WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE LORD

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I thought about God’s goodness when I was asked if I could write this week’s blog.  But this week was filled with many appointments to attend.  All of them were illness related and scheduled every day from Monday until Friday.  It was going to be a very busy week and I needed to trust in God’s goodness to get me through.  I’m not complaining but rather setting the ground work for this week’s theme.

God gives us His best, and yet His BEST is yet to come. 

Psalm 100 says this: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!    Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His;   we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

This Psalm is a celebration of the goodness of God.  A testimony of His enduring and everlasting love for us. It’s a steadfast love, meaning: firmly fixed, immovable, not subject to change.  I don’t know about you, but I need to hear and know about God’s everlasting love for me.  We live in a world where love is something you can purchase, select, choose.  It’s wrapped up in boxes, devices, people and the other possessions of this world.  Someday all that the world has to offer will be gone.  The Love of God will never end… it will remain.  It’s always and forever.  But for some, it’s the hardest thing that can be understood.  It’s the hardest thing to choose.

The foundation of understanding God’s Love lies in the belief and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Built upon this foundation is submitting everything to the Lordship of Jesus.  That’s hard to do when you are critically ill, or you need support to keep you going.  Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you lost your place to live.  These are just a few reasons that your faith in God can be challenged.  It’s also been a list of hardships and challenges I have had to submit to God.  These hardships were faced not in my own strength but in God’s.  I had to lay it all down and trust my Savior.  I had to look to the Lord in order to find strength, and that strength came in worshipping Him.  Look at what the writer of this song says:

When I think about the Lord
How He saved me, how He raised me
How He filled me with the Holy Ghost
How He healed me to the uttermost
When I think about the Lord
How He picked me up, turned me around
How He set my feet on solid ground
That makes me wanna shout
Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!
Lord, you’re worthy
Of all the glory, of all the honor, of all the praise!
(©Hillsong – When I think about the Lord)

It makes me want to shout and worship the Lord!  It makes me want to celebrate the goodness of God!  When I had nowhere to live, God sent a man who let me live in his renovated house rent free until I could get back on my financial feet.  When I was ill and needing critical hospital care and support, God touched me and gave me rest.  He sent men and women of faith to encourage and support me.  When I lost my job of 20 years, God sent a man to offer me a new job that I’ve remained in now for 27 years.  And when I was at my lowest, facing a life ending suicide, God gave me a man who stopped me and prayed for me and as a result, I submitted my life to Jesus Christ.  Today I live and thrive in the hands of God. Maybe today friend, you say you can relate to some of this.  Praise the Lord!  Maybe you’re saying God couldn’t do that for me.  Well, that simply is not true.

Hebrews 4:16 says this, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Where do I start?  What is it that I must do?  These are good questions.  We must first go to the Lord in humble submission and give our life to Him

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Next you need to identify God’s goodness.  Yes, identify.  You can’t worship what you haven’t identified.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving and praise:

  • Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you want. If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
  • Be thankful when you don’t know something, this gives you the opportunity to learn.
  • Be thankful for the difficult times. During these times you grow.
  • Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.
  • Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build strength and character.
  • Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.
  • Be thankful when you’re tired and weary, because it means you’ve made a difference.

Friend, knowing who God is and believing in all of His promises gives us hope.  Hope leads to worship and praise.  Even in the worst of times, we can celebrate God’s goodness.  In the best of times we can believe: God gives us His best, and yet His BEST is yet to come!  WOW!

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Someday if we believe and submit, we will share God’s eternal glory with Him in Heaven.  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3

Have a great week and know that I will be praying for you to understand God’s Goodness and worship the Name of Jesus!

George

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Burn the Ships

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Burn the Ships”… it’s a phrase that I’ve wanted to explore lately since my daughter has a slight obsession with the musical duo, For King and Country, and their new album is entitled Burn the Ships.

In 1519, Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés landed his ships on the shores of Veracruz, Mexico. The stretch of coastline was unfamiliar and dangerous. The Aztec people living there were fierce warriors and polytheists known for brutal human sacrifices to their many gods. I can only imagine being one of those who had accompanied Cortés on this voyage. I likely would’ve second guessed my decision. I’m sure I would have felt very afraid. I probably would have wanted to stay on the ship!

