God of all Comfort

The past few weeks I have had to lean on God for comfort and peace.  I have had to believe that God would take care of me and provide for my every need while I was waiting on answers.  Answers that would change my life forever.  My prayer life and spending time in the Word have increased in the last two weeks.  I have memorized Scripture and repeated them daily when my emotions would get the best of me.  I never wanted my faith and hope to waver during this time.

Sometimes we feel like God has forgotten about us when we go through a difficult situation and/or season in our lives. We question His goodness and His love for us. We tend to ask God, “where are You?” and feel alone during these times. Our faith can waver easily when we are in a state of chaos. We do not understand why we have to go through such a bad time in our lives. Even in Psalm 119:82 says, “my eyes long for Your [God’s] promise; I ask, ‘when will You comfort me?'”

The truth is, our relationship with God strengthens when we go through hard times. We depend on Him more to give us peace, hope, comfort, mercy, etc. God can turn something bad into something good. He is not the author of chaos and confusion but He can use these experiences to help us grow in our faith.  Romans 8:26-28 in the message version says that, “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

I encourage you to look towards God for comfort and know that He will never leave you in a time of need. He loves you unconditionally and knows everything! Talk to Him and seek His guidance for your life!

Below are Scriptures that have helped me get through this tough time:

Emotions                               God Is:                                         Scripture
Heavy Burdened                     My burden is Light                        Matthew 11:28-30
Struggle                                  Mercy/God of all Comfort              2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Hopelessness                         Hope                                             Psalm 119:49
Weakness                               Strength                                        Romans 7:26-28
Helplessness                          Our Refuge                                   Psalm 91:1-2
Fear                                        Comfort                                         Psalm 23:4
Unloved                                  Steadfast Love                              Psalm 119:76
Alone                                      Always There                                Hebrews 13:5-6
Mercilessness                        Mercy/Compassion                       Psalm 23:6; Isaiah 49:13
Unworthy                                Life                                                Psalm 119:50
Sadness                                 Joy                                                John 16:22
Brokenhearted                       Healer                                            Psalm 147:3
Mourning                               Comfort                                          Matthew 5:4
Shame/Guilt                          Grace                                             2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Spiritual Growth – Part Three

Defining Moments

Another way to grow spiritually with God is through defining moments. In a sermon by Greg Carr, he defines a defining moment as “any time in your life in which a choice that you make or an incident that happens causes something in your life to change. It is something that from that moment on defines some aspect of your life.” The dictionary defines defining moments as “a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified” (dictionary.com).

We will all have defining moments in our lives. It can be getting married, becoming a parent or winning an award. The ultimate defining moment in our lives is giving our hearts to Christ. There is always a reason why we come to God and surrender our lives to Him. We may have come to Christ because we were facing a crisis or an illness and we turned to God for hope and comfort. I gave my life to Christ in the midst of chaos and confusion when my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That moment in my life was a defining moment for me to realize I needed God. I remember my prayer to Him vividly, with tears streaming down my face, in desperate need to feel loved and accepted.

We may have come to Christ by someone sharing God’s love for us. Maybe a friend or even a complete stranger approached us asking if we had God in our hearts and whether or not we were interested in becoming a Christian.

There are many ways we can come to Christ. These examples above are not the only methods to become a Christian. No matter how we become a follower of Christ, the important thing is that we made the decision to give our hearts to Him.

The Bible has many great examples of defining moments. The people in the Bible had encounters with Jesus and those encounters changed their lives forever. I have listed several examples below:

    Daniel was thrown in a lions’ den after refusing to bow down to King Darius and God sent an angel to shut the mouth of the lions. Daniel was not harmed. Daniel proved that God is sovereign and after experiencing what could have been a deadly situation, Daniel’s faith increased as well as others who witnessed this miracle (Daniel 6).
    Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to a statue made of gold which symbolized worshipping other gods. King Nebuchadnezzar was very upset and ordered the men to be put to death by throwing them into a fiery furnace. God protected them by not allowing the fire to burn their skin. After the king saw these men were untouched, he believed that God was like no other gods and it increased his faith (Daniel 3).
    Abraham and Sarah’s prayers were answered and had a child at an old age that was healthy and blessed by God. Sarah was barren and God allowed her to have a son of her own who they called Isaac (Genesis 21)
    Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin and Jesus saved the world (Luke 2:1-20; John 3:16).
    Saul was murdering Christians and God blinded him on the road to Damascus. God dramatically changed his life and used him for His Kingdom. God changed his name from Saul to Paul. Paul is one of the strongest Christians that we can read about in the Bible and he even suffered and was put in jail for his radical evangelism (Acts 9).
    Job’s faith was tested by losing everything he owned, even his family. He never denied Christ once through the pain and trials he endured. He was a faithful servant for the Lord. God restored him and blessed him abundantly for his unwavering faith (Book of Job).
    Moses parted the Red Sea and saved the Israelites from the Pharisees (Exodus 14).

