Faith and Quitting Part 2

But he that endures to the end, shall be saved. Matthew 24:13

After I wrote “Faith and Quitting” last week, I pondered some more what that really meant. If you quit a job, then you quit the job. No more paychecks, no more following their rules and policies, you are done. You don’t show up for work, because you have quit. So I began to ask myself, is my “quitting” worrying, being anxious, walking in discontent and trying to control my world as simple as that? Is it really quitting? Reality hit–was my declaration to quit emotional statements, or was I really convinced these things needed to get out of my life. Or did I simply take a leave of absence? If I am sincere about “quitting” these things, I must understand there is a process to each “quit”.

The problem with making such declarations, is they come back to haunt you! I was quite serious in declaring I quit, but the question is can we sustain such “quits”? Not without our God’s mercy and grace. Our sin nature likes to rise up strong and tall, it doesn’t like to change. But, I am so grateful we have a Savior who helps us in our time of trouble. Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of trouble (NKJV). Starting and stopping unhealthy habits do seem to bring more trouble than it might seem to be worth! But, when the Holy Spirit nudges or convicts of a need to change, then we must release our faith and believe that it is for our best benefit. I need His help to change. It is helpful to meditate on Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

As I pray, seek Him and His ways, I find worry and anxiety falling away. During an especially trying moment last week, I called my sister Marie and asked her if she had any good encouragement. She said, “why, yes, I do!” She proceeded to share with me the blessing and insight that she had received the day before at her Bible study. Then she prayed for me, and as she did, the concerns and troubles that were bothering me, slipped away. I could physically feel peace return. It was so amazing, and I am grateful for her. I actually began to write “Faith and Quitting” after I talked with her. It’s humbling to admit we need others, but as Hebrews 10:24-25 declares: And let us consider how we may spur one other on toward love and good needs, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching. NIV We must admit we may be the one who needs spurring!

Hebrews 12: 1 urges us to strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Every area that I listed that I need to quit, are these weights. They slow us down. Worry, anxiety, trying to control our circumstances slow us down from running the race He has called us to. Can you picture a marathon runner adding weights during their main race? Wouldn’t that be silly? God’s Word clearly instructs us on what kind of weights we need to get rid of,. Let’s examine our lives and be courageous to lay aside every sin and weight that would hinder our running. Do not fall for the lie that your race doesn’t matter. Each one of us are important to God’s Kingdom and others are following us. If it is important enough to run, it’s important enough to run well.

The “quits” I’ve listed are some of the weights that have slowed me down. I am working on “quitting” them because they aren’t healthy nor are they God’s best for me and the others around me. How about you? Do you have things you need to quit?

Father, please reveal these sin an weights that hinder our running the race you have set before us. I thank you for your grace and mercy as we make every change that is important to you. Please help us to make your priorities our priorities, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Quitting

It’s been a busy full week–same for you? In the busyness of this week–mostly good stuff, important, stuff that needed to get done, I felt like quitting. Just curling up in my bed and forgetting about all of it. Have you ever been there?

So I decided to quit. I decided to quit trying to live more that one day or activity at a time. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:34 NLT

I decided to quit being anxious about things that are out of my control. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

I decided to quit worrying about God’s will and purpose for my life. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

I decided to quit walking in discontent. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 ESV

I decided to quit letting subtle prideful ways direct my path. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding, seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

I decided to quit feeling that I am falling short, and choosing to walk in His acceptance, strength and grace. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2; 8-9. ESV

These are a few things I’ve decided to quit, but in the quitting of them, there is the taking up or putting on of God’s will and purpose. I choose to walk in greater thankfulness and gratitude. I choose to trust Him and His ways. I will not let fear enter my heart, but I will choose to walk in faith. I choose to surrender to Him and His ways, knowing they are higher, better and more perfect for me that any other choice.

Father, please help me and others to quit doing things that oppose your work in our life. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides us in all truth. Please help us in each of these areas. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Strength

But the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:5

As I read Paul’s encouragement to the church at Thessalonica, two things crossed my mind. That Paul was writing to real people, just like us who were facing so many challenges. Then I wondered, “how do you strengthen us, Lord?” I know it happens, but exactly how does it happen? What can we do to receive this strength?

