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Dry spells are the instrument of God, for your good. Yes, it is true in such times, your five senses have been deprived and all outward progress of outward piety ends. Know this; In such times you are either going to leave off prayer and perhaps even a large part of your Christian walk, or you will be drive to a comfort which has nothing to do with the outward sense.” Molinos from 100 Days In The Secret Place (by Gene Edwards)

Currently in New Zealand we are experiencing one of our hottest summers in record.  Last week, as we flew over Blenheim, the contrast of the lush greenness of the well kept vineyards and the barren dryness of the surrounding hills was extreme. They need rain.

The earth is not the only place where things can be dry.  We experience seasons where we struggle, where we falter, where we doubt, where we feel dry.

In these dry places we learn to persevere and to draw near to God regardless of how we feel and what we sense. In this time God is still at work, even more so I would think, as He develops strength of character and hunger for Him. We learn to pray in new ways, to seek after God and to in that action to hold onto our faith and beliefs. We may even find our beliefs and faith changing as things that are built on works and feelings and comfortability fall away. We may discover that we do know in our deepest parts that God does love me and knows me and forgives me – despite all our failings and unworthiness.

In a dry spell the greatest watering and growth can occur.

Even if we know nothing else we can have hope in WHO God Is.   God is God, the God of mercy and compassion, love and peace, grace and hope, Jehovah our Provider, Jehovah our Healer, Jehovah our Breakthrough.  He is the same today, yesterday and will be tomorrow. He will never leave or depart us, never abandon us. Our names are written on the palm of his hand, and there are nail scars to reinforce the point.

On the Cross Jesus said I THIRST.  The maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of Lords, the one who gives living water so we will never thirst again, thirsted.

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”Simply trust God. If you come to Him, He will give you all that you need to serve Him. You really need to believe that God keeps His word. The more you trust Him, the more He will be able to give you. If you were lost in an uncrossable desert, bread would fall from heaven for you alone.

Fear nothing but to fail God. And do not even fear that so much that you let it upset you. Learn to live with your failures, and bear with the failures of your neighbours. Do you know what would be best for you? Stop trying to appear so mentally and spiritually perfect to God and man. There is a lot of refined selfishness and complacency in not allowing your faults to be revealed. Be simple with God. Live day by day, not in your own strength but by completely surrendering to God.”

Fenelon from 100 Days in the Secret Place

 

I found this piece of writing to be saturated with faith. From beginning to full stop it resonates faith faith faith.  Total dependence upon God and His provision, love, grace – everything we need.

The bible DOES say “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you” – referring to the things mentioned previously in the biblical passage – clothing, food, basic necessities. 

What is seeking God look like?  Judah Smith in a recent podcast i listened to said its as simple as drawing close to God.  Not just in a 1/2 hour devotional time, or on Sunday at church, but throughout your day, your life.  That God is God and that awareness that He is with you and near you.  Including Him in your day. 

Dedicated time to God is important.   Jesus drew Himself away to pray and seek God.  Its where you learn to hear His voice, know His heart.

There is something you get in the secret place that you can get no where else. Do everything you can to establish a secret history with Jesus. ~ Banning Liebscher

 

The sentence by Fenelon – “If you were lost in an uncrossable desert, bread would fall from heaven for you alone” is so unwavering and relentless in its faith.

It at first made me blink and think – is that really so???

Elijah the prophet was fed by ravens who brought him meat and bread for breakfast and tea. The widow’s flour bin and oil jar never ran out in the drought. The crowd were fed with 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread.

So – was that a specific time moment – then, and this is now?

God is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Was it just for special “bible people” but not for ordinary folk like me…? God is no respecter of persons.

So therefore I am going to conclude that God is my provider. And I will trust Him.

 

What is the uncrossable desert?

It can be a real place… but it can also be whatever impossible looking situation we face. Illness. Money. Jobs. Relationships. At that point of need God is there and ABLE to meet you.  At that place of need Jesus is there to fill you and sustain you and help you.

“Refined selfishness” – now that is a label! We think we have it covered so often… Really we’re just better at putting the makeup on… When we live honestly before God and with our family and friends God is able to work through us more and more – He can shine through our weaknesses. We are all cracked pots filled with the treasure of God. When we cover the cracks the light cant shine through. We must be vulnerable and real, as it allows the presence and grace of God to work through us.  People need us to be real.  Our neighbours need us to be real.  Not so they see our flaws, but so they see the Jesus we lean on and believe in.  So they can receive grace too.

