Struggling                                                         

Thick Skin Stand Off
   
Chuck, my husband, has calluses on his feet.  Gross.  I know.  They sure are ugly, but he needs them.  When he was born his feet were smooth and tender just like the rest of us, yet somewhere along the way his sweet pink skin gave way to thick rough skin.  Callouses have developed over the years from constant friction and pressure.  What used to hurt his feet does not hurt them anymore. Physically, it’s a good deal.

Is having a thick skin good spiritually? I am not going to bock for or against the phrase, “Have a thick skin,” because I know it has its place, but I am going to challenge it for the sake of considering the goodness of God.

The phrase implies whenever friction and pressure enter our lives we need to head it off. We need to grow a thick skin in effort to not let it affect us too much.  We need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and keep on moving and shaking.  It implies that we can somehow avoid battle wounds and make it through difficulties unscathed.  It is as if we are putting on an emotional armor to front the battle alone. The Bible does not teach that; we are never alone and do not have to engage in friction and pressures of life alone.

Consider how the Bible is full of promptings and commands of what to do when life drags us through rocky terrain.  Below are a few verses to glean from.

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

John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

Ephesians 6:13-18, “Therefore 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.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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.”

Each of these verses teach us to go straight to God when difficulties arise.

We alone do not have to front it. We may have armor for battle, but it is to stand and not to fight, because the battle is the LORD’s. Mostly, these scriptures remind us that in the midst of life’s pressures we can have peace, not calluses.

 Our part is to come to Him and obey these commands.  He takes care of us through and through.  We are assured that there will be trouble; you have lived on this earth long enough to know that is true.  Life can knock us flat and leave us breathless at times.  Let us consider, even if we feel TKO’d (totally knocked out) because of rocky roads, after we come to Him in obedience, there are blessings for us above and beyond.  We can relish in rest, peace, faith, and protection- especially spiritual protection.  You also have God’s truth, God’s righteousness, God’s gospel, God’s salvation, and God’s Spirit at work in you.  These verses do not lead us to think we have to grow a thick skin and go it alone.  As long as you are diligently walking with and obeying God you have nothing to fear.  On the contrary, you will make it through with God’s assurance in hand.

Do this with me, the next time we find ourselves in a situation that feels like it requires a thick skin, think twice and remember who our God is and how He leads us.  When we seek and obey Him in this way, we might learn His promises even apply to us!  Praise our mighty God!
    
by Andrea Simmons 9.13.18
John 16:33
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Just Ask
We have rules at our house. One rule is, if you want a snack, you are supposed to ask before you eat. I have the same reasons for this particular rule as you do.  Even though rules have lightened for our seventeen-year-old, they hold fast for our seven-year-old.
 
Chuck and I were taking our seven-year-old, Annah, with us to a meeting yesterday and she wanted to bring a few packages of rolled up candies to share.  My momma’s heart beamed at her thinking of others so I fully agreed to the sentiment.  Annah ended up sharing three and ate the rest!  I’m always a little surprised when I see my seven-year-old gobbling a big ole something down without permission- especially before dinner! It is not that I do not want her to enjoy things in life, but she has different boundaries for herself than I do.  I want what I believe is best for her and, let’s face it, sometimes she just wants.
 
If we are at home and I catch her in the act I make her ask right then and there- even with food in hand.  I want to her practice the discipline of asking and recognizing there are authorities in her life that she needs to respect, i.e. her dad and myself.

God is like that.  He wants His children to learn to ask and recognize His authority in our own lives, too.
 
James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who give generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  Just before James told us to ask for wisdom, he was talking about being steadfast in trial.  James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”
 
We can learn that we need God’s wisdom during trials and His wisdom is for the having.  We just have to ask.

Trials.  Who likes them?  Not me.  Probably not you either.  In the past, my tears have been evidence of deep hurt and betrayal.  Inflicted pain with no real explanation can be accompanied by confusion and emotional chaos.  Maybe, there seems no way around a financial smack down in life.  Failing health can leave us in utter fear.  Grieving.  Loss. Abandonment. Abuse. Conseuqnces.  If you are not currently going through some kind of trial, you probably know someone who is.  Trials are a part of living on earth.  (Thank goodness earth is temporary.)
 
I can think of a great many things I would rather experience during life than a trial.  However, James encourages us to ask for wisdom to view and approach our difficulties with a right disposition not giving over to any temptations the trial may present to us.  Please notice he does not encourage us to ask for the trial to be removed.  Trials serve a solid purpose.  Just like gold is at its purest after it has been through the fire, we become perfect and complete not lacking anything after we have been through many trials (James 1:4).  James says we are to count the trials as joy (James 1:2) because God purposes them for our good.
 
The cross Jesus bore, which brought us salvation and freedom, was about the purpose, not the pain.  Ask God for wisdom with whatever is troubling you today.  Ask and believe He will give you wisdom and you will have all the wisdom you need to make it through.  Your trial may also include pain, but it has a greater purpose.  Hold on to your hat, because when the trial is over, you will experience the gift of being made complete waiting for you on the other side.


**************************************************************************************************************

This next thought is a little P.S. at the end; it is a bonus to the above that I desperately want to share with you.  When you ask God, these are the things that are happening….  You are recognizing His authority in your life and over all the earth.  You are humbling yourself before Him and bowing yourself in worship.  You are asking in belief and knowing who He is and that He can. 
 
The scripture already tells us He is willing.  When you come in the right attitude of heart and mind, knowing He is willing, then expect His transformation in you to become a reality.  There is no amount of positive thinking that can truly do this work in you- only God alone.  You need to believe Him and ask.  He will take action; He is the power and does the transforming work. I am so excited about what He has done in my life and I pray that you will experience His truth at work in your life, too!  Remember, just ask.  What a mighty God we serve!





When the path is too far gone
and the dust has turned to mire
turn your eyes to God…
 
and just ask.
 
When the morning is depressed
and the day is gray and long
turn your eyes to God…
 
and just ask.
 
When the pain is way too deep
and the burden long and drawn
turn your eyes to God…
 
and just ask.
 
He reigns supreme in Heaven
and His presence is very near
when you cry out to our God of truth
He takes care of you here.
 
Who can steal a child from His conquering hand?
Who can stand before the mighty Lamb? 
There is no one against the Son of God,
So, take your refuge here. 
Come to your Father
and tell Him all about your grief
He is waiting to give His power and strength,
which is all that you need. 
In faith, believe. 
In faith, believe. 
Oh, child of God, in faith, believe. 
 
And, just ask.
    

Andrea Simmons
7.23.18




James 1:1-6a, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith...."
Held in the Storm
Maybe life has handed you a bad deal and you've been broadsided by it.  What do we do in the midst of those days that the problem is so big and demands so much attention that it is near impossible to gain a balance in perspective?  The pain is at an all time peak and words that usually comfort do not seem to scratch the surface of the pain, let alone penetrate into anything that could feel comforting.  What do we do when we hurt so big there doesn’t seem to be a way?
First of all, we consider what Jesus has promised.  Whether we feel it or not, we must choose to believe that His promises are present.

Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 85:8, “I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly.”

Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Second, pray.  Pray. Pray. Pray.  Pray alone and pray with a trusted friend or pastor.  But, pray! 

Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Ephesians 6:18, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."

1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing."

Third, keep on keeping on because you are kept. 

Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 30:5b, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

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

These verses do not take away the circumstance but they give you a hope and strength to persevere.  You, my friend, do not have a spirit of timidity but of power and self discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)!

Even to the person who loves God with all that they are, when the pain of the flesh sets in deep we can all lose perspective.  Sometimes, the Bible just doesn't feel like it carries the answer for us personally, but be persuaded because it does.  The Bible is especially useful to us in times like these.  God knows what kinds of things we go through and how deeply we can feel so He sent His Son, His Word to be a guide and source of help to us. 

Sometimes I wonder why we would want to turn in anger towards God with our whys and its not fair statements, because He is the very one, and truly, the only one who can comfort us against the attacks of the evil one.  Turn full on to Him and find the rest that He's promised.  It is the best way.

Choose one or more of the verses from this devotional and memorize it/them.  Let God’s word sink in so much that you can feel the difference when confronting your pain.  I cannot promise that every moment of pain will vanish, but there will be sweet moment of relief to get you through.  Be empowered by the strength of our Savior today.

by Andrea Simmons 6.6.17
  
 2 Timothy 1:7
"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. "
Empowered by Might
Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."

