Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘perseverance’

Why Should Christians Assemble Themselves Together?

We live in a world where technology affords us opportunities to do thing quickly and easily, many times with little to no help from others. We have smartphones and tablets that we can use to get the latest information on any given topic, without having to ask anyone. If we want to connect with someone, we can use our devices to do so, and when we call them, instead of just hearing a voice, we can also see them ‘face to face.’   If we want to further our education, we can take online classes (as a student in an online Master’s program, I can relate to this).  And if we want to participate in a worship service, we can live stream many churches from anywhere in the world.

Assemble Ourselves Image

Technology is a good thing, but it has the ability to make us think we don’t need to get together with other believers.   Hebrews 10:25 tells us “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (NLT).” Since the Word of God is timeless and true, this not only applied to believers during the time this was written, but it also applies to us today.  So the question is: in spite of all the advances that enable us to go solo, why should Christians assemble ourselves together? What are the benefits of assembling ourselves together? I’m glad you asked!

As we come together in worship and praise, we receive encouragement from one another, as the verse in Hebrews clearly tells us.  Each person has had difference experiences during the previous week, and will have to encounter other types of challenges in the upcoming week.  These tests can sometimes cause us to get discouraged, so we are to build one another up as we face them, admonishing each other to “…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58, NIV).  Assembling ourselves together is a way for each of us to get the strength we need to face these tests, “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). The encouragement we can receive coming together and sharing with one another is invaluable (having recently experienced this myself, I can totally relate)!

Also, as we come together, we are given opportunities to minister to others. Worship service is not just about what we can receive individually, but also what we can give to someone else.  God can use us in unexpected ways to be a blessing to others, and we should always be prepared to minister to and bless one another.  Being prepared to minister doesn’t necessarily mean having a sermon or teaching prepared, nor is it just reserved for those who are called to ministry (although every believer has a ministry…that’s another topic for another blog).  We should ask God to send us opportunities to be a blessing to someone, and be open to recognize them when they come.  They can be things as simple as greeting someone with a smile and a hug (not knowing that your greeting is the first friendly one they’ve received in a while), holding the door open for someone, or offering to watch a baby while mom goes to the restroom.  Or you may be called to pray for someone or offer a word of encouragement to a person who’s hurting. Instead of saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” why not stop right then and there and pray for them? What a tangible and real way to show someone you love them and are concerned about them!

Lastly, when we assemble ourselves together, we can learn from one another.  Yes we can certainly listen to a sermon or teaching online, but there’s nothing like sitting next to someone hearing the message or teaching and seeing the light bulbs of revelation come on!  When we’re in small groups or in Sunday School classes, we have the chance to share our personal experiences, which help us to see how the Word of God manifests in real and practical ways. We can ask questions about what we’re learning (something we can’t do over a livestream) and others can help reinforce the lessons in our minds.

Yes, life can get busy, and technology gives us the opportunity to hear God’s Word wherever we may be.  But nothing can replace Christians coming together to fellowship with each other, encourage each other, learn together and pray for one another.  So put your electronic device away, get up and go assemble with the saints of God.  I promise that you’ll be blessed by the experience and will be able to share that blessing with others.   See you in service!

Is Mustard Seed Faith Enough?

Many Christians (I’m sure) are familiar with this passage from the book of Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). Have you ever prayed for something for an extended period of time, but subconsciously given up hope that your prayer would ever be answered?  We say the right words when we pray and we end our prayer with “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and yet, deep down inside, we just don’t believe that our answer will ever come.  Well, I will confess that I’ve prayed this particular prayer but didn’t believe it would be answered.  Was it because I didn’t believe that God could?  No, to the contrary, as a part of my prayer, I would confess that I knew God was able.  Or, was it because I didn’t have enough faith to truly believe that God would do what He promised?  For me, it was the latter. The fact of the matter is, I’d seen God answer similar prayers for other people (and rejoiced with them when He did), but somehow didn’t think he would answer it for me (although I knew He could).

mustardseed

Then one day, during my prayer and devotional time, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and showed me that the reason I felt hopeless about my situation was because I was living in unbelief about it.  Once I was convicted, I had to pray for forgiveness and ask God to “help my unbelief,” the same thing a father said to Jesus when he brought his son who was possessed by a spirit to Him asking for help. The father said, “if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (emphasis mine)  Jesus’ responds this way: “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately, the father was convicted and says: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (be sure to read Mark 9 for the entire story).  After I was convicted, I asked God to help me and give me faith the size of a mustard seed.  Frankly, I felt like I needed to start small in asking for faith in this particular situation (note: my faith has been great in other situations, but not in this one), because I felt just like that father who brought his son to Jesus.  The small amount of faith I began to ask for is mustard seed faith, which really isn’t a whole lot!

As you can see from the picture, a mustard seed is a tiny thing!  So small that it seems to get lost in the palm of a person’s hand.  Is that amount of faith enough? Shouldn’t I have a little bit more than that?  The answer to the question of whether mustard seed faith is enough, based on what Jesus said, is a resounding YES!  He says in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (NASB)

So, I decided to take a small step and confess that I have this much faith that God will answer my prayer.  Yes, I believe this sized faith is enough, and I’m standing on that belief and walking in faith (and not by sight).  My prayer has not yet been answered, but I now have hope about it (something I’d given up on a while ago).

