I know the plans I have for you!
“For I know the plans I have for you... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me... and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer.29:11-13) Amid all the challenges in our lives today, these encouraging words from Jeremiah are timeless. In his day as God’s children prepared to go into exile, many of them were filled with fear and doubt. Yet God reassured them that He already was looking ahead to their restoration. Instead of being afraid or worried, God wanted them to simply go on with their lives. To build homes, plant gardens. To marry and have children. To raise families, “increased in number there; do not decrease.” The fact is, Babylon had been their adversary for years, but God wanted them to have a change of attitude. To seek peace in their lives, even amid hardship and exile. And they were to pray for it. God promised that He knew where they were going, that He had not abandoned them. In fact, He would give them “a future and a hope.” Even amidst the unknown while in exile, God encouraged them to call upon Him, promising to listen. But God also told them there was a condition: They had to seek Him with their whole heart. Friends, as God's children, we need to hear and heed these words today as never before. God’s words of comfort and assurance are still true. We can all look at our lives today and see uncertainty and confusion, doubt and hopelessness all around us. The fact is, and always has been, none of us know what will happen tomorrow, but God does. He is our loving Father and He knows the plans that He has for each of us! And He wants to “prosper” us, protect us and give us “hope and a future.” So, what’s our role? Simply to seek Him, not half-heartedly but “with all our heart.” Child of God, humble yourself before the Lord and fully surrender to His mercies, thank Him for all your blessings and His promise to provide and protect, He will not leave or forsake us. Seek Him in prayer daily for our leaders and struggling co-workers, pray for our company and our country. Make a new commitment this day to seek Him with your whole heart! “For I know the plans I have for you... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God's promises are kept when we’re obedient to His word, regardless of the ever-changing circumstances of our lives.
Grace and peace always,
His mercies are new every morning!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” (Lam. 3:22-23) Have you ever been to a gym on the first day of a new year, or even on a Monday? If so, you will notice it’s a bit more crowded than other days? Why is that? It’s a new day, and everyone has a renewed sense of motivation and purpose. Psychologists have coined a term for these “do over” moments of inspiration. They call it the “fresh-start effect.” It centers in the notation that we all have a way of making progress toward our goals during transitional seasons, like going from an old year to a new one. In fact, even returning to our daily task after taking some needed time off from them can give us renewed energy and strength we didn’t have before.
From the story of creation to the final promises of a new heaven and earth, the Bible is full of encouragement stories to help us observe new beginnings. During some very dark days, even the weeping prophet Jeremiah could find hope, in the Lord’s mercies being renewed each morning in (Lam. 3:22-23). Saint Paul instructs us to forget what lies behind and to reach forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13). Jesus often said things like, “I don’t condemn you for your past. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). These verses and many others point to a needed, new beginning!
The Lord is constantly providing us opportunities to begin with a fresh start in or lives. The ultimate fresh start being when He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins, to give us the gift of a new spiritual life. That has been the ultimate, “divine do-over” since the dawn of creation! And when we accept that fresh start gift of salvation, He makes us into new creations. “The old things pass away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
But the fresh start story doesn’t end there. As God’s new creations, we can and must, start each day by dying to our old selves and embracing the new opportunity to live in Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). Folks, at any moment, we can renew our minds by remembering what Christ has done for us and given to us. We can be freed from the burdens of yesterday and even today to embrace the newness of life God gives us. Do you need a fresh start with God? Let today be the Day of Reconciliation with your heavenly Father. Ask Him for forgiveness and thank Him for the gift of new life. Start reading His Word again and resolve to follow His will for your life! Remember friends, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psm. 118:24) His mercies…are new every morning!
Grace and peace always,
That We Might Comfort Others!
Listen to Saint Paul’s words of encouragement and comfort to the struggling believers in Corinth, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2Cor 1:3-4) Let’s face it, trouble and tribulation are not enjoyable topics in our world today, but they are part of life. Paul says we should praise God in our struggles simply because He is God: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul focuses on encouraging believers who are suffering, calling God the “God of all comfort.” The truth is, we often feel alone and weak when we are going through pain and hardship, but we aren’t. This passage tells us God is with us, in all His power and strength to help and comfort us.