There are so many amazing scriptures that talk about God’s strength. Lately, I have met many weary people. Life’s circumstances overwhelm some, some are victims of the enemy’s lies, some are at a crossroads and need courage to pick a path. In Exodus 15:2, Moses declares: The Lord is my strength and my song and has become my salvation. In someway, Moses has learned that the Lord is his strength. When I think I am strong, I don’t look for God’s strengthening. I keep relying on my own until I can’t. Then I call out to the Lord—help! Then, like David, who encouraged the Levites and priests with a song of thanksgiving in 1 Chronicles 16:11 to seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually. (ESV) It is a good thing to seek him and his strength. Don’t shy away from simply asking for it. It is our privilege as believers.

Really, we must accept and know that his strength is available to us. It is a matter of releasing our faith and trusting that these words are true. David wrote Psalm 23:3. He renews my strength. When does this happen? When we take the time to lie down in the green pastures, he provides! If we discover we are lacking strength, it’s important to spend time in his presence. Sometimes it is humbling to admit we are weak, but unless we admit it, we can’t do anything about it.

After we realize we are needy and weak, then we must ask for him to strengthen us. Then we need to listen. The wise God may suggest we go to bed earlier. He may suggest a particular passage in scripture to meditate on or to put on some worship music. He may show us an area where sin has encroached, and we need to repent. Sin sucks life from us. He may show us where our priorities need to be shifted. It is important that we implement any changes the Holy Spirit shows us.

Sometimes, he may want you to head into the battle and trust him for the strength to be victorious. Have you read Hebrews 11: 32-34 lately? How much more do I need to say? It would talk too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith, these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. These heroes of the faith became strengthened in the battle! So, he might tell you to stand up and fight the good fight of faith. Often, we may feel the only way to get stronger is to rest, but apparently, it is not so. Exercise your faith muscle and trust him.

We also gain strength through fellowshiping with others. Sharing our concerns with another helps lighten our load and infuses us with strength. Ask people to pray for you. Or reach out and help others. It can actually increase our own strength.We were not created to do life alone.

I want to remind us of Paul’s situation in 2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So not I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. We need to remind ourselves, he may not remove our weaknesses, but he may choose to show forth his strength in them.

No matter what, he wants us to grow closer to him. He is delighted when we come to him, asking for help and strength. Lean on him, my friends. He is more than able to get us through any situations, if we simply trust him and follow his ways. Do not let discouragement overtake you. Run to him, don’t let condemnation, fear, or anxiety keep you away from your Heavenly Father.

Father, I know what it is like to feel weak and needy. I am so grateful that you are available in our weakness to show forth your strength. Help us to run to you, seek you and rest in your presence when we feel depleted. Show us any areas where we are allowing our strength to be wasted, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Consistency

A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain. Proverbs 25: 14 NLT

As I read this scripture this morning, I realized that one attribute that I appreciate in people is those that walk in and with consistency. This is the person who you can depend on to keep their word. These people bring a safe element into the relationship. After I started thinking about this verse, I studied for our School of Ministry class. I always preview the videos before we watch them—and Professor Malmin, just so happened to be discussing the attribute of God–holiness. After discussing many different definitions of holiness, he shared one word: consistency. Our God is consistent. He is always the same! No shadow of turning is to be found in him.

Because of this consistency, we can trust him to be who he says he is. To do what he says he will do, and that makes him reliable, stable and trustworthy. It is God’s purpose and desire that we become holy, as he is holy because it is consistent with his character. He wants us to become reliable, stable and trustworthy because it will bring glory to his kingdom.

But immediately when I read that verse two things happened. To be honest, I thought of those who had “broken” their promises to me for various reasons, and then I thought about my own broken promises to others. Neither brought joy. Some of my broken promises came about when I spoke rashly (maybe in pride?); others because of legitimate impedance. Frankly, it caused me to stop and ask forgiveness and also forgive those who I felt had broken their promise to me. Right or wrong, broken promises cause damage to our souls.

Each of us is bound to break our word. Life is like that here on earth. We aren’t always consistent in what we want to do, are we? If that happens to you, do not ignore it. Go to the person and explain the reason. Ask their forgiveness and move on. Our pride rarely wants us to confess to others when we mess up. Instead, we try to justify and rationalize our actions and pass it off as “it wasn’t a big deal”. Maybe not to you, but to the other person who was counting on you, it might have been. So, clear the deck, admit it—and hopefully learn from it and move on.

