Taming the Tongue and Stinkin' Thinkin'

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

Oh, boy! When the Bible starts talking about the mouth and our thoughts, I start to squirm. This has always been an area of challenge for me. Am I the only one?

I'm doing much better these days with thinking before I speak and with not dwelling on things that are not good to think about, but years ago this was a real struggle for me.

God had a way of breaking me, though…not a fun way, but a very effective way. Every time I would talk about someone behind their back, He made sure it got back to them! It was embarrassing, messed up relationships and required eating huge amounts of humble pie, which tastes horrible, by the way.

As for my thought life - I'm still working on that one. I have to be careful not to dwell on negative thoughts because they directly affect my moods. I am happy to say that I've conquered the "arguing with other people in my head" syndrome, though. Do you ever do that? Have a fight with someone in your head, providing the dialogue for both parties and by the end of it all you're really mad at the person you had an imaginary fight with?

No?  Just me, then - but, thankfully, that one's under control.

Father, help me to remember that my thought life should reflect my spiritual life and that if I find my thoughts are out of line, I need to seek you more, read more of your word and ask you to renew my mind. The words of my mouth will follow what's stored up in my heart, so if I get one right, the other will take care of itself. Thank you for loving me even when my words and my thoughts are not what they should be and thank you for grace that forgives. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Silver or gold, I do not have…

 "Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God." Acts 3:6-8 (NIV)

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray. At the gate, they saw a familiar face - the face of a beggar, lame from birth, who was carried each day to the temple gate called Beautiful. There he spent his days crying out to those going into the temple courts-begging for money from the passersby.

As Peter and John approached they heard his cries and recognized that his needs went much deeper than the few coins he might garner throughout the day. He needed to be made whole so that he could stand on his own two feet, so that he could work for a living and so that he could know the healing power of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

They did not offer him silver or gold, but gave him the most valuable thing they could give him - their faith. They reached out, took his hands and helped him to his feet - all in the name of Jesus, and as they prayed God poured his strength and healing power in the lame man. He began to walk and jump and praise God.

Today we look around and see so many people in need. Our hearts are moved with compassion, but we aren't rich, we don't have unlimited funds to help, but is that really what they need?  Our government hands out assistance checks to those in need every month, but year after year they are in the same position, crippled by poverty, lame due to a lack of education, and sitting alone because they have no one who cares enough to show them a better way.

As the body of Christ, we have the answer. We know the One who heals the lame, turns lives around and puts joy in the hearts of the redeemed. What we need to do is reach out, help the impoverished to their feet and give them what we have - the healing love of Jesus.

It's easy to think, "that was Peter and John, we don't have the power to heal the way they did," but if we read just a bit further, we discover that Peter and John were mere men like you and I.

"When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. Acts 3:9-11 (NIV)

(Notice that the man held on to Peter and John.  Handing someone money, then walking away never solved anything. Hurting people need someone to hold onto. They need someone who is strong to show them the way, to help them get firmly on their feet - someone who will walk along side of them until they are strong enough to stand on their own.)

Peter wanted the people witnessing this miracle to know that he and John were not responsible for this healing.

When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?" Acts 3:12 (NIV)

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. Acts 3:16 (NIV)

It wasn't Peter and John who healed the lame man. They did not possess the power to heal, nor did they possess great godliness. What they did possess was great faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ and in His ability to change people's lives.  Why? Because they had experienced this life-change for themselves after their encounter with Christ.

We can't help everyone, but we can reach a hand out to those that God puts in our path. We can lift them up by reaching out to them, walking along side them, praying for them and loving them with the love of Christ - not in our own power, but because of our faith in Jesus, the life-transformer.

Easy?  No. Throwing money at a person in trouble is easy. It allows us to walk away with a semi-clear conscience, but it's not going to really help them. Reaching out is hard. It requires sacrifice, overcoming prejudices, giving of our time, our patience and our love until we are sure that this person has had an encounter with Jesus that will allow them to walk in victory.

God will strengthen us so that we in turn can strengthen others. Have faith that Jesus wants to help the lame and hurting people of this world and then - be His hand extended.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

What does God look like?

