Saturday, August 27, 2011

Genuine Faith

"But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." - Hebrews 10:38 (NIV)

Faith - we as Christians all say we have faith in God...but do we really? We have abundant faith when life is going great and things are going our way: "Wow, God is blessing me so much! He is an awesome God and I know He takes care of me.". Yet, we so easily lose faith when life isn't going so great: "Why is God letting this happen to me? Why isn't He answering my prayers? Why, why, why?!!". Real, true, honest, GENUINE faith is having faith in ALL circumstances of our lives - good and bad, happy and sad, joyful and tragic. It pleases God when we place our trust in Him and the promises He has made to us. He loves us and wants the best for us but we have to believe in Him.

For the past two weeks, I have been studying the Book of Matthew, chapter by chapter. There are some wonderful examples of genuine faith in just the first few chapters. Such as:
    - Joseph - 3 times the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and
      commanded him to do something; 3 times he did it without question.
      (1:24, 2:13-14 & 19-21)
    - Simon Peter & Andrew - Jesus told them to follow Him; they dropped their nets
      and followed. (4:18-20)
    - The centurion - Jesus said about this man, "I tell you the truth, I have not found
      anyone in Israel with such great faith." (8:10)
    - The suffering woman - she touched the edge of Jesus cloak because she knew by
      doing so, she would be healed. (10:20-21)
So many others - the blind men, the man with leprosy, the paralytic, the demon-possessed men, the ruler whose daughter had died, on and on. This is what God has pointed out to me time and time again in Matthew - the genuine faith of these people. Some were made whole, some were saved from death, some were made disciples of Jesus - why? Because of their faith!!

What are you facing in your life right now that might be testing your faith? Is it a health issue, a relationship problem, financial difficulties, prayers you don't feel are being answered, job woes, something else? Then reach out to our Heavenly Father, don't turn your back on Him; He hasn't turned His back on you. If you reach out to Him, like the suffering woman, in unwavering, genuine faith, He will make you whole again, give you peace, heal your spirit, be the light in the darkness. I don't know about you, but I'd rather live with faith than without it.

"There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." (Corrie ten Boom)

Dear God, help me to always remember You are near and You can overcome anything I may be facing. Keep me mindful of Your presence, Your love and Your power. May I have genuine, unwavering faith in Your promises. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Watch Your Mouth

"Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." - 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
These are some of Paul's final words to the people in Corinth. He is appealing to them to live according to the instructions he has been giving them in his past letters. That's what he means when he tells them (and us) to "aim for perfection". His letters were written to encourage us, to instruct us, to lift us up. And that is what God wants us to do for each other.

Ephesians 4:29 says this: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.". Or, as I often told my kids when they were teenagers, "Watch your mouth!!". That old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." isn't always true. Words can hurt. They can break up relationships, they can tear down trust, they can fracture a church, they can cause unhappiness - especially when they are said in anger and judgement. James 1:19 instructs us in this way: "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.". In other words, think before we speak. Because, just as words can hurt, they can also heal. They can bring hope when  things seem hopeless, they can bring comfort, they can cause laughter, they can encourage, they can enlighten and, best of all, they can lead someone to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I am setting the intention to ask God to help me to choose my words more carefully, to stop and think before I speak, especially when I'm angry. I want my words to lift others up, not tear them down, to be pleasing to God and encouraging to those I'm speaking to. May we all be more aware of what comes out of our mouths.

"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something." (Plato)
Dear Lord, give me wisdom when I speak. Help me to choose carefully the words that come out of my mouth. I desire to be encouraging and lift others up, as You lift me up. May I glorify You with my words. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Let God Decide

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." - 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Yesterday I wrote about choices and how we all have to make hundreds of them every day. Today's Bible study is also about choices and how we may be faced with some that there is no easy solution to - at least as far as we can see. Maybe it's a new job that is fantastic but it means starting over somewhere else and we fear leaving behind all that we know and is comfortable to us. Maybe it's a marriage that is on the rocks and we don't know if it's worth it to fight for it. Maybe it's children who are running with the wrong crowd and nothing we say or do is making a difference. Maybe it's seeing the pictures of children in Somalia who are going hungry and you feel powerless to help them. Maybe it's an addiction we are tired of but can't seem to control. Maybe it's ___________ (fill in the blank).

