You are Okay

     It is a beautiful winter morning here in West Michigan. I peered out the window to take yet another look at the beautiful ivory snow that now blankets the ground. This morning, I woke up thinking about how many years of my life have been spent wherein the first moments of my day were consumed with thoughts about the things I can do better, what I should be doing, or how far along I should be in a particular aspect of life. And I must admit, they are far too many to count. That contemplation however, lasted only for a moment when all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with a sense of ‘okay-ness’. Now for you Language Arts and English scholars, I do understand that this is not technically a word, but if you would allow me to, I would like to use it only this once. I am emphasizing point. Anyway, it was as though I could hear the Holy Spirit saying,”It’s okay. You are okay. And I want you to be okay with simply being you. You may not be all you want to be. You may not have grown to the degree you would like. But I want you to be okay with your present because I am in control of your process and outcome. You will get there by my power not in your own strength.”

     Zephaniah 3:17 declares, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm your fears. He will rejoice over you with songs.”

      God does not spend his time focusing on countless details because he knows the big picture, and according to his grace, he will bring all things to the fullness of their manifestation in his time. God rejoices over you with singing. He rejoices over me with singing. He is okay with who we are, and in many cases where we are because he knows he has the power to get us where he ultimately wants us to be.

     Life is a process. Learning is a process. Development is a process. My exhortation this week: Commit to a focus that centers on where you are, what you have accomplished, how far you a have come, and the anticipation of where you are headed. Don’t miss experiencing the miracle of who you are because of wallowing in the mediocrity of who you should be. Far too often, these are  expectations we place on ourselves. They are not God’s expectations of us.

    You are okay. And God wants you to be okay with being okay.  There is not one place along the journey of our lives with which God is not fully acquainted or aware. In other words, he knows exactly where we are, he knows where we are going, and he knows what it will take to get us where he, not we, has destined us to be.

     If you are that individual who spends a lot of time focusing on yourself in certain areas of your life, try taking a break this week. Take a bubble bath,  a walk along a beautiful path, have an ice cream cone, watch your favorite movie, and know for certain that you have a heavenly Father who is pleased with you, who loves you, who knows where you are, and is completely capable of getting you where he wants you to be. There is no pressure in this. In the words of Joyce Meyer, “You are okay and you are on your way.”

Have a beautiful day and a blessed week,

Tanya

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God’s Faithful Forgiveness: Psalm 139

     Have you ever taken the time to read Psalm 139? If you have not, I seriously advise you take the time to do so, and soon. Today, sitting here in meditation, while preparing for the small group of which I am a part at the church I presently attend, I find myself once again awestruck by the goodness of God, his undying faithfulness and mercy. Today, we are beginning a study in the book by R.T. Kendall,Total Forgiveness. That being said, I have read through the introduction and the first chapter, and I am floored as I consider and reconsider the magnitude of the mercy of God. Psalms 139 opens with these words, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” It goes on to say, “You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I am far away.”

     Reading this Psalm, especially in light of the information in the first chapter of R.T. Kendall’s book, Total Forgiveness, many thoughts and emotions were brought to the forefront of my heart and mind. God knows everything about you and about me. He is completely acquainted with every strand of our DNA. He knows what we will decide to do  even before we make the decision or act on what we have decided. He knows what I will contemplate long before I even become aware. God knows my innermost thoughts, the meditations of my heart. Of the fulness of our being, there is not one atom with which he is not fully and completely unfamiliar. He knows when I have failed unintentionally as well as when I have do so by making a deliberate choice to act contrary to what I know is right. God knows all of this about me and about you. And still he loves us, still he cares for us.  And still, he forgives us.

       The Psalmist also writes, “I can never escape from your Spirit, I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to the heaven, you are there. If I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest side of the oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.” In other words, no matter what I do or where I go, wherever I may find myself, in any given situation God is there.

