Faithful Faith

What does your faith look like?  Do you have any?  And if so, where have you placed it?  In yourself?  In financial security?  The government?  Good deeds?  Church attendance?  False gods?  Grandma’s faith?  Ephesians 2:4–9 says we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not anything we produce ourselves or achieve by doing good works.  It is a gift of God.  Faith comes through the grace of Jesus Christ.  He is the author and finisher of faith.1

Once we have placed our faith in Him, how do we then use that faith in our lives?  Is it fiercely focused, distracted by deterrents, hanging on by a thread, or put up on the shelf?  Faith is made for a day-by-day, moment-by-moment experience.  It keeps our eyes looking forward in hope and our hearts reaching forward to God. 

When we are distracted, we are chasing our own desires, fretting about world events, seeking after beauty and longevity, and trying to gain fame and fortune.  We are looking for bigger and better, more and more, greener grass, and no suffering.  We become selfish and insatiable, and we become misdirected and apathetic about true faith.

On the other hand, when our faith is focused, it is a faithful faith.  This kind of faith withstands the test of time, the stormy gales, the fires and floods.  It says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  It is calm and collected, peaceful and patient, tried and true, strong and sure, ready and real. Even though it is battle-scarred, it is beautiful.  It is built with grit.  It is not overwhelmed or overflown.  It is not downtrodden or despairing.  It is not helpless or hopeless.  It presses on when it is pressed down. It rises up when it is laid low.  It pushes forward while being pulled back.  With faithful faith, we are more than conquerors.  God’s grace is sufficient.  He gives peace that passes understanding. He loves His own with an everlasting love. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Faithful faith is unshakable, persevering, enduring, stalwart, steadfast, and vested.

Faithful faith is not like deterred faith that is snatched away by lies, choked by cares, deceived, temporary, and based on favorable circumstances.  Faithful faith is not a fair-weather friend.  It sticks it out through the difficulties, the ugly times, the dark nights, and the cold winters.  Faithful faith is tried in the furnace and found genuine.

This sounds like being perfect, doesn’t it?  Well, none of us are perfect.  So, what then?  What if we have failed?  What if we have set our faith aside?  What if we have disowned it?  We have plenty of examples to look at of people who have done this and what the outcomes were.  The apostle Peter claimed he would always be faithful to Christ, yet, he messed up—big time.  He denied Christ.  But then, he came back; and then, he went forward.  David failed, multiple times. Then he repented, received forgiveness, and moved forward.  The apostle Paul said he struggled with his flesh fighting against the Spirit, but he continued to press on, day after day, year after year.  He moved forward.  Yes, faithful faith moves forward after failure, moves forward in the face of fear.  It moves forward forgiven and hoping for the future.

Faithful faith comes when Christ is put first.  He is given preeminence, and all eyes turn to Him.  Faithful faith worships through war, blesses through battle, remains courageous in calamity and chaos, perseveres, trusts, and hopes—because God is love, and He is loved.

So, hold on, my friends, no matter how dark the night, for joy comes in the morning.  The day will dawn when we will see the Bright and Morning Star.  Let’s be faithfully faithful to the One who is the author and finisher of our faith.  Let’s turn our eyes to Him, turn our hearts to prayer, and turn our feet to godliness. Let’s determine that life will be lived in Christ alone.  Our God will hear us, and His presence will be with us.  We can keep believing, trusting, and moving forward.  Yes, our faithful faith can keep us moving forward.  Even though it may have gone through a start-and-stop cycle, it continues the journey.  The road to faithfulness never ends.  This God is our God forever and ever, and He will be our guide until death.2  Let’s set our hearts toward Him and determine to finish the race and keep the faith.  The past is past, and we cannot change it, but we can move on forward through this day and into tomorrow.

Scary and shaky times will come.  How will we respond?  We can choose to go in the strength of the Lord God.  Our spirits can be willing although our flesh is weak.  He can help our unbelief. Moving forward is how faith works.  Understanding the definition that faith is the evidence of things not seen means we have to move forward without knowing.3  But, that doesn’t matter, because we know Him, the God of the universe, the One with all power and all knowledge.  We can trust Him.  We can keep being faithful because He is always faithful.  His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new every morning.4  We can keep moving forward after mistakes, times of doubt, and unbelief.  There is no need for us to be distracted and turn aside after vain human things which cannot satisfy us or deliver us.  His mercy is available, and we can come boldly to His throne of grace for help.5

So, when the questions come, fear rises, emotions erupt, and our hearts break, may we entrust ourselves to God’s hand and God’s plan.  Let’s not harden our hearts, turn our backs, set faith aside, or call it quits.  And let’s not put our faith into storage until the next crisis comes along, but instead, access it day by day.  Let’s allow the author and finisher of our faith to grow our faith and bring it to completion.

We can consider the great things He has done in the past and look to the future with the faith that will help us live now.  David faced Goliath and won.  Moses faced the Red Sea and crossed it on dry ground. Joshua faced the walls of Jericho, and they fell.  Jesus faced death on the cross and triumphed over it.  All of these situations looked insurmountable, but each person set his face to God, chose to do His will, and moved forward with faithful faith.  And God was faithful to bring the victory.


