2014 - Fear or Faith?

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

It's New Year's Eve. One of my personal traditions at this time is to take stock of the previous years, counting my many blessings, reviewing my choices, confessing any sin and looking forward with excitement to the coming New Year.

For me the New Year smacks of potential, adventure and opportunities. A sense of anticipation stirs in my spirit. I feel like a runner waiting for the starting gun to go off, but I know that for others, the New Year brings feelings of apprehension, anxiety and fear.  Many are facing financial crisis, a terrifying diagnosis or an uncertain future for whatever reason.

My heart aches for them. Especially those who don't have a vibrant relationship with the Lord. Where do they find their strength? Where do they turn for help? How do they face the future without His peace in their heart and the assurance that He will uphold them through all of life's troubles.

I tried it...going life alone. It wasn't fun. I messed it all up. Then the Father called out to me, gently drawing me to Himself. I surrendered and He filled me with the most incredible sense of well-being. It was His peace that surpassed all understanding. My life did not become a bed of roses. All my problems did not disappear, but I no longer have to go it alone. He has been with us every step of the way and He will do the same for you, my friend.

Just reach out to Him. This would be the perfect time to do that. Invite Him into your life and step into 2014 in faith, not fear, knowing that He is upholding you with His mighty right hand.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

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I've got a secret!

I woke up this morning and opened my eyes to find the Presence of God filling my room. It was as if He'd been sitting there, waiting for me to wake up so we could spend some time together and talk about what's been on our hearts. We did that and then He sent me on my way to face whatever the day might hold, with the assurance that He will be right here beside me all the way.

What a wonderful way to start the day!  It reminded me of a song from long ago, The Secret, which was actually a musical version of a poem by Ralph Cushman. Here's the poem...

"I met God in the morning"
I met God in the morning
when the day was at its best,
And His Presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.
All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O'er a very troubled sea.
Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them,
Brought to me a peace and rest.
Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the presence left behind.
So, I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!

That's the secret, my friend - You must seek Him in the morning, if you want Him through the day.

Does that mean that if you miss your time with Him in the morning that He won't be with you throughout the day? No, He promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that He will always be with you (Matthew 28:20). 

The problem is that when we rush into our day without spending time with Him, we go through the day forgetting that He is with us. We struggle, needlessly through the day on our own.

So, do yourself a favor - start the day right by seeking Him in the morning. When you open your eyes tomorrow morning, just know that He has been waiting for you. Talk with Him.

Q. Have you ever spent a morning with God where His Presence was so real you could feel it?
Q. Have you ever rushed into the day and found yourself totally stressed out before you remembered to talk with God?

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Are You Missing the Point of Prayer?

 Prayer changes things us!

photo credit: mendhak via photopin cc
Prayer changes us on the inside, alters the way we think about things, what we think about and our attitudes toward things. The point of prayer is not to get things from God, but to open ourselves up to Him - to get to know Him - to allow Him to change those things in us that hinder our spiritual walk with Him.

Point to Ponder: Do I spend way more time in prayer trying to get God to change my circumstances or allowing Him change my character?

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What Penn Gillette (atheist) thought when someone gave him a Bible.

 What do you think avowed atheist, Penn Gillette thought about the man who gave him a Bible. Did he get angry? Tell the guy off? Laugh in his face?  Watch this video and find out...

The key was the man's sincerity, his caring attitude and his conviction that if a man is lost, the love of Christ within us should compel us to reach out with the truth.

Maybe we should care more about a man's destiny than what he might think of us if we shared our faith in a loving, non-confrontational way.

What do you think? Would you reach out to an atheist in love?

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Honest to God

photo courtesy mimwickett,
"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)

You can be honest with God. He already knows your thoughts, your attitudes and your intentions, so just go ahead and open up to Him. He can handle it.

Often we're the ones who don't really know what's inside us. We pick up the Bible and as we read, we become aware of ugly thoughts, ungodly desires and bad attitudes that are lurking under the surface. God's word reveals this to us, not to condemn us, but so that we can openly confess these things to God and ask Him to forgive us and to change those things in us that are not pleasing to Him.

