Faith and Encouraging Words

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NLT)

When I came across this verse this week, I thought, “wow, what a nutshell of instruction we should all follow”. There are such universal thoughts bound up into these two scriptures, I just wanted to share them. They urge and provoke me to good works, how about you?

Be on guard. Are you being watchful? Are you honing the gift of discernment? We should be. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us why we need to be on guard. Your enemy, the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow. (NIRV) I don’t know about you, but I like to think I would never be that “someone”. But, in truth, each of us could find ourselves being chewed up or on by him. People are caught off guard and hoodwinked by the scam artists that steal their money and identity all the time. These are usually smart people who fall for a subtle, sneaky line that hooks them in, and they find themselves having to deal with the consequences. So, my friends, we must all be on guard, watching for any pitfalls or traps.

Stand firm in the faith. Put on the whole armor of God, including having your feet preparation of that gospel of peace. It is important to know truth, much even more important to know the God of all truth. Jesus declares, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. I think people want to know the way to life, but often forget that He has the Truth as well. We can’t stand firm when we are standing on lies. So many people are adjusting their truth so it “feels right”, we must conform to His truth.

Be courageous. We must “courage up” to live this Christian life. Our courage comes from the Lord, because we know He is with us, and we are not alone. It does not mean that fear won’t be present, it means that we will be able to live our life fully even in spite of that fear. Divorce rates up? Does that mean you won’t get married? No, it means you will follow God’s plan for a successful marriage. Children going awry? Does it mean you will not have children? No, it means you will cover yourself in God’s grace, mercy and raise those kids the best you can. Courage means you fight on your knees till you are strong enough to stand. Courage means you seek His will and His ways through the dark valleys of grief and heartache. Courage means you persevere till He comes.

Be strong. Be strong even when you feel weak. Ah, so often lately I have felt weak and powerless. Out of control and needy. After I pitch my fits, I turn to Him who has all strength and lean on Him. He makes the way I need. He gives power to the faint. Spending time with Him, in quietness and peace, gives me the strength and courage to accomplish those things I need to do, try it.

Ah, the last bullet point. And do everything with love. How important and useful this last verse is. I have found when I don’t know what to do, I rely on I Corinthians 13: 8, love never fails. So, I ask myself what is the most loving thing I can do right now, in this present situation. It is often not the easiest thing to do, because it is based on God’s idea of loving in a situation, not mine! But I have always found it to work. We can do everything with love, because we have His love, His care and His grace working in us. We love Him because He first loved us, so we can love those around us, because we are first loved as well.

Father, I thank you for using this scripture to provoke us to good works. That we can be on our guard and stand firm in our faith. I thank you for helping us be courageous in every area that we might want to retreat from. We choose to be strong in those areas we feel weak in and by your grace, we will do everything with love. I thank you for helping us in each of these areas. You are our mighty Savior, who we need. Thank you for being trustworthy. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Mourning

Rejoice with those that rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15 NIV

Death has rocked many this week. A young man killed by another DUI driver, a young husband passing too soon, an older aunt passing away and then the tragedy at Uvalde, Texas. So many people are mourning, including myself. It is sooo hard.

After hearing the news of my friend’s husband’s passing, my heart just wanted God to do a reset. I am sure the drunk driver who hit a 23-year-old medical student felt the same way. If only I hadn’t gotten behind the wheel drunk. What about the families in Uvalde? Those that knew that young man who made such a horrible decision that affected so many families, are stunned and mourning. I am sure they are wondering what they could have done to prevent such devastation. Death changes things, not just for a day, but for eternity. It brings permanent changes to those who are directly influenced by it.

I am soo very grateful for God’s Word. The morning after I heard about my friend’s husband, my Bible reading brought me to John 14. Let not your heart be troubled. My first response was Lord, how can it not be? How can our heart not be troubled when this young family’s world has been shattered? As I kept reading, the next phrase jumped out at me. Trust in God. Oh, Father, that is so hard, but You make it easier when, even through my tears, I think about You. Your love, Your care and Your understanding of how hard things can be for us here, but You still are a God of help in the time of trouble.

I chose to calm my heart and my tears. I chose to begin to pray, (again) for the families; releasing my faith that He is a trustworthy God who knows how to help this fresh widow and the other grieving families through this dark shadow of death. Although it still hurts, hope sprang forth and faith arose that He will help them through this wilderness and into His green pastures. He will bring His goodness into the situation, because that is what our God does as we let Him. He reminded me of how He brought me through my own shadow of death when my husband died.