Think about the kind of people you seek out when you’re in pain or struggling. You want someone who has felt your pain, right? A person who has already walked the path you’re on, who can understand your struggles and share their wisdom. Going through what we often call a “valley experience” prepares us to be a comforter and encourager to others. But we must first accept that God has allowed this adversity in our life and then choose to learn from the situation. Friends, comfort is found not in the absence of pain and hardship, but in the midst of it. So many hurting Christians today believe their walk with the Lord is out of balance because of their current pain and hardship. They don’t feel comfortable. Yet feeling comfortable and being comforted are two different things. The first is a nice feeling but those tend to come and go, as feelings do. The second is a fact based on the Comforter, not on circumstances. And the Lord our comforter does not come and go, he promises: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
Paul goes on to say in 2 Cor. 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. He is saying, we are only in this life’s pains and struggles for a short time, and that eternity will be so far beyond what we think of now as good, that we can’t even imagine what it will be like. This life’s pains and struggles will drive us to our knees to trust in God alone, but they will also benefit those we love and serve. When we experience firsthand our struggles being comforted by our loving God, it equips us to extend that same comfort to others who are suffering around us! Dear friends, as our brother’s keeper, let us eagerly share the ministry of presence with those around us, to bring them the comfort our loving God has ministered to us.
Grace and peace always,
Listen to Saint Paul’s words, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, NIV) Often people who are experiencing challenging and difficult times will unknowingly speak a curse over their lives and say, “I’ve been down so long, I don’t think I’ll ever get up.” As Christians, we can find comfort in Paul’s words. They encourage us. Paul tells us we may be: (1) pressed, but we will not be crushed; (2) perplexed, but not in despair; (3) persecuted, but not abandoned by God; and (4) struck down, but not destroyed. When counseling people, I encourage them to speak God’s Word over themselves and their families. I stress that when dealing with spiritual warfare, trials or challenges, they need to say: “I have been bruised and wounded, but by God’s grace, I am still standing.” I always emphasize the importance of turning to God and His word when they face trials and difficulties. I encourage them to walk in the Spirit and fight the good fight of faith. Together, we will read the Scriptures that tell us our victory has already been won. I remind them that Satan is stubborn, and he refuses to accept the fact that he has already been defeated. I remind them that on the cross, Jesus won, and in Christ, we win every time! Friends, in the midst of life’s storms, speak boldly to Satan and tell him, “In the name of Jesus, I will not be afraid!” Stand on God’s Word and tell Satan to get behind you! Then while still in the storm, praise God for the victory that is ours and boldly walk it out. Look at your challenges as another opportunity to develop your faith and grow spiritually. Whenever you hear someone say they feel overwhelmed, depressed, and beaten down, boldly share God’s word with them. Be an encourager! Share your testimony with others. Remind them to speak the truth of God’s Word over their lives’. Teach them that in the midst of life’s trials, to say with a thankful heart, “I have been bruised and wounded, but by God’s grace, I am still standing.” Lord, thank you for the truth of your Word that promises us that we are covered by the blood of Christ amid the storms and trials of life. And Lord, thank you for the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit who reminds us we have victory through the blood of Jesus, who is “Still Standing” with us to the end of the ages!
Grace and peace always,
His Grace is Sufficient
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:7-10 NIV)
I think most of us thought the Christian life was going to be more comfortable than it often is. Have those thoughts ever entered your mind? Sometimes we come into the family of faith, thinking that the Lord will fix all our problems and devote Himself to our happiness and comfort. That, however, is not the reality that is portrayed in Scripture. The Apostle Paul was a man who the Lord loved and used significantly, yet his life was never easy.
In fact, at one point, Paul thought his pain was too much to bear, and he pleaded for God to remove it. Friends, there’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to relieve our pain and suffering, but what should our response be if He doesn’t? Paul likely had no idea that His pleading with God over his personal afflictions would find its way into the Bible, to comfort and guide believers throughout the ages. The words that God provided to Paul apply to many of us in these very trying days: “My grace is sufficient for you” (v. 9).
