30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 30 – Faith

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The Christian faith is formed in a living faith based on grace and forgiveness.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see.”

In concluding 30 days of gratitude, I realize there is vastly too much to be grateful for that could never be fully expressed. But today I am grateful for the gift of faith. How is it that I came to believe? That God would have mercy on me? It was God alone Who opened my eyes to see and understand His amazing salvation and God alone Who overcame my unbelief. And I am grateful beyond words.

This faith is a conviction deep within our souls despite not seeing fully what we hope for. Though it is tested, the confirmation in our souls is not swayed by the storms of this life. The storms of this life only serve to strengthen our faith as it is built on Christ.

When God first opened my eyes to understand His salvation, people around me said it was a crutch. I was mocked and persecuted and it only made me believe all the more. This lost world mocks faith yet has a faith, as well – in the creation rather than in the Creator.

This false faith formed in manmade, dead religion, is based on fleshly pursuits and good works that a fallen people could never fully achieve. The Christian faith is formed in a living faith based on grace and forgiveness by a God Who knew we could never be good enough to please a Holy God.

Each day God’s word is a love letter to His people, inviting them to go deeper with Him. Come be a “fool” alongside me and find the greatest joy of your life. Michael Card says it well in “God’s Own Fool” – Christ humbled Himself to reach His people with the message of the cross – foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Lord, thank You for the gift of faith and enabling us to know You – Our God.

Thoughtful Thursday: Full Fool

Full-Glass.jpg

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Get stuffed with living water

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 1:29-31

“Because they hated moral knowledge, and did not choose to fear the LORD, 30 they did not comply with my advice, they spurned all my rebuke. 31 Therefore they will eat from the fruit of their way, and they will be stuffed full of their own counsel.” 


 

Thirsty? We are all born consumers. We crave food, drink, love, respect, acceptance, knowledge, and the list goes on and on. We are humbled by the fact that we are always needing to be refilled. Like the woman at the well who longed for water that would forever quench her thirst, we long to be satisfied. And Christ invites us all to drink – deeply.

While we have practical needs that make us look to God our Provider, there are other things we need that we often overlook. God wants us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, wisdom, His Word and after Himself.

It is a choice we have to make to crave after God, though. He invites us, but He will not make us come into His presence. He is all we need, but we can spin our wheels chasing after temporary “water” instead of living water found in Christ.

Sometimes it can be hard to discern our own fleshly thoughts from the wisdom of God – especially when we are full of self and our own worldview. There is very little space in a vessel that is stuffed with our own opinion instead of God’s truth.

Asking questions about motivation and filtering our perspective through God’s Word helps us to cleanse ourselves of a lot of excess “stuff” that we do not need in our thoughts or heart.

We can never empty ourselves completely of self, but we can pursue God and His wisdom and store His truth in our mind. Ultimately, the more we feast on God’s word instead of worldly wisdom, the more we are strengthened to walk in His ways.

Instead of full of stress or worry, we can be full of joy. Instead of being full of self, we can be saturated with Jesus. Instead of being filled with despair, we can be filled with hope. When we drink deeply of the love of God and His word we will never be the same and those around us won’t be, either.

Lord, thank You for filling us with Your Holy Spirit. Fill us to overflowing and satisfy us with your presence so we never hunger after counterfeits.

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Funny Friday: Faith Sometimes Looks Silly

Radical faith

Isaiah 20:2

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, both young and old. They will be in undergarments and barefoot, with the buttocks exposed; the Egyptians will be publicly humiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but walking around barefoot in underwear has not typically been what comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a prophet of the LORD.

But God goes through great lengths

to reach His people

and He often calls His followers to do the same.

But why?

Sometimes God calls us to do strange things or allows us to go through difficult times so we will have a passion and an understanding to live fully for Him and to communicate His heart and message to His people.

Noah had to build a boat amidst mockers in a dry land. Joshua had to march around a city and blow a trumpet.  Abraham was told to sacrifice his one heir, his precious son.  Moses was told to go back and demand from the king of the greatest land that their slaves be let go. Jeremiah bought a linen belt God told him to buy, hid it in a crevice then dug it up when it was ruined.   A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands to prophesy about what Paul would suffer. 

Sometimes we need object lessons to be warned or to wake us up to walk uprightly before God.  While it might seem futile for Jeremiah to bury a belt, the ruined article of clothing demonstrated how the people of God would be ruined if they did not repent and seek God.

