The Pursuit of Peace

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Every day, in our own ways, we all pursue peace. Conflict, uncertainty, worry and fear can easily tear us down and immobilize us if we let it.

As someone with chronic digestive issues and anxiety, peace is essential to my physical, mental and emotional well-being. Yet the peace we all need goes much deeper than simply managing stress or thinking happy thoughts!

The peace I’m referring to is not the kind the world promises, but the peace of God. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) His peace is truly otherworldly! The best way I can describe it is: a deep sense of rightness, of inner calm despite outward circumstances. It is not merely lack of negative thoughts, but a clean sweep of emotions that leaves only a wholeness of spirit with a sparkling sense of absolute confidence in God.

So how do you get that peace? Philippians 4:4-7 shows us one way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

As a Christ follower, I believe finding peace and discerning the will of God all comes down to these main habits that, when learned and practiced, keep us STABLE in an increasingly uncertain and hostile world:

Seek God – Accept and believe who He is, not merely what He can do for you.
Trust God – Surrender your all to His perfect love, holding nothing back.
Abide in Him – Spend time in praise, prayer, worship and reading His Word.
Be thankful – Count your blessings and thank God for what He is doing in your life.
Love others – Look for ways to encourage and serve others without judgment.
Every day – The more you look to Him in all things, the easier it becomes.

Prayer in particular brings me incredible peace. “On-the-go” prayers are okay, but God really shows up when I stop and find a quiet place (no rush), set aside my desires (no agenda), humbly ask for His will or what I should do (no pride), and trust in His love completely, regardless of the answer (faith).

No Holding Back
In the book of Psalms, David boldly shared all of his joys, sorrows and frustrations with the Lord in prayer. He didn’t hold back, because he knew God could take it. Yet no matter the situation, sooner or later he circled back to praise, ultimately reaffirming his faith and trust in God.

My prayers are much like David’s: because of my chronic digestive issues, I will sometimes whine about how I feel or what I can’t eat. Yet my discomfort never diminishes the deep sense of peace I have in knowing the Lord. In fact, quite often my prayers switch from complaining to praising God in the same breath, knowing that the Lord is SO very good to me!

Peace in Decisions
Peace for me is also an integral part of decision-making. Much like David did, I inquire of the Lord directly, asking specifically, “Lord, should I…?”, and pause to listen. Listing off each available option one at a time (even those courses of action I don’t really want to take), I keep asking until, with one option, the concern loosens its grip on my heart and the peace of God which passes all understanding gently carries my soul to that place of reassurance.

Lasting Peace
There are many ways to find peace and contentment: meditation, exercise, creative arts, etc, but the best way I’ve found is through my relationship with Christ. Everything else is temporary, and simply scratches the surface.

Are you looking for lasting peace? A hope that endures? If you don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, peace may feel more like a short calm before the storm, shallow contentment or even numbness. If so, you are missing out! Look no further than the great peace and love Jesus offers. Nothing else comes close.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell  All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Go With God!

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Magnolia – April 10, 2017

 

In my last post, I spoke of how the Lord paved the way for me to follow Him, and how grateful I am for His providential care in my life. Of course, as with everyone, the choice was mine to make, but I am living proof of what the power of God can do when we decide to follow Christ. I haven’t regretted it.

For long-time believers such as myself, it’s easy to forget what it was like before we accepted the gift of salvation, but I was quickly reminded by participating in a group exercise several weeks ago that got me thinking about the “big picture” of my faith. On each side of 3×5 cards, we were asked to write down what life looks like with God, and without God, and how things could have been much worse had He not been pursuing us.

This is what I wrote:

Without God

GOOD isn’t enough – Lame
BAD gets worse – Hopeless
UGLY leads to – Death

With God

GOOD feels great! – Joy!
BAD prepares for ugly – Strength!
UGLY can be overcome – Victory!

Here’s what I mean…

Without God

GOOD things in my life, though enjoyable, were ultimately empty. Dissatisfaction leads to a never ending quest for more. Joy is shallow and fleeting, if this life is all there is.
Likewise, the good things I did for others apart from God, while nice, have only a temporary effect with no eternal worth. I can do nothing truly “good” (in the highest sense of the word) on my own.

