Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Count Your Blessings

I recently started a gratitude journal after being inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

About a week ago, I was in a rut of whining and complaining to God about how things weren’t going in the direction I thought they would until He directed my eyes to that verse. As I stopped and pondered for a minute, I realized that God has blessed me with so much that I wasn’t seeing because I was taking them all for granted. It’s one thing to be grateful whenever things go our way. But to be thankful in all things, regardless of how they appear is entirely different. God wants us to be grateful no matter what our circumstances are like, not just when things are going well. Circumstances are temporary, they don’t bring us true contentment. True contentment is found in the LORD. The only way to be truly grateful is to keep our eyes on Him. The joy of the LORD is eternal and fulfilling. It helps us from slipping into a state of bitterness, depression, negativity, and self-pity caused by an ungrateful heart. The Bible has tons of verses filled with people praising and thanking God during difficult times. The Psalms is a great place to start.

There are so many things we can thank God for if we just stop and slow down to look around and see the many blessings He’s given us. I think keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to do that. It enables us to reflect on God’s faithfulness and love towards us whenever disappointments and frustrations starts to sink in. I recommend looking through it during your personal worship/quiet time with the Lord. Spend time thanking Him for all you received in your journal. So far, I’ve listed out 182 things to be thankful for in my journal. And I intend to keep filling it up. The goal is to acknowledge our Heavenly Father for who He is and how He’s provided for us during the good and bad. God is so worthy of our praise and thanksgiving!! 

Here are some examples you can use if you're not sure where to begin:

1. God's salvation
2. Kindness from a stranger
3. Flowers blooming in the backyard
4. The roof over my head
5. Feeding homeless people at the park
6. Visiting my grandparents

And so forth. There is nothing too small or big to praise Him with. I pray that this has triggered an inspiration to do the same. The more you get into the habit of thanking God, the better you see His goodness in your life.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from God.” -James 1:17

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”-Hebrews 13:15

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”- Psalm 100:1-5

Monday, April 3, 2017

It Will Get Better+Testimony

Life always has its ups and downs. We will always be going through temptations and trials, (especially in our daily walk with God). But isn’t it great to know that we can give all our troubles to God and let Him handle them for you, knowing that He will always be there and provide you with everything you would ever need in abundance? Obviously, the answer would be yes, but some people may not always see it that way. When life can get pretty painful and overwhelming at times, it can be easy to wonder and ask, “Why God? Why is this happening?” It might have you question your faith sometimes. There may even be a time when you get so angry and confused with a situation, you want to turn away from God. And that’s exactly what I did. I renounced God and began thinking about going on a road to sin and a hardened heart. I never fully succeeded with that plan thanks to a few people God placed in my life.

A few years ago on November 9th, I felt so confused and angry at God. All I could feel was this very strong resentment and fury on the inside. Just when I thought I was about to get closer to Him and grow stronger in my faith, that day just really took me by the storm. I acted very childish by indulging in self-pity and threw a rebellious temper tantrum because I felt like God had shoved His purpose in my face only to snatch it from me and leave me in the dirt, despite prayer. It made me question my worth and existence. Whether God really loved me or not. What I never realized was that during that season, God had actually been working in my heart and showing me where I truly was spiritually. I saw things about myself I never imagined and they were ugly. They led me to reevaluate my life and the motives I was carrying around. It dawned on me that I didn’t fully understand what being a true committed Christ follower was.

