Forged in the Midst of Hard Times

An excerpt from the conclusion of, Treasures from the Battle.

In our lives we do not always understand the battles that we must fight or the valleys that we must walk through, but remember that no battle is ever won without spoils or riches taken after the defeat of an enemy. When God gave me the title, “Treasures from the Battle” I did not feel the title spoke only  about the contents of the book or a specific challenging time in my life, instead, I felt as though the title had more to do with my whole life’s journey. The title Treasures from the Battle has to do with the beautiful qualities God wants to reveal in us; ironically, these qualities are all too often forged in times that are not easy or comfortable. The potential for God to teach us some of our most valuable life lessons often takes place during some of the most difficult times in our lives. I don’t necessarily understand why, but this is just the way God seems to work many times.

One thing I do know: God never intends for any of us to remain the same person exiting a battle as when the battle began. Hard times are intended to transform each of us, to a greater degree, into the woman God has purposed. Again and again, over the course of our lives, God takes us through challenging times so that we might walk in the fullness of our identity. As the book of Hebrews 5:8 states, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.” He became our faithful High Priest only by walking in our shoes and dying for our sins. Because he walked in our shoes, he has the ability to relate to us and to be sensitive to the struggles are facing. The Bible also tells us he was tempted in all points as we are, only he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He became like us, so that he could relate to us in all our struggles. This included enduring some of life’s most difficult and stressful times.

One of the ways God accomplishes his purposes in our lives is by drawing us to himself. In times where we face trouble or crisis, the believer will do one of two things; either she will run to God, or she will retreat from God. It is God’s desire that we run to him. All too often, in the  ordinary days of our lives that are filled with obligations of all sorts, it is easy to fail to give attention to God through prayer, mediation or the reading of his word as we should. Yet when we are enshrouded in the midst of darkness due to tumultuous times in our lives, his love, his light and his leading become more obvious. In the times when we do not know what to do or where to turn, we find our hope in God.  It is when we are looking to him alone, that he can begin to reveal to us  the wisdom and knowledge that is unique to each of our life circumstances.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I  will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

It is the things that we do not know that are going to change our lives forever. And it is these things that the Father longs to reveal to us. Unfortunately, most of time this objective is only reached in the heat of battle. In other words, most of the times, what God wants to use to transform our lives does come easy. But take a moment and imagine God speaking to you. In the deepest part of your heart: hear or feel him speaking these words,”If you will only take my hand, and allow me to walk you through time; allow me to be your support and comfort. Then I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know. If you will keep your eyes focused on me, seeking me with your whole heart, the wisdom, knowledge and peace I give become the treasures that will change your life. Only then will you experience all that you thought was impossible.”

On the other side of hardship is wisdom, peace and reward. As long we persevere, keeping our eyes on him. God will make us victorious, for there is no defeat in him.

Be blessed.

Tanya

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God Still Has a Plan

Part of my job as Teacher at a Christian middle/high school is to lead a weekly devotional with a small group of students. Last week’s devotional was entitled, What Does it Mean to Have Faith?  To teach the principle of what it means to have faith, we were given an example of completing a dot to dot puzzle. If you have completed a dot to dot puzzle, you are aware that a picture is present even though you cannot see it. One might be argue, “By faith you begin connecting the dots with lines until the picture begins to take shape.”

In the same way, God has a predetermined plan for each of our lives. There is a picture present even when we cannot readily see it. In addition, life has  a way of presenting us with situations and circumstances we may have never considered.

When I was married twenty- four years ago, I never dreamed I would be facing a divorce twenty-four years later. No one could have ever convinced me that marital separation or divorce would or could occur in my life. But it did. And it has. Yet it is the power of faith that gives me hope.  While this may not be a situation I fully understand, I know that God has a predetermined outcome for my life. Like completing a dot to dot puzzle, faith is believing a predetermined picture is present even when we are still tracing the lines or when the picture we trust will be revealed is still taking shape.

Life may be very difficult right now but take this week to remember, that your life and mine are still taking shape.  Nothing has happened about which God has not been wholly aware. If God did not have a plan we would not be here. If you are still breathing, it is because God still has a plan.

Some suggested readings:

  • Romans 4:17-19
  • Hebrews chapter 11
  • Ephesians 3:20

An Encounter With God’s Love

The Gospel of John 3:16 says, “ For God so loved loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV

      I cannot tell you how many years during my Christian journey I spent having only a knowledge of God’s love.  As a Bible Teacher, I had many opportunities to share the truth about God’s love. Even so, if I had been honest, I had the knowledge that God loved me, but not the experience. I knew I had eternal life and would one day be with him forever, but that was the extent of salvation as I had both known and encountered it to be. Constant struggle marked the majority of the years of my life as a Christian because in my life God’s love for me was based more on knowledge than experience. Looking back, I can only describe these years as one beholding something from a distance. I knew of its reality, but I had no encounter.