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 12:2.

2 See Psalm 48:14.

3 See Hebrews 11:1.

4 See Lamentations 3:23.

5 See Hebrews 4:16.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 15, 2022

There in the Midst

I was the new kid on the block, except that I was already an adult and was about to turn twenty-one years old.  I went from being a military daughter to being a military wife.  I arrived in a new state fifteen months after newly arriving in the previous one.  Friendships are difficult to develop while one gallivants around the country.  Yet, in this newest place, something extraordinary happened—within two months, I was invited over to someone’s apartment for lunch.  A young mother of three extended an invitation to me.  And this is how the story of her investment in my life began.

I had been married only eighteen months and did not have any children.  I came from a different world than this woman did, and even though we were now in the same world, I did not live like she lived.  Our family backgrounds were different, our ages were different, our current family situations were different, our careers were different.  Whatever could we have in common?  Jesus.  That is what we had in common.  A passion and love for Christ dwelled in each of our hearts, and something magnificent happened when we came together in friendship—He was there in our midst.  We moved from being friends to being sisters.

The investment turned from sandwiches and tea to fervent prayers and tears.  Tears of joy and tears of sorrow flowed down our faces as we allowed one another to truly see what others had never seen.  My friend gave her time, energy, listening ears, and shoulders to cry on.  She encouraged me, comforted me, consoled me, and gave me a talking to when I needed it.  She saw me at my best, and she saw me at my worst.

Almost 29 years have passed, and this woman has helped mold me into who I am today.  She did not do this of her own power but through the power of Christ moving within her and working through her words and deeds.  At the times I could barely lift up my head, she lifted it for me.  At the times I could barely place one foot in front of the other, she cheered me on.  When all I could do was lay in my bed with messy hair and pajamas for my daytime wardrobe, she sat at my bedside while the casserole she had brought cooled on the counter.  In my pits of despair, God moved her spirit to touch mine.

Agony in life, marriage, health, parenting, career, grieving, disappointment, and rejection all found her at my side.  She was there by phone, by text, by greeting card, and by physical presence, pouring into my woundedness the very things God knew that I needed.  Elation in life, marriage, parenting, career, and other arenas found me running to the phone to share the mountaintop experiences with her.  She rejoiced with me when I rejoiced, and she wept with me when I wept.

How many hours of herself has she given for me?  Countless hours I am sure I will never know about— countless hours spent in prayer—and yet, these ones count as much as the obvious ones.  In my heart, I know that at all of these moments I was loved with the love of Christ.  Through her life, I see God’s unconditional love, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness, patience, and determination to help me succeed in the things for which He has purposed my life.  When she invests in me, she invests in God’s kingdom.  She spurs me on to love and good deeds and reminds me of who I am and what I am here for.  She is the one who invested, but I am the one who found the treasure. 


A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.1


NOTES

1 Proverbs 17:17 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 13, 2022.  This is a revised and updated version of an article I wrote in December 2017. 

The mug pictured in the photo was gifted to me by this friend.

A Season to Bloom

It is our season to bloom.  Not because it is spring, and not because the flowers are blooming, but because we are to bloom in every season of life for our entire lives.  We do not know how long our season will be.  We do not know the number of our days.  But we can know the things to do to cause life to bloom or wither.  We can grow up into Christ and shine forth, or we can shrink back and shrivel.  We can showcase the beauty God has instilled in us, or we can hide it from the world.

Life is not a perfect garden.  Things are often difficult and thorny, the ground dry and rocky; yet, we can let our roots go deep.  We can hold on to Him through the storms, the howling wind, the driving rain, the pounding hail, and the periods of drought.  We can keep pressing on until the harvest.  And when that time comes, we will have produced fruit.  We can be representative of how to survive and thrive, if we abide in the Vine.1  We can bloom when and where we are planted through the strength and the power of God. We can then show the beauty of the finished product and what the world has been needing.   

God has us here for this moment.  And even in difficult times, we can have peace and share peace because Jesus gives peace.  And when it is all said and done, He can bring a glorious harvest from our lives.  So, bloom where you are planted, whether it is in the aisle of a grocery store or the waiting room of a clinic, the deck of a cruise ship or the sand of a beach, the street corner of a bustling city or the counter of a country café; and do it whether you are there for hours, days, weeks, or years.  Every moment of life, every location, is an opportunity to bloom with beauty and spread the fragrance of Christ.2

He has an ultimate purpose for our lives, and every day and every decision moves us either toward that purpose or away from it.  What about when it’s difficult, when we are tired, upset, and everything is going wrong?  Yes, even then.  At all times, and everywhere we go, we are to represent Him.  He is worthy of our praise, at all times and in all circumstances.  So, when the ground is rocky, grow.  When the land is parched, flourish.  When the sun doesn’t shine, reflect His Light.  When this isn’t what you signed up for, complete the mission.  When no one is kind or loving, you be the one to rise to the occasion.  Are we perfect?  Not even close.  But we can always strive to do our best.  He gave His life for us.  Can we, with gratitude, give ours in return?  Can we make His name known, shine His light, show His love, and bring Him glory?  Yes.  Every season is a season to bloom.   


