Seeking the Lord

2 Chronicles 15:12 & 15 They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it whole heartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

Where is your relationship with the Lord? Do you know him well? Do you enjoy spending time with him and his word? Maybe you just met the Lord and don’t really know where to go from there, or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Enjoying a relationship with him at times, but struggling to find him when your days are full of missed opportunities, painful mistakes, and selfish pursuits.

The Lord seems far away. I don’t really blame him, I don’t even like to be around myself when I act like that.

However, the word tells us “the Lord is always with us. We will not be shaken, for he is right beside us.” Psalm 16:8

If the Lord is always with us, it’s not like we have to go looking for him when we seek him. No matter how our day has gone, God is right beside us waiting for us to turn to him and share our day with him. The good and the bad of each day. The formula for finding the Lord, or for realizing he is with us always, seems to be our own heart attitude. Are we sincerely seeking him, wholeheartedly, or are we just feeling grumpy and wondering why the Lord seems far away?

Seek him daily with all your heart and soul no matter what your attitude or failures and you will experience a growing, joyful relationship with the Lord that will bring you rest in every aspect of your life.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, help us seek you with a whole heart and know fully that you are always with us.

Jesus: Who is He?

Encouraging_World.jpgArtwork by Jacob Schwander

Hebrews 3:3-15 

Jesus Greater Than Moses

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters [Christians], who share in the heavenly calling,
fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all
God’s house.
Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly
to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

From just these scriptures, we learn that Jesus is our apostle and high priest.  He is faithful, appointed, worthy of great honor, and the Son over God’s house.  If we read further on in this passage, we see who we are and what we are called to do:

Warning Against Unbelief

So,as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart
that turns away from the living God.
13 But encourage one another daily, as long
as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly
to the very end.
15 As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion.”

Let’s not repeat the rebellious history.  Turn towards Him.  Ask Him for forgiveness for
a rebellious heart.  Let’s quiet our hearts and minds from our busy day.  Let’s hear His voice.  Read His Word to hear Him.  Read Proverbs 2:1-15 for a deeper understanding.
Be attentive to what He asks of us.  Be ready to change to be more like Jesus.
Encourage one another daily.

Be encouraged!

 

Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.

Romans 8:35, 37-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When my daughter Carly was nine years old she was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and we were told she would never graduate from high school. We had held her back in school, but she still struggled to grasp the mechanics of reading.

We prayed every day for the Lord’s help, but our prayers seemed to go unanswered. We felt separated from the Lord and from his love.

When our prayers are not answered the way we think and hope they will be answered, we start to feel God doesn’t love us. For surely if God loved us he would give us what we want. Good parents certainly don’t give their children everything they want, and our Heavenly Father is much wiser than any parent. He sees the big picture and he sees the deep needs of our souls. He knows what we really need much more than we do.

In verse 37 Paul writes “in all these things we are more than conquerors”, what things is he talking about? He’s talking about verse 35, trouble and hardship. The Lord knows continued trials can wear on us and make us feel separated from him. He wants us to know nothing in all the world can separate us from his love.

With my Carly girl, the Lord didn’t remove her struggles but he helped her through them. She is now a college graduate that sees the love of the Lord in her life every day.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

He Goes Before Me

Encouraging_River.jpg

 

2 Samuel 22:37    You enlarged my path under me; so that my feet did not slip.

When I was young, we hiked quite a bit. I can remember several times when we had hiked up a trail that was a small narrow path with a sharp drop off. My dad would go before me and tell me where to step or to widen the path for me. Often times he would try the path first, come back to me, hold my hands while he walked backwards to safely guide me so I did not slip.

If my earthly father cares for me in this way; I can only imagine what my Heavenly Father does for me in my daily walk. He goes before me enlarging and lighting my path, teaching and leading me where to go. He knows the turns I will take, the narrow paths I will have to walk, the boulders I’ll have to go around and the mountains I will climb. I pray daily that the path I take is His path: His will for me.

How do we know His will? How do we know He is there? For believers, we trust His word in the Bible. We see evidence that He has been there for us. How he guides us through our trials, comforts and cares for us by providing blessings.  The blessing could be a butterfly passing by the window if you are at home sick, flowers or a meal that a friend drops off, an unexpected phone call from an old friend or a kind repairman when your kitchen sink is clogged. However, so often, we can miss God’s blessings because we are so focused on the trials.  We get wrapped up like a mummy in our pain, fear, anxiety or depression. What we focus on can keep us from moving forward on God’s path.

Be focused on Him. Be encouraged.

Isaiah 48:16-18
16 Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.
17 Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
18 Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;

In the last verse, it states, “Your peace would have been like a river.” Let’s remember that rivers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are calm that you can just gently float down in an inner tube. Others, have rapids; small rolling rapids to dangerous Class VI rapids. The peace that He is talking about does not come from a peaceful life without trials. We live in a world full of pain and varying rapids. The peace comes from trusting Him and the mercy He provides in those trials. When we believe in Him, He gives us the Holy Spirit. He is the experienced guide and He gives us the safety gear and raft for whatever the river journey will be.

We must be listening to Him.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 85:10 “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Lord, we are so thankful for your truth and blessings. If we look back at what You have brought us through, we can see and trust that you have enlarged our path; so that our feet do not slip as we walk through life. Thank you for lovingly leading and guarding us. May we feel your peace as we move forward on Your path! In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Hold Fast To The Lord

2 Kings 18:5-7

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.

Hezekiah was an amazingly powerful and successful king of Judah. He stood up to the king of Assyria and refused to pay tribute. That was an extremely risky move. Assyria was the world power at that time and they were a ruthless, violent, and blood thirsty people. Countries would pay the king of Assyria anything he asked, to keep them from attacking their land.

Where did Hezekiah get his amazing confidence and trust in the Lord? It wasn’t because everything was easy for him, he had tremendous obstacles to overcome, both in his political life and in his personal life.

His father, King Ahaz was an idol worshiper and Hezekiah saw more than one of his brothers sacrificed on a burning altar to Molech, god of war. He must have lived in constant fear as a child that he could be sacrificed too.

When he took over as king most of Judah had followed the ways of his father King Ahaz and became idol worshipers. He worked hard to bring reform to his country, turning the hearts of the people back to the Lord.

King Hezekiah took one wife, in a time when kings had hundreds of wives. Hephzibah his wife, could not get pregnant. He must have had tremendous pressure to take more wives to secure an heir to the throne, but he did not. He was king for 17 years before his wife became pregnant.

So how do we trust the Lord completely when we are facing trials in many areas of our lives? Trials that continue for years. Verse 6 tells us that Hezekiah held fast to the Lord, and did not cease to follow him, keeping the commands of the Lord.

So we keep walking forward with the Lord, trusting Him and waiting for Him to act on our behalf. We keep living and acting like the followers of Christ that we are. And when the trials come, because they surely will, we go before the Lord in confidence and seek His help, His reassurance and His loving encouragement.

Prayer:

Help us to wait patiently for You O Lord, to act on our behalf. Help us trust You when things are not going well, and to give You the praise and glory You deserve no matter the outcome.

Majesty

Encouraging_Mountain.jpgPhoto by Brent Adams

“But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” Psalm 3:3-4 (NIV)

This week has been a challenging week. A couple of medical and financial mountains appeared! Monday my teenage twin sons were told that they needed braces. One only needs them for cosmetic reasons, therefore, he does not want them. My other son has a cross bite and so he MUST have braces. He will be wearing braces for 2.5 years. He has taken this news as a champ. Yesterday, they put spacers in-between his molars. By this morning, one of his molars was most likely pressing down on a nerve. He was in severe pain. Why do we mamas feel so helpless when our babes (at any age) are hurting?! I prayed for the Lord to relieve his pain and for the Dr. to give us immediate feedback for relief. Seven hours later, he is doing better as the pain is tolerable. The Dr. had told me to give him Tylenol. My son knew to rest and he fell asleep for most of the day. I believe God allowed him to sleep through the pain. Thank you, loving Jesus.

Yesterday, I had an exam that needed immediate follow up this morning with a mammogram and ultrasound. About 20 years ago, I had a benign tumor removed. Unfortunately, I’m familiar with that look of concern the radiologist has as they are looking at the x-ray. As I sat waiting for the ultrasound (for clearer pictures), I thought,
I know God has me where he wants me. If I’m to go through this trial of cancer, then there’s a reason and a greater purpose. I felt peace and I was calm. After the ultrasound, I waited. The radiologist would tell me immediately what the results were.  Again, I thought, God has been there for me through all of my trials, He will guide me through this. The radiologist came into the room and he said, “Mrs. Schwander, everything looks good. You are fine.” I was very grateful that He shielded me from this trial. Yet, I thought of all of the women who have had breast cancer. I pray that if you are going through this that you know that the Lord is right there beside you. If you are alone during this trial, reach out to a friend or someone in your church and ask them to pray for you. If you have not faced this trial, check yourself regularly, have your mammogram, praise the Lord and come alongside someone who is. Bring her a meal, send her flowers, write her an encouraging letter, or go to her appointments with her and definitely pray for her!

Tonight, I am thankful for my Lord and His loving care of me and my family. I am reminded of a beautiful Hymn that I must share with you. May you be blessed and encouraged!

Majesty- By Jack Hayford

Majesty
Worship His majesty
Unto Jesus be all glory,
Honor and praise

Majesty
Kingdom authority
Flow from His throne
Unto His own
His anthem raise

Majesty
Worship His majesty
Unto Jesus be all glory,
Honor and praise

Majesty
Kingdom authority
Flow from His throne
Unto His own
His anthem raise

So exalt, lift up on high
The name of Jesus
Magnify, come glorify
Christ Jesus the King

Majesty
Worship His majesty
Jesus who died, now glorified
King of all kings

So exalt, lift up on high
The name of Jesus
Magnify, come glorify
Christ Jesus the King

Majesty
Worship His majesty
Jesus who died, now glorified
King of all kings

The Lord is Faithful

Psalm 145:13b-14

The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

My father will never forsake me, I am not an oops baby to him. He loves me, he planned for me and he upholds me through every struggle of my life.

It is you O Lord that rescues me, even from my own mistakes. You step down into the mess of my life and pick me up, you dust off my behind and sent me on my feet again. You give me a gentle push to get me walking in the ways of righteousness and stand close by in case I fall.

Thank you for your faithfulness to me. Thank you for your assurance that you will always be with me, whether I fall or stand, you will never leave me.

Solitude

Encouraging_Still_Water.jpg

When you read the word solitude, what images come to mind?

Did you think of Psalm 23:1-3, like I did? 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

I love these verses: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”  Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through difficult times so that we must rest in Him. “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”  This is why we all need solitude. God tells us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will restore our souls.

Solitude is the state of being alone, usually in silence, with God to pray, meditate on His Word, and to simply enjoy being with our Father. Some may refer to this as their quiet time with God. 

Lamentations tells us in 3:25-28, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.”

Let’s look at two examples from the Bible of those who sought solitude:

“Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting’… The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” (Exodus 33:7, 11). I would not want to leave either if I could speak face to face with the Lord! 

“[Elijah] went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him… a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:9, 12). Have you sat outside on a warm summer day and had the wind gently flow over you? Perhaps, that was the Lord’s gentle whisper to you. Were you listening to Him?

Have you been alone, in silence, focusing on hearing your Heavenly Father?  He is longing for us to sit quietly with Him to be restored. Are you anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, sad, or concerned?

Here are some tools for us: Find somewhere quiet to go to and pray. Thank Him for a blessing and then tell Him your concerns. He wants to hear from you. Thank Him for listening and loving you. Then, open your Bible to Psalms and read a few verses. Journal what He may be saying to you.

Be renewed and encouraged. 

Dear Lord, Thank you for your loving kindness and your gentle whispers. May our ears be open to your guidance and our hearts tender towards You. In Your precious Son’s name, Jesus, Amen!

From Anxiety to Peace

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I feel so anxious right now, I want to hide in my bed and pull the covers over my head. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to be nice, and I certainly don’t want to hear what I should be doing! So what do I do with Philippians 4:6-7?

I am a mature believer, I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, so why do I still get stressed and anxious at times?

Maybe Paul is not telling believers they won’t ever get anxious, but giving us some tools (new buzz word) to use, when we do get anxious.

1. Stop what you are doing.

2. Turn to the Lord in prayer.

3. Present this situation, with all the details to your heavenly father. Even your bad attitude, (if you have one like I did).

4. Thank him, that he has this situation well in hand, and he will work it out for your good.

5. Wait for the Lord’s peace to fill your heart and mind. Think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). And if you don’t feel some relief from your anxiety, repeat steps 1-4.

6. Praise and thank him again, because he loves you and his word stands true.

Perfect Power

Encouraging_Falls.jpgPhoto by: Mark Schwander

2 Samuel 22:31 As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

When I find myself discouraged, sad or anxious I open my Bible. His Word is a powerful tool. I find comfort in reading His Word and singing Hymns. During my busy day, I usually have a hymn that carries me through. Recently, it has been the hymn by Horatio Spafford, It Is Well with My Soul. This poor man and his wife went through so much loss, yet Spafford remained strong in his faith. When I take a moment to open my Bible, God always reveals verses of strength and truth for me. I was reading 2 Samuel 22 and the following verses spoke to me. Perhaps, my paraphrased notes will be of encouragement to you today!

2 Samuel 22

  • 7, The Lord hears our cries
  • 19b, He is our support
  • 20b, He delivered us because He delights in us
  • 21, He rewards us according to our righteousness
  • 22 & 23, Keep His ways and His statutes- do not depart
  • 29, He is our lamp that enlightens our darkness
  • 31, As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

The above photo was taken by my husband this weekend. I love the contrast of the power of the waterfall with the gentle clouds in the sky. God’s encouragement can be found anywhere within His creation and His Word.  My mother in love has a little box that my husband gave her when he was a child. She keeps it on her kitchen table. Every morning she opens it and takes out a little card. One side is scripture and the other is a prayer. She said that each day the scripture and prayer relates perfectly to her current situation. She has had this for 30+ years!!! God’s Word is living. He speaks truth to us through it and reveals His will for our lives.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the many blessings you provide. Help us to see You in the beauty around us whether in the power of a waterfall or the gentle gliding of a cloud. Help us to keep our eyes on You “when sea billows roll”! May we remember that Your ways are perfect and You are a shield to us who trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trust in Him, read His Word and Be Encouraged!