Exercising My Faith

Recently I became busy making excuses not to exercise. I’m too tired. My muscles ache. It’s too hot out. I just don’t feel up to it. There are too many other things to do today. I feel depressed. After going many days with no exercise, even though I tend to exercise daily whether it’s jogging, bicycling, or walking I felt physically sluggish and emotionally weary.

The first day back to my exercise routine, I realized how much I had missed it. One part was just being outside enjoying nature. I wondered why I had avoided what made me feel good in my body and in my soul. That day I ended up riding my bicycle for an hour and jogging for a half hour. Afterward I felt energetic and uplifted emotionally.

In my spiritual life, I make excuses for not exercising my faith. Then I start to feel sluggish and weary spiritually. Some of the excuses I make are: That’s out of my comfort zone, I’m afraid. Was that really from the Lord? If I do that, she might be offended. I could get rejected. It could hurt our relationship.

Here is what one person answered online when the question was posed, “What does it mean to exercise our faith?”

“Exercising my faith in God means believing in Him, loving Him, trusting Him, and moving forward in life as I try to do what He wants me to do.”

The Word tells me this about exercising: “For bodily exercise profits little: But godliness is profitable unto all things having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8.

I looked further online to see what others said about exercising our faith. Diane Markins wrote this in a devotion on CBN.com:

“Our faith muscles will atrophy if we don’t use them. We need to stretch them and build them up for strength. As we stretch them beyond the limit of our comfort…we allow ourselves greater flexibility, grace and longer strides. After we stretch and begin to move more freely, we also begin to gain strength of faith.” from “Rebuilding Flabby Faith Muscles”

What spoke to me was “beyond the limit of our comfort.” Often God calls me to move out of my comfort zone. He whispers, “Say this to that person or group of people,” “Sing this song to that hurting soul.” “Write this article and tell the truth about your failures and flaws.” “Hug that person you want to withdraw from.”

It seems when God tells me to move, it’s difficult like on the days I don’t want to move off of the couch to go outside and exercise my body. I hesitate, procrastinate, and try to negotiate. “Do I really have to do that, Lord?”

When I do exercise my faith by doing what God is calling me to do at any given moment, the vigor in my spiritual life returns. I sense a closer connection to the Lord and to the people he’s calling me to reach out to.

Lately God is calling me to deal vigorously with the problem of bullying in public schools and the teachers and leaders failure to deal with the problem effectively. He is laying on my heart to to talk to and write letters to leaders in our area and ask them about their anti-bullying policies and encourage them to enhance them. He is urging me to communicate with students and teachers, and to bring Him into the solution as He leads. I’ve already written about the subject for local and national publications, but He wants me to write more. He’s calling me to encourage students to make anti-bullying posters to hang in the halls of schools and to make some of my own.

To do any of the above would be exercising my faith because this is definitely out of my comfort zone. I find excuses coming to mind: I’m too busy, they won’t listen to me, who am I that I could make any difference? I’m not good at this kind of thing…and the list goes on and on.

But with God’s help, I have to embrace faith in Him and believe that He can use me to make a difference in this and other challenges He’s presented to me in recent days.

Today I choose to exercise my faith—to determine to do all He has called me to do, and to become all He’s called me to be. I want to stop holding back and stop holding on to feeling safe and secure just talking about my faith. I choose to live out my faith as I am directed in Colossians 2:6-7.

I like the way the Amplified Bible puts it:  “As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and over-flowing in it with thanksgiving.”

It’s only by God’s strength that I can do the above. The good news is that He delights to give it to me.

Lord, free me to receive Your strength to more fully exercise my faith in the days, months, and years that lay ahead of me. Help me to let go of excuses and live boldly for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Be One” by Natalie Grant

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyCv_qdFUxM

 

 

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Avoiding Spiritual Shipwreck

Lately because of someone I love losing their passion for the Lord in recent months, the term “shipwrecked faith” has come to mind.

This nautical term concerning faith comes from Scripture–1 Timothy 1:19:

“Holding fast to faith (that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) conscience. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith.”

The word “conscience” is mentioned here, and just yesterday I ran across a definition of that word in the Amplified Bible: “your inborn discernment.” (See 2 Corinthians 5:11)

So it seems when our faith becomes shipwrecked we choose to ignore our conscience—our inborn discernment—and do what feels right or what we decide in our minds is right.

