Thursday, August 9, 2018

encouragement for Thursday

I thought I would share a bit of what I have been encouraged by this week. 

I know that not every day in the life of a believer feels like a "mountain top" type of day.  In fact, most days don't feel like that at all.  I have said this a million times and will probably say it a million more - life is hard.  Even life with Jesus is hard.  I cannot even begin to imagine what life would look like without the hope we have in Him. 

That being said, I think all of us go through ruts in our quiet times.  Some of us don't HAVE quiet times.  About that, I would suggest praying and asking for God's help.  I pray all the time that He would make me crave Him and time with Him more than anything else, including water and food.  He is faithful to answer that prayer.

Even if we do consistently have quiet time, we can get in a rut.  I know with me, sometimes it feels mundane, but about that I would say to you what a friend once said to me: Press in to the Lord.  He is near!  Having someone I am accountable to helps tremendously.  For instance, right now the women in my church are reading through the chronological bible in a year.  Some days that reading is hard, like it is right now for me in Jeremiah, and we just have to stick with it and get it done.  On September 24, we will cross over into the new testament!  I am always surprised that I have stuck with it, but I know the Lord has just helped me do this again.  Like I said, He is always near. 

Having a few close friends I can talk about Jesus with also helps tremendously.  He is my favorite subject and I love talking about the things He teaches me in His word. 

All that being said, in my bible study homework yesterday, I was so encouraged by a few verses I read out of Isaiah.  About this study, it's a very personal study, more so than I've ever done before.  I told my best friend last night that I might burn this book when I'm finished with it!  I don't know if I want anyone to see the things I've written inside.  The author invites us to just get real and honest with God.  He knows our thoughts anyway, so she encourages us to pour out our hearts and even questions to Him. 

I've been shocked at all that He has given me to write, though why I'm so surprised I don't know.  I prayed and asked Him to help me be real with Him, all pretenses and facades cast to the side.  I would say that He has been faithful to help me in this.  I love these verses I read yesterday, about not being afraid.

It's the ones I underlined in yellow.  "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand."  Verse ten out of chapter forty-one. 

And: "For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"  Verse thirteen out of the same chapter.

I struggle with anxiety a lot, and can often turn mole hills into giant mountains, so these verses encourage my heart so much.  How amazing that God holds onto us with His right hand!  I picture a father with his child...that is how He is with us.

Also, for the second time in as many years, my friend Missy and I went to Bellevue last night, a huge church in our city, to hear Jim Cymbala preach.  He is the pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle church in Brooklyn, New York.  Every year Bellevue has Awesome August and Jim Cymbala is always the one to kick it off.

Jim is just a regular guy, who loves the Lord with all his heart.  His church is a house of prayer, as he calls it, and they love the Lord and worship Him unabashedly.  They started out small, but they run three services on Sunday each week, and in each service, every seat in the place is filled.  People line up at the doors to get inside (as we did when we went a couple of years ago) and the Lord just meets them there week after week.  But I've heard that the Tuesday night prayer service is really special.  I wish I could pinpoint what makes that church so different than my own church, but all I can say is that maybe there is more of a desperation in the people in that area in NYC.  It's outside of the bible belt, obviously, and so many people there who attend are recovering prostitutes, homosexuals, alcoholics and drug addicts.  He said that, when we went.  We just don't always see that, where I live in the South.  It was so refreshing to be in the midst of all those dear people when we were there two years ago.  Anyway, about last night.

He preached on John 15.  This chapter is one of my favorites in all of the bible.  It's all about abiding (or remaining) in the Lord.  I think it even went along with what I was so encouraged by yesterday.  When we abide in Him, closely abiding day by day, that leaves much less room to be fearful or anxious about circumstances going on in our lives.  Some of the things he said were questions like how do we abide in Him?  We can abide in Him through prayer, and by reading His word.  DAILY.  Not just one day a week!  Now, I know that life happens, and we all miss a day here and there of quiet time.  That is normal.  But don't let too many of those days happen.  More often than not, we need to be spending consistent time with the Lord in prayer and in bible reading. 

I love how he started this sermon last night.  His question was, "What is the purpose of my existence?"  The answer to that is simple: To glorify God.  How do we glorify God?  By abiding in Him.  When we abide in Him, we bear fruit.  Examples of that fruit would be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Two other examples would be by showing mercy and forgiving others. 

He used a plant to drive this home, and I love the imagery it gave me.  Each little branch of that plant he used was attached to the main vine.  The second you cut off a branch, even though it might look healthy still, it's dead.  It cannot grow and produce more branches if it's not attached to the main vine.  That is the same with us, as we are the branch and He is the vine.  (All of these scriptures were from John 15, so you should go read the whole chapter.)  Apart from the vine (the Vine), we can do nothing. 

He also prunes the branches, so they can grow more and produce even more fruit.  Pruning is painful, but necessary.  That reminds me of the two crepe myrtles that flank the ends of my house.  Each spring, Todd prunes them down to nothing.  It looks terrible when he does that, and I always dread when he pulls out the shears each year.  But before I even know it, in just a couple of short weeks usually, new flowers and shoots are blooming and starting to appear where he pruned them.  It's amazing!  And they grow so quickly, even more and more beautiful than they were the previous summer.  It's the same way with us, when the Lord prunes us.  It makes us even closer to Him than we were ever before, and I always want more of Jesus.  Who wouldn't? 

Just a little food for thought on this lovely Thursday.

Most of all that above was from my notes from the sermon last night.  I'm sure if you go to the Bellevue church website (in Memphis), you may be able to listen online, because these few words did not at all do justice to hearing him preach on this. 

Thanks for reading.  Love to all. 

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