Author: Kristi Finefrock

Hope in Light of Darkness

Like a threatening rain cloud on a bright day, the darkness of life creeps in slowly. Before we know it, the sky is completely dark. Our souls seem to be smothered in darkness, grasping for hope. We fight it. Squirming and kicking like we are engulfed in a blanket that we’ve accidentally rolled up in during a nightmare. We scream out but our cry is muffled…the darkness keeps coming. We look for any evidence of this stifling suffocation to give way…and that’s when we see it.

hope

At first it might seem far away and faint, but it’s promise of warmth and understanding in the midst of our struggle helps relieve any fear that may be building in our hearts.

There you are, Lord! You see us in the midst of complete darkness. You are our light. You have not forgotten about us and you see and know our every inner and outer struggle.

Praise you for not forgetting us! Praise you for being our beacon of hope in the darkness!

Praise you for being there with outstretched arms to guide us through our struggles!

Psalm 33:17-22

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

Where do we place our hope?

When we are covered in this darkness, we have a choice. In whom or what will we place our trust?

hope

We might not place it in a horse like the author of this Psalm says. But what about our husband, our friends, a counselor, a preacher, doctor, our bank accounts, etc? In what do you typically put your trust first?

Putting our hope in anything other than our mighty God, our Lord and Savior, is a vain hope. Our Lord will deliver us, if we will wait in hope for Him.

Prayer over our Hearts

Oh, Lord!  In you and you alone do we put our trust. When the darkness of this world or Satan’s shameful reminders of our forgiven sins try to instill fear and inaction in our lives, we pray we will search for you and your truth. Your light shines brightest in the darkness. You are always pointing out our way home. We never need to fear for our deliverance, when we hope in you, because you have promised to deliver us from death!  We rejoice in your holy name. May we steady our hearts to wait on you. “May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

In the One who is the light of hope in our lives and our ultimate Rescuer- Amen!

 

They knew exactly what they were doing! 

Wrestling with forgiveness on many occasions, I’ve cried out to the Lord,

“They knew exactly what they were doing.”

As the Holy Spirit nudged me to forgive, I held on to that phrase like a stubborn child clenches his jaws around a piece of candy he’s not supposed to have.

forgiveness

There in all his patience and goodness, the Holy Spirit tried to walk me through what it means to forgive like Jesus.

Forgiveness

As Jesus hung on the cross, taking his last breaths, he asked his Heavenly Father a profound request:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

 

But didn’t they know!?!

Didn’t they purposefully go after Jesus.

They paid someone off to locate him.

They hunted him down.

Arrested him.

Paid people to lie about what he said and what they had witnessed.

They planned his murder and convinced Pilate to crucify him.

When they were given one last out, they stirred up the crowd.

“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

They had the Roman soldiers drive nails into his hands and feet.

They spat on him.

They mocked him.

Don’t tell me, Lord, they didn’t know what they were doing!

But then the Lord pulled back the shades of anger from my eyes, and there lay all our spiritual hearts.

Finally, I saw what I was unwilling to see before.  All the times I’ve sinned. All the times I’ve justified what I have done.  All the times I sinned believing I was doing right. All the times I hung my head after I’d sinned.

The truth is, we have all crucified Christ with our sins.  When Jesus asked his Father to forgive them, he also asked his Father to forgive us.

We have with misguided hearts sinned against a sinless savior. In sinning, we set Him up on the cross. We spat at his grace and mercy. We rejected him as our Messiah just as those who plotted against Him.

Missing the Spiritual Aspect

The truth is neither those who plotted to crucify Jesus nor we, really understood what we were doing.  Yes, we might have physically and mentally understood a part of it, but we totally missed the spiritual aspect.

The truth that Jesus spoke on the cross resonates in my heart.  It is filled with such patient grace for us.  It calls us to understand why he could forgive us and how he could say we don’t understand what we are doing.

If they truly understood that Jesus was God in the flesh, they would not have crucified Him.

If we truly understand that we slap Jesus in the face with the grace he has extended to us when we sin, we would not do it.

Forgiving Like Jesus

It’s too easy to look at another and believe that they knew exactly what they were doing but do we say the same about our actions?