NOTES

1 See John 15:1–8.

2 See 2 Corinthians 2:1417.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 1, 2022

Powerful

(This article is also available as a podcast episode.  Please visit the podcast page on my website at https://franceestrain.com or visit “Eternal Purpose Podcast” on Spotify or Anchor to listen.)

A life lived for God is a life full of power, but sometimes that power goes untapped.  There is power in His name and power when He acts, but sometimes we ignore His name, and we ignore His acts, so we miss His power.  I want to spell the word powerful with two L’s because that is what He is.  There is more impact.  He is full of power and operates with full power. 

How do we get access to this power?  God Himself is powerful, and for those who have placed their faith in Jesus’ atonement for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them.  And the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in them.  There is resurrection power available to our dead souls and our “dead” lives.  And we have 24-hour access to this power.  We’re not limited to one hour a week while we attend church or perhaps another hour when we’re at a prayer meeting or a Bible study class.  No, the power does not come from our schedules, our words, our location, our making a formula for it, our having good behavior, or anything else for that matter.  The power comes from God Himself, from Him and His authority, from His omnipotent character.  He is the King of the universe, and He’s at our right hands when our lives belong to Him.  His presence will be with us.  He will hold our hands and lead us and guide us.  He will also hold us in His capable and mighty hands and shelter us with them.  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High dwells under the shadow of the Almighty.1

So, when we approach God in prayer, we are inviting Him to act.  When we pray and ask, we invoke His power.  We access His strength.  We receive His help.  We are no longer alone, and our strength is no longer human strength; it is now supernatural.  He has all wisdom, power, and authority.  He is mighty to save.  We fight the right way when we fight on our knees, asking for Him to be involved in our lives.

But sometimes, we forget this truth.  How many times have we realized that He could have intervened long ago before things got to be such a mess, if only we had talked to Him about it?

Sometimes, it feels like I’m standing in the middle of a field with gusts of wind trying to blow me down.  There’s no shelter, no cover, no stoppage of the relenting and howling force.  Other times, I feel like a tree in the rainforest being perpetually drowned with overwhelming and regular downpours.  Sometimes, I feel like a beach with wave after wave crashing upon me, and breaking over me, and grinding me into sand.  But then, I remember.  I remember, and the power comes.  I set my mind on Him: the One who commands the storms and calms them, the One who commands life to return and death to flee, the One who commands the supernatural and brings miracles out of the impossible, the One who commands creation to exist and keeps it in perfect order.  I remember my feet are planted on the rock, the solid rock, the sure foundation.  I am not on shifting sand.  I remember who hears my prayers.  I remember who gives me the breath of life.  Yes, I remember the One who holds my very life in His hands. 

Yes, the situations may be beyond our control, but they are not beyond His.  God is still in control.  We may be a diligent worker whose work unravels before our eyes through no fault of our own.  We may experience the death of a loved one that seems to steal our very life and reason for living.  We may experience damage in our physical lives that cannot be undone.  We may have health issues that can’t be resolved.  We may be financially savvy yet take one financial hit after another.  But remember, we are not helpless; we are not hopeless; we are not abandoned; and we are not alone.  God never leaves us.  And because of that fact, that means the power never leaves us either.  Grief doesn’t have to shroud us.  Despair doesn’t have to imprison us.  Unchangeable circumstances don’t have to define us.  We are His.  We are heard, seen, known, loved, and helped.  Peace, be still.  God has an eternal purpose for us.  We can keep moving forward through the storms, through the fires, through the floods, through the pain.  Nothing can thwart His plan. 

We can move from hopeless to hopeful, from wandering aimlessly to having each step guided, from having a mind filled with worry to one filled with wonder.  Yes, when we look upon His power, we will be in awe—in awe of who He is, of what He does, and how He loves us.  His grace is sufficient for us, and His power shines in the midst of our weaknesses.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but when we abide in Him, we live attached to the ultimate power source.

King David could leap over walls; Joshua shouted and walls fell; Moses walked between two walls of a sea, parted for his safe passage.  We, too, can face the impenetrable walls in front of us because no one can close the doors God opens.  He will make a way for us to press on.  We can have the courage to go, to do, to say, and to be.  We can be bold, unafraid, fearless.  He is our Helper.  We can enter the promised land when we follow His leading.  We can enter into the things He has for us.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  Tragedies can be turned into triumphs.  One stone made the giant fall.  One week of obedience and one shout made the walls of Jericho fall.  One death on the cross made death fall.  Jesus overcame victoriously, and He lives to intercede for us.  He has resurrection power.  Believe.  Pray.  Ask.

We can press on with hope and purpose.  We can press on with power, the power of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the faithful God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.  We get to choose this day whom we will serve.2  And this is whom I have chosen. 

His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.


