Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

Is Mustard Seed Faith Enough?

Many Christians (I’m sure) are familiar with this passage from the book of Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). Have you ever prayed for something for an extended period of time, but subconsciously given up hope that your prayer would ever be answered?  We say the right words when we pray and we end our prayer with “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and yet, deep down inside, we just don’t believe that our answer will ever come.  Well, I will confess that I’ve prayed this particular prayer but didn’t believe it would be answered.  Was it because I didn’t believe that God could?  No, to the contrary, as a part of my prayer, I would confess that I knew God was able.  Or, was it because I didn’t have enough faith to truly believe that God would do what He promised?  For me, it was the latter. The fact of the matter is, I’d seen God answer similar prayers for other people (and rejoiced with them when He did), but somehow didn’t think he would answer it for me (although I knew He could).

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Then one day, during my prayer and devotional time, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and showed me that the reason I felt hopeless about my situation was because I was living in unbelief about it.  Once I was convicted, I had to pray for forgiveness and ask God to “help my unbelief,” the same thing a father said to Jesus when he brought his son who was possessed by a spirit to Him asking for help. The father said, “if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (emphasis mine)  Jesus’ responds this way: “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately, the father was convicted and says: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (be sure to read Mark 9 for the entire story).  After I was convicted, I asked God to help me and give me faith the size of a mustard seed.  Frankly, I felt like I needed to start small in asking for faith in this particular situation (note: my faith has been great in other situations, but not in this one), because I felt just like that father who brought his son to Jesus.  The small amount of faith I began to ask for is mustard seed faith, which really isn’t a whole lot!

As you can see from the picture, a mustard seed is a tiny thing!  So small that it seems to get lost in the palm of a person’s hand.  Is that amount of faith enough? Shouldn’t I have a little bit more than that?  The answer to the question of whether mustard seed faith is enough, based on what Jesus said, is a resounding YES!  He says in Matthew 17:20, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (NASB)

So, I decided to take a small step and confess that I have this much faith that God will answer my prayer.  Yes, I believe this sized faith is enough, and I’m standing on that belief and walking in faith (and not by sight).  My prayer has not yet been answered, but I now have hope about it (something I’d given up on a while ago).

Why am I confessing this to you?  I’m being transparent because someone is experiencing this same thing as we speak!  You’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, the answer hasn’t come, and at some point, you made up in your mind that it would never come.  I want to encourage you to take heart!  Ask God to help your unbelief and give you just a little bit of faith.  Stand on that little bit of faith and watch what God will do!  While you’re waiting for your answer, He’s working on you to make you stronger, wiser and better.

If you can relate to this, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.  I pray God’s blessings on you as He reveals more of Himself to you during this time.

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I’m on the Potter’s Wheel

There are times in our lives as Christians when we feel pressed on every side.  It seems like we’re catching it from everywhere…our relationships with our loved ones are challenging, we’re overworked on our jobs and are feeling unappreciated, we’re dealing with health concerns, and the place we go to worship and get encouragement is going through a season of trial (these are just a few). The Apostle Paul experienced this pressing and shared his plight with the church at Corinth: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8, KJV)

When we’re feeling this pressure, the first thing we want is relief!  We cry out to God, just like Job did (which is what we should do) and ask, plead or even beg God to free us from the pressure.  We want these burdens off of us, and we want them gone NOW!  Can anyone else besides me relate to this?

Instead of desiring to be released, let’s take a moment to look at things from God’s perspective.   The prophet Jeremiah observed in chapter 18 a potter working on a pot on the potter’s wheel.  According to Jeremiah, “the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands.” (vs. 4, NIV) Doesn’t that sound like us?  We are marred creatures, yet God desires to work on us.  Jeremiah goes on to say in verse 4:  “so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

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That is what our Heavenly Father is doing while we are being pressed.  He’s forming us into another pot, shaping us as He sees best.  He’s allowed those sandpaper people to be in and stay in our lives for a reason.  He’s giving place for the challenges we’re facing at work for a purpose.  He’s letting some things happen in our lives that we may not like.

Picture in your mind what Jeremiah sees as he watches the potter work with the pot.  If the pot could speak, what would it say? “Ouch, that’s hurts, Mr. Potter.”  “When will you be finished, Mr. Potter?” “That’s enough, Mr. Potter!”  Don’t we say these same things to God when we’re being pressed?  I know I have!   But it helps to remember that we’re not going through what we’re going through for no reason.  God is allowing our experiences to shape up us in the image of His Son Jesus, to become the person He wants us to be.

For me, I believe in my own season of ‘press,’ God is preparing me for something greater.  He’s getting rid of some things in me so I can be ready for the purpose for which He’s called me. And He’s replacing those character traits and habits that are not of Him with those that are.  So, as the pot, I’m going to stay on the potter’s wheel until the Potter is finished with me.  Being on the potter’s wheel is not the most comfortable place, but it’s the most necessary place.  And I’m trusting that the Potter knows what He’s doing as He molds me until what He wants me to be.

How’s Your Prayer Life?

At many church services and worship experiences, we are admonished to pray.  We go to prayer meetings where we devote a special time for giving praise and adoration to God, and for making intercession on behalf of those in need.  But I’m sure many of you can relate to the fact that we sometimes feel inadequate when it comes to our personal prayer lives.  I feel this way sometimes too.  We offer up excuses as to why we’re not praying as much as we should…but what can we do to get past the excuses?

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We sometimes say “my schedule is so busy…work, family, church activities…when am I supposed to get it done?”  There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything on our to-do lists, from work to our businesses to school work to volunteer activities…the list can go on! 

This post is not meant to beat anyone (or myself up), but is meant to encourage.  I want you to see (and I want to remind myself) that even in our busy lives, we can communicate with God on a regular basis. Please don’t see prayer as something to be checked off a list (the planner in me has a tendency to do that sometimes), but as an opportunity to be in the presence of God, no matter where we may be physically.

Psalm 55:17 says that “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”  Do they mean that literally?  Are we supposed to pray every morning, every afternoon and every evening?    Let’s not get legalistic here….if we put too much focus on the morning, noon and evening thing, we’re becoming more religious and not spiritual.  I agree with what Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says about this verse: “And now, though we are not tied down to these exact and precise times of prayer, yet this teaches us that we ought to pray frequently and constantly, and that a day should not pass without it…”  At some point in our day, we should offer a prayer to God, whether it’s a prayer of thanksgiving, confession, adoration or petition.

Do you have a commute to work?  Instead of listening to the comedian on the radio or the latest hits, take time to pray during your commute (PLEASE don’t close your eyes lol).  Or do you workout regularly?  How about while you’re on the treadmill or walking in your neighborhood?  How about when you’re preparing dinner for the family? I could go on with ideas on when we can pray, but I think you get the picture.

So what if the issue with your prayer life is the fact that you feel inadequate, not with your time, but with how to pray and what to say?  Let me help you with this verse from Romans:  “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)  And what about this verse: “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34).  These verses tell me that we have help! (Hallelujah) We have Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf when we pray.  So since we have help, we shouldn’t worry about how to pray and what to say.  We should just talk to God with a sincere and open heart, knowing that two persons of the Trinity have our back in prayer.

I hope this brief message helps you understand that we can have a vibrant and meaningful prayer life.  Don’t beat yourself about what you haven’t done in the past.  Remember some of the benefits of praying to the Father who hears and answers us: we have a deeper relationship with Him, our faith grows stronger, and we can live more fruitful lives for Him.  Keep pressing in prayer and see what God does in your life! 

It’s All In The Interpretation

When we interpret something, we try to gain some understanding of that thing.  We look at the facts, we may note what information we don’t have, and from there we draw a conclusion.  That conclusion will help us understand what’s going on in a particular situation or with a particular thing. Interpretation helps us to make sense of something that initially may be unclear or confusing to us.

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Two different people can look at the same situation and interpret things completely differently. Take the example of a jury deliberating a case.  They are presented with the same set of facts.  Five of the six jurors come to the same conclusion, but one doesn’t see things the same way. It’s all in the interpretation.

Let’s look at the biblical character Joseph.  The facts of his life are:  his brothers were jealous and wanted to kill him, they threw him into a pit, and then sold him into bondage, he was later imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and was left to languish in jail (and forgotten by someone who promised to help him). In total, Joseph experienced challenges for about 17 years of his short life.

How do you think he interpreted these facts?  The Word of God can help us answer that question.

Genesis 39:2 – And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Genesis 39:21 – But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Based on these scriptures, I believe that Joseph trusted God in his circumstances.  Genesis never says that Joseph was bitter and angry.  It never says he mistreated those under whom he worked.  The Bible says that Joseph prospered, and received mercy from God, and was granted favor from his superiors.  I believe Joseph chose to interpret his circumstances in a positive light instead of a negative one, and this is reflected in the mercy, favor and prosperity he received.

What about you?  How do you see our challenges?  You can interpret them in a negative light (“I’ll never amount to anything” “I keep failing”), or you can stand on the word of God and see them from a different perspective.  Scriptures tells us in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  That means, no matter how bad your circumstances may seem right now, they are being orchestrated for our good and for our benefit by an omnipotent, omniscient God.  The facts are the same, but it’s all in the interpretation.

It’s important to note that we can choose our interpretation!  We can decide to listen to Satan and his lies, or we can focus on the truth of God’s word.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We have free will to interpret our trials one way or another.

Today, I encourage you to ask God to help you see your circumstances from His perspective, gaining His interpretation of what’s happening.  How we see things will impact how we live our lives.  God says we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and we can only live as a conqueror based on how we view our lives.  After all, it’s all in the interpretation.

Is It Still A Happy New Year?

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As I write this, we are about halfway through the first month of the new year.  Our lives have gotten back to normal after the sometimes chaotic days of the holiday season.  The euphoria of the Christmas and New Year celebrations has waned, and the newness of the new year is probably beginning to wear off for many people.  Some of us are now starting to come to the realization that, although we are in a new year, some things are still the same.  They are still looking for a job, their marriages are still in trouble, or their finances are still lacking. 

As I think about new things, the book of Isaiah comes to mind.  When the prophet Isaiah is writing, the Israelites are in a very sinful state.  Isaiah confronts them about their sin, and warns them of coming judgment against them.  At the same time, he urges them to repent and turn back to God.  Some of his words in the earlier parts of the book are not very hopeful, where he predicts their destruction (which will happen at the hands of the Babylonians). However, the verses that jump out at me as I think about the new year are verses 18 and 19 from chapter 43. 

 18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

To me, those verses have ‘hope’ written all over them!  God is offering consolation and hope to the Israelites that, although they will have to go through something (exile), He will deliver them.  They will face difficulties, but ultimately, they will get through them and will be able to give God glory for their deliverance.   The application to our lives is very simple.  God never said that when our man-made time system (our calendar) changed from one division of time (a year) to another, that things would automatically be different.  He never said that our circumstances would change instantaneously (we do know, however, that He has the power to do it if He so desired).  But God is giving us hope, just like He gave the Israelites hope, that He WILL do a new thing, and that is SHALL spring forth!  We are to expect our new thing!!  We are to anticipate our new thing with joy!  Why? Because He said he would do it!  And God’s word is the only word that we can bet everything on.  We should KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that our new thing will happen, because this promise is coming from the One who never breaks a promise.  This assurance is coming from the One whose word is true and faithful.

So what do we do in the meantime? We hold on to our hope while we wait for our new thing, we trust the One who made the promise to deliver our new thing, and we wait with great expectation and joy.

What new thing are you anticipating today?  Instead of losing hope because the days are the new year are passing by and nothing has happened, exercise your faith, be hopeful, and with joy praise God for the new thing He’s going to accomplish in your life.  It WILL spring forth!

