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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Scriptural Prayers

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I firmly believe in praying Scriptures. When we pray Scripture we know we are praying in line with God’s will. I’ve written a sample of a prayer based entirely on Scripture. At the bottom I have included the actual text of the referenced Scripture verses. Portions of this prayer are directed at the Made To Crave Action Plan Bible Study journey I, and many other women worldwide, are on though the Proverbs 31 Ministries OBS.

 I am privileged to pray for you today. Please find a place where you can be alone for a few minutes. A place where you will feel comfortable speaking these prayers aloud. Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).

    The first paragraph I am praying over you from 2 Peter 1:2 NLT and Ephesians 3:14-20 ESV. The rest of the prayer I have written in the first person using Scripture verses for you to pray over yourselves and portions for those you love, so that You can feel the power of God’s Word filling You and renewing Your mind with His truth.

     Now, get quiet before the Lord. If you have troubling trying to focus on prayer you can do what I do and say, “Jesus, Jesus Jesus, thank You Jesus. Be present with me in this place as I lift my prayers to You.” Take a deep breath and let it out. Let’s pray…

    May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. I bow my knees before our, Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant that you, dear sister (or brother) ___________ (insert your name), will be strengthened with power through His Holy Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

    My Father in Heaven I give thanks to You Lord, for You are good! You faithfulness and love for me endures forever. You have made this new day, Lord, and I will rejoice and be glad in it! You are MY God, and I will praise You! You are MY God and I will exalt You! You live right here with me Lord, and You are MY mighty Savior. You take delight in me and it makes You glad, You calm all my fears with Your love, and You rejoice over me with joyful songs. In You Lord I have confidence that when I ask for anything according to Your will, You will hear me.
    Take my cravings for food and turn my affections toward You instead. Give me an appetite for healthy, wholesome foods and a desire to exercise to be strong and healthy, so that I can present my body as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to You God, to worship You with everything that I am.
    As I dig ever deeper into Your Word, renew my mind with Your truth that I AM Your child having been born again through faith in Your Son Jesus Christ. And I know and I thank You that because I have been born again, that I AM an overcomer and I HAVE the victory that overcomes the world — my faith. Therefore, I know that I WILL overcome ALL obstacles that would try to come against me as I make this journey of craving You Lord above everything else in my life.
    You have promised that because I fear Your name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And I will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Jesus himself bore my sins in his body on the tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness. I confess that sometimes my faith waivers and I let my struggles bring me down, Lord I believe Your power is greater than my weakness and Your grace is enough for me, help my unbelief. (Add any petitions you have here). By His wounds I have (and/or my loved one ________ has) been healed of _________. Praise You, Lord!
    Lord there are those in my life that I dearly love who have not yet received Jesus as their Savior. I lift up before Your throne _______________ (speak the names of each one). I am thankful that You are not slow to fulfill Your promise (of Jesus’ return) as some count slowness, but You are patient, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Send Your Holy Spirit to prepare their hearts to receive Your Son Jesus as their Savior, for no one can come to Jesus unless You, Father, draw them to Him. Jesus said, “The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” I speak that life over my loved ones right now that they would be set free, in Jesus’ name. For where Your Spirit is, there is freedom.
    For the answers to this prayer, Lord, I give You praise and thanksgiving. May You receive all the glory and honor, In Jesus’ mighty and precious name, amen.

References:
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2 NLT

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV

1Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
24This is the day the LORD has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
28You are my God, and I will praise you!
You are my God, and I will exalt you! Psalm 118:1, 24, 28 NLT

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 ESV

1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 ESV

12But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:12-13 NLT

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 NLT

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:4 ESV

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:2 NLT

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 ESV

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 NLT

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 ESV

For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. John 6:44 NLT

The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63 NLT

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 NLT

Blessings,
Julia

Abiding In Jesus is Taking Action

P31 Made to Crave Action Plan Photo Hop #Action

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The assignment today is to link a photo of our personal action verse. I had this image on one of my Pinterest boards. I chose this verse because as it says, if we don’t abide (remain, attached) in Jesus (the Vine) we can do nothing.

