The Great Exchange

At the October CityPrayz event I performed a skit titled, “The Great Exchange: Exchanging your baggage for God’s luggage.” We received a lot of positive comments about the skit, and as I was praying concerning this devotional, I sensed God leading me to reiterate its message:

Most everyone I know can name something about themselves that they would like to change but have felt powerless to do so. In my own life, I have discovered that changing something that has been part of me for a significant length of time takes a process: a series of steps required to move from where I am now to where I want to be, or more importantly, to where God wants me to be. I am amazed every day, as I walk this journey with the Lord, at how great His love is for me, for all of us. He loves us the way we are, and He loves us so much He wants to transform us into what He knows we can be. And He has some pretty good ideas for each one of us!

Is it true that we all have baggage? Can this baggage be keeping us from the best God has for us? Can it hinder us from truly changing for the better? I say, most emphatically, YES!

God wants to take us from a mindset of unbelief to a mindset of total faith: that is, fully trusting who He is and trusting Him for our lives and for our future. He says to you, “I know the plans I have for you and they are GOOD.” (Jeremiah 29:11) You have a future and a hope in Christ. He works from your present to your future, not your past to your present. If you choose to live from your present to your past, you’re going to miss so much of who God is. All of us come into a relationship with God carrying baggage from our past. What is this baggage?

Hurts and wounds
Low self-esteem
Sins that have scarred your mind and heart
Abuses
Anger you feel justified in harboring (grudges)
Bitterness
Jealousy
Rejection
Hatred
Negative pronouncements about what life has taught you
Condemnation
Guilt
Shame

You can be locked into a present-past lifestyle and a present-past perception that says, “Nothing’s going to change, nothing’s going to work for me.” You will notice that many of your current experiences come from your past in constant replays. If you live with this mindset, you are almost guaranteed your past will repeat itself again and again. Why is this? Because what you focus on keeps coming back again and again. If your expectations come from your history, then you are locked into that history. What is it that you doubt about God that keeps you focused on the negative and trapped in your old ways? What is it that you do not understand about God because your vision of yourself is distorted by your past? Many people have lived for too long in this mindset. The enemy, Satan, wants to keep us trapped in defeat, negativity and fear. But God doesn’t!

When we are “in Christ,” old things will pass away and all things become new. (II Corinthians 5:17) This doesn’t happen instantly, but the transformation can begin when we come to understand that, regarding anything we cling to that keeps us in bondage, God is constantly saying, “LET IT GO!” Let it go and let Him replace it with something wonderful that He has always intended for you to have.

A beautiful thing about the cross is that it represents our deliverance from the bondage of present-past thinking. Part of dying to “self” is the crucifixion of the thought patterns and behaviors that we really don’t like but can’t seem to escape. Allow those parts of you that are governed by your past to be crucified with Christ. God is our present and our future. The Lord wants to take us from our current life with Him to the future He desires for us. Walking with the Spirit means letting go of your “baggage,” the things that keep you from the best He has for you.

How much of your daily time is spent brooding over your past, dreading your future, and as a result, failing to enjoy the present? When I was first asked to contemplate this question, I realized that most of my life was spent dwelling on my past (the negative things) and worrying about my future because I was sure my past would keep repeating itself. But I can honestly tell you that I have gone through the processes of getting out of that mindset and I now walk in the freedom of trusting God, enjoying my life and living with a hopeful expectation of my future. I know this change is possible and it is crucial for God’s people to be set free.

Too often, we carry the hurtful words of others in our memories; words that make us feel worthless, useless, with no value, or ridden with fear. Our memories are full of pain or abuse, guilt or humiliation. God says to you, “I don’t want those things in your head. I don’t want them in your life. I don’t want them to rule you. It is time to let them go.” Realize that Jesus came to give you newness of life and freedom from your past. Yes, our past happened, and we can’t actually erase it from our memory, but we can let it go and give it to God. And when we do, it loses its power over us as we walk in the grace and love our heavenly Father is bestowing upon us.