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Mary

This Christmas, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary, the mother of our Savior. What must have gone through her mind when the angel Gabriel visited her? What can we learn from this teenage girl whom God gave such a tremendous responsibility?

Mary willingly said yes to God’s assignment
When we read the dialogue between Mary and Gabriel, there is no hesitation on Mary’s part. She does wonder how a virgin will conceive and give birth, but she doesn’t doubt that it can be accomplished. We don’t see her asking Gabriel to give her a few days to think and pray about it, or to talk to other people to get their opinions. In essence, she says, “whatever you say, I’ll do.” How many of us can step right into God’s assignment for you with full trust and no hesitation?

Mary sacrificed her own comfort and security for a greater cause
At the time of this life-changing encounter with Gabriel, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. They were practically married, so I’m sure you can understand the excitement and anticipation she felt preparing to be Joseph’s wife.  In the midst of this special time of her life, Gabriel comes and changes everything! She’s going to be pregnant outside of wedlock, and it wouldn’t be Joseph’s baby! Her fairy-tale betrothal and marriage were quickly fading away, and she could be faced with all the law prescribed for a fornicator. Despite this, she still says “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary faced difficulties throughout her life
Being the mother of our Lord had to come with some challenges. Based on the message she received from Gabriel, she realized that she was the vessel through which the Messiah would come. She also recognized that Jesus would not be an average son. I can imagine she asked these questions in her heart: Would he get married? Will I have the blessing of grandchildren through him? Would he be there for me in my old age? Every mother wants her child to live a long life, and does not want to even consider the thought of his life being cut short, but that would not be the case for Mary with her first born.  As she faced difficulties and uncertainties in her life, Mary serves as an example for all mothers and all women.

What were the results of Mary’s sacrifice? Because Mary said yes, because she was willing to sacrifice her own comfort and security, we have access to eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her ruined betrothal and wedding and her public humiliation afforded us the opportunity to be reconciled back to God. She willingly accepted a difficult and uncertain life so that she could be used mightily by God. While we do not worship her, we honor her and are grateful to her for what she chose to do.

Is God calling you to do a hard thing? How could it benefit others? Like Mary, are you willing to sacrifice your goals and dreams to be fully yielded to God’s will?

 

One Day at a Time

 

I am a planner. I enjoy having a detailed outline of what I want to accomplish for any given day or week. I tend to look weeks and months ahead and have a general idea of where I’m going. Running two businesses, being involved in church and civic activities and going back to school necessitates that I use my time wisely so that I can do everything that needs to get done. However, I’m in a season of life right now where my planning skills really cannot be used. I’m waiting for God to resolve certain things in my life, and until He provides these answers, I cannot do my usual planning and outlining. How do I feel about this? What is God trying to teach me in this season of no clear direction?

To answer the first question, I feel unnerved and uncomfortable. I want to be able to say with some certainty that I’ll be able to participate in such-and-such activity in a couple of months, but right now I just can’t do that. I’m in a position right now where I can’t say with any clarity what will be happening in my life even over the next couple of weeks. I’ve never been in this position before and frankly, I don’t like it!

Look at what the word of God says in James chapter 4, starting at verse 13:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

Who are we to say what we will do next week, next month or next year? Who’s sovereign, us or God? James says our lives are but a vapor. So because of that, when we make plans, we make them in light of what God says and not in light of what we say or think. We preface our plans with “if it’s the Lord’s will,” keeping in mind that He can do whatever He wants to do (or not). And we rest in the fact that even though we don’t have all the answers and can’t see a clear path, we trust the One who can see the end from the beginning. We trust God’s sovereignty and His omniscience. We believe in His omnipresence and His omnipotence. That is what God is trying to teach me in this time…to rest in Him, to truly abide in Him.

So, right now I’m working on putting down my planner’s notebook, pen, and calendar. I’m asking God to help me be content in this suspended state I find myself in. And I’m being reminded that God is still God, even in the midst of questions with no answers. And I am, literally, taking life one day at a time.