Today is the day the Lord has made; stay focused, stay present, stay faithful.
God never promised that if you would follow Him, your life will be perfect. He never promised the sun would always shine or that you would never experience pain. The truth is, this journey here on earth is difficult and challenging. There are so many twists and turns to life and through it all it is critically important to stay focused on Jesus.
The devil would like nothing better than to separate you from the only One who can save you, and he will stop at nothing to get your attention. He loves to plant seeds of doubt–especially when you are going through a crisis and are the most vulnerable. Satan loves to whisper his lies, encouraging you to blame God for your troubles. But Satan is the creator of sin and he gets all the credit for pain and heartache–not God!
Stay focused on your heavenly Father who loves you more than anyone else ever could! When you are in trouble–call upon Him for help. The Bible says in Psalm 34:17-19, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
You don’t have to be afraid of life’s challenges, heartache, and pain because you are never alone! Stay faithful–stay focused on the only one who can save you from all your trials, misery, and suffering–Jesus Christ, your Lord, and Savior.
God’s Word is eternal. It is for all times and extends beyond our lifetime.
~ Lisa Blair
This is a guest post from a YouVersion devotional study – Good News: Encouragement for a World In Crisis. Created by YouVersion. Bible.com
God Has Good Plans, Day 1 of 7.
We’re living in an unprecedented time as we navigate the life-threatening and economy-shaking struggles we’re facing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past, we’ve seen catastrophic diseases, disasters, and wars impact various countries, but this is different. At this time, the whole world has something in common: we’re trying to survive a deadly virus.
So, as followers of Jesus, how do we make sense of this? What do we do with our questions to God and our questions of God? How do we find good news in a continual stream of bad news? And how do we grasp how this fits into the all-familiar passage of Jeremiah 29:11?
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT)
This verse gives hope and is our spiritual security blanket in hard times. It’s printed on t-shirts, etched on coffee mugs, and stamped on greeting cards. While God is a hope giver, we have to understand the context of this cherished verse.
Jeremiah prophesied to the Israelites in the southern kingdom of Judah before they were taken captive in 586 BC by King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon. In Jeremiah 27, he prophesied that they would serve this king, his son, and his grandson, and that everything would be under their control (Jeremiah 27:6-7 NLT).
In the next chapter, a false prophet named Hananiah told the people that God would free them and restore everything to them in two years. Jeremiah challenged Hananiah because of his lies. He also said Hananiah would die and in two months, he was dead.
In chapter 29, Jeremiah encourages the people to live their lives while they’re in exile—to work, marry, plant, eat, and multiply! He tells them they’ll be in Babylon for 70 years and then, they’ll be brought home again.
God’s plans of a hope and a future for His chosen people probably didn’t match what their idea was. They wanted to go home, yet God said it would be 70 years. They wanted their own king, yet God said they would serve the Babylonian king. They wanted to flourish in their homeland, but God said to do that under a government that was holding them captive. Possibly the hardest part was that the older generation would never go back home. They would die in a foreign land serving a foreign king.
We can’t insist on our idea of a bright and hopeful future. We tend to be short-sighted and earthly-minded. But God’s ways are so much higher than what our minds can grasp. His plan is better! And it will include forever with Him in heaven, not just a short portion of our lives on earth.
If our hope is laced with doubt, fear and anxiety, we can change that today. We need to eliminate our“hope-so” attitude and replace it with a “know-so” mindset. Our hope should never be tethered to the conveniences and pleasures the world offers or the ease of a situation. Instead, we fasten our minds to the promises and truths in the Word of God and fix our sights on the day when our bright, glorious, and eternal future is made a reality. Instead of wishing away our days in the predicament we’re in, let’s have confidence that God will deposit hope into us no matter what we’re facing.
Circumstances outside of our control often undo expectations and plans. Life is outside of our control. The pandemic is changing our lives. Life, as we planned, no longer exists.