God tells us here in 2 Timothy that we don't need to be fearful, we aren't powerless, we can love when we don't think we have it in us and we can have self-discipline. That is the spirit He gave us when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour. That is the spirit that we can be filled with when we let God make our decisions for us, when we let Him find the solution to our quandary. When we are faced with a difficult decision, our first thought should be, "I need to talk to God about this and ask for His help.". Unfortunately, we often try to find a solution on our own and the results are often disastrous. God will NEVER make a wrong decision for us. He will ALWAYS lead us along the correct path. He can help us to choose the right job; He can fill us with love for our spouse; He can give us the patience, strength and courage to deal with wayward children; He can give us the power to find a way to help hungry children; He can give us the self-discipline to beat an addiction. HE CAN, HE CAN, HE CAN!! That old saying, "let go and let God" is so true. So, if you're struggling with a problem that you don't see a solution to - Let God Decide.

"There may be no trumpet sound or loud applause when we make a right decision, just a calm sense of resolution and peace." (Gloria Gaither)

Heavenly Father, fill me with the spirit I need to face difficult decisions in my life. Give me Your guidance, Your courage, Your power, Your love and Your strength to choose what it pleasing to You. Help me to be Your humble, obedient and patient servant in all things. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

 Choices. Our lives revolve around them. From the time we open our eyes in the morning until we close them in sleep at night, we have made hundreds of choices....big and small.  What we're going to wear, what we're going to eat, what we're going to do that day, what our attitude is going to be, what we say, how we react to situations we face during the day....choices, choices, choices!! Our choices say a lot about us, whether we realize it or not. We may think nobody is watching what we choose to say or how we choose to act. Somebody is always watching us.....God. And He wants us to seek Him to help us make the right choices so that when we are being watched by others, they will see Him in us.

In this verse, Jesus is giving us instructions on how we should live our lives. He is in the middle of teaching His disciples and a crowd of people (and us!!) about the choices we must make to live a life that is pleasing to God. First thing, "seek His kingdom and His righteousness". How? By prayer, by studying His Word, by walking in Jesus' footsteps, by following His commandments. You may be thinking, "She always says that! Can't she be more original?" Maybe, but I choose not to be. Why mess with the perfection of God and His Word? He has told us clearly and often throughout the Bible, how we are to think, act, talk, and walk....but He has also given us free will to make the choice as to how we live our lives.

Look at the "Test for Self Evaluation" by John Wesley in the next column. That's a list of just some of the choices we make each day that may or may not be pleasing to God. I choose to read that every morning before I start my Bible study. It makes me re-evaluate my choices from yesterday, and gives me the desire to make better choices today. It helps me to have a better understanding of my Bible study, where my shortcomings are and where God is at work in my life. I also choose to start each day by giving it over to God, to seek Him first, because, when I don't, my day does not go well. When I choose wisely, when I choose to please God, when I choose to pray before making a decision, any decision, then I know I've made the correct choice, no matter the outcome. My devotional gave me this reminder: "every choice that is displeasing to Him is the wrong choice -- no exceptions." That is a good reminder to live by.

"Commitment to His lordship on Easter, at revivals, or even every Sunday is not enough. We must choose this day -- and every day -- whom we will serve. This deliberate act of the will is the inevitable choice between habitual fellowship and habitual failure." (Beth Moore)

Dear Jesus, I choose to walk in Your footsteps today. Guide me in my thoughts and actions. Let them be pleasing to God. May I always look to You and our Father in heaven for guidance in my choices. In Your name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Giving Thanks for Our Gifts

"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven." - Matthew 5:12a (NIV)

I can honestly say that receiving gifts is not a big deal to me. After taking the "5 Love Languages" quiz, I know that receiving a gift is at the bottom of the barrel of what I need to feel loved. Of course, I knew that, deep down, before I even took the quiz. However, I LOVE giving gifts...I love shopping for that perfect gift, I love wrapping it, I love to see the look on the face of the person I bought it for when they open it, I love the excitement when they share with others the gift I gave them...I absolutely love that part of gift giving! But, I don't need to receive one in return; they're not important to me. And, I'm not always thankful when I receive one - for example, my husband has brought me flowers before, for no reason, and all I could think of was, "Why did he spend money that could have been used to pay bills or buy groceries?" How ungrateful was I?!!

