Passin' the Faith Along

Ethan and David (a few years ago)
"Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."  Psalm 71:18

Spent the last two days with my super grandsons, Ethan (12) and David (10). We had several hours together in the car, where I have Family Life Radio (KFLR) tuned in on the radio. Several songs sparked questions from the boys and some great conversations about God..  The boys have been in church since birth, so they know about God, but I love it when their questions reflect a growing desire to know Him more.

I pray that I will have many, many more opportunities to pass the love of God and His word on to the next generation!

Father, thank you for grandsons who love you and are eager to learn more about You and thank You for their parents, who love You and them enough to make sure they have every opportunity to know You. Amen

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

I Aim to Please!

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

For many years I was a people-pleaser, anticipating the needs and wants of others, doing what I thought would win their approval and affection, until I eventually saw that there is no pleasing some people and that living my life to please others was not God's plan.

His plan is for me to enjoy my life and to live it to please Him. The difference is, that I don't have to work to win God's approval and affection. He gives that to me freely as I live my life in Christ, doing the things I know He wants me to do and refraining from the things that he warns me not to do.  The coolest thing about that is that it's God, Himself, who gives me the desire to do what pleases Him, then he gives me the power to live that kind of life. I know I can't live it under my own power, because my human nature pulls me toward things that are not good for me and not pleasing to God, but He gives me the strength to say "no" to those things and the power to say "yes" to those things that I may not be drawn naturally to do, but will benefit me.

What a joy it is to walk through each day knowing that my life is pleasing to God. Sure, I slip up sometimes, but He always steers me back on course.  I'm so glad that I am not out here on my own!

Thank you, Father, for being the guiding force in my life, for helping me to live in a way that pleases you so that I can relax and enjoy my life. I love you! Amen
(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Ya Get Whatcha Give!

"Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit , from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people." Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)

Do you have children or grandchildren who treat each other rudely?  I have two wonderful grandsons, who on occasion, treat each other shall I say this?...less than brotherly love.

Yesterday, one was being rude to the other and of course, his brother retaliated in kind.  Since they were in my car, and therefore a captive audience, they got the good old "You Reap What You Sow" speech (sermonette) from Grandma.

This morning as I was thumbing through my Bible, I ran across these scriptures in Galatians and took a minute to highlight them.  As I did so, I was reminded that this is a immutable law from God.  We will reap what we sow.

If we sow love, kindness, generosity, sympathy, compassion and understanding, God will put people in our lives that will give these things right back to us...and if we are rude, selfish and uncaring - ignoring the needs of others, God will put people in our lives that will give these things right back to us.

Why? Because that's His promise: "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." and God always keeps His promises.

Father, help me to remember to operate my daily life, not from my selfish sinful nature, being unkind to those around me, but to operate out of the fruits of the Spirit that You have given to me... 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)

and help me to remember to extend love to others...not love as the world defines it, but love as You define it:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

These are the things I want to sow, so that I may reap them in my own life. Amen

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

My Trusted Tour Guide

"Show me your ways, O LORD,
   teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long." 
Psalm 25:4-5 

I'm an explorer.  When I travel (which isn't often enough to suit me) I like to launch out on my own to see what I can find.  It can be an exciting way to go, but often I'm disappointed at where my path takes me.  It's not as wonderful as I thought it would be and later I find that while I was busy trying to discover new things, I missed the most beautiful sites and aspects of a location.  It's all because I don't want to travel like most others do.  I want to be different.

It all stems from that pesky poem by Robert Frost that I fell in love with in the fifth grade...

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim
because it was grassy and wanted wear;
though as for that, the passing there
had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no feet had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference

Photo courtesy  micromoth,
It was this poem that set this wanderer's heart to explore the untried paths in life. Sometimes this has lead to new adventure and discovery, but just as many times it has led to disappointment and heartache.

Oh, that I would be wise enough to always let God show me the way - to allow Him to lead me down His paths for my life.

O Lord, you are my God and my Savior and I do long to have you show me the way and lead me in your paths, for I know that you have my best at heart. My trust should be placed in you and you alone - not in myself, for I have seen that independence from you leads me down the wrong path.  Help me to hear your voice clearly - to see your way and to follow hard after you, for truly, your way is the road less traveled and that will make all the difference. Amen

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

Standing on the Promises

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”  Luke 1:45

Do you have a special promise that you believe the Lord has spoken to you?  I do, and this verse helps me to cling to that promise in faith, believing that what God has spoken to me will come to pass. Sometimes the end result of the promise seems so very far off and sometimes it seems almost within my grasp, but regardless...I'm standing fast in that promise!

In fact, I apply this same principle to every promise God has made to me (us)...all those thousands of promises I read in His word - and there are some incredible promises written there.  Promises that stir my heart and some that make my heart tremble, but no matter what the promise or how I feel about it - it WILL come to pass, for God does not lie, what He said, He will do.

That truth gives me such hope for the future that I can look at the state of this world and the problems I face personally and say, "But God."

But God is my healer
But God is my protector
But God is my provider

But God has said.....