Be comforted by these words: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Those are His words of promise to us! When you are in the midst of crisis and turmoil, when your life has been turned upside down, that is the very best time to turn to God, because it is when we have come to the end of ourselves that we are most willing to fully trust in Him. At those times, when He truly has our attention, He may be able to bless us in ways that we might ordinarily not allow when things are going well. Too often, it is only in those times of great pain and misery that we are desperate enough to look beyond ourselves, to ask “What is really going on here? What can I do to change my terrible circumstances?” God wants to help you see those things that hold you in bondage and are not pleasing to Him. He will gladly take them from you. He is always there, always present, and always able to help you “let these things go.”

Unless your identity comes from the Lord, you’ve got a false identity. You are not living from the place of truth. For God is truth and He will restore your true identity. All that baggage we carry becomes our identity, and the devil does everything he can to keep us trapped in that false identity. But as we give our baggage to God, we find that we now have room for His luggage. He is saying, “You won’t need this baggage for where we are going, so can I have it? I have plans for you, I have places to take you, but in order for you to be that person you have to give me your baggage. I can then enable you to become the person I created you to be.” The Holy Spirit will point to those things that He wants you to let go of, to exchange for the gifts He has for you in return. What are these gifts He gives in exchange? Let’s call them “God’s luggage:”

Peace
Joy
Love
Faith
Patience
Confidence
Assurance
A joyful, confident expectation of good
Enjoyment of life
Hope
Restoration

It is about “The Great Exchange,” where God will love you through the process of change, taking your earthly baggage and giving you his heavenly luggage. God loves it when we see Him for who He is and walk daily in the relationship He has always longed to have with us. As we follow in His footsteps, we walk boldly into the future with hope, faith and confidence.

Dear Jesus, my Lord and Savior,

Thank you for giving me the knowledge of “The Great Exchange.” I am so tired of carrying this baggage. I have been afraid to let these things go, but I am willing to give these things to You because You know what is best for me. I long for the new luggage you give for my journey with You. Please help me to submit daily to your transforming power. Thank you for Your unfailing love and for the good future You have in store for me.

In Jesus Holy name, Amen.

*You may find it helpful to write a list of the things you need to surrender to God and the things He will give you in exchange, and then meditate on those good things He wants to give you.

More Scripture Verses:

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I John 5:4-5 “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

All scripture references are from the English Standard Version.

What Can I Do?

When we are in a trial, our first reaction is to ask, “How can I get out of this?” It’s human nature to want to run away, to get out of a difficult situation instead of going through it. Psalm 34:17 tells us, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” But deliverance doesn’t always come as quickly as we would like. So what can we do while we wait for our time of deliverance? The Word tells us what we should do: “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart, his steps do not slip.” (Psalm 37:30)

So, if our mouths are to utter wisdom, is it wise to speak negative things while enduring a time of trial? Is it wise to complain or express doubt about the situation? God loves justice, so it would be right to speak out that God is going to bring justice to your situation. His Word, the holy scriptures, should be in our heart so that we will not stumble or fall. “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalms 119:11 NAS) Find scriptures that speak positive, hope-filled things to or about your situation and read them over and over. Meditate day and night on them. Write them down. Carry them with you to work, as you go about your day. The enemy of our soul is always right there putting doubts and bad thoughts in our mind, so we have to counteract those messages with God’s word. Psalm 37:23 tells us, “The steps of a man (woman) are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way, though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” And I love the next verse which says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”

King David struggled through many tests and trials throughout his life, yet out of these trials he wrote most of the Psalms which offer so much real-ness and encouragement for anyone who is struggling. Read the Psalms and mark the verses that relate to your situation and that will encourage and bless you as you wait upon the Lord.