As legend has it, Cortés ordered for all 11 of his ships to be burned. He didn’t even save one! Cortés was totally committed to the mission and did not want to allow himself or his men the option of turning back. He was “ALL IN”. By removing the temptation to retreat, the only direction Cortés and his men were able to move was forward! Today he is known for conquering the Aztec Empire.

Burning the ships means being intentional about letting go, turning away from, and throwing off the sin that so easily entangles us so we can run the race before us with our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-3) It means we stop allowing our pasts to define and control us. It means surrendering to the One who is calling us forward in faith rather than surrendering to the ways of this world that are holding us back in fear.

God has a plan and purpose for you. He has chosen you “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Life is hard and downright challenging at times. We long to feel safe, in control, and comfortable on our ships, but in reality, our ships (distractions, addictions, insecurities, habitual struggles, toxic relationships) are not luxury cruise liners taking us to an amazing destination, rather they are slave ships equipped with shackles and chains taking us further away from God’s plan for our lives. We just aimlessly keep rowing because we can’t even see where we are going.

But I have some great news… Jesus came to set captives free!

And if you are his disciple, he just may be calling you to jump overboard like Peter, and come to him! (Matthew 14) Are you willing to take risks for Jesus?

I can remember the first weekend in July of 1995. I made a life changing decision to pack a bag, get in my car, and drive from Cincinnati to Painesville. I was in desperate need of change. I was in desperate need of a Savior. I left some ships burning in my rear-view mirror.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to follow Jesus. I decided to go ALL IN. He lovingly escorted me off the ships of drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships, and set my feet on the Rock. (Psalm 40:1-3)

Over the last 2 decades, other ships have had to burn. The ship of shame. The ship of anxiety. The ship of false expectations. The ship of busyness. How about you? Have you identified your ships?

Fear would keep us from being proactive about burning the ships in our lives. The enemy of our souls would love for us to totter back and forth, always wavering and doubting, never fully committing ourselves to One who was, and is, ALL IN for us.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

News flash!

It’s not about you! It’s not about me! This world is so “me” centered. We have twisted Jesus’ invitation to “Come, follow me” to “Come, follow us”! Jesus is calling us to return to him.

He’s calling us to make some difficult choices: burn some ships, deny ourselves daily, count the cost, and follow him.

He’s calling us to deeper surrender.

He’s calling us to humble servant hood.

I am praying for you. I am praying for myself. May we ask God to reveal “the ships” that we need to burn on the altar, and may we be obedient to his call on our lives. Let him remove the chains and set us free to be ALL IN!

I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Jenny Gallion

GOD ON THE MOUNTAIN

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“All In” has been a catch phrase for several years now and I sometimes use the phrase when I’m talking with someone.  We might be talking about any kind of issue that seems to be important as we say, “I’m ‘All In’ with you.”  But it’s just a catch phrase.  Do we really mean it? Are we really ready to take that giant step and go all in? We may be passionate about the subject being discussed but eventually it will find its way to the back of our minds and lay there with the other things we thought we could put all our efforts in.  That’s how it is for me at least.

In 2001, I found myself in the hospital because the doctor’s said that I had a myocardial infarction, a heart attack.  There was permanent damage to my heart muscle. It happens when a blocked artery leads to a lack of blood supply.  I had to have coronary artery bypass surgery.  Whoa!  The surgery was successful.  Now the rest was up to me.  This was something that I could say, “I’m “All In”.”  Literally, I had life and death in front of me.  I asked myself, “Would my heart ever be strong enough?”  Upon discharge I put myself in a Heart Rehab program at the hospital.  After about 24 sessions, I felt better. I felt new and strong.  My efforts paid off.  Or is seemed that way.

I’d like to say that my efforts continued and today I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been… but I can’t make that statement.  I’m not.  God led me to understand that without a change in my lifestyle, my heart would not recover.  I didn’t listen.  I said, “I got this.  I’m ‘All In’.”  The problem with this is, I never placed God ahead of my efforts.  I basically told God, “If I need you, I’ll call you.”

That was a huge mistake.  My efforts were futile.  I should have remembered, “humanly speaking, it is impossible, But with God, nothing is impossible.”  Years passed, and I found myself getting tired when I was moving around.  In 2004 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  I had gained weight.  I was not healthy.  I had forgotten what God did for me when He took me through my heart attack.  I said that I was able to go on from there.

