Looking Ahead into the New Year…

Biblical Prayer, Essentials, Start Here, Woman of the Word

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Hello again! Here we find ourselves at the close of another year and looking ahead to the next. So much, I am sure, has transpired in your life this past year, whether good or bad, it has been used to get you to this point in your Christian journey. Looking back on my own life, the trials and blessings that took place in 2018 were not something I ever would have chosen for myself or for those around me, but I give all glory to God for His wisdom and foresight into what is necessary in fashioning me after His design.

As we begin our lives in 2019, let’s take a moment to reflect on where we are at in our relationship with the Lord and what we would like to see happen, or be different in our lives. Personally, I would love to know what God’s vision is for my life and what He is calling of me to do at this particular moment before I proceed to make my own “resolutions”.

In church yesterday, our pastor spoke on Revelation 3:14-22 which Jesus addresses the church of Laodicia. He spoke about having the Lord anoint our eyes with His eye salve to give us His vision for the New Year. This was so encouraging to me, and I sure to many of those in attendance. And yet, it left me wondering if, will God truly give us a vision for the future? What happens when it seems like I only have a small task to accomplish, does that mean God is displeased with me? Why doesn’t God give us the complete picture for our lives all at once?

The beautiful thing about our Lord is He is faithfulness to minister to His children and to reveal His will and plan to us if we are, not only willing to hear Him, but to obey Him as well! This morning in my personal devotions (going through a new “read the Bible in a year” plan) I was in the book of Joshua chapters 1-5, where God is leading Joshua to become the new leader of the Israelites. The passage in Chapter 1, where the Lord encourages Joshua to not be afraid and be of good courage three times. He promises to never leave nor forsake him (Joshua 1:5), and that he must meditate on the Word of God day and night that he would be able to observe to do all that is commanded in it (verse 7). This is the same promise we have as the church today, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6)  With this incredible promise, we can proceed in our walk with the Lord with such confidence in God’s faithfulness and His promise to be with us as we seek to please Him by reading and obeying His Word.

After this promise was given to Joshua, God commanded him to do some pretty radical things in bring the Israelites into the Promised Land. What the Lord brought to my mind this morning as I was reading and praying, was that God only revealed each subsequent step of His plan to Joshua only after he obeyed the first command given to him. We read in Chapter 1 verses 10 through 16, Joshua making plans to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. He addresses the three tribes who were given the land, the Ruebenites, the Gadites and half the tribe of Manassah,  on that side of the Jordan, to go to battle with their fellow Israelites to help them possess the land on the other side of the river. I love the passage in verse 16 where, after the three tribes agree to go with them and as they do, they remind Joshua to be strong and of good courage, thus repeating God’s command He gave to Joshua in Chapter 1.  He served under Moses as he led the Israelites out of their bondage to Egypt, and saw the many miracles performed through Moses. Now, Joshua is faced with leading these people into the Promised Land, after his leader and mentor had passed on from this life. I am sure Joshua was grieving the loss of his teacher, and wondering what the Lord had in mind for him and his people.

The passing of another year reminds us of where we were, the things we learned and the failings of our flesh, and looking ahead to the unknown. It is important to not get stuck in the past,  but to look on to the future with the assurance of God’s presence in our lives.  Much like Joshua could have been stuck looking to his past and how much better things were when Moses was there. The pressure of performing wasn’t there and he could trust Moses to make the tough decisions. We need to not remain in our current state in our walk with the Lord. Our goal should be growth, to not be the same person we were the year before, and embrace the calling placed on our lives for this season.

Joshua faced many uncertainties, as he looked ahead and saw the insurmountable obstacles that were in his way. Instead of focusing on the things around him, he began his new ministry with obedience and reliance on the Lord, a recipe for success for any believer. He began the preparations for crossing over the Jordan River even though he didn’t know how the Lord would do get them across.  Two spies were sent out to search out the city of Jericho directly on the other side of the river, and were sovereignly protected by the Lord through the harlot, Rahab. While they were there, they heard of the terror that the people of Jericho had towards the Israelites,  and knew of the miracles performed by God on their behalf. (Joshua 2:9-11) When the spies returned to Joshua with their report, I’m sure it bought comfort to him.

The Bible tells us in Chapter 3 verse 1, that Joshua rose early in the morning to prepare the people to cross over the Jordan, no delaying, but acting swiftly and doing all that God commanded him to do. After Joshua prepared to cross, the Lord spoke to him again, promising to exalt him in the sight of Israel as Moses had been, but only after the Levites took up the ark and stood in the Jordan. What would have happened in Joshua complained and questioned God’s method? “God, how are we going to get across? What about the cities on the other side? Aren’t You going to tell me what I need to do?” How often do we question God and fail to take Him at His Word? I know I do more than I’d like to admit.

Is there a “river” that you need to cross in your walk as a believer?  Are struggling to obey Him? Are there fortified cities of depression, fear, or anger standing in your way even after you cross over that prevents you from proceeding? I challenge you dear sister or brother, to step out into the unknown, into that river, and only then will you be given the next set of directions from the Lord. Once the Levites, with the ark of the Lord, stepped into the Jordan, the waters were cut off from their source and the people were able to cross over on dry ground (Joshua 3:15-17), a truly amazing feat made possible only by our Lord.

