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"As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." Proverbs 27:17


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Discovering the Highest and the Best: Roots in Faith

Posted by Lorraine Serra on February 12, 2015 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Looking once again at Joshua 24

we can learn so much from this

godly leader about refocusing

our loyalty and faithfulness upon

God, Our Lord and King.


It is deliberate. It is a choice.

It takes a concerted effort because

our lives are so distracting and

we get so self-absorbed.


Last time, we observed

that Joshua was brilliant

in bringing the people back to their

roots, not only recounting the Lord's awesome

actions on their behalf throughout

the history of their nation, but in the

very place where Abraham had received

the covenant promises of God!


Now, there's a strategy for ya! Talk

about some "roots", talk about the effect of "place".

This resulted in humility, thanks and

praise because they remembered, they stirred up their faith

based on the evidence of God's faithful presence with them.


Though this passage

doesn't mention it, the Ark of the

Covenant most likely

stood in their midst, central to

the assembly, along with the

priests who attended it.


The ark was a tangible, visible,

reminder of God's presence among

the people.  It produced such awe and

wonder and humility that

people wept and bowed down in

worship and adoration.


God's presence was holy and powerful;

no one could touch the ark, or die.


For us today, we have the most

authentic and meaningful expression

of God's presence possible: the

Cross of Christ!


 * Symbol of power, God's

    physical presence in His Son, Jesus, His

    victory over sin, death, evil.


 * Promise of absolute love, forgiveness,

   and acceptance into the family of God.


 * Precursor to Christ's Resurrection, the demonstration

      of God's power, and the guarantee

   of new life in Christ, and eternal life with

   Him forever.


 * Resulting in the Holy Spirit of God living

    within us, guiding and directing, encouraging

    and teaching us, always with us!


This is amazing grace! This is the Gospel!  

This is the free gift we choose to accept by faith! 

This inspires awe, humility

and worship in the heart of every believer...how precious we

are to God, even in our brokenness, faithlessness and fear!


If you feel lukewarm about

it, then read over your list of God's faithfulness

that I wrote about last time. Consider His

hand in your life. Read the Gospel again...



In humility and gratitude meditate on what

God's great love for you truly means.

Grab hold of it with both hands, and think

about it all day so your faith is unstoppable for

everything you are dealing with in your life right now!


Then, strengthened in this love and forgiveness,

and the many promises of God, prepare to receive

all you need through faith in His everlasting Word.


Our Lord, our Commander, wants to teach us to

stand strong and know, for certain, He is

our Lord and King!  The time is short.  The King is coming soon!



NEXT TIME: How can I know He is Lord of my life?


Precious Father, Holy Lord, I am again overwhelmed

with Your presence. To think this is only the smallest

glimpse of all you want me to know of You! Hold me

close as I seek You with all my heart. Amen!

 

Discovering the Highest and the Best: Roots In Humility

Posted by Lorraine Serra on February 5, 2015 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (1)

Isn't it interesting that we are continuously encouraged

to study God's Word? To know the Word is to know

Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Word of God.


I mean, it truly is life to us. Scripture says that God's Word

is sweeter than honey, it renews our strength, it gives

long life and prospers us.


There is wisdom, comfort and encouragement in

the Word of God.   Bottom line, we can never get enough!

We can always find something that feeds our souls,

renews our minds, and spurs us on to greater

commitment to the Lordship of Christ.  


Truly, because He has given us so much, and

continues to provide for us,  our goal should be

to discover and to live a life pleasing to God.


There is most certainly a higher calling, and a desire of God

that His people would know it!  He desires for us to have

the highest and the best!


Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and

kill and destroy; I came that they may have life,

and have it abundantly." John 10:10


To have said that is to suggest that whenever

we live apart from Jesus, there is definitely something

lacking and incomplete! We will miss out on the "abundance".


So what is the highest and the best which will produce in us

the promise of abundant life for the believer? What is our

part after receiving the gift of amazing grace?


First, we can, and we must be prepared, be on the

offensive, rather than react from a defensive position

against the attacks of the Enemy.  He won't give up

on his mission to pull us down.


Whether we like it or not, scripture describes the

Christian life as a battle. I truly wish it were not so.


The good news, I mean the Good News, is that we

are not alone in all of this! Praise God, Who goes

before us and hedges us in on all sides!