I could go on and on about how God transformed people in the Bible and the miracles He performed to save His people. The Scriptures that are referenced above are not even a glimpse of who Christ is and how He can change people’s lives.

A defining moment is a moment that we will never forget. It is a life-changing experience that will increase our faith in Christ. The more we experience defining moments, the more we will know God on a deeper level and trust Him more with our lives.

Application:

Spiritual growth is vital for us to reach new levels with God. Our journey with Christ is exciting and full of adventure. We are all walking out our Christian faith and learning more about who God is through our life experiences.

What are some ways you have reached new levels with God? What were some “valleys” you have had to walk through to get to the mountaintop?

Write down some of the defining moments that you have experienced in your life and express how those moments changed your life forever. I encourage you to take the time to pray and thank God for the defining moments in your life.

Spiritual Growth – Part Two

A New Level with God

A life with Christ is a journey full of twists and turns that is exhilarating and full of surprises. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a journey is “an act or instance of traveling from one place to another.” When athletes are training for a marathon, they train for months to prepare and build endurance to complete the race. It takes time, dedication and patience to train for a race. Life is much like a marathon. We prepare our journey with God as we make strides towards knowing Him on a deeper level. God is continually teaching us His ways and removing the impurities in our lives. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”

Along the journey, we may have a bump in the road that will slow down our progress. We will have to stop and learn how to work through the “bump” that we call life. The “bump in the road” is our struggles and challenges we face during our journey. God never promised that it would be easy but He did promise He would be with us through the difficult times. The Bible states to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). This Scripture should comfort all of us knowing that God is with us and on our side.

Picture yourself at the starting line of a race pumped with excitement and anticipation. You are stretching and bouncing side-to-side impatiently waiting for the race to begin. The months of training allowed you to be mentally and physically ready for this race. The time has finally come for the race to start and you hear the words, “ready, set, go” and you begin to run. You look straight ahead and remain focused on your ultimate goal – to finish the race. So many times we focus on finishing the race but not focus on the journey. We want to get to the finish line as fast as we can no matter what it takes to get there. The finish line represents an accomplishment.

How many times do we rush through life trying to speed up the process to see our reward?  Joyce Meyer says that “we need to enjoy the journey and not be so focused on our destination that we miss everything else.” Sometimes the journey takes longer than we expected due to complications or waiting for answers. We do not like to be delayed to reach our goals in life. Just like life goals, getting to know God on a higher level will take preparation, patience, dedication and time to reach new levels with Him. As Christians, God has expectations for us to meet and, by conquering them, we learn to trust and know Him on another level.

Another way to see God’s journey for our lives is to visualize a mountaintop. When you are on a mountaintop, the scenery is breathtaking. Imagine yourself above the clouds, there is complete silence and you get the first glimpse of the mountaintop view. The view is one-of-a-kind and cannot be explained with words. It is the most beautiful, heaven-like view you have ever seen and you are in awe of God’s creation. Our destination for our lives is to reach the mountaintop.

Before we can climb a mountain to reach our destination, we have to walk through the valleys in our lives. The “valleys” are the moments that God is teaching us how to handle difficult situations. It may be healing from our past hurts or conquering our fears. The “valley” builds our character and shows us who we are in Christ. It is in those moments that we are the closest to God because we are depending on Him.

We do not want to premature our next level with God. He is preparing us in the valley so when we reach the mountaintop, it is the ultimate victory. Philippians 3:14 says that we need to “press on toward[s] the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I encourage you to enjoy the process and be ready to cross the finish line in God’s timing.

Spiritual Growth – Part One

Spiritual growth is a process. Just like the four seasons – summer, autumn, winter and spring – our lives change dramatically as we grow in Christ and be transformed by Him. Each new season brings maturity and more understanding of who He is through us. Every season will look different as some will bring joy and peace and others will bring frustration and impatience.

In every struggle or challenge we face on a day-to-day basis, there is always an opportunity for growth. Isaiah 40:31 encourages us that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

As we grow in our faith, we will be able to handle difficult situations and see joy in them in the midst of chaos. In those frustrating times, we need to continue to praise Him for those moments because it is bringing purpose into our lives.

I encourage you to take another step toward Christ.   Each day is a new day full of new opportunities to be more like Him.

What Are The Giants In Your Life?

We live in a world where we face many “giants” in our lives. These “giants” can be losing a best friend, a dream job or a loved one. It could be marital struggles, debt or struggling to find purpose in life. No matter what the case may be, we all have faced or currently facing “giants” in our lives.

I am reminded of a story in the Bible in First Samuel, chapter 17 where a young boy had to face a real giant. A giant named Goliath taunted the Israelites for forty days straight, every morning and evening. “Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us’” (verses 8-9).

