HAPPY TRIALS TO YOU!

Do you have a deep, confident expectation about your tomorrows? You should. God wants us to!

I want us to examine our hope in the midst of trials and suffering.

God’s Word tells us to “Rejoice in our sufferings” and “Consider it pure joy” when in the middle of various trials. Does this sound a little crazy to you? It sure does to me! It is unusual, but it is God’s prescribed way for spiritual maturity. Notice I said maturity and not easy answers and specific outcomes.

I would not be the Christ-follower I am today if it were not for my painful trials. Every battle with my sin, fear, sickness, rejection, loss, and daily frustration has allowed me to become more like Christ Jesus.

When our faith is in the fire of life’s trials and we press on, placing our trust in God, it purifies us, making us more like Him. Trials can cause our hope to soar because we see the truth of His faithfulness at work in and around us.

Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Are you facing your struggles with patience, joy and prayer? You can. You can confidently expect God to work out good in all things for you, His beloved child (Romans 8:28).

If you are not walking in peace and joy right now, you need to reset your thinking. You need to renew your attitude with the truth of who God is!

I remember a time a few years back when I was terribly disappointed. No. I was fed-up. Done. I’d had enough. I had been waiting for God to answer my prayer to heal my reoccurring bladder infections. When I say “waiting,” I mean I have been waiting for the past 11 years. Well, one particular day there was no “rejoicing in all circumstances” going on in my heart. I wanted an end to my problem right then!

I had done everything the Bible said to receive healing, as well as prayerfully gone to doctors, taken their meds, used heaps of natural remedies, listened to and applied helpful advice, all to no avail. Ugh… sigh… whine… boo-hoo-hoo…

But God! He is so patient and generous with me. And today I am giddy with renewed hope! Why? Did I receive my healing? Maybe? I don’t know. I’m not sure about my tomorrows. But I know that God will be with me in them. My healing may come right now. If so, praise God! If not now, I expect all things are working out for my good and for His glory. His grace has always been sufficient for me.

My joy left that day because I became impatient and ungrateful. Not any more. I am waiting full of expectation. My God is everything I need!

Wait loved one. Wait patiently on Him. Choose to walk in His goodness and strength. You can live full of joy because you know, depend and place all hope in your faithful God.

For Futher Study:

Read James 1:2-5, Romans 5:1-11, and 1 Peter 1:3-7 and complete the statement, “I can rejoice because I have…”

Make out a list of what you’ve been given in Christ.

 

Branch15 – A Ministry for Marginalized Women

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

JESUS

John 15:5

“Somebody’s got to do something… It might as well be me!” This statement is often how a call of God begins. It’s a heart being stirred by the Holy Spirit with a stronger compassion for people, a passion for change, and a dream to create into a reality.

I want to tell you a little about Branch15, the women’s housing ministry that my team and I recently launched in the OKC area (October 2013).

In our first eleven months we have had nine women in our home and have had the privilege to sow seeds of God’s love and hope to many other women who needed to be referred to different ministries or services.

These women are truly amazing, with breathtaking survivor stories! Many are spunky. Some are quiet and scared. Material possessions are few. Most do not own a car or have a bank account, but they all have a cell phone. However they come in, they change us as much as we see God changing them. We love them all! And sometimes they love us. :)

Here’s the Mission:

We exist to provide Christ-centered transitional housing

with individualized support for women on their paths to recovery

and independent, sustainable living.

 

What we are NOT:

A rescue home

An in-house treatment facility

A place only for trafficked victims

 

We are a transition home. We are the next step for many women after exiting a sex-trafficking rescue home, treatment facility, incarceration, homelessness, etc. 

Our goal is four-fold: 

  • Greater Connection: We seek to connect each woman with the Lord Jesus Christ and the right people to support her personal goals.
  • Greater Competency: We seek to guide each woman towards professional, domestic and personal competency.
  • Greater Character: We seek to support and encourage each woman in her chosen personal character development area(s).
  • Greater Confidence: We seek to build up each woman’s self-worth by teaching her of God’s love and of her true identity if she is in Christ.

To reach these goals, Branch15 will utilize trained, spiritually mature volunteers as well as any professional services that are Branch15 approved.

HERE’S where YOU come in!

This ministry will continually need women to step up and serve in various volunteer roles.

