Faith and Paul’s Verbs

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 NLT

Paul begins the wonderful 12th chapter of Romans with a plea or in other translations the beseech, urge or appeal to you. This is something that he is very passionate about. As we yield ourselves to Him–body, soul and spirit, he goes on to say in verse two: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. NLT How comforting and challenging this is. Submitting our bodies (which is our actions) to His way helps us discover God’s will for our lives.

Paul goes on in this chapter to encourage us to use our specific gifting to strengthen the body of Christ. But in verse 9, he begins to very clearly instruct us with some strong verbs. Verbs are action words, and if we are to actually give our bodies as a sacrifice to Him, our actions will definitely be involved. The, Paul doesn’t stop there, but he adds descriptive words to emphasize how to do it! Words like genuinely, tightly, enthusiastically are inserted so we have no doubt how we are to worship the Lord.

Romans 12: 9 Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them. We need to love genuinely.

Romans 12: 9 Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. This takes discernment, doesn’t it?

Romans 12: 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. I’m not sure the body of Christ knows how to really take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12: 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Oh, this is challenging, especially when we might be discouraged or tired. We must check our attitude!

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Adding rejoicing, being patient and not quitting our prayer during difficult times is so necessary.

Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. That means we must keep our eyes open to know if they are in need or not, plus be willing to be generous.

Romans 12:13 Always be eager to practice hospitality. There is that challenge–he doesn’t just say practice hospitality, but he wants us to be eager about it! This begins in our hearts. Do you let people in?

There is so many more challenges in this chapter, but I think we will stop here. Paul is pleading, beseeching and appealing to us to submit in these areas to the Lord. It is a way to honor the Lord, grow His kingdom and as he says in verse one, truly worship the Lord. Dear ones, let us joyfully take on these verbs.

Father, I thank you for helping us choose to submit daily to giving our bodies (our actions) to you. You deserve our worship in this way. Please help us as we learn to put into action these verbs for your kingdom’s sake. Open our eyes where we are pretending to love, teach us to really love. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Refreshment

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul. Jeremiah 31:25 NKJV

There is no substitute for the refreshing of our soul. God delights in refreshing us as we spend time in His presence. Let all weariness go, let the refreshment flow. Darryl Rodman. Heart Treasure Life is busy, no doubt about it. There are so many things on my to do list I forget to think about things I want to do! Fortunately, most of my to do list brings me blessing.

However, I’ve discovered refreshment is not automatic. We have to position ourselves to receive His refreshment. The first thing we need to do is acknowledge our need for that refreshment. I have heard that by the time we feel thirsty in the natural; we are already dehydrated! Creating a daily habit of seeking the Lord and waiting on him, sets us up to receive his refreshment. So coming to him before total exhaustion and weariness takes place is the wisest thing to do. Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. (ESV) This is like an ounce of prevention! Psalm 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. (ESV) But this takes time. It really does. But it is so worth it. Draw aside with him. Mark 6:31 Jesus instructs the disciples: “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (NLT)

When the cares of my soul overwhelm me and I finally recognize I am burdened and weighed down, it takes time to offload them to the Lord. Some times they feel like they are bungeed corded to my soul–they come right back! Taking the time to sort them out before the Lord is always worth the time it takes, and I always leave feeling lighter and stronger. It is humbling to admit we need to be strengthened or refreshed, but remember the scripture in Isaiah 40:29-31. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (NLT) We all need his refreshment.

Hope refreshes. When we cast our cares upon him and we begin to understand we are not alone on our journey. Hope comes in. If we don’t have a solution, he does! It may take sometime to discover it, or for him to reveal it, but there is a solution. My friends, do not let hopelessness take away your joy or peace. It is a trick of the enemy to steal from you. I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:12 (NLT)

Jesus offered us the invitation to “come”. 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 If we just stay long enough to dump our heavy load, but don’t take the time to be taught of him, we will miss so much. Do not be afraid of his yoke. Jesus graciously is asking permission to teach us how to find rest for our souls. What a privilege to have access to such a teacher! Take advantage my dear friends of his wonderful offer. Take the time to learn from him and be refreshed.

