WATCH OUT FOR THE SPEED BUMPS

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speed-bump
The temptations in your life are no different
from what others experience.
And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation
to be more
than you can stand. When you are tempted,
He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NLT)

Life is not a bed of roses…and even if it was, you would still have the thorns! There is light at the end of the tunnel…but still you have to go through the tunnel! Every cloud has a silver lining…but a storm usually precedes its splendor!

I could go on and on with the sayings we’ve heard regarding the difficulties of life. But by this time, you’re probably saying, “Stop! Enough of this twisted optimism.” Indeed it is twisted. Since the time Adam sold his birthright to Satan for the knowledge of good and evil, man has been engaged in the same conflict…physical against spiritual. And unless you have the champion of our faith, Jesus Christ on your side, there is no contest! You lose!

Now when I’m speaking of spiritual, I’m speaking of both good and evil…for both exist in the spiritual realm. Some people aren’t aware of that and believe that spirituality only alludes to good and positive things. Not so! Satan himself is a spirit being and represents the most evil of intentions and inventions. It’s important to know that when bad things happen, he was ultimately the instigator. Never allow yourself to think that God brings bad things into your life. On that subject the Bible says, Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. (James 1:13 AMP)

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 AMP) “So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 AMP)

When we think of temptation, we usually think of the enticement to sin. But you can also be tempted by the adversities of life…tempted to be negative…tempted to give up! “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials [temptations] for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine.”
(I Peter 1:6-7a NLT)

I was talking with a friend the other day, and something she said gave me a perfect illustration of the unavoidable trials and temptations we face in life. Have you ever been traveling on an unfamiliar street and all of a sudden without any warning, there is a huge speed bump ahead? Before you can brake the car enough to make much of a difference, you are suddenly air-born! Your head hits the top of the car, the kids are squealing, the dog is barking and it takes you a moment to recover!

The speed bumps of life (trials and temptations) can also cause us untold and unexpected trauma. But just as you don’t park the car and say, “I’m never driving again!!!” You don’t stop believing and trusting and running the race. You continue to persevere, holding fast to your faith and confidence that the Lord will bring you through to the light at the end of the tunnel and to the silver lining on the other side of the cloud!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope
without wavering,
for He who promised is faithful.
(Hebrews 10:23 NKJV)

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

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SUN . RAIN 2
For he looks throughout the whole earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
He decides how hard the winds should blow
and how much rain should fall.
He made the laws for the rain
and laid out a path for the lightning.
Job 28:24-16

All good things must come to an end…” How many times have we heard that statement. And usually, whether we verbalize it or not, our next thought is, but bad things last forever!  And I must admit, sometimes it seems that way!

The saying, though true in its concept, is not a truth, but a half-truth. All good things must surely come to an end, but so must all bad things. Nothing lasts forever and there is definitely comfort in that fact. Sometimes there are things that we can do to effect the process and sometimes there is not. The only thing we can control in either situation is our attitude.

When the sun is shining on your face and life is good, bask in its rays…exult in its warm embrace. Throw off your cloak of worries, fears and inhibitions and walk barefoot through the lush green meadows of contentment with a song of thanksgiving in your heart!

But what about the times when the dark clouds gather, thunder is heard in the distance and only lightening illuminates your pathway? Those are the times, My Friend, when you put all of your trust in the Lord. In the midst of the storm, you confidently take His strong hand and learn to dance in the rain! Look up to the heavens and whirl and twirl between droplets and be refreshed by those that hit their mark, knowing that it is the rain that makes the flowers grow. And know above all, that the sun is still behind the clouds and will emerge again in all its splendor…if not today, then perhaps tomorrow. But it will surely return with a rainbow announcing its presence!

You must fight the good fight of faith each day no matter what the climate…stay the course and never, never give up! Set your face like a flint in the face of the storm and push through the wind gusts one step at a time…three steps forward, two steps back. It doesn’t matter, you are making progress and that’s what counts. And when the wind subsides and you only feel soft raindrops on your face, begin your dance once again… a dance of joy at God’s faithfulness!

And make a conscious choice to believe another familiar saying… “This too shall pass.” I love this verse from the Bible in Isaiah 43:2-3 NLT. “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5 NLT

IS YOUR “HOPER” BROKEN?