Our hearts are broken for the families of Uvalde. It is mind-boggling to wonder how this young man thought it would ease his pain to cause so much more. But now, we weep for them, but we must also pray for them, releasing our faith that God will send His people with words of hope, comfort and action. “Father, please use this tragedy for Your glory. You didn’t cause it, but You use it for good.”

The scripture in Romans 12:15 instructs us to mourn with those that mourn, not just mourn for them. This implies a journey, and every journey takes time. There are bumps, obstacles and potholes along that journey. But mourning with someone means we stay with them, no matter what the terrain. It is a choice we make to walk alongside someone, but they don’t have a choice. It is their cross to bear. We can help make it easier with our presence.

Mourning isn’t just for deaths. I found myself mourning for the Body of Christ at large because of the moral failures of different church leaders and church scandals. When the church should be coming, the pure and spotless bride, we look more like a be-draggled homeless person. It hurts my soul, even when I recognize my own short-comings, which do not reflect His image.

The difficult topics that are dividing the church world right now also cause a mourning to my heart. How can Christians have such divergent views on abortion, LGBT, gun control etc is hard to comprehend? But, this is another area where I must not let my heart get troubled, but trust Him and His parenting skills for His children. Often difficult! It’s like you want to parent another person’s child! Not your job. It is our job to pray for the church. Pray and trust Him for His purification and working. It is our job to be faithful to our light and the truth He has revealed to us. Mourning should lead us to prayer, and prayer should lead us to insight and wisdom on what action we need to take. That is comforting.

Father, I pray for all those I know that this week their world has changed due to death. It is so hard to comprehend, but You do. You see everyone, and have a plan to help them through all these changes. Show us what we should and can do to bring comfort to their world. I pray for all those who are mourning, that Your Comforter will arise wit healing in his wings. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Criticism

A woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Mark 14:5, (NLT)

We don’t know all the reasons Mary of Bethany (as John 12:3) tells us; interrupts Jesus and his meal at the home of Simon the leper, to pour this special perfume over Jesus’ head. I wonder if she even considered what would be the reaction to her act of love? The scripture says some of those at the table were indignant. Why waste such expensive perfume? they asked. It could have been sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor!” So they scolded her harshly. Mark 14: 4-5. (NLT)

Poor Mary. She did an act of love, which really hurt no one, but was criticized and condemned. Have you ever found yourself on that side? Reaping criticism and condemnation as you have tried to serve the Lord? It happens to all of us. When we try to do good, and people misunderstand it can even cause us to back off from doing the next God prompt. We don’t know how Mary felt, but I am sure it took away from some of the blessing she was trying to give to Jesus.

Or maybe you have been the critic. Watching from the outside someone else generous gift, and either being envious because they thought of it, or maybe wishing you had that special perfume! The perfume was Mary’s. It was hers to use as she saw fit. Do you notice how easy it often is for us to know better how to use someone else’s time, treasure or talent? If we had the perfume, of course we would have used it in a wiser way! But Mary’s heart was towards Jesus, and it was simply an act of love. I don’t know if she knew how prophetic was until Jesus responded to her!

Why must we be so critical of others? What is it that rises out of our old man and makes us feel we need to pass judgement and censure others? Maybe we aren’t as vocal as those fellows, but I know, in myself, it can happen quickly in my mind and heart. We don’t see Mary defending herself, but Jesus rises to the occasion. He knew her motives and purpose, probably even better than she did herself!

But Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could and has anointed me body for burial ahead of time”. Mark 14:7 It is so comforting to know that Jesus understands our motives and will rise to our defense also..

We find James speaking very clearly on this matter. Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4: 11-12 (NLT) I know this is true. I need to focus on obeying the Lord and what He asks me to do. When I feel secure in God’s love and HIs ways, I do not seem to care or worry about (negatively) what others are doing or not doing. They are His kids. He knows how to discipline them. Not my job. My job is to pray for them, help them and bless them.

Brothers and sisters, let’s guard our hearts against criticism. It is divisive and not helpful. James also tells us, If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. James 3:13-14. NLT This should keep us too busy to be critical!