I really want this time to be different than all the other times I’ve tried to lose weight. I really want it to be a spiritual journey with the benefit of physical health and well-being. I want the result to be not only weight loss, but a healthy new lifestyle. For this to happen I need to stay grafted into Jesus, the Vine. I need Him to be in all I do and the strength that I use to make good choices all day, eat well, and move my body – by communicating with Him all day long.

I am currently a homemaker, so I spend a great deal of time alone. I have always been one to keep the TV on all day for “company.” But, it encourages me to sit for long periods, even if I am not actively watching it. But since beginning the first M2C study back in January God’s been working on that, too, as a part of this journey. The TV is staying off (most days) until hubby turns it on after work. I’ve never been a fan of silence, but I am learning to like the silence, because it allows for a lot more spontaneous conversations with God throughout the day. It gives me the opportunity to do something that a mentor, Joanne, once told me: “Julia, the Lord wants you to ‘tune-in’ to His voice more.” It’s hard to tune into God’s voice, that still, small voice, when there is so much distraction and noise.
The silence also gives me the opportunity to worship our Lord – either in spontaneous song or putting on some music, which always prompts dancing (moving my body aka exercise) =). It’s a win-win situation.
Abiding in Jesus, the Vine, the Source of life and strength, is the only way this journey to Craving God and not food, TV (noise)… is going to be truly successful.

When Joanne told me to tune-in my first thought was that I was already hearing God pretty good. But, I respect her and took it and started seeking God in it.  Tuning in goes deeper than casually listening. It’s being purposeful about making time to sit in silence praying and then listening for His voice. This prepares me to hear and recognize His voice when He speaks to me in a specific situation, through a person, a song, or a Bible verse. The tuning in really needs to be intentional, otherwise we will miss Him in the everyday things.

God has a plan and purpose for my life (and yours, too). Being 115 pounds overweight at 53 years of age makes it hard to have the energy and stamina I need to fulfill the plan for this half of my life. Taking action now to change my lifestyle and health is an important step in fulfilling my God-given destiny to teach God’s Word and encourage women of all ages on their own faith journeys.

Thank You, Jesus, for never giving up on me even when I’ve wanted to give up on myself!