If you’d like to learn more, get involved, or contact us, visit our website www.branch15.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand in Readiness

With the Gospel firmly in place as our sure foundation, we are made ready. We have the security of knowing we can face any attack unmoved because, as Romans 8:31 NIV tells us,… If God is for us who can be against us?Armed with such knowledge, God calls us out of our comfort zones and we often find ourselves in places of darkness and pain.

Are you already serving on the battlefield of this hurting and dying world, or are you playing it too safe? We should never stand with the peace of our own salvation, yet be unprepared, or worse, unwilling to go — to march — to be ready to do whatever is good Titus 3:1. Maybe you’re still sitting on the bench or maybe you haven’t even gotten dressed to go out to the field.

Christ lives in you by the Holy Spirit, He wants your full, and active service as His Kingdom-sent agent. You might say, “Well, I’m just a ______” or, “I don’t know enough.” But if you are still breathing and encountering humans, you have a God-sent mission! He calls us to boldly share the Gospel of His salvation, to actively love, pray, give, show mercy, forgive, serve with our gifts, and more!

As Christ’s representative, you should never just go to Wal-Mart, work at a job, visit with a friend, hang with your family, or attend church. Go ready to minister! Go prayerful and alert. Prepare yourself! Always stand ready to be God’s hands and feet. Live out the command from 2 Timothy 4:2 that calls us to … be prepared in season and out of season …

Stop now and seek God for His direction or re-direction. Then, don’t wait another moment to faithfully go.

Scriptures:

For further study: Read Matthew 28:16-20. Write out the three components of our great commission to “go.” Now think about the ways you can “go” as Christ’s witness in your daily life. Be sure to plan your next step if you’ve received direction from the Holy Spirit.

Stand in Righteousness

Stand firm … with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Ephesians 6:14 NIV

If you are a Christian, then YOU ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD!

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

I want you to read today’s entire lesson on righteousness as if it were typed in bold, capital letters with large helpings of exclamation marks. When I think about God’s righteousness and what He’s given us, my spirit explodes with excitement!

Listen up, Family of God. We won’t stand strong in Christ for a moment if we think it’s up to our efforts to live righteously! … apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5). It is only when we remain in, and rely on, Him that we bear good fruit.

And when the enemy tries to accuse us of sin, we can stand firm in the righteousness of Christ that covers us.

You see, as hard as you and I may try, we can’t get by, even as Christians, on our own efforts to be good. Without Christ’s enabling, our best day of good deeds amounts to a heap of foul trash… all our righteous acts are like filthy rags …(Isaiah 64:6).

So why do we often live as if we can achieve merit points from God by what we do or don’t do? I’m sure you’ve never compared yourself to another Christian, but sometimes I’ve had the subtle notion that I’m less than or better than someone based on a particular behavior. What a bunch of malarkey and bologna. It’s unbiblical nonsense! Pride reeks from the pit of this idea, and it needs to be ripped out!

We never, ever, ever, ever, stand strong in Christ by our own supposed “righteousness!” 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness … So let’s get this straight. We are the righteousness of God through Christ, but we should run from evil and chase after righteousness. Huh? Why would we chase after what we already are? Well, the word righteousness here refers to our pursuit to yield ourselves to God’s right paths for holy living as He desires to conform us to the likeness of Christ. We are to pursue His way, not our way!

Stand firm then. You are covered. Set free by the knowledge of your righteous standing before God that empowers you to be His — His child, His heir, His powerful tool for His glory.

Scriptures:

For further study: Read Galatians 3:1-6 and try to wrap your mind around the awesome treasure of righteousness! Does it come by your good works or by faith? List the ways that you have tried or are trying to gain your righteousness. Now write down the only way you truly achieve righteousness. Walk in that, and experience Christ’s freedom and peace.

Stand in Truth

Wearing the belt of truth is all about knowing, believing, and holding on to the foundational truths of God’s Word — in that order. It’s not enough to have knowledge of the truth. We must believe it and cling to it! God’s Word is truth and our very hope that anchors the soul.

Too many Christians are applying their belt of truth half-heartedly or with uncertainty because they are lacking knowledge or feeding on false “truths.” Some have unknowingly tried to add a variety of popular secular beliefs (new “truth” belts) to their armor. But these false truths just don’t hold up! They are dangerous lies from the pit of Hell created to ensnare us.