God desires to do impossible things through improbable people to show His unlimited grace to those who will believe.

Will you trust Him today?

My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways. Proverbs 23:26

What does it mean to give your whole heart to God? To give your whole heart to God is to have all the energy of your soul always centered on Him.

It is in this way we are conformed to His will.

Sometimes our soul is very easily turned to outward, physical things; it is very easy to become distracted to the Lord, your Centre.

How far we turn away from Him will depend on how much we yield to the distraction and how far we allow ourself to be drawn away to surface things. In like manner, the means we use to return to God will depend on how far we have turned from Him.

As soon as you notice ourselves straying from the Lord, we should deliberately turn our attention within to the living God. Return at once to that place where we really belong: in Him. “

Madam Guyon from 100 Days in the Secret Place

 

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Now I must confess this passage is part of a bigger picture… it must be read in the understanding of the grace and salvation of God, that it is NOT by works we are saved or our own effort but by the free gift of God. We cannot work ourselves close to God. We cannot earn or repay salvation.  We cannot force intimacy with God by effort of will. We cannot manufacture anything.

 

So in saying that, almost a disclaimer, I say that with our will, strength, emotion and heart – with all of who we are – we must turn and keep turning towards God.

We can choose to stay faithful.

We can choose to be obedient loving children.

We can choose to listen to God.

Or we can choose to be faithless, sinful, disobedient kids who turn away from their loving Father and what we know is right.

Lets not pretend here… we know when we are sinning most times. We know we are making a choice to disobey God. We know we are making a choice to give in to ourselves.

We need to at those times choose to turn to God, to humble ourselves and repent, and His grace and His power that helps us stay faithful, that makes the way of escape from temptation, that is our deliverance.

Being obedient faithful Christians is a choice we make. It is a conscious decision we make each time we get out of bed in a way.

Each decision and action should be tempered with the consciousness of who we are and WHO we follow.  Each decision is a choice to live in His Kingdom, not our own.  The war rages between kingdoms, between self and seeking first the Kingdom of God.

We can become easily distracted and turn away from God. But we can easily turn back and find grace and mercy from God. His arms are ever open and willing.

We can make conscious choices to do things that will stir our hearts affection for God:

  • worship
  • prayer
  • bible reading
  • journaling / personal devotions
  • attending church and connecting with a house group
  • having coffee with friends and talking about God
  • reading books about God

 

Let us draw near to Him and He will draw near to us.

God never makes you suffer unnecessarily. He intends for your suffering to heal and purify you. The hand of God hurts as little as it can.

Do not waste your suffering. Let suffering accomplish what God wants it to in your life. Never get so hard that you suffer for no reason and for no purpose. Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” How much He must love those who cheerfully give themselves to His dealings.

Francis Fenelon from 100 days in the secret place

 

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My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into different kinds of temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

 

 

Fenelon in this passage from 100 Days In The Secret Place goes on to talk about how anxiety can sometimes be a resistance of the work of God in our lives. “The yoke that God gives is easy to bear if you accept it without struggling to escape.” He encourages us to count it all joy – and not just to give verbal assertion to that but to really count it as JOY – real joy – not a response filled with fear and anxiety – but an authentic joy and peace that we are in the hand of God.

How do we do this?

In real life suffering and the outworking of the refinement by God is not mostly pleasant.

It is painful and emotional. It may be physical illnesses or hardship.  It involves change and loss. 

What the joy can be defined as is I think is the constant trust and constant mental choice to keep our eyes fixed on our God – a mindfulness -  remembering (remember = stirring our hearts to faith) WHO He is and how wonderful and how He is near and good and great and merciful and faithful and the good things He has done and is doing and will do in our lives.

The joy is stirred when we remind ourselves of the promises of God – we feel less alone and less anxious because we know God is at work and that is a good thing.

It is as David does in 1 Samuel 30 – he STRENGTHENS himself in the Lord and that powers him up to continue to press on.

We count what we experience as BENEFITIAL perhaps is a better way of looking at it, and so we try to keep our attitude full of faith, full of hope and full of “God is great” instead of the negativity of looking down at our feet, at the circumstance and the emotions that arise. 

We stand tall despite the storm raging around us, confident that Jesus is with us.

