Thursday, February 27, 2014

Excerpt from Storms of Life, Green: Growth

When I think of green, I think of my lawn – of what it could be if I nurtured it. We put in a sprinkler system so it gets watered. But food? There’s no auto-feed system out there for grass.

I know I’m supposed to feed it in the fall, to give it nourishment to carry it through the winter. I know I’m supposed to feed it in the spring, to give it energy to burst out in new green…well, green something. My philosophy is: If you keep your lawn cut, no one can tell if that pretty green is grass or weeds.
Enough of my poor gardening techniques!

 What nourishes us as we walk through a winter storm? How do we find the strength we need to put one foot in front of the other? Where do we find the truth we need to continue trusting God? Only God’s Word can sustain us and encourage us to grow in faith, even in the storm.

Storms of Life Chapter 6, Day 5

When we focus on God’s truths they lift our spirits; He is the Father of peace, not doubt and confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33a). Even during suffering, an underlying bedrock of peace and joy will allow you to feel hope.

God’s Word is Truth: timeless, changeless, a Light for your heart and soul when all else is in darkness (Isaiah 40:8; Mark 13:31; 1 John 1:5b). Truth is not a whim that blows in the wind. Truth is the person of Jesus Christ, who loves you so much He died for you and is now seated in Heaven, interceding for and ministering to you. 

Truth…stands on the Rock of God’s character and is expressed in every promise spoken by His faithfulness. God is the Father of peace, joy, strength, wisdom, hope, and so much more. Focus on Him! Let His Word become your Bread of Life and your Living Water to sustain you in the wilderness of suffering.”

The idea of growth and the reality of suffering seem to be contradictory. How can we grow when we can’t stand up straight? How can we learn of Him when we our minds are overwhelmed with confusion? How can we cling to His promises when we’re too weak to grasp hope for tomorrow?

Only when we stubbornly look to God’s Word can we grow in faith. His truth’s a firm foundation, His Bread and Water clear our minds of confusion. His reveals Himself to us in new ways and strengthens our walk with Him.
Allow God to nourish you with His Bread and Water and you will grow in faith.
How has God nourished you during a storm?
How have your faith grown as you walked through a difficult time?

If this post blessed you, please share.

Next post:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Excerpts from Storms of Life, Yellow: Joy

Ever notice that smiley faces are always yellow?

Sunny, bright, happy.


We all know Joy goes deeper than happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances.

Joy is underlying sense of – what? How do we define joy in a spiritual sense? Abiding sense of happiness? Blend of faith, hope, and love?

I love this definition posted by Rick Warren on his blog DAILYHOPE (April 2, 2012):

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Settled assurance...
                    Quiet confidence...
                               Determined choice to praise

Joy grows out of a conscious choice to praise.

Storms of Life Chapter 6, Day 4

"God inhabits praise! He’ll rise up within you when you praise Him. No matter how you feel, your soul will take baby steps toward joy and strength as words of praise tumble from your lips. I know, you won’t feel like it when you start, but with every word you’ll feel a little better. Praise lifts your heart and fills your soul with the certainty He’s with you to bring His light and love into your darkest moments.

When you praise the Lord, even as tears are wetting your cheeks with sorrow, not only does the light of joy begin to dawn in your soul, but the pain in your heart will lessen just a little. Praise softens your heart and allows your desire to be with Him to grow. You’ll hunger for His presence and thirst for His Word.

Praise turns you on to Jesus! You spiritual nerves wake up and you become aware of His presence. Your face lifts toward Heaven instead of studying the dirt on the floor. His Word ministers to you instead of lying dry in your heart. Tears will still fall, but they’ll be healing tears. God is always with you—praise enables you to be with Him."

Easy words, but how do we pull it off when the storm's raging?

The Holy Spirit within you will enable you. He'll bring words of praise songs to your mind,. He'll remind you of the small joyful things that have happened recently. 

He is a spring of living water, welling up inside you. He keeps flowing and replenishing. When fear, disappointment, or helplessness threaten, allow the Spring of Living Water to wash them away with Joy.

Listen to the beautiful song "Praise the Lord," written by Russ Taff and performed by the Imperials. 

"Praise the Lord, for the chains that seem to bind you serve only to remind you, that they drop powerless behind you when you praise Him."

Praise the Lord

How does the Holy Spirit fill you with a sense of joy during hard times?
If this post blesses you, please share.

Next post: Green - Growth

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Excerpt from Storms of Life, Orange: Chosen

When I first thought about orange, I thought of peace. Orange is the color of a stunning sunset. With the setting of the sun, peace settles on my spirit and I feel the anxiety of the day fade away.

But then I was reminded that my daughter's favorite color is orange – there’s not even a close second. When she was just a few months old, I'd hold her before the open dresser drawer full of her clothes. Even at that young age, she'd reach out and grab anything orange. Orange shirt? Orange socks? Orange diaper covers? Whatever it was, she chose it. It was her favorite, after all.

God whispered to my heart: “I chose you - you are My favorite.”
Can you hear Him speak to you, "I chose you - you are My favorite." 

