Close Beside Us

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

For you are close beside me.

Psalm 23:4

            You are not alone. Your Shepherd is close beside you. He protects and comforts you in the midst of your darkest valleys. Do not be afraid for you do not walk your path by yourself. It is a great comfort to know that when we face the scariest times in our lives, He is there with us. The Bible doesn’t say that we will never walk through dark times, but it does reassure us that we won’t walk through them alone.

            What great assurance we have in knowing that the Lord our God will not leave us. Do not fear about things that may happen or the possibility of valleys in your life. The “what ifs” need not linger as long as we remember that our good Shepherd will protect and comfort us in the midst. Let us walk in confidence and not fear for the road ahead.

He is our Great Reward

Do not be afraid…. I am your shield, your very great reward.  Genesis 15:1

 God is both a shield and a very great reward.  Notice that He did not say He would give Abram a very great reward, rather He is the great reward. The people of God have the most wonderful blessing, the great reward of the God of all creation participating in their lives.            

What more could we want? What greater reward could there be than experiencing a love relationship with the Lord God who is the creator of the Heavens and the Earth? We are rich indeed when we recognize that we have received the greatest reward in all eternity.  The Lord God is our reward! His Spirit dwells with us. He is our shield. We do not need to be afraid for He is all we need.

Father, thank you for your presence in our lives.

In You we have the greatest reward man can ever receive –

Your gentle and loving Spirit within us.

Let us find joy and peace as followers of Christ, knowing that He is our great reward. In Him we experience gracious love, true forgiveness and eternal life. Oh what a great reward we have in Jesus!

Take the First Step

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A number of years ago we added a new dog to our home, but she was no small pup. She was a nine-month-old English mastiff named Bentley. Sweet, gentle, and loveable – Bentley was also extremely fearful. One day, she courageously followed me upstairs to the second floor of our house. That was all well and good except for the simple fact that she was too frightened to come down the stairs. She couldn’t seem to figure out how to navigate the first step.

Of course I wasn’t going to allow her to live the rest of her doggy life on the second floor of our house, so I tried to gently help her down. She wasn’t budging. All she wanted to do was sit and bark at the steps. After forty-five minutes of bribing, pulling and coaxing, she finally decided to take the first step down. (Where is the Dog Whisperer when you need him?) Once Bentley accomplished the first step, the second wasn’t too bad. Then the next and the next and finally she was running free on the first floor again! What a relief for both her and us! She obviously had the ability to go down the stairs safely; she just didn’t have the courage to take that first step.

Bentley’s situation made me think how often I nestle safely in my situation or resist moving forward because I just don’t know how to make the initial move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do, and sometimes out of fear of the unknown I prefer to just stay put. Instead of taking steps in a positive direction, it is sometimes easier just to sit and bark  – or in human terms, whine, complain or make excuses.

Maybe you are thinking of a new career direction or a book you want to write. Or you could be considering a volunteer opportunity or learning a new skill. Or maybe you need to break a bad habit or reorganize the house. For most of us, the first step is typically the hardest one, as well as the most significant.

Stop for a moment and consider the direction God is leading you, and think about what may be keeping you from moving in a positive direction. Are there fears you need to confront? Are you blaming others? Do you need to make changes in your schedule? Are there new skills you need to learn or a class you need to take?

Ask God to give you the courage to take that first step.

 Continue to take little steps day by day, and don’t let discouragement or fear get in your way.

 Like a precious toddler, there will be those times you are walking along and you begin to stumble. But just as a parent kindly reaches down and helps the toddler up to his feet, so the Lord is there with you, strengthening you and holding your hand. David put it perfectly when he wrote:

The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
 He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
 for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23,24

My friend, do you see the picture of the Lord’s graceful hand helping you up? Keep it in mind as you continue to journey step by step. You may not feel as though you have what it takes, but God can give you the feet you need for the journey ahead. He is strong where you are weak. He is sufficient and able to carry you. Take the first step toward positive growth and change, looking to Him for strength and guidance.

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This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive.

Blog Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

 

Light of the World

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Many years ago when I taught science, I enjoyed teaching my students about the spectrum of light and the rainbow of colors that appear when light is refracted.  Whether it is a rainbow, a sunset, a prism or cut glass, refracted light always reveals the same order of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (Roy G. Biv). It’s unchangeable and consistent.

Isn’t it interesting how many of the characteristics of light seem to reflect certain attributes of God?  Just as the spectrum of light is unchangeable, so our glorious God is immutable and unchangeable. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s no wonder that the beloved disciple John uses the metaphor of light to describe God.

 

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

 

Darkness can’t overtake the light, but light drives out or dispels the darkness. Throughout scripture, light refers to holiness, purity and truth, while darkness is compared to evil and sin. God is completely holy and represents absolute purity. There is no sin in Him, not even the smallest portion. Darkness is a place where things are hidden, but when God shines His light in our lives, He not only reveals sin, but He also offers forgiveness through Jesus. He opens our eyes to see things we may have never seen before and guides us down a new path.

 

He lights up our spiritual eyes to see.

 

May we bask in the radiance of His love, as He lights our paths and guides our way through this dark world. This Holy season points us to Jesus – the Light of the World. As we enjoy the lights and splendor of Christmas let us joyfully reflect on the One True Light and turn our hearts toward Him.

 

Praise you Light of the World. Thank you for the warmth of your love and the light of your wisdom. Continue to lead us and guide us along Your path. Shine your light on the dark corners of our lives. Help us to shine your light so that others may know your love.

 

Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

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A portion of this blog is an excerpt from my book Unfailing Love.

5 Principles for Overcoming Discouragement

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Discouragement can seem like an unscalable wall at times. It hits each one of us in different ways, whether it is losing a key client or setbacks with a major project or frustrations with a family member. How do we strengthen our resolve and keep going? Here are a few life principles to adopt:

Celebrate Small Victories. Sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming, so let’s learn to take incremental steps forward and celebrate the little victories along the way. Create a few simple daily goals that are doable and move step by step in a positive direction.

Change the focus.  Life looks pretty bleak if we only focus on our problems. Let’s stop looking at what we can’t do, and consider what we can do. There is always a bright side, but we must be looking for it. Let’s make a deliberate effort to concentrate on what can be done and the possibilities ahead of us.

Be flexible. When we are fixed on only one outcome, we open ourselves up to defeat. Let’s be willing to adapt and adjust to Plan B. Could it be that “B” stands for Better?If we consider a variety of scenarios, it allows us to adjust our goals and broaden our horizon.

Ask Questions. Discouraging situations also bring opportunities for growth and learning. We can ask questions such as, “How can I do better next time?” “What can I learn from this?” “How can I help others as a result of this?” “Are there other people I need to seek out for counsel or help?”

Have patience. Let’s face it, waiting is hard, but if we persevere we will find that we become stronger and more courageous as we wade through deep waters. Victory, success and change take time. Hang in there and remind yourself that most things get better or easier over time. Even if our circumstances seem like they won’t change for a while, the good news is that we can grow and become better in the process.

Most important, let’s remember that we are not alone. There are others who have gone through similar tough times. We can reach out to them for advice, and we can find encouragement from their example. We can also find strength and hope in our faith that God will give us the courage we need one day at a time.

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For more about overcoming challenges, check out Karol’s book, Positive Leadership Principles for Women   n sale for $5 this month.

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash