Faith and Our God Most High

As I read through scripture, I choose to focus on the amazing names of God. With the craziness happening in our world—how encouraging it is to read “God Most High”. The Hebrew word for most high is Elyon. Combing it with El Elyon, it becomes the divine title our God deserves. He is the ruler of not only the universe but of everything that touches us. There is no other God that reigns over Him. He is the MOST HIGH God! Yesterday, amid some stormy situations, I called on my Most High God. It brought such peace and trust. My mind calmed as I rehearsed many of the things that are under His feet.

Often in the Psalms we find the phrase the Lord of Heaven’s Armies (Jehovah Sabaoth). When Hannah prays for a son in 1 Samuel 1: 10, she uses this name to cry out to Him. It expresses the infinite power and resources which God acts for His people. Her situation had gone on too long and she needed to make her God bigger. He answered. When I read and meditate on this title, God becomes bigger and more firmly established as the Most High God. Psalm 80:19 Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. He is in charge, my friends, no matter what things may look like. When you are feeling small, call out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. It will stir your soul. No demon in hell can stand against Him. He is Lord.

Need healing? Cry out to Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Jehovah Jireh is the God who provides. All these titles describe an aspect of our amazing Lord and Savior. The most precious name of all to me is Abba Father. Adopted into His family, by the shedding of His blood, opened the door to a relationship with this Most High God! Add these titles to your prayer communication and you will grow in faith and maturity. There is nothing better than curling up in the Father’s Presence during struggles and disappointments. His Comfort is there. However, I can’t stay there and see things change. I must join with Him, using His powerful Word to bring the needed change. During these darker and difficult times, we must grow in our understanding of God’s power and the authority we have as His children. Through prayer we can watch things change, but only if we release our faith and cry out to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

Let us join to pray for our world. Do not let discouragement take over your life. Stand strong as a member of His Army. No victims here, but victors. Pulling down strongholds. Watching doors open, and lives changed and healed, in His Name.

Faith and Pressure

Lately it seems like many people I know are struggling with many different pressures of life. Financial challenges, relationship issues, physical struggles seem to be attacking so many of God’s people. Life seems to be harder for so many people right now. The winds of adversity have been blowing hard. The temptation is to want to find a way of escape from their relentless blowing–at least that is my initial response!

What is your reaction when adverse things begin to take place? Why is this happening to ME or my family? Does fear raise its ugly head and try to take root in your heart? Life here on this earth, comes with adversity. It just does. If we keep being surprised by them, then maybe we need to grow in our understanding of life on this earth versus life that will be in heaven. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because He has overcome them.

But how do we handle the pressures of adversity? First we must understand we do not face them alone. Our God is with us, working all things together for our good. When natural winds occur, they clean the air, help distribute seeds for new plantings, and they help birds complete their migration. Strong winds test the roots of trees, causing weak rooted trees to be blown over so younger trees can take their place.

Winds of adversity in our lives often reveal our stamina or lack thereof. When things get hard and we want to quit, we have to “dig deep” as they say, and choose to stay the course. Choosing to continue on God’s path when these winds are blowing contrary takes perseverance, trust and tenacity. There are some things in life that there is no choice but to push through. I remember in the middle of laboring my son, I just wanted to quit. Since my body reacts differently than most women, I did not have the “urge to push”, so I just quit. I was tired and I didn’t want to “do it anymore”. In the midst of the pain, I lost sight of the goal. The wonderful nurse whispered in my ear, “in just a few more pushes you will be able to hold your baby, and we will all go away!” I don’t remember which was more motivating, the idea of seeing my child or the fact I could get rid of the annoying people telling me what to do, but soon our dear son was born. In reality, I had no choice but to finish that race. Other times, we must choose to renew our commitment and walk on.

