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Julie Long

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  • We all have them.  Some more than others.  James tells us to count them all joy (1:2), but it’s easier said than done.

    The book of Job offers wisdom for trusting God in times of distress.  When Job emerged from his test of faith, he told God, I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes (Job 42:5 NLT).  Job’s trouble transformed his knowledge of God from “crumbs of rumors” (42:5 MSG) to feasts of faith. 

    Here are three reminders to help us grow spiritually during trial seasons:

    1. God’s plan is bigger than we think.

    God is orchestrating the affairs of this world in ways far beyond our comprehension. Job was unaware of his role in God’s plan to remind Satan that he is a defeated foe.  Satan thought Job only served God for the benefits. He claimed that if God removed the blessings and protection from Job, he would reject God.  Satan didn’t understand Job’s motive, but God did.  God knew Job would stand under pressure. How? Because Job was so convinced of God’s unfailing love (10:12) that he would trust Him even when he lost everything (13:15; Read also Habakkuk 3:17-18).

    To feast on faith, we must settle two issues: God orders the steps of our life (Psalm 37:23), and His love will never abandon us (Romans 8:31-39). If God allows it, He will handle it. Our present circumstances have not changed the nature of God (Hebrews 13:8). He is always worthy of our devotion!

    2. God’s focus is on developing our character.

    God is committed to the process of shaping us into “a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master” (2 Timothy 2:21 NKJV).  Job had a flaw in his character that God was working to correct.  Job 32:1-2 says, “he was righteous in his own eyes” and “he justified himself rather than God.” Job filled several chapters with emotional outbursts of self-pity. When he stopped long enough to hear God speak, he developed a deeper understanding of how great God is and how insignificant he was (42:6).

    God doesn’t want our conditional trust, He wants us to die to ourselves.  Paul said, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).

    God will also use disappointment with people to shape our souls and cause us to find our fulfillment only in Him. Job was hurt by his friends who misrepresented God while dispensing theological advice.  When Job prayed for his friends as God commanded, he was restored.  Repentance and forgiveness released blessings.

    To feast on faith, we must surrender to the process of becoming like Jesus. Instead of asking, “Why, Lord?” learn to ask, “What now, Lord?”  God “will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV).

    3. God’s viewpoint is eternal.

    When Job was at his lowest point; when nothing seemed secure, he held on to one truth. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 ESV).

    God sees everything from the perspective of eternity. We may not know what is required to accomplish God’s eternal purpose, but we can know that God is with us in our affliction (Isaiah 43:2) and working for our good (Romans 8:28-29).

    To feast on faith, we must understand God is preparing us for eternity with Him (2 Corinthians 4:17, Revelation 21:4). The Apostle Peter encouraged us to look forward with joy. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (I Peter 4:12-13 ESV).

    Reposted with permission from Reflections Magazine.
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  • “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1 KJV)

    God used visions and dreams in the Bible to reveal His plan, to further His plan, to put His people in places of influence, and to provide information that was unavailable elsewhere. In fact, the Book of Acts tells us that the Holy Spirit induces dreams.  Acts 2:17-18 describes entire households who prophesy, see visions and dream.

    Our families were designed to dream! Taking time to evaluate, plan and develop a vision for our family will help us prioritize so we can design our home with purpose.

    What do we want to be focused on right now as a family? What do we want to do in the future? What legacy do we want to continue and leave behind?

    The Bible is filled with principles like these that provide us with a blueprint for designing our dream home:

    • Designed to Surrender.

      God is the Master Architect of the family. In our homes, Jesus Christ must not only be present, but He must be preeminent. We want our children to understand that God is the greatest reality of life, not just in church on Sunday, but that we value His presence and His purpose every day, in every way (Deuteronomy 6:5).

    As a family, explore ways to invest the talent and treasure God has entrusted to you – volunteering; going on a missions trip; sponsoring a project; or developing your skills to honor God.
    • Designed to Support.