Now, when I’m confronted with a pain that is too heavy to bear because of a wrong someone has committed against me and my forgiveness starts to be held back, I can’t help but hear Christ’s words echo in my heart.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Christ’s words were true then as he hung on the cross and they are true every time someone sins against Him now.  These words ring true when someone commits wrongs against us too.

forgiveness

Prayer Over Our Hearts

Oh, Lord!  Your holiness is astounding.  It’s so difficult to understand how much you love us, even when we sin against you.  Yet, you are faithful and loving to all you have created.  You call us back to you. You forgive us as we are hurting you with our sin.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives so that your grace and mercy will allow us to forgive before others ask.  Allow us to exercise this muscle of forgiveness so that we too can begin to forgive even as we are attacked. Let us see others with your eyes. Let us not hold grudges or records of wrongs but truly let your love shine through us so you can be glorified.

Even as we are being attacked, Lord, let us proclaim your love for those who are attacking us.  May our eyes be opened to the spiritual battle around us and use your truth and forgiveness to win the battles set before us.

In the One who daily teaches us how to forgive and receive forgiveness – Amen!

Walking with God in Prayer

Sometimes, we forget to do “it.”  Other times, we take “it” for granted.  Often times, I wonder how little power we attribute to “it.” But truly how often do we take a step back, stand in awe of the fact that our Lord and Savior has given us the amazing gift of prayer?

walking with God in prayer

Prayer connects us to God

Prayer gives us a way to connect with THE GOD of the Universe!

How amazing is that!

Let’s stop and contemplate that for a moment……

 

Before the world began, God knew we would sin and that this sin would keep us from having a relationship with him.  So, he formed a plan to save us and reconcile us back to himself.

“He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
1 Peter 1:20-21

He not only wanted us to be with Him in heaven one day, but He wanted to cultivate a relationship on Earth.  This is why he blessed all who believe and are baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Not only do we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we also have the gift of prayer.

Walking with God

Throughout the Bible, we read that so and so “walked with God.”  Enoch walked with God 300 years, Noah walked with God, etc.  In the past when I would read about them walking with God, I felt a longing in my heart to do the same.  But for some weird reason, I didn’t believe it was possible.  And then, I read this verse and realized God wants to walk with ALL of us!

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (emphasis added)

Yes!  Walking with God is possible for all of us, but how? 

Walking with God in the Power of Prayer

Jesus emphatically tells us in John 14 & 15 that Jesus and the Father are one. That if we know Jesus, we know the Father.  Then in a bolder statement, Jesus says:

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in  me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
John 14:11-15

Honestly, this boggles my mind a bit…what about you?

Have you ever thought about doing greater things than Jesus?  Um…Never!  But here is the thing:

prayer

It was by God’s power that Jesus did everything He did.  He walked with God through a prayerful life.  Jesus wants us to walk in a prayerful life with Him because in doing so, we will walk in a prayerful life with God. Then, God will work through us in the same way He worked through Jesus! 

We are, after all, supposed to follow Christ’s example.  Are we truly taking hold of the power of prayer or are we settling for something less than what we could have?  These are questions I’ve been asking myself.  Would you join me in this challenge of walking with God through prayer in a more powerful way?

How does this change your outlook on prayer? 

Does it scare you at all? 
Because, it does me just a little, but in a good-God’s-pushing my comfort zone kind of way.

 

Seeing God’s provision in a new light – His light!

Overwhelmed emotionally, spiritually and physically, we cry out.  We cry out in desperation because there is nothing else we can do to survive the next moment.

provision

“We”….

We finally realize how we need God’s help.  It’s never been about us but always Him.  His ways are better than our ways.  He can do the impossible.  He can bring about hope in the midst of our complete uncertainty and despair.

It’s in these dark moments, that we often start to see God working in our lives, if we will open our eyes and heart to him.  (God, of course, is always working in our lives but when things are going well we don’t always give Him the credit.)

It’s when we start to acknowledge God during our trials that we realize, it’s never been about us, but always about him!  Once we realize this, we see our circumstances in a new light.  His light!

Our circumstances viewed in his light, allows us to give God glory no matter what the day brings.

But most of all we start to see God’s provision in a new light too!   We start to understand the truth behind what Jesus said, “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).”

