Hope in Jesus

I talk about hope a lot because God is a God of hope. I didn’t know that when the God I was familiar with was a God of religion and restrictions. I was always under the impression that hope was limited to a few privileged believers in God. Isn’t that sad? Some of the doctrines I subscribed to were very dismissive and void of hope. They focused on being pious and on getting rewards from God based on what I did right. Every time I made a mistake, I felt guilty and unworthy. There was no real hope for redemption or for salvation to tell you the truth. I completely misunderstood what God was all about and I had no hope. I didn’t believe that things could get better in my life. I did my best to please God but hope was never something I experienced. This all changed once I got in touch with the real God.

I got in touch with God by entering into His gates through Jesus. Jesus became my doorway to God, my doorway to Heaven and my doorway to the truth. One of the first things that stood out about Jesus was how much hope He gave me. The more I got to know Him, the more I was filled with hope. First, there was hope for salvation. I became aware of His salvation and of His role in the whole process. He had died on the cross for my sins and I could receive salvation through Him. He was the guardian of all good things and hope was part of them. When you encounter Jesus, you can’t help but become hopeful. Life takes on a new meaning. You are in the presence of hope and it changes your perspective and your outlook on life.

If you are looking for hope today, remember that it is still alive and well and you can always find hope in Jesus. Don’t look at your hopeless circumstances. Change your focus and look at Jesus. Spend time reading about Him and talking to Him. He will give you hope. You will discover that He is the hope of the world and that with Him everything is possible. With Him, life is not a series of failures and defeats. With Him, life is a series of challenges that get resolved and defeats that get defeated. Yes, Jesus will defeat your defeats. Isn’t that amazing? He will turn your worst situations into blessings and rivers of hope will flow through your life.

There is nothing that the Lord can’t change and nothing He can’t fix. When you have Jesus, you have the best chance to make it. He is a situation changer. He is a hope giver and His hope is never in vain. He doesn’t fake His hope and His promises. He keeps His promises and one of them is to give you hope to get through anything in life. You have the Savior of the world in you and with you and hope is never going to leave you. You might lose sight of it. You might forget about it. You might not believe in it but it doesn’t mean that hope is not there. It is always there and it always fulfills its purpose. Hope’s purpose is to confirm God’s goodness and it is a great witness to His faithfulness.

When you hope in Jesus, you hope in love, life-changing power and endless possibilities. You never know what God can do in your life when you have His hope in you. He can stretch possibilities and multiply blessings. He can reverse the course of your life and put you on a path where peace and joy will be strewn all over the place. God’s path for your life is paved with hope. Every step of the way you should believe there is hope. Every step of the way you should keep in mind that things are not the way they look but they are the way the Lord says they are. Faith will help you walk through the worst valleys and climb the highest mountains. The King of hope will carry you through everything and you will be able to overcome the most difficult circumstances.

Jesus is the hope you need today and you will never be disappointed when you fix your eyes on Him and you refuse to succumb to the world’s problems. Problems will never go away but neither will Jesus and if you have Jesus, you have all you need. If you have Jesus, you have all you need. Keep your hopes up. Keep your hopes in Jesus. Keep walking and trusting and you will never go astray. Hope is a blessing that will always walk by your side. Stay strong. Stay encouraged and stay hopeful. May God bless you and protect you and remember that He will always love you!
Suggested reading: Psalm 16:9; Jeremiah 17:7; Romans 5:5

God’s light

When I got eye surgery, my life completely changed. I went from having to wear contacts or glasses all the time to be being able to see all the time without any assistance. It was like night and day. I never thought that I could ever see that clearly without glasses. It was as if I had stepped into a new dimension. Everything looked so real and so true. It is hard to explain but what I can say is that it was one of the best moments of my life in terms of transformation. However, the best moment of my life, hands down, was when I got saved. It was a similar experience but on a much higher level. I went from being spiritually blind to being able to see the light. I had lived in darkness for a while. I had had glimpses of hope and glimpses of who the Lord was all about but those glimpses didn’t compare to the real thing. They were nice previews that gave me a reason to pursue Jesus. Those insights into who the Lord was were like contacts and lenses that allowed me to see the truth for a short time. When I got saved, the light became permanent and I was able to see what I had been missing my whole life. The light of the Lord is such a powerful tool in our lives and we should never underestimate it. We should cherish God’s light and His truth and keep walking in it with our spiritual eyes wide open.

