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Suffering + Praise

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Hello! As we say in Texas, how’s the weather in your neck of the woods? Last night was windy, wet, dreary, and frigid but this morning was glorious with a bright glow of the sun and beautiful blue skies. Such a contrast within less than a 24-hour period. I am always amazed how fast conditions can change. My grandpa often referred to this by saying, “Things can change at the drop of a hat.” Of course, as a kid, I never knew exactly what that meant and besides, I never saw a hat adorn his head.

Psalm 22 was part of the reading plan today. Many of the words were familiar and the writing brought a variety of thoughts. I even read a few commentaries and translations while pondering. This passage is composed of two parts: a cry for help and a song of praise. I found it surprising how quickly the demeanor changed from the beginning to the end in this passage. It brought to mind a couple of words: suffering and praise.

Even though Psalm 22 is a clear depiction of Jesus Christ and his crucifixion, my wandering thoughts landed upon a question. What would it be like to praise the Lord with my entire being while undergoing intense persecution and pain? Am I even capable of doing this? Is my faith strong enough to claim God’s love and promises for me when He may seem so far away or silent? Then silence filled my mind for a brief pause. Why this take on Psalm 22? Oh yeah, it is you Holy Spirit!! You are prompting me to examine my life and assist me in my spiritual walk. (My light bulb still works at times! YIPPEE)

I don’t know about you but adding praise plus suffering seems foreign. However, lets reflect on Paul and Silas. In Acts 16, we find them in jail and bound by chains. Surprisingly, they are singing hymns to the Father and in the middle of the night none the less. This is an excellent example of followers praising God for who He is despite their circumstances. They were not thanking the Lord for their situation of course, but were reflecting on the Father’s promises and His steadfast nature. Can you imagine how quickly their perspective and disposition changed because of their devoted worship? I bet a counselor would agree that this act of thanksgiving was their essential source of physical and mental health. They stood steadfast and displayed the endurance of Job. WOW!

How vibrant is my spirit to praise continually when the storms of life come? Why do I wait until the glowing sun and blue skies appear again to give Him praise?

Almighty God is constant in all situations and walks of life. God never alters his character. Psalm 25:10 reminds us “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and His testimonies”. It is me that varies “at the drop of a hat” or situation. May I be refined to display 1 Corinthians 15:58.

BOOK REVIEW: Talking With God

Webb, A. (2017). Talking with God. New York: Waterbrook.

Summary:

The author is the founder and pastor of Embrace church. The book focuses on prayer and its purpose. Weber emphasizes the importance of building a relationship with God and defines prayer as simply carrying on a basic conversation. Many life experiences are used to support his stance. The author delivers the information as a practical guide to assist the reader in becoming comfortable and familiar with talking with God. Readers are given precise examples of conversations that are brief and honest throughout each chapter. His approach to delivering the content is organized into primarily three main sections: defining God, the reasons for prayer, how to pray when we experience seven different areas. Weber uses several personal stories to convey his point in the majority of the chapters. Each chapter begins with a quote from various people such as C.S. Lewis and Charles Spurgeon. The field notes have bible references although scripture is not prevailing throughout the book. The dominant message is “Just talk with God”.   

My $.02:

I grabbed this book to supplement my current writings when I saw that Craig Groeschel recommended it. There are three and a half pages of recommendations found at the beginning of the book. Weber is a humble writer and very transparent. He has several personal stories that touched my heart. My main take-away was a statement he made about most followers. The point was we do a lot of talking ABOUT God but not enough talking TO God. All of the dialogue examples italicized in the text were appropriate to give readers a good sense of how to carry on a conversation with God. They exemplified asking questions, praising, requesting, surrendering, etc. when chatting with the Lord.  I really enjoyed his honesty displayed in the illustrations of prayer. For instance, when Weber discusses the topic of extending grace, he addresses the lingering hurt. “God, I give this person over to you again today. I’m still hurting. Help me to extend grace. Jesus, I thought I was past the anger. Past the bitterness. Past these feelings. I need your grace because I have none to give.” Wow! Have you ever needed to say those words to God? I sure have! I appreciate the closing of the book. “Jesus, I want to know you. Jesus, I want to be with you. Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I want to talk with you for the rest of my life.”