Sometimes you read a verse like the above and find rest in the thought of it and sometimes you might think, "There is nothing in me right now that connects with that," because life hurts.  I have been right there with you.  We were born and so here we are.  Now what?

In this life we either have to fight the good fight or thrown in the towel of defeat.  When life is really bad even having to make that choice doesn’t seem fair.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  Maybe you've been there before or maybe you are going through something right now, but during the course of life, we will face trials of many kinds.  And, it can suck the wind right out of our sails.

Did you know that in the book of Revelation chapter 6 verse 2 there is a conqueror?   "And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer."  The battle had not yet taken place; it was about to take place. 

I deeply love that the rider came out already wearing the crown of victory because victory was already in the bag.  Before the battle even started the outcome was known.  We can be strong, too, like the one ready to conquer in battle; whatever we're fighting already has an outcome.  It will come to pass exactly how God has called it to, we just may not know when.   In the fog of it all, we have to fight the good fight in His strength.  Ephesians 6:10-18 is packed full of things for us to do in order to help us fight through it.  God has not left us helpless and alone.

Ephesians 6:10-18, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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.  Therefore 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  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.”  (Emphasis mine.)

In the Greek the words in verse ten “be strong” literally mean to “be empowered” and it is a present tense command followed by, “in the strength of the might of Him.”  Right now, we are to follow this command because His power and strength is given to those who wear the helmet of Salvation.  We are to study His word, the Bible, and in this we take up the sword of the Spirit.  With these we have truth, righteousness, peace, and faith.  He is with us and has not only given us what we need to battle through the tough situations in life, but He is already victorious in our situations. 

Now, understanding God is with us and strengthened us for what we have to face, we can read the starting verse and be comforted.  Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places."  When we take the time to consider who God is and who we are in Him, we can connect with His verses of love and blessing.
Let’s end with the uttering’s of King David in Psalm 61:1-2, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Whatever it is you are facing or may face later on, consider that the spiritual victory is already won. 

Dear Lord, we battle the struggles of being yours and living in a place that is imperfect and difficult to wade through.  Help us to always feel your presence and take the action you have commanded us to in order to fight the battles with your victory in our souls.  You are our help and our hope this very second, so at this moment strengthen us in your might!  You are our salvation; let us not be shaken.  Glory and praises to you, our holy and faithful God.  Amen.

By Andrea Simmons 5.25.17
  ​​

Ephesians 6:10-18, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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.  Therefore 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  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.” 
Think About It
​​As she stood peering in the mirror her tiara declared she was a princess.  Her shoes, on the other hand, declared she was poor.  So, who is she?  The beauty of it is she was given the choice to decide for herself.  Which would she be persuaded by?​​

We are all persuaded by something.  We are either persuaded by a sovereign God who seeks after us in love and truth, or we are persuaded by the evil one who lurks around with lies.  The bottom line is truth or lies.  We are either a royal child God or defeated child of satan.  Who will we allow to persuade us?

It is easy to be persuaded by God on our good days. 

However, when something strikes fear and pain into the hours of our lives we are so easily fixated on it that we fall into the trap of lies that are eagerly waiting for us.  We’re tempted to think things like, I can’t do this. Why did this happen again, I must be so naive.  I don’t know how to forgive him/her. 
Where will the money come from?  Why me?  This is what I deserve.  I don’t deserve this.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.  All of these kinds of thoughts are a trap that certainly keeps us from the comfort of God.  They focus on the problem and not the solution.  We have to fight the good fight and cling to what God has taught us.  We have to intentionally choose Him, or fall prey lies, which are a pit of mud for the soul.

It is so clear and so black and white   Yet, it is still so illusive when we are struggling.  We want to feel good.  We want to feel peace.  We want to feel joy.  But, when the struggle is hanging over us the pieces just do not seem to fit together.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty together again… and, we can feel the same way.

During times like this what you dwell on is vital and what you think about counts,  Philippians 4:8, “Finally, 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.” 

Let’s think about these things:

John 16:33, “"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Proverbs 3:5-6,"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”

Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

After reading these, who will you be persuaded by?  Satan tells us we are defeated and cannot stand under the pressures.  He tells us we are unworthy.  God tells us we are loved and in Him we are able and He gives us the strength to stand.  Every season in our life has its time.  During this one, or one to come, cling to Him who provides.  Think about these things.

By Andrea Simmons 5.22.17
  

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, 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.” 
Truth in Hurt

Sometimes we doubt God.  Sometimes Christian men and women fall away from Christian faith altogether.  Sometimes, it's because in our thinking and understanding, God doesn't measure up.  I've heard that 85% of students fall away from their childhood faith when they move away to a secular college.  That's a jaw dropping number.  Why is this happening in our church?  I'd love to know.  I'd love for it to be fixed.  Who wouldn't?

I had a friend a few years ago explain to me that she just didn't think that this bad thing happening to her could be God's will because why would God give her a child only to allow hurt and pain in this child's life and possibly even take her away?  She was ready to drop-kick God because things were not going the way she wanted them to.   After all, she wanted good things.  She has a sincerely greiving moma's heart.  (As time went on, her sweet little one was fine- for those of you who would like to know.) 

We get those kinds of questions; we've asked them ourselves.  We get that kind of pain; we live in this world, too.

Pain is just not welcomed.  There, I said it.  I'm certain I am not alone in this.  In the midst of experiencing pain James' words in chapter 1 verse 2, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of many kinds," doesn't settle in our hearts so easily.  There seems to be a dichotomy in the Christian faith between living with the pain this world has to offer and living in the peace God offers.  It can sometiems seem like oil and water, how do both of these things coexist in our lives?

The problem does not sit with God, who is always the same; it is with our understanding of who He is and what we know His role to be in this world and our lives.  The question is how do we take the spiritual aspect of the Bible and apply it to the physical life we live in?

If we think that, as believers, we should not have to go through trials then we are not reading our Bible for all it's worth.  Christianity started with a bad thing happing to the only good Man.  Jesus was crucified.  Jesus lived a life of humility, suffering in a measure I cannot imagine.  Most of His disciples were put in jail and put to death because of His name. Why were they so accepting of trials? What did they get that we are not getting?


We all know that when we are going through a painful circumstance and someone slaps a sentimental comment like, 'God's got this,' on us, it just stings a little and isn't helpful at all because it doesn't really speak to the core of the pain.  There are a pleathora of bad things that happen to anyone.  This does not mean we stop believing in the one true God.  It does mean that we ask God to give us wisdom and understanding of Himself (Ephesians 1:17).  We also need to consider that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38).  It does mean that we seek God and spend time with Him in Word and prayer so that He might have an opportunity to give us His peace.

Consider John 16:33, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  

So, why then, when we read John 16:33 should we be comforted?  It is because you know the truth.  You know, as a believer, that God reaches right down in the middle of our pain to meet us where we are at (Hebrews 2:14-18).  When we reach out to Him, we have a peace that passes understanding and a guarded heart and mind (Philippians 4:4-7).  You know that you are always spiritually protected (and this can sometimes be physical, too).  You know that the joy of the LORD is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  You know that in a trial, you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:31-39).  You know the truth. 

The truth is not that nothing bad will ever happen.  The truth is bad things happen to both believers and non believers alike.  The truth is that with God you have His strength and His power.  The truth is when we are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).  The truth is that you have hope now and in the future (Jeremiah 29:11).  The truth is that you do not need to fear (Psalm 23:4).  You have a mighty loving God to keep you through all of it (Psalm 121:7). 

Having been born again into a spiritual child of God, you have His strength to make it through the physical world.  Take any or all of the verses mentioned above and read them.  Pray them.  Call on God, who hears His children, and claim His power for yourself in the midst of all of it so you may have His comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) and strength. 

He is with you; you have His power and comfort.

By Andrea Simmons 3.14.17


  

John 16:33
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  
Hope in the Hurt
I was pulling out of my driveway, which is by a somewhat sharp bend in the road.  When my back tires hit the low spot between my driveway and the asphalt, my car stopped moving.  I hit the gas and nothing.  I revved the engine and again, standing still.  I looked down and saw that I was in neutral.  Neutral?  How did that happen in the few feet between the garage door and here?  As I popped that baby into reverse a super-fast speeding car flew around the bend in a flash.

It took point one second to realize that had I pulled into the road my car would have been a pancake and my precious kids could have been very hurt.  I do not know how my car popped into neutral, but I had a feeling it was divine!  It still gives me chills.

