Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘God’

Exercise Patience

by Brenna Fields Taylor

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3, NKJV)

When we go to the doctor, he or she may tell us that we need to start exercising.  Exercising is not an easy thing, and we may not want to do it (because it takes effort, it takes work); but it is required so that we can maintain or improve our health.

During the season in which we’re finding ourselves, I believe God is calling us to exercise patience.  By now, many of us thought that the pandemic would be coming to an end and that we could start returning to our normal lives (and as of the time of this blog post, that is far from true).  And on top of the pandemic, the racial, economic, and political climate is one that we in this generation have never seen or experienced.  And yet, I believe God is calling us to be patient.

In the epistle of James, the author teaches us to consider it joy when we face difficulties. Why? Because it’s going to produce something good in us, and that is patience.  No one likes to wait, but as we exercise patience, we are growing, we are maturing, and our faith is increasing.  So James says that we are to allow patience to do a work in us.

When we engage in physical exercise, the more we do it, the better we become.  Our muscles grow stronger, we can walk or run faster, our bodies function better, we sleep better, and we reap all kinds of benefits from physical exercise.  When we exercise patience, we’re reaping spiritual benefits:  we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our faith is increasing, and we have a deeper relationship with God (we pray more, we trust Him more, we have the peace that passes all understanding).

Look at your life before the pandemic and now: Are you praying more? Are you seeking God’s face more? If the answer is yes to those questions, that’s means we are exercising patience! We have no idea when the situations we face will come to an end.  Until they do, I encourage you to continue exercising patience.  And as we do, watch what God does in your own life as well as in the world and His kingdom.  We will reap the spiritual benefits if we continue to exercise patience.

Hold On

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

by Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, it is April of 2020, and the world is in the middle of a pandemic called COVID-19, a virus that is spreading rapidly throughout the world, taking the lives of countless people.  Because of the contagious nature of the disease, many communities are living in a complete shut-down (or at minimum, are sheltering in place, rarely venturing outside). As a result, the times in which we are living are unsettling, unusual and unprecedented.  History records that there have been many plagues of diseases that have impacted the entire world, including the flu pandemic of 1918 and a cholera pandemic that ran from 1852-1860.  While the experience of pandemics is new to us, it is not new to the world and certainly not new to God.

In the midst of these trying weeks, I have witnessed God’s healing power restores friends and loved ones, and at the same time I’ve seen when God has chosen to call others home to be with Him.  It has been an emotional rollercoaster!  What we are being told about this current pandemic seems to change almost daily, and a lot of times, we are unsure whose report to believe.  Churches don’t know whether they should meet in person or not, and sadly, there are debates among Christians on faith (or lack thereof), depending on churches’ decisions on this issue.  Vacations, conferences, class and family reunions, and weddings have been cancelled or postponed.  And since no one has any idea of how long this thing is going to last,  our lives seem to be on hold.

Even in the midst of all of this, I want to encourage you (and me) to hold on.  Isaiah 41:10 in the NLT says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

This virus has many of us hesitant to leave our homes and to be in close proximity to other people, and rightfully so. But this particular passage says that we shouldn’t be afraid.  This virus may have some of us feeling discouraged because we see so much sickness and death around us. I will admit that, even as a minister, I have been overwhelmed by the many prayer requests for healing and comfort, even as my own family deals with the aftermath of death.

But in this passage, God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid and discouraged, because He is with us AND He is our God.  God has given us three promises in this one verse: He promises to strength us, to help us and to hold us up.  I encourage you to lean on and lean into God and these promises, that He will strengthen you, to help you and to hold you up.

What I find interesting about this passage is that it’s not just any old hand that is holding us up.  It is God’s “victorious right hand” that is holding us up.    The right hand of God symbolizes power and might.  It conveys authority and blessings.  Not only is the hand of God powerful, but it is also victorious.  So if God is holding me up with his victorious right hand, he is giving me power, strength, authority, blessings and victory, even in this precarious time.

