Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

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

Photo Credit: Photobucket.com

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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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Overwhelmed?

Do you ever have moments when it seems as if your whole life has been turned upside down and you just don’t know if you can handle any more?  Sometimes life is overwhelming.

I recently found a garden snake in our elementary building. Considering that our students would be returning on Monday, I knew the snake had to be expelled from our school.  What seemed to be a fairly simple task became overwhelming when this harmless snake began trying to defend himself.  Although he was not venomous, he did a good job of convincing me that he wasn’t leaving without a fight.   I became overwhelmed by this aggressive little critter that repeatedly sprang at me the full length of his body.  I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, yet I just wasn’t sure I could even try anymore, so I finally called for help.  My husband came, made a quick capture, and calmed my racing heart.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the simple things in life which can be resolved easily, but often we are faced with moments which turn into days, months, or even years of being overwhelmed. Job demands, health issues, rebellious children, strained relationships, addictions, financial restraints, and so many other circumstances that may leave us feeling defeated.  Big or small, short-term or long-term, life is full of situations that stretch us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

There are many examples in the Bible of people who were overwhelmed with their circumstances, from Martha who fretted over preparing a meal for Jesus to King David who feared for his life. So what can we do when life seems turned upside down for the moment, days, weeks, or even months and it feels like we just can’t handle any more?

Talk – We weren’t made to survive life alone.  After all, God made Eve because He saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.  Find someone who you trust that has been through a similar experience.  Sometimes just talking helps us feel better.  Most importantly, talk to God.  James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you suffering?  Then let him pray.”  In Psalms 61:2 David said, “I will cry to you when my heart is overwhelmed.”  God hears when we cry out to Him.  He can provide shelter, peace, and comfort.

Trust – Abraham was surely overwhelmed in Genesis 22:1-14 when his faith was tested, yet he trusted God.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “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.”  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength.” We may not understand why situations happen in our life, but we can trust God to give us strength to endure.

Tackle It – In Genesis 6:13-22, God called Noah to build an ark so large that God had to close the door.  What an overwhelming job he had!  He didn’t just sit back and hope God would take care of it for him.  Noah jumped in and tackled the task as God led.  Ephesians 6:10 reminds us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  You can’t do it on your own, but He will give you the power to get through those overwhelming situations.

Time – Joseph struggled for thirteen years before seeing God’s plan fulfilled.  As a child Joseph had a dream that he would become a ruler.  His brothers sold him into slavery, then he went to prison for a crime he did not commit.  Eventually, he became the most influential person in the world. (Genesis 37-41)  It took a lot of time, but Joseph did not give up and continued to be faithful.  We only see the current circumstances, but God sees our future.  Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  Regardless of how long we are overwhelmed God will be there with us.

When life is overwhelming, and you feel like you just can’t take any more, remember to TALK to Him, TRUST Him, TACKLE IT with His strength, and allow TIME for God to work.  He loves you, and will see you through those moments when life seems turned upside down whether for the moment, days, weeks, months, or even years.

Related Articles:  Its OK Not to be OK (Encouragement for Everyday)

 

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Chick-Fil-A

Chick-Fil-A (Photo credit: Link576)

There has been much controversy recently over statements made by Chick-fil-A president, Dan Cathy. In an interview, Cathy was asked about the company’s support of the traditional family. His response was, “Well, guilty as charged.” Cathy also said, “We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit.” The original story was re-posted in the Baptist Press on July 16, 2012. You can read that entire story here.   The Baptist Press also printed a follow-up story on July 20, 2012 which can be found here. Before I jump off into this, let me say that it is not my intention to offend anyone.  I’m not one for stirring the pot and sure don’t like opening cans of worms, but I believe it is important that we Christians take a stand for what the bible says.  My personal opinion in all of this controversy is that we can be firm in our biblical beliefs while showing love and without judging those who believe differently.  It seems to me that Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy is promoting this same attitude.

When asked about his beliefs, Cathy’s comments were positive in nature.  If you read the story, there was no bashing or disrespect toward the gay community.  The company president simply stated his belief when asked.  Look at his statement again:  “We are very much supportive of the family—the biblical definition of the family unit.”  His statement “guilty as charged” referred to his stance on traditional family values.  It was not a claim that the company is anti-gay. Chick-fil-A is simply standing behind their belief of the biblical definition of a family.  However, soon after the interview was published, related articles began to surface with “anti-gay” in the headlines.

All the hoopla about being “politically correct” has left many Christians afraid to take a stand for biblical principles which are often not socially accepted.  Often we find ourselves just keeping our mouths shut and not standing strong on those biblical principles hoping we won’t be accused of being judgmental or intolerant.  Regrettably, continuing this behavior could ultimately lead to loss of our current religious freedoms.

A song written by Aaron Tippin in 1991 says, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”. Those words carry just as much truth today as when they were originally recorded over twenty years ago. It’s vital that Christians stand for biblically sound principles or we will look no different from nonbelievers.  Everyone has a right to their opinion, and as Christians we can respect everyone but yet not compromise biblical values.  However, we must stand against sinful behaviors, yet avoid judging the person. We must continue to live out our faith in hopes of making a difference in the world around us.  Matthew 7:1 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  It is not our place to judge any person.

Matthew 7:3 says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye.”(NIV)   We all face temptations, but we should not condemn others just because their temptations are different from ours.  In Galatians 5:14 we are called to love one another:  “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NIV)   That means everyone, not just those who believe exactly as we believe.   We should stand firmly on biblical principles, but that does not mean to turn away from those who believe otherwise. It is our responsibility to treat every person with respect regardless of their beliefs.  Sometimes we must agree to disagree, and love rather than judge while standing firm on the Word of God.

