The blessings of repentance

You don't hear a lot about repentance these days.

It's not a popular topic in churches. Preachers and pastors want to make sure people feel good about themselves, and they make the gospel appealing so people won't be offended and leave. 

And yet, the Bible teaches that the very first and most fundamental step to peace with God is repentance.

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15 NLT) And later the apostle Peter said, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” (Act 3:19 NLT) Without repentance, we cannot be saved. (Luke 13:3)

Repentance means turning around and going the other way—turning away from sin and turning to God in faith. Admitting that we've been wrong. Humbling ourselves to admit that we can't change the sin in our hearts and lives, that we can't take away the prevailing sense of guilt that we live with. It’s crying out for help to the One who not only made us, but who loves us and has already provided an answer to our pain and mess.

Why are we so afraid to repent? What are we hanging on to with such a death-grip that keeps us from admitting that we at heart are rebels in need of a savior? Our pride is a closed door to God. And yet, a contrite heart opens that door to all the goodness and love He longs to give us—peace with God and the glorious freedom of a clean heart. 

Repentance is the first step to salvation through Jesus Christ. But it is also an ongoing daily life-attitude of keeping a ‘short list’ with the Lord. He always stands ready to forgive and renew our hearts with unfailing mercy and love, and help us get back on track.

Oh, how blessed we are! May He help us today to humble ourselves before Him and receive His forgiveness.

Bible study:  Psalm 51, Luke 15:10, Romans 2:4, 1 John 1:9


THROUGH the sea

If you find yourself facing a "Red Sea" trouble today and you can’t see a way out, I’d like to encourage you--God's way of deliverance is often THROUGH the sea.

You may remember the Bible story in Exodus 14. Moses had been sent by God to deliver His people from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Through a series of warnings and disastrous plagues, the pharaoh finally agreed to let them go.

They left, led by the Lord for a land of promise and goodness. But after three days, they came to a seemingly impossible barrier: the Red Sea. To make matters worse, the pharaoh had changed his mind and was thundering across the desert after them with his entire army of chariots and armed soldiers.

You can imagine the terror that pounded in the hearts of the Israelites. There was no way out--either forward or backward.  (Ever feel that way?)

Then God moved! He commanded a fierce wind to blow all night, pushing the water back in a path across the entire sea. Picture it--a wall of water on either side, dry land on the bottom. Then He set a cloud of fire behind His people, preventing the army from coming near them.

In the morning, He commanded them to cross through the sea to the other side.

Again, consider their options:  go forward and possibly drown, or stay and be annihilated by the army. But urged to take the bold step of faith, down they went into the dry seabed--and every last one of them made it safely to the other side.

God then removed the wall of fire, and the whole army charged after the people. But what was the Israelites' way of deliverance became the army's death sentence. God released the walls of water and the whole army was drowned.

Encouragement to us

If we can pull back a bit and see God's way in this story, it can change our fear and desperation to confidence and peace in Him.

The key is to remember…

  • God had promised to deliver them and take them to a place of blessing and peace.
  • His way was THROUGH the sea, not around it.
  • This plan was not only to deliver, but to use the seeming disaster to end the threat of destruction forever.
  • The people did not have to DO anything in their own deliverance except to trust God's Word and obey it. He did the work, He got the glory.

Whatever you're going through, take heart! Remember that the Word says God never changes. He loves you. He knows all about your problem. He is good and has a wonderful plan of blessing in mind for you. Don't be alarmed if you see a Red Sea before you and enemies chasing you from behind. Trust Him, obey what He tells you to do, and watch Him do a wondrous work for you! He will see you through safely through to the other side.

Bible study:  Exodus 14, Hebrews 13:8, I Peter 5:6-7, Isaiah 43:2, Romans 15:5


There came a day...

When you find yourself getting discouraged, waiting for an answer to prayer, it's good to remember the Lord's encouragement in the Word.

The Kingdom is not static--God is always at work in every situation. Even when we see nothing in the natural to give us confidence that things are changing and moving toward our answer, the Word tells us otherwise. Jesus said "My Father is always working and so am I" (John 5:17 NLT). Armed with even just that truth, we can settle our hearts in faith while we wait on His perfect timing. It will come, a day is appointed. He will not fail.

Many wonderful examples come to mind…

  • There came a day when Noah's ark landed and his family had a new beginning…
  • There came a day when Joseph was let out of prison and promoted to the king's right hand…
  • There came a day when Abraham’s Sarah actually bore her own baby…
  • There came a day when the king set the children of Israel free to return to their homeland…
  • There came a day when the woman bent double for 18 years was healed…
  • There came a day when the man who had sat by the Pool of Siloam for 38 years was healed…
  • There came a day when the long-promised Messiah was born!

So encourage yourself in the Lord like David did, and determine to wait in quiet confidence, knowing that your answer is in process and will one day be manifest. It might be today!


