Treasure Seekers

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It is March. People are talking about shamrocks and spring, rainbows and pots of gold found at the end of them. The seeking begins—for a new season, state titles for sports teams, glittery prom dresses, graduation invitations, and destinations for summer vacations. We are looking ahead to the future, searching and searching for something to fill our needs and satisfy us. Someone else is seeking, too—God. He is seeking to know us and love us. He has just what we need and what would satisfy us. And wonderfully, He is not elusive like a pot of gold or some other treasure. He is right there to be found, if only we look.

The Call to the Seekers (book excerpt)
He is seeking our hearts and relationships with us. He knows what we need and is able to do miracles to meet our individual needs. Many examples of His individualized care have been recorded throughout history—in the pages of journals, newspapers, biographies, history books, and the Bible. Sometimes, the care has come in the forms of jobs, material goods, miracles of healing, or someone’s arrival at just the right moment. I have seen provision for my family that has ranged from things as large as a house and land to as small as a pair of toddler’s socks, some contact lenses, and a few words on a page. I am quite sure, too, that there are other larger and smaller things of which I may never be made aware. May we be seekers of God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and He in His divine wisdom will provide what we need (Matt. 6:33). May we come to Him as a new pursuit or as the culmination of what we have been searching for all along. Let us not hide from His light and His love. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6 NKJV).

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 57-8.

Photo by Francee Strain

When It Just Doesn’t Quit

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Sometimes, it just doesn’t quit. You know what I’m talking about. The stuff. It just keeps coming at you faster than you can swallow, or even blink. There you are, and there it is. And that, and that, and that too. Overwhelmed. Swamped. Buried. Defeated. Hopeless. Despairing.

The trials compound. The stack of bills mounts. The calendar is crammed to capacity. The seams are about to burst. And you are about to unravel.

The crises become commonplace. The hours fly and crawl at the same time. The supporters grow tired of supporting. And there you are, left all alone with a mess in your hands. And in front of you. And on all sides. Pressing in. Weighing down.

When is this going to stop? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this? I am so ready to be done. I am past ready.

And then, guess what?  It rains some more.  The straw that broke the camel’s back is joined by more straws. You stare bewildered. You stare blankly. You are staring it in the face.

But then—if your heart belongs to Jesus–a still small voice will come. It will remind you of the words. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Be still, and know that I am God. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”* What precious words. And these words are truth, spoken straight to your heart from the source of all truth: God Himself, the One who holds the world in His hands, and the One who holds you in His hands.

A few blinks will clear away the haze, and the clarity will dawn. God Himself, the Maker of the universe, is right there beside you. He holds your hand, and He holds your heart. Strength will begin to infuse you. Joy will begin to rise up. Hope will be restored. And you can have a plan. He can be your plan.

The piles will still pile on. The stuff will still keep coming. The pain will still be real. But you will be different. With God on your side, the hopeless heart will become hope-filled.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NKJV)

*From Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 46:10, and Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

Francee Strain, February 14, 2019

Photo by Francee Strain

Consider the Present

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God has invited us in our lifetimes to receive the gift of His salvation, love, and presence. He draws us to Himself through multitudes of ways. He may draw us with words through things such as the Bible, a pastor’s sermon, a song, or a conversation with a believer. He may draw us through the supernatural with things such as miracles, visions, dreams, and signs. He may draw us through creation with beauty so stunning that we are awestruck and our hearts have to worship. He may draw us through the actions of others. He may draw us through gifts or talents that He has given to us or someone else. But no matter which methods He uses to draw us, He draws us with loving-kindness because He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). His most amazing and sacrificial representation of this love was expressed when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Before Jesus died in such a horrible way He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32 NKJV). His very death draws us to life. This was His purpose for coming to us: so we could come to Him.

Today is a gift of opportunity to come and speak with God in prayer. We are able to pray at any point in the day to accept the gift that God offers us, but since we do not know what will happen in the next moments of our lives, we should not delay something as important as coming to God. There are no guarantees that we will make it past the morning, until our lunch hours, or through the night. We need to act now, while we still can. We can pray right now to accept His invitation. There is no better time than the present. Today is the day. Will today be your day?

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 86.

The Heart of Wholeness

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My heart can be whole even when it is broken.
There is a supernatural thread to hold it together, an unbreakable thread to bind it.
God, the Omnipotent One, the Healer, holds my heart in His hands.

When life tries to break me, I remain whole.
Whole is healthy, not unhurt.
Whole is strong, not untrembling.
Whole is real, not the absence of reality.
The impossibility becomes possible.
God knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thus, even when I am stretched to the breaking point, I won’t break. He is the Master Weaver.

The things that try to chain me, break me, burn me, trample me, shake me, prevent me, and destroy me are nothing compared to the skill with which He has formed me.
Even when evil surrounds me, the ties that bind my heart to His cannot be severed.
He is the Master of my destiny, of my heart, of my very soul.

Even when I fall down flat, I can lean on Him.
Even when I am at the bottom, I can rise to the top.
Even when I am heavy with pain, my burden can be lightened.

In danger, I am sheltered.
In damage, I am restored.
In dire consequences, I am relieved.
In my sin-sick state, I am redeemed.

Even when things do not or cannot change, I can.
The heart of wholeness comes in giving Him my whole heart, even when it is not whole.

Though this it is, through this it is.
True it is.
He is.
And I am truly His.
This is the heart of wholeness.

Francee Strain, revised version, February 1, 2019

Photo by Francee Strain

Come Unto Me Ministries

Come Unto Me Ministries is sweet 16 today!!!  What a blessing it has been to have God give me this ministry and to watch Him develop it over the years!!!

Every aspect outlined in the beginning has now come to pass.  Hearts and lives have been touched, especially mine.

I am grateful to those who have supported me in this ministry over the years.  Thank you for pouring into my life, and thus, the lives of others.

May we all come unto Him, and may He receive all the glory!!!

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 KJV).

 

Photo by Francee Strain

 

Wise Men Still Seek Him

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Many have just passed the season of celebrating Christmas and Three Kings’ Day. Where will thoughts turn for the remainder of the year? What will be celebrated? What will be sought? What gifts will be given and received?

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Chapter 5 Hide and Seek (book excerpt)

I have seen a phrase on Christmas merchandise that says, “Wise men still seek Him.” The foundational reference is to the wise men who were seeking Jesus around the time of His birth, the ones who traveled many miles in order to worship Him and present Him with gifts (see Matt. 2:1–11). The reference for today’s usage of the phrase is that wisdom is indicated if we are spiritually seeking Jesus. We often put great emphasis on this story, focusing our thoughts onto it to see how we might apply the concept to our own lives. What does it mean today for us to seek Him? And will we be wise enough to do it? Will we do it even if it involves much time and great distances? What gifts will we present to Him when we find Him? These are important questions for us to answer, not just at Christmastime, but every day of the year.

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CHAPTER 6 Lost and Found (book excerpt)

We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch.

The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 57, 63-64.

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Strong to the Core 2

It is a new year. New resolutions. New realizations: some of the same old same old found its way into my new year last year, and I expect the same will happen again this year—unless I go on the offense.

I find myself with this priority at the top of my resolution list: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and over-sized sections that ought not to be there—the ones from the distant past that keep showing up, along with the new ones I tacked on in 2018—those are my focus. The weakness that resides within me—I am going to replace it with strength. I have a great personal trainer lined up for the task, and I have a willing spirit. Ready. Set. Go to Jesus.

Yes, I am going to be trained by Jesus. I need to work on the core of my spirit. The neglect of the previous years has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like frustration, disappointment, prayerlessness, despair, and fear have grown in size. As I have neglected to deal with these problems, not removing them and replacing them with better things like love, forgiveness, hope, patience, joy, and boldness, I have grown weak.

I am my own worst enemy. If I do not wake up early enough to go to the gym before heading out the door to work, the slippery slope of neglect begins, because often by the end of the workday and the home tasks, I am too tired. I tell myself I will try and do better tomorrow, but tomorrow usually never finds me doing so. Change takes desire and commitment, time and attention, a want-to and a know-how. I want to. He knows how. So, let’s do this!

I look to my trainer, and I ask Him what I need to do. He tells me to approach Him and watch what He does, and then follow His example. I come to Him, trusting in His perfect knowledge and unfailing skill. He is kind, loving, and patient. He forgives me when I fail. He walks right along beside me, offering encouragement and further instructions. I take a step forward, and then another, and then another. And before I know it, I realize this is what I was made to do, and I am becoming who I was made to be.

My focus changes. My tone changes. My ability changes. I mature as I remain teachable. Soon, I have a passion for rising up to begin my day by being infused with strength. When my day comes to an end, I look forward to more of His presence beside me tomorrow. I close my eyes in sleep, and I know in my core that I am strong because of the strength that has been placed within me by the hand of God.

“[T]hat He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV)

© Francee Strain, January 2, 2019

Resolved to Trust

“Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.”

… We can come, resolving to trust. There will always be areas where our resolve will be strong and other areas where it will be weak, but this should make no difference or cause any delay in coming to God. We need Him in all areas, and thus, we should make our coming soon, and make it quick. Acting will strengthen our trust, while inaction will weaken it. We can ask Him to increase our faith and to help us with any unbelief that we have. We should be resolved to come to Him for His strength–strength to add to our weakness and more strength to add to our existing strength. We can come even if we are a solitary number. We can stand even if we stand alone. We should be willing to pay the ultimate price for Him because He paid the ultimate price for us. We should come like sheep to the shepherd; they come because they are called by a voice that they know and trust. Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.

… It is wise to have a heart that listens for God’s voice so that even during times when life seems dead and dark, it will still be able to hear Him. It is also wise to have a responsive heart that is quick to come when God calls it. We need to have the understanding that a delayed response can fill the void with excuses, and before we know it, we might find ourselves disobedient and ignoring His calls. Life and light are there within our grasp; we just need to come forth to receive them. This is wisdom.

We can come to Him whether we know much about Him or little. We can come with whatever amount of spiritual understanding we have. We can come with our searching and ask Him to reveal Himself to us. We can ask Him to make His will known to us. We can come with our confusion and questioning, our bewilderment and asking “Why me?” He gives wisdom liberally to all who ask for it (James 1:5).

God is a big God who allows us to come to Him no matter what our statuses are. We do not have to be a king to gain the attention of the King. We do not have to be perfect to approach the perfect God. We do not have to be a giant of the faith to approach the One who is the source of all faith. We can come no matter the amount of our faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed. He wants us to be seekers who find Him for the first time. Thereafter, He wants us to be people who continually seek His face. He is there to be found.

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 115-116.

Immanuel

Immanuel. God with us. This is one of His names, one of His amazing
characteristics, and one of His precious promises. He has said that He will
never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When our hearts are heavy and
our spirits are wounded, Immanuel. When our minds swirl and whirl in
chaos and questions, Immanuel. When nothing makes sense and all hope
seems lost, Immanuel. Storms rage. Dreams die. Immanuel. People leave.
People die. Immanuel. Homes are lost. Possessions ravaged. Immanuel.
Days are long. Nights are longer. Immanuel. Pits are deep. Scars are
deeper. Immanuel. No one even understands our pain and the depths
of it. Immanuel. In this name, there is hope and there is rest. Immanuel.
Comfort can be found in knowing that we are not alone in what we are
facing. We can rest, assured of His promise to always be with us. And
because God always keeps His promises, we can cling to this name for all
we are worth. Immanuel. When we are lost, we can find Him: Immanuel.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 65-66.

Tranquil Thoughts

It is important to take time for reflection and gratitude, to think about who we are and why we are here. But we should not just stop to smell the roses—we should take time to think about them and their magnificent beauty. If we allow our thoughts to continue on to who created the roses, we will enter into thoughts of wonder and praise. Little coffee breaks for the mind, little time-outs, and little mental vacations will do much for us, because it is in these moments that we will meet Him there. Note the magnificence of His manifold works, which were made in His wisdom (see Pss. 104, 147). He made the sun, moon, and stars and calls them by name. He also made us and knows our names! He created the earth and everything in it. He maintains His creation for all of His creatures—on land, in the sea, and in the air. He is great and is clothed with honor and majesty. His glory endures forever. Truly, He is too wonderful to comprehend, but we should surely try!

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Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 189.

Photo by Francee Strain