This blog is not about “a healthy lifestyle begins with a lot of commitment and being ‘All In’.”  This post is all about God.  All about how He lays out a plan for our lives and through Him, He will make a way for our dreams and desires to be fulfilled.  God’s Word says this, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6 ESV) God was already in my tomorrow.  I just didn’t allow Him to lead me.

Failure happens.  God’s love overtakes failure and replaces it with victory.  God did this in me.  I have been healed of many sicknesses because I allowed God to move as He promised.  Kidney disease is gone.  Diabetic complications are gone.  My heart is stronger than it was prior to my heart attack in 2001.  You see, it wasn’t about me being “All In” on a plan I came up with on my own, it was about me being “All In” with God and the plan He created for me and allowing Him to lead me.

I’ve struggled with pride in my life.  God created me to be strong and courageous.  But total submission includes allowing God to be my strength and courage.  It’s about being “All In” by me submitting my life into His hands and Lordship.  I’ve learned that my life in His hands is far better than my life in my hands.  Do I still struggle with health issues?  Yes, I do.  But I have a God on the Mountain.  When I’m in the deepest valley, God is already working it out.  Sometimes the result is a multitude of blessings.  Other times it may be God allowing the struggle so that my faith in Him is tested.  Even when I forget about God and set Him aside, He is with me.  Always and eternally.  God gave His Son Jesus to us to receive.  God was “All In” when He allowed His Son to be born, to walk this earth, to teach, heal, and deliver, and to seek those who were lost. He was “All In” when God allowed His only Son to be criticized and eventually crucified.  God allowed His Son Jesus to die for us by taking our sins and placing them upon Him.  But with God…Jesus rose and defeated sin and death for us!

God’s Word says this in Genesis 22:1-2(NIV): Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

This is one of the most uncomfortable stories in all of Scripture. There is a tremendous tension because “how could a loving God even suggest what He is commanding Abraham”? I was not asked to sacrifice my son.  I was simply asked to allow God to direct my life after He saved me from dying.  When I decided to control that myself, my health suffered greatly.  By the grace of God, I did not die.  Pride is a very dangerous thing.  We can make God’s blessings an idol.  Pride steps in and convinces us that “we got this”.  For those outside of salvation, pride is even more dangerous.

To hear a powerful message on being “All In” by Lead Pastor, Aaron Taylor, click on the podcast link http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=32.

Friend, remember who The One is who can take you to victory!  Are you trusting in your effort? Or are you trusting God to see you through?  God’s plan and calling for my life has not changed.  Submission is part of the process whereby we give our lives to God to glorify Him.  All other religions are about what you can do for God, whereas Christianity is all about what God has done for us through His Son Jesus!

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Ponder on that!
George Leonardt

WRESTLING WITH GOD

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Have you ever “wrestled” with God over a matter?

As we started a new sermon series at church, entitled Hope in the Dark, I couldn’t help but recognize some similarities between my story, the stories of so many I have journeyed alongside, and Habakkuk’s, the Old Testament minor prophet who knew quite well what it felt like to wrestle with God.

The summer of 2015 was the beginning of my 3 year journey of wrestling with God.

Life can be overwhelming at times, and three years ago, I entered a season that could be described as overwhelming, confusing, dark and depressing. I was so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired! I sought out a new doctor who was certain he would be able to make me well. In no time, I received a new diagnosis to add to the ones that already existed. I spent lots of money on all sorts of supplements and treatments. I so badly wanted to feel better, but I didn’t.

Then the nocturnal panic attacks started happening nearly every night. Another doctor suggested I try anti-anxiety meds and pursue counseling to help. Then my primary doctor suggested a cardiac work up since I was dealing with regular bouts of a rapid heartbeat.

Heart specialist-check!

Testing and labs galore-check!

A thick cloud of discouragement-check!

I thought I was doing pretty well functioning from that dark place, but I was beyond exhausted, and as my physical health continued to decline, my emotional, mental, and spiritual health followed suit.

The most discouraging part of all was that most of the testing I had done came back negative. No solid answers! I really did not understand what was going on. I cried out to God to show me what his purpose was in this trial. I struggled… I wrestled… questioning if he was really as near as he promised to be. At the same time, the enemy bombarded my mind with so many lies. “You are so fearful? You must not know his perfect love that casts out fear!” he would whisper in my ear in the middle of the night. “God doesn’t care about you. Your faith is too small.”