When I looked online to find out more about a shipwrecked faith, this is what I discovered:

“What does it mean to shipwreck your faith? It means moving from the secure foundation of Jesus Christ. It means diluting your faith in God with faith in self, faith in effort, faith in your ability to perform. It’s trying instead of trusting. It’s striving instead of resting.” (From “Shipwrecked Faith” by Paul Ellis, January 30, 2013, Escape to Reality ministry)

I’ve wondered, “If this can happen to people in my life who were once walking close to the Lord, (it has repeatedly) can it happen to me?”

In my journal I wrote, “What Leads To A Shipwrecked Faith?” Here is what I felt led to put on that list:

neglect of prayer, neglect of the Word, self-absorption, lack of gratitude, justifying personal sin, pride, ignoring God’s instructions, loving the world and the things of this world.

I confess I’ve done everything on that list, granted usually only for short periods of time. But somehow I have kept the door open to hearing the Lord, and He has drawn me back again and again. Perhaps it’s when we do all of them at once and determine to keep on that course that our faith and passion for the Lord drastically diminishes.

My next list was: “How To Avoid a Shipwrecked Faith.”

I took the first list and put in the positive things we can do to keep our faith intact.

-Pray without ceasing.

-Stay in God’s Word.

-Minister to others.

-Maintain an attitude of gratitude.

-Maintain purity of heart. (This entails confessing sin promptly and asking God often if anything I’m doing is offensive to Him. See Psalm 139:23-24)

-Maintain a humble, teachable heart.

-Listen and obey.

-Love God above anything or anybody in this world.

So much of what I’ve written this year has been about trusting God. What I realize is that a shipwrecked faith comes when we stop trusting God, and we trust something or someone else. We may trust ourselves or some concept this world offers. We lose our discernment and believe that if we think it, it must be right.

I’ve done all of that—for a time. How grateful I am that God has rescued me from staying there because if I had, I might be where my friend seems to be right now.

Because the enemy is busy and devious, I cannot declare that I’m immune to having a shipwrecked faith, but I do believe if I determine to move toward the Lord and embrace this list He gave me, the enemy will not succeed in drawing me away from God and from fulfilling all that He put me on this earth to accomplish.

As I observe people who have a shipwrecked faith, I notice many of them back off when the door is opened for God to help them heal from the traumas of the past.

God is calling, “Come, be healed,” and they say, “No” and back away and then look to something in this world for healing. Perhaps they are scared, or it seems too dangerous to allow God to have His way completely in their hearts.

Maybe we are moving toward a shipwreck of our faith any time we say “no” to the Lord. (Jonah comes to mind). But God does give us more chances to say “yes.”  Some areas we might say “no,” is when God says, “Forgive,” or tell the truth, even though it’s hard,” or “Go and minister to this group of people” or “write about this difficult subject.” This saying “no” to God goes along with the item on the above list that says, “Listen and obey.”

Here is a verse I found that I want to embrace wholeheartedly which will further help me to avoid a shipwrecked faith:

…work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). Philippians 2:12 AMPC

I’m praying my friend will come back to a living faith in the Lord with God in first place in her life. My goal through writing and speaking is to help as many people as possible to avoid shipwreck. I’m praying also and believing that I will stay devoted to the Lord and never experience a shipwreck of my faith.

“First” by Lauren Daigle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emDmmOysqec

 

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Letting Go Of Control

Recently I had one of those dreams again—the kind I’ve had on a regular basis.

In these dreams I’m trying to accomplish something, but I can’t.

Sometimes it’s driving from one destination to another. In the dream, I never arrive.

Or my dream consists of attempting to complete a task connected to my being a wife, mother, grandmother, mental health tech, or writer and I fail to do so.

This most recent dream had a bird in it. A large bird. Throughout the dream, I repeatedly tried to get the bird into a cage, but I failed again and again.

The bird squawked, flapped its wings wildly, and bit me. I would let go of the bird when I was close to the cage because of its resistance and the pain that attacks from its beak caused. Then I would go after the bird and start the process over.

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get that bird into the cage.

I woke up frustrated and worn out.

As I wondered what the dream could mean, I thought of my trying to control certain individuals in my circle of loved ones. A particular person came to mind. My attempts at control were much like trying to put that bird in a cage. No matter how much I tried to control this person’s words and actions– how they spoke to and treated me and others–the more I failed to do so.

I prayed to the Lord about my dream, and this is what I sensed He was saying, “You don’t have to get the bird in the cage.”