A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

A Place of Surrender

(For week 5 Blog Hop A Confident Heart) #IAmNot

    We moved to Missouri 3 years and 4 months ago. Rewind to about two and a half years before we moved. We were considering remodeling our living room, dining room, and kitchen to become one great room. One day as I was trying to figure out where to move the refrigerator and some cabinets I heard the Lord tell my heart, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be here.” I let go of the remodeling idea. The idea of moving was exciting when I thought about where I would want to move. Hubby and I always wanted to live on the central coast of California. It would be far from our families, but only a 5-6 hour drive. Doable for fairly frequent visits.
    Some how I got a time frame in my head of within 18 months. Have you ever had a clear message from God only to in the next thought add your own two cents? I kept this idea of moving within 18 months in my head. But, once my time frame passed I forgot about it. I figured it must have been all me and not God.
    Then in August 2009 I get laid off in the first of a series of city lay offs stemming from the State of California’s financial problems. We had been told that someone from each department would be laid off. One by one we who were being laid off were called down to the assistant city manager’s office. As I sat down I said, it’s me. He and the personnel director asked, How did I know? They didn’t even know until now. I told them I just knew it was going to be me. I believe God prepared my spirit to hear the news.
    I had a very stressful job. At first I was upset about being laid off, but after a while of being unemployed I became less stressed even though I wasn’t working and money was tight. I began seeing that God’s hand of provision was actually in the lay off. I got a month’s severance, paid medical through the end of the year, letters of recommendation, and I was even allowed to use unused vacation in lieu of finishing out the week at work. It was too hard trying to work knowing I was being let go. There were at least 2 or 3 more rounds of lay offs to come. None of them got a package like we did and on at least one of the rounds, they were given 1 month’s native, but they had to work the full month knowing they were being laid off. If they left early they would be considered as quitting and be denied unemployment.
    For the people left behind, conditions on the job became more stressful as fewer people tried to accomplish the same work load. I began seeing how God was providing for me not only in the package I had received, but in not being there to work in the increasingly stressful work environment.
    Meanwhile, my husband’s employer had some big lawsuits that caused them to file bankruptcy. Just before Christmas we learned the company was being sold as part of the bankruptcy. The highest bidder so far had been another local business.
    When hubby went back to work after the new year they were informed that the company had been sold to a company in St. Louis. There were reps from the new company there. They asked hubby if he wanted to move. He came home and asked me if I wanted to move to St. Louis. My first reaction was no, but before I could open my mouth, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He told me about 2 years before. “Yes” came out of my mouth. I surrendered. Missouri was a far cry from Southern California or my dream of California’s Central Coast.
    Hubby was put in charge of the move on the California end. It would take about 6 months to get everything organized and shipped, including making a stock of parts to be used to fill orders during the actual move.
    We had lived in our house 17 years, without many upgrades. We worked for months to get the house ready to sell. I cashed in my retirement funds to help pay for it. It took a while to get packed, painted, re-do the carpet and flooring, etc. We got the house on the market only a month before we were leaving. We sold it in two weeks, for our asking price. Absolutely amazing in June 2010.
    The Saturday before we left California our daughter revealed she and her hubby were expecting their first child. YAY! We were excited that we were finally going to be grandparents. BOO! We were moving away. The next morning I cried out to God during worship. Why God, do we have to move now that we have a grandbaby on the way? I heard, “you have a choice. You don’t have to move. But…”  I could choose to stay (not a real option after selling the house and no jobs), but I would be out of God’s will. He would be under no obligation to bless anything we did if we stayed. I knew it was Gods plan for us to move, so I surrendered, again. It was much harder this time.
    We moved, driving one of our cars, over the July 4th holiday week. Then another blow. We were in Winslow, Arizona when our realtor called saying the appraisal came in $19,000 under the agreed/asking price. The buyer’s lender would not go for it, even though their down would cover the difference, plus. We did not have time to look for another buyer in hopes a different appraisal would go better, so we surrendered to a lower price.
     God is good! We still got a good amount for our house that paid off our mortgage and our mountain of other debt, with some to spare. Hubby’s new employer let him keep his 35 years of service/seniority, gave him a raise, a signing bonus after we arrived, and they paid all the moving expenses. That’s God!
    Some months ago a friend and sister in Christ said to me, maybe God had to move me away from the grandkids (#5 was just born last month and #6 is due in February), because I would be such a dedicated grandma that I might not do all the things God has in store for me to accomplish. Wisdom, I didn’t want to hear.
    I have dealt with depression over the move, that at first nearly stopped me from functioning. And fear and procrastination may have delayed some of the ministry God has for me to do. But, even as I am writing this, the sound track in my head is playing Mandisa’s song “Overcomer.” God is not finished with me. I am learning through this difficult process. I am challenged, but I am supported by God’s Holy Spirit and the many sister-friends He has given me here in Missouri and through these wonderful online bible studies through the ministry of proverbs31.org.
    Surrender is not only the thing we do during big life changing decisions, but it is a daily thing, and a moment to moment thing. Do we listen to God’s voice as we make our every day decisions. Do we recognize the divine appointments God puts in our path and respond when He calls us to touch someone’s life? Do we follow and surrender our thoughts and ideas to Him even in the little things in our lives? I am learning that if we want God’s best we must give Him all we are and all we have in surrender and He will give us a life we could not possibly hope for or imagine. Although it is still difficult being so far away from our family, I have learned to cope and I am thankful that unlike Abraham who had to leave home and family forever, we have technology that keeps us close and rapid transportation that allows us to visit on occasion. I have learned that focusing on me, my circumstances, and my feelings only brings self-pity, defeat, and depression. When I focus on what God has for me to do, I feel joy and peace, and pleasure in knowing I am doing what He has for me to do.

