Overcoming Obstacles

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

We push. We pull. Straining, agonizing, worrying, and fighting. Sometimes we are victorious and sometimes we are not. Overcoming is hard, but it is possible and it is worth it. Think about all of the things that you have already overcome. As a baby, you overcame and learned to walk. As a child, you overcame and learned to read and write. (You may still be struggling with fractions but, even that can be overcome.)  

When we overcome in areas that challenge us, we are encouraged to keep fighting and overcome in other areas of our lives. The Bible tells us in Romans 5 that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Therefore, we can face James 1:2-3 head on and know that we will come out on the other side victorious.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

As hard as it is while we are in the process of overcoming to stay positive and “glory in our sufferings”, it is the reflection on our “sufferings” that produces the perseverance we need. When we see and really realize where we started and how far we’ve come, we are encouraged and can therefore encourage others, even while we are still suffering! This changes our character. We are no longer the weak person we once were. We have overcome something significant and we are changed because of it. This contributes to our future hope. Hope in God and hope in ourselves. We know we can do it next time because we’ve done it before.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with (perseverance) endurance the race God has set before us.” Romans 12:1

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Resolutions – The Revised Version

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“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all do it. 

We SAY we are going to do things differently THIS year. We have a bag full of resolutions that we intend to start the new year with. Then, one by one, they fall away and reveal the same old person we have been forever. 

So, take a moment. Really reflect on your core person. This is what you are trying to change and make into something you think is better. However, change is hard and most people HATE it. 

Why are you doing it, again? 

Let’s take a closer look at your motivations. WHY do you want to change something? You need a reason that is going to keep you motivated for the rest of your life, not just for this year. Because real change requires real sacrifice and real work. And real change, not a resolution, is what you want. Are you trying to change because YOU want to, or for someone else? You have to be personally invested in the change or it will not happen. 

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

For example, most people want to lose weight or get in shape. Gyms make the bulk of their money in the first few months of the year due to “resolutions”. Why? To look better? To feel better? To live longer? What’s YOUR motivation? Instead of resolving to lose weight and get in shape maybe you should resolve to eat healthier and exercise more. Forget about setting unattainable goals that will just end up discouraging you and eventually causing you to quit altogether. Set a goal for TODAY.

TODAY I will eat healthier than I did yesterday. Make one small change. Drink a bottle of water instead of a soda. Or, for every soda you drink, drink a bottle of water. Eat five less bites. Or, pause for five seconds between bites. Start with one meal then move on to another. Don’t rush your change, THINK about it. Remember your reasons for changing.

Also, find someone to keep you accountable. Journaling is a good way to keep up with your progress, but, the journal is not going to call you when you are skipping workouts or eating like a garbage can. Find someone who will encourage you to meet your goals, not tear you down and make you feel worse.

Speaking of goals. Let’s revise this whole “resolutions” idea. Resolutions have lost their meaning in our society. We set them and break them like that’s how it works. The true definition of resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something, yet we treat it like it is temporary. Since that seems to be the case, let’s change the word to goals. Make a list of the things that you most want to accomplish, no more than twelve, and start to plan.

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Lamentations 3:40

Set daily goals, weekly goals, or monthly goals. Take small bites of the progress you want to achieve. Do you have a goal to read the Bible more? Set a daily goal for five minutes or  five verses. DON’T bite off more than you can chew. If you are reading for application, five might be all you can handle! Meditate on those five minutes or verses. What do they mean? How do they apply to your life? What does God want you to know about Him through that reading? Don’t rush, THINK about it. Again, journaling is a great tool to help you get the most out of your time with God.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10-11

God wants you to be successful! Lean on Him when you feel discouraged. Call that accountability partner. When you fall down, get back up and try it again. Remember the real definition of resolution and strive to achieve it.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Accountability

I did it. 

I joined an accountability group. 

As much as accountability scares me, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I need someone to call me out, congratulate me, encourage me, and, most especially, pray for me. As a group we decided to each choose a word for the year and share it with each other. We have prayed about what our word should be and the purpose of the word in our lives. 

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

My word for this year is follow through. Yes, I know technically that’s two words, but it has the one definition I need for my year: “to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion.” I chose this word because I have been having a hard time with it. There were so many things I wanted to do last year (and, in the previous years) that I didn’t accomplish because I didn’t follow through. I didn’t. It is no one’s fault but mine. I do not want a repeat of the disappointment I experienced, therefore, I am focusing on following through.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I would encourage you to do the same. If you are a list maker like me, make a list of what you want to accomplish this year, break it down into manageable “bites” and make a plan to follow through. Ask some trusted friends to help keep you accountable and look forward to a fabulous year.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:9

 

Starting Over

Did you ever stop doing something for a while and then, when you wanted to start again, you felt silly or afraid of what people would think?

For example, let’s say that you were in the choir. You really liked it and you went to all the practices and even sang the occasional solo. But then something happened. You got a cold. So you couldn’t sing. So you missed practice. Then your kid got a cold and you had to nurse them. So you missed practice. Then you had to go out of town for something. So you missed practice. Then you had a really rough week and your nap turned into you sleeping right through the Sunday night service. So you missed practice. Then, you had a family thing. So you missed practice. 

You saw them up there and longed to be a part of the group but things just weren’t working out. It wasn’t that you didn’t desire to go to practice, other things just got in the way. Then you started feeling afraid of what they’d say when you came back. 

              “Where has she been?”

              “Why hasn’t she been at practice?”

Then you start to tell yourself that maybe they don’t want you back. Someone else is in your seat, so maybe they don’t need you. You want to be there, but your fear of what others are thinking is influencing your negative feelings and behaviors. 

You are being ruled by fear. 

And, most likely, unfounded fear. 