When the pressures of life begin to assail, we need people around us to remind us of our purpose and plans. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that brings us hope and encouraging stability, but sometimes I need people who have been there and done that, to come along side and remind me that I, too, will make it! Storms do not last forever. As I walked the difficult journey after Darryl’s stroke, trying to come to grips with my new normal, I would have to stop and remind myself not to worry about the tomorrows. Matthew 6:34 so don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. For you young parents, remember the current season your infant, baby, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary child, high schooler–is in will pass. The night feedings, the toddler tantrums and the angst of growing up, though difficult, are best done in the present–with an eye on the future. His grace is sufficient for our today issues. If you are facing storms in your marriage remember your vows and the reason you married in the first place. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of God’s love and that He is with you in every day circumstances. Seek His wisdom and His ways. Do not let your thoughts run rampant. Capture them quickly.

If things seem overwhelming and you need help, ask for it. Somethings are too heavy to bear alone. Humble yourself, if need be. Many times just talking about how you feel will bring perspective and understanding. This is why God has placed pastors, teachers and leaders in His body–if they can’t help, they can lead you to someone who can. Too many suffer in silence in their own island because they are embarrassed to reach out. Do not be one of those people, listening to the lies of the enemy telling you no one cares. It is not true. I am available! Reach out to me, if you need a listening ear. Many times I have shouted out my prayers to the Lord, or taken time to write my thoughts and prayers in a journal.. Simply taking the time to name your feelings (cares) and then cast them back to Him brings the relief and hope needed.

In the midst of so many facing adverse circumstances I have also been amazed at how many prayers God is answering as well. He is not far off, but a very present help in time of trouble. Do not be jealous, or disappointed if you see others getting their prayers answered, but be encouraged He is not a respecter of persons! Your time is coming.

Faith and God’s Love

Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you today that you are loved. You are loved by the Creator of the Universe, the one who hung the stars in the sky and by His Word told the oceans to remain in their borders. This God cares for you. This God understands your strengths and your weaknesses.

With all of life’s difficulties and challenges, we can sometimes lose sight of that foundational truth. When we do fear, doubt and insecurity rise with in. Our confidence wanes, and negative introspection with judgmental criticism can infiltrate our souls. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. I John 4:18. Even, though we may suffer consequences of our failings, it will not cause our Lord to love us less. Isn’t that amazing?

I discovered this week a shortcoming in my ability to love. I reacted to someone from my past with unkind thoughts. It was a silly, unwarranted and totally a gut response. I really did not even need the Holy Spirit to check me on my response because it was so obvious to me, it wasn’t right. As I explored my feelings, the Lord revealed envy on my part. Oh Father, create in me a clean heart, help us love others as I Corinthians 13: 4-7 describes. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

With the assurance of God’s love we can declare with Paul as he wrote in Romans 8: Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. When God says nothing, He means nothing. No guilt, shame, or feelings of disappointment can ever separate us from His love. He is ever working to draw us closer to Him through the gift of His forgiveness.

Another blessing of remembering God’s love is embracing His correction. My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom He delights. Proverbs 3: 11-12. He is training us to be disciples for His kingdom’s sake. We are to grow up, mature and take our place as influencers for His kingdom in this world. His discipline helps us mature.

Faith and Beating the Bully Part 2

Recap: Last week we looked at beating the bully. To clarify the bully is Satan and his discouraging wily ways to bring disheartenment, disillusionment and depression, with the ultimate goal of causing us to shut down, walk away from faith and hide in the ways of our flesh. He is quite sneaky in his approaches, trying different doors of our soul to undermine our faith in the goodness of God’s character and our place in God’s kingdom.

Recognizing the bully attack is the first step in winning against him. But he is relentless so a one time victory does not mean that he will not try again. So we must be on alert. Ephesians 6:10-11 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. NLT One of his strategies (or wiles) as the King James Version says, is to make you think you are weak and helpless, which leads to hopelessness and depression. My dear friends, we are neither because our strength comes from Him. Basic warfare 101 is to find the lie and counteract it with the truth. His word is truth. As you seek the truth and choose to stand in that truth, we must know Satan must flee from you. Feeling alone and worthless? Choose to believe Deuteronomy 31: 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Be not afraid, do not be discouraged. Do not let the feeling of discouragement run your life.