BAD circumstances are a part of life, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. However, without God, they can easily devolve into even worse predicaments. We can grit our teeth and bravely move forward (like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti western), but without God we all eventually become run down, discouraged and even despondent. We make fear-based decisions or use the limited wisdom of the world. Either way, sooner or later the wheels fall off, leaving us in worse shape than before.
God often uses bad circumstances to get our attention, but some of us take quite a few hard knocks before we turn to Him. Yet He never stops pursuing us.

UGLY events, such as accidents, unexpected death or other tragedies bring us face to face with our own mortality. Recently an extended family member suddenly passed away, so lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about eternity.
Without God, even the ugly parts of life that don’t “do us in” will break our spirit at the very least, and can indeed prove to be fatal, for relationships, for our mental health and for our physical bodies. Without God and faith in Jesus, I would still be lost in my sin, and my eternal future would look very bleak.

Now for a poetic intermission…

“Without Him”

Without the Lord, I’m nothing
– a face without a smile;
A drone with little emotion,
yet quite easily riled.
Without the Lord in control,
I’m just an empty shell.
No thoughts of the future,
It’s too far off to tell.
But Jesus is the same today
as He was yesterday;
The future’s already known to Him,
and He faithfully shows the way.
My joy restored, I sing out loud
Praising the Lord Most High;
For without Jesus, I go empty,
but with Him, I never run dry.
With Him is perfect love
which casts away my fear;
He comes close to me
when I humbly draw near.
For with Him is life
without Him is sin;
But with Him there’s forgiveness,
and I can begin again!

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©Ladeena Bell

Okay, now for the best part…

With God
GOOD feels great! I gratefully acknowledge that all I have is from God; life and priorities are focused on things of eternal worth. Each day as I look to God, spending time with Him in prayer and reading His Word, He transforms me. Spirit renewed, I’m more keenly aware of both the beauty and pain in the world. In response to the needs I see around me, deep satisfaction is found in serving others, as He leads. Relationships bring a thousand times more meaning and fulfillment into my life, because I’m part of a larger family, sharing the same hope, faith and struggles with others.
As I learn and grow ever closer in relationship with God, there is an indescribable peace, deep joy and strong love not found anywhere else but in full surrender to a loving Savior. I know because I’ve experienced it in my own life and witnessed it in the lives of many believers around me.

BAD situations force me to rely on and draw courage from God. Though life isn’t perfect and not every problem is solved instantly, there is an incredible comfort and strength simply knowing that God loves me, He walks with me, and He knows me inside and out. I am known by the God of the universe!
Like most people, I do still occasionally whine about what’s going wrong in my life, but once I shift my focus off of myself and my circumstances and back onto Him, a powerful sense of hope and peace floods in. He reminds me of His promises, and I claim them boldly in prayer, often personalizing them to my situation. Just the other day I prayed, “Lord, I will not be anxious about anything, but I pray with thankfulness as I present my needs to You, knowing Your peace – a peace that passes all human understanding – will calm my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

UGLY trials and disasters are possible to overcome because I’ve learned to trust God through lesser calamities. When under pressure, as I lean fully on the Lord, He gives me wisdom to make good decisions. With every step taken in faith, confidence, contentment and joy builds, carrying me onward. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)
My faith gives me hope, but also an eternal perspective on my troubles. Specifically, I don’t fear death! For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When my earthly life is through, I’ll transition to an eternal life filled with indescribable love and peace, because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. In trusting and following Him, victory and joy can be ours here on earth and forever in heaven!

I shudder to think how my life would be without God. Exhausted, hopeless and empty, to say the least. But thanks be to God for His infinite grace and love, for by it I have been redeemed and continually transformed from the inside out!

Go With God!

My prayer is that you are also “with God”, and trusting Him no matter what life throws at you, whether good, bad or ugly. Jesus didn’t promise that life with Him would be easy, in fact He said in this world we will have problems, but He has overcome the world, and so shall we!