What freedom there is in knowing that we can be ourselves with God! We can tell him when we are hurt, angry, jealous or confused, knowing that He will lovingly listen and begin to work in our hearts as we trust Him and submit ourselves to Him.

Father, thank you that we can come to you with complete transparency, that we can share those things that are held deep within and that you will hear us and love us still. Thank you for your word, which reveals those things that hinder our spiritual growth. We ask that you change those things and replace them with Christ-like characteristics...for your glory, Lord. Amen

What things are you afraid to confess to God? Has God revealed things about yourself as you read His word that surprised you? Take time today to get honest with Him and let Him fill your heart and mind with godly thoughts and attitudes.

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Her Name is Katie

Today I met Katie. I don't know her last name or much about her. She was standing outside Chic-fil-a in 105 degree weather. Her face was bright red, her eyes dull and her clothes dirty. She didn't ask for money or something to eat. In fact she moved away from our car as we approached and went to stand up against the building.

"Do you think she's okay?" I asked my husband.

"I don't know," he said.

I started to back out of my parking space, all the while watching her in my rear view mirror. I started to pull away. "Do you think she's hungry?" I asked as I drove away slowly.

"Pull around and ask her," Lee said.

So I did. The answer was "yes".  

I parked the car and joined her on the sidewalk.  As I approached her she asked, "What makes you so nice?"

One word flew out of my mouth, "Jesus."

"Let's go inside and get you some dinner," I said.

She stared at me. "I can go in with you?"

"Of course you can. Why wouldn't you?"

"I don't want to embarrass you," she said. My heart broke.

Inside we ordered her dinner, then made our way to a cool booth. We chatted a bit while poor Lee waited in the car.

Her name is Katie. I'd judge her to be in her mid to late 60s. She's smart, articulate and interested in others...and she's homeless. She asked questions about me, my family, where I'm from. She told me her story briefly, further breaking my heart.

I kept thinking about my poor husband waiting outside in the hot car. I had to leave, but I really wanted to sit and talk with my new friend more. When I told her I had to go, she said, "When I asked you why you were so nice, you said Jesus...would you pray for me before you go?"

That had been my intention all along.  We prayed. "Your good at that," she said.

I shrugged, "God's easy to talk to."

"You've been praying for a long time," she said.

I nodded, then stood and gave her a long hug. "I'll be praying for you every day, Katie, and anytime I'm in this area, I'll be watching for you so that we can share a meal and have a chat."

Her response..."Thank you for hugging me."

I drove away with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. My husband says I (we) did what Jesus would have done, but I wish we could have done more. I wish, like the Good Samaritan, I could have taken her to an Inn and paid for her care. I wish I could have taken her to a doctor to have the sores on her legs tended. I wish I had room to invite her to stay with us until we could find a home for her, but our second bedroom is already in use by someone else we're helping.

I wish I could really do what Jesus would have done. He might have healed her on the spot.

The only thing I can do is pray for her daily, trusting that Jesus will help her...or give me the means to help her if I see her again.

If you think about Katie after reading this, please mention her to God in prayer. I know this precious woman will never leave my mind and my heart. I wish I could have done more.

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Trusting God When There's Not Enough Money

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

You know what I'm going to enjoy most about Heaven...well, being with God, of course, but second most, I'm going to enjoy not having to worry about money.

Seems like every time I turn around something needs repaired - car, it was the home air conditioning unit.  It would be wonderful if we had a well-stocked savings account when these things happened, but we don't. We're like millions of other people who just barely make it on our paycheck.

We've downsized until there's not much more we can cut out. We live frugally, shop at second-hand stores for most of our clothes and everything else. Shop at the least expensive grocery store in town, don't go out much and haven't been on vacation in 6 years.

Still, life keeps throwing these things at us. We've never really had credit card debt...until now. I hate putting things on a credit card, but what can you do when it's 107 degrees outside and your air conditioner breaks down? It would be nice if wages kept up with the cost of living, but even our employers are struggling.