The battle belongs to the Lord, indeed, when we

commit to making Him our commander, our general,

not ourselves.


So, our first responsbility in response to the

grace of God, the gift of salvation, is humility, which

translates into submission and obedience, to the Lord.


Is that even necessary? In Joshua 24, we read Joshua's

exhortation to the people to remember how God fought

their battles, defeated their enemies and brought them

into the land they now possessed.


Read how he called them together, all the tribes of

Israel, near and far, the elders, heads, judges,

and officers of Israel to a very special place....Shechem,

where Abraham first met with God and received the original

covenant promise for all his descendants.


He brought them back to their roots!


In solemn order, Joshua retold the history of this nation, giving

highlights of the great and awesome wonders God had

done to bring His people into this wonderful land that

had been promised to them so long ago.


Personally, this causes me to stop and remember

all the ways God's hand has been so evident in

my life. I am so humbled to realize God has demonstrated

His great love for me and mine in such obvious and tangible

ways. 


What testimonies of His grace I have when

I stop long enough to remember, give thanks and praise,

and tell someone else about it!  


How highly "abundant" is the fruit that this produces

in my life!   It redirects my thoughts to Jesus, and pulls me

out of whatever pit I may be wading through back

to the solid Rock Who is greater than I.  It reminds me

who I am to God:  beloved, chosen, forgiven,

highly favored and blessed.  It's better than any  pep talk!!


Can I get an "Amen" here?  This meditation revives my spirit,

cancels the doldrums, crushes fear, and strengthens me

to trust HIM who defeats all my foes!


Take some time to recount the goodness of

God in your life. Write down all that comes to

mind. My list is what I call my "Standing Stones

of God's Faithfulness" list.


Why do this? Because, we can grow weary in the battle.

We can become overwhelmed and take more

upon ourselves than we should...forgetting

WHO fights for us. Joshua reminds Israel

that they were never alone...The LORD fought

for them and delivered their enemies into

their hands.


I hope you will remember that today, and

we will look at the rest of Joshua's example

next time.


LORD GOD, You are the same yesterday, today

and forever. Thank you for the record of

Your hand upon Your people. We who have

been grafted into the vine, have inherited

the wisdom of the ages through Your people

Israel. Holy Spirit, teach us once again! Amen.

Discovering the Highest and the Best

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 28, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

As we close out January 2015, how have we been doing with

resolutions, goals, fresh activities and changing lifestyle?


Throughout this month I have been seeking God and sharing

what I have discovered. The insightful writings of respected

preachers and teachers have spurred me on to have a more

sincere desire to live out this life in Christ with more

conviction, and living with a sense of urgency.


Time is of the essence! The King is coming

and I am fading away.....getting older!


What have I been able to do, share, give that matters for

eternity? What does my life mean if not to

point to the reality of Christ, His grace and power,

love and expectations?


He came as Prince of Peace, but He is coming

again as Righteous Judge!


I think we can often forget that part....Praise God that

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!


We like to bathe in the grace part, but we stumble at the truth part.


There are hard truths involved with following Jesus

Christ. And the Bible has many examples of being

“tested, purified, like gold in fire.”


Being transformed takes time, it takes sacrifice; mostly it takes a surrender to

the higher calling of God on our lives.


That means, more of Him, less of me. No matter what the culture has found acceptable or tolerable, we must, as Christ followers, obey what He says. He is God. He is Creator.

He is Potter, we are clay in His hands.....or we are not.


Lest you think I am proposing legalism versus grace, I am

not. This is a personal search for each of us.  The Holy Spirit teaches us and causes us to conform to God's instruction happily, with joy, because of God's amazing grace towards us.


I believe grace comes because of

true repentance, and repentance is a new mindset. And

living it all out sincerely requires asccountability and action,    

not lip service.


Read JOSHUA 24 and see a fine example for us even

today. As Joshua has grown old, followed God, instructed

and led the people into the Promised Land as the successor

to Moses, we see him calling the people of God to

renewal and renewed commitment.


So, I am challenging myself, and challenging you, to

go deeper with God. By increasing time spent with Him,

we can surely discover what is the highest and the best

according to His will and plan for our lives.

Paul wrote from prison to the Philippians:


"And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."  Phil 1: 9-11


 

That is a great prayer and a high calling. I don't know about you,

but I need God's wisdom and discernment to determine my choices

each day, the way I spend or waste my time, the way I serve or

pull back.