Communication is always a good idea in these situations. When trust gets broken, it’s hard to rebuild if we don’t admit our wrong. And if someone doesn’t keep their promise to you, forgive them. (Maybe they truly did not know what they were doing). The promise of a gift comes with a type of hope attached. It creates expectancy, and when it doesn’t happen, discouragement and distrust try to move in. Therefore, leaders need to be careful what they promise—whether you are leading your children, your wife, business, or ministry. It is very important to follow through if you can. And if you can’t, explain it and ask for forgiveness. Do not ignore it.

Do not be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few. Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV I think if we listen to the adage “think before you speak”, we will keep our word more easily. Words can be such a gift, or they can be a snare. Let us remind ourselves of Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. ESV

Father, help us guard our mouth and use it for good. Let us be careful what we promise, because promises bring hope and broken hope makes the heart sick. Help us grow in this area, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faith and Living a Life Worthy

I therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling which you have been called. Ephesians 4:1 ESV

Does anyone else find Paul’s admonition to “walk worthy” a bit intimidating? At times, it seems impossible to fulfill this high standard. However, it seems to be an important word for him and the Holy Spirit, because he exhorts not only the Ephesians, the Colossians (Col. 1: 9-10), and the Philippians (Phil. 1: 27-30)! He’s writing each of these letters to the believers in these churches, not just to the leaders. Therefore, we can infer it is to us, too.

So what does it mean to walk worthy of the calling. Some translations use the word “lead” a life worthy–but as I was thinking about walking, it occurred to me that it is something we need to do as we live our life. In the morning, at noontime and suppertime, too we are to walk worthy of the calling we have in him. First, we may need to release our faith and accept the fact it is possible. How do we do it? By trusting in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. There is no way we can do this without him, but that is not an excuse because we do have him!

We have to trust his ability to empower us to walk worthy in our every day circumstances. I think maybe it is our unrealistic expectations that causes us to try and overlook these exhortations. Paul goes on in Ephesians 4 to clarify the characteristics of a person who walks worthy of his calling. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4: 2-3). These are all attributes that can be developed, if we want to.

Our flesh doesn’t like to walk in humility. It doesn’t always enjoy being gentle–because it wants its own way. Learning to be patient with each other and overlooking one another’s faults, isn’t easy, but it is doable. We do it because we love we love one another. God has a good purpose for us walking worthy of our calling, it helps spread the gospel, or minimally it at least does not hinder our testimony!

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.(Col 1: 9-10 ESV) Oh my fellow followers of Christ, let us move these exhortations up on our to do list. It is one way we can bear good fruit for his kingdom’s sake.

Father, I ask that you help us understand just how important this is to you. It is not optional, but important. Teach us how to walk worthy of your calling, for what is important to you we choose to make important to us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Acknowledge”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Have you ever felt “acknowledged”? Did someone notice and honor you for an accomplishment? As I pondered this word this week, I thought about how not only are we admonished in scripture to “acknowledge” the Lord for His position and authority in our life, but also because it brings him pleasure!

A basic definition of the word acknowledge is simply to admit the truth or existence of something or someone. I think, deep down, even the most shy introvert needs/likes to be acknowledged! We all do. There is an innate aspect of giving a emotional gift when we acknowledge someone for who or for what they do.

But in order for this “acknowledgement” to be a true acknowledgement—it must be done with genuine sincerity. To truly acknowledge the Lord, we must honor his position as Lord of our life. When we do, we position ourselves to receive from him direction, wisdom, and insight. We admit we don’t have all the answers and we will trust his answers for the direction in our life. It is important that we stop what we are doing, thinking, or planning and seek him for his plan for the situation, being willing to change what we are doing, thinking or planning. Not always easy, as our pride can get in our way. True acknowledgement puts us in a humble position. The good news is the promise found in this scripture—he will direct our paths, is dependable and re-assuring. Sometimes those paths lead through difficult terrain, but if we keep following it, we find ourselves in green pastures.

One way we can acknowledge God and his ways is to honor those he honors. In the United States, it is Pastor Appreciation month. As we take time to acknowledge our spiritual leaders for their service, we are acknowledging God’s gift to us.