You may feel overwhelmed by the trial you face. Maybe you have lost your strength from fear or discouragement and you think it’s impossible to pull out of it all. God’s Word will strengthen you. As you meditate on His Word, your thoughts will begin to line up with God’s thoughts. Hebrews 12:12-13 offers valuable instruction from the Lord: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” This, to me, is a picture of worship. Put on some praise and worship music and get yourself up and lift your hands up and worship the Lord. Sing out words of praise despite how you feel. You may even need to jump and dance, get your feet moving as you worship! Isaiah 61:3 paints a wonderful picture of this: “. . .to grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Find reasons to praise the Lord in the midst of your trial. It’s easy to speak out the negative things, the hopeless things, so you will have to make a conscious decision and effort to think of the things you have to be thankful for and to offer your praises to God. In praising Him, you will open the door to be led by faith instead of doubt and unbelief. God has given all of us “The measure of faith,” but it is up to us to exercise it and allow our faith to grow.

Ask your friends or a close family member to help you be positive, to help you stay focused on God’s Word instead of your problems. If you don’t have any one close to you who can support you in this, pray for God to bring a prayer partner into your life. We all need support in difficult times.

In everything we do, in everyday life, we are faced with choices. The choices we make always begin with our thoughts; we then act on our thoughts and live them out. So it is important to examine the choices we make throughout the day. God has given us all the ability to choose how we’re going to live and what we’re going to think. Use the power God has given you to choose His way for you.

King David’s statement of faith, recorded in Acts 2:25-28, is still true for each of us today: “I saw the Lord always before me, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” His presence will make you glad, so make room in your day to focus on Him. As you reach out to God, He will make Himself known to you and will give you His peace that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7) and fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21 NIV).

Another important thing we can do while facing tough times is to reach out to others. When we help someone else who is in need, we think less of our own problems and gain a personal blessing by being of service to another. In the words of the Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Let’s pray together:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are truly my Father, so I come to you as your child. Please help me to keep Your Word before me and to lift praises to You in spite of how I feel. Help me to see and learn all that You want me to see and learn in this trial. I open my heart and mind to you. Please fill me and touch me in my time of need. Show me others I may reach out to and help so I can be a blessing. Thank you that you hold me in Your loving hand and You are watching over my life to perform something good, even something great, as I learn to trust in You every step of the way.

I ask this all in the mighty name of Jesus Christ,

Amen

Except as noted, all scripture references are from the English Standard Version.

Fear Not

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Everywhere we turn, that’s the message we hear today, from news reporters, politicians, bankers, stock brokers, auto executives, retailers, employers, even our friends and family members. Fear seems to be overwhelming the world.

As believers in Jesus Christ, are we to submit to this spirit of fear? God’s holy Word teaches us otherwise. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of God and His messengers assuring us with words like, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not fear” and “Have no fear.” I love the way these passages are translated in the King James Version: “FEAR NOT!”

The subject of fear is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham is in the midst of a tense confrontation with the King of Sodom, yet God reassures Abraham: “‘Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.’” (Genesis 15:1b)

The story of the Exodus contains one of the greatest moments in all of history. The Israelites have been released from slavery and are making their long journey out of Egypt. The land through which they must journey is a wilderness with little food or water. The Israelites are complaining to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt just to die in the wilderness?” The situation becomes urgent when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides it was a mistake to release the Israelites. He arms his chariots and sets out in pursuit to take them back into captivity. To make matters even worse, the Israelites are backed up against the Red Sea with nowhere to run. If ever a group of people had a right to be hopeless, this was it! Yet Moses says to the Israelites, “. . .Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” (Exodus 14:13-14) We all know the rest of the story. God divided the waters and made a path of dry land right through the middle of the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape between the walls of water on either side. Wow! At a moment when all seemed hopeless, God said, “Don’t be afraid! You don’t have to do anything except trust in Me!” Can we really believe that?

The Psalms contain many assurances about fear. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (118:6 KJV) “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1 KJV) And of course, the beloved 23rd Psalm, in which the Psalmist acknowledges that even when we walk through the darkest valley (the Valley of the Shadow of Death), we need fear no evil, for God is with us!

