Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

How bold are you in proclaiming your faith?

Our cat has suddenly begun crying out boldly in the middle of the night with a squall that jars everyone awake from an otherwise uneventful night. This has become an almost nightly occurrence. I finally discovered this cry comes from our bathroom which amplifies the volume. Why does she do this? Maybe she likes the acoustics and the fact that there are no other sounds during the night to drown out her late night songs. She doesn’t care that our dog (who thinks he’s her boss) is always ready and waiting for her to do something wrong so that he can chase her through the house. She is unstoppable!

Paul was a lot like my cat…bold and unstoppable. Acts 28:31 says “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance”. Prior to chapter 28, Paul had been arrested for preaching, conspired against, imprisoned, tortured, shipwrecked, and more. He had many circumstances that might deter his preaching, yet he continued without hesitation.

Paul did not back down simply because someone wanted him to stop. He was not intimidated. He did not make excuses. He continued to tell of God’s goodness and of Jesus’s resurrection boldly. His ministry thrived because he was a force that would not stop simply because of his faith.

How bold are you in proclaiming God’s goodness? Often we are our own greatest obstacle. We make excuses. We are intimidated by the opinions of others and stopped by fear and insecurity.

How can we share God boldly like Paul with so many obstacles? Ask Him to cast aside all fear of judgment and give you strength to do what He wants you to do. No hesitation. No fear. No hindrances. Believe that God loves you, and hold on to the fact that His love and approval are all you need.

Like Paul’s ministry, there will be trials, but with God we can overcome any obstacle. Step out in faith and share God boldly like Paul. Then keep singing His praises like my cat who just won’t give up even when the dog is on your tail!

Be bold! Be unstoppable! All for the kingdom of God.

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When tragedy strikes, one of three things happens with our faith. We tend to grow closer to God and our faith grows stronger; we turn from God blaming Him for allowing this and doubting His love and power; or we get caught somewhere in the middle. Honestly I have to admit that I was lost somewhere in the middle for awhile.

After my husband’s accident, I drew close to God, leaning on Him in those difficult days when it was hard to see my husband in the man that Traumatic Brain Injury had created and to watch him struggle with changes he could not control.

Then a year later I was shocked to discover that I had Lupus, and I became lost in fear. My faith became a sort of roller coaster of highs and lows. Probably more lows than highs. I have never blamed God or felt that He had given up on me. I never stopped believing or trusting God, but I failed to seek Him which left me feeling I had to face these battles alone.

I stopped journaling, had trouble focusing on reading God’s word, and struggled to get my thoughts together at times. I was caught somewhere between fully trusting God with my life and turning my back on Him, but thankfully He never gave up on me. I always felt Him tugging at my heart wanting me to recommit to that daily walk with Him. My strength was renewed and my walk restored because of His unfailing love!

No matter what we go through, God promises to be with us. Do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). He promises to help us and give us rest. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). And He will always love us. Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you (Isaiah 43:4). These are just a few of the many wonderful and reassuring promises in God’s word. His love is never failing!

Even when you are stuck somewhere in the middle, He still loves you and wants you to find your way back to Him.

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This is Temporary

There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for awhile. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to a God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Things may be difficult as you’re going through trials, but this scripture promises that trials are temporary. God doesn’t send trials to break you, but instead He allows them in order to make your faith in Him stronger.

When you feel frustrated by the trials in your life, remember that there will be wonderful joy again, so lean on Him and wait expectantly for that joy. Believe that this is temporary and your faith is more precious than gold.

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Does it ever seem that the circumstances you face are so complicated that there is no way out? No matter which way you turn, you only see trouble.  In those moments, we have a tendency to focus on the problem rather than God and His power to conquer any obstacle.  When problems arise, we begin to question.  What are we going to do?  How are we going to overcome this?  In Exodus 14 while escaping the oppression of the Egyptians, the Israelites began to question why they were brought to the desert, what Moses had done by leading them out of Egypt, and why they even agreed to follow him.

Exodus 14:13-14 says, Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.   They were focused on the obstacles, and their thoughts and actions were controlled by fear.  How often do we find ourselves in that same situation?  Instead of focusing on the problem, who to blame, and how we can fix it, we must turn our focus to God.

As stated above in Exodus 14, sometimes we must calm our fears, be still, pray, and trust God to make a way in His perfect time.  Other times though He may tell us to “get moving”.  Exodus 14:15 says, then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.  In other words, “I’m opening the door, now you need to follow my instructions and just move on through it”.