If I truly put Him first, because, remember, He is a jealous God

(check out how often this is mentioned here )


He will be faithful to guide my heart, my mind, my steps,

my relationships, my desires. He will always provide what I need.



Lord, I want to know You more. I want to truly lay down my life

for You. I have tasted and I have seen that Your goodness and

faithfulness are amazing and I am so grateful. Help me to go

deeper that I may discover what is Your highest and Your best for

my life as I follow You. Amen.

 

Action Flows from Who We Are # 4

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 21, 2015 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."        Romans 15: 5-7


Do you ever get frustrated when your ideas conflict with those of others? Isn't it difficult when people just don't understand where you are coming from? If Christ Himself found dissent and insults, why should we be surprised by our own such encounters?


I recently had this experience with a fellow believer. I was pretty concerned when later I found out she had misinterpreted what I was trying to communicate. When it comes to challenges in training up your children there is plenty of advice out there. Same goes with guiding your teens and young adults through the pitfalls of life.


At any rate, we settled on the importance of being unified in Christ, and having the mind of Christ..that is, to pray for one another, bear with one another, and bear each other's burdens.


Thankfully, we have matured in our Christian life to be able to draw from the wellspring of God's grace to arrive at that place in our discussion.


That said, I know there is always another conflict or disagreement around the corner, right? The Enemy is a prowling lion looking for a way to bring us down. But, our Redeemer, well, greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. Halleluia!


I never want to depend on my own reasoning alone. The Holy Spirit gives me so much more than "gut feelings".  He teaches me, guides me and corrects me when I am off!


Charles Swindoll summed it up very well when speaking of the Holy Spirit as our fuel:


"He energizes us to stay the course. He motivates us in spite of the obstacles. He keeps us going when the road gets rough. It is the Spirit who comforts us in our distress, who calms us in times of calamity, who becomes our companion in loneliness and grief, who fills our minds with discernment when we are uneasy about a certain decision. In short, he is our spiritual fuel. When we attempt to operate without him or to use some substitute fuel, all systems grind to a halt."

From "Flying Closer to the Flame"


These traits of the Spirit have been a great help in my life. That's one flame I draw near to daily. I know I won't get burned or spurned. I will be loved, encouraged and supplied and even disciplined,  whatever I need. 


What a Comforter, what a Counselor! Let's remember to draw near to God the Holy Spirit today and fuel up for whatever lies ahead.


Praise to You, Most Holy God, Father, Son and Spirit. How could I ever live without you? I am so grateful that you show me the path for my life. In your presence is fullness of joy. I rejoice that I never walk alone because of you. I give you all my worship and praise today. Amen!

Action Flows From Who We Are # 3

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 14, 2015 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

My husband and I were discussing the maturity levels of each of our three sons just last night. Connected to maturity is discernment; prudently evaluating possible choices before taking action.


One of the most treacherously harmful moves we can make, harmful to ourselves and to others, involves our mouths. The apostle,James, warns us about our tongue being a weapon of destruction, or a source of blessing. Will the tongue wag on with ruthless gossip, or exert a quiet level of self control?  He asks, "Can bitter water and fresh come from the same spring?"  Hmmm.


Whatever comes out of our mouths in a moment of surprise, anger or fear, says a lot about who we are because in those unprepared moments, there is evidence of the Holy Spirit's control in our lives or the lack thereof. I am not referring only to the spontaneous explosion of expletives and curses.


Beyond that, there are choices to be made about the extent to which we will choose to malign someone who has "done us wrong". Or perhaps there is a measure of misunderstanding. Better to reserve comments and rumors which you can't retrieve once released.


 No doubt, most of us have experienced the old "open mouth, insert foot" syndrome. But, loving God, and learning to live out our relationship with Him, transforms our thinking and, therefore, should transform our interactions.  If you are a work-in-progress, you are not alone!


There is definitely a spiritual war raging within us as the scripture points out. The power of darkness is not just a euphemism for our self-centeredness.   Our rage or disappointments, or our assumptions about the activities of others can override what we know to be the instruction of God:


"Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another...even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do". Eph 4:26


This call of God on the Christ-follower is a lifestyle, a world-view, not adherence to a list of rules of do's and don'ts.  This call of God is about holiness. But, seeing holiness only as rule-keeping breeds serious problems and diminishes the grace of God.