Sometimes things happen in life that we just do not understand. Trials and tragedy can cause us to question God and our faith. Over the last year, in addition to my own personal “dark night of the soul”, my dear friends’ beautiful 15 year old son passed from this life, another precious friend lost her battle with cancer leaving her husband and two young sons behind, and one of my mentors, whom God used mightily in my life, was called to her heavenly home. Even as I sat to write this blog, my 17 year old son texted me to meet him at the emergency room as he was experiencing some pretty intense pain! Thankfully everything checked out okay, but what about those times when things aren’t okay?
What do you do when life doesn’t make sense? What do you do when you experience a “crisis of faith”; a situation that shows up unannounced and uninvited that changes life forever? Do you live in denial, attempting to convince yourself that things are not really as they seem? Do you walk away from what you’ve always believed to be true about God, or do you wrestle with him?

What happens within us at such times is more important than what happens to us. We can’t choose our trials, but we can, with God’s help, nurture what happens in us. I believe scripture shows us that it is totally permissible to wrestle, to question, and to ask God what he is doing.

Our God is a covenant-making, promise-keeping God, and he is constantly working in our lives, with our ultimate good in mind. I believe the majority of Christ followers would say they desire to know him better, right? But so often we try to escape the very process he may choose to reveal himself to us. We hate for anything to disrupt our routines, we pray for deliverance from any inconvenience and discomfort, and dread the thought of trouble entering our lives, but what if the Lord would lift us into something altogether new through our trials? Do we trust that he will carry us through and not waste our pain?

Of course, we would never sign up to feel pain or welcome suffering, but in the end, what if we would benefit experiencing God in a deeper way as we wrestle through?

I once read, “You can’t experience the peace and joy of God’s throne room unless you’ve passed through the lightning and thunder and clouds that surround it.” When we walk through the pain of our trials, may we “cling” to God just like Habakkuk, whose name likely means, “He Who Embraces” or “He Who Clings.” May we trust that our unfailing God is going to reveal himself to us in ways we would have never known him. He is calling us to come to him, rest in his sovereignty, and trust the process.

Let me share with you who he has been to me and who he will most certainly be for you!

God has revealed himself as the CONSTANT UNCHANGING ONE, when the whole world is changing far too fast,

my STRENGTH and COURAGE, when I feel so very weak,

the ROCK that I cling to when I feel insecure,

my PERFECT LOVE when fear tries to snatch my breath,

my GARMENT OF PRAISE when a spirit of heaviness tries to crush me,

my ANCHOR when the winds and waves of panic toss me,

the LIGHT when the darkness presses in,

the STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER when my heart races out of control,

my REFUGE & HIDING PLACE when the enemy hurls threats and lies,

my PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING when I don’t understand a thing,

my RESTING PLACE when fatigue overwhelms,

my WARRIOR-KING when the battle rages on,

my GOOD SHEPHERD when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

and my HOPE OF GLORY when all hope seems lost.

I would not have known him or experienced him in these ways apart from the process… apart from the trials. God is the Answer to life’s hard questions.

Let’s cling to God, who is sovereign and omnipotent. Let’s trust that he is working even when it appears he is not. May we rest in him and trust him in the darkness as well is in the light.

Clinging to Christ,
Jenny Gallion

HOPE FOR A TROUBLED HEART

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In 1991 Billy Graham wrote a National Bestseller entitled, Hope for the Troubled Heart.  In the foreword Graham said, “In my travels over the decades, I have found people are the same the world over. However, in recent years I find that there is an increasing problem that I would sum up in the word ‘hopeless’.”

Nearly three decades later, the problem of hopelessness and despair continues to rise. There have been ongoing studies concluding that our country is experiencing an “epidemic of hopelessness”.  Many desperately need some hope to hold on to.

This life is hard. We all go through difficult times. There are those hard things that keep our thoughts and minds reeling through the night. Most of us have experienced things in life that have broken our hearts and left us feeling like we have no hope, but did you know that you can actually know Hope?

Jesus comforted his followers with these words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine) These words of comfort are just as much for us today as they were for the disciples back then!