In the Old Testament, several passages are translated, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Wouldn’t you agree that all of us are feeling a little dismayed these days? Don Moen wrote a wonderful song inspired by passages such as Joshua 1:9:

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way
Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the One Who lives within you
Will be strong in you today!
(Be Strong And Take Courage by Don Moen, Integrity Music)

Have we become so content with our earthly comforts that we have forgotten how dependent we are on the Lord? We must humble ourselves and acknowledge that we are not in control. God is in Control, and He hears our prayers! “Do not fear,” the Lord’s angel said to Daniel, “for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words have been heard. . .” (Daniel 10:12) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) What wonderful promises these are! And yet we must never forget our responsibility to humble ourselves, to acknowledge the Lord, and to seek to please Him with our lives.

If we are instructed to not be afraid, what does God offer to replace our fear? He offers the most wonderful thing of all, peace! In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27) Two chapters later, He says it this way: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (serious trouble), but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We’re supposed to be of good cheer even when we’re facing serious trouble?

The apostle Paul faced his share of serious trouble, but he also knew the peace of God. Acts chapter 16 tells of a time when Paul and his friend Silas were wrongly accused for preaching the gospel and casting out a demon. They were beaten with rods, then thrown into prison, where they were bound by foot stocks in the innermost cell (maximum security). Under those circumstances, I’m not sure I would be of good cheer, but Paul and Silas were! About midnight, they were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (probably thinking they must be lunatics!). Suddenly there was a great earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately all the doors of the prison were opened and all the prisoners’ chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he assumed the prisoners had escaped and drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer rushed into the cells and fell on his knees in front of Paul and Silas, amazed that they had remained in the jail when they could have easily escaped. The jailer took them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” By trusting God in the middle of serious trouble, not only were Paul and Silas released from prison, but others were led to believe in Jesus as God’s Son, even the jailer and his family!

Later, Paul would write, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (asking with humility), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear: “. . .Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And can you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the [ungodly people] who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Beyond doubt, these are troubled times, but God never promised us that we would never have to face trouble. In fact, He promised us we could not escape it. But He has further promised that we can rely on Him completely to walk with us through every trial. He is the Creator of the Universe, and He is bigger than all the problems this world will ever face. No wonder He can say to us, “Fear not!”

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord,

We are worried and fearful and too often weak in our faith. Please forgive us. Please teach us to trust in You completely. Help us not to be caught up in the fears and anxieties of this world, but to lay all of our concerns before You in faith. May we know your peace that passes all understanding. May our faith in You be a shining light that turns the eyes of the nation upon You. As we humble ourselves and pray, as we seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, please hear us from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. May we live each moment in the assurance that we need not fear; we can trust You in every way, for You are in control. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Unless otherwise noted all scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version.

Are You There, God?

In a time of economic downturn even believers can become fearful, as many struggle financially and some have even lost their jobs.  In 28 years of marriage, Matt and I have received many blessings and victories.  Yet, we’ve also experienced countless trials and tough times.  It is during the tough times, when our faith has been tested, that we have seen God come through in amazing ways so that we could take none of the credit and all the glory belonged to Him.

When we face hard times, there is always a “pressing through” that is painful and discouraging to walk.  In the midst of it, it’s hard to see God at work.  We are so quick to fall into doubt and fear, asking, “Where is God in all of this?”

If you are in a difficult place and need a miracle from God, I want to encourage you to not lose heart.  This is JUST the place where the door is wide open for you to see Him come through for you in a mighty way.  There have been many times when I have said to God, “You sure must think I can handle a lot,” when I was sure it was more than I could bear.  Yet, with His help, I made it through to the other side.

In tough times, we face two choices:  be angry at God, OR, draw closer to God.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is the one who makes intercession for us, that is, He acts on our behalf before His Father, the Lord God Almighty.  Jesus acts on our behalf when we draw near to Him.

I like the saying, “You can become bitter or better.”  The choice is always up to us.  Sometimes, halfway through a trial, our frame of mind will change from one state to the other.  It is of course best to work on “becoming better” rather than allowing ourselves to become bitter.  Yet, if you find yourself becoming bitter, there is hope in Christ.  It takes repentance, admitting that we have been wrong, and then choosing to turn in a new direction with God’s help.