Father, I thank you for alerting us by your Holy Spirit to any areas of criticism we may walk in. Help us walk in love, grace and mercy. We renounce jealousy and selfish ambition and seek to walk humbly with you. Help us to celebrate one another’s victories, In Jesus’s Name. amen.

Faith and “Old Age”

And now in my old age, don’t set me aside, don’t abandon me when my strength is failing. Psalm 71:9 NLT

As most senior adults, I don’t think of myself as “old”. For you younger ones, that probably comes as a surprise. Most of us think of ourselves as a bit vintage–getting better with age! But even though the number goes up, our view of ourselves stays mostly the same. Until–one day we realize we can’t do quite what we used to do. Until–we discover aches where there did not used to be aches. Until–we catch a glimpse of ourselves in a mirror and notice sags, bags along with crinkles and wrinkles. Then the passing of time seems to catch up and we realize that there is no going back to our former selves.

Then the enemy of our souls seeks to establish a foothold. His lies about inadequacy, weakness and invisibility try to invade our souls. But, these are lies. Our wonderful God sees us at every age. He understands us, even when we don’t understand ourselves. The great news is that He desires to use us at every stage of our life. Even though our “outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. There is, if we let it, a continued renewing of our inward man by the work of the Holy Spirit. I have experienced it myself! I am much more patient on so many levels than I used to be. I have a greater trust in God’s promises–especially that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) I can see growth in trusting God’s work in others–it isn’t my job, but His! But there is still room to grow, for sure. But I would not want to relive my younger life!

The Bible is full of scriptures to encourage us in our old age.

He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Ruth 4:15

I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you and I will carry you to safety. Isaiah 46:4

Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “the Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him. Psalm 92:12

As with anything, it depends on our perspective. No matter our age, if we succumb to the lies, we will fall into depression, complaining and truly becoming grumpy old people even when we are young! It is my heart to be vital and green, producing fruit as I become even more senior. Pastor Reshaun Hurley spoke such an encouraging word on Mother’s Day. That word was Legacy. Each of us leaves one, the question is: what kind?

It breaks my heart to find “older” saints drop out of the active Christian life they used to encourage. No matter how our outward man may change, we can still pray, encourage and seek Him. I want to encourage us all, when we find a troublesome spot in our culture, do not complain, but pray. Ask God for His solutions to be revealed to those who can make changes. Keep an attitude of gratitude, for what you can do, not focusing on on what you can’t. Walk closely with Jesus, listening to Him and obeying Him. That is the best legacy we can leave for our families, friends and His kingdom. Do not grow weary in well doing. Find ways to help and encourage those around you. Forgive yourself when past regrets arise in your thoughts. We have today as a gift, let’s use it. Do not let “old age” become a curse, God has seen fit to keep you here for a purpose! Find it, live it and accomplish it!

Father, I thank you for Your promise that You will not set us aside in our old age, but You will hold us steady as we choose to keep walking in Your ways. I thank You, that even if our natural eyes and ears grow dim, we can still see and hear with Your Spirit. Teach us, even in our old age, to continue numbering our days. We silence the lies that Satan roars in their ears that they are useless or not as important to You. Help those, in their youth, to honor, respect and learn from older saints, so it will be well with them. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “God Is”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:2 (ESV)

This Psalm has encouraged so many of God’s people through the ages. It is said that Martin Luther, when in greatest distress, was want to call for this psalm, saying, “Let us sing the forty-sixth psalm in concert; and then let the devil do his worst.” (John Trapp Commentary) One of his famous hymns, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was based on this Psalm. It is said that Martin Luther and his family chose to remain in Wittenburg, Germany during the time of the bubonic plague, to minister to the sick and dying. His wife was pregnant at the time, but they put their trust in the Lord and touched and helped many in the Name of the Lord. We can see that Luther found God to be his refuge and strength, but the question that came to my mind is: who is God to me, in my present? Who is God to you, in yours?