For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that 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.3


NOTES

1 See Psalm 91:10.

2 See Joshua 24:15.

3 Ephesians 3:14–21 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

There are many Bible passages that discuss God’s power.  Here are a few others I accessed for this article: Joshua 1:9, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 89:13.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 22, 2022

Three Crosses

There were three crosses, and upon each one an important decision was made. On the cross in the middle hung Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He willingly chose to offer up His life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins and give us an opportunity to spend eternity with Him. On either side of Him hung a man who was facing the end of his life and was about to pass into eternity. They each had time to make a choice. One chose at that moment to reject who Jesus was and what was being offered to him—salvation and eternal life. The other chose to believe and asked Jesus to save him. To this man Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”¹

On which side of the cross will 𝘺𝘰𝘶 stand? What choice will you make while you have this moment of time?


NOTES

¹ Scripture portion taken from Luke 23:43 of the New King James Version of the 𝘏𝘰𝘭𝘺 𝘉𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

© Revised text and photo Francee Strain, April 15, 2022. Original article posted April 19, 2019.

Easter—The Preparation, the Purpose, and the Promise

The following is a repost of an article I wrote in 2020. It is also available for you to listen to on my new podcast. Please visit “Eternal Purpose Podcast” on Anchor or Spotify or visit the podcast page on my website.

Part 1: The Preparation

Are you preparing for Easter? Most people I know are doing so. Of course, things may look a bit different this year, but preparations are still underway. There is a bit of hustle and bustle, planning and buying, hoping and anticipating. But beyond the calendar and the events, is there a deeper preparation taking place? Are people preparing their hearts? Are you? Am I?

Why would we do this? Why take the time to prepare our hearts for Easter?  Well, think of the gravity of the situation. Think of what Easter is really all about.

Think of the weight of our sins. Think of that weight being placed upon the sinless shoulders of Jesus Christ.

Think of the things Jesus gave up for us.
• He left His throne room to hang on a cross.
• He set aside His crown as King of all the universe to wear a crown of thorns.
• He set aside His vestments as Lord of all Lords, to be stripped and beaten, mocked and humiliated, tortured and killed.
• He gave up the company of His Father so He could die alone, covered in our sins that the Father could not look upon.

As He labored for His very breath, He labored for our very souls.

Yes, Jesus gave up much so that we could have much. He gave up His very life so we could have life. And not just any life, but life abundant and life eternal.

Easter was not a random event.  It was not comprised of random circumstances. It was not set into motion by random people.  Easter was very much planned and was an act of the heart.

God prepared for Easter: He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. God readied His heart with love and offered us a relationship with Himself.

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)

Jesus prepared for Easter: He surrendered to death on the cross in order to save souls. Jesus readied His heart with grace and offered His life in the stead of ours.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(John 10:10b NKJV)

How will we prepare for Easter?  Will we ready our hearts for God’s great plans for them?  Will we give our very hearts to God?

For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

(Romans 10:13 NKJV)

Part 2: The Purpose

When the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son Jesus to be the savior of the world. When the preparations were finished, the purpose was revealed.

As Jesus lived His life, He prepared to fulfill that purpose. He showed the people who God was—He said that anyone who saw Him was seeing God, as He was the perfect representation of God. Jesus was God in the flesh. He told them there is more beyond this life. He traveled, spoke, taught, and healed. He listened, prayed, explained, and performed miracles. But why? Why did He come? To be a good teacher, a good motivational speaker, to stir things up, to inspect and condemn the law breakers, to wow the crowds, to show off His magnificent abilities and command of power? No. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Who are “the lost,” and why are they lost? Lost from where?

From the foundation of the world, a plan was made: to deliver people from the bondage of sin, the power of death, and an eternity separated from God. But from the beginning of humankind, people chose rebellion, to go against God’s desires, to live lives of imperfection, to taste the pleasure of sin for a season, and to do things to their own detriment. They wandered away like lost sheep. And like a good shepherd, what God wanted, and still wants during all of this unpleasant behavior on our parts, is for us to come back—to be with Him, to choose things that are good for us, to know freedom, to be released from pain, to have abundant life, and ultimately to have eternal life in His presence. He came to bring our hearts back to Him.

When did the purpose get fulfilled? On Good Friday. Was it just another day in history, or was it history in the making? How could something so horrible be so good? What was the purpose of this day?

The intersection of the preparation and the execution of the purpose occurred. Purpose can be defined as the reason for something, the cause, the underlying factor. The reason for Good Friday was that it was the way, the plan, God’s will. It was to make a way to establish a relationship between God and man that would never end. Purpose can also be defined as intent. There was purpose in Jesus’s fulfilling of the purpose. He was moving with intent, motivation, drive, and passion. Jesus set His face to head to Jerusalem where His crucifixion would take place. Good Friday was the intersection of purpose and purpose, where the reason met with the motivation.

Jesus was moved with purpose to fulfill the purpose for which He came. He could not be swayed or stopped—although plenty of opportunities were provided for Him to cease. He pressed on—in spite of betrayal, temptation, abandonment, and the coming separation from His Father. He could have stopped at any point along the course of His life. He could have declined to go through with His baptism and subsequent entrance into public ministry. He could have given in to temptation. He could have stopped preaching and teaching at any point along the way. He could have made himself scarce. He could have fled from the leaders in Jerusalem who wanted Him dead. He could have skipped going to the Passover meal where Judas was given permission to proceed with his evil plan. And after the Passover meal, He could have gone somewhere besides the garden where He knew the soldiers would come to arrest Him under Judas’s direction. And during His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, He could have said, “My will be done, God, not Yours.” He could have put up a fight at any point along the process: while being arrested, being falsely accused, receiving a mock trial, being condemned to death, being beaten, or even while being crucified. He could have called for the armies of angels He commanded in heaven to come to His rescue. The evildoers could have been wiped out with fire or Old Testament-like plagues. He had the power to take lives, as He is the one who holds each breath. But, He did none of these things to prevent His death. His surrender was great because His love and the purpose for which He came to this earth was greater. No one took His life from Him, He laid it down willingly. The purpose was fulfilled with purpose.

