The Blessing of Suffering

Carrying His crossAs I opened the app on my android to get to get a blessing from my Bible  reading plan, the verse for the day simply leaped out at me.

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 1:29

Who likes the word suffer? Let me see a show of hands. I truly applaud those who do. It’s not a word I love, to be honest with you. The verse actually caused me to have a flash back to a time in my life when it seems like whenever I went to read the Bible I kept getting side tracked by 1 Peter 4:12-19.

1 Peter 4:

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

I remember the strange anxious feeling that started to develop inside, every time I read that passage. It was like I knew that a ‘fiery trial’ was on its way. It sure was and after all God did to prepare me, I must admit He had to pull me through it. I almost got stuck wallowing in the mire of self-pity, anger and bitterness. I certainly didn’t want to rejoice as 1 Peter 4:13 instructed. I wanted vengeance but God has helped me change my perspective.

Suffering for Christ is something that Christians must be ready to accept as a part of life. It comes in many ways and I dare say what you may consider suffering, someone else may consider it a walk in the park and vice versa. For example, there are still Christians been martyred for their belief in Christ. There are underground Churches in China, North Korea and other parts of the world. Christians are suffering persecution in brutal ways. Another type of suffering is when Satan rages against you and steals the blessings God has given you, like what happened with Job. Leaving you with the sting of bitter loss of family, health or other material possessions and filled with questions. The Bible lets us know that suffering could be through insults and the evil and malicious things others say about you, because of the life you live for Christ. There is also the suffering that comes when others wage what they refer to as ‘spiritual warfare’ against you, rooted in things of occult nature and not in any way associated with the Holy Spirit. The type that may for a while leave you unaware of what is bringing on your suffering. I said ‘for a while’ for I have proven that God will reveal all things in its time. No matter how suffering comes we must remember that we have a real enemy, Satan, that would do anything to have us doubt and even renounce our God. He wants to destroy us.

Sadly, not only non-Christians cause Christians to suffer, but there are times when a child of God is living his life for Christ and the good they do offend other Christians, who simply refuse to obey God’s word. Then, not only do the God fearing Christian have to endure the trials from those who don’t know Christ, but they are also attacked and suffer because of others who claim to be serving Christ. In Philippians 4, we get a glimpse of this happening even to the Apostle Paul.

Philippians 4: (NIV)

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Take a look at verse 17. There were actually people preaching about Christ just to promote their own selves and trying to cause more trouble for Paul, who was already in enough trouble. These things still go on today and it sometimes it’s hard to tell who are genuine Christians from who aren’t. We need discernment. What’s even worse, those who are fake can cause a lot of suffering for those who are genuine by turning other Christians against them, through lies, slander and deception.

If you are suffering for Christ today, I want to remind you that God sees. You are not alone and there are others in the body of Christ who have experienced what you are going through and are even now going through the same trial. I want to encourage you with verses that have been a source of encouragement to me.

1 Peter 5: (NIV)

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Please don’t miss the precious promise in verse 10. Use it to stir up your hope and strengthen your resolve to keep living in obedience to God and being a genuine follower of Christ. Suffering is painful no matter how it comes and if you are suffering because of the deeds of others against you, respond Gods way and reap the blessings He has promised in His word.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9  

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

I have come to accept and appreciate the blessing of suffering for Christ. What’s even more amazing, is that I am starting to understand the reason the scripture says rejoice and be glad and I’m choosing to obey that instruction. It’s not easy to rejoice even after the suffering or trouble has past, but it can be done.

We can focus on thanking God and reaffirming our love and trust in Him and reminding ourselves how He loves us and is with us even when we don’t feel Him. He will strengthen us, take us through or completely deliver us. Much hope and greater endurance comes from a change of perspective. Also never forget that one day, there will be a reward for those who suffer in the name of Jesus Christ. We are assured of this because of the suffering that Christ himself went through for us. He endured it by fixing His eyes on the joy that lay ahead when it was finished. The joy of the many souls that would be reconciled to His heavenly Father. So my final word of encouragement is for us to keep our eyes on Jesus. Let the time when we celebrate His death, burial and resurrection fill us with hope, joy and a renewed sense of purpose to take up our cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:27), even through seasons of suffering.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God bless you!

Heavenly Father, how great and awesome you are. I thank you that you are with us through every season of our life. Lord I pray for those going through a season of suffering at this time especially those who are being hit by trouble after trouble and are beginning to doubt that you will come through for them. Have mercy and send them help at this time.

Please be their strength, restore them and keep them firm and steadfast in the faith. Give them wisdom how to face and respond to those who are slandering them and trying to destroy their reputation. Lord I pray that even today many who have persevered would start experiencing the blessings and seeing you avenge them. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers that we pray in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

The Blessing of Achieving your Goals

Let your light shineThe smallest achievements in life are like the the pieces of wood from which a great fire is built.

