Category: Novlette Castillo’s Journal

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations” James 1:2

Found myself thinking about a statement by Charles Swindoll, a favorite Christian author of mine that I stumbled upon today. It says “Perseverance: willingness to accept whatever comes, strength to face it head on, determination to stand firm, and insight to see the Lord’s hand in it all.” Quite a good mantra to live by, but I find that it’s not the appreciation of such thoughts that we have difficulty with, it’s putting it into practice. Yet it can be done. Strewn throughout the pages of the bible are many people who changed defeat into victory and their trials into triumph. And in today’s word, James shows us that this same experience can be ours. So how do we accomplish this you ask?

Well we obtain our first key in the above verse, “consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.” Do you notice that James doesn’t say if but whenever, an assumption that as Christians we will experience trials or adversity. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when adversity comes our way. Albeit, no one is ever prepared for the loss of a loved one, illness, divorce, job loss or catastrophes that turn our world upside down. This is what James means by “various trials” – these things are often times out of our control, and we are susceptible to them simply because we are human.

Jesus Christ who is our example told us to expect trials as well. (1) Because He also experienced trials even though He was the Son of God. (2) Through His death on the cross He made a way for us to walk in victory through our trials. Jesus said “in the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration: but be of good cheer! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and I have conquered it for you.]” Herein lies another key to remain joyful in the midst of the distress and frustration – Christ has deprived it of power; it cannot harm you even though it might appear so. And this is not meant to minimize your pain, pressure or frustration. But the devil would like us to believe that we are defeated. Still Christ tells us “I have conquered it for you.” So if it has been conquered [notice past tense] then it means that we can walk in victory. It’s already done!

Further, 1 Peter 4:12 tells us that some tribulation come to us because we are Christians. “Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you.” I am learning in my walk that if the people in the bible had to deal with tribulations so will I and you. For the ways of God does not change, all His children must past through this road if they are to mature.

So what is to be the Christian’s response? The Christian must “consider it wholly joyful!” Whoa, this is like taking medicine, doesn’t always taste good going down but it is beneficial to your health. Sister and Brother Christian this is the attitude we are called to take and this is what the above statement speaks to. The willingness to accept whatever comes. We are not alone, the apostles, Esther, Elijah, and Christians before us also had this attitude. Therefore the other key to walking in victory through trials is to immediately thank God and adopt a joyful attitude. “But how, we may ask, we cannot perceive how it is possible to rejoice in the midst of adversity?”

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Which person with their faculty intact purchases a piece of property knowing that the country in which it is located will be destroyed? Forget about the economy being at an all time low, there is no economy, everything is desolate. Yet, what if God told you to do just that as He told Jeremiah? And what if you got this message while you were in prison like Jeremiah? (See Jeremiah 32:6) Well being that God does not lie, Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel visits him in prison and asks him to buy the piece of property in Anathoth. And Jeremiah buys the property and proceeds to tell Hanamel to place the deed in a clay jar in order that it will last a long time. (32:13-14).

Now let us note that Jeremiah obeyed God even though to the human reasoning it made no sense. We don’t hear of him asking God to explain why before he could go and fulfill what God asked him to do. And we can learn from his example that when the Lord tells us to do something, we don’t always have to know why. Our response is to say yes and then do it. Think that even if God chooses to tell us why, it may not make the task at hand any easier to accomplish.

After he does this Jeremiah goes to the Lord in prayer. He tells the Lord that there is nothing that is too hard for Him; and declares the mighty wonders done by Him. Yet Jeremiah was struggling to remain hopeful. So the word of the Lord comes to him and the Lord says “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Talk about receiving a word in season, well this is it for Jeremiah. You see this word wasn’t for the people of Jerusalem but Jeremiah His prophet but more importantly His child.

He tells him (1) Call me and I will answer – this was to encourage him to seek, pursue the Lord in prayer with the assurance that his prayer would be answered even from prison. He must have been feeling quite helpless, knowing that the place would be destroyed, but the people and the king wouldn’t listen to his message to turn from their sins. Maybe he felt like a failure. There are some of you who are imprisoned in your mind, or you may feel imprisoned by your surroundings but like Jeremiah you need to hear the voice of the Lord telling you to call upon Him in prayer and He will answer you. He wants to deliver you from every stronghold and everything that is keeping you imprisoned and give you hope right where you are.