Does God really still protect us in these and many other ways today?  I believe our sovereign God does.  How else can you explain a once in a life time neutral gear shift where I would have otherwise been completely helpless against in a potential car crash?  King David knew full well of God's divine protection.  He basked in God's word and saw God at work in his helplessness often; he lived life in the hope of God and waited on Him.


Prepare for a little grammar lesson from King David- but, stick with me.  It'll be worth it!


When King David wrote Psalm 119, he used an acrostic.  There are twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and each letter was used to start a new couplet.   Psalm 119:114 is under the letter Samekh.  This letter, Samekh, in the Hebrew alphabet has a root meaning of "to lean upon," "to uphold," or "to support."  It can also indicate God's constantly being with us by being a support and a shelter to us. (http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Samekh/samekh.html, retrieved 1/31/17).


It is not by coincidence this particular verse is nestled here under this Hebrew letter because both the letter and the verse remind us that God is where we go to hide from what is pressing in on us and He is our shield when we have to get out there and confront it.  Protection is His. Here's the verse again, "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word."  (A more literal translation would sound like this: Protector/defender, protector/defender, shield, I hope/wait, in Your Word.)  Don't get bored, Sister, this is where it gets good!

So what?  What does this mean for you and me?


For starters, it means that our Protector could cause the gear shift to pop into neutral in order to protect us from a disastrous crash.


Are you facing a situation that is pressing in on you?  Do you ever feel like you could crash and burn or feel helpless to take care of it yourself?  Are there family situations?  Financial situations?  Health situations?  Work situations?  Church situations?  Are you grieving?    He sustains you; you are not without help.  You can soar spiritually when the physical is pressing.  We cannot expect or promise a perfect and timely resolution according to our own desires in every circumstance in our fallen world.  But, we are promised a protector, defender, shield, and hope in the midst of it.  Read Hebrews 1:3, "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…" (emphasis mine).  He upholds the universe and you and I are part of the universe, a much loved part of the universe.


King David was confident in God and His desire to protect so much that as he hoped and waited on God to move, David had comfort.  He got to this place of comfort because He knew God's word and believed it.  When you just can't handle it anymore, go to your hiding place in Him and in His word.  You are not alone.  You have a protector, defender, and shield.  You have hope in the middle of every helpless situation.


To wrap it up, read the gripping lyrics to the old treasure, Rock of Ages, below. 


Rock of Ages


Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee


Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Cleanse me from it's guilt and pow'r


Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling


Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Vile, I to the fountain fly
Wash me, savior, or I die


Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee


Like King David, let's bask in God's word and believe He will help us in our own helplessness.

By Andrea Simmons 1.31.17

Psalm 119:114
"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word."
Choosing Joy
In the past five months I feel like we have been put through the ringer!  Our garage door kept going up and down and we had to disconnect it. Our French door bottom freezer refrigerator broke.  You know the stainless steel kind with the ice and water in the door.  We had to buy a new one.  This one is white looks a little more like the one my parents used to have, it's unimpressive. We had a leak under the kitchen sink. We found mold at the bottom of our sheetrock in a basement bedroom, so we bought new gutters to take care of the water that got into the basement. The new gutters still leaked rain between them and the house. We learned that our water problem could have been fixed for about a hundred bucks rather than the several hundred we actually spent.  Our under the sink water filter sprung a leak and flooded our basement and we had to take out the ceiling and pull up the carpet. Someone hit our car and we had to drive a rental around for a couple of weeks. When we got our car back, there were two warning messages on the dash.  We have met our medical deductible for the first time and have some medical bills, which means we have spent a lot of time at the doctor's and the hospital.  We had to call Roto-rooter because everything in our bathroom was backing up. Our dishwasher is currently broken. Some naysayers have stepped up in our lives. Our five year old, Annah, split her gums open and we had to go to the ER by taxi cab while we were in Houston because our flight was cancelled to Indianapolis.  And there is more- a lot more, but you get the idea.

I catch myself thinking that if one more thing happens it just may be the end of me, so to speak.  I want to be done with these things and enjoy a little rest!  Have you ever been there?

Obviously, I've spent some time in prayer over these issues.  From the first to the last of our trials, I can see God working and taking care of it.  In my quiet morning times God is teaching me.  (Well, maybe not so quiet because I turn on some Chris Tomlin and sing it out!  I've been told about my singing…  They don't like it.  I sing anyway.)  

James 1:2-4 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Have you ever had those times in life, or maybe you are going through something right now, that feels like it will be the end of you? 

Testing is not purposed to be the end of us.  Its purpose is to make us up right.  What should our attitude be towards trials?  We have the choice between choosing to sin or choosing to grow closer to God in every trial.

James tells us that we should consider it joy.  Why?  Because, of what happens during the trials.  Our faith grows and as a result, we gain steadfastness or endurance.  The chain effect is that we will be perfect, complete, and not lacking anything.  Our relationship with God will be solid we chose God.  What is it that we desire from God?  We desire His blessings in all the various ways they come to us.  Honestly, don't we want that?  Read some of the words to the song Blessings by Laura Story, there are some truths in it.

              Blessings, by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise


In times of trials, God's grace comes to us more vibrantly than in sun filled days.  Trials are for our good!  It may seem like a backwards way to bless us, but God tells us they do.  We are not to take the road of defeat, we have to fight that and choose joy.  What is being produced in us during trials are gifts of God.  That surely is a reason to choose joy!

What God is teaching me through all of this is that every morning when I get up the only job I have is to bring Him glory. In everything I do, say, think, and act, it is to bring Him glory. He's got me and He's got the rest of it, too. You know what? That is a peaceful way to live through all the junk. 1 Peter 1:6-7, " In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the authenticity of your faith -more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

God's desire for us is to be lacking in nothing and wanting for nothing.  How do we get it?  Through the trials.  We have to face trials while on earth and yet we get to know that God is so woven into the details of our lives that He even turns trials into blessings for us.  Consider it joy…
  
by Andrea Simmons 11/8/16

James 1:2-4
 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
We've All Got 'Em...
Two weeks ago we paid a healthy sum to get our guttering replaced.  We were having water in our basement every single time it rained which caused mold and now some necessary reconstruction is underway.  Last week our refrigerator went out and we had to get a new one, which by the way is not as nice as the first one.  This week our sewer system is backing up and we had to call a plumber. 

Sigh.

Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we could pay for all of it with cash, but one more thing cannot happen.  Just sayin'. 

We all need things.  We could write a book with hundreds of pages listing the various needs of people everywhere.  When we think of what those needs are we automatically go to physical needs.  It's a natural response.  Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a valid chart, I'm sure we'd all agree.  But, when Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45) He was talking to her about living water and not the physical water she came to draw for the purposes of drinking and working with.  I just love this interaction between Jesus and the woman; I could spend all day thinking about it.  Jesus knew she needed real actual water, but He also knew she needed the living water He spoke about.  When she finally got it, she left her water jug and ran to tell people about this man. (This is how I want to respond to Him, too.  I want to be the one to run and tell people about Him.) 

I love to imagine what stirred in her heart during these minutes.  What was she feeling?  She wasn't thirsting anymore for the water that was going to fill the jug she'd just left behind.  Jesus gave her more than what she thought she came for.  He filled a greater need.  A need for Him.  A need we were created with that only God can fill. 

Jesus never said that on this earth the Woman at the well did not need to drink the water.  He was making her aware there is a greater need she has and it is Him, the Christ, the Messiah.  We all have needs and our Savior knows them all.  In fact, His glorious riches never run out, He has an endless supply for the physical and spiritual.  Philippians 4:19 tells us this, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  He created this world and everything in it and He can use it how He pleases (Colossians 1:16, " For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.")

What are your needs today? 

Your needs actually confirm your dependence on God.   Just like the Woman at the well, God knows you have needs that have to be taken care of for physical, mental, and emotional well being.  He also knows that the greatest of all needs is your need to be in a right relationship with Him.  It is the one need that we have to have every moment.  Once, you learn to rely on God as your provider for all of your needs, everything else seem to work out, even if it is by a shift in perspective.

Read Matthew 6:25-34. (I especially love verse 33.)  What do these verses say and how can you apply them to your daily life?  God knows, He cares, and He provides.  Not just for the physical things that we need but also for our emotional, mental, financial, safety, social, and especially our spiritual needs.