In my mind that’s where the bird belonged. If the bird was in the cage, I would be safe. The bird might squawk at me, but couldn’t peck me from inside the cage. The bird wouldn’t injure others or herself.

My mind was convinced that it was mandatory the bird be in the cage, and that I had to be the one to accomplish the feat.

But who said so? The Lord was telling me otherwise. My mind told me life would be easier if the bird was in the cage. The truth God was communicating is that life would be simpler and more peaceful if I determined that putting the bird in a cage was no longer my goal or my responsibility.

I realized my latest dream and others like it are about my trying to be in control. Over and over I have determined to let go of this, and somehow I go back to it again and again.

The bottom line is that God is in control, and I am not.

Trying to stay in control is about pride, and about not trusting God. I want to trust Him, but when things seem out of control too often instead of turning to Him and saying what my Bible study teacher has taught, “God, You have a problem,” I try to solve the problem myself.

Once again lately I’ve been praying, “Lord, I want You to be in control. I want to trust You to make some sense out of this current mess. Please show me what my part is, and teach me how to trust You to do Yours.

As I’m doing this, peace is moving in. I feel myself forging forward toward greater freedom. I’m letting go and letting God and embracing every other cliché that has to do with Him being God Most High and me being His servant.

While writing this I asked God for encouragement from Scripture to address my ongoing problem with trying to be in control. Here is what He gave me:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” 1 Peter 5:6-7 AMPC

I want to be humble. I want to cast my cares upon Him and believe wholeheartedly that He cares for me. In my best moments, I am and I do.

Today I’m praising God that He fills in the gap between who I am and who I long to be. Once again I’m letting go of control knowing He is there to catch and comfort me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBFfZ3sD1jQ

“Control” by JJ Heller

“… Oh, control
It’s time, time to let you go…”

 

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Bringing Our Losses to the Lord

“I am thankful, not for the losses but for all God brought me through, because I am positive I wouldn’t otherwise know Him like I do.”

These words came in a testimony from a woman named Alison in Beth Moore’s book Praying God’s Word. Alison lost her husband instantly in a car accident after being married only a short time. Then after remarrying, her young child died. As Alison drew close to the Lord, she was healed and helped and started a ministry to bring hope to those who have lost a husband or a child.

Also in that book is the story of Jeanine losing her three toddler children to a hereditary disease.

Here is part of what she related, “I asked God many years ago to please use me in any way that might glorify His name and in a way that would bring comfort to those in pain. At this point in my life, I feel that God has brought me to a place where 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is very real and a part of who I am….That’s part of what my ministry on earth is about. I can never say that I am glad to have lost my children or even that I think God planned it this way. But I can say that my losses have turned out as strengths in my life and I do consider it a privilege to serve God in the matter He has seen fit in my life.”

As I reflected recently on losses in my life, I could relate to what these women said. Here are some of the losses I’ve faced:

the death of two of my siblings by suicide, loss of loved ones who became prodigals—those  who once were passionate for the Lord and who have now rejected Him–, the loss of friends due to their moving away or moving away from the Lord, loss of loved ones to severe mental illness, loss of leaders I respected due to their deciding to follow their lusts instead of the Lord, loss of relatives to drug addiction…

As I look at these losses, I can see how God has brought good from every one. He has used them to draw me closer to Him, to increase my compassion for other people, and to heal my soul and give me a more godly perspective on life.

God has taken what the enemy hoped would bring misery to draw me into ministry that would help to bring others hope and draw them to Him.

Every time I go to my job of working with the mentally ill, I meet people who have dealt with loss. Some have lost their innocence through sexual abuse. Others have lost parents who abandoned them to use drugs. Young people I interact with there have lost their self-esteem due to bullying at school.

Too many have lost their peace, their joy, their trust of God and other human beings because of the traumas in their lives.

What I know about losses is that we need to bring them to the Lord. If we try to deal with them on our own or merely with the remedies the world offers, we can end up bitter, self-absorbed, and filled with self-pity. I know because I’ve been there. Then one day God gave me this little poem, which comes to mind often when I’m facing yet another loss in life:

My soul, see life through God’s eyes/Give Him each sorrow and pain/for He can transform bad to good/and every loss to gain.

Through this short verse, I’m reminded of how faithful God has been as I’ve faced losses and learned to live with them and even bring glory to God because of them.

I’m also reminded that there are many things that I cannot lose: God’s love for me, His presence in my life, His ever-present help in trouble. (See Psalm 46:1) My goal is to remind others of these truths.