His death on the cross atoned for the sin of all humankind. Jesus went to the cross, not for His sins (He was perfect and had none), but for ours; not for His benefit (there is no benefit to torture and death), but for ours. His death served to redeem us, to purchase our salvation, to give us His righteousness so that we could come into God’s holy presence. All of this was offered freely, willingly, to any and all who will receive it.

Jesus held the power to lay down His life or keep it, but He chose to die rather than live without us. There was no other way, no other reason. He loved us to the death. Can we come to that same point? Can we return our passion to Him with the same intensity as He gave His to us?

This is a decision each of us has to make–no one else can make it for us, no one else can choose Him for us, and no one else is responsible to do this but us. So many say that they are following God. They give lip service. They point out a list of good deeds. They compare themselves and elevate themselves above those who are worse behaved than they are. But there is none righteous, no not one. We are all separated from God because of our sin. We cannot be in His presence without the covering atonement of Jesus’s blood. Jesus came to be the mediator between God and man. He victoriously did away with the penalty of sin by dying as a substitution for us. Jesus endured the cross and finished His race (Hebrews 12:2). He atoned, rescued, and redeemed. He provided us a way to escape eternal separation from Him. He removed the barriers that separated us from God. He bridged the gap between us and God. He paid the debt of sin we owed but could never pay. He exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness. Forgiveness was freely poured out. The crucifixion wasn’t to change a day in history, it was to change the future and rid us of the history of our sinful pasts, presents, and futures. He came to offer us the opportunity to be with Him forever. He gave us access to God, His power, and His kingdom. This was the purpose for Jesus’s life and death and why He lived with such purpose—to fulfill His purpose.

The purpose for Good Friday was a good purpose—to give eternal life to whoever would receive it. Jesus seeks the hearts of individuals and stands at the door of each heart and knocks. The way we can know eternal life is to answer that door and come to know Jesus Christ, to believe in what He did on the cross, to accept the life He offers to us now. The sacrifice was made once, but the offer remains open for all who live now, with an opportunity to receive it.

One particular day, I purposed to accept what He offered me, and my purpose now is to live out my remaining days with Him and for Him. What is your purpose? Are you living your life on purpose and with eternal purpose? Are you pursuing a relationship with God? He calls to us in love, with arms wide open to receive us. We have this moment now so that we can have Him beyond the now.

The purpose (the reason) and the purpose (the motivation) were the same. They intersected on Good Friday, and the point of their intersection is named you, me, us.

Part 3: The Promise

When it comes to Jesus, a promise made is a promise kept. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He did not just pay lip service to God, He followed through with His actions. The purpose for which preparation had been made was accomplished. He gave His life on the cross to open up a way to eternity with God, and there are so many things subsequently promised, I could fill pages and pages. I will mention a few:

The Promise of Resurrection
The cross is empty and so is the tomb. Jesus promised He would rise from the dead on the third day, and He did! There were witnesses. He walked with them, talked with them, ate with them, and then bade them farewell. He said He must return to Heaven for another time of preparation—to go prepare a place for His followers so He can come back and take them there. He gave the promise of His return and said that every eye will see Him, coming on the clouds of glory. He is drawing all people to Himself by His action on the cross, waiting for the signal from His Father that once again the fulness of time has been reached, and it is time to return for His own. Time will pass away into eternity. Every knee will bow. The perishable will become imperishable. Mortality will be swallowed up in immortality. Death will be swallowed up in victory, with its sting gone, along with its power to hold us in the grave. Jesus was just the beginning of those who will be resurrected!

The Promise of Heaven
Jesus will keep calling out to the lost until the Father says time is finished. He is not slack concerning His promises—He will come again—but He isn’t willing that any should perish, so He is still giving us time to choose. Whoever calls upon His name will be saved, will be reconciled to God, will no longer be condemned, and will be exempt from His wrath. The forgiven have the promise of heaven. A glorious day is coming when all those who have chosen Jesus as their savior will experience His resurrection power for themselves. He will gather those believers to be with Himself forever. Death will no longer have dominion because eternal life will triumph. He will make all things new. The saved will be given a crown of life, have their tears wiped away, and will get to rest in His presence. They will be His people, and He will be their God. But there is more to the promise than just “heaven someday,” there are promises now for life on earth.