When life is good, bad or ugly, we can have joy, strength and victory with God, through Jesus!

Note: This post is much longer than I’d intended, but it’s what I felt led to share. I never know what God will lead me to write, but it’s always a fun and rewarding adventure! Thanks for coming along with me on it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Moving Forward While Waiting

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Happy New Year!
The new year has arrived, and with it a clean slate and the hope that this year we’ll all  finally “get it right”. Or at least be happier, healthier, prosperous….you fill in the rest.

This day is bittersweet for me because an important relationship remains in a state of limbo. In that part of my life, I am poised to…well…continue waiting.

Some seasons of waiting are of longer duration than others; it’s easy to grow discouraged when changes aren’t happening at the speed or in the manner we’d like. We must always remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; He will not be rushed! However, He will be with us, loving us through every second as we trust in Him. My own faith, strength, and courage were certainly tested in 2016, but many joys also lightened the load. I never stop growing and learning.

Here’s a poem I wrote about where my heart and head are at right now:

“Heavenly Lenses”

Pulled up once more by my bootstraps
–the Lord seems slow, but He’s never late.
Uneasy with unresolved issues,
nothing more to do but pray and wait.
Moving forward feels like standing still,
must make better use of my days:
Proactively pursuing God’s will
–surrendered more fully to His ways.
In moments like these, He is my strength,
when discouragement dulls my senses;
I cling to Jesus, reading His Word
to see through heavenly lenses.
For God’s wisdom surpasses all
that my human brain can comprehend.
Not knowing is the hardest part
–when it’s time for this season to end.
Til that day comes, I trust His plan,
lifting my hands in thankful prayer,
for though the future is unclear now,
I know that God is already there!

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Waiting Wisely and Well
Waiting is never easy. We’ve all been through periods when we’ve done all we can do, and now the ball is in someone else’s court. To keep my faith strong and my sanity (relatively) intact, the Lord has helped me use the time wisely. Proactive waiting, you might say.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned, and questions to ask:

  1. God knew this would happen
    (He loves you and you can trust His plan)
  2. It’s okay not knowing what will happen
    (it’s not like you’d predict any other time, either)
  3. What is the Lord teaching you through this?
    (about His character, yourself, and life)
  4. How can you improve yourself while waiting?
  5. How are you preparing for the possible outcomes?
    (pray — this does NOT mean worrying or obsessing)

Waiting doesn’t have to be full of stress, anxiety and discouragement. Use the time to reflect, regroup and, yes, rejoice! Praise God in advance for what He will do. Before you know it, the answer will come, the situation will change or the problem will work out. When the time comes, you can be more ready because you knew how best to wait!

God’s Word About Waiting…

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:18, NIV

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love, rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22, NIV

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NIV

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31, ESV

Faith Notes
Here’s an awesome song that my heart sings every day!
Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

©Ladeena Bell – All Rights Reserved (blog content & photos)

Transformed Through Service

 

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“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Lately I’ve been thinking: why must there even be “the least of these”? While I understand it in the practical sense (being socially, emotionally or monetarily limited), something in me has always cringed a bit about that verse. Not so much out of regret – but because it’s just sad that in teaching His followers to serve others, Jesus had to acknowledge that such distinctions, labels or classes existed.

For myself, I’ve never subscribed to the hierarchical mentality, if you will. No one deserves to be pigeonholed, categorized or judged by their current station in life. It’s not only a waste of time, but also far too easy to make the wrong assumptions, which only lead to misunderstanding and dissension. Instead I simply respond to words, actions, and attitude; treating everyone as the souls they are: cherished and loved by their Creator. I ask questions and listen. While I may not fully understand what someone is going through, or where they’re coming from, God does. My job is to trust that He will lead me and give me the words to speak, sharing the hope I have in Him with all who ask (1 Peter 3:15).

