Freedom Series #2 – I Am Unashamed

Last night I went to the second of 2 showings of Chondra Pierce’s third movie theater event, Unashamed. It was amazing! Interspersed with her stand-up routine were interviews with high profile Christians who have had to make very public stances for their faith that has made an impact on contracts, and so on. If you did not make it to either of the showings this week look for it when it comes out on DVD. It is a must see!

The testimonies in this film are a great reminder of what our role is as ambassadors for Christ.
Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 BSB
I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should. Ephesians 6:20 NLT

Though Paul was physically in chains, he did not let that stop him from preaching the Gospel, writing letters of encouragement and instruction to the churches, and continually praying for others. He knew he would only really be imprisoned if he gave up.

How often do we imprison ourselves by allowing our circumstances to overwhelm us and drag us into the pit? We allow our thoughts and the voice of our enemy to drown out the call of Holy Spirit to come and be still and stop striving, be refreshed in His presence, strengthened by God’s grace, renew our thoughts in the Word, build our faith in Jesus’ promises, and set free from the chain that tries to pull us into that pit through praise and gratitude.

Even when we feel harassed or unfairly treated for our faith, in the U.S. we really haven’t begun to really experience persecution. Not to the point of being forced from our homes into exile, imprisoned, tortured, raped, enslaved, forced to watch our children tortured and killed, or being executed ourselves. We are on the brink of worse, if things don’t change. Our society is becoming much less tolerant of free speech and other “rights” we now enjoy.

Our freedom is not what the U.S. Constitution says it is, nor what other people would allow. Our Freedom as disciples of Christ Jesus and children of the One True God come from Him alone.
34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:34-36 NLT
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16, 25-26 ESV

Let us live in the freedom Jesus died to give us. Keeping in step with Holy Spirit, not ahead or behind, keeping pace with Him as He teaches, corrects, and guides each step. We cannot go wrong when we live this God-given way of life.

As Jesus’ ambassadors we must make every effort to shine His light always, in word and deed, in all circumstances. So many are doing the wrong things in the name of Jesus and pushing others farther from Him. True they should not be looking for perfection from imperfect humans, but we do need to reflect Jesus’ image, and bear the fruit of the changes/renewal that has occurred within us. If there is no fruit, there is no change, no testimony, no witness to the power of Christ to save and transform lives. Too many brand themselves as “Christian” because they say that they believe in God. Well, the devil believes God exists, too, but He isn’t going to heaven. He knows the Bible, too, and he will twist it and use it to trip up those that say they are Christians, but don’t know the Word of God for themselves. If we don’t know the Word, we can’t live the Word. If we aren’t living the Word, we’re still living in bondage to the world and the truth is not in us after all. We can’t say I believe in God or even I believe in Jesus and then live like hell and expect to inherit the kingdom like a child of God. It doesn’t work that way. Those that truly believe allow Holy Spirit to transform them and their lives from the inside out. It takes cooperation!

To be a disciple of Christ is a commitment to living like Christ.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NLT

This means denying all of our natural tendencies and selfish ways and motives to put Jesus and the needs of others above our own.

That is how we learn to experience true JOY! For more on this be looking for installment #3, Transformed and Free!

To be unashamed of the Gospel is to live a life sold out to the Gospel! That’s freedom in Christ!

At the end of the film Chondra sang this song. Take a few minutes to listen and sing along!

I Am Not Ashamed – The Heritage Singers

Blessings and peace in abundance be yours,

Julia

© 2019 Julia Melatis, Hope & Joy Ministries, all rights reserved.

Scripture references used:
NLT, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
BSB, The Berean Bible. (www.Berean.Bible)Berean Study Bible (BSB) © 2016, 2018, 2019 by Bible Hub and Berean.Bible. Used by Permission. All rights Reserved.

ESV, The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

FREEDOM SERIES #1 – Not Just Strength…Contentment in Christ Jesus our Lord

I was reading through past journal entries and came across one from October 26, 2018. This post is based on an excerpt from that journal entry.

11Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NLT

Lord, I am weak. But in You I have the strength to do all things — to find and keep my contentment, to know my peace and my joy are in You, no matter my circumstances.
So many people skip over the contentment part of this passage. They focus so much on having the strength, that they miss the reason Jesus is giving us the strength, contentment in Him. That’s what we need more than anything.

1Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust him. Psalm 91:1-2 NLT

We must dwell always in Your presence. Find our rest in You alone. Our confidence must not be in people, things, money or anything else of this world. Our utmost trust must be in You alone.

Since I visited Dad in 2017 after Mom died, and he showed me the book on Psalm 91, You have brought me back to this Psalm often. It is a wonderful Psalm about Your constant presence, love, and protection. I quite literally would never have survived this life without You, my Lord. You have surrounded me with Your love and protection even when I did my best to ignore You. I am ever so grateful for the faithful prayers of my Mom and Dad, which kept me surrounded by Your grace, even when I was far from You in my actions. That mustard seed was still there in my heart. May I continue to serve You all my days and keep the legacy of faith going, covering my extended family with prayer day and night.

28Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 BSB

This past weekend (May 3 -5, 2019) I led a retreat at Selah Among the Hills, in Arcadia, Missouri. The teaching theme was Jesus: The Chain Breaker. We explored the attributes of God, the Names of Jesus, and how this knowledge reveals the vastness of the power available to us to break every chain that binds us. God showed up in powerful ways! We’re not meant to carry the weight of our burdens. God gave me mental images such as these photos once when I was studying this passage. Alone, our yoke is that of a slave, heavy, painful, and tiresome.