God has also gifted me. He has blessed me with so much. And I don't always thank Him because, as I said before, gifts aren't important to me. But they should be! I think of how I feel giving a gift...God feels that way when He gives to me!! And all He desires in return is that I thank Him, praise Him, celebrate the life He has given to me and share His gifts with others. To count my blessings daily and give thanks continually and use the gifts in service to Him and to others I come in contact with. To be joyful and celebrate. That's not too much to ask. I intend to be more aware of the blessings and gifts God has bestowed on me and to be grateful for them...daily. As my devotional points out - "Today is a non-renewable resource -- once it's gone, it's gone forever." So, to hold myself accountable to thank Him for my blessings today, I want to list a few:
     - Salvation - for Jesus loving me so much that he took on human form, suffered and
       was nailed on the cross for my sins so that I could choose Him as my Lord and
       Savior and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.
     - My husband, Dennis - for the love he shows me constantly and putting up with
       my moods: I love you!
     - My kids, Corey, Dusti, Brittany & Trae and the extra "kids" they've brought into
       my life, Megan & Lucas - for the happiness, inspiration, and even the heartache
       because they've taught me to "let go and let God".
     - My grandkids, Alec, Andrew, Annelyse, Madyson & Dominic - they keep me
       young, make me laugh and teach me patience.
     - My parents and siblings - I am who I am because of the examples you have been,
       are and continue to be to me.
     - My friends - through good times & laughter, bad times & tears, God has placed
       each and everyone of you in my life for a reason and I am very thankful for you.
     - A home when so many are homeless, food when so many are hungry, peace
       when so many are at war, joy when so many are unhappy, beauty when there
       is so much that is ugly, love when there is so much hatred and His Word 
       to keep me grounded when there is so much uncertainty.

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing...stop and take a few moments to see your blessings and thank God for them. Celebrate the life He's given you!!

Dear Lord, today, I celebrate the blessings and life you've given to me.  I celebrate the family and friends you've surrounded me with. I celebrate the love You have for me. I celebrate the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Let me never take Your gifts for granted, Lord. Let me always be thankful and share Your blessings with others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's My Attitude?

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." - Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

The title of today's blog comes from my daily devotional book. It perfectly sums up what I learned from God today. This is a question I should be asking myself every morning when I wake up. What is my attitude today? Do I want to allow worries, fears, anger or unhappiness to rule me today? Do I want Satan to be in control? Or do I want to count my blessings and experience God's joy and spiritual abundance? Do I want God to be in control? The choice is mine.

Every single day is a good day, no matter what it brings, if I choose it to be. It's my attitude that makes each day what it is. So, today, I choose to be an optimist. I choose to see all the blessings and miracles God has surrounded me with. I choose to give thanks and be joyful. I choose to place my faith and trust in the One who created me and loves me beyond my understanding. I choose to celebrate this life He has given to me, bumps in the road and all.  He will never force me to make these choices; they are all mine to make. What is my attitude today?

"The difference between winning and losing is how we choose to react to disappointment." (Barbara Johnson)

Awesome God, I am so thankful for all of Your blessings; let my attitude reflect that today. Make me a woman who sets her mind on spiritual things, not earthly things. Guide me in my choices today and help me to keep Satan out of my attitude. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Remaining Faithful

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received." - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

I slacked off yesterday so this is my catchup Bible study for Sunday. I'm a bit upset with myself that I didn't make the time yesterday to study this because it goes right along with the message that Cal gave at church. The message was about this unique thing God has for me and me alone: My Story! No one else will live my life; my experiences are completely different from anyone else's. That's not to say I won't go through some of the same trials & troubles that others have gone through, are going through or will go through. It's just that mine won't look exactly the same as someone else's. We're all going through this bad economy, money's tight, unemployment is high, bills keep coming - but my experience of it isn't the same as yours. I'm not sure how you choose to handle this time of trials, but I choose to remain faithful and trust God to see me through. It hasn't always been that way. In the past, I've chosen to worry, complain, be afraid, depend on myself to fix the problem. That didn't work for me. This time, I'm choosing to lean on God and the comfort He brings. I choose to give my worries and fears to Him.

God never promised we'd have a life free from hurt, trouble, pain or difficulties. The Bible tells us clearly that we will have troubles in this life (John 16:33). Why would He allow these things to happen to us? Well, I believe the answer lies in these two verses from 2 Corinthians. First, He wants to comfort us in our troubles. He wants to help  us get through by taking our troubles on Himself and keeping us faithful to Him and His promises. Second, so that we can, in turn, comfort others who are going through something similar. If you've never experienced pain or heartache, how can you understand someone else's? If you've never been broke, how can you understand the fears of someone who can't pay their bills? If you've never lost a loved one, how can you understand the grief of someone who has? If you've never been comforted, how can you comfort someone else?

There is a reason for our difficulties; God knows what that is and it's up to us to trust Him and know it's for our own good. He is always faithful to us; we should always remain faithful to Him.

Heavenly Father, I praise you for the trials in my life. I thank You for the comfort & compassion I can find when I turn to You. Open my eyes to Your plan for me during my times of struggle. Use me to comfort someone else who may be going through similar troubles and bring honor & glory to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.