Dear Lord, you are good and I ask that you stir in us today like you did the Woman at the well.  Let us grasp how powerful you are to provide for all of our needs today, tomorrow, and days to come.  Let your will be done and be glorified in all of it.  Amen.

by Andrea Simmons 10.11.16
  
John 4:13-14
"Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”  
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
"It was a dark and stormy night…"  There is something about a good mystery movie that seems to draw in a plethora of people.  Why then, when the unknown is thrown into our personal lives do we tend to want to run rather than enjoy waiting through the plot?  I think I know the answer.  It is because it's real and it's hard.

A few months ago God revealed the verses in Proverbs 3:5-6 to me over and over and over, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, and in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  It was a theme in my life.  During that time everything was peachy keen and super-fantastic!  Little did I know that now, a few months later, I'd be facing some real and scary dilemmas.  The kind of things that you're not so sure wouldn't completely break you and send you straight to the funny farm. 

I feel like I need to have my own way to be able to keep on breathing.  I don't think I could bear a different outcome; it would be too devastating to overcome.  This is not the 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' kind of ordeal.  I am scared.

Have you ever been there?  If you haven't, you may one day.  You may even be there right now.

How do we trust in the LORD when the outcome may not be what we want?  How do we trust that His sovereign way is still His very best for us even when it feels like it may suck the breath out of our lungs?  It will be deep and unrecognizable hurt.  What then?

It's time to put your money where your mouth is.  Or, should I say it's time to put your faith where your mouth is?  It's time to live it out loud- your faith.  My faith.  This life hurts, we are never promised it won't (John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.") But, we have to take note that we are promised peace.

I will not tell you how to handle your hard time because I simply do not know where you are at in your walk with the LORD.  But, I will tell you where my prayer time and thoughts are taking me.  As hard as it is to actually face these things head on, there is peace to be found in the midst of it.

 I will tell you my secret.

When I am tempted, and I am tempted, to worry in my wondering about what the future holds, I have to reel it back in.  (Philippians 4:6-7, "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.")  It is the fine line between focusing on the things of the world we cannot control and focusing on God, who controls everything.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart… In all your way acknowledge Him… I redirect my focus back to Him, even if I have to do it many times in one day!

I find that I continue to think about the facts.  The facts right now, for me, are that I don't have half a chance.  Only by a miracle of God will things work out the right way… well, the right way according to me.  Then, I reel it back in and remember to lean not on my own understanding.  The facts I know have very little to do with what God can accomplish in His own creation.

God has been also been teaching me to focus on things that are eternal and not worldly.  The worldly will not crossover into the eternal, no matter how good they are!  And, believe me, what I feel like I absolutely need right now is very, very good and some could even argue it is biblical.  There is really nothing bad to be found in it as far as I can see.

But, what if God's path that will drive me towards the spiritual and that will drive me towards the eternal is only reached if I don't get what I want?  What if I actually have to give up my dearest earthly need in order for everyone I know to cling to God and live a heaven bound life?  What if it hurts to my core for months and years to come?  What if this is the way God chooses to take, in all of His sovereignty, to make my path straight

Our path is not an earthly easy path.  It is a spiritual path to God.  Can I make peace with the potential change in order to love and follow my Savior, have His peace, and learn to praise Him through it because He is always good and worthy of praise? 

This is some seriously hard stuff.

It cuts right down to the very foundation of my relationship with God and with the world.  Which will I choose? 

...I cannot choose anything less than my Savior, no matter how close the latter comes into second place. 


I will continue to pray, love, and be available- some things will not change.

I think of Abraham.  He was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, his long awaited for and beloved son of a promise that held the future of Abraham's family and God's people kind of a son, to love and obey God.  When God saw Abraham's dedication to Him, he provided a ram for the sacrifice and spared Isaac while keeping His promise. 

All of this to say, God is a merciful God.  He sees, He hears, He loves, and He provides.  We can trust Him, even when the hurt is real.  Focusing on Him in the midst of it will bring peace.  Is it OK to pray and ask God for what you want?  Yes, it is.  As long as you are willing to remember that His ways are perfect even if you don't get your way.  He is to be glorified.  He will make our path straight… Straight to Him.  Then, if the outcome turns out to be more than you can bare, remember, Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."

Be glorified in our lives.  Make us willing.  Amen.


By Andrea Simmons 10.05.16
  
Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, and in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  
Strong in Conflict
If your child came to you and said, "Mom, I have to make a choice between two jobs from two different companies. For the first one, I would work for a company that would pay me $30 an hour.  The second company would only pay $25 an hour."  At first glance your thinking go with the first job; it's a no brainer!  But then your child finishes up by revealing, "The first job has no benefits but the second one will give me full health benefits, free life insurance, six weeks paid vacation, and they have a gym."  Now, what do you think?  We know that the $25 offers more in every way than the other.  At first glance it doesn’t seem like as much but in the long run it is much, much more!

All I am doing here is trying to compare two things, God's kingdom and the world.  (And, I might add, that those two things seem external but at war within us are our human nature and our born again selves.  Conflict resides there.)  Again, it's a no brainer to say that we know Heaven is better than earth- duh, right?  But, do we really live that out in our life when reality hits in an unwelcome way?  We struggle.  When things hurt we tend to strive out right for comfort and to make everything easier again, which is our preferred way to live.  We don't always understand the 'why' and we do not always understand God's ways.  But, if we stay stuck on the 'why' for too long then we've totally missed it.

If we only think about what's going on in our day, our body, our family, our finances, or with the world, we will be missing the point of our day as a Christian woman!  Don't get me wrong here because I'm preaching to the choir, but God's word is clear.  His kingdom reaches way farther on the glory scale than the height of earthly ease or depth of earthly struggle and that is what we should remember.  (Romans 8:18, "Consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.")

I recently saw a video on the internet where a mom with a baby, her little girl, and a grown friend walked into some kind of shop.  The little girl was looking at something on the wall close to an open door when without any warning a man flickered in and out grabbing the girl.  The mom and friend standing nearby ran after and retrieved the little girl.  This precious child clung to her mom, holding her tight trying to gain some sort of peace again and her mom held her tight. The little girl was scared and fighting intense emotions and all the while she held so tightly to her mom for comfort who cared deeply and was going through the fright of it all with her. 

When we struggle we seek the easiest way for ourselves, but the world offers only a hint of true comfort.  Luke 12:31 says, "Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you."  Just like the little girl clinging tightly to her mom when she was in turmoil, we are to do the same with Jesus, seek Him and find what we need there.   All the while He is holding us close, grieving with us, and bringing us through until we feel strong again.  Even then, He is holding us close in His great love (Romans 8:38-39).

There is no need to seek after the things of the world and wish for something better in our own eyes as tempting and necessary this may seem at times because God knows what we need (Luke 12:30) and He is everything we need (2 Corinthians 12:9).  And, in seeking Him there are blessings- don't miss it!

Swirling around in us are the desires to make things right and the salvation at work in us and they are in conflict.  In those certain moments of conflict, which road will you take?

Dear God, you are great and your ways are higher than my ways.  Sometimes the things in my life cut deep and I just do not understand.  Please stay close and let me feel your presence so in my weakest moments I can choose to cling solidly to you with complete assurance.  Bring me through and let your will be done according to your glory.  You are good.  Amen.

by Andrea Simmons

  
Romans 8:18
"Consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
The Struggle is Real
Today… *sigh*.

What do you do with the emotionally stormy days when all you really want is the rainbow after the storm?

Today I feel knocked off my feet a little bit.  Life doesn’t feel good and I'm a little scared.  I go back for a 're-test' in one to two week to either confirm or reject the test results I got today from an ongoing medical need that up until now has just been monitored.  I'm thinking the results will be OK, but I'm still scared. I don't really want deal with unwanted results, what it would mean for my life, or to put my family through it.

I'm a little scared.

We know that in God's sovereignty and loving ways towards us that He will never leave us and He is with us, but that doesn't always mean we won't have mountains to climb and struggles to survive.  When, honestly, we just want everything to be easy, thinking of God's sovereignty may not seem like much comfort. 

So, here is a good perspective for us when we feel overwhelmed by the things out of our control.  God has given us truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation.  He has given us, through His sovereignty, a hope for one day after our short spurt on earth to come and live with Him, where we will be perfect.   We as believing people really do have access to strength for living now and hope in our long-term perspective. 