When working on achieving your goals, many of us get discouraged when we experience failure in one area or another. I wish I could say I am one who can just rise up from failure and quickly review where I had gone wrong and begin again, or start working on another goal with the same zeal. I have to remind myself over and over again that failure is not final, before getting my act together and taking those steps to escape the pit of discouragement. Now that’s our little secret, because some who know me personally, think I have a positive, never give up attitude…not. God just won’t let me wallow in my pit for too long. He always sends some word, or verse, or memory, that along with my mental post-it notes to self, slowly stirs me back to action again. Oh but how sweet it is to finally accomplish something that you gave up on before.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools to depart from evil. Proverbs 13:19

Sometime ago I wrote a post about Dormant Gifts and I hinted that I wanted to write books for children. I had material sitting down for years but it just seem like I was never going to use it. I had tried to get a manuscript to a publisher, but now looking back I understand why it couldn’t have been accepted the way it was sent. Well, late last year one thing led to another and my dream of publishing 5 children’s picture books in five years, was resurrected. I pushed through the strange fear I had when I started drawing the illustrations for one of those books and was determined to self publish on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Now I can sing, I did it, I did it, yes I did, I did it. Yes finally I got my first children’s picture book done, My Caribbean Day

So now you who have shelved your dreams for whatever reason, if you still have that desire in your heart to achieve, I believe you can. I can’t throw at you the ‘just do it’ slogan, I don’t have that type of personality naturally myself. What I can say is that you can do it and if you can remind yourself of that fact every time you remember your shelved dream, you slowly will start putting things in place to get it done. That’s what worked for me, even if I had to pull myself out of a temporary fit of discouragement. I started telling myself, I can do this, I believe I can. In time my I can do this, turned to I will do it. After that got settled in me it was time to put things in place. So here are the steps that I used and believe anyone can use to achieve their dreams.

  1. Dream. Seems obvious but sometimes we can get so caught up in life that we no longer simply take the time out to dream about stuff we would like to accomplish. Let your imagination inspire you. It’s amazing the creativity that lies within us if we take the time to look for it.
  2. Write it down and review them. There are so many benefits in doing this. It begins by putting you in the right mindset for achieving them. Even if you don’t review them regularly, chances are one day you’ll find them when searching for something else (like in my case) and be inspired. It also helps to bring clarity to what you want to see achieved.
  3. Remind yourself often that you can and you will.Think realistically about what it would take to accomplish your goal. If you are not sure, make the effort to find out. You don’t have to know everything all at once, but at least get an idea of what it would take to get from point A to point B. Again list them out. I must admit, I kept my list in my head, but as my husband likes to remind me, ‘the weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory,’ so it’s best to write it down. Keep collecting information or material you may need, but don’t stress if you can’t get everything all at once. Also make sure you get help when you need it.
  4. Decide when you are  going to begin and as far as possible stick to your decision. However, if you can’t, set another time. I can’t tell you how many times I missed the deadline for some of the tasks I set, even after using the accountability strategy. Which is the reason for the next point.
  5. Remain flexible or you may discourage yourself. Life happens and it can delay you. Avoid getting stuck in perfectionism, but don’t settle for mediocrity. Do your best.
  6. Celebrate small accomplishments along the way. Finishing my first picture was an inspiration.
  7. Live your life. Don’t get so consumed with accomplishing your goal that you ignore other important people and things of life.

So there you have it. Some of them I had to learn along the way, while dealing with frustration. Now may I introduce to you My Caribbean Day

Be blessed!

Heavenly Father, thank you that no matter what good thing we set out to achieve in life, we have the confidence in knowing that you are with us and we can call on you for help at anytime. Thank you for helping me accomplish one part of my goal, I trust you to help me with the rest. I pray for those who have shelved dreams that would be good to pursue. Lord re-awaken the desire in them to accomplish these dreams and show them the way to go. Grant them good success, in Jesus name. Amen

I Want my Blessing Back!

UntitledYou have been blessed by the Lord with something that you truly appreciate, but you come home one day and find it missing. Awful thought, but it happens. Sometimes it may be a blessing we cherish dearly, sometimes it may be a blessing we have been overlooking while focusing on something else. It’s a horrid feeling when you find someone has stolen what belongs to you, or you simply lost it yourself (not sure which is worst). Sometimes others may see what you have lost as trivial, but to you it’s valuable and you want it back.