Here’s a prose poem I wrote a long time ago, thinking about the needy among us…

“The Least of These”

They wipe off the food with
careful touches
Embarrassed to be seen with a
smudge
on their faces.
But I rub my coat sleeve
across my dirty face
Unable to find enough food to feed
my angry stomach.
I shuffle past the lively eateries
–The smell of a thousand herbs
fills my nostrils
If only someone would give me
something to
revive
my aching feet
Someone please care, give me
and others
something to hope for
something to live for.

©Ladeena Bell
5-12-94

True Service

We are all beloved souls wrapped in flesh, looking for love, hope and acceptance. In serving, we aren’t merely providing resources and help. On deeper levels, we are sharing our relationship with Christ through relationships with others: His hope shining into the darkest despair, His love healing broken hearts, and His truth exposing the lies that the enemy uses to keep the “least of these” believing that they are the “least of these”, and not the precious sons and daughters they truly are.

JOY

We all know: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), but I’m here to tell you that JOY (Jesus Others Yourself) itself indeed comes to vivid life when I serve! As I mentioned in my TRANSFORMED post, one of the ways I serve is by attending and helping facilitate the chapel time at Simonka House (women & children’s homeless shelter) once a month. There’s a song or two, a message, and a couple times I’ve shared my poems aloud. After our Spirit-filled time together, I feel positively giddy! As our group leaves, the guests and staff are always so appreciative, thanking us with frequent hugs that send us off with grins on our faces and thankful joy in our hearts.

The Bigger Picture

It truly is both humbling and invigorating to be used by God to bless others. Setting aside our own concerns to focus on the needs of others blesses us and helps keep life in perspective. In the bigger picture, serving also broadens and enriches our experience; building relationships that help pave the way for future ministry opportunities we can’t even imagine now. It’s a win-win-win!

Gifted To Serve

God has endowed each of us with a unique set of talents, skills, interests, and of course, material things, and He has a plan and purpose for them all. In fact every day should be lived to His glory as a form of worship, regarding ourselves as no better than anyone else (Romans 12:1,3). Some are called to distant countries, but most of us can love and serve wherever we are. God says in His Word that we should use what we’ve been given and network (Luke 16:9); leveraging it for the kingdom. It’s the best investment we can make. The best part is: we can’t out-give God. The more we give, the more His Spirit flows and we are transformed – and the world along with us.

Faith Notes

Here’s a “classic” song by Audio Adrenaline…
may we all be His Hands And Feet wherever we go.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
Colossians 3:23

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (blog content & photos)

Faith Is Not A Feeling

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As I’ve touched on before, over the past year or so my emotional life has been profoundly transformed by God’s love. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like shades of powder blue, pale pink and steel gray have burst into a full spectrum of neon blue, florescent pink and fire orange. The wall I kept hitting, the unexplained barrier that wouldn’t let me experience but a fraction of any one emotion (mixed with angst that I couldn’t feel more) is gone. I’ve been filled with His incredible peace (John 14:27). I am safe. I am loved. I am okay. That blessed assurance, even in the midst of uncertainty, is why I continue writing. The communication lines are wide open between my heart and heaven; every word helping me adjust to my new life. There are tears, but there are also smiles and moments of sheer bliss just reveling in God’s palpable love for me.

Faith Is A Verb

That said, as I spoke of in the “N” portion of my TRANSFORMED acronym (Never Give Up): faith is not a feeling. Faith is demonstrated by our actions. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Trust in God is shown in daily self-discipline as we follow what we say we believe, regardless of how we feel. Although my enhanced emotional life does strengthen my faith (who doesn’t want to experience intense joy, or feel downright hugged by the God of the Universe?), it is not the ultimate litmus test of true faith or even a fulfilled life. Feelings are but a happy, complicated and challenging part of the human experience.

Can Feelings Be Trusted?

Emotions are unwieldy, fickle and lightning fast at times. In fact, some people get the most exercise of their lives just jumping to conclusions and getting bent out of shape! The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Don’t get me wrong: emotions aren’t bad in and of themselves. God created them and has them too, but they must be controlled. For me, if I let my emotions lead, my natural worry and fear alone would drive me to the brink of insanity; the resulting confusion sending my life careening off of a spiritual cliff. However, God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 4:33). While they enhance our experience, feelings alone cannot be trusted to steer the course of our lives. Even if we feel quite strongly about a particular decision or issue, it doesn’t mean it’s God’s will. We are often simply too close to the situation to keep a clear head.