Dreams have been dashed. Jobs and career positions have been lost, and the unknown remains bleak. That is the world nonbelievers live in; they created their own destiny and have nothing to rely on but themselves. However, believers rest on God’s Word. We did not create our own destiny; God gave us life and a path. Scripture declares, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3. If we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not in our own understanding and submit to Him, He will make our paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
I am not saying that we will not experience hardship and loss; we will. The difference between nonbelievers and believers is that we find comfort in knowing that God provides. Loss is temporary. Paths can be forged, and we do not fear death because we possess eternal life.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand. Isaiah 41:10.
Our God sees us through the darkest moments, He directs our way, and carries us when we can no longer withstand the pressure. He told us He would never give us more than we can bear, though what we think we can carry and what He believes we can bear are two different things. It is during these moments He challenges us to be courageous, to have courage.
In times of great distress, we are challenged to grow. We are challenged to put His Word into practice. He tells us to depend on Him and not what we see. He tells us, all things work for the good for those who love Him and have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.
All believers are called according to His purpose. Knowing this assures us that the darkest days are numbered, and we will once again see the light of day. This assurance proves our faith is stronger than our circumstances. It is stronger than our losses. Faith determines our new path, and can sure up the old. We are victorious. We have victory through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about the things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
We are overcomers. As long as we trust God, we can live in peace amid the storms of life. Internal peace is spiritual peace. You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3 We can face the loss and setbacks through the struggle. We can see God operating in our lives as minute details become visible of the signs He presents. When we put the pieces together, we can begin to see the bigger picture, much like viewing a crossword puzzle. Will all of the pieces arrive numbered like a do-it-yourself piece of furniture, no. Will we experience setbacks, yes. Will we give up and give in to the circumstances that many would say are crippling and can not be overcome, no. Philippians 4:13 affirms we can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
The author of 1 John 5:4 wrote For everyone born of God overcomes the world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
Pandemics are outside of our control, but its outcomes are not outside of our Lord’s authority. This is the time we are called to stand, and as Ephesians 6:13 declares, having done all stand. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 tells us, God’s grace is sufficient for us, His power is made perfect in our weakness, and we should boast about our weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on us. Paul tells us when we are weak; we are strong.
Scriptures – Biblegateway.com; Images – Google Images
The COVID19 pandemic is both a natural occurrence and a spiritual attack.
~ Lisa Blair
Hello Brothers and Sisters,
God calls us to participate in corporate gatherings, but church, as usual, is not possible in many parts of the world, including the United States. The pandemic is changing the way we attend church. It is safe to say that the church is under attack, and the pandemic is a tool to diminish our walk and weaken our resolve as Christians. I am not saying the coronavirus does not have natural causation. I am saying that it is being used as a tool or weapon against believers.
Two things are simultaneously occurring:
1) churches, businesses, and other institutions are closing to slow the spread of the pandemic,
2) the virus is being used by the evil one to destroy its’ adversary, the church.
As Christians, we are well aware of the ongoing spiritual battle. Satan is using the pandemic to strip the church. The Lord is using it to strengthen us, make us wiser and more alert. Isaiah 54:17 says, no weapon formed against us shall prosper. The battle rages, but we are already victorious. The 91st Psalm says we must abide in the presence of the Lord, who gives us refuge and protects us from danger, specifically from plagues.
First Corinthians describes how God wants believers to live amid a corrupt culture and dark times. We not only live in a corrupt culture but are experiencing a pandemic, definitely dark times. Scripture instructs us to put our faith in Jesus. Our faith should not be in the wisdom of men but the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). If we do so, when times get hard, those who do not have a relationship with God can take courage from those of us who are believers, if we maintain and display our trust in the Lord (Charles Stanley).
God not only provides refuge but also gave us armor to protect ourselves as we enter the battle before us. Paul writes in Ephesians 6, be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. He further instructs us to put on the armor to withstand the evil day, which is happening now, and having done all, to stand. Stand as our church’s close, stand as our livelihood may be affected, stand if our health is attacked, stand when the days feel dark, and stand until we see the light of day.
