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Entries in Faith (15)

Tuesday
Mar132018

Waiting Well

Wise and winsome Nali Hilderman calls Christian singles to seek and live for the Lord, but her words have often spoken to my own heart as a married woman. In this UPGRADE post for Single Christians, she once again calls all of us to consider life from a biblical perspective.

"Like most people," Nali says, "I really do not like to wait—I don’t like long lines, I don’t like sitting at the airport for a flight or in traffic. I get antsy and oftentimes anxious for things I cannot control."

I (Dawn) DO hate to wait. Waiting is "a waste of time," I say—except when God has us in a waiting pattern for His purposes. Nali reminds us of some lessons the Lord might teach us in this schoolroom of waiting.

Nali continues . . .

I’ll be honest and say I have an especially hard time waiting on God. 

When I wait for other things, I can at least cognitively understand the situation: there are 10 people ahead of me and as one leaves, then I move up. 

There are 25 minutes until my flight takes off, so I can manage that. 

But with God, it often seems like those cognitive “markers” are elusive, and waiting proves angstful and difficult.  This is especially true if, like me, we are waiting on God for a relationship, especially one that will lead to marriage. 

However, God has not left us in the dark regarding this; and I want to offer us some advice on how to WAIT WELL—to give some “cognitive markers” to hang on to in the midst of our waiting.

1. Remember You are in Good Company

Not only are lots of other people waiting on God right now, but the scriptures are filled with countless people who had to wait on God. 

Most of the heroes of the faith—the patriarchs, the kings, the Jewish nation—all had to wait years for God to fulfill the promises He had given them.

Read their stories and be reminded of how they waited (some well, and others, not so well). Visit Hebrews 11 for an overview of many of them, and note especially that some died before they received God’s Promise, yet they did not waiver in their faith that God would provide. What faith!

2. Remember It’s about the Journey, Not the Destination.

More than anything, God desires relationship with us.

Often God's provisions and withholdings are meant to draw us into deeper fellowship with Him. 

I once went through a whirlwind relationship and was convinced God had finally provided a husband for me. I was left in tatters after the relationship ended.

Only through a deep wrestling with God did I discover Him saying, "

This was never about the guy; this was about my relationship with you!”

That led me to an intimacy with God I never knew was possible. Romans 8 says God works in all things. Why? So we may know Him and be conformed into the image of His Son (vv.  28-29).

3. Get busy!

Follow the examples of those in the Bible who waited on God. Though there are some negative examples, most carried on while waiting, and God used that time for what was to come. 

David was a young man when he was anointed King of Israel, but it was a few decades before that promise was fulfilled. In that time, he fought lions and bears, killed Goliath, served another king—who taught him what he was not to do—and walked with God (I Samuel 16-242 Samuel 1-2). 

4. Trust God and His Timing.

The hardest part about waiting is feeling out of control in our circumstances, yet time and time again scripture provides examples of how God is in the most minute details to get His children right where He wants them in order to provide. 

My favorite story of this is the children of Israel in Exodus. They had left slavery in Egypt under miraculous means, only to begin wandering in the desert. The Bible says God did not lead them through the land of the Philistines, though it was shorter, but took them to the Red Sea and had them camp there! 

We know what happened next. The Egyptian army came to kill them, yet God miraculously provided AGAIN for their rescue. 

Notice the key point: 

God took them to the exact place where He would prove his power and protection, even though it seemed to make no sense to the Israelites (Exodus 13:17-18).

Dear friends, are you in a season of waiting on God for a relationship or for anything else?  Which of these four markers is most challenging for you? How can you actively pursue one of these this week as you learn to Wait Well? 

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history and political science at San Diego Christian College. She also is currently the Acting Chair for the Leadership and Justice Department. She writes on the connection between Christianity and the public square, both historically and in the present.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of AD Images, Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan022018

Goals to Dig Deeper in Your Faith

Almost from the moment I met Cathy Horning, I knew two things about her: She loves the Word of God, and she is a powerful encourager. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she encourages us to dig into the Word and grow our faith.

“Happy 2018! It’s a New Year, and my very favorite holiday,” Cathy says. “A time to remember. To reflect. To look ahead. To refocus. To prioritize. To set goals.”