Today I choose to thank God for my losses—for the good they have brought into my life and for the glory He has allowed me to bring to Him through them.

How about You? Will you bring Your losses to the Lord and allow Him to heal you and then use you and your losses to bring Him glory? He is waiting with open arms.

I’ve posted the following song before, but it really touches my heart in regard to loss. A friend sent it to me in the beginning stages of my grief over my brother’s death by suicide four years ago. It is “The Hurt and the Healer” by Mercy Me, and it was a new release at the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHPC47AiBWE

 

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Glory To God, Forever

Some days it seems certain trials in my life will never end. My thought can be, It feels like this is lasting forever. When I get caught up in the mindset that these harsh circumstances are never going to change—that they are lasting longer than I can tolerate, discouragement sets in.

A song I heard lately reminded me that not one of my trials is going to go on forever. What will last forever is the praise and honor—the glory–I bring to God through how I allow my Lord to use those trials to magnify His name.

Next I remembered a verse in Scripture which communicates that not only are my trials and troubles not forever circumstances, but they are light and momentary.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV

Instead of complaining about the difficulties I’m going through, I need to be asking, “Lord, how I can bring glory to You through all of this?”

When I’ve asked that question in the past, He has been faithful to show me.

God has used the hard times in my marriage to bring glory to Himself by healing our marriage and allowing me to speak and write about His faithfulness which draws others to Him and His healing power.

He has done the same in many other areas of my walk with Him which involve suffering.

Instead of having as a goal—to try to put an end to this trial or trouble—my renewed goal is to bring God glory through all of this.

Here is what I read on a website called “All About God:”

“Believers are called to give glory to God by what we say and do. It does not mean that we are adding to the glory God already has. It means we are revealing the glory of God to the world through our words, lifestyle, and behavior. It also means that we are giving God our praise and adoration.”

I’m rediscovering it’s during times of suffering and trial that I have more opportunities to bring God glory. When others see that I handle difficulties in a way that is not natural but supernatural, they will ask me “Why?” and “How?” and I can point them to the Lord, which brings Him glory.

This is what I read today in the devotional Abba Calling by Charles Slagle:

“Struggling One, Why do you still doubt? Haven’t I worked mighty miracles for you even recently? Of course this battle will not go on forever—certainly not for a lifetime! Do you really imagine that I would lead us to wage an unwinnable war?”

In reading this, I was reminded that God has a purpose in everything that I face—that it’s not for nothing or just so He can watch me suffer. He is using each and every trail for my good and for His glory. His goal is to bring me to victory. Yes, it may take time from my point of view, but it will be worth it, and my patience and trust bring Him glory.

I pray for the grace to fully embrace these truths that I know, but which I too often fail to remember.

Lord, may I bring glory to You today and forever. Amen.

“Glory to God,Forever” by Steve Fee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8HJjIjyCSY

 

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The Joy of the Lord

Lately I’ve got caught in grieving over losses in my life. If I stay too long on contemplating these losses, it can lead to depression and even despondency.

What brings me back to the place of joy is to think about all the gains I have from being in an intimate relationship with the Lord.

When I view these losses through His perspective, I can see how each one has helped me to draw closer to Him and to grow in godliness and in trusting Him. They have forced me to embrace an eternal view instead of getting caught up in all the temporary issues of this world.

As I’m reading through the Bible this year, in the New Testament I notice how often Jesus got away to be with the Father. The thought occurred to me that if He didn’t, He too could succumb to mourning all that’s wrong with the world and the people in it. Instead He connected with the Father who helped Him to maintain the correct perspective and to stay in that place of joy.

As He drew near to the Father in prayer, He was reminded of His mission.

And as I draw close to the Lord, I’m reminded of mine—to proclaim truth through what I say, what I write, and how I live, so others will be drawn to Him.

Some days I fail, but then I rejoice in His mercy.

On the days when someone expresses that I haven’t failed or God communicates directly to my soul that He is pleased with my obedience, joy swells inside of me.

The problem is that too often I want the joy in my heart to be triggered by a huge number of positive circumstances. If I’m looking for that to fuel my joy, I become bitterly disappointed.

But if I look to the Lord as the source of my joy, I’m never disappointed. I feel overwhelmed by His love and mercy toward me. I rejoice over how many prayers He has answered instead of focusing on those that still remain unanswered even after many years of praying.

One thing I’ve discovered in this year of learning to trust God more is that I can’t have joy if I’m not trusting Him. Doubt, fear, and worry rob me of joy. Recalling and proclaiming His faithfulness causes joy to well up in my soul. Learning to listen to and embrace His truth and live it instead of embracing the lies of the enemy increases my joy level.

