Whenever someone gets married, we say they are "taking the plunge," or making a "leap of faith." Everyone recognizes that going into marriage, you can't possibly know everything about the person that you are committing to spend your life with, and yet, we do it anyway. We admit we don't know it all, but that what we do know is enough.
In the Bible, in the letter to the Hebrews, the 11th chapter and 1st verse, we read that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
," and in the sixth verse of the same chapter we learn that "Without faith, it is impossible to please God
." As a parent, this makes complete sense to me: without my son having faith in me, he will never please me. Never. His faith in me is the evidence that we have a good relationship, that he acknowledges my love for him and my good intentions toward him. If he continually questions me and never trustfully relaxes in my presence, how could I ever be pleased with that relationship? It is the same in our relationship with God, our Father, and rightfully so.
Similar to marriage, if we have committed to spend our lives with Him, what we do know about Him should be enough. That doesn't mean we stop getting to know Him after that commitment is made - most married couples learn far more about each other after the wedding day than they do before
- but it does mean that we live out our days in both knowledge AND faith - growing in both, but not swerving from what we originally held to when we made that "leap of faith" to begin with.
This reflection on faith, led me to look up places in the Bible that shed more light on the word. Here is what I learned:
1. Faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7)
2. Faith results in the salvation of our souls. (1 Peter 1:9, Ephesians 2:8)
3. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. (1 John 5:4)
4. Faith is required for miraculous healing. (Mark 10:52, Luke 8:48, Matthew 9:2, 22, 29, Matthew 8:5-13, Acts 6:8)
5. It doesn't take much faith (relatively speaking) to be able to live out life to the fullest (the size of a mustard seed would suffice
). (Matthew 17:20)
6. Faith purifies and sanctifies hearts. (Acts 15:9, 26:18)
7. Local churches are established by faith. (Acts 16:5)
8. Faith brings comfort. (Romans 1:12)
9. Faith is counted as righteousness by God, which is good news because there is no one who actually IS righteous, not even one. (Romans 4:5-20)
10. Faith is the key that grants us access to God's grace. (Romans 5:2)
11. Things that don't come by faith, are often sinful. (Romans 14:23)
12. Faith exercised apart from love is worthless. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
13. There is only one true faith. (Ephesians 4:5)
14. Faith brings unity. (Ephesians 4:13)
15. Faith is a shield against the devil. (Ephesians 6:16)
16. God's promises are inherited through faith and patience. (Hebrews 6:12)
17. When faith is tested (and it WILL be tested), the believer acquires perseverance. (James 1:3)
18. Faith is a required prerequisite when asking God for wisdom. Faith that God is all-wise and that He willingly imparts wisdom to His children. (James 1:6)I also learned through studying the scriptures about faith that we have internal and external responsibilities once we have invested faith in God:Internally we are to:
Externally we are to:
- Pray and continually ask God to help us have more faith in Him. The Bible tells us that the apostles (those who walked most closely with Jesus) asked him to increase their faith, so should we (Luke 17:5).
- Hold on to the faith that we do have. Kind of like dating your spouse, we are to nourish our first love and not let it be torn down by emotions, circumstances or others' opinions. In 1 Timothy 1, Paul tells Timothy not to reject the promises made by God concerning his future. He says others have done so and their faith has been shipwrecked as a result. We are to remember our vows and God's vows to us and to lean on them.
- Examine our hearts and lives for authenticity. In 2 Corinthians 13, Paul instructs the Corinthian believers that they should examine themselves to be sure they are in the faith. Insinuating that some can walk a path, convincing themselves that they have faith, but when tested it is revealed that their faith was pretending.
- Obey Him by faith. If we have faith we not only agree inwardly, we must act outwardly, demonstrating that faith in how we live our lives. Scriptures are rampant with this (Romans 1:5 & 17, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Timothy 5:8, Acts 6:7, James 2:17-22).