 Storms of Life Chapter 4, Day 2:
"As we watch the gathering clouds, what hope can we grasp tightly in our hearts?  Certainly we have confidence in an eternity when all suffering will have ended, but we desperately need hope today to carry us through rough days ahead. Our path might lead us into the storm but our feet can stand firm on the many precious promises that soothe our emotions as the storm clouds approach. He promises His enduring presence with us, and that He goes before us. God promises His strength when we face uncertain times, and He’s our fortress in difficult times. Even though we stumble through dark days, He’s in control of all things, and every event in our lives fulfills His divine purpose. We’re comforted by these promises because His Word is everlasting and true."

As His favorites, He generously showers His favor on us—even during difficult days.

His presence - He surrounds us and infuses us, no matter our circumstances.

His strength - He upholds us and sustains us when we can't stand on our own.

His protection - He's our fortress, our shield, the One who fights for us.

His sovereignty - He's in complete control. He's never surprised. He's walked every path before us, to guide us into His perfect will. 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:3-6

He chose each one of us to be His children. He gives us His perfect favor through the blessings we have in Christ.

Close your eyes. Bask in the joy and comfort of knowing the Almighty Lord of the Universe reached down from His throne to choose you to be His child.
Yes, when you open your eyes, the problems will still be there but you don't face them  alone.

Your Father is with you!

How has God's favor shone on you as you've endured a storm?

If this post blesses you, please share.

Next post: Yellow - Joy

Monday, February 17, 2014

Excerpt from Storms of Life, God's Power: Red

 Storms of Life  Chapter 6, Day 3:
"Cling to this unshakable truth: Your Father God is mighty in power and in control of every moment; nothing is beyond His might."

Storms of Life  Chapter 8, Day 2: 
"Infinite power. Unimaginable power. All at our fingertips. But God often chooses to apply His great power to our hearts rather than to our circumstances. His power heals doubts. His power overcomes fear. God is more powerful than any situation we face.
It is His power that carries us through. Is there a specific situation in your life you’re afraid is beyond God’s power to overcome? Do you think your sorrow, doubt, or fear are beyond God’s power to heal? Stand on the truth of His promises and declare your faith in the greatness of God’s power in your situation."

We nod our heads when the preacher talks about the greatness of God’s power. We proclaim His power in the songs we sing. But, when life falls apart, we think, “Where’s all that power when we need it?”

 “And his [God’s] incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19, 20a)

The great power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to us!

So where is it when we are overcome by fear, sorrow?

Jesus asked the same question:

                        I don’t want to do this, Father!
                        Do I have to walk through this?

The same power that raised Christ from the dead strengthened Him in the Garden.

The same power upheld Him as He endured the agony of scourging and crucifixion.

The same power gave Him the ability to resist calling twelve legions of angels.

We call upon God’s power for deliverance, as well we should. But we also need to call upon it to carry us as we step through a crisis. Our Father’s power was great enough to bring Christ through His unbelievable pain and it's great enough to bring us through the hardship that faces us.

Indescribable, unimaginable! Allow God to uphold you with His Power.

When has God's Power sustained you in a difficult time?

Next post: Orange - Peace
If this post blesses you, please share.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Excerpt from Storms of Life, Silver Lining: Hope

Excerpt from Storms of Life Chapter 6, Day 5:
"When we focus on God’s truths they lift our spirits; He is the Father of peace, not doubt and confusion. Even during suffering, an underlying bedrock of peace and joy will allow you to feel hope. God’s Word is Truth: timeless, changeless, a Light for your heart and soul when all else is in darkness.
Truth is not a whim that blows in the wind. ... It stands on the Rock of God’s character and is expressed in every promise spoken by His faithfulness. God is the Father of peace, joy, strength, wisdom, hope, and so much more. Focus on Him! Let His Word become your Bread of Life and your Living Water to sustain you in the wilderness of suffering."

The sound of rain, flashes of lightening, rolls of thunder— I love a storm. I like to snuggle up with a hot cup of tea and a good book.

But, no amount of hot tea and no shelf of bestsellers can lessen a storm of suffering or hardship that invades our lives and threatens our stability.

The days stretch by and things just seem to get worse.

Where’s God? Has He forgotten us? Worse yet, has He abandoned us? It sure feels like it sometimes. We’re desperate for His love and grace.

Even though we don’t see it or feel it, God is there, upholding us with His grace.

In the next few posts, we'll rejoice in the 8 colors of God’s grace that surround us during our hardest times.

“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
“There’s a blessing hidden is this storm, if you just look for it.”

These statements are hard to believe when all we can see is dark, swirling clouds.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11: 1

Hope…this word doesn’t mean
                    "I wish," or
                    "I want it to happen but I’m not sure."

It means complete confidence, certainty, unfailing.

In Christ, our hope is complete confidence in Him and His unfailing promises.

Even from the midst of the storm, we have hope (total confidence) in the silver lining.

Hope in His presence.
Hope in His faithfulness.
Hope in His sustaining power.

