Living by Faith in the New Year – December 31, 2015

In reading from Hebrews today, I read some words that spoke deeply to my heart.  It’s wonderful how God sometimes speaks through His Word the exact message we need to hear – of comfort, encouragement and just the motivation to keep on keeping on.

Hebrews 2:10-18 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:

I will declare Your name to My brethren;  In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’

And again:

I will put My trust in Him.’

And again:

‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (NKJV).”

These verses tell us that we can trust Him because He is faithful, and because He has conquered death, sin and temptation.  He’s been in our shoes, and He knows what it’s like to live here on Earth; yes, in Him is our victory.  So, I ask myself, “Why are there times when I’m still so afraid to trust?” and, “When trusting is hard, will I do it anyway?”

The reason these words speak to me today so poignantly is that my husband and I got some great news yesterday:  We are going to have another baby!  I feel a mixture of joy and outright fear, because we had a miscarriage in mid-August of this year during the 5th week of pregnancy.

So, when I read the words that the Lord spoke through the prophets, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.  I will put my trust in Him.  Here am I and the children whom God has given Me,” I felt the challenge to make this my prayer for the New Year.

Trusting is very hard sometimes, and especially when the outcome is not what we’d like.  As I read the words above, I asked myself, “Do I really trust God with my life and the lives of my children?  I say I do, but do I really?”  I think sometimes I’m afraid to trust because the devil wants to remind me of everything that could go wrong now or in the future.  Yet, I know, in my heart of hearts and through His Word, that He has our best interests at heart.  He has shown me numerous times in both my life and the lives of my children that He is faithful beyond anything I can imagine.

At times when I’ve read in the Old Testament how the Israelites kept wandering from God after He proved Himself faithful over and over – He parted the Red Sea and made water come out of a rock for crying out loud! – I’ve shaken my head in disbelief that they could forget how God had provided.  Yet, I laugh as I write this because don’t we do the same thing?  I know I do.  No sooner does God get me out of one jam, and then something happens that wasn’t what I wanted or how I planned, and I’m wondering if God forgot about me or I’m shaking my fist at Him.

I pray in the coming year that God would remind me (and all of us) of the ways in which He’s blessed us, and that we would cling to His Word of faithfulness, so that when the storms of life come, we will put our hope and trust in a God that we know to be good, loving, merciful and faithful.  One who suffered so that we could have life abundantly – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).”

“Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love and Your mercy.  Thank You for being with me every step of the way this year, and help me to put my faith in You the way that Jesus did in His example, both through His Words and in His actions.  I pray that I will trust You with all of my heart, with my life and my family, and know that You are good, and will never leave my side.  Please bring to mind all of the times in which You’ve been faithful, both to us and to the people in the Bible, and throughout history, Father.  Grant us an abundance of faith, and peace that passes all understanding, that we may shine Your light into the lives of others.  I pray that in all things we might glorify You.  Thank You for Your Hope and Your salvation and help us to remember that victory is already ours through Jesus.  May we dedicate 2016 to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

God, Our Faithful Provider – December 5, 2015

Have you ever had someone do something nice for you for no reason?  I can think of several examples in my life where people have done stuff like that for me, and I’m immensely thankful.  I’ll admit, one of the problems that I struggle with, that I have to pray about, is self-sufficiency and pride.  It’s hard sometimes asking for help.

The good part?  When Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray in Matthew chapter 6, He tells them they don’t have to use vain repetitions or invoke a special “mantra” in order to be heard by God, as legalism and religious rituals prevailed in that day.  No, He says in verse 8, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

When I am struggling with something, or am facing a financial, spiritual or physical need in my life, it is comforting to know that God already knows what I need.

A few years ago, I was on the highway and the transmission on my car went kaput.  My husband and I were divorced at that time, and I couldn’t afford a car payment, nor did I have much money in savings.  (We have a cool story of how God ultimately brought us back together after two years of  the anguish and pain of that divorce, but I’ll save that for another time.)

A business associate asked if I could meet over dinner to discuss some details of his program, which is a government-funded program that provides services to citizens in need.  I almost didn’t go, because I normally preferred to meet for lunch during business hours, but I prayed about it beforehand and felt peace about going.

During the conversation about the program, this gentleman brought up the rental truck that I was driving.  He said something along the lines of, “That’s a cool-looking truck.  Is that new?”  I said no, that I had gotten stranded on the highway and was driving a rental to get me back and forth to work for a few days, while searching Craigslist and those “zero-money down” used car lots for something cheap that would get me from point A to point B.

He said, “I have a car that I will sell you for $100.  It may last a month, or it may last a week, since it has a pretty bad oil leak, but you are welcome to use it.  My wife wants to get rid of the thing because it leaks oil all over our driveway.”

I asked if it was currently running.  He said that it did run, but needed about a quart to two quarts of oil added to it roughly every 5-7 days in order to keep it filled.  He assured me that it would cost more to fix the leak than the car was worth, as it was a little ’88 Subaru GL station wagon.