The scriptures inform us that 1) ‘this is the day the Lord has made’; and 2) ‘we were created for such a time as this.’ During this season of our lives, we should hold fast to our faith and trust that God will bring us through. We must continue to stay in prayer at all costs. Our lives depend upon it. Our faith gives us the strength to trust in God’s peace, regardless of what is going on around us, and helps us endure whatever is ahead.
Mark 13 emphasizes that God wants his people to wake up and not be deceived or unaware of what is going on around us. All that we see through the visible eye is not what is happening on the invisible plane. The war is raging and we are the church. As the church, we are on the front line and must stay in prayer to effectively turn the tide of this natural disaster.
Christ renamed several of His disciples to give them a new identity, demonstrating their new creature in Christ. While our names may not have changed, we, like Peter, battle the old man-the natural man, while maturing into the new man. The process is worth examining.
Christians, as with the case of most people today, question who we are. We know we are new creatures in Christ, but that does not magically eliminate our carnal or natural being. This is only the beginning of our evolution. Before being saved, our values are variables that change depending upon conditions and circumstances. We are comparable to chameleons.
This Post is a short study on the evolutionary growth of Peter, who was born Simon Peter, the natural man, and transformed into Peter, the new man. It highlights his struggles, weaknesses, strengths, as well as his growth. Examining Peter’s life should give any believer hope. Simon Peter evolved into Peter over time, it was not miraculous, or immediate, it was an expansive timeline. Our evolutionary process may take as long or longer than Peters took. The important things to note are: have hope, stay in prayer, and allow God to direct your path, always examining if it is the old man operating or the new man of God moving forward.
The Evolution of Simon Peter
Peter’s birth name was Simon Peter. He was outspoken, strong-willed, and impulsive. He was a husband, father of two, and a partner in a thriving fishery; he was a fisherman. It could be said, his life was full. He knew himself as Simon Peter, the man, was a practicing Jew and followed the Law of Moses. Was he content with his natural self? We do not know. Was he seeking his real self? Who knows. Did he innately know he would one day leave everything, to follow Christ, and become his real self, Simon Peter, probably not? Do we know who we really are in God’s eyes, or the plans He has for us, probably not?
Simon Peter didn’t stand out. He was an uneducated Jew, Acts 3:13. He was a Hebrew, a follower of The Mosaic Law, like most. However, despite his failings and his strengths, the Lord chose to mold Simon Peter into whom He created him to become – Peter, a member of Christ’s inner circle of disciples. As time progressed and Peter accepted Christ as His Lord, Peter walked, learned, and loved Christ. He was a witness to miracles and wonders. But, despite his first-hand knowledge and witness to these events, Simon Peter continued to resurface. The transformed Peter, (Christ, gave him the new name indicating he was a follower and believer), became a new man but remained brash and impulsive. He was the person that stepped out of the boat and onto the surface of the sea to walk to Jesus.
~It was Simon Peter, not Peter, who looked down as he was walking on water (a sign and wonder), lost faith, and began to sink, Matthew 14:28-30.
~It was Simon Peter who calls us to serve but stayed seated and did not join Christ when he washed the disciples’ feet, 1 Peter 5:2.
~It was Simon Peter that told the believers to stay clear-minded and have self-control at all times to pray, 1 Peter 4:7.
~It was Simon Peter who rebuked Christ for speaking of his death, Matthew 16:22.
~It was Simon Peter who fell asleep while Jesus was praying and sweating blood, 1 Peter 2:13.
~It was Simon Peter who slipped back into the Law and suggested they erect three tabernacles, one for each—Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, clustering Jesus with the Old Testament prophets, Matthew 17:4.
~It was Simon Peter who grew angry drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest, John 18:10.
~It was Simon Peter who swore that he would never forsake the Lord, even if everyone else did, and you know the story, he denied Christ three times when he was arrested, Matthew 26:70-74.
~It was Simon Peter who fled when Christ was hung on the cross and hid in fear, 1 Peter 5:1.
