Thursday, August 16, 2018

Unexpected Expected Blessings

Christine Caine has a new book out called "Unexpected," and I hope I'll get to read it soon. The quotes and excerpts I've read so far have been helpful and encouraging. It's a topic we all can relate to.

Each of us face unexpected situations, trials, and challenges in life. And the reality is that we are not in control. But when unexpected things do happen, we know the One who is in control. And the amazing thing about God is that so many times He works through those unexpected challenges to give us unexpected blessings.

I was reading in Romans 15 recently, and I paused after reading this verse:
"I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." (v.29)

Paul was writing a letter to the Christians in Rome. He wanted to visit them and this was his expectation - that he would visit them "in the full measure of the blessing of Christ."

When I read his words, I thought, "That's not what happened!" Paul was arrested in Jerusalem by his own people who accused him of many things. The Jews plotted to kill him, and he finally appealed to Caesar, so he was shipped to Rome as a prisoner. And then he endured a horrible storm and shipwreck on the way to Rome...that doesn't sound like the "full measure of the blessing of Christ." Does it?

Well, the Holy Spirit didn't let me stop there.

Paul's expectation was to go to Rome in the blessing of Christ. The way he got to Rome certainly was not what he expected. It was a painful and perilous journey.

But then I turned to Acts 28 to read the rest of the story. Here's what it says:
"When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. ... For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ--with all boldness and without hindrance!" -Acts 28:16, 30-31

Wow! The apostle who faced persecution in almost every place he'd ever been was given an unexpected blessing of two years of peace and unhindered ministry! Two years of being "under guard" also meant he was guarded from those who might otherwise have persecuted him. In a sense, he had built in protection. He was able to preach and teach and evangelize to everyone who came to see him.

I think that might be considered "the full measure of the blessing of Christ." Don't you?

So, yes his journey was unexpected. But the result was an unexpected gift. And the expected full measure of the blessing of Christ was probably even better than what he had originally imagined.

Right now you may still be in the middle of your painful or perilous journey. You may be wondering what happened to the full measure of the blessing of Christ in your life. I've felt that way lately. But I'm so thankful that Jesus opened my eyes to see this unexpected part of Paul's story.

As God's children we can always have an expectation of His blessing. Jesus died on the cross in order to take all of our failure, sin, and guilt. And instead Jesus gave us the gift of His righteousness and favor with God. God is blessing us because of Jesus. That's God's character - faithful, righteous, just, gracious, loving, good.

However, the way God's blessings come in our lives are often not the way we expect. I don't know about you, but I want to live expecting God's blessing in my life. But I also want to have faith to trust Him to bring His blessing in whatever unexpected way He chooses. This is not easy. Yet I believe there is a moment of awe-filled wonder ahead for us when we see how God used the unexpected journey to bring blessing beyond what we ever expected!

Hallelujah! All praise to our God.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

He's Still There

I apologize that this post is a day late. I was in Idaho for a week seeing my doctor there and just got back to FL and am still recovering. So today I thought I'd repost something I wrote last year. I needed the same encouragement again today. Funny how God can use something He gave you in the past to meet a need in the present. He's faithful like that.

Anyway, here it is. A reminder that whatever you're going through, even if you feel like you can't "see" Him, God is still with you. He's still there.

Unseen Reality (from 2017)

I enjoyed a wonderful visit in Scotland this summer! In that part of the world, the weather is very different from Florida in the summer. It's cooler there and rains a lot, and it's more often cloudy than sunny. We did have some nice sunny days, but other days it was so cloudy we didn't see the sun at all. 

While I was there, God also worked it out for me to go to Northern Ireland for a week, which was a sweet blessing! I took a short flight from Scotland to Northern Ireland. As the plane climbed into the sky, we flew through a thick cloud bank. Suddenly we came out on top of the clouds, and the sun was blazing brilliantly in the sky!
It was like I suddenly remembered that the sun did still exist, even though I hadn't seen it in a while. There it was shining brightly over the top of that cloud bank. The sun had never left or wavered or faltered. I just hadn't been able to see it through the clouds. 

The fact is that the sun doesn't move or change. The earth moves, and clouds can come and block our view, but the sun is always shining its light. 