All the colors of God's grace are built on this hope.

When you've been buffeted by a storm, how have you built your stability on the hope of (confidence in) God's faithfulness?

If this post blesses you, please share.

Next post: Red - God's Passion and Power

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rainbow's Promise

Most of us know about God's promise as He set the rainbow in the sky. After the floodwaters receded from the earth, Noah, his family, and the animals left the ark and walked out onto dry land. What a joy it must have been after days of being crammed in that boat!

"I now establish my covenant with you and with your
descendants after you and with every living creature
that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the
wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with
you--every living creature on earth. I establish my
covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off
by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a
flood to destroy the earth." Genesis 9:9-11
Now that I've walked through many storms in my life, the rainbow has come to mean so much more to me.

Such a beautiful arc of color: red, yellow, blue, purple, and many shades between.

It's the colors of God's mercy - we never receive the punishment we deserve because Jesus took it for us on the cross. Through His death, we are offered total forgiveness.

It's the colors of God's victory - never again will death reign over those who believe in Him. His covenant with us declares that death has been defeated by Jesus' burial and resurrection.

It's the colors of God's grace - just when the storm seems too hard to handle, a rainbow appears to remind us that He will never leave us and, if we are His children, we will be with Him forever because of Jesus' resurrection.

Forgiveness, victory over death, eternal life. These are the gifts offered to those who accept Jesus as their One and Only Savior.

Have you surrendered your heart to Jesus and entered into the promises of the New Covenant? If not, respond now to His great love.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing the beauty of each color and the promises God makes to us in the richness of His love. Each week, I'll include excerpts from my award-winning Bible study, Storms of Life. I pray you are blessed.

As a child of God, what do the blessings of this New Covenant mean to you?

Next post - Silver Lining: Hope

If this post blesses you, please share.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tumblin' Along

Blown here and there by every wind of teaching. Ephesians 4:14

A couple days ago, I saw this poor tumbleweed roll down the street and come to rest against the curb.

Now, out here in west Texas, it's windy. When we first moved here, the meteorologist on the local news said, "Tomorrow will be breezy."

I'm not sure what breezy means to you, but here it means 10-15 miles per hour. When they say it's windy, you better hold onto something so you're not blown away.

In our churches, too, we sometimes need to hold onto something so we're not blown away.
  • Blown away by prosperity doctrines.
  • Blown away by "don't offend anyone" doctrines.
  • Blown away by "you just have to be a good person to go to heaven" doctrines.
There are lots of "tickle your ears" teachings out there.

Those churches are probably the largest ones in your area. Everyone wants to leave the service on
Sunday morning feeling good about themselves.
  • No challenges
  • No convicting sermons
  • Just fluff
All of us wish Christianity was that easy - but God's version isn't.

God offers forgiveness - we must admit our sinfulness.
God offers salvation - we must believe in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.
God offers relationship - we must draw near.
God offers wisdom and guidance - we must follow Him.

So...what can we hold onto when the winds blow?

His Word

In the pages of Scripture, we find God revealed.
  • We find peace and joy
  • We find strength and protection.
  • We find wisdom and guidance
Without His Word in our hearts and minds, we are adrift, blown by the winds of the world's changing truth.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

What does God's Word mean to you?
How has it provided stability in a wind-blown world?

If this post blesses you, please share.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Getting Comfortable?

Greyhounds are nesting dogs, so I've been told.
And I can see why.

Ruby occasionally gets up and stands on her bed.

Then she turns around

                                   and around

                                                    and around.

She uses her paws to fluff the bed

                                   She fluffs

                                                    and fluffs.

Finally she lies down and snuggles in.

She gets all comfy and sighs with this super-contented look on her face.

Are we like that?

Are we nesting Christians?

We go to church on Sunday mornings and circle around, saying hi to folks - usually the same folks, week after week.
Then we come to OUR pews and snuggle right in, all comfy.
We sit by the same people week after week.
We don't need to walk around and reach out to people we don't know.

Do we want to be challenged or do we want to surround ourselves with fluff?

After all, we're content where we are.

During the week, we visit with our friends, our Christian friends.
We gather around a cup of coffee and our conversations are comfortable.

We don't associate with those who don't believe what we do.

And certainly not with non-Christians.

We avoid those who might challenge our faith or,

heaven forbid,

ask us to talk about what we believe.



Is that what Jesus had in mind for us?

I think not.

As you read through the gospels, over and over, He said, "Go!"

Be a light to everyone you meet - not just the ones who make you feel comfortable.

Be salt to the world - a seasoning that makes others want to taste what you have.

Go into all the world - don't settle in the Christian community where you feel safe.

Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of
fresh air
in this squalid and polluted society.
Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.
Carry the light-giving Message into the night.
Philippians 2:15 (The Message)

This doesn't sound very "nesting" does it?

It doesn't allow us to settle.

It doesn't permit us to stay where we're comfortable.

It commands us to step out into a world that's decidedly unsettling,

to live in a way that's challenging and uncomfortable.

In other words, it's time to leave the nest and shine!