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Entries in Faith (17)

Thursday
Dec062018

Living Beyond the 'But'

Kolleen Lucariello always makes me think outside the box, spiritually. In this Christmastime, Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she considers two people God used, in His own timing, to help prepare the way for Jesus' first coming.

"I’ve never been a fan of the 'but'," Kolleen says. "Well, that’s not entirely true; I can handle “but then God” moments; however, the 'but' that follows an apology? The one that says, 'I’m sorry I… but you.' No thank you.

'Equally as unappealing is the 'but' that attaches to you, becoming the heartache of your story."

When I (Dawn) think abut the situations in my own life where the word "but" stopped me in my tracks spiritually and in my writing, I know what Kolleen's saying is true. I needed more faith and hope!

Kolleen continues . . .

Luke wrote about a couple who had a "but" attached to their story—Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.

It would seem as though they were the couple rocking at life. Zechariah was a Jewish priest serving in the temple, and his wife, Elizabeth, was a direct descendant of Aaron.

“They were both lovers of God, living virtuously and following the commandments of the Lord fully” (Luke 1:5-6, TPT).

They were the couple we look at today and think, Wow. They’ve got it all! Prestige from the family name, and they were solid believers, living righteously before the Lord.

Yet, behind everything they were doing right was one word they couldn’t escape—"but."

The "but" holding them hostage?

But they were childless since Elizabeth was barren, and now they both were quite old” (Luke 1:7, TPT—The Passion Translation—emphasis mine).

I’m fairly certain Elizabeth would’ve given anything to escape the pain of the "but."

In a culture where great significance was placed on motherhood, one word stole that from her.

  • "But" took away her ability to present her husband with a son, and replaced it with shame.
  • "But" also took away Zechariah’s ability to believe the angel, Gabriel, when he appeared to him and gave him the exciting news he was indeed going to be a dad.

The "but" had followed them for so long, doubt took over the prayerful heart that once held hope.

That can happen to anyone who has found but attached to his or her story. "But" has followed a good many faithful prayers of the righteous.

Perhaps you:

  • prayed faithfully for your children, and raised them in a home that honors God, but you’re still waiting for the return of the prodigal.
  • pray faithfully for your marriage to find healing and restoration, but have yet to see any hope of change.
  • fought hard for that job, but lost it anyway.

Like Zechariah and Elizabeth, have prayed for your womb to hold a baby, but the pregnancy test was negative one more time.

The "but" behind our hopes can be a painful word—one we’d like to escape, but can’t—even in our attempts to do everything right.

Like many we think: I’ve prayed. I’ve done everything I knew to do. I’ve tried to live righteously, BUT I don’t see, I don’t feel, and I don’t hear.

Hope can be hard to hold on to when we focus on the "but" of our story.

It’s easy to get lost in disappointment.

However, part of Gabriel’s message to Zechariah was that his son would arrive at the appointed time (Luke 1:20).

Not their time—the appointed time.

Who knows the appointed time? Only God. And until that time comes we must live in the "so it was" like Zechariah and Elizabeth did.

So it was that while he was serving ... his lot fell (to him) to burn incense" (Luke 1:8 NKVJ, emphasis mine).

Even though they dragged a "but" behind them for all these years, they remained faithful to serve the Lord. It was in this particular moment of serving that the angel showed up.

Imagine if Zechariah had missed it, because he decided to give up on God for not answering their prayer—in their time. God knew the plan for John was to prepare the way for Jesus (Matthew 3).

It was all in the timing.   

We upgrade our lives when, regardless of the "but" attached to our story, we live with hope in the "so it was."

  1. So it was—she prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  2. So it waseven with the evidence of things not seen, she still had faith in what she hoped for (Hebrews 11:1).
  3. So it was—she refused to lean on her own understanding, and instead trusted in the timing of the Lord (Proverbs 3:5).

What is the "but" attached to you, and how are you managing your faith in the "so it was" moment?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am; and as a speaker, she speaks into women's lives "one letter at a time." Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She's a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her website.

Monday
Jul022018

Things Unseen

Rhonda Rhea is a humorist. That means she writes to hit your funny bone while she touches your heart. But she also writes to convince people to consider the truth in God's Word—and she does so in the sweetest way. In this UPLIFT post, she encourages us to see life from God’s perspective.

“We’ve been talking about getting an invisible fence for the dog,” Rhonda said. “Then I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just get an invisible dog?”

I (Dawn) was wondering, “OK, Rhonda, where are you going with this one?” But as always, this girl has a point behind her punchline.

Rhonda continues . . .

Think about it. With an invisible dog—immediate reduction in food costs. And the yard clean-up? No comparison.

If your invisible dog decides to use your sofa as a giant face towel, you’re not any worse off. Not to mention, taking your invisible dog to the imaginary vet could save a boatload of bucks.

On the other hand,

  • Invisible dogs are not very effective when you try to blame them for your missing homework.
  • If they bark at intruders, I doubt you’ll ever hear it.
  • And how about having a little beast so excited to see you that it can’t stop wiggling? I think we’d miss seeing that. 

Faith is not exactly something you can see either.

But even still, it solidifies in our minds and hearts everything that is most real.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3, HCSB).

Everything we can see with our eyes has been created by the God we’ve not seen. The evidence brings faith. And the faith is more evidence.

Do you know what happens as we allow the Lord to grow our faith and use it in serving Him?

He gives us eyes to see people in a way we’ve never seen them before and to love them in a way we can’t in our own flesh.

God gives us glimpses of what He sees.

Paul expressed great gratitude to God for the people in Thessalonica. Why? “Because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, ESV).

Singer, songwriter and—my favorite role of his—son, Andy Rhea, wrote a song about putting feet to our faith in the song “Drop Your Nets.”

In it, he writes,

            Lay me down, I will stay right where you want me to;

            Pick me up, and I will go. Oh, Lord, you know I’ll go.

            Break me to the ground so I’ll be face to face with all the ones that I’ve

            Stepped on, passed by—

            Missed their mute cries.

            Come on, people, we have eyes to dry.

Sometimes our call to faith beckons us to hear some cries and dry some eyes. It calls us to drop what might be most comfortable and to sacrifice.

The song continues:

            This is the call for disciples’ nets to fall down.

            This is the broken up soil; it’s time to seed it.

            This is the call for disciples’ nets to fall down.

            This is a vein full of love; it’s time to bleed it.

A “dogged” faith, if you will, is one that shows up in how we see people. And how we love them.

A key line in Andy’s song is, “Let’s lay down our nets and scream, ‘We were made to see things unseen.’”

Invisible. Yet seen.

As far as our invisible dog goes though, I’m still looking. But they’re just so hard to find.         

How long has it been since you’ve seen the “unseen” around you—people who desperately need God’s love? What can you do to get His perspective?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. She is co-author of Turtles in the Road with her daughter, Kaley. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Invisible Dog Leash at The Costumer.

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.