Friday, February 27, 2015

Faith Builders: Midnight Prayers

You know the moments: We’re sleeping soundly, then abruptly sit straight up in bed with our minds filled with some random worry. That’s happened to me several times in the last few weeks.  

Our kids are grown and I don’t see my son nearly as often as I’d like. He works his tail off for very little pay (we’ve all been there) and barely makes financial ends meet. It’s the season of life he’s in. I know it won’t last forever, but for now he does his best to make due. His car is a bit older and it’s not fantastic in the snow. Since we’ve had a lot of ice and snow in our region lately, some of my “wake up” moments revolved around his safety, particularly while driving.  

Fears are rarely rational, but that doesn’t stop them from rearing their ugly heads at inopportune times. We pray through these moments, surrender to God… again… and then try to get some rest. It brings peace to know that if the very worst thing I can imagine actually happened, God is still sovereign, He’s still in control, and He will work through the easy as well as the difficult.  

Yesterday morning, I received the call I feared: “Mom, I was in an accident.” 

I heard the calm in my son’s voice and quickly understood that no one was badly injured. He was a fraction of a second away from a head-on collision. This could have been very bad - but it wasn’t.  

I don’t have the gift of prophecy and I don’t claim to foretell the future in any way. I do not believe that I experienced a premonition. Perhaps over the past several weeks, the Holy Spirit was prompting me to pray for safety and protection. Maybe those midnight prayers helped deliver my son from a greater catastrophe. I’ll never know this side of heaven.

What I do know is that I am thankful to God for the hug I received from my son yesterday afternoon, and for the laughter that rang out across the table as our family shared a meal together. Both brought tears to my eyes and I received them as a cherished gift. 

Lord, I want nothing to do with conditional faith. I praise you today for working in our lives, and know from the depths of my spirit that You are good. All the time.  We averted disaster as a family yesterday, but had the worst happened, we know that You always rule and reign. You show your mercy and kindness in all of our circumstances. Help us always look beyond what we see with our eyes to what is unseen. Help us walk by faith, not by sight. Help us, Lord, to trust you unconditionally, in blessing and trial alike.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Turn On the Power!

Today I proclaim that I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. Today, I will NOT succumb to the limitations of my flesh, my past, my selfishness, my pain, my fears, or my weakness.  Today, I will recognize and embrace God’s best for me, knowing that He alone provides all I need. Today, I choose to push my POWER button and walk in the strength that Christ supplies. 

Will you join me?

Through Christ, we can:

Just for today (and by God’s grace, again tomorrow), let’s allow Christ to do His mighty work in and through us.  I can’t wait to see what He will accomplish!

Your Turn:

Share a time when you walked in the strength that God provided, knowing full well you couldn’t take another step on your own.

Continue to the conversation by leaving a comment below, or chiming in on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Friday, February 20, 2015

Faith Builders: The Unexpected

Today’s Faith Builders story took place in the far away land of Cambodia.  For the Creator of the universe, it’s not at all difficult to work things together from opposite ends of the earth. 

Darwin and Doreen Ohlin are very dear friends of ours. During a mission trip with their son and his family in Cambodia, Darwin realized that someone had robbed his wallet. Naturally, the wallet held cash and credit cards to cover the expenses of the trip. Many people from around the world prayed for the recovery of Darwin’s wallet, but that wasn’t God’s plan.  

With a 14 hour time difference it’s not an easy task to call the US from Cambodia. Darwin finally reached a customer service representative for their bank. He explained the situation and began providing his name and account numbers.  

The voice on the other end of the phone line said, “Uncle Darwin? I thought that sounded like you!”  

Darwin’s niece was his customer service representative. In a stressful situation, it was a tremendous relief to hear her familiar, friendly voice. She provided loving care and handled the issue seamlessly even though Darwin and Doreen were a world away from home. 

The Ohlin’s and others prayed for a miracle of one sort, but God did the unexpected. We can choose to see a coincidence, or we can give glory to God who did something that only He could do.  This story builds our faith and reminds us to trust that God is in control over all things - the large as well as the small.

Do you have a Faith Builders story that you’d like to share?  We often tell others about movie recommendations, great sales that we find, or a new restaurant. Why not share what God is doing in your life and help others to build their faith?  To share your story, click here.  I can’t wait!

