Press On Toward the Goal #presson

But whatever things were gain to me,
those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss
in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,and may be found in Him,
not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,
but that which is through faith in Christ,
the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect,
but I press on 
so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on
toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude;
and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
—Philippians 3:7-16

I have never been what could be called graceful. I regularly walk too close to doorknobs and bruise my arms. I turn my ankle on real or imagined pot holes when I walk. I trip over things that are not there. When I first saw that the meaning of the name Anna is gracious, I was appalled because I thought it said graceful.

I remember a time when I made the special cherry vanilla creamsicles that both Rick and I love. I poured the mixture carefully into the molds, then wiped away the tiny drops that spilled onto the mold. Just that fast, the mold tipped over. I watched in frustration as the thick concoction oozed over the counter, dripped down the front of the cabinet and onto the floor. A big sigh escaped me as I pulled out paper towels to clean up my mess. Will I ever overcome my clumsiness?

We start every day with another chance to get it right. Some days we do; others we don’t. No matter what happens, though, we should be thankful for the next chance and the next, and on and on. Realize that this side of heaven we’ll probably never get things exactly right but we have the assurance of knowing that one day we will attain the prize that Paul talks about here:

the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul is talking about the day when we will be called home to Jesus. Wow, what a time that will be!

Beloved, are things not going right in your corner of the world? Are you struggling with the things of this life and becoming frustrated too? Do you feel as if there is no end in sight?

Press on … just press on. Keep on keeping on.

We who have the HOPE of knowing we’ll be spending eternity with Jesus need to remember that life here on earth will never be easy. I read somewhere once that if we had an easy time of it on earth, would we ever yearn for heaven?

In case you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your personal Savior and Lord, please visit my A…B…C page to read more about how easy it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Or, write to me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com. I would love to answer any questions you have and help you in your Christian walk.

I love this song because if often runs through my mind, even though it’s been awhile since I first heard it. “Press On” is a great song by Building 429 and is based on Philippians 3:12:14. The lyrics really speak to the stresses and complications of living and how we can all press on to complete whatever mission God has for us in this life. 

If for any reason you cannot view this video, please click here for the lyrics.

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The #JOY of #HOPE in the Lord

2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.

What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.

“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:

Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]

Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.

BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.

Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.

To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.

I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV

And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV

Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose JOY!

Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?

My Redeemer lives!

Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much HOPE and JOY as it does me!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.


[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]

Disappointment Becomes Joy

This is another great devotional by Billy Graham. Please take the time to browse his site. There is a lot of great information there!

They shall see his face . . . 
—Revelation 22:4 (TLB)

One of the great bonuses of being a Christian is the great hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. A little girl was running toward a cemetery as the darkness of evening began to fall. She passed a friend who asked her if she was not afraid to go through the graveyard at night. “Oh, no,” she said, “I’m not afraid. My home is just on the other side!” We Christians are not afraid of the night of death because our heavenly home is “just on the other side.” The resurrection of Christ changed the midnight of bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace. Today faith and confidence in the resurrected Christ can change your fear to hope and your disappointment to joy.

Hear this 1-minute story of a man facing a bleak future when he found joy in Christ. 

Prayer for the day

Whatever I fear the most, Lord Jesus, I put into Your loving hands, knowing You will give me peace and courage.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

This excellent article is from Sam Storms’ Enjoying God blog.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Sovereignty of God

By Sam Storms

Few things are more controversial among Christians than the sovereignty of God. Is God truly sovereign over everything, including calamity, natural disasters, death, and demons, or is his sovereign control restricted to those things we typically regard as good, such as material blessing, family welfare, personal salvation, and good health? Today we turn our attention to ten things we should all know about God’s sovereignty.

Before we begin, it’s important to distinguish between natural evil, which would include such things as tornadoes, earthquakes, famine (although famine can often be the result of moral evil perpetrated by those who devastate a country through greed or theft), floods, and disease. Is God sovereign over natural evil? Does he exert absolute control over these events in nature, such that he could, if he willed to do so, prevent them from happening or redirect their course and minimize the extent of damage they incur? Yes.

Moral evil has reference to the decisions made by human beings. Does God have sovereignty over the will of man? Can he stir the heart of an unbeliever to do his will? Can he frustrate the will of a person whose determination is to do evil and thereby prevent sin from happening? When a Christian does what is right, to whom should the credit and praise be given? And how is it possible for God to exert sovereignty over all of life without undermining the moral responsibility of men and women? These are the questions that find their answer in Scripture.

Read the rest here.

Busy Bodies

Eph5-16--AMP

Busy Bodies

By Patricia Knight

To qualify that we live in a society comprised of busy people is an understatement of major proportions. Frantic to the point of distraction may be a more appropriate consequence of the activities that crowd our lives. We are proficient at multi-tasking. Dates on our calendars are filled months in advance. We are slaves of the ever-ticking clock, attuned to a shrieking alarm each morning. We are tethered to a cell phone and addicted to texting, both alerting us to instant updates of personal and newsworthy nature. 

