What Keeps You Up at Night?

Reflection: “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24

Response:
Think about the things that you are struggling with currently. It may be the continued aftereffects from the 2020 pandemic. It may involve the death of  loved ones. Are your children causing you significant ire? Is your marriage on a downward spiral, and it seems unredeemable? A terminal illness for you or someone in your family? Maybe it is a job loss, foreclosure, bankruptcy, or even housing issues. Whatever we must face, often our circumstances can overwhelm us, and we feel ill-equipped to persevere and endure. Faith, hope, and peace escape us.

If you have problems resting because of those types of issues, incorporating God’s principles and wisdom consistently and persistently in your life will transform you.

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest. ™
Proverbs 3:21-24 teaches us this: “Keep sound wisdom and discretion, So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Are You a Copycat?

Reflection: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you… Ephesians 5:1-2a

Response: 
To imitate God means to reproduce or copy His way, His character, and who He is. How do we imitate or follow God’s example? We follow. We copy who He is and what He does. We must be like Him in all things. What did He do? He demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. 

Regardless of the circumstances, whether good or bad, whether pleasant or unpleasant, we must consistently present ourselves or behave in a manner that exhibits love. I Corinthians 13 describes love as patience, forgiveness, longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, and humility. Accordingly, to “have love,” we must demonstrate these qualities in our daily walk.

These characteristics, by definition, need a recipient. One cannot express patience unless one is patient with someone or something. Forgiveness calls for forgiving someone. In essence, love requires that we move outside of ourselves and seeks to address the needs of others. Not only does Christ love us, but He gave Himself up for us. He put aside His physical pain and discomfort to draw us into a relationship with Him despite our weaknesses, sin, and iniquity. 

The authentic love of God flowing through us constrains our conduct. In our obedience to His Word, we “put up” with each other by laying aside bitterness, wrath, anger, and pride as we interact. By the strength of His love saturating our character and personality, we endure all things, believe all things, and hope all things. 

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest. ™
Are you imitating God’s love? In what areas of your attitude, character, and conduct do you struggle? Who is God calling you to love better? Or to forgive? Pray this week for God to show you where He wants you to be more like Him and then follow.

Love Never Fails

Reflection: “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” I John 4:16

Response: 
God is love. Love is who God is. His love never fails. Where the genuine love of God is at work in a believers’ life, fear is dispelled because the pure love of God is complete and flawless. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Abuse, control, and manipulation paralyzes and produces fear. Titles, gifts, and platforms can be used to measure value and worth. However, our spiritual identity is linked to God’s unchanging and consistent love for each of us. His love strengthens and validates us in every aspect of our lives.

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest.™
What area of your life do you struggle with embracing God’s love? Be encouraged and reminded today that God’s love is absolute for you—because His inherent nature is love which is perfect, and never fails.

A Time to Rejoice

Reflection: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!…Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4, 6-7 AMP

Response: 
Paul proposes that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding,” keeps one’s heart and mind through any circumstance or difficulty. The peace of God empowers us to endure the unknown of painful and tumultuous events. It reduces fear and worries and enables us to rest in the confidence of God’s authority and supernatural presence in the face of impossible odds. Peace within our hearts and minds reflects an inward yieldedness towards the purpose and path of God in our lives, even when the future of both is unclear. Psalm 23:1 says, “Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” The measure of our peace is indicative of victory over our thoughts and emotions. 

Despite the situation or struggles believers endure, Paul calls for them to rejoice. In four chapters, the word “rejoice”—or some derivative of it—is used 16 times. Rejoice means to be filled with joy or a state of continuous well-being. It is not temporary or an emotional reaction based on circumstances or how one feels. Instead, rejoice is a quality or trait that exists continually. 