God doesn't bring evil to us, that comes from being born into sin and having an accuser, the evil one.  God provided a way through Jesus for us to be reconciled to Him and gives us His word so we know how to live through trials in the fashion of a conqueror.  Take to heart how we are to live so when we feel attacked we can live well.  We are to cling to His truth and be righteous, living in His peace.   We are to live by faith to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one and to remember and live in His gift of salvation for us.  Then, we are to have His word planted in us, which is life changing.  Cling to Him and His word and we will have everything we need to live firmly in all of life's storms.

Another note to the wise is when we start to think inwardly and more about ourselves and our situation, it robs us of joy.  It robs of us living victoriously in His name.  It robs us.  It's a tactic of the evil one, don't fall for it.  It's so easy in our human nature to do just that, but we have to fight it.  We have to choose God, He is our hope and our future, He is our everything!  He is for us and we certainly need His strength to help us through our weakest moments.

I certainly do not mean to say that we don't feel and feel big things.  What I am saying is that in those moments of despair when we cry out to God we cannot over stay our welcome, we must cry it out and tell God exactly how we are feeling and then live like a warrior in Him who provided a way.  Even in the midst of our struggle, God wants good things for us.  He wants peace for us.   He wants us to live in faith and in His salvation with His Word, truth, and righteousness.  I'm not saying it's not hard, it can be.  I'm just saying that He will never leave us and He will help us.  Thank goodness for His amazing and great comfort!

Dear God, sometimes life is hard, but we know You know that.  Keep us during the hard times and bless us with feeling Your presence.  Please use our difficulties to glorify You, grow our faith, and help others; do not let it be for nothing.  If you are willing LORD, we pray for healing and/or relief and praise You in it.  But, if not, we praise You anyway for You are worthy to be praised.  Thank You for Your love, provision, and comfort for us.  Give us a peace that passes understanding and please make Yourself known to us.  Thank You for Your great love, amen.

by Andrea Simmons
Ephesians 6:10-17, "10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…"
Shattered Glass
I like to write stuff down.  I like to make lists and write things on paper big and small that I want to remember. I like to write on calendars to keep schedules.   I used to love to journal.  I draw out and label a cake before I bake and decorate it.  I keep notes in my wallet until they are useless.  I think almost every piece of information is 'keep-able' and then I find myself in mounds and stacks of paper that need dwindling down to the absolute bare necessities all because I do not want to forget anything.  Do you know what I mean?  Are you like that, too?  It gives me a sense of being organized for the present and the future and it gives me a sense of control. 

Control.

It's an illusion many of think we have under wraps.  We have all these plates spinning and sometimes our routines seem to run themselves.  But, what happens when we can't live out our days as planned?  I'm not just talking being inconveniently sick for a few days, I'm talking hitting a wall so big that life seriously altered from the way you know it.  What if you find yourself in a situation you did not ask for and cannot change?  Very suddenly we learn just how much control we really have, which is none.

What I have come to learn is that this can be more of a comfort than a problem.

God is sovereign. 

Sovereignty is a word which simply means God controls everything.

E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Technically, He doesn't need our help to accomplish anything (Job 42:2, 22:2).  If He did, it would put us over Him because it implies that He needs our help, which is not the case.  No one has the right to ask  God, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35) or "I will argue my case with God," (Job 13:3) because no one can insist and argue their case against God (Job 40:2); we have no authority to put ourselves on the same level with Him.  Ephesians 1:7-10 tells us that God always knows all and always has.

What we can control is our choice to love, believe, and obey Him or not to.  His gift of faith, grace, and salvation He gave to us.  We were dead (Ephesians 2:1) and while living in that death had no power in and of ourselves to choose the salvation of God.  But, Romans 5:8 tells us that God sent Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners, or still dead.  It is by His Holy Spirit that can stir in us while living in a state of death and make a miraculous way for us to rise from it and come into salvation, a new birth.  It is all by God's doing.

Jesus' suffering on the cross brought life.  We cannot do this; God can and did do this because He is sovereign. 
 
When we suffer in this world, remember Jesus did too.  But, now Jesus is sitting on the right hand of God in Heaven (Mark 16:19) and we too have this hope, to gain Jesus in Heaven after we suffer here on earth.  Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."  We must endure.

If we chase after the things of this world like we did when we were dead in sin, it will shatter like glass when it falls.  If we chase after God, we will be sustained by Him who controls everything.  You choose.
In the meantime, while our bodies are dead in sin and our spirits are alive in Christ (Romans 8:10) we are more than conquerors and able to make it until our promise is fulfilled.  Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."    We are more than conquerors because God is sovereign and is in complete control over the happenings of this world.  And, while things seem to fall apart and go south for so many of us, Romans 8:28 reminds us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  Good things are being worked out, right now, for every suffering God-loving person.  James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."         

There is no unknown mysterious way to know God.  You don't have to recite prayers three times a day or bow to a direction, or count beads, or journal, or any other ritual even if they are good.  You need to embrace His gifts, be in prayer, and be in His word (John 8:31).  Pray and read.  To Jesus. 
God does not need us to accomplish His will, yet He chooses to use us and it is all for His glory and not our own (Isaiah 48:11).  He is sovereign and that means He controls every detail of this world.  He has made a way for us who love Him and to be conquerors through the times that seem impossible and He is working it out for our good, so hang on and pray and read to build your confidence in Him.

This is the question, are you chasing the glass of our illusion of control or His sovereignty to walk through this life?

by Andrea Simmons
Genesis 1:1
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

*Sovereignty*
The Eternal Boarding Pass, Part 2
We, as Christians these days, are finding ourselves in more and more of a pocket of minority whose rights are slowly yet surely being stripped away.  We are watching it happen in fear and wondering what in the world we are to do about it?  What would Jesus do?
  
Many times our response to the rest of the world is to seclude ourselves.  We, as humans, tend to reject those that are different or believe differently than us.  We hire Christian's to work in our business.  We flock to Christian doctors.  We patronize Christian businesses.  We buy Christian made products.  We create a very un-messy and small world for ourselves.

John 17:15, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one."  This prayer of Jesus is very clearly stating that we live in the world with unsaved, but that as we are here we should pray for protection from Satan and his schemes.  John 17:18, "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."  Clearly, we are to be reaching out to the world in the truth and love of Jesus.


Sometimes, we secularize.  We take on too much of the world and start to let it creep into our daily living and it robs us of being set apart for a holy purpose.  Romans 12:2a, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."  We are transformed and renewed by allowing the Holy Spirit to speak truth into us during prayer and bible study.


John 15:22 states that since Jesus has come and spoken to people regarding our sin problem there is no excuse for our sin.  Yet, John 15:25 tells us that they hate Jesus without cause.  Christian brothers and sisters, this is not a game, but real life and real death for each person we know.  If there is no excuse for sin then we should feel deeply compelled to tell everyone we can about the saving love of Jesus!

We are to be obedient in getting the name of Jesus and His gospel out there.  We are not war with the world, but we bring Jesus to it.  If we belong to Him we will have the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self control) in us, which does not look like fear of the world in us.  While we actively live in the world with believers and nonbelievers alike, speaking truth, we serve and love those who disagree with us.  Jesus did not get mad at those individuals He encountered, but was easy with them bringing the truth to them- no matter how awful they seemed. 

How can we live a sent life in a world who hates us?  In a world who is increasingly taking away our rights and see our righteousness as nothing less than small minded and mentally odd?  Panic, fear, and anger are not our go-to attitudes.  Just like the Holy Spirit works on the unsaved, He gives us, the church, what we need to thrive and survive in a powerful way!  The Holy Spirit is the answer.  We do the witnessing but it is the Spirit who speaks to those lost hearts.  1 Corinthians 2:6-16 tells that it is the Holy Spirit who helps people know God and speaks to their hearts and who opens their spiritual eyes. 

Why would we live life as a sent person?  Because ours is the hope of receiving the promises from the blood covenant (and many more covenants) and atonement for sins, which Jesus did for us.  Right now we have the Holy Spirit who aids us in living victoriously.  If we stand faithful through the harassment of the evil one while in the world, our reward is unmeasured glory living with Jesus in the Promised Land.  Jesus is our reward!  We live by faith and have iron clad promises that will not be taken from us because we have an undying eternal God. 

We have hope.

Do I hear an, "Amen?"


What does it look like to live sent right where you are today?  I encourage you today to find one new way to emulate Christ today and put it into practice.  Step out and fulfill your calling of being sent.  There is no better life to live.
  