After this, we find God speaking to Joshua again. He commanded him to gather 12 leaders from the tribes to collect 12 stones, and set them up as a memorial for future generations of God’s faithfulness. They were to tell their children of how the waters of the Jordan stood still and the people crossed on dry ground (Joshua 4:1-7).  Let’s think of a way we can apply this to our lives today.  Let’s think of these 12 stones as the 12 months of the year and that you could write down the blessings in your own life and set them us as a reminder. These 12 stones, or months in our case, served a great purpose in not only the lives of those setting them up but also for the generation’s to come.  These memorials are also called “Ebenezer stones” referenced in 1 Samuel 7:12, “And Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Jehovah has helped us now.”.  It is essential for us, who know the Lord, to have reminders for ourselves of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Let’s be laying the groundwork for spiritual success for this next generation through encouragement and prayer. Otherwise, they will be getting their purpose and vision from the world and the enemy of our faith.

For this coming year, my friend,  I pray that you would be obedient to the task or tasks the Lord is calling you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, to trust the natur eand goodness of our Heavenly Father (Proverbs 3:5-6)  It is often only after we step out in faith that the Lord reveals the next part of His plan to us! Let us also pray that the Lord would show us the Ebenezer stones He would have us set up in our lives as a memorial of God’s love and faithfulness to us each month of this coming year.

God bless you in this new year and in your relationship with the Lord. Let us make sure we fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith and not be pulled to the right or to the left, for when we do, we will find rest for our souls and success in our lives.

 

 

Why Do We have Suffering?

Essentials, Woman of the Word

pexels-photo-247314It has been a while since I have posted an entry on the Blog due to many different reasons in my life. Nevertheless, I am glad to be back writing again and pray it glorifies the Lord, and is encouraging to those who take the time to read about today’s topic.

Suffering… not a popular topic for us as Christians, or even as humans in general.  Who wants to feel pain, whether physically, emotional or mentally? I know for myself I don’t! So why does the Lord over and over in the Bible, reference “suffering” and its necessity in our world? If the Lord chooses to mention something more than once, we should make the effort to look into the topic and become well acquainted with its purpose and  context.

In the Book of Exodus, we see the intense suffering of the Israelite nation, under the yoke of slavery in Egypt due to Pharaoh’s fear of their ever increasing population. He sought to enslave them to bring them under subjection, and in turn, reduce their numbers and their strength. But in Exodus 1:12 we read, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites, ”  According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, it says in times of affliction we often see the most church growth, “Being pressed ,it grows.” Christianity, indeed, spreads the most when it’s persecuted, and we will see this demonstrated beautifully in the New Testament in the book of Acts. The Lord hears and sees the intense pain and suffering His people are enduring under Pharaoh, and as a result, He raises up a deliverer for His people in Moses.

“The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down the rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” [Exodus 3:7-8] Let’s look at this passage in light of our present day state as people in the world. If we are content in our current state of sinfulness, and there is never any pain or suffering,  would we ever know that we are dead in our trespasses and sins?  God has something infinitely greater for us than this present world, a relationship with the Creator of the universe and an eternal dwelling place, without pain, fear or suffering in Heaven with Him.

For as Christians,  “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Philippians 3:20]  If we have an easy life here on earth, wouldn’t we be content in our state of slavery to sin and the yoke of bondage it places on us?  There is truly something greater beyond this physical world in which we are living in.  The Lord is removing the world’s influence over us and is preparing for us something far greater than this existence. We, once we accept Christ, become the church, and will be united, like the Israelite nation, and follow Jesus, our present day example of Moses, to the promised land.  We find in Hebrews Chapter 8, that when Moses is commanded to build the Tabernacle, that he is commanded to be extremely careful to follow all the details laid out by the Lord. The Tabernacle would serve as an example, or shadow, of what exists for us in Heaven.   If you read about the beauty of the Tabernacle as described in Exodus Chapter 25 through 30, you can see the intense detail with which God desires Moses to fashion the Tabernacle after.

Let us consider this idea of a shadow. How much is a shadow a representation of the object creating it? We only get the outline of it typically, and any holes that might be present where light might shine through. Unfortunately, the actual beauty is lost for us when we only see the shadow, but it does serve a purpose in giving a context of what we are observing. I can tell that a person is casting a particular shadow, or the general shape of the object blocking the light.  We can see that even Moses himself was a shadow of the true Deliverer, Jesus. Again we know that the Deliverer of the world would come in the form of a man, but He in every way was superior in all things. If Jesus far surpassed Moses, think how much greater our Heavenly home will be in comparison this decaying world we find ourselves in.

“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to their as the covenant of which He is Mediator in superior to the old one, and is found on better promises.” [Hebrews 8: 6] What is this superior covenant? We only need to read a few verses further in chapter 8 in Hebrews! “ This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor. Or a brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” [Hebrews 8:10-12] I don’t know about you, but this passage is so comforting to me as a believer. God is no longer a distant Entity that I must worship and follow, but He becomes a personal Father, welcoming me into His family through the shedding of Jesus innocent blood. Jesus entered the Most Holy Place, covered in His own blood, shed as an offering to obtain an eternal redemption. “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, “ [Hebrews 9:22] Unlike, in the Old Testament, with Moses where the sacrifice needed  to be continually made for the sins committed by the people, Jesus made His sacrifice once and for all made in the true Tabernacle, Heaven, in the presence of God.

The sacrifice of Jesus is perfect and met all the requirements of the law. If we are children of God, confessing our sins before Him and accepting Jesus as our Savior, we are no longer slaves to sin, under the bondage of this world and its system. Jesus is leading us to the “land flowing with milk and honey,” our blessed future in Heaven.

I pray as you read this dear brother or sister that you are encouraged and are strengthened in your faith. In the next post, I hope to touch on the topic of suffering in the life of the Believer. God bless you and keep you, and make His face shine upon you and bring you peace.