But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. Isaiah 42:22

It is quite interesting reading this verse in other translations. Instead of the word ‘restore’  some has, ‘bring them back’, ‘send them back’,’bring that back’, ‘give them back’. However it’s translated, the verse always reminds me to go to the one who can truly restore and ask Him to get your stuff back for you. It is God who blesses and I believe that He does allow things to be removed from our lives at times and His will is perfect. Sometimes the removal is permanent, sometimes it’s not. I believe if we ask Him to restore, what is to be restored will be restored. However, today I’m not thinking about loses that are permanent, just ones that leave you feeling very miserable until they are restored.

So why is this on my mind? well, I took a break from blogging so I could spend extra time illustrating and publishing my first children’s book. Writing books for children has been a dream of mine for years now, as I hinted in another post Dormant Gifts and near the end of 2012 I got the courage to make this dream come through. I already had something written which needed illustration, so I set to work and finally I was able to publish my first book on Kindle on Thursday, February 22. I should have been celebrating. Unfortunately, the very next day I returned to my website to find it had been blacklisted by the giant Google. Had  to pull an all nighter sorting that out. Turns out I was hacked by someone trying to gain links from my website. So because of their greed and covetousness, my hard work was brought to nothing. It was hard reading that my website is suspected of malicious activity and harder realizing I couldn’t even log in to it myself. In a moment, months of hard work was lost.

Going to bed at almost 5:00 a.m. in the morning after sorting this out was not pleasant, not in the least. However, I was blessed by the fact that after my initial panic, I prayed and asked God for help and by the time I got to bed, I went from totally clueless, to reading and changing codes that got rid of the malware, used to hack my website. God is awesome.

Now I should really be celebrating, right? Well by Sunday I was elated to see that KDP accepted and published my book. Then it disappeared off my KDP publisher’s bookshelf  along with another book I had uploaded as a draft. I’ve been trying to get that resolved since then and up to this time of writing, it still isn’t. I’ve prayed, but I’m still waiting. I’m not sure if to laugh or cry at the irony. If I tell you the full story you’ll probably have the same reaction, but I will not. You see the customer service representatives have tried to help, it’s just that nothing has solved the problem as yet. Since I believe God could have had this fixed, just like my hacked website, I’m thinking He’s allowing this test for a reason. (I’m sure some one would say I need patience.)

If someone else was going through this I would have encouraged them that even though they are raw inside with frustration and feel like screaming, they should choose to be patient, do what they can do and let God work out the rest. Anger will not solve anything. I will take my own advise and do what it takes to keep calm, besides I know who the real thief is and whatever he may take away, it’s up to me to give up my peace. I choose to believe God is working this out for my good.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

I need to get back to my other projects. So until the next post remember God loves you and…

Be Blessed!!!

Heavenly Father, I pray for those who are right now struggling to regain something they have lost. Have mercy and send them the help they need. Direct their steps and keep them from losing their peace. Oh God I cry out “restore” for I know you are willing able to help your children. Thank You Father for hearing and answering and working things out for our good. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

Past or Future? You decide

compassI found that between the end of December and the beginning weeks of January, few of the messages I heard preached almost seemed contradictory. One week the focus was on the value of looking back and remembering past events. The next week, I heard another that was taught in a way that gave the strong conviction that you should never look back, but always look ahead. Of course I appreciate and understand what was being said, but it reminds me that I have to be ever so cautious when presenting certain topics and pulling Bible verses to back it up.

The Bible is not contradictory. It is true that someone can take some passages of scripture and present an argument for something and someone else can take another set of passages of scripture and argue against the same thing. (Sad reality is that people actually do this and can cause others who do not search the scripture for themselves, much confusion.) However, in my opinion one particular passage of scripture clarify the existence of differences that may seem to appear in Biblical dialogue. It’s message is simply this, there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  (NIV)
A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

So I’ve concluded that there is a time to look back and a time to look ahead.

The Past

At times it is good to look back and remember what God has brought you through and remembering what you came out of. There is a  time to walk  down memory lane and enjoy the sights and scenes of days gone by. Some of the benefits of looking back…

  • A means of reminding yourself that God is able to fight your battles. This is one thing that helps me push forward in challenging circumstances.
  • A way of recognising the signs that led to past successes or failures. This helps you know what to do or what to avoid in particular situations.
  • Recognising when someone is trying to take you down a path you know will lead to destruction.
  • Our past can help us plan for a better future. As the cliché says ‘hind site is 20/20 vision’.
  • To encourage others who are currently facing what we have faced in the past.
  • To simply have an engaging conversation with family or long-lost friends you have finally reconnected with.
  • To help explain our point of view.

Even Paul who wrote ‘forgetting those things which are behind’ (Philippians 3:13), recounted his past earlier in that same chapter, as a means of helping the Philippians’ get a clear picture of what he had left behind compared to what he now held as being valuable. In verse 13 he was not trying to tell us that we should blank out our past as the only way to a better future. He however reminds us that those past things, that were not rooted in true devotion to Jesus Christ were nothing compared to the value of knowing Christ and living for Him.