The Word of God is a lamp into our feet. His Word is the lamp that can guide us into all things. We can never stay in the dark when we follow the lamp of the Lord. We should actually spend a lot of time in His Word so we can be enlightened and filled with wisdom. The amount of darkness that is in the world is huge and we need to work against so many principalities and powers. The power to counteract those evil forces is only found in the Lord and His Word gives us instructions on how to stay in His light and how to avoid the traps of darkness. When I read the Word of God, it is like a light is turned on and I can see into some of the mysteries of God. This happens when I read and study the Word prayerfully. When I get in sync with the Spirit of God, His Word comes alive and I dive into the wonderful world of our Savior. I love spending time in the Word especially when the world is so chaotic. I find peace and I find joy when I am in the Word. I strongly encourage you to make it a habit to turn on the light of the Lord and to stay under the rays of His great love. His light will refresh you and invigorate you. It will open your eyes and it will close the doors to the darkness that tries to mislead you. God’s light is the truth that you need to be set free so embrace His light, embrace His Word.

When someone turns on a light, darkness scatters. Some people would say that darkness disappears and I love that idea as well. God, the light, can make your darkness disappear when you turn on His light. Your enemies, your fears and your doubts will scatter when you turn on the light of the Lord. How do you turn it on? Like I mentioned earlier, the Word of God is the light you need and being familiar with it is crucial. Making sure that the Word of God has an important part in your life is extremely helpful. Jesus brings light and He is the light so daily communion with Him also allows you to turn on the light that will always set you free. Jesus will not only give you insights into who He is and how He made you but He will teach you how to live a fulfilling life in Him. He is the light that keeps on giving more light so don’t expect Him to ever be extinguished in your life. He is always on. You might have to adjust how you connect with Him but He is always on and always ready to shine in your life. He is like that permanent contact lens that enables you to see clearly at all times. Jesus will help you deal with all forms of spiritual blindness so stick to Him and stay close to Him. He is the best light you will ever find. May God bless you and protect you and remember that He will always love you!
Suggested reading:Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; 2 Peter 1:19

Thank God in everything

I am extremely thankful for my family and my friends. I am thankful for my life.  I am thankful for my relationship with the Lord and above all I am thankful for Jesus. Without Him this life doesn’t make much sense. Without Him love is empty. Without Him my family and friends are at the mercy of danger. Because of Him, they are in good hands. I put them in God’s hands every day. Each time I pray I thank the Lord that He has my family and friends in the palm of His hand. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t place them in His hands by thanking Him for taking care of them. Jesus is so good all the time and He can protect and shield everyone when we put our trust in His hands. Our circumstances shouldn’t dictate the volume of our thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving should be the same all the time because it is a recognition of God’s goodness and greatness and they are never altered.

Whatever goes on in my life, until I put it all in the hands of the Lord, I find myself in a precarious state where confusion is present, hope pops in and out and worry abounds. I have learned that gratitude for the Lord and thanksgiving make everything so much better. When we are thankful for the Lord, we express faith and we recognize that He is almighty and that He is good. We can connect with Him better when we thank Him. There is power in thanksgiving. It is an act of faith that comes through with hope. Thanksgiving is giving God our trust and our honor and praise. God gives us so much. He gave Himself first and His sacrifice created an abundant series of blessings that are still showing up today and that will never end. When we thank God for everything, we put everything in His hands. We say “Thank You Lord for everything you have given us. It is all in Your hands and You are blessing it all.” That kind of thanksgiving is very powerful.