Top photo credit: https://www.history.org/foundation/journal/summer08/power_slideshow/Bottom photo credit: https://auction.catawiki.com/kavels/20983753-great-antique-human-yoke-for-carrying-buckets-or-load

When we choose to come to Jesus with our burdens, first He removes them. Then He removes the heavy, painful yoke we having had to bear alone, and gives us His yoke, a shared yoke (such as those used with a pair of oxen, see below), which allows us to be yoked to Him and keep in step with Him. With this yoke we are not sharing the weight of our burdens with Jesus, they are gone. He promises His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His “burden,” is covered by grace and, I believe, is the work He has for us to do, the purpose He has for our lives. We no longer havr to worry about “performance issues,” because it is in our weakness that His strength is made perfect and thst is His grace to us.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 BSB

Can we, along with Paul, delight in our weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, so we can experience the strength of God’s powerful grace?

Grace does not keep us from experiencing troubles. Jesus warned us that we will have tribulations (see John 16:33 below). But when we are yoked with Jesus, we are empowered. We cannot go in the wrong way. God is the Teamster (driver) and He will never drive us in the wrong direction. Oxen go through much training before they are yoked in a team. They learn to follow the teamster’s commands. We must learn to heed Holy Spirit’s voice. If two oxen were to misunderstand their Teamster’s commands and one try to turn left and the other try to turn right, they would not go anywhere. Follow Jesus’ lead. The yoke for oxen is designed for their comfort, so they are able to pull a great amount of weight with relative ease for long periods. With Jesus we can do both small and great things for the Kingdom of God with great power, because we are yoked to Him.

Photo credit: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/23419/josephs-yoke

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 BSB

Ah, peace. The peace that Paul speaks of in Philippians 4,
“4Always be full of joy in the Lord…. 6Don’t worry about anything; instead,pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7 NLT, Emphasis added).

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT

This peace is unlike anything we can find in the world. It can only come through a faith-filled, trusting relationship with Jesus. And it is only with this kind of peace and trust in the Lord that we can have His strength to walk in His yoke with Him and have that contentment (delight, pleasure, gladness, satisfaction) that is so hard to put into words. I felt that this past weekend. It is such a pure and utter peace and joy that is really beyond words. But, we don’t have to wait for those special retreat times to feel this contentment. We can have it every day. All too often we jump out of Jesus’ yoke and allow the cares of this life to weight us down. Those buckets hanging from that single yoke are overflowing and the edge of that yoke is cutting into our neck and shoulders. If we find ourselves doing this, we need to give it to Jesus and get back in His yoke to find rest for our souls once again. Let’s not let anything steal the peace and joy and the strength of grace from us. Jesus already bought and paid for it. Open your hands. Stop holding onto that single yoke and put on Jesus’ yoke to receive the contentment that only comes through Him.

Dear Jesus, we hear you calling, “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 GOD’S WORD®). Help us to let go and hand you our burdens and place your yoke on our shoulders, so we can walk in step with You every day of our lives. We want to know that pure peace and joy and the strength that comes only from You, so we can be content in all things and work in tune with You all of our days. We thank and praise You, Lord and give you the glory! Amen.

Blessings, peace, and His contentment be yours,

Julia

©2019 Julia Melatis, Hope & Joy Ministries. All rights reserved.

Bible translations used:

NLT, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

BSB, The Berean Bible. (www.Berean.Bible)Berean Study Bible (BSB) © 2016, 2018, 2019 by Bible Hub and Berean.Bible. Used by Permission. All rights Reserved.

GOD’S WORD® is a copyrighted work of God’s Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission. Copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations. All rights reserved.

Shine in The World, Yet Not Of This World

I was reading an article about the Amish this morning. I have always been fascinated by them having grown up very near Lancaster, PA. The article was an interview with a a new order Amish men. In it there were some quotes I want to examine.

#1 – “Our faith will be lost if we adopt technology.” & “But if our people get lax and rub elbows too much with the world, then the world may not look too different – we become like the people outside.”**

How sad that they see their faith so weak that it cannot stand outside their community. Yes, there are many temptations that bombard us in this world every day.
God’s Word promises that we don’t have to face temptations alone or even in our own power.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

10A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12For wec are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Ephesians 6:10-13 NLT

Jesus said, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
John 17:15‭-‬21 NLT

Jesus explicitly stated He was sending His disciples and us into the world, not as part of the world, but as messengers of the Gospel. We cannot follow the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20 to go make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey all the commands He gave us if we stay completely separated from the rest of the world.

Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 NLT

Taking up our cross is crucifying our flesh, our sinful desires to live and walk as Jesus did and leads. When Jesus walked the earth He mingled with sinners, He ate with them, He met needs for them, He preached to them, but He went “home” to His disciples, those who believed in Him, shared faith and lifestyle with Him. He did not dwell in/with the worldly. He did not adopt the ways and lifestyle of the the sinners, that would have invalidated His message (not to mention His sinless sacrifice). We must maintain our biblical values and lifestyle while still living among the worldly as a light in the darkness.

#2 – “You might hear Amish people say something along the lines of ‘let your light shine, but don’t shine it in anyone’s face.'”**
This quote I like. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NLT

We are to be a beacon drawing people to Jesus, not a blinding light that confuses and frightens like a deer in the headlights. Look at the image.

A city on a hill all lit up at night, especially in Jesus’ day with no other light around, would have been visible for many, many miles. We can’t be all in your face with people about their life choices as though they have already found Jesus. Brow beating them with their sins will not cause them to repent. It was Jesus’ mere presence – His difference – and kindness that often brought people to repentance. Have you ever had someone see Jesus in you and tell you that they want whatever it is you have? I have. That’s how we need to be living, loving, caring, noticing people, helping, serving, listening to Holy Spirit prompting us to action.

This is how we live in the world, but not of the world. Shine, do, be for Jesus, but don’t become part of the worldly. Always live as a kingdom-dweller.

