Grateful for What is Given

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. – (2 Timothy 1:2, NIV)

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy and peace. – (2 Timothy 1:2, NLT)

 

These words were Paul’s exhortation to Timothy as he was essentially waiting on death row. Emperor Neuro had shifted the blame for the great fire in Rome from himself to those who faithfully followed Christ. Despite being in a cold dungeon, awaiting his sentence to be carried out, Paul used the time he still had to encourage Timothy. Grace is the good we receive that we do not deserve, and mercy is not being given that which we do. Furthermore, in the midst of persecution, Paul was praying for peace. Regardless of circumstances, his hope was that Timothy would cling to Christ, and remember the promises and good that come from God alone. The very same words meant to encourage one man who was likely mourning the impending death of his dear father-like friend, are also for each of us. May we embrace the grace and mercy that God provides, and pursue the place where we can simply rest in the peace that He alone can give, despite what is going on around us.

 

No matter what comes,

Thankful for Love that Endures

Vandy Massey Watercolor

Help us look around;

See grace and mercy,

From where peace is found.

Thank You, Lord Jesus,

That You are the way;

Calm in our chaos,

Our hope for each day.

Let us ever seek,

Your help and Your heart;

So we’ll know the truth,

Of all You impart.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our source of grace, mercy and peace, regardless of what is going on around us. Thank You that when we seek You, we find You, and are made aware of Your goodness and grace. Forgive us for not seeking You in the midst of our storms, and help us to trust You more, so that we would remember that all grace, all mercy and all peace are provided by Your loving hand. Show us how to love others in a way that extends Your grace, mercy and peace, so that many may come to know the hope that is held in You alone. Be glorified O God, as we are so grateful for the grace, mercy and peace that You give in both calm and chaos, as we navigate all of our days. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done great things. Who, O God, is like You? – Psalm 71:19

Nothing Can Separate

So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loves us. – (Romans 8:35, VOICE)

 

Inevitably, there will be times that life grows difficult. Trials come, and none of us are immune. However, when we walk with Christ, the struggles we face are met by His grace, as He loves us through it all. Nothing that comes against us can take away the love that Christ has for us, and in Him, we can rest assured that the ultimate victory is ours. Our hope lies not in the here and now, but rather in our eternity with Him. Yes, He can do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or imagine in our lives today, but more than that, He holds all of our tomorrows in His hands. He is good, and He is for us. Despite the ugliness and brokenness that we must endure on earth, we have the hope of what is yet to come, where there will be no more suffering, pain nor sorrow. May we cling to Christ, who will never leave us nor forsake us, and trust in His love that will lead us home.

 

There’s nothing on earth,An Appropriate Answer to Anger

that can separate;

us from God’s great love,

no height, depth, nor weight.

Trouble nor danger,

angst nor poverty;

no, there is nothing,

that God does not see.

For those who love God,

there‘s hope yet to see;

no matter what comes,

Christ brings victory.

So rest safe assured,

even in trials;

His grace is enough,

for the longest miles.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the reassurance that there is NOTHING that can separate us from Your love. Thank You that though we go through difficulties and trials, You are with us, and You are for us. Thank You that though we know not how long the season will last, we have the assurance that the ultimate victory is ours in You. Forgive us for our fearfulness and lack of fight in the throes of the struggle. Teach us to trust You more so that we would rise up and endure with Your strength, rather than our own. Show us how to love and support those around us who are in the midst of their own difficulties. May many come to a place of depending on You. Be exalted O God, as we trust in Your unfailing love, no matter what comes our way. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done great things. Who, O God, is like You? – Psalm 71:19

Transformed to Touch Lives

Yesterday, my pastor continued a series entitled, “Transformed.” He began with the reminder that we are called and invited to do as Jesus did unto the world.

 

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. – (John 14:10-12)

 

The Lord is sending us as His ambassadors to move things back toward the kingdom of God. We are charged to walk through life with our eyes wide open and our hearts at the ready, so that we can see what is out of alignment with His perfect plan, and hear Him as to how things ought to be. Because He is in us, we can play a part in moving things back to God’s intended order. Our giftings and callings are not just meant to be utilized as a gift to the church, but rather as a gift to the world. When we reach out to the world around us, lives are touched and communities are transformed.

 

Often our own hesitation is opposition, however, the disciples and the early church took root and grew in a time of persecution of the worst kind. Ostracizing, imprisonment, flogging, stoning and crucifixion, were common fates among early believers. Despite the demise of many, Christianity spread like a wild fire in a dry forest. “Christianity that fails in a tough environment, may not be TRUE Christianity.” – (Pastor Jon McIntosh) If we are truly being His hands and feet to the world, broken lives will be made whole, as He alone has the capacity to redeems all things. God can do abundantly more than we could ever hope or even begin to imagine, if we are only willing to walk in His ways.  May we rise up and embrace our charge, and go forth to share the gifts that God has placed in each of us with the world.