I know we are overwhelmed, tired and unsure…but hold on.  God has promised to strengthen us, to help us, and to hold us up.  Let’s trust God together.

 

God is Speaking…Listen!

by Brenna Fields Taylor

I was in my devotional time today, and I began to pray for a friend of mine who is going through a situation similar to what I have just recently experienced. I called her name in prayer, asking God to give her bold faith to persevere through this trial. Since I am beginning to emerge from my own circumstance, I’ve come to recognize that my faith in God has increased!   What I’m currently facing seems to be challenging, but I am declaring by faith that God will handle it (I am not worried about the ‘how;’ I just know that He will). This is the prayer I prayed for my friend.

God is an amazing God! After I finished praying, I turned to the daily devotional I read, and this is what the scriptural reference was:

Isaiah 46:3-4 (NLT)

Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
 I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.

Talk about an on-time word! God spoke directly to my situation as well as to my friend’s, and I had literally just called her name in prayer minutes before! If you ask God to speak to you about a situation, trust that He will do it! And it will be unmistakable that it is HIS voice!

What God also said to me in this short amount of time is that when you are listening for His voice and walking in faith (bold faith, I might add), when the fiery darts of the enemy come your way (Ephesians 6), they affect you differently. Yes, the enemy may shoot them, but our faith doesn’t allow them to burn us! Our bold faith, based on the Word of God, is protecting us…we don’t have to worry about what the enemy throws our way. We are aware of the enemy’s tactics and schemes, but we keep moving forward in faith, knowing that God WILL care for us, carry us, and be with us!

Be encouraged, friends! We serve a God who speaks to us and to our specific situations. Ask Him to speak to you and then listen for His voice. And walk in faith!

A Good Work

by Brenna Fields Taylor

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.” – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13 (ESV)

Now that we have entered into a new year (2020), many of us have started wondering about purpose. We’ve begun asking such questions as: “What am I supposed to accomplish this year? What would God have me focus on?” And if you’re like me and have reached a milestone age (and you recognize that there is probably more of life behind you than there is ahead of you), these questions take on even more significant meaning. We may wonder, “What should I be doing with the rest of my life? What kind of legacy will I leave behind?” I recently asked myself this question as I read an article about a sorority sister of mine who recently passed away due to cancer at the young age of 52. Although the end of her story is tragic, her legacy of encouragement, support and perseverance, even while she battled cancer, is one that will live well beyond her years. To read more about this awesome woman and her life, take a look at this article: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article239071853.html

Good Work

As we begin to set goals for the year and ask ourselves about purpose, there is one thing we can be assured of…as believers, God is working in us to fulfill purpose. The passages above were written by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. They were a group of Christians who were faithful to spreading the gospel and were very supportive of Paul and his ministry. He writes this letter to them to express his love for them, to pray for them, and to also encourage them.

The first passage says that God will finish the good work He’s already started. Sometimes, this good work in our lives is very evident to us, while at other times, it may not be so obvious. For example, you may unknowingly be an example for someone who’s experiencing a similar situation that you are (we have to remember that people are always watching us). You may never know how your life and actions can influence others. Or, you may be actively and openly pursuing your purpose. In either case, the first passage reminds us that whatever God has started, He will finish.

The second passage reminds us of who is working in us…it’s God! And He is working in us to fulfill His will and for His good pleasure. What does this mean for us as believers who are searching for purpose? God is the One who will reveal what our purpose in life should be, and He will also enable us to complete what He’s asked, all for His pleasure.