James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Often in times of trial, I have had to take time to repent to God for my bad attitude, or for doubting Him instead of trusting Him.  He is always faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.  It takes recognizing that we are weak and He is all-powerful, but it also takes seeing that He loves us, even when we don’t endure a trial with perfect behavior.  He isn’t trying to punish us.  I have seen for myself that if I will submit my attitude to God, He will turn my outlook around and I will find it easier to endure a trial.  Eventually, with His help, I will begin to see a way out of the struggle.

In Psalm 31:1-4, King David gives us a wonderful example to follow:  “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”

If we think God is punishing us, or He has something against us, this false belief will prevent us from turning to Him.  We will be too afraid to draw close to Him.  I find that these false thoughts also stir up confusion.  You wonder, “Is God done being mad?  Is the punishment enough now?  I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me, have I learned what I’m supposed to learn?”  The Psalms and other books of the Bible contain many examples of times when someone experienced such troubled thoughts, and they ring true for those who are going through a time of difficulty.  Psalm 107:6 tells us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.”  (Read the entire 42nd Psalm)

So often, we try to figure out everything before the trial ends.  Yet typically, it is not until we are past the trial that we are able to see a purpose, or to understand that we have learned something of value. We see so much more clearly afterward.  During a trial, we can see only part of the situation.  Our vision is limited.  God may speak to us during our struggle, but He usually only gives us a part of what we want to see and know.  I believe this is because He wants us to keep looking to Him, trusting in His guidance and not in our own limited abilities.

I want to encourage you to look for the little things, the small morsels of understanding as you walk in the midst of your struggle.  God is actively moving and speaking and revealing Himself all along.  We just have to let our eyes see and our minds understand the little miracles He sends our way.  I encourage you to journal everything, with dates, so you can keep track of the praises along the way.  After the trial, when you read back through your journal, you will see God in every step of your journey.

There have been many times when I have been struggling and not able to see a way out, when a good friend would send me a “word from the Lord” that was just in time and so uplifting for me.  First Corinthians 14:1 teaches us, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”  I have often held on to that special word to carry me through very dark times.  Eventually, I would see God’s word fulfilled, but during the trial, my faith would be increased as I held on to the hope of victory before it came.

Jesus promised us that we WILL have trials and tribulations, but HE has overcome the world (John 16:33).   HE has given us HIS overcoming power!  In NO WAY does God mean for us to be defeated!  Satan and his demons long to steal, kill and destroy, to defeat us every chance they can.  We must recognize that there are forces of darkness fighting against us.  We are in a spiritual battle.  So know this: that God intends for you and me to be victorious overcomers so we can help others to also be victorious.

The Apostle Paul writes, “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Yes, while going through a difficult trial it can seem as though the Lord is far away, that the difficulty has somehow separated us from God.  But His word says nothing can separate us from His love.  He IS love and He is always with us no matter what we may be facing.

Maybe someone close to you who is enduring a time of great difficulty.  This can be a great opportunity for you to stand with that person, to pray with them and see them through the trial.  We are not meant to live the Christian life alone.  We are to walk together, encouraging one another in our faith.  So let’s not encourage doubt and unbelief when someone is struggling.  Let’s not agree with their negativity or bitterness.  Let’s speak words of life and encouragement.  Let’s speak scriptures that will build up their faith to understand and believe that God IS making a way for them because He loves them and is for them, not against them. More than ever, we need to support and encourage one another.

Let’s Pray:

Father God, I thank you that your word is our guide through every path of life and it especially helps me when I am struggling.  Thank you for your great love and mercy that never fail to comfort me, even when I can’t see what’s ahead.  Help me to trust you in everything and to believe that You are for me and that You are making a way of escape for me.  I can take comfort in knowing that You know all about my struggles and my weaknesses and you WILL see me through to victory.

In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen.

Where Are You Living?