Why am I confessing this to you?  I’m being transparent because someone is experiencing this same thing as we speak!  You’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, the answer hasn’t come, and at some point, you made up in your mind that it would never come.  I want to encourage you to take heart!  Ask God to help your unbelief and give you just a little bit of faith.  Stand on that little bit of faith and watch what God will do!  While you’re waiting for your answer, He’s working on you to make you stronger, wiser and better.

If you can relate to this, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.  I pray God’s blessings on you as He reveals more of Himself to you during this time.

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.

Dealing with Disappointment

Whenever I write, I am writing from my own experiences, and this post is no different. My hope is that when I write, I can bless someone else who may be going through the same thing that I am (or have).

disappointment

Disappointment is a feeling that at some time or another we all experience. We may be disappointed that our favorite sport team didn’t win like we thought they would, or we may feel disappointed when we’re planning a trip to the beach, but the weather forecast calls for rain all day. At the moment, these turn of events negatively affect us, but soon we’re over it and on to the next thing….we continue to root for our favorite team (or change teams) or we change our plans and decide to hit the beach another day. These are what most people would consider minor, but what about those disappointments that are not so minor?

Here are a few examples of the kind of disappointments I’m talking about: the person we planned to spend the rest of our lives with decides he or she no longer wants to be married to us; one of our children didn’t turn out the way we raised them to; the life that we envisioned growing up is not what we’re currently experiencing, and there seems to be no hope for things turning around in our favor. This list can go on, but you get my point. We just don’t ‘get over’ these major disappointments in our lives, but we have to somehow find a way to deal with them. If we don’t what will become of our lives? Will we be in a perpetual state of misery because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to?

I don’t believe God wants us to live this way. Just like the title of this site states, I believe God wants us to have a victorious journey. And it’s through Him (and only Him) that we can experience this.

So, how do we deal with disappointment? We can first cry out to God and be honest about how we feel. It’s ok to ask questions and wonder why circumstances didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, planned and prayed. And certainly, if God created and maintains the universe, then He can handle our questions. Check out the example of David in the Psalms: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV) What a blessing it is to know that in our distress we can call out to the Lord, and not only that, we can rest assured that he does hear us. Our cries are not falling on deaf ears!

We can also go to the Word of God to remind ourselves of God’s promises to us. Look at what Peter writes to the early church (this also applies to us): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”(2 Peter 1:4, NIV) One of the key words in this passage (in my opinion is ‘knowledge.’ We have everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of God, and we obtain that knowledge from the Word of God (remember this scripture: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”? Romans 10:17)

Lastly, we should trust God and His word. When we are in the throes of experiencing disappointment, this is when our faith comes in. We’ve read the word, we’ve prayed, and now we must trust that God knows exactly what he’s doing. Even if things never change, if we never receive the desire of our heart, we can rest assured that God said he would “never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5b) This scripture in particular has helped me navigate through disappointment, and it helps remind that God really does have a plan for my life, and that’s it’s in His hands to make it come to pass.

This post is a bit longer than I would normally write, but it’s particularly relevant to me. Although the idea of this topic came to me months ago, it’s very interesting to know that I’ve only been led to write it today, 2 days after Mother’s Day Not having had the experience of motherhood, this particular Mother’s Day was very difficult for me. So again, I’m writing this, not as just glib points, but real life experiences. I may never receive the desire of my heart in this area, but I’m TRUSTING that God’s plan for my life is perfect and that He will not leave me or forsake me.

It’s All In The Interpretation

When we interpret something, we try to gain some understanding of that thing.  We look at the facts, we may note what information we don’t have, and from there we draw a conclusion.  That conclusion will help us understand what’s going on in a particular situation or with a particular thing. Interpretation helps us to make sense of something that initially may be unclear or confusing to us.

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Two different people can look at the same situation and interpret things completely differently. Take the example of a jury deliberating a case.  They are presented with the same set of facts.  Five of the six jurors come to the same conclusion, but one doesn’t see things the same way. It’s all in the interpretation.

Let’s look at the biblical character Joseph.  The facts of his life are:  his brothers were jealous and wanted to kill him, they threw him into a pit, and then sold him into bondage, he was later imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and was left to languish in jail (and forgotten by someone who promised to help him). In total, Joseph experienced challenges for about 17 years of his short life.

How do you think he interpreted these facts?  The Word of God can help us answer that question.

Genesis 39:2 – And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Genesis 39:21 – But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Based on these scriptures, I believe that Joseph trusted God in his circumstances.  Genesis never says that Joseph was bitter and angry.  It never says he mistreated those under whom he worked.  The Bible says that Joseph prospered, and received mercy from God, and was granted favor from his superiors.  I believe Joseph chose to interpret his circumstances in a positive light instead of a negative one, and this is reflected in the mercy, favor and prosperity he received.

What about you?  How do you see our challenges?  You can interpret them in a negative light (“I’ll never amount to anything” “I keep failing”), or you can stand on the word of God and see them from a different perspective.  Scriptures tells us in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  That means, no matter how bad your circumstances may seem right now, they are being orchestrated for our good and for our benefit by an omnipotent, omniscient God.  The facts are the same, but it’s all in the interpretation.

It’s important to note that we can choose our interpretation!  We can decide to listen to Satan and his lies, or we can focus on the truth of God’s word.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We have free will to interpret our trials one way or another.

Today, I encourage you to ask God to help you see your circumstances from His perspective, gaining His interpretation of what’s happening.  How we see things will impact how we live our lives.  God says we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and we can only live as a conqueror based on how we view our lives.  After all, it’s all in the interpretation.