If I know God is (present tense!) my refuge, then I don’t have to fear any storm that rages. A refuge is a shelter or protection in times of danger and distress. Do I take advantage of this refuge during my times of distress? Most times yes, if not I eventually end up there! Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. Psalm 16:1 NIV

As I ponder on who God is to me I realized that He is my rock–immovable, steady and the bedrock under my feet. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:2 NIV

He is my fortress–another name for refuge–He is my protection, a safe place, a hiding place where I can go to share my fears and my troubles. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18: 2 NIV

He, of course, is my Savior. My Savior who has rescued me from myself–including my past sins, my present battles and struggles, confusion, and insecurities. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25 NIV

He is my Strength. When I am weak, As I ask Him to, He is there to strengthen me in every weak place. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NLT

He is my Father. And I shall be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are. the reason why the world does know us is that it did not know him 1 John 3:1 ESV

He is my Comforter. 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 receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

If you find yourself struggling today with focus, confidence or trust in Him, take time to refresh yourself in and through His Word. Remind yourself who He is to you, and if you discover you don’t really comprehend Him in any of these ways (Rock, Strength, Father, Savior etc.) ask Him to reveal Himself to you in those areas. He longs to help us understand all of Him.

He is my Lord. This one, as are all the areas, a work in progress. Fortunately, He helps me learn about it most everyday! ESV And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will se you free. John 8:31-32 ESV

There are so many other aspects of Him to discover and learn about. These are a just a few I drew from Psalm 46. I pray you grow in Him and with Him today.

Father, I thank You for loving us enough to teach us about Your and Your different aspects that You freely make known to us. I ask that You help us to grow in these and every area of who You are. Thank You, for being our Savior and helping us learn about Your Lordship. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Dealing with Disappointment”

Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Tomorrow I am supposed to jump in my car and drive five plus hours to meet up with two old friends with their friends for a prayer retreat. When I say old friends, these two special ladies knew me before I got married! In fact, they were at our wedding. 48 years ago! What an out of the blue, off the radar invitation. But, I have been fighting a virus this week. The coughing, congested feel like you’ve been drained of every energy type of virus. So here I sit, resting, praying and dealing with the possible disappointment that I won’t have the energy or health to make the trip.

I thought about the phrase “dealing with disappointment”. I pictured someone taking the different “cards” of my situation and spreading them out on a table. First is my emotions card. What is the source of my disappointment? First, there are no do-overs. This is a onetime shot. One friend, Kay, lives in Arizona, the other, Malana, in Alaska! Apparently, they have been doing this prayer retreat for many years. The friend, Laurel who is hosting this event, said yes to my coming and said, “this may well be the last time you see each other”. Kay’s health isn’t well. As I am in this valley of indecision, I realize I was looking forward to being with people that “knew me when, ” and I knew when. Old stories surfaced in my memories, fun, encouraging, and memorable answers to prayer. They made me smile.

My physical health card–am I going to be up to it to go? At my age, the reality is I take longer to recover from illness than it used to. It isn’t a card that I used to give much value to–but not I have to. Will this card trump every other card in the hand? We will have to see.

Another card that surfaced was the desire to just spend time with the Lord in a new place with new people. Hearing their hearts and learning from them. Originally, there were going to be six of us. These are women who know their God and walk with Him. Their lives have not been easy. In fact, Laurel’s husband has been in a coma for over a year, and is now in hospice care. She may not get to even attend the event (and I think I might be disappointed!) So many life lessons to be gleaned from these new and old friends. Both Kay and Malana have endured hard places, but they still choose to walk with Him. Both their spouses are still here, and I am sure my walk through the valley of death has helped them prepare, in case they find themselves alone. There is something special to be with those with whom you have history, and the Lord knows that.

The disappointing other card. My friends want me to come. It will be disappointing if I can’t make it, it is part of the package of living life. I know they will understand. But it will make us all sad. It will have to be played if I don’t feel better. Disappointing others is so hard for me. But I know the Lord will comfort their hearts, even as He will comfort mine.

Another major card in dealing with disappointment is perspective and attitude. I know that ties into the emotion card, but the choice is where am I going to put it? Do I have any other unresolved disappointments that this situation can be added to? Or am I able to look at my life, accept that these things happen and move on? Unresolved disappointment can turn into bitterness and that defiles many, as the scripture says. Not good for you or for others. Would this trip add wonderful memories, insights, and blessings to my life? Yes! But, if I can’t make it, will it really harm me in the long run? Probably not. After all, I surrendered my life to the Lord a long time ago. His ways are higher than my ways. Other disappointments (like my husband’s heart attack/stroke) were not so easy to discard. I chose not to put it in the bitterness pile for myself, my family and my Lord. I admit, some days it tried to sneak back to that pile! But friends, I encourage you to take the time to process every disappointment. For your spiritual, emotional and physical sake, it is worth it.