While building a boat with no water or rain in sight was possibly embarrassing, it meant the salvation of Noah’s family and ultimately the continuation of the existence of mankind and all of the creatures God created.

Sometimes man can also come up with crazy radical ideologies that have nothing to do with God, but they claim it does, anyway.  The fruit of our behavior identifies where the calling originated from.  Does it bring life or death?

The words of the famous missionary, Jim Elliot, which were echoed by Twila Paris many years later, have been precious to me since I first came to know the LORD in 1988.  “He is no fool if he should choose to give the thing he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. To see a treasure in one soul that far outshines the brightest gold; he is no fool.”

If God calls us to do something that is not popular or seems foolish to man, perhaps that makes it all the more reason to do it.  To live for Jesus, really live – is to seek to do His will in everything we do.  Sometimes it just won’t make sense.  But that’s ok.  He who chose to come and be born as a baby; King, Creator over all, humbling Himself to be at our level, conquered every heart with the most radical action of all.

Lord, help us to trust You when things don’t make sense.  Every trial we go through has a purpose – we can comfort others when we come out on the other side and bring You glory. May we be sensitive to Your calling and never doubt Your goodness.  Love You, Lord!

Thoughtful Thursday: Flattery’s Fool

Photo Credits

Photo Credits

Proverbs 26:24 “The one who hates others disguises it with his lips, but he stores deceit within him.” 

Proverbs 26:28 “A lying tongue hates those crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”   

Proverbs 27:4 “Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

James 3:14 – “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth.

James 3:16 – “For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.” 

Romans 12:9 “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.”

Whenever someone is praising me, I am given to pause.  I acknowledge in my heart that anything good in me is only Christ and remind myself that nothing good dwells in me apart from God.  Compliments and flattery feel good.  If flattery works ruin,though, I do not want to embrace it nor accept it.  On the other hand, encouragement is beneficial, necessary and a biblical mandate, so how can we differentiate between encouragement and flattery?  At first blush I would rather have flattery than blatant hatred, until I consider the insidious nature of flattery.

There are haters everywhere today, but some of them might be even within your closest circles.  They might not even believe it themselves if they were confronted with the hate they are concealing.  Sometimes they want your approval, sometimes they pretend to be your biggest fan, but you get this feeling that betrays their outward praise. What causes this deceitful tongue?  Jealousy, which is ultimately hatred of the one envied.  Jealousy is discontentment with what God provided and the wrong belief that we deserve what the other person has.  The object of jealousy reveals the motivation of the heart.  Is it the outward appearance that is praised?  Then vanity could be the root cause of envy.  Is it talents that are praised?  Jealousy of ability might be to blame.  Or perhaps it is because you do not give that person something they want from you, which they can really only get from God.  They wrongfully expect something from you that you are not led to give, so they hate you for it.

The scriptures above reveal a wicked heart that would seek your destruction and yet couch it in kindness.  Wow – what a scary picture.  Our enemy is crafty and ever seeking our demise, but we can naively think his tactics would be obviously evil.  Even a Christian can be used by the enemy if envy and anger are left unchecked in his heart.  No one likes to be the recipient of another person’s disdain of themselves, yet I am certain everyone reading this blog has also had moments themselves in which they were a tool of the enemy in this regard.    So, while I am shocked when I see people harming me with insincere flattery then gossiping about me behind my back, I realize I am just as guilty or as capable of the same sin. So, how do we combat this evil?  Giving that sin the worst name, realizing what I am really doing and praying for deliverance from it.

What strikes my heart the most when I am tempted to hate another human, is that this precious life was made in the image of God.  Flawed, yet beautiful to Christ.  They might have injected harm and pain into my life and be a thorn in my flesh, but they are loved by God.  They might not even understand why they do it themselves.  I do not have to become best buddies with them, but I can pray for them and ask God for wisdom in what a relationship with them looks like.  Mental health is a big part of victory in this area of our lives, too.  Recognizing that I cannot stop or control someone from envying or hating me, but I can put on love and place them in God’s hands, instead, is crucial.  Love must be sincere.  I do not have to pretend I am someone’s closest confidant or be manipulated to do what someone is demanding in order to be godly.  In fact, that would be inappropriate and harmful.  No, instead, I can die to my desire for man’s praise and worshiping at the altar of acceptance, when it is fleeting.  I can rise above the small-mindedness and dwell on God and His word.  Let’s not be flattery’s fool when we realize any crown of praise or flattery we would receive should just be laid down at His feet, anyway.