I didn’t really grow up in a Christian home. My dad’s very stale in his Christian faith and I don’t think my mom really cares for God. God was rarely brought up in our home and we didn’t go to church. In the 8th grade, I remember asking my dad about God and he decided it’d be best to talk to a buddy of his from work who’s a devout Christian. The conversation lasted about an hour or two and I barely remember what was said that night....It’s sad, really. I remember being asked if I wanted to pray to accept Jesus as my Savior towards the end and I prayed that as I got home since I was self-conscious about praying in front of people. As I look back, I realized I didn’t see a significant change in me. I had a desire to read the Bible and go to church, but they were very fleeting. It seemed as if I was only playing a “Get Out Of Hell” Free card. I had no commitment, if I did, it wasn’t obvious to me. I was apathetic, lazy, living in isolation, selfish, and staying in my comfort zone. It continued that way until I was introduced to the Navigators in college. Nothing changed drastically the first year I was affiliated with them. It felt more like a routine. Bible study every Thursday at noon. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed going there for Bible study, fellowship, and of course pizza...hey, who doesn’t like pizza? Well, fast forward to Summer and Fall of 2013, and I’m in a place where I hated myself and compared myself to others constantly. I remember thinking why God created me the way I was and wondered if I really had a purpose.

Skip to November and I was suddenly filled with hope because things looked like they were falling into place as I tried to devote myself to prayer and read my Bible. But then on November 9th, this “purpose” which I thought was coming true suddenly shattered in my face leaving sharp remnants of hopelessness, bitterness, pain, confusion, and anger. They grew larger overtime to where I completely wanted to shut God out of my life. I wanted someone to blame, so I blamed God. I did my best to indulge in things that weren’t pleasing in God’s sight as a way to “get back” at Him and bandage my wounds. The only thing that accomplished was more pain and misery. Three months later, I’m fighting the urge to repent. I continue to wrestle with God and for some reason, I returned to the Navs in January(despite efforts not to) and felt tremendous grief in my soul around February. I reached a breaking point which led me to seek out two Nav leaders for emotional and spiritual guidance. After a deep conversation with those two, I understood more of God’s love and was rescued from the rut I was in.

Since then, I’ve been trying to pursue Christ and live to honor Him. I’ve noticed a significant desire for Jesus, spending time in the Word, and wanting to help others. I wouldn’t have written this if not. I’m not perfect, I still struggle in these areas. It has been a real challenge throughout  because of constant setbacks, spiritual warfare, and my flesh. But I’m glad because I know that trials are meant for our greater good. Though the process is painful, it’s necessary in order to refine and shape us into the original masterpiece God intended us to be.

I really hope none of you are currently in a state where you’re not interested in Christ and His Word, prayer, being missional, serving, worshiping and having fellowship with other Christians for the glory of God. And instead pursuing fleeting desires of this world. If you are, I implore you; don’t take this path. It won’t do you any good. Just take a look at some examples in Exodus and Numbers. Since the 9th of November all the way through mid-late February, I’ve tried to harden my heart but it was a constant battle with God. No matter how many times (or how hard) I’ve tried, He just wouldn’t leave me alone. And He’s definitely not going to sit idly by and let you do the same.

If you are going through a tough season right now, then just know that it’s only a test. Once you pass the test, you’re going to see greater rewards at the end of the finish line. So please don’t give up. It may not seem like it now, but it will get better. If you question whether God will come through for you, let me ask you: has God ever once in the Bible made a promise He didn’t keep? If He says He’ll see you through, He WILL! (Psalm 33:4) If you’re still having doubts, it’s a clear indicator that you’re ignorant of the Word or you’re upset with not having things go your way. Life isn’t about you. It’s about God and what He wants to accomplish through you, for His glory, not yours. Things won’t always turn out the way you expect because God is the one in control. (Proverbs 16:9) His ways surpasses ours. (Isaiah 55:8, Romans 11:33) Look, that doesn’t mean God is indifferent towards you and your desires. God really does care and only wants what’s best for you that aligns with His will and timing since His plans are perfect (Psalm 18:30), and His timing is just right.(Ecclesiastes 3:11) Thus, I encourage you to draw closer to God and seek HIS desires instead of yours. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. ;)  You’ll still continue to face challenges, but how you respond to them will make a huge difference. We all have choices and will continue to make them. You can either choose to turn to God and accept His purpose in your life or choose to abandon Him and go your own separate way.