Psalm 77:16 says, When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled!  The sea trembled at the power of God; there is no obstacle which is greater than His power!  Psalm 77:19 goes on to say, “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”  God was able to part the Red Sea leaving a dry path for the Israelites to cross escaping from the Egyptians, and He still has the power today to open doors for us that we may not even know are an option.

I’m sure it was terrifying for the Israelites to step out onto that ocean floor with an enormous wall of water on either side!  The door that God opens for us may be scary, but if we’ll just trust Him and move on through it, we will see the power of His deliverance.

When it seems as though the enemy is winning, God is still in control and knows exactly what to do. So instead of focusing on the problem and how we can fix it, we must not let fear control our actions.  We must choose to trust God and wait patiently for Him to make a way.  We must obey and move on through when He says it’s time.  Even when our problem seems as big as the Red Sea with no apparent solution, God has the power to make a way!

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 It is Well

Many times during the past year I have said, “Everything is going to be alright.”  Sometimes I believed it, and other times I said it to encourage my husband and family.  But one thing I always knew was that God was with us in those times of uncertainty.  

2 Kings 4 tells about the Shunamite woman who had waited a long time for a child and then watched him grow ill and die. Elisha had told her years ago that God would give her a child because of her faith and service. She knew that God had given her this child, and she believed that through Elisha, God would revive him. So she promptly decided to go to Elisha for help. 

Her faith was so strong that she didn’t even tell her husband the boy had died. When questioned, she stated that everything was all right. She did this not once, but twice. This woman’s child had just died, yet she was able to tell others that everything was fine and trust that God was in control of the situation!  

We all face times of uncertainty at some point. Moments of fear, anxety, depression, pain, weakness, discouragement, and even doubt can quickly begin to control our thoughts and actions. When there are questions about the future, questions about your health, insecurities, fear, and so many unknowns, don’t give up. Instead you can run directly to God with confidence that He remains in control regardless of the storm going on around you. Like the Shunamite woman, you can know that everything is all right 

The song “It is Well With My Soul” was written after several tragedies suffered by businessman Horatio Spafford and his family.  In 1871,  Their young son died with pneumonia and much of their business was destroyed by the Chicago fire. Two years later, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters collided with another vessel and resulted in the death of all four of their children. As Spafford traveled across the ocean to join his grieving wife, he wrote the words to “It is Well With My Soul”.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, 

When sorrows like sea billows roll, 

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 

It is well, it is well with my soul. 

When your world seems to be crashing down around you, true peace can only be found with God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.  The son she had waited so long for had just died in her arms, but the Shunamite woman had a peace that could only come from God. 

Do you trust God so much that even in the darkest moments you can say “Everything is all right”?  Philippians 4:6 says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,  with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. If your answer was “No, I don’t trust God enough to know that everything will be all right”, the answer is in prayer.  Follow the Shunamite woman’s example and go to another Christian who will walk beside you and pray with you. Pray for God to give you that peace that passes all understanding. Keep praying until you can say, “Everything is all right”.


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Satan is a Bully

The most powerful bully we will ever encounter attacks in ways that we may not even recognize as his work.  Satan is a bully with many tactics, and he will use absolutely anyone or anything to initiate his attacks.  He will attack your relationships, your health, your confidence, and your ministry.  There is absolutely no part of your life that he considers off limits.  He will use the actions and words of people around you to cause doubt, confusion, and insecurities in yourself.  He will cause  widespread chaos in your life in an attempt to knock you down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

He attacks when you are weak.  He doesn’t care how much you’ve already been through or even what you are currently going through.  He attacks when you are strong.  His goal is to bring you down, to discourage you, to break your faith in God.  He purposely seeks you out.  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).    

The defenses we teach children to guard against the attacks of a bully can also be helpful with the attacks we face daily from Satan.

