The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

What compares to the love of God — the greatest love? Our lives are a journey, discovering and nurturing this love which comes from God. We all possess this most basic need to love and be loved. At the end of our lives, when we enter eternity, the only thing that will matter is who we loved and how well we loved. After all is said and done, the love of God reigns supreme.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

Lovelessness

For most of my life, a warped concept of love defined my relationships. Although, I grew up in a very loving and supportive family, I struggled to replicate that pattern of living and loving. A false self-identity labelled me as a misfit and insignificant. Due to a low value of myself, I found it impossible to truly love and value others.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

My inability to love originated from that poor self-identity and feelings of worthlessness. I thought I could escape the realm of lovelessness and enter the domain of true love through marriage. This placed unrealistic expectations on my husband to fill the internal void made only for God.

The Encounter

I first encountered the love of God at a Bible camp as a preteen. Counselors explained through Scripture how Jesus was born the perfect Son of God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for my sins (which even then were many), and He rose from the grave to give me life.

My parents’ example of love made receiving God’s love an easy step. Though loving, they didn’t understand or believe in the need for confessing one’s faith in Jesus Christ or for salvation, however.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

As a young girl, isolated in my faith and lacking other Christian support, I was unable to successful maneuver the opposition I felt. And as a result, I unfortunately made a deliberate choice to abandon faith in Jesus.

No Other Love

Almost immediately, addiction and mental illness opened it’s gaping mouth, devouring all hope and life from me. I was naive to believe that there could be love apart from God who is the very essence of true, enduring love. The battle with depression ravaged my mind and soul.

When one tastes the sweet love of God, no other love suffices. In denying the One who truly loves, nothing else satisfied my longing. The journey back to the Lord took ten long and pain-filled years.

Though I had abandoned Him, He never abandoned me. By His grace, He pursued me with the greatest love.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not of works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 

First Love

Jesus’ words directly applied to me,

“Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first . . .”
Revelation 2:4,5

As I knelt in repentance and committed my life back to Jesus Christ, I uttered one additional prayer, “Lord, teach me to love!” For too long, I had failed to offer genuine, unconditional, and selfless love to those around me.

As God draws us into intimate relationship with Himself, through His love, we learn to love. Then, He renews our minds and transforms our hearts by the truth of the Bible. Then, the Holy Spirit fills us and leads us to the greatest love. We learn to love best through relationship with others who are themselves learning the lessons of love.

The Love of God

When we allow God to become our pre-eminent love everything else falls into place — not instantaneously, but as we consistently follow His example of love.

He begins to become the first One we talk to in the morning and the last One we spend time with at night. We increasingly value prayer, meditation of Scripture, and worship. And we learn to submit to His authority, allowing Him to interrupt and redirect us, as we prioritize time and focus for and with Him.

Not everyone will understand such devotion and commitment. Yet, we realize that we only have the capacity to give to others what we first receive in the presence of His love. As we embrace the greatest love from the One who is love, we gradually obtain the ability to love those around us.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

Oh! May we all learn to follow in the way of the love of God. Then our love for each other will become unhindered and unpolluted. The love of God, the greatest love, continues to make a huge difference in my life and in the lives of multiple others who experienced it. His love transforms us from the inside out.

This life-long process of learning to love as God loves brings life and fulfillment through authentic relationships with others. We all have a story — a personal testimony of learning how to walk in the love of God. What is your story?

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The full story of God’s grace and love over my life can be found here — Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go. Available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

In MaryAnn Ward's  personal testimony through addictions, depression, and sexual molestation.

5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

We can find far more than five unbeatable exchanges that nobody wants to miss — divine exchanges which bring immeasurable benefits. Today as I focus on these few (life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise) may we also discover the many other exchanges available to every believer.

Often things that once worked perfectly, begin to malfunction over time. Some companies even offer trade in discounts to exchange newer, upgraded products for older models. Usually, it’s a limited time offer to urge customers to purchase the latest, fastest, gadgets.

Our children, like everyone else’s, quickly grew out of their clothes as too much leg began to show beneath the hem of pants and tummies protruded from under shirt lines. Shoes also became too tight and developed holes. I smile as I remember how the new purchases seemed to make them stand taller and how they proudly showed off their new-found ability to run faster.