I highlight these two passages for a couple of reasons. First, as we set our goals for the year (and as we make goals, we should seek guidance from God), He may reveal something that seems to be outside of our reach. God may give us a desire for something that seems so massive, and we may wonder, “How in the world am I going to do THAT?” If God reveals it to us and we believe that is something we should strive for, we can be assured that God has ordained it and that He will give us the strength to complete it. Secondly, we can also be confident that the thing that God asks us to do is good. Since God is a good God, we know that everything that comes from Him is good (see James 1:17). So the goals that are ordained by God are good, the work we are to accomplish is good, and God’s will for our lives is good. Lastly, this good work that we are called to accomplish is a process and will take effort to complete (nowhere in either passage does it say that the work will be completed instantaneously). Commentator F.B. Meyer says this: “God, who began the work on the first day…is maintaining and building it up step by step.” As we advance through our purpose, God is maintaining and building it up (and us as well) step by step. While we fulfill our purpose, he is shaping us, molding us, and maturing us to become more like Him, even through the challenges we will face moving forward in our good work.

So, as we set our goals for the new year, let’s seek God for His wisdom and guidance. Let’s not be afraid of big goals! And when He reveals our purpose, let’s trust Him to complete this good work He’s given us to do.

What Time Is It?

by Brenna Fields Taylor

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NLT)

I am writing this post on January 1, and a new year is just dawning. As with each new year, there is a focus on newness, change, life improvement, and resolutions. While I no longer make New Year’s resolutions, I do try to set goals for the year. Today’s post is not about goal setting or resolutions. It’s about time.

Hourglass

About 2 ½ years ago, my family experienced an extended season of loss. Between July of 2017 and the following June, we lost 5 family members, some to extended illness and some to sudden death (which was the case with my mother). On top of that, I lost 2 very good friends to sudden death (one less than a month after my mother’s passing). The year I lost my mother (2018) was the year I turned 50, and it was also the year I realized my marriage could not be saved.

What the last 2 ½ years have taught me is to redeem the time. Look at what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about the scripture above from Ephesians: “Time is a talent given us by God, and it is misspent and lost when not employed according to his design.” If you are reading this, God has given you a measure of time. The question is: are you using it according to His design?  You may ask, “what does God want me to do with my time?” That is a question that God can answer for you, but you must seek Him out (Matthew 6:33). Yes, there may be things we want to accomplish, but what does GOD want us to accomplish? Ask Him!

Matthew Henry also says this about the Ephesians passage: “If we have lost our time heretofore, we must double our diligence for the future.” I don’t know about you, but as I reflect on my life and my 50+ years, I realize that I did not redeem the time as earnestly as I could or should have. While looking back affords me the opportunity to learn some lessons, the past is not where I plan to stay. I believe that, while I wasn’t perfect, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. And now, time and experiences have taught me things that have changed me for the better. So, as Henry states, I am doubling my diligence for the future. I recognize that our times are in God’s hands, and He has not revealed the number of our days to us. And since I don’t know how long my life on this earth will be, I need to take advantage of EVERY day I’m blessed to see.

I am not advocating becoming a workaholic to try to cram it all in, but I am suggesting that we must intentionally use the time we have. Do I really have to watch that TV show now, or can I record it to watch later? Can I spend less time on social media and use that time in a more productive way? Can I get up a little earlier in the morning so I can get that 30-minute workout in? You’d be surprised the amount of time that becomes available when we make a few adjustments.

So, what time is it? It’s time to redeem the time! Seek God for what He would have you accomplish this year, set your goals and let’s go! Now is the time to redeem the time!

Reflections on 2019

As one year comes to an end and another one approaches, many people tend to reflect on what happened over the last 12 months. We assess ourselves for the progress we’ve made toward the goals we set, and look to the future to set new ones.   I normally engage in this activity every year, but this time, things are a little different for me.

2019 was probably one of the most challenging years of my life (2018 is a close second).  I faced some situations that I did not at all expect (you could not have told me at the end of 2018 that 2019 would end the way it is). So this year, in addition to thinking about what will be most important to me in 2020 (a new decade), I am spending time reflecting on the lessons I learned in 2019.