    Heavenly Father, I ask Your blessing upon everyone who reads this blog post. May we all tune our ears to hear Your voice every moment, every day. May we surrender our will and our plan to Your perfect will and Your perfect plan for our lives. Life is not easy with or without You, but help us to say, “I will take hard with You over hard or even easy without You! You are my Rock, my strength, my joy, my peace, my everything!” In Jesus’ name we surrender our lives and our will to You, amen.

#ISaidYes

My last Blog Hop entry for the online Bible study, “What Happens When Women Say Yes To God” by Lysa TerKeurst.

I just made up a new word, God-incidence. Definition: What some would call coincidence. But I know God is in control and He is the one that makes it all work together.

This new word came to me as I was finishing the last chapter of the Bible study book. Just that morning I was thinking and praying about how I am sometimes too concerned with my own comfort – whether it be physical comfort (I hate to sweat) or social comfort aka a situational comfort zone. Then I read in the book,
    “Life isn’t about being comfortable and taking the easy route. It’s 
    about living to give our lives away and make a real impact in this
    world.” -Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Say Yes To
    God.
I was once again reminded that this life is not about me, it’s about Jesus. “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30 NASB. Saying yes to God is a continual thing. Each day, each moment brings opportunities to say yes to something God wants to do in us or through us.

When we started this study I was at a point where I had lost my passion and lost sight of my vision – the dream God had given me. I had already been praying for God to renew the passion for writing and the vision He had given to me. I had been staled and feeling overwhelmed by the feeling that I need to get this book finished. I would get frustrated waiting for God to show me the next step toward fulfilling His vision for me. I kept hearing, “finish the step you’re on,” which IS the book. That added to my anxiety, because I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I heard Him telling me that I needed to take a step and start working on writing again and THEN He would show up and renew the passion. We always have something to do, some step of faith to take, before God does His part. He want us to put that faith and trust to work even when we can’t yet see or feel Him working. That is the essence of faith.

God has used the opportunities to blog and comment during Facebook parties and daily emails to stir up the writing desire within me once again. God showed up just as He said He would. I am feeling much more peace in my heart and a renewed passion for writing. One day as I was commenting on something I was re-posting on my own Facebook page I realized that what I was writing was the answer to the part of the book that was just not working. I had started what I was writing with, ” Yes Lord. Here I am Lord.” And did He ever show up. When we say Yes to God with humble and sincere hearts God shows up in amazing and unusual ways.

Taking a step of faith requires us to get out of our comfort zones. I have started noticing that when God is leading us to step out of our own comforts He will start making us less comfortable in that “zone.” I have to admit I watch too much television. Even if I’m not sitting in front of it I often keep it on for “company.” The trouble is with that worldly noise filling the air it makes it hard to hear the still small voice of the Lord. He has been making me less comfortable with TV and shows I really like are not as interesting to me as they once were. As I keep saying yes to God, He keeps changing me and my priorities. I am turning off the TV more, and listening for God’s voice even more. When I want to sing and dance and praise the Lord I put on Christian music and when I need a little background noise to help me concentrate (I’m sure I was not the only teen who had to listen to music while I studied), I have been putting on the light classical Music Choice channel softly in the background. I’m not sure why this works for me, but it does. I have a tendency to be easily distracted. I guess the music occupies that part of my brain, so I can concentrate better. Anyway, changing things up and yielding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit may take me out of my “comfort zone,” but it leaves me with a feeling of peace and rest in my heart when I have completed the task, as though my heart is hearing my heavenly Father say well done my child. Welcome to the new comfort zone – Radical Obedience.