Have you ever wondered what God looks like? All we have to do is take a look at Jesus because the Bible says that...

"The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being..." Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)

and that...

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." Colossians 1:15 (NIV)

Obviously, we can't see God in the physical sense of the word, because He is Spirit, but we can see and know Him simply by taking a look at His Son, Jesus Christ.

At this point, I am tempted to make a list of all the things that I have read about Jesus, but that would be second-hand information. Why not check Him out for yourself? If you want to know God, get to know Jesus-and the best way to do that is to read the story of His life.

Here are links to the book of John online so that you can read and discover for yourself what God is like through the life of His Son.

John 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Father, I pray that as we read about the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, that you will open our eyes to see the truth about who you are and what you are like. Reveal yourself to each one who seeks to know you in a very real way. Amen

*For an even more detailed look at the life of Jesus, after reading the book of John, continue your reading with the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  These four accounts, written by four different men who knew Jesus will give you insight into the very nature and character of God, himself.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Hidden Treasures

"I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3 (NIV)

 Money was tight this month. After paying the bills we were left with $49.59 in our account and we still needed to buy gas for the week, groceries and refill our prescriptions. I did some creative menu planning and went to the grocery store, but I knew that we still needed to find the money for our medications.

Borrowing money is such a humbling experience, but that's what we had to do and I was thankful that we were able to purchase our medications.

Today, however, I went back over our checkbook and discovered an error that added up to just a little over the amount we had to borrow. It felt like I had discovered hidden treasure! The money had been there all the time. If I had only dug a little deeper, I would have found it.

In the Apostle Paul's letter to the Colossians, he said that he had a goal for them...

"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)

Paul's goal was that they might know the mystery of God, who is Jesus Christ, and he said that in Jesus are hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I wonder how many times we overlook those hidden treasures? How many times we skim through our Bible or mutter hasty prayers, missing the depth of Christ?  How many struggles do we go through when the answer is right there, waiting for us to slow down, take our time and pay attention.

If I had done that, I would have known that God had already provided for everything we needed and I wouldn't have had to borrow money.  If we slow down and really get to know Jesus Christ, there's no telling what blessings He has already been provided that are just waiting to be discovered.

Father, help us to slow down and really spend some time with you, to really get to know your Son and the depth of His character.  Help us to find those treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hidden in Christ. Deliver us from the busyness of life that keeps us from fully knowing your Son. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Chutes and Ladders

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way." Psalm 37:23(KJV)

Remember the old game of Chutes and Ladders? You roll the dice and move ahead. Landing on a ladder moves you way ahead, but land on a chute and you go sliding way down to the bottom again.

Often life is like that. You roll the dice, take a chance and sometimes find your life going along quite well when suddenly you hit a bad spot and go tumbling down again. Sometimes those bad spots are of our own making. Bad choices, bad company, bad habits - all can drag us down.

It doesn't have to be like that, though. When we are walking with Christ, seeking His will for our lives and trusting His Holy Spirit to lead us, we don't need to walk in fear.  We can trust that God will order our steps and lead us in the right direction and even if we do hit a rough spot in the road, we know that He is walking that road with us, leading the way through to victory.

Father, thank you for the assurance that as we lean on you, you will guide our steps.  Help us to hear and recognize your voice so that we don't stray off the path you have for us. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Follow Me

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

I see it all over the internet..."Follow me on Twitter"- "Follow my Blog"

And I wonder - if people really did follow us, what would they see?

When Jesus invited people to follow him it was more than just viewing a few 144 character tweets or a few paragraphs of his thoughts on a blog. He invited them to walk along side him 24/7.  They saw him when things were good (palm leaves and praises) and they saw him when things were bad (death threats and rock throwing). They saw him do miracles and they saw him weep. They watched him pray in agony and feast in victory. They watched how he reacted to each situation and they measured his reaction against what he preached to see if his walk lined up with his talk.