Grace and peace be your in Christ this week, dear ones,
Julia Melatis
© 2019 All rights reserved.

**quotes from an article at http://amishamerica.com/a-visit-to-the-weavers-candid-amish-thoughts-on-technology-family-more/

Uniquely You! 2019 New Year Mini Virtual Retreat

SUPPLIES NEEDED:
_ A quiet place
_ Phone, Tablet, Laptop, or other device to get YouTube worship videos
_ Bible
_ Pen
_ Index Cards, Post-It Notes, or similar
_ Notebook, journal, or paper
_ 1 Envelope
_ Your Calendar for 2019 (wall or phone)

READY TO BEGIN?
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT

22The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

18“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Father God, as we begin this retreat, first we seek Your forgiveness for any unconfessed sins. We confess them now______. We don’t want any hindrances to our time with You today. Search our hearts Lord, for anything offensive. Any unforgiveness toward someone else. Any habits we need to break or behaviors that do not honor you. We confess and surrender these all to You now. Help us to be overcomers in these areas and be set free, in Jesus’ name.
Lord, help us to find a quiet, restful place where we can have an amazing encounter with You today. Come fill our spaces with Your presence. We seek Your face, Lord, Your wisdom, Your Word for us today to guide us into this New Year. Refresh us with Your Holy Spirit. Remind us of who we are because we belong to You! Engrave upon our hearts Your name for us – highly favored, child of the Most High God, co-heir with Christ, redeemed, holy, and dearly loved. We lay down our distractions, anxieties, fears, doubts, and receive Your peace, focus, joy, grace, strength, courage, and wisdom. Be glorified In our time here today and in the year to come. In the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

* OPENING WORSHIP
You Say – Lauren Daigle

He Knows My Name – Tommy Walker

I Surrender – Hillsong

* WHO ARE YOU?
I find that most people, especially the women I meet, have identity (self-esteem) issues. Well, if we’re only looking at ourselves that can be a problem, but if we belong to Jesus, our worth is insured by the work He did through His death and resurrection.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 NASB

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Ephesians 3:12 NLT

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 NLT

We can be confident in who we are when we belong to Jesus. We no longer have to do life alone, in our own power and wisdom. We have been redeemed, freed from slavery to sin by payment of the ransom with Jesus’ blood, so we can be reunited with God in the relationship that we we’re created to have with Him. We’ve been given a down payment on the eternal inheritance we’ve been promised with the indwelling of Holy Spirit.
Below are just two of many lists thay come up when I Google “identity in Christ” images.

Using these lists, and maybe others you find, write an “I Am” statement of who you are in Christ Jesus.
Start you statement with something like:
I am _______________ (your name) and I am a child of the Most High God, holy and dearly loved, _______________________________________________________________________________
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Write it on an index card to carry with you. Write it on another to post on your bathroom mirror or anywhere else you will see ot everyday.

* WHAT IS MY CALLING?
This is the call God gave to Jeremiah:

4Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 7But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” 9Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 1:4-10 ESV

God created Jeremiah a prophet. When Jeremiah objected, God showed him that He would equip him to do the work God had created him to do, by putting His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.
It is the same with us. We may not have audible conversations with the Lord, but we have even better, the indwelling Holy Spirit, to guide and equip us every step of the way.
God has created each of us with unique personality traits, talents, and abilities which prepare us to do the work He has already prepared for each of us to do. As we learn to use them God works with us to expand and perfect them within us for His glory and praise.
What talents were you born with?
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What personality traits make you uniquely able to be and do the things God created you to do?
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What spiritual gifts has God bestowed upon you?
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If you have no idea what spiritual gift(s) you have I suggest you do a spiritual gift survey. This is the one I prefer:
https://blog.lifeway.com/explorethebible/downloads/spiritual-gifts-inventory/
You should find it easy to do as well as score.

What other abilities do you have that can serve the Lord? (We can glorify the Lord in all aspects of our lives.)
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Fill in the blanks on this personalized verse 5 from Jeremiah 1:
5“Before God formed __________ (your name) in the womb He knew me, and before I was born He consecrated me; He appointed __________ (your name) a _____________________________________________________________________________________.

12The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,e some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 NLT

Maybe you’re still having trouble with identifying your calling. Can you pinpoint a body part which describes your gifting (as in the body of Christ)? ______________________________________________________________________________________.

I would say that I am a mouth, corresponding to my gifting as a teacher, an encourager, a prayer warrior, and at times a truth bringer (prophet). Sometimes I am an ear that listens, a shoulder to lean on, arms that hug, hands that do, cook, & create, feet that go, eyes that see beyond the surface… but my primary gifts are as a mouth.

Now, what body part are you? What are the gifts and talents that God created in you to use for His glory?
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22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 NLT

Have you renewed your mind in the way you think about the way you behave, the ways you use your talents, gifts, time, energy, even take care of your body and mind (thought life)? _______________

How well are you using your gifts and talents for God’s glory? (This doesn’t always mean in ministry.)
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How about in your job? Do you do your job with integrity, in ways that honor God and show the fruit of your faith?
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Do you use your “calling” in all aspects of your life?
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Pray about ways you can improve in these area and journal His answers.
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* SETTING GOALS

13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13-15 ESV

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8-11 ESV

Pray for guidance in setting up to 3 major goals for 2019.
What would you like to accomplish this year? I only had one really major goal for 2018. To complete and publish a book. It is complete and will be released soon. So, almost completed in 2018. ☺

1_________________________________________________________________________________

2_________________________________________________________________________________

3_________________________________________________________________________________

* EVALUATING PRIORITIES
As our lives move forward seasons change and so must our focus and priorities, from time to time. Prayerfully consider your calendar, all the things which make up your daily life. What are your must-dos (job, eat, sleep)?