(2) I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know – You see Jeremiah was saying that the place was a desolate waste without men or animals. But the Lord was saying, Jeremiah I am going to show you some things that will be difficult to comprehend with your finite understanding. Jeremiah couldn’t perceive restoration for himself much less Jerusalem. And God wanted to share His secret plan of restoration with Jeremiah, He wanted to blow Jeremiah’s mind. For the things which are impossible with man are possible with God! Some of you have ceased to pray for your unsaved loved ones because you don’t see any change in their lives. Or maybe you are feeling hopeless because you feel there is no way out. Regardless of what your prison is self-made or man-made if you will call to God He promises to answer and give you insight, concerning what He is about to do in your midst. God longs to restore and bring healing to His people. He desires for you to dwell in safety and peace but you must call.

Call on God often, call on Him daily. Anyone can call on Him, anywhere, anytime. If we would see God move in our lives, our families, our churches, our communities and our nation; then we must call. He is waiting to hear your voice.

As we face dangers seen and unseen everyday it is important for us to get into the habit of calling upon the Lord in prayer. Unfortunately this is an area which is often overlooked to our detriment. And if we are honest, at some point in our walk we have all struggled with developing a consistent prayer life. But listen to the words of God to us today “your voice is sweet,” Songs of Songs 2:14; and He says again “. . . for we do not have high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses . . . let us then approach (come before) the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” Hebrews 4:15-16.

Can we not see the loving heart of our Father overflowing with love for His children? He is inviting us to seek His face. He loves to hear our voice as we lift them towards heaven in prayer and supplications. Psalms 18:3 says “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.” In this instance, David directed his call to the Lord as his enemies had risen up against him. He went straight to the one that he knew had the authority, power and resources to deliver him. He knew that God answered prayer and that the “prayers of the upright pleases him,” Proverbs 15:8.

Not only does the Lord have power, authority and resources but He is also worthy of our praises. Praise gives your prayers wings to fly upward to heaven. The angels and all the hosts of heaven continually ascribe unto the Lord Glory, Honor and Power. There is continuous praise in heaven. Something wonderful happens as the child of God begins to offer up the sacrifice of praise in the midst of the battle. The weak becomes strong, fear is replaced by faith, darkness turns to light and burdens are lifted. Furthermore his praise also puts his enemy the accuser of the brethren to flight. The devil cannot endure the praises of the weakest child of God. David found this key and realized it as a weapon to defeat his enemies and so should we. The hymn “A mighty fortress is our God” expresses the same sentiment as this verse. For Jesus our Lord is indeed a bulwark that never fails.

In Psalms 18:17, David acknowledges his weakness, he was powerless against the enemy; so he prays “He rescued me from my powerful enemy; from my foes, who were too strong for me.” How many times do we underestimate the power of the enemy and think we can handle a situation on our own and then fall flat on our faces? The Lord can only help us if we are willing to admit we like David are in desperate need of his help. That we too are powerless before our enemies and we need his strength to enable us to be victorious over our enemies.

See it doesn’t matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, He desires to hear our voice in prayer. As you delight in Him, He in turn delights in you. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t prayed in a while call upon Him anyway. Confess your weakness and sin, repent before Him and He will forgive you, He is merciful. Accept the invitation today; do not delay, if you would have a closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

“God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.”

Dr. Henry Morris said, “The godly man does not arrive at spiritual maturity instantaneously. It is a lifelong process, but every stage of that growth must come from the Word.” In addition, the word must be the guiding light and measuring stick by which the child of God analysis everything. When we choose not to apply the word of God to every circumstance or decision that we make, we are prone to choose less than God’s best for us. Hence we need to ask like David, “divert my eyes from toys and trinkets and invigorate me on the pilgrim way.” (Psalm 119:37) For example, Samson saw a young Philistine woman and he wanted her for his wife. He totally ignored the Lord’s prohibition against marriage with the people of Canaan and the advice of his godly parents. His decision turned out to be a disaster for both himself and his first wife. (See Judges 14). So daily, we need to seek God’s counsel and refresh our thoughts that our physical eyes might not lead us astray. For the physical eyes look outward, the spiritual eyes look upward.

“Affirm your promises to me, promises made to all who fear you.” (Verse 38) When we are in the midst of a challenge, when we feel most alone, when we are ready to give up and when we have done all we can and still no change. Then we need to ask, “Affirm your promise to me.” What is the purpose? It is to give you confidence to stay the course, to push through until something happens. Think of Joshua the young leader who was responsible for leading the Israelites into the promise land. When he was fearful God encouraged and strengthened him by the words He spoke to him. The end result Joshua was victorious.

