40 Days of God’s Promises

What is Lent?

Lent is a season in the church that lasts forty days.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2017) and goes through Holy Saturday (April 15, 2017).  The forty days does not include Sundays, as each Sunday is seen as a mini-Easter.

The forty days of Lent represent the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan.  This took place before Jesus began his ministry.

Lent is a season of fasting, repentance, and reflection.  Christians spend these forty days reflecting on their relationship with God and drawing closer to Him.  Some Christians choose to sacrifice something they love (which in most cases is food-related) during the forty days so that they can focus more on Jesus.  Others may choose to add something to their daily routine, such as a quiet time with God, prayer, reading the Bible daily, which would also help them grow closer to Jesus.

As I was praying about what I should do for this Lenten season, I felt God telling me I needed to write for forty days.  And the thing which He wants me to write about are His promises. The Bible is filled with so many verses of God’s promises.  Many times we quickly read through our Bible, not allowing His Word to soak in, and we miss these promises.  I am guilty of that for sure.  But, each page of Scripture is “inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true…”(2 Timothy 3:16).  His promises are tucked inside the Bible, ready for us to read and give us hope.

For each of the forty days of Lent I will write on one of God’s promises.  If you subscribe via email to my blog, you will be getting more emails than you are used to from me!  I hope that you will read each day of God’s promises to you.  I pray these promises will encourage you and remind you of how magnificent and powerful our God is.

If you don’t already subscribe to my blog and would like to start receiving my posts via email, just add your email address to the blue box on the right side of this page.  You don’t want to miss a day of God’s promises!

I am looking forward to walking through the season of Lent with you and sharing with you the promises of God.

Are You a Conclusion Jumper?

In December 2002, I took a trip to England to visit some friends from seminary who were living there for a year.  They had just moved to England that summer so that my friend, Jim, could be a pastor in the British Methodist Church.  This was an amazing opportunity for this newlywed couple and I was thrilled to be given the chance to visit.

I had never been to England and now was my chance.  Free place to stay, another friend to travel with, and I would get to ring in 2003 in London.  I was ready to go!

A month prior to my visit to England, I began dating Andrew, a wonderful man who I had known since elementary school (who later becomes my husband).  But when it came time for the trip, I had to explain to Andrew that I was traveling to England with another guy.  Not something you like to hear when you have only been dating a month.  Even though I told him there was no way I was interested in this guy as anything more than a friend, I could tell that Andrew wasn’t so sure.

When we arrived in England we stayed in London for a few days.  My friends actually lived several hours north of London.  Our plan was to spend a few nights there so we could ring in the New Year before heading back up to their small British town.  My cell phone did not work in London.  Back then we didn’t have smart phones (or at least I didn’t) so I could not access my email to contact Andrew.  I had no communication with him for several days.  It wasn’t until we got back to my friend’s house that I could email him.

When I returned from my trip, I was so happy to see Andrew and he was so excited to see me.  Andrew explained to me, though, that when I got on that plane a week earlier, he thought that was it for our relationship.  Traveling with another guy and not hearing from me for several days, made him jump to the conclusion that I no longer was interested in him.  And we know from the outcome that he made the wrong conclusion!

At some point in our lives, each of us can say that we have jumped to conclusions about something or someone.  We don’t have all the facts, yet we are hasty and rush to draw a conclusion, believing with all our heart we are right.

And don’t we all like to think we are right?

Your answer to this is yes.  (You know I’m right about this!)

But what usually happens when we jump to conclusions?

We are often times wrong.

We listen to gossip, we are influenced by social media, we think that everything reported on the news is fact, we rely on past experiences to lead us to make assumptions, we stereotype people based on their looks, we are looking for conflict so we immediately think the wrong thing.  So many different types of situations lead us to be conclusion jumpers.

And friends, this is not a good thing.

When we jump to conclusions, this usually ends in conflict.  We allow the anger we feel to take control of us and lead us to make rash decisions.  Much like it did so many times for the Israelites.