John 17:19
"As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."
The Etenral Boarding Pass, Part 1
The bathroom's at Target.  I do not need to say much more to explain the conflict this causes in the hearts of Christians.  Target is trying to be sensitive to a different minority group and stay politically correct, yet Christians are feeling more and more like a minority whose conservative rights are being stripped away.  How does the Bible help us understand this problem in our culture today?

In Genesis 15 God made Abram (Abraham) a promise that would be concluded in him physically receiving land, heirs, and blessings.  To seal the deal, God made a blood covenant with Abram.  Usually, in the Hebrew culture both parties of the covenant would walk through animals cut in two together symbolizing that they both had part in the making, and even the breaking, of the covenant between them.  They literally walked between the two cut halves of animals.  This symbolized them agreeing that if one of them broke the covenant their fate should be like that of the animals (Jeremiah 34:18-19).  This was one serious lifelong commitment to each other! 

The difference with this particular covenant is that God went alone, sending a smoking pot and a lamp through.   He was stating that He will take care of His promise to Abram.  Abram needed to do nothing to seal the deal; it was not his to do because he couldn't keep God sized promises.  Since God is eternal and cannot be put to death, the covenant He made was ironclad and probably a great comfort. 
So, what's the deal with the animals cut in two?


The reason for the animals is the blood that was shed has life in it.  The blood symbolized life.  So, the shed blood of the covenant brought life to the agreement they were making.  Only, with God and Abram, God was the only one who brought life to His promise.  Abram only had to be the recipient of it and believe God.

Other sacrifices of animals were made to atone for sin.  However, animal blood was never an adequate or equivalent replacement to take care of the sin of man because God made man higher than the animals.  The blood of Jesus was more than worthy to do this because He is higher than man; He is God.  When Jesus' blood was shed for our sins, there was a new covenant again made by God alone.  This was a spiritual covenant that would bring heirs to Jesus, the Promised Land, and blessings and this time not to the one nation of Abram, but to every nation.

Wouldn't you think the entire world would be eagerly jumping on board in celebration of being in this new covenant with all of its promises?  Yet, many are jumping ship.

Herein lays the problem.  John 15:18-22 tells us that those who do not know Jesus or the Father will also hate those of us who do.  This is very much the opposite of what we would expect after studying the blood covenant and atonement for sin, but it is a reality.
It is a great divide.

Christians these days are finding ourselves in more and more of a pocket of minority whose rights are slowly yet surely being stripped away.  We are watching it happen in fear and wondering what in the world we to do about it?  What would Jesus do?


Be sure to read part 2!
  

Genesis 15:17
"When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces."

You are an Overcomer!
One fine Saturday in March I woke up ready to tackle my to-do list and love on my family.  It was going to be a near perfect day if I could help it.  But then the reality of the day set in.  Chuck decided to cut into the basement ceiling to find a leaky pipe.  Claire needed one of those mother-daughter talks.  Annah just wanted to play with me.  And in the middle of giving each of them the time they needed while trying to tackle my to-do list in between, I was getting absolutely nothing done.  As the hours tumbled into the late afternoon I was starting to get frustrated.  At the top of my list was decorating my nephews baptism cake and that cake was just not going to bake itself.

Well, that was not such a bad day.  But, I have had devastatingly tragic days that turned into months and years, too.  I'm sure you can relate on some level with your own life's events.  Life can really sock it to us, to put it mildly.

What do we do in the times like this?

The bible tells us we have hope.  This hope is found solely in Jesus and our faith in Him.

Jesus knew the time to show His love on the cross was tumbling closer and closer.  Yet, His focus was not inward on his encroaching pain but to train up and teach His disciples to prepare them for this event.  He was still fulfilling the reason the Father had sent Him.  John 16 starts out in verse one saying, "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away."  He knew the deep scary trials the disciples were getting ready to face and He wants to make sure they stayed tight with Him to protect them.

In John 16:33 Jesus ends by saying, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."  No matter what it is that comes into our life that we have to get through, we have a Savior who has overcome the world and we are not left in despair.  Our hope and faith is in Him and in Him alone!  So, take heart, you will get through.

In the midst of difficult journeys we can turn inward and focus on self which leads us to lose our sight of God and the power we have in Him.  Only when Christ is in you do you know His power in you.  Christ has overcome the world and so His power in you makes you an over comer!  In Christ, this is who you are!  1 John 5:4, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith."

The question is, do you believe Him?  Is your faith in Him?

Dear God, you are all knowing and fully aware of circumstances that bring us to our knees because you are good!  In your great power you have overcome the world and have given us a spirit of power making us over comers through you.  Be our help in all tough times big and small and help our faith to grow so we may know your peace and power in us.  In your holy name I pray, Amen.

​By Andrea Simmons
  
1 John 5:4, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith."
Peace During Destruction
If life were perfect, no one would ever get hurt and everyone would protect and take great care of those in their circle.  Life is not perfect and the fact of the matter is people hurt people.  It would be ideal if those that repeatedly and deeply hurt us would be the ones to tend to our wounds, physical or emotional, and aid in restoring us back to good health.  Somehow, we think this would take care of every bad thing in life.  This has not been the case in my life.  Most of the time, this kind of person will not take the responsibility to make a mends.

The good news is that there is someone who gives peace and healing in the midst of our pain. 
1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."  Is there another god in any other religion that calls his people near to him to hear the cries of their heart?  No, but the God of heaven is loving and very involved in what His beloved are experiencing in heartaches of life.   Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." 

Jesus is very aware and involved in what pains us.

Believers need to understand what is happening to them and own it as reality.  This is a first step in recovering from the deep set hurt.  Also, God created us to be in community with each other so finding good counsel is a must.  Galatians 6:2 tells us, "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." When Christ is in us, our spirit is alive (Romans 8:10) so through the counseling of or help of other solid believers, we can receive gifts of healing and recovery.  

In the midst of being lifted from the slimy pit and turning your eyes towards Jesus, who replaces the need for a mends from flesh to spirit, your identity is renewed to someone with value and worth.
Keep this in mind, too.  We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), even those being hurt can cause pain to others.  We are all responsible to God for the pain we have caused.  Galatians 6:7-8 says, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."  Galatians 6:5, "For each will have to bear his own load."

Rest assured that God is the judge.  We do not have to 'pay back' those who hurt us and revenge is wrong because it is done out of selfish motives in the heart.  God is just and hands out punishment fairly according to the crime.  Hebrews 10:30, "For we know him who said, 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' and again, The Lord will judge his people.'”

We are left only with coming to Jesus for restoration and following the command for which He always gave an example of how to live.  John 13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

That command may seem like a tall order.  I know.  I have been under the thumb of people who acted like they hated me years after years.  There were days where I felt like it was crazy-talk- to love them.  I can only tell you these two things.   There is peace and healing in our Savior for all of us.  There is only peace on the other side of obedience, never on the side before you choose to obey.

Dear God, you know the trials I face.  You have made a way for me to know you and easily find your love and peace for me.  You are a good shepherd.  In the middle of abuse which seems like an eternity that will never end, you are my hope.  Take what little I have to give and help me to obey you so I can find your peace and restoration.  It can be scary and seem impossible, but you are a big God and have overcome the world, I know in you I will have comfort.  Amen.
 
 By Andrea Simmons
Psalm 147:3
 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."  
In Times of Less
 Philippians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

I remember back when my fifteen year old daughter, Claire, was four-years-old.  She had thin white blonde hair and blue eyes.  I'd prayed for a daughter with blonde hair and blue eyes!   The season was changing from winter to spring, just like the days in Kansas do.  As the weather was getting warmer I started to realize that Claire didn't have any clothes fitting for the quickly approaching warmer weather.  I had no money in checking or savings and no credit card.  I had absolutely no way to dress my child appropriately and to top it off; she had completely outgrown everything from the year before.  Day after day I dressed her in long pants and long sleeved shirts trying to pick the articles with the lightest weight of fabric for her.

I stressed.

I prayed.

I cried.

Something happens when God's children cry out to Him.  Psalm 34:17 tells us, "The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles."  He hears us.  It has also been my experience that He has delivered me from my troubles.  Sometimes I had to wait years, but then again, Job had to wait 60 to 70 years to be delivered from his troubles and his example through ups and downs was to stay faithful to God.