Thanksgiving should be linked to faith. We can thank the Lord for things we don’t have yet. We can thank Him for what He is doing behind closed doors. We can thank Him for everything the Bible says belongs to us even when we are not experiencing any of it. Faith and thanksgiving are an amazing combo. Now, the goal is also to thank the Lord in everything. This means that we should continue to thank the Lord even when things are not going well. We shouldn’t thank Him for our trials but despite our trials. There is a lot of power in thanking God when our flesh wants to curse Him and to give up. We strengthen our spirits and we walk in faith when we do. Let’s thank the Lord in every situation. Not because of what we are experiencing but because He remains the same in every situation. God is still good when life is bad. Our thanksgiving should go to Him for being God.

Today is a day of gratitude in the United States and we can make every day a day of gratitude and thanks. Let’s keep thanksgiving going all year long. Let’s be sure to make it all about the Lord for who He is and for what He does. There is always a reason to be thankful and that reason is Jesus. Celebrate Him every day.. Focus on Him every day. Pray to Him every day. Communicate with Him every day. Thank Him every day. Thank Him in everything. When things are good and when they are bad. He will make the bad things good and the good things even better!
Suggested reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; 2 Corinthians 4:15; Colossians 3:15

Have you thanked the Lord today?

Spending the day in gratitude is a beautiful thing and it is a personal goal. Do I reach that goal every day? I don’t. I am working on spending as much time being thankful as possible. There is so much to be grateful for but circumstances have a way of clouding our thinking and making us see only the dark spots on the picturesque canvas of our lives. Not everything is nice and rosy and we could make a long list of things to complain about but the Lord never tells us to focus on the negative. That is the enemy’s job. He loves to remind us of the bad and to project the worst. Anything that is bad can easily be amplified by the power of our minds. Our minds are strong forces that can bring us down to the pit of despair or all the way to the top of “Hope mountain” like I like to call it. Staying on top of Hope mountain is possible through gratitude. Thanksgiving takes us there and keeps us where faith is radiant. Today I want to remind you to thank the Lord throughout the day. Give Him a spiritual hi five as often as you can. Say thank You in everything.

Being grateful when things are chaotic can be a real challenge. When the pain is so intense, the last thing we want to say is thanks. Thanks for what? Thanks that it isn’t worse? Well, that’s a start. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, begin thanking God that your situation is not worse. It may sound like nothing but any expression of gratitude is a step in the right direction. You could start slowly and before you know it you will be taking off, running with gratitude and smiling with hope. Anything you can say to jumpstart the process of thanking the Lord is good. Give God the little gratitude you have and exalt Him. You will see how His Spirit helps you develop more and more gratitude. Bring it to Him in prayer. Tell Him what you are thankful for and that you are giving it to Him knowing there is a lot to be thankful for. He will open your eyes to the blessings that have been hidden from you.

Highlight the good in your life. From the little things to the big things. Go back to past victories in the Lord. Go back to past blessings. Don’t dwell on the past but use past triumphs and miracles to lift up your spirit and to give you reasons to celebrate. Why? Because your Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He did before He can do again and even more. That is a good reason to be thankful today. God is good all the time and He will continue to be good forever. That alone should make you want to thank Him. Get in that state of gratitude and your perspective will change. Gratitude opens you up to God, to more of God and to hope. Make it a habit to be grateful. Every time you tell the Lord thank you, you reduce the power of negative thoughts. You go against the grain of whining and complaining. Every time you are grateful, you close a door. You close a door that was going to take you to a bad place. “Thank You” is all you need to tell the Lord when you don’t know what to say during prayer. Gratitude is the attitude that changes your altitude by taking you above your circumstances and by keeping you on top of Hope mountain. Stay grateful! Have you thanked the Lord today? It’s never too late.

Suggested reading: Ezra 3:11; Psalm 9:1; Ephesians 5:18-20

Don’t worry about anything but pray about everything

Do not worry about anything but instead pray about everything. How many times has this encouragement from the Bible helped me? It has guided my prayer life and it has shown me that prayer is a powerful tool that I should be using all the time. I pray daily. I love prayer. I love talking to the Father and listening to Him. I found out that I needed to be quiet during prayer. I start out by praising the Lord and then I get into quiet mode, into listening mode. The Holy Spirit speaks encouragement into my life during those moments and He gives me the peace of mind I need. When trouble hits, prayer goes up. I used to not have “the prayer reflex” but now it is a part of me, a part I can’t live without. I used to worry about everything and pray about nothing. I would sometimes say that I needed to pray about such and such situation but the reality was that I never did. I wished for a solution but I didn’t pray about the solution. Prayer is more than a recitation or a laundry list of requests. Prayer gives peace. It calms us down. It removes worry. That is why the Lord tells us not to worry but to pray instead. There is a connection between being worry-free and being a prayer warrior. The more we pray, the less we worry. Today I want to encourage you to pray about everything and leave your worries in God’s hands. He can handle them all.