“Deflect the harsh words of my critics, but what you say is always so good.” (Verse 39) Harsh words are never easy to digest no matter the source. Someone says something to us and we take offense. It cuts deep and usually leaves a scar and the enemy uses it to bring division in the body of Christ. Think what would happen if we choose to forgive and concentrate upon what the Lord says about us, because it is good; instead of the words of our critics?

“See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways.” David closes this prayer by expressing his hunger after the counsel, wisdom and truth of the word of God. He knew the word was essential to his spiritual growth and that without God maintaining his life he would not be able to stay the course. Likewise, we need to pray that the counsel we receive from the Lord maintain our lives. Moreover, if today you do not have a hunger for the Lord’s counsel, ask Him to give you that desire, and He will do it for you. May we learn the lessons that we might stay the course!

1. Dr. Henry Morris, Sampling the Psalms, pg. 175

“God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course,” Psalm 119:33

In the above verse, David prays, “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.” However, the question is, how does the child of God navigate the many valleys, mountains, temptations and trials that would prevent them from staying the course? Alternatively, staying focused until we see Christ face to face?   I believe that Psalm 119:34-40 provides us with some valuable insights shaped in a prayer that we can apply to our daily lives, if we are to persevere and complete the journey.

“Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart,”  Psalm 119:34

If we are to know the will of Christ then we must daily ask the Lord to give us the ability to understand His word. What David is asking for is not mere head knowledge but for spiritual insight for the purpose of enabling him to walk obediently on his journey. His desire, and so should ours, is that our whole life would be a life of someone that walked in obedience to God. “For obedience is better than sacrifice.”

“Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot,” Psalm 119:36

Oh how we need to cry out to the Lord to give us a heart that is inclined to seek, treasure and revere God’s wisdom more than any other wisdom. We are prone and often tempted to rely upon our own and the world’s wisdom than God’s. Proverbs 3:5 warns us “lean not unto thine own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge the Lord.” Without God’s wisdom, we often spend our energy pursuing temporal things; those things that we are unable to take with us when we die. David called them “selfish gains,” as prestigious as being a king might have been.  He knew it couldn’t be compared to the word of God, which was like “honey on his lips.”

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight,” Psalm 119: 35

Like a student who needs the direction of his teacher if he wishes to succeed in school; so too it would behoove the child of God to seek his heavenly Father’s direction on his journey if he desires to walk victoriously. To live according to the word of God is not innate. We have to learn how to live according to His word. It is a process. Abraham became faithful because the one who is Faithful taught him. That is the reason why our minds need to be renewed once we have been born into the kingdom of God.

I believe David knew this from experience, for he had fallen and strayed from the ways of God so many times, as we have done. In addition, like him we need the aid of the power of God to change our hearts that He might direct our feet towards His way of living and doing things. Moreover, as we are changed then we will begin to delight in choosing His way over our own. We cannot delight in that which we have never tasted. So “taste and see that the Lord is good. . .”  I encourage you to incorporate these requests into your prayers and see what a difference it will make in your walk. I can tell you it has made a difference in mine!

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel . . .,” Luke 2:25

Upon the eve of Christmas, come let us take a journey to the time when Christ was born. Palestine was under Roman rule and Caesar Augustine was its leader. The bloodiest civil war in Rome’s history had just ended, and his reign ushered in a great time of peace and prosperity; which prepared the stage for the birth of Christ. As for the religious climate, polytheism was the order of the day, the Gentiles, Romans and Greeks all worshiped many gods. Sadly the majority of the Jews (Christ’s own people) were distracted with everyday life and they were happy having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. This was a society not very much unlike our own today.

Yet, in spite of the spiritual and political climate of the day, there was still a remnant to be found among the children of Israel who had not forgotten the prophesies of old that a Savior would be born. Isaiah 9:6 says ”For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace.” Let us take Simeon for example, he was a god-fearing man who was sensitive to God’s voice and was available when God called upon him. How do we know this? In Luke 2:27 we are told that “moved by the spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought the child Jesus to do what the custom of the Law required…” He was also waiting for the Lords promise to be fulfilled that he would see the Messiah before he died.

