Acting on What I Believe – A Challenge

In all the years I’ve been a professed Christian, I’ve never really thought about this until the last few weeks – how action translates what I believe into something beautiful. Into something Jesus wants to see from all who claim belief in Him.

I know we all have been in our churches and heard sermons on stewardship. Yes, giving money is not the only thing we can do in Jesus’ name, not the only action, but it’s the one I’m going to talk about today. Now, back to those sermons. Have you rolled your eyes at least once when you’ve heard those sermons? I will admit it. I have. It seems like all the yearly pleas for money have made us immune to what the money is really needed for. Do we really want to win our world for Christ? Or is church and what we do at church just something to check off our list and not even the most important part of our list? I don’t want church or my faith to be something to check off a list.  I want my life and my money to show what I really believe in. I want people to see Jesus in me. I might not be able to give as much money as someone else, but, from what I can give, money, as well as time, I want people to see  what my priorities are.  And my very first priority is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I write this today because today is Commitment Sunday at my church for our 2015 budget. And it is the very first time my heart is in tune with my actions. I want to “touch God’s heart with a renewed sense of generosity”.  God has tremendously blessed my family in the last few weeks, and I want to turn that around and bless others. I hope my church family joins me.  But, more than that, more than just money, I hope that all of you who are Christians will love people in Jesus’ name today.

God’s blessings on all of you!

When You Can't Feel God

This was the title of my devotion this morning, and after I had read it, I realized I had something to say about the topic. There have been many times in the last two months when I haven’t felt God’s presence, and they usually have been when I’ve been at my lowest and when I’ve been in the most pain. I wouldn’t wish the struggle my family has gone through on anyone.

But now that my family is on the other side of this struggle, I’ve realized a few things. The very first and most important of these things is that I’ve figured out what true faith is. It’s going through something when you don’t know what’s going to be at the other end. Having faith in God no matter what happens. This is a hard thing. Here is the definition of faith. “a belief that is not based on proof or a confidence and trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion.”  It’s easy to say you have faith in God, well, maybe not easy when you first come to faith. But, once you have faith, it’s easier to say you have it when you feel God’s presence. I believe having faith is the hardest though when you can’t feel His presence. When you’re at the bottom of the pit or in the middle of the desert. It’s important to have Christian brothers and sisters when you’re at those places. They are the people God uses to carry you so you will know He is there. I’m so lucky to have people like that in my life.

Another thing I’ve realized is that God already knows what’s going to happen at the end of the struggle. He’s already there forming and shaping me into the person He wants me to be. There have been things I’ve been uncomfortable doing and people I’ve been uncomfortable in talking with in regards to my faith. I’m starting to believe God has had me go through this struggle so I won’t be inflexible and resistant to change. I want people to see Jesus in me and then to ask what is different. It’s not me that’s going to change the little corner of the world I’m in.  It’s Jesus in me that’s going to change my little corner, and that’s the most sincere desire of my heart.

I leave you with this. There is a song Casting Crowns sings that’s called Already There. It reflects what has happened in my life over the last few weeks. Here are the lyrics.

 

“From where I’m standing
Lord it’s so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You’re leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can’t controlOh, oh

When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

Oh, oh, oh, oh

From where You’re standing
Lord, You see a grand design
That You imagined
When You breathed me into life
And all the chaos
Comes together in Your hands
Like a masterpiece
Of Your picture perfect plan
When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
I can’t wait to enjoy the view
And see how all the pieces fit

One day I’ll stand before You
And look back on the life I’ve lived
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
When I’m lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You’re already there
You’re already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You’re already there
You’re already there

You are already there”

God’s blessings on you all today!

 

Pain and Heartache

It’s been over a month since I’ve written in this blog.  Not making any excuses. Just stating a fact. My last post spoke of jumping into the unknown, and my life has turned into the unknown. I am living life day by day, not really being able to plan for the future because of some situations going on with my family.

I had a time deciding what to entitle this post, and I still might change it before I am done. These last six weeks have been a time of pain and heartache, of asking questions, of not understanding, and then when I’ve gotten to a point that I might be able to understand, it’s been ripped out from underneath me. We’re at a place where we need to totally trust in God’s provision because there is nothing else in this world for us to hang onto. I’ve been writing about my thoughts and fears this whole time in my journal, but I couldn’t see where they belonged in a blog about thriving in grace so I didn’t publish them.