      So different was my life then, my knowledge about God and his love, it wasn’t my understanding about God’s love but my eventual experience with it that has changed my life forever. John 3:16 can be looked at with a two-fold purpose. The first part reveals the remedy for the devastation and brokenness that has plagued mankind since the fall of the first human beings, the second speaks of the eternal benefit of God’s provision, made possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To put it another way, in the first half of this verse we can clearly see that when our Heavenly Father considered what totality of solution could be provided for our injurious and estranged state (estranged not in essence or awareness but in relationship to him) he both knew and decided from eternity past to demonstrate extent of his love in the power and person of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the love of the Father demonstrated in Jesus Christ is the complete remedy for the ailments of mankind due to sin.

“For God loved the world (you and me) so much, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    God gave his only son because his love alone has the power to change our condition. Even though there are countless examples from Scripture, one particular account comes to mind, the Gadarene Demoniac. The Bible states in Mark chapter 5, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

    Pain and torment had become the trademark of this man’s life. Driven by forces over which he had little control, self- destructive behavior threatened to end his life completely. No one understood him. And no one could help him.  When I think about this man in today’s society, surely he would find his sole existence in a padded room, heavily medicated. Yet Jesus, on the other side of the river, in a totally different place, was aware of this man’s condition, of his desire, and of his need. Which is why in the previous chapter, speaking in regard to the river, after teaching the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side.

       The Bible tells us that when this man saw Jesus he ran and worshiped him. In that moment of worship, of embracing who Jesus was, the power and ultimate authority Jesus had to work in his life, this man was set free from that which bound him. When he could not come to Jesus, Jesus came to him. Here was a man whose life was  steeped in darkness,  yet Jesus invaded his world. And with the power of his love, he set him free.  This man was a contemporary of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Bible does not tell us whether this man knew about Jesus during this time, the point is however, that Jesus in bodily form did exist in this man’s time but it was not until he had an encounter with Jesus that his life, his family and his region were forever changed. Whether he was aware of the existence of the Messiah or not, simply having knowledge of his existence would have done this man little good. Instead, he needed an encounter.

       Know today beloved, that no matter where you are, where you find yourself, what you are facing or going through, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. God is always loving you, always aware, always there, longing and waiting to permeate your life with the  healing and transforming power of his love. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in the book of Romans chapter 8, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love God has for you and me is everlasting, enduring forever. It will never cease. We can resist it, or we can reject it, but we cannot change it.

      In an age of media and ever-advancing technology, in a generation where we have more information about  God’s love (through TV, books, CDs, DVDs and yes, blogs) than at any other point in history, we are more broken, more hurting, more desperate, more depressed and more in need of real answers to real problems. Yes, we know more about God and about his word. We are more informed about the sacrifice of Jesus and about his ability to change our lives. But the potential for God to transform our lives by the power of his love does not come from information alone. If we are ever to be truly made whole, we must have an encounter.

Forged in the Midts of Hard Times

An excerpt from the conclusion of, Treasures from the Battle.

     In our lives we do not always understand the battles that we must fight or the valleys that we must walk through, but remember that no battle is ever won without spoils or riches taken after the defeat of an enemy. When God gave me the title, “Treasures from the Battle” I did not feel the title spoke only  about the contents of the book or a specific challenging time in my life, instead, I felt as though the title had more to do with my whole life’s journey. The title Treasures from the Battle has to do with the beautiful qualities God wants to reveal in us; ironically, these qualities are all too often forged in times that are not easy or comfortable. The potential for God to teach us some of our most valuable life lessons often takes place during some of the most difficult times in our lives. I don’t necessarily understand why, but this is just the way God seems to work many times.

      One thing I do know: God never intends for any of us to remain the same person exiting a battle as when the battle began. Hard times are intended to transform each of us, to a greater degree, into the woman God has purposed. Again and again, over the course of our lives, God takes us through challenging times so that we might walk in the fullness of our identity. As the book of Hebrews 5:8 states, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.” He became our faithful High Priest only by walking in our shoes and dying for our sins. Because he walked in our shoes, he has the ability to relate to us and to be sensitive to the struggles are facing. The Bible also tells us he was tempted in all points as we are, only he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He became like us, so that he could relate to us in all our struggles. This included enduring some of life’s most difficult and stressful times.