      In reading Kendall’s book, this is something I began to consider in light of God’s faithfulness to forgive.  Matthew 26: 27-28 says, “And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins.” (my paraphrase) We further read in Hebrews 10:16-17, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, ‘says the Lord’: I will put my laws in their hearts and in their minds. Then he says, I will never again remember their sins and their lawless deeds.” God is so committed to forgiving us that he sealed it in stone, in a manner of speaking. He established his commitment through covenant. And it is a covenant to which he will remain forever faithful.

     Talk about forgiving and forgetting! Even though the book by Kendall seems to be written from a slightly different perspective, in that it seems of focus more on the necessity and benefit of forgiving rather than the forgiveness we receive from God. It definitely also touches on the latter. And I expect more so as I continue to read through its pages. Still, these are some to the thoughts that have come to me as I have enjoyed the book thus far.

        As I hope to touch on in next week’s blog, we have the power to forgive others because God has forgiven us. If you have never done so, or haven’t done so in a while, take time to read Psalm 139, and just meditate on the unfathomable depth of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s faithfulness, and God’s willingness to forgive.

Have a blessed and prosperous week,

Tanya

All Scripture references are taken from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible (NLT)

Our Thoughts Influence Our Faith

    I have often hear Joyce Meyer say, “Think about  what you are thinking about.” That statement is more profound than most people realize because whether we know it or not, it is our thoughts that influence our faith and drive our actions. David said in Psalms 8, “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers- the moon and the stars you set in place- what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them..” David was the same individual who took down a giant, who had been trained in battle from his youth. While his fellow Israelite brothers, even King Saul himself ran in fear from Goliath, David trusted God. Until that time, David’s past as a shepherd consisted of years of alone time in worship before God. So when life circumstances presented an opportunity where others were thrown of kilter, David was able to stand his ground in complete trust and confidence regarding the God whom he had spent many years thinking about, loving, worshiping and learning to trust in.  When he came face to face with Goliath, it was the thoughts he had learned to think about God himself, and his situation that ultimately influenced his faith.

     So it was with  Abraham who against all hope believed in hope. He did not consider the decrepitness of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about 100 years old, or the absolute deadness of Sarah’s womb. It goes on to say, that Abraham did not stagger drunkenly at the promise of God. Instead he grew strong in faith because he was convinced that what God had spoken he was truly able to perform. (Romans 4)

     In Hebrews 11, we get a glimpse of Sarah’s thought  process. It says,”Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.(King James Version)

     I love the way the KJV puts it. It says Sarah judged God faithful, fully believing that what he had spoken he was able to bring to pass. Her thoughts influenced her faith. Not her thoughts about herself, her situation, or even Abraham. It was her thoughts about God and his ability to work in her life that became a driving force for the faith she placed in God to accomplish what he had promised even though, humanly speaking, it was absolutely impossible.

      It is so easy to get caught up in our day to day circumstances. And it is even easier to allow the happenings in our everyday life to influence our thoughts, about ourselves, our situation, about others, even about God. But Paul exhorts us in the book of Philippians, ” “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about the things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:8,9

    Far too often we struggle more than we should. Not because of our situation but as a result of what we are thinking about our situation. Our thoughts influence our faith. I realized something a few years back: I don’t have anything to lose by thinking positive thoughts, good thoughts, excellent thoughts. End the end, whether my situation changes or not, I am better and more healthy emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. You may have a whirlwind going on around you but if you are genuinely at peace, where your thoughts are focused on who God is and his ability to see you through, there is nothing that can shake you.

     May the God of all peace strengthen you, bless you, and fill you with the assurance of his ever-abiding presence.

Recommended Readings for this week:

Romans chapter 4

Hebrews 11

Psalm 8

Philippians 4:8,9

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 experienced 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 and information. Looking back, I can only describe these years as one beholding something from a distance. I knew of the reality of the love of God, but I had no deep encounter with it.

      So different was my life then, my knowledge about God and his love, it wasn’t my understanding about God’s love but my ultimate acquaintance 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,4for 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 is,  and 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 went 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. He did not need information. 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.

There Is No Defeat In Him

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.

Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which is exceeds anything we can understand, will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”

Be blessed.

Tanya