Must-dos
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What are your want-tos (daily God time, time with hubby, exercise, small group Bible study, hobbies)?

Want-tos
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If it seems like there are never enough hours in the day maybe it’s time to reevaluate some of the things

on your want-tos list. Set godly priorities and have JOY:
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself last

This of course does not mean don’t take care of yourself. It’s more of a reflection on Matthew 6:33,
33Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLT)

and Philippians 2:3-4, 3Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (NLT)

When we focus our attention upward toward God and outward to the needs of others rather than inward, to our own needs, desires, and emotions, God honors our obedience and takes care of our needs.

3Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. 4Take delight in the LORD,and he will give you your heart’s desires. 5Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalm 37:3-5 NLT

Set priorities that honor the Lord. Delight in His ways.

* A WORD FOR THE YEAR
Pray asking the Lord for a word for the year. Maybe you’ve never done this before or never even heard of doing this. That’s okay. I hadn’t either until about five years ago. I have found that having a word or words (sometimes He gives me two) helps me to focus on a direction for my life for the year. It never ceases to amaze me how the word(s) remain a constant theme for my life. For 2018 God gave me abide and thrive for my words. In 2017 I had courage and action.
Whatever word(s) the Lord gives you look up some Bible verses to go with it/them. I like to post the words and verses around the house where I will see them often using Post-It Notes, index cards, and so on. Pray over them weekly or monthly to keep your focus on this “theme” for the year. Ask the Lord how to apply it in your life. Journal about how your life changes as you focus on, work through, and grow in this area throughout the year.
Word(s)____________________________________________________________________________

Verse(s)___________________________________________________________________________
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Observations, insights, and/or questions about your word(s) ______________________
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In addition to praying for a word, this quiz may also be helpful.
https://www.dayspring.com/yourwordquiz#/home

*WRITE YOURSELF A LETTER
Reflecting upon all you’ve written in this retreat, write a letter to your July 2019 self. Mention your goals, priorities, your word(s), “I Am” statement, and any other significant thing you want yourself to remember from this retreat today. Seal the letter in an envelope and put it away somewhere. Write it on your calendar (wall, phone) where the letter is and to read it on July 1st. At that point you can evaluate the status of your goals, make a plan to fulfill your goals for the next 6 months, and write yourself a new letter for 12/31/19.

* CLOSING WORSHIP

Shine Jesus Shine

Who You Say I Am – Hillsong

Every Praise – Hezekiah Walker

Thank You, Father, for blessing this time in Your presence. Thank You for guiding me in the path You have prepared for me. Help me to continue abiding in You and following after You all my days. May all I do and say bring You glory and praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
1 John 2:6 NLT

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:16 NLT

Have a joyful, blessed,
and healthy New Year!
Julia Melatis
© 2018 All rights reserved.

Unknown credit for identity in Christ list images.

Is the Bible Your Looking Glass?

I was posting the verse of the day to Pinterest and decided to scroll down to view some of the “more like this” pins. It was the worst list of “more like this” I have ever seen. The verse I posted was from Psalms. I had to scroll down quite a bit to find even one Bible verse and that was from Ephesians. Most of the pins were for Ramadan (wrong God) and paid ads. The remainder were random things and a lot of “worldly wisdom.” I hope this was a fluke and not a new agenda, but I am not writing to pick on Pinterest today.
I am writing today because maybe Pinterest is as confused as many people, unbelievers and believers alike. I all too often find believers posting tidbits of “worldly wisdom” on their social media accounts. It sounds good, so they post or re-post from someone else in hopes of encouraging others. If viewed from a worldly point of view, they certainly seem to make sense.
Let’s take a look at four examples I pulled from the selection given to me by Pinterest. We will be viewing them through the “looking glass” of the Bible. As a believer everything needs to be put under the microscope of God’s Word before I make it part of me.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1 ESV

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Proverbs 14:15 ESV

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

2 Timothy 4:3 NLT

As a believer I cannot allow myself to be swayed by the teachings of people just because it sounds good to my ears. The responsibility is just too great, because I will be accountable if I lead anyone astray.

1And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
Luke 17:1-2 ESV

Even moreso for those of us God has gifted to be a teacher.

1Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:1 ESV

Not that I want to discourage teachers, on the contrary, I want to encourage everyone to be well versed in the Scriptures, so we are prepared to lead in whatever way God uses us.
To some extent all believers are teachers by example and in discipling other believers in their walk. We must all, therefore, be grounded in the Word, so we know that by which we live is truth. We also must be in tune with the Holy Spirit, so we can hear His voice speaking wisdom, direction, and correction throughout our days.

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 ESV

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.

John 14:26 BSB

However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come.

John 16:13 BSB

2if you incline your ear to wisdom and direct your heart to understanding, 3if you truly call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, 4if you seek it like silver and search it out like hidden treasure 5then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. 6For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk with integrity, 8to guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His saints.

Proverbs 2:2-8 BSB

Anyone who believes in the One true God’s existence knows the Bible is the instruction manual for life written by the Creator Himself.

16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

We are to not only live by the Word, but pass it on to our children and others.
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORDyour God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inb the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

This has the slightest bit of truth to it. It is our heart attitude that plays a big part in how we handle what comes our way. It is our choice as to the attitide we choose to have in facing our circumstances. But true contentment and joy in the midst of our circumstances can only be found in Jesus Christ. That heart attitude comes from an abiding relationship with Him as our Savior and Lord.

4″Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5-6 ESV

We must allow the truth of His Word to renew our minds and transform us from the inside out. It is only with complete faith and trust in God and His love and plan for us that we can find that real joy, peace, rest and contentment that the world so desperately craves and seeks in all the wrong places. We can never find it within ourselves alone, in alcohol, drugs, material possessions, wealth, power, other gods, philosophies, or other people.

1Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 BSB

11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15:11 ESV

“Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

John 16:24 ESV

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 ESV

1In God alone my soul finds rest; my salvation comes from Him. 2He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
5Rest in God alone, O my soul, for my hope comes from Him. 6He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken 7My salvation and my honor rest on God, my strong rock; my refuge is in God 8Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-8 BSB

Now this one almost sounds like it could be straight from the Bible. And it sounds remarkably similar to a quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” And that leads me to the reason I included this one. Some people do seem to manage to live a “good” life by worldly standards. But if Jesus is not the center of your life, it will all turn to dust in the end. Good character, from a worldly point of view will not preach a message pf eternal value. Our lives must preach the eternal-life-giving message of salvation, repentance, and the good character of follower of Jesus. Our outward actions must match the words we speak. Others don’t care what we have to say until they see who we are.

1Tell believers to live the kind of life that goes along with accurate teachings. 2Tell older men to be sober. Tell them to be men of good character, to use good judgment, and to be well-grounded in faith, love, and endurance.
3Tell older women to live their lives in a way that shows they are dedicated to God. Tell them not to be gossips or addicted to alcohol, but to be examples of virtue. 4In this way they will teach young women to show love to their husbands and children, 5to use good judgment, and to be morally pure. Also, tell them to teach young women to be homemakers, to be kind, and to place themselve under their husbands’ authority. Then no one can speak evil of God’s word.
6Encourage young men to use good judgment. 7Always set an example by doing good things. When you teach, be an example of moral purity and dignity. 8Speak an accurate message that cannot be condemned. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed because they cannot say anything bad about us.
Titus 2:1-8 GOD’S WORD® Translation

12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ESV

What good does it do me to be “more me” if there is nothing good in me (without Jesus.)

10As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. 11No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”

Romans 3:10-12 NLT

Instead, I want to be the best representative of Christ I can be. For it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27 ESV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 317 ESV

So do not be quick to speak or post “words of wisdom” when you see or hear them. Look at them through the looking glass of Scripture to find the real truth and wisdom by which to live you life. Share that wisdom with your friends and family. Sharing our faith and love for Jesus, and all He has done for us, should be just as easy as it once was to share gossip.

Blessings and peace,
Julia Melatis

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Trusting God on the Blind Corners

I read Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard years ago. A beautiful allegory of our walk with the Lord. I have images permanently engraved on my brain from reading that book that relate to trusting the Lord even when you cannot see what lies ahead. This is, in a nutshell, the life of Jesus’ disciples.

When we receive Jesus as our Saviour AND Lord we are acknowledging His Sovereignity over our lives. We’re giving up our rights and our will for His. We are accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit in every part of our lives. This requires faith and trust in the unseen work of our Lord.

No matter what our lives look like in the physical realm, there is also a spiritual realm where a war is being waged. We cannot see into that realm, but we know it is there and we can influence what happens with our prayers (Daniel 10 all, esp. v. 12-14, Luke 18:1, Ephesians 6:10-18, 1 John 5:14-15). I’ve heard many stories of people being protected by angels or helped by angels because of prayers. Here is one such story published in Billy Graham’s book, Angels: God’s Secret Agents:
“The Reverend John G. Paton, pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.”
“A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard – hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation. Could it be that God had sent a legion of angels to protect His servants, whose lives were being endangered?”

Some may not believe that accounts like this are real. Snopes calls stories like this glurge. A made up word that according to http://www.dictionary.com/browse/glurge means, “stories, often sent by email, that are supposed to be true and uplifting, but which are often fabricated and sentimental.”

It probably does take a person of faith to believe this is possible. As it takes a person of faith to trust every word of the Word of God. But as we learn to live balanced between the physical and spiritual realms of this life we can know that the angels are fighting for us, because the Word of God has said so (Psalm 91).

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalm 34:8 ESV

13And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 ESV

God is on our side. He always has been and always will be. He is able to equip us with all we need to not just survive this life, but thrive. But we must always do our part by always seeking Him first and love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Jesus said to love Him is to obey His commands (John 14:15). Some of the commands Jesus gave were:
*Do not worry…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:25-34)

* Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. Matthew 7:12 NLT

* …just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34 ESV

*28…“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

* 14“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 NLT

We often have trouble with these commands.
*We may feel like if we aren’t worrying we aren’t caring about the problem or person. On the contrary, worry does nothing to solve a problem and I not adds to our suffering, very often over things that jever happen. Trust the Lord with everything, from the smallest concern to the largest problem, and see just how amazingly He handles it all. He already knows what’s coming and the outcome.

*Do we find it hard to treat others the way we want to be treated, because they are not treating us well? Did Jesus put a qualifier on His command? No. He wants us to be His light by showing lovingkindness to others even if we feel they don’t deserve it. Perhaps by pur example others will change their attotide and behavior. Even if they don’t, our attitude will be good, pure, and lovely–just the way the Apostle Paul tells us we should keep our thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

*How do we love one another as Jesus loved us? Jesus always lived selflessly, with compassion toward the lost, hurting, and helpless. Of course the most selfless thing He did was give His life for our salvation. We need to live like Jesus lived with lovingkindness and compassion for people who are lost, hurting, and helpless.

*Letting go of our burdens may make us feel out of control. That’s a good thing, don’t you think, when the one we are conceding control to is God Almighty. He is supremely equipped to handle our troubles for us in ways we cannot even ask or imagine.

*Forgiving someone does not mean they are “off the hook.” God will deal with them over what they have done. Hopefully to their own repentance. That is not our concern. Our concern is only doing what we are commanded to do, forgive them. Forgiving is for our own benefit, so we do not become bitter and hard-hearted, and so we can be forgiven by our Father in heaven.

