Looking Ahead to a New Year


2017-jpg

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

I learned a long time ago not to make New Year’s Resolutions. Do not misunderstand me. I have nothing against them. I have just learned that they do not work out for me.  Many times in the past I have started my year with a resolution to lose weight, eat healthier, or save more money only to bomb after the first couple of weeks. I was left feeling like a failure before my year even got started. I do not know about you, but that is not how I want to start a new year.

I have learned instead to take some time and sincerely pray about what God has for me in the new year. I center my prayer time around tuning into the areas in which God wants to grow me more. I also pray and ask God to show me the things on which He wants me to focus.

Earlier this year I ran across a quote that reminded me what my focus should be in the new year.

“If you look at the world,

You’ll be distressed.

If you look within,

You’ll be depressed.

If you look at God,

You’ll be at rest.”

~Corrie Ten Boom~

Even the most well thought out resolutions will mean nothing for us if we do not keep our eyes on Jesus and His plan for our lives. I pray as you prepare to start a new year that you will take some time and ask God what He has for you in 2017. You may be surprised at the direction in which He leads you.

Happy New Year, my friend. May God bless you in every area of your life.

Advertisements

The Hope Within


Christmas Crib Father Christmas Nativity Scene

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

As Christmas quickly approaches I can not help but ponder what this time of year means to people. What comes to mind when you think about the Christmas season? For some it means food, family, and gifts. For others it means sadness and pain. Yet, for others it means presents, trees, and stress. What word would you use to describe Christmas?

As I thought about this question, one word kept coming back to me. Hope. Personally Christmas is not so much about the decorations, food, or the presents. Do not misunderstand me, I love all of these things. However, Christmas is so much more! It is a time to stop and remember the gift that was given to each of us all those years ago. There were not immaculate decorations, tables of food, and tons of presents under a tree. No, there was a young woman and her husband, a stable, and a star. More importantly there was Jesus. There was Hope.

When I stop and think back on that first Christmas, my mind often turns to Mary. I can not help but wonder what she must have been feeling. What thoughts were going through her mind as she traveled with her husband on that long journey?

Any woman who has carried a child understands how Mary must have felt physically. We can all relate to the discomfort she must have been in and the anxiety she must have experienced along the way. As a mother I understand the uncertainty she must have felt concerning childbirth. I know the excitement she felt as she thought about holding her baby boy for the first time. But what about the deeper feelings Mary must have experienced? What must have she been feeling deep inside her heart knowing she would soon deliver the Son of God?

I believe above all else, Mary felt Hope. Not only did she feel that Hope inside her heart, but inside her body as the Hope of the world grew.  From the very first flutter she felt, Mary knew that Hope was growing. I believe as those flutters turned into kicks and nudges, Mary understood even more that she carried the Hope of the world inside of her.

Friend, do you have this Hope? The same Hope that Mary carried all those years ago is still a gift for you today. Amid all the busyness and stress Hope can be found. No amount of money can buy it. No store sells it. It can not even be put in a pretty box and placed under the Christmas tree. Hope only comes through salvation and salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.

Do you want to lay down the sorrow that has been weighing you down? Would you like to lay aside that shame and heartache you have been carrying? Today you can. Give it all to Jesus. Let go of all that has you bound down and accept the free gift of Hope that is being offered to you today. I promise that no other gift you receive will ever measure up to the one that was given on that first Christmas oh so many years ago. Find Hope today, friend.

Put on Your Armor


bible

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:10-11

I often feel that I am in a battle. Trials sometimes come that I do not understand. There are days when I feel as if a war is being waged against our family. Can you relate to these feelings? If so, I pray that these words will encourage your heart today.

There are mornings it seems we awake to a battle being fought in our home. Before the first cup of coffee is poured we are under attack. Before I can get my eyes open and focused I am being hit from every side. Surely as you read this you are shaking your head in agreement because you too experience the same situations in your home. Your battle may look different from ours, but the struggle is the same. The aggravation is still there. The urge to pull the covers back over your head and wave the white flag of defeat is all too real.

Often times we are left asking, “Where is this coming from?” Is this just a figment of the imagination? Absolutely not. These battles are real. We can not see them with physical eyes because we are facing spiritual battles. There are wars being fought on a level we can not fully comprehend. My dad often tells our church if we could have our spiritual eyes opened to the world around us we would be scared to death at the war we would see being fought. Even though we can not see what is going on, we can feel the weight and strain of the fight. Often times these attacks leave us feeling discouraged and defeated. Be encouraged today, Friend. You have not been left to face these battles alone.