I’m not talking about “faking it to you make it” but about monitoring our thoughts to respond in the right heart… (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, pulling down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ;)

God is at work in us transforming us and shaping us.

Surrendering to God rather than fighting makes the process somewhat easier… we’re not trying to swim against the current then. Emotions are fine. It is fine to be emotional – as people that is “the way we work.” Manage the emotions – not at the expense of being real, but manage them so that instead of spiralling into despair we continue to press on with confidence and faith, instead of isolating ourselves we continue to comfort others as God comforts us.

Remember – God is good. His mercy endures forever. His love is everlasting. His grace covers all. He knows us. He loves us. He has plans and purposes for us. He is creative. He likes us. He is near. He hears us. He speaks to us. He nurtures us. He guides us. God is good…

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Peter 1:3-7

God will eventually test you in all areas of your life, but He will not let your trials become greater than you can bear. Let God use trails to help you grow. Do not try to measure your progress, your strength, or what God is doing. His work is not less efficient because what He is doing is invisible. God does not transform you on a bed of light, life and grace. His transformation is done on the cross in darkness, poverty and death. Francis Fenelon in 100 days in the secret place

 

I think what strikes me most about this quote by francis fenelon is the call to NOT BE DISCOURAGED that rings behind the words.

Growing as a Christian can sometimes be hard. We think we should be “past” this, and are surprised we still react with anger/fear/insecurity/envy/pride etc.   In a way we’re like an onion… as Shrek would say… with many layers…  and it takes time and experiences to remove those layers as we grow. 

There is no magic click your fingers and you’re perfect switcharoonie when we get saved.  we get saved and then we get transformed.

We can struggle against the work of God to refine us and make as us pure gold.  We can struggle against God’s work in us of transformation.    Sometimes we don’t mean to, i mean we all pray that God would work in our lives, but when we go through life experience and hard times, our soul resists.  our natural default leans towards wanting ease, not character formation in all its process. 

its not fun to suffer and go through difficult times.  its not fun to have relationships strained, or work environments uncomfortable.  its not fun to be ill or to have financial issues.   its not fun to have unexpected pain.   but these are some of the invisible tools of God.   joseph’s time in prison.  jacob’s time serving his uncle laban.  peter’s denial of Christ.   Paul’s beatings and arrests.   Daniel’s exile.  Esther’s predicament.    David in hiding from Saul who wanted to kill him.  Hannah’s barrenness.  mary and Martha’s brother dying….   all painful experiences.  all times of suffering.  all used by God for transformation and glory.  would all those people be who they “are today” without those experiences?  would they have risen to be so used in the kingdom of God without those experiences?  would their character have formed on other easier roads?

 

"God often uses our challenges as stepping stones to the higher purposes of God." – James Robison

Proverbs 17:3 The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, but God tries the hearts.

The work of God in our hearts is in secret. He uses all types of situations good and bad to shape us. He uses all types of people to give us life experiences that will form the character of His Son Jesus within our hearts. He roots out our secret desires (sins…) and plants good things instead. He forms new habits and new characteristics that resemble Jesus.  as we continue to choose jesus, to choose His ways above our own desires and leanings, as we surrender, we are transformed. 

This all takes time.

We have a lifetime ahead of us.

"If we can know the beauty God is forming in us, we can bear the pain He allows in our lives." – James Robison

Most of us (ME) want it done NOW… we want to be perfect NOW… but experience and life lessons take time to LIVE and learn… I love how Romans 5 in my bible says the word EXPERIENCE instead of perseverance or endurance. Life is lived in experience. If you breathe you are experiencing. If you are experiencing you are been shaped by God.

 

 

And not only this, but we glory in afflictions also, knowing that afflictions work out patience, and patience works out experience, and experience works out hope. Romans 5:3-4

 

We can have hope and confidence that God “knows what he is doing”.

He knows us inside and out, how many hairs we have on our head and how many hairs we have on our toes.

We can rest completely in the security that even though we face hard times and are refined in the FIRE that God is with us and working in our lives.

Hard times are NOT in vain, they have a purpose.

Good times are not in vain, they have a purpose.

Trust God in good times and hard times, and pray and let Him have His way.

Surrender and let him work his beauty through your life.

Ask Him to shape and mould.

Do not be discouraged. God is changing you!

He is the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty. His love is everlasting and his mercy stretches our sins from the east to the west, just as the arms of His perfect Son stretched on the cross for our salvation.