Do you know the way?

Even Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, was unsure of the way, but Jesus responded,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus didn’t just come to show us a path, teach us some truth, and give us a key to life. He says, “I am your way and your truth and your life.” Unlike other religions of the world, Jesus takes us by the hand, leads us, and incarnates his truth within us. He’s calling us to walk by faith, yoked ever so closely, and learn from him. He wants us to stop striving and know him… know Hope.

Jesus, our Living Hope, did not create us to do life on our own. He promises us, just as he did his disciples, that he will not leave us. “I will not leave you comfortless…” (John 14:18). The word “comfortless” is taken from the Greek word orphanos, which is where we get the word orphan.

He will not abandon you to your own devices and inclinations. His presence comes to dwell within YOU! Remember he calls you “son”! It must grieve his heart when we choose to live like orphans. We have been accepted into the family of God! He calls us by name! We belong! He thinks of us constantly! He bends down from heaven when we talk to him. He is so near!

If we aren’t aware of his presence within, it isn’t because he is not there. It’s because we are not paying attention, or perhaps dabbling in sin, or not keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, rather living our own way.

He wants us to be as connected to him as a branch is to a vine. As his life (the True Vine) flows into us (the branches), we will bear the fruit of His Spirit. That fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) is the supernatural result of abiding in Jesus.

Envision Jesus, by his Spirit within, flowing through you as you walk and talk. Keep that image alive as you renew your mind daily, and then go live, allowing the Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3) to encourage you and others through you!

If you’re struggling with feelings of hopelessness, there is hope for you. You don’t have to walk alone. Tell a trusted friend. There is freedom in vulnerability.

Jesus wants you free and full of hope!

I am praying for you as you read this…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name ~ Amen

Hope is alive!
Jenny Gallion

You Weren’t Created to Carry That Load

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Back a few years ago, when our children were younger, we bought a pop-up camper and decided that we were destined to become “one happy camping family”. What better way to combine exploring the great outdoors with quality family bonding time, right? I still remember our first camping trip in that pop-up like it was yesterday. Finding that perfect campsite…trying to maneuver the camper into the woods between the trees…working in the pouring rain to set the camper up. Let’s just say that camping experience didn’t exactly live up to our expectations. Five people and a dog stuck in close proximity for an entire rained-out weekend – a far cry from the family bonding experience we were hoping for!

Although our initial camping experience was not exactly an overwhelming success, we decided we were not a family of quitters. We would get this camping thing figured out, we just needed more accommodating accommodations! So, we sold the pop-up and began looking for something better, something bigger, something that would allow us to bring out our true camper that we knew we each possessed somewhere deep inside. After a short search, we found it. A tow behind full size camper trailer with everything our family needed – A kitchen, a full bath, dining area, and enough beds to sleep eight people.

We were finally ready to tackle camping again, this time in style! We waited for the perfect Autumn weekend, loaded everything up, and were on our way. There we were, strolling down the relatively flat Ohio freeway, camper in tow, towards our Pennsylvania Alleghany Mountain destination. At one point, not too far into the three-hour trip, I remember thinking to myself, “this camper is certainly a bit heavier to tow than that pop-up.” Now, I had done my research, and although the weight of this camper was considerably more than the old pop-up, I was confident our minivan could handle it. We continued on into Pennsylvania and as the terrain grew more mountainous, I grew more nervous. I found myself travelling along in the slow lane trying to keep up with those around us. Even the “slow lane travelers” were coming out around us, passing us with ease. As the mountains gained elevation, our minivan struggled to make the climb…slower and slower, laboring to keep up. I couldn’t believe it! I had taken what I thought were the necessary precautions, so why were we having such a difficult time? I asked my wife to look at our vehicle’s owner manual again to ensure I had calculated the weight properly. As she read aloud our vehicle’s towing capacity, my heart sunk. It dawned on me that I had not accounted for all of the items we had loaded into the camper for our trip, the water in the holding tanks, and the propane tanks. We were overloaded and overweight! We were struggling to just keep moving because our vehicle wasn’t created to carry that load!

After we finally made it to the campgrounds, I started to reflect on our trip there. How many times in life are we like that minivan? Carrying a load that our Heavenly Father did not create us to carry? Living in bondage instead of walking in freedom? Watching those around us flourish, while something seems to be holding us back.