.In Joshua 22, the time comes for the Eastern tribes to return to the land they were given by God.  The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh asked Moses many years earlier if they could settle on the east side of the Jordan River and not cross over into the Promised Land.  God allowed this but said that these tribes had to cross over with all of Israel and fight with the other tribes for their land.  They agreed and fought for many years.

When the time came for them to go back to the land God had given them, Joshua gave a speech reminding them of a few things:

“Take good care to observe the commandment and instruction that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, and to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  (Joshua 22:5)

With this speech fresh in their minds, the Eastern tribes got up to the Jordan River ready to cross, but before they did, they decided to make an altar…a big one at that.  When the other tribes heard about this altar they were furious and ready to go to war against the Eastern tribes.  They assumed that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh made an idol and were worshiping it, going against the Lord.  They jumped to the conclusion that these Israelites had done a bad thing by making this altar.  They didn’t have all the facts, but from what they could see, this was not good.

And guess what?

They were wrong.

They were not building an idol, but were doing the exact opposite.  They built an altar as a reminder for them and for all the tribes of Israel that they love the Lord and worship Him only.  They called this altar “Witness”, which was a witness between them that the Lord is God. (Joshua 22:34)

When we jump to conclusions, we are letting anger and bitterness control us.  We assume that we know it all and that our conclusion is right.  No matter what the situation, we need to pray about it, asking God to give us wisdom.  If it involves people, we need to talk with them before we start spreading rumors that are not true, which just makes the matter worse.

If the conclusion we jump to happens to be right, then we need to remember to show grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Put yourself in the shoes of the other person.  How would you want someone else to treat you if you were in their shoes?

In this story of the Israelites, the tribes in the Promised Land showed mercy and did not go to war with the Eastern Tribes.  And the Eastern Tribes decided to show grace and forgiveness by not getting upset with the other tribes for thinking the wrong thing.  They could have easily gotten mad and gone to war with them, but they did not.

May we avoid jumping to conclusions, but instead remember Joshua’s word to the Israelites, “love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commandments, hold fast to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  (Joshua 22:5)

These are wise words to live by.

Life After a Super Bowl Loss

It’s a sad week here in Georgia if you are a Falcons fan.

The heartache of losing a game that you should have won is all too real for many people.  Players, coaches, and fans had a dream of winning the Super Bowl.  But that dream was smashed in the second half for the Falcons.  We just couldn’t stop the Patriots.

The air of excitement diminished as the Patriots scored in overtime (which by the way…the NFL has the craziest overtime rules…they need to re-think them).  We left our friends house saddened because we should have won that game.  Nobody talked.  We just said good-bye.

My husband loves football.  And he really loves the Falcons.  He enjoys getting together with friends to watch football games.  I love how they dissect every play and what should or should not have taken place, something which they can discuss for days on end.  It’s funny to listen to them (most the time I don’t even understand what or who they are talking about).  But one thing I know for sure…My husband and his friends know how to talk some football.

We all joke that it won’t be a fun night at home if my husband’s team loses.  But he’s quick to remind us that his happiness in life doesn’t revolve around a W.  I love what he says (which is like his pep talk to himself)…

 “It’s just a game.  Life goes on.  I will get up tomorrow and go to work.  I am thankful for my wife and two daughters.  And I am most especially grateful that Jesus is my SaviorThat’s the most important thing to remember.”

And that’s the point I want to make here.  No matter how upset you are over losing a football game, the question I ask you is, “Do you know Jesus as your Savior?”

Now you may be thinking that is the dumbest question to be asking right now.  Who gets so upset over the loss of a football game that they let it affect their life?  Believe me, there are people out there who will have a very hard time getting over the Falcons loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51.

These are the people who have so much passion and excitement and love of the game of football that there is no room for anything else.  They have built their happiness in life on the outcome of a game.  Their hope and faith lies in a team and its ranking.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having passion for a sport.  I get into the football games just as much as my husband does (I think I am even louder than he is).  I get into watching my girls play soccer (yes, I am THAT crazy soccer mom who screams and yells for her kids).   I love Duke basketball so much that I have spray painted my hair blue.  And my husband cannot stand to watch Duke basketball games with me because I yell and jump around so much!  What can I say…I am passionate about some sports!

