Nehemiah 8:6 (NIV) Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
It is time to praise the Lord! No matter what is going on, praise the Lord. Sometimes, it seems as if things are not changing. It may feel as if time is stuck on an unpleasant moment. Know in those moments that praise will make it better.
Part of the praise in the down times is a reminder that God has delivered us before. Things have been less than perfect before and the Lord has seen us through. There have been things that some of us have thought we wouldn’t survive, but we did. In fact, we have thrived all because of the love of God. This is a love that is always with us.
Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
When you know that God is so good, there are moments that you can’t keep it inside. The deep knowing of this is something that you will share in all times and use to encourage yourself when things look less than ideal.
There are times when you may need to do your own little praise dance. These may be the best when you know things are good. When you know that you have been blessed and everything around you is going well. It could be a simple moment when you share with someone else that God is good or you could be praising Him. Recognizing, feeling and knowing that God’s love is always with you can be transformational.
Romans 8:39 (NIV) 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.
Our challenge during this Lenten season is to fully appreciate how much God loves us. The ultimate sacrifice for our salvation and for our lives connects us with God’s power in every moment. Truly a reason for praise. Amen!
John 3:3 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
I want to see the kingdom of God. Don’t you? Being born again is the foundation of our faith. Jesus tells us in John 3:3 that we must be born again to see God’s kingdom. What then are we to do? How can we ensure that we are born again?
It isn’t by our works. We know this from Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) which states: 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
This being “saved” is being born again and spiritually renewed. Our new birth happens as we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is what this Lenten season is about. Recognizing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again is our first step to salvation. We need to believe this is true for our spiritually rebirth.
2 Corinthians 5:17(NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!
We become new in Christ. We grow in our trust in the Lord as we commit to our journey in Christ. When we seek out the Lord, we allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us. Our life on earth and our life everlasting will be changed for the good.
Have you confessed that the Lord is your Savior? Do you know for yourself that Jesus died to save you of your sins? Are you building your trust in Jesus Christ? If you are already committed to Lord, do you need to renew yourself during this Lenten Challenge?
John 1:12-13 (NIV) 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
If you have yet to commit yourself to the Lord and wish to do so, now is your time. Believe in your heart and live the life you confess with your mouth. Below is a prayer of salvation. Be clear, it is not the prayer that saves you. It is your belief that Jesus Christ came to save YOU from your sins. Salvation starts with your faith.
“God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift of eternal life! Amen!” from GotQuestions.com
I pray for you in support and know that all who accept are truly born again.
Proverbs 10:12 NLT Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.
I’m taking a different look at this scripture as I consider why I do some of the things I do and even some of the things I don’t do. While I don’t think I actively hate myself, I’m not really showing love to myself when I eat more than I should and when I don’t work out. Truly loving yourself or anyone else requires action. I have to ask myself today am I loving myself enough. Have I focused enough energy on breaking bad habits and building new ones? Loving myself now will help me overcome the offense of my previous lack in these areas.
The one thing I know about this Lenten Challenge season is that I have an opportunity to focus on what I should do in context with what God has and will do for me. Jesus has demonstrated his love for me that is absolutely unconditional. This is a love that frees me from my past bonds and gives me the opportunity to make things better. My path to loving myself more might not be perfect. Actually, I know it won’t be and God will love me still.
The truth is that God loves us all. Once we come to truly accepting His love and loving ourselves in every area of our lives, life will only get better. It will also result in us loving each other even more. I’m exciting about sharing more love and know that it begins with me.
In all of our efforts to lose weight, eat healthy and stay on track with our fitness goals we still tend to not do our best. Why is that? Sometimes there are emotional or psychological reasons people turn to food. And other times we have to realize as Oswald Chambers states “All our promises and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to accomplish them.” But when we turn this portion of our life over to God, as we should with all areas of our life, we are then comforted by these words “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” -2 Kings 6:16.
Daily, we are bombarded with thousands of options for snacks. Most of which would not be beneficial in working towards the goal you have in mind. Of all of the obstacles that threaten to play a role in sabotaging our efforts, simply adding THE one major factor will free you from the stress you face when you go into battle with your weight loss. That factor is God!