The ability to rejoice is rooted in God and comes from Him. Joy is the fruit of a right relationship with God. We cannot create or work up joy or the ability to rejoice in our efforts. Joy is a place we must strive to reach in God. Rejoicing in the Lord amid anxiety, pain, or difficulty is a spiritual feat that comes through a relationship with God. When we walk in fellowship with Him, we can rejoice when trouble comes because we know He is the one in control. It is not in our power, or our family, or any other source—but in God. 

To rejoice or to be joyful is something dynamic and energized, rather than static or stagnant. Each time adverse, stressful circumstances confront us, “We will rejoice.” Maintaining this position of joyfulness in our life is a perpetual process. 

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest.™
During your struggles, anxiety, or doubts—rejoice in the Lord. Allow the joy of God’s presence to infuse the attitude of your heart with gratefulness. Be thankful for the small things. Praise Him daily for the things you easily take for granted. As you allow thanksgiving to fill your thoughts, let His peace guard them and keep you in a place of joyful expectation.

Time to Rebuild

Reflection: “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Nehemiah 12:43

Response:
Nehemiah saw a need for Jerusalem’s wall to be built despite the city’s gates being broken down and destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3). So, God granted him favor, and he received support and resources from the king to rebuild the wall. 
 
Nehemiah encountered significant obstacles, and his enemies continually ridiculed him. He met threats to his life, danger, and ridicule, but Nehemiah had a mind to work. He consistently looked to God as his source as he states in Nehemiah 2:20, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build.”
 
Whenever faced with an obstacle, Nehemiah’s response was to lead the people in prayer and seek God’s wisdom. Each time Nehemiah sought God, he received clear instructions on how to respond. Each time they prayed, their faith increased and strengthened over their fear and uncertainty. They trusted God to help them with their task.
 
Their perseverance and focus facilitated their success in completing and rebuilding the wall. Their small nation and others recognized this extraordinary event accomplished with minimal resources and people. Nehemiah 6:16 says, “When all [their] enemies heard of it, and all the nations…saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” Everyone acknowledged that their success was not based on their own hands or their efforts but through the Lord’s help. 

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest.™
What obstacles do you currently face? Are you trying to fix them on your own? Have you taken the time to discuss them with God? Do your obstacles hinder your ability to pray or to hear from God? Over the next week, review any areas of your life that need rebuilding or restoration. Commit this week to lean on God and seek His wisdom in each situation and problem you face. Then, trust God and rest in His power to bring you to a successful end.

Persistent Prayer

Persistent Prayer

Reflection: “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 

Response: 
Prayer is the essential means of communication and synchronizes us in alignment with God’s will and purpose. Yet, an unyielding pressure exists between believers, our kingdom agenda, and the cares of this life. We experience resistance daily between our situations, trials, and temptations, and the quality of our devoted life with God. Distractions abound and compete with our alone time with Him.  

In a time of so much negativity and pain, we must put forth a concerted effort to take time to build our spiritual life. It takes effort to block out all the noise of what is taking place in the world around us to see God and hear Him. What He wants to say or do may be distinctly different. Our ability to discern a spiritual perspective versus the natural viewpoint is correlated to our connectivity of relationship in Him.  

How often do you speak to Him or sit and listen to what he wants to say to you? Is your prayer time filled with thoughts of the day, scrolling on your phone, or multi-tasking? We might be like the friend in Luke 11 who gives God so many reasons why we cannot open the door of our heart to His direction? Is it possible that it is inconvenient? Perhaps it is uncomfortable. Maybe it seems too hard. God stands at the door, however, waiting for us to put aside all our conveniences, distractions, and comfort—and let Him in. 

God persistently pursues us, but we, in turn, must persist in seeking Him. According to an online dictionary, persistence refers to “continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition, or previous failure.” It means to be determined and unshakable. It implies that one must actively work and pursue after an expected end rather than waiting for it to drop in one’s lap. As a result, this suggests that success in prayer is not solely based on relationship but also based on persistence.  