I admit there have been some major discouraging things happening in my life. But, even though I have felt discouraged I have chosen to make a stand against it. Outwardly, not much has shifted, but my perspective has. Putting on the helmet of salvation, which covers my head and its vulnerability. When a soldier prepared for battle, the last thing he put on was his helmet. I think, sometimes as believers, we forget this vital part of the armor of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 declares we can destroy arguments every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. I realized a truth when reading this scripture, that the ultimate design Satan’s purpose is to get us to disobey the Lord. By undermining our confidence in the Lord and His ways, we will find ourselves shying away from His will, purpose, and plan. By focusing our thoughts on ourselves, magnifying our weaknesses and inabilities our faith becomes anemic. This is all a lie of course.

Battling the bully is something all of God’s people must do. Take action my friends. Renew your mind as needed. What is the truth? You are valuable to His kingdom. Take authority over any doubts that would seek to challenge the truth of God’s Word. Hebrews 11:6 declares that he is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him. That includes you and me! As we persevere, we will grow stronger in our faith and do the exploits He promises His people will accomplish!

Stand strong in the Lord, my friends, even when you are feeling shaky. Read through Hebrews 11 and the heroes of our faith who have gone on before. Do not let the bully tell you that you are not important, because that is a lie. The whole body of Christ needs each of us standing in our place, armored up fighting, not only our battle but those of our brothers and sisters.

Refresh your memory of Philippians 4:7: And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Walk in His peace, my friends. Do not let Satan steal it from you.

Father, I ask that you help us fight against the bully of our souls. You have given us tools to do us. You have not left us powerless or friendless. We are so grateful for your word. I ask you to strengthen everyone who is in a long-term battle. May they be refreshed today with your power and might. Help us adjust our perspective from victim to victor no matter what things look like or feel like, In Jesus Name. Amen.

Faith and Beating the Bully

We’ve been studying in our life group about Deborah, so encouraging as we seek to grow into Warrior Women. Two of our group plus their families fought Covid after we began this study, along with many of our church staff. With faith and grace, we all entered the prayer fight. It is with much joy that we can declare that everyone is on the road to recovery.

Despite these victories, I found myself weary and feeling defeated. Putting on worship, reading the word, declaring God’s goodness are my normal tools I use when I am feeling pressed in. Instead of my life opening up, I felt like I was getting smaller and more ineffective in my life. As I shared with our ladies’ last night, we discovered I wasn’t alone! Others were also feeling diminished and silenced in their sphere of influence. It felt like the hills of obstacles were growing into mountains, with no relief or response from prayer. During our time of prayer, one gal said the word “bully” and I realized we were all being bullied and intimidated into silence and inactivity.

How about you? Have you encountered that bully lately in your life? Those subtle or not-so-subtle taunts about how your God really will do nothing to change the circumstances? My personal family received two difficult diagnoses that are, in the natural, long term with no cure type issues. As we keep praying, the bully looms large and says “why bother”, nothing is changing or will change. Today, I am scheduled for a contrasting CT scan to help discover the cause of increasing pain in my left abdomen. The bully is trying to get me to focus on the worse case scenario, when we don ‘t even know what it is. I have held my ground and have chosen not to go there.

In life we have long-term battles. We can settle under them, or we can choose to continue to fight for victory. Our bully would like to cause us to shrink and settle for less than God’s plan. We have not heard a word from the Lord to stop fighting for total health, so we fight on. I choose to keep on knocking, keep on seeking and keep on trusting for His plan and His purpose to be revealed. Our bully goes around as a roaring lion seeking who he can devour, and I admit lately I think he has taken a few bites out of my soul. His bites include condemnation, accusation and doubt. With these bites, he wanted to leave behind an infection that would cause me to lose hope, stop believing and stop praying. His goal was to bring discouragement and cause my heart to be disheartened.