 

Praying about everything means not leaving a single situation in our lives out of God’s hands. When we pray, we put our circumstances under His control. We give the Lord permission to intervene and to interfere with the negativity that is trying to destroy us. God is also a destroyer. He destroyed death on the cross and through the resurrection. Praying to God is giving up our free will and letting His will be done. When I pray I ask for His will to be done in my situation. I give Him free reign to destroy whatever part of the issue I have. I don’t tell Him how to do it. I ask Him to do something according to His will. I trust that He knows best. It saves me a lot of headaches. You see, we worry because we think we have to come up with answers on our own. We think we have to fix everything ourselves. Worry is like putting ourselves in God’s chair and trying to control the situation. God says, “Child, I’ve got this. It’s not for you to worry about it. Just pray and express your faith. It’s been taken care of and your faith will hand you the victory I bought for you centuries ago.” Worry is a barrier we need to overcome in order to see how great and wonderful the Lord is. He is always great. He is always powerful. Worry gives us blindfolds that prayer can remove. Here are a few suggestions I have based on the encouragement of praying instead of worrying.

 

If I am able to pray before I start worrying it’s a great situation but more often than not I worry before I can pray. I have learned to push worry away through prayer. Worry likes to keep us in a cycle of never ending negative thoughts. Prayer can break that cycle. When you start worrying, take a step back. I like to isolate myself and keep myself away from sources that can make me worry even more. This implies not talking to certain people at times. Anything and anyone that is not going to help me move away from the worry cycle is to be avoided. I start my prayer saying that worry is not from God and that I am not a slave to it. I think it’s important to distance oneself from worry verbally. Our words out loud are often more powerful than our thoughts so we need to mash the thoughts of worry with words of faith. I basically encourage myself. I then say that God doesn’t want me to worry and prayer will take care of the worries. Praise and worship come next. They help me magnify God and minimize the worries and the fear. Sometimes all I need to do is worship for a while and the worries go away. There is power in praise and worship and they are always a part of my prayers.

 

Once you have prayed, give thanks. Thank God that He listens to you, that He loves you and that He is a good God. Have a thanksgiving celebration during prayer. You will forget about the worries and they won’t have power over you because your faith in God will increase. I also suggest praying for others. Sometimes it is easier to have faith for others, easier to believe that God can answer your prayers for others. When you intercede for someone else, your focus is on love and love has no fear. The love of God you will feel when you are praying for others, will erase the worries and destroy fear. I am sure you are facing some kind of situation today. I say do not worry about it, pray about it. If you have been worried about it, push away the fear with praise and with some one-on-one time with the Lord. Pray about anything, big or small. Put God’s hand in all you do and all you go through. He will bless you and help you! Don’t worry. Pray!

 