But the one thing I have to remind myself of is not to be so “into” a sport that I lose sight of the One whose team I am on.  The One whose name I should be screaming loudly.  The One who wants nothing more than for me to be focused on “His game”.

His name is Jesus.

He loves me.

And He loves you.

He wants us to be a part of His team.

He wants our focus to be on Him.

Build your hope on Jesus.  Believe in the man who died for your sins.  Put your faith and trust in our Risen Savior.

Jesus never fails.  He never loses.  His love always triumphs and always prevails.

Remember that Jesus died for you and He wants to have a relationship with you.

Accept Him.  Love Him.  Believe in Him.

I promise that if you do, no matter what happens in your life, Jesus will be there and you will never lose hope or lose faith.

Do you want to join Team Jesus?  He is calling your name and waiting for you…

 

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Lord, I Want to See

He was hungry.  He needed money.  So he did what he always did. 

He begged.

He really didn’t like to beg, but he had no other means of getting food or money.

But food and money wasn’t really what his greatest desire was. 

He was blind.  All he really wanted was to see.  He wanted to be able to open his eyes and see the beautiful world that he lived in.  He wanted to see people instead of just hearing them.  He wanted to regain his sight so he could see everything. 

As he sat outside Jericho, he heard the crowd getting louder and louder.  What was going on? 

He needed to find out. 

So he asked someone, “What is happening?”  They told  him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

His mind began racing.  Jesus is near me?  Jesus, the one who has performed miracles is coming my way?  Jesus, the one who has the power to heal is getting ready to pass by me?  Maybe he will see me and just maybe I could ask Him to heal me.

So, he did what any person in need of healing does.

He cried out to Jesus.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The crowd did not like it when he began shouting Jesus’ name.  Why did they care?  Were they embarassed because this blind man on the side of the road was shouting out to Jesus?  Well, guess what?  He didn’t care what they thought.  He needed Jesus to see him.  So he kept yelling until Jesus heard him, shouting even more loudly.

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And he heard him!  He came right up to him!

A blind man. 

On the side of the road.  

He asked him one question, “What do you want me to do for you? 

He had an easy answer to that question.

“Lord, I want to see!”

Jesus replied, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”

And the impossible happened.

He regained his sight!

He could see!  He could see!  He could see!

Jesus healed him.  He once was blind but now he could see.

And he did what anyone would do.  He followed Jesus and gave all the glory to God. 

(Told from the point of view of the blind beggar from Luke 18:35-42)

 

This story of the blind beggar who was healed was the story that got my mind racing.

What if Jesus asked me that same question He asked the blind man?

What do you want me to do for you?

What would my answer be?

Would I immediately know what I would want?  Would I be able to be confident and shout out to Jesus what I wanted Him to do?  Would I even say the right thing to Him?

And then like a light bulb going off in my head, I knew what I wanted Jesus to do for me.

I want to see!

My response would be just like the blind beggar’s.  Even though I have my sight and can see well, I want to see with spiritual eyes.  I want to have the blindfold taken off my eyes, the one that keeps me from truly seeing the Lord.  I want eyes to see and a mind to comprehend His Word.  I want my eyes to see others who need to hear the message of Jesus.  I don’t want to walk around with this blindfold on, missing all the many opportunities of seeing Jesus in this world.  He is here and He is alive!  Lord, I want to see!

Do you know what you want Jesus to do for you?

Share with us your response to this question in the comments below.

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The Word of the Year

Has it always been that way?Jeremiah 24:7

That was the question my husband and I were asking ourselves as we painted the spindles on our staircase.  (And yes, that is not a fun job).

As we were getting ready to paint the spindles white, we looked up and noticed that at the top of the stairs the spindles that were facing out were already white.  We have lived in this house for six years and never once has either of us looked up to take notice of the spindles upstairs and the fact that they were a different color than the other spindles.