John 14:6 teaches us that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life! Regardless of what someone may say, there is only one way to eternal life with our one God, the Maker of heaven and earth. When we believe this and hold on to Him as our Rescuer and Lord (leader), we begin to discover the truth of what we have in Him. We are no longer powerless and defeated! In Christ, we are truly free, loved, co-heirs, and more than overcomers! Christ in us is GREATER than our evil enemies!

Colossians 1:17 proclaims that in Christ, all things hold together. All things! Like the function of a belt, the truth of Christ and His Word is what fully sustains us.

Our job is to stand yielded to His battle plan: Submit to God. Resist the devil. Tightly fasten on the truth, until it’s the very core of who you are, and take your stand against the strategies of the evil one.

Scriptures:

For further study: Read Hebrews 12:1-3. Take an honest inventory. What distracts you from the truth? Be specific. Write it down. Now, jot down what helps you remain surrendered to the truth. Cast off the distractions and determine to keep your eyes on Jesus.

Stand in God’s Strength

Ephesians 6:10 urges us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

We should rehearse this verse every day, every hour! We need to be reminded that our supposed “strengths” are micro and amount to absolutely nothing without God’s favor and goodness.

Remember, God is our leader. We’re the yielded follower. But this relational dynamic is dependent on our continual trust and acknowledgment that God’s ways are highest and best!

Newsflash! God doesn’t need us to be strong in ourselves, our abilities, or our know-how! Proverbs 3:5,6 exhorts us, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and (guess what happens next?) He will make your paths straight. Straight! I can’t even get my head on straight! But what we could never do is made possible by yielding to Christ’s ways and power!

Alone, we are in a desperately needy state. With Christ’s help, we can do ALL things. We can live content no matter the difficulties. We can live unshaken by surrounding temptations. We can live confidently when the known facts may terrify. We CAN in CHRIST!

Proverbs 3:7 takes this message even further;Do not be wise in your own eyes. GULP! Does this hit home for you like it does me? Maybe it’s because I’m female, but too often I’m simply positive that I know what’s best for me, my spouse, my kids, and the list goes on. What about you? Do you give up waiting on God when His plans don’t fit your time parameters? Sadly, when we stop trusting and take the lead, it can forfeit the gift of seeing God’s faithful and best plan play out.

What audacious pride to think that we possess any sort of wisdom outside of God shining His light on our limited understanding!

So let’s get this right. Basically, there are two essential ways we stand in God’s power.

1. We acknowledge our weaknesses.

Let’s admit our limitations. Without Christ, we are weak — and not just a little weak — we’re totally helpless and hopeless. But believer, we are not without Christ!

2. We rely on His strength!

We are able to stand strong when we look to Jesus and depend on His powerful life within us!

Scriptures:

For further study: Reread your Scriptures and list or paraphrase the main lessons that Paul learned. Write a prayer of reliance to your Heavenly Father.

Stand in Prayer

I love verse 18 of Ephesians 6! We are told to pray (in the Holy Spirit) all the time with all kinds of prayers. We are to continually pray for all the Church.

And 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.

Now, I hope you are letting this word, all, really sink in. There’s a lot of all in all! This takes commitment! I don’t know about you, but I want to pray with more consistency. I want to grow in faith and in the content of what I pray for.

I believe the reasons many of us don’t pray more are because we don’t really believe our prayers will make a difference, or we’re too distracted, or we think that continual prayer is only assigned to church “prayer teams” — as if committed prayer is only a calling for a select few.

Years back, I took an amazing journey and dug into a personal study on the subject of prayer. After long, biblical word searches and reading numerous books on the topic, I was deeply changed. Prayer became a joyous passion for me — a priority — because I more fully understood how important it is and how closely it draws me to the heart of God. It’s all about drawing near to God, enjoying His presence, and then conversing with Him. But sometimes I get distracted and lose out on this awesome privilege and calling.

My hope is that God will stir your heart as you’re reading today and you’ll begin afresh with a commitment to continual, daily prayers.

We stand strong because God is able to keep us standing, but please notice the importance of our prayers for one another in the verses of 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

All of our prayers are needed! God longs to be longed for. For us to press in and plead for His mercy, power, healing, guidance, strength and wisdom. For us to trust Him. This means we ask and then are filled with His peace, knowing that He hears us.

We stand in prayer.

Scriptures:

For further study: John 17 is a heartfelt prayer that Jesus prayed to His Father. As you read through it, notice the conversational flow He had. In light of this prayer, what mattered most to Jesus? What were His specific requests? How can you grow in your communication with your heavenly Father through Jesus’ prayer example?