Do not be discouraged. Take courage in the knowledge that God is a good God, all the time He is good.

what is the motivating hope that peter talked about – the “In this you greatly rejoice”? – it is salvation and grace, eternity – the reality that we were lost but now are found, that we were far away from God but now are near, innocent, holy, accepted.

 

 

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  1 Peter 1:3-5  NIV

By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [Born anew] into an inheritance which is beyond the reach of change and decay [imperishable], unsullied and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.  AMP

God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on.  God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear.  You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day  CEV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  NKJV

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Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. This is the account of Jacob’s family line.  Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.  Genesis 37:1-8

 

this passage is our introduction to someone i find personally challenging and encouraging and inspiring: Joseph

Joseph’s life story looks crazy when you look at it, when you look back his dreams and the call of God upon his life and the living out of the call. As a young man he dreamed of leadership and destiny but first had to endure the rejection of his brothers, to the extreme – they sold him into slavery – where he was promoted and then falsely accused and sent to prison for many many years. Then when it looked like the light at the end of the tunnel he is forgotten for more years. Over 17 years pass in Egypt. And then SUDDENLY he is promoted again and is living his dream.

I read these interesting verses in psalm 105 the other week while thinking more about THE PROCESS…”He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; and he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true.” Psalm 105:16-19

Until what he foretold came to pass, until the Word of the Lord, until his dreams of leadership and destiny, until the Lord proved him true… until the right time… until Joseph was ready and the times were ready. There was a bigger picture.

 

"God often uses our challenges as stepping stones to the higher purposes of God." – James Robison

 

There are lessons to be learned in the process. Lessons about ourselves, lessons about how to work with others, lessons about how to relate to God.

Process isn’t just about skills its also about character.

Process is all part of it. Its not less important that the destination and the success.

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You may feel that you simply are not one of those people capable of a deep experience with Jesus. Most Christians do not feel that they have been called to a deep, inward relationship to their Lord. But we have all been called to the depths of Christ just as surely as we have been called to salvation.

When I speak of this “deep, inward relationship to Jesus” what do I mean? Actually, it is very simple. It is only the turning and yielding of your heart to the Lord. It is the expression of love within your heart for Him.

One the Lord spoke and said “I counsel you to buy from me gold tried in the fire that you may be rich” (revelation 3:18). Dear reader, there is gold available to you. This gold is more easily obtained than you could ever imagine. It is available to you.

I give you an invitation: If you are thirsty, come to the living waters. Do not waste your precious time digging wells that have no water in them (John 7:37, Jeremiah 2:13)

If you are starving and can find nothing to satisfy your hunger, then come. Come and you will be filled.

You who are poor, come.

You who are afflicted come.

You who are weighted down with your load of wretchedness and your load of pain, come. You WILL be comforted.

You who are sick and need a doctor, come. Don’t hesitate because you have diseases. Come to your Lord and show him all your diseases and they will be healed!

Come!

Dear child of God, your Father has his arms of love open wide to you. Throw yourself into His arms. You who have strayed and wandered away as sheep. return to your shepherd. You who are sinners, come to your Saviour!

passage from Jeanne Guyon from 100 Days in the Secret Place

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God will eventually test you in all areas of your life, but He will not let your trials become greater than you can bear. Let God use trails to help you grow. Do not try to measure your progress, your strength, or what God is doing. His work is not less efficient because what He is doing is invisible. God does not transform you on a bed of light, life and grace. His transformation is done on the cross in darkness, poverty and death. Francis Fenelon in 100 days in the secret place

 

I think what strikes me most about this quote by francis fenelon is the call to NOT BE DISCOURAGED that rings behind the words.

Growing as a Christian can sometimes be hard. We think we should be “past” this, and are surprised we still react with anger/fear/insecurity/envy/pride etc.   In a way we’re like an onion… as Shrek would say… with many layers…  and it takes time and experiences to remove those layers as we grow. 

Read the rest of this entry »

“Two things must be discovered; the greatness of God and the vastness of the devastation of the fall as pertaining to your own soul. It is an understanding so vast that no tongue can express it. From this revelation proceeds a glimpse of the grace of God… a grace which takes pleasure in encompassing that person with the pure goodness of God.”  Michael Molinos from 100 days in the secret place by gene edwards

So we continue on the journey today which I think can be summed up in the statement above by Molinos. To surrender afresh and undergo this life transformation that we are all called to we must recognize our need and also the greatness of God, knowing WHO He is and how He loves us and works in our life.