I was already planning to lead this study with my small group this Fall when I saw the opportunity to do this study online with y’all. I was led to say yes to this amazing adventure. You wonderful ladies from all over this country and around the world have prayed for me and encouraged me through comments on my blog and the life stories you’ve shared on your own blogs. I’ve learned new things, like verse mapping, which I can share with my group. And I know that God is going to do amazing things in and through each of us – the 24,000 women from every corner of this world – as we continue to say YES to God each day. Our radical obedience to a God who radically loves us will lead to many radical blessings, which will equip us even more to be a blessing to others. I’m looking forward to doing “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope with y’all next.

Much love to all my sisters,
Julia

http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/current-study/

Seek the Lord

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

Do you ever feel alone? Do you long for the presence of a person in your life to share your ups and downs? We do need people, but we should remember that if we have Jesus as our Savior, we are never truly alone. He is not only our Savior and Lord, but also our best friend. Yes, we need good friends and family in our lives to love, support, and celebrate life with us. No one is meant to go through this life alone. But, we must not forget to seek the Lord first in our lives and keep Christ in the center of all of our other relationships. He is the Third Strand in our triple-braided cord that gives us the strength to face life’s challenges.  

My husband and I moved half-way across the country for his job almost 3 years ago. We left our friends and our entire family behind – my parents, our sibling’s families, our kids, their spouses, and now our grandkids. Even though I knew it was completely a God thing that we made this move, I did freak out when we first got here. And I will admit that from time to time I still get a bit depressed and stressed. If I did not have that relationship with the Lord I would not be able to handle it. He fills the void in my life with His presence, the ministry He has given me, and He led me to a church full of people who reached out to me and became a surrogate family. But even when I am feeling alone or disconnected from my family, I have Jesus right there with me.

Connecting with God in an intimate relationship is so very important. That may sound strange if you have never experienced it, but it is possible and it is God’s intended purpose in creating us. Adam and Eve experienced that kind of intimate relationship with the Lord and walked with Him in the garden. It was the entrance of sin in their lives that separated them and us from that closeness with God. Jesus came into the world in human flesh to die in our place and rebuild that intimate connection between us and God the Father. When we receive Jesus as our Savior He gives us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us. He becomes our Teacher, Advocate, Guide, and Comforter. This gives us access to a personal relationship with the Lord we could not have otherwise.

Going back to our theme verse for today, Jesus’ presence is also in our relationships with other people to help us connect more deeply with each other. People can never completely fulfill our needs, but God can and does use the people in our lives as His hands, feet, heart, and mouth to enhance our lives and He uses us in the lives of others in the same way. But even if and when you feel alone, seek His presence first and foremost. You may think it’s not the same as a physical person near you, but you can feel His presence in your spirit. I have, at times, even experienced the feeling of the sensation of the Lord’s arm around my shoulders when I needed comfort or the joy of His presence dancing with me in worship. He makes His presence known when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). We need the Lord’s presence for healing of our hearts and souls and to give us the strength to face trials and temptations. Seek the Lord first in all things (Psalm 27). He is our hope, strength, and ever-present help (Psalm 46).

Blessings,
Julia

Yoked to Jesus

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

As I am sitting here watching a Food Network Challenge, I am inspired by the work of these sugar artists. As these sugar artists work, they face many challenges. This hot, liquid sugar can give a severe burn if it gets on your skin. If it’s not heated to the correct temperature or does not set up properly the integrity of the piece can be compromised. They heat the sugar then, working quickly, they pour it into molds or use it to make blown-sugar pieces, in a similar manner to glass-blowing. It is quite remarkable to watch. Then, comes the really tricky part. Connecting the pieces into an amazing sculpture. These sculptures are quite fragile. Too much weight, too much vibration, not perfectly balanced and it can crack, lean or completely shatter.