So what do you do with that rush of anger, flush of envy, or frenzy of fear? Take a deep breath. Pray. Stay grounded in God’s Word to understand things from His perspective. He’s got you in His eternal, loving hands. Rest in that knowledge. Here’s a poem I wrote about the subject:

“God Follower”

Follow my heart or follow my mind?
Seek after the Lord, true peace I find.
Emotions confusing, fickle and weak,
compared to the solid wisdom I seek.
Gently He shelters me under His wings;
Eternity whispers above earthly things.
Such drama plays out before my eyes
–quickly caught up, ‘til I realize
and pause the scene to listen for God’s voice,
writing and praying to make the wise choice.
Today and in all the days that remain–
contently courageous, against the grain.
Daily submitted, in His power I grow;
A joyful God follower, singing as I go.

©Ladeena Bell
2-16-16

On the Flip Side…

Eventually the newness may wear off of my initial transforming experience, and joy might wane. We all have dry seasons, or wonder at times whether we’re doing the right thing. That’s when it’s most important to be confident in what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1) For sure, our true colors come out during difficult times, showing where our trust is actually placed. True faith is shown in unhurried contentedness when all around is chaos. Trusting He’s with us even when we don’t feel His presence. Continuing to pray even in those times our prayers don’t seem to get past the ceiling. Singing hallelujah when the answer has yet to be revealed. The Lord honors such joyous persistence with an other-worldly peace and a strength that sustains. I learned this several years ago: keep doing what He told you to do last, until you hear something different. Stay the course. God still hears and still cares more than you know. Don’t give up (Galatians 6:9).

I’m so thankful that the Lord has awakened my placid heart. He has and will continue helping me tame this technicolor soul into the person He has created me to be, doing the good works He’s prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). Emotions and all.

Extra Credit (to God)

Here’s a link to a song by Josh Wilson that speaks to this subject. It also bears the same title as this post! Faith Is Not A Feeling (Note: Link will open up in a new window.)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Transformed Through Prayer

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A few more thoughts about the first “R” in my TRANSFORMED acronym: Repent & Pray…

What Is Prayer?

Put simply, prayer is talking with God. A link with the origin of love, and Love itself. A conduit with the Holy Spirit. It is a continual conversation with the Creator of the universe, who intentionally created us out of His unimaginable love and with fellowship in mind. Prayer is our response to that love, and as in any relationship, it’s a combination of both talking and listening. I’ll share more about discerning His voice in another post.

Repent

One component of prayer is repentance. It’s not saying we’re sorry because we feel guilty. True repentance comes when we get honest with ourselves, voice our failings and wholeheartedly seek to change. No holding back or waiting for a sign. No distractions or preoccupations with the frivolities of life. Just us and God. He is the only one to whom we are ultimately accountable. The good news is: All of our sins were paid for by Christ on the cross; the moment we turn from our sins and look to the Lord, He hears, knows our intentions and is quick to forgive (1 John 1:9). However, it isn’t a “one-and-done deal”. We’re not talking about religion, but a growing relationship with the Lord. In order to keep our hearts right and to be effective followers, daily submission is essential. With hearts laid bare before Him, He lavishes His love on us until it overflows, spilling out into the lives of those around us. Daily prayer maintains that flow, keeping our focus outward and honoring to God, living transformed lives as a form of worship (Romans 12:1).

Our Closest Friend

Every moment of our lives we are blessed with the opportunity to converse with the One who is simultaneously our Savior, Almighty God, Father, and closest Friend (John 15:15). God knows all, hears all our thoughts (Psalm 139:1-4), and looks straight into our hearts, so it’s best to just humbly be ourselves. There is no need for special lingo. We can talk with God wherever we are. A great phrase I’ve learned is “Stop and Pray”.  When blessings come, I just look up and say, “Thank You!”. When in need, I often pray, “Lord, I need You!”, and He is right there. In daily struggles, I reaffirm out loud, “I trust You.” In other times, when words escape me and I don’t know what to pray, I lift my troubled soul heavenward, and the Spirit prays on my behalf, pleading for mercy and help on deeper levels than I can comprehend (Romans 8:26-27).