Are you living mostly in the past, the present or the future? When I was asked this question, I realized that I had never thought about it or taken the time to analyze where my thoughts were focused most of the time. I realized for the first time that I spent much of my time replaying things from the past, especially at night before going to sleep. I would re-live events from that day or from days before. I also realized I spent a lot of my time worrying about the future, and I would come up with all kinds of “what ifs.” I spent the least amount of my thinking time enjoying the present. I could enjoy the present for a moment, but then into my mind would pop something someone had done to me that was hurtful, and I would run with it. My thoughts would be consumed by those hurtful memories, and when I would finally catch myself, I would have to consciously work my way out of the dark place to regain my peace of mind.

We live our lives in our minds, first with our thoughts, then living out what we are thinking. Isaiah 26: 3 says, “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind {both its inclination and its character} is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” (Amplified Version) There are so many things that go on in any given day for most people. Our lives are so busy. Our society has us pushed to our physical and mental limits. It’s difficult to keep our minds on God with so many other things demanding our attention.

When it comes to thinking about our future, many of us worry about what may be ahead, especially in times of economic turmoil like today. It’s easy to live in fear. But Jeremiah 29:11 gives us this promise from God: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (New King James) Do you know that we can trust God even in a recession? We can rest on what His word teaches us instead of what the world tells us to believe. In Matthew 6:25 and 30-33, Jesus Himself speaks to us: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater {in quality} than food, and the body {far above and more excellent} than clothing? But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, what are we going to have to eat? Or, what are we going to have to drink? Or, what are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His Kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right) and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Amplified Version)

For some people, it is difficult to live in the present because the present is so miserable. Perhaps you are facing health issues, or financial challenges, or problems in a relationship, or any of the countless trials we face. I know from personal experience how hopeless life can seem at times. But I have learned that our attitude plays an important role in overcoming times of difficulty. Maintaining a positive outlook and attitude helps us to maintain our faith in the Lord as He helps us make it through the trial. I have good friends who encourage me when I have a bad attitude, and I try to do the same for them. It’s important to have a good support group around us. But in tough times it definitely takes determination and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us be calm and positive. It is imperative that we keep our eyes and minds meditating on God’s Word for support and help.

There are times when I struggle to stay in peace. I quote the scriptures but quickly fall out of peace, then feel guilty because I couldn’t get the Word to work for me. “I must be doing something wrong,” I think, because I know God’s word does not return void, and it is powerful to accomplish much for me. Well, I learned some interesting things from Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian whose specialty is the human brain. In her book, Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions, she describes the anatomy of a thought and the influence it has over emotions and attitudes. Understanding how this all works helps us learn to control and change our thought life so that we can change our resulting behaviors. Dr. Caroline says, “Don’t let a thought come into your mind without recognizing if it’s a good thought or a bad thought. If it’s a bad thought, throw it out and replace this with a good thought.” For years I would apply the scripture, “Take captive every thought that exalts itself above the knowledge of God,” but I wasn’t getting results until I realized that the negative thought that I threw out must be replaced with something positive. It is important to know that we really can and must control what comes into our minds.

I have also learned that traumatic experiences can produce powerful holds on our mind and adverse reactions in our body because the mind is held up or bound up by the traumatic experience. A powerful hold takes time and help from others to break free of, but above all we must seek the Lord’s help and face the matter so we can come to live in freedom and victory. The trauma will keep you living in the past and will cause you to be fearful of the future, preventing you from enjoying the present, today, now, which God intends for us to experience and enjoy. When we fail to live in the present, we miss opportunities to impact those around us who may need our encouragement and support.

I wish I had heard Dr. Caroline Leaf’s message years ago. In fact, it would be great for parents to study, learn and teach to their young children and teens, and it would also be a great Home School learning project. I want to end by quoting from Dr. Caroline’s book: “Behavior starts with a thought. Thoughts stimulate emotions, which then result in attitude, and finally produce behavior.” I wish every believer would get a copy of Dr. Caroline’s book and DVD. She gives a clear biblical perspective on the mind and thoughts and how our thoughts affect us emotionally, spiritually and physically. I highly recommend getting her materials. You will never think the same again. (www.drleaf.net)

Try discovering where you live your life the most; in the past, the present or the future. In Matthew 6:35 our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (New American Standard) If you’re not living mostly in the present, begin today to make the necessary mental and spiritual adjustments.