The Future

The Bible also teaches us to look ahead and plan. Luke 14:28 reminds us to count the cost of what we set out to do and in order to do that we must take time to look ahead. Some of the benefits of looking ahead…

  • Helps you create a clear vision of what you want of your life. As the first half of Proverbs 29:18 reminds us ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’. Having a vision gives hope especially when you are in a rough spot in life.
  • Helps you to plan wisely or make necessary adjustments to your life.
  • Affects your choices in life.
  • You can cover yourself in targeted specific prayer.
  • You can determine the people you need to network with and even be aware of those to avoid (e.g. people who would tempt you to waste time or even worst disrupt your priorities and debase your morals).
  • It can give you hope and strengthen your endurance. As I typed that I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. On our journey to eternity there will be trials or temptations that only the blessed hope of a life with Christ will help us push through. 
  • It allows us better stewards of our time here on earth.

Don’t get Stuck

Life is about finding balance. Again I remind you that there is a time for everything. Don’t get stuck in the past, neither get fixated on the future. Use both entities to keep you relevant for today. Then use today  to step forward from your past and make a step in the right direction for your future.

So here’s my suggestion if you are desiring a successful future. Before the month of January ends take about 10 minutes to look back and see if there are any changes you need or want to make in your life and jot them down. Don’t allow yourself to become too emotional or get blindsided by guilt in areas you have already repented of, but simply look for things that needs to be addressed and changes you want to make, then take the next step, pray. Bring them all before the throne of grace, it is open to everyone who believes in Christ and there is help available to set us on the right path to change, even in areas we deem impossible.

Then take a few minutes, I would suggest at least 30 minutes, or even snippets of time through out a week and look forward. Think of what you believe God would have you do or become in one years time, or 5 years time and write it down. If you have no vision or are going through a period of hopelessness then use the time to ask God to give you clear directions for your life. Then take the time and write out your vision.

The next step is to count the cost. What will it take to get you from where you are to where you want to be. What small changes can you make today and in the weeks and month to come. Write them down and pray about them.

Now the fact is, none of the above will change your life unless you add this important key, ACTION. Do what you need to do to see your vision become a reality. Unfortunately, that’s where many of us get stalled. So I encourage you to take action, do what it takes to make a positive difference in your own life. It is your God-given choice and with God’s help you can do it.

God bless you!

 

Heavenly Father we praise You for a new day and new beginnings, that remind us that time does not stands still. Like the Psalmist declared, ‘teach us to number our days’. Help us live our lives remembering all You have done for us and living for Your glory each day You bless us with. Give us a clear vision of what You would have us do this year, things you want us accomplish and give us the desire and strength to work towards that vision. Thank You for hearing our prayer. In Jesus name, Amen.

Blessed New Year

lack of dirIt’s a New year and I hope that you will have a blessed year. Remember that even challenges, set backs or other type of negative circumstances can be turned into a blessing by God. Keep trusting in Him.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22(NIV)

This year the verse above is may verse of focus. As I access myself I have come to realize that over the years, I have acquired much knowledge in areas where I was lacking. Sometimes right after I prayed about something, I’ll find the information I needed. God provided through His word, through his servants, through books and other avenues. Unfortunately, I have had to learn that problems are not solved just by knowing what to do, but by doing what needs to be done and keeping at it long enough so that you see success. Then depending on what you are working on, e.g. changing a habit, you have to be consistent in the doing.

As Christians many of us have no excuse to fail at living like a true follower of Christ. Most of us have the freedom to read the scripture for ourselves and get the best direction for our lives. Yet, we wait on someone else to tell us what to do, we hear or even discuss the word but refuse to do or we simply make excuses and the list can go on. I speak from experience and as I searched myself at the end of 2012, I am resolved to be a doer of the word in all areas of my life.

My aim is to bring God glory and I will not park at past successes or even be deterred by past failures.

What about you? What is your aim this year 2013? If you are one who makes resolutions, I encourage you to seek God’s direction on how to succeed. Take all of your plans to Him. If you want someone to agree with you in prayer feel free to leave a prayer request, I will pray for you.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3

I read the previous verse this morning and immediately obeyed. Many promises are available from our faithful, loving Father, but alas, so often we fail to do our part so that we can see these promises manifest in our lives. Would you join me this year and add the works to our faith?

Be blessed.

Heavenly Father, thank You for bringing us through another year. Thank You that we can turn to You at the beginning of this New Year and trust You to guide, protect and bless us throughout. We love You Lord. May our lives bring You glory. In Jesus name, Amen.