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

We can acknowledge and honor those leaders over us by praying for them, thanking them and, as the Lord leads, do a little extra! I want to encourage you to keep a “short” list with your leaders, walk in love, forgiveness and communicate. I will say it again, pray for them and love them. Walk in humility as God’s family, seek to build his kingdom. God loves his church and so should we. It is part of acknowledging his plan and his purpose.

Father, please teach us to take the time to acknowledge you—in all we do. To stop and allow your wisdom to lead and direct our paths. We know you love us and when we acknowledge you, we love you back. Help us love our leaders after knowledge as well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and Dressing

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 NLT.

Does dress matter? Does it matter to the world around you what you put on? So how do you dress yourself? What is your style? Edgy, comfy, latest fashion? Thrift store chic? How do you select your clothing each day? Picking out clothes to wear each day is not always easy. The weather, the activities, and simply what is clean may affect our natural clothing choices. But as we walk with the Lord, Paul lists the attitudes we must clothe ourselves with if we want to be the holy people he has chosen us to be. He doesn’t give any exceptions. These are things we must put on every day. It isn’t always easy to be tenderhearted, have mercy, and walk in kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Famous people may have their stylists and “dressers” but no one can clothe us in these attributes except ourselves. It is a daily choice.

But the Paul also gives us another list. The putting on the armor of God. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Ephesians 6:11. Are you like me? Sometimes you forget not only to put them on, but that you’ve even been given them? I think they are like some other clothes that get lost in the back of the closet. My friend mentioned them yesterday, and as I was reading them today, I felt others needed to be reminded that not only do you have them, but they must be put on with intention. Paul exhorts us to put them on so we will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. We know he has many strategies—that are sneaky and deliberately set to trap us in his ways. Without utilizing this armor, we subject ourselves to needless wounds and battles.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then, after the battle, you will be standing firm. Maybe you have been feeling pushed around and defeated. Check yourself. Have you been putting on the armor? Put on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 NLT.

My friends, we need to be properly dressed to face the world. We can’t just randomly grab “comfy clothes of the flesh” and expect to walk victoriously in this world. We need both lists to be effective lights. Dress matters. Make a fresh decision to put on both lists every day. If you do, you will be prepared to face whatever comes your way.

Father, you’ve given us these lists for a reason. We can trust that they are for our good and the good of your kingdom. My dear Father, we need your help in remembering to take the time to put on your armor and to clothe ourselves with these helpful attributes. Help us trust your wisdom that we need these things, and not be like children who don’t want to put on coats in the middle of winter. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Service

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. Romans 14:17-18.

I live in a military town, where first hand we get to witness the lives of those who serve our nation. It isn’t easy. On them, or on their family members. But they enlisted for duty, and mostly follow it through. A few weeks ago, I talked with a young sailor. She was not happy in her service. She still had several years to go before she finished her contract. She misses her home state and her family. She doesn’t really enjoy her work (as a cook) so she is miserable. My heart goes out to her, and I tried to encourage her to change her perspective. She, also, is very young in her faith. The good news is she agreed to meet with one of our great mentors in our church and learn His ways. I told her, you can’t change your contract or your job, all you can change is your attitude towards it. Ask the Lord to help you. He can do it. Have you ever felt that way? Stuck serving others? Maybe your family? Your employers? Or even your involvement in ministry?

Bob Dylan wrote and performed a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody”. “You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” This is the truth. The only thing we choose is the “who”. And a marvelous “who” we can choose to serve is, of course, our Savior. Serving Jesus means we serve his family. Which can sometimes be challenging, but when we do it unto the Lord, it is always worth it. Like my sailor friend, often it is a matter of changing our perspective and attitude. Not easy.

Paul reminds the Galatians: for you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “love your neighbor as yourself”. Galatians 5: 13-14. Service is the action of helping or doing work for someone. Many times, it means we put aside our wants and choose to do what someone else needs doing. Often, service is not convenient, or necessarily comfortable. In the Navy, my sailor friend earns her pay and can rise in rank as she serves. In Christ’s Kingdom, service can bring joy, gladness of heart and also the pain of suffering alongside Jesus. Romans 12:1 states it clearly: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. We choose to serve. No one makes us. We do it by the mercies of God. Even when it may seem unreasonable, it isn’t it. It is the logical outcome of presenting our entire selves to the Lord. We become his servants. I have learned this is a wonderful thing. Have you?