He has told us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” I used this exact verse one day when I was extremely hungry and away from home. I was tempted by some of my favorites…ALL CANDY!!! Instead of falling prey to the temptation I left my location and bought a cup of pineapples. I believe that had I tried to go it alone I would have reasoned why its ok to have, succumb to my desires for the sweetness of whatever candy I had chosen then chastised myself for it later. But once the scripture came to mind I immediately left the store. There being one example of how God just being in the midst of your effort can catapult you from where you stand alone to His prosperous graces.
We need, and our spirit desires to partner with God…in all things. And since God longs to be a part of every aspect of our lives why not include Him in this? “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”
And finally, when we see that we, by ourselves, are not enough we will more readily relinquish the reigns over to Christ and truly fall back on this statement “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” –Philippians 4:13
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I love the book of James. There is so much wisdom imparted to us within these pages that it is difficult for me to pick and choose which verse or verses are my favorite. But, for today at least, I will choose one that I think will give you a little inspiration for your week.
In James chapter 3 verses 17-18 it says,
17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
A lot to swallow, right? But let’s have a little fun with this and relate each identifying mark of wisdom that James describes to our own struggles with being healthy.
1. Pure: Are you pure with your motives for trying to live a better life? I mean, if you are trying to lose weight or look better for anyone other than yourself, you are fighting an uphill battle. I work with a lot of people on their wellness and fitness concerns, time and time again I stress to them that there has to be a shift in their way of thinking, if they have a chance to make the most significant impact. They have to choose to make a change for themselves. Girlfriend or boyfriend, spouse, and even doctors don’t make the difference. You have to purely want to change. Once you have the conviction behind whatever you want to do, you become unstoppable. If your results are based on other’s perception of you, it works for a while, but ultimately, in those times when you are at your weakest, you fail miserably because you know deep inside that you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
2. Peace Loving: Love yourself some peace. Peace of mind that is! Have the peace of mind that you do your best and give it your all every time you step foot in the gym or on the street to do some walking or jogging. Even if you roll out that fitness mat at home and do an exercise video, don’t do it half-way. Give it your best! Why waste the effort half-heartedly? If your best effort of walking is 5 minutes, go for it. Tomorrow make it 6 minutes. Then the next day go for 7 minutes. As you continue to increase, you will continue to improve. But it takes the best effort to get the best results. Have the peace within yourself of knowing that you did your very best.
3. Considerate: Consider those loved ones that need you to be there for them. You are not out on an island. You have people counting on you to be an example and to motivate them in return. Buddying up with others to exercise is a great way to build and develop relationships. Your outcomes are not just dependent on what you get out of the workout, but what you are willing to give to others as well.
4. Submissive: Submit to the will of the Father. He does not want you to every consider yourself to be a loser. You have power inside of you that needs to be untapped. You have limitless potential for success. Fall down today, fine. Get back up tomorrow and try again. Eventually, the plan is to make the number of times you stand bigger than the number of falls. If you do that then you are always on top. God has a destiny and a calling for his people to be conquerors.
5. Full of Mercy and Good Fruit: Have mercy on yourself for your past failures. So what if you failed the last time you dieted. That was the old you. Even if it was just yesterday, you are a day older now. Move on, forgive yourself, throw a little mercy your way and take the next moment to do better. The good fruit of your labors is right around the corner if you believe and finish the race.
6. Impartial and Sincere: Judge no one for their efforts. Neither should you favor your own. Just because you are you, does not give you the excuse that you should take it easy. If you are going to do something, do it right. Or just don’t do it at all. Impartiality to your pitiful circumstances only pacifies whatever detrimental behaviors you have developed. Get it in your mind that you will not settle for anything second best and that your effort will be sincere. Then and only then, will the challenges be lessened, your resolve fortified and your outcomes perfected.
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“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11
The letter to the Philippians is one of four written by the Apostle Paul while he was in prison. He wrote it to thank the Philippian church for the gifts that they’d sent to him (Philippians 4:18), and to encourage them to continue looking to Christ as the sole source of their joy and unity.
Joy isn’t something that we naturally associate with imprisonment – especially of an innocent person – yet the word ‘joy’ (or similar) occurs 16 times in his letter to the Philippians. Paul understood that Christian life calls on us not only to believe in Jesus Christ, but also to bear up under suffering for his sake.