Please leave a comment below or continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Strive or to Seek?

I still remember a heated argument that Mike and I had several years ago. It was one of the most passionate disagreements of our 27 years of marriage, and it lasted much longer than it should have. Our tempers escalated to a point where we were furious with one another, about an issue that should not have produced fury at all. 

Hours into the argument, Mike looked at me, somewhat embarrassed, and calmly said, 

“We’re trying to fight a spiritual battle in our flesh. Come pray with me.”

Within minutes of praying together and asking that the Lord would move each of us toward His will for the situation, our tempers cooled enough to continue the conversation with level heads. It wasn’t long before we reached a resolution.

This is the only marital spat that I keep close to my heart. I don’t dwell on the cause of the argument, but I don’t ever want to forget the spiritual lesson. It applies to countless situations as we grow in our faith.

We can’t do spiritual things in the strength of our flesh. It’s pointless to try. Nicodemus recognized this as he approached Jesus that night in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John: 

There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher, for no one could perform these signs You do unless God were with him.” 
Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 
“But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” 
Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   
John 3:1-8 (HCSB)
Nicodemus recognized that Jesus accomplished things that human knowledge and fleshly strength could not produce. Jesus emphasized the distinction between things of the flesh and things of the Spirit. 

So many times, I work with all my might to accomplish what only the Spirit can produce. Instead of continuing to strive, I am learning instead to ask. Instead of fighting the frustration of failure, I seek the Lord’s provision and strength.
  • When I desire a deeper love for people, I ask God to mold my heart to love as He does.
  • When I need a more dedicated prayer life, I ask God to help me focus on Him. 
  • When I recognize the need for submission in my marriage, I ask God for humility.
  • When I need to trust God for the future, I ask Him to increase my faith. 
  • When I hunger to understand spiritual truth, I ask the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide.
  • When I desire unity, I ask the Lord to help all parties, myself included, to seek His will.
  • When I struggle with obedience, I ask God to equip me with all I need.
It’s a choice. 

I can continue to work, plan, scheme and strive in my own strength, feeling all the while like I’m beating my head against a wall.  

Or, I can seek His provision and trust that He’ll bring results. 

This does not mean that I can stop working altogether - there is far too much to do. We are called to fulfill the responsibilities that He gives to His children, but we needn’t try to do it on our own.

God is not looking for employees or those who will do His work for Him. He seeks those willing to allow Him to work in and through us. By His strength, we can accomplish great things. 

Here I am, Lord. Please come and have Your way in me. 

Philippians 4:13 
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 

Jeremiah 6:16a 
“This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

Your Turn:

When have you tried to fight a spiritual battle in the flesh?

What difference did it make to put on your spiritual armor?

What advice would you give a friend about letting the Lord work in and through you?

Leave your comments below or continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28


Friday, February 13, 2015

Faith Builders: Thank You, Lord!

Kathy Barnes lives in Littleton, Colorado. She works in the pharmaceutical industry, but spent 4 months without work. Many of us know how stressful that can be. 

Kathy shared her story with me, recalling that during her job search she’d prayed “frantically” for a job. She’d found herself caught in the rut of praying for things to happen the way she wanted them to and according to her timeline. This included interviews, returned calls, and a job. 

Then, Kathy heard a pastor’s message about praying with gratitude. The message touched her heart and she began to thank the Lord for all the things she had, instead of spending so much time begging Him for the things she didn’t have. 

When she stopped constantly (and frantically) asking and started showing thankfulness for God’s current provision, well, in Kathy’s words, “Wow, did that feel good!”

  • She was thankful for her husband, Trent.
  • She was thankful for their home and the financial ability to continue to meet their bills even without her income.
  • She had time for Trent and could make breakfast for him, prepare lunch to take to work, and provide dinner when he returned home. 
  • She had more time for cleaning and caring for their home than when she was working.
  • She spent devotional time with God, in Bible study, with her sister’s women’s group, and a lot of time in prayer.
  • She was thankful for so much more! 