But his plan was uncovered. I will not grow weary in well doing. I will not stop praying and I will not stop trusting my God to do miracles. Deborah was a strong leader. She heard the word of the Lord and spoke victory to Barak. Barak had 10,000 fighting men; his opponent had 40,000 fighting men, plus 900 chariots. But Barak had the word of the Lord on His side, so do we. (Read the story in Judges 4 and 5).

It is humbling to admit the bully was winning in his battle to render me weak and wimpy. But the good news is that no matter how wimpy I feel, God is still strong. He continues showing off His might and power. This morning I realized the bully was attacking God’s character. My most precious Rock, the steadfast one, is always true to His Word. My mind was distracted by the bully’s words and his attempt to cause me to lean upon my own understanding, not His. Our Awesome God continues to work His work, no matter how we feel, and for that I am very grateful.

Father, we silence the bully’s words in our ears. We release your Words of life into every situation that looks contrary to God’s plan. We choose to trust you and your ways. We lean hard upon you and we know you will show us the path of life. In Jesus Name, Amen

Faith and Developing Integrity Part 2

After writing Faith and developing integrity last week, I found myself thinking about where integrity actually comes from. I realized it begins internally, within our own soul. I thought about my promises to myself I had never kept, you know, “I will eat healthier, exercise more”… Ouch. I discovered my own lack of internal integrity. Sometimes it is hard to keep promises to yourself.

It is the Catch 22 that Paul wrote about in Romans 7:17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it, anyway. My decisions, such as they are don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong, deep within me and gets the better of me every time. Yes, how do we develop integrity despite our fleshly nature fighting for its way?

Paul goes on in verse 25: The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, bu tam pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (MSG) The answer is our dear Savior. I confess I messed up this week. Tired from grocery shopping, I went to return my cart. I must not have paid close enough attention as I put it away, because as I turned around, it went rolling out in the parking lot right toward a lady who was backing out of her parking spot. I ran to catch it, but it glanced off her car, startling her. This is where I really messed up. She thanked me for getting the cart and asked me, ‘Where did that come from?’ Instead of confessing, it’s my wayward cart, I looked around as if I didn’t know where it had come from! Talk about the lack of integrity. Even though there wasn’t a mark on her car, I still felt horrible for not owning up to the fact I had not put my cart back properly. Can I tell you why I did not just apologize? Not really. I am sure it was pride, fear and guilt that caused me to cover up my part. I feel ashamed of myself. Once again, I find myself in need of a Savior, and grateful I have one. Not only to forgive me of my sin, but to help me walk in honesty and integrity.

It was a split second reaction. I felt horrible immediately afterward. The accuser was there to say “and you just wrote about being a person of integrity”, shame on you. Yes, there was shame on me. I wish I could find her and apologize. It doesn’t matter that there have been other times when I have ‘done it right’, growing in integrity means you do it right. I am grateful for Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. I am sure I will have another opportunity to humble myself and walk in integrity and honesty. I pray my response will be more honorable. The challenges to walk in integrity are all around us.

Father, I ask you to help me and others to walk in your ways with integrity, honesty, and humility. I am so grateful I have not only a forgiving Savior, but one who also chastises and helps me overcome my weaknesses. We run to you and your throne this day to find your grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Faith and Developing Integrity

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72 NKJV

God prepared David and took this gentle shepherd-king, and presented him before the people as the one who would love and care for them with integrity, a pure heart and the anointing to lead Israel, his holy inheritance. Psalm 78:71-71 The Passion Version

Do we even think about the importance of integrity in our everyday life? Probably not until something or someone lets you down does it even cross your mind. The Passion Version expands verse 72 and makes it clear the qualities David had as a leader were integrity, a pure heart, and the anointing. As I read these scriptures, I realized that integrity is something that is only in our control. Conviction of the Holy Spirit and our conscience can help remind us to live with integrity, but in reality, the choice is up to us. My integrity is just that, my integrity. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. A person with integrity always seeks to reflect their ethical standards regardless of circumstance. It is something each person must develop within their own selves. A person without integrity has no internal boundaries or borders when temptation, tests, and trials arise. The quality of integrity shows up during the challenges of life. How will we respond? It is something we all want others to have in their relationship to ourselves!

