Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What are you going through?


Hard times. Difficult trials. Unexpected change of plans. Fear of the unknown. Overwhelming grief. Relationship struggles. Health issues. All situations none of us would sign up for, but things we all experience. I have countless friends and family walking through hard times right now. On this election day, I'm up early thinking about what our country is going through. Sometimes, my heart just hurts. How about yours? 

When I find myself in this situation and thinking about loved ones experiencing the same, it can be easy to get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. Would you agree? Fear can set in while worry overtakes and that just adds to the difficult trial. We've all lived long enough to know life has it's moments, sometimes days or weeks or months or even years - we can say that in 2020 right?!? 

In John 16:33b, Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." We can find peace in this promise! I also find encouragement in something my pastor said weeks ago, but I continue to think about - "Whatever you are going through, God is growing you through." 

It is a catchy statement, but it's also a truthful one. God is always working and He has a purpose for our pain. His plan isn't all fun and games, but no matter what we are going through He is present. In the good times and the bad, He is working for our good and His glory. When things are out of control, we're reminded He is in control. When we feel unable to take another step, we realize His grace His sufficient. When we can't do it on our own, we're more likely to surrender our plan and submit to His perfect one. 

This sounds good and I have no doubt it's true, but it's not always easy. So this morning as I spent time with the Lord, I found myself asking, "How? - How do I do it? How do I allow you to grow me through this? How do I encourage others to do the same?" 

I heard no voice and I don't have the perfect answer, but as I look to His Word and reflect on my own life a plan came to mind. All things I've done, but practices I need to do better and more as I go through life and desire God to grow me through it all. If the cry of your heart is the same, I pray you find a piece of wisdom and encouragement as well. 

FOCUS - When a trying situation presents itself, it can be consuming. Everything else fades away and the trouble overwhelms. When it's all I see, perspective fades and I'm blind to the Truth. In moments like this, I need to remember where to focus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." We can't deny reality, but we must remember who is with us in it. Jesus, the One who experienced immense pain, so one day you and I will be pain free. His Spirit in us can provide eternal eyes so that we can focus and see beyond "this light momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

ASK - Tough times tend to cause me to close down. I can go into the quiet mode, pride keeps me from letting others know I can't do this on my own. Sometimes Satan's lies leaving me believing it's no big deal, others are hurting more and I'll bother people by sharing my struggle. Friend, as a mom I can better help my kids when they ask and the same is true when it comes to me - my loved ones can assist me more when I ask and more importantly God is there when I pray. When we ask God for help, answers, grace or whatever we need, He will provide. "Ask and it will be given..." (Matthew 7:7) Pause for a moment and think about when a hurting friend asks you for help...it's not a burden, right? Remember that when you are hurting...loved ones want to help, ASK. 

SEEK - When we are going through a hard time, it often can be a new experience, a road we've never walked, which only makes the situation more challenging. We need direction. Looking for it and asking aren't always easy, but it always brings results. We can seek out one who's been in our shoes and they'll have traveling tips, but we must remember to go to God's Word. Here we will find promises and Truth, perspective and wisdom, instruction and training. 

WORK - Trials in life not only overwhelm, they can exhaust as well. As we lose focus and wrestle with the unknowns, we can be tempted to quit. The obstacle in front of us can leave us defeated. Our inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel or the purpose in our pain can cause us to give up. I believe it was Elisabeth Elliot, who walked through an immense struggle of her own who said, "Do the next right thing." Whether you find yourself in a life changing struggle or daily difficult situation, don't worry about all the process involves...pour your energy into what comes next. Sometimes the most important work we can do in the midst of a trial is simply surrendering and admitting we can't do it all. James 4:7a sums it up quite well - "Submit yourselves therefore to God." 

REST - I don't know about you, but when I'm going through a hard time I'm in a hurry to get through it. I want the struggle to be over. I want the suffering to end. Sometimes I'm tempted to busy myself with work that really doesn't matter. When I'm walking alongside a struggling friend, I can be tempted to carry a load that's not my own. In moments like these I need to rest. We need to heed the Lord's words in Psalm 46:10 and "Be still and know that I am God." It's critical we follow Jesus command - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

As we focus on Jesus, ask for help, seek the Lord, do the work and find rest, God will grow us through whatever we are going through. As we mature and develop, we will experience hope and peace, we will find provision and perspective. God will offer protection and He will help us persevere. So today, whatever the struggle I encourage you to pause for a moment, shift your thinking and ask - "How is God growing me through what I am going through?" 