Chuck Colson lays it out plain and simple. I like his direct approach:


"Emphasis on rule-keeping deludes us into thinking we can be holy through our efforts. But there can be no holiness apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Our pious efforts can become ego-gratifying, as if holy living were some kind of spiritual beauty contest. Such self-centered spirituality in turn leads to self-righteousness--the very opposite of the selflessness of true holiness."     From  "Loving God"


Jesus had a direct approach, too:


 “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34


What's in your heart today?   Whose voice directs your path?   Maturity, discernment, self-control;  these grow from loving guidance, teaching, discipline, and accountability.  Our sons are still growing, and so are we.


 

Lord, I am overwhelmed by your patience with me. Your grace and mercy have given me so much strength and peace. I am confident that You continue to work in me by your Holy Spirit, that I may grow into the person you desire me to be...for my own benefit and for Your glory. Amen!




Action Flows From Who We Are # 2

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 13, 2015 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I grew up being a "people pleaser".    As I understand it, it has something to do with birth order.  I am the first born of 5 girls.   First born children are the center of attention for a good while until another sibling comes along.  Being the "apple of your parents' eye" gives you confidence and makes you respond with good behavior which draws more affirmation.  Usually.


At the same time, all that love, attention and security can make you concerned about losing that affection if you should make a wrong step.  You thrive on the good interactions, and feel shattered when it is withheld or replaced by rejection, commonly known as a "time out" or being "grounded" and sent to  your room.


The beauty of being "the apple of my Heavenly Father's eye" is that, though at times disciplined, it is a teaching kind of discipline.  It doesn't shatter you because the love behind it is so huge, so forgiving, so restoring.


When I learned to translate that into my adult life, there have been times when I disovered my good intentions towards others have been rejected, misunderstood or just plain ignored.  That hurts.  That is confusing.  Those kinds of responses can make you turn inward and step back, afraid to reach out again for fear of a repeat performance.


But, in Christ, we have all we need.  In Christ I am called to follow His instructions, whatever the cost. 


I have clung to Isaiah 26:3 through hard times, and times of hurt, anger or loneliness.  It is a promise of God through the prophet which says:  "God will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is fixed upon Him, because they trust in Him."


It has been my anchor.  Perhaps it will help you to step out, too, no matter the response.  If I truly believe that I have become the "righteousness of God through Christ Jesus",  that is,   I am just plain wonderful in God's eyes because Jesus has clothed me in His pure righteousness, then I can trust Him to work it all out in my relationships.  I can act, speak, love, advise, help, encourage by His strength and do what Jesus would do, and leave the rest to Him.


Mother Teresa said it well,


"GIve the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give it anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."


I thank God that I have received the "mind of Christ".  It is this kind of attitude and thinking, loving as He loved, going where others won't, and trusting Him in all of it, that settles the question for me and proves out for me the truth of another powerful scripture which I dearly love.


From Isaiah 32:17  "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever."


'Nuff said.   Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ!   You know my heart. Amen!



Action Flows From Who We Are #1

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 12, 2015 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

"When you operate in your realm of capabilities, you will excel and the whole Body will benefit...and you will experience incredible satisfaction."  "The Finishing Touch"  by Charles Swindoll


What do you think of that statement?  Has it proven to be true in your life?


Charles Swindoll went on to say,


"Each creature has its own set of capabilities with which it will naturally excel.  Have you ever noticed how uniquely adapted each animal is to its environment and its way of life? 


On land, a duck waddles along ungainly on its webbed feet.  In the water, it glides along smooth as glass.  The rabbit runs with ease and great bursts of speed, but I've never seen one swimming laps. The squirrel climbs anything in sight, and the eagle soars to mountaintops. 


God has placed you in his family and given you a certain mixture that makes you unique.  No mixture is insignificant!  The mix pleases Him completely.  Nobody else is exactly like you.  That should bring you pleasure, too."


This reminds me of James 1:17:

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."


If God has brought us to new life through His precious Son, Jesus, if we truly believe we are a new creation in Christ, then it follows that God gifts us in unique ways to serve Him in the places where we are, even in the places we would rather not be!


Today, if we sense some grumbling within us, for whatever reason, let's remember who we are in Christ, a  unique mixture that pleases Him completely.   We are not perfect, but are daily being perfected by the Holy Spirit within and  equipped to be effective in demonstrating His love and power at work.