Whether we tap our toes to the beat of music or an engineer calculates the exact orbit of a space rocket, we function in a time-space perimeter. Work weeks are identified by specific hours. The world is divided into established time zones; multiple time pieces line airport walls, identifying current hours for each country on an international scale. Clocks and calendars are integral components of our daily lives.

Do we feel the stranglehold of time commitments threatening our sanity like a speeding train out of control? We are finite beings; our time is limited, prompting us to use every hour to its full advantage. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:16, NAS). We are instructed to walk paths of spiritual wisdom, looking toward Jesus, revealing the urgency of our time and the necessity of obediently serving God each day.

Have you ever wondered how God manages His time? He maintains the solar system, answers incessant prayers, solves myriad crises, assigns angels to divine message delivery, interacts with believers, fulfills prophesies, and restrains Satan, just a smattering of our Lord’s functions. God is bound to neither clock nor calendar, exclusively human devices.  “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8-9). God has an eternity behind Him and another in the future. Why should He hurry? Though our Lord could have created the world within seconds by merely issuing a decree, He purposely savored the experience, accomplishing miraculous handiwork each day for a week.

Our heavenly Father is patient with His children. He is delaying future prophesied events to provide the opportunity for everyone, everywhere, to come to know Jesus personally. God is long-suffering, tenderly waiting for all people to respond to His unconditional love, constantly involved in our lives, everywhere present simultaneously.

Do we envision our prayers stacked up in a heavenly e-mail file, waiting for God to read in chronological order? “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139: 4;13-16). Our Creator knew each of us before we were born, He formed each individual, watched over the development of each cell in utero, and is now intimately familiar with each life. God has full view into our hearts, aware of every thought and intent, knowledgeable of the words we will say before tongues utter them.

God is immortal and infinite. He existed in eternity past and He will live forevermore. There is no need for Him to count minutes or days. He alone created time and matter. Our heavenly Father designed, created, and now maintains the entire universe. He accomplishes everything with patient purpose. Our Lord is immutable, not subject to change. His character is inconsistent with errors, displaying only purity and holiness. We are commanded, “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15), set apart, separated from sin and impurity, and devoted to God.

Ps118-24--AMP

Since we aren’t going to change our time-oriented world, how can we attain a more God-like approach to daily life? This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (Ephesians 6:18), “rejoice always” (Philippians 4:4), and to offer “thanksgiving in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), thereby adopting Jesus’ priorities.

God is our Protector. “He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:3; 7-8). Our Lord is the unsleeping guardian of our souls, the One in whom we are commanded to confidently place our trust.

In our time-space framework, we confront limits. Because we are finite, we must be cognizant of clocks and calendars to responsibly manage our predetermined amount of time each day. Not one of us possesses the ability to be all things to all people at all times. Only God is described as omnipotent, all-powerful; omniscient, all-knowledgeable; omnipresent, responsive to everyone at one time. Our heavenly Father is infinite, with no limits to His presence or His person. He is timeless—eternal.

It is impossible for our mortal minds to grasp the idea of timelessness. Eternity is not an abstract term that describes a place somewhere out in the fuzzy hereafter. Eternal is a Person who was incarnated to live among us on earth. The Son of God taught us of His Father’s faithfulness and of His trustworthy promises. Jesus Christ is eternal; He has no end. As co-heirs with Christ, believers inherit the gift of eternal life that our Savior sacrificially earned for us on the cross of Calvary.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after He arose from the dead, His resurrection body was not constrained by time or travel, unrestricted by walls or doors. He appeared and reappeared at will. When we live eternally with our Savior in heaven, the time-space limits we now experience will disappear; not a clock or a calendar will be needed. What a magnificent reward eternity will be for believers currently bound by finite obstacles.

King David wrote Psalm 31 during terrifying times when his enemies conspired against him using such overt, powerful intimidation tactics, David’s friends abandoned him. Even so, David admitted, “’I trust in you, O Lord,’ I say, ‘you are my God. My times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31: 14-15). Like David, do we desire to place our time and our lives in the Almighty’s capable hands, with unwavering trust against powerful enemies and unknown forces, relying implicitly on His faithfulness and power? Earthly time produces significant consequences when God’s characteristics permeate our lives. Readily accept the reputation as a busy body for Christ!

#Thankful for God’s #Forgiveness

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His forgiveness . . .

If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9 NKJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to You.
—Psalm 86:5

All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Benevolent Father,

It happened again. Just when I started feeling as if things were going well, I messed up. Instead of keeping my focus on You, I let myself be pulled into a bad situation—something that is not what You want for me and certainly does not glorify You. How does this keep happening? Never mind, I know. You try to warn me, but I always insist on going my own way.

Forgive me, Lord—again. Wash me clean and help me to be vigilant, listening carefully to Your Spirit inside my heart. My desire is to please You, but we both know that I can’t make that a reality without Your help. Let me live ever aware of Your presence. As I practice living in Your presence, I believe that sin will lose its power over me.

I know, Lord, that You are a kind, loving, and merciful God, and I know You desire only the best for me. I am so thankful for Your willingness to forgive me each and every time. I praise You above all others, for You are the one who has washed me clean.

