Tag Archives: faith

How to Thrive

But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.
Psalm 52:8, NLT*

What’s the context of this psalm? David is warning an enemy that the man will get what’s coming from God for his evil deeds. Not in the sense of retaliation, but cause and effect: Doeg’s crimes will meet justice.

David isn’t bitter about the betrayal—if he were, he wouldn’t be thriving in God’s presence. Instead, David is trusting in God’s unfailing love to care for him.

What would that look like in our lives, if we always trusted in God’s love? And if we trusted in the rest of His character attributes?

  • Instead of bitterness and blame: peace. Yes, God will judge the offender if that person doesn’t come to Him for forgiveness. But closer to home, God will be enough for us.
  • Instead of self-pity: security. Jesus loves us. He’ll never abandon us.
  • Instead of fear or anxiety: assurance. The all-powerful God of the universe has a plan for us. We may not see how He’ll do it, but He will work all things out for good in the end.

If I could live this way—if we could—it would be thriving indeed.

Merciful God whose love is unfailing and extravagant, help us in our limited belief. Increase our faith, increase our desire for Your presence. Teach us to thrive in You and to always trust You.

Let Brian Doerksen‘s song, “Your Faithfulness,” remind us to trust God.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

What if We Believed God?

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9, NLT*

I have the privilege of reading the children’s story at church on Sundays. For Easter, I chose one from Violet Nesdoly’s site, Bible Drive-Thru, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised that Violet’s words would teach me too.

Her story explained how Jesus had warned the disciples that He would die and be resurrected, but when the women came from the tomb with the news, “they were shocked. Their surprise shows that either they didn’t hear Him, or they didn’t believe Him, or both.” [read the full post here: Death to Death]

Well of course the disciples didn’t believe Jesus when He told them what would happen. They didn’t want to believe the dying part, and the rising again part was more than their minds and experience could process. We only know better because the Resurrection happened. People saw proof and handed their experience down to us.

It got me thinking: what else may God have told us in His Word that our minds have naturally sloughed off because it doesn’t fit our human understanding?

Our God, the Bible brims with promises and hope, yet we confess that sometimes we trust our thoughts above Your Word. We believe our doubts rather than Your truth. Often we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Please remind us of what You said and give us faith to believe You really meant it—and meant it for us. Help our unbelief.

One of my favourite artists, Jonny Diaz, released a new album this month: Let it Fly. This song is a good reminder for us: “Live Like He’s Alive.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

What’s in the Heart

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Matthew 12:34b, NKJV*

Other translations essentially say, “what’s in the heart is what comes out.” I like the imagery of abundance here, because we have good and bad and all manner of in-between things in our hearts.

As Christians, we work on guarding what comes out of our mouths. We’ve read the passages in James about controlling our tongues, and we understand the danger of harsh or inappropriate words.

Choosing our words with care isn’t about hypocrisy or pretending to be perfect. We’re saved, but we’re still being saved. Still in the process of being cleaned up. It’s a lifetime job that only God would ever dream of tackling.

If the pressure’s on, or if we’re tired or distracted, sometimes we slip. When we do, it reveals what’s inside.

  • Nothing ever goes my way.
  • Why should anything good happen, anyway?
  • I knew it was too good to be true.
  • I should have known it wouldn’t work out.

Ever said—or thought—anything like that? I have, and I’m learning that it reveals things I don’t want in my heart: doubt, lack of faith, negativity, discontent, a complaining attitude… and at the very root, a suspicion that God isn’t such a good Shepherd after all.

Nothing I’d espouse under ordinary circumstances, but when push comes to shove, the thoughts are there. Clamping my lips shut saves others from hearing it, but Jesus is right. It’s a heart matter.

We don’t have to believe the lies, the fear and the negatives. We can choose to believe God’s promises and rely on His love. But it takes work. It takes catching these unwanted thoughts and replacing them with truth. In New Testament language, it takes putting on the armour of God: especially the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the Spirit and belt of truth to hold the breastplate in place.

And it takes speaking God’s truth aloud to replace the negatives we’ve whispered so long.