Discovering our gifts can happen in the least expected places.   I never dreamed my husband and i would be involved with prison ministry, leading worship and sharing God's Word to men who are looking for a fresh start, a new beginning, a sense of worth and a promise of forgiveness.


In fact, my husband and I dragged our feet, even avoided the question, for 4 years!  And, now, after 4 years of submitting to God's assignment, we are overwhelmed by His faithfulness!  The Holy Spirit always shows up and transforms our meager offerings into something powerful for these men who come to the worship service.


Men weeping, coming to Christ, lives changed...and so are we each time we volunteer to use our gifts for the Kingdom.  


What we do flows from who we are...forgiven and accepted by God, ready to share the Good News with others.   Sometimes at prison, at times in the grocery store, in a phone call or in person, Christ in us is always ready to reach out to others.  Thank God it is HIS POWER in us that gives us boldness to act.  


Father, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us and empower us to do your will.   Help us to be willing to discover the unique gifts you have planted in us.  Let the adventure begin today, Lord!  Amen!

 




Our Hearts Are At Rest #4

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 9, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The first week of a new year has been completed.   Over these days I have been sharing my heart through inspirational writings of God and of men.  We have considered our potential because of God's power at work in our lives.  


I hope you have been encouraged, as I have, that all the goals and plans we may have for 2015 will be better served if we remember Who holds us in the palm of His hand.


Daily I need to spend time with Jesus, to remember this, and to activate my faith.  Oh, yes!  Faith is a verb, an action word, or it is nothing at all!  It grows weak and dim if I am not prayed up to face whatever life brings my way.  How about you?


When circumstances interrupt my time with Jesus in prayer and study, I can feel the loss.   In fact, Max Lucado shares a comical, yet very real depiction of where our hearts can go at times:


"We worry about the IRS and the SAT and the FBI.  We worry that we won't have enough money, and when we have money we worry that we won't manage it well.  We worry that the world will end before the parking meter expires.  We worry what the dog thinks if he sees us step out of the shower.  We worry that someday we'll learn that fat-free was fattening.


Honestly, now!  Did God save you so you would fret?  Would he teach you to walk just to watch you fall?  Would he be nailed to the cross for your sins and disregard your prayers?  


Come on.  Is Scripture teasing us when it reads,  "He has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go? (Psalm 91:11)


I don't think so either."   From   "In the Grip of Grace"


Crazy.   Psalm 91 was my sister's favorite, even through her fight with breast and liver cancer at age 35.  We read it at her funeral.   Yes, in death and in life, we can be confident of His great love and provision.  We have His promise that wherever we go, whatever we do, we can rest in Him. He is more than enough.


Lord of Heaven and Earth!  That is Who you are!   I am embraced by Your love and my name is etched into the palm of your hand.  How you love me!  How you care for me!  You have more solutions to my situation than I could ever even imagine.  I can rest in You.  I am with you forever. Amen.


Let's all remember these things next time the bottom falls out!   He is with us, and there is a wonderful plan at work through every twist and turn.  I love you.  I am praying for you, dear readers!


Our Hearts Are At Rest #3

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 8, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

To be "at rest" in the Lord, the Bible makes it clear that we need to have a right relationship with God, our Father through His Son Jesus Christ.  


Rest is synonymous with quiet, contentment, relief and tranquility.   Obviously,  I am referring to the rest which is beyond physical rest from our hurried lives.  I am talking about spiritual rest which spills over into our emotional and physical realities.


Can you stand confidently before God, honestly and transparently, and feel completely loved and accepted? Have you embraced the entirety of His absolute forgiveness and love?   The balance of your life is deeply impacted by your answers.   The quality of your heart's rest is determined by your answers.


Though we read in scripture that the death and resurrection of Christ has purchased for us complete forgiveness, and it has wiped our slate clean, forever, still, we may doubt.   We are nagged by memories of shame or guilt.   Maybe from years ago, maybe from yesterday!


Oh, but to be able to say to the Lord, once again,  "Lord, Jesus!  I blew it!  Forgive me!"  and to know that his grace is immediately available, oh, what rest and relief comes over us.   