Don’t just take my word for it: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30896358-talking-with-god

Heavenly Astuteness

Happy sunny January afternoon. I don’t know about some of you but I could really use a snowy scene for a couple of days. Winter should be cold and filled with glorious snowflakes. (Okay, please do not stop reading because you love summer!) There really isn’t a season I prefer. They each come with uniqueness and purpose. My body just doesn’t know what to do when fall/spring days come right in the middle of winter. Even the daffodils are puzzled. I guess we could say, “Only the Good Lord knows the reason.”

The Almighty Father has the insight and perception which far exceeds our personal understanding. His wisdom outweighs any authority or power as we read in Ephesians 1:21. Our faith and focus are to be on God and exalt Him above all else because of the great gift of eternal life He has extended to each of us and rescued us from hell. (Psalm 30:1) It is through discipline and spiritual growth in Him that we discover how to maintain our ever-wavering attention on the Lord. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 states, “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” God is worthy to be praised 24/7 because of His great love.

I read an article today written by Bobby Conner from Bullard, TX entitled How to Activate Divine Wisdom. He made several remarkable points. In the article, Conner declared “The gateway leading to the pathway of divine wisdom is humility and reverence. There are absolutely no shortcuts to acquiring this godly wisdom. The fountainhead is true, holy, reverential fear of God.” Conner continues the writing by describing an authentic humble and pure heart. I enjoyed reading his insight of all the benefits which come from having God’s wisdom. The author really caught my attention when he wrote, “We are instructed to obtain godly wisdom at all costs. Whatever action we must take to acquire this offered wisdom is a must.”

As I walk through these first couple of weeks of January, I am evaluating my reverence to the Father. Am I willing to do “whatever action” necessary to deepen my walk? Do I fear the Lord enough to display worship, respect, admiration, and awe of Him over my fleshy desires every moment of every day? What steps am I taking to seek after His wisdom? Do I exhibit full discipline for God?

My desire is for God to take control of my life and increase His presence. I want His wisdom. Trust me, I have relied on my own expertise and we all know the rest of that story!

What about you?

Link to the full article written by Bobby Conner: https://elijahlist.com/words/display_word.html?ID=23077

Refining’s Purpose in 2020

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds James 1:2

Hello Friends!

I would like to take this time to identify the primary purpose of the Refining blog. This blog is designed to gently support your personal relationship with God by strengthening your reliance on scripture and the Holy Spirit. Through each posting, it is fundamentally intended to be a loving and encouraging place where your spiritual growth can be nurtured and your eternal journey can be strengthened.

Life struggles are real and often reveal a deeper need beyond the surface level of our human flesh. They are often opportunities to grow in Christ. It can entail a few key aspects of spiritual maturity – to learn how to fully surrender, to accept a growth voyage of the entire measure of our God-given purpose, to foster a Godly perspective, and to discover unexplainable joy.  

Refining arose from a couple of topics: from my own experience with years of unfulfilled joy, direction, and purpose, and from bearing witness to an intense, dismal gorge for half a decade. Although I loved God and considered myself a Christ follower, I was caught off-guard and found myself inadequately prepared when raging storms prevailed continually for five solid years. The struggle unearthed a deeper revelation in my personal story where essential elements were missing: infusion of scripture in my daily walk, Godly living 24/7 for His purpose, and personal identification in the Lord Most High.

Life dispenses mountain top and low valley occurrences for each of us as a chance to cultivate our spiritual development. Refining was birthed as a provision to strengthen your adaptation to the ebb and flow of life and nurture your competence to embrace a lifetime of refinement under God’s authority. God furnished me an effective message and now I want to ensure you are never caught off-guard nor poorly-equipped in the spiritual battle of life.

Let’s walk together and become mighty warriors. Reach out and share your life in this space designed to Glorify the King. Come open your hearts to God’s perspective and share this resource with other Christians in order continue the growth for God. You matter! Your experiences and life circumstances contain valuable information for others to gain knowledge and wisdom. Refining would love to share your writings and thoughts in the days ahead. There are readers out there needing your story to encourage them in their walk as well.  

May your heart be filled with God’s goodness and nourishment through Refining in 2020. Come follow Refining on Facebook and see what is happening in our face-to-face sessions as well as additional spiritual support. Invite others to become followers of the Refining blog. Share what you have learned. God has some exciting plans in the future. I look forward to His provisions and callings. We give Him all the praise for the lives impacted as we walk out our faith together.

Happy 2020 my friends.  

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