First, I’ve been reminded that with God, I can face ANY challenge.   There were times this year when I didn’t know how I was going to come out, and there were some days when I was mentally and emotionally tapped out. And yet, God carried me through. The things that happened to me could have caused a mental breakdown (literally), but they did not. God kept me ‘closed in my right mind,’ as folks from the old church sometimes say.

Related to the first lesson is this one: Never take mental health for granted. I recognize that my situation could have gone another way. I’m grateful to God that I was able to continue functioning at work, with school, in ministry and with all the other things I do, and still be successful.   Regarding my mental health, I am now more intentional about self-care and recognizing when I need to rest.  I am also more aware of the foods I eat (while my diet is not perfect, I have incorporated more fresh vegetables and fruit and try to drink more water). Additionally, I am more intentional about getting physical exercise (even if I can only do 2-3 times a week of something). I believe that what we eat, how well we rest, and how much we exercise contributes to our mental and emotional health.

Next, I have learned on a deeper level the importance of having a positive and supportive tribe. A tribe doesn’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t be) a large group of people, but they should be people in whom we can confide, those who will pray for us, and those who support us. Through this year’s challenges, my tribe was there for me in ways I could not even imagine. When I couldn’t share what was going on with me with most people, I could share with my tribe, without fear of judgment or ridicule. I know God placed them in my life for a reason, and for their love and support I am eternally grateful. I pray that one day, I can return the favor.

Lastly, this lesson is one that is in progress for me. I am learning that my goals will not achieve themselves, and that I must keep them top of mind at all times. There were some things that I wanted to accomplish in 2019 that just didn’t get done. While I’m not beating myself up about that, I am more aware of why that is…because I was distracted and spread too thin. I am now assessing what I do to determine those things that are critical to my goals and vision for my life, and those other things that are not essential. I believe this is something we should all do, if we want to fulfill the vision and calling that God has on our lives.

Yes, I will be setting some goals for 2020. But they will be set in light of what I’ve learned in 2019. I pray the lessons you’ve learned in 2019 are just as life changing as mine are. As we enter a new decade, let’s redeem the time and stay focused on what’s most important — God’s will for our lives.

I am a different person going into 2020…and I’m thankful for the lessons 2019 has provided.

Surviving the Holidays? How Did I Do?

Happy New Year! I’m grateful to be in the number of those who made it to 2019!

As I promised in my previous blog post entitled “Preparing to Survive the Holidays,” here is my follow-up on how things went.

daisy flower in the desert

I must admit that I am glad to be on the other side of the holidays (insert sigh of relief).  As I anticipated the first holiday season without my mother, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I wondered if I would be extremely sad, angry or what, as Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day approached.  Shortly after New Years’ Day would also be the first anniversary of my mother’s passing (January 6).  So, all of those milestone dates were back to back on the calendar.

I think overall, I didn’t do too badly.  On Christmas Day, my daddy and I spent the afternoon and evening visiting friends. People were very gracious to us, and we had several invitations to Christmas dinner (too many to accept lol).  Overall, the day was filled with fun and laughter.

It was on New Years’ Eve 2017 when my mother went into cardiac arrest. My plan was to go to a church service this year, but the later in the evening it got, the more I knew I wouldn’t make it.  I ended up sleeping through midnight, and woke up in time to call my Daddy to wish him a Happy New Year in the Central Time Zone.  New Years’ Day was quiet…I made some of the traditional food for the holiday (collard greens, black eyed peas) and reflected on what I was doing a year ago….trying to get home to be by my mother’s bedside.   I was back to work the next day, and my busy schedule resumed.  It helped to be busy when the anniversary of her passing came.

What did I learn in this process of surviving the holidays?

Don’t be afraid to share with people what you are about to face during the holidays

I’m not saying share with everyone, but only with those who understand what you are going through and who will show you compassion. They may or may not remember that you are facing the holidays without a loved one (and that’s ok…we shouldn’t expect people to remember every significant moment of our lives).  Those who really care about you will check on you, invite you to dinner, or do something to help you get through this period.