My perspective card is just that, my perspective. If I can’t go, I will choose not to mope and be sad. I am so grateful they want me to come. Just taking the time to reflect on our memories is such a blessing. Are there other cards in the disappointment hand? At times, yes. Disappointment often is a revealer. It reveals where our hope has been placed. I find out how mature I am, or not! Do I really have self control, or is it an area I need to keep growing? Have I learned to accept God’s yes’s as well as His no’s?

We all encounter disappointments. It’s just a reality we must accept. I am so glad the Holy Spirit helps us walk through every one if we let Him. In Luke 24, Jesus appeared to His disciples after they had walked through his death. He loved them, as He loves us, and wanted to reassure it was really Him that was raised from the dead. Disappointments come, but so does Jesus. Let us look to Him, knowing He walks with us through any dark valley we encounter. Whether or not I make it to the Prayer Retreat, I will be glad and rejoice with my God, knowing He understands.

Father, I ask You to help us learn to deal with our disappointments. Help us not to veer to the left or to the right; but to stay on course with You. Let me bring You into my disappointment, not blame You for it. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the Joy of Hospitality

Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NLT)

For the past two weeks, it has been my privilege to host my older sister Carol in my home. She is eleven years older than my triplet sisters and I. We met when we were about 16 because of God’s amazing miraculous connection. Now she is turning 84 soon and deals with Parkinsons Disease. Her daughter, who she lives with, works for H & R Block. Due to increased work hours, her time to help and be with Carol is limited, so I invited her to visit.

I know it is intimidating for many to even invite someone in their home for a meal or a cup of coffee—so the idea of hosting people for longer can be overwhelming. However, there is a hidden blessing of having the gift of time with someone. When my late husband, Darryl, and I traveled in ministry, we often stayed with others and had many stay with us. It gave us such an insight and opportunity to speak into the lives of those we were with. Was it always easy? No. I am sure we weren’t always the best or easiest guests, even though we tried to be! Having Carol here reminded me of so many marvelous conversations and ministry opportunities that helped strengthen us and others.

Carol’s daughter Lyn, was worried about her mom staying so long. As we talked, we realized she had never stayed with anyone herself! I am grateful for the experience I have had in hosting others. I am grateful for others who, for the sake of the ministry hosted Darryl and I. Our dear friends, Jim and Jean Stephens, invited us to stay with them in Jamaica and later on in England, helped provide an opportunity to minister to others, not just once, but several times. Bill and Darlene Hinckley provided us a home away from home so our ministry could help strengthen local churches in that area. Les and Barb Young let us stay in a “mother-in-law” type apartment above their garage, many times as well. Phil and Ellen Wolf let us stay in their Bed and Breakfast in Vermont, again so we could minister in their area churches. Our Southern Oregon friends, the Simmons and the Schmelzers are the same. They are open-hearted and open home examples. These folks fulfilled 1 Peter 4:9: Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. Because they were willing to share their homes, we could better afford to fulfill our ministry.

Maybe you are thinking, well what does that have to do with me? I want to encourage each of us to widen our hearts. It is easy to justify not being hospitable. My house isn’t perfect or too small. So widen your heart, and invite someone for coffee, or for a walk. There are other ways you can develop a hospitable heart. It starts with listening to God’s voice about others. Hospitality helps get rid of our selfishness. To be good at it, it must be about others, not ourselves. And that is downright hard. But it is doable, scriptural and can be learned. Feeling a bit insecure about it? Team up with someone. Do a potluck, set up a game or movie night. Start with something you enjoy and invite others to join you.

There is so much joy in hospitality. But if you never go there, you will not discover it. I have heard of Christians in Romania, Bela Rus, and Poland opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees. I am grateful for their care and love for these hurting souls. It warms my heart, but also challenges me. Would I do the same?

Father, this is an area we often take as an option in the scripture. Your Word tells us to be hospitable. I thank You for helping us grow in this area. Teach us how to receive not only our friends, and family; but also as Your Word encourages, strangers. We need to grow in this area. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

So can I encourage you to start somewhere? Start by asking the Lord to show you where to begin? I set my home up for others. I have seven individual lamps in my living room so that my Life Group ladies can have light to read their Bibles etc. Do I need that many? NO. Does it look a bit weird? Yes. It isn’t about me, but them. I have many mugs and dishes that I don’t really need, as I live alone, but I have them for others. I am not trying to boast in myself, but I get the privilege of watching God change others through the use of my home. We often count the cost and choose not to pay it (too much time, money or getting out of our comfort zones). But in that counting, we don’t know what treasure we will reap in the lives of others for HIs Kingdom. Simply opening your heart, trusting God’s to flow through you, is the beginning of a hospitable heart. During Carol’s visit, we had much laughter, a few tears and bit of frustration—but all in all, it was priceless. We both learned, grew, and it also gave her the opportunity to spend time with my children, grandchildren and our two sisters who live here, as well. She was able to love on and receive love from my Life Group ladies, too!