Purging closets and cupboards comes easier to me than loosening my grip on other things which I know I should get rid of — even when those things no longer serve a useful purpose.

An exchange means changes. With changes come challenges we would often rather avoid. But God offers everyone five unbeatable exchanges nobody wants to miss.

The Greatest Exchange

The most beautiful and powerful exchange comes when we surrender our old, temporary life for a new, eternal life in Christ. This divine exchange occurs not outside, but inside us — in the spirit — as we accept Christ’s payment for our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross.

No one dares to claim full understanding of such an exchange. We only receive it by faith. Jesus did for us what we could never do — bridging the gap of separation between us and God and bringing us into relationship with Him.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Colossians 2:13

What a wonderful exchange … death for life … separation from God to being united with Him! Nothing compares to the freedom and joy found in this magnificent exchange.

 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

Labor for Peace

Although we are all unique, we each feel the weight of responsibilities and concerns. But Jesus welcomes us to exchange our burdens for His perfect peace and rest.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Another version puts it this way: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Too often, life feels “heavy or ill-fitting.” These never come from God. Sickness, death, and pain were never God’s plan for us. But because we live in a fallen world, rampant with evil, we face trials. God stands with open arms, offering to carry the full weight for us. He teaches us His “unforced rhythms of grace” to walk through even the most difficult times.

Three Exchanges in One

Hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, Isaiah promised the unbeatable exchanges Jesus would one day bring.

“… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61:3

Will we sometimes feel like our lives have disintegrated into ashes scattered by the wind? Sadly, yes. Will we face the heaviness of grief and mourning? Undoubtedly. Will we experience seasons of hopelessness and despair? Perhaps.

However, as we draw near to Jesus He promises to bring beauty from the ashes. Even in the midst of mourning, He pours healing oil into our wounded hearts. And out of the dust of despair, He can and will bring forth songs of praise — not for the circumstances, but for His Presence bringing us through those circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. Twice in verse seven of the same chapter, Isaiah tells us that Jesus will give us “a double portion” for any trouble we have experienced as we choose to place our weakness into His strength.

Unbeatable Exchanges

Even as I write, I sense the heaviness of what some of you are experiencing today. So, I write with tears of compassion. I feel the heart of God welcoming you to His divine exchange, surrendering your loss for great and eternal gain.

Please join in this simple prayer, accepting His divine exchange.

Lord Jesus, I am tired and worn out — tired of pretending I’m strong and have life together. My heart hurts and my emotions feel as scrambled as my thoughts. I give you my broken life and welcome Your whole one. I long for an intimate relationship with You as my loving Father God. Take my sins and failures, Lord. I believe You died for me. I receive the unbeatable exchange of life and fellowship in Christ. The burdens and pressures have become too much for me to carry, Lord. So, I lay them at Your feet. Teach me the “unforced rhythms” of walking in Your grace. I give you the heaviness of my heart — the burned ashes of dead hopes, the mourning over lost dreams, and the heavy spirit of despair. Today, Lord, I receive Your unbeatable exchanges of life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise. Only You can transform my life into something that will ultimately bring You glory and praise. And in that transformation, I know You will give me life eternal and immeasurable good.
Amen.

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First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

What is the way of love? How do we truly love? By asking God these questions and seeking to understand love, we will continue to form a lifestyle of love.

And yet, I know I fall so far short of truly loving the people I am in contact with. Last night I fell asleep with these swirling thoughts and awoke this morning pondering them again. First Corinthians 13 echoed in my heart, reminding me that though faith, hope, and love eternally remain, the way of love is the greatest of all three.

Today instead of personal thoughts or perspectives, I offer you the pure word of God which speaks clearer than any words of my own. May the Holy Spirit highlight the portions that soothe your spirit, calm your concerns, and echo living hope to you.

I have chosen The Message Bible1 (perhaps a less common version) so that His voice would speak in a fresh tone and resonate to us in a new way.