Hanging out with Jesus and being constantly aware of His presence helps us to avoid the failures.   His example rubs off on us, because His Holy Spirit indwells us to teach us, remind us and guide us....if we are willing to listen.   That "still, small voice" really does speak to us through a sudden thought, a word spoken, a song, a dream.  Have you ever heard it?


Max Lucado wrote something that really hit me....about truly believing that we are totally and eternally forgiven.   It is this truth which breaks down the barriers to full relationship with God.


"God guides us to a pool of mercy and invites us to bathe.   Some plunge in, but others just touch the surface.    Where the grace of God is missed, bitterness is born.  But where the grace of God is embraced, forgiveness flourishes...


The longer we walk in the garden, the more likely we are to smell like flowers.   The more we immerse ourselves in grace, the more likely we are to give grace."   From  the book, "In the Grip of Grace"


Hmmmm.  Which fragrance do you prefer?


Reminds me of this scripture which has truly influenced and shaped my interractions for years now, praise God!

 

"For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing."   2 Corinthians 2:15


Lord, Jesus, thank you for making the pathway clear for me to enter into Your throne room of grace!  I am overwhelmed by Your mercy and love.  I thrive because I know I am forgiven and accepted.  I am grateful that You have set up residence in my heart to keep me in perfect rest.  It's all about You, Jesus!  Amen!

Our Hearts Are At Rest #2

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 7, 2015 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

"Contentment.  A state of heart in which you would be at peace if God gave you nothing more than He already has.   Test this question:  What if God's only gift to you were his grace to save you?  Would you be content?   If God did nothing more than save us from hell, could anyone complain?


 Having been given eternal life, dare we grumble at an aching body?  Having been given heavenly riches, dare we bemoan earthly poverty?  Yet, God has not left you with 'just salvation'.  He has already given you grace upon grace.  We have been saved and then blessed even more!"      Excerpt from Max Lucado's book,  "In the Grip of Grace"


I don't know about you, but it takes quiet meditation to grasp this idea of contentment because the skin I'm in is always striving for or against something else. Not that working towards a goal is a bad thing....no.   But, there is always a challenge to upset the apple cart!


Problem solving is a way of life, and how to be content in the middle of it demands some time out for thought.


To really grasp this truth and bring it on home,   I needed to go again to 2 Corinthians 12:9.   Here,  Paul testified of repeated, sincere  prayer for relief from a physical ailment, a "thorn" in his flesh.   And, we know he sure had his share of suffering for the sake of the Gospel; insults, beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck.    Yet, he wasn't asking relief from these encounters, but relief from a pain in his own body!


"My grace is sufficient for you," was the Lord's reply.  "My power is made perfect in your weakness."   Paul concluded that when he himself feels weak, it is God's strength that goes to work to help him persevere.   His eyes were opened to the fact that we must guard against puffing ourselves up or boasting about our great accomplishments.  


In everything we are to give credit and thanksgiving to God!    Humility!   Hmmm.  Maybe God has kept us in a struggle for the sake of growing up some humility in our hearts?  Some measure of being content to rely on His strength?  This must be what upholds those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Hard to fathom from where I sit !


Or maybe God allows the toughest challenges in health, relationships, finances to bring us to the end of ourselves, to sharpen our focus on Him as our everything, to remind us this world is not our home.  


The opportunity to even approach Almighty God in this way is a grace in itself.  An undeserved gift.  No wonder our marvelous Lord said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!" John 16:33


As we move forward with our plans and goals, and confront roadblocks and snares,  let us remember that His power is ours because of His amazing grace!  Grace....the unmerited, undeserved favor of God.  I can trust Him.   I can be content.  He is with me.  He is with you.


I worship, You, O God, my Savior and my Lord.   May I always rely on YOU, not on myself.   May I always find my true contentment in You.  If I have any strength at all, it is the strength of your power at work in my life.   If God is for me, who can be against?   Indeed, your grace is enough. Halleluia!   Amen!


"Our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work."    2 Thessalonians  2:16-17

Our Hearts Are At Rest

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 6, 2015 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, here comes another day!  A new day!   What challenges and victories will become reality?


What joys and sorrows await?   Am I prepared to grind it out, or will I tread lightly and with confidence?  


"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."  Philippians 4:6


Yes, Lord, but.....here comes the big B-U-T !      Pretty words, even the most inspiring words, can be

so hard to put into action.   There are bills to pay, work to do, taxes looming, and I just know the car won't pass inspection!