I realize now that I made a mistake. Pain is a part of thriving. People don’t like to show pain for many different reasons. I’m thinking paramount among them would be, “If I show my pain, does it mean that I don’t feel God’s love? ”  Or “Why would God cause such pain and anguish to someone who loves Him so much?” I don’t know the answers to those questions.  I’m doing some reading to try to figure them out, but I don’t know if that will help either.  I keep hearing a voice which tells me that my pain will help someone else. I hope so. I truly hope so. Because that is what is keeping me going right now.

In the midst of all this uncertainty and dependence on God’s provision, an anniversary has come around today. Today is the third anniversary of losing my third child. Talk about ripping a band-aid off of scars I thought had healed. The pain of this loss, along with everything else, has ripped my heart apart. I don’t understand. I don’t understand why my husband and I lost our baby, and other babies lived.  I don’t understand why we are having to go through this other pain. I know I have God though even when I feel completely alone and isolated from people in the world.  You see, I understand that people feel awkward around my pain especially if it’s a pain they’re not familiar with or a pain they try to blame others for so  they can think they’ll never experience it.  If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been specific about the pain my family is going through only that we’re having to totally trust God for His provision. It might be understandable through the phrase ‘trusting God for His provision’, but I won’t go any further than that because people will make judgments to make themselves feel better.

Judging others. As human beings, we all do it, even those of us who have Christ. Even though Christ tells us not to.  Why? Probably because we still live in a fallen world. I’m tired though. Tired of not thinking I can show my pain so people will think I’m strong, because, you see, I’m not strong. Not all of the time. And when I’m not strong, my Lord and Savior holds me up. So, today, I will mourn the child I lost three years ago and think of what might have been. I will give myself permission to hurt and not understand the other pain I’m going through. Because, even though people might not understand my pain, I know my Lord and Savior does.

If you have something you are going through and would like prayer, please feel free to comment.  In any case, I will be praying for all who see this today.

God’s blessings on you today!

Into the Unknown

Into the unknown–a lot could be gleaned from the phrase, but that’s kind of where I am this week. It’s like I’m on the top of a cliff with the precipice crumbling which means I have no choice, but to jump. The unknown is not one of my favorite places to be as I’m sure it is with a lot of you. In our society, people take pride in being prepared, in knowing what’s going to happen. Their hearts and minds are settled if they have prepared for every contingency. But a lot of times, we don’t know what’s going to happen.  And, if we are being honest, we don’t like being in the position of not knowing what’s going to happen.

Back in Biblical times though, when Jesus came on the scene, He was the unknown. The people around Him and the Jewish establishment didn’t know what to expect either.  They didn’t expect His grace, His love, the sacrifice He ended up making for all of us.  His disciples didn’t expect their worlds would be entirely changed when He asked them to follow Him and then didn’t expect to change the world themselves through what they had to share of His love and His grace.  I’ve been a professed Christian for a long time, but I am still learning more and more of this every day.

The unknown is a scary place. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say the circumstances I am in right now are scary. But, I know my Lord and Savior has me in the palm of His hand, and I just need to trust that He will provide. The lyrics of the song Oceans by Hillsong United demonstrate this aptly.

“You call me out upon the waters/The great unknown where feet may fail/And there I find You in the mystery/In oceans deep/ My faith will stand

“And I will call upon Your name/And keep my eyes above the waves/When oceans rise/My soul will rest in Your embrace/For I am Yours and You are mine

“Your grace abounds in deepest waters/Your sovereign hand/Will be my guide/Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me/You’ve never failed and You won’t stop now

“So I will call upon Your name/And keep my eyes above the waves/When oceans rise/My soul will rest in Your embrace/ For I am Yours and You are mine

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders/Let me walk upon the waters/ Wherever You would call me/ Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander/ And my faith will be made stronger/ In the presence of my Savior

“I will call upon Your name/ Keep my eyes above the waves/ My soul will rest in Your embrace/ I am Yours and You are mine”

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Depression

Over the last few days, a lot has been said about this subject with the death of actor Robin Williams by suicide. It’s an important subject to shed light on as talking about mental health tends to be one of the last taboos in society, even in Christian circles.  Why is that? Why is an illness of the mind not considered to be as important as an illness of the body? We pray for people to be healed of cancer, of heart disease. Of any other physical disease you can think of that affects members of the population. But we don’t pray for people to be healed of depression.  Why? I think some Christian blogs over the past few days answer that question, most notably Matt  Walsh’s blog. When I read the blog, I flinched and not in a good way. But, of course, I had experienced this before so it was not a surprise.  There are some Christians who don’t believe depression is an illness. They believe that any Christian who is suffering from depression is not praying to God enough, is not relying on God enough, and in some cases, not a true Christian.