*Forgiving sometimes includes forgiving ourselves. When we really mess up, we may hold onto the guilt and shame long after repenting to the Lord. This should not be! God’s forgiveness was bought with a precious price and when we repent we are cleansed and free of condemnation. Holding onto that guilt and shame is a lie of the enemy we must cast down. The enemy of our souls wants us to feel unusable. God has made it well known in His Word that this is not true. God uses all of us “cracked pots” for His glory. It’s through those cracks that the splendor of His glory shines through!

No matter what unforeseen circumstances come before us, we know God is for us, so no one and nothing can be against us (Romans 8:31).

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 51:10 NLT

It can be so hard to let go and let God work without our input and in His timing, but oh how freeing it is when we learn to trust Him that way! Trust and obedience to His Word,and His call on our lives, no matter what comes our way. That is the victorious life we are meant to live in our Savior and Lord Jesus. In Him we are overcomers!

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Melatis.        All rights reserved.

Feet Like a Deer

David also wrote in Psalm 18:33 (ESV), “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”

When I read these verses I went in search of photos of deer climbing the heights.

What are the high places to which Habakkuk and David refer? Why is it important to have “feet like a deer”?

The high places in the Bible were places of worship. The way the “high places” are referred to in these verses is more personal than the physical places of worship. It is a spiritual place. It is our relationship with the Lord.

Take a moment to scroll back up to the deer photos. Note the rockiness and steepness of the high places. It is no wonder we need the Lord to equip us with the surefootedness of a deer to abide there with Him. I definitely don’t have the surefootedness of a deer in the physical realm and never will. But, oh how I want it in the spiritual realm!

No matter what circumstances are like in our lives, we can abide with the Lord on the high places. As I write this I am struck by the thought that vineyards are often planted on mountain and hillsides. In John 15, Jesus uses the vineyard as an analogy for abiding in Him.

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:1-5 ESV

Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to be apart from Him ever again! Early in my Christian walk I sometimes found it a difficult path to follow. But when I thought back to my life before Jesus, it was no comparison. As hard as it felt at times, it was a cake walk compared to life without Him! And, in all honesty, the reason it was so hard is because I was holding back, struggling against Him, and not fully cooperating with Him. I had not fully surrendered my life to Him. I was not abiding. I did not have my deer feet.

God used circumstances to draw me to Himself. To teach me trust, patience, discipline, and that joy and peace do not depend upon the circumstances of the physical life. It is the abiding life, where I meet my Lord on the high places, where I commune with Him, release burdens and cares to Him, that he causes me to rest and fills me with the peace and joy only He can give. Don’t take back your burdens. Keep your thoughts focused on good things:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

If you have trouble keeping your thoughts positive and keeping your hands off the burdens you’ve given to God, here is some godly instruction:

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.b 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Stay in the Word. Keep it always before you. Talk about the Word/Jesus. Pray continually. Take wrong thoughts/lies of the enemy captive and obedient to Christ. Replace those thoughts with truth from God’s Word. Believe it. Receive it. Live it. Rejoice always! Give thanks in all circumstances. Abide and thrive (my God-given words to live by for 2018)! This is how God gives us our deer feet. As we journey with Him up the mountain abiding with Him, following Him, learning to trust Him on those blind corners, rocky slopes, and sheer cliffs, we find the fear and doubt are replaced with faith and trust. At the top the air is clear, the water is sweet. We find shade to rest under a big beautiful tree and feel the cool breeze. Close your eyes and breathe it in! The Lord God Almighty is Your Abiding Companion, Provider, Protector, and Savior through it all! This abiding place of communion and worship is where we find rest, peace, and joy in our Lord no matter our circumstances. It’s up to us to let go and let God do what only He can do, while we do what He has told us to do – abide.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:19 NLT

Copyright © 2018 by Julia Melatis

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of the sharing buttons below, brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, email juliamelatis@gmail.com

Up Against the Wall is a Good Place to Be

Some birds instinctually build their nests in places that are up against a wall for shelter and support. However, people often use the expression “up against the wall” to describe feeling trapped with no way out of a situation.

2The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
10The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Psalm 18:2,10 ESV

Many Scriptures refer to God as a place of Refuge, a Rock, a Fortress, and a Strong Tower. A place where we can run to seek His protection. When we stand up against Him we are not trapped, but rather empowered.

If we go a little further down in Psalm 18 we read…
28For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
33He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
Psalm 18:28-35ESV

Our God, our Rock and Refuge is not a place to hide and cower, but a place to be trained and prepared for the battles to come while being protected. And I love how in the midst of this Psalm of war is verse 35, “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” Wow! His gentleness makes us great! Maybe it was that gentleness that caused David to refrain from taking Saul’s life himself (1 Samuel chapters 24, 26). Though God’s favor had been removed from Saul, he had been anointed by God and David refused to kill God’s anointed.

David knew what it was like to have the power of God working within Him. JlAs a youth he had defeated the lion and the bear. He also knew what it felt like to feel overwhelmed. But he knew that in those moments He had a place to run for help, hope, and strength beyond his own.

God had given him a promise and dream when Samuel anointed him to be king, but their were many years and troubles between the anointing and the coronation. When David found himself “up against a wall” of hardship – from confronting Goliath, going to war against the Philistines, to being hunted by Saul, David knew God was the source of His power and skill. He knew where to run when he was overwhelmed by his circumstances. And there he found the strength and courage to keep moving to do things that he could not possibly do without the power of the Lord with him and within him.

We need to learn to follow the Lord in trust and obedience in the same way. All too often we think so small. We need to learn that He is our Strong Tower, the place where we always find shelter and safety, even when the world seems to be closing in on us. Up against the wall, our uncomfortable place, is the place where He is and where we will find peace. It is in the uncomfortable that we grow and get to know Him even better. It is here God will train us for the battles we have ahead, too. He will equip us with the weapons we need (through the Word, prayer, and in communion with Him) to enable and empower to go forth and face the enemy knowing He has equipped us with strength, trained our hands for war, given us the shield of His salvation, supports us with His right hand, and has made us great by His gentleness.

