Surrounded by a Crowd

A huge crowd has gone before me.

They were faithful here on earth and are now receiving their reward in heaven.

My family has had a long history of being people of faith.  My grandparents immigrated to the US from the Netherlands during a time of discontent and division in the Reformed Church.  My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, their parents, their grandparents and on and on make up a big portion of the ‘huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith’ that surrounds me.  When I read this in Hebrews, I visualize a big bunch of Dutch people in their wooden shoes cheering me on as I run the race God has set before me. 

For generations, my ancestors have been farmers – both here and in the Netherlands – who planted the seeds but then had to trust God to water them and give them sunshine to grow.  It’s easy to see in farming how God has a direct affect on the success or failure of your crops.  I was raised in a small farming community in Iowa and I will never forget the standing-room-only prayer services we had when the crops needed rain.  There was never any doubt about who controlled the weather.

My mother is in the front of my crowd of witnesses in heaven – clapping loudly and yelling encouragements.  She was never a quiet person so I’m sure she’s not quiet in heaven.  My crowd also contains other Christians who were my role-models here on earth – challenging me, teach me and loving me – and are now in heaven.

And, for many of you here on earth, someday I will be in your crowd of witnesses, cheering you on as you keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

Amen!  Hallelujah!

Becoming Mature

What does it mean to become mature in my faith?

What does it take to move beyond the basics of truth and begin to understand the mysteries?

The writer of Hebrews talks to us about those who have been believers for a long time and should be teaching others but who still need someone to teach them and remind them basic things about God’s truth.  “You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.”

“Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skills to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”

I don’t want to be a spiritual baby.

Do you?

My goal is to continue to mature in my faith – growing more like Jesus each year.  To work on this goal, I realized I had to open my mind and let God change me from the inside out.  I have let God write his Truth on my heart which altered the list of things I love along with how I spend my time and resources.  His truth has been etched on my mind through memorization and the Holy Spirit uses this truth to transform my thinking.

Through time and study and perseverance, I have come to understand the basics and been able to move on to the more complicated  aspects of God’s truth.  And I’ve been able to share with others the truth I have learned.

I’ve been convicted by the knowledge that, at some point, those of us who are studying God’s truth every week need to ‘get it’.  It has to move from something we know to something we live out – daily.  Otherwise we stay babies, being taught the basics over and over but never really letting the change begin.

We need to stop talking about the transforming power of God and let it happen to us –

let him in –

let him grow us –

change us –

so we can become mature.

Thank you, Abba Father, for your transforming power in our lives. 

Fight the Good Fight

I want to fight the good fight.

How about you?

Paul tells Timothy – and you and I today – “Fight the good fight for the true faith.”

To fight this fight well, I have to train.  Training requires planning and then committing to that plan.  Training for true faith has to include Bible study, meeting together with other Christians who are growing in their faith, time alone spent listening to God and regular giving back to God a portion of my time and treasures.

Because I’ve been in training for many years, I have realized that I am ready to fight when I find myself in the ring.  When the lies of this world try to worm their way into my mind, I can fight that battle and win because I know the truth.  It’s engraved on my heart and mind.

When problems surround me and discouragement tries to roll over me, I know my Father God stands beside me, loving and guiding me.  I’ve been in training.

I know who to turn to for strength and encouragement when my day is dark and sad.  God has always been faithful in comforting me – he will do it again.  I know this because I’ve been trained.

When my world exploded and smashed my heart beyond brokenness, I knew God was my anchor and he was going to show the way down this painful road.  He had prepared me so I could stand firm in the midst of the horrible tragedy of my son being killed in the line of duty.

It was all part of my training.

Thank you for teaching me how to fight the good fight, Abba Father.

Encouraged

Comforted.

Nurtured.

Supported.

These are great feelings and are all part of being ‘nourished’.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul tells his young colleague that he will be ‘nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed.”

I feel I am being nourished as I read, study and memorize God’s word.  My soul is being fed.  God is pouring his truth into my mind, transforming my thinking.  God is nurturing me as he opens my eyes to his plans and I see him moving in my life.

God comforts me when the trials of this world try to overwhelm me.  He encourages me when I am disappointed by reality.  He supports me as he opens up my mind to his truth – chasing away the confusion that the Evil one works so hard to create.

Nourished….yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Thank you, Abba Father.

What I Haven’t Done

The things I should have done,

but didn’t,

seem like less than of problem than the things I have done that I shouldn’t have.

Are you with me on this?

Is that because the things I should have done but didn’t are invisible?  It didn’t happen so there is no evidence that I should have done it?  Or maybe the lack of action is much clearer in the rear view mirror than it is in the moment?

James tells us, “Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and not do it.”

God knows everything – even my thoughts.  There are no secrets from him.  When I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something or say something and I don’t do it,  God knows.  Sure, his grace kicks in and my sins are covered by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but it’s still wrong.

I need to keep my eyes and ears open to these promptings so I don’t miss the opportunities God give me to partner with him in his plan to redeem the people around me and deepen their faith.  I want to make sure my hands and feet are available for his kingdom purposes.