Heavenly Father, I'm grateful to be your child. I know you have plans for good and a purpose for my pain. Give me eyes to see You. Give me a heart that seeks You. Give me a desire to live for You. Equip me to walk when life wants to knock me down. Humble me to ask for help. Assure me you are working even when I rest. Remind me it's ok to struggle, grieve and surrender, but don't let me forget that in my weakness you are strong. And in life's bad, you Father are always good. Thank you. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Choosing Sides

In the world of sports, there's no way getting around it - you have to choose sides. If you want to compete, one person or team has to go against another. If you are an athlete, you're on one team or another. If you are a fan, the same is often true. You may want the opposition to play well and avoid injuries, but you want one team to win. 



In Iowa, we had the joy of just wrapping up our baseball and softball seasons. Crazy to think the normalcy of sports was something we took for granted, along with many other aspects of daily life. Covid has definitely caused me to reflect and be thankful. It's also made me think more about choosing sides. 

You see, this summer we haven't just been picking sides in regards to the team we're cheering for, we've been choosing sides in many different ways - To Mask or Not to Mask, To Watch the News or Not, In Favor of Protests or Not, For Trump or Against. I could go on, but I'm sure you understand. The choices we face are endless. Or at least it seems that way. 

I want to share with you a different approach. Awhile back I was visiting with a friend about a situation and she simply said, "Well, at least you know God is on your side." I understand what she was trying to say, but her words brought to mind a message I heard sometime ago. 

I don't recall the speaker, but his point was simple - it's never about God choosing my side, it's about me choosing His. More important than his words are these from the Word -

"Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” Exodus 32:26a

In this verse, Moses had just found the people out of control - they were worshipping a golden calf. Chances are you are not bowing down to a calf yourself, but think with me for a minute - what are you worshipping? This doesn't just involve bending a knee, but what or who do you give more value than God? Are you choosing the side of health, comfort or normalcy over God? 

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

This verse is often quoted, but how well is it lived? These words can be easy to say, but at times they can be challenging to do. Do you choose to serve the Lord when it's hard, when it's costly, when it's questioned? 

Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him." 1 Kings 18:21

Finally, these words should get our attention - we have to make a choice? Following God is an either or situation. We need to choose a side. We can't be like my youngest son and changes sides as the game unfolds. We have an advantage in this situation - we know God will win! So friend, make the choice today! 

Making this choice doesn't make our problems disappear, but when we're on God's team He will give us a game plan and He provides us with a playbook! When we are on His side, we must be in His Word and walking with His Spirit. He will give us wisdom and strength. He'll provide guidance and direction. He will bring victory in the end. 

These days it can feel like we are in a losing battle, but we must remember the battle belongs to the Lord. He will equip us to stand and we must trust Him to fight. Friend, He will lead us!


Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Bit of Joy



The other night I was praying with our kids as the day came to an end. We prayed about much, but one of the topics caught my attention. Joy, our oldest daughter, is spending her Saturdays this summer at the local Farmer's Market. She enjoys baking and awhile back mentioned the possibility of making and selling treats in town. Initially, the thought overwhelmed me a bit - we live 15 minutes out of town and she'd need a driver (most likely me) and the thought of all that baking made me nervous. Then I stepped back and appreciated my 15 year olds initiative, willingness to work and try something new.

Once we gave her the green light, she went to work. She did a trial run of a few recipes, made a shopping list and bought all her ingredients. She researched packaging supplies and determined her prices. She came up with a name for her little spot along the market trail - "A Bit of Joy."

On the eve of her 2nd market, I prayed for her. We asked God for good weather and I prayed for Him to help her bring a bit of joy to all those who bought her sweets.

As I prayed, I realized that was just what I needed. I needed joy. Cupcakes and pie may offer it temporarily, but Jesus provides it daily. And friend, don't we need joy today?

I'll admit, I've been a bit discouraged lately. Events in our world weigh on my heart and I'm guessing you find them heavy as well. But it goes beyond the death and tragedy, it's what is happening to our nation. There is division and fear. There seems to be a lack of listening. It's just hard. Sometimes I feel I have nothing to say and others I think somebody will be offended if I do.

The protests and riots, corona and covid have all changed things. For many our daily lives don't look like they did a year ago, but yet daily problems still exist. Some are experiencing financial stress, others relationship conflict and some parenting struggles. You can add your own personal trials.

This adds up to a problem that equals discouragement. So what do we do?

For me, the first answer is PRAY. I know I need to humble myself and cast my cares. God commands and encourages us to do this. He hears our prayers and listens to our heart. He wants us to connect with Him. We can do that thru prayer.

Another thing I must do now and always is READ the BIBLE. Information and opinions are readily available, but right now I need wisdom and that can be found in God's Word. The media offers updates constantly, but the Bible provides TRUTH continuously. I believe we need the Truth. Agree?