We practice serving our husbands, wives and our children. We practice loving our friends and our neighbors. As we listen to his small voice, open our hearts he will show us how best to serve him and his kingdom. It is our choice if we are a attentive server, or a reluctant server. The best blessing comes from being a cheerful one!

Father, I ask that you continue to show us how to serve you. How to become trusted servants that will touch the lives of others. Let us walk in humility, grace, mercy towards others. Forgive us when we forget it is our reasonable service to you. Especially when we remember what you went through for us. We are so grateful. Thank you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Influencers

Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me. Psalm 71:18 NLT

As I was roaming Facebook, I kept seeing the word “influencers”. Most of us probably now know that these influencers can have a full-time job via YouTube, or Tik Tock, and/or Instagram “influencing” others and make money from it!. It is now a job title! They can be experts within a specific community and use that knowledge to review or endorse products or ideas. According to Google, influence is the ability to affect the behavior of others in a particular direction, leveraging key tactics that involve, connect or inspire them. Do you want to be an influencer?

The top Instagram influencer has 47.7 million followers or, if you believe Wikipedia, she has 141.5 million followers. Her name is Charli D’Amelio and is only 18 years old. Previously, she had been a competitive dancer for ten years before she started posting on social media. Her fame has led to many collaborations—with Dunkin’ Donuts naming a limited run on a coffee flavor named “the Charli”.

Reading up on her, I discovered she herself doesn’t really understand how she became such a hit. She apparently struggles with eating disorders and although she is famous, many people have found fault with her body type and she experienced body shaming. Something about her transparency and content has earned her not only fame, but money.

Thinking about these types of influencers, I wonder how stable a job they have. Will they still be ‘influencing’ people in ten years on the same level? Or will they have to re-invent themselves? Only time will tell. However, God calls each of us to be an influencer of his kingdom. It is a privilege and an honor to represent that kingdom not just for now, but for all eternity. Listening to the radio the other day, the speaker declared the amazing influence grandparents can have on their grandchildren’s faith. It carries significant weight. Statistics don’t examine the why, they just tell the what. I wonder if it has to do with them watching, listening and seeing how authentic their faith truly is.

One way we can share/influence the next generation is by sharing the stories of our faith. A few months ago, the Lord showed me a pantry–full of experiences, lessons and interactions I had with the Lord. I began to ask him to show me what he meant by that picture. He said, “these are valuable.” “You must value to them in order to share them. I did not help you through the difficulties, or bring revelation to a subject, or teach you something for it just to be for you.” So I began to pray for Spirit led opportunities to share my God stories.

Our church was beginning a School of Ministry for young people. After this interaction with the Lord, I happened to talk with the director. I got courageous and asked him, “how can I help?” “He said, do you want to teach?” So we began the program last week. I am excited to have the opportunity to teach, love on and share some of these stories and experiences with these young people. Whatever God has done in and through your life has value—extreme value. Do not minimize your story. Ask the Lord to show you (and remind you) of those things he has done for you, then pray for open doors to share them. Be sensitive to his leading (and stoppings!) and see how you can be an influence in other’s lives.

I think one of the ways God redeems the hard times in our lives is by giving us a story to encourage others. 2 Corinthians 1:3 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. NIV Don’t waste your blessing! If we want others to know God’s care, love, help etc. We must share our stories, then we can become the influencers. Not only do we want to be, but who he wants us to be. “Now that I am old and gray”… the psalmist prays, let me proclaim your power to this new generation”‘ we must not let our age, our race, our economic status or any other thing stop us from sharing our God stories with those around us. It is easy, as an older person, to buy into the lie that nobody younger wants to hear our stories. But this is not true, it is Satan’s lie.

Remember, in order to see or have a miracle, we have to need a miracle. Most of us don’t want to be in that much of a need. Don’t worry about the size of your miracle, just pray for the things you need, and watch him move. It will turn into a good God story—even the delayed ones are helpful.

Whether we like it or not, we are influencers. We can either choose with intention to influence others for the kingdom, or we can choose to not act intentionally, and live for ourselves. Let’s trust him to lead and guide us and open our eyes to his moving all around. Open our ears to his voice. He has good things to say to each of us.