The Promise of Adoption
We who choose Jesus become part of the family of God and receive the promise of His presence. We can never be taken out of His hand, and He will never leave or forsake us. God becomes our Father, and the Holy Spirit is sent to live inside of us. We receive His love poured out into our hearts as He adopts us as sons and daughters. We receive His power and help to live abundant lives. We have access to Him at all times, morning, noon, and night. He gives mercy, joy, peace, and sufficient grace; and there is so much more available to us. The Holy Spirit helps, teaches, guides, comforts, and reminds us. God can supply all our needs in every aspect—physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and mentally–according to His vast riches. But there are sometimes going to be difficulties in life because we live in a broken world with those who do not love us or keep their promises; yet, in spite of our circumstances, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. And His promises to us will never be broken. They will stand the test of time and eternity. So, while we traverse this life, we can know He will hear our prayers and see every tear we cry, for when we are children of God, we are redeemed, purchased by the very blood of Christ, and have our hearts bound to Him for eternity. He will help us to endure anything we face in this life, and He will safely see us to the next because He has overcome the world.

The Promise of Faithfulness
God is faithful and true and never changes. He is the same always: yesterday, today, and forever. With God, what is said is said, and what is done is done. A promise made is a promise kept. History has proven time and again that God keeps His word. He cannot break covenant with His people any more than day and night and summer and winter can cease. He will finish the work He has begun—the work to have a relationship with us for all eternity.

Jesus came to be the Mediator between us and God. God had a plan, striving toward a purpose—He sent the Savior. Jesus came to fulfill the plan—He died to save us. And now, the offer is open to us—will we accept this great salvation? We were created to be with God forever, and Jesus’s death on the cross opened that up as a possibility for each of us. Now it is our turn to take action to fulfill our portion of the plan—to choose or reject what has been offered to us. We have been given freedom of choice in this area. If we say yes, then total fulfillment of the plan will take place—we will sit down in the kingdom of God and dwell there forever. If we say no, the promise of eternal separation from God will also be fulfilled. God will keep His word and fulfill His promise to give life to those who ask for it. My answer was yes, and I am so excited for what’s ahead.

The Promise of Fulfillment
Every Easter is a beautiful reminder and opportunity to reflect on the depths God went to—the preparation, the purpose, and the promise—in order to show His great love for us.

There are promises for now and promises for later, promises for this life and promises for the next one. Remember, there is more beyond the now, and knowing what is coming in the future can spur us on and give us hope. Things can get pretty tough down here and look pretty bleak, but with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we can be encouraged. He is the earnest of the promise, left here with us until Jesus comes to take us home. For now, we have a race to finish; and while we are running our race, He will be at our sides. And someday, when we cross the finish line, He will be there waiting for us. We will see Him face-to-face. He promised.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Cor. 15:57 NKJV)

©Text and photos Francee Strain, April 11, 2022. Originally posted April 9–11, 2020 and reposted April 2, 2021.

Names and Numbers

“What’s your name? Tell me a little bit about yourself.” This might be how a conversation with a stranger begins. Someone’s name gives significance to their presence. It brings acknowledgement and recognition. But sometimes, it feels like we are a number, and no one cares what our name is. Sometimes, we become a case number, or a record number, or a file number. Sometimes we are a telephone number, representative of someone who can bring a profit to the caller.

How do we feel at times like these, when we are “just a number” rather than a name? Do we sigh in resignation; or do we go to the opposite extreme, striving and laboring to make our names known and prove we have significance, perhaps even pushing into the realm of trying to become famous? 

What do we do when being “just a number” causes our hearts to hurt?  The times when we feel alone in a crowd? The times when everyone used to know who we were, but now those days are long past? Times when we feel washed up, dried up, and put up on the shelf?  I can imagine what we do, because I know how it feels.

Or what about the times when we look up into the night sky, scanning the universe, and we feel so small and insignificant? The times when we wonder how our lives could matter amidst such a vast expanse. I can imagine, because I know how that feels. We can begin to question who we are and why we are even here. We question whether anyone really sees us and if our lives actually matter.

I can tell you that they do. We are not just one number among many. We have a name. A significant name.

One night, “I looked out the window before heading to bed and found I was looking at a sky full of stars, a sky packed with stars—stars as far as the eye could see. It was a cloudless night, and no one had their porch lights on. I stepped out onto the back lawn, overcome with awe and wonder. My heart leapt in worship. And then, God spoke to my heart from the vast, cool expanse. He was reaching out to talk with me, and my heart reached back. He reminded me that He has named every star and knows my name, too.”1

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork. 

Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge. 

There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 

Their line has gone out through all the earth,

And their words to the end of the world.2

How blessed we are that the God of all the universe has created such beauty for us to behold. And how wonderful it is to know that the stars were all named and put into place with His perfect knowledge and plan. But if we stop here—at this head knowledge—our hearts will miss out on something: this God of everything wants us to know His name. He wants us to understand He has made us and placed us here, and He wants to have a relationship with us. He reveals Himself; He shows us who He is. Will we recognize Him? Will we search out the path that leads us to Him rather than wandering down another which leads to a fruitless end?3

The God who created it all, the God who knows it all, also created us and knows us. From before time began, from before we were ever a thought in a human mind, God had thought of us, and He knew our names. And not only did He know our names, He knew why He was creating us, what purpose we would fulfill in this life: to be a part of His magnificent design and purpose. 