Here’s a poem I wrote about my relationship with Christ, and how prayer time can end up feeling like a spiritual hug:


“The Warmest Embrace”

Whenever I am feeling down
and there’s nobody else around,
there’s one person who holds me tight,
lifting my soul up off the ground.
He’s the one I fully confide in—
and who’s promised to never leave;
His arms are always open
if a hug I will just receive.
He’s a friend unlike all others
with whom I can simply talk,
who speaks directly into my heart
as through life’s valleys I walk.
My friend is never too busy for me
—I won’t ever feel ignored;
For the best and warmest embrace of all
is from Jesus, my Savior and Lord!

©Ladeena Bell
6-19-92

 

Attitude Is Everything

That all being said, an undercurrent of reverent awe should always carry every prayer. God is still the Almighty One, no matter how familiar we become with His ways. We should never be flippant with our words or take God for granted, attempting to use Him like a magic genie or personal concierge. That is only asking for trouble; God will not be mocked. Besides, He loves us so much that He doesn’t always give us what we want. Yet He always gives us what we need, as we yield to Him (Matthew 6:25-33).

A Thankful Heart

On that note, I believe every prayer should begin and end with thankfulness. It reminds us that everything we have or enjoy is from God (James 1:17). In addition to thanking Him for family and friends, a job, a vehicle and a roof over my head, I often thank God simply for who He is, and for His love, grace, mercy and patience with me. Then after praying for others’ needs and my own, I also often end prayers with thankful expectancy, praising Him for how He will answer (Mark 11:24). There’s power in proclaiming that trust out loud.

Pray For Our Country

We live in a chaotic, jaded world, to say the least! The enemy is the prince of this world, but God is still in control. Please join me in praying for the nation, and for the election: for all of those who are and who will be in leadership roles, locally, statewide and nationwide. Ask God to intervene on our behalf, that the right people will be elected and the right decisions will be made.

Peace, Hope and Power

No matter what happens, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). He will help us have peace in our souls as long as we stay focused on Him (Isaiah 26:3). We can do that mainly by reading His Word and by praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16:18) as we go about our daily lives. There is forgiveness, hope and transforming power available every day, every hour and every minute, if we’ll just plug in and remain connected to the Source!

Faith Notes

A current song that I love is The God I Know by Love & The Outcome. It touches on many of the points of this post. I invite you to “throw your hands up, worries down” as you listen.
(Note: Link opens up in new window.)

©Ladeena Bell
All Rights Reserved (content & blog photos)

Be TRANSFORMED!

 

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In my last post, I spoke of being transformed by the grace of God. Recently the focus at my church has also been on that very topic (God is on the move!). Certainly, with world events unfolding as they have been, the need for personal transformation is more imperative now than ever. If we’re to have any lasting impact on our world, we all need to be transformed daily into the likeness of Jesus. In fact, for some we may be the only Jesus they see.

In looking back on my own journey, pondering and praying about how it happened, I felt led to share the progression more specifically with you. God inspired me to list out the main areas of growth, strength or change in the form of an acronym, using the word “transformed”. I hope and pray that these thoughts will inspire and help you grow in your own journey of transformation.

Trust Jesus – Although I trust in Him for salvation, it is only the start. True trust means trusting completely that Christ is who He says He is, and that day in and day out, we choose His ways over ours. To do that, every one of the enemy’s lies must be replaced with the truth of God’s Word. For instance, when I’m tempted to focus on my shortcomings or succumb to fears about the future, the Lord reminds me that I am His beloved child and His plans are good for me (Jeremiah 29:11)! For me, one of the most simple but powerful words to pray are: “Lord, I trust You.”