First Corinthians 13

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.”
First Corinthians 13:1-3


“So, no matter what I say,

what I believe,

and what I do,

I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love In Motion

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always, “me first.”
Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
Puts up with anything.
Trusts God always.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
But keeps going to the end.”
First Corinthians 13:4-7

Eternal Love

“Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like an infant. When I grew up, I left those infants ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
First Corinthians 13:8-12


But for right now,
until that completeness,

we have three things to do …

trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.”

Such perfect love we find only in and through God. Rather than seeing our failures as a source of shame, the imperfection of our love drives us continually toward His grace, leading us to love Him, ourselves, and others in life-giving ways. May we all carefully consider His Word and grow in the way of love — God’s love!

  1. The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson ↩︎

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The Lord is Peace — Jehovah Shalom

The Lord is Peace — Jehovah Shalom

Our King still reigns over all the kingdoms of the Earth. He is the Lord Almighty, the Ancient of Day, Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Despite the uncertainty of our time, He welcomes us to seek refuge in His everlasting peace. Throughout the ages, His affirming words have kept the sails of many faltering ships steady as oceans rage.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Jesus left His followers in the same wicked world we now inhabit. They faced oppression and persecution at levels most of us cannot comprehend. Ripped from their peacefully homes, they were cast into prisons and exposed to atrocities. Yet, they held to the words of Jesus. His promise gave them peace despite anything demonic elements threw at them.

May we find equal courage and strength in the sure Word of our Lord.

Go in Strength

Our God gives us peace out of the essence of His character and name – The Lord is Peace. Israel had walked away from God, facing their self-made destruction at the hands of enemy forces. Deprived of safety, they hid in mountain caves and strongholds while their enemies invaded like swarms of locusts. Impoverished, they finally cried out to the Lord for help (Judges 6).

God raised up the most unlikely candidate as His instrument of deliverance — Gideon. Filled with fear and intimidated by life circumstances, Gideon hid in a winepress threshing out a few grains wheat.

I’ve had plenty of my own hide-out moments — reluctant to take a stand or speak up against injustice. Like Gideon, I have argued with God about assignments He has given to me.

“Who me? I’m the littlest, the least competent, too old, too insignificant, ill equipped, untrained …” My excuses trail endlessly along. Arguing with God never turns out well. Not for Gideon, and certainly not for me.

“The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have … am I not sending you?”
Judges 6:14

When God is with us, nothing else matters. Despite any personal limitations, God always proves Himself more than enough.

The Lord is Peace

Enough faith in God rises in Gideon to give God his shaky “Yes!” Before he confronts the enemy, Gideon first builds an altar of sacrifice to God. What an example! Every victory begins at the place of worship and thankfulness.

“So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The Lord is Peace.”
Judges 6:24

Though Israel’s condition remained the same, Gideon’s heart had changed. Instead of focusing on the enemy’s strategies, he knelt before the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He declared the Lord is Peace. Peace exists only through Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our Peace.

Jehovah Shalom

Shalom means to be complete, sound, or absent of strife. It represents a peace of mind, heart, and life. We can only experience the peace of God by first experiencing peace with God. Such peace comes as we relinquish control and yield by faith to God’s grace.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

God’s peace implies much more than freedom from conflict. It includes prosperity, health, well-being, and faith in the face of conflict. Gideon began to believe more in the invisible God than in the visible danger surrounding him.

The pictographic symbols for shalom would read “to destroy the authority that binds to chaos.” What a powerful image! Let me say that again.

Peace means to destroy the authority that binds us to chaos.

Restoration

Our great redeemer, the Lord is Peace, comes to not only save our souls from eternal destruction but to give us His supernatural peace.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

What is at work to bind us to chaos? What is causing complete disorder and confusion to your life? Are there thought patterns, body habits, or toxic environments?

God didn’t suddenly snatch Gideon out of his situation. Rather, He gave Gideon strategies to overcome in the midst of chaotic circumstances. The Lord is Peace, coming beside us in a similar way. As He spoke to Gideon, He speaks to us, “Peace! Do not be afraid” (Judges 6:23).

Do you feel anxious over present circumstances? Or fear?

God again speaks, “I AM with you. I AM Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace.”

