Monday, December 28, 2015

Encouragement- He is Unchanging

He is peace. He is strength. He is personal. He is almighty. He is sovereign. He is is loving. He is just. He is truth. He is grace. The list of all Jesus is goes on and on.

“Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8).

We live in a world of uncertainty, a world where economies fall to pieces and entire nations break into war in the blink of an eye. On a more personal level, people die, people lose their jobs, relationships change. When things are calm, we often feel we can handle this life on our own, but it only takes one difficult circumstance to make us feel as if we have been rung out like an old dish rag and set aside to be forgotten. That is not the case. Christ has not forgotten us; He is unchanging. We can know with certainty the same God who sustained us yesterday will sustain us tomorrow and all the days that follow. I have found when my life seems to be falling apart, it becomes most evident Jesus is the only certainty to cling to. When the storms of life are swelling around us, pushing us around, pulling us under, He is the only thing that will remain steady. He is an anchor to those who choose to hold on. Jesus is seen clearly in the storm. This spiritual truth was shown in literal storms in multiple places in the Bible; one example is found in Mark 4.

Mark 4:35-41
Jesus Stills the Sea
"On that day, when evening came, He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'"

In this passage, the disciples were worried the Lord had forgotten them because there was a storm raging. He had not forgotten them; He simply let the storm come so He could show them His power, faithful love and protection.

Jesus is the same God today as He was 2,000 years ago when He told the wind and the sea to obey Him. He is waiting for you to realize the God who commands the sea is in the storm with you, sitting in the boat, quietly reassuring you and asking you to have faith He is stronger than the storm.

Fix your eyes on Him. No matter what uncertainties you are facing, all of who He is will always be all you truly need. He is all we can depend on in such a world of trouble. We are given a choice between living a life of chaos and uncertainty or clinging to the hope of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Encouragement- He is Personal

The Almighty God, Creator of the world, is everlasting, all-powerful and sovereign, yet He chooses to step down to our level and get in our lives.

Through scripture we see that God didn’t just create the world and let it continue on without Him, as some believe. From the beginning of time He interacted with mankind on a personal level. In Genesis, He was watching out for the first man and going above and beyond to meet his needs. The fact that the God who created us puts us at the forefront of His mind is nothing less than incredible.

God showed that He cared for people and the details of our lives all the way through the Old Testament, using ordinary people for extraordinary things. The greatest example of His desire to know us intimately and personally came 2,000 years ago, in the New Testament, when He humbled Himself to take the form of His creation (Philippians 2:5-8).

He became a man.

Jesus was the embodiment of God in the flesh, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth so we can access God through Jesus anytime. All we must do is follow Him. God coming to us, to live in and through us, is the most personal thing He could possibly do.

“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:10-14).

God pursues all of humanity, drawing us to Himself. Many reject Him. But knowing He personally desires every person is key (2 Peter 3:9). He cares for you. He does not just "like" you sometimes, but He is fully head-over-heels in love with you. If you are in Christ, that means you have a personal moment-to-moment relationship with Him. He not only cares about our hearts and our eternal destination, but He cares about each detail of our lives.

Knowing He cares about the details of our lives is encouraging because we can be confident He has not forgotten us. He is in control. We are not alone. Did you hear that? You are not alone. You are loved. You are treasured. Even when other people move on and leave you, God is still there to reassure you of your value. He is there in the storms to hold your hand and lead you. Trust Him, walk with Him and know the Lord of all creation loves you personally.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Encouragement- He is Strength

Not only is our God the God of peace, He is the God of incomparable strength and power. We know He is big and strong, after all, He created the world. His power is even more than that though. The incredible creation we see in the world is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a show of His power. He is powerful enough to change lives, heal the sick and brokenhearted; He conquered sin and through His power defeated death! Wow, that is our truly powerful, strong, mighty God. Over and over in Scripture we see His power. He parted the Red Sea, planned out the rise and falls of great kingdoms, saved sinners of every kind and made the greatest sacrifice in the history of all eternity- conquering death by giving His own life. That is one powerful God. That is all amazing, but where does that come in as practical encouragement?

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10

That’s right, the same God who is that powerful desires to strengthen you! When the storms of life are raging and you don’t think you have the energy to get up in the morning, the God who moves the same mountains He created wants to give you the strength and faith to move the mountains in your life.