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest.™
God wants us to endure and persist in prayer even when it feels like He is non-responsive and does not care. We persist in prayer even when it looks like nothing is changing. We persist in prayer even when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and hard. We persist because His word says:

  • “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matthew 7:7
  • “For everyone who asks receives; and the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:8

Sometimes prayers are answered quickly. Other times we must travail, endure, and persist—maybe for weeks, months, or even years—until they are fulfilled. But it is definite and assured that He will do His part and respond when we do our part by praying persistently.

The Choice to Love

The Choice to Love

Reflection:The Lord did not love you and choose you because you were greater in number than any of the other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed (bought) you.” Deut 7:7-8

Response: 
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the word covenant refers to “a coming together… [where]…God initiated, determined the elements, and confirmed his covenant with humanity. It is unilateral. Persons are recipients, not contributors; they are not expected to offer elements to the bond; they are called to accept it as offered, to keep it as demanded, and to receive the results that God, by oath, assures will not be withheld.” Thus, as believers, our relationship with God is not based on merit, status, or how good we are. We are accepted because God chooses to love us regardless of our weaknesses or failures.

The underlying basis of God’s covenant relationship is love. His covenant reflects His steadfast, everlasting love towards us. His love aids us through difficulties, carries us through storms, shields us from unforeseen circumstances, and protects us from harm. In His love, we enjoy enlargement to our influence, multiplication of our seed, and fruitfulness in our harvests. His covenant of love enjoins us blessings that pursue and overtake us as we walk in partnership with God’s will and way.

Live exceptionally- in balance, freedom, and rest. ™
God’s love toward you as a believer is not based on merit—what you have done, what you do or don’t do, how good you are, or because you deserve it. God loves you because His nature is love. He chooses to love you. His love is active and always present even when you feel you don’t deserve it. Embrace His choice. He chose you.

Strong-&-Courageous-Evonne

Strong & Courageous

Reflection: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Response:
Joshua was chosen and designated to lead God’s people into their promised land. God told him in Deuteronomy 11:24: “Every place where the sole of your foot treads will be yours. Your territory will extend from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Western Sea.” And in Joshua 1:5, He tells Joshua, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you.”

Joshua was immediately forced to confront and face his fears and doubts. Despite the tumultuous task ahead of just entering the land and conquering it, God’s word to Joshua was: “Be strong and courageous,” which meant he needed to prevail, persist in, and be stronger than his obstacles.

For Joshua to be effective as a leader, it would require strength, courage, and obedience to confront each battle he met. The task he faced was not peaceful but a bitter, violent struggle that would go on for years to come. Despite this, God promised that Joshua would experience victory if he continued to be strong and courageous.

Strength: In this text, to be strong is not just muscular or physical strength. Instead, it is within the context of the covenant relationship that God demands strength. For Joshua and the people of God to achieve victory, they needed to be strong, i.e., determined, not easily swayed by what they saw, or circumstances. And they required consistency to prevail over their enemies.

Courage: Along with strength, God also required courage to withstand fear and difficulty to focus on the purpose and obtain their end goal. Courage fostered confidence and reliance on the presence and power of God and not in their ability.

Obedience: God’s word to Joshua included a warning in verse 7: “Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” Obedience to God’s will and word is one of the critical principles of Scripture, as well as a key requirement for being successful. The only way Joshua could be successful was to not just listen to God’s voice but follow what He said—for Himself and His people. Obedience involves trust, submission, and giving up one’s way to follow God’s way—which ultimately is always better anyway. Our success and victory are tied to our obedience.

Faith: Lastly, we need faith, not just to believe, but to be devoted and loyal to God and His way. We can be strong, courageous, and obedient for a time, but if we do not have faith in God or the successful outcome of our tests, it can be easy to walk away when we get tired or discouraged. Faith and being faithful means that one can endure or remain in one place despite times of adversity. Because you believe, then you will not abandon what you have set out to do until success, victory, and fulfillment are achieved.