There are many scriptures that talk about the not only the blessing of integrity but also the problems of those who live dishonestly.

Proverbs 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Proverbs 10:9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Proverbs 20:7 The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him.

Reading these scriptures, it seems obvious that everyone would choose to walk with integrity, right? However, we know it is not the case. Remember when Peter vowed he would never betray Jesus, and of course he did. Fear caused Peter to break his own vow. But the good news is we see God’s grace, mercy and anointing, strengthening Peter to the point he was martyred for his faith. In 2 Kings 5, we find the amazing story of Naaman, a commander of the army of Syria. He had leprosy. God connected him with the prophet Elisha, Naaman obeyed Elisha’s instructions and was healed. Naturally, he was grateful and wanted to give gifts to Elisha in gratitude. But Elisha said no. Unfortunately, Gehazi, Elisha’s servant out of greed, went to him, lied, ask for the forbidden gifts. His greed overcame his loyalty and showed his lack of integrity. Elisha called him out, and he went from Elisha’s presence a leper. As a leper, he could no longer be the prophet’s servant. He missed out on being part of some amazing miracles.

As believers, people expect us to walk in honesty, tell the truth, and be people of our word. Sadly, due to fear, like Peter or greed like Gehazi, our flesh often dictates our actions. So how do we grow in our integrity? First, by identifying what your core values are. The ones you refuse to compromise on. Find out where fear or greed may be areas of temptation and build up those walls. I believe as David worshipped God, God grew bigger and more real to Him, which allowed him to honor the things God honors. When he could have killed King Saul, he chose not to. He was a man of integrity. When he messed up, he owned it. A man of integrity does not have to be a perfect person, but he needs to own up to his mistakes. Gehazi, when found out, tried to cover up his actions.

This week, I admit, I dealt with two situations where integrity was breached. One was with a lawyer, the other a medical clinic. I am trusting the Lord to work through each circumstance, which is out of my control, and see Him bring good from them. I don’t think either of them deliberately set out to dishearten me, but they did. So my choice is to forgive and walk on. I don’t want to be a stone thrower of accusations or set myself up as an example of the integrous person around, because I am not. I can only choose to do my best to be a woman of integrity, relying on the Holy Spirit’s help. With a fresh understanding of how important it is to others for me to keep my word, I walk on, being quick to forgive.

Father, I ask you, help us in this area. I know we all want others to walk integrity toward us, but we need your help to do the same. Thank you for the promises we read in your word that come from walking in integrity. Fear and greed are two major areas where your people stumble. Please show us any place where our walls are down. As we grow in our trust in You and of You fear and greed will not have such a hold on us. Forgive us when we fall short, help us make it right, in Jesus’ Name.

Faith and Walking through Dark Times

I look forward to spending time each day in God’s Word. It is a time to hear and learn from Him. Except, I have a confession to make. I skipped reading a few chapters this week. Yes, I did. I knew the story well enough that my heart just did not have the courage to face it—as if that would change it! Sometimes there are situations in life that are the same way, difficult things I just want to stick my head in the sand and wish it away. But, as we know, that is not the way life works. We have to face it with faith and move on through. At the time, I just couldn’t bear to read the sad tale of Solomon’s desertion from the ways of the Lord. Hearing stories about people making poor choices in their lives makes me sad as well. Not reading those chapters did not take away the reality of Solomon’s actions, nor the subsequent fallout that happened to Israel because of his sin. As I went back and read them, I could only purpose in my own heart to learn from the results of his actions. His actions led to dark days in Israel. It is my heart that my decisions do not lead to dark days in my own life, or in others.