Suggested reading: Psalm 102:17; Job 42:10; Philippians 4:6-7

Gratitude toward God

One of my former students has been in touch with me on a regular basis. He is full of positive energy and learned the power of gratitude at a young age. He is aware that most of his peers take things for granted and he is doing his best to show the silver lining in clusters of clouds and teach people that there is so much to be grateful for. He inspires me and he pushes me to be the best encourager I can be. Understanding the power of gratitude in the Christian context is understanding that Jesus is the One who does everything good and we should thank Him for His goodness that is greater than the world’s bitterness. Jesus takes the sourness of the world and turns it into a dish of delicate and delicious fruit. There is a table He lays before us and with the power of gratitude we have access to everything that is on that amazing table. If we whine and complain, we turn down the beautiful spread the Lord has prepared for us . I want to feast at the table of the Lord and remain seated there as long as I can. Gratitude is the ticket that gets me through the door and that affords me a seat at that table. Gratitude combined with faith makes the table accessible. I don’t want to live my life eating sour grapes. I want the succulent fruit of the Spirit to be in the basket I carry around. It’s one thing to have the fruit and it’s another thing to have it and be grateful for it. Today I want to encourage you to turn up the volume of your gratitude and silence the whining and the complaining. There is always one thing in your life that you can be thankful for. If you have running water, a family, friends, transportation, a pulse, a smile, ideas, hope, and a mind that thinks and reflects, you can be grateful. Gratitude goes for small things and great things. Experience transformation in your life when gratitude toward the Lord is a lifestyle.

 

The question is, what are you grateful for today? Are you grateful for material things? For spiritual abilities and blessings? For family and friends? These are all great reasons to be thankful but the One Person we should be thankful for every day is Jesus. Just because He is Jesus. Isn’t He the most wonderful Person you have ever met? Have you met Him? You have. He is around you and with you. Look at your life. Look at what He has done. Look at what He can do. Look at how good He is. No one has had as much impact on my life as Jesus has and I am so grateful for Him. He is the One Person that has changed me so much. He has made my life so much better. I am nothing, absolutely nothing without Him. When I think of that I have many reasons to be thankful. It’s not about possessions. It’s not about goods. It’s all about Jesus. Being grateful for Jesus is being grateful for Love, for the Word of God, for resurrection, for salvation, for freedom and for a new life. Gratitude toward God the creator should precede gratitude toward the creation.

 

David the psalmist and king knew how to show gratitude toward God. He did it through music and songs and through a lifestyle that spoke highly of who God is. Gratitude works hand in hand with honor and respect and if we are going to show gratitude toward the Lord we can’t forget to honor Him and to show Him respect. It’s time we put Jesus on a pedestal and removed all the idols in our lives that are getting first place in our hearts. Gratitude and honor are what makes us get closer to our perfect Savior. God’s love and goodness endure forever. That alone is a reason to be thankful. His love won’t stop when you mess up. His goodness won’t vanish once you have gone down the wrong path. They are here to stay and they will never go away. We honor the Lord by continuing to live our lives in Him. Let’s show gratitude by showing respect for the Lord and imitating Him, turning to Him, acknowledging Him in all we do, seeking His face and putting Him before our needs. Devote yourself to the Lord and gratitude is one way you can get there. Gratitude toward God is a great way to live!

Suggested reading: Psalm 118:1; Colossians 2:6-7; Hebrews 12:28-29

Prayer puts everything in God’s hands

I can think of many examples of when I wanted to take things into my own hands. I thought I could do it better than God. I didn’t realize that was my mindset at the time but my actions spoke loudly. I even skipped prayer about certain matters thinking that I didn’t need prayer. Little did I know that prayer was the key to everything. I would say that I would pray about something and never said the prayer. I was then led to read the Word of God more and prayer jumped out of the pages. It appeared to be the essence of a relationship with God. Without prayer how can we communicate with God? Prayer is not just a formal means of communication. As matter of fact, it doesn’t have to be formal at all. It just has to be from the heart. It has to exist. It has to be manifested. Prayer is the language that gets us connected to God. God understands all prayers. It doesn’t matter what the actual language is. God knows it all and He hears our prayers even the ones that are not uttered. Prayer can be an internal plea. It can be muffled by the sounds of our tears. It can be hidden by the weight of our fears. It can be squeezed between two heartaches. It can be spoken by the lips of our faith even if our mouth is closed. Prayer has many forms but what all those forms have in common is a desire to communicate with God. God sees the desires of our hearts and that is what matters.