This Matthew passage is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 8.

Deuteronomy 8:1-5

“Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell.  Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.”

What Deuteronomy 8 reveals about God’s provision

So often when we think of God’s provision, we think of it in terms of providing us relief, financial support or physical comfort.  We don’t always look at it as a faith building exercise, but it is.  And truly, building our faith is the ultimate provision!

1 – God will lead you!

God does not expect us to walk this journey of life alone.  No!  He said, “Follow me!”  He plans to lead us by His word (the Bible) and His Holy Spirit.  Just like he led the Israelites through the dessert for forty years, He will lead us.  Now, notice what verse two says:

Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. 

He not only will lead us but he will provide opportunities to humble our spirit so that we can be more in line with His ways and remember to put our Lord first instead of the momentary pleasures of his world.  In doing this, our faith will be strengthened.

Praise God for being willing to lead us through the enjoyable and extremely difficult roads with us.

2 – God provides in ways we can’t even imagine!

God finds amazing ways to grow our faith and many of these opportunities come from how He provides for us physically.  For example, think of your best and most comfortable pair of shoes.  How long do you think they will last?

Never in your wildest dreams would you have probably thought your best pair of shoes lasting 40 years. But check out how God unexpectedly took care of the Israelites while they were wondering:

For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell (verse 4).

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (verse 3).

Isn’t that amazing?  Not only did they not get blisters and they only needed one pair of shoe for four decades but as God humbled them, he provided for them too in many different ways.

3  – Discipline is a provision too!

What?  Yes, it’s true! When God cares enough to correct us so we stay on the straight & narrow path in order for us to be with him for eternity, we can start to see discipline in a positive light.  Discipline grows our faith and molds us into who Christ calls us to be.  Even though we might not enjoy being disciplined, we can trust that God has what is best for us in mind.

If you’re athletically minded or enjoy sports think of it like this:

God is THE best coach around.  He sees all your potential and he doesn’t want you to waste it.  He knows what you are capable of doing not only because he created you, but because He has given you the Holy Spirit to help you accomplish what He has planned out for you to do!  He wants you to be disciplined in your faith so that you can persevere and  run the race without giving up.

Verse five says:

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

provision

Remember…

We are called to remember how God not only brought our faith forefathers through the wilderness but we should also remember how he has led us through our own “wilderness” moments too. Let’s praise God for how he builds our faith through His amazing provision!

 

Are you willing to accept God’s Peace?

Peace….perfect peace!  It’s something we all seem to “wish” for.  We want a peaceful life. We want to kick back with our cup of tea or coffee, sit at the lake and watch the tranquil waters of our lives pass by.  But does this fit the Biblical model of peace?  Are we even willing to accept the peace that God offers to us?

accept God's peace

In order to accept the peace that passes understanding, we have to be willing to let go of some things in our lives and focus our attention on the power of Christ.

So what do we need to give up to prepare our hearts to accept this peace?

Give up the idea that life will be easy.

The perfect, peaceful life does not exist on this earth.  If that is our goal and what we are praying for we are surely to be disappointed.  Yes, we will get to enjoy many things on this Earth, God willing, but Christ’s peace that passes understanding is given when the idea of peace seems beyond our physical grasp.

Jesus point blank tells his apostles in John 16:33:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Christ’s peace is only available through Him and not through this world. Although we can carry His peace with us always, it is often most evident in the midst of trials. It’s the calm we carry with us when life seems to be falling apart and people wonder how on earth can we  not be having a breakdown over this…it’s Christ’s peace that holds us together and gives us strength and hope to keep going.

Focus on Christ instead of the Noise in our Lives

A great example of focusing on Christ instead of the noise in our lives is when Stephen is being stoned to death in Acts 7.  Early in the chapter Stephen was boldly reminding those around him of how God has worked through Abraham to the present through Jesus, the crowd became “furious and gnashed their teeth at him (v54).” However, he didn’t focus on their negative reactions or the loud noises they started to make in resistance to his message.

“But Stephen full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voice, they all rush at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him….