Do you feel guilty about credit card debt? I do. The Bible talks about not being in debt to anyone and how the borrower is slave to the lender. Our pastor frequently encourages us to get out of debt, to live on less than we make, to save for emergencies, but how do you make that happen when you've already cut back to the bare bones and you're still just barely making it?

So, today the repair bill for the air conditioning unit added $669.00 to the credit card. Sigh...  I am not happy about that, but I can't imagine what it would be like not to have a card to put it on. We're facing 5 more months of triple digit temperatures. That's torture enough without having a place to escape from the heat.

Yep, sure looking forward to Heaven, where we won't have to deal with money, but until then, I will cling to the verse that says my God shall supply all my needs. I will trust Him, I'll keep giving my tithe and I will not let this stress me out. I'll take one day at a time, knowing that He is with me and will be with me through it all.

How about you?  How are you doing? Are money problems stressing you out? Do you find it difficult to trust God with your finances?

Father, we thank you that you have promised to meet our needs. You see that we do not spend frivolously and that we are faithful in giving. We rest in your loving care and trust you to bring in the money to pay down our debt as we apply ourselves to working our jobs and being wise with our spending. Thank you for the peace that settles in our hearts, displacing worry. We trust you. Amen

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Pray Believing

"Men may, and often do, pray without faith (though this is not true prayer), but it is not thinkable that men should have faith and not pray. 

The biblical formula is "the prayer of faith." Prayer and faith are here bound together by the little preposition of, and what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Faith is only genuine as it eventuates into prayer. 

When Tennyson wrote "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," he probably uttered a truth of vaster significance than even he understood. While it is not always possible to trace an act of God to its prayer-cause, it is yet safe to say that prayer is back of everything that God does for the sons of men here upon earth. One would gather as much from a simple reading of the Scriptures. 

What profit is there in prayer? Much in every way. Whatever God can do, faith can do, and whatever faith can do prayer can do when it is offered in faith. An invitation to prayer is, therefore, an invitation to omnipotence, for prayer engages the Omnipotent God and brings Him into our human affairs. Nothing is impossible to the man who prays in faith, just as nothing is impossible with God. 

This generation has yet to prove all that prayer can do for believing men and women."

 ~ AW Tozer

 God would not ask us - command us to pray unless He had every intention of answering prayer. Why then, do we sometimes feel that our prayers have gone unanswered?

Perhaps it's because we did not pray in faith, believing that He would answer.

Or, perhaps He answered, but we did not like the answer. Let's admit it, we want God to answer our prayers the way we think is best. 

Complete healing...and fast.
Loved ones
Finances sorted out...yesterday.

And when that doesn't happen, we assume that God hasn't heard or answered.

Sometimes His answer is "no," because He wants us to walk through the difficulty in order to learn more about His all-sufficient grace or because He us using the trial to shape our character more into the image of Christ.

And we have to be okay with that - He is, after all...God.

Read God's word, see what things are in His will, then pray with faith, believing...but don't stress if the answer is "no," because He is building a greater faith in you than you know.

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Build-Your-Own-World Games

You've seen them - all those games out there where you build your own world, farm, amusement park, zoo, etc.

You usually begin with a blank slate, then start adding landscaping, buildings, furniture, animals and more. You keep improving your world until you put the last piece in place and consider it perfect.

Some may think that God created the world like that. He began with a blank slate then added the heavens and earth, sky, then dry land, plant life, heavenly bodies, sun, moon & stars...then he stood back and said, "Hmmm...what else would look cool here."

So he added all sorts of fish, birds and flying insects and after that all the creatures that live on dry land. He game all of them the ability to reproduce.

Once again he stood back and wondered what more he could add to his world. Maybe something in his own image that could talk, reason, he created man and plunked him down as the finishing touch of his masterpiece and called it all good.


Ephesians 1:4 says...

Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. (MSG)
 God didn't create us to inhabit the Earth...He designed the Earth to sustain us - because he had already conceived us in his mind as the focus of his love.

If that doesn't make you feel special, I don't know what will.

Next time you take a look at the world around you, mountains, oceans, flowers, animals, plants that grow food - take a moment to consider that all that was placed here to sustain your life because God loves you. You were not an afterthought in creation - you were the FIRST thought!