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The Lord goes before youThe journey of life is often long and difficult.  There are many obstacles in our way that cause discouragement, grumbling, and questions. Our circumstances may leave us feeling like the Israelites as God led them to the promised land.  God had promised something better than the life they were leaving, but they faced many struggles along the way.

Exodus 13:17 says, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” Why not? The Israelites were finally free from slavery, and God was leading them to the Promised Land.  Why would He make them go the long way?  As we read on we see that travelling the  shortest route would result in being attacked by the Philistine army.  God knew if they faced a battle, they might turn and head back to Egypt. They simply were not ready. So He protected them from an immediate battle to prevent the Israelites from becoming discouraged and giving up. Ultimately, He knew what was best for them.

Eventually Pharaoh decided he had made a mistake and gathered his army to capture and bring home the Israelites. As they approached the Israelite camp to force them all to go back to Egypt, the people began to panic and cried out to God for help.  When trouble appears in our life, we often respond in the same way.  We panic and cry out to God to help us get through it.  Then they turned on Moses, complaining about his leadership, and wishing they had never left Egypt.  They feared the worst thinking they would surely die there in the desert.  They didn’t even wait for God to answer their cries for help before they began to fear the worst.  Satan uses fear to distract us from trusting God, and we begin to question why He is taking us down this path in life. In Exodus 14:13, Moses says, “Don’t be afraid be brave and you will see the Lord today.”  Moses had faith that God would be with them.

Then in Exodus 14:14, Moses says, “The Lord himself will fight for you.  You won’t have to lift a finger in your defense.”  Hmm…so if we encounter difficulty while travelling the path God planned, He will fight the battles for us!  He doesn’t even need our assistance or advice.  As long as it’s His plan for our lives, He will ensure that things don’t go awry.  There may be difficulties along the way, but ultimately God will protect us every step and nothing will happen that is out of His control.  What a comfort to know that whatever battles come our way, God has it under control!  All we need to do is be still and allow him to work.

At this point the Israelites appeared to be trapped between the wilderness and the sea as the Egyptians approached.  Then as God instructed, Moses held his staff over the water, and a pathway opened across the sea.  The Israelites walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground as water stood like a giant wall on both sides.  The waters closed up behind them and the Egyptians, their chariots, and horsemen were all swept into the sea. God had rescued them from what appeared to be an impossible situation.  There seemed to be no way to survive, but God not only protected them but also removed the threat completely!

Exodus 14:31 says, “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”  They saw the lengths that God would go through on their behalf to achieve His will in their lives. They began to sing the following praises:  “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.”  (Exodus 15:2-3)

Our lives are like the Israelites journey to the promised land.  God has promised something better (heaven), but it’s often a long journey, and there are many difficulties along the way.  Difficult times help us to learn to trust Him, and our faith and relationship with Him will grow stronger.  Although we may grumble and get discouraged going through it, we can trust that He is with us, He has a plan, He will fight for us, and in the end we will see His power.

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God’s Unfailing Love

Psalms 13:1-6

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6 I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

Do you ever feel as though God has forgotten you?  Does it seem that He looks the other way as your life crumbles around you?  You’ve tried so hard to do the right things, yet your life is full of anguish. David was struggling with feeling deserted by God, sadness in his heart, and attacks of enemies. Yet he ends this Psalm with praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.  From the desperation in verses 1-4 to the shift of attitude in verse six, David’s situation did not change, but his perspective did.  Instead of focusing on the problem, he has turned his attention to God’s love and other times God rescued him.  His honesty displays a truth that sometimes we feel defeated even to the point of depression.

Faith comes easy when things are going well, but the true test of our faith is determined by the trials that seem to tear us limb from limb. In those moments, when it seems there is no hope, remember these tips:

1.  God loves you and His compassion never fails. Remind yourself of this truth daily, or hourly if needed.

2. Reflect on God’s deliverance in the past.  From what situations has he delivered you previously?

3.  Talk to God.  Pray often and be honest about your feelings and questions.

4.  Talk to a trusted, christian friend or pastor. You don’t have to suffer alone.

David reminds us in this Psalm that even when we struggle through the sorrows that come in life there is one thing of which we can be sure.  God’s love! It never fails.  He has rescued you in the past and will rescue you again.  Keep singing and praising His name in the midst of your trouble.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  Psalms 40:2

Growing up I lived on a farm, so I learned to drive at an early age.  I often drove the pickup while my dad put out feed for the cows, loaded the truck with bales of hay, and many other things.  It was great, except for the mud holes.  My dad always knew exactly how to get through those muddy pits without a bit of trouble.  I tried to do it just like him, but sometimes I just could not make it across to the other side.  If Daddy was within yelling distance, I could just call for help.  Eventually he would come over the hill with the tractor to pull me out onto dry, solid ground where I could continue down the path.  Sometimes it required several attempts and maybe even different methods, but no matter how badly I had buried the truck, he was always able to pull me up out of the mud.

In our daily lives, we often encounter similar mud pits, and sometimes we get bogged down.  Our situation may seem totally  hopeless leaving us feeling alone not knowing what to do or where to turn.  We may try desperately to get on with our lives, while actually just be spinning our tires making the situation worse.  Just as my dad pulled me from the mud pit, our Father in heaven will do the same for his children.  When our lives find us in the muddy pit of depression, despair, and discouragement, we can cry out for help and wait patiently.  He will hear our cries and pull us out of the mud and mire using His word, people around us, circumstances in our lives, and His love.  Before we know it, we will be standing on solid ground once again and ready to continue down the path of life.

Luke 1:37 says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  Regardless of how deeply your life gets buried in the mud and mire, God is more than capable of pulling you out onto solid ground.  You must simply stop trying to do it on your own, and call out to him.

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