Sometimes we feel as fragile as a sugar sculpture. We may feel as though the slightest weight or imbalance will make us collapse or completely shatter. But we have promises from God that we can use to prop us up and give us added strength to endure the weight of trials. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and guide us, so we can withstand the vibrations that threaten to shake us to our very core and shatter our mental stability. In the Deuteronomy verse (above) God assures us that He will not fail us or abandon us and that He goes before us. He knows what will be coming our way. We can be confident, strong and courageous, because the Lord is completely trustworthy.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  Isaiah 46:4 NIV

There is no situation that we cannot handle, so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus. This verse in Isaiah gives me such comfort and peace. He has made us. We are His. He will always be there to carry, sustain, and rescue us. The word that touches me the most here is, sustain. The merriam-webster.com dictionary defines sustain as:
1 : to give support or relief to
2 : to supply with sustenance : nourish
3 : keep up, prolong
4 : to support the weight of : prop ; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5 : to buoy up
6 a : to bear up under
Such richness in this word, sustain. God promises to support us, to nourish us, to keep us going, to support and carry us, and hold us up when we feel the weight of life dragging us down. And then there’s number five, to buoy up. I have never felt buoyant in water. I almost drowned as a child. I do not like being in the water. I cannot relax enough to float. Yet in the sea of life God promises to help me float and not sink. I am reminded of Peter walking out to meet the Master on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. So long as Peter kept His eyes on Jesus he stayed on top of the water. But, as soon as he looked at the wind and waves Peter began sinking. When the weight of life gets us down we just need to remember God is there to sustain us. He has not promised to take away our troubles, but He has promised He will never fail us or abandon us in our troubles. He will not let the troubles become more than we can bear with His help. These bolded words are key. We have to realize we are not meant to face life alone. Our strength is still weakness. We need the Lord’s strength to see us through. Jesus also made a promise that He would relieve our burdens.

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

Like many promises in the Bible, these verses have an If/Then scenario. We have a part to play in this promise — If come to Jesus, give Him our burden and take His yoke, Then, He will teach us, give our souls rest and lighten our burdens. I used to think of the yoke Jesus gives as just a lighter, easier version of the one we already have, but I never thought about how a yoke works. I did some research online. There are a couple different kinds of yokes.

A yoke for animals is made from carved wood that is shaped to tie two animals together to make the most of their strength, but they must work together. If they fight each other they won’t get anywhere. A lot depends on how well the yoke itself is made. It should fit well, so it does not cause pain or sores. The animals being yoked together must be equally matched in size, strength and family. You cannot yoke a donkey with an ox and expect to get anywhere. Also, there can only be one lead animal.

I get this picture now of what I think Jesus is describing to us in these verses. He has a yoke that is made to fit just right and enable us to work the most efficiently. I see us yoked with Jesus. He is the lead. When we submit to his lead and put our all into the work God has for us, it makes the work easier for us, because we’re not carrying the burden alone. A yoke also makes it easier to keep looking ahead, so we are not distracted by other things around us. But, if we try to go our own way against Jesus’ leading, not only will we not be productive, but we will hurt ourselves fighting against the yoke.

There is another kind of yoke, a human yoke, made to fit over the shoulders of slaves. It allows them to carry a heavier load. The Bible calls it an “iron” yoke (Deut. 28:48). In a spiritual sense this is the kind of yoke we are born with, that has us in bondage to sin. In 1 John 5:3 says, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (NLT). The Lord does not want us to live burdensome lives. He wants to set us free from sin and lead us in a life of freedom in Him. It means if we love Him we will be obedient to His Word and listen to His voice.

When we choose Jesus and allow Him to trade our yoke of bondage for his easier (double) yoke joining us to Him, our burden is shared and He leads us on the right path. When temptations come our way that would seek to make us fight against that yoke or even try to get us to change back to the “iron” yoke, we have these verses to give us strength:
“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)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

Following the discipline of Christ’s yoke is work, but Jesus said if we choose it, we will find His yoke is easy. That does not mean no troubles, but we don’t have to go through them alone. Our struggles will not overwhelm us, because Jesus said if we take His yoke we will find rest for our souls.