Today instead of thinking of all the losses in my life, I’m going to concentrate on all I’ve gained since the day I became saved in 1977.

If I’m honest with myself, I don’t think I’d be alive today if I had not made that decision back then because of my intense battle with depression and suicidal thoughts and the deep bitterness that ruled my life.

So I can have joy that I’m alive, and my life has purpose. My heart can celebrate that God has set me free from all that kept me bound. I have family and friends who love me. I have a job that’s meaningful and rewarding. God has blessed me with a lovely home in a state where I can enjoy the beauty of the beach any time I choose. God has given me the gift of writing and of making music which can not only touch other people’s souls but ministers to mine. And the list goes on and on.

Two verses about joy that came to my mind immediately as I listened to the song “Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective this morning are these:

“…And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” Nehemiah 8:10 AMPC

“… in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Today I choose to bask in the joy of the Lord.

How about you?

“The Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcG9HApTC_Q

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The Importance of Resilience

Not long ago a writer friend said: “Resilience is important.”

Then she added, “The key to being resilient is dealing with what’s inside–like bitterness.”

As I thought about this friend’s speaking ministry and the message of her book, How I Survived the Killing Fields: A Story of Hope, Love and Determination, it is about resilience. And I see this quality so evidenced in her life.

She could have chosen a lifetime of bitterness. She could have made the choice not to forgive her captors. She could still be wallowing in self-pity after her horrific experiences.

Instead she speaks with a joyful spirit and and “I-trust-in-God” attitude to others going through hard times to let them know that they can be resilient as she has been.

Recently I looked up the word resilience. This is what I read in two different dictionaries: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties…”

“the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happen.”

Here are more definitions from various online sites:

“Resilience is the ability to roll with the punches. When stress, adversity or trauma strikes, you still experience anger, grief and pain, but you’re able to keep functioning… –Mayo Clinic

“Resilience is an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity… the ability…to cope with change” Wikipedia

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.” –Psychology Today

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” –American Psychological Association

As I read these, I realized that over time with God’s help I have gained the quality of resilience, and as Sara said letting go of bitterness has been key.

As I looked back over hard times, I realized that if a trauma or tragedy happened, and I felt I couldn’t let go of it, dealing with unforgiveness toward those involved blocked the path of bouncing back. Once I determined with God’s help to forgive and let go of bitterness, I saw myself thriving despite adversity.

Another key to Sara’s survival and mine and our developing resilience is holding onto God. Instead of backing off from God during hard times, we’ve learned to draw close to Him and receive strength from Him. We’ve learned to trust God no matter what difficulties life brings.

Thinking of resilience over these recent weeks, two people who would not let go of bitterness and who were unable to bounce back came to mind.

One is a man who said to me, “I haven’t been able to get over the fact that my wife was killed by a drunk driver.” When I met the man he seemed distraught, depressed, and unable to function. I thought that the trauma had happened recently.

When I asked how long ago the accident was, he said, “It happened twenty years ago, and I’m still not over it.”

After speaking to him for a little while I discovered he was unable to forgive the drunk driver who killed his wife. I communicated that if he could forgive, he would be able to move on.

How different he was from Rene, a mom who not only forgave the drunk driver who killed her teenage daughter but also helped to have his prison sentence cut in half. She bounced back enough from her trauma to travel with the man who killed her daughter, ministering to others about the importance of forgiveness. http://www.matthewwest.com/the-stories/the-story-forgiveness/

Another lady who was unable to bounce back after tragedy was a fellow writer that I knew years ago. I asked her one day how her relationship was with the Lord. She said, “I haven’t spoken to Him in years since He let my daughter die of cancer.”

That day I found out that her daughter had died thirty years before. I encouraged her to forgive God, and days later I prayed with her to receive Jesus as her Savior. She died not too long after.

God wants to give each of us the gift of resilience. If we don’t receive it, we will be unable to fully answer God’s call on our lives. We will become immobilized instead of immovable.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…”1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV

–To find out more about Saroeup (Sara) Im, here is the link to her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/sara.imm.3?fref=ts

To purchase Sara’s book, visit this link: http://www.smarthealthylivingtoday.info/saras-book/

(for some reason on Amazon, the “new” book, How I Survived… is expensive, so avoid buying it there.)

Song selection: “I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWwzjqTiluA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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