There is another way refreshment comes that is mentioned in scripture. The generous will prosper, those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) Yes, taking the time to be a blessing to others sets us up for refreshment. If we get our minds off ourselves and our situations, looking to help another, we will be blessed. Try it!

Father, we come. We come to you today and ask that you refresh our souls. Teach us to walk with you. We choose to take your yoke upon us and exchange our heavy burden for your light one. Father, thank you for refreshing our souls today as we wait upon you.

Faith and Sorrow

Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows, Isaiah 53:4 NKJV

God is so good. Last week I wrote about joy (Faith and Joy). May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (NLT). I didn’t know then what was in store for our family, but He did.

My son and his wife were excited to go to the 20 week ultrasound appointment, pregnant with my 11th grandchild. The scan looked great. She was doing amazing. Only two days later, things would change. Unfortunately, things shifted and beyond anyone’s control, our little Madelyn Rose was born too early, July 9.

Five different doctors and specialists all declared, “we don’t know why this happened”. But it did. So now we readjust our thoughts, hopes and dreams and choose to trust His plan and purpose.

As we walked this journey, praying for miracles and God’s help and wisdom, the scripture that came to me was Psalm 23:4. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. We will not let bitterness, doubt enter our hearts, even though we do not understand the “whys” of the outcome.

Sorrow is hard, but it is part of life here on earth. Jesus, our dear Savior, was called the “man of sorrows”, in Isaiah 53:3. It is comforting to know He understands our sorrow as well. He walks with us in our sorrow if we let Him. We know there is coming a time where he will wipe every tear from their (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4.

We, as a family, will mourn for her—for the potential life and joy she would have added to our family. But we will not forget her, and we trust her brief life will have fulfilled God’s purpose.

I don’t have to like it, but obviously we have to accept it. We will trust Him to bind up all our wounds and begin restoring our souls in a way only He can. Our other option is to let anger, frustration and disappointment take over. Mistrust in God’s goodness to seep in and pollute our hearts. Not a good thing. We have seen firsthand how damaging these negative emotions, when not processed well, can hurt relationships and our souls. So we will fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, trusting that this trial will produce good fruit. James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work. Many times we don’t allow patience to produce good fruit because we want all the answers now, and that, my friends, is not how life always works.

So pray for us. I know we will experience this rocky journey of grief, but we will make it. Even Madelyn’s siblings will be at peace and trust in our good God. Thank you and as we walk this path, joy will come and be our strength.

Father, we declare you are a good God, doing good things in our hearts and lives. I thank you for using this extremely difficult loss to show us your goodness. Get every good thing you can from our pain, in Jesus’ Name. Help us to comfort others as you comfort us. Amen.

Faith and Joy

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Sometimes I forget about joy. I get focused on the routines of life, my to do lists, the concerns for my family and others and the thought of joy gets lost in the muddle. I am so grateful when the Holy Spirit reminds me that joy is available to me through the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to limp along with an near empty joy level, but we can be filled with His joy. What a difference it makes!

Biblical joy is available to every believer. Jesus gives us clear instruction and direction in John 15:9-11I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow. His promise to us, if we remain in his love and obey his commandments we will be filled with his joy. There is something that happens when we are walking with Him, doing our assignment, keeping His commandments. Peace happens, and joy comes.

Trusting obedience is crucial for us to receive his joy. Often, like children we question the wisdom of the instruction, or we flat out don’t want to do it. If it doesn’t make sense to our natural mind, or it interferes with our fleshly wants, we justify disobedience. What happens is we begin to lose our joy. Submitting to his ways and his will opens up our understanding of his perspective and purpose. Even when things are difficult, his presence (including his joy!) comes into our lives.

This last week, I followed a simple Holy Spirit request. I deleted a game from my phone that I had been playing for a long time. It was a hidden adventure game, where I would find hidden objects. There was a story line, the I really ignored. It took a disturbing turn and I felt the Holy Spirit said, “no, more.” So I uninstalled it. It was a simple request. I do miss it. I haven’t replaced it, so it is evident how much time I wasted with it. But the blessing of obeying the Holy Spirit’s request was immediate. Peace and joy was multiplied in my heart way bigger than the small obedience.