I Kings 11 begins the story of Solomon’s heart turning away from the Lord by His foreign wives and their gods. I Kings 11: 5 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable God of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father David, had done. It saddens my heart to read this. It saddens my heart to hear of people who I love and care for, walking away from the fullness of their connection with the Lord. I can’t control or make choices for others, only for myself.

It’s been a rough week for many. It’s felt like darkness is encroaching from all sides. But the good news is we have choices; and we have authority. We can choose to use the authority God has given us, or we can wallow in self pity.

After I received a telephone call with some very disappointing news, I began to declare: “Satan, I’m done. I’m done with your workings. I’m done. I’m done. I’m just done. Back off. Back off in Jesus Name.” A pretty simple prayer—but it was all I could say. And it’s how I was feeling. I wasn’t just done for myself, but for so many others who are dealing with difficult situations.

Are you experiencing some dark, difficult days? Do you know someone who is going through trials and tribulations? I come alongside you and declare that Jesus reigns. He reigns over everything. At His name, every sickness must submit. At His name, Satan must back off and back out. At His name, freedom shall come and His light shall invade every dark place. We see the subtly that Satan used in Solomon disobeying God’s law and marrying foreign wives. They snared him and lured him away from his first love. Father, I thank you for opening our eyes to Satan’s sneaky ways in our lives. I ask that you lead us and guide us. Keep us from the evil one and deliver us from temptation. Though we walk through dark valleys, I ask that your rod and staff protect and comfort your children. I thank you we do not have to be afraid of dark places, for even there you are in our midst. I thank you for grace, mercy and conviction; so if we are experiencing temptation you will show us the better way. I speak light to every dark place. I speak peace to every place of confusion. I speak hope to the hopeless places.

Father, I know there are parents, children, friends, and relatives who have made poor choices, as our example Solomon has done. I ask that you lead them out of their sin and back on your path. I pray that you will give wisdom to those who are walking in the light to help guide them back to you. I thank you, Holy Spirit, that you are working when we cannot work. We know you love the backslider. We know you love the sinner. We know you love us. Thank you for working all things together for your good, In Jesus Name, Amen.

Faith and the Need for Wisdom

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:17.

I love this scripture. Don’t you hope someone is praying this for you? I pray for wisdom often, not only for myself but also for my children and grandchildren, our church leaders and of course our governing officials. It is something I don’t think we can really have enough of!

The culture in our country struggles with truth. Black and white doesn’t seem to exist, only shades of uncertain gray. As believers, we need not be afraid of speaking the truth, but we need godly wisdom. Jesus, our most wise example, amazed those around him as he answered questions that were sent to trap him. I am always shocked to see how deftly he was able to see the bigger picture and address the root issue. When the Herodians asked him, ‘is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus knew these men were trying to trick him. So he said, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a coin used for paying the tax.’ Then Jesus asked, ‘Whose picture is on the coin? And whose name is written on the coin?” The men answered Caesar’s’. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars’s. A brilliant answer. I probably would have fumbled around trying to answer that question. This was a political question. As Christians, we need to know how to answer such questions as well.

Then the Saducees came along, asking him a hypothetical question about seven brothers who died after each was married to the same woman. Who would she be married to after the resurrection? Jesus’ answer was so amazing again that they were left speechless! ‘Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. for when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect, they will be like the angels in heavenWhen the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching. Matthew 22:29-33. They were seeking to trap him with doctrinal questions. We need to be solid in our belief so that we can answer with biblical truth. This takes time and intentionality, but it can be done.

The third entanglement the Pharisees set for him was an ethical trap. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? “Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. Matthew 22: 36-40. He did not get entangled in minutiae, but again saw the bigger picture.