That sounds like a big order, but I (Dawn) think Cathy knows how to fill that order!

Cathy continues . . .

I was surprised to discover, as the holiday season ramped up this past fall, a yearning in my soul. A quiet ache. A longing to go deeper in my faith.

In the flurry of activities, I realized I was being swept along the river of life by the relentless currents of an extremely full and demanding schedule.

If you have ever been river rafting, you know what I mean.

One of my fondest memories is riding an inner tube on the Salt River in Arizona. On hot, summer days, my friends and I kept cool as we were carried down the river by the strong current. Occasionally, we were even pulled into an eddy along the way, and were forced to paddle our way out to keep from being stuck there or, worse yet, being pulled under.

Floating down a river is great fun! But, it’s not a place you want to stay!

So, as the new year approached, I knew I wanted off my raft of busyness—to paddle away from dangerous eddies, to swim out of my river, and to plant my feet on solid ground.

I needed a plan:

  • to stop being swept along by the currents of busyness,
  • to avoid the dangers of a spiritual eddy,
  • to be intentional, and
  • to stop drifting along.

Instead, I wanted to be firmly planted on fertile soil, and to go down deeper in my roots of faith. 

The New Year seemed the perfect time. Although, to some, it is simply the next day on a calendar, to me the New Year is very special. It is an opportunity to begin again. To start afresh, with a clean slate.

And in my own story, it has been a time of momentous life changes.

It is the holiday when I surrendered my life to Jesus at a midnight church service, 39 years ago. Then four years later, it became the holiday when I walked down another church aisle and became a new wife.

So, for me, the New Year is a time to celebrate not only a clean slate, but also new life.

For four decades now, my faith and my family have grown! Each year has brought many changes like children, moves, teenagers, college, weddings, travel, grand-babies, aging parents, and so much more.

However, with the changes have come challenges. And the challenges of the past few years have found me in survival mode.

You know, going through the motions. Doing the right things. Getting by.

My faith remained steady, yet my soul was not satisfied.

Thus, the longing to go deeper, instead of simply holding steady or just staying afloat.

This year, that is going to change. I will no longer be swept along or, worse yet, become stagnant and stale. As I prayerfully considered my goals, I chose ways to dig deeper in my faith. In order to achieve this, I came up with three simple goals.

In 2018 I choose to—

1. Spend More Time in God’s Word

  • I will spend more dedicated time in God’s Word, reading, studying, listening to, meditating on and memorizing it.
  • I will reserve set times for social media, because, honestly, it is one of the strongest currents which robs me of going deeper.

2. Pray Bigger and Bolder Prayers

  • I will take each worry and turn it into prayer.
  • My prayer requests will be bigger and bolder.

I will not allow myself to get stuck in an eddy of worry. Instead, I will ask, and praise God, for audacious answers which will bring Him glory!

3. Listen To and Follow My Shepherd More Closely  

  • I will more intentionally seek to listen for the Lord’s direction throughout my day.
  • I will follow His lead, even if it is contrary to my own plans and inclinations.
  • I will not be swept away in the currents of routine and order or by the imagined urgency and needs of others.

“Now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots go down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).

Dear friend, this New Year, let’s be on our guard against being swept along by the currents of life. Or, worse yet, getting stuck or pulled down in an eddy.

What goals can you make and what intentional steps can you take to dig deeper in your own walk of faith?

Cathy Horning loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than encouraging women how to walk in His ways. She is a popular speaker, blogger, and writer, as well as a beloved wife, mom, Grammy, mentor, encourager and friend. Her first two books will be released in 2018. Learn more about Cathy here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marboon at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec212017

How Ready Are You to Celebrate Christmas?

Yvonne Ortega writes a lot about broken people, and to be sure, there are many broken people who struggle during the holiday season; but God desires to do beautiful things in their lives. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts before Christmas arrives.

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest," Yvonne says, "how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

I (Dawn) am one of those "ready early" kinds of people at Christmas, because I want Christmas week to be as peaceful as possible. But having a ready heart is not the same as a ready home.

Yvonne continues . . .