- Speak up and talk about our faith. We should share about our experiences with God and His Word boldly and without showing partiality (James 2:1-5, Philemon 1:6, Jude 1:3).
- Build up the church with our faith. Use our gifts to build up others, and help those whose faith is waning, as well as correct those who are wandering (Romans 12:6, 14:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Titus 1:13).
It is a beautiful cycle - attending to our faith internally leads to a stronger desire to demonstrate our faith externally, and those experiences of acting on our faith in God fan the flame of our internal faith-walk even more, until 10-25-50 years later we celebrate anniversaries of faith in Christ and marvel at how much more precious He is to us now than he was when we first believed, and tell the world how glad we are that we took that leap of faith!
This morning the students in the youth group at our church were involved in every aspect of the service. <It was great.>
During the "preaching time," our youth pastor interviewed three of the high school students and asked them some very important questions that had some very important answers. I thought they were worth passing on:1. "How do you want older adults to pray for your generation?"
2. "How can the older generations help your generation?"
- I want them to pray that we will make good decisions.
- I want them to pray that we will never become too contented in our spiritual lives, that we will always keep striving to know God more.
- I want them to pray that we won't give up the faith, when we are asked to stand out and be different, and when we feel like we are missing out on things because of our decision to live the Christian life.
- We watch you. Please be good examples.
- Please pray for us.
- Treat us with respect. Show us that you value us and what we have to offer.
- Encourage us when you see us on the right path.
- Expect more than one word or one sentence answers from us, especially when it comes to spiritual things. We have more to say, encourage us to do so.
- Live a Christian life that makes us want what you have, that encourages us to keep the faith.
Will do! Thanks, Image Youth Group!
As I sit on the couch resting on LABOR Day, I started doing a little internet research on the concept of work (clearly I am more fun than a barrel of monkeys)
. Specifically, I was curious about what makes people WANT
to work hard. Too many times, I'd rather take an easier way out and yet the call to hard work and dedication is ever present... nagging, really. *so rude*
I guess since it will always be the voice in the back of my head, so I might as well find ways to increase my "want-to" where hard work is concerned. Here are some of the positive
things, other than the potential to make money
, that I found which consistently seem to help make people willing to work harder than your average Joe:1. A trustworthy leader. 2. Recognizing the importance of the fruits of your labor.3. The collaboration and camaraderie of a great team.4. A compelling vision of the future.
If there is an an area of your life where you, like me, want to increase your motivation to work harder, maybe you need to find someone trustworthy to follow who can point the way. Perhaps you need to remember all the good things that could be byproducts of your hard work. Maybe it is time to recruit some enjoyable teammates to join you in the pursuit, or perhaps it is time to imagine what the future could be like if you stuck to it and gave it your all.
If all of that fails, crank up some great music and just do the next right thing for 1 more hour... just one more hour. Maybe after that hour, we'll be too engrossed to quit, but even if we aren't we're closer to the goal than we were before! Colossians 3:23
"Whatever you do,work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
." ESVProverbs 14:23
"In all toil there is profit, but mere talk only leads to poverty
." ESVPhilippians 4:13
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
NOTE: The quote in the picture above is questionably attributed to Thomas Edison. Check out this link
for the history of the quote and to look into any other quotes you find online to verify who really said them first.
I've decided life is really about sifting.
Perhaps I should clarify. In 2013 in the United States, I would venture to guess that most households do not own a sifter and most youngsters today have likely never even seen one. There are many different types of sifters for many different purposes, but the one I'm most familiar with is a flour sifter. Hang with me here... I think it will be worth it in the end... Kitchensavvy.com tells us that, "In earlier days, sifting flour served several purposes. When flour was milled using stone wheels, as opposed to modern steel rollers, sifting removed bits of the millstone and other impurities that might be found in the flour. Sifting also breaks up clumps, adds air to the flour which helps produce lighter cakes and pastries, and makes measurement more uniform."So why do I think life is really all about sifting? Well, I've seen people who've been through horrible, nightmarish things in life who still live healthy, happy, fulfilled, purposeful lives and I've seen others who've been completely sidelined by the most minor offense.