I spent too much of my life with a very restless, frustrated, and stressed out soul. Why? Because I tried to do everything in my own power, not following Jesus and not cooperating with the Holy Spirit. I have been learning that the more I cooperate with the Spirit following where Jesus leads me, the more rested and at peace I feel. Following Him isn’t always easy and it can be painful at times. The Good News is that this pain is not as hard as the pain of the life I left behind when I chose to receive Jesus as my Savior AND Lord. Sometimes we forget that He is not only Savior but also the Lord and King of our lives. That can be hard for control freaks like me to accept, but when we do learn to submit to God and His leading through the Holy Spirit, even our trials are easier, and I believe shorter in duration, than if we choose to fight against the yoke that joins us to life in Jesus.

You may balk at the thought of being yoked in any way. But, every person is born with the “iron” yoke of slavery. Jesus’ offer of a lighter yoke is the better choice and the only alternative to that “iron” yoke. There is no such thing as a yoke-free life in this world.

If you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your Savior and Lord, why not do it today. Read my welcome message for a guide to receiving the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
Julia

Welcome & What is “Our Soul’s Anchor”?

Dear Reader,
Welcome to Our Soul’s Anchor. God has placed an insatiable desire in my heart to teach the Word of God. My prayer is that the Lord will use this blog to touch and encourage your heart, provide wisdom from the Word, and win souls for Jesus.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19 NLT

What is this hope that we have? Redemption from our sinful nature and eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Romans 3:23 NLT, For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

We have all sinned. Not one of us can come to God except through faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:23 NLT, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

If I were to ask you where you will go when you die, what would you say? You can only answer heaven if you have put your faith in Jesus and live your life every day for Him. Too often people believe that because GOD IS Love (1 John 4:8, 16) that He would not send them to hell. But God is also just, and since we all sin, we all deserve the “wages” of sin.

John 1:12 NLT But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

But, the Good News is that because God loves us so much He sent Jesus, His only Son, to come into the world to save us from that which our sin would condemn us to suffer eternal death separated from God (John 3:16-17).

Revelation 3:20. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. –Jesus

Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart. He wants to come in and dine with you – have relationship with you.

Romans 10:9-10,  That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

It’s very simple. If you have never put your faith in Jesus or you have gone astray and want to return to a right relationship with Jesus you can do it right now. Simply pray a simple heartfelt prayer:

1) Admit that you are a sinner. Realize the fact your sin has separated you from having relationship with God the Father. Believing in God is not enough to get you into heaven. Even the devil believes that God exists. Confess and repent (make a 180 degree turn) of your sins.

2)  Put your faith and trust in God and what Jesus accomplished at the cross on Calvary. He loves you so much! Jesus took the substitutionary punishment for your sins. He has bridged the gap that separates you from a relationship with God the Father. By rising from the dead Jesus paved the way for us to spend eternity in heaven with Him.

3) Receive the gift of salvation. When you repent and give your life to Jesus, you are made a new creation with a desire to do as Jesus did and obey His commands. You are also given a gift, a deposit of what is to come in the form of His Holy Spirit. He lives inside you to teach you as you read the Word, to guide you as you learn to follow Jesus, and to give you comfort and peace even when you have difficulties in life.

Now, thank and praise God for this gift of salvation and the new life He has begun in you.

If you just prayed this prayer I Praise God for a new brother or sister in Christ! To continue the transformation that was begun in your life today you should pray and read your Bible every day. A good place to start is with the Gospel of John. Find a good Bible believing/teaching church, attend worship weekly and get water baptized soon (even if you were baptized as a baby, because that was an act of your parent’s will, not your own). Join an Bible study and fellowship with other believers.

Go and tell someone about your decision to follow Jesus! Let me know, too, by leaving a comment to this post.

Blessings and peace,

Julia