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Are you a fan or a follower?

photo credit: Scott Ableman via photopin cc
"My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them." (quote from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman)*

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

Salvation is free, but that doesn't mean it doesn't cost something.

It cost Jesus his very life, the surrendering of his human will to the will of the Father. It cost him time as he ministered to the throngs that followed him day and sleep as he prayed through many a night. It cost him acceptance - the religious leaders scorned him and the secular leaders plotted his demise. It meant giving his all for those who would reject him and ridicule him . Yes, it cost him plenty, but he was willing to pay the price for those who would believe and receive him, for those who would fall in love with him and enjoy a restored relationship with the Father through him.

And then he tells us that if we want to be his disciple (a Christ follower), we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow him.

Salvation is free, but being a Christ follower will cost us, just as it did Jesus. It will mean total surrender to his purposes for our lives, laying our will aside for his will. Ministering to others who may or may not appreciate it. Sharing the message of God's love even if it means that those who hear will ridicule us and toss the message back in our face. But we will sacrifice, and we'll do it for those who will hear and receive the message and invite Christ into their lives. For those who will then carry the message to others, that they will come to know forgiveness and restoration through Christ.

Surrender - that word has come to have a negative connotation today. Giving up, giving in, defeat, failure, but that's not what happens when we surrender to God. We lose nothing when we surrender to Him...and we gain everything. Doing life our way usually ends in despair and destruction. Surrendering to the One who love us immeasurably and has wonderful plans for our lives can never be a bad thing. It brings freedom, confidence, peace, joy and strength through the hard times in life.

We're never alone when we walk with Christ, so let this be the day when you surrender to the One who created you to the One who gives purpose and meaning to your life. Surrender and walk in freedom.

How? Simply pray (talk to God) and let Him know that you are His for life.

God is not looking for fans...He's looking for followers. Men and women that will humble themselves and seek His face. Fall in love with him. Surrender their lives, then allow God to use them to reach others.

Is that you?

Are you a fan or a follower?

*Recommended reading:
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus
by Kyle Idleman

Are you a follower of Jesus? Don't answer too quickly. In fact, you may want to read this book before you answer at all. Consider it a 'Define the Relationship' conversation to determine exactly where you stand. You may indeed be a passionate, fully devoted follower of Jesus. Or, you may be just a fan who admires Jesus but isn't ready to let him cramp your style. Then again, maybe you're not into Jesus, period. In any case, don't take the question---Are you a follower of Jesus?---lightly. Some people don't know what they've said yes to and other people don't realize what they've said no to, says Pastor Kyle Idleman. But Jesus is ready to clearly define the relationship he wants with his followers. Not a Fan calls you to consider the demands and rewards of being a true disciple. With frankness sprinkled with humor, Idleman invites you to live the way Jesus lived, love the way he loved, pray the way he prayed, and never give up living for the One who gave his all for you.

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Do we really believe this?

As I listened to a sermon this morning based on the 23rd Psalm, I was blown away. I've been a Christ follower for over 35 years and I've heard and read Psalm 23 many, many times. It's a beautiful passage of scripture that flows with poetry, with beauty - it's comforting, peaceful and reassuring. But today I discovered the challenge hidden within it's verses. See if you can spot it.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

So where's the challenge? 
The challenge is found in living
as if we really believe the promises
of this passage. 

Do we really believe that we lack nothing?
If so, why do we whine about what we don't have?
Why don't we just trust that whatever we need, God will supply?
Why are we afraid to give generously?
Are we afraid that if we do, God will punish, rather than bless by not giving us what we need?

Do we really believe that God will guide us along the right path?
If so, why do we wrack our brains trying to figure out our next move?
Why do we stress and lose sleep over what we should do?
Why are we afraid of the future? 

Do we really believe that God is able to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies?
That He could give us enough peace and protection to be able to sit down and enjoy a meal in the midsts of  a dangerous situation?
If so, why are we afraid to minister to the homeless, to those who live in crime-ridden areas, to those who are in prison, to those in foreign countries?
Are we really convinced that God will protect us?