Do you ever feel like this?   Is contentment just a fleeting dream?


Charles Swindoll shared this in his book, "The Finishing Touch""


Contentment is something we must learn.  It isn't a trait we're born with.  But the question is how?


In 1 Timothy 6 we find a couple of very practical answers to that question:


A current perspective on eternity:  "For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either." (verse 7)


A simple acceptance of essentials: "And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." (verse 8)


Society's plan of attack is to create dissatisfacton, to convince us that we must be in a constant pursuit for something "out there" that is sure to bring us happiness.  It is saying that contentment is impossible without striving for more.


God's Word offfers the exact opposite advice:  Contentment never comes from externals.  Never!"


From this, I gather that we must be careful of the many voices we hear and what things we choose to pursue.    Are we being persuaded or deceived?   Is there value in what we pursue, and does it please God?   


That's why Paul's message in Philippians makes sense to me....talk to God about everything, then wait and listen and watch for the answer.  Sometimes watch for the action that God brings about in your circumstances!  Yes!


If we truly believe the power of God's Holy Spirit dwells within us and guides our lives, we can truly find our rest, and our contentment even in the midst of today's challenges.   But, as with everything in our relationship with God,  it's a choice.  Choose well today, friends!


"Commit your works to the Lord, and your  plans (thoughts) will be established."   Proverbs 16:3     


Thank you, Lord, for this reminder today, that as I bring everything before You, praying over the details of my life and those whom I love, you will give me a clear plan, clear thinking, working things out to give you all the glory, all the credit.  My life is in your hands.  My heart is at rest because of YOU!   Amen.

God's Power, Our Potential #5

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 5, 2015 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday, my devotional book hit me between the eyes with,


 "O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?"                                                   1 Corinthians  15:55


At once, I thought, how curious that I just found out a friend was in surgery for Stage 4 Lung and Colon cancer. God is with him!


How strange that as most are finding motivation for a new year of great advances, this family is staring into the face of possible death....soon.  


But, aren't we all?


No "downer" intended here...we have cause to rejoice because, in Christ, we have a different perspective. We have the promise of Christ Himself, that He has gone before us to prepare a place for us.   


Just as a builder must consider the end product in the planning and construction of a home, we, too, should settle the important question of our final dwelling.   Once settled, we can rest in confidence and proceed with the journey to completion.


In response to Jesus' words, "There are many rooms in my father's house,"  Max Lucado wrote ;


"What a tender phrase.  A house implies rest, safety, warmth, a table, a bed, a place to be at home.  But this isn't just any house.  It is our Father's house.


We don't always feel welcome here on earth.  We wonder if there is a place here for us. People can make us feel unwanted.  Tragedy leaves us feeling like intruders.  Strangers.  Interlopers in a land not ours.   We don't always feel welcome here.


We shouldn't.  This isn't our home.   We are not home here.  This language  we speak, it's not ours. This body we wear, it isn't us.  And the world we live in, this isn't home."   Excerpt from "A Gentle Thunder"


I am so thankful for a wonderful home life.  I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams.  But, this, too, shall pass!  What then?


I know my Savior Jesus Christ has purchased my "room" with His blood on Calvary.   My reservation is confirmed because I gratefully accepted this awesome gift.


I could never buy it myself, or earn it.  My imperfection, my human frailty, inconsistent will power, obedience and mouth tarnish the attempt.


"The sting of Death is sin."  1 Corinthians 15:56


Jesus washed away mine.   How about you?


Lord Jesus, my Savior.  Thank you for your selfless love, a royal love, a holy love.  I am grateful. May my life prove it, with Your help.  Oh, how I rely on YOU, my blessed Redeemer! 


To settle the question of your final dwelling, you just need to pray with a humble and sincere heart!  Maybe something like this:


Jesus, I need you.  I know I am not perfect.  I am often ruled by my sin, my self serving desires.  Today, I turn to you.  I ask Your forgiveness and that You would come into my life now to lead me forward.  I believe You are the only Son of God, and by your death and Resurrection, I have the promise of eternal life in my Father's house.  


Thank you for walking me through life until the day I meet you face to face.  I want to live in a way that is pleasing to You.  With Your help, I am going to trust You always. Amen.


