A Plethora Of Promises

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20

We all make promises. We try to keep them, but sometimes we fail miserably. Thankfully, as a follower of Christ, I have witnessed over and over that we serve a God who is faithful, just and good, and we can count on His promises.

These past few years, I’ve leaned especially heavily on the Lord in prayer and in meditating on His Word; in particular, several promises have been an important part of my walk with Christ. Without the love of my Savior and the support of family and friends, I would have crumbled long ago, but God is faithful!

God’s promises offer hope, and hope is a powerful thing! It was such a blessing to share the hope I have in Christ, helping to lead chapel time at Simonka Place women’s and children’s shelter yesterday evening. Once again, the Lord inspired me to write a new poem only the day before! Here it is:

“The Promise Maker”

The promises of God forever stand;
He is faithful, His Word is true.
Clinging to Him as I walk this land,
I trust His love will see me through.
Yet some promises have a condition:
We must first ask, seek and knock.
A give-and-take of holy volition
with full surrender and daily walk.
If we believe, if we confess,
if we commit our ways and plans,
He will save, forgive our mess
and guide our lives with His hands.
God will never leave or forsake us,
He’ll finish the good work He’s begun.
The enemy seeks only to break us,
but in Jesus, the war is won.
God’s promises offer victory and power,
and all are “yes” in Christ our King,
on Whom we can rely every hour
to carry us through anything.
Claiming God’s promises, hearts overflowing
with thankful awe and peace, we pray
for wisdom and strength, seeking and growing
closer to the Promise Maker each day.

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©Ladeena Ashley

As my teammate shared during chapel time, some are general promises, like God’s love for us. Other promises were directed at certain people or groups, but to all believers, as well. Many promises require action on our part before God will act, such as 1 John 1:9, which I referenced in my poem: “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

According to one count, there are 3,573 promises in the Bible… a plethora of promises, you might say! The great news is, in His perfect timing and wisdom, God will fulfill every one!

No matter who else has broken promises to you, or let you down, God is good and He’s got your back! He loves you so much! If you seek Him with all of your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and He will faithfully direct your paths as you trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Give your hurts to God, claim His promises, and watch Him move!

Here are a few of my favorite promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Psalm 55:22

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 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 Ashley

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 Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and 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 Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)