 

For those who are saved,Forgiveness is Free

our lives are transformed;

the faithful drew near,

and love was outpoured.

The gifts of the Lord,

in another seen;

used for His glory,

now we are redeemed.

May we too rise up,

in love freely give;

the best of ourselves,

so others might live.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to show us the way to love well. Thank You that You send Your Spirit to empower all who choose to invest their lives in You and invite Your presence to come. Thank You that in You, we can do the very things You did. Forgive us for forgetting the tremendous power that resides within us, and teach us to trust You more, so that we may rise up and move mightily as You call. Lead us to love others in such a way, that people cannot help but turn to You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You, Lord. Be exalted O God, as we go forth in faith, operating in the gifts that You have given to share with the world around us. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:6

Opposition Moved the Message

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. – (Acts 8:1) At first glance, these words seem devastating to a growing and thriving body of believers. However, in just a few verses more, the story continues with: Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. – (Acts 8:4)

 

Though persecution had forced the believers to flee from their homes, with them, went their faith. Rather than squash what was thriving, the message of Christ began to be spread throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 

“Sometimes we have to become uncomfortable before we’ll move. We may not want to experience it, but discomfort may be the best thing for us because God may be working through our hurts. When you are tempted to complain about uncomfortable or painful circumstances, stop and ask if God might be preparing you for a special task.” – (NIV footnotes for Acts 8:4)

 

When pressure or pain,

www.jskogerboe.com

To see more great photos, go to: http://www.jskogerboe.com

make way on my path;

they may have purpose,

that isn’t God’s wrath.

Often He uses,

discomfort to grow;

prepare and strengthen,

ready us to go.

At times it’s the call,

that we truly need;

to step out in faith,

and obey His lead.

When things are painful,

may we slow and ask;

are You preparing,

for a special task?

Let our hearts rely,

on the Lord’s power;

may we overcome,

through our Strong Tower.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You don’t simply allow us to be uncomfortable for the sake of discomfort, but rather You utilize every challenge for ultimate good. Thank You for the example of the early church – what remarkable faith they had to go and share Christ, even in the face of tremendous persecution. Forgive us Father, for complaining when things are uncomfortable or painful, and help us to ask You how You might be using our circumstances to prepare us for something down the road. Teach us to trust You more, so that our initial response is to run to You. Lead us to love others with the love that You have so abundantly poured out upon each of us. May many come into a saving relationship with You. Be exalted Lord God, as we move despite discomfort, and teach us to trust where You are leading. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

And the Lord said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you.” – Exodus 33:19

Come Close to Rest

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – (Matthew 12:28-30)

 

The burdens that we take up and try to carry are far too heavy and not meant for our shoulders. Some of these may include: our sin, excessive demands, oppression and persecution, and weariness in the pursuit of paths we were never meant to walk alone. Christ sets us free from the weight of the yoke our shoulders should not bear, and grants us rest in Him. Through our relationship with Jesus, the seemingly meaningless and mundane, can become spiritually productive and purposeful, as Christ comes and provides us with His peace, love, healing and help. He makes our yoke easy and our burdens light, in comparison to the weight of the way we were attempting to walk alone. May we lay hold of the rest Christ provides for our souls as we sincerely seek Him.

 

When life’s burdens,Come Close to Rest

are weighing us down;

we need seek Christ,

where answers are found.

Jesus is kind,

and humble in heart;

He is gentle,

where solutions start.

Rest for weary,

strength when we feel weak;

gone are burdens,

we’re not meant to keep.

His peace given,

healing and help too;

restored purpose,

refreshed and renewed.

Come near, dear ones,

He will grant us rest;

sweet interlude,

Christ’s great faithfulness.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You do not desire for us to carry the weight of the world. Thank You that You ask us to come to You and give You our burdens, and allow You to carry the weight that was never meant for us, and You replace it with that which You equip us to bear. Thank You that You are gentle and humble and have rest ready for our weariness. Forgive us for trying to carry things that we were never meant to bear, and help us to lay down the loads before You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we may continually come before You and hear clearly what we are meant to carry, and what we are to hand over to You. Lead us to walk in love, unburdened by loads not meant for us. May many come to know You, as they witness the freedom we have found in the ease of Your yoke. Be exalted, Lord God, as we learn from You each new day. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. – Psalm 145:7

Our Map and Our Guide

For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end. – (Psalm 48:14)

 

There is such reassurance in these words, as the companion chapter in my reading plan today included Revelation 13. In Revelation 13, we are told of the captivity and persecution that will happen in the end times for all who faithfully follow Christ. I find that to be a bit unnerving, yet there is such reassurance in this particular verse in Psalm 13. God will be our God and our guide unto the end. He will be our map and our Companion, leading, guiding, directing, strengthening and remaining present, no matter where we are called; regardless of what we may face. Our charge is to continue to pursue Him through the study of His word (our map), seeking Him in prayer, and to allow our hearts to be tender toward Him, so that we may hear His direction and guidance. All glory, honor and praise unto You, our God and our guide for all of our days.

 

For God is our God,Our Map and Our Guide

both now and always;

He will lead and guide,

for all of our days.

When the trials come,

He stays by our side;

our heart in His hands,

for our souls, He died.

Whatever we face,

His strength is enough;

His peace and presence,

the most hopeful stuff.

So, fear not my friends,

the evil around;

for in Christ we’re saved,

our hope has been found.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our God forever, and that You will be our guide until the very end. Thank You that no matter what comes, nor what trials we face, You remain present, holding our hearts and our hands. Thank You that though harm may befall our bodies, our spirit is safe forever in You. Forgive us for our fears when we see all that is going on in the world that points to potential discomfort, and grant us Your strength and courage to trust in You and Your plans and purposes for us. May we love without limits, as You love us, and may those who know You not, come to know the hope found forever in You. Be glorified, O God, as we trust You to lead us and guide us all of our days. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad. – 1 Chronicles 16:31

No Separation

Yesterday, as I stood on the outer edge of a sea of people dressed in blue, I was deeply moved with each name that was shouted out for whom that participant would be running to remember. Name after name was called out, signifying a life taken too soon. For every name called, a family no longer had their son or daughter, sister or brother, husband or wife, mom or dad, to come home to and in whom to find comfort. Trouble and hardship had likely been the companion of so many of those wearing blue, yet each stood tall, proudly calling out the name of the loved one whom they were there to remember. As we bowed our heads in silence, followed by a time of corporate prayer, I was in awe of how great His love is for those who seek Him, and how close a community can become in the face of adversity.

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. – (Romans 8:35 & 37)

 

Four separate families who had lost loved ones in the past year, fired the cannon prior to the start of our race. The first shot was to honor the fallen; the next, for those still fighting; the third, for the families; and finally, the last blast, was to signal the beginning of our run. All along the route, there were flags and photos of soldiers who had been killed in the line of duty. Despite the somber scene as we passed the pictures, joy was on the faces of the folks in blue. It appeared that hope has been restored, and that they do indeed, know that they are more than conquerors in Him.

 

No matter what comes,No Separation

what trial we face;

we’re never too far,

to receive God’s grace.

His arms are outstretched,

we need only run;

toward Him, He’s waiting,

gracious Holy One.No Separation 2

When we are in Him,

He’ll use all for good;

the ugly, the raw,

what’s misunderstood.

Hold onto all hope,

for He never fails;

conquerors in Christ,

His love shall prevail.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that there is nothing nor anyone who can separate us from Your love. Thank You that in You, we are more than conquerors. Thank You that though we will face trials and troubles in this life, we need not fear, for You will be with us. Forgive us for our fearfulness, and help us to hold fast to our hope in You. Keep our eyes from fixing on the problems and challenges, and instead, help us to focus fully on You. Let us love as You love us, and live as the conquerors You have created us to be. May many come to know the power present in a life invested in You. Be glorified, O God, in all that we say and do. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. – Psalm 145:7

Perseverence in the Face of Persecution

Jesus was no stranger to insult, persecution, and slanderous statements. From the night on which He was betrayed, until the moment He drew His last breath on the cross, He endured ongoing evil against Him at the hands of men. Despite the malice and maltreatment, Jesus was without sin. In fact, He sustained suffering we cannot begin to fathom at the hands of mankind, all for the sake of our sins. He chose to hang on the cross and be subject to all the anguish, so that we could have life in Him. In the throes of His affliction, He asked God to forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing. What kind of love does that?

 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” – (Matthew 5:11)

 

This particular verse comes from the Sermon on the Mount, as Jesus gave some specific words of encouragement for those who would come and follow Him. Jesus himself, spoke the words about rejoicing when we are persecuted. He did not simply ask nor instruct us in these things, but rather He modeled it with His very life. Though I have not reached a point yet where I embrace even the idea of persecution, there are benefits in the process, for those who believe. Withstanding persecution takes our eyes off of earthly rewards, and instead points to the eternal; it strengthens the faith of those who endure, and those who persevere faithfully, serve as incredible witnesses.

 

Let not slander,Perseverance in the Face of Persecution

tear your heart down;

think of Jesus,

and that thorny crown.

Though He suffered,

He chose to give;

His life away,

so we might now live.

Insults were thrown,

and lies were told;

yet Jesus loved,

the Hope we can hold.

As nails were placed,

in outstretched hands;

He still chose love,

to fulfill His plan.

As skies grew dark,

and lots were cast;

the veil was torn,

and Christ breathed His last.

The best of it,

was coming soon;

for in three days,

stood the empty tomb…

 

Dear Jesus, thank You that You came. Thank You that You lived and loved and showed us what it is to walk in Your way and do the will of the Father. Thank You that You did not leave us on our own and expect us to just figure it all out, as You sent Your Holy Spirit to dwell in us, so that we have help and comfort and Your constant presence with us always. Forgive us for fearing the trials that may come our way, and grant us strength and grace to endure all things. Teach us to trust You as our source of strength and hope, even when things seem unbearable. Please grant Your peace to those who are in the midst of such suffering, and give comfort to their loved ones who are away from them. Help us to love as You love us, and may many come to know the blessed hope held in You alone. Be exalted in all that we say and do. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power. – Daniel 2:23

 

 

Settling Stones

The stoning of Stephen is an overwhelming example of an individual responding just as Jesus did, in the face of suffering and persecution.  “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’  When he had said this, he fell asleep.” – (Acts 7:59-60)  As Stephen was actively in the throes of being killed, he prayed for forgiveness for those who were murdering him.

Though I have never faced trial for my faith, nor have never had my life threatened for who I am in Christ, I have been spoken to harshly, and have had to make a choice as to how to respond in the moment.  When people speak to me angrily or with unkindness, I have come to a place where I am most often able to respond in the opposite spirit.  However, I recognize that I don’t necessarily pray right away for forgiveness.  Typically, I find that I am grateful to God that something gracious came out of my mouth, yet in order to do as Christ did, I ought to also release the offender from the offense, immediately.  Often, it is not until much later, that I realize that I am still carrying some sort of irritation about the offense, and have to stop and release that which should have been let go, hours earlier.  It is not an intentional carry, yet it is a burden that I take on, adding to a load I am not meant to tow.

As others lift up,Settling Stones

their stones set to throw;

help me to release,

the anger they sow.

For I can’t control,

what others will do;

yet I can let go,

give the reigns to You.

Help me to forgive,

the moment deeds done;

so I don’t carry,

battles You have won.

May my heart respond,

with Your heart of grace;

so they may soon know,

Your loving embrace.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You give us amazing examples in Your word of those who have gone before us and have forgiven others, as You ask us to forgive.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, who by His sacrifice and ultimate example of forgiveness and grace, made way for the Holy Spirit to come dwell in us, and empower us too, to extend the same forgiveness to others.  Forgive us for not listening to Your still small voice, or for holding onto grievances that You have asked us to lay down.  Help us to release wrongs against us – regardless of how great or small.  Lead us to love as You love, and to respond as You respond to all whom we encounter.  Let Your light be evident in all that we say and do.  May many come to know You as their Lord and Savior, through the grace that is given unto them.  Be glorified, our gracious God.  Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ.  – Ephesians 2:4-5

Where Freedom is Found

image by Soda Head

image by Soda Head

Our nation was formed,
by men of great faith;
longing for freedom,
from king’s former wraith.
Escape from bondage,
evil tyranny;
the fight to part ties,
at last to be free.
The brave and the bold,
fought so valiantly;
the benefit known,
as we are now free.
Ultimate freedom,
does come at great price;
for us to be found,
took Christ’s sacrifice.
Jesus, God’s glory,
stepped down from His throne;
made way for our God,
to truly be known.
As rockets red light,
and bombs burst in air;
give glory to God,
for our freedom share.

(Responding to Hebrews 1:3-4)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that true freedom is found in You alone. Thank You for the privilege I’ve had to grow up in a nation where I am free to worship You corporately, without fear of persecution. Please provide places for people in nations that do not know this freedom, to gather and encourage one another, knowing that our ultimate freedom is found only in You. Forgive us for taking our freedom for granted, and help us to walk boldly in the freedom found in You, so that many may be set free from all that is binding. May they find true freedom that is found in You alone. All glory and honor to You, Who has made our hearts truly free in Thee. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present