My hope for writing this is that it helps at least one person. I hope something or maybe several things stood out to you to where you want to pursue Christ like never before. If something did resonate and you were encouraged, then yay it was all worth it! :D  And if not, then that’s okay! I’m just thankful you took the time to read this. :)  If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t seem to break old habits or maybe you’re unsure of where you stand spiritually because your life hasn’t produced any fruit, my best advice is spend time in the Word and engage in dialogue with God, don’t be afraid of listening to what He says. This will take practice, don’t expect perfection.  And make sure you’re not taking this journey alone. That was one of my biggest mistakes. Other Christians need what you bring to the table and vice versa so that the body of Christ can mature, be healthy, and complete. My prayer for you is that you will continually seek Jesus and want to be a good imitator of Him. And to keep pressing forward when you want to give up.

“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”-2 Peter 1:10-11

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ecclesiastes 10:1-2

Scripture: As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
A wise man’s heart is at his right hand,
But a fool’s heart at his left.

Observation In ancient times, being at the right hand was a place of honor, strength, and integrity. The left side was meant for evil and stupidity. 

Application: Godly wisdom is obtained through healthy adoration and respect for the Lord.(Proverbs 1:7)

Prayer: God, let my heart be filled with reverence for You so that it will sprout wisdom flourishing all the days of my life. In Jesus name, amen.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ecclesiastes 9:17-18

Scripture: The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Observation: Fools just want to be heard. Their loud, unnecessary shouting only leads to chaotic noise, their ramblings make no sense. A wise person knows when to keep his/her mouth shut and when to talk at appropriate times. 

Application: Wisdom is golden. Wisdom allows a person to make good decisions. The only way to obtain wisdom is careful studying of God's Word and meditating on it night and day. Applying your life to God's wisdom will do so much good in your life and in the lives of others. 

Prayer: God, James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God and He will give it to you generously without reproach." We all really need Your wisdom whether we want to admit it or not. I pray we would all seek Your wisdom in our lives every hour. In Jesus name, amen. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Scripture: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

Observation: Solomon's answer to everything is to work hard and live joyfully while you still can on earth. He seems discouraged as he's trying to sort out the difference between righteous living and wicked living. He still acknowledges that each day is nothing but vanity. 

Application: While it's important to find a balance between hard work and joyful living, we shouldn't be bitter about it like Solomon appears to be throughout Ecclesiastes. How often do we get caught up with living in the moment as each day passes by without any regards to lost people out there who need to hear the gospel? How often do we strive so hard to do what's right without getting much rest? Instead of letting guilt weigh you down, use it to motivate yourself to let God make you usable and permeate your heart and mind to find everlasting joy in Him. 

Prayer: God, give us wisdom when it comes to balancing out hard work and rest. And to let You be all we need. In Jesus name, amen. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ecclesiastes 9:1

Scripture: But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him.

Observation: Everyone goes through seasons of good and bad times. Nobody can predict when or how it'll happen. Ultimately God's sovereignty is in control, even when bad things happen to good people or good things happen to bad people. In the end, it is the righteous-those who belong to God through saving faith in Jesus will reap a tremendous reward in heaven after they die and those who don't will face death apart from God. 

Application: Be encouraged that God is in control no matter what comes your way and He will always be with you as you remain steadfast in Him. 

Prayer: God, thank You for being with me as I go through seasons of ups and downs this life brings, I can have confidence that You will work it out for my good. I praise You and worship You for all your good deeds and more to come in Jesus name amen. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

Scripture: In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim.

Observation: God is an infinite entity whose wisdom contains zero limits. As finite humans, we can't begin to grasp the immeasurable works God is doing. 

Application: At times, I like to consider myself someone who understands the Bible whenever I gain insight and wisdom from Scripture. But the more I study the Bible, the more I realize how much I don't know. 

Prayer: God, forgive my close-mindedness. My prideful nature convinces me that I know all there is to Your Word but I couldn't be more wrong. Please give me a brand new perspective and a teachable spirit. Thank You for always giving me a fresh new start when I open up the pages of the Bible. In Jesus name, amen.