Guess what...people are still doing that today. They are watching us (Christ-followers) to see if our walk lines up with our talk. Do we react to hard times in a way that shows we fully trust God?  Do we react to people who are rude, slow, or mean in a way that says, I love you? (We are supposed to love others, right?)

Easy to do? No, but, then that's what Jesus meant when he said "take up your cross and follow me". Our first reaction is the human one. We want to strike back, express our impatience, stand up for ourselves, but laying aside those initial reactions to respond in a Christ-like manner is what taking up your cross is all about.

Father, teach us to follow Christ in such a way that those who are watching us will be drawn to Him. Teach us to lay aside our desires and to take up our cross and follow Him. Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

National Letting-Go-of-Stuff Day

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Just heard on the radio that today is National Letting-Go-of-Stuff Day.  It's also National Waffle Day, National Pecan Day and National Lobster Newburg Day.

Doesn't this info just crack you up? They (being those who stand to make a profit from promoting whatever) will come up with the craziest ways to make a buck!

I do have to admit, though, that the first one intrigued me. No money to be made there, but lots of benefit to those who need to let go of stuff.  Whether it's hard feelings, unhealthy relationships, negative thought patterns, bad habits or just too much stuff piled high in your closets, it's good to let go of the things that bog you down.

And it goes without saying, that if you have allowed sin to creep into your life, let it go!

So, even though the day is almost over, I'm going to give some thought to things I might need to let go of.  How about you?

Father, if there is anything holding me back, anything that is zapping my energy, anything that I need to let go of, please bring it to my mind and help me to turn it lose. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Who do you say that He is?

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:13-15 (NIV)

Jesus had walked with his followers for quite some time. They spent their days with him, witnessing his ministry, his miracles, listening to his teachings and his claims about who he was.

Then Jesus asked them the all important question; "Who do you say I am?"

It was a question designed to make them examine their thoughts about him - their faith in him.

Did they believe them when He said that...
  • He was God?
    "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30)
  • He could forgive sin?
    “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)
  • He was the ONLY way to experience a relationship with the God?
    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
    (John 14:6) 
  • He has the power to grant eternal life to those who believe in Him?
    I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28) 
  • He was going away to prepare a place for them in Heaven and that He was coming back to take them to be with Him there?
    "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
    My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."  John 14:1-3

We all have to answer this question at some point in our lives...Who do you say that Jesus is?

Father, please reveal to each of us the truth about Jesus; who he was and is, what he did for each of us through his sacrifice on the cross and how we can walk in relationship with him as your child. Give each of us a hunger to read your word so that we might truly know Jesus for ourselves. Amen

*If you want to know more about Jesus, the perfect place to start is in the book of John. Here's a link to each chapter of John so that you can begin reading right now: 

John 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

You have not because you ask not.

"You do not have because you do not ask God. " James 4:2b (NIV)

This verse makes me wonder how many blessings we miss out on because we have neglected to ask God for what we need.

Often when there's a financial need in my life, I do several things.  I try to figure out a solution, I check to see what resources are available to me, I might borrow from a friend, look for extra work to make a little money, try to cut back here and there, call in a favor, worry, wonder and stew about it or I might just push the thoughts away and tell myself I'll deal with it later.

How goofy!

God has all the resources we need and He has clearly stated in the verse above that often we don't have what we need because we have not taken the time to stop and ask Him for it.

Maybe it's because we think He already knows what we need, so why ask, maybe it's because we don't want to bother Him with our day-to-day needs, or maybe it's because we feel guilty because we know we have mismanaged  the resources He has already given us and that's why we're in the spot we're in.

Whatever the reason, He has said.."You do not have because you do not ask."  So, let's ask.  If that means we have to repent for the way we've handled things, so be it, but we need to open the lines of communication, be obedient and ASK for what we need, then keep our eyes open for the many ways He has of meeting our needs.