I’ll allow Kathy to fill in the rest of the story, before and after her focus on gratitude.  These are her words:

“Several times I would get down and no amount of prayer seemed to help. Many days were spent just sitting and crying because nothing was going 'my way'. One day while driving, it occurred to me that it was not that I was praying wrong or that God was not listening, but that the evil one was trying to usurp me. I know I said (and it was probably out loud) ‘Get out of my life, satan, I do not have time for you.’ I felt a weight lift from my heart and a quiet, warm feeling that everything would work out in God’s time, according to His plan. I just had to be patient. This is much easier when you know He is in your corner!

“During this time, Trent was trying to help me job hunt by watching different websites. He got it in his head that maybe we should both apply to the Indian Health Services facility in Shiprock NM. This would mean moving. His thought was that it would be just a few years of a lower cost of living, and housing prices, then we could move back. Anyway, the last thing I wanted to think about was moving, especially to the Four Corners area. I did not want to go but he talked me into driving down and meeting with the pharmacy manager in Tec Nos Pas AZ, about 50 miles from Shiprock. We left home at 3 am to be there at 10 am.

“Trent was driving and I was sitting in the car, in the dark, in the rain, praying for a safe trip, that God would show us if this was the right thing to do, all of those "is this right?" and "please lead us" thoughts. This is where the most amazing thing happened. I don't know if I heard Him or felt Him, but God said 'Trent needs to make this trip so I can show him that this is not where I want you to be.' My eyes flew open, I think I even looked around to see where that had come from. From there on I could look at the trip as an adventure, and enjoy the chance to see new country. 

“It turns out we would have taken a 30% pay cut, and had to move into government housing.  After meeting the manager at what was a beautiful facility, we walked outside and Trent said 'well, that won't work!' That was Oct 3rd. I received a job offer with King Soopers on Nov 5! God was truly with me/us that day and all the way through my search!

I have two scripture passages on sticky notes in my office where I can see them.
      Ps 138.8 ‘The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, oh Lord, endues forever.’
      Heb 10.23 ‘Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.’”

Kathy’s story encourages us to THANK the Lord, daily, for all that He provides. It inspires us to take our eyes off of our circumstance and focus on Him. I pray it helps to build our faith.

I’ll add one more Scripture:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Continue the conversation!  Leave your comments below, or use Facebook or Twitter.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Problem With Scripture Memorization

1 Peter 5:7 is one of my favorite Bible verses.  I have it memorized: “casting your care on Him, because He cares about you.” (HCSB)

This verse has become a “go-to” when I face trials or temptations. I refer to it as I praise God for His great attention to detail in my life. None of my concerns, it seems, are too small - or too large - to receive care and attention from the Lord. It’s a gem of a verse, to be sure.

It’s reference came up in a women’s class a few weeks ago and I snuggled in to its familiar comfort… until a friend said, “I love the two verses that this is sandwiched between.”  What? Which verses come before and after it?  Obviously I knew it didn’t stand alone, but I truly had no recollection of the context in which Peter presented it. When we read the wisdom that the disciple shares in context, we realize that the single verse is only part of a larger picture that offers more complete assurance from the Lord. 

Context Brings Clarity

That’s often a problem with Scripture memorization. We are prone to single out a verse without considering its context, it’s intended audience, or application. While God’s Truths are universal and absolute, not all scripture references apply to all circumstances. And some circumstances can benefit from far more than a small snippet of the truth.

While spending time in training with Precepts Ministries, a point that hit home is this: Context is king. We must be sure to consider the environment of a particular verse.  Let me give you a few examples.

Consider the word “Trunk.”  What do you imagine when reading that word?

Maybe you’re thinking of a large piece of luggage.
Or the base of a tree.
Or the storage compartment of an automobile.

Without knowing the context, you can’t identify the word’s intended meaning.  Let’s try the exercise again, but this time I’ll provide some context:

Its trunk swayed from side to side as the large beast ambled through the jungle.

Ahh. Now you’ve seen the environment of the word’s usage and can identify it as the trunk of an elephant. Context provides clarity.

Here’s another example:

Did you know that the Bible says “there is no God”? 