Let’s pray:

Dear Father,

In the daily challenges of life, we need Your help and understanding to know what our part is in changing our life and perspectives. Thank you, Father, that You created such an amazing part of us, the human brain, and that You care about what we are thinking. Help us to glorify You in our thoughts and in our actions, this day and every day.

In Jesus’ Precious Name,

Amen

Joy

Share My joy, it is available. It is the feathered wings that you use to ride upon the storm, to raise above the afflicted place. The choices are always there to make. Joy, having MY joy is a choice. You choose it, it is yours. It takes looking at the right things for joy to be a part of you and to remain. Where are you choosing to look?

There is a noise in heaven when My people make the choice to walk in joy. Those in heaven join in. Joy not only empowers you, but when it remains it empowers things in the spirit realm, in My realm. Because that is what My realm can agree with, can connect with, can associate with, can join up with, can partner with, can become one with; those who are in My joy.

Joy comes from Me, and when you connect with it, it is connecting you with My realm and the power that is there. Even in the time of sorrow and grief, one can find things to thank Me for, to be joyful in, Following My light, in My light is JOY.

Many people go through life without a purpose. YOU have a purpose. That should bring JOY and fulfillment in it’s accomplishments. Even My Son had the “joy set before Him” as He endured the cross. No suffering is ever put to waste. My Kingdom brings out ‘good’ in all things. The exciting journey of faith is watching Me turn a broken life into something useful and powerful for My Kingdom. Rejoice in the walk of faith for it is before you!

Hebrews 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the rigt hand of the throne of God”

Psalm 43:5 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Faith And Actions

Actions speak louder than words. Words without action mean nothing. The right action done in My power produces great fruit. Faith is an action word. It is a verb, not a noun. Faith without works IS dead. Faith is not to be dead, but it is to be alive. Believing in something before it is visible is faith. Faith must have truth to stand on. You find truth in My word. Truth has life, MY life in it and when it is believed in and put forth with action, that is when the invisible things become visible. I want My people to belive in My word SO much that they will take truth and move out in faith and see the impossible become possible, the invisible to become visible. There is more to this life than what you ‘see.’

Is that all you want to know is what you can see? “No, Lord! I want what I haven’t seen to be visible. I want to see more than what has been seen.” You will see if you believe and if you step out to see the unknown, then it will be “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Oh My glory has been hindered by the lack of believing and the lack of stepping out.

There are the fruitful lives and the unfruitful lives. Do you think the fruitful lives became fruitful without faith, without taking great steps in adversity? That is where faith is tested the most, in adversity. But if you take the steps of believing for more, even in the broken place, you will NOT be disappointed. Know that you eyes will see more and your life will accomplish more in this walk of faith and in the believing before seeing.

That is how the saints of old got through much adversity. They dared to believe, they dared to trust Me, to believe that I AM the Great I AM. That I am everything My word says I am. These things are not done without warfare. The enemy will fight the challenge of faith. But it is SO worth fighting for.

The full gospel includes faith, intertwined with the method of faith. Never void of faith. If you hold on to your way, you will fail to see Mine. My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways. You must surrender your fallible ideals and run after My ways. Search for them and take hold of them and make them your “life.”

What is going to trigger this change in your life and in your mind? Let it be the calling of My Spirit. For when you come when you are called, it will produce deeper life within. But if you wait for a more desperate time, it will take longer to take root. So come with trusting, come with faith. Come ready to take action and move in My way. THE way, THE truth and THE life.

JAMES 2:24 “YOU SEE THAT A PERSON IS JUSTIFIED BY WORKS AND NOT BY FAITH ALONE.”

JAMES 2:26 “FOR AS THE BODY APART FROM THE SPIRIT IS DEAD, SO ALSO FAITH APART FROM WORKS IS DEAD.”