One day after many days of crying out to the LORD I checked the mail, as I did daily.  This time, there was an envelope from a church member.  Out of curiosity, I opened it up fast.   One of the adult Sunday school classes had decided to sponsor my family and in that envelope was a check for one-hundred dollars. I held it in disbelief for a few moments and cried in relief.  (Thank you to this Sunday school class for your obedience to God, you participated in encouraging me deeply in my faith walk.)  Each month like clockwork for the next eighteen months a check just like it came in the mailbox.

Do you know what I did with that check?  I went right out and bought Claire some clothes and we were both so delighted!  Well, me more than her.  She was sporting shorts and short sleeves and I have never been so thankful to dress my child as I was during this season of life.

Over and over I have seen God work in my life and many of His miracles revolved around having enough money to meet our needs.  There were weeks I bought very few groceries, but I was always able to feed my family.  Sometimes I would have liked to have had more, but in God's provision I did have everything I needed and I learned to rely on Him- a double bonus!

Don't discount God when trouble strikes.  He hears you when you cry out to Him and He is able to meet your needs accordingly.  Philippians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  He is an involved God, unlike any other.

Dear LORD, open our eyes wide to your love and provision in our lives.  Let us learn to call on your name and rely on you putting down our stress and insecurities knowing that you are able.  Praise your holy name for who you are and all you do for your people.  Amen.

By Andrea Simmons

  
 Philippians 4:19
"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Psalm 34:17
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles."
You Can Do This!
Does God promise not to give us more than we can handle?  This is an age old question, but it might be the wrong question to ask.  The right question may be, "Has God given me everything I need to face any trial that comes my way?"  This, we can answer with a resounding yes!

In 2 Corinthians 1:8 Paul says, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself."   If this doesn't sound like someone who is in deeper than they can handle it, I don't know what does.  Paul had been on death row many times during his ministry, but this time must have been worse than all the rest.

Let's keep reading, 2 Corinthians 1:9 says, "Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."
It was not for Paul and Timothy to rely on their own strength and to handle what was coming at them.  It was for them to rely on God, as verse 9 says.  We do not have to worry so much whether we can handle it but know that our God can. 

And what does Paul follow up with but confidence in God and singing praises to Him, "He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again," (2 Corinthians 1:10).  If we read on, he asks for the church to pray so that they could also be thankful for Paul and Timothy in the event that God rescues them, seeing things through to the end even if the end isn't the current situation, but heaven.

We are faced with trials during our time spent on this earth; it will not be different than that.  But, as Christian women, it does not matter what we face because God is our strength and through Him the world has been overcome.   1 John 5:4, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith."
Read Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV).

"10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God,  that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak."  (Emphasis mine.)

God has given us everything we need to persist through the trials we will inevitably encounter and even more than that, He has given us Himself.  Just like Paul and Timothy, we can know that God's got this.  We hang onto Him and He hangs onto us.  Romans 8:38-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from Him, He wouldn't have it.

The next time you are tempted to think, "I just can't take it anymore," turn your thoughts to God and pray.  Ask Him to take it, and know He will.  Put on your armor of God and persist. 
Remember to get people to pray for you.  I wish I could tell you exactly how it will turn out, but I can't.  I can only lead you to the one who has you in His hands and loves you through it all.

Dear Lord, thank you for always being there and bringing us through any and every situation.  When we rely heavily on you, give us your peace, strength, and wisdom.  Evoke in us praises to you and open our eyes up wide to how you work in our lives.  Thank you for right now and thank you for what you will do; I know your ways are higher than our ways and your love is great.  In your holy name I pray, amen.
 
  By Andrea Simmons
 2 Corinthians 1:9 "Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."
Compassionate Savior
 John 11:33-36, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.'  Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!'”

My two girls are very different.  When my oldest daughter was little and got hurt she would come and tell me.  My natural instinct was to inspect where her injury was but most of the time she wouldn't have it.  All she needed was for me to know that she was hurt and after that she was fine and needed nothing else from me.  When my youngest daughter got hurt she would stay where she was at crying at tones that were far beyond what the situation called for and wait for someone to come and comfort her.  Chances are, her affliction never broke skin and would barely left a pinkish mark, yet she needed hugs, band-aids, and ointment. Nothing less would do.  Either way, when one of my children was hurting, I cared.

How true this is of Jesus.  When one of His children is hurting, He cares.

Jesus knew He had come to raise Lazarus from the dead; He knew everything was going to turn out better than anyone hoped for at this point.  Yet, when Mary came to Him and threw herself at His feet while bitterly crying, Jesus was moved and troubled.  More than that, the bible says He was deeply moved and greatly troubled.  He knew the outcome of Mary's sorrow would be joy, yet He cared so much for her that He was saddened by what she was experiencing at that very moment.

Billy Graham said, "“I've read the last page of the Bible, it's all going to turn out all right.” God knows His plan and that it will happen exactly how He plans for it to and that one day there will be no more suffering for those who are found in Him.  He knows that soon we will be living in joy with Him, just like Mary and Martha after Lazarus came back to them.  Yet, God cares for every tear that drops from our eyes and every pain we feel.

Here is a good command for us to remember in times of trouble found in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you."  Mary came to Jesus and cried at His feet and we can too.  When we do, there is evidence that the God of the universe is profoundly moved.  Is there any other religion, other than Christianity, where the god allows people to come and express sorrow and complaints?  God is compassionate.

Come to our loving, compassionate, heavenly Father with all that bothers us in complete abandonment.  Trust Him with your pain and in all circumstances because He simply cares about it.  John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the word."

No matter what we face, Jesus is our hope in it.  He cares.  He has overcome the world.  The outcome of our sorrow will be eventually become joy.  Amen.

by Andrea Simmons
  

 John 11:33-36 "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.'  Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!'”

Be Courageous
We are well into January and no one is talking about New Year’s resolutions anymore. However, I made one about twenty years ago and I have always kept it! It’s a good one, too. Are you ready for this? The New Year’s resolution I have always kept was to stop making New Year’s resolutions! Now, I don’t even think about it. The reason is because I continuously try to do better or be better; I’m constantly working on something. This is when I come to a screeching halt and realize I will never attain perfection and am so thankful I have a Savior who has. Nonetheless, I step into each new year knowing it will bring certain internal and external challenges. I know that God may call me to face something I have never done before and it is my goal to be obedient and abide in Him.

Sometimes we know what we should be doing, but don’t, and fear could very well be at the root of it. When it was time for me to start my student teaching I almost didn’t. I was deeply afraid I would fail. It was only at my parents strong urging that I signed up for this last semester of my degree. It took great courage on my part in my youth to follow through with these actions because I was stepping into brand new territory, leading a classroom rather than being in the desk.

Joshua must have had some fear when he was facing a new challenge. Moses had died and it was up to him to lead the Israelites into their Promised Land. The reason I think he was scared is because God repeatedly told him to be strong and courageous. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go," Joshua 1:9.  Paraphrasing, God was saying, “Joshua, I’ve got this, you just do your thing!” Joshua needed these words and encouragement from God and so God gave him what he needed.

God may have been speaking to Joshua when He said, “Be strong and courageous,” but all Christians are called to do the same.  Take a look at the following verses.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Acts 1:8 tells us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Both of these verses tell us we have power and it is given to us by God himself.

Matthew 10:28 commands us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Philippians 1:14 informs us, “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

These two verses speak to us about fear. We are not to fear people but God and we are to be fearless when speaking about who God is.

Matthew 28:20 tells us, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 promises us, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

These verses remind us to obey God’s commands and He is with us forever.

Joshua 1:9 again says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go?”

We will all face new things this year and not all of it will be easy. Maybe the doctor’s report will be serious. Maybe a child turns wayward. Maybe you’ll make another bad decision. Maybe your spouse will be hurtful. Maybe finances just won’t be there. Maybe there will be a big move or another big life change. No matter what it turns out to be, we are not to fear, but rather face it with courage remembering all the while that God’s got this; He will never leave us. Just like Joshua, God gives us what we need to make it through challenges successfully.

Dear God, you will be with us, you are faithful to keep your promises. Keep us throughout this year reminding us who we are in you and how we are to face challenges while on this earth.  You’ve got whatever it is! Thank you and praise your Holy Name!
 
by Andrea Simmons
Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go,"
Fight It
Last Sunday I went to a Sunday school class and was itching to say something, but there was not much opportunity, so I held it in. For a while, the topic was wrapped around the statement that we should do things for God’s glory, but not our own.
 
True statement.
 