It is important to take time for reflection, to think about who we are and why we are here. We are part of the magnificence of His Creation and His purpose. We were made with His wisdom, and our names are known, just as He made the sun, moon, and stars and knows them by name. “And here are some amazing thoughts to treasure: He thought of us with so much love that He gave His life for us. He paid off the debt of our sin. The work of redemption has been done once and for all; we do not have to strive to do it. Jesus made the way for us to have peace with God by dying on the cross in our place.”4

Believing this will give us an additional name: no longer will we just be a creation of God, we will be a child of God. No longer will we be a number, a face in the crowd. We will become one of the members of God’s family. Are you counted among this number? This is a good number to be known by—one of those who has put their faith and trust in Jesus. This is one number I definitely wanted to be known by, so at the age of eight, I made the decision to give my heart to Jesus. 

Becoming a child of God will bring us near to God, and we will be able to call Him Father. This relationship will make all the difference in the world—and in the world to come. He will care for us individually in the midst of the crowd. He will know our hearts like no one else ever will. He will see every tear we ever cry. He will meet our needs. And, there is an enormous number of blessings He wants to pour out upon those who are called by His name. And then, there will be a great celebration someday, when it is time to dwell with Him forever. There will be much rejoicing as believers meet the God of the universe face-to-face—the One who loves them. I will be counted among this number, and I hope you will be too! But, time is limited, and we do not know the number of our days, so please be sure to RSVP to God so that your name can be written in the Book of Life.

“There is joy, life, and peace in knowing this God, the star-creator and the star-namer.”5 And after this life on earth ends, those who have accepted His Son, Jesus, will be able to know Him in eternity, in all His fulness. They will be in the presence of the creator of all, the Name above all names.


NOTES

1 Excerpt taken from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021.  You can find this article posted on my website at https://franceestrain.com.

2 Psalm 19:1–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

3 Adapted from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 190.

5 Excerpt taken from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021. 

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 6, 2022

This article is available on my podcast. You can access it via Anchor or Spotify at “Eternal Purpose Podcast.”

Spring Forward

Hello, and happy spring! It is the season of new life and renewal. New life is appearing for the first time, and life that has been dormant is blooming again to showcase its beauty once more. How is your life?  Are you celebrating spring?  Or are you still living in a dark winter?  Are you being held back by something?  Perhaps even yourself?  Or are you allowing yourself to enter into spring?

There are so many things that can hold us back and tie us down to the old season and prevent us from springing forward into the new. There are difficult circumstances that seem to hold us back, and there are things we cannot or will not let go of, so we hold our own selves back. But God is the giver of life, abundant life on this earth, and eternal life in heaven. Are you moving toward experiencing those? Have you taken the first step to make life a reality?

Jesus gave His life to give us life. And He lived His life to show us the best way to live ours. So, even though our circumstances do not change, our lives can. A new perspective and a different focus will help us through the difficult circumstances. God’s presence can dwell with us—give us hope, comfort, assurance, guidance, and peace. And our souls can also know peace by accepting eternal life through Jesus Christ.

What about those things you are holding on to and struggling to let go of—the disappointments, hurts, anger, and bitterness, for example. Jesus can adjust your perspective to help you focus on the good and see the blessings around you. He can heal your hurts. He can help you overcome your anger. And He can help you to forgive so that the root of bitterness can be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.

When you allow yourself to be set free from the cold winter, a beautiful spring can bloom. Beauty that you have never known or showcased before will appear. You will become someone who radiates life and reflects it onto those around you. You can become an example of the change that Jesus Christ can make in a life. Storms will still come and go, but the cold freeze, the dark days, and the dormancy can come to an end. No matter what the circumstances are, new life awaits you. Spring forward to receive it. 

I have an example for you of someone who was brought from winter into spring: Lazarus.  Lazarus received an invitation that changed him forever.

“Lazarus was not doing anything when his invitation arrived. He was getting nowhere in life. Actually, He was dead! But despite that he no longer lived and breathed, he received an invitation. This was a most extraordinary invitation, and it did not come in the mail! It was personally delivered by Jesus Himself.

John 11:144 gives the account. Jesus had been preaching in another town when word arrived that His good friend Lazarus was ill. Jesus did not immediately depart for the city of Bethany in order to heal Lazarus; instead, He remained where He was for two more days, finishing up what He was there to do. When it was in God’s timing, and after the work had been completed in the place where Jesus was, He then traveled to see Lazarus.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was greeted with criticism and the accusation that He was arriving too late because Lazarus had already been dead for four days! Count them—four. Four days of being dead. Four days that passed while Jesus worked and traveled somewhere else. But Jesus did not allow this unwelcoming reception to stop Him from delivering His invitation to Lazarus. He went to the tomb where Lazarus was buried, told people to move the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, and then proceeded with His commanding voice to issue an invitation for Lazarus to live again. Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43), and Lazarus came out of the tomb. Here we get a really good look at what Lazarus was doing in life. He was dead in a tomb, sealed behind a stone, and bound in graveclothes. But extraordinary things happened when Jesus showed up on the scene. First of all, an invitation was given to a dead person. Second, God’s resurrection power was seen. Third, a dead man got back to living his life. If this does not prompt us to come when God calls, I do not know what will!