 We are weak, we can’t do this “life thing” on our own, but as God told Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”. What’s the application? Stop trying to be self-sufficient, don’t try to work any of life’s troubles out on your own. Instead, rejoice in your weakness because God strengthens those who recognize that they can’t do anything apart from His power. The same power that rose Christ from the dead is the same power that God offers you freely. The verse in 2nd Corinthians mentioned above finishes with Paul saying, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

When you are needing strength from the Lord, dwell on verses about His power and ask that He would fill you with His strength and not the willpower to just “get through it on your own”. Say the name of Jesus out loud, there is power in His name (Phil. 2:9-11, Jer 10:6).

As we are filled with the strength of the Lord, we can support and encourage those around us who are struggling. Rejoice in your weakness, but even more so, rejoice in Jesus’ power!

If you want to dig deeper into this subject, here are some passages to get you started:
Isaiah 40:28-31, 1 Chronicles 29:11, Psalms 28:7, Ephesians 1:19-21

Monday, August 24, 2015

Encouragement- He is Peace

Encouragement. What is encouragement? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as, “Something that makes someone more determined, hopeful or confident.” Alright, that sounds simple enough. Is it simple, though? Is there a way to be so encouraged that we live “determined, hopeful and confident” on a daily basis, even on the days when life just doesn’t feel encouraging? So often life seems to leave us discouraged. This feeling not only comes in the trials and storms, but many times in the mundane “normal” parts of life where routine rules. Many people are weary after the summer and are looking forward to the changing of seasons, where as some of us may be discouraged just thinking about the challenges or changes that will come with autumn. Whatever the case may be for each of us, I pray that by looking at the character of God we would draw encouragement and learn to live so deeply rooted in Christ that we would also be an encouragement to others.

To find encouragement in the midst of our world, we have to go to the source of encouragement- God Himself. There are many parts of God that we can draw encouragement from daily, but we are just going to focus on a few parts of who He is.

God is Peace

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, He is the creator of peace, He is peace.
His entire purpose in coming to earth was to redeem us, which in turn gives us peace with God. That peace He gives us is the kind of peace that overcomes sin and separation from God. Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed because of iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” What does the peace He gives us look like beyond peace in Salvation?

There is a deep, daily peace that is available to all who have put their trust in Christ and what He did to bring us peace with the Father. This peace is a practical foundation in life that gives us the ability to trust God and rest in His promises despite whatever may be going on in our lives or around us. If peace is the opposite of fear and if He Himself is peace, then through His power we have the ability to cast aside all fear and doubt. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. We love because He first loved us.”  How do we practice living in that? I think the answer to that question is summed up in Isaiah 26:3-4, which says, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You. Trust in the Lord forever, because in Yah, The Lord, is an everlasting rock!”  

If we keep our minds and hearts dependent on Christ He will bring us a satisfying, overwhelming peace which in turn will make us more “determined, hopeful, and confident” through the power of our God of peace.

-Julia Bennett

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It's Me Again, Margret

     Hello again, lovelies. It feels like its been ages since I've gotten to sit down and visit with you all. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea, depending on your preference) and let's catch up.

     I've sat down so many times to write this very post, but always seem to get interrupted with something. That's how life is, I suppose. We plan to do something and God brings in something else, which may require time and effort, but is worth while in the end. That seems to have been somewhat the theme of the year for me, so far. That and, well, trust. Learning to trust God has been vital in my life recently. Shouldn't it always be that way, though? It is so easy to feel like we somehow have things "under control" and that is when God often gives us a challenge that causes us to be dependent on Him. We should always live in faithful trust, but that is much easier said than done. So many times it's easier to just let your mind run away with worry. Enough ranting, here are a few new things in my life.

L I F E   U P D A T E S

1.  God has given my family some new challenges.

   Those challenges have strengthened our relationships as a family and more importantly- our relationships with God. He is so personal, it blows my mind. He offers so much comfort and security.

2. The school year is over.

    Can I get a hallelujah? I didn't have a lot of time for school last year between traveling and new responsibilities, which made me thankful for teachers' deadlines to keep me on track.

3. God is giving me confidence in the abilities He gave me.

    God has really been confirming certain passions and talents in me, which has in turn given me confidence that He has a plan for me. With adulthood approaching quickly, I have been struggling some with what exactly His plans are for me. God has taught me that He will equip me for whatever He has in store, I just need to focus on what He has put before me now and not spend my time wondering about the future. Part of that is a summer job in my church's youth ministry as an apprentice. I love being able to serve there and learn the ropes of what a ministry looks like.

    Just as always God is showing that even through what seem like great challenges to us, He is more than able to care for us. Here are two verses that have been a huge encouragement to me in the past year that I hope will lift you up as well:

Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now unto Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can think or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,"

Romand 8:28 says, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and those who are called according to His purpose."