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HOPE REBUILDS

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago
to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently
for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:4 NLT

You may be wondering why I am continuing to write on the subject of Hope after covering it from so many angles. Personally, I feel it’s a subject that cannot be overemphasized. After all, it is the precursor to faith, which is the capstone of those things for which we are hoping. Even the secular world believes in Hope. What is the phrase that we hear most often from people of all cultures, religions and walks of life? “Don’t lose Hope!”

Now if you already have what you’ve been hoping for, you don’t need to hope any longer.  The Bible puts it this way…“We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)” (Romans 8:25) This particular scripture is referring to the Hope of Jesus second coming. We, as Christians, are still hoping for it because it has not yet manifest. We are waiting patiently and confidently and we must do the same for the other things for which we are hoping.

You may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have what I’ve been hoping for and I’ve been hoping for so long that my “Hoper” is broken! I no longer have any hope.” I once heard a minister say, “If you’ve lost your hope, go to God’s Word and get you some hope!” The grammar is not exactly proper, but the point is well taken. The best place to get Hope is in the infallible Word of God. Look at what the Bible says about God keeping His Word. God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:19)   And…I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.(Psalm 138:2) I know those from the older generation remember being taught that “your word is your bond.” Well, without a doubt, God’s Word is His bond! The Bible tells us that He exalts His Word above His name. (Psalm 138:2)

When depression tries to raise its ugly head in my life and scare Hope into reclusion, I have one recourse and only one. I start to quote God’s promises. And as I do, my fainting Hope is revived and breathes deeply once again!

One of the verses that I have memorized and personalized is Isaiah 41:10. It is usually the first promise that comes out of my mouth when my Hope is compromised. As a matter of fact, I have put it to music and sing it as a chorus. I state it this way…I will not be afraid…You are my God. I will not be dismayed…You are with me. You will strengthen me! You will help me! You will uphold me with the Right Hand of Your Righteousness!”

This is what the Psalmist David said in Psalm 43:11 (The Message Bible). “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!”

Don’t sit around without any Hope! Proclaim these verses or find others to which you can relate. And now, My Friend, I leave you with this prayer…I pray that God, the source of Hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident Hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

A PRISONER OF HOPE

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ARM FLEXED PIC 2

Return to the stronghold [fortress], You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.
Zachariah 9:12 NKJV

Have you ever been a prisoner? Personally, I have not been, in the sense of being incarcerated. Usually that is what we think of when the word is mentioned. I looked up the meaning of “prisoner” in Miriam-Webster Dictionary and these were the definitions: 1. a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody; especially one on trial or in prison 2. someone restrained as if in prison [a prisoner of her own conscience].

Am I reading this wrong or does it imply that someone can be a prisoner, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally or spiritually as well? We all know the answer to that. Have you ever known someone who seemed in bondage to fear, anger, depression, worry, alcohol, drugs or any number of other things we could name. Many people are incarcerated in a prison of their own making. Now, I’m not saying it is deliberate. Oftentimes the bricks are laid by other people who hurt us, even in our childhood. But we supply the mortar by our reactions to those hurts in the form of anger, resentment, low self-esteem, fear, etc. And each time we put on a layer of mortar, someone places another brick until the prison is completed and we are captive to its seemingly impenetrable walls. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why am I acting this way? What is wrong with me? I want to stop doing this…I want to stop reacting this way but it seems beyond my control.” Let’s face it, you’re not just in prison, you are in solitary confinement and it’s very lonely and restricted there! Let me help you find a way out. I say “help YOU” because just like you supplied the mortar for the bricks, it is you who will have to tear down the walls, perhaps one brick at a time. God will help you. God will guide you if you just lean heavily on Him one day at a time. May I give you some guidelines that have worked for me. They say, “Experience is the Best Teacher”… and believe me, I am the voice of experience on this subject!

(1) Don’t lose Hope! You may be thinking, “I lost hope a long time ago. I’m just surviving now.  Well, if that’s the case, go back and find Hope!!! You didn’t lose it. You just misplaced it. You CAN find it again! In my experience, the place to get hope is in the promises in the Bible, the infallible Word of God. Remember what David said, “I would have been without hope if I had not believed that I would see the loving-kindness of the Lord in the land of the living.