Father, God, thank you for your many promises that make my heart sing, that fill me with hope and joy as I look forward to the day I seem them accomplished and for those times when I doubt-when I am afraid because of life's circumstances, help me to remember that what you have said, you will bring to pass and that blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has said will be accomplished.  I do believe, Lord! Amen

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

Sometimes the Bible Makes me Laugh

 1 Jesus said to his followers, "Things that cause people to sin will happen, but how terrible for the person who causes them to happen! 2 It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large stone around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So be careful!
   "If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in one day and says that he is sorry each time, forgive him."
 5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Give us more faith!" 6 The Lord said, "If your faith were the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Dig yourself up and plant yourself in the sea,' and it would obey you.
    7 "Suppose one of you has a servant who has been plowing the ground or caring for the sheep. When the servant comes in from working in the field, would you say, 'Come in and sit down to eat'? 8 No, you would say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Then get yourself ready and serve me. After I finish eating and drinking, you can eat.'9 The servant does not get any special thanks for doing what his master commanded. 10 It is the same with you. When you have done everything you are told to do, you should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done the work we should do.' " Luke 17:1-10 (NIV)

There's so much packed into these 10 verses that we could spend several days discussing it, but when I read it today, something in it made me laugh.

Jesus is teaching his disciples here. First he talks to them about the dangers of causing another person to sin, then he gets into the subject of forgiveness. Both of these are important, even crucial topics that are at the very heart of being a Christian.  You would think the disciples would have been asking Him some questions concerning sin and forgiveness or at the very least, they would have been quietly contemplating the seriousness of the topics...I mean, if someone tells me that it would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around my neck than to cause someone to sin, I'd be thinking long and hard about that. I'd be tattooing it on my brain!

So, what was the disciples' response? "Increase our faith!"

They asked Him for something for them, totally unrelated to what He had been discussing.  Had they even been paying attention? Or had they been daydreaming about all the miracles Jesus had been doing and wishing they had a little more faith so that they could do a few miracles of their own?

Jesus' response? First he tells them they have all the faith they need, they just need to exercise it a little, then he launches into the part that made me laugh.  He tells them a little story about a man and his servants.  Pointing out that the Master is the the one to be served, not the servants. Then he points to them and says...

"The servant does not get any special thanks for doing what his master commanded. 10 It is the same with you. When you have done everything you are told to do, you should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done the work we should do.'"

Jesus reminds the disciples that He is the Master and they are his servants, not the other way around.  He was not there to meet their demands, He was there to teach them how a follower of Christ should conduct themselves.  They seemed only interested in what He could do for them, not what they should be doing for Him.

Of course, we are not like that, are we?

There's nothing wrong with asking God to meet our needs - about talking with Him about every little thing that affects our life. We are his children, after all and He did tell us to talk with him (pray) about everything, but we must be careful that we are not so focused on what we want that we are not paying attention to what He's trying to teach us.  We must remember who is the Master and who is the servant.  We are here to serve Him, He is not here to serve us.

Yes, I was laughing at those silly disciples until I realized that I sometimes behave just like them.

 Father, forgive me for the times I have been so focused on wanting you to change my circumstances that I am not paying attention to what you might be trying to teach me through them.  Help me to remember that while you have graciously made me your child, I am still your servant. A child must listen to and obey their parent and a servant must listen to and obey their master. Please make me aware of the times that I may be treating you like my servant - just there to do my bidding.  Forgive me, Lord, and help me not to be prideful about being a child of God, but to remember that I am also an unworthy servant who has been blessed by Your gracious kindness and that serving You is just me doing my duty.  Amen

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

Fan the Flame!

"...I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you...For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 6 & 7 (NIV)

Photo courtesy
 Adrian van Leen, Perth, Western Australia,
Is there something that you know God has given you the ability to do, but self-doubt and fear have held you back?

That happened to me yesterday. I'm attempting to write my first inspirational romance novel. I had completed Chapter 3, but something wasn't right and I couldn't figure it out. The words weren't coming, the plot seemed too muddled, my characters weren't cooperating with me.  I got really discouraged and started wondering what made me think I could write a novel.

I know some authors who are prolific with their writing and have cranked out scores of novels. I compared my feeble efforts to theirs and just wanted to scrap the whole thing and give up.  I finally just went to bed, sad and dejected that the one think I love to do...write...I was not able to do.

But, God!  God had a different plan. First he sent lots of friends to encourage me and pray for me. Then during my quiet time with Him this morning, he led me directly to the verses above.  Ya don't have to draw me a picture! I got what He was saying loud and clear.

I said a prayer and got right back on my horse...I mean went straight to my computer and started writing. God gave me a way to outline my work this morning that will keep me on track, then he showed me what was causing most of the problems...or "who" was causing most of the problems, I should say.   I got rid of one of my pesky characters and the rest started playing together nicely.

So, has the enemy been telling you that you haven't got what it takes to do what you feel God has called you to do?  Then I encourage you, my friend, to fan into flame the gift that is within you, know that He loves you and what He has called you to do, He has given you the power to do. All it takes is a little self-discipline and boldness on your part and you'll be back on track in no time.