In each of these scenarios they set a deliberate trap. But Jesus discerned the trap and avoided it. I know the same spirit that set the traps through these people is still at work today. We must be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. One of my pastor friends told me a story this week. Apparently he had a person walk into his church dressed in drag. The person wanted to know if he was saved. My friend suspected a trap and thought a moment. He then asked the person if he could ask him a question. After receiving an affirmative reply, he asked him: Who are you serving? Yourself or the Lord? The person got up and walked out the door. This is the type of wise response we need to walk in–wisdom that comes from on high through the Holy Spirit.

We do not have to be intimidated by the ways of our culture. We need to study to show ourselves approved and be ready to answer with His wisdom, leaving the results to Him. James 3:17 reminds us that the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Let us remember as we seek His wisdom, it comes with His character. Beloved, we can do this. Let us pray for each other for His wisdom.

Father, I thank you for imparting your wisdom to your people, so we can better engage and help our culture know your truth. Thank you for giving us courage to answer questions with your truth and not be afraid of being entrapped by the evil one, for we trust you. In Jesus Name, amen.

Faith and “Blank”

I call out to you and you answer me. Jeremiah 33:3

Dear Father, today I feel blank. I feel uninspired. I lack Your direction. I need Your help. I am tired and confused. I am so grateful that You are not. Even when I am weary, You are strong. When I am simply walking in my seemingly mundane routine, You are still moving in my life; doing Your good work. Because that is Your character. You are the amazing God that has chosen to involve Yourself in Your creation’s life, and for that I am so thankful.

I choose to trust You today to encourage others throughout my life. Father, there are those facing overwhelming difficulties. I ask You to help them. I thank You that You are a God who helps us in the small things as well as what looks big to me. You do not differentiate between the two.

Please send your healing power to my friends and family who need your healing. He sent his word, and healed them and delivered them from their destructions. Psalm 107:20 Please touch their bodies and bring strength.

I thank you, Father, for sending wisdom to the troubled. I thank you for showing them their strength they have in You. I pray for them the prayer Asa did against Israel’s enemies. Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God. “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us O Lord our God for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you. 2 Chronicles 14:11

Father God Most High, I praise You for what You are doing today, right now, in this moment. And I thank You that You are here to listen to all of us pour our hearts out to You. Thank you Lord! Amen.

Faith and the Gift of Respect

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12.

Respect something we always want to receive, but not a gift we always want to give. Respect has many differing aspects. It naturally happens when we have a deep feeling of admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. When we admire someone, it is easy to respect them. But what about those we see as not having gifts or qualities or achievements? Maybe the homeless? Maybe those who serve us? Men? Women? Children? Those who don’t have a high school degree? College? The single? The divorced? The widowed? Those of a different race or political slant than you? The rich? Or those poorer than you? Those in prison? The drug or alcohol addict?

There are so many variables that we make the choice to respect or dishonor. As I was thinking about the need for respect in our society on so many levels, I had to do a heart check in my own heart. Ouch, it wasn’t fun to allow the Holy Spirit to uncover my failings. I have my own struggles, which the Holy Spirit is helping me with.

Recognize the value of every person and continually show love to every believer. Live your lives with great reverence and in holy awe of God. Honor your rulers. I Peter 1:17 TPT It is difficult to recognize the value of every person. Our culture has lost the heart of what it means to respect others. There has been a resurgence in trying to encourage people to be kinder, which I applaud, but I think it must go deeper than that. It is a heart issue. But it is also an action issue. Respect is a verb and a noun. We pass on respect when we give respect. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the Golden Rule is so applicable here. Every one desperately wants to be seen, admired and appreciated. And we have the opportunity every day to respect everyone we interact with. It is our choice to give them this great gift.

Unfortunately, media and social media model disrespect and disdain. Fathers are ridiculed, elected leaders are mocked and we see the nuclear family as an outdated anomaly. Traditional marriage is referred to with contempt. Children treat parents with disdain and openly insult them. We wonder why this is modeled in our culture. Rudeness has become celebrated!

