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Entries in Trust God (10)

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.

Tuesday
Aug282018

Waiting on God for Dreams to Come True

Cathy Horning is a rare jewel of wisdom. The more I've gotten to know her, the more I realize we are heart-sisters with the same passion for the Lord and His truth. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she focuses on a popular topic: dreams.

Cathy asks, "Do you have a dream? One you have waited a long time to come true? A dream, that perhaps, you have all but given up on? Me too!"

Cathy's article came along at a time when I (Dawn) have been talking to the Lord much about dreams. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate her insight!

Cathy continues . . . 

I'd almost given up on a dream—until this summer when this nearly-60-year-old grandmother saw a childhood dream come true.  

1. God’s Timing; Not Mine!

I was 12 when I first decided I wanted to write a book. My books were going to be juicy, the kind of novels sold on racks near the checkout counter at the grocery store.

Then I met Jesus, and in His great wisdom, He tucked away my dream while He worked to grow me up and build my faith.

But one day, it was as if the Lord took my forgotten dream off of a shelf in my heart, dusted it off, and handed it back to me.

It was as if He said, “Remember when you wanted to write books for the world? Now, I want you to write books for Me.”

2. God Takes the Little We Have to Offer.

I was thrilled to rediscover my long forgotten dream. Eagerly, I began to write a weekly devotional for my women’s Bible study group.

Then, a few months later, I received two letters in the mail. Each note, from a young mom who had recently moved away, contained nearly-identical messages: “I have watched you as a mom … can you write to me about parenting?”

I cried. This just couldn’t be a coincidence.

But why would they ask me?

I prayed. God answered. And, I began to write letters—one letter a month for the next year and a half.

I mailed them to my two mom friends, then to a dozen more, and eventually to more than one hundred mamas.

In the days before social media and blogs, with four active children and my husband’s demanding career, it was the little I had to offer.

3. God Uses Detours, Delays and Busy Days.

Life got crazy, and my letter writing ended. God called us to a season of home schooling. Then we moved. Our new home soon became the hub for all of our teenagers’ friends. Plus, we kept busy with sports and hosting dinners, parties and youth events. Our basement was the place for our sons’ band, our daughter’s darkroom, and eventually, a dormitory for boys who wanted to move out, but couldn’t quite afford it.

Our lives were abundantly full.

I continued to teach Bible studies and speak at women’s events, but I did little writing.

Looking back now, there is no way I could have imagined how the Lord was using that very busy season of life to prepare, train and equip me (and our whole family) for purposes He had further down the road.  

4. God Will Give A Loving Nudge.

On occasions when I did speak or teach, I was often asked, “Do you have a book?” No, I hated to admit, I had nothing written.

However, that all changed on a flight to Arizona. The woman across the aisle recognized me from the gym, and for the next hour I had the opportunity to share with her the message I would give the following day. As we prepared to exit the plane, she called out, “I need your message. Do you have it written anywhere?”

I was utterly convicted.

So that summer, the year I turned 50, I began to write again. A book seemed daunting, so I decided to begin a blog.

Never again would I tell a hurting soul, “I have nothing written.”

5. God Rewards Sacrifice, Surrender and Obedience.

Our kids went off to college. Then there were weddings, and grandchildren began to arrive. As our family grew, our parents aged, and there were many unexpected health challenges and great family needs.

Through it all, I continued to blog as I was able. I worked to hone my writing skills, as I prayed my posts would encourage others.

Amidst all this, a spiritual season of winter hit hard. There were three long years of dying to self, serving my family, and surrendering my dreams to Jesus.

I began to believe my years of ministry were over.

Yet, as my hope waned, the Lord began to show me signs of spring. And slowly, this past year, God again opened doors for travel, to speak, and to show me that it was now time to write my book.

6. God’s Plan—for Such a Time as This.

Much to my delight, this summer—the year before I turn 60—my childhood dream came true! 

  • I cried as I held in my hands my very first book.
  • I praised God.
  • And, I dedicated it to the Lord.

You see, to my amazement my first book was filled with the parenting letters I had written twenty-one years earlier, even though I had long lost hope those letters would ever be a book.

But God knew. He had a plan that in His time and His way they would become my very first book, as He has whispered His word to me all year, “Who knows if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

My dear sisters, do you have a dream God has placed in your heart? Does it sometimes seem they will never come true? Or, that it is too late or you are too old? 

Let me assure you, as you walk with Jesus day-by-day, in His perfect plan and time, He will bring to pass and allow to come true the dreams He has planted in your heart.

Please don’t ever give up!

What dream has the Lord placed in your heart? Which of these six points help you to trust God with your dreams today?

Cathy Horning has been a women’s ministry leader, Bible Study teacher, speaker and writer for more than 25 years. She loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than sharing with others how very precious, practical, and powerful the promises and truths in God's Word. Married for 34 years, Cathy has four grown children, 10 grandchildren, and many spiritual sons and daughters. She loves long walks by the bay, a good book or movie, Starbucks ice tea, and especially family get-togethers. Her new book is Letters from a Mother's Heart. Read more by Cathy at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of StockSnap at Pixabay.