As I painted, I was thinking to myself, “How can I have lived here for six years and not even noticed that the spindles were two different colors?”  And it’s not a slight difference, either.  They were visibly white and the others a dark beige.  Why have I never once looked up?

And then that got me thinking….

How many times have I not noticed God and what He has done for me?  How many times have I failed to look up, open my eyes, and see the wondrous love and provision that my Savior has provided me?  How many times have I failed just to SEE God?

I know there have to be countless times where I have failed at seeing God.

And I am ashamed of that.

What is wrong with me that I can’t take the time to look, to open up my eyes, to pay attention, to seek Him first? 

And that’s why my word for 2017 is SEE.  I want this to be a year of “seeing”.  I don’t want to miss God.  I don’t want to be so busy with my life that I put on sunglasses to block out the bright light that is shining before me…a light that is clearly present but one in which I choose to dim.

I want to slip on my “God glasses” and SEE God clearly and visibly.  I want to SEE Him at work in every aspect of my life.  I want to SEE Him in the little things and in the big things.  I want to SEE Him in people I know and people I don’t know.  I want to SEE Him and know Him in a way I have never seen or known Him before.

I believe that seeing Him goes hand in hand with knowing Him.  We have to have a desire to see Him and know Him.  God has given me such a strong passion and desire to see Him alive in Scripture.  He has already shown me passages in Scripture that involve seeing Him.

This month, I am excited to share with you these Scriptures that the Lord has given to me.  Not only do I want to SEE God, but I pray that you will have a desire to SEE God as well.  I want your love and passion for God to come alive in ways that you cannot believe.  I will be praying that the fog from your eyes will be lifted and that you will SEE God clearly.  I cannot wait to share the ways God has already opened my eyes and allowed me to SEE Him.

Over the next few days, soak in and pray this Bible verse from Jeremiah 24:7.  Ask God to give you a heart to know Him and SEE Him:

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Looking forward to SEEING God more this year and watching God open your eyes to SEE Him, too!

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Favorite Books of 2016

This has been another great year of reading!  I love books and I especially love the encouragement I receive from the Lord by reading the books He has written through these wonderful authors.

Check out my favorite books of 2016:

Come With Me:  Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads   by: Suzanne Eller

As a woman who hungers for Jesus, Suzanne shares with us her journey of following Jesus wherever He leads.  That means doing things and going places we never believed or thought we would go.  It means surrendering and giving Him control.  It means walking deeper and deeper with Him.  It means living a life sold out for the Savior.  Do you say yes to Him?  My prayer is that you do!

The Circle Maker:  Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears   by: Mark Batterson

I did an online Bible study of this book on my blog this past August and absolutely LOVED it!  Get out your highlighter because you will be lighting this book up!  Mark Batterson teaches us how to circle our dreams/hopes in prayer.  He give us three circles:  dream big, pray hard, and think long.  And he encourages us to keep on circling our dreams in prayer.  Don’t give up just because God has not answered your prayer.  Keep praying and keep circling!  This book will change your prayer life.

Wait and See:  Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans   by: Wendy Pope

I just finished reading this book as part of an online Bible study by Proverbs 31 Ministries.  I really enjoyed this book as I am in a waiting phase myself (waiting for someone to want to publish my book).  Wendy draws her insight from David’s story.  I love how she looks at his life and helps us to see that waiting is not a bad thing.  Sometimes God uses our waiting phase to grow us and shape us for that next phase of our journey.  If you feel like you are waiting on God, read this book.  It will encourage you so much!

I Know His Name:  Discovering Power in the Names of God   by: Wendy Blight

One of my favorite things to do is to really dig into Scripture.  These days when I’m reading a verse, I find myself trying to find out as much as I can about that verse.  In this book, Wendy Blight digs into knowing the names of God:  Elohim (The One who created you), El Roi (The One who sees you), Jehovah Nissi:  (The One who stands guard over you), and Jehovah Rapha (The One who heals you).  This is a book I LOVED because I yearn to know more about God and all of the many names of Him.  I also loved it because it wasn’t just a book to read, but more like a Bible study with questions and Scripture to look up at the end of each chapter.  A great ready and a great study!