Thank you, Father for opening our eyes to the fact that we often have not because we ask not. We come to you today in repentance if need be, to admit that we have not handled our finances right. We ask you to forgive us and to help us to do that better from this point forward. But right now, Lord, we are in need and we ask you to supply our needs and we rejoice because your word is true and we can trust that our needs will be met. Thank you for the awesome privilege of knowing and serving you. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

A Clean Slate

"Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away  through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me;  my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalm 32:1-5 (NIV)

There is nothing quite so exhilarating as knowing that you have been forgiven, that your sins no longer hang over your head and that you have gone from guilty to innocent in the eyes of God.

Of course, true forgiveness requires true repentance. It's not like when your child has written on the wall with a crayon for the upteenth time and upon being caught red-handed, looks at you and says, "sorry", but you know that it's just a response, not a confession and repentance moment.

God's a pretty smart parent, too. He knows when our hearts is truely sorry and when we are determined to turn from our sin and walk in line with His commands.  When that happens, we are made pure, entirely forgiven...we have a clean slate and can proceed from that moment with a new life.

What a joy it is to feel the guilt of our sins lifted from our shoulders!.

Thank you, Jesus, for the shedding of your blood that bought our forgiveness, our new life in you and our clean slate! Help us to drop the pretenses and to be entirely honest before you, confessing our sins, that we might receive your forgiveness. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Don't be anxious about anything!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

My friend is a worrier. In fact she is so good at it, she could be called a professional worrier.  When faced with a difficult situation or a potential problem, she can think of every bad scenario that could possibly happen.

She hears about a disagreement between two people and she imagines them fist fighting, breaking up, divorcing, never speaking to one another again.  She hears about someone who is struggling financially and she can picture them losing everything they own, walking the streets in rags and begging for food. She learns about someone with an illness and she imagines that they have contracted a deadly disease and will surely die.

All this imagining makes her a nervous wreck. She loses sleep, cries over it and is anxious on a regular basis.

The funny thing is that my friend is a believer...or maybe it's not so funny, because as believers, we are supposed to trust God to care for us.  We have been promised that when we pray, God hears us and that we can have what we ask.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him."  1 John 5:14:-15  (NIV)

My friend would be so much better off if she would just take a minute to pray, with confidence that God would intercede in each situation as it arises, then relax, knowing that He has heard her prayers and that He is at work in the circumstances. Then she would be filled with the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.

That's much better than worrying and imagining and fretting and losing sleep and...and...(I could go on and on.)

Lord, teach us to turn to you with every concern of our heart. Teach us not to be anxious, but to come confidently to you, knowing that you hear us and that as we ask according to your will, we can be assured that we will have the things we ask of you. Help us to know your will and to examine our prayers so that they line up with your will, then, Lord, help us to relax and trust that you will take care of things. Fill us with your peace. In Jesus' Name, Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

2 Things

"Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

Imagine that someone steps up to you and asks you what the Christian life are all about.  How would you answer them?

Before reading these verses, I might have had several answers to give them, all of which would have been long and involved.  I probably would have bored them to tears and turned them off.  I might have talked about Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Israel's trek through the wilderness, the birth of Jesus, His life, His crucifiction, His ressurection, His ascention, His promise to come again, the way of salvation, the dos and don'ts of  Christian behavior, Heaven, Hell, Amageddon or any number of other things.

Fortunately, for us, someone asked Jesus what the most important commandment is and he summed up the whole Old Testament (the law and the prophets), which was the only Bible they had back then in just two sentences, found in the passage above.

In fact, it can be boiled down even further - to just 4 words: LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE.

If we work on those 2 things, everything else will take care of itself. If we love God, we will follow His commandments and walk in His ways. If we love God, we will open our hearts to receive salvation from Jesus Christ. If we love people, we will serve them, encourage them, support them, forgive them and pray for them just as Jesus instructed us to do.

So, it's simple - Love God, Love People.  Let's not complicate things so much.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

With All My Heart

"But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)

 I don't know about you, but sometimes God seems so distant. I know He's not.  The bible says over and over again that God is with us, His Spirit dwells within us, He will never leave us or forsake us, He is present everywhere at all times.  I know that, but still I go through times in my life (like today) when I can't seem to connect with Him.

