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Last week was the shortest day of the year.  Already we see the days lengthening and changing, the weather attempting to be warm to lure us into the promise of spring.

Seasons change.  With new seasons of the year come new opportunities, experiences, weather patterns, habits, blessings and “hassles”.  Each winter I end up buying new winter gloves because invariably the ones from the year before have wandered off into who-knows-where land.  When the bite of a frost chills me to the core I always long for the sunshine of summer.  But I love winter for pumpkin soup and hearty roasts.  I love winter pjs and slippers, the roar of the fire and the coziness of a blanket.  In winter you can snow, in summer you can surf.  Summer speaks to me of ice cream and walking along the beach, and lazy afternoons with a book and sunglasses.

As with the seasons of the year, so life changes.  It has its own seasons.

There are seasons of growth and harvest.  Seasons of productivity and creation.  Seasons of depth and preparation.

What season are you in?

Every season has its opportunities, experiences, patterns, habits, blessings and “hassles”.

Here are 3 things I do to appreciate and maximize the season I am in: Read the rest of this entry »

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God has positioned you in your life, on purpose, with purpose.

He has equipped you for NOW.

The season you are in is designed by God and appointed by God, for His kingdom purposes.

There are lost people in your world right NOW that need what God says THROUGH you.

There are broken people who will find hope in the light that you shine.

There are people who need to hear your story.

In the midst of the difficulties, be assured, that you are not alone.  That God is with you and that God is for you.

He is maturing you.

He is working through you.

Be assured that He will empower you for every conversation and moment that you face.

Stretch in this NOW.  Grow in this NOW.

That assurance give purpose to what you face.

Let that assurance frame your NOW, frame your season, frame your day.

Trials and refinement don’t sit well in our 21st century western way of thinking. We have our microwaves, popcorn makers, dvds, im, mysky etc etc etc… but the work of God takes a lifetime and there are seasons that take time. The work of God is precious and good and right. God is working a miracle in our lives. In my life. I AM a miracle. I am a demonstration and ambassador for him. 

The message of Jesus has never been a happy happy joy joy promise.  He does promise abundant life, but that life is characterized by a life of surrender and relationship with God.  This promise comes with the outworking and demonstration of our faith, shaped by trials and obedience.  Jesus calls us to walk a narrow road, to take up our cross, to put Him first above all others, including and especially ourselves.

As Christians we may experience seasons of great joy and freedom, and likewise seasons when God seems very far away and that our spiritual life resembles the Sahara Desert.  There is a bigger picture involved.

“In all your journey as a believer, you will have two categories of spiritual experiences. One is tender, delightful and loving. The other can be quite obscure, dry, dark and desolate. God gives us this first one to gain us; he gives us the second to purify us.

First He deals with you as if you were only a child. Then he begins to deal with you as though you were a strong man. In the first there is a great deal of your Christian experience tied to that which you can sense outwardly. But the other category of Christian experience calls for a believer to no longer mind the outward senses. Rather he must know warfare against his own passions, and attain to a will that is in complete agreement and concert with the Lord…. This is the proper occupation of us all.

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)

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.

The dry place is not a time to give up. It is a time to hold on. It is a time to not let go of those “disciplines” that we practice. By the way those disciplines we do, bible reading and prayer and going to church must be actions of relationship or they become ritual. They must be actions of love and discovering who God is and what he does rather than form and just doing. We must read the bible to discover the author and creator – to know The Word, not just the words. 

Revelation 3 warns us to have fresh love for God.  Rules and rituals are no substitute for really knowing God and having the friendship available.

Knowing who God is will help immeasurably in the storm and the fire. Isaiah 43:1-2 promises that when we walk in the flood we will not be overwhelmed and when we walk through the fire we will not be burnt.  Jesus told us that in this life we will have troubles but that we can take heart and be confident that He has overcome the world.  Knowing what God says and promises for those situations brings hope and faith. It causes trust to rise in our hearts.  This is why knowing the Word is so vital. It strengthens us for the hard road, and refreshes us in the dry place. It teaches us who God is. 