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knee and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sing against them.’ When he said this, he fell asleep.”
Acts 7:55-60

Stephen’s focus was so highly concentrated on Christ that the peace that surpasses understanding completely encompassed him. Forgiveness, thankfulness and joy of getting to go to our Savior seemed to leave him in awe of Christ instead of his pain. Take time to read this passage and be in awe of the peace that Christ gives when we face adversity!

We can prepare our hearts like Stephen did. We just need to practice focusing on Christ now by turning off the noise around us – social media, T.V., radio, phones,etc – and take the time to be in God’s presence.

Stop Creating the Noise

Ok, I may step on some toes at this point.  Believe me when I say, I’ve already stepped on mine!

Sometimes in the midst of our chaos we create a lot of the noise ourselves. We whine and complain about the circumstances we are in. We blast it all over social media hoping for support from all the wrong places.  In doing so, we are not allowing Christ room to give us peace.  We are creating room for a frenzied spirit instead of a thankful one.

Yes, the exact opposite of complaining is being thankful. It is cultivating a spirit of thankfulness and bringing our concerns to God that helps open our hearts to Christ’s peace.  This thankfulness says,

“God, this may be the worst situation I’ve been in yet, but I’m so thankful you are by my side.  I’m thankful that I can lean on you completely and trust you will carry my soul through this!”

carry his peace always

Yes, it seems backwards in a way. Do we need to be thankful for our heart-wrenching circumstances?  Yes, because God will bless us with his amazing presence and power through it!  (Oh, we won’t be perfect at this and that is ok, but we do need to start prepping our hearts now by being thankful so that when difficult times come, thankfulness rolls off our tongues faster than the complaints.)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 
Philipians 4:4-7

Understanding Christ’s power so we can focus on it rather than our heart-wrenching situations, means we have to set time aside to be in His word and spend time with Him in prayer.  Jesus will build us up and prepare us for the times ahead when we will feel the overwhelming peace that passes understanding!

Prayer Over our Hearts

Lord, we humble ourselves before you.  You are God and we are not.  We commit our souls to you and trust that you will take care of us during the good and difficult times.

Let our hearts be filled with your joy so that your peace will reign in them instead of chaos and complaints.  Let us trust you so completely, so that even when we can’t see the road ahead, we will lean into you to guide us through this maze of life.  Help us to focus our hearts and minds on your will and not our own.

We pray that we will allow your peace to take residence in our lives.  In the One who is the perfect peace – Amen!

 

 

If it was something great, would you have done it?

We hold our hands high in worship and open our hearts to our Lord.  We say we are willing to serve Him however He needs, but are we really?

When we say, “Send us, Lord!” or “Yes, I am willing,” are we really saying “Yes, as long as getting dirty isn’t part of the plan?” or “Lord, heal me, but only if that healing comes packaged the way I deem fit?”

humility: something great

Who is getting the glory?

Are we really wanting to give God all the glory ? Or do we want to keep some of it for ourselves?

Being praised and thanked for a job well done is something we all look forward to, but if we are looking to serve the Lord only in ways that bring us public recognition, then we need to

  • take a step back,
  • examine our hearts and
  • humble ourselves before the Lord.

Because if we don’t humble ourselves now, then the Lord will do it for us.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
– Jesus, Matthew 23:12

The Story of Naaman

Naaman’s story in 2 Kings 5 shows examples of people who both humbled themselves before the Lord and those who deemed themselves worthy of something more than the Lord offered.

A young Israeli servant girl

This young girl was captured in a raid by the Arameans and served Naaman’s wife. She used her servant position to share the power of the Lord with her mistress. She encouraged her mistress to urge Naaman to seek out Elisha so he could be cured from leprosy.

This servant girl could have been defiant because of her circumstances.  After all she was captured in a raid and made to serve those who had captured her.  She could have withheld this precious information of how to be cured because she resented her lack of freedom, but she didn’t.  She choose to serve in the capacity she was in.  She doesn’t show signs of complaining but instead looked for ways to truly serve and share what the Lord could offer.

Naaman

Naaman was a valiant soldier and commander of the king of Aram’s army. He was proud of his glory and honor due to his military achievements. He expected to receive the royal treatment from Elisha, but he received quit the opposite.

Instead of a big, flashy healing and “proper” recognition, Elisha didn’t even come out to greet Naaman, but simply sent a messenger with instructions of what to do.  These instructions seemed to test Naaman’s willingness to truly follow and obey the Lord.

“Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleaned.” – Elisha, 2 Kings 5:10

These simple instructions enraged Naaman. He was too proud to willingly dip himself in waters that were beneath his title!

Naaman’s Servant

Naaman’s Servant seems to be a humble man, who respected his master and wanted the best for him. His challenge to Naaman’s reaction is something for all of us to ponder as well:

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much  more, then when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed!'”
– Namaan’s Servant, 2 Kings 5:13

What a loyal and faithful servant Naaman had.  He loved him and wanted the best for him. He didn’t allow Naaman’s rage to scare him but encouraged Naaman to put his pride aside.

Read the whole story of Naaman.  Learn how he responded to his servant’s challenge.  See how Matthew 23:12 is used in regards to Elisha and Ghezi.  This chapter is filled with many lessons but the greatest is humbling ourselves before the Lord.

Are you willing to set your pride aside and do what the Lord instructs you, no matter what it is? 

humility

Prayer Over Our Hearts

Oh, Lord, may we be willing to do the humble things with just as much excitement and care as if you asked us to go and do something spectacular!  Not only that Lord, but allow us to accept your forgiveness and love with a humble heart realizing that you give it freely.

You showed your love for us in a spectacular way by Christ’s death on the cross but you simply ask us to receive this forgiveness.  You don’t command us to do spectacular things but believe that by faith we are forgiven and then to simply follow you!

Help us to humbly follow you so we can teach our children and those around us to do the same.  May we humble ourselves before you, and only expect to receive glory and honor from you and not those around us.  In the One whom you glorified because he humbled himself to you on the cross and followed your will – Amen!

How Rooted in Faith are You?

Faith is a gift given that must be nurtured.  Without proper nourishment, our faith will never be rooted deep enough to withstand what the devil throws at us.

Since the devil’s main objective is to rid us of our faith and destroy us for eternity, we would do well to focus on growing our faith and making sure it is properly rooted.

Rooted in Faith

To grow our faith properly we need to know on what kind of soil our “seed of faith” has landed, move it if necessary, then prepare and cultivate that soil for the seed to take root properly and grow!  Jesus uses the Parable of the Sower to help us understand this.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.

Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had not moisture.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.
Luke 8:5-8

Part of understanding what kind of soil we have is to understand where we are trying to plant our faith seed.  Faith is believing in the unseen, but too many times we put our faith in the wrong things that we can see.

People

We might put our faith in the people who shared Christ with us.  We put them on a pedestal, doing what they do, and looking to them to help steer our spiritual lives.  This person might even be a great Christian author, preacher, or speaker.

We must be careful of this and we must encourage those in our lives not to put us or anyone else on a pedestal in this way.  Why?  Because we are all imperfect and need Christ.  When the person we have put our faith in inevitably does something wrong, instead of working to bring them back, we may become disenchanted or confused and crushed in our faith.

The devil would prefer we fix our eyes on a person rather than Christ because then he can quickly snatch our faith away.

“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”
Luke 8:12

We should only fix our faith on Christ and His Word, realizing that he alone is perfect and will never fail us.

Finances

There is an idea floating around that once we turn our lives to Christ and follow Him the blessings will flow.  Oh, dear sister, blessing do flow, but not always in the earthly, physical sense.

Our blessings come from heaven and an eternal perspective. Christ is able to bring us peace and joy in the most difficult of circumstances, when it makes no earthly sense to have peace or joy.  He gifts us courage to stand up for Him and what is right, in the face of opposition.  Christ even provides for us in the ways we need, when finances are beyond slim.

Jesus, many times, reminds us that we should not focus on the things of this world that will bring us comfort, but on the Lord who will bring us eternal comfort.  If we tie our faith to our earthly blessings, our faith will quickly be squelched when financial hard times come.

“The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”
Luke 8:14

Let’s not let our faith be choked out by the worries of this life, but allow our faith to mature by giving these worries to Christ and letting Him provide for us and mature our faith in the process.

Health

When health starts to deteriorate, we often see one of two things happen:

  • People lose their faith or
  • People inspire others by their faith.