“(I) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in (Me).”
Isaiah 26:3

Prayer for Peace

Thank You, Lord! We come before You, laying down our chaotic patterns of thinking and functioning. We receive Your supernatural, divine peace. Fill our hearts and minds with the comfort and knowledge of knowing You alone sit on the throne. All dominions, powers, and authorities must bow before You.
Come, Lord. Give us the faith and confidence to trust in the assurance of Your character and Word. You are Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Bind and destroy any and every authority that holds us and those around us to chaos. Surround Your children with Your “perfect peace.” May our minds be steadfast, trusting in You.
There is none like You, O God! We worship You before our situation changes. We set our hearts to thank You, giving glory and honor to Your Name. Be exalted in our day, O God.
Amen.

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Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Are you rooted and grounded? Planting takes only moments, but roots develop and spread over a lifetime. Fruit appears last of all. By allowing God time to send our roots outward, we will flourish wherever He plants us. But lately, I’ve been a little frustrated with my personal growth and progress — feeling stagnant and unproductive.

As a long-time gardener, I have gained experience in rooting and planting annuals, perennials, and trees. Though I experimented with newer species, my gardens often contained tried-and-true varieties, originally passed from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens. In our northern climates, the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter offers a more limited palette of vegetation than in other parts of the world. But no matter where you live, a healthy root system is the key to any plant’s longevity and growth.

What holds true in the natural holds true to our spiritual condition as well.

“Having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.”
Colossians 2:7

Planted

Each plant thrives in a specific location and environment. And so do we. While shade loving plants wilt in dry sunny locations, the reverse is also true. But even when planted in the perfect location, a gardener focuses on root development. Trees need to be staked for the first few years until their roots spread far enough to support them against even the cruelest winds. Weekly watering routines become essential, as well.

Where has God planted or perhaps transplanted you? Do you feel fragile? Are you fearful that the winds of adversity may topple you?

As we give God time to expand our spiritual roots, we gain greater stability in our lives. Shuffling from one thing to another hinders spiritual progress. We may look healthy on the surface, but it is the hidden strength of being rooted and grounded that helps us to withstand the storms of life.

God says of the righteous,

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Psalm 1:3

Cut Down

Without success, I have attempted to “trick” certain plants to grow where they weren’t designed to flourish. But when I followed instructions and planted the seedling in their preferred location, the resulting growth was stunningly obvious.

We have all felt my tender roots pulled up from soft fertile soils, only to be pushed into one restriction or another — without room or stability. We have felt the stretch and strain of being “planted” in unfavorable and unfamiliar territory, including hard and rocky circumstances. I, and perhaps you, have resisted God’s choices, believing we could never grow in such adverse conditions. Yet, God knows where our roots of faith and trust in Him would grow the best.

Job felt it, too.

“For there is hope for a tree. When it is cut down, that it will sprout again. And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant.”
Job 14:7-9

Where roots grow, hope remains. And we, my friends, have been rooted and grounded in Christ. Every external circumstance must bow to Him.

Trust

Jeremiah encourages us to trust “in the LORD,” because our trust “is the LORD.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

God birthed within us the desire to reflect such vitality, growth, and maturity. But, it takes time. Spring, summer, fall, and winter repeated year after year. Some seasons kind. Other seasons harsh.

Yet, as we trust in the Lord, and our trust is the Lord, seasons pass as strength builds and and we become rooted and grounded.

Rest

We can either resist God’s process or rest in it. Resisting comes easy. Rest takes courage and faith to remain rooted and grounded.

A tree never strives to grow. It rests while growth naturally occurs. God has formed us the same way. The more we strive, the more we pull apart our fragile roots. But as we rest in His goodness and sovereignty, our roots push ever deeper and wider.

May God give us the courage to stay, wait, and rest. Unlike a tree, we can pull ourselves out and force ourselves into something we believe more conducive and comfortable. Shade sounds good. Shelter invites.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Psalm 92:12-13

Gratitude

As I look back over the seasons of my life, I feel a sense of equal gratitude for both the easy and trying seasons. The seasons of apparent spiritual drought, dis-ease, pruning, and struggle have caused a deeper maturing as sin has been exposed and confessed, ungodly attitudes have been unearthed and removed, patience has been tried and pressed, and Christlikeness has been refined.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:5-8

God directs us to places we don’t understand and to circumstances we might resist. When people damage us, abuse us, use us, wound us, rob us, or mistreat us, may we send our roots of trust in God deeper, knowing somehow, some way He will use it all for our good. Richer fruit will come from our lives.