God our loving Father, You see our hearts and yet You work to save us. We rely on Your promise to forgive us when we confess, and to make a way for us to escape temptation’s power. Grant us faith to truly rely on You, to fully believe Your love and Your care, to live in such a way that others will see we do indeed have a Good Shepherd.

TobyMac‘s song, “Speak Life,” calls us to use our words for good for others, but I think speaking life is also good for our own faith. Enjoy.

*New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 byThomas Nelson, Inc.

 

Therefore We KNOW

The Lord’s promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
Psalm 12:6-7, NLT*

The Lord’s promises are pure… Therefore, Lord, we know you will…

The context in these verses comes from verse 5, where God says He has seen and heard the suffering of the poor and helpless and He will rescue them. And so, verse 7 says that’s what the people know He will do.

But the same logic holds for us today: Because God’s promises are pure, we know He will keep them. (Tweet this)

Whatever they are.

That doesn’t mean we can pick something out of the Bible and expect God to fulfil it our way and on our timetable. There are plenty of promises we can claim in confidence, though.

  • Jesus will be with us always. (Matthew 28:20)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive them and to cleanse us. (1 John 1:9)
  • He has begun a good work in us and He will finish the job. (Philippians 1:6)

He may have spoken a personal promise to you. If so, He will keep it in His way and His time.

The Lord’s promises are pure… Therefore, Lord, we know you will…

Doesn’t that encourage you? When doubts come, when we’re tired and worn, we can stand on what we know: that God will keep His word.

Mighty God, Your promises are pure and true and thoroughly tested. There is no doubt, no defect or weakness in them. Help us therefore to believe and to declare that we know You will keep them. Remind us of the ones we need to rely on at any given moment. Thank You that Your promises are guaranteed by Your character, which cannot change. Let us rest in that fact.

Matt Redman‘s song “Never Once” reminds us that God is faithful.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Faith, Patience, Love and Endurance

But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.
2 Timothy 3:10, NLT*

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the Apostle Paul, patience and love aren’t top of my list of descriptions. I mean no disrespect to this ambassador for Christ—he’s a hero of the faith. But he sounds like he was a hard fellow to live and work with.

Faith? His was more than intellectual belief. He lived it, and died for it.

Endurance? He suffered frequent persecution and abuse for his faith. One of my favourite Paul stories is when he and Silas were in prison in Philippi, singing praises to God in the middle of the night. [Acts 16:16-40]

Paul definitely knew “the secret of living [and being content] in every situation.

Perhaps this is where his patience appeared: in endurance and in persisting in relying on God. And his love wasn’t the soft, huggy kind, but his letters reveal a passionate commitment to the well-being and growth of Christians everywhere. He thanks God for them, he prays for them, and he fights for them.

Sovereign God, You were with Paul and You are with us today. Let us learn from Paul’s example. Help us to remember and rely on Your presence and power. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief in those times when we don’t anchor to You. Help us choose to praise You no matter what, and to keep our eyes on You instead of on the problems.

Let Matt Redman‘s “Blessed Be Your Name” remind us how to live.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Spiritual Check-up

But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.
1 Timothy 2:15, NLT* (emphasis mine)

I hesitated to use this verse, so let’s get the obstacle out of the way first. The “childbearing” part has been misused and has caused great pain to single or infertile women. Footnotes for this verse in the NLT say it can also mean “will be saved by accepting their role as mothers, or will be saved by the birth of the Child.” Me, I like the latter one.

That’s not what I wanted to share today, but I didn’t want to lose anyone because of it.

“Saved … assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness and modesty.”

That’s what I want to talk about.

Not that the way women (and men) live will earn our salvation, but that this is what the working out of our salvation will look like.

Remember the way it’s said “I am saved, I am being saved, I will be saved”? How it’s all reflecting a different aspect of the same process?

Spiritual check-up time:

  • Faith: how often do I forget faith and live by sight, in anxiety and stress?
  • Love: how much of God’s love grows in me for those outside my family and friendships?
  • Holiness: is it the “rules” type, or the inner glow of the Holy Spirit?
  • Modesty: not just do I dress in non-provocative clothing, but do I draw attention to myself instead of to God?

These are attributes that resonate with me, that I’d like to develop as I find my identity as a child of God. They describe the women of faith in my life, the ones I want to “be like when I grow up.”