How often do we capitulate under challenging times and employ our old values and behavior like Peter? Usually, the conversion is so indistinct we are there before we were aware of slipping. At that moment, we become blind to who we are in Christ, we regress to our old man. Thank God for redemption because we can repent and once again take on the behaviors of Christ who knows our true selves and is molding us to become more like Him.
Despite Peter’s shortcomings, Jesus continued to affirm Peter as the “Rock,” Matthew 16:18-19 and promised him that he, Peter, would become instrumental in establishing Jesus’ Church. After Christs’ resurrection, he named Peter as the one who needed to hear the good news, Matthew 16:7. Jesus made a point of forgiving and restoring Simon Peter to accept and regain his new name, Peter, and recommissioned him as Christ’s’ Apostle, and high priest, John 21,6, 15-17; Hebrews 3:1.
Even after being restored, Peter, who preached on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, was present when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit, Acts 8, and was summoned to the home of Roman centurion Cornelius, Acts 10, initially resisted following the instructions to go to Cornelius’ home. Simon Peter struggled with the transformation of his old man to the new man – Peter. We are no different, there is a raging battle between our old man and new.
Peter, the new man, who was not wrought with doubt and fear, ultimately obeyed and went to Cornelius’ home. If Peter had not gone to his home, we might not have witnessed Cornelius receiving the Holy Spirit, Acts 10. Only God knows why he is directing our path. Seemingly at this point, the new man, Peter, should be steadfast. However, that is not the case.
When Peter, the new man, went to Antioch to fellowship with the Gentiles, all was good until the Jews appeared. However, when the legalistic Jews, of which he was as Simon Peter, arrived, he sought to appease them and separated himself from the believing Gentiles, Galatians 2:11-14. Paul admonished him for being a hypocrite. None of us can merge our old man and the new man. We are either one or the other. The battle will continue through this life, but when the old man surfaces, we must repent and pick up our cross in the new man.
Jesus forgives our unfaithfulness. He sees us as He intends us to be, not who we may currently be or were in our pre-redemptive life. Jesus knows our birth/carnal name and receives us as his own, the new man. In today’s times, He may not actually rename us, but he does give us a new life.
Jesus was patient with Peter through his disobedience, arrogance, fear, and denial. Peter was a fisherman and became a fisher of men, who matured into one of the Lord’s most dedicated apostles. He is known as one of the most well-known disciples and was instrumental in establishing the church in Samaria, Act 8. He brought the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10-11. He preached the sermon at Pentecost, where three thousand believers received the Holy Spirit, Acts 3.
The point is, God is patient and will wait until he can change you. If He does not give up on us, neither should we give up on ourselves. He created us to do His work. To paraphrase the scripture, God has plans for us that will prosper us and not destroy us. God, is patient and monitors us as we evolve into the person He envisioned. God knows our challenges, our setbacks, and our victories.
As we mature in the Word and obey God, our story will unfold just as Peters did. Was Peter perfect? No, absolutely not. Were there moments when the natural man won out? Yes. We were born into sin, we all fall short of the glory of God. None of us is perfect; only Jesus is perfect. God could have created us as automatons. He chose to create us in His likeness and instilled us with his own will and desires. Why, because God wants a relationship with us. He sacrificed His only Son to save us from sin. He knows we are a work in progress, He created us to desire His will and not our own, and that is all God requires that we surrender, depend on Him and be obedient to the Word. He wants us to evolve from our natural man to our new man.
The Bible is replete with sinners who received salvation after leading destructive lives. I also find it interesting that these examples clearly exemplify God’s expectations for all believers. No excuses, God laid the foundation demonstrated in Peter’s character study. Now it is time to become who we really are; we are His workmanship, ever-changing in His likeness. This leads back to – only God knows the real you and through prayer and obedience we will learn who we are in Christ.
Images – Google Images. LAB Photos
Resources – Who is Peter in the Bible? GotQuestions.org; Bible.com; Peter: A Case Study in Character, KenBoa.org; Peter, studyandobey.com