      God commands us to build our homes on Godly character and sound doctrine (Proverbs 4:1–2, Deuteronomy 6:4-9)The Bible instructs parents concerning children that we are to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Spiritual nurturing maintains the environment where our children learn to understand the ways and the Word of God. This is how “the Lord builds the house.”

    What special qualities or talents do you see in your children that you want to nurture? Are there some character traits you would like to see your children develop or strengthen?  What needs do you see in your children’s behavior, faith, or education that you can help cultivate?
    • Designed to Serve.

      Families were designed to represent Jesus Christ. The Bible says, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV).

    When God gives us a dream for our family, it will always be connected to His master plan – the building of His family “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9 AMP). God will not give us a self-serving dream separate from what He wants to do in the world. His plan is to use our family for His dream!

    Does your family have a vision that will affect the present AND the eternal? Are you teaching your children that they have a God-ordained destiny (Jeremiah 29:11)? Are you adding fuel to their dreams or snuffing them out (Genesis 37:10)?

    Ask God to give you His vision for your family so that you can be part of the most important dream of all.  Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3 KJV). This is our ultimate dream home “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10)!

    Reposted with permission from Reflections.

    A little girl was invited for dinner at the home of her first-grade friend. The vegetable was buttered broccoli and the mother asked if she liked it. “Oh, yes,” the child replied politely, “I love it!”

    But when the bowl of broccoli was passed, she declined to take any. The hostess said, “I thought you said you loved broccoli.” The girl replied sweetly, “Oh, yes ma’am, I do, but not enough to eat it!”

    Do you love others? “Of course I do!” We all would say that! It’s the only right answer. But what do you mean by love? So often we love like that little girl loved broccoli: We love in the abstract, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t want to get too close.

    The Apostle Paul’s famous chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, tells us what biblical love looks like. Paul makes the point that the use of their God-given gifts would amount to nothing if the Corinthians did not make selfless love their priority.

    In addition to cultivating our relationship with Jesus Christ and serving the people He has placed in our life (husband, children, family members, friends), we have also been commissioned to sacrificial love for people we’ve never met in places we’ve never been. This is not a special call for certain Christians. It’s the result of being like Jesus.  This is what Jesus does.  This is what love looks like.

    Listen to how He described the ministry He was sent to do: “…He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; (Luke 4:18 NKJV).  And then He tells us,As the Father has sent Me, I also send you. (John 20:21 NKJV).

    The only way to achieve this kind of love is to serve.  Because the truth is, we will serve somebody.  Either we serve others with grace, or we serve others with a grudge – or we can serve ourselves and love will wither. The greatest love is rooted in service to others.  Love is a verb that does!

    Hudson Taylor once made a statement that stirs my heart:

    “It will not do to say that you have no special call to go [to the mission field]. With the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”

    While God may not ask you to live in a foreign country, all of us are called to adopt a missionary heart no matter where God has placed us.  Ask Him to show you where and how to start being His hands and feet. Though the need around the world is staggering, He often wants to cultivate sacrificial love within us by starting with one person.  Right here.  Right now.

    Allow God to stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. We lead full lives and may feel we don’t have much time or energy available to serve others. But we must remember that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.

     

    TAKE THE NEXT STEP

    Do you find it difficult to find the time and opportunity to obey the command to love your neighbor?  Don’t forget that kids have a great ability to break down people’s defenses and to open lines of communication. Here are a few ways that children can help us know and love our neighbors in the middle of busy days:

    • Starting Conversations. It’s easier to start a conversation with someone at a community event if our kids are playing together. I’ve also found many people start conversations with me when my kids are with me, simply asking how old they are and where they go to school.
    • Meeting New Neighbors. While anyone can bake cookies and knock on a neighbor’s door to say “welcome,” there’s something about having a child with you that makes this less intimidating.
    • Spending Time Together. If you meet neighbors with kids the same age, it’s easy to make plans to get together at a park, to go on a walk together, or have a playdate at one of your houses.