That is absolutely not the case! But, before I go any further, I know some of you will say that suicide is a choice. Yes, of course, it is a choice.  It is a choice that is very painful for the ones left behind since they don’t really know…why.  Why the person didn’t reach out for help for their depression. Of course, no one knows what was going on in Robin Williams’ head. But, for the question, why do people not reach out for help, I might be slightly qualified to answer that one.  I have thought about suicide, have thought of how easy it would be not to have to suffer anymore.  And I have been on medication in the past for my depression.  So, why do people not reach out? Well, in some cases, I think they do, but I think they’re also told or left with the impression that what they have said is not important or of value, that what they feel is not a reasonable thing to be upset about. And then, there are some people who don’t reach out, who think the world would be better off without them. I think both groups have an equal chance of going through with the final deed.

What prevents people like this from going through with it?  Because of the focus of this blog, you would be correct in thinking  I would say a relationship with God is important. But, more than that, it is important for Christians who suffer with depression to have a supportive community around them.  To be properly medicated if they need it and most especially not to be told that what they are thinking and feeling is of no consequence.  I know God has not abandoned me, and He has not abandoned other Christians who suffer from depression either.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Vocabulary of Faith

I’ve learned so many words and phrases this past year which have become a part of my vocabulary of faith. Words that I am beginning to truly understand. Words such as peace, the peace that passes all understanding. Divine courage, courage which does not mean fear is absent. It just means you proceed with doing whatever you’re afraid of despite the fear because you know God is there to give you strength. And, living in community. This is the big one. My church has taught me there are groups of Christians out there who are doing what God has called them to do. To love each other, to help each other. Showing grace and not judgment. We are not perfect; we are broken, but we love each other, and that’s what counts. It’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Best of Us

July has been a rough month for my family.  Within a week or two of the month starting, my husband was required to start commuting an increased distance to his job. And when you’re asked to start doing something for your job, you’d better be prepared to do it if you want to keep said job. We were talking about this the other day. When he was still commuting to his job locally, he was gone from our home eight and a half hours a day. He lived close enough to work where he could come home for lunch and have a semblance of a life with me and our children in the evenings. Now, he is gone from our home eleven hours a day. This includes a one hour commute each way as well as the actual  eight hours working and the one hour he takes for a lunch break. As you can imagine, when he gets home now, he is tired, and he is not able to spend much time with us, at least during the week, because of that fatigue.

Now, this is not going to be a ‘bash your husband’ post or a ‘bash your husband’s work’ post. I am so grateful he is making this sacrifice for us, and I know he feels guilty we are no longer getting the best of him.  No, this post is going to talk about something different.  When we, as Christians, think about our relationship with God, what is God actually getting from us in terms of said relationship?  I’m not talking about church or doing things at church although that is a part of the relationship. I’m talking about our prayers, the time that we talk to God, and our study of Scripture.  Does God receive the best of us when we are talking to Him?  Does God receive the best of us when we are studying Scripture? Is He our first thought when we get up each day?  Or, do we give Him the last parts of our day when we are tired and before we go to bed?

I’m not going to pretend perfection on this. There have been many times when I have not given my best to God – when my prayers, when my study have just been items to check off a list and go on to something else that I consider vitally important to get done.  But, that is not what God wants from us.  He wants the best of us.  He wants us to rely on Him for counsel, to depend on Him for comfort, and to completely and utterly trust in His goodness.  There are many Scriptures that talk about this. I think I will quote just one of my favorites.

From Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

This is my goal, and I hope yours as well.

God’s blessings on you all today!

Hope

First Corinthians 13 in the Scriptures is known as the love chapter as the love is the main subject. Several verses in this chapter of my Bible are highlighted because they are verses I wish to keep in my heart. Love, however, is not the subject I am covering today. The final verse of the chapter, Verse 13, says this, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  I’ve covered love and faith in previous posts so that only leaves hope which I am going to cover today.

