Bethany's BlogWords of Encouragement

Even Though

 

 

 

 

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive fails and the fields produce no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet and makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].

Habakkuk 3:17-19

God promises over and over in His Word that He will strengthen those that trust in Him. He promises to give us confidence that is as sure-footed as a deer, when we live in faith.

I will be the first to admit that I have worked through and still work through some serious doubts when it comes to God’s promises. The beauty of this process is that God is right there beside me as I question, wonder, doubt, and sometimes run around in circles. So far in life, He has brought me to a place of stronger faith and boldness, even though I can wallow in doubt. I’ve told myself numerous times that it would be much easier for me, and probably those around me, if I skipped the doubt, the questions, and sometimes fear and simply believe. Yet, it isn’t always that easy, is it? 

The days that I feel like the fruitless vine, or the fig tree without any blossoms, or a failure like the olive tree, I have discovered that if I voice it and still praise His name anyway, I truly am strengthened. Sometimes I am strengthened a lot, other times just a little, but every time, He is there.

When my courage falters, and I turn to praise Him, He lifts me up to walk in a sure-footed path. It can be slow, but it does happen.

We live in a world that bombards us with negative thoughts and bad news. We are surrounded with lies from the enemy every day. It can suck the strength right out of our hearts if we are not diligent in our focus on who God is and what He promises us. 

If I am not willing to get up from under the fruitless vine, or the withered fig tree and praise Him for all that He has said; it will be very challenging to see beyond the circumstances I am sitting in. When I choose to move, I will lead a movement. When I choose to trust, I will believe. When I choose to stand, I will lead in boldness. When I choose to rejoice, I will be victorious.

If discouragement covers your heart today, take heart! God sees and hears you and He will lift you out. He will bring you to places of great strength and faith when you are able to place your trust in His promises. Talk to Him about it and don’t be afraid to be real with Him. He listens. He knows. And, as you confide in Him, He certainly will make you walk forward with spiritual confidence. 

Share your story today of how God continues to walk alongside you, even though.

 

 

(Also published in Community of Christian Creatives magazing)

Hurry to Jesus

 

So they went in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the Baby as He lay in the manger.  And when they had seen this, they made known what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Luke 2:16-18

Christmas is here! For some people it means a lot of hustle and bustle, others it is a restful and relaxing time. Some spend Christmas with family, others mourn the loss of family. 

For us, Christmas Eve is usually pretty quiet and relaxed. We started the day off with my husband and I cooking food for Christmas Day. It was fun being together in the kitchen, anticipating the fun to come with all our family.

Early afternoon we left for a Christmas Eve service. It was a a candlelight service with Christmas songs of praise. Very beautiful. As I meditated on the gift of Jesus, His birth, His death, our new life of salvation, hope, peace and love, I noticed the that when Jesus was born the shepherds went to Him in a hurry. I picture them chilling out in the fields with their sheep, maybe having some low-key conversations about life, family, etc. Then, out of nowhere, the sky lights up, an angel appears, then more appear, and everything changed for them! 

Let us go straight to Bethlehem, and see this [wonderful] thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 

They didn’t stop to analyze. They didn’t detour to get dinner.  It wasn’t a slow scenic route. No, it was a hurried pace to find the amazing and beautiful gift of Jesus. 

When they found Him, when they had set their eyes upon Him and felt His presence for themselves, they told everyone the good news of His birth. I think they were excited. When they told others of their experience, I think they told it with animated anticipation and hope; it was catching. “…all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

What about us? Do we hurry to Jesus with great anticipation?  This is what I’m asking myself today. “When I am filled with Joy, hope, pain, despair, confusion, peace---whatever it may be, do I hurry to Jesus? “

Do You?

When we experience His power and love, do we make it known to those around us? Does it astound them?

It’s Christmas time! My prayer for you today is when you experience life today, you will hurry to Jesus with all that it entails.  When you feel the love of your family and friends, hurry to the Source. When you feel alone and in pain, hurry to Jesus. Whatever is yours to have this Christmas time, hurry to Jesus.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told.”

I woke up in the night and I too hurried to Jesus with a deep gratefulness for my Christmas Eve day, cooking with my husband in the kitchen, candlelight service with friends, sweet moments with my children, and a visit to my son’s new house. Every single moment tells me that His presence changes everything!

Suddenly

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened.

Luke 2:9

This morning as I was paging through the Bible the word suddenly stood out to me. I did a little research and discovered that it occurs 87 times in the Bible!  It’s fun to think that I could be minding my own business and then, suddenly, an angel appears! Or, like the shepherds who were tending their sheep in the field, suddenly, an angel appeared and then many appeared, whoa! I’d be terribly frightened at first too. There’s no gradual process when angels appear, they just seem to pop up out of nowhere, you know, suddenly. As amazing and fascinating as it is, I am left to ponder the method.

I’ve had times in my life when it felt as if God was moving very slow. I might be praying for something for months or even years and nothing happens, and then suddenly life is different. Sometimes I didn’t see it coming. Then there are the times that I recognize the gradual process of change within my heart. 

When I think about that night with the angels and the shepherds I wonder if it was both suddenly and gradual for them too. Suddenly, angels were there proclaiming great news to them. They ran to see the newborn babe. I’m guessing they were never the same from that day on. There was a sudden change and also a lifelong gradual change. 