Father, thank you for your incredible patience with me and for helping me to get right back on track.  I ask you to do the same for any of my friends who may be reading this and thinking about that one thing you have called them to do, which has seemed impossible. Empower them, Father, to push through the obstacles and to fan into flame the gift that you have placed in them.  In Jesus' name, I ask it. Amen

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

A Light that Shines in the Darkness

"4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God...6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Sometimes it's easy for me to get frustrated with those around me who have heard the gospel, but refuse to believe it. I wonder if they're just stubborn or if I didn't explain it right or if maybe my life is so flawed that they look at me and doubt the validity of a life-changing gospel. I wonder how they can hear about the incredible love that brought Jesus to earth and sent Him to the cross to die for our sins...about His resurrection and still not believe.

This morning, during my quiet time with God, I read these two verses and it gave me a new understanding about those who don't respond to the gospel message.

According to verse 4 above, the enemy has blinded their minds, so that they can not see the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ.

So, how did we come to believe? I mean, hadn't that same enemy blinded our minds to the light of the gospel?

The answer is in verse 6 - God made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

It's God who opens our blinded minds and sheds light into our hearts, making it possible for us to see the truth of the gospel so that we might believe and accept Jesus as our Savior.

This information gives me another way to pray for those people I love who are not yet believers, because I'm sure that my salvation is a direct result of the prayers of those who loved me, those who had shared the gospel with me many times.  I can tell you their names.

Who was praying for you? Aren't you glad they did?  So, let's not neglect praying on a regular basis for those unbelievers that God has placed in our lives.  Without your prayers, it's doubtful their blinded minds will ever break free to believe.

Let's pray...

Father, God, I ask that you open the minds of those who have been blinded to the light of the gospel by the enemy. Let your light of truth shine brightly in their hearts, breaking through the darkness and the lies that they have believed - the muddled thoughts that keep them from seeing Jesus for who He really is.  Destroy the works of the enemy, that the glory of Christ will shine and that those who have been deceived will come to know the freedom that is Him. Amen

*If you have loved ones you are praying for, be specific. Insert their names into this prayer and pray for them on a continual basis. Never give up because each time you pray for them, God sends His Holy Spirit to speak truth to them. Remember..."When a believing person prays, great things happen." James 5:16 (NCV)

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

You can go with this...or you can go with that.

"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."
Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

I love having choices. Choices means freedom. We can choose which car we drive, which college we go to, what kind of house we live in, what city/state we live in. We can choose what we wear, what we eat and even what we think.  Choices are great, but they also come with responsibility and consequences. We would be wise to consider our choices wisely.

In the book of Galatians, Paul talks about some choices that were facing the early church...choices of behavior.  He made two lists of behaviors - consider which list you prefer:

You can go with this...

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV)

Or you can go with that...

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

If given the choice (and we are given the choice), I'm going with the last list...the fruits of the Spirit!

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
Galatians 5:24-25

Thank you, God, for allowing us the freedom to make our own choices. You do not force us to follow you, to love you or to serve you. You simply lay out our choices and we are free to choose, but, Oh God, help us to realize the consequences of our choices and help us to make wise ones. For those of us who call ourselves Christians, may we always keep in step with the Spirit and may our choices always bring honor to the name we bear - the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.

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

Whatever you do...

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

glory: worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving 

The truest form of worship is a life that is lived to glorify God. From the smallest of our decisions, like what to eat or drink to the largest, like a career choice, selecting a spouse or the way we raise our children - if each decision is made with the one thought in mind...what will bring the most glory to God, we can't go wrong.

Father, help all my decisions today be ones that spring from a heart of worship, whose only desire is to bring you praise and honor out of a heart filled with thanksgiving for all you've done for me.

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

Doing Follows Thinking

"Those who live following their sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do.If people's thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace." Romans 8:5-6

Do you ever watch the Food Network on TV? I do.

Do you have a weight problem or a health issue that requires that you stay away from certain foods? 
I do.

So, I've noticed that when I watch the Food Network, which I love, it's not long before I find myself poking around in the fridge or pantry for something to munch on...even if I'm not hungry. This results in a continuous battle with my weight and keeping my sugar levels under control.

As I read these verses this morning, I was reminded once again that we have two natures - our sinful selves who crave what we shouldn't have and lean toward self-indulgence.  And our spiritual selves, who...if we are Christians, have the desire to do what the Spirit (of God) wants us to do.  The Spirit leans toward self-control and leads us to life and peace.

What jumped out at me today was the word thinking in the verses above. If we "think only about things that their sinful selves want" then we end up doing the very things we don't really want to do. On the other hand, if we spend time "thinking about the things the Spirit wants", then we will find ourselves doing the things we really want to do - the right things.

It's clear to me that my doing follows my thinking, so from now on, I'm going to be paying more attention to my thoughts, knowing that what I dwell on is what I act on.

Bye-bye, Food Network!

Father, thank you for your word. It's always relevant, always wise and always steers us in the right direction. And this is my prayer: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14) Amen

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