God our Saviour and our Shepherd, thank You for the grace to grow in our salvation. Thank You for those in the faith who have been our examples and our role models, and for Jesus Christ who demonstrated a life fully pleasing to You. Please help us to live in faith, love, holiness and modesty – to live in You.

Here’s a song I loved from years ago: “Growing Up to be a Child” by Sheila Walsh. May God grow this trusting heart in us.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

Remembering God: Hope and Worship

So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:7, NLT*

The Israelites passed down their experiences with God from generation to generation, and somehow the Holy Spirit worked an alchemy in believing souls to change “heard” knowledge into “heart” knowledge.

Knowing the stories was never enough; the other nations knew them, and trembled. God wanted relationship with His people, where they could love and trust Him as well as revering and worshiping Him.

When they “set their hope anew” on Him, they thrived. When they forgot what God had done—and He did some highly memorable miracles—or when they stopped believing or rationalized it away, the psalmist describes them as “stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” (Psalm 78:8, NLT* emphasis mine)

The same goes for us today, and for our children and their children. We have the miracles—and commands—of God preserved in the Bible. We have the testimonies of other Christians in person or in print. We have our personal encounters with the Lord of Heaven.

We need to remember them, and set our hearts and our hopes anew on God no matter what circumstances surround us. We need to pass them on to the next generation, but that generation is responsible to take them personally.

Faith isn’t a history lesson, or literature, myth or fairy tale. Theoretical nods to God don’t do much except set us up to fall.

Father God, You have drawn us to Yourself with a love stronger than we can know. Refresh our faith, rekindle our first love for You, and work in our children’s and grandchildren’s spirits to awaken them to Your love too. Let us not refuse to give our hearts to You. Let none of us be lost.

Let the Newsboys’ new song, “Live With Abandon,” be our prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

When Faith Affects Our Lives

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
James 2:18, NLT*

James talks about loyalty to God—faith—and about how that looks in the Christian’s life. He gives practical examples (don’t practice favouritism, actually help your friend instead of just wishing him well) and I think that’s so we’ll realize our faith isn’t something we compartmentalize. It’s meant to affect everything we do, say and think.

The good deeds he’s asking for are to grow naturally out of applying faith in Jesus to our daily lives. There’s no eternal value in good work without a heart for God. People judge by appearances and actions, but God looks at the heart.

If our faith is growing, it will cause visible changes in our lives. We’ll learn to rely more on God in our daily thoughts, responsibilities and experiences. That’s one reason a daily quiet time with God is so vital.

Remember James’ words on accepting the word of God planted in our hearts? Prayer, listening, reading the Bible are key ingredients in a growing faith.

In our culture of busyness, over-calendaring and of being always “on call” to texts, emails etc, the danger is that there’s no time for God. We’re busy, distracted, and it’s easy to take God for granted. But if we don’t read His word, don’t spend time getting to know Him, how will we know what’s true? How will we know how to live or have the confidence that He can—and wants to—help us? We’ll be the unstable people James warns us about in his first chapter.

God who created us, who knows our hearts, help us be intentional in taking time with You. Give us hearts that long to know You better and to please You. Give us wisdom in how to use our time so we can do what You’ve given us to do and yet grow in relationship with You and with those You’ve given us. Give us faith, and work that faith out in our lives in good works—not for You but because of You.

Casting Crowns‘ song, “Lifesong,” makes a good prayer.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Fear as Opportunity

Stress and pressure are like strong winds. They knock us off our feet and send us tumbling, flailing for support.

As long as we keep God at our backs, we can stand.

I often use the prayer picture of a piece of paper, wind-plastered against a cliff, pressed so tightly against the rock face that you can see every groove and jut in the rock.

Isn’t that our prayer as Christians? “Lord, shape me to be like You.”

Life’s struggles are often His best tools.

So why hadn’t I recognized that fear is only another tool? Carolyn Watts writes that “fear can be an assetif we learn how to let it lead us closer to Jesus.” (see How to Turn Fear into an Asset)

Or as a good friend said to me the other day, “Fear is a driver—it can drive you to God, or deeper into fear. Pray to choose wisely.”