The giant was persistent and never failed to show up to mock the Israelites. If we think about how satan is persistent in showing us our flaws, worries, anxieties and fears, he never stops trying to change our thoughts to destroy us. It is a daily battle to overcome satan’s tactics. This is exactly what Goliath was doing to the Israelites every day. His number one goal was to make the Israelites feel defeated and have no worth.

Here comes along David, a young Israelite boy, who accepted Goliath’s request which was to fight him. In verse 4, it states that Goliath was “six cubits and one span” in height. In today’s world, Goliath would have been about nine feet and six inches tall. David was only about five feet and two inches tall. In comparison, Goliath was about four foot taller than David and much stronger than a young boy. In verses 5 through 7, the Scripture describes Goliath wearing “a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.  His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.” Now, if I was facing a giant four foot taller than me and wearing all this protected armor, I would have probably ran in the opposite direction fearing for my life.

Before David could fight Goliath, he must go to King Saul for permission. In verse 25, it states that “the king will give great wealth to the man who kills him [Goliath]. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.” After much persuasion, the king agreed to let David fight Goliath. David chose to wear no armor and decided to use a sling shot and five stones instead.

Now, here David is standing in front of the giant with no fear. His faith in God kept him focused on what was ahead of him. He held on to the promises that God would see him through this battle. He never looked around, fidgeted or second-guessed his decision. He had an unwavering faith that allowed him to see past the what-ifs and believed with just a sling shot and a stone he could kill the giant.

Goliath mocked David and was disgusted that the Israelites allowed a young boy to fight him. The giant “looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.  He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’” (verses 42-44). How many times have we been mocked for who we are or what we do? We do not live up to other people’s standards of us. We look different from the world. David was mocked for being young and not even the Israelites believed he could defeat the giant.

What is the “giant” in your life? The “giants” in our lives will hinder us and keep us from moving forward. It could be from past hurts that were never resolved. It could be from past failures that keeps us from trying something new. When God asks us to be on the battlefield with our worst fears staring at us, He will never desert us to conquer life’s struggles alone but He is with us by our side. In Isaiah 41:10, God says “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” In Psalms 32:8, God also says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Another “giant” most people face is worry. Worry serves no purpose. Worry only makes us feel defeated and anxious. It drains our energy and time. Andy Andrews, in the book The Noticer, said that “most people spend so much time fearing the things that are never going to happen or can’t be controlled that they have no energy to deal with the few things they can actually handle.” This quote is true for so many of us who worry about the unknowns in life or just always have what-ifs moments. Satan wants us to feel defeated. He creates pointless doubt and worry in our lives which produce negative mindsets. The devil has no control over our thoughts as long as we stay focused on God’s Word and His promises over our lives. First Peter 5:6-8 says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

God’s Word says that we should “not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). It also says in Proverbs 12:25 that ”anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”  Worry can destroy our lives. I encourage you to open the Bible and read God’s truth over your life. Do not believe the devil’s lies.

The story of David and Goliath is not a story of defeat but a story of victory. The story continues with David and Goliath on the battlefield. “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him” (1 Samuel 17:48-50). David defeated Goliath with one stone. David accomplished a task that could only be accomplished through God. His faith in Christ brought him to victory.

I challenge you today to get out on the battlefield and conquer your “giants.” God is with you and seeing you through each victory. All you have to do is stay focused on Him, at all times, and believe that God knows the outcome.

I encourage you to write down the “giants” in your life and pray over them. Ask God to give you guidance and confidence to walk onto the battlefield to conquer the “giants” head on.

Unexpected Opportunities

This week God showed me that it is simple to share His love with others as long as we are obedient to His Word and commands.  At work I had to run an errand, I happened to walk in the wrong office door and was looking for directions.  As I turned the door handle to leave, I felt God telling me, “ask the lady how her day is going.”  A simple question — “How is your day going.”  Instantly, she started crying and saying, “thank you for caring.”  This lady was having a bad day and felt comfortable enough to tell me her personal struggles.  God gave me the perfect words to minister to her.  I encouraged her to look to God for approval and seek His joy.  We exchanged names and contact information, and we are planning to meet for lunch one day.  I met a complete stranger who needed to hear God’s hope in her life!  What an amazing encounter!!!

This was an unexpected opportunity that I could have easily passed up if I was not obedient to God.  A simple question turned into a God encounter!  Nothing ceases to amaze me when it comes to God.  This experience made me realize how important it is to stay alert and hear God’s voice in every place I go, no matter it’s at a store, workplace, church, or at home.  We always need Christ with us so we can be ready to share His love with those who need to hear it the most!

I am thankful that I heard God’s voice that day and cared enough to hear someone’s story. I am glad I took the time to minister to a complete stranger who was so broken and worn out that she had lost all hope.  I pray her faith and hope was renewed that day, and I hope she remembers that God is on her side through this difficult time!