Live exceptionally—in balance, freedom, and rest.™
God is calling for strong, courageous, obedient, faith-filled believers who walk in accountability to God. Effective believers must be sensitive to God’s voice, His promptings, and listen to His voice. God wants to speak to you—He desires to give you instruction and direction to excel with victory and success through difficulty. Do you hear Him speaking to you? Are you feeling weary, discouraged, or doubtful about what you face? You are not alone. “Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Hope in Distress

Reflection: “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:6)

Response:
How does one overcome the unexpected loss of a loved one, the betrayal of a trusted friend, or the trouble of a rebellious child? How does one recover from financial distress or significant health issues? Jeremiah speaks of God’s promise to care for His people despite arduous trials and sorrows. He declares hope in the face of their distress and promises them a better future. The promise includes two components: restoration and righteousness.

Restoration: God promised to step in and take control. He takes ownership and calls His people “my pasture,” “my people,” and “my flock.” God promises them hope. His people are no longer limited by their circumstances, but through their relationship with Him, He offers an opportunity to lead and provide them everything they need. When we turn our circumstances and disappointments over to Him under his rule—He then leads and draws us to a place of accountability, purpose, and fellowship.

Righteousness: God promised a righteous branch. The righteous branch stands for fidelity and uprightness. The Hebrew root for righteousness refers to an ethical or moral standard that portrays God’s nature and will. Psalms 145:17 says, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” As leaders and believers, our uprightness should be defined in terms of God’s and not of ourselves. When we embrace God, we accept the “The Lord our Righteousness”—He is our righteousness. We possess an even greater hope for experiencing fruitfulness and success because He is with and in us.

Live exceptionally—in balance, freedom, and rest.
The prospect to rebuild or restore ourselves can look impossible after experiences of loss, distress, or extreme injustice. But God. He is our righteousness. He is our advocate. He is our hope. Embrace His promise for restoration and rest in the righteousness of His care.

The-Good-Shepherd-e-t

The Good Shepherd

Reflection: “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23)

Response:
Ezekiel uses shepherd imagery to describe God’s leadership in Ezekiel 34:23: “Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” The New Testament also uses shepherd imagery as described in John, Chapter 10:11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” God is the supreme “Good Shepherd,” and His role as shepherd over His sheep is infallible. He rules perfectly without the constraints of human frailty or human error.

What does the Good Shepherd do on behalf of His sheep?

He protects: “I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.” (Ezekiel 34:25) No one likes to live in fearful or traumatic conditions. Fear can become a normal part of life depending on where one lives, negative experiences, or enemies we confront. When God committed to a covenant of peace, He established His role to protect us and keep us safe from our enemies, freeing us from living in anxiety and fear.

He blesses: “I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26). To bless means “the act of declaring, or wishing, God’s favor and goodness upon others. When God shepherds, He blesses His people and puts us into positions of favor and prosperity. As His people, we enjoy a state of spiritual favor when we allow God to shepherd us. We can rest securely in His care and His desire for us to live abundantly and productively.

He frees: “…but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid” (Ezekiel 34:28). Under the shepherd’s care, He will break the yoke of bondage. No longer are we subject to captivity or limitation. Under the “Good Shepherd,” we possess freedom—free from fear, free from worry, and free to live.

He feeds: “I will establish for them a renowned planting place, and they will not again be victims of famine in the land…” (Ezekiel 34:29). All creatures must eat to survive, but if they do not maintain the means to find food, this can prove difficult. Food provides the essential foundation for strength and sustenance to function effectively—literally and in a spiritual application. We need the Word of God to aid in our spiritual nourishment for survival.

Live exceptionally—in balance, freedom, and rest.™
“He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” (Psalms 95:7) As the sheep in God’s pasture, we must depend entirely upon Him for our wellbeing, endurance, and our life. Take time this week to acknowledge Him in everything you do. Do not allow the busyness of life to overwhelm you so that you don’t seek direction from Him or to obtain the strength needed to accomplish all that He purposes for you.