What they are really thinking:

       “Of course we want you back, you are a part of the choir.” 

     “I (we) understand that sometimes life just gets in our way. We have all experienced times when things didn’t go according to plan.” 

     “The important thing is that you came back. You didn’t give up. You love to sing, God has gifted you to sing, and you didn’t let Satan keep you away.”

This is exactly how Jesus responds when we turn back to Him. 

He came from heaven to live among us so that he could understand our trials and temptations. He understands that sometimes life just gets in our way. He has experienced trials and temptations himself so he owe that sometimes things don’t go according to plans. The important thing is that you came back. You didn’t give up. You didn’t let Satan keep you away. 

I’d like to say thank you to all the people over the years who have spoken words of encouragement when you could have spoken words of reprimand. Proverbs 18:21 says:

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”(New International Version)

“What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” (Good News Translation)

So get back out there. Start over doing what God has called you to do. Start over living in obedience to God. Don’t let fear rule your life. Live in the freedom of God. 

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19 NIV

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 NIV

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

Wake Up Call

I’ve spent the last month “procrastinating” while doing research. It’s easy to get lost in research and forget what the research is for. I won’t call it wasting time, because I was investigating and researching things for my new book, however, I also wasn’t heading God’s voice.

Just before I started a new day in my Bible study a video popped up on social media that had an interesting title, so I clicked on it to watch. She made a comment that immediately struck me in reference to her soon-to-be ex-husband. “It occurred to me that I could hang up on him.” In the span of ten years, she’d been clinging to his every word.

Conviction hit. Is God calling me to something? Or, just calling to talk? Have I “hung up” on him? What about you? Did you even realize you’d done it? I didn’t. I had stopped taking His calls and I was no longer hanging on His every word. Disobedience leads to distance between you and God. God is always there, but, if you’re disobedient, your heart is not close to Him.

You can love God but not be “in love” with Him. Just like you can believe in God but not “believe Him”. I hope that my wake up call inspires you to take a closer look at your relationship and make the changes necessary to stay close to Jesus.

Going, going, gone!

Ever feel like you are just constantly on the go? Running to this activity or that commitment can make you feel as if you aren’t getting anything accomplished. We keep going and going until we are gone. Our minds are gone, our health is gone, and it feels as if our spirit is gone.

To avoid falling into the pit of perpetual performance, stop and spend time reflecting on God’s Word. What exactly does HE want you to accomplish today? Have you asked Him to order your steps? What is your focus on, Him or yourself?

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Psalm 32:8

In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

These questions are not easy to answer because they require that you stop long enough to reflect. However, stopping briefly to assess where you are can help you to gain time through reprioritization.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Putting God first and asking Him to direct your path will help you to accomplish what is most important.

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Steadfast Trust

We all have anxiety from time to time. Sudden death, job loss, sickness, unexpected expenses, or trouble involving our children can turn our thoughts in a negative direction. However, if we are not careful, we can create an idol from our anxiety.

In order to prevent strongholds and idols from forming, be sure to answer anxiety with trust in God. Go to the Word and remind yourself:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God loves nothing more than when we tell Him we trust Him in the middle of whatever storm we are going through. He understands that it is not easy, but He honors our sacrifice of praise and draws us closer to Him. If you have created an idol of anxiety and worry, you can break free by repenting and placing your trust in God.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

The Sacrifice of Time

God desires to be first in your life and mine. Before your family, before your job, before your hopes, dreams, and desires. The best way to demonstrate your love for God is to put Him in the forefront of all that you do, especially in how you invest your time.

Time is a precious commodity that we either use or lose. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. No amount of money in the world can buy you more of it, and everyone, regardless of station in life, gets the exact same amount. Sometimes we invest it, sometimes we waste it and sometimes we sacrifice it.  

The Bible tells us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

When we offer the sacrifice of time to the Lord, His abundant blessings fill us to overflowing, and He is glorified. We get the benefit of being closer to Him, becoming more like Him, and receiving His peace. The smallest sacrifice of time on our part is multiplied by God to result in a large return on our investment.

Every time we choose to sacrifice time to Him, He rewards us with peace, knowledge, understanding, guidance, and abundance. Trust Him to go before you and bless you with a significant return for your sacrifice.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

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God’s Peace

Can we put a price on peace?

We try to. We think that if we have enough money, we’ll have financial peace. We think that if we attend enough services and read our Bible enough, we’ll have spiritual peace. If we eat right and exercise, we’ll have physical peace. Then, if we can find that special someone, we’ll have emotional peace.

But, trying to find peace in anyone or anything other than Jesus is a false peace. It will not provide the peace we seek, because ONLY Jesus can fill that hole in our hearts. He paid the price for us to have His peace. This is a heavenly treasure that we can experience on Earth.

We are human and we live in a fallen world. Trials and tribulations are normal and should be expected. In fact, the Bible tells us to rejoice that we have to endure trials and tribulations because they produce a perfection in us that could not be achieved another way.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Thankfully, we can have God’s peace because Christ overcame what we could not.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Intentional

Good Morning!

I know it’s been a while, but there was a good reason. I’ve created a 40-day devotional titled Intentional – Developing A Deeper Relationship With God. I have been working on it for several months and it is now available on Amazon in print (recommended) or ebook.

All profits from the sale of this devotional go straight back into funding future mission projects and to purchasing the devotionals to give. I have intentionally priced the devotional for only $6 so that you can buy one for yourself and buy one to give to a friend or family member.

The devotional is intended to help you draw closer to God through a series of questions, applications, and reflections. It calls you to be intentional in your worship, your service, your witness, your study, and your communication with God and others.

Thank you all so much for your continued support.

Intentional – Developing A Deeper Relationship With God