 

I have spoken before about prayer being a two-way street and not a one-way road. It’s an exchange with God. God can speak during prayer and our approach to prayer should take into consideration its listening aspect. Once I had established a daily prayer routine, I had also started expecting to hear from God. The first time it happened I thought it was my mind but the message was backed up by the Bible and it was clear that God was talking. His words are comforting and reassuring. Prayer is a place where we receive comfort, encouragement and love. When things are rough, I find refuge in prayer because that is where God’s love is apparent. I go to the Rock who cares for me more than anyone. I see prayer as a cocoon where many blessings are birthed and where love is always in the background. If you feel hurt, sad or lonely, make prayer your daily place of comfort. Prayer will give you the soothing touch you need. Keep on praying. Don’t let the pain take away the blessing of prayer. Prayer will always bless you when you give it a chance on a daily basis. “Pray about it” means “Receive God’s love in your situation” as well. It’s not just about getting guidance. It’s also about getting the love and peace that are needed in the situation we are in. For every difficulty, God has a solution and it begins with being aware of how much He loves us and because He does, He will get us out of that trial and tribulation.

 

Prayer is surrender. It’s taking the time to humble ourselves before the Lord. It is showing our vulnerability and receiving power and strength from the Lord. The surrender aspect of prayer also comes from the fact that when we pray we should accept that God will make a way. When we have a request, we should let God take care of it. We should let God be God and not try to be in control. That was a tough lesson for me to learn. I still struggle with it at times but I am always reminded by the Spirit of God that God always knows best. I am not the architect of my life. God has the blueprint of every situation I will ever encounter and I need to let go and just enjoy watching the master plan unfold. I am not always able to see how God is laying out the structure of the solution but faith reveals the process and I just have to trust it. “Pray before you worry about it” is a reality in my life and I strive to keep it going. When we walk in faith, worrying is never justified. If we pray about a matter, worry doesn’t make sense and we can push it out of our system. Prayer recognizes that our lives are in God’s hands. Friend, your life is in God’s hands. Believe it with your whole heart. Prayer will show you that once you put it all in God’s hands you have nothing to worry about. Pray every single day and you will keep handing your life over to God so He can do what’s best and give you rest!

Suggested reading: Matthew 6:6; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How to achieve spiritual growth

Through the years I have realized that there is always more with God. I am not just talking about getting more blessings. I am referring to learning more about God and expanding our spiritual sphere with Jesus in the middle. There is an expansion process that should be taking place. We should be enlarging our spiritual knowledge and understanding of the Lord. That expansion is a great way of approaching life with God. It is a life where there is abundance of growth and abundance of goodness and love. Growing in the knowledge of the Lord should be growing in love. Getting to know God is more than an intellectual exercise. It is a workout of the heart. As we get to know more of God, our hearts are trained to love more. God is love and as we develop spiritually our love should grow as well. We tend to remain in our comfort zone in the Lord and it is fine to spend some time there but after a while we need to come out of the comfort zone. We need to challenge our spiritual sphere and give God a bigger part of our lives. Our love should be enlarged. Our testimony should be bigger. The fruit of the Spirit should ripen in our lives. Our relationship with the Lord should grow. Our spiritual sphere can get to a larger size that encompasses more of God and less of us. Today I want to encourage you to expand your spiritual sphere and come out of your comfort zone. Challenge your heart. Defy your mind. Build up your spirit!

 

If I find myself in the same place I was a month ago spiritually, I know I have some work to do. The work is not necessarily hard but it requires commitment and dedication. I don’t work alone. I work with the Spirit of God. He has to be part of my spiritual sphere otherwise I am wasting spiritual space by trying to achieve something that my spirit alone can’t handle. Communion with the Spirit of Jesus is where I find the power to grow and the power to change. It is impossible to be in touch with the Spirit of God and not be altered in some way. When we spend time in the Word and we pray and celebrate Jesus, we manifest the Spirit of God in us and change always comes. Now, the Spirit takes us from glory to glory. We all go at our own pace and if we are in sync with the Lord, we get into a rhythm that agrees with His plan for our lives. God is never too fast and never too slow. He knows what’s best for us and He brings us along a great journey where growth is bound to happen. God gives more and we should be expecting more. Expecting more of Jesus in our lives. Expecting to become more like Jesus and having a bigger love for people and for God is the evidence that we are expanding our spiritual sphere. We can challenge ourselves to get more spiritual growth every day. Our spiritual sphere is like a bucket where drops of love and faith are added as we go until there is an overflow of the Lord and the bucket becomes a blessing to people around us.