Paul embraced the predicament as an opportunity to become a joint-heir with Jesus Christ (“we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”, Romans 8:16).
In Philippians 3: 10 – 11, Paul says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
The Greek word Paul uses for “know” is “GINOSKO,” an old Jewish expression referring to the union between a husband and wife (Genesis 4:1, Ephesians 3:19). In other words, Paul viewed his suffering as par for the course of forging an intimate relationship with the son of God; to experiencing the grace bought by Jesus Christ’s death (and resurrection) and sharing in the gift of eternal life, which it gives us all.
That is not to say that our journey with Christ will be one of constant suffering, but there may be times when we will be faced with challenges in our lives. At these times we should stand strong in our faith knowing that, we are not alone and we should keep looking to Christ for our joy.
What an incredible perspective we can gain when we set our sights on “the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ”. (Philippians 3: 11).
During this lenten challenge and at all times, may God grant us all the grace to rejoice and spread joy during our times of troubles, and to take heart! For Jesus Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33).
Psalm 20:6 (NIV) Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.
I’m claiming the victory in advance. Why? Because I know that I know that God is going to give me that victory. Not only do I know it from the Word, I have lived it in my life before. I have been victorious and I will continue to praise the Lord even when I can’t see the victory ahead.
I am in no way suggesting that we simply ask God for things and He just delivers…or does He? After all, the Word says in Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Are we truly delighting in the Lord and believing in the victory? Are we doing what we should? Are we building a closer relationship? Sometimes, I think it is easy to see what is our part. If we’re praying for an A on a course, we need to study and God will help us through. What do we do in the when the solutions doesn’t seem clear? What do we do when we have no idea what to do next?
Living each day with the attitude that the victory is mine makes the day better. Living in defeat has not led me closer to the desires of my heart. Defeat causes stress and separation. God offers relief and connection. I understand that my humanness may cause me to be distracted from God’s good. However, I know that I have to gain control and bring my focus back on what the Lord confirms and what He has and will do for me.
One thing to do is to focus more on the Word. We are told in 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Faith is crucial in the waiting time before the victory. If we are living without the victory right now, we know what it is to live without it. However, we need to remind ourselves that the victory is come. Sometimes, we may just need to praise the Lord in advance. There are moments, when that is so easy to say and requires effort to do. Those are times to sing the songs of praise and to rely on those who can lift you up. One of my favorite things to do is to listen to some Gospel music to keep me on track. Marvin Sapp’s Praise Him in Advance is perfect for those moments. If you need one now, check the video here.
During this Lenten Challenge, we are working on building our relationship with the Lord. We know His Word is true. As we align ourselves to what God wants us to do, we will see the result in our lives. Our lives will be even better than we imagine. This is not because I say so, rather it is in the Word.
Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
Mark 16:6-7 (NIV) 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’
Jesus had been killed by hanging on a cross – falsely accused and misunderstood by the Religious authorities. And though he had followers, people faithful to him – few of them were with him when he died. Verse 1-5 in this 16th Chapter of Mark, tells us that once Jesus had died, his body was removed from the cross and placed in a tomb. 3 days later Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome made the journey to the tomb in order to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices, but when they arrived, Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. It was gone.
They saw that stone had been rolled away and they were greeted by a young man presumed to be an angel, who provides the verse for today’s Lenten scripture: 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go; tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’
These believing women went to prepare his body, as was the Jewish practice of the time for final resting. I am sure that they were in some kind of pain – loss manifest itself in so many ways. How do you feel, when things are one way and then all of the sudden you see that it is totally different; surprised, lost, deceived, angry, hurt, remorseful, dumb; there is some emotion attributed to difference. For me, I get a nervous stomach and it is not proved to be too far off and then I have questions. There are times when I have to thoroughly examine my feelings, especially when all along I believed one way, only to find out it is not what I thought at all.
How do you feel when that happens, when something or someone you trusted in, is no longer there, your foundation, your rock is gone? Clearly now, in these economic times, and the recent act of sequesterian (I am a fed), the world for many is now turned upside down, and in a panic. I just wonder what expressions did these three faithful women show for the angel to tell them not to be alarmed; Jesus had made promises to never leave nor forsake.