Do we really believe that God will anoint us to do any work He calls us to do?
If so, why do we hesitate when He calls us to step into a leadership position?
To teach a Sunday School class? To lead a Small Group?
Why do we shrink back when He prompts us to reach out to the seemingly unreachable? we really believe the Word?
With God for us, who can stand against us?
What can they do to us?
Kill us?

Oh, please...don't make us go to Heaven!

This morning, my eyes have been opened.
I'm praying that I never again let fear keep me from doing something brave for God.
I'm praying that I never again let my perception of lack keep me from stepping out in faith.
I'm praying that I never again allow well-meaning people talk me out of doing something outrageous for the One who loves me, protects me, provides for me, equips me and anoints me.

I pray that I will take Him at His Word, for when we are bold enough to do that, to live like we believe it, the world will sit up and take notice...not of us, but of our Almighty God.

God's promise is this...

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Believe it!
And live like you believe it!

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Are You a Follower?

photo courtesy Tacluda,
When Jesus invited people to follow him, he wasn't asking them to tag along behind him and watch what he did. He was inviting them to walk along side him and be a part of what he was doing. He taught them how to do what he did, and then he, expected them to dig right in and work with him in the ministry. Those were the people he called disciples.

The crowds that followed him, the tag along-ers, the curious onlookers were not followers. They were not disciples and Jesus did not bother go share deep spiritual truths with them. Those were reserved for those who demonstrated their willingness to lay everything aside and join him in his work.

Many today claim to be Christians - Christ Followers, but in reality, they just a part of the crowd, the onlookers. They show up at church when they have nothing more interesting to do, just to see what's happening, or perhaps just to ease their conscience. They're not a part of the many ministries that are going on in the church. They're there to receive, please don't ask them to give or they might not show up for another several months.

Jesus had little patience with folks like this and I have to admit, neither do I.  I'd rather have a church full of unbelievers who are earnestly seeking to know what it means to follow Jesus Christ and grow in a relationship with God than a roomful of "Christians" who are not truly following Christ at all.

Don't get me wrong - I love these people and I know that Christ died for them...I just don't have much patience with them. I guess it's because they already know what Christ did for them. They know how far God went and what He was willing to sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, yet they still remain in the infant stage of Christianity, always looking to be catered to and fed instead of growing up in their relationship with Christ so that they are mature enough to minister to others.

As you can probably tell, this is a pet-peeve of mine, but more than that, it's a crying shame for those who claim the name Christian, but are not following Jesus, not really involved in the work he has asked us to do so that others might know Him and have their needs met. It always makes me thing of this verse in Revelations...

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.(Rev 3:15-16)
Please take a moment and ask yourself if you are a true follower of Jesus, walking alongside him, doing the works of the ministry, because the last commandment Jesus gave his disciples before he left  this earth was...Matthew 28:19-20

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Are you doing that? Are you assisting your church with making disciples? with encouraging others to know God and follow Jesus Christ? 

If not, let me encourage you to call your church today and ask where you can help. Every ministry, from working in the nursery to being on the prayer team, hosting a small group in your home, to helping vacuum the carpets at the church...and everything in between is all a part of providing a place where people can find Christ, grow in Him and experience the joy of being a part of a church family.

Please let me know if you've decided to follow Jesus closer as a result of this blog post and if you've become involved in a ministry in your church. I would love to celebrate with you because you have just taken one more step closer to Christ yourself and many will be blessed by your willingness to serve.

Father, I pray that you will show each one who reads this where they can serve you in their church and I thank you for speaking to their hearts. I celebrate with them that they have decided to be a part of what you are doing in the hearts and lives of people today. Bless them, bless their efforts and bless others through them. In Jesus Name, Amen

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Foul Weather Faith

photo courtesy fishmonk,
Last week I wrote about Fair Weather Faith - people who follow after Christ as long as things are going well, but turn away when the storms of life hit.

There's a flip-side to that coin. I call it Foul Weather Faith. These are people wo live life on their own terms without God as long as things are going well, but when life gets hard, they run to God, desperate for His help. This is a good thing, except that as soon as the crisis has passed, they turn away from God again, reverting back to a self-directed life, which often includes on-going sinful habits. Their desperate need for Gos has waned and so has their commitment to live God's way at least until the next storm hits their lives.

Neither Fair Weather Faith nor Foul Weather Faith is pleasing to God.  What He is looking for is true faith, consistent faith - in good times and bad. Faith that is fully committed to a steady and faithful walk with Him everyday and in every situation of life.

Do you have that kind of All Weather Faith?

Are you a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ? 

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Fair Weather Faith

 photo courtesy micromoth,
You've heard of fair weather friends, right? Those people in your life who are right by your side when the winds are blowing in your favor. When you have plenty of money, when your marriage is happy and healthy, when your children are stellar students and spiritually grounded, but where are they when things are not so good?

Oh, they'll be there for a while, but if your problems linger too long - if you talk about them too often or if they begin to feel as if they should do something to help you out, then you'll quickly learn who's your true friend and who's your fair weather friend.

When you think about it, are fair weather friends really friends at all? Do they really love you? Are they really committed to the relationship

And that leads me to something else I was thinking about this week - Christians who have fair weather faith. You know them. They're committed to God as long as their life is comfy and rosy. As long as it appears that God is answering their prayers in the way they want and within the time frame that seems reasonable to them. But let trouble come their way, let God seem silent for a while and some "followers" become "flee-ers".

Please tell me you are not like that. Please tell me that you are faithful to God through every phase of life.

We know that Jesus said, "In this life you will have trouble," but he was quick to add, "But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And in Matthew, we read that "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45) 

This doesn't sound like God has promised a rose garden life to Christians. In fact - brace yourselves...God will allow hardships in your life to strengthen you, to help you realize that when you are weak and helpless, He is strong and able. But remember, He has promised to walk through the rough places in life with us. He will strengthen us and give us peace through the storm.

So, let's make up our minds to be faithful followers, fully committed through anything life can throw at us, knowing that God is just as committed to us.

What do you say? Are you in it for the long haul? Committed until you see Jesus face-to-face? Until Heaven is your home? 

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What if You're the One?

I was listening to KFLR (Family Life Radio) this morning in my car when I heard...

"What if you are the person that God has appointed to stand in the gap for someone you will come in contact with today?"

Years ago I was waiting at a red light. A young man crossed the street in front of me. He was dressed entirely in black. Black shoes, black pants, black t-shirt and a black trench coat that flapped in the wind. He had jet black hair that stood straight up in a mohawk and multiple piercings. His face was pale, his eyes blackened with makeup and his countenance was menacing, yet sad.

The wind blew his trench coat open again and I saw these words written in white across the front of his t-shirt, "I am the Devil."

My heart broke. This young man was once an innocent baby boy with all the promise in the world ahead of him. He was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16) in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) The Creator had a definite plan for his life (Jeremiah 29:11 and I'm pretty sure this wasn't it.

When God formed this boy inside his mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5), his life was full of promise...what happened?

I snapped up the opportunity to pray for that young man as he crossed the street and to continue praying for him as I drove toward my destination. In fact, God has brought him back to mind many times over the years and I have prayed for him again.

Ezekiel 22:23-31 recounts the story of ancient Israel, who had strayed far from following God. The nation was overrun with sin. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to warn the nation of the impending judgement of God and the destruction of the nation. God looked for someone to "stand in the gap before me...that I should not destroy it", but He found no one.

There are several incidents in the Word where God was willing to spare people if only there was someone praying, someone willing to beseech God for mercy for others.

I wonder, how many lives are turned over to their own destruction because there is no one praying for them? No one to plead for mercy. No one who cared enough to ask God to move on their behalf to bring them back to Him, to spare their lives and turn them around.

Which leads me back to the question...

"What if you are the person that God has appointed to stand in the gap for someone you will come in contact with today?"

Keep your eyes open today. God may bring someone across your path that desperately needs prayer.

If you feel God prompting you to pray for someone today, I would love to hear your story . Share it with us in a comment.

God bless and guess what - God has prompted me to pray for anyone who may stumble across this blog post, so I AM PRAYING FOR YOU!