During this special time of year, I often hear the Spirit whispering in my ear,

“For God so loved the world.”

Please let me be a part of helping the world believe in you, Abba Father, so they will accept your free gift of grace and live in your love.

Paul’s Prayer….and Mine

Paul prays for us in Ephesians 3,

“I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.

You are awesome, Father.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

Please give us your strength, Father.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.”

Make your home in our hearts, Jesus, and teach us how to trust you more.

“Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Grow our roots, Father and keep us strong.

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”

Please give us the power to feel the perfect love you pour out on us each day, Jesus.

“Then you will be made complete with all of the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Only you can make us complete, Abba.  The power to live a full life comes from you.

“Now all glory to God , who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

We believe, Father, that you can do anything – things beyond what we can imagine –  and that you want to accomplish your plans through us.  We are your hands and feet on earth.

“Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

Amen.  Love you, Father.

I Am His Witness

Sharing the Truth.

Encouraging you to join me on this journey of growing closer to God each year.

Being faithful to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

That’s what this blog is all about.  So I related to Paul in Acts 20 when he says, “I declare today that I have been faithful.  If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.”

Basically, Paul is bluntly saying, “If you go to hell, don’t blame me.”

I am a witness to the power and love of God.  I have personally experienced God’s forgiveness and comfort.  I see him moving in my life – working all things out for my good.  I hear his voice in my head and his truth is my compass for living.

I trust God – he always keeps his promises.  And one of his promises is that, by accepting the salvation Jesus offers to everyone, I am made acceptable in God’s eyes and I am given a forever home with him in heaven.

There is nothing I can do to get into heaven without Jesus as my Savior.  I cannot give enough, be kind enough, go to church enough or serve enough to earn my ticket into heaven.  Jesus is the Only Way.

And those of us who have accepted the free gift of salvation through Jesus have an obligation to tell others.  We are his witnesses.  We have had a personal encounter with the Creator of the Universe and we need to share our story.  We don’t have all the answers to all the mysteries in the Bible but we know what God has done in our lives.  That’s our story and we’re the experts on our story.

So we need to tell it.

Please give us opportunities to share our stories, Abba Father, so we can be faithful witnesses for you.

Knocked Down

It’s nothing new –

the troubles I have,

the trials you have.

Paul talks to us about how to respond to these storms in our lives in 2 Corinthians –

“We are pressed on every side by troubles but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.  We get knocked down but we are not destroyed.”

How can I not be crushed and destroyed by the trials and tragedies in my life?  I can persevere because the Spirit of God lives in me, giving me strength, peace and hope.  The Spirit reminds me that this earth is not my home – my forever home is with my loving Father.

This is how the Spirit translates these words in my head as I read them –
I  may have troubles coming at me from all directions but, when I stay close to God, he will not let me be crushed by them.  I don’t always understand why struggles and problems happen to me but I know God is in control and he is a Good Father so I can stand firm on these truths.  Even when Satan hunts me down, God never leaves my side.  I’ve been knocked down by a horrible tragedy but God has given me the strength to get back up.

I say this knowing there are more storms are coming my way.  It’s not a question of ‘if’, the question is ‘when’.

Thank you, Father, for teaching me how to respond.

Transformation

Changing me.

Growing me.

That’s what God is doing.

Paul tells us in Romans 12, “Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

God is in the process of gradually transforming me from the inside out by changing the way I think.  As I continue to read, study and memorize God’s word, his truth takes over more and more of my brain.  His Word is becoming the basis of where my thoughts come from.

I’ve had people ask me how I can be so bold in talking and writing about my faith all the time.  It doesn’t seem bold to me – it’s how I think.

Paul also says to us, ” Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Love this!

It’s like tuning in an old radio – as I dial into the signal, God’s voice becomes clearer and more distinct.  God is aligning my thoughts more closely to his.  One of my favorite prayers is asking God to help me love the things he loves and hate the things he hates.

When my thinking is lines up with God’s, he can reveal his plans and purposes – his perfect will.

I’m still a work in progress – the transformation is ongoing.  But the mystery of how to clearly hear God’s voice is solved –

get close to him.

Love you, Abba Father.

Abba, Father

I am adopted.

God is my father.

I have known this all of my life because my earthly parents raised me in a Christian home.  But this means more to me now than it ever has because both of my biological parents have gone home to heaven.  My earthly father went to heaven when I was only 21 years old and my mother went home 15 years ago.

I remember flying home from my mother’s funeral feeling like I was a 47 year-old orphan.  I was very close to my mother and it felt like my anchor had been let loose.  I was drifting.

Until I remembered that my Father God had not left me behind.  He had been my heavenly Father my whole life and then he also became my earthly Father when I was 21 and now he became my only parent on earth.  He is and always will be my anchor.

That’s how I feel about him.  He is here, guiding me and loving me.  My perfect parent.

Paul says to us in Romans 8, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father’. For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

Amen!  I hear God telling me I am his child and I feel his arms wrapping around me in confirmation.  His Spirit joins with mine in the depths of my soul, confirming that I am his daughter for eternity.

Thank you, Abba Father.