Just like a tree goes through a season of dormancy before sending out new blossoms and shoots, so must we. The season of fruitfulness will come. Each season prepares us to produce greater and better fruit.

If you are in your fruitful season, be grateful. If not, rejoice! Your time will come, if you remain rooted and grounded.

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Miracles and Gifts of Healing

Miracles and Gifts of Healing

Far too many people dismiss the concept or miracles and gifts of healing as something that occurred centuries ago but not today. Unfortunately, many others seek those same miracles and healing power through crystals, Eastern medicine practices, psychics, ceremonies, and various other means. However, the evidence rests indisputable. God continues to perform miracles and gives gifts of healing.

Our small church occupies a space in a shopping mall. Yesterday after church, I stood outside visiting with people I hadn’t seen for awhile. A lady and her friend approached, asking if I would pray for her ears. She had already received prayer after the service and had experienced some improvement. Happy to oblige, I prayed with her on the sidewalk while shoppers milled in and out of stores. She immediately felt a greater release in one ear and a subtle change in the other.

I resumed the conversation with friends. Suddenly, a stranger hopped out of a car passing along the street. She, too, sought prayer for healing. Shopping for groceries would wait. Her more urgent need was prayer. Of course, I prayed! This beautiful lady was deeply touched by God’s love and a sense of His Presence.

Sometimes when we pray, instantaneous healing occurs. Other times, we don’t see evidence of immediate miracles and gifts of healing. Either way, we know for certain that God hears and answers our prayer.

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:8

Gift Not Ability

Doctors only claim to practice medicine, but God calls Himself by the name Jehovah Rapha — the God who Heals. God purposes to do His work through fractured, imperfect people who are willing to do His will. That sounds far too risky to me. But as the Healer, He gives gifts of healing and miraculous powers to people, partnering with them as they pray.

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them … There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work … for the common good … to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers …”
1 Corinthians 12:4-10

He gives gifts for the “common good.” As we operate in those gifts, we bring Him glory.

Immediate

We all desire and seek immediate healing and results to prayer. The Bible gives us so many instances of immediate healing:

  • The centurion’s servant who was sick and about to die is instantly healed (Luke 7:1-10).
  • Peter’s mother-in-law healed (Mark 1:29-31).
  • Bleeding stops for the woman hemorrhaging (Matthew 9:20-22).
  • Two blind men receive their sight (Matthew 9:27-31).
  • Man with dropsy healed (Luke 14:1-4).
  • Jesus restored the ear of the High Priest’s servant (Luke 22:49-51).

Immediate healings occur through the gift of miraculous powers. God performs wonderful events and occurrences beyond human capability through miracles which manifest His supernatural power to heal and fulfill His purpose.

Some people receive healing simply by believing the Bible concerning God and His ability to perform miracles. Others are healed while listening to a God-inspired message. God’s ability to heal and restore is limitless.

A Process

The Bible also includes many examples of people who were healed through a process:

  • The paralyzed man was first forgiven of sin (Mark 2:1-12).
  • Man with the shriveled hand stretched it out and then was healed (Matthew 12:9-13).
  • Mute man was delivered from a demon to be healed (Matthew 12:22-23).
  • Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears and then spit on His finger and put it on the man’s tongue for healing to come (Mark 7:31-37).
  • The ten lepers were healed when they believed the words of Jesus and acted on them (Luke 17:11-19).
  • Blind man was healed after he washed in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-7).

Sometimes the healing came after an action Jesus did. Other times, there was an action that the sick person needed to do before they received their healing.

The Greek word for gifts of healing is iaomai which means a process of healing, cure, or remedy. Gifts of healing often require an action or movement — usually something that was previously impossible for the person to do.

I’ve experienced such healings in my own life and witnessed them in others. Healing may come through prayer and obedience, prayer and lifestyle changes, prayer and repentance, or prayer and inner healing. Often unforgiveness holds people in disease, but forgiveness releases the healing. Sometimes a spirit of abandonment or rejection ties people to illness, but through encountering God’s love and acceptance healing flows into physical bodies, minds, and emotions. Habitual sin may also keep people from being healed.