For a deeper discussion and understanding of the Bible's teaching on forgiveness and salvation, and choosing to follow Jesus forever:  

click or copy and paste:

http://www.allaboutgod.com/become-a-christian.htm

"

God's Power, Our Potential #4

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 4, 2015 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

The past month of December is gone...all the rushing and planning and shopping and cooking and celebrating and visiting~~  good stuff.


But, taking a deep breath, I can't believe we are on the 4th day of a new year already.   And the next transition is about to begin:


Kids are getting back to school, college students are en route, back to work and the regular routine of life will resume.


But, let's not allow  "regular" to translate as " mundane", "boring", or "same ol', same ol'".


We have been saved for a purpose in Christ.  We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.  And God has plans for us, and a plan to help us from the inside out.


Max Lucado shared this in his book, "When God Whispers Your Name":


"Jesus promised, "I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth.  The world cannnot accept him because it does not see him or know him.  But you know him because he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)


Note the final words of the verse.  And in doing so, note the dwelling place of God--"in you." Not near us.  Not above us.   Not around us.  But in us.


In the part of us we don't even know.  In the heart no one else has seen. In the hidden recesses of our being dwells, not an angel, not a philosophy, not a genie, but God.   Imagine that."


Thank you, my heavenly Father, for the gift of your Holy Spirit. May I rest in you, speak with you, and listen to your voice of counsel, encouragement, and assignment.  I know you will supply all that is needed to accomplish what you have set before me.   Faithful friend, I love you.  Amen.

God's Power, Our Potential #3

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 3, 2015 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (0)

In my quiet time with Jesus, the Lord today, I was meditating on this scripture from Deuteronomy 31 verse 8.


" The Lord, He is the one who goes before you.  He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you."


How many times have you heard this one?  And then, complement it with Paul's incredible declaration in Romans 8:


"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, or principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 


Mere words, or divine PROMISE which is eternal, real and absolutely essential to live a life pleasing to God and restful for us?


Chuck Swindoll wrote a wonderful illustration which made me laugh, and then made me give thanks!


"Life is short.  Abundant with challenges, running over with possibilities, filled with opportunities  to adapt, shift, alter, and change.  That's the secret of staying young.  It is also the path that leads to optimism and motivation.


With each new dawn, life delivers a package to your front door, rings your doorbell, and runs.


Each package is cleverly wrapped in paper with big print.  One package reads:  "WATCH  OUT!  Better WORRY about this!"


Another: "DANGER.  This will bring fear!"   And another:  "Impossible. You'll never handle this one!


When you hear that ring tomorrow morning, try something new.   Have Jesus Christ answer the door for you."      From his book,  "The Finishing Touch".


Lord, thank you for all that You have brought us through so far, and the reminder that what is yet to come is also in Your hands.   Help us to REST with confidence that You have conquered all and will see us through to the Day we meet You face to face.


 May we be able to pray with full faith as Paul did,


"I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that Day." 1 Timothy 1:12


Whew!   I believe I can fly!   How about you?  On wings of eagles. Amen!

God's Power, Our Potential #2

Posted by Lorraine Serra on January 2, 2015 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The overwhelming fact of life's circumstances is that we often come up short.   We don't feel capable.  Our skills are not the greatest.  We couldn't possibly keep a commitment to something like a New Year's resolution to be more, or better, or smaller, or stronger or whatever.


God puts something in your heart and your first reaction might be, "Who me?  No way, Lord!  I can't do that!"


Charles Swindoll wrote something in his book "The Finishing Touch" that put things in perspective....once again.  Because, I don't know about you, but I need, really need a fresh dose of encouragement every day.


"In choosing those who would represent Christ and establish his church, God picked some of the most unusual individuals imaginable:  unschooled fishermen, a tax collector (!), a mystic, a doubter, and a former Pharisee who had persecuted Christians.  He continued to pick some very unusual persons down through the ages.  In fact, he seems to delight in such surprising choices to this very day.


SO, LET GOD BE GOD.   EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED."


Let's step out today in the knowledge that it is the power of God within us that qualifies us to take care of His business in the world.....loving and nurturing everyone around us with grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.    Be watchful and willing....something unexpected is coming our way!


Thank you, Lord, for choosing me, though at times I'm not sure I wanna be chosen!!  Today,  I believe I have everything I need because of You.  Surprise me!    I know you will make me an effective ambassador for Christ, because Your Spirit is within me.  To God be the glory all the time. Amen!


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