, I thought I would write the Great American Novel. Five years ago, I wanted to write a bone-chilling thriller. Now, I want to write about the Lord, and I pray that God will give me the words I need to glorify Him.

Three things were reiterated for me this weekend:

  1. God’s timeline is not the same as our timeline. Sometimes a timeline created by our standards happens exactly as we prescribe. For example, I wanted to be engaged by the time I was thirty. My boyfriend was happy to oblige, proposing a month before my thirtieth birthday. But God doesn’t work the same way as your boyfriend, and I think that God has paved the way in my life for me to write the book I need to write, granting me a wider perspective now.
  2. An event may look like a setback, but it’s really a setup for something greater. A friend of mine was miserable in her job, feeling drained at the end of each day. She applied for several positions and interviewed at a variety of companies. Finally, she interviewed for her current role and was offered the job. She could have given up out of frustration from countless interviews. However, through these interviews, she perfected her interviewing skills and landed a job just minutes away from her home.
  3. The Red Sea wasn’t parted until Moses stepped into it. I can’t recall if this was stated by a speaker or one of the ladies sitting next to me. But my take on this point is: a goal may look daunting, but once you take the first step, God will make the way for you. Like the Chinese proverb says, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

God is at work in your life. You may not always see it happening, but hopefully you’ll see the results. Praise God and thank God for all that He does.

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalms 136:26) (NLT)

Sarah R. Bactad is a senior marketing professional. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and finding typographical errors.

 

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