Amen.

When God pardons, He consigns the offense
to everlasting forgetfulness.

—Merv Rosell


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

AnytimePrayersForEverydayPeople

Storms of Life

Storms of Life

By Patricia Knight

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared.
—Proverbs 3:25-26

The sky was camouflaged by black blankets of menacing storm clouds, warning of impending turmoil over coastal waters. So defeated were the roiling, crashing ocean waves that even the raucous calls of the seabirds were subdued. The wind hushed. Shoreline trees stood at focused attention, awaiting a signal. Undeniable calm and quiet prevailed. Surely a gargantuan storm was threatening to eviscerate the tightly sutured clouds with scintillating bolts of lightning.

Then mysteriously, tiny holes of blue light peeped through the grotesque yellow-black storm clouds. The potential pandemonium lessened with every tiny slice of light. Without a crack of lightning or a drop of rain, fissures of blue sky opened among the disturbances. It took little time for the entire sky to transform. Soon puffy white clouds bounced around on a cerulean blue trampoline.

“Caw, Caw,” rejoiced avian life. Gradually all appearances and activities normalized as if no threats once loomed. The clouds rolled back as a scroll, quickly revealing the beautifully clear firmament beneath. The dark, menacing clouds would hover over the deep ocean waters again, but not today.

There are times when similar gloomy, black clouds stall over our lives, transforming our positive demeanor into negative attitudes. Fear and anxiety rule our decision-making. Frustration and anger take precedent. Like so many times when we’ve been inconvenienced by a situation beyond our control, the approaching storm paralyzes our mental reactions, convincing us of the worst possible outcome. When ineptness overwhelms us, failure often ensues, forcing us to merely hunker down until the threat has passed. We are assured, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25-26).

Joseph was born in Jacob’s old age and was greatly loved and favored over his other siblings. His brothers were insanely jealous of Joseph because of Jacob’s favoritism, accentuated by their father’s gift of a richly ornamental robe. When Joseph’s dreams revealed that his brothers would eventually bow down to worship him, animosity grew more extreme.

Joseph was seventeen years old when his brothers plotted to kill him (Genesis 37:19). Instead, they stripped him of his multi-colored coat and threw him into an empty well. When Midianite traders passed by, the brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Potiphar, the captain of the guard for the Egyptian king, purchased him for palace duty for twenty shekels of silver. “From the time he {Potiphar} put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:5).

One day Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Into prison Joseph went for two long years, seemingly forgotten. Even while in prison, God protected His faithful servant, putting him in a position of leadership over his fellow prisoners.

Such tragedies as Joseph experienced in his young life might tend to destroy a weaker man’s faith, but Joseph’s strength grew as he learned to depend upon God for all of his needs. Jesus taught, “ ‘Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered’” (Matthew 10:30). Surely, if our Lord makes it a point to know such intimate details about His children, we are assured that He loves us, cares for us, and that He is constantly moving in our lives to accomplish His purpose. “‘Because he loves me’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in times of trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation’” (Psalms 91:14-15).

Joseph was put in charge of collecting grain supplies during the seven years of plenty when Egypt had carefully stockpiled their rich harvests. Joseph then approved the sale of grain to their starving neighbors as famine ravaged the known world during the following seven years, leading to a reunion and reconciliation with his siblings, who had planned his demise twenty years earlier. Though Joseph had suffered injustice and humiliation, he didn’t harbor bitterness toward his brothers. His faith was firmly planted in a God who guided his entire life.

“Shout for joy, O earth; burst into song, O mountain!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (Isaiah 49:13).

Joseph forgave his brothers when he revealed his identity to them through tears of joy. “ ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold to Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me here to preserve a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance’” (Genesis 45: 4-5, 7). God’s ultimate mission for sending Joseph to a foreign country was to establish the nation of Israel in Egypt and to use the famine to reunite Joseph’s family.

Does adversity create mental chaos and meltdowns in your life?  Suffering affliction can either turn our thoughts upward toward God or inward toward self-pity. We are assured by God, “ ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13: 5-6). Joseph’s life demonstrates God’s faithfulness.

Like Joseph, let us depend upon God, the faithful One, who has kept every promise from the beginning of time. Faith is not based on ragged emotions borne on desperation, but on trust and confidence. God loves us so unconditionally, He sent His only Son to die for our sins, granting forgiveness for our many temporary lapses in faith over a lifetime. Joseph forgave his brothers for an inhumane act that surely would have led to a slow, agonizing death until God converted the injustice to His sovereign purposes. 

The initial clamor of the atmospheric storm over the ocean initially created fear and havoc, but gradually the development of a full-fledged storm system was replaced with a tranquil sky. How many storms in our lives begin with boisterous, threatening circumstances, but as we pray and trust, God works out the details, calming our spirits.  When we give our fears to Jesus, we routinely experience blue skies of peace lingering on the horizon of our emotions. Our perspective is modified as we view life through the lens of Almighty God, who is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Take Jesus on every excursion of life. He is the only one in whom to solidly place your trust for all of the big and little problems that assail. “He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him” (Proverbs 2:8, NLT)