So, what do I do? I begin to earnestly seek him with all my heart.  I examine myself to see if there is any sin that is standing between me and God. If there is, I confess it and turn from it.  I read the Word. I spend time in prayer. I set other things aside as much as I can and spend more time pursuing God.

Why? Because a life lived without His presence in each day is not a life worth living.

The good news is that "he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Father, help me to once again sense your presence. Lord, if there is anything that is standing between us, make it clear to me and help me to lay the sin aside for a better relationship with you.  I know, Lord that you are always with me, but in times like these when you seem so distant, I will seek you with my whole heart and I will find you - that's your promise. Thank you for it. In Jesus' name, Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, nuclear fallout...

"The Lord is my rock, my protection, my Savior. My God is my rock. I can run to him for safety. He is my shield and my saving strength, my defender." Psalm 18:2 (NCV)

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, nuclear fallout, economic collapse, pandemics...

The list goes on and on. One disaster after another assails us these days. It's enough to make me shake in my boots, but it doesn't have to shake my faith in God.

The most frustrating part of everything that's happening today is my inability to do anything about it. So, I can fret and worry, stress and flip out or...I can put my trust in God.  I can run to Him when I am afraid and know that He will comfort me, give me strength and protect me.

I can focus on the disasters or I can focus on God - I choose the latter.

Father, thank you for being our rock - the only steady and sure thing in our world.  Thank you for the assurance that we can run to you in times of trouble, knowing that you will strengthen us and protect us. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

A Reason to Rejoice

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20

Jesus sent 72 apostles out on a mission to preach the gospel, heal the sick and deliver those held captive by Satan. Upon their return, they were stoked with their success. At the top of their list was the fact that even the demons had submitted to them when they prayed in Jesus' name.

They had seen the power of God in action. It was exciting and they were filled them with joy. I can just imagine how pumped they were. I long to see the power of God working in the church again. I want to see miracles, healings, deliverance from addiction, awesome works of God performed as his people step out in his name, but Jesus wanted them (and us) to focus on something else.

He said, "Look, fellas, I know you're excited, I gave you the authority and the power to overcome all the power of the enemy and that's good, but if you want to rejoice in something, don't chase after the signs and wonders-rejoice that your names are written down in heaven." (My paraphrase) 

Jesus wants us to remember every day that we are God's children, our salvation is sure, our future is secure, our final destination is Heaven, and we can rejoice in that.  We should be shouting for joy every day that our names are written in the Lamb's book of Life.!

Thank you, Father, that our names are written in Heaven, that at the moment we confessed our sins to you, asked for forgiveness and surrendered our lives to Christ, we had more reason to rejoice than we could ever imagine. Help us to remember that every day and to rejoice always in our salvation. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Enthusiasm Outshines Ability by guest blogger, Alisa Hope Wagner

My six year old son started playing soccer. He doesn’t quite know what he’s doing and the rules are a bit confusing to him, but he has stellar passion and enthusiasm for the game. His smile stays fixed on his face; and when he or his team mate makes a good play, he cheers and hollers. His passion spreads to the other team mates and his coach. They all get excited over seemingly simple moves. This passion -- placed in him by a family that continuously exposes his significance -- gives him power and strength to play hard and overcome his limitations and lack of skill.
When I see my son play, I think of the servant who was given five talents (Matthew 25.14-30). He was given more than the other two servants according to his abilities. I always believed that the servant was given more talents because he was more skilled; however, I know that skill does not necessarily ensure a person’s productivity. When you read the end of the parable, you find that the Master does not become upset because of the one-talent servant’s lack of ability; rather, it was the servant’s laziness that angered the Master.
When I researched the word ability, I discovered that it means something very different. The Greek word for ability is dynamis, which means power. It is the same word used to illustrate the power that surged through Jesus’ body when the woman from the crowd touched his clothes and was healed (Mark 5.30). Dynamis has little to do with a person’s skill-set but has everything to do with the power residing in the person. That power comes from the Holy Spirit who lives in Christians once we have the covering of Jesus’ righteousness. 
We as Christians all have the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us, but it stays untapped until our passion for Christ unleashes it. When our actions follow our passion, we can accomplish anything that God has for us. We don’t have to be skilled or smart. In fact, God says that he uses foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1.27). We just have to want to be used by the Holy Spirit, want to do more for the Kingdom of God, want to be endowed with more responsibility. We need to WANT more of Him!
The coach put my son in the game not because he’s a skilled player, but because my son wants to play. His passion usurps his ability. I believe if we all fully understood the significance that God places on us, we too would be passionate about His plan for our lives. And instead of being content with just one or two talents, we would beseech more from the Master. We might not have the amazing abilities that others have; but what we lack in ability, we make up for in enthusiasm.
I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2.3-5 NIV).
Paul himself was scared to do the things of God, but he did not let that stop him. He relied on the Spirit of God inside of him to accomplish God’s mighty work. Paul’s life is an amazing example of living with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul might not have been the most eloquent speaker, but he wanted to be used by God. He was passionate about running a good race, and he was obviously a five-talent servant. We all can be five-talent servants if we are passionate for God and His Kingdom.
Alisa Hope Wagner