But for $100??  I told him it was sold!  My husband and I were on speaking terms at that time, and after he followed me to go return the rental, he agreed to drive me to go pick up the car, and look at it to make sure that it would get me back home.  Ultimately, the man just decided to give me the car, as he said he felt bad about taking money for it since he wasn’t sure if it was going to break down in a week’s time.  That car ran for 18 months before it finally gave out.

All my worrying about how I was going to get the money for a car, and this man and his wife gave me one for free!  It really made Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 hit home in my life, though He still has to remind me daily not to worry.  I’m a slow learner.

He tells us, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:25-27 NKJV).

What really got me thinking about this today was in reading Ephesians 4:25-32, where Paul is reminding believers of principles that God wants us as Christians to live by once we are saved.  What caught my attention was where he says in verse 28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

Yesterday, I wrote about trying to discern God’s purpose for my life career-wise, and about the lofty goals I had before life threw me a curve ball earlier this year.  But what I got from this verse is that my work is not even so much about me, but so I can have something to give to those in need, just as that man did for me with the car.

I believe He blesses us 1) because He’s a good father and He loves us 2) so that we can be a blessing to others, and 3) So that others might know Him as a result of His power in our lives and theirs.

May we be His hands and feet today and look for ways in which we can bless someone, remembering the many times that He has used others to bless us.

“Father, I thank You so much for Your blessings.  Help me not to take the things and the people in my life for granted today, Lord, but help me to love others as You love me.  Help us to look for ways in which we can be a blessing to others, and to show them Your love and tell them of Your grace and provision in our lives.  You are faithful, and You alone are worthy of praise.  Help us to put our trust in You, Lord, and to know that You care about our every need, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us.  Help us to trust You with those needs, and to rest secure knowing that just as You clothe the lilies and feed the birds, You are always faithful to take care of us too.  I love You, Father and I thank You for Your provision.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

By His Grace – November 20, 2015

Today it seems that we are inundated with a lot of craziness going on in the world, and we ask, “Why?” and struggle to understand for sure.  I’ve also found myself reading or watching a news story and asking, “How in the world can people be so mean to each other?” and then thinking to myself, “I’d never do something like that, that’s terrible!”  Uh, oh.  Here’s where pride subtly begins to creep in.

In studying this morning, I was reading in John 14:36-38 about an exchange between Jesus and the apostle Peter:

“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are You going?’  Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.’

Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You now?  I will lay down my life for Your sake.’  Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down Your life for My sake?  Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.'”

Can you identify with Peter here?  I know I can.  There have been times in my life where I’ve said, “God, here I am.  Wherever You want me to go, and whatever You want me do, I’m willing to surrender all to You.”

And then life starts to happen, and maybe I lose a loved one, or lose a job, or things don’t work out in my family relationships that way that I want them to, or I have a wayward child who walks away from the faith, or a miscarriage.  Then what?  I’m saying, “No, no, no!  Lord, wait a minute!  Now, you know I love You, but anything but this!  I want a refund – this is not what I signed up for when I said wherever and whatever.  I was thinking more along the lines of doing missionary work overseas somewhere, I think I can do that.  Or maybe helping the poor or the homeless.  Or helping clean the church toilets.  But not this!

Reading this passage between Jesus and Peter is comforting in a way, because it lets me know that I’m not the only one who has overestimated my faith and underestimated my, well, my humanness and my tendency to be a big baby about any type of pain.  And my tendency to be proud of my efforts and to look with scorn at everything that is going on and in my pride think, “I’ll never be like one of those people!”

What I’m learning to say, and this is after a lot of things that I have done in my life that I said I’d never do, and then seeing how my actions at those times hurt the people I love, is to say, like the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain…(1 Corinthians 15:10 NKJV).”

So how, then, do we follow Jesus, knowing that it is our human nature to want to chicken out?  (See Romans 7:19)

Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Then Paul goes on to say that “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV).

I believe in essence what Paul is saying here is, “Yes, you [we] are weak, in and of ourselves and we don’t even know how to pray like we should, but we have the Holy Spirit helping us at all times.”

And for us as believers, God’s word tells us that He is able to bring about some good in every situation.  Not that all things that happen are good, by any means, but that God can bring good out of a bad situation somehow, someway.

Paul is telling us, “Yes, we will chicken out, we will get fed up, we will get discouraged trying to do things on our own, but by the Grace of God, we don’t have to!  When we become believers we are never alone anymore – ever!”

This has been encouraging to me to study and write this morning.  I needed to read and ponder these truths today.  Nothing can separate me from His love!  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phillipians 4:13 NKJV).”  I think that’s a reason to rejoice today!

“Father, I thank You for Your unending love, and Your amazing Grace.  I pray that everyone will know Your free gift of salvation and that the Truth shall set them free, Father.  I pray that we as believers may walk courageously and be free from fear, doubt, bitterness, and anything that would weigh us down and keep us from running a good race and finishing strong, Lord.  Help us through Your Holy Spirit not to be afraid to follow You, and not to turn our backs on You when trials come, but instead draw near to You and know that You are faithful to Your promises, and that You will walk with us through whatever we face, and can bring us peace and comfort during the hard times.  Help us to continue giving thanks and looking for the good, Lord, and draw us close to You, that by our lives You may be glorified.  In Jesus name I ask these things, Amen.”