 

My spiritual comfort zone was the place where I wasn’t pushed around too much. A place where I didn’t have to have too much faith and where it was pretty much status quo. Not too much happened and I didn’t have to take any spiritual risks such as having peace that surpasses all understanding or patience that was out of this world. I didn’t go out of my way to apply the Bible to my life. I was content with the Sunday service and prayers here and there. I was spiritually passive and that worked out for me. I was lukewarm is what I was. My spiritual sphere was small and I discovered it was expandable if I got to know the Lord better and if I made Him my priority. It became clear that my spiritual growth was going to depend on my proximity to God. By proximity I mean time spent in the Word, in prayer and in worship. Those three areas add layers to our spiritual sphere. God can make our spiritual lives vibrant places where beautiful things happen in the name of Jesus. The key is to surrender our spiritual sphere to the Lord. We ought to give up some of the worldly attractions that take away from the Lord. When we fill our spiritual sphere with world entertainment, we end up having holes in the area where there should be plugs put in by the Lord. The plug of hope, the plug of strength, the plug of joy and other plugs that God puts in place so that we are whole and we are filled with His Spirit. Spiritual growth comes from surrender and from obedience. There is always more with God. Aspire to grow in the Lord and to know His love better. The more you know, the more you will love!

Suggested reading: Jeremiah 9:23-24; John 17:3; Philippians 3:10

Stretching your faith

This year we have had many opportunities to stretch our faith. I like to call bad times and trials opportunities to walk in faith. It is during those times that we find out what our faith is made of and how far we need to go on the faith walk. There are times when we can walk a few feet and other times when we have to walk miles. The faith walk can be strenuous and it can be hard but it is always worth it. If we endure and stay in faith we will not only see miracles happen but we will also develop faith muscles that will help us carry bigger loads in the future. When the enemy tries to pile up heavier negative circumstances on us, we will have the muscles it takes to deal with the heaviness and give it all to God in faith. Faith is about trusting God no matter what. It is about looking at the impossible and not being fazed by it. I like to say that faith lives in the realm of the impossible made possible. Faith looks at circumstances and says “Thank You Lord because you have already handle it all.” Today I am inviting you to embrace the faith opportunities and to see them as times or seasons when you can stretch your faith.

 

You and I dwell in the shelter of the most High. God is our refuge and our fortress. We are well-guarded and we are well-protected. If we guard and protect our hearts, we will be able to trust that God is indeed our refuge and our fortress. When we let our hearts be troubled, we remove a layer of protection that keeps us anchored in the Lord. If we let our circumstances twist God’s reality in our hearts, we are losing the good fight of faith. The good news is that we may lose battles but we can also get back on the horse of faith and keep on going. There is no doubt in God’s mind that He can save us from any danger. There is no doubt in God’s mind that He can help us, bless us and turn our situations around. Doubt comes to our minds and that is what we need to fight with faith. Bad things are bound to happen. We can’t escape from them so it is advisable that we become resilient in faith and that we stretch our faith so we can deal with the next ball of trouble life will throw at us. Our mustard seed of faith has to grow at some point but not necessarily as much as we can think. Jesus said that a seed was enough to move a mountain. The key is to have faith in our faith at times. Having faith that we have enough faith. Bad times and bad circumstances help us get a better idea about the extent of our faith. Let’s welcome the trials of life and see them as stepping stones for greater things. They are meant to break us but they can build us up and strengthen our faith.

 

When something bad happens to me, my first thought is now,”How is God going to get me out of this?” I used to wonder how I would get myself out of my problems. You see, God is my refuge and He is the One who takes care of my problems. What I need to do is stay in faith. When a challenge arises, my faith is ready to take on that challenge. The goal is for me to stay focused on Jesus and to feed Jesus to my mind otherwise I can feed all kinds of crazy thoughts to my head. The good fight of faith is a fight where we are consistent and we don’t waver. We stay strong and we hold on to hope. If hope seems lost, the fight leads us back to hope. Stretching our faith implies resisting the temptation to give up. I talk to myself a lot. I use words from the Bible, encouraging words from the Holy Spirit. I say them out loud and they help me stay on track. The Spirit of God is the best coach when it comes to stretching our faith so I give Him a voice by repeating what He has said. I persevere and I look forward to when my solutions come but I also stay encouraged in the moment. I praise the Lord when the going gets tough. Friend, keep praising the Lord even when you are hurting. Stay with the praise. Keep being thankful. You will stretch your faith and you will grow spiritually. Don’t give up. Your Refuge is going to get you through this!