Friends, God’s grace could be defined as His provision for us at the point of our greatest need. The problem is, sometimes, it doesn’t seem like the Lord is meeting our deepest needs. But the truth is, the Lord can see all the deficiencies, outcomes, and complications that we are unable to see. His goal for us is always our spiritual growth, He desires for us to be more conformed to Christ-likeness each and every day. The trials, hardships and pandemics of this life unfortunate play a vital role in achieving that spiritual growth.
The important issue through the many challenges of this life are how we respond to them. If all you want is relief, you could easily descend into anger and doubt. But if you desire to become the person God wants you to be, you will see each trial as an opportunity for Christ to display His character and strength in you. Trust in the Lord and always know that he desires to strengthen us through our weakness!
Grace and peace always,
Faith Produces Endurance
Reflect on these challenging words from James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2 is a short verse that contains insight into the trails of life. The phrase "when you encounter various trials" holds the keyword which demonstrates the universality of man's hardships. It is significant, that James used the word "when" that one word defines the issue; undergoing trials is not a matter of if, but when. The truth is, there are life lessons which can only be learned through trials and hardship. Therefore, our loving God will sometimes allow difficulties to enter into our lives for his refining purposes.
As we examine the issue of our trials, a reasonable question to ask is, "Where do these trails come from?" There are in fact, some specific sources for most of our trials. The primary cause is from making bad decisions. Our God-given free will allows us the opportunity and responsibility of making our own choices. Unfortunately, even the most committed Christian can and will make mistakes when making decisions and the result will be a period of hardship.
Another source of trials, is the fallen world in which we live. Sin has so permeated our world that God's original plan of paradise seems impossible. Many of life’s trials such as storms, pandemics, wars, and crime are the results of sin's impact upon our world. Unfortunately, there is no way to escape trials that seem to appear out of nowhere. And to no surprise, many trials come straight from the enemy. After all, Satan is interested in any way possible that he can use to torment us, and every attempt that he makes has one purpose; to draw us further away from our God.
The final source of our trials is the Lord. Some resist this idea, believing God desires only happiness for us. The truth is; however, God is more concerned with our maturity and development than our general happiness. Often, lessons can only be learned through hardship. Therefore, God will allow trials to enter into our lives for His purposes. The starting point for understanding the purpose behind our trials is to consider their source. We must learn to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7) Trust in the Lord and never forget that we are all being refined and made complete day by day; it is the testing of our faith that produces endurance, which in time makes us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Grace and peace always,
How is your spiritual vision
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NASB) As a follower of Jesus how do you see those around you? As my eyes have gotten weaker, my spiritual vision has gotten clearer. I can honestly say I no longer see color or race any more. I see people of different shapes, sizes, customs, traditions, habits and languages. I see men and women, young and old with a common human experience. When you peel away our outer skin and look inside, we are ALL the same. We talk, laugh, cry, love, work, struggle and hope for a better life.
Paul reminds us that as Christians, we are ALL one in Christ Jesus. Through faith, we are ALL the same; we are cherished Sons and Daughters of the living God. We must all learn to see fellow Christians as family members in the body of Christ. It’s time that we come to understand we are ALL on the same journey.
Why do we compare, evaluate and judge? Why do we criticize and condemn? Why do we act as if we are better than our neighbor? At times, we all have: (1) been prideful, rebellious, and disobedient (2) chosen to go our own way (3) pretended we did not hear God calling or argued with Him (4) acted like spoiled little children (5) been selfish and self-centered (6) failed to remember when He made a way when we were in a ditch (7) felt fear, doubt and unbelief (8) cried out to God being tired of waiting and resorted to self-effort.
Friends, I praise God every day that Jesus died on the cross so we can have a new life filled with God’s love, mercy and grace. The blood of Jesus reconciled ALL of us to Him. His blood washed ALL of us clean from the filth and stench of sin. By faith in Jesus alone, we have ALL received gifts of mercy and grace which enable us to see others as brothers and sisters in Christ and say “We are all one in Him.” Lord, we thank you for your life-changing mercy and grace and we pray for all those whose vision is still distorted!
