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*Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

light in darknessHave you ever had one of those nights when you lay awake waiting for morning because daylight may be the only relief you get from the worry in your heart and soul? You breathed a sigh of relief of seeing the first glimmer of dawn because it signaled the dawn of a new day and hopefully respite from your pain?

Have you ever been under attack for your faith? Even though you had complete faith in what God’s word said, you watched as people you loved and respected seemed to turn away. The loneliness was harsh and your emotions ranged from pain (for what was being done to Jesus) to anger (because when attacked, anger is the easiest emotion).

Have you suffered through the loss of a loved one? Even though you knew they were in the arms of Jesus. Even though you knew they were without pain. Even though you knew that someday you would be reunited again and rejoice for eternity. Even though you knew all those things, the pain was still unbearable?

Have you ever watched the news with horror as sin was celebrated as normal and everything you knew pleased your Lord and Savior was being mocked, ridiculed and scorned? In the midst of it all, you felt completely helpless. Like Noah, you watched society fail and the raindrops begin to fall?

Here’s some good news. You were never called to conquer the world. Jesus will take care of that. You were never commissioned to be the one to turn the tide of events. That has already been planned out.

All we were called to do is shine. That’s it. Just shine. John writes in his first epistle that God is light. No darkness, just light (1 John 1:5). Jesus tells us that we are lights on a hill, like a city on a hill that is impossible to hide.

Remember this the next time the darkness seems to creep in around you. The deeper the darkness, the brighter even the smallest light will shine. No amount of darkness will ever be able to subdue, conquer or change the effectiveness of light.

I have a favorite campground in far northern Minnesota. A few years ago I was sitting on the shore late at night. The stars were amazing. In the distance I saw the small flicker of a campfire on an island on the other side of the lake. Just a small fire, yet it was clearly visible in the darkness.

Be a light for Jesus. Let God’s Spirit determine your effectiveness. Just shine. Shine because of the God within you, not because of the gods surrounding you. Your God is greater!

PRAYER: Father God. I confess that I worry rather than trust; that I doubt when I should have faith; that I am afraid when I should be confident and that I get discouraged when I could be encouraged by the fact you are in control. For today, let my light shine for you regardless of the darkness around me. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. James 1:2-3 (NLT)

I remember the registrar at the small MidwesternBibleCollege I went to in the early 70’s. Robert had a heart for God and a heart for us ‘kids’ entering college. The thing I remembered the most about him was that it didn’t take long for us students to learn to never, ever use the word ‘problem.’

As soon as the word ‘problem’ left your lips he’d put his hand up and gently interrupt with his favorite phrase:

“Ah! No such thing as problems. Only opportunities to see how the Lord can work.”

Those words have stuck with me ever since, but it’s far easier for to focus on the problem than see the opportunity. It’s easier to succumb to worry than to rely on trust. It makes more sense in our human minds to figure out a way to avoid issues than it is to rely on an outside source.

Opportunity is hard to see when we are in the midst of trials, but even more so when those trials are a result of our own choices. When we look at trials as problems our options are many, but results are limited. We can blame others, we can blame God, we can worry, we can go into denial, try new relationships or surroundings or a whole basketful of other options.

When we look at trials as opportunities, our options may be few (one actually) but the results are infinite. When I look at a trial as my own problem, then I am the only one that can solve it. When I look at a trial as the Lord’s opportunity to show himself to me, then the responsibility for solution becomes his. My response is to trust him so that I can grow stronger and have more courage.

Fear and worry paralyze us. Courage is knowing that whatever trials are before us, we will be stronger on the other side. Faith is knowing that regardless of the reasons for my struggle, my God will never leave me and can use anything I encounter as an opportunity for him to show his grace, mercy and love.

Is what you are facing today a problem or an opportunity? Your response to that question will determine how you approach the future.

PRAYER: Father God, the things I’m facing scare me. In my humanity I tend towards trying to solve my own problems rather than relying on you to show my how to grow through them. Empower me with your Spirit to see all of life as an opportunity for you to make me stronger. Amen.