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Call Me a Rebel

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. “ Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I have a favorite t-shirt that shows a fish swimming upstream. The shirt says, “Go against the flow.”

I've never been one to conform. In junior high school English class we read The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The last sentence of that poem struck a chord in my heart...

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

I knew then that I would always take the road less traveled. I wanted to be different, to think for myself, to do what I thought right no matter what everyone else thought or did.

That resolve has taken many forms. It led me to buck the system, rebel, be adventurous, be independent...some of these things were good, some landed me in hot water, but I was always my own person.

When I came to Christ, I committed myself to him wholeheartedly. I fell in love with God and with His word. I wanted to live the rest of my life the way He wanted me to live it.

Unfortunately, in those early days of faith, I had no idea how God wanted me to live my life, so I decided I should probably conform to the model of Christianity I saw at church; first to the dress code of the church, then to the behavior of those in the church and finally to all the rules and regulations of the denomination.

I played the game, not understanding all the rules, but fully recognizing when I fell short by the looks of disdain on my fellow Christian's faces. I didn't really fit the part, didn't look the part and often didn't behave the part.

Just about the time I was ready to give up, I read this...

“continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-18 (NIV)

The King James Version says “ out your own salvation...”

This passage set me on the path to an exciting and adventurous life with Christ. First I noticed the words “your own salvation” and realized that I was on a personal journey. It was my walk with God, not someone else's and that I was to work things out between me and God, not follow the rest of the crowd.

And second, it taught me that it's God who works in me to bring me to the point that I want to behave according to His will and to want to follow His path for my life. I didn't have to do the work myself, I just had to stay plugged into Christ and obedient to His word and cooperate with Him as he made the necessary changes in me.

This brought me full-circle. Once again I find myself on an adventurous path, not worried about where the rest of the world wanted me to go, but following the road less traveled.

Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

I don't want the well-traveled road, the wide gate and broad path that most of this world follows. I want the narrow gate...the one that few find...the road less traveled, for it's on that road that I walk with Jesus and find peace and joy for the journey.

So call me a rebel – I'm proud to be one.
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I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.

In Mark, chapter 9, a man whose son was demon possessed came to Jesus for help..
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” Mark 9:21-24
Even those of us who fully believe that God hears our cries for help and have the faith to believe that He will answer struggle from time to time with unbelief, especially when we have prayed for something for a long time, but have not yet seen God working in the situation. Notice, however, that Jesus did not rebuke the man for the bit of unbelief. Instead, He brought the answer the man had sought for so long.

Don’t be dismayed if a little bit of doubt or unbelief sneaks it’s way into your prayers from time to time. We are human and God understands that. Just declare as this man did...”Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Keep praying, keep standing strong on God’s promises, keep reaffirming your trust and faith in the Lord and soon you will see Him move on your behalf.

Lord, help us to stand especially strong when my prayers have not been answered. Help us to not lose heart, but rather, to continue to grow in faith. I believe that you hear and answer prayer, but I need you to help me in those moments of doubt. Help me to recall past answered prayer, to remember your promises and to thank you in advance for the way you will answer the current cries of my heart. Amen

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Passing it On to the Next Generation

 "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations" Psalm 100:5

I recently had a conversation with my brother about the legacies we leave behind when we die. We talked about our father and how everyone we talked to at his funeral had a special memory of Dad teaching them something. Dad wasn't a wealthy man, so he didn't leave an inheritance for anyone, but he left a part of himself with everyone he met.

My husband teaching our oldest grandson how to tie fishing flies.
We can do that. You don't have to be rich to enrich another person's life. Sharing yourself with them, your time, your knowledge, your love, your prayers - these all build into their lives and will be a lasting tribute to you after you're gone. And if you're building godly virtues into their lives, you can be sure that they will be passing them on to the next generation.

God promises in Psalms (103:17) that from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.
Spend a little time today building your legacy into the lives of others. Something they will remember for years after you're gone. Point them toward the Lord, Jesus, for He is faithful through all generations!

What skills do you have that you can pass on? How do you share or walk out your faith so that the next generation will know God's faithfulness?

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(Copyright© 2013 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)