Thank You, God, for revealing our hearts and setting us free.  Help us to not get caught up in the quagmire of sin often found in superficial relationships that can entrap us.  Help us to love sincerely from our heart and forgive one another, all for Your glory!

The Trusting Fool

Photo credits christinequong.ca

Photo credits christinequong.ca

Jeremiah 17:5, 7

“The Lord says, ‘I will put a curse on people who trust in mere human beings, who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength, and whose hearts have turned away from the LORD.  7 My blessing is on those people who trust in me, who put their confidence in me.  10 I, the Lord, probe into people’s minds.  I examine people’s hearts.  I deal with each person according to how he has behaved.  I give them what they deserve based on what they have done.'”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6

Trusting in a God who is not visible seems impractical in our sophisticated world.  Laughter perhaps emerges from others over our foolishness to place our faith in God as our Deliverer rather than something or someone seen.  It seems naive, fantasaical, maybe even crazy.  It is far easier to depend on flesh and blood – a relative, a friend, a government.  But what happens when these are unreliable?  Seeking to protect ourselves from being let down by others, we attempt to be self-sufficient.  That does not work for long, either.  What are we afraid of?  Why not trust God with every aspect of our lives?  Perhaps we are even afraid of God letting us down.  Is He really good?  Does He really control everything?  Why does He permit difficulties in our lives and seemingly tolerate evil?  Can He be trusted?

It might seem harsh to think of being cursed by God for leaning on someone else.  Depending on a friend or a family member seems harmless enough.  In fact, a brother is born for times of adversity.  So why such strong language in the above verse?  The hearts of God’s people had turned away from the LORD – because of looking to someone else for salvation.  Worshiping the false god Baal, God’s people stooped to offering their own children in flames and participating in cannibalism.  While the level they sank to seems like something we would never do, are we guilty of equivalent actions by our heart serving false gods, too?  Are we diligent to protect our children from the influence of the world, or do we offer them up to the god of this culture – materialism, entertainment or comfort?

It can start easily enough – we are tired and worn – maybe a little entertainment will bring some relief.  The gradual drift away from running to God becomes a craving to be numb from pain, maybe sprinkled with a little country club Christianity or religion.  But these things were never meant to satisfy the God-placed hole in our heart that can only be satisfied by knowing God.  God does not want us to be deceived – He alone is the One Who supplies all we need. He used other people and organizations to provide for us, but it is Him – the One Who made us, the One Who saved us, who we need to place our trust in.  A job is not our Provider – it is a vehicle of provision.  A generous friend or family member is not our Savior – God moved on their heart to bless.  So how do we place our trust and confidence in God?  By going before Him, crying out and searching His Word.

There are so many testimonies of God’s goodness and answers to prayers, I could fill a novel.  But one case in particular, I hope will encourage your heart that God is trustworthy and will never let you down.  His answer might not be what you want, but He will carry you through all of life’s trials.  I was twenty-six and expecting with my daughter, Deborah, when the doctors informed me that the pregnancy was going to end in another miscarriage.  My spirit said differently.  I opened God’s Word and placed my trust and confidence in Him.  I also did practical things such as resting, but the blood work continued to show that the pregnancy was not viable.  The doctors insisted that they would need to give me a shot to reabsorb the fetus – it was not a valid pregnancy.  I declined their solution and told them I knew God was going to save my child.  They called me a fool for trusting God.  Deborah is now a lovely 18-year-old with a lot of wisdom and love for God.  I thank God for His promises and for being a living God, an ever-present help in times of trouble.

There are also testimonies of God allowing hardship in, but amazing faith and grace to walk through them.  Comfortable?  No – but at peace.  Do you need hope today?  It can be hard to keep that optimistic spirit alive when troubles abound, but our confidence can be in the Alpha and Omega, the One Who has always been and will always be.  No matter what surrounds us, we can trust in and be encompassed about by the living God.  There are a lot of fools who have gone before us – who did not belong to this world and who lived lives that glorified God.  This great cloud of witnesses might not have been esteemed by man, but the fellowship with God they shared sustained them and ultimately led them to eternal bliss in Heaven.  God loves us so very much, and wants to walk through this amazing gift called life with us.  We can trust Him because of His character – He is Who He says He is – trustworthy, faithful and loving.  Let’s put down the false idols and trust solely in God!

Lord, thank you that you are trustworthy.  Thank you for modeling dependency on the Father and help us to walk with You.