(2) Run to God and hold fast to Him!The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Savior; my God is my Rock, in Whom I find protection. He is my Shield, the Power that saves me, and my Place of Safety.” (Psalm 18:2)

(3) Have faith (fully believe) in the promises in God’s Word! There are those who say that Hope has nothing to do with faith and if you’re hoping, you’re really not believing. Well let’s see what the Bible says about it. “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1) The Lord explained it to me this way…“Hope is the Outstretched Arm of the Hand of Faith.” Hope must first reach out in order for Faith to grasp the desired result. Flex your muscle of Hope until it is strong once again. Then reach out and grasp your dream with the Hand of Faith! You can do it with God’s help! I know you can! I believe in you and so does God!!!

And if you’re going to be a prisoner of anything…be a Prisoner of Hope!!!

INFINITE HOPE

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HOPE 2
I would have been without hope if I had not believed
that I would see
the loving-kindness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13

I know I’ve used this saying before in my devotionals, but it is surely one of my favorites and worth repeating. “I am never down. I am always up or I’m getting up!” This is my confession. This is my mantra so to speak. And this attitude, along with the Word of God and His great promises, is what keeps me from giving up in this fight of depression and the challenges of life.

You may be thinking, “Well you just don’t understand how bad it really is. You don’t understand what I’m going through!  You don’t understand what I’ve been through!”

Oh, I beg to differ with you, My Friend. I do understand…for I have been there, done that and have more than one t-shirt! Twenty years ago, after going through a divorce after twenty years of marriage, I was severely depressed. Not only so, but aside from the clinical depression, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In other words, I had a complete physical and emotional breakdown. I didn’t have the strength to get off the couch except for short periods of time. I had to get on disability because I couldn’t work to support myself. I was about as low as I could get without just laying down and quitting. If it had not been for the help of my precious family and friends, and my belief in the goodness of God, my hope would have been gone.

But I absolutely refused to stay down! Believe me, it was tempting. It’s hard to get up when you’ve fallen so low, but“I am never down! I am always up or I’m getting up!” I started pumping myself full of the Word of God regarding my healing, both physical and emotional. I listened to sermons. I exercised to praise music (for all of five minutes!). I believed as much as my believer was capable and left the rest to God. Although negative thoughts pounded my mind like the fists of a prize fighter in the final round, I refused to tap out! I was still on my knees and God was still on His throne directing my life.

I know you’ve heard the saying, “It’s not over, ’till God says it’s over.” That is a truth, but in my opinion, it is not an absolute truth. If you give up…if you say it’s over…God will not make you get up. He will extend His hand but He will not override your will. So my advice to you is, get in God’s corner and YOU say, “God is on MY side and it’s not over ’til HE says it’s over! I’m never down! I am always up or I’m getting up! End of discussion, Devil! End of discussion negative thoughts! Negative thoughts, I can’t keep you from passing through, but I won’t allow you to move in and rearrange the furniture! I will immediately show you the exit door. Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional! It is my decision to be powerful, rather than pitiful! I will overcome this by the Blood of The Lamb and the word of my testimony!”

And let me tell you, My Friends, I did overcome by His grace! I gradually started getting my physical and emotional strength back. I started working a part-time job for a few hours a day. At first I would come home, go straight to my recliner and fall asleep. But I got up a little bit at a time until I was standing tall once again…self-sufficient and off disability! To God be the glory!!! And if I did it, you can do it too! God and I have confidence in you!

But this is not the end of the story by long shot. The saga continues daily. I wake up every morning and I must decide, “Will I follow Jesus or believe the negative thoughts that pass through my mind?” I emphatically say, “No! I’ll never give up! I am never down, I am always up or I’m getting up!” And though it’s not the end of the story, it IS the end of the discussion!

Be blessed, My Friends! And if you would like me to pray for you in this area or any other area in which you’re struggling, please leave a note in the comments and I promise you, I will pray!

DEPRESSION…THE BATTLE IS REAL

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HOPE
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember You—
Psalm 42:5-6

I have decided, after getting a favorable response from my readers, to continue to provide insight from my personal experience on the subject of clinical depression. It is something with which most people don’t want to readily identify themselves. Therefore, it is rarely discussed in a candid manner by the people who suffer from it most. The majority of the time it is treated like the magician who throws his cloak over a subject and makes it disappear. It is like the masquerade party where the mask keeps the true identity of the subject from being known or at least being easily recognized.

Clinical depression, especially in the past, has been strongly identified with mental illness, which is definitely not the case. Do we associate those with diabetes with a food disorder? No, we know it is the result of an organ that doesn’t function properly. In the case of clinical depression, the brain does not function properly in releasing the chemicals that cause our moods to be stabilized. One may try with all their might, but without medical help, the problem won’t go away on its own, other than a divine miracle, which I am certainly not discounting.