We all understand that one day we will pass away. Satan will try to use this, and any situation, to make us feel like God has let us down.  If our faith is deeply rooted, we can eventually overcome this lie with the truth.  But if our faith isn’t rooted in the truth, we will fall for the devil’s lies.

How to grow deep roots

Maybe there is another area of your life than those mentioned above in which the devil is more likely to attack.  If so, take time to do the following things:

  • Dig into the Scriptures
  • Write down the truths that correlate to the area where you need to grow
  • Memorize those Scriptures so you can defend yourself against Satan’s attacks
  • Persevere through attacks and difficult times by holding to these truths and encouraging others in their faith

When Jesus spoke the Parable of the Sower, he shared this same recipe for deep rooted faith.

“But the seed on good soils stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Luke 8:15

Nurture faith

A Challenge for You

Take some time to read over this parable and figure out where your “seed of faith” has fallen.  If the “seed of faith” is not taking root in the good soil then start prepping your heart to be good soil.  Once you’ve prepped it, continue to cultivate it.  Just like any garden, the soil, the seeds and the plants need continual nurturing.

Overflowing Joy in ALL Circumstances

While preparing dinner, I over heard our three year old son singing,

“Joy, joy, joy down in my heart…down in my heart…to stay.”  

It melted my heart to hear him sing these words. It melts God’s heart when he sees us living out these words.

overflowing joy

This is the truth:

Joy exists in us because of Christ. It doesn’t happen to us because of circumstances. 

We can read Paul’s writings from when he was imprisoned in Philippians 1:12-30 and see this truth playing out in his life. He is a model to us of  how we can obtain joy in the midst of suffering.

Have you ever wondered how Paul was able to be so joyous in the midst of all those trials?

I sure have.

I would dare say many of us lack joy in the midst of doing the 17th load of laundry for the week, living through a time of unemployment, or caring for a loved one while watching their body deteriorate, etc.  Satan loves to dangle our “misfortunes” in front of us.  However, we get to choose to focus on what Satan dangles in front of us or what Jesus has already given us – an eternal hope!

Instead of focusing on the difficulties, Paul focused on obeying Christ.  He found joy in obeying his Lord and Savior. We when obey God’s calling in the midst of difficult times, we will let the joy that lives down in our hearts swell up and overtake our circumstances.  In doing this, we will glorify God in every situation and others will take notice His amazing goodness!

Paul was determined to rejoice because by obeying, Christ was being preached and more people were hearing the truth of the gospel!

 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.  And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
Philippians 1:13-14

The Realization that changes everything!

Once we realize, we are already citizens of heaven, we start to see the physical things of this life as temporary.

We won’t be folding 17 loads of laundry forever. We can fold socks joyfully and cover the person in prayer who will be wearing them. 

because of Christ

Times of unemployment and financial crisis will come to an end. We can thank God with a grateful heart in advance for preparing something for us and glorifying him for taking care of us in this moment.

The day of no more suffering is around the corner! Praise God with all your heart that He has defeated Satan’s death gripe on us so suffering eternally will be no more!

We will find this same kind of everlasting, strengthening joy when we are obedient to Christ in every situation we find ourselves.

 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

 

 

 

Loving Even When It’s Hard

There is a time in every relationship when it is easy to love someone else, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a spouse.  Loving another gets put to the test, when it is no longer about relying on the feeling of loving someone but loving someone in spite of how they make us feel. 

Loviing when it's hard

When, not if, you find yourself in this situation, remember a few things:

1. Believe that truth outweighs your feelings.

The devil loves to make us think our feelings are more valid than the truth.  He will fan the flame of our hurts and try to get us thinking that we are justified in how we feel.  Even if someone has deliberately hurt us and brought us to the brink of emotional turmoil, we should not let our feelings dictate our actions.

Christ says to pray for those who mistreat you, not to give them what they deserve.  Oh, if we received what we deserved, salvation and redemption would not even be available to us!

When those feelings of hurt overtake us and all we can see is their wrong, stop and pray for them.  Beg God to give you Jesus’ perspective and see that person through his eyes.  Ask him to soften your heart so that God can be glorified.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27

2. React and talk to that person like you are dealing with one of God’s children.

I love the analogy that Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, used in a video series I watched several years ago.  It has forever stuck with me.  If you are having a moment of intense fellowship with your spouse (or someone else), picture Jesus standing right behind them.  Take a breath then continue talking to that person like you are talking to Jesus.