I think we often forget this truth because we say things like, "I wish the sun would come out" or "The sun disappeared behind a cloud." In reality, the sun didn't hide or move. But we often speak words based on the perception of what we see or feel, not on the greater unseen reality. 

We can do the same with God, can't we? He is always there, unchanging. Jesus is always present, shining His light in our lives. But sometimes we can't see Him because of stormy circumstances or a dark night of the soul. We may say things like, "Where is God now?" or "I wish God would show up in my life." But the unseen reality is that He is ever-present, always glorious.

Maybe sometimes we just need a little flight of faith to lift us above the cloud banks, where we can see His light blazing so brightly that we pause in awe. Where we remember that He is present. He is beautiful. And He is active in our lives. 

Maybe we need to speak words that reflect the unseen reality of who Jesus is, instead of how we feel in the moment.

He has never left us. 
His love for us endures through every storm. 
His faithfulness never fails. 
His mercies are new every morning.  
He is eternally good.

I'm thankful God has given us His Word, our source of truth and the fuel of our faith. And I'm thankful God speaks to us through His creation, reminding us of eternal realities that are sure and steady, even though unseen.  

"Though you have not seen Him (Jesus), you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." -1 Peter 1:8-9

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where Jesus Is...

"When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God...." -Isaiah 43:2b-3a

In the fiery furnace Nebuchadnezzar saw 4 men, not 3. Jesus met Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire. And the flames did not burn them...because where Jesus is there is LIFE. 

I hope this song encourages you today, whether life is good or you're feeling the heat of a fiery trial. Jesus is with you. 

Blessings to you my friends.

Where Jesus Is

Wherever Jesus is, there is Peace,
Guarding, keeping, blessing.
Wherever Jesus is, there is Joy,
Cheering, lifting, strengthening.
Wherever Jesus is, there is Love,
Overflowing, renewing, embracing.

Jesus, where you are is where I want to be.
Hold my hand, draw me close to You.
Give me eyes to see you, ears to hear you,
You are everything to me,
Where you are is Life.

Wherever Jesus is, there is Light,
Glowing, illuminating, overcoming.
Wherever Jesus is, there is Truth,
Redeeming, healing, freeing.
Wherever Jesus is, there is Grace,
Cleansing, restoring, transforming.

Jesus, where you are is where I want to be. 
Hold my hand, draw me close to You.
Give me eyes to see you, ears to hear you,
You are everything to me, 
Where you are is Life.

Jesus - Beautiful One, Good Shepherd, Faithful Friend,
Show me more of the wonder of who you are. 
And live your life through me!

(by Joanna K. Harris 2016)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Holy Boldness

The last few weeks have been an intense battle for me - physically and spiritually. When I re-read this post from 2013 today, I felt like it was a good reminder for me again. May God strengthen us with His supernatural strength for each battle, no matter how small or how big.

I'd sure appreciate your prayers too - for protection, healing, and victories! Thank you!

Audacious Prayers 

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel! -Joshua 10:12-14
As I read this passage recently, I was astounded by Joshua's audacious prayer! What made him even consider uttering such a request? It certainly never would have occurred to me to ask God to hold the sun still. I mean, who thinks like that? 

I believe Joshua's prayer was prompted by the Holy Spirit who was guiding and empowering Joshua. Still, what an amazing display of holy boldness! 

To me it is even more amazing that Joshua's prayer is in the context of a battle. Joshua prayed the sun would stand still so that Israel could keep fighting their enemies and finish the battle. 

I admit that most often my prayers are more related to getting out of the battle - prayers for my own relief, comfort, healing, etc. Occasionally I pray bold prayers for someone else. But when was the last time I prayed boldly for something that would keep me in the battle, keep me taking ground from the enemy?

Can we learn to pray with holy boldness - not just about personal concerns (because yes, God cares about all our needs) - but also about our role in the spiritual war around us?
Can we ask for impossible things that will enable us to fight more effectively and stay in the battle?
And what does that look like for me right now? 

I really don't know. But I'm asking God to show me. I believe He wants us to pray audacious prayers. I believe He's wiling and waiting to answer. 

Perhaps our first prayer must be, 
"Lord, give me holy boldness. Fill me with your courage and power. Teach me how to offer audacious prayers that will harm the enemy. Use my life in this spiritual battle to display your victory wherever I go!" 