It absolutely does. But when we look at those words in context we see the bigger picture:  

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Ps 14:1 (NIV)

In this case, the context within the individual verse brings great clarity. It’s the fool who believes there is no God. More often, the best context is much larger, perhaps a few paragraphs of thought, a full chapter, or even the full counsel of God’s Word (the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation). 

Should We Stop Memorizing?

No - not at all! If you know me, you know that I am 100% in favor of Scripture memorization. I would never discourage it. Memorization is extremely helpful in prayer and praise, in keeping the truth in our minds, and standing firm against the lies of the enemy. it’s a great spiritual discipline to meditate on the Word of God until we’ve memorized it.

I suppose there are some who have memorized full books - or even the entire Bible - and could present any verse in its context from memory. That’s definitely not me. My advice: From time to time, look at our favorite verses in the context in which they’re presented. Read at least the full chapter, if not the entire book where the verse resides. Ask the Lord’s help in providing clarity around it’s full meaning, and receive His blessing in the process. 

Your Turn:

What was the first scripture verse you ever memorized?

Do you know the context of that verse?

To what group of people was it originally delivered?

What verses come before and after it?

Leave your comment below or continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Faith Builders: All Keyed Up

Welcome to Faith Builders!

You're among the first to read this new series on my blog!  With the exception of today’s post, Faith Builders will publish on Fridays. Tuesday blog posts will continue as they have in the past, with a focus on recognizing and embracing God’s best.

To become better acquainted with Faith Builders, I invite you to view a short video (less than 2 minutes) here.   

It is our nature to sometimes overlook God’s provision. We’re often known to categorize the Lord’s activity as mere coincidence. But…
  • What if we reframed our thinking?  
  • What if, when we prayed to the Lord about a particular matter, we watched with expectancy to see how He’d respond?  
  • What if, when we receive answers to prayer, we gave God the glory?
  • What if we shared our stories? Who might we encourage? 

That's what Faith Builders is about. It’s a venue to share stories of the tangible ways we see God at work in our personal lives. Some might see these stories as chance happenings, but we’re choosing to give Glory to God and spur one another on in our walks of faith!

Our introductory story comes from Tia Clark in Laramie, Wyoming...

“All Keyed Up”

Shared by Tia Clark
Laramie, Wyoming

It was July 4th. Tia’s husband, Roy expected that she’d soon meet him at a party to celebrate the independence of our nation. She was packed and ready with potluck dishes beautifully prepared, when she realized she couldn’t find her car keys.  We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Tia keeps her keys on a long, red lanyard and her key bundle includes a small bell. They should be easy to find, but on this particular day, they were nowhere to be seen. She didn’t merely search for the keys, she up-ended her entire house. As Tia tells the story, she emptied her purse at least 4 different times, looked through every drawer in the house, searched under sofa cushions, rummaged through jacket pockets, but still could not locate them.   

Stress was setting in and she was expected to arrive at the party soon. Thinking through her options, she eyeballed her husband’s set of keys, but then paused. What if she misplaced his set too? With no other obvious solution, she took a deep breath, grabbed Roy’s keys, loaded her van and started to back out of the driveway. But something didn’t feel right.

Feeling frazzled, she stopped the car there in the driveway and prayed.  A thought immediately entered her head: “They’re in your black shoes.” It was one of those thoughts that she didn’t feel was her own. She credits the Lord with provision of the answer.

This piqued her curiosity and she hurried to her bedroom closet to search for her keys inside her shoes. Sure enough, she spied the red lanyard peeking out of one of her black shoes. What once was lost now was found!

Tia is a sandal lady. From very early spring until the snow begins to collect on the ground for the winter, she wears sandals. Remember, this story took place on July 4th, well into sandal season.  How her keys landed inside one of her winter shoes was a great mystery, but there they were. Without the Lord’s help, she may not have located them until winter.

Tia’s heart was touched by the Lord’s obvious care. He is, indeed, involved in every detail of our lives if we’ll allow it. 

Get involved!

Let's watch for God's subtle fingerprints as readily as his indisputable miracles. If you would like to share a story of the evidence of God's invisible hand, please submit it here.  

We share our favorite recipes, great sales that we find, and recommendations for restaurants. Why not share what the Lord is doing in your life? Thank you for your willingness to encourage others and join our team of Faith Builders!  

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28