Father, this is an area we often take as an option in the scripture. Your Word tells us to be hospitable. I thank You for helping us grow in this area. Teach us how to receive not only our friends and family; but also as Your Word encourages, strangers. We need to grow in this area. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and A United Heart

Teach me Your way, O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. Psalms 86:11 (NKJV)

The phrase “unite my heart to fear Your name” has been rolling around in my heart and mind this week. As we grow closer to this Easter Sunday, I am so aware of my shortcomings in this area. I’ve asked the Lord, “what does it mean to have a united heart?” David’s prayer for his own heart must have come from a realization that he had some divisions as well. For me, a united heart means I am walking as a surrendered follower of Jesus Christ in every way, not something I have achieved!

Why should it even matter if we have a united heart? Amos declares: Can two walk together lest they be agreed? (Amos 3:3 (NKJV) I think it is the same with the need to have unity in our own heart. If we are double-minded in our intention to walk with the Lord, we will not have the peace He promises. Our flesh fights against the Spirit. It struggles to be in charge, at least in my own life! Compartmentalizing our life into different sections does not work. Imagine a lamp with sections blacked out—it wouldn’t be very useful, would it? That is how I imagine my life when areas are not submitted to Him and His ways. It hinders His light from shining forth through us. Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. I think uniting our heart is deciding to choose to let Him be Lord of our life in every area.

The wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit, is that He is constantly working to bring us into unity. Every time we feel His conviction, it is His reminder that we need to repent, turn around and go His way. But that often points out areas where we might not trust His way is better than our ways. Proverbs 12:15 says: The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel. Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. I see my own faults and shortcomings and it is often challenging and humbling to admit God does too!

The struggle is real, but also the help. As we seek Him, He shows up and gives us the grace, mercy and strength to follow Him. Remember, Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians: and I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil 1:6 NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Phil: 2:13 (NLT) We aren’t on our own in this. We make the choice to allow His Lordship to rule in our hearts and He will help us do the rest. It is not easy, but it is doable and so worth it.

Father, I thank you for Your grace, mercy and strength. I thank You for reminding us of Your best interest for us, is our best choice. Teach us how to walk with a unified heart, In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Faith and The Beauty of Looking Up

I look up to the mountains–does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heavens and earth. Psalm 121:1 (NLT)

My help comes from the Lord, but His handiwork sure inspires me! By God’s blessing and direction, I was fortunate to be born in Washington state. I grew up on Whidbey Island, where when the clouds clear, we can look to the west and see the Olympic range, look south and find the majestic Mount Rainier, to my east is the Cascade range with the spectacular Mount Baker to our north. It is an amazing place to learn to “look up”. This week I got the chance to drive through the Cascades over Stevens Pass with the highest elevation of 4,061 feet. The pristine beauty was breathtaking. There is one section on the highway, where you come around a curve and right before you is a peak of stone—rising straight up from the valley, like a carved monolith. With fresh snow enhancing its rocky features, it was so stunning. I wanted to stop and just gaze at its glory, but there was no place to stop. Looking at it made all the concerns I was carrying drift away.

I couldn’t help but lift my eyes to that breathtaking creation of the Lord. Looking at that mountain, I could not help but think of the Creator, and just worship Him. All those mountains that surround Whidbey Island are beautiful reminders of Him, too. But I confess, I don’t always look up and see, comprehend, or just enjoy the gift He has given me. Can that also be the same with our Easter celebrations? Can we get so busy planning, prepping, and serving that we forget to embrace the fullness of its meaning?

As we grow closer to celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter, it is my heart cry that we will not just “be busy” about our Father’s business….but we will see and comprehend with fresh eyes all the glorious aspects of what it took for our salvation to be purchased. Like the Apostle Paul, it is my prayer that the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.(Ephesians 1:17 (ESV).