We find some great advice and instruction in Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. In the middle of this passage we find the phrase: be joyful in hope. When joy is present, life is easier. It truly is the strength giver we need to walk through hard places. I encourage you to take a “joy assessment”. Are you walking in his joy? If not, take the time to refresh yourselves in his presence. Ask him to show you any areas you need to make changes. Do not be afraid of his commandments to you. He truly cares and they are for our good. Remember, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2 ESV.

There are many who are enduring this race. Let’s not be drop outs, but let us be strengthened by his joy, remain in his love and experience his peace. Weariness is real, but so is the joy of the Lord, let’s access it!

Father, I ask you to fill us with your joy today. I thank you that along with that joy comes your strength in every area where we may feel weak and weary. Help us run the race you have set before us, in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Stability vs Instability

And he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge, the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. Isaiah 33:6 ESV

How we need his stability during these times. So many things we thought we could count on–has changed. We thought we had our budgets figured out–and then gas prices started to rise, food prices started to go up, and that which was “stable” changed. People plan flights months ago, planning to leave on a certain day and discover the airline cancelled thousands of flights! Cancelled flights bring uncertainty on so many levels–some inconvenient, some life altering. I’ve heard stories of people not making it to their loved ones deathbed; missing babies births; or job opportunities. As an industry, we expect it to be stable and consistent, but somehow it has changed. It seems to be the sign of the times. What’s next, we wonder?

These things reveal where we are standing. On the rock of his stability and trust, or on our own strength and ideas. I remember living through a gas crisis in the 70’s; we made it! I remember the price of coffee going up (my comfort!) and wondering how to make it stretch or substituting it for coffee and chicory. But we made it. How did we make it? By choosing to ask for his wisdom, insight and continuing to give, tithe, help others and not make it bigger than it was. I learned to trust and rejoice in the God who provided for each day, not worrying about the next. Those situations (as minor as they were in the scheme of things, were God’s school in teaching us actual trust lessons. He is the best teacher we could ever have.

I learned more lessons this week. I tested positive for Covid on Sunday, complete with symptoms. It started with the worse headache, chills, nausea and fatigue I have experienced. The nasal stuff (sneezing and congestion) and coughing took a back seat to the headache and chills that first night. I was disoriented and wobbly on my feet, as I tried to navigate bathroom trips etc. For the first time in my life, I felt physically vulnerable and weak for living alone. It was hard, being alone, to keep my mind staying on his love and care. I knew I wasn’t in any life-threatening danger, but emotionally it was so hard. Looking back, I think the not knowing the source of the problem, plus being at night only made things worse. We had just finished four days of Kids Camp, so I was physically tired already. As I kept re-assessing my situation inside my own head, I knew Jesus was with me. I could feel him stabilizing my emotions with his peace, and yet there was fear, subtly trying to sneak in. Finally, I said, “Lord, we will get through this. It may not be pretty, but that is ok.” I kept praying and waiting for daylight and the clock to progress so I could touch base with my children. I had texted them the night before that I didn’t feel well. But I didn’t want to bother them in the night (because I am a mom!)

Before I could reach out, my son showed up! He wanted to check on me, to see how I was doing. They thought I may have had heat exhaustion or something like that from being out in the sun with the kids. He cleaned up my messes, fed me some scrambled eggs, started laundry and bought me some Gatorade etc. He was our family hero that day! I am so grateful for him. Gradually the symptoms are dissipating, and I just have congestion and fatigue. Turns out my daughter and her family are waging the Covid war as well. At least we can compare symptoms and stages!

It hasn’t been “fun”, but I have a great group of friends and family who are praying and checking in on me. One way God brings stability to our lives, is through the help of others. Many offers of help and encouragement came. I am so grateful for each one. As I improve, I can see how the Lord has been the stability of my times. I know he has been intervening and answering prayer. Truly he is my rock during this unstable time.

You know, I think, the Lord is helping us get to standing just on him. Each of these extra planks (like food prices, gas prices or even the airline industry) have been wonderful to have in place, but they are not our stable place. That stable place is our Rock. He is immovable, unshakeable and does not waver. Peter was unstable as he walked on the water when he took his eyes off of the Lord and put them on the waves. Let us go to the rock, that is always higher than we are.