The Purpose Driven Life  by:  Rick Warren

I know what you’re going to say….Vanessa, this book was written in 2002 and you’re just now reading it?  It’s crazy, I know!  This fall, my community group tackled this book.  I am so glad I finally read it, because it was amazing.  Rick Warren does a beautiful job of describing the five purposes for our lives:  you were formed for God’s pleasure, you were formed for God’s family, you were created to become like Christ, you were shaped for serving God, and you were made for a mission.  If you are searching for your purpose and want to know more about God and what He desires for you, then read this book!

Fear Fighting:  Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears  by: Kelly Balarie

This book has not released yet (it will be available on Amazon on January 3rd), but I am on the book launch team so I’ve begun reading it.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  Kelly has dealt with fear in her life and she writes about how she found the courage through God to conquer it.  Kelly cheers you on and wants you to be a part of the fear fighting team.  No more listening to the lies Satan feeds us!  Stand on the name of Jesus and proclaim freedom from your fears.  You will finish this book and will have hope that you, too, can be an overcomer.  Go buy this book next week!

My prayer for you in 2017 is that you have a hunger and a thirst to know God more.  You can first find Him in the Scriptures.  He is there and speaks directly to us.  And you can also search for Him in books that He has used other Christians to write.  God is amazing and speaks to us in many different ways.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13

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Fear Fighting: Are You a People Pleaser?

I am excited to share with you a guest post by Kelly Balarie, author of the new book, Fear Fighting:  Awakening the Courage to Overcome your Fears.  I have been privileged to be a part of her book launch team. I love this book because I can relate to much of the fear she talks about.  God has helped me overcome the fears I have and see that I was not created to live in fear.  Kelly’s book is a must-read for those of you who struggle with fear and want to find the courage to overcome it.  Her book releases January 3rd!  Enjoy her post today below.

 

God told me to pray with all my heart. So, I did. I don’t think they liked it very much.

I think they had thoughts about it. Opinions. Perspectives. Perceptions.

Ouch!

What do you do when God prompts your heart, but man judges it? They may not say it. They may not whisper it. They may not even admit it, but somehow you know, under the cover of their Christian guise it brews. What do you do with that?

This is what I’ve been considering. Do I take care of man or do I take care to follow God’s lead?

There’s risk, big risk, in following God. Moving outside norms, beyond bounds or having an air of “different” can feel like a punishment waiting to happen.  It can feel like you’re letting people down. It can feel like their charge over you marks you condemned.

Even more, the fear of being judged, ostracized or talked about behind your back – is real. It is really real. Even worse, in some cases, it is likely to happen. Add that to the enemy, who spits out ugly words, like: “Bad child, you are messing things up and stirring up problems,” and, at this point, you can be thrown into the sea of doubt, in a split-second.

Still, I want to do what is right by God, don’t you? I want to live for Him – first. I want to answer to Him – above all. I want to be like Christ – in every way.

God knows, I want to be brave. I think He sees my heart. So, like a gracious father, He leads me, His child, to truth; He brings me to these words:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.    Galatians 1:10

I can either win the approval of man. It’s fleeting and tiring.

Or, I can win the approval of God. It’s enduring and up building.

I can either please people. It’s short-lived and peace-depleting.

Or, I can serve Christ. It’s long-lasting and peace-giving.

What man gives today, is gone tomorrow. What you put in to satiating him, is eaten up by his desires for more – the next day. However, the will of God, does not waver. It does not grow old. It does not change course. It has a destination. There, lives joy, His glory and grand purpose.

Will we push into it? We can’t do it if we are sitting on man’s lap and eating up the delight of his face of approval. Jesus didn’t get a face of approval on the cross. His on-fire pursuit of doing God’s appeared nuts to man. It appeared worthy of their highest condemnation.

Still, Jesus didn’t change course. He stood fast to His belief in what His Father had called Him to. He walked the road assigned to Him, anyway.

What road do you need to walk anyway? What person’s demands do you need to release? What calling of love do you need to pursue?

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.   John 12:26

 

About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

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