Monday
Nov272017

Three Women Can Prepare Your 'Christmas Heart'

In this Christmas-season UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to re-read the Christmas story from a fresh perspective, through the stories of three women.

I’ve read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke over and over again, but what struck me this year was the three women God used in the story of our Messiah’s coming and childhood.

I received the examples of these women as a gift, and their stories can help you prepare your own “Christmas heart.” Allow the Spirit of God to cultivate a heart that respond to and worships the Lord with fresh wonder.

Here are the lessons I unwrapped from these godly ladies.

1. Elizabeth - Learning to Hope in God’s Promises (Luke 1:5-25, 36-80)

The cousin of Jesus’ mother, Elizabeth played an important role of encouragement. As the wife of a Jewish priest, Zechariah, she no doubt encouraged her husband in the ministry. They were both spiritually mature, called righteous and blameless before God and obedient to His commands. But the Jewish people were getting impatient for their Messiah to come.

The Bible says Elizabeth was barren, and when we are introduced to her she was “advanced in years”—past child-bearing age. Yet God was about to do a miracle! While Zechariah served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave them not only a pregnancy announcement, but a name for their soon-to-be son: John. The child would fulfill a special prophecy; John would be the “messenger” of God, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Zechariah doubted God’s messenger and the angel imposed a penalty for his unbelief; but at John’s birth, Zechariah showed he had grown in faith. Perhaps Elizabeth’s faith grew to a higher level too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, Mary heard the good news and went to visit her cousin. Mary—also pregnant at that time—experienced the wonder of her own child leaping in her womb as the cousins embraced; and old Elizabeth declared her joy about Mary’s pregnancy even before Mary mentioned it!  

Ever the hope-giver, Elizabeth encouraged young Mary for her own journey.

In due time, Elizabeth’s son grew to minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) and she indeed saw the wonder of God’s promise.

This Christmas, I want to help people see the wonder of God’s promises, fulfilled in John the Baptist and our Savior, Jesus!

2. Mary - Learning to Trust God with our Future (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52)

Young and likely still living with her parents, Mary is an example of a woman who surrendered to God’s will and trusted Him for her future. She is described as “highly favored” in scripture, meaning she fully received God’s grace; but she acknowledged her need for a Savior. An ordinary Jewish girl, God chose to use her in an extraordinary way.

She was engaged to, and later married, a carpenter named Joseph. As a virgin, she gave birth to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. She and Joseph had no sexual union until after the birth of Jesus. (They had other children later—Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters.)

Mary is an example to us of trusting God with our future, no matter how uncertain or painful.

She knew God would do a mighty work through her son, God’s “only-begotten” Son, the One who made possible the believer’s sure hope for eternal life.

Mary never received worship, adoration or prayers herself, but she pointed all glory to God alone (Luke 1:46-49).

This Christmas, I want to worship and adore the Lord, and remember my loving Father in heaven has all my tomorrows firmly in His hands.

3. Anna - Learning to Pray until the Answers Come (Luke 2:36-38)

There are only three verses in scripture about Anna, but they are rich in truth.

Like Miriam, Deborah and only a few other women in scripture, Anna was a prophetess. She was also an elder widow dedicated to the Lord. Scholars debate whether she was 84-years-old or 104 when she met Jesus.

Regardless of her age, she never left the temple after her husband’s death. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

God's people were waiting and waiting for the Promised One, the coming Messiah.

Anna prayerfully waited too. And her prayers of faith were richly rewarded.

Simeon was a fellow-servant in the temple (verses 22-35). Simeon set the stage for an important response by Anna. After he saw Jesus and said his eyes had seen God’s “salvation”—the one who would enlighten the Gentiles and bring glory to God’s people, Israel—Anna spoke up.

The Bible says she came to the place where Jesus was being dedicated in the temple that very moment and began to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Her prayers, all Israel’s prayers, had been answered. The Messiah had finally come!

This Christmas, I want to thank my Father God for the Messiah’s coming, and recognize Him afresh as the Promised One ... MY Promised Savior.

Join with me this Christmas:

  • Hope in God’s promises.
  • Trust God for your future.
  • Pray with confidence and expectancy.

And rejoice! The Redeemer has come!

Do you need hope, faith, a more expectant spirit? How can the example of these three godly women encourage your heart today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic of Mary and Elizabeth, a painting by Sebastiano Del Piombo.

 

Tuesday
Jan242017

3 Ways Worry Hurts Your Kids

Cindi McMenamin is a wise woman with a heart for women and families. In this Parenting UPGRADE, she asks us to examine how our worrying might not just be our own problem.

“It’s natural for a mom to worry that her children will be hurt," Cindi says, "but do you and I ever consider how we might be hurting our children by worrying about them?”

Whenever I (Dawn) see a mom in a worried state, I watch her children. It's so apparent how a mom's worries and fears affect little ones!

Cindi continues . . .

Take a look at what worry does to us, and ultimately, to our children:

1. Worry Stresses Us Out - Which Stresses Out Our Kids

Worry causes stress—and stress kills. Literally.

Stress not only impacts a woman's health, appearance, relationships, and overall quality of life, stress prematurely ages us. Worry is also linked to ulcers and other health problems.

So when you are worrying and stressed out, you are stressing out your children, as well.

By choosing not to worry, you are investing in your health, which is a gift to yourself and your family.

2. Worry Pushes Our Children Away.

One of the reasons children grow up and stop telling their parents what is going on in their lives is because they “don’t want mom to worry.”

When I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I asked daughters, ages 12-40, about their relationships with their moms. Through their answers, I discovered that most daughters, regardless of their ages, said their moms worried about them too much.

They knew mom cared for them, but it concerned them, and at times annoyed them, that their mothers worried so much.

By choosing not to worry, you are investing in your relationship with your children and keeping the channels of communication open with them, regardless of their ages.  

3. Worry Models Mistrust to Our Children.

Worry says to our children and others: "God can't work this out." Therefore, worry is the sin of having no confidence in God.

I know that you, like me, aren’t consciously thinking those words when you worry. But I also know you don’t want to display that type of mistrust to your children.

How we live will, to a great degree, impact how our children live. What we worry about, they will tend to worry about.

On the flip side of that, where we put our trust will greatly impact how they will choose to handle situations in life, too.

Even if they don't imitate your faith or degree of trust, they will know on Whom you rely (or don’t rely) and it speaks louder to them than any lecture. 

The choices we make—including whether we decide to worry or trust God—will no doubt influence our children's choices well into their adulthood.

We tend to think that how much we worry is an indication of how much we love our children. But it is actually an indication of how little we know God. Because the more we get to know God as the all-knowing, all-loving, Perfect Parent, the more easily we will trust Him with what is most important to us and experience peace, no matter what happens.

God gave us a formula in His Word to help us stop the worry:

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7, NLT).

The very next verse tells us how to stop the worrying, so we can experience that kind of peace that comes through praying about everything:

"… Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (verse 8).

There it is.

  • Think about what is true, not what “might happen.”
  • Focus on the facts of the situation, not your fears.
  • Think on God’s character—that which is honorable and pure and lovely and admirable—and what He can do, not the worst possible scenario.

As you focus on God’s goodness, God’s love, and God’s ability to control all that you cannot, there is no room in your mind for fear or worry.

Trust God with your children. He can control all you think you must and all you are convinced you can’t. And He knows exactly what He’s doing in your child’s life – and yours.

What will you start doing today to stop worrying about your children and start trusting God with them?

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and popular author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of several books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter,  and her  newest book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of stocksnap.io.

Tuesday
Sep132016

Trusting the Trustworthy God

Rhonda Rhea is just plain funny. Until she's not (on purpose). Rhonda's spiritual depth always amazes me, like when she's sharing about the character of God and how we relate to Him, as in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

"Sometimes people agree with me without even thinking it through," Rhonda says. "Of course, let’s face it, that shouldn’t happen all that often. Still, when something happens only occasionally, it makes every occurrence that much sweeter."

Have you ever had anyone trust you that much? I (Dawn) have, and I can testify how sweet that is!

Rhonda continues . . .

When someone agrees before even fully knowing what I’ve said, it makes me feel like I’m sort of the “terms and conditions” of people. Oh, the power.

Basically I’m letting you all know that you can trust me. At least part of the time. I’ll be honest and tell you that you still wouldn’t want to leave me alone in a room with your nachos.

But other than that, trust.

The trustworthiness of a promise always depends on the nature of and the power held by the one making that promise.

Let’s get real, once someone adds a layer of melty cheese, if you trusted me, I would question your trust-judgment. But our God? The very essence of who He is in nature is flawlessness. The power He holds can’t be compared to anything or anyone else. He has it all.

Paul said in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (ESV). So Paul is talking to us as believers here when he says in the next sentence, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (vs. 23).

It makes sense to have faith in the One who is faithful.

It makes sense to trust in the One who is trustworthy. His record is clear. He has never failed to deliver on a promise. Never.

God’s Word is filled, cover to cover, with one blessed occurrence after another of promises kept.

We have His nature as the basis for our trust in Him. We have His power, knowing He is fully capable of carrying out His promises. And if that’s not enough—which it certainly is, but still—we have His love for us to top it all off.

You can trust the One who loves you without limits, without reserve. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).

Our Lord loved us all the way to the cross. His love is perfect. And that leads us to trust Him without the slightest apprehension. Our faith is well-placed. “But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Psalm 86:15, HCSB).

David wrote also in Psalm 143:8, “Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You” (HCSB).

Love leads to trust. And trust leads to love. That is perfect!

Anytime you encounter a challenge, difficulty, doubt or question, it changes how you see that struggle when you remember that Your Father is trustworthy. Not part of the time. All. In every room. He is perfect, He is powerful and He loves you with a lavish love.

Those are His terms. Those are His conditions. Oh, the power!

What encourages you to trust God the most: His nature, power or love? Can you thank Him today for being your trustworthy God?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, 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. Her new book, Turtles in the Road—coauthored with her daughter Kaley (another UPGRADE blogger)—is releasing soon. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.