Paul understood these attacks all too well. With God’s prompting he penned the verses I am sharing today and many others  to encourage us as Christians. He also wrote these verses to guide us to victory. How great is our God that He did not leave us to fight alone?

I want to encourage you to daily put on the whole armor of God. Get into The Word and arm yourself for the fiery darts the devil is going to hurl at you. If you are missing even one piece of armor you will surely face defeat, but armed with your spiritual armor you are safe. God has equipped you with everything you need to face your day with boldness. He has also promised to go before you and fight for you. The battles will still come, the storms of life may toss you around, but you can rest assured that God has not abandoned you. Remember that He loves you, Friend.  With God on your side you are sure to win in the end. Let us suit up today and boldly go face the world!

Finding Joy in the Journey Again


799px-gabes-mountain-trail-gsmnp1

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

If you have read any of my writings you know that I picture life as a journey. I believe we all are on a journey through life, a path that has been laid out by God for us. I also like to picture life as a race, more like a marathon, a journey in which you are working to beat your personal best time. While I have never run a marathon, I find them very interesting. From what I have seen, they can take you down many different paths and across various types of terrain. It seems to me that a marathon would be taxing yet rewarding in the end. I imagine competing in a marathon is something that is not easily accomplished nor quickly forgotten.

Life is quite the same. There are hills and valleys. There are moments you feel as if you could conquer the world. Yet, at other times you feel overcome by fatigue. You may begin your journey running with a crowd, and then later find yourself running alone. Each of these is a part of the journey we must face.

From what I understand about marathons, each has its own route as well. There is a particular path laid out for the runners. God’s will for our lives is much the same. He has given us a path He knows is best for us. While I believe that God allows us room to move inside of His will, we must also be careful not to lose sight of our calling and step outside of that will. The enemy would like nothing more than to see us take a dangerous detour, become distracted, and possibly get off course.

A couple of years ago I found myself in that exact place. I had gone from enthusiastically running my marathon of life to distracted from my journey and wandering. It did not take me long to realize that I was no longer enjoying my journey. I was indeed lost in the desert. However, God had not given up on me! Today, I would like to share with you how I found the joy in my journey again.

One of the first posts I wrote was entitled Enjoy the Journey. It was about my calling to ministry through writing. I was excited to begin a new phase in my life. I felt honored that God would use me to encourage others. I also looked forward to the challenge of starting something new. I was on the mountain with the wind at my back. I felt unstoppable. After a while, however, I began to get tired. The winds changed and I felt as if I was fighting with every step. I allowed the enemy to distract me. I took my eyes off of the ultimate goal which was honoring God and I began to focus on other things. I noticed I was not moving as quickly as those around me. I was struggling more than some. I felt I was falling behind and I became discontent with my own progress. Giving way to these feelings I began to push myself even harder to keep up. Eventually I lost sight of the finish line and found myself ready to quit. You see, I had lost the joy in my own journey. The very thing I had encouraged others to do, I had failed to accomplish myself. Where once I felt excited and prepared for the journey, now I was tired and discouraged. I had somehow wandered off the path God had laid before me and I had run into the desert.

I have spent the past two years on a detour from my writing journey. I must admit it has been neither easy nor much fun. You see, Friend, there truly is joy in the journey to which God calls you. It may not always be easy, but there is comfort in knowing that we are where God wants us to be. There is joy in knowing that we are honoring God with our lives. Outside of that assurance is a dark, hopeless place. It has taken me quite a long time and many tears to get back to the place I feel God would have me. Praise God, His grace and mercy have been sufficient in my times of need! Jesus’ forgiveness has been a gift when I realized I needed it. Through prayer and God’s guidance I feel that I have found the joy in my journey once again. I believe that I am fulfilling my calling by ministering with my words.

I want to end today with a few words of encouragement. No matter what it is that God has called you to do, find joy in it. If you are a mom who spends all day changing diapers and wiping noses, find joy in it. If you are a janitor who spends his time cleaning up after others, find joy in your calling. If you are the manager of your business, enjoy the role to which God has called you. Whatever your calling may be, I encourage you to embrace it. Whatever journey God has called you to, find the joy in it. If you find yourself lacking the joy that you once had, let me encourage you to pray about it. Maybe you have veered off course. Maybe you are in the desert just as I described. God still cares. He is right here waiting for you to come back to Him. He wants nothing more than to restore the joy that comes from serving Him. Wherever it is that you find yourself today, Friend, enjoy the journey.