Then there was Anna the prophetess who was 84 years old. We are told she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Anna also was waiting expectantly upon the birth of Christ for the redemption of Jerusalem. She confirmed Simeon’s testimony and was also sensitive to the voice of God. Simeon and Anna joined, Joseph and Mary in praise and thanksgiving to God at the birth of Christ, knowing that the Savior had come, who would save Israel and themselves from sin. Christ’s birth also reminded them that the Prince of Peace was born, the one that was able to bring a lasting and deeper peace to the mind and soul. This was something that Caesar’s peace could not accomplish because it was only external. You see there are many people around us and you maybe one of them that have all the appearances of peace on the outside but devoid of the abiding peace that only having a relationship with Christ can bring.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us invite the Prince of Peace to rule and reign in our hearts and lives today by giving ourselves as an offering or gift to Him. The Lord is a gentleman and waits to be invited into our homes this Christmas, let us share him with our family by taking time out to read the story of Christ’s birth and why we truly celebrate Christmas. Let us be apart of the remnant who are waiting expectantly upon Christ’s return.

“From the ends of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed lead to the rock that is higher than I,” Psalms 61:2

There are bills to be paid and not enough money; the car tires need to be replaced and your husband lost his job.  For another person, their child is diagnosed with an incurable disease or maybe you are facing a health crisis of your own.  These are scenarios that you may or may not be able to identify with, your situation maybe different.  But at some point in our lives we all feel overwhelmed, as if you can take no more, it’s just too much!

If you are feeling overwhelmed today, it is good to remember that you are not alone. It is good to recall that help is only a prayer away.  David was in a similar situation and so he cried out to God to hear his cry and to lead him as a shepherd would his flock to the rock that is higher than I. He desires to be led to the rock of all ages, Jesus Christ. He says “for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy or foe.”  He had obviously found himself in this place before and knew that distance didn’t prevent the Lord from hearing his cry or prayer. No matter how distant you may feel today from God, if you will cry out to Him, He will answer. He is not limited by distance or your circumstances.

Not only does he seek refuge but he desires to be in the presence of the Lord continually. He is after an abiding place because his intent is to dwell there. To be a visitor in the house of the Lord is insufficient for David, it will not do. He will dwell or have nothing else. He knows it is the presence of God that brings deliverance physically and spiritually.  When God becomes our dwelling place, there is a constant flow of supply and a place of rest.  Over in Psalm 62:1 he encourages us to “find rest in God alone. . .” why, because there is always safety in God and none in ourselves and the best of plans sometimes fail.

Let me encourage you today to cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. Take time to pray when you are feeling overwhelmed and God will lift you up. He will preserve and protect you for it is the heritage of those who fear Him. His promise remains “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind . . .” Psalms 26:2a

The month of December is always a constant reminder that the end of another year is upon us. We think most of all it is Christmas, the time of year that we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and the special gift that God gave to redeem this world. The media constantly bombards us with how many days are left to Christmas so we can shop and buy presents for our loved ones. Christmas has become so commercialized and if the child of God is not mindful you will forget that Christ is the reason for the season.

However I’d like to exhort you as you prepare for Christmas to take the time to examine yourself before the Lord as the year draws to a close. As we take a look at Psalms 26: 1-5, we see David asking the Lord to examine, test and try him. Why is he doing this? Because he desires to have that comfort in his mind that he is in right standing before God and men. It is necessary that he allows the light of God to search his heart and life to see what he should be and do if he would have the favor of God and so should we.

He appeals to him who judges righteously to assist him with this task. The bible says “who can know the heart it is desperate and wicked above all things.”  My sister and brother know that your heart cannot be trusted; it can fool you and lead you astray. You see only God alone can see what truly lies in our hearts. The bible says He knows the intent and thoughts of the heart and sees through every disguise. So is your life and mine what is should be today as a man or woman of God? David was in the habit of requesting God to examine him as we see.  In Psalms 139: 23-24, he says “Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting”.

Can you hear the sincere cry of his heart? He desired God to change him at the deepest level, the core of his being where no man could venture. He was saying Lord I am incapable of seeing how I might be offensive first to you and those around me. So Father reveal the condition of my heart least I think all is well and be deceived. Lord reveal to me what ever is causing me to be anxious, anything that is distracting me from keeping my eyes focused upon you. Father find those bosom sins that are lurking inside my heart that are robbing me of the ability to walk in integrity before you and men.