Could it be that our walk with God is not as deep as it could be because we don’t take Him up on His promise to carry things for us? Perhaps we cannot know God in His fullness until we have walked with him through the toughest of times, through the fires, emerging without being burned or even smelling of smoke because we allowed Him to carry the load.

Just as the Owner’s Manual was clear on what our vehicle was created to carry, God has provided His word, the Bible as our life’s Owner’s Manual. In His manual He gives clear instruction that we weren’t created to carry the loads of life. Take a look at what His word commands us to do with some of the loads we carry:

ANXIETY: 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all of your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

SIN: 1 Peter 2:24 “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”

BURDENS: Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

INJUSTICE: Romans 12:19 “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

Our Father has promised to hold us and carry our loads for as long as we inhabit this earth. In Isaiah 46: 3-4, He proclaims, “Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb, even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

What a promise! Come to Him, all you who labor and are heavy laden and He will give you rest. You weren’t created to carry that load!

Scott Lepard

KNOWN BY GOD

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On Sunday night, in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the Perseid Meteor Shower, my husband, youngest children, and I laid blankets out on our driveway, and with a symphony of crickets and tree frogs all around us, we gazed up at a billion stars.

“He counts the stars and calls them all by name.” (Psalm 147:4)

And as I lay there, I could not help but feel so very small, and it was in that moment that I remembered the question that was asked in church earlier that morning.

“Are you known by God?”

That is the same question Paul was asking the believers in Galatia to consider. You see, they had started to slide away from the amazing grace of God that had set them free from sin and the law. Instead, they were listening to “other” voices that were telling them that faith in Jesus Christ was not enough. They began to pollute the gospel with self-effort and a works-based righteousness. It’s like they were picking up the chains Christ had set them free from and shackling themselves again.

And don’t we sometimes do the same?

Now, however, since you have come to know [the true] God [through personal experience], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and worthless elemental principles [of religions and philosophies], to which you want to be enslaved all over again?  (Galatians 4:9)

We, too, can fall prey to the lies of the enemy who whispers that, if we go to church, get baptized, read the Bible, serve the poor, give money to missionaries, help our neighbor, etc. then we’re in good standing with God; like we can somehow obtain our salvation and pay for our sin by working it off, but that is NOT the gospel.

Jesus paid it all! Jesus is enough! We can have TOTAL SECURITY that God accepts us completely and eternally if we have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

I am known by God!

“The great and central basis of Christian assurance is not how much our hearts are set on God, but how unshakably His heart is set on us. And if we begin to grasp that we are “known by God”, we won’t bolster our self-image or standing before Him through our works.” ~Timothy Keller

“What matters supremely is not the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.” ~J.I. Packer

WOW! Did you absorb the truth in that amazing quote? Let me encourage you to read it again!

Like a woman in childbirth, Paul travailed to birth disciples who were surrendered to Christ taking shape in their lives. This was the goal of Paul’s ministry.

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”  Galatians 4:19

May we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit within us, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 4:6) We are no longer slaves to sin, but sons of God! He will never rebuke the intimacy that follows our heart’s cry for his life and tangible presence to be formed in us. He transforms us form the inside out as we rely on him to do so. Like clay in the Potter’s hands, may we surrender to his work in us and encourage others to do the same.

How deeply do you care about the spiritual health of others?

Can you, like Paul, say, “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”?  (1 Corinthians 11:1)

As Christ is formed in us, streams of Living Water (John 7:37-38) begin to flow from within, and the natural over flow of His life in and through us becomes evident. The things we do, the things we say, the way we spend our time and our money are in response to what Christ has done for us. He gave His life so we could have life!

My life is not my own.

 “God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)

May we, like Paul, pray that Christ be formed in us as we lay down our lives. May others see Jesus in us and desire to know Him… and be KNOWN BY HIM.

How about you? Are you known by God? Do others see Jesus in you?

If you are unsure, let today be the day that you turn your heart to Him and say,

“I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me of my sin; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name goes all the glory.

In the mighty name of Jesus ~Amen”

Rest in the fact that God, who knows the name of every star, knows YOUR name, too.

Jenny Gallion

Enjoy this song as you think about being KNOWN BY GOD!