So maybe the birds’ instincts aren’t so bad. Up against the wall, with the Lord, is a good place to be. After all, His armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) is made to cover just the front of the body. No need to have a rear exit for escape. We are to stand firm in faith and trust, looking the enemy square in the face, knowing we are armed and ready because the Lord is with us. If we don’t feel ready, we need some one-on-one time with the Lord up against His Strong Tower and in His Word, soaking in His radiance and letting Him strengthen us in soul and spirit, so we are able to wield the weapons of spiritual warfare with His power, in praise with thanksgiving.
All glory to God!
Praise the Lord!

1Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
2I said to the LORD, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
3The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
4Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.
5LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine.
6The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
7I will bless the LORD who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8I know the LORD is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
9No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.
10For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy oned to rot in the grave.
11You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 8:1-11 (all) NLT

Depression and Anxiety

I’m not sure who this may be for, but I am feeling led to write about depression and anxiety today.
Most of you probably don’t know that I have suffered with various levels of depression since childhood. A couple doctors along the way briefly prescribed a drug, but I had reactions to the ones prescribed and no follow up by the doctor. I was also in denial about my need for medication, as I was functional and didn’t believe Christians should need medication for depression. I was so wrong! There are times even believers need medical help and should not be ashamed to seek it. Other believers should not belittle their condition and look down on them for seeking help and taking medication.

What should we do if we feel that God is the cause of our troubles? In 2010 God was moving us 1800 miles from Southern California to St. Louis, Missouri, which I knew from day one was totally of Him, no doubt. Then, one week before leaving, we learned our younger daughter was expecting her first child, our first grandchild. I was heartbroken, having to leave just when we were finally becoming grandparents. I cried out to God, “Why?” His only answer was, “You always have a choice.” But I know there is no choice outside of His will and plan for my life. Knowing that didn’t make it any easier. I held onto that pain too much, too long. It fed the depression and anxiety. Even going to the grocery store caused anxiety attacks. It got a little easier once I found a church and made friends, found sisters to do life together. But the pain of separation from my family ate away at me. In hindsight, I also was not doing all the things God wanted me to be doing. I wasn’t seeing it, because I let anger at being taken so far away eat at me and I couldn’t admit I was angry at God. I finally admitted it, but it was several years in. What a waste of time. But God redeems these things and uses them for His glory when we allow Him to heal us.

I remember the first time I realized Missouri IS my home now. I was on a visit back to California without my husband. As much as I enjoyed the visit, I was ready to go home. That was a huge revelation for me. Until that moment I had still been referring to California as “back home.”

I had been hiding in TV, social media, and game apps. One day God used the dialogue in a TV show to speak right to me. The character said, “Stop the pity party!” But I heard it as Holy Spirit speaking directly to my heart. Definitely got my attention. I began seeking the Lord more and focusing on ministry and other things outside myself, my thoughts, and my pain, but I still was not dealing with all the sources of the pain that were causing the depression and anxiety in my life.

A few years ago depression and anxiety got the better of me and I could no longer function. I could barely even pull my thoughts together enough to seek the Lord with much more than a “Help me” and “What’s wrong with me?” He answered both when the depression began causing me physical symptoms. My doctor ordered several tests. The results sent me to a Neurologist, who recognized all the symptoms I was exhibiting were from depression and anxiety disorder. Both the friend who came to the appointment with me and I felt the Lord’s presence very strongly in that office. This was where I needed to be. The doctor started me on medications. The meds are not a magical cure. But they enabled me to function enough to begin dealing with the causes of the depression, with God’s help.

I cannot afford a therapist. But both Jesus and Holy Spirit are referred to as Counselor (Isaiah 9:6, John 15:26). I sit down across from an “empty” chair and converse with Jesus. I pour out my heart. I know He is there and He hears me. When I get quiet I can “hear” Him revealing things like unforgiveness I had hidden in my heart, other painful feelings I thought I had released to Him, I talk it out, pray it out, let it go (as many times as it takes), and in return He fills me with His peace and joy.

The thing is we have to be willing to let go of the pain and not take it back (Matthew 11:28-30). Sometimes we feel like if we let go and forgive it lets the other person off the hook. But punishing ourselves with depression and anxiety does nothing to them. And forgiving is a command (Luke 6:37, Colossians 3:13). The other person has already moved on. Only God can deal with them. The final blow may not come until they meet Him on the judgment seat, but it will come or they will repent before and be redeemed. Either way, abusing ourselves only hurts us, not them. We also need to learn one more powerful step to healing ourselves, praying for our enemies and blessing and not cursing them (Matthew 5:44-45, Luke 6:27-28, Romans 12:14). It is very freeing to pray for good for someone who has hurt us. Sounds so wrong by worldly standards, but God’s ways are higher and the best (Isaiah 55:6-9)! It is very hard at first, I will not lie. I have had to say I forgive out of sheer obedience to God at first, and keep saying it until it becomes heartfelt. The same with praying for them. But God honors our willingness to be obedient and softens our hearts as we obey Him. We never have to do anything in our own power alone. He makes a way when there seems to be no way.

I still have bad days or groups of bad days. It keeps me humble and seeking after the Lord to uncover anything else I need to repent or release into His hands.

I have not worked outside the home since we moved eight years ago, so I have to be purposeful about not staying isolated and seeking fellowship with my sister’s in Christ. They help me stay grounded.