In your walking and standing and sitting are you keeping yourself clean from the pollutions of the world, has your garment become soiled? He says in verse 12 “My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the Lord.”  Here, he is not boasting in himself, but speaks of the grace of God that has kept him and given him a tender heart that is able to say it is I Lord when ever he fell. David is determined in his heart to be a seeker of God and be counted among the faithful people of God. He is set upon seeking after godliness and “will not sit with deceitful men nor consort with hypocrites” expressed in verse 4.

So today, amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas, take the time before the year is over to examine yourselves. Let us take a spiritual inventory of the condition of our hearts. Let it be not only for this month but something that we will practice as any good store does in order to function successfully.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love,” 1 John 4:18

The Greek word for perfect is “telios” which speaks of a state of completeness mentally or morally.   And “phebomai” the Greek word for fear, means to be put in fear; alarm, fright or terror.  Today I’d like us to examine this perfect love that is being offered to us through Jesus Christ and what it means to the child of God.  Also, how should this truth affect the way that the child of God lives?

First, this love is from above and it comes to us from God.  When He sets His love upon us we were still in our sins, we did not deserve it.  And we will never be able as long as we live to repay the debt that we owe Almighty God for sending His Son Jesus Christ to die upon the cross for our sins (1 John 4: 9-10).

Second, this love is complete; every thing that the Lord allows in our life will ultimately be for our good.  This is unlike the conditional love that is often reflected in this world. The love that says, as long as you are good to me I’ll be good to you.  Or I’ll love you as long as. . . .

In Matthew 26:69-74, we see the apostle Peter cowering in fear before a servant girl and others standing by and he denies that he knows Christ three times. There is no doubt that Peter loved Jesus Christ but he was probably contemplating that he would be imprisoned or worse crucified with Christ. Peter was unable to see the future clearly, his eyes were dim and his heart overcome by the fear which is never of God.

Sometimes our eyes also become dim and our perception of the future is blurred by the difficulties that we face. And in an effort to steer our lives and regain some control we decide to fix things ourselves and walk in our own wisdom. When gripped by fear, we forget that God loves us unconditionally; and if he gave his only son to die for us, while still in our sinful state, how will he not make a way out of the situation for us?  Proverbs 29:35 says “the fear of man will prove to be a snare but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Find your rest, peace and comfort in this truth, child of the living God. Do not fear what any man can do to you; do not let their contempt or jeers stifle the light of Christ within you. But live out loud with the assurance that you are loved unconditionally at all times by the one who created the universe by His very word.  What can man do to you?

“Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception,” Psalms 12:1-2

This paints a very good picture of the society in which we live today. David is crying out, “Lord the faithful are vanishing from the earth. It seems like there are more ungodly people around than godly.”  As a society, we are at a place where it is increasingly difficult to identify the godly remnant from the world. This should not be so. Hence like David we need to cry out “help Lord.”

Why did this state of affairs bother David?  Because he looked and saw that no one was faithful to either the Lord or each other. He noticed that no one cared to honor their words anymore, nor stand for the truth. Deceit, boasting, flattering words, and the oppression of the weak were the order of the day. If you listen you can hear the anguish in his heart over what is happening around him. Does it bring your heart anguish over the current state of this country? Or has it all become relative because society says so?

Yet there is a voice of one that is always true, Almighty God. His words and promises are first pure, Psalm 12: 6 says ”And the words of the Lord are flawless. . .”  That is, there is no guile, no deceit, flattery to be found in it. Secondly Psalm 12:6 says “like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.” Every word of God is tried and tested; the number seven signifies completeness and fullness. Look throughout the scriptures and you will find men and women who proved the word of God to be secure. God’s word is a sure foundation that has withstood the test of time.  Not so the words of men, which is temporary and cannot be trusted.

How can the godly stand in this evil generation? The answer is twofold, Psalm 12:7 says” O Lord you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.”  Our Lord has promised to be that safe haven where we can run, that fortress where we find protection. In Psalms 121:5 it says “The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

In light of the above, what should our response be? I exhort you, set your heart upon seeking after the Lord. Let the words you speak be controlled by the word of God. So that your words will become valuable to those around you, it will be refreshing to a tired soul. Your words will bring nourishment to others (Proverbs 10:20-21). Pray that the Lord will empower you to live above the deception, relativity and baseness of this generation. Resist the temptation to be popular and be separate even if it means being different or walking alone.  The child that has the Lord of Hosts as his Father never walks alone anyway.

The Lord is looking for those who will say Lord I desire to be like you, no matter what it may cost. Receive this truth; we will never value anything that has not cost us everything

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