God Stands Near and Gives Courage

“. . . the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage!’” Acts 23:11 NIV

We’ve all been there—in situations where the stakes are immense and our courage has all but vanished. The life of a loved one may hang in the balance, a disaster may threaten to crush us, or a dream may be crumbling before our eyes. Fear grabs us by the throat and leaves us shaken in every way. We need courage and strength beyond our own.

We find in the Bible that the apostle Paul was no stranger to desperate and dangerous circumstances of his own. The instance from the passage above happened one time when Paul was in Jerusalem. A great uproar had broken out amongst the Jews over Paul and his teachings. He faced deadly mob violence until Roman soldiers took him prisoner. Then when the commander had Paul speak to the Sanhedrin—the supreme Jewish court—the circumstances turned violent again. And again, the Romans intervened and took Paul prisoner.

Just when Paul must have been wondering if he’d make it out of Jerusalem alive, the Lord came and imparted courage to him. Scripture tells us he stood near Paul and told him to take courage, that he had further work for him to do. Whether the Lord stood there physically or in spirit, he came to encourage Paul—in fact, to give him courage. And he drew near to do it.

Will not the Lord also come to us when we are in dire circumstances? Will he not also stand near us and speak courage and peace to our hearts when we desperately need it? Indeed he will. We can count on it. We can count on him. 

“say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come . . . he will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4 NIV

*When has the Lord drawn close and imparted courage, peace, or strength to you?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Curtis Simmons, Creative Commons License

Prayer Transforms—Prayer Changes Me

You’ve heard it said that prayer changes things. Well, sometimes.

Sometimes we see God answer our prayers through changed circumstances or hearts, but other times things don’t change. The house goes into foreclosure. The divorce is finalized. The cancer rages on and finally wins the battle. For whatever reason, God, in his infinite—and loving—wisdom has not seen fit to change the thing we’ve brought to him in prayer time and again.

But one thing I’ve found to be true about prayer is that even when God doesn’t grant the change I desire— when he says “no” or “wait”—prayer still brings about change. It changes me.

As I bring my burdens to him in prayer, changes take place in my heart. Sometimes they’re dramatic and instantaneous, but more often than not, they blossom a step at a time as God does the work in my life that will draw me closer to him, that will conform me into his image.

Anxiety and worry melt into peace and calm assurance in my heavenly Father. Anger and unforgiveness grow into grace, like the grace given so freely to me. Bitterness that may have crept in gets uprooted while negative feelings about someone are replaced by compassion and love. My wisdom and need to control give way to the blessed relief of trusting utterly in him.

So even when it seems prayer is not changing circumstances the way I’d like, I’m grateful to know that coming to God in prayer is indeed doing a transforming work. I’m grateful to know that prayer changes me. How about you?

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

*When has the Lord changed you as you’ve prayed to him?

*I hope you enjoyed this encore post from February 2011!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out in early February. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by kabilsCreative Commons License

Wisdom and Encouragement for the Mother of the Bride

by Cheryl Barker  CherylBarkerWriter

Mother of the Bride, I’d love to help start your 2018 off on a positive note by offering you wisdom and encouragement straight from the Word of God. I’ve discovered over the course of my life that there is no better wisdom or encouragement to be found than what we find in the Bible.

Chances are you’ll be celebrating a wedding this year—and the demands of life may get a little overwhelming as you’re in prep mode. My prayer is that the following scriptures will provide the refreshment, encouragement, and wisdom you need to see you through to the big day and beyond. And if you’re hungry and thirsty for more after you read these, why not read a passage from the Bible each day. God is sure to provide just what you need!

Be blessed, MOB, as you drink in these precious life-giving words from the Word of God! (All scripture is taken from the NIV or NIV84 unless otherwise noted.)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

“. . .‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you . . .’” 1 Chronicles 28:20

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

“. . . ‘Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.’” Deuteronomy 33:12

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12

“ . . . wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 13:10

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:8

“ . . . serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way…” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

*You might also like to read Spirit and Soul Refreshment for the Mother of the Bride and A Prayer for Weary Mothers of the Bride.

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by charamelody, Creative Commons License

Sweet Fellowship

Oh how sweet it is to find a group of people who get you, huh? People with whom you can enjoy meaningful fellowship. On a professional level, I’ve found this with Fellowship of Christian Writers, the writers group I meet monthly with in Tulsa, and also through writers conferences. On a personal and spiritual level, I’ve found this throughout my life with other believers in Christ, whether through the local church or a ministry or mission group.

Today let’s consider and rejoice in the fellowship we share as God’s children. As we read the following Fellowship acrostic, let’s thank God for each aspect of fellowship made possible because of our bond in him. And let’s fellowship!

Finding others with common passions and goals and joining them.

Enjoying time together and encouraging one another in every way.

Listening to the burdens as well as the delights of fellow members of the body of Christ.

Learning from others’ knowledge and experiences and sharing your own.

Owning possessions with open hands and giving liberally to those in need.

Worshiping the Lord together in song, in prayer, and in words of testimony.

Serving alongside one another to minister to others and share the love of Christ.

Helping each other in time of need or to achieve a common goal.

Inviting new folks to join in your activities and groups.

Praying together for needs, common concerns, and for people to come to faith in God.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 

*What aspect of fellowship do you most enjoy? Which aspect do you struggle with the most?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Pepe Pont, Creative Commons License

Standing is Victory

As believers in Christ, we face spiritual battles daily—attacks from the same enemy who enticed and deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Some refer to him as the devil, others call him by name—Satan.

Satan is a formidable enemy and comes at us in a multitude of ways, sometimes as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and other times masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). And he is not alone. He leads an army of evil forces (Ephesians 6:12).

Scripture tells us we need to put on the full armor of God to do battle against this enemy of our souls (Ephesians 6:11, 13). With the armor of God firmly in place and with God’s help, we can withstand Satan’s onslaught and gain victory over him and his spiritual forces of evil.

Sometimes we may not feel like we’re gaining victory, but I love what author Sarah Young has to say in her devotional Jesus Always:

“When you’re in the thick of [spiritual] battle, declare your trust in Me—your confidence that I am with you, helping you. You may feel as if you’re losing the battle, but don’t give up! Hold tightly to my hand, and just keep standing. This is victory.”

Sometimes victory is simply standing. As weak as we may feel when we pull ourselves to our feet one more time, we are indeed victorious as we stand and refuse to let Satan keep us down.

Are you struggling to get to your feet spiritually today? Take hold of God’s hand. He will help you stand.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. . . put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10, 13 NIV

*What have you found helps you the most when you’re in the midst of a spiritual battle?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by pic fix, Creative Commons License