“No Ordinary Invitation”

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Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of
a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation
was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the
world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would
ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—
before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have
eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation?

This call has gone out directly to you. It does not involve living
vicariously through someone else; it involves you living directly. The
rewards of answering this invitation are beyond anything you could ever
imagine. God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal
life. This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
(John 3:16 NKJV). God, the host of heaven, wants you to win in life, and He wants to give you a reward in heaven too. Eternal life is the prize that God will give us if we come forward to claim it. It is free for the taking to whoever wants it. Come and get it! Eternal life is an eternal prize!

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4.

“The Breakthrough”

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Can you answer me? Will you answer me?

Have you ever said these words and waited for the answer to these questions? What did you do while you waited? We have two choices while we wait: we can wait patiently—to hear the words when the speaker is ready to deliver them or thinks we are ready to receive them—or we can grow impatient and demand we get an answer now.

Are you waiting for a breakthrough? A breakthrough that will bring you an answer? A breakthrough in your healing? A breakthrough in a thought process? A breakthrough in a relationship? A breakthrough at the workplace? A breakthrough of freedom from addiction or pain? What do you do while you wait for the breakthrough to come? Do you wait with patient expectation? Or do you demand that it happen sooner? Do you try to force it to happen prematurely—either before the circumstances are ready, or before you are?

I have been trying to root a plant. I cut off a 3-inch stem and placed it in a glass of water. There were a few leaves on the stem when I did so. Four months later, the stem is still three inches long, and there are just a few leaves on the stem.  Things look pretty much the same from the surface vantage point.   What has been going on with this plant?  Anything? Where are the changes and the growth I expected to see in the realm of height and leaves?  Has there been a breakthrough? I need to investigate further to find out.  I need to get to the root of it!

So, I pull the stem out of the glass. And what do I find? There, below the surface of what was visible, something has been taking place. Root after root after root has been growing, growing, and growing! And besides all the roots that have been growing, there are even more that are ready to sprout out of the stem. Well then, what is going to happen once I take this stem out of water and put it into the dirt? There is going to be a massive breakthrough! Root after root after root is going to break through the soil.  And then, seen and unseen, this plant is going to flourish.

So what do I do while I wait for the breakthrough and the answers to come in my life? I just hang out. Suspended. Seemingly unchanging to the eyes of those that are looking at me from the surface. But down below, where no one can see, something big will be happening. I will be growing roots. Roots of faith. Roots of hope. Roots of patience. Roots of expectation. Roots that are strong. I will be sending my roots deeper into the well of my salvation where the Living Water of Jesus is.  And I will be waiting, just waiting, to be placed into the perfect soil so that my roots can take off. And once I am planted in the perfect place, once all of my roots are deemed ready by the Master Gardener, I am going to have a breakthrough! My roots are going to push through the fertile soil, and I am going to grow onward and upward to God. I will seemingly begin to flourish to the watching eyes around me, but really, my greatest flourishing will be happening where they cannot see—in my spirit, where I am being rooted deeper into Christ.

This is the hope of my breakthrough, for my ultimate hope comes from Christ: the One who broke through the bars of death and burst forth from the tomb, the same One who sent His Spirit to live in me, the same One who has made His resurrection power available to me, and the same One who someday will break through the clouds and return for me. A great breakthrough is coming, and I can hardly wait! But I will. I will wait patiently for the answer to come, instead of demanding that it come sooner, before I am ready and before the Giver is ready to give it. I will wait. And then I will break through.

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For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15 NKJV)

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 NKJV)

…and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30 KJV)

 

Francee Strain, January 29, 2018

“Someone Sent You Flowers”

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It was me! But only after God sent them to you first!!!

He created them.

Crafting each petal.

Painting each color.

Misting each fragrance.

Placing it upon a stem:

To decorate the fields and hills,

Mountains and plains,

From sea to shining sea,

Atop the ponds and the forest floors,

Just waiting to be lifted to savor,

A glorious display of beauty…

And of love.

YOU are loved.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; … Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (from Matthew 6:28-29 KJV)

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Francee Strain, January 22, 2018

“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.

“Strong to the Core”

Well, it’s a new year. I have made a new year’s resolution: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and oversized sections that ought not to be there–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 year has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like apathy, pride, anger, 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, fervency, 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)

By: Francee Strain, January 12, 2018

“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.

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CHAPTER 6  Lost and Found

While we are on the topic of Advent and shepherds, here is an excerpt about the most amazing Shepherd of all. This is an excerpt taken from my book No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose.
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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. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… 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), 63-64.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version.

“Perfectly Wrapped”

The redemption of humankind was carefully crafted.  Before the foundation of the world, a plan was laid in place that Jesus would die for every person who would ever live.  Each detail had to be exactly perfect.  Each step had to be followed in the exact prescribed order.  And when all of the steps were followed, the end result was stunning.  There before us sat the perfect gift of redemption, salvation through Jesus Christ.  Not tied up in a bow, but first wound up in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, and then wrapped up in the arms of the crowds He ministered to, and then wrapped up in the lashes of a tortuous whip before His ragged body was laid on the cross, and then wrapped in burial clothes and laid in a tomb, and then wrapped in the glorious light of His resurrected body.

Will you unwrap the gift?  Will you choose to be wrapped in the love that was perfectly crafted to enfold you?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)

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Copyright Francee Strain, December 3, 2017

 

 

“Thankful Thoughts”

We have most likely learned that although it may not be raining now, one day it will be. Even though we may be living in relative ease right now, we know to anticipate the “rain” of struggles. Part of being human is facing the difficult times that will be forthcoming someday. On the other hand, we may already be living in the “someday” and be in the midst of those struggles right now. Our lives may be in states of chaos, with one crisis after another, and we can barely think straight. How can we rest amid our suffering? How can we praise God anyway? One place to find answers is to look at the life of Job.

There was a way that Job was able to find peace and rest. He said, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. … With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding” (Job 12:10, 13). Job’s burdens were lightened because he placed his trust in God’s character. When we meditate on who God is in relation to who we are, our thoughts will become peaceful as we recognize His sovereignty and omnipotence. When we read these verses and see that He has understanding, it can bring relief to our minds to know that at least He has things figured out even if we do not. God is wise and strong, and He has been around so much longer than we have. He knows how things work–He made them! If He created the earth and He created us, then He definitely knows what to do with our lives. Our minds can be calmed by understanding that He holds our lives in His hands and gives us every breath. So when the rains of life come, we can rest safely in His shelter, knowing He is going to bring growth from this downpour.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 193.

“No More Tears”

“Whew!”  That is about all I can say right now.  How about you?  Is your heart heavy and hurting?  It seems that everywhere I turn, people are in great pain.

I must admit that I have been crying my share of tears this year, even just this month; yes, even just this week.  Difficulties just pile and pile on.  Relentless.  Tears cried in a hospital.  Tears cried at a memorial service.  Tears cried in my home.  Tears cried in anger.  Tears cried in pain.  Tears cried in disappointment, frustration, offense, … .

Well, I have news for you, for us.  For those of us who have Jesus as our Savior, someday there are not going to be any more tears.  No more hospital tears, funeral tears, angry tears, pains-of-all-kinds tears.  Nope.  Not a one.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  (Revelation 21:4 KJV)

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Francee Strain, November 15, 2017