Doing these two things helps me SEEK GOD. It's pretty easy to turn on the news or open social media and look to see what is going on in the world. Everyone is ready to tell you their perspective, but friends it's God we need to look to. He's the One with the plan and the power. I must go to Him first and most. How about you?

Friend, I'm reminded when we do these things consistently we will experience a bit of joy. Now it may not have the immediate impact of that scrumptious bite of pie or taste of a cupcake, but it will last much longer. And instead of ultimately impacting my waistline it will impact my heart. The joy Jesus offers is truly indescribable. And to measure its impact is impossible.

Nehemiah 8:10b says, "Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." These words weren't spoken in what we would call a joyful moment. The people were grieving over sin and overcome with condemnation - can anyone relate?

Friend, if you are a born again believer of Jesus Christ, you aren't known by your sin. Your identity is a child of God. That is a reason to rejoice. When we step back and think about what our relationship with God through Christ really means our focus shifts, our discouragement dwindles and our motivation multiplies.

This spiritual joy opens the door for spiritual strength. I don't know about you, but I need some spiritual strength these days. It was true in Nehemiah's day and I believe it's true yet today - "The joy of the Lord is our strength." 

If you are a sister in Christ, I encourage you to pause for a moment and focus on what is right in your world - your relationship with Jesus. It might be the only thing that is right, but it's all that really matters. Take some time and think about what Jesus provides - salvation and strength, peace and power, love and joy, and the list goes on. Thank Him. Ask Him for all you need.

If this talk of a relationship with Jesus is new, seek out a pastor or Christian friend, leave me a comment or send me an email at jillberan@yahoo.com. I believe God brought you here for a reason. If you're looking for true, lasting joy you won't find it in a cupcake, but you will in Jesus. Open your heart to Him today.

You won't leave here satisfied like my daughter's customers, but I pray you walk away encouraged. I hope I've left you with a bit of joy and equipped you to find it again when you feel like it's faded away.

Heavenly Father, thank you for drawing us close. I'm grateful for who you are and all you do. I'm reminded that no matter what this day holds or how the world changes, you remain the same. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit - grow that in me Lord. Help me share true joy with those around me. May I be strengthened as I rejoice in all you have done. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen. 




Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Just Quit

A big welcome to my friends from Encouragement Cafe! It is a joy to share my devotional with you today! If you'd like to read, "When You Want to Quit," click HERE. To continue with the quitting theme, I'm going to look at it from a different perspective. It's true we can't quit on our walk of faith, but as we follow Jesus there are things we must quit. Would you agree?

In September of 1999, I found myself in the bottom of a pit called depression and felt I'd come to the end. I'd believed those "No Quit" quotes when it came to sports, but applying them to life was more of a challenge. I was ready to quit the game of life, but God intervened.

Thankfully, He kept me from dying physically, but in the process He's led me to die to myself! He continually asks me to live out Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." 

I've been praying about what I should share here in response to my devotional and it seems God's led me to share some contrary advice, "Just Quit!" The basketball coach in me can't believe I'm saying that, but because Christ is in me, I know that's what I need to do. And friend so do you!

I'll share the list God has given me:

Just QUIT listening to lies so that you can hear the voice of Truth.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 
"If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples, and 
you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." 
John 8:31-32

Just QUIT worrying so that you can trust God with all your heart.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and 
lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Just QUIT living out of old insecurities so that you can be who God made you to be!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: 
The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just Quit busying yourself so that you can do what God ask you to do.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus 
to do good works, which God prepared 
in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Just QUIT holding onto bitterness so that you can forgive and be forgiven.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Just QUIT running after your dreams so that God's plan can unfold.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Just QUIT striving for other's approval so that you can earn God's!
The fear of man lays a snare, 
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

Just QUIT living for yourself so that you can follow Jesus!
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants 
to be my disciple must deny themselves 
and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23


Advising someone to quit is not something I do too often, but I pray as you read this list you've been reminded there are somethings we need to just quit. The sinful, selfish stuff we do has to go if we truly want to die to self so that Christ can live. 

Today, I encourage you to spend some time with God, ask Him what you need to quit and then pray for the strength and desire to do just that! Friends, He died so that one day we will live with Him forever, but we can make the choice to die today so that He can live through us now!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Who's In Control

Does it feel like life is out of control? We turn on the news and it seems we see one bad or sad story after another. Closer to home, we make plans and a child’s sickness changes them. Day after day I’m reminded I’m not in control. Can you say the same? 
If you struggle with the battle for control, I invite you to join me at Encouragement Cafe where I'm sharing a devotional asking, "Who's In Control?" The answer just might surprise you and pray it encourages you! 

