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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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

What Can A Christian Do In The Face Of America’s Moral Decline

1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 8Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing (1 Timothy 2:1-8 NIV).

 

These are troubling times. Our country as a whole no longer clings to the faith of our fathers, to the Word of the Lord. Instead, our values are being corrupted. Many people are working through the courts and legislatures to make what is sin, acceptable in the eyes of man. When Christians point out the sin as being wrong we are called intolerant, bigots, etc. It does not help that some Christians are going about trying to reform the “sinner” in a very combative manner. This gives all Christians and especially God a bad name. It also puts the “sinner” on the defensive. 

The Holy Spirit may very well already be at work convicting a person of their sin, which is why I feel they are so determined to put laws into place to validate their behavior as good and normal. We must work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit in God’s timing and direction to make changes in our country, see souls save, and lives changed. We will not win the battle of right and wrong with arguments and criticism. It will only bring about fear and lashing out from the “sinner”. 

Christians are being too confrontational instead of loving toward those who are openly sinful in their lifestyles. We cannot back down from the Word of God and make allowances or accept sinful lifestyles as right and normal, BUT if we use the Word to bash people over the head it only serves to drive them farther away from God. We are supposed to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Even if you consider someone an enemy, we are commanded by Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36). “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT, see also 15:18 & 25:15).

So, what should we be doing in the face of the decline of our country’s moral fiber? Our response should be:

Keep praying for America and confessing our country’s sins before the throne of God.

Pray also for the Holy Spirit to touch hearts, preparing the ground for the seed of the Word to bring souls to a harvest of repentance and new life in Christ. 

Live our lives every day in love with grace and mercy. Do not persecute the “sinner”, but proclaim the love of Jesus to a lost and hurting world (love the sinner hate the sin). Reach out in love to lead others to the cross. The Holy Spirit is the one that will convict their hearts to bring repentance.

Pray generally for our country, but also specifically for our leaders from President Obama on down, to the local mayor and town council, that they would give their lives to Jesus and live to honor Him and bring glory to His name.

Pray for and talk to your neighbors, co-workers, unsaved friends and family. Share with them the testimony of how you were saved and how you have seen God work in your own life.

When it comes time to vote, pray over the ballot and vote according to the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If we want to see revival and true repentance as a nation, we need to spend more time on our knees “standing” in the gap for those who are lost. It is the only way. Prayer is our offensive weapon in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:18).a

Philippians 4:4-7 NIV, 4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray continually

We are at war, but not with the sinner, for we are all sinners made righteous only through the grace of God and faith in what Jesus did to redeem us at the cross. We are waging spiritual warfare:

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18NIV).

Notice that all the armor is on the front of the body. We are meant to face the battle and never turn our back to the enemy. We need to equip ourselves for these battles by: 

Being sure of our salvation (Romans 5:3-5; Philippians 1:6, 2:12; Hebrews 5:9; 1 John 1:9)

Speaking and believing the truth. The Word of God is trustworthy and true (Psalm 33:4, 40:10; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). 

Living in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and doing everything in His name (Romans 1:17, 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 3:17). 

Keeping the faith and never losing hope. God always keeps His promises (Psalm 145:13, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Knowing and memorizing the Word, so we can wield it as a weapon against the lies and tricks of the enemy (Psalm 37:31, 40:8, 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11).

Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts to keep us from fear and doubt (John 14:27, Colossians 3:15, James 3:17-18).

Pray continually and in all things seek God’s presence and release His power in our circumstances (1 Chronicles 16:11, Daniel 6:10, Matthew 6:33, Acts 1:8, Romans 15:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). 

Pray for all God’s people to remain firm in their faith (Ephesians 1:15-21, 3:16-19; Colossians 3:3-14).

Stay alert and resist temptations, so we are not deceived by the ways of the world (Ephesians 4:26-32, James 4:7-8, 1 Peter 5:6-11).

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