I’ve had people tell me, “I’m all set for Christmas. I bought the gifts in August, decorated the house, trimmed an artificial tree, filled the Christmas stockings with small treats, and mailed the Christmas cards.”

Others have told me, “I’m ready as can be. I did everything over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I can sit back and enjoy the Christmas lights, programs, and parties.”

From an earthly perspective, the person appears to be ready. However, as Christians with a heavenly perspective, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Our readiness to celebrate his birth has nothing to do with Christmas decorations, a trimmed tree, gifts for family and friends, stockings filled with goodies, or Christmas cards.

These three steps will help you decide how ready you are to celebrate Christmas.

1. Have you forgiven family members, friends or co-workers who hurt you?

You don’t want anything standing between you and God.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Do you still feel unforgiven for past sins? Are you burdened with shame and guilt?

If you’ve confessed your sins, God forgave you. He didn’t make a mistake when he did that. You can do no less.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

2. How often do you read your Bible, pray, and go to church—especially during the Christmas season?

If you do these things, how do you do them?

Do you do them on the run with an eye on your watch?

Do you do them grudgingly or cheerfully?

My late mentor often said, "You make time for what’s important to you."

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (NIV). You show your love by how much time you spend with the Lord and get to know him.

Make time for the most important relationship in your life. It is one that will last for eternity.

3. How comfortable would you feel if your family, friends, and coworkers evaluated your trust in God?

Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a car, or a home. Maybe you received a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or have a prodigal child in the family. You may have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one. Any one of these situations can cause turmoil in your life.

It can also result in your questioning your faith and God’s character.

Rate your confidence in his promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

As I wrap up, I ask you the same question I did at the beginning:

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest, how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle), Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), and Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Forgiveness, all available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic of candle, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug042016

When Faith's Song Goes Silent

When I think of Cynthia Ruchti, I think of hope and wisdom. It's the hallmark of her life and ministry. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she calls us to value the unique song of silence.

“What happens," Cynthia says, "when faith’s song goes silent? Or is missing key notes? Or grates on our nerves because it feels out of tune?”

Oh, how well I (Dawn) remember a whole long year when faith's song felt out of tune. I was miserable and depressed. And I know what Cynthia says is true.

Cynthia continues . . .

Many of us express our faith in song:

  • He’s a Good, Good Father
  • I’m Standing on the Promises of God
  • He’s All I Need
  • How Great Is Our God
  • This Is Amazing Grace
  • Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

But the heart doesn’t always feel like singing, at least not an upbeat, confident, triumphant song.

Life’s circumstances can threaten to turn our “praise songs that work great for cardio exercises” into a dirge, a lament, or a barely-hanging-on-how-miserable-can-this-get? blues tune.

Every time we open to the book of Psalms in the Bible, we’re reminded it’s not a twenty-first century problem. Listen to the way the psalmist David intertwined the wrestlings of his faith with the truths that held him in their grip:

“Get me out of this net that’s been set for me because you are my protective fortress(Psalm 31:4 CEB).

“I rejoice and celebrate in your faithful love because you saw my suffering—you were intimately acquainted with my deep distress” (Psalm 31:7 CEB).

“Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am depressed. My vision fails because of my grief, As do my spirit and my body ...

"Strength fails me ...

"I’m a joke to all my enemies ... I scare my friends, And whoever sees me in the street Runs away ...

"I am forgotten, like I’m dead, Completely out of my mind ...

"But me? I trust you, Lord! I affirm, ‘You are my God.’ My future is in your hands(Psalm 31:9-15 CEB).

No matter how long the lament, how soul-rattling its lyrics, how far distanced from hope its tune, the song turns from minor key to major when the Truth gets its solo.

When faith’s song seems to have gone silent, for whatever logical or unexplainable reason, we have options:

  • Listen to the fear-inducing noise our rusty, creaking soul makes in the hollow, silent spaces.
  • Listen to the unbelieving or skeptical world that claims silence is a sign of God’s absence, despite reassurances to the contrary in God’s never-silent, never-will-I-leave-you-or-forsake-you Word.
  • Realize that silence is its own song.

My music educator father often said, “Play the rests with as much intensity and focus as you do the notes on the page. Rests are not moments of nothingness. Play the rests.”