  • Walk away – Turn your back on Satan or any issue he throws your way and turn your focus instead to God.  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  • Go tell a teacher/adult – Run to God.  Tell Him what’s going on.  I assure you that He already knows what’s going on, but running to Him shows that you trust Him to take care of you.  He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield (Psalm 144:2).
  • Stay calm – Don’t let fear of what Satan is doing control your thoughts and emotions because God is with you.  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
  • Ask for help – Seek support from Christian friends.  Let them know you are struggling, so that they can encourage and pray for you.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
  • Stand up for yourself – Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

When Satan attacks, seek God’s direction for reassurance that you are doing what He’s called you to do.  If you are in His will, don’t stop.  Keep pushing forward no matter what seeds Satan tries to plant in your heart or mind.  I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27)

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How many times have you found yourself in a situation in which it seemed the best response was to just grin and bear it? We often practice this technique in the small day to day annoyances so that we don’t come across as rude or cranky. We do it when we aren’t feeling well, and someone asks how we’re feeling so we don’t appear to be a whiner. How many times have you heard or said, “Suck it up, Buttercup”?  Many of us see this manner of dealing with adversity as a strong trait.

I’ve come to realize that even with the big stuff I tend to take this same approach.  It’s as if when I grin and bear it, that is proof of just how strong I am and how much faith I have. But instead maybe it just proves my lack of faith and that I am stubbornly digging my heels in an attempt to do things on my own.

For weeks after my husband’s accident, God was literally carrying me through each day because I did not have the strength to even try and do it on my own at that point. A week or two after the accident, I finally had to leave the hospital to take care of some things at home. It was probably the first time that I had really been alone. I remember a feeling of peace as I drove listening to the Christian radio station and even joy as I began to sing along and truly worship God in the midst of the storm. Our situation was not what I wanted to experience, but it was much better than what I had expected to be dealing with. Even in the stress of our situation, I was able to praise God for all He was doing.

But as time passed, my life started to feel out of control as I began to dig my heels in and grin and bear it. I stopped letting God carry me.  I stopped depending on Him and began a daily struggle of depending on me. It’s not easy to admit, but that’s when I began to lose my joy.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison after being falsely accused and beaten with no trial. They were treated unfairly and placed in a horrible circumstance, yet verse 25 says they were praying and singing to God. They weren’t dwelling on their physical pain, unfair treatment, or difficult situation. They didn’t simply grin and bear it to prove their faith. They showed that faith by choosing to turn their focus to God.  Others in the prison saw and heard their faith including a jailer who along with his family was saved. After an earthquake (v26), salvations (v33), and a heart to heart talk from Paul (v37), the officials released them.

My experience is small compared to that of Paul and Silas.  But their response has helped me to refocus, not on the situation but on God and the peace and joy that He gave me months ago during the most difficult of times. I’ve learned that I must continue to choose joy and check my focus daily, and He will continue to give me the strength I need. Others will see that in my life and ultimately bring glory to God.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

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

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29).

“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).

God allows both small trials and big trials in our lives.  His desire is not for us to just grin and bear it.  He wants us to truly have faith rather than depending on our own strength. He wants us to find a way to focus on Him and rejoice through the trial. He will take care of the rest. Don’t grin and bear it. Choose joy!

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He is Greater Than

Whatever you are facing, God has already given you the strength and faith needed. You may not always feel it, but you have what it takes to overcome because Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!! 

Satan is always at work around us. He works through our circumstances, attitudes, feelings, insecurities, and the people around us to create discouragement in our walk of faith. He hopes that we will grow frustrated, turn from God, and take matters into our own hands rather than trusting God.  But thankfully our God is greater than anything that Satan can send our way! 

During those moments when you just don’t think you have it in you to handle any more, remember that the God who lives in your heart will provide all that is required.  When you feel weak and broken by all that is going on around you, know that He has all the strength you need and can mend your brokenness. 

He is greater than any tragedy. He is greater than any illness. He is greater than any feeling. He is greater than any insecurity. He is greater than _____ (fill in the blank with any struggle you are facing). HE is GREATER period. You need only to keep your eyes on Him, and remember “Greater is He that is in me that he that is in the world” – 1 John 4:1.

Our God is Greater!

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Power of Prayer

prayer
Two weeks to live.  This is what doctors told a longtime, christian friend four weeks ago.  During those four weeks, I have found myself questioning how to even pray.  Since he is in a lot of pain, I have prayed for comfort.  But I have also found myself thinking God has a plan and obviously our days are numbered. So is there any point in praying for the healing of a man who is suffering and doctors say has very little time left to live?

Satan had planted the seed in my heart and mind that there was no reason to pray for anything more than comfort in his last days.  Today, God showed me that He is still in control, and, yes, He does have a plan. But just because doctors have numbered a man’s days does not mean that God is finished with him.  I also realized that my attitude has been one of little faith.