We could go on the road of refinement with our eyes fixed firmly on our sins and weaknesses – but we would walk eyes downcast and focused on our naval… which is not healthy per such. Nor does such eyes on self achieve the glorious transformation that God desires with this process. We see what WE want to see and depreciate ourselves, which can lead to discouragement and disappointment.

We need to keep eyes on God, our Father, who loves us and knows us. This gives us hope when the day gets dark. This gives us courage when the discouragement threatens.

This is something we cant manufacture or fake till we make it. It comes with the grace and surrender to God.

“Come To God often just to sit in His presence and renew yourself. Nothing is as important as lowliness of heart and detachment from our own opinion and will.” Fenelon in 100 days in the secret place

I lay in bed last night thinking about this segment of my devotional book. Often when we are going through a hard time sitting down to pray and read the bible and talk to God is soooo the last thing we want to do or do full stop. We can get angry with God – when will this stop? Why wont you intervine? Pleeeese God come? You know… all of those things are valid. David was a big stomp ya feet say how he really felt kind of guy. His psalms are filled with WOE IS ME and emotions that I read as angry and depressed (its all in the tone of voice…) but then he also gets it in perspective and remembers God and His ways and that gives him peace and strength to carry on.

Psalm 73:16-17 When I thought deeply in order to understand this, it was painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.

In this Psalm David is going through a really hard time on all fronts. His understanding came when he went and spent time with God. Likewise for us – we may look at our circumstances and go “da wah?” and throw our hands up in despair. We need to remember to come and sit and pray and read the Bible. Sometimes just even putting on a good worship CD can bring us into the presence of God.

Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 23:1-6 A Psalm of David. Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah forever.

We may not get any answers from God. We may come away from a prayer time with no firm understanding. But we need to UNDERSTAND that God is God and God is good and loves us and is at work in our lives, to work ALL things for good for His glory and purposes. Your hard times may give you the experience that is able to help others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 He comforting us in all our trouble, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in every trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

The value of spending time with God is that we hear His voice, we can feel His presence –we can remind ourselves of WHO he is and draw closer, knowing that as we draw near to Him he draws near to us. Even if God is silent the time is not a waste. It is relationship building. It can bring comfort when we drop the walls. It changes us whether we feel like it or not.

the challenge for us to to be still and know God, to be still from our own efforts and to recognise who God is – the one who loves us and cares for us and is at work and is also refining us.  he is our strong tower, our refuge, our Father.   he cares for us so much.  he is with us.

when we stop and take time to pray and read the Word we are fixing our eyes upon him, not upon the cirucmstances of our life and not upon the hard times.  we fix our eyes on the rock that is greater than us, greater than all things.  we build our faith.

there is one key aspect of prayer that we sometimes forget, esp if we are going through the flood and fire.  that is to listen.  to listen to what God is saying IN that time.  God is with us, he promises to walk with us in the flame and flood and though we feel scorched and drowned  we are not.  we need to be encouraged by God.  just a glimpse of him makes it all worth it.  makes life do-able.  just a glimpse of him gives us hope.

keep coming and pressing in untill you get that glimpse and that hope.  dont give up.  dont stop for a minute and then give up because “God didnt come right then.”  sometimes part of the challenge of a hard time is that we need to persist and press in and seek God and not give up.  the Word of God is truth and right.  we need to trust it and live by it and have faith in it.

we need to be like the woman who had the issue of blood who did not give up on her miracle because of the circumstances.   did you know that because of Levitical Law that she was unclean and had to live in isolation and that everyone she touched was also made unclean.  she was not allowed to be near people let alone in a crowd!  but she had heard about Jesus and his power and said to herself, encouraging herself, building faith in herself, if only i touch his cloak i will be healed.  she went into the crowd.  and she touched Jesus.  she graspedthe edge of his cloadk and was healed by the power of God.  She did not allow her circumstances to limit her.  she pressed through.

in our own lives we face obstacles and hard times.  have faith that God can use them to shape your character and conform you into the image of Jesus.

know also that he loves you and that as you draw near to him he DOES draw near to you.

be encouraged that he is with you as he promises in isaiah 43:1-2

have faith in God.

dont give up.

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