Let’s just look at the scripture – Notice the angel tries to comfort them in their fears.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he says. Then, proceeds to give them information on what has happened. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.” Not only does he provides a confirmation as to the status of Jesus, he then points them in the direction to see Jesus, once again – “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
Are you familiar with Jesus? Are you familiar with the promises, the miracles, and the parables? Is your relationship a familiar relationship, where you know that our Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will never leave you or forsake you? John 3:16 tells us: 6 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV) I so appreciate that scripture, but more importantly what touches my heart, and what I have lived with is John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (NKJV)
I had to ask myself through this Lenten season, if I am willing to accept change by accepting what God will allow, know that every single of the reported 3,573 promises in the bible are true, even if circumstances do not line up? If I just hold onto one of those promises and believe that God is faithful, all will be well.
Take a moment for you and consider: Do you have the faith to believe Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. And when you do have questions, when your foundation has been shaken, when life has taken a turn and your pain is unbearable, and you just don’t believe weeping may endure for a night, because no Joy has yet to come in the morning; when your faith is weaken, are you willing to follow through with Jeremiah 29: 12-13 and believe the promise “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (NIV)
Listen to the angel and go for the familiar and that would the resurrected promise of Jesus. Hold on and look around and see that there really is only one set of footprints, and they are not ours. God Bless you.
Image “Sin is at your door” courtesy of Jordyn Williams on Flickr
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
By now we are nice and cozy in our Lenten Challenge. I’m sure some of us are doing fabulously, focused and sticking to our plans. But, I bet lots of us are not doing as well. Maybe we have not stuck to our food plans. Perhaps we have missed some workouts. It’s possible that some of us have not been very focused on Lent or the challenge at all. Do you fall into any of these groups?
I happen to fall into category 3, lack of focus on Lent. Lent is not a part of the spiritual practices that I grew up with. I’ve learned a little about it over the last few years. I like the idea of making a personal sacrifice and reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifices for us. As much as I like the idea of Lent, it is not a habitual practice for me. I find myself getting caught up in my normal routines and not focusing on Lent the way that I should.
Now, if you are like me lacking focus or coming up short in the diet or fitness area, it is ok. Do not have your face downcast. Do not be Angry with yourself. Maybe you have not done the right things in terms of your goals for this challenge. Our subject verse says if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Sin and temptation go hand and hand. You may be feeling very tempted to give up on this challenge and your Lenten goals. I urge you to not let any downcast feelings or anger control you, influence you, have you. Instead I ask you to simply let these feelings pass, rule over them and the temptation to quit.
Instead of focusing on what you have not done right thus far in the challenge focus on the beginning of verse 7, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? Today, start over if you need to. Don’t focus on what you have not done well. Instead focus on what you have done right and what you can do right going forward. My answer to the question post to Cain is yes; if you do right you will be accepted. But that acceptance will come from within. We feel good about ourselves and accept ourselves when we know we are doing our best to do what is right.
So even if things are not going as well as we’d like within this challenge or even other areas of your life don’t let downcast feelings, guilt, or anger have you. Rule over it. Do not give into the temptation of quitting. Instead focus on getting back on track and doing what is right so you can accept yourself, flaws and all without guilt or self anger.
Do you need to get back on your food plan, exercise regime, or just refocus in general on the Lenten Challenge?
Arlett R. Hartie (Chasing Joy)
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Romans 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Transforming yourself is effort. To be more in line with what God wants requires focus, dedication and commitment. While striving for perfection, each of us will certainly falter. However, we will continue to improve as we make more adjustments.
At this point during the Lenten Challenge, you may be feeling as if you’d simply like to give up the things you decided to do at the start or you may feel that you have strayed so far from your plan that you might as well give up altogether. Instead of giving in to those feelings, decide to recommit yourself. Know that God loves you for what you’ve done thus far and will love you through each step.
Your efforts do require discipline in your commitment. This discipline will continue to grow with practice. Focus on your goal as you make corrections and make the next step. Continued discipline becomes habit and requires less effort to keep on track.
1 Corinthians 9:24 [ The Need for Self-Discipline ] Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
You are heading toward the prize today. Renew your mind with a focus on winning the prize!