Refining and shaping occurs so that we are more like Jesus in heart and character. This is so we are more effective in service for God. I do believe we are all cracked pots containing the great treasure of God, himself, the Holy Spirit, who works through us and in us and that our brokenness only serves to demonstrate how great and graceful and compassionate God is.

 2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God does not change.  He does not leave us.  He does not forsake us.  But He does allow us to be transformed and refined.  He has a bigger picture and no quick fixes.  God doesn’t use band aids but gets to the heart of the matter.  

Finally, take great hope from the Word of God that promises that when we are dying of thirst (spiritually) “He will come to their rescue.  He will make rivers flow on mountain peaks and send streams to fill the valleys.  Dry and barren lands will flow with springs and become a lake.” (Isaiah 41:17-18 CEV)  Don’t give up.  Keep praying.  Keep reading The Word.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

“In all your journey as a believer, you will have two categories of spiritual experiences. One is tender, delightful and loving. The other can be quite obscure, dry, dark and desolate. God gives us this first one to gain us; he gives us the second to purify us.

First He deals with you as if you were only a child. Then he begins to deal with you as though you were a strong man. In the first there is a great deal of your Christian experience tied to that which you can sense outwardly. But the other category of Christian experience calls for a believer to no longer mind the outward senses. Rather he must know warfare against his own passions, and attain to a will that is in complete agreement and concert with the Lord…. This is the proper occupation of us all.

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 senses.

There is always a veil that comes to us in relationship to times of dryness; it is a time when we do not know what he is doing. If we always knew what his working was (as he works on our outward man and works in our inward man) we would become very presumptuous…”

Molinos from 100 Days In The Secret Place

In these dry places we learn to persevere and to draw near to God despite 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 also learn to pray in new ways, to seek after God in new ways 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 find that we do know in our deepest parts that God does love me and knows me and forgives me – despite all our failings and unworthyness. In a dry spell the greatest watering and growth can occur.

The dry place is not a time to give up. It is a time to hold on. It is a time to not let go of those “disciplines” that we practice. By the way those disciplines we do, bible reading and prayer and going to church must be actions of relationship or they become ritual. They must be actions of love and discovering who God is and what he does rather than form and just doing. We must read the bible to discover the author and creator – to know The Word, not just the words.

2 Timothy 2:20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Refining and shaping occurs so that we are more like Jesus in heart and character. This is so we are more effective in service for God. I do believe we are all cracked pots containing the great treasure of God, himself, the Holy Spirit, who works through us and in us and that our brokenness only serves to demonstrate how great and graceful and compassionate God is.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Trials and refinement don’t sit well in our 21st century western way of thinking. We have our microwaves, popcorn makers, dvds, im, etc etc etc… the work of God takes a lifetime and there are seasons that take time. The work of God is precious and good and right. God is working a miracle in your life. In my life. I am a miracle. I am a demonstration and ambassador for him. I have faith in his ways and his working in my life and I will believe. I will press on, towards the great prize of knowing him and making him known.

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Life is life isn’t it. There is the good, the bad and the ugly. We have moments of pure joy and also circumstances that threaten to wrench our hearts out. That is life. If you’re breathing you know this.

As Christians I believe that we live our lives as demonstrations of God’s love and grace. In the good, the bad and the ugly. We face battles. And yet in this battle time God is with us and for us and calls us to overcome. He gives us hope and peace, no matter what we face. In these battle times he calls us to keep our eyes on him, to hold to faith in Him, and to overcome.

Isaiah 60:1-4 says “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of Jehovah has risen on you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but Jehovah shall rise on you, and His glory shall be seen on you. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning. Lift up your eyes all around, and see. All of them gather themselves; they come to you.”

“Isaiah challenges me every time I read what he wrote: He said that we are to arise from the depression in which circumstances have kept us – rise to a new life. In face we are supposed to shine! He said that darkness is covering the earth (boy, isn’t that the truth?), but that the glory of our God will be visible in you and me so that people who are hurting can come to us for answers.”