When I encountered Jesus for the first time, I felt a “suddenly” too. Suddenly, I knew I was loved. Suddenly, I knew He wanted to have relationship with me and suddenly I knew He was speaking directly to me. Suddenly, I knew that His glory was all around me and that the presence I felt was nothing short of miraculous. Since that day, I have gradually grown in many areas, and continue to do so. I have become aware of Who He is and all that He says I am. I have learned to recognize His voice, and follow Him. My desires, thoughts, and life have surrendered more and more to Him. Grace has covered me through the many mistakes and falls. 

Encounters with Jesus are mysterious in that once you’ve had one your life is never the same. Suddenly, your entire world is different. Your heart is different.  The thoughts and desires you may have had before your encounter are suddenly gone. Jesus has replaced them with love.

Isn’t this what He did throughout His ministry on earth? The sick and wounded would come to Him for help, he would touch them, heal them and suddenly their lives were different. They could walk, see, talk, and live again. He confronted evil, and suddenly there was peace. He befriended men and women and suddenly they spread the Word to others about the mystery of Christ. He surrendered His very own life, was taken to a tomb, and then on the third day He suddenly was alive!  Hearts and minds were suddenly changed as they spread out across the nations to tell of the miraculous happenings.

The men that walked with Him, suddenly became powerful carriers of His message, they were filled with His Spirit. They were so changed that they were willing to suffer and die for Him. 

Saul was intent on destroying all of the followers of Jesus, then suddenly, He heard Jesus speak and was changed. 

The woman at the well was buried in shame. She was stuck in a lifestyle that only brought condemnation and pain, then she met Jesus. He lovingly talked to her and saw inside her heart. Suddenly, she was changed and went out to tell others of the amazing man that knew all about her.

Suddenly, they all encountered the love of Jesus, and they couldn’t wait to share it.  The mystery of His love pursues us and inspires us to be like Him. 

Suddenly, I knew that He loved and favored me. I knew that He chose me. What is your “suddenly”? How has it changed your life?

The Wonders of God

Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.

1 Chronicles 16:9

Today I spent several hours at the beach. I sat in the sand and admired all the tiny shells at my feet. So beautiful! I began to quietly speak of all the wonders God puts smack in front of my face every day. Sometimes, I have taken many of them for granted, like these amazing little shells. They are always there on the beach, people walk over them every day, most don't even take notice of their beauty. I began to thank Him for the wonders of His creation. The immense ocean, sand, palm trees, rocks, and shells. My mind shifted to the wonders of living life, to the wonder of opportunity, hope, peace, joy, and love. God created us with the innate ability to tap into His Spirit and to experience His wonder. He then built within us the ability to live life that is full of His fruit even when the circumstances are not always good. This is a wonder worth His praise.

As I glanced around and noticed a few others on the beach, I thanked Him for the wonder of relationships. There was a couple laying on a blanket, a family playing in the sand, and a couple girls taking pictures. Again, God created us for relationship. Even those of us that may enjoy alone time, we still have been wired to have people in our lives. To be known, seen, loved and wanted. To me, I feel like this is a miraculous wonder. Sometimes we experience hardships in life that destroy our trust, or cause us to build walls all around ourselves, but somewhere deep inside we still long for relationship. When someone is able to see us through the eyes of Christ, then we experience the wonder of love.

And, love is a wonder.

Love would not exist without the miraculous wonder of Jesus and His birth. Think about it; the King of all left His home and became a humble servant. The whole story is a marvel, really. The angel Gabriel speaking to Mary, her complete willingness to submit to the will of God, and the conception of the Son of God by the Holy Spirit. Then, there's Joseph's side of the story, he wanted to quietly divorce Mary. She was pregnant and it wasn't by him! Instead, Gabriel came to him in a dream and spoke to Him of the wondrous miracle inside of Mary. He told Josheph to stay, and Joseph stayed.

Fast forward to the birth of Jesus and the shepherds. They encountered angels singing and speaking about the holy birth. They ran to Bethlehem to see the newborn babe. Think about it, if you and your group of friends saw a choir of angels proclaiming good news, what would you do? 

What about now? God hasn't just stopped speaking to us. He has given us so much to be in awe of-to look at with great wonder. Angels still present us with wondrous news. The Bible still is living and active and brings wondrous changes to our lives. God still encounters us with His voice. The Holy Spirit fills us. When we think of the magnitude of this; there is nothing but wonder!

In Hebrews the wonder of His voice is confirmed. "Christ is faithful as a Son over His [Father's] house. And we are His house if we hold fast our confidence and sense of triumph in our hope [in Christ]. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, ' Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as [your fathers did] in rebellion.' Hebrews 3:6-7

The wonder of His voice comes through the living Word, or is deeply impressed upon our thoughts, or possibly a still small voice. However it is heard in your life; it is, no doubt a wonder.

As Christmas approches and we may be thinking about the birth of Jesus, His love, our relationships and the gifts He has blessed us with, remember to tap into the wonder. Sing praises to Him for the wonder of it all! For there is beauty all around you and peace in the presence of Christ Jesus.

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