Father, like David we pray, Lead us to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2). We choose to climb higher above the concerns of this world and choose to trust in you no matter what. My illness shall pass, but others are facing more difficult things and we ask you to comfort them. Show them the path to the higher, safe place with you. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Meanwhile”

Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. Acts 11:10

A few weeks ago, I was scheduled to lead our pre-service prayer. I always try to take the time to ask the Lord for any extra direction He may want to give or share with those present. He showed me that there were many who had a weary week. They were carrying burdens, some they had been carrying a long time. These were things they had been praying about for a long time. This phrase came to mind: let them know that as they serve me, I am serving them. Most of those who are faithful to the pre-service prayer time are those who choose to serve in some capacity each week.

As we lifted our burdens and concerns to the Lord, I could feel a shift for many. Such a word of faith. God is working on our behalf while we are busy with His assignments. He is moving on our behalf to answer prayer, make connections and help us through every difficult circumstances. I want to encourage you, even in the midst of your trial, that God is “meanwhile” working behind the scenes for each of us.

We see another example of “meanwhile” in Matthew 14. Immediately, after this, Jesus insisted that his disciple sent back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. Matthew 14:22. So the disciples followed Jesus instructions. They got in the boat and started to the other side. Jesus went off by himself to pray. But meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. They did what he asked, he went about his business, but went to them when they needed him. It is the same with us. He is always with us, and shows up with everything we need, as we walk with him.

Take heart, my friends. He has not forgotten the prayers you have prayed for salvation, healing or breakthroughs–even if you have been praying for many years. Stay faithful. Serve Him. Love Him. Trust Him. Rest in Him. All the while, remembering that He is the God in whom we may trust our past, our present and our future.

Father, it’s humbling to think of you serving us. You served your disciples by washing their feet, feeding them, teaching them and you have not stopped. Help us to trust you with every long term prayer–even if nothing seems to change. You are so faithful, help us become as faithful servants to your kingdom as you are to us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Simple Instructions

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words. Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

I find myself really enjoying Paul’s simple instructions in this verse. It doesn’t take great revelation to understand them. But, it does take a process to work them out, and that is not a bad thing.

Be joyful. Or as other translations state: rejoice. No matter what we face, there is always something we can rejoice in. Some days, it may be obvious. A raise, a breakthrough in relationships, a good diagnosis are all things that bring joy to our souls. Choosing to rejoice or be joyful when things are not going so well is a step toward maturity. Being able to be grateful we have a Savior to help us through those difficult life issues can lessen anxiety and fear. It takes a step of faith to choose to rejoice, but try it. It is often the beginning of breakthroughs. If you struggle with this, try singing out loud a simple worship song. Or simply begin by thanking the Lord for your salvation. It will take your mind off your difficulty and remind you, you are not alone. Try laughing.

Grow in maturity. The Amplified Translation states it this way: Be made complete [be what you should be]. While the NIV says: Strive for full restoration. We must allow God and the Holy Spirit to have its perfect work in every area of our lives. This means giving Him freedom to convict and convince us of any sin, wrong attitudes or falling short of His plan for us. This is always done for our benefit and blessing.

Encourage each other. It is so easy to get focused on ourselves. It takes maturity to see where we can be a blessing to others and discover how to encourage them. When we help others, we find ourselves helped.

Live in harmony and peace. We don’t always have to be right, or have the last word. The word ‘harmony’ implies we will be playing distinct notes–but as we follow the Lord, it should sound good to His ears. Let’s let our Heavenly Father be about His business parenting His children. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 NIV is always a great verse to live by.

Then comes the great promise. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. I know He is always with us, but cultivating His Presence is amazing. We can draw on Him for His love and His peace. No matter the situation, the Prince of Peace has His peace to bestow upon each of us, and I so appreciate that.

So my friends, I encourage us all to live simply and follow Him. Do not make things so complicated in your walk with Him. These were Paul’s last words to the Corinthian church, and they are good words for us as well.