Please be careful what you watch, see and listen to. It does have an effect. Teaching your children to honor their parents as the leaders of the home is out-dated, but it is still biblical. But we must respect our children as we teach them. We must model respect of our spouses, no matter if there is a disagreement. If there is a separation or divorce, we must learn to honor them in their role. This takes maturity and the help of the Holy Spirit. Watch your language and tone as you talk to your children.

I remember as a child, my mother telling me to respect her. I remember always muttering under my breath, if you deserved respect I would give it to you. This was very childish and shows my immaturity. I now know she deserved my respect, simply because of her position. I had to grow up a lot before I really comprehended that concept.

I think it hurts our Father’s heart when we disrespect those He created. We can’t change everyone, but we can change ourselves. We can grow in our ability to give the gift of respect. It is an excellent tool for sharing the gospel. It opens the hardest hearts. Disdain closes a heart like a shut clam. If you harbor disdain toward your co-workers, family members or even church leaders they will feel it. Take the time to cleanse your heart through examination and repentance. Remember, Proverbs 6:16-19 details a list of six things God hates, which includes a haughty eye. A haughty eye is looking down on others condescendingly. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, and we look down our nose at our neighbors. This is something our God flat out says He hates. Should we be doing it? I think not.

Father, please help us first learn to respect You and Your ways. Forgive us for holding disdain and disrespect in our hearts toward those you have created. Help us pray for them, trusting you are moving in their lives, as you did in ours. Thank you for convicting us of any areas where we withhold respect through past hurts, disappointments or our own prejudices. Cleanse our hearts today and help us give the gift of respect to everyone. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Faith and Receiving Words of Life

If you have been struggling with anxiety or stress—I encourage you to read the wonderful words of Jesus in John 14. As I read this chapter, I felt peace, hope, and joy flood through my spirit. His words were so comforting. It was like a refreshing drink on a hot day.

Don’t worry or surrender to your fear. For you’ve believed in God, now trust and believe in me also. My Father’s house has many dwelling places. If it were otherwise, I would tell you plainly, because I go to prepare you a place to rest. As I read these few words, I pictured Jesus talking to His friends and me. I heard Him encourage them not to worry or surrender to their fears, because they have believed in God and now they could trust and believe in Him also. At this point, I simply gave Him back all my worries and concerns. My adult children and their various parenting, health and life challenges; my own health and its struggles; the cares of those I am close too; plus the culture concerns etc–I just released them back into His care. What a relief I felt.

When I came to the place, I go to prepare you a place to rest. I thought, oh my, how wonderful. It is ok to get tired in this world, because we will have a special place already prepared for us to rest when we get to heaven. Can you hear His voice sharing this with His disciples? Imparting words of hope, life and strength, understanding that they really did not need to worry or be afraid. He is speaking those same words to each of us, even today.

And when everything is ready, I will come back and take you to myself so you will be where I am. Won’t that be amazing? When everything is ready—not sure how or what that looks like in heaven? Do you? The God who spoke the universe into being is taking time to prepare a place for us. Do you think our loved ones who have gone on before are helping prepare for us? This is all a mystery to me, but somehow so comforting.

Life is full of challenges for us all. Take a moment to reflect again on Jesus’ Words: Don’t worry or surrender to your fear (The Passion Translation) Or the more familiar: Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (ESV) The Amplified Version: Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe [confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me. Can you picture Jesus speaking those words directly to you this day? He is. He is telling us to not be afraid, discouraged or downhearted. He is telling us to look up and remind us that the trials of this life will pass away. He understands them and wants to help us with them. Do you find yourself today at the tipping point between faith and fear? I encourage you to choose faith. It is a much better choice!

Father, I thank you for loving us, and for the Words of encouragement we find in Your Word. Thank you for helping us embrace them and believe them. I thank you for your strength, vision, and encouragement as we walk through life’s challenges. In Jesus’ precious Name. Amen