Repent & Pray – Many things can hold us back from being that “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1), and become idols or stumbling blocks to transformation. For me, it is too easy to plop down in front of the TV instead of spending time with Him. Temptations vary, but forgiveness and peace are always available when I daily claim His forgiveness and seek to change. Through Christ we are sanctified (made clean and set apart), but it’s important to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12) by intentionally choosing Him each day. In struggles, we must accept His correction, even if it’s difficult.

Accountability – This is a tough one. Being vulnerable with God is one thing, but letting others into the most deepest, darkest parts of inner life is another. We all need one or two special people in our lives for perspective, encouragement and yes, sometimes conviction to stay on track. “Two are better than one…if one falls down his friend can help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). I’m thankful that during this past year, God has brought the right people to speak into my life, greatly enriching my faith journey.

Never Give Up! – Some days I don’t feel God’s presence as strongly as other days, but thankfully faith is not a feeling, but an action! Despite my fickle emotions, I trust that He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 3:6), and I can do all things through His strength (Philippians 4:8)! One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” For me, just knowing that the creator of the universe knows and loves me is at once humbling and empowering. That thought alone has sustained me during many trying situations.

Serve Others – The most powerful thing you can do in the midst of your own troubles is to come alongside others through theirs. Sharing some of my story and poems with the women at Simonka Place (shelter for women and children, through Union Gospel Mission) has been an incredible blessing and source of holy joy for me. It gets my mind off of myself and makes my problems seem minuscule in comparison. Plus God is using me to bless people – which is definitely a win/win!

Follow His Word – To follow what the Lord says, we must read it, meditate on it, and memorize it. “I have hidden Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11). Wisdom and grace come in surrender to God through His Word. It comes alive through His Spirit in me: lifting me up, emboldening me and shedding light on those areas on which I need to work. Growing up in the church and knowing many passages of Scripture is no excuse; there’s always something new He can show me.

Order Priorities – Long ago, I learned another acronym: JOY (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last), and it is a wonderfully simple creed to live by. Balancing life’s demands – work and service with rest and play – is practically an art form. Even as comparatively simple as my life is, I haven’t quite mastered it. I’m getting there. I do what I can, then rest in His grace as I look to Him each day, knowing He’ll direct my path (Proverbs 3:6).

Remember His Faithfulness – In other words, count your blessings! The Lord actually longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18), and He’s proven it over and over again throughout my life: that perfectly timed song, sage words of a good friend, and many other blessings! Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Look for God’s grace everywhere, and you will find it. When we recall what He’s done, we can worship and sing praise even in hard times, because He carries us and loves us so perfectly.

Mentor Others – True transformation compels us to share what we’ve learned with others. We all have a story; the lessons and insight gained might be exactly what someone else in a similar circumstance needs to hear. For me, this blog is a form of mentoring. Befriending others or deepening existing friendships can be a great blessing to both parties. Taking a younger person under your wing and sharing your wisdom might steer them away from the mistakes you made. We have all been blessed to be a blessing (2 Corinthians 9:8), so don’t be stingy with His grace!

Encourage Others – The transforming power of God moves me to be that city on a hill (Matthew 5:14), shining His light and love wherever I go. The Lord expects nothing less than our all, but with so many blessings we can’t help but share the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15), and boldly so, as the Spirit directs!

Destroy Strongholds – Especially as violence erupts and tensions flare worldwide, it’s never been more obvious that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, one that isn’t against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Changed hearts effect more change in the world – one life at a time! Trusting in our Commander, we, as His soldiers, must fight the good fight – on our knees, in prayer. Only by His power will we demolish strongholds in Jesus’ name (2 Corinthians 10:4).

In Closing…

So that is what the Lord has impressed on me to share. I don’t claim to have all the answers, and this isn’t a definitive list, but my prayer is that some of the points hit home with you. If we ever hope to effect change out there, it begins with transformed lives within. Christ never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), but His love and grace changes us. By believing and actively trusting in Him through these and other spiritual disciplines, we might just start a revival!
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

© Ladeena Bell
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