To Bring God Glory

Every miraculous touch must bring glory to God.

Peter and John encountered a crippled man begging for alms outside the temple. They gave him far more than a few coins to help him through the day.

 “When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
Acts 3:9-10

A crowd immediately gathered as a result of witnessing the healing. Peter seized the opportunity and preached a message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Five thousand people believed and came to faith!

Ask, Seek, and Knock

If you need a healing today, ask God, seek His direction, and knock on Heaven’s door through prayer.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

When you receive your healing, remember to thank God for His goodness. Then, let other people know about what He has done for you. Give Him the full weight of the glory due His Name.

Father in the mighty Name of Jesus, I ask on behalf of those needing Your healing power today. I ask that You restore health and wholeness to bodies, souls, and minds. I ask that You deliver people from the bondages of past hurt, offense, and abuse. Deliver them from the consequences of other people’s sinful actions. May You move with supernatural signs and wonders, performing miracles on their behalf. If there are actions needed, may they have the courage and perseverance to walk in full obedience to Your promptings. May they have faith to continually press into Your Presence, finding mercy and grace to help them in their time of need. Be glorified, my Lord and my God! Be glorified in and through these wounded ones calling out to You today. Pour out such a blessing that they will know beyond all doubt that You alone have brought them deliverance and healing.
Amen.

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Nobody Can Tell Your Story — Tell What God Has Done

Nobody Can Tell Your Story — Tell What God Has Done

Nobody can tell your story but you. Nobody can tell my story but me. The most important story to tell is what God has done in our lives.

Biographies and autobiographies list the highest on my favorite genres to read. True stories of those who have courageously walked out their faith challenge my own faith to grow deeper and more steadfast. Call them trailblazers or pioneers, survivors or thrivers. Tenacious faith marked each of their lives. Their stories, personal and relatable, resonate within us.

So even though I know the power of personal stories, every time I attempt to tell my humble story, I flounder for the right words. I hesitate, wondering if my story has any real value.

Throughout my life, and even more so in these days, God welcomes me to tell everyone and anyone the things He has done for me.

As you tell your story and I tell mine, we join the ageless troop of those who have overcome fear and intimidation to tell their God-story.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Revelation 12:11

Uniqueness

Though similarities mark all our stories, each life-story charts the making of who we have uniquely become. The essence of our faith stories begins with who we once were and how our old lives looked. It includes an encounter with our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. And finally, who we are now.

I was one way. Then, I met Jesus. Now, I am another way. It’s that simple!

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
1 John 5:11

I stumble most to tell my story when I’m deceived enough to think it is “my” story. Oh, how wrong! God owns all our stories. Without Him, there would be no story to tell. When I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I gave Him everything, including my story. His story of redeeming grace weaves through my story. His story of power to transform broken, ruined lives has also become mine.

When you tell your story and I tell mine, we testify that God has given us eternal life through Jesus Christ. Not just a life in heaven, but a life we live every day.

Only God knows the eternal impact when you tell your story.

Prepare

Several years ago, a mentor challenged me to prepare three versions of my God-story — a one minute capsule, a five-minute version, and then a more complete fifteen-minute expansion.

His wise advice has helped me to tell my story over and over again. In casual conversation, we often only have a moment of opportunity. At other times, people may ask questions which lead to more details. Being prepared ahead of time gives us an advantage to naturally ease the things God has done for us into conversation.

I’m not talking about platform opportunities with a microphone and video recording, although that may come too. Sometimes the curious, or even condemning, ask questions about why we believe what we believe. Others may see significant changes in our lives and want to know the reason why. Then, tell your story.

“The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.”
Luke 8:38-39

Few people have such dramatic stories to tell. But every God encounter is worth relating to others.

Tell Your Story

People often disregard or dispute the truth of Scripture. They may question the validity of the Bible. But no one can deny when you tell your story, sharing your personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 Peter 3:15

The Message Bible relays this portion as, “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”

As you tell your story and I tell mine, we allow no room for arrogance or pride. We can boast in nothing but Him. Gentleness, respect, and courtesy should infuse every word as we explain the Living Hope within us. Hope that has produced confident assurance, solid faith, and significant life change.