Join me, by clicking HERE

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Greetings from our family to yours!

Happy Easter,
Greetings from the Beran family! We hope you and your family are doing well in the midst of Covid-19! We decided since we didn’t get a Christmas card out this year, we’d use this extra down time to share an Easter greeting with you. Like you, our schedules are clear, but we are grateful our reason to rejoice will never be called off or postponed. Our daily routines have changed, but the risen Savior we celebrate will forever remain.

Our family is doing well and though one child daily begs to “cancel school like everyone else,” we continue on our homeschool journey. J.D. is about to complete 11th grade, Joy 9th, Jaylyn 7th, Jed 3rd and Jesse 2nd. They are typically involved with sports, youth group and FFA. Life on the farm hasn’t stopped, so we stay busy with pig, calf and chicken chores along with prepping for planting. During this season of shutdown, we are also missing our extended and church family along with the regular activities we enjoy.

We realize this situation is new for all of us and we know it provides challenges as well. Some days we enjoy the changes more than others. This pandemic can create worry of what lies ahead, fear of getting sick and anxiety about the financial impact that’s sure to come. We’ve been reminded this is a great opportunity to live out our faith.

In place of the typical yearly update, we thought we’d bring a word of encouragement. Since the social distancing began, we’ve tried to find hope, wisdom and perspective in God’s Word. It provides a solid foundation when we’re shaky, peace in the storm and Truth to counter lies. We pray the words that have encouraged us, will do the same for you.


Jesse – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Good Friday is a picture of that love; may we rest in it always.

Jed – “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) dwell in unity!”(Psalm 133:1) Timely truth for this time of isolation and family togetherness!

Jaylyn – "Look, I (Jesus) am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll." (Revelation 3:3) We need to be ready for Jesus’ return; do you know Him as your personal Lord and Savior?

Joy – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Exchange your worries and fears for God’s peace and promises – PRAY.

J.D. – “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God controls the seasons and He also controls Covid-19.

Jill – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) We don’t understand all that’s going on and that’s OK, we can trust the One who does.

Job – “After he (Jesus) had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray…” (Matthew 14:23a) Follow Jesus’ example and use this time for prayer.

This April, we don’t just want to celebrate Easter, but more importantly experience the HOPE Jesus brings! We will continue to keep you in our prayers.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                                      
Love,  The Berans

Friday, April 10, 2020

Finish

It's Good Friday and we continue our Holy Week posts. This day marks the hardest day in Jesus' journey here on Earth. As we walk thru our own difficult, which will truly never compare to what Jesus suffered, may we remember His obedience, sacrifice and strength. Prayers and blessings to you today friend.

From April 15, 2017

Is it easier for you to start something new or finish the work you've already begun? Personally, both situations present some challenges, but if I had to choose one it would be finishing. Carrying something thru takes time, work and endurance. We face temptations, wrestle with doubts and wonder if it really matters. But if we're truly called to start something, God also expects us to finish it.

I've been challenged and encouraged by the idea of finishing this Holy Week. I've spent time reflecting on Jesus - our Passover Lamb, been given an example by Mary to be a woman who does what I can and been reminded to be prepared. But yesterday as I read through the story of crucifixion and reflected on Jesus' sacrifice for me, "Finish" was the message I received.

In John 19:28 we read, "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Friend, Jesus was hanging on the cross, He'd done his job of being sacrificed for sin, but yet He still submitted to the Father. He did what God sent Him to do.

John 4:34 states, "My food is to do the will of Him sent and finish His work." While John 12:49 says, "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." Even to the end, in unbelievable pain and distress, Jesus was obedient.

John 19:30 states this clearly, "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Stop and think about this for a minute. When it was hard, people didn't understand and the pain was unbearable Jesus didn't quit. Can you say the same? I can't, but I've been convicted, and encouraged, that I need to change. God equipped Jesus to finish what He started, I have to believe He can do the same for me.

Friend, He can do it for you too. Let's go to God and ask Him to help us persevere and let's look to Jesus as the example of One who finished well.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for again speaking to me through your living and active Word. Use it to penetrate my mind and soul, transform me Lord so I can be like you. Thank you Jesus for finishing the work you started, for dying for my sins and fulfilling Scripture. May I learn from your example and be more like you. I'm also reminded that a wait followed the completion of your work, help me remember that and trust your timing Father. This Easter season may we celebrate your resurrecting power, our victory over sin and death and the reminder that finishing is important. Father God, you are good, your are mighty and you are worthy of our praise. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen