Gone Astray

I am sorry it has been a month since my last blog post. It’s been a challenging month for me with migraines, sinus issues, and other personal issues that have distracted me from the tasks God has given me to do. This is a timely message for me, as I need to hear it as much as anyone. I have not only allowed these things to distract me from writing, but from much of my prayer and reading/studying times, also.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV, 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Do you feel like you are in “exile” from the presence of God? God is always near us. If He seems far away, it is likely because we are not seeking Him or we are involved in a pattern of sinfulness. It is sin that first separated people from their God. Can you imagine what life would have been like for us if Adam and Eve had resisted the temptation of the serpent and called out to the Lord for help? 
To find the Lord and know His presence in our everyday lives we just need to seek Him with all our heart (v. 13 above). If you are feeling like God is far away from you, take some time to examine your life:

1 John 1:9 NIV, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Are you living in a pattern of sinfulness? If so, God is always ready to pour out His grace and forgiveness upon us when we repent (turn away from) and confess our sins. Come before Him in faith and pour out your heart to Him.

Isaiah 55:6 NLT, Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Are you making time for the Lord? Do you pray daily? We cannot expect to feel close to God without spending time with Him (in the Word, worship, and in prayer) any more than we can feel close to another person if we don’t spend time talking and sharing life with them. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. Starting our days with prayer gives us a good start to our days. It helps us focus on what is important and prioritize our days. But prayer should be a part of everything we do. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges us to pray continually. Every decision we make, every problem we face, and even every good thing we enjoy in life is reason to pray what some refer to as “popcorn” prayers. It’s as simple as saying:
Thank You, Lord, for this great parking space!
Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day.
Father, help me stay focused at work and complete this project on time.
Lord, keep me alert as I drive and get me to my destination safely.

Psalm 119:11 NASB, Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Do you spend time reading and meditating on (thinking about) the Word every day? We cannot expect to know God if we don’t learn about Him through His Word and prayer (conversation). The Bible is an instruction manual on godly living for us, but it also reveals the Father’s heart and character to all who take the time to seek Him.

John 14:26 NLT, But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative–that is, the Holy Spirit–he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
When you read the Word, do you ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you’re reading and show you how to apply it in your life? That is one of the reasons God gives us His Spirit when we receive Jesus as our Savior.

Psalm 46.10 NLT, “Be still, and know that I am God!
When you pray, do you rush through a list of requests without spending time being still before the Lord and soaking in His presence? The NASB version of this verse is, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” I think it says it well. If we are striving to do life in our own power we are not seeking the power of the Lord in our everyday circumstances. That is the way God created us to live our lives in His power.

1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV, Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
The NIV and NASB versions translate it as, “seek His face continually.” We all too often seek the hand of God (provision, healing, help), but we don’t seek face time with Him as often as we should. Oh the joys we miss because we rush through our days. Nehemiah said it this way (v. 8:10),  “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” It is in His presence that we find the strength to live our lives and He fills us with His joy. This is the joy Jesus spoke of when He said (John 15:9-11 NLT), “9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” This joy does not depend on our circumstances, but only upon the the relationship we have with the Lord. His presence is our joy no matter what life brings. I am reminded of Stephen in the book of Acts (7:54-60 NLT). Even in the face of being stoned to death, Stephen found joy in God’s presence.

Here are a few more verses on seeking the Lord:
Mathew 7:7 NLT, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
Psalm 34:4 NIV, I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 37:4 NIV, Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Of course, when life gets us down we are also supposed to bring our requests (Philippians 4:6-7) and all our cares (Psalm 55.22, 1 Peter 5:7) to God in prayer. We just need to remember he is not a genie in a lamp who is there to grant all our wishes. He is our Sovereign God and our Heavenly Father. As our Lord and God, He deserves our praise and worship, and as our Father He wants our obedience (which Jesus equated to love in John 14:15, 21, 23 & 15:10) and relationship (face time) with His children. Hear the words of Jesus (read out loud):
Matthew 7:7-11 NLT, 7“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

May the peace and joy of the Lord’s presence be yours,
Julia

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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

The Rock of Ages

Isaiah 26:4: Young’s Literal Translation, “Trust ye in Jehovah for ever, For in Jah Jehovah is a rock of ages”      

Darby Bible Translation, “Confide ye in Jehovah for ever; for in Jah, Jehovah, is the rock of ages.”

I’ve been listening to a new Steven Curtis Chapman CD (Deep Roots available at Cracker Barrel or Crackerbarrel.com) of old familiar hymns including Rock of Ages. I’ve sung that hymn probably 100s of times, yet it’s only since I got this CD that the lyrics really started speaking to me. I feel a smile come over my face as a picture forms in my mind when I hear, “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” I see the Rock moving to form a space, a shelter in which I can hide. In that cleft (cave) I am enveloped in The Lord’s strength, embraced by His power, and safe in His love. Whether it’s translated The Rock ofAges, The Eternal Rock, or The Everlasting Rock, this Rock will never crumble, crack, or roll away. Our God is strong steadfast, and true.

1 Chronicles 16:11 (NASB),  Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

When we’re in the “cleft” of the Rock, we are in His presence. One of the reasons I like this verse is the word continually. We need to seek God’s presence continually, not just in the hard times. Could it be that we might be able to miss some of the hard times if we did this. Some versions of this verse use the word presence instead of face. Both words are good, but I like the face version of this verse because it emphasizes we need to be seeking God’s face and not just His hand of provision and protection. Face time with the Lord. I want face time like Moses (Exodus 33.11, 21-23) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:9-18) had with the Lord. Even Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) and he conversed and even debated with the Lord (Genesis 18:16-33). God wants us to be real and truthful with Him. Even if what we are feeling is anger, fear, or doubt, we can bring it all to God because it is the real truth of how we feel. There is no point in prentending or sugar coating things for God. He knows our thoughts and the condition of our hearts. He just wants us to come to Him acknowledging that He is bigger than our problems and only He can help us through them.

I find much wisdom and solace in the Psalms. David sometimes lamented to God about the trials he was going through. Read Psalm 22. http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/22.htm This is a great example of how David cried out to God in his troubles, yet he never forgot that God was more than able to meet his needs and rescue him from his troubles. Sometimes we just need to pour out all those feelings, to let go of them. That’s okay, more than okay. Just don’t forget that He is The Rock of all the Ages and He will never let you down. It’s a matter of trusting God and His timing to make it all work out for us, the ones He loves, that He has called to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Romans 8:28) and the lives of people we touch. The hardest times we will have to face in our lives (tests) then become our testimony. Our testimony is what has prepared us to help others through similar experiences. God reveals Himself to us and through us to other people. So, when you are going through trials, seek the Lord, but also ask Him to direct you to another believer who can come along side of you to help you walk through the test/trial. Then, when you have gone through and have your testimony, keep your eyes and ears open for God to lead you to someone else who needs your help in the same way. I have found it truly amazing how the Lord has seen me through some of the hardest times in my life, brought someone else into my life with similar cicrumstances that I could be His hands, feet and mouth (to speak). I have seen God changes lives and I have been able to praise God for the troubles I had because I was able to relate to and help another person through their trials. It is healing to your own soul, too. Hallelujah! God is good!

David knew what it was like to be afraid and tired of his circumstances. He spent years running and hiding in caves as King Saul pursued him wanting to kill him (see 1 Samuel 19:1-31:6 for the story of Saul’s pursuit of David to kill him and how both men handled their relationship with God). David not only wrote psalms of lament, but also wrote many about the Lord being his Rock, Shield, and Fortress  (ex: Psalms 18,  19, 28, 31, 33…). He found safety and protection not only in the physical caves, but in the presence of the Lord. That’s where we need to live. In so personal a relationship with the Lord that we are comfortable in His embrace and continually talking to Him, sharing our inmost fears, wants, and needs.

Remember this when you are going through trials in your life and you don’t think you can take another moment in your circumstances: 2 Samuel 22:2-3, 47 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior– from violent people you save me. “The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

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