Some people choose to share these milestones on social media.  I chose not to, because I didn’t think I would be up to responding to hundreds of responses about my loss.

Go with the flow

For Christmas, while my Daddy and I had made plans, we also let the day unfold as it would.  It was great spending time with loving friends, and we also knew when it was time to call it an evening (even though we didn’t make it to every house we thought we would).  We didn’t put pressure on ourselves to do it all…and it was ok.

Thank God for the grace He extends

Through the entire holiday period (from Thanksgiving to New Years’), God showed Himself gracious to me!  Yes, there were some sad moments.   Yes, I shed some tears.  Yes, I wished things could be different.  But God showed His love and concern by giving me the strength to face this season, knowing that He would never leave me nor forsake me.    I’m grateful to God for placing people in my life who would remember and acknowledge my loss…just the acknowledgement alone, and the fact that I was thought of, was a comfort.

 

Yes, I still grieve, but I am grateful.  And…I’m looking forward to a new year with new possibilities.

Responding to Trials

Trials, difficulties, struggles, challenges.  They all happen to each of us throughout life.  These situations come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors:  job loss, loss of a loved one, divorce, or a health challenge.  As Christians, we should not be surprised when they happen (although they do sometimes catch us off guard).  Scripture reminds us that we should not be surprised when challenges come in our lives: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you– 1 Peter 4:12, NLT. Whatever the situation, we have a choice as to how we react…we can try to embrace the challenge and push through it, or we can resist it and possibly become bitter and angry because this thing has happened to us.  The path we travel on during our situation is really up to us.  And for Christians, as we push through our situation, we do not do it alone.

In my own experiences, my trials have eventually turned out for my good.  Note I said “eventually”!  The good from my situations was not instantaneous, but was revealed over the course of time.  And as a result of my challenges, I am a better person, a stronger person, a more compassionate person, a more grateful person.   So, as we are facing difficulties, what can we do to get through them, to the point where we can see the good, and can experience the transformation that God wants to make in us?

Choose our perspective

How do we view this negative experience?  In our mind, is it the end of the world, or is it an opportunity for a new beginning?  James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us of this: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)  This trial is an opportunity for our endurance to grow!  Something good will come out of this!  We choose to look at this situation from that perspective.

Choose to trust God

As we experience our trials, we can choose go to the Word of God to bolster our faith.  When we read passages about the heroes of faith (Moses, Mary, Paul, and Joshua are just a few examples), we can see how God worked in their lives, and we are reminded that He can also work in ours (AMEN!)  We can also look back on my own life and remind myself of what God has already done for me (if we were to really count our blessings, we would lose count!)  As we read Scripture and look back at past blessings, we are learning to trust God more and more in what’s happening right now.  If He did it before, for me as well as for others, can He not do it again?

Choose to be patient with ourselves

We should remember that as we experience trials, our change may not be instantaneous (in fact, most times, it’s not).  There may be days when we feel we’ve make one step forward, and the next day we get knocked two steps backwards.  That’s ok.  We should be patient with ourselves as we trust and believe that we are being transformed by God (and that transformation happens by the renewing of our minds…see Romans 12:2).  So, be patient with the process…it is a process. We choose to be patient and to take each day as it comes, believing by faith that transformation is happening (even if we cannot see or feel it).