There is so so much to comprehend, appreciate and understand what Jesus did for us. Ephesians 1:4 declares: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit made a plan that included you and me. A plan that was/is good. A plan they foreknew would cost a lot. And they still executed that plan.

For me, I so easily forget the price that was paid for my salvation. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can boldly go to Him during our time of trouble. We have a relationship with God, the creator of the universe! It’s almost incomprehensible! I am teaching astronomy to three of my grandchildren. As we study the vastness of space, the variety of the different planets, I am awestruck that He knows me by name! He knows you by name. Help us take some intentional moments to ask Him for a fresh revelation for us this Resurrection celebration season.

Father, I ask that you help us comprehend with fresh eyes the understanding of just how expensive our salvation was. Forgive us for being so nonchalant about it at times. You are worth of all our honor. Teach me how to appreciate You, in an even greater manner. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and the Question: Who is This Man?

The disciples were terrified and amazed, “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” Luke 8:25 (NLT)

One day, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly, the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed, “Who is this man?” they asked each other. Luke 8:22-25 (NLT)

Several thoughts came to my mind as I read this passage. These disciples had been with Jesus for a while. They ate with him, slept alongside him, walked with him, and observed him. They watched him heal the sick, set many free from demons, and listened many times as he taught the people. They chose to leave their old life, because they knew there was something different about him. But somehow, the realization of how serious this storm was and the aftermath of Jesus calming the storm caused them ask this question? “Who is this man?” Jesus revealed a side of Himself, that amazed and terrified his closes friends, and it was revealed openly because of this terrifying storm.

This storm was fierce, even for the experienced sailors. The boat was filling with water and they believed they were in danger of losing their lives. I think it can be the same with us, when we encounter death or life experiences. We can discover in new ways “who this man really is?”

I enjoy watching natural storms from the safety of my home, but walking through life’s storms is another matter. To be honest, I try to avoid them! But, they still happen. Most of the other stories, up to this point in Luke’s gospel are about what Jesus did for others. We find his disciples watching from the outside. This story became real. I think it is the same for us. It is when we feel overwhelmed and maybe even fear for our lives that we can discover more about this man we call our Savior.

When troubles arise, it is often when the relationship is tested. Does doubt, fear and uncertainty rob us of our trust with the Lord when we encounter troubles? Or do we run to Him, trusting He understands, even when we don’t. Often, the lessons we learn come after the storm is over. We can then see His faithfulness in ways that we may have missed during the storm.

As a child, they taught me about my need for a Savior and that Jesus was His name. I believed and received Him into my life when I was nine years old. Then, I began to know Him as a friend and confidant. He became the one I shared my joys, sorrows and dreams with. I was so grateful that I had someone I could tell my disappointments to–and still do, today!

Growing older, there came a time where I was confronted with His Lordship. Was I going to allow Him to become Lord of my life? This challenged me to learn about this “man” in some new ways. Did I trust Him to know what was best for me? Would I allow Him to lead and guide me, even when I didn’t want to walk His path? I learned that He is good, and His ways are good. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways higher than my ways.

It was the biggest storm in my life that helped me learn even more about this “man”. When my husband suffered a heart attack and major stroke, I learned more deeply of His faithfulness, mercy, supply, grace and wisdom. As I turned to Him, even when I was struggling, He was there. Walking as a caregiver for two and half years was not my plan. But it was His, and again it was hard, but worked out for good.

Living life as a widow has not been easy. But, I have learned more about this “man” because of necessity. He truly has become “a husband to this widow”. Dear Ones, if the storms of life are blowing strong in your world, take time to look for Him in the midst. You may feel, like these disciples, that He is asleep and unaware of how dangerous things are, but He is not. His response to them, “Where is your faith?” maybe that is what He is asking of us, as we navigate our storms! (A possible topic of another blog!). But, turn to Him and He will show you a side of Himself that can only come from walking with Him through these storms. Jesus longs to share Himself with us. He is more than a “man”, He is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, the Lamb of God, the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Good Shepherd and so many more–are there any of these areas you need to learn about Him? Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NLT. Do not let pride and arrogance tell you, Oh, I already know all about Him…I guarantee you don’t!

Father, help us turn to You in our storms. Show us more of You and Your ways. Help us to come to You to learn from You personally. Reveal Yourself in Your Word and show us Your ways, for they are good, even when our troubles are not. In Jesus’ Name, amen.