There is an acronym for the word joy that has helped me considerably with focusing and keeping that pity party from returning.
Jesus first
Others second
Yourself
The way I interpret this is when we take our eyes (our thoughts, our concentration) off of ourselves and focus (our attention, energy, love) upward (in faith, love, and obedience) and outward (with faith and love in action) toward others, God takes care of us, in all things, including our soul needs of joy, peace, and rest. Not that we neglect self-care, but our thoughts do not need to be inward like they are when they cause us depression, anxiety, and pity parties.

Isaiah 43 has a couple passages I love. God specifically gave me verses 18-21 during a particularly hard time.

1But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:1-3 ESV

18“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.”
Isaiah 43:18-21 ESV

If you suffer from depression remember: * It’s okay to seek help from a therapist for counseling and/or a doctor for medication.
* Do not isolate yourself. Call a sister(s) in Christ for fellowship. Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer and a listening ear.
* God is for you (Psalm 118:6, Romans 8:31).
* He has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5).
* Nothing can separate God’s children from His love (Romans 8:35-39).
*Hope is ours in Jesus as an anchor in our storms. It does not disappoint us (Hebrews 6:19, Romans 5:5). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 ESV
*Ultimately God will heal us, it just may take a different route and outcome than we expect (Isaiah 61:3, 1 Peter 3:13-17). [Ex: someone may have an accident and become paraplegic. God may not heal their physical body, but use the disability to heal soul and spirit and use the person to bring Him glory in other ways.]
*God does not waste our pain (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 12:19).
He will use it as our testimony and our ministry… 3″Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV
Thank You, Father, for this gift of comfort, that we can use the comfort we receive to comfort and encourage others in similar circumstances. It can really make all the difference and make it worth having gone through our own pain to see others helped by our testimony.

Father God, we lift up everyone reading this article who suffer from depression or loves someone who does. Be with them and guide them on wisdom to the answers they need. Do they hold unforgiveness in their hearts? Are they holding onto burdens buried deep within? Do they need help of a therapist to sort it out? Do they need the help of medication? Do they need a sister(s) to come along side them? Answer these questions for them and lead them to the fulfillment of tje answers. Fill them with the hope that comes to each one in Jesus Christ our Lord, that they may know the joy and peace You promise. Let them know Your presence with them in a tangible way, to know they are never alone. Show them how to keep their focus on J.O.Y. – upward and outward and let You have Your way with their inward. We praise and thank You, Lord in Jesus’ name, amen!

Learning from Jabez

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Last week I wrote a Facebook post on the Prayer of Jabez. It was not my best work. I woke the other day with that on my mind as the Lord was speaking to me in my dream about the part I glossed over, his name. His mother named him Jabez, because she bore him in pain. What a thing to do to your child.

Names. We are given a name at birth. Some parents try to make them as unusual as they can making up their own names or spellings, while others research meanings and try to pick just the right one.

We often have nick names or “pet” names given to us by others. Sometimes the names are the taunts of cruel children on the playground, a sibling or even a parent. I am sure Jabez knew something about that, being named a pain by his own mother.

Then there are the names we give ourselves (that the enemy feeds us) that highlight what we see as our faults and failures.

But the most awesome name we are given is the one we get when we receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Child of God!

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All those names that taunt and tease, and try to hold us down, only have power over us if we believe them. That’s where knowing the Word of God comes in handy. When we know who God says we are and let that truth sink deep into our souls (the Sword of the Spirit) there’s no room for those lies.

dcf901b237e3f70a3743dfd05cc7d07fI love that Jabez did not let his name define him. The first thing we are told about Jabez is that he was more honorable that all of his brothers. For someone who was likely teased by siblings and others about his name,  he did not let it make him bitter. He chose the higher way.  God’s way. He did not let it limit him or limit what he sought from God.

I know for much of my life I let those taunting names define my self-worth and limit the power of God to work in my life,  because I did not seek it. I did not seek, because I believed I was too broken and unlovable and unworthy.

Even as a believer I could pray in faith for everyone except me. I knew God could do whatever I needed, but I doubted if He would do it for me. Well, we are all unworthy (Romans 3:23) until Jesus comes into our hearts and makes us new. He made a way for us to become children of God (John 1:12). He makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT.

Let me tell you, don’t listen to the enemy’s lies. He will do whatever it takes to belittle you and distract you from being all God created you to be. Don’t let the enemy tempt you with comparisons, either. You were created as a unique person for a specific purpose that is solely yours. Each of our journies may be similar in some ways, but we each have a different path that God has laid before us. And His timing is perfect for when things happen in each life. Just because Jane Doe over there started doing something in her 30s doesn’t mean it’s too late for me in my 50s. Instead of comparing be preparing yourself in the Word and in prayer. Be ready when the Lord calls and answer by following wherever He leads. 

Since I have learned what the Bible says about who I am I started taking those negative thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)  and replacing those lies with God’s truth. Now I am able to wield that Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) with skill and accuracy (see Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4:1-11). You can and must, too!

Let’s take another look at Jabez’s prayer:

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He trusted God to bless him. He was bold enough to ask God to enlarge his territory. Territory equals land and that equals wealth and standing in the community which equals increasing his sphere of influence. Jabez knew he needed God to be with him to handle life’s ups and downs and to help him resist evil influences. If children in his time were anything like they are today he probably got teased about being a “pain.” He knew pain and he didn’t want to cause pain to himself or anyone else. He was an honorable man and God honored Jabez for it by granting his request.

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2 ESV.

What requests have you hidden in your heart, because you are afraid to ask God to grant your request? Do you feel undeserving of God’s love and care? Take it all to the Lord and let Him show You how much He loves you. Memorize some of the verses in the “Who I Am In Christ” list above, so you are armed for battle when the enemy taunts and teases you. Then present your petitions to God (Philippians 4:6-7). And see what He does in your life! 

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Blessings and peace,

Julia

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