Father, thank you for your gracious help in this area. We want to influence others positively for your Kingdom’s sake. I thank you, that you trust us to do so. Teach us how to increase our influence, and I know it usually begins with loving others. Thank you for opening our eyes, our ears and our hands to be used by you and for you, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Faith and Cheerfulness

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart. Good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30 NLT

This past week the word “cheerful” or “cheerfulness” has shown up randomly. In my scripture reading—but also in Facebook feeds. I read a friend’s post about her time at LabCorp. (I am sharing the story as I remember it. Some specifics may be different). She was waiting with several others for her blood draw. Everyone was quiet and somber. Nobody is usually excited to get their blood drawn, are they? In walks this 92-year-old woman. She is smiling and cheery. Apparently, she takes her time and goes around the room, complimenting every individual. The atmosphere changes. People smile and actually talk with one another. Then, in walks a young woman who has many tattoos and ripped clothing. There is a pause as everyone waits to see what will happen next. This older woman does not ignore her, or belittle her, but compliments her on her smile as well. Then she tells her, I imagine you are quite a fun person! This young woman also smiles and the two begin a wonderful conversation.

This older woman came with a cheerful heart and changed everyone’s day for the better. As I read that story, I thought, “I want to be like her” and become an “atmosphere changer!” Having a cheerful heart is potent. The Bible encourages us specifically to be cheerful in two areas: giving and hospitality. You much each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 9:7 I’ve discovered, cheerful giving of anything, begins in my heart. It is not just a feeling, but it is something we can choose. We can choose to joyfully and cheerfully give not only of our money, but of our time, talent and ourselves. It involves a decision to put off self absorption and put on concern and thoughts for others. Not easy.

Over the past several years, I have noticed I can actually make this choice, and when I do, my life gets better. My world opens up and I can celebrate with others or mourn with them if I need to. It is the opposite of catering to my own happiness, but when I cheerfully serve others, my own happiness increases. Have you discovered that incongruity?

1 Peter 4:9 states: cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. My God’s grace, I have had the privilege of sharing our home with many people. I admit, it is not always easy, nor have I always done it with cheerfulness. However, the blessing of having the time to spend with people is priceless. We have seen God move and change lives because of an open home which begins with an open heart. I know our American culture has shifted, so many people don’t cook for themselves anymore, much less for others, but you can still share a meal. Plan—get take out if you must. Use paper plates if you don’t have enough to share…but try it. Don’t get nervous, just choose to focus on your friends. Do it in faith and see what God will do in and through you. If you are concerned about your home—plan it at a park or beach. Do a picnic. Open up your creative self and ask God for inspiration.

I admit, since I have been single. I have been reluctant to invite couples over. But I am asking God for direction and courage to change that! It is hard to greet the guests and serve as well. But most of my concerns are probably in my own mind. Our Life Group meets at my home every week. We have a wonderful time. My home cleaning schedule gets it done by group time! It takes a change in our perspective from “it’s too hard”, “I’m too tired”, “I don’t know how”, “they won’t want to come” to simply releasing our faith and making it work.

My Bible reading for today included 2 Corinthians 9:6 and actually defines the word cheerfully in the footnote. Cheerfully, hilaros; Strongs #2431: Willing, good natured, joyfully ready. The word describes a spirit of enjoyment in giving that seeps away all restraints. I really like these defining words. It is something we can ask ourselves both about our giving and our hospitality. Are we willing in our heart to share ourselves or our material goods with others? If not, why not? What can we do to change our heart? Take time to look at Jesus and the Father. Do you think they were cheerful when they sent Jesus to earth? Good-natured. Hmm, am I kind, friendly and patient? What about joyfully ready? Have I put away my selfish ways and prepared for others?

Friends, we don’t know what God will do when we choose to serve him cheerfully. This includes parenting, loving our spouses and our friends. Do we feel interrupted when the phone rings? Or a text comes through? Let us ask God for his perspective. I think he wants us to answer the phone, cheerfully. It will change the atmosphere, it takes faith, but it does work.

Father, I thank you for helping us with all these matters. Help us give of ourselves, our money, our talents into your hands. Please spend us as you will; for we can trust you. I ask that you help us incorporate cheerfulness into our lives like never before. People are attracted to cheerful people, and we want to attract others to you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.