When only twenty-two, the hymn writer Robert Robinson penned these faith-gone-silent words in 1757. How true they ring today.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

Listen for the significant, pregnant-with-promise moment of silence after that familiar confession in this modern version (video) at the 5:15 mark. It will steal your breath, and steel your resolve to keep listening in the silence.

Do you value the silence or fear it? And if your answer is fear, reflect on the “and”the moment of resting and regrouping—in Psalm 46:10.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Unlike many other verses in the Bible, these eight words appear without alteration in translation after translation. These words.

Stillness—or silence—was prescribed by God as a prelude, or an accompaniment, to knowing He is God, and finding our rest and courage in that truth. Is it in part because a whisper sounds loud in the silence?

So I’ll ask again, and prepare myself to answer the questions honestly too.

     Do you value silence?

          Have you heard its song?

               What did it teach you?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope. She’s the award-winning author of more than eighteen books and a frequent speaker for women’s ministry events. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin. Connect with her at cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope; or check out her recent releaseSong of Silence.

Graphic of bench, courtesty of Morguefile.

Monday
Jun202016

The 3 R's You Need to Rid Fear

Bible teacher Debbie Wilson regularly speaks and writes to help people develop refreshing faith. In this Attitude and Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she describes three ways to remove fear from our lives.

Debbie says, “I had a supervisor who once said, ‘If the devil can’t steal your victory he’ll try to steal your joy.’”

Yes, I (Dawn) agree. Our enemy is a liar—we know that from scripture (John 8:44)—but he's also a thief and destroyer of anything good (John 10:10a).

Debbie continues . . . 

I’ve found my supervisor's words to be true.

My surgery had gone without a hitch. The mass my doctor was so worried about was benign. You’d think that would quiet all my concerns. But new ones darkened my slumber.

I awoke to a fierce struggle in my mind.

Two phone conversations and a YouTube video, the week following surgery, had sown seeds of doubt about my decision to keep my healthy organs. My doubts sprouted into suffocating fear during my sleep.

The video had popped up, ironically, after I’d finished watching one on prayer. In it, Angelina Jolie told how her doctor had begged her, with tears, to remove her ovaries. In my sleep, these women’s fears became my own. Had I been wrong to keep my healthy ovary?

What types of fear threaten your peace? With all that is going on in our world, there are plenty to choose from. Reason wasn’t enough to conquer mine. Let me explain how God rescued me and how to quiet your own unease.

Three R’s to Remove Fear:

1. Recognize the source. 

“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV).

My doubt had to be a dart.

Even in my sleep I recognized its destructive nature. What could I do about my decision now? Surgery was over. (Read more about how to recognize DARTS here.) 

2. Remember God’s character. 

"Which one of you, if his son asks him for…a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11 ESV)

I’d asked God to guide me as I researched and prayed about my decision before my surgery. His leading had been consistent. Was I to believe that God had intentionally withheld the information I needed until it was too late?

This doubt slandered God’s very nature.

3. Refresh your faith.

Faith—not reason—is the antidote to fear.

Faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (see Romans 10:17). In the wilderness, Israel had to gather fresh manna every morning. Leftovers rotted overnight. Our faith also needs daily renewal.

That morning God led me to the first chapter of Joshua:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NIV).

I’d never noticed the connection between the first and second part of this verse before. This was a command!

God had appointed Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. How could he help his brothers enter God’s rest if fear and discouragement held him hostage?

God has commissioned us to be His ambassadors and shine as lights in a dark world. How can we shine the light of Jesus when our hearts are clouded with worry? How can we show people the Prince of Peace if anxiety rules us?

While I’ve often wished for a dial to modulate my emotions—dial up courage, joy, or hope as needed—God’s way is higher. He’d rather me be strong in Him than feel strong in myself.

God used my fear to remind me He is with me. Those who know Jesus need never stay in fear and discouragement.

How has God used fear to strengthen your walk with Him?

Debbie W. Wilson—drawing from her personal walk with Christ, 24 years as a Christian counselor and decades as a Bible teacher—speaks and writes to help people discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Share Debbie's journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.