Well, the same should be true for the child of God standing in front of you.  S/he is created in God’s image and is precious in his sight…even when you feel hurt by him or her.  If we keep our focus on Jesus and act like we are speaking to him during these heated conversations, the end result will bring us closer to God and to each other.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right had, I will not be shaken.
Psalms 16:8

3. Remember love is an action word that is not dependent on others actions.

Ouch!  This is one of the hardest lessons for my kids…and myself to learn.  What about you?  How many times has this phrase (or something similar) flown out of our mouths:

“Just because someone treats you badly, doesn’t mean you should treat them badly.”

or

“Did you treat ___, like you would want to be treated?”

showing God's love

I, too, have to take that step back and remind myself that my love is dependent on God’s truth, which is everlasting and does not show favoritism.

Did you know we will show we are true children of God by showing our love to others, even when they mistreat us?  Just as God does! Remembering this when our emotions are high is vital.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:45

Being a visual person, 1 Corinthians 13 always helps me to see where my love needs more action and truth and less feeling.

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.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

Prayer to take Loving Action

Is there something in this list that runs counter to your feelings.  If so, take some time to pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to help strengthen your heart in truth instead of these feelings.

Oh, how amazingly patient you are with us, Lord.  Your love and grace are truly astounding.  With humble hearts, knowing that we are not perfect,we ask that you show us where we can love more and rely on our feelings less.  We thank you for being merciful with us as we mature in our relationship with you and seek your wisdom and truth above the wisdom of this age that tries to trigger our emotions into action.  May we stand on your truth and share your love with all we come in contact with.   In the One who is the living example of true love – Amen!

We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to slow down…breathe…remember God causes the sun to rise…and He loves you!
Be blessed! 

Praising God in Every Moment

As I stand on the shore, smelling the salty ocean air and gazing in awe of the beauty that God has created, I cannot help but praise Him for all that He is, for all He has done and all He will continue to do.

The beach is a place where I always feel close to God and even though I do not get there often my mind often wanders to it. Will you take a walk along the sandy shore with me today as we find many reasons to praise God in every moment?

Praise Him in all things

Take a deep breath, allow your taste buds to taste the saltiness of the air around you. Praise God for creating us to be the salt of the earth so many more can be saved by His amazing grace.

Dig your toes deep into the sand and praise God for being one of the countless children of Abraham that God promised to him so long ago. He is a God that is faithful even when we aren’t and keeps his promises across the generations!

Stand close enough and allow the waves to wash over your feet. Praise God for sending Jesus who taught us to take a servants position in this world by washing his disciples feet and encouraging them to serve as He served.

Now walk out into the surf.  Allow the waves to hit just above your knees. Feel the rhythm of the surf. Are the waves strong enough to knock you over or are they just perfect for playing in?

Play for a little while. Try jumping over the waves before they hit your legs.  Enjoy the fun, laughter and smiles this brings. Praise God for creating us to enjoy such wonderfully fun and simple moments.  He created fun and wants us to celebrate it too.

Praise Him in all things

It is easy when times are beautiful, fun and filled with laughter that we feel we can praise God.

But what about when the clouds start to roll in and the waves become dangerous.

Are we still willing to praise Him then? Are we willing to praise Him when we know we are about to be tossed and tried by life?

What happens if, while we are innocently playing in the waves, an undercurrent sweeps us off our feet and drags helplessly away from the shore? Will we cry out in fear like the disciples did or cry out in praise, knowing that we call on a Savior that can bring peace either to the waves or to our soul while we are unable to find our way back to shore?

Will we praise God, if He doesn’t save us from physical calamity? Will we praise Him for protecting our souls even if our physical body doesn’t make it?

These are all questions I have been wrestling with and I’ve been praying for courage so that when, not if, the time comes that Satan decides to attack me or my family in such a way that I feel swept in the undercurrent of the waves  and like I’m drowning with no hope of physical rescue, I can proclaim till my dying breath that I will forever praise in every moment the One who is the sign of Jonah and gives life where death would normally be.