Grace and peace always,
Nothing Can Separate Us From God’s Love
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38 NLT
This closing passage of Romans 8 contains some of the best news you and I will ever hear: “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.” Nothing! This is the rock upon which to build our lives. It will keep us steady in times such as these. It will reassure us when we are fearful. It will refresh us when we are weary.
Paul recognizes that we may be tempted to think God no longer loves us when we face difficult times. In verse 35 he asks, “Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” The answer is “No.” Though we will suffer in this life (Romans 8 has already dealt honestly with this fact) that does not mean God doesn’t love us.
How can we be certain of God’s love for us in times like these when we’re tempted to doubt? The last phrase of Romans 8 provides that answer. God’s perfect love for us “is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As we learn earlier in Romans, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). If ever we come to doubt God’s love us, just look to the cross. There on the cross we see the love of God poured out, a love not just for humankind in general, but for us in particular.
With God’s love, we are empowered to live boldly and share that love with others. We are inspired to take risks for the sake of the kingdom, knowing that whether we succeed or fail, God’s love for us is constant in our lives. His love endures forever and His mercies are renewed each morning, trust in the Lord!
Grace and peace always,
Is there something your wrestling with today that seems overwhelming? Is there a decision looming before you that requires you to believe that God is faithful to provide? If so, take your uncertainty to God. “Lord I don’t know what to do, what if I’m wrong or fail? Lord help me!” The father of a sick child went to Jesus and said, Lord help us if YOU can? “If you can?” said Jesus. Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV)
When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor and it’s in that gap that Satan wants to attack you. You soon begin to doubt other attributes of God’s character, such as His goodness, soon distrust and unbelief become baggage that will weigh you down in every area of life.
You might feel that you don’t have enough faith to trust and obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to trust in favorable circumstances. The Lord is asking you to simply believe, that He is who He says He is, always!
It’s easy to doubt God when you’re focused on the obstacles standing before you, but when you fix your eyes on Jesus and believe what Scripture says about His faithfulness, then you can do anything. No matter what lies before you, remember that God brought you to it and He will see you through it. He is faithful! You can find strength in your dependence on Him, whether you’re in a deluge of trials or a flood of blessings.
It’s actually when life gets challenging that you’ll recognize the reality and sweetness of God’s faithfulness. When you learn to face life’s challenges and storms in complete reliance in His strength, your trust in His character will become part of who you are and it will provide you strength from within. Trust in the Lord, He will never leave or forsake you.
Grace and peace always,
Be An Overcomer!
There are few guarantees in this life, but one of them we can all expect is trouble. It may creep up on us slowly, or blindside us when we least expect it. Either way, when it reaches us, it causes fear, pain, and heartache. We sometimes have to make hard decisions, often without all the answers to our questions.
Discouragement and fear of the unknown knocks on our doors, wanting to come in and stay awhile, but we must never let them in! Jesus said in John 16:33, “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.”
Although trouble and disappointment can be expected in this world, discouragement is a choice. Whatever the hardship, there is always one overarching choice we all must make, to move toward God or away from Him. There is no standing still. There is no neutral option. Adversity and troubles will often cause our path to split before us and we will either walk with our Lord Jesus or turn down a lonely road without Him.
Walking with the Lord doesn’t always look pretty either. At times, it may look like temporarily unleashing our anger and frustration on Him. At times we may cry out, beg, barter in desperation or be left with no words at all. But we must always walk with Him! We must acknowledge that the Lord gives and takes away. That He alone is still Lord above all and if anyone can redeem us or our situation, it is He alone!
Always remember that we have a loving God! Turning away from Him in times of trouble is to deny Him what is rightfully His, which only adds to our hardship when we choose to walk alone without hope. Walk with Jesus, the one who has overcome the world. He alone enables us to overcome in this life! Only He can make something good from our troubles, and He alone promises to be with us to the end of the ages.
Grace and peace always,