      One of the ways God accomplishes his purposes in our lives is by drawing us to himself. In times where we face trouble or crisis, the believer will do one of two things; either she will run to God, or she will retreat from God. It is God’s desire that we run to him. All too often, in the  ordinary days of our lives that are filled with obligations of all sorts, it is easy to fail to give attention to God through prayer, mediation or the reading of his word as we should. Yet when we are enshrouded in the midst of darkness due to tumultuous times in our lives, his love, his light and his leading become more obvious. In the times when we do not know what to do or where to turn, we find our hope in God.  It is when we are looking to him alone, that he can begin to reveal to us  the wisdom and knowledge that is unique to each of our life circumstances.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I  will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

     It is the things that we do not know that are going to change our lives forever. And it is these things that the Father longs to reveal to us. Unfortunately, most of time this objective is only reached in the heat of battle. In other words, most of the times, what God wants to use to transform our lives does come easy. But take a moment and imagine God speaking to you. In the deepest part of your heart: hear or feel him speaking these words,”If you will only take my hand, and allow me to walk you through time; allow me to be your support and comfort. Then I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know. If you will keep your eyes focused on me, seeking me with your whole heart, the wisdom, knowledge and peace I give become the treasures that will change your life. Only then will you experience all that you thought was impossible.”

     On the other side of hardship is wisdom, peace and reward. As long we persevere, keeping our eyes on him. God will make us victorious, for there is no defeat in him.

Be blessed.

Tanya

The Enduring Power and Potential of God’s Love

           Love is the foremost ingredient for Christ-likeness in our lives. And love is the motivation behind all God has ever done, is doing or will do in his dealings with man. God did not create mankind because he had to or needed to; God created mankind because he wanted to. We were first and foremost created to live in loving relationship with our Creator, then toward each other. Love is the essence of who God is; thus to grow in love is to become like him. As I get older, and as I grow in my relationship with Christ I spend more time contemplating the limitless expanse and boundless power of his love. The love the Father has for humanity is relentless. It is without measure, infinite in its capacity and unequaled in its impact and power. Nothing in this universe compares to it. The longer I live, the more I realize the love the Father has for us cannot be explained in mere words.

           It is our love response to him based on the love that he has already demonstrated that has the power and capability to change our lives. It is through his demonstration of love that we are empowered to live like he lived and love like he loves.  In considering Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus never commanded us to do anything he was not willing to do first. He has never asked us to walk any path he himself was not first willing to walk. He has never commanded us to love in a way that he was not willing to love first. There is a passage found in I John. It reads, “We love him because he first loved us.” This is the very beginning of Christian character formation, of becoming like him. Christian character formation begins with our love for the Father, our relationship with Jesus and our response to the indwelling Holy Spirit.

            Jesus walked this earth as a man committed to the will his Father and full of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Philippians chapter 2 we learn that Jesus is in essence God. In other words, he is equal with God because he is God. Even so, he did not cling to the fact that he himself is the God of all flesh, the Creator of our universe. Instead he put aside the attributes of being God and walked this earth in the likeness of man. It was in this likeness, as a man fully committed to his Heaven Father that we see the motivating factor of love at work in a human life. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. To put it another way, the more Jesus persevered, the greater the demonstration of his love and commitment to the Father, and to you and me.

             As strange as it might seem to say, character formation in the life of Christ came as a result of his obedience to the Father, and love was at the heart of his submission. The Bible also tells us, “Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In the garden of Gethsemane we see the fullness, the perfection of the power of love and its capabilities in the human heart and  life. And we hear it when Jesus said, “If possible, let this cup pass from me, yet it’s not my will but yours be done.” (My paraphrase) It was out of his undying love for the Father that he was able to lay his life down for you and me.  In the end, it is our love for God that is the motivating factor for Godly character formation. And it is through this love via the indwelling Holy Spirit that love ultimately changes our lives from an inward condition to an outward expression. This is why Jesus said, if someone loves me he must take up his cross and follow me. Self cannot live on the cross. And the cross cannot be daily borne without love. To grow in God’s love we must be willing to die to self. Further, it is as we die to self and live unto him that our character is formed, and we begin to live as children of the Most High God. The whole process of life for the believer is a journey that begins, proceeds and is culminated by the enduring power and potential of God’s love to work in, and change our lives.

        For me,  this has been  week of meditation and reflection. As I meditate on the word of God, I think about my life, about mistakes I have made, and about the gentle life-changing love of the Father. He is a God of mercy. He is a God of patience, and out of the unfathomable reaches of this love,  he is always pushing us toward perfection in him.

May God fill you with his love and his peace in the coming week.