So do not lose the courage you had in the past, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:35 (NCV)

You started out strong enough. You went to church and a small group Bible Study. Maybe you even had one in your home and you were the leader. As a young person you had aspirations of being in the ministry or even being a missionary to some far off culture. You had visions of winning entire villages to Jesus Christ.

Then reality hit, and it hit hard. You never saw that divorce coming. If only you’d studied harder in high school, maybe your grades would have allowed you to get into college. Your health issues kept you from attaining many of the dreams you had at one time. You wonder what happened to your spouse. He/she once held the same values, the same fire you had for ministry but now, it’s the one hindrance in an otherwise great relationship and it’s keeping you from feeling fulfilled and squashing your ability to use your gifts.

There are those that will tell you that the level of your ability to ‘live for Christ’ is a measuring stick of your love for him. Often, it’s the other way around. The realization of our weaknesses and failures is proof of our love for Christ. That may seem like backwards thinking, but the more we desire to live for Jesus, the more His Spirit will show us areas that need change…and the more the enemy will try to send us on huge guilt trips.

Jesus shows us where we can change. Satan reminds us change is impossible. Jesus gently calls us to him. Satan screams accusations. Jesus calls to you through the darkness. Satan reminds you of the dangers lurking in the dark.

When you feel misunderstood, Jesus understands. When you feel attacked, Jesus sends endurance and safety. When you feel pressured to give in, Jesus sends encouragement to press on. “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.” Isaiah 42:3 (NLT)

Take courage pilgrim. While we walk this Wilderness Road complete with rocks and the threat of attack from the bluffs on either side of us, we have one who walks with us. He knows the way. He is ready to defend, encourage and protect. He’s ready to walk with us all the way. When we reach the end; when endure this road we’ve travelled; victory will be ours and the reward great!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I need your strength today to be strong. My own fear of failure and the enemies attack have done their work to keep me defeated. Empower me today to be strong through your Holy Spirit. Amen.

So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord! Psalm 31:24 (NLT)

Fear is an amazing thing. Its power over us can cripple us or it can motivate us. It can drive us to new heights of accomplishment or destroy our potential and perspective. The difference between success and failure is often dependent on what we do with fear.  

One time I was going through a very difficult and devastating period in my life. I was unemployed, staring bankruptcy in the face and really saw no way out. All my dreams had vanished in a period of six months. I wasn’t ‘suicidal’ but I was close.

I remember walking with a friend of mine one day. She told me she’d heard a radio show that day. The commentator on the show was talking about what one quality we see in other people’s lives that draws us to them. She then told me that when she thought about me, the one enduring quality she saw was courage.

I was shocked. I asked her how on earth she could say that courage was a quality I had. I reminded her of all the bad stuff that had happened. I recounted how my future looked bleak on the good days. Bad days were another story. I felt anything but brave and courageous that day.

Her response stuck with me though. She said “I don’t think I could go through all you are going through without going crazy or blaming God or something. I draw a huge amount of faith and strength by the way you handle the stuff you are going through.”

I’ve thought about that walk many times in the past few years and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. First, the only way we can learn to be ‘strong and courageous’ is to test our strength. God isn’t in the business of making milk-toast followers. He’s in the business of making warriors and warriors don’t grow strong in times of peace. They get their strength from warfare. Why else would Alexander the Great cry when he realized there were no more worlds to conquer. He had run out of battle.

The second thing I realized is that often times the way we handle battles speaks much more loudly to those around us than our words. Warriors are admired simply because they know how to handle the battles before them.

When we go to battle in our own strength we have reason to fear. We are fallible and weak mortals. When we go to battle in the strength of our God we go knowing that even though we may lose a battle along the way, eventually we will become victorious. Strong courageous people are those whose strength comes from enduring the very hardship that they’d rather avoid but makes them stronger. Strong and courageous people gain strength from faith in the God of Genesis. The mighty warrior.

PRAYER: Father, as I look at my life I realize that many of the things I fear are really there to make me stronger. Empower me with your Spirit to fight the battles I face in your strength. Allow me to show your strength by going through life leaning on your grace. In Jesus name, Amen.

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July 2022
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