Stand Armed with the Word of God

If you’ve become disillusioned by unanswered prayer, Satan may have fed you this common lie: “Since you’ve given your life to Christ, God should do whatever you want.”

To make you insecure and discontent, he may also spew out some garbage, like, “If you really are God’s child, then only good things should happen to you,” or, “Don’t you want more of what this world offers? Come over here and I’ll show you a good time!”

In Matthew chapter 4, we see Jesus strike three heavy blows to the evil one by quoting the truth of scripture. This is at a time when Jesus was desperately famished with hunger and physical weakness. Yet He maintained the strength to STAND against significant temptations. He wielded the weapon of Scripture with short and potent precision: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ … It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’… Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Remember, believer, Jesus Christ is the Word of God and He lives in you by the person of the Holy Spirit. You are armed with the mightiest weapon! Take hold of the Word and fight against the lies of the devil! Never neglect your weapon!

Seek out the Word of God. Delight in it. Cling to it! Live it out. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Proclaim it! Let the Word heal you and set you free.

Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

Scriptures:

For further study: Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, but it is one of my favorites. I encourage you to read it. Maybe you could cover it over the next few days. If you really want to be blessed, record what it teaches us about the benefits of God’s Word (also known as: law, statutes, commands, ordinances, and precepts,). I promise, you’ll love this!

Stand in the Hope of Your Salvation

Take the helmet of salvation … Ephesians 6:17

We stand in the great and sure hope of our salvation! This hope is our anchor and stability (see Hebrews 6:19). With a secure hope of salvation, you can be continually filled with peace, joy, and righteousness! Don’t just casually read over the previous sentence. It’s absolutely and astoundingly true! And it’s a supernatural gift of God to possess these qualities.

It breaks my heart that so many people struggle throughout life without Christ. As a mom, I’ve witnessed the massive difference between my children wearing and not wearing a protective helmet. Concussions are scary. Who wouldn’t want to safeguard against dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, and slurred speech?

Tightly fasten on your helmet! It protects you more than you realize.

Salvation provides us with a new and powerful identity – the truth of who you are and Whose you are – transforms your mind to the mind of Christ; therefore, you are prepared for every battle!

Your spiritual enemy’s attacks are aimed to hit your mind with fear, doubt, and discouragement. Whenever he tries to accuse you, telling you that you are a lousy excuse for a Christian and that you might as well give up, resist these evil lies by rejoicing in the truth. Christ’s salvation covers you, and in Him there is no condemnation!

I’ve come to experience a deep rest through relying on my salvation in Christ. This hope supplies an unwavering endurance that will take me to the finish line. It brings reality to the words found in Philippians 1:21, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Scriptures:

For further study: Read through Ephesians 1:3-14,17-21 and write out everything Paul teaches that you have and are in Christ. Declare your list aloud when you’re finished. You just might want to love on your heavenly Father with some heartfelt praise, too.

Stand in Faith

Your faith protects you, deflecting all the harm your spiritual enemy wants to inflict on you. Sometimes you have to actively hold and position a shield. You don’t simply move into position and hope for the best. We must actively engage our faith at all times — especially in a battle. Whether it’s a stressful situation, an ongoing health issue, or a broken relationship, life’s hard-hitting trials often cause us to grow weary. Without an active faith to strengthen us and give us hope, we are vulnerable to massively destructive attacks. These “flaming arrows” cause us even greater suffering: discouragement, despair, and doubts that threaten to steal and kill our peace, joy, faith, and our Kingdom potential.

Around six months ago, as my head hit the pillow for sleep, my heart was sick with anxiety. My mind was spinning, trying desperately to find solutions to what seemed like too much to put into words. After a few minutes of panic, I paused to pray. I cried (literally) for God’s help and He answered almost immediately. “Do what My Word says, Amy. Take up your faith! Hold on to it! Stand trusting that I am able to use all things for your good and My glorious purposes.” “Yes, Lord,” I prayed. The fear, lies, and discouragement had to stop. I spent the next several mighty minutes in all out warfare, fiercely declaring in tears the goodness of my God, praising Him for never leaving me, always loving me, helping me, hearing me … on and on I praised Him. Hope, peace, joy, and faith grew and grew and grew.

Child of God, take up your faith! Hold on to it! Stand trusting and proclaiming His promises!

Scriptures:

For further study: Read Hebrews 11 and list the various ways that these faith heroes actively displayed their faith.