The frustrating dilemma of ‘self’ kept getting in the way of a satisfying outcome. We kept landing on it. Do we seek to do great things and if we do, is it OK if our motives cross over to taking some credit? Well, we all know the answer is a big fat no.
 
“Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ,” Galatians 1:10. We cannot seek to please both God and man even if the ‘man’ in question is ourselves.
 
We are talking about a heart issue, and let’s be honest, pleasing self is self-centeredness. Those who are self-centered are in the flesh and cannot please God (Romans 8 tells us self-centeredness is a sin. We must deal with it directly.
 
God told Cain after he killed Able, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master,” Genesis 4:7. Sin is crouching at our door just waiting for us to open it up and be devoured by it. God has given us a spirit of power (1 Timothy 1:7) and we are able to conquer it.
 
I once heard a dear pastor admit that when he hears someone preach a sermon he sometimes has thought, “I could do it better.” Does this mean he should stop preaching and being a pastor because of his self-centered thought? What about anyone who does good and relishes a little in the self-glory of the success of it all? This is a hard one because it just seems to sneak into our thoughts when we're not looking!
 
It will always be hard while we live on this earth in the flesh. We are not perfect until we get to heaven with our LORD and Savior, so what do we do with the flesh we live in now? Here is what we do. We fight it.
 
We fight it.
 
Sometimes, fighting it may be as easy as dismissing a thought and turning our focus on whatever is good, noble, or praise worthy. Sometimes, it may be down right hard.
 
God has given us a spirit of power and the ability to master sin. He has also promised us that, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. ‘Never’ in this verse literally means never- not for one moment or one second every day of your entire life- never! Between God being with us and the way He created us, we can avoid the sin of self-centered (or any sin for that matter).
 
Is it easy? No, not all the time. It can be hard, so we have to fight it.
 
We have to spend time in God’s word and in prayer every single day. Even Moses, when he was on the mountain with God and came down glowing, had a glow that faded (Exodus 34:29-33, 2 Corinthians 3:13). He had to continuously seek God. Our glow can fade and so, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me,” Luke 9:23.
 
While we are living, doing good things, and walking daily with Jesus, we need to fight self-centeredness and let God be given the glory. He loves us very much and knew what our struggles would be, therefore, He gave us what we need to master sin.
 
Thank you, Jesus, for all of your provisions! I believe that fighting the good fight does bring God glory!
 
by Andrea Simmons
Last Sunday I went to a Sunday school class and was itching to say something, but there was not much opportunity, so I held it in. For a while, the topic was wrapped around the statement that we should do things for God’s glory, but not our own.
 
True statement.
 
The frustrating dilemma of ‘self’ kept getting in the way of a satisfying outcome. We kept landing on it. Do we seek to do great things and if we do, is it OK if our motives cross over to taking some credit? Well, we all know the answer is a big fat no.
 
“Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ,” Galatians 1:10. We cannot seek to please both God and man even if the ‘man’ in question is ourselves.
 
We are talking about a heart issue, and let’s be honest, pleasing self is self-centeredness. Those who are self-centered are in the flesh and cannot please God (Romans 8 tells us self-centeredness is a sin. We must deal with it directly.
 
God told Cain after he killed Able, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master,” Genesis 4:7. Sin is crouching at our door just waiting for us to open it up and be devoured by it. God has given us a spirit of power (1 Timothy 1:7) and we are able to conquer it.
 
I once heard a dear pastor admit that when he hears someone preach a sermon he sometimes has thought, “I could do it better.” Does this mean he should stop preaching and being a pastor because of his self-centered thought? What about anyone who does good and relishes a little in the self-glory of the success of it all? This is a hard one because it just seems to sneak into our thoughts when we're not looking!
 
It will always be hard while we live on this earth in the flesh. We are not perfect until we get to heaven with our LORD and Savior, so what do we do with the flesh we live in now? Here is what we do. We fight it.
 
We fight it.
 
Sometimes, fighting it may be as easy as dismissing a thought and turning our focus on whatever is good, noble, or praise worthy. Sometimes, it may be down right hard.
 
God has given us a spirit of power and the ability to master sin. He has also promised us that, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. ‘Never’ in this verse literally means never- not for one moment or one second every day of your entire life- never! Between God being with us and the way He created us, we can avoid the sin of self-centered (or any sin for that matter).
 
Is it easy? No, not all the time. It can be hard, so we have to fight it.
 
We have to spend time in God’s word and in prayer every single day. Even Moses, when he was on the mountain with God and came down glowing, had a glow that faded (Exodus 34:29-33, 2 Corinthians 3:13). He had to continuously seek God. Our glow can fade and so, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me,” Luke 9:23.
 
While we are living, doing good things, and walking daily with Jesus, we need to fight self-centeredness and let God be given the glory. He loves us very much and knew what our struggles would be, therefore, He gave us what we need to master sin.
 
Thank you, Jesus, for all of your provisions! I believe that fighting the good fight does bring God glory!
 
by Andrea Simmons
 
Galatians 1:10
“Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” 
Tough Times are for Something
I like to eat. Sadly enough, my body responds in appropriate ways and I have periods of my life that I am… let’s just say a little chubbier than I like. Was it my fault my mom was a feeder? One time I remember her telling me I was getting a little too thin, which was not viewed the same way by most standards. Now that I’m an adult surely I cannot blame good ole mom.

The problem remains that I like to feed myself some foods that don’t qualify as ‘good’ and then I physically pack on the pounds. It is simple cause and effect. Spiritually speaking, feeding yourself what is good is always necessary, too.

Human nature compels us to almost always look to the physical rather than the spiritual. We have to consider it is God’s plan that we constantly remember to feed ourselves spiritually by reading and studying His word and engaging in prayer. It is through this that He brings us through the bad times (and good times) and in turn teaches us that there is a spiritual aspect of life that needs constant feeding.

The Israelites had a bad time of it while wandering through the desert for forty years. It probably wasn’t on the top of their list to wander on hot sand for that long, but God had a purpose for it. He had something very specific in mind they needed to learn for their own good and it was through the desert that He was able to grab their attention and show it to them. They needed to remember the ways of the LORD and have a heart for Him rather than selfishly going the ways of the pagans.

"And you shall remember all the ways which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commands, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every wordfn that comes from the mouth of the LORD."  Deuteronomy 8:2-3.

We do have to put up with our naturally self-centered, physically-focused, human nature while we wade through the tough times in life. However, no hard thing you have ever gone through, are going through, or will go through is wasted. It is not meant to cause you an inferiority complex but to bring you closer to Him. The hard times test you and see what you’re made of. It is so important to cling to God during these times and not be dragged away by world. You have free will and the choices you make depict what’s inside of you. I encourage you to choose well and be found worthy.

Recall that Job was a man in the Bible who was wealthy and well respected with a large family. He kept close to God’s commands. He was a good ol’ boy! Then, the evil one, his accuser, stepped in. God put boundaries on what could be done to Job, but everything he had in the physical was taken away, even his health. His world was turned upside down, stomped on, and torn apart into shreds.

Recently, when I read the book of Job, I saw something I had never seen before. Job 42:55-6 says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Is it obvious here that God used the physical to teach Job an important spiritual lesson? This was a profound spiritual lesson teaching Job who God is and drawing him closer to Him.

After he prayed for his friends everything in the physical was restored to him in greater portions than he had before. This is not a health and wealth devotional yet the point remains that God brought Job through some of the most devastating life events and it was not in vain. God used it to grow Job’s spiritual life exponentially. This has far greater value for the now and eternity than anything he had before.

God’s great love sought him out and disciplined him by teaching a lesson that resulted in Job being so much more in love with God, which has eternal value. I imagine him treasuring God in his heart every time he makes a sacrifice for each of his children. I imagine him treasuring God in his heart so much now that his joy spills over to others and God becomes known because of him. His worship was probably sincere, glorifying to God, and contagious. There should be a Second Job so we could read how this spiritual feeding blessed his life and those around him!

Are you feeding yourself good spiritual things so what comes out of you when tested is a witness for God rather than the world? Do you realize He is seeking you, and none of your hard times will be for nothing? Let God show you in each circumstance in life what valuable lesson He has for you. The purposes for a difficult time may not be evident in the midst of it all but hold on because in God’s timing you just might be amazed! There are treasures in difficulties of the desert! God desperately wants you to know who He is and who you are in Him. He’ll go through great lengths to teach this to you and why it should be valuable to you.

Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

By Andrea Simmons
Job 42:55-6
“I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee: therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”