Father, I ask you to help us walk your simple life. Help us to be joyful today, letting the rivers of life flow from our hearts unto others. We choose to rejoice in your goodness. Father, I thank you that your are helping us grow up into the men and women you want us to be. We choose to live in harmony and peace, as much that lies within us. Show us where we can be an encouragement to others. Use us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and One Voice

He is a voice shouting in the wilderness. Mark 1:3

This week I happen to come across two different men, who used their voice for influence, one for evil the other for good. We find the first story in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon was one of David’s sons. He had a dear friend, who was also his cousin named Jonadab. Jonadab noticed that his friend, Ammon was quite upset. Enter the story:

Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her. Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. she was a virgin, and Amnon thought he could never have her. So here we have the story’s setting. Amnon was 22 and Tamar about 15 when this took place. He was so obsessed over Tamar and her beauty that he became ill. Amnon was correct in thinking he couldn’t have her, because she was too near a relative according to Jewish law for them to marry. (He was her half brother.)

What happens next shows the power of one voice. But Amnon had a very crafty friend–his cousin Jonadab. He was the son of David’s brother Shimea. One day Jonadab said to Amnon, “What’s the trouble? why should the son of a king look so dejected morning after morning?” So Amnon told him, “I am in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister. Instead of Jonadab helping his friend righteously through the problem, using good counsel, he helps set in place an elaborate plot so Tamar and Amnon could be alone. “Well,” Jonadab said, “I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to bed and pretend you are ill. When your father comes to see you, ask him to let Tamar come and prepare some food for you. Tell him you’ll feel better if she prepares it as you watch and feeds you with her own hands.” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. And when the king came to see him, Amnon asked him, “Please let my sister come and cook my favorite dish as I watch. Then I can eat it from her own hands.” So David agreed and sent Tamar to Amnon’s house to prepare some food for him.

At this point, perhaps David, as the dad could have used a little discernment, and asked a few questions himself, but he didn’t. When Tamar arrived at Amnon’s house she fixed the food. But when she set the serving tray before him, he refused to eat. Everyone get out of here Amnon told his servants. So they all left. Then he said to Tamar, “now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here. So Tamar took his favorite dish to him. but as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling sister’. “No, my brother, she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called on the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me” . But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger that she was, he raped her. Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her. He disgraced her even more, and brought division into the family over this act. All because his lust, fueled by his friends “advice” caused him to act so disgracefully.

When people we are around are in difficult emotional places, many times our one voice can either influence them to do good, or influence them to give in to their fleshly ways. As I read this story, I often wonder if Jonadab had some secret desires of his own, that he worked out through Amnon, another place where we must be careful. Friends have used their voice to precipitate and encourage others to pre-mature divorce, have affairs and other sinful acts, maybe even things they don’t have the courage to do themselves, but encourage others to do it at their expense. Not a good thing.

We find another story of the use of one man’s voice in Acts 5. Vs. 12, The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord–crowds of both men and women.

The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. (Verse 17) To condense the story, an angel came and let them out, and they went back to the public square and began preaching again. When the Temple guards went to get them out, they were gone! Someone finally came and told them that they were preaching and teaching again.

The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Peter and the apostles then preached to the council officials. When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. But, one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel; who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for awhile. Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! (vs 33-35) Here is the voice of reason, in the midst of the furious anger of the rest of the council members. He then rehearses the stories of two other men with their followers, whose movements died out after their leaders died. He took the time to look at a bigger picture than what was right before them. (Acts 5:36-38) When we use our voice, we need to take the time to look at the whole picture.

The voice of reason went on to declare “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning an doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God. The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Acts 5:38-40 NLT

When we are given the opportunity to counsel, encourage or give advice make sure it is scripturally sound. Make sure it leads them toward God’s ways and God’s thoughts. Point them to hope and faith. Jonadab, as a “friend” caused much havoc for David’s family; when he could have helped Amnon think differently. Amnon was ultimately responsible for his own actions, but would he have had the courage to plot such a plan without the help of Jonadab? I think not. Gamaliel changed the minds of his other council members by taking time to think. Let us be the voice of reason for each other. Like Gamaliel, take the time to think before you speak. Look at the bigger picture and help your friend make right choices.

Father, I thank you for helping us use the voices you gave us to speak words of hope, direction and encouragement. Let us not be like Jonadab who encouraged Amnon to commit a grievous sin, but like Gamaliel who saved lives. We ask for Your continued wisdom, grace and mercy as we search for Your big picture, in the hearts and lives of our family and friends. Our words do count, let us use them for good. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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.