As we press through trials, we have choices!  We can choose to be bitter or better, we can choose to trust God, and we can choose to take things one step at a time.  It’s up to us.  Make a decision to want to be better as a result of what has happened to you. And watch what God does in you and through you.  The lyrics of this song by James Bignon remind us of this:

“On the other side of through
There’s a blessing waiting for you
Hold fast
Hold fast
Your troubles will not last
There’s a blessing
There’s a blessing
On the other side of through”

I’m on the Potter’s Wheel

There are times in our lives as Christians when we feel pressed on every side.  It seems like we’re catching it from everywhere…our relationships with our loved ones are challenging, we’re overworked on our jobs and are feeling unappreciated, we’re dealing with health concerns, and the place we go to worship and get encouragement is going through a season of trial (these are just a few). The Apostle Paul experienced this pressing and shared his plight with the church at Corinth: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8, KJV)

When we’re feeling this pressure, the first thing we want is relief!  We cry out to God, just like Job did (which is what we should do) and ask, plead or even beg God to free us from the pressure.  We want these burdens off of us, and we want them gone NOW!  Can anyone else besides me relate to this?

Instead of desiring to be released, let’s take a moment to look at things from God’s perspective.   The prophet Jeremiah observed in chapter 18 a potter working on a pot on the potter’s wheel.  According to Jeremiah, “the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands.” (vs. 4, NIV) Doesn’t that sound like us?  We are marred creatures, yet God desires to work on us.  Jeremiah goes on to say in verse 4:  “so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

Potter

That is what our Heavenly Father is doing while we are being pressed.  He’s forming us into another pot, shaping us as He sees best.  He’s allowed those sandpaper people to be in and stay in our lives for a reason.  He’s giving place for the challenges we’re facing at work for a purpose.  He’s letting some things happen in our lives that we may not like.

Picture in your mind what Jeremiah sees as he watches the potter work with the pot.  If the pot could speak, what would it say? “Ouch, that’s hurts, Mr. Potter.”  “When will you be finished, Mr. Potter?” “That’s enough, Mr. Potter!”  Don’t we say these same things to God when we’re being pressed?  I know I have!   But it helps to remember that we’re not going through what we’re going through for no reason.  God is allowing our experiences to shape up us in the image of His Son Jesus, to become the person He wants us to be.

For me, I believe in my own season of ‘press,’ God is preparing me for something greater.  He’s getting rid of some things in me so I can be ready for the purpose for which He’s called me. And He’s replacing those character traits and habits that are not of Him with those that are.  So, as the pot, I’m going to stay on the potter’s wheel until the Potter is finished with me.  Being on the potter’s wheel is not the most comfortable place, but it’s the most necessary place.  And I’m trusting that the Potter knows what He’s doing as He molds me until what He wants me to be.

God Answers Prayers, But…

Yes, we know that God answers prayers.  Those of us who believe in the power of prayer know that He’s there to listen and that when we pray according to His will, He hears us; and because we know He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we receive it (see 1 John 5:14-15).  Many times when we pray, especially for those things that are extremely challenging situations (serious illness of a loved one, difficult marriage, long-term financial strain), where we may not see breakthrough for quite some time, we continue to pray but sometimes wonder when the answer will come.  But the question I want to pose today is…as you continue to pray, are you looking for the answer?

prayer image

 

What prompted me to write this today is the fact that I am praying for a few ‘big’ things and have been praying for quite some time.  And God showed me signs of his answering them all in one day, all in one church service.  But I wasn’t looking for the answers! I was just going along enjoying the worship service, when boom, boom, boom…there were the answers.  Three prayer requests, three answers just like that. The situations are not completely solved, but I can see that God is working (note the present tense) to answer the petitions that have been brought before Him.  And these prayers have just not come from me, but from others as well.  I know that He is going to answer, but I was in awe at how God is working and the timing in which He’s working.  My mind is still blown as I’m writing this the next day after it happened.

 

What’s the lesson for me (and hopefully you) today?  Don’t stop looking for the answers and for your breakthrough to come!  They are coming!  And they are coming in ways and through people that you may not expect or anticipate.  When your answers (or the beginning of the answers) appear, give God praise for them!  For me, what God did yesterday was a reminder for me to keep praying, keep pressing, and to not give up.  God is sovereign and has our situations under his complete control. He is well able to handle them, and I am trusting and believing that He WILL answer (just like it says in 1 John 5:14-15). I encourage you to join me and do the same.