Clinical depression is not to be confused with simple depression which is brought on by unfavorable circumstances or disappointments. That type of depression can easily be corrected as the circumstance changes or the disappointment has abated.

A person who fights clinical depression cannot control its existence. It just exists…in them! They can only control the extent to which they allow it to control them. It is a constant battle that never ceases. The depression is almost like an entity that co-exists in the same body. However, there is one factor that gives a ray of hope. The human body consists of three parts…spirit, soul and body. The soul is made up of the mind, will, and intellect. Depression is manifest and abides in the realm of the soul. Although it does effect the body, it cannot penetrate the spirit! Herein lies the key to victory over this enemy of our soul brought on by “THE enemy of our soul.” When our human spirit is transformed by the Holy Spirit, though the battle continues to rage, there is always hope for victory…one battle at a time!

Sometimes the battle is just a battle and sometimes it’s an all out war! Speaking for myself, I may be able to win the battles on my own by reading my Bible, thinking positively and exerting my faith, but the wars…no way! There is no way I can win the wars without the help of Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior. When the battle is raging and I am losing ground, He will come in like a flood and lift up a standard against the enemy. He will fight for me when I don’t have the strength or courage! He will go before me AND He will be my Rear Guard. He is a very Present Help in time of trouble. He is my Refuge and Fortress…my Strong Tower! He covers me with His Feathers and hides me under the Shadow of His Wings. He upholds me with His Righteous Right Hand so that I don’t stumble or fall. He keeps me as the Apple of His Eye! When I am weak, He is strong! He is my Light and my Salvation…my God!!!

If you don’t have that relationship with Jesus. You can have so easily. “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Just declare, “Jesus, I believe that you are the only Son of God. I believe you died and rose again to pay for my sins and I accept that sacrifice now. I make YOU the Lord of my Life!”

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

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IN TOWEL 2
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them
and will last forever!
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.
For the things we see now will soon be gone,
but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:17‭-‬18 NLT

This verse just came to my remembrance this morning as I was taking care of my little dog, Lucy. If you’ve read many of my devotionals, you know that the Lord often speaks to me through my interactions with my pets. I have written many a devotional about Rosie, my cat who has gone on to kitty heaven now. But…back to Lucy, my little four pound Yorkie, who was a recent gift from friends who thought she would be a perfect companion for me. And they were right! What a blessing she is!

Lucy lost a toenail on her right foot recently and had to be treated for it. I have to give her antibiotics twice a day and soak her paw in Epsom Salt for five minutes three times a day. Now I can say without any exaggeration that Lucy hates taking the antibiotic and from the look and smell of it, it certainly is justified! The only up-side is that she gets a treat afterward. She doesn’t really like the foot soaking, but does tolerate it much better than the antibiotic. I keep telling her that this ritual is going to make her paw much better. (Don’t tell me you don’t talk to your pets!) But I’m certain she thinks that I must be punishing her for some unknown sin, although while the foot is soaking she does gets to cuddle in my lap on a fluffy towel.

It was while this was going on that the Lord brought the verse in Corinthians to my mind. Lucy doesn’t like what’s going on right now. It seems harsh and hard and is very uncomfortable. She doesn’t understand! Why would her master who purports to love her allow such things?! Do you see where I’m going with this?

Many times in our life things happen that we don’t understand…troubles come, depression comes, heartaches come, disappointments come. We don’t understand! We’ve been doing the best we can. We search our heart for some unconfessed sin. Is God punishing us? There must be a reason! But let me tell you, My Friend, sometimes the only reason is that we live in a fallen world full of chaos brought on by the enemy of our soul. Sometimes there is no reason except this…“Life Happens!” Lucy didn’t do anything wrong, nor did you. Lie back in your Master’s lap on the fluffy blanket of His love and just chill for a while.

We have to encourage ourselves with this tried and true phrase…“This too shall pass!” The trials and adverse circumstances that are affecting my life now won’t last forever, although they are quite uncomfortable. I can’t let myself get bogged down in the mire of self-pity and hopelessness. God is ALWAYS for me and never against me! I refuse to look at the present troubles, rather I will “fix my gaze” on Jesus, Whom I know is working behind the scenes to make a way of escape for me! I’ll keep traveling down this bumpy road of life with its potholes and sinkholes and manholes…and I will do it in joyous expectation that my deliverance may be just around the next corner!