Warrior Chicks by Holly Wagner

2 Corinthians 1:4 says “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.” And this is something I totally subscribe to. God comforts us in our battles and hard times so we in turn can demonstrate God to them, giving hope and comfort and the Gospel.

We can often feel that life’s hard times knock us about and discredit us. We can feel like we are damaged because of the things we face. Disqualified because we are in a hard time.

”Once when my husband visited an antique coin dealer the owner told him that most people make the mistake of cleaning all of their old coins before bringing them to sell. They think that if the coins are clean they will be more valuable. They are wrong. Rather than calling the black stuff on old coins “tarnish” we should call it “being toned”. Toning actually makes them worth MORE.

So, if you’re feeling tarnished, I would like to suggest that we are merely toned – and thus growing in value. The battle you are in is toning you. It can be your ceiling in life or a stepping-stone to your future.

Your choice.”

Warrior Chicks by Holly Wagner

Let me repeat that. In a way we are not responsible for the battles we face. We don’t choose cancer or illness. We often have no choice in a job loss, financial issues, relationship difficulties (though we contribute perhaps…). We are however responsible for how we respond and react. Are we reacting in a “shinning” way – are we holding onto hope with God, do we trust Him that he will be with us??? or do we want to go to the bottom of the garden and eat worms? I’m serious! The battles we face can shape and transform us in positive ways if we allow it to. The life experiences we gain can make us more compassionate, stronger, more faith-filled, more faithful, more wise. Or they can make us grumpy and bitter. Our choice.

In Warrior Chicks Holly Wagner shares the powerful life testimony of Ernest Shackleton – who from 1914 to 1916 survived the wreck of their ship in the crushing Antarctic ice. They were shipwrecked 1,200 miles away from the nearest people – in 1914 – with all the limitations of the technology. No communication. No cell phones. No sat phones. No rescue beacons. No hope of rescue from the outside. If they were to survive it was their choice. Their ship began to be broken up by the crushing ice and they had to trek out – on the ice – in the cold – to be rescued. They survived, most of them, and did it with style. One of the reasons for the success of their self rescue was that Ernest Shackleton was remarkable man who refused to let this battle destroy them… He remembered and celebrated birthdays. They sang. They performed skits.

”Ernest was not blind to the challenge before them – he just knew that if they were going to survive, he had not only to rise, to have joy, but also to give it away. It was more than a feeling. It was a decision.”

Warrior Chicks by Holly Wagner

We are called to be light to those around us. People ARE watching. Lets show them, lets demonstrate how God works and upholds us. People need answers, they have questions. All of us face battles. All of us have circumstances beyond our control. Life happens. We make a choice in how to react. We can feel the pain and grieve and be worried and all those normal responses… but in this we must shine. We don’t paint happy faces on – we must be authentic. God can use pain and shine through that. He DOES use hard times. We can be assured that he is with us. we can be assured he sees us and knows the pressure. We can be confident that he loves us. we are not just flesh and blood – not “just human” – we are children of God and are his ambassadors and witnesses here on earth – in the good, the bad ad the ugly… It isn’t about being real but about having faith in our Father God… Faith is demonstrated in our actions… Arise and shine, remember for such a time as this you were called and live. Remember those around you need to know the hope you have… and remember Romans 8:37-39 “But in all these things we more than conquer through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

are you thirsty and tired – not physically – but on the inside?  do you feel worn out and dry?

there is hope and an answer.

and i have found it to be God.

he promises to quench our thirst and to bring rain upon our hearts.

he is the one who brings rain to the deserts we feel.

dont give up.  dont give up.

If you are thirsty, come and drink water!
If you don’t have any money, come, eat what you want!
Drink wine and milk without paying a cent.
2Why waste your money on what really isn’t food?
Why work hard for something that doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me,
and you will enjoy the very best foods.

3Pay close attention! Come to me and live.
I will promise you the eternal love and loyalty
that I promised David.