 

Suggested reading: 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7: Ephesians 6:10-18

This is how I pray

Once I learned that prayers were more than requests, my prayer life changed completely. I found out that prayer was more like a ceremony. It was more like a ceremony of interaction with God. Interaction and communication are key elements when it comes to prayer. Prayer is a form of communication where both parties are engaged. It shouldn’t be a passive recitation of memorized lines that sound good but that are empty at the same time. When we get into prayer, we engage with God and He actively engages with us. Prayer exalts the Lord and puts Him at the center of our focus. It is an engaged act of adoration and surrender. God comes first when  we pray. Our request and needs come last. Why? If we put Him first everything else will be added into us. When I started to look at prayer from that angle, I started seeing things I had never seen before and I started experiencing a level of God’s impact on my life that I had never had before. Prayer is that time when God imparts His presence and changes us on the inside. Today I want to encourage you to be actively engaged with God when you pray. See prayer as more than words. It is a beautiful love letter from your heart to God’s and from His heart to yours.

 

When I say that prayer is a ceremony I am not saying that it is anything formal. I think that “formal” makes it less intimate and more complicated than it is. Prayer is time set aside to be with the Lord and to magnify Him. It’s a chance to give Him credit and to learn about Him. It’s a two-way street where we can walk to God and He walks down to us. God is the center of prayer so we should expect Him to show up. What if you don’t see Him or feel Him? He doesn’t live in our feelings. He always shows up and we know that through faith. Faith is what fuels our prayers. Faith makes it all happen. The Holy Spirit is also a main player in prayer. He gives us the desire to pray. You might not be aware of it but the Spirit of God leads you to pray. He does it subtly or He can do it in a big way.

 

When you feel an urge to pray, it’s the Holy Spirit knocking at the door of your spirit. You open the door by getting into prayer mode. What happens after that is up to you. You can continue to be led by Him or you can do your own thing. The Bible says that we should open up the gates with praise. Starting prayers with praise is what made my prayers stand out from what they used to be. It is what made me see prayer more as a ceremony or a time of adoration. Jesus should come first in our prayers and He is in our praises so entering prayer with praise is like giving Him the front seat. I spend a good part of my prayer time in praise. I glorify Him. It is a precious time. Joy comes in. Peace shows up. Praise and adoration are fun times! They make prayer time a more personal time with the Lord. I sing songs I know or songs I have made up. What matters is that I start prayer with praise. I go into prayer through the gate of bliss and joy.

 

Gratitude and thanksgiving are a natural segue during my prayer time. I thank the Lord for His kindness and His goodness. I thank Him for the people in my life. I give Him the glory for saving my life. Then I ask Him to guide me and to change me so I can be more like Him. I give Him anything and everything I am holding on that is getting in the way. I ask for forgiveness and I forgive those who have not treated me well. I also pray for them. Then I pray for my family and friends. I keep a log of people’s prayer requests and I thank the Lord for answering those requests. Now, during the whole time after praise and adoration I remain attentive because the Lord often interrupts me and gives me messages. I sit there and listen. It is quite a wonderful daily experience. I love being “interrupted” by the Lord. His voice is what I want to hear.

 

Prayer is such a personal and intimate event with the Lord. I pray that your prayer time is always the best time of the day. I pray that you get to know Jesus more than anyone in the world. I pray that you realize how powerful your relationship can be with the Lord. I pray that He floods your spirit with revelation and your heart with His love. I pray that you pray every day and that every time you get more and more in love with Jesus!

Suggested reading: Jeremiah 29:12; Psalm 102:17; Philippians 4:6