Yes Lord, we ask it in Your powerful name! Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blessings In The Pain

My mom has a saying, "God multiplies the blessings in the pain."

None of us want to go through pain. Yet all of us do. It's an inescapable reality of life on earth.

At the same time, we have a heavenly Father who loves us and who is with us in the painful times. Thus my mom's saying - that God doesn't just get us through the painful times. He also has blessings for us in the pain.

The last few weeks have been very painful for me - because of difficult circumstances, trouble breathing from very bad air quality in TX, lack of sleep, spiritual attacks, etc. I've felt like I'm in survival mode, which is something I hoped I'd never experience again. But here I am.

In this awful place, God is still giving blessings. He is still good. He is still worthy of my praise.

I praise God that I am still breathing (not great, but enough).
I praise God that I got to attend the Pink Impact conference (my church's women's conference, which was sold out, but God provided a ticket for me). The conference was such a huge blessing!!!
I praise God for my church and how He blesses me every time I'm there.
I praise God for friends who pray with me in the midst of the pain.
I praise God for my mom, who came to see me in TX! 
I praise God for visits with friends who help me laugh and encourage me.
I praise God that He WILL keep His promise to work all the pain for good somehow.

I'd really appreciate your prayers right now - that I'll be able to breathe better, for direction about what to do, for deliverance from spiritual attacks, and for God to bring good from this for His glory! Thank you!

I hope your circumstances are better than mine right now. But if not, I pray God will continue to multiply His blessings for you in the midst of the pain.

The Pink Impact theme was "Fearless"...very appropriate right now. 
 Making a new friend.

                                                                   My mom and I got to visit with dear friends in TX! =)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

We All Need Encouragement

Life is tough. In The Princess Bride, Wesley said, "Life is pain...Anyone who says differently is selling something." Movie quotes aside, I think we can all agree that life on earth isn't easy, and it's far from perfect. At the same time, God is good. Always. 

Life is hard. God is good. 

I think this is why we all need encouragement. 

Encouragement reminds us about God's goodness in specific ways.

Encouragement helps us focus not on the hardships, but on the grace that always exceeds the hardships.
Encouragement extends my vision beyond this moment to the eternal reality that is my hope. 
Encouragement strengthens me to trust God for the beautiful tapestry He is weaving with every thread - happy or painful.
Encouragement helps me hold on to joy in the journey.

Jesus knows our needs, and He is faithful to encourage us in so many ways.

I have a collection of encouraging things I've read or that people have sent to me. Sometimes I just  sit and read through them. It's like deep breathing for my soul. 

Yes, we all need encouragement. We are even commanded in the Bible to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’…." -Hebrews 13:13

So, today I want to share something encouraging with you. It's a poem you've probably never read (the English is old style). But the truth in it is timeless. I pray God will use it to encourage you today. 

God bless you my friends!

"God Meant It Unto Good" (Genesis 50:20)

"God meant it unto good"--O blest assurance,

Falling like sunshine all across life's way,
Touching with Heaven's gold earth's darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.

'Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brethren

Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance which, after years of suffering, 
Brought him before the monarch's throne to stand.

One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,

And planned to meet it through that one lone soul; 
And through the weary days of prison bondage 
Was working towards the great and glorious goal.

As yet the end was hidden from the captive, 

The iron entered even to his soul; 
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow, 
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.

Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting, 

His trust in God was recompensed at last, 
The moment came when God led forth his servant 
To succor many, all his sufferings past.

"It was not you but God, that sent me hither," 

Witnessed triumphant faith in after days; 
"God meant it unto good," no "second causes" 
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.

"God means it unto good" for thee, beloved, 

The God of Joseph is the same today; 
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter, 
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.

Thy Lord, who sees the end from the beginning, 

Hath purposes for thee of love untold. 
Then place thy hand in His and follow fearless, 
Till thou the riches of His grace behold.

There, when thou standest in the Home of Glory, 

And all life's path lies open to thy gaze, 
Thine eyes shall see the hand which now thou trustiest, 
And magnify His love through endless days.

-Freda Hanbury Allen

How has God encouraged you lately?