The bottom line is that what we hold onto and what we let slip away, for better or for worse, really does define our human experience.
So how do we sift what life hands us? We can't hold onto everything we experience in life, so how do we decide what to hold onto and what to release? Here are two questions to ask about the stuff in our lives we are holding onto to determine whether it should survive a good sifting:1. Is it pure?
In the description of the flour sifter, we learned that one reason for sifting is to remove impurities. Is what you are holding onto pure? Is it True? Is it producing purity and truth in you?
If yes, then hold on to it. If not, let it go. 2. Is it adding lasting value?
A flour sifter incorporates air into the flour which makes the resulting baked goods light and fluffy. Is what you are holding onto adding value to your life that will produce something even better in the long run?
If yes, then hold on to it. If not, let it go.
So, what sorts of things need to be sifted...
- memories (more specifically, the way we interpret memories)
- relationships (careful here, grace is always the first resort)
- recurring thoughts
- possessions (or our attachment to them)
If the flour sifter example is any indicator, things get clumpy the longer they sit. Why not run the stagnant, clumpy parts of your life through the sifter and see what happens...
chances are there are some things that you've held on to that need to be broken up (reevaluated), filled with air (reinvigorated or reframed), and thoroughly filtered (keeping the good and releasing the impure and untruthful).Hosea 10:12
"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." ESV
The video below is a PERFECT example of a life that has been well sifted.
This is Luke McMaster. He is a multiplatinum song-writer who recently launched a solo career with a billboard hit song - "Good Morning Beautiful." About a month ago, just before Christmas, a friend of mine from childhood was facing a heart surgery for her 3 year old daughter, Elouise. Prior to her surgery, Elouise's grandma introduced her to "Good Morning Beautiful" and it became her favorite song. They tweeted Luke McMaster (a stranger to them) a picture of Elouise listening to the song before going into surgery. He promised to record a special version just for her.
The thing is, he actually did it.
He chose to be delightful.
He didn't have to. Elouise came through her surgery beautifully and would have lived a happy life without a personalized version of a billboard hit song. But he did it anyway. This isn't the first story or video to inspire this kind of attitude that I've come across lately: Jon Acuff wrote this blog post called Choose To Be Delightful
about his experience at Trader Joe's, and if you haven't been watching the Kid President videos
... well then you are missing out big time!
I guess the theme is, Why NOT be delightful?! It only takes a few extra moments of your time and makes a HUGE difference in the world around you.
P.S. You can get Luke McMaster's debut album, "All Roads," on iTunes or Amazon. (not a paid endorsement, I just think it is great to support artists who take the time to be delightful
Yesterday my son went with his youth group to volunteer with Target:Dayton
. They served a meal to the people who came in need of one. Some were homeless, others barely getting by. Timmy was in charge of the coffee.
As we drove home, after the bus dropped him back off at our local church, I asked him about his experience. These are the 3 simple things he shared with me and the profound lessons I learned from him:1. Tim's quote:
"Not everyone there "looked" homeless
." Mom's lesson:
Not everyone I meet today who could use my help or encouragement will "look" like they need it. That doesn't mean I should withhold it. Target:Dayton provides their services indiscriminately and lets each individual decide whether or not they need them and want to receive them. I should be so generous with my time, resources and attention.2. Tim's quote:
"I didn't know there were so many people in Dayton that were homeless. There were so many of them
." Mom's lesson
: The need in the world is greater than I realize or have ever actually seen with my own eyes. If I saw it all at once, it would likely overwhelm me and paralyze me. The need is great. I would be wise not to forget that.3. Tim's quote:
"There was a lady who worked there who came up to me and told me I was doing a good job
." Mom's lesson:
It helps to know when we are on the right track. Serving others isn't easy and when I see someone doing it well, I should tell them so. We all secretly wonder whether what we are doing is making a difference and whether we are "doing it right." Words of encouragement are precious gifts that keep the givers giving.One bonus lesson I learned:
The first time our children (or any one else for that matter) experience something, we need to pay attention to their reactions and descriptions. When we have "been there and done that
," we forget the power of a first experience and the unique perspective that comes with it.
This weekend, some friends took Tim and I to the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival
. It wasn't my first time hearing bluegrass music, but it was my first time at a bluegrass FESTIVAL. As I sip my coffee this morning and think back on the experience, I can't help but think the church (global and local) could learn a lot from the bluegrass music culture. CHURCH, Listen up!
- People really cared about each other and they showed it. This festival is an annual event. During the course of the concerts this weekend, people who were not in attendance for various reasons were appropriately acknowledged. It was evident that while the music is what initially draws people to the festival, the friendships and family-feel is what keeps people coming back year after year. Examples: One lady who ran a booth each year was unable to attend this year because of health problems. The festival organizers left several sheets of stationery in the vendor room for people who would notice she was missing to write her encouraging messages and let her know she was missed. One of the performers lost his mother to cancer a few weeks before the festival. A last minute raffle was organized and people donated to breast cancer research (raising over $2,500) in her memory at the event. Local church - how can you show people in your congregation that they matter? That their losses matter to you? That their presence and involvement matters to you?
- Young people were celebrated and involved in every part of the event. Young people, ages 11 and up, were prominently featured at the festival. Some were musicians who played on the big stage right alongside those who had been playing for decades, honing their raw talent. Others were working at the vendor booths, working back stage, or helping check in the musicians' instruments between sets. The bluegrass culture quite naturally celebrates senior adults, but they go out of their way to honor young people and to involve them and embrace them. Local church, young people are the future of your congregation. How can you embrace their talents, energy and perspective? How can you bring them along and include them in every area of ministry?
- The music was equal parts serious, fun, and inspiring. When people think of bluegrass music, most will think of Dueling Banjos or something upbeat and knee-slapping from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. That kind of music is a part of bluegrass but it isn't everything. Bluegrass music can be soulful, serious, reflective, and even silly and down-right funny sometimes. It pays homage to EVERY human emotion, not just the ones people deem pleasant. While you might go to a concert to hear Dueling Banjos, you may very well leave thinking about something that you never even realized was a part of the bluegrass scene. Local church, Don't be a one trick pony. God created individuals to be creative, unique, and infinitely variable. When the church reflects that reality it brings more glory to God, not less. Our music, teaching, events, programs, prayers, outreach and ceremonies can and should have variety and at times should be unexpected.
- There is no competition in bluegrass. If you have attended a concert, but not a festival, you might be under the impression that it is each musician/band out for themselves. When you sit through a day or two of music with multiple bands present however, you quickly find that they all know each other and they are all very much family. Their goal is a common one - to play great music and to see bluegrass music enjoyed and carried on as a genre. It is very common during a band's performance for them to bring up other artists to the stage for a comedy routine or a special song that they will collaborate on. As the festival goes on this happens more and more frequently and at the end a finale might include 4, 5, or 6 different groups all playing together simply for the joy of the music that they share. Local Church, you are not in competition with other denominations or the church down the street. Embrace your commonalities for the good of your people and for the good of the cause of Christ. Celebrate each other. Work together whenever possible.
- Bluegrass music is not about perfection. There were several points during the festival when mistakes were made by the singers and musicians. They were obvious at times and more subtle at others. One particular moment occurred when the host of the festival couldn't seem to find the right note to start an a capella song with his band. He didn't try to act like it wasn't happening. He made us all comfortable with his struggle by acknowledging it, humorously even. We were drawn to him and rooting for him. Someone brought him a bottle of water and the show went on and the song was great! It didn't take away from the festival one bit... in fact, that moment enriched the festival! People were reminded that the players on stage were just as human as they could be and that they were up there to be a blessing and to bring joy, not to be superhuman and without imperfection. Local Church, do not fear imperfection. The more you cling to perfection and demand it, the more you set people up to feel distanced from what is going on within your four walls rather than drawn to it.
I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to go to a bluegrass music festival at some point, but more than that I hope that you get yourselves involved in a local church and be people who make the church more joy-filled and effective in its work. Romans 12:3-5
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
This is a genuine Guess watch. Well, most of one anyway. Are you impressed?
When I was in junior high school, Guess jeans were all the rage. They were also very expensive. I longed for a pair of Guess jeans with all the longing a pre-teen girl can long with (and that's a lot of longing). If only I could have even one pair of Guess jeans with the upside down triangle on the back pocket, I knew that I would have arrived.
There were times during those years of desperation when I actually had enough cash in my pocket to buy a pair of Guess jeans, but I was raised frugally, and I just couldn't bring myself to spend that much money on a pair of pants, even though I longed for them! I knew I could buy an entire outfit for the cost of one pair of those jeans, maybe even two outfits if I caught a good sale, and that knowledge kept me from fulfilling my longing. I knew the price was impractical, even if the pants were appealing.
Instead, I settled for a Guess watch - the cheapest one I could find that still had the logo prominently displayed. I cherished that watch. I wore it so much that the band eventually broke. I wore it anyway. I clung to this one item in my collection of clothing/accessories that at least resembled something that my peers had deemed valuable. As I was going through boxes and trunks of old mementos trying to prepare for another move, I smiled when i came across this watch. Then I asked myself WHY had I kept this broken watch for so many years? Through so many moves (California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio)?
I think it is because I was so proud of my little 11/12 year old self! Looking at that watch made me remember a little girl who had enough resolve to have restraint, enough conviction to satisfy a craving with a "taste" of something rather than a feast, enough sense to choose to be satisfied. With a few more years under my belt now, and a great deal more perspective, I can look back at those pre-teen years and realize that if I had owned a pair of Guess jeans, it wouldn't have improved my social standing one little bit. It might have made me feel differently about myself for a little while, but not very long. Something else would have come along that I "had to have," and the cycle would begin all over again.
At some point growing up I had known my parents' favor when I exhibited financial discernment, and it kept me from walking down a path in junior high and high school where fitting in would become increasingly more demanding and expensive. Today, my husband and I (by God's grace) are debt-free. What a life-long blessing reaped from an early lesson learned! Now I long to be faithful to pass on similar lessons and point out the inner beauty and potential in the young people I cross paths with.
Looking back at that watch makes me want to be more intentional about praising the young people in my life for the intangible things that make up their character. It is so easy to give compliments on the external things (beauty, style, athletic ability, talent, performance), but it takes more careful attention and care to compliment young adults on the inner strengths they possess; the intangibles that can help prevent externals from becoming all-important. Traits like kindness, spiritual insight, joy, compassion, frugality, generosity, and patience.
Some suggestions for focusing deeper in our compliments:
Instead of "Good game!" - "You are a great team player! I love how aware you were of your teammates and their strengths." or "You exhibited a lot of patience in that game. It was a long one and you never gave up or gave into frustration." or maybe "I can tell that you are a great leader on your team. The other players really seem to respect you as a teammate and I enjoyed watching you in action."
Instead of "You are so talented!" - "I could see the joy you have shine through while you were playing (singing, etc.). It made me enjoy the music even more." or "I know it must take a lot of practice and hard work to prepare for a performance like that. Keep up the good work, your discipline is paying off!"
Instead of "You are so nice." or "What a sweetheart you are!" - maybe we could be more specific like, "You just went out of your way to help me with that and you didn't have to. Your kindness is a blessing!" or "I have noticed that you are always looking out for others. I know it isn't always easy to be compassionate, but I know that God will use that kind of an attitude to bless many. Keep it up!"
What are your ideas? What inner strength were you encouraged to embrace as a young adult that has paid off later in life? Can you still remember a particular phrase or person that helped keep you from focusing on the wrong things?
Our church has a group that meets regularly called Women's Missionary Fellowship. This week, I was privileged to attend and hear from Rachel Chambers who is preparing to return with her husband to Zambia and the work and people she loves and is called to.
Rachel shared from her heart, comparing our training in righteousness as Christians to an Olympic athlete's training to win the gold medal. Here are the four qualities she described as being needed by both in order to train well:1. Discipline (2 Timothy 2:3-5, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27)2. Courage (Matthew 25:14-28)3. An Unwillingness to Quit (Hebrews 12:1-3)4. Clarity (Philippians 3:13-14)
Our prize is not a gold medal, nor is our training about beating the competition like the Olympian's is, (Rachel was quick to point this out) but the qualities needed are very similar:Discipline to reject that which weighs us down, misdirects us, derails us, and in any way keeps us from doing what it takes to continue becoming all that God has intended us to be.
Courage to take risks as needed, in faith.Unwillingness to quit when things are hard, uncomfortable, painful, or difficult to understand, maintaining long-haul commitment through it all, problem-solving and trusting instead of throwing in the towel.
Clarity of purpose. A clear view of the reason we are training in the first place. The glory that is to come - HIS.
True victory, as a Christian, is about standing before Christ one day, hearing "Well done," and receiving a reward (Crowns/Jewels) that we can turn around and lay at his feet, getting the greatest joy from finally having something of worth to give back to Him to honor Him for all that He is, and all that He has done.
Thank you, Rachel! *If you want to read more about Rachel's story and be inspired by all God has taught this dear sister, you can get her book, The Summons To Become through Amazon at this link.
We are up to our ears with packing tape, boxes, bubble wrap and sharpie markers at the moment. As we prepare to move to Ohio in 5 days, our house looks the part. Today as I was packing up my kitchen, I gave myself some excellent advice... I'm not the only one who does that right? Internal monologues are kind of a specialty of mine.
Any way, as I was individually wrapping and packing up several glass vases, I thought to myself, "I should label this box as one not to unpack." You see, we are hoping to eventually buy a house in our new city, which would mean we will eventually have to pack everything back up again from the rental home we are moving into and move it all. Again. So as I was packing up all of my vases, I had this "genius" thought that I'd save myself the trouble of unpacking and repacking that particular box. Vases, I thought, are non-essential items. If we just unpack the essentials, there will be less to repack when we do buy a house. Pretty smart, I know.
Here's the deal though. My internal monologue turned into an internal dialogue and another voice rose up inside me to fight back against the pragmatist. This voice said, "Don't you dare leave those vases packed! Why in the world would your husband bring you flowers if you don't have anything to put them in?! Don't you want flowers?!" Oh, I do! I do want flowers! Fresh flowers are something I've had far too few of in my home over the years.
That thought led me to another simple and obvious thought - How many times do I miss out on blessings in my life because I don't want to put in a little extra effort? Unpacking and repacking the box of vases and finding somewhere to put them in the rental house will take a few minutes of time and energy, but seeing fresh flowers on my kitchen table over the next year will bring many days worth of pleasure.
As I pondered that, another less simple, and less obvious thought dawned on me. How many blessings has God been prepared to give me, that I have inadvertently failed to receive because I had safely packed away the very vessel I would need to hold them? How many friendships has He been willing to prosper in my life that I refused to pursue because I kept my time safely packed away? How many times has He been willing to bless my generosity only to have me keep my money safely packed away when I could have given it freely? How many times has He had a Word to speak into my heart and mind that would have brought encouragement and growth, but I kept my Bible safely packed away on a shelf?
You better believe that when we start unpacking boxes at our new home in Ohio in a few days, I'm going to unpack those vases! More than that though, I pray that God will help me to remember that He has a plan to bring beautiful things into my life as well as my home, and that I need to be ready to receive those as well.
Don't leave your vases packed! Lesson learned.