This puts fear in the same category as trials, temptations, stresses and even gifts: something God can use in our lives to develop perseverance and endurance. Instead of freezing up or shrinking inward, we can invite Jesus into our fear, ask Him to use it to draw us closer to Him—to let it press us into His likeness.

We can praise Him and rejoice over what He’s going to do, even though we can’t yet see what that will be.

Thanking God in our fear, instead of letting it close us off from Him… this is delightfully subversive and not at all what the enemy of our souls has in mind, I’m sure. But it matches Scripture: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow,” (James 1:3, NLT) and “Be thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18a, NLT).

It comes down to this: who/what do we believe is stronger, God or fear? The loyalty to God that I’ve been reading about in the Book of James gives me my answer.

Not that I’m going to welcome fear, to throw open the door and invite it in, but this breaks its power. This lets me press into God, lets me know I’m in good hands and it’ll be okay. No matter what.

[If fear is one of your struggles, I highly recommend following the posts at Hearing the Heartbeat, beginning with How Do You Hear God’s Don’t Be Afraid?]

On Dandelions and Sin

DandelionI guess I’d better start with a public declaration that I think dandelions are beautiful: fuzzy yellow suns, milky seed-puff moons… I’ll stop there, because I can’t think of anything nice to say about the bald caps and spiky fronds after the seeds have blown.

Those so inclined can eat dandelion greens, and apparently the roots when roasted and ground make a passable substitute for coffee.

In a field, dandelions are so pretty.

Too bad they don’t work so well in residential lawns. When mine grow, I always feel guilty about infecting my neighbours’ properties, like I’m harbouring an invasion force.

We have one of those long, green tools that lets you stand mostly upright and uproot the pesky plants one root at a time. I’ve tried it a few previous springs and given up, but this year I’ve bagged a few buckets-full of dandelions nearly every day.

A field of dandelions

My back yard, two years ago

I have no particular hope of eradicating all the dandelions that have encroached on our lawn over the past 20+ years, but there’s something about this daily activity that soothes me. And it’s an excuse for fresh air.

It’s also an excuse for a blog post.

I don’t think much while I’m on the daily hunt. Sometimes I count the harvest, sometimes I pray, sometimes I talk to the stubborn ones. Listeners would most likely hear me mutter “I can’t get you all, but I can get you.

My mantra has become “None to seed.” When I’m out of time and there are still plants un-dug, I pick off the dandelion heads.

After a couple weeks of the daily battle, I got thinking how dandelions are a bit like sin. Not necessarily the “evil action” kind of sin where we know we’re doing something wrong and choose to do it anyway, but the “missed God’s best for us” kind where we’ve gotten trapped in patterns of negative thinking, reactions or other behaviour that have really messed us up.

Some observations:

  • younger plants are easier to uproot than those that have grown for years
  • they produce fewer blossoms too
  • one blossom is enough to produce 40 to 100+ seeds (Source: howitworksdaily.com)
  • mature plants spread broad leaves and kill the grass near them
  • the roots go down a long way and are more likely to break than to come out cleanly
  • some plants require multiple grabs with the extractor
  • they’re sneaky: they’ll twist their stalks so the blossoms look like they come from somewhere other than the actual root
  • they’ll lie down until the mower is put away, then stand up defiant and straight
  • the plants will slip off my tool en route to the bucket
  • the blossoms will break off and fall out of the bucket, often face-down, to hide until they can turn into seeds
  • yellow blossoms will go to seed once they’ve opened, so don’t compost them
  • pulling them out leaves holes in the ground, and if there’s a big patch it’s unsightly
  • bald patches must be re-seeded with grass or more dandelions or other weeds will return (remember Jesus’ warning about the evil spirit and the clean house in Luke 11:24-26)
  • the worse the infestation (usually the longer it’s been growing) the longer it takes to fix
  • looking at the scope of the problem leads to discouragement and defeat
  • a little work each day will bring results
  • picking the heads off (=cheating or at least a short-cut) is better than letting them bloom and spread their seeds
  • they’re heavy – putting too many in my organics bin for pickup will make it too heavy for the workers

Dandelion season has passed its peak, and I think I’ll make it with none to seed. Yes, I may celebrate by baking my family a cake.

Janet Sketchley holding uprooted dandelion

Got this one, root and all!