*Many thanks to Alisa for this inspiring post - Jan. besure to visit Faith Imagined, by Alisa at the link above.

Help me Overcome my Unbelief

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  Mark 9:24b (NIV)

I believe in God. I believe that He is who He says He is and that He has and will do what He says He will do, but if I'm honest, there are times when unbelief creeps in.

When times are hard and God seems very far away, I wonder if He is with me.  When I've prayed and I haven't seen an answer, I wonder if He's heard me, if He cares about what I'm going through. I hate that!

I hate that my faith is not strong at all times, that I waver even just a little in my trust in Him.  I'm ashamed and am tempted to shove the unbelief down inside and pretend that it doesn't exist, but that's not necessary.  God is not put off by my unbelief, he is not appalled or angry.  He understands that I am human and that these thoughts will come from time to time.  He's okay with that.

What He's not okay with is when I try to hide it from Him, when I pretend that everything is alright and don't confess to Him the struggle I'm having with my faith, because if I don't confess it, He can't help me with it.

I can be honest with God, knowing that He loves me and will strengthen me when I am weak.

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of coming to you in all honesty and confessing my doubts. Thank you for understanding that it doesn't mean that I don't love you or believe in you, but just that I am going through a rough spot and I need you more than ever.  Thank you for always being there with arms wide open to receive your doubting child. Sooth away the doubts, Lord. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Are You Willing?

"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have" 2 Cor. 8:12 (NIV).

Sometimes it's easy to discount what we have to offer to God. We think we are not qualified enough to be used by him. We may not have a degree or enough experience to do what we feel He is asking us to do, but God isn't as impressed with our credentials as he is with our willingness to serve Him.

If the willingness is there, He will accept and bless our efforts. We don't have to worry about what we don't have, just be willing to offer Him what we do have.

Lord, we come to you just as we are, willing to serve you in whatever way you lead us. We will not fret that we do not have enough experience or knowledge, but trust you to equip us to carry out your will. Thank you for accepting us just the way we are. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Peace, Quietness and Confidence

"And the effect of righteousness will be peace [internal and external], and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confident trust forever." Isaiah 32:17 (AMP)

If you long for peace, quietness and confidence in your life, here is the answer - righteous living.

While righteousness can sound like a lofty, unattainable goal, it's really quite simple. Righteous living is merely the act of living right. It's making sure that your attitude and your activities are pleasing to God. It's ridding yourself of those things which you know do not please the Father.

Righteousness does not mean that you are suddenly perfect, but that with God's help, you are willing to lay aside that which is wrong to do that which is right. As you do this, a wonderful peace begins to blossom in your life - the fruit of righteousness is peace and the effect will be a quietness and a confidence in your spirit, which will endure forever.

Dear Father, thank you for this wonderful promise, that as we pursue righteousness, you will fill us with peace, quietness and confidence. Please reveal to us areas of our lives which are not pleasing to you and give us a willingness to lay them aside. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Believe AND Rely

“Did I not tell you and promise you that if you would believe and rely on Me, you would see the glory of God?” John 11:40 (Amp)

Have you ever prayed about something and placed it in the Lord's hands intending to leave it there, only to find that later you've picked it up again and are wrestling with how to work it out on your own?

No? You mean it's just me?

Ok, I admit it - I sometimes do this. Not all the time, but when there's a particularly troublesome situation in my life, I tend to want to help God figure it all out.  I present him with all the possible solutions I can think of and then give him about ten minutes to pick one.

He must get a real chuckle out of this crazy, little daughter of his.

I notice that the verse above says that God promises that if I will believe Him and RELY on Him, I will see His glory. It's the relying part that sometimes trips me up.  I tend to be self-reliant, which is why I find myself on my knees so often, praying my way out of sticky situations.

Father, forgive my foolishness and teach me to not only believe on you, but to rely on you to direct my footsteps and to get me through all life's ups and downs without any help from me. I'll just hold onto your hand and be a good little girl!

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Gifts and Talents

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Sometimes we forget that the gifts and talents we've been given by the Lord are not so much for our benefit as they are for others.

As a writer I can get all caught up in writing "my" book or posting on "my" blog. I can stress about whether or not my writing will be accepted by a publisher, whether I can find an agent to represent me and whether I can write a book that will bring me recognition and validate my calling, but in reality, none of that matters.

What matters is - Am I using the writing talents God has given me to help others? Do I write with the reader in mind? Do I allow God to influence what I write, because He knows who will be reading it and only He knows what they might need at that moment.  Will the words I write encourage and uplift? Will they point the way to Christ?

These are questions I need to ask myself so that I will be able to evaluate whether or not I am using the gift I've received to serve others, whether I am being a faithful steward of the talent I've been given, because it's not all about me!

Father, thank you for the gifts and talents you've give each one of us.  Help us to use them to serve others just the way you intended us to do. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

A Racing Mind

"I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." Psalm 16:7

Did you ever have one of those nights when your head hits the pillow, but your mind refuses to slow down long enough for you to fall asleep?  This happens to me when I have a decision to make or I'm contemplating a new story line for a novel or when I'm facing a situation that befuddles me. (Befuddles-is that word still used?)

My mind will race through all the scenarios I can imagine, all the possible choices I could make and the pros and cons of each one. I toss and I turn wishing I had a remote that would just turn my brain off so I could get a good night's sleep.

I came across this scripture this morning and I think it holds the key to my sleeplessness. If I will quiet my mind and focus on the Lord when I lay my head on that pillow, praising Him for who He is and what He's done in my life, then I can rest assured that He will instruct my heart and help me to work things out, even while I'm asleep.

Thank you, Lord for the assurance that you have the answers to any dilemma I may be worrying over. Teach me to put my mind at rest and just focus on you, trusting that you will instruct my heart. Give me a good night's sleep tonight as I relax and let you unclutter my brain. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

The Trinity in Action

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV)

I read this verse this morning and marveled at how such a simple sentence could tell us so much about the the character and purpose of each person of the Trinity.

"the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ..."
Grace - the definition of Grace is "the unearned favor of God". Isn't that just what Jesus is all about? That while we were yet sinners, He came to lavish us with His favor. We didn't (couldn't) earn it, but He gave us all He had to give... salvation, forgiveness, restoration, a selfless life, lived for our benefit, for our example, for our redemption!

the love of God...
God has never offered us anything less than His perfect love. No matter how many times we fail, He loves us. No matter how many times we turn our backs on Him, He will never turn our backs on us. His love keeps reaching out, calling us to share in all that He has to offer.

the fellowship of the Holy Spirit...
Ah, sweet fellowship with God, available through the Holy Spirit! Jesus said when He went away, He would send a Comforter that would guide us into all truth.

Jesus said, "But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words, but he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me, because he will take what I have to say and tell it to you."  John 16:13-14 (NCV)

The Holy Spirit leads us into fellowship with God.

Thank you, Father, for giving so freely of yourself in so many different forms, that we might know the fullness of the Godhead. Teach us more about yourself and all your wonderful ways. Help us to know you more.

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)