God extends the same invitation to us that He extended to Lazarus. God is calling us to come out from death unto life—from spiritual death unto spiritual life. This is eternal life: to know Jesus Christ (John 17:3). No matter what stones are trapping us in life, no matter what we are wrapped up in and tied up in, no matter what stench we are covered with, no matter what cold darkness we are surrounded by, no matter how alone and laid out flat we are, no matter what others say about us, no matter how hopeless things look—even if it appears that our best days are behind us—He wants to free us from spiritual bondage and restore us to life and relationships. He wants us to be healthy and vibrant again, breathing and glowing, being and doing, loving and being loved. He wants us to live! He has placed the breath of physical life into us, but He also calls us to live with the breath of the Holy Spirit.

But does it ever seem to us, instead, like God is far away—in some other city or some other universe? Does it seem that He is ignoring both our pleas and the pleas of those who are telling Him we need help? Are we surrounded by people who are lamenting our situations? Do we have people in our lives who are like Mary and Martha, who accuse God of letting us suffer? Do they believe that if He was truly in our lives, things like this would not be happening to us? At one point, my son questioned why he should continue to pray for me when God was not giving me physical healing. Several people who are saddened by my chronic illnesses tell me that these illnesses should not be a part of my life. What do all of us honestly think and feel?

Does it seem like God is taking His time in getting to where we are and responding to our needs? Has it been more than four days—a lot more? Are we wondering whether He will ever come? Do we fear that He is too busy taking care of other things in other places to have any time for us? Do we think it is already too late and that the situation has passed beyond His power to help? Have we resigned ourselves to permanently live in our current states? Have we given up the fight? Have we stopped asking for help? Have we almost ceased to breathe? I have news for us—good news. We can change, although our circumstances remain the same. We can have a full and joyfully abundant life now—despite the pain— because Jesus came to give us that abundant life. It seems improbable, impractical, and impossible, yet it is true. But we have to make the choice to come out of the tomb and get out of those graveclothes. We have to come forth from the unpleasantness. We have to respond to His call to leave behind the things He wants us to leave behind, and live.”1

You can live, too.  Spring forward to life.


NOTES

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 28–30.  Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 2, 2022.

Available as a podcast episode on Anchor and Spotify.  Please visit the “Eternal Purpose Podcast” by Francee Strain to access it.

Hello, Readers!

This post is a bit different from the usual. I wanted to share some exciting news with you. I have launched a podcast this week! It is entitled “Eternal Purpose Podcast” and is available on Anchor and Spotify. There are currently five episodes posted. I hope you will take a listen and click to follow.

You can learn more about the podcast by visiting the podcast page on my website at https://franceestrain.com.

If you have any feedback or a suggestion for a topic you would like to read about or hear about, please reach out to me through my website contact page.

Feel free to share the news!

Thank you,

Francee

Chronically Ill and Ceaselessly Blessed

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  Yet, this is a phrase that describes my life.  I have a long list of health problems which are life-limiting, at least in the usual sense of what most people are able to do.  I will spare you the extensive details and just mention a few areas that pose a challenge: I’m unable to hold a job, I cannot make ongoing commitments (I frequently cannot even keep occasional ones), I rarely leave the house, it’s a challenge to accomplish housework, and I can rarely keep the refrigerator stocked on my own.  Getting through each day is often a monumental task.  But, I am blessed!

Sometimes, I hear comments such as “I don’t know how you do it.” or “I wish you didn’t have to suffer so much.”  Many times, I just hear the silence of isolation.  Few people understand. Fewer take the time to do so. Some cannot fathom what it is like.  And some don’t care to know.  It often feels as though I am forgotten as the world moves on without me.  But, my cup of blessings overflows!

How do I cope?  How can I say I am ceaselessly blessed?  First and foremost, I cling to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 which say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  I have God, and He gives me the amount of grace I need to get through each day.  He gives me strength I would never have on my own.  I hold two other verses close also: “God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.”1 and “I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”2  He is my helper, at all times, in all ways. What a blessing!

He also sends me comfort.  Sometimes, it is a bird, or a flower, or a breathtaking sky.  Sometimes, it is a song in my heart. Sometimes, it is a card, or a call, or a text.  Sometimes, it is a family member taking up my slack.  Sometimes, it is a friend grabbing a few groceries for me while she is out.  God sends me reminders of His love and care.  He cares for the birds of the air.  How much more does He care for us!He gives good gifts and great blessings!

And in my current state, I have come to know Him deeper than I ever did before—back when I had a frenetically-paced life, when I was self-sufficient, overachieving, and too busy for Him.

So, in the midst of the difficulties you face, seek His face.  In your struggles, look for the blessings He is pouring out. In your weaknesses, seek His strength.

He daily loads us with benefits, and His salvation is available to us.4

The help of His countenance will be the health of ours.5 


NOTES

1 2 Samuel 22:33

2 Psalm 71:16

3 See Matthew 6:25–27.

4 See Psalm 68:19.

5 See Psalm 42:5, 11.

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, March 27, 2022.