(READ ALSO JAMES 2 VERSES 18-26)

ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION

What About Faith?

What is faith? Do we need faith? Do we have faith?

Let’s see what the word of God has to say about faith:

Question #1: “What is faith?”
We find the definition in Hebrews 11:1 − “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I personally like the King James Version: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Question #2: “Do we need faith?”
We find the answer to this question in Hebrews 11 also, at verse 6: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

Wouldn’t you agree that faith is important if it’s impossible to please God without it?

Question #3: “Do we have faith?”
The answer is found in Romans 12:3: “…each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned,” or “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (KJV) (Man, woman and child)

Hallelujah, this is awesome news. We HAVE BEEN GIVEN “the measure” of faith. God has provided it for us!

You may feel your faith is small or weak but it is possible to increase “the measure” of faith God has given us.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” or “hearing by the word of God.” (KJV)

Yes there is some responsibility on our part concerning our faith.

First Thessalonians says, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love…” Habakkuk 2:4b tells us, “. . .the righteous shall live by his faith.”

Jesus had a lot to say about faith. There are many scripture verses about faith in the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 17:20 Jesus told his disciples, “…if you have faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move, and NOTHING will be impossible for you.”

Wow, that’s a bold statement! Looking at this I believe there is a whole lot more that we could be accomplishing in this life if we believe Jesus’ words. Do you know how tiny a mustard seed is? It is about the size of the head of a straight pin. So, God gave us “the measure” of faith and THEN he tells us it takes only a tiny amount to see great things happen.

Romans 1:17 says, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 reads, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

We were even saved by faith!

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus’ Disciples asked Him to increase their faith (Luke 17:5), and Jesus replied to them, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this Mulberry Tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea; and it would obey you.”

We don’t have to fear the fact that faith is necessary. Faith doesn’t have to seem ‘out of reach’ or impossible to walk in. I have found some people to be offended by the thought of faith being required of them. But if faith can cause mountains to be moved and victory to come to my life, I WANT FAITH!

It is very important to know that faith is not all we need. The apostle James wrote, “What good is it, my brothers (& sisters) if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). In verse 17 he continues, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is DEAD.”

So what kind of “works” is James talking about? What “works” must I produce in order for my faith to work?” Most of our trials and difficulties last awhile, and we don’t see the breakthrough or answer come in just a few days. How do we stand and believe for the answer day after day, week after week, and maybe even month after month?

In times of having to “stand firm and believe” (one of the works) I have learned that just because something has been a certain way a long time doesn’t mean it always will be that way. Faith “sees” my circumstance change into something new and then take joy in the process in seeing it come to pass. Faith focuses on the “PROMISE” in the “PROCESS,” the promise being found in God’s word for your situation. The process will never come to the promise without faith.

Unbelief can get in the way of our faith. In Mark 9 we read about a man whose son was demon possessed. The boy’s father brought him to Jesus’ disciples but they were not able to cast out the demon. So the father brought his son to Jesus. (I love the persistence of this father). The words of this father were, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you CAN? All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and it left the boy.

The father recognized that unbelief was blocking the way. He cried to Jesus for help and his request was granted. I believe we can do the same today and Jesus will help us.

We are all at a different place in our faith in God. But ALL of us have the same requirement: FAITH! It is up to us to USE it, WALK in it and then allow it to grow so we can please our heavenly Father by believing. Living a life of faith can be an exciting journey! I believe God has many blessings to reveal to you as you walk in faith with Him.

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for supplying me with “the measure” of faith. Thank you for making me aware that it’s there and that I am to use it and allow my faith to grow so I can see You work even greater things in my life. Help me to cooperate with Your Holy Spirit as you lead me through the trials of life. Thank You for making a way for me to believe and that you’ll even help me when I doubt. Thank You, Lord, for loving me. I commit to you right now to a walk of faith, in Jesus mighty name, Amen.

Here are some more scriptures on faith for additional study:

Except as noted, all scripture references are taken from the English Standard Version.

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