There are a few different definitions of hope in the dictionary, but this is the one I feel is most relevant to the discussion.  “A  feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Hope is spoken of many times in the Bible. Here are just a few examples. Romans 8:24 – 25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Second Corinthians 3:12 says, “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” And finally back in Romans 5, the first five verses are a combination of faith, hope, and love, and I think an integral part of the Christian faith. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So, what does hope have to do with all of this, and what does it mean for the Christian today? Back in the first days of the Christian faith, it was spread by the disciples who had lived with Him, who had walked with Him, and who had seen His resurrection. They had a very powerful testimony because they had actually heard what Jesus had said. Jesus, however, had not given any indication of when He would return so that is where the faith and hope come in. I know you all have things you hope for as do I.  I hope for good things for my children; I hope there’s not a lot of traffic on the road when I go to church tonight; I hope I win the lottery. (just kidding, lol) I say that though to make the point that many of the things we hope for end up not coming true.  But, our hope in Jesus, that is one hope you can always count on.

God’s blessings to you all today!

 

Without Saying a Word

There are times we can be an example for God without saying a word. These examples can be good or bad, and something we, as Christians, need to remember when we are out in public.  So, how can we be an example for God without saying a word? The biggest way to do so would be to have some sort of Christian symbol either on your person, like with a shirt or piece of jewelry or to have it on your car, like a bumper sticker. People tend to have expectations of how Christians should behave, and when they behave according to those expectations, the example for God is a good one.

What about when the symbols seen on a person and the behavior of that same person conflicts? I know there have been times when I’ve displayed behavior that has not been a good example while wearing my cross. That’s never a good thing for a non-Christian to see, and I regret every instance I’ve not been a good example.

In my earlier years, I didn’t understand that Christians weren’t supposed to be perfect. I thought that once saved, we would always behave the way God wanted us to behave.  That is not true, not by a long shot. I know now that we are all sinners saved by grace, and we will make mistakes. Now, it doesn’t mean Christians are allowed to behave however they want. Since we are saved by grace, I believe we need to pay even closer attention to how we are behaving in public, especially when we are wearing Christian symbols. And if we behave badly, we should ask for forgiveness.

Today, God, I ask that you help me be an example for you even when I don’t say a word.

God’s blessings on you all today.

Investing in Other People's Lives

I was part of an interesting discussion yesterday at church. I’m sure those of you who are Christians probably had interesting discussions as well, but this one was one that led me to my topic for today. It was during Bible class. The purpose of the small groups we had been divided into was to talk about ways we could reach out in Jesus’ name to the community around us.  Some traditional ideas were proposed, and it turns out they were proposed in each group which tells you they had been done many times before. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them. It just means they had been done before. I won’t mention all of them, but I think it is important to mention two. One idea was to help the widows and orphans in our church. James 1:27 specifically calls for Christians to do so, and a shepherd in our church had been passionate about this before his death earlier this year. The other was to expand upon a project we had done earlier in the year when we had collected food items for a school where one of the members taught. It was suggested that we collect school supplies since it is almost time for school to start.

Now, let me make one thing clear before I go any further. Both of those ideas as well as the others suggested were great ideas.  An idea, however, was suggested in our group that takes those thoughts one step further.  The idea was to find a family in our church and a family in the community to help on a long-term basis, not just on one specific occasion.  Many times Christians feel like if they collect things at Thanksgiving or at Christmas or when school starts, they have done their duty, done what Jesus has called them to do and retreat back into their churches.

But, that’s not what Jesus has called us to do. He has called us to live in community and help each other. Living in community is not something that happens on a one-time basis. It happens on an ongoing basis. It happens when we establish relationships, when we get our hands dirty with something we might not want to do, when we sacrifice ourselves and become the hands and feet of Jesus. For this is what Jesus did. He sacrificed himself during his earthly ministry, not just by his death on the cross although that was most certainly a sacrifice.  Now, you might ask how He sacrificed himself. I mean, wasn’t He the Son of God? Of course, He was and is. But, He was also totally human. He got tired; He got irritated; He was familiar with the prejudices of the Jewish people. He helped people anyway though. He fed the 5000; He helped the Samaritan woman; and He came to the disciples during the storm.  Many more instances are recorded in Scripture.

Is it possible to do that nowadays though? With the independent spirit that many of us who are Christians have, especially in the United States, it’s hard to knock down the shields we have surrounding us. But, in answer to my question, yes, it is possible. It just takes commitment and purpose.  How do I know it is possible? I know because someone invested and continues to invest themselves in my life.  This person and many others who have formed relationships with me in the past year are precious to me. I hope I bless them as much as they have blessed me, and my prayer is that I strive to be just like them as I do what Jesus has called me to do by investing myself in other people’s lives.

Philippians 1:3-5 says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!