Isaiah 55:1-3

dry times shape us.  they cause us to draw even more towards God, even when he seems far.  he is not far.  he is ever close. ever near.  ever with us.  keep drawing near.  keep having faith.  dont give up.

galatians 6:1 Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you the spiritual ones restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I like this verse. Because it is so real and restorative. We ALL make mistakes and sin – we all give into temptation sometimes. One persons temptation may “seem” bigger than another, or have “bigger” consequences, but all the same it is a fault. God asks us to restore and love gently such a person. It is the way I know I want to be treated. In the same light God asks us to think – we can all be tempted and give into it. We need to consider how we want to be restored and treated – with shame, with ostracizing??? No with friendship, understanding, wisdom and love. We need to help one another to carry the things that worry us and discourage us. We need to help one another carry the things that cause us to fall. Talk, real talk, is part of that carrying. A phone call can help. Hanging out watching a rugby game or going out for hot chocolate can help. Praying for that person definitely helps. Gossip doesn’t help. Cold shoulders don’t help. Avoiding the issues doesn’t help. Lets be real people in a real family…. As humans we often want to knock the weak down… ‘its their fault they’re down’, ‘they made their bed…’, ‘some people just cant’…. BUT that is not how we a Christians should act. Paul tells us to support each other, helping in all ways possible. we are to restore and bear, not isolate and incriminate. this fulfills the law of loving one another. a good reason for this is that one day we might need support ourselves.

 galatians 6:8 But he sowing to the Spirit will reap life everlasting from the Spirit. 9 But we should not lose heart in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint.

sometimes we look at the ‘spirital’ good things we do – bible reading, prayer, fasting, worship, giving etc – and wonder is it really doing any good? does it really matter? is it seen and appreciated? is it worth it? God sees the good we do and the time/money/energy we sow through our spiritual disaplines and habbits. sometimes we can press on in prayer and reading the bible and feel we are hearing nothing from God, not being aware of his presence, or sensing any awareness of being heard. God hears EVERY prayer and rejoices when we spend time wih him. even if we do not “see” anything happening in our lives we CAN be SURE and CONFIDENT that as we sow through our actions so we will reap one day – in due season..

Galatians 1:16 …to reveal His Son in me….

Here is the fuller context… Galatians 1:15-16 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and having called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the nation…

I want the Son revealed in and through me to. So that people see my Father in Heaven in praise Him and come to know Him. I want them to see the love of God, the grace-fullness that God is and has, compassion, forgivenness, freedom, wisdom, power, authority, healing, prophetic, radical tranformation-ing, prayerfulness, relationshi with God.

galatians 6:24 But those belonging to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.

which means the flesh and all its desires is dead too, so we can remember that while that side of us can try to influence us it doesnt rule us. we belong to Jesus. we have a new life. and the Holy Spirit enables us to live htat life free and pure.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you the spiritual ones restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Good practical advice. Good advice on how both to act and think…

Act; pray, restore, listen, befriend, share own life stories, include, invite, encourage, accept, welcome

Other good words in this verse = overtaken – sin sometimes does creep up on us one step at a time, and before we know it the thoughts that invite it closer turn into thoughts that give permission for action.

 galatians 5:16 I say, then, Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. And these are contrary to one another; lest whatever you may will, these things you do. 19 Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 But those belonging to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

To me this is a self explanatory passage. When we follow God we will not satisfy our own desires of the flesh. The things that often wan to do either by choice or reaction are often things that displease God. These things must not be characteristics in our lives. But God works in us and grows in us good characteristics that please Him – and that we can do freely and often!

 galatians 5:7 You were running well. Who hindered you that you do not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from Him who calls you.

I think these verse can be applied and real for everyone. We all have seasons in our Christian life where we get distracted away from God. We get hindered and our love can grow cold. When our love and passion for God is cooler we do not obey as readily or naturally. We choose to gratify our own desires and thus sin. This is not the plan or purpose of God. Sometimes what hinders us is those who do not believe God. They challenge our beliefs and make us doubt God. They attract us away from God. People that are in the church may hinder us – by false teachings, by conduct. We must keep our eyes fixed on God. We must follow Him and only Him.

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