In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah became ill and was near death when God told him in verse one that he would not recover.  As most of us would in his situation, Hezekiah cried out reminding God of his faithfulness.  Then in verse five God said, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.”

God is in control

Did Hezekiah’s prayer change God’s mind or was this part of His plan all along?   I don’t know, but I do know that God wants to hear our prayer and he wants us to be persistent in seeking His will.    1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence that we have in approaching God:  that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”  There are other examples in the Bible similar to Hezekiah’s where God changes His plans as a result of someone’s prayer. Ultimately God is in control, but our prayer can effectively bring about results when our true desire is for God’s will rather than our own.

Satan wants us to lose heart in the power of prayer.  He wants us to be discouraged so that we don’t recognize and utilize the power of our prayers.  James 5:16 says, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”  Hezekiah’s prayer was urgent and God’s answer to extend his life was just what Hezekiah had requested.  What if Hezekiah had given up and hadn’t prayed as he did?  I’m sure the outcome would have been different.

Just because the circumstances seem hopeless doesn’t mean we should give up.  Lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith, but persistent prayer shows an absolute trust in God.  Pour out your heart to God.  Make your requests known to Him and seek His will.  Don’t believe Satan’s lie that your prayers don’t matter.  When things are out of your control, pray as if every aspect of the situation hinges solely on your prayer.  It may be just the one God is waiting to hear!

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.~ Corrie Ten Boom

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Faith in the Dark

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

As I sat reading, the lights flickered a time or two then went out completely.  The skies were clear that night. There wasn’t a storm or strong wind, yet for some strange reason I was suddenly sitting in complete darkness.  As I was feeling around for my cell phone, I heard a car door.  I quickly jumped from my chair and dashed for the window as images of movies flashed through my head.  The lights always go out on clear nights because someone has cut the line before intruding on the home!

I reach the window in time to see the interior light still shining inside the car which sat in the driveway.  There was just enough light in that short moment for me to recognize the car.  As the door knob was turning, I breathed a sigh of relief at the realization that my husband was home early from work.  Although he had formed a plan to surprise me, he had no intention of scaring me.  Yet my own fear of the dark caused my imagination to run wild.

Yes, I admit it.  I’m afraid of the dark.  I don’t like to drive at night because I can’t see what lies ahead.  I am only able to see that which is allowed by the glow of my headlights.  I want to see more.  Although it’s not how I prefer to drive, I have learned to trust that my headlights will provide just the amount of light that I need.

Unexpected events in our lives often leave us fumbling in the dark trying to find our way.  Fear causes our imaginations to run wild as we are unsure of what lies ahead.  We thought we knew the direction our life was going, but suddenly everything has changed.  We may not understand it, but God has a plan.  The path may not be lit brightly, but we can trust that He will provide just the amount of light that we need.  Just as I’ve learned to trust the headlights on my car, I’ve learned to trust God during the dark times of life.

Hebrews 11 provides many examples of people who have trusted God in the dark times of their lives.  Noah knew nothing of floods when God warned him that a flood would cover the earth, but  he built the ark as instructed and had faith that God would protect his family even though he had never seen rain (v.7).   The Israelites were running for their lives from the Egyptians when they reached the Red Sea, and there appeared to be no escape.  When God opened a passage of escape, they stepped out in faith onto dry land with walls of water on either side, and those trying to capture them drowned (v.29).

Hebrews goes on to tell of the faith of many others including Abraham who led the people to the promised land(v.8), Enoch who was taken straight to glory without experiencing death (v.5),  Sarah who conceived a child in old age (v.11),  and Moses parents who hid their baby  to avoid the king’s decree that
required baby Moses’ death (v.23).  The Book of Hebrews goes on and on with other stories of faith in dark times, times that surely caused great fear, times that triggered many questions and uncertainties.  Yet each of those listed, trusted that in those dark times, God had a plan and would provide just what they needed.

For faith to be present, action is required.  Each person listed in Hebrews stepped out in faith and obeyed God’s instruction.  We abandon all trust in what we can accomplish on our own and follow His lead instead.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Darkness unexpectedly arises in our lives and we can’t see what lies ahead.  Faith means that we can trust that God is in control even in the darkness. He is the light in our darkness. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Faith is focusing on an eternal God rather than the temporary darkness.  In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  We can trust that He will provide just the amount of light that we need, but without faith we can only see the darkness.

Whatever darkness is challenging your faith today, step out in faith, and He will guide you through the dark.

 

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