Equipped to win

Are you fighting a battle today? Weary from your struggle in dealing with the challenges of life, feeling like you might just go down in defeat?

I’ve had a challenging week myself. Sometimes the battles just seem overwhelming, don’t they? Like they’ll never end, never change. Then discouragement sets in and down I go.

But one morning the Lord reminded me of the bigger picture. No soldier is sent to the front lines in a t-shirt and jeans, right?  They are completely outfitted and trained to fight.

The Father knows that we are living in a hostile world, fighting against an enemy who hates us and seeks to work his destruction in our lives. BUT, God did not leave us defenseless. He equipped us perfectly to fight every battle—and win!

Like soldiers who must be trained to use their weaponry, so must we. Mastery comes through knowledge and practice. God has shown us in His Word what’s ours to freely use, and how to use it.

So in the battles of your day, here’s what you have to fight and stand your ground:

The Word of God - what God who cannot lie has said He will do for you if you believe it and act on it in faith.
Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:17  (NLT)

The blood of Jesus - deliverance from all sin.
He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.   Ephesians 1:7  (NLT) 

The name of Jesus - His authority and the right to use it.
You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!   John 14:13-14  (NLT)

The Holy Spirit - our Helper, Counselor, Advocate (helps you discern the nature of the battle, gives you wisdom how to fight).
And we have received God's Spirit (not the world's spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.   1 Corinthians 2:12  (NLT) 

The gifts of the Spirit - specific helps for every situation.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.   1 Corinthians 12:7  (NKJV)

Prayer - the living connection to God Himself and His power.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.   James 5:16  (NLT)

Holy angels who are on assignment to protect and fight for us.
Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.   Hebrews 1:14  (NLT)

The gift of peace.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.   John 14:27  (NLT)

The assurance that the Father is at work in every situation for our good.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.    Romans 8:28  (NLT)

The armor of God - a great overview of how to go into each day!
Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.   Ephesians 6:10-18  (NLT)  

Pretty awesome, huh?  Thank You, Lord!

Whatever battle you are facing, remember--you are not defenseless.  The Lord means for you to win and He has provided you with a complete arsenal of weapons to fight and stand your ground until you see the victory!


Finishing well

My daughter has been in the last push before the end of her college semester, so her days are filled with the flurry of final projects, tests, and general wrap-up of her studies. I pray each day for her strength, mental focus, and the ability to finish well.  You know how hard it can be to keep up the momentum and get the job done well.

It's easy to start...hard to finish!

Are you working on an ‘assignment’ from God today that sometimes seems will never end?  Maybe you're a mom tired from parenting battles with your kids. Maybe you’re under pressure at work to get a project done and but obstacles continue to delay you.  Maybe you’re trying to pay off debt and progress is disheartening. The enemy of our souls will use all the negative stuff coming at us daily to wear us down and discourage us even further.

Then there’s the struggle to stay motivated. We might have started off full of vision and determination, but fatigue, disappointment, or discouragement in the long haul can make us want to pack a bag and disappear for a while. (Been there!)

I’ve been in such a season the last couple of years, that of helping care for elders in our family. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try to remember that I only have to serve well today. God promises strength and wisdom for today, and that is enough.  The Big Picture is made up of all the todays, done faithfully.

If you are struggling today to keep your momentum, I encourage you to step back and get the big view again. Remember that the Lord equips who He calls! Jesus' words, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' are the reward we seek. The goal is to finish well, to complete our call, carry out our part of Kingdom work.

Be encouraged!  He doesn't call you to do it all, just be faithful in your assignments today.  The Lord is your strength and will give you all you need to finish well.


A good God

I remember when I was a little girl, a thought process worked mightily in me one night in bed. Who was I?  How had I happened to be born now, at this time and not some other? Here I came on the world scene without any choice of who I would be, where I’d be born, who my family would be, and all the myriad things of my life.  What if the maker of everything was bad? I was helpless, vulnerable, and without any control at all. It was overwhelming and a little frightening.

Then, without knowing why, my next thought was clear:  the God of the universe was good, not evil. He wasn’t out there using his subjects for some diabolical game.  I somehow knew I was chosen to live here and now by design--a good design.

Where had that thought come from? I can say now with my adult understanding that God was revealing Himself to me. I had been taught of God’s love early, and now the picture of that truth in relation to the big universe and little me was huge. I still remember the unspeakable relief that came over me. I didn’t have to be afraid. He was good.

I was raised in a Christian home, taught about Jesus and His love for me. That night of childish revelation opened my heart to trust Him, and through all the ups and downs of life, I never lost that certainty that He was trustworthy. Further, looking back through blessings, defeats, growth, and failures—I can speak from absolute experience. Yes, He is good!

It’s my delight to speak well of Him. And that’s my purpose here--to say to you, dear reader, you are safe in trusting Him with your life.
“Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!”     Psalm 31:19