We have so many good reasons to tell God’s story about our lives. Let’s write it, speak it, and share it everywhere we go. Our story brings Good News to others.

Today’s Prayer:

Father, open our hearts to respond with gentleness, respect, and courtesy to all who ask about You. May we be sensitive to those who are aching to know You intimately and deeply. May we always be ready to tell about the incredible grace You have shown to us. Give us the right words for each situation that we may share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a loving and humble way. May the gratitude we feel for all You have done be expressed sincerely and simply. With thanks, we pray. Amen.

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The Unexpected Way to Hope

The Unexpected Way to Hope

We all hold expectations of who we hope to become and how we plan to get there. Often, however, we discover an unexpected way to hope.

Several years ago, on a trip to the west coast, we decided to be a bit adventurous and try a different road which was clearly marked on our map. The wide paved highway gave way to a narrower paved road, which led to a gravel road and finally a logging trail through the mountains. We crossed embedded grated gateways through cattle pastures and discovered herds of wildlife. Eventually, the road led us to our destination but in an unexpected way.

Often life resembles our mountain trail adventure. We never quite knew what was over the next ridge or around the next corner. Would we have to turn around? Would we reach a dead end? We had never travelled this way before. At times, it was terrifying. We simply had to keep going trusting the maker of the map.

“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4

Sufferings? Perseverance? Character development? None of these even places in my list of favorite experiences. But all are necessary. They lead us along the unexpected way to hope.

Suffering

As I counsel people of all ages, I hear far too many stories of unthinkable suffering, pain, and loss. I have wept with those who weep and mourned with those who mourn, feeling the depth of their pain. Suffering lashes against the deep roots of faith with a tenacious fierceness.

Often, the rawness of suffering thrusts us into the cavern of disappointment with God. Why didn’t He heal, save, or deliver? Where was He when we needed Him most? Questions swirl relentless and unanswered.

In Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer?, those who have confronted their circumstances, bypassing disappointment with God, advise:

“God allows us to go through things to strengthen our faith and relationship with Him. Sometimes that thing is a desert; sometimes it is suffering.” (Lowell)

“The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain, and he is always ready to restore the repentant one.”
Psalm 34:18 TPT

Perseverance

“Everyone needs to know God answers prayer, and that He is unquestionably good and faithful. Sometimes for reasons we don’t understand, however, we don’t see the answers we hope and believe for. When we fail to teach others about both God’s goodness and faithfulness along with the knowledge that He works beyond our understanding, we may hinder people’s faith … Circumstantial faith lacks the deep roots of knowing God’s goodness and faithfulness even if circumstances never change … Is our practice of prayer based on answers to prayer, or based on the character of God?” (Allison)

Along the unexpected path to hope, we discover God’s unchanging character — His love and absolute faithfulness in, through, and despite circumstances. He strengthens us in our weakness as we develop the perseverance necessary to walk through difficult seasons.

“In the hard places, He shows Himself as our everything.” (Emily)

When we least feel His presence, He draws near.

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18

“One of the first things I heard God say to me was, ‘This was never the life I had for you. I have cried so many tears for you.’ That shook me!” (Shelly)

Hope

Out of perseverance, our character becomes strong and more like His. Then in the most unexpected way hope rises, like the fresh growth of spring after a long, cold winter.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

I’m not sure where each of you are along the journey of faith toward hope, but I would like to assist you in any way I can. God desires for each of us to “overflow with hope.” Though it may feel impossible today, God holds a better tomorrow for you.

Please forgive me for not following my “normal” blog format. As I prayed not only for these simple writings, but for each of you who would read them, I sensed an urgency in my spirit on your behalf.

First, let’s pray:

“God, You seem silent and distant. My emotions feel raw, and my heart torn open. I ask You to circle me with Your love. Open the eyes of my heart to sense Your Presence again and the ears of my spirit to hear the words You are speaking as I grope along the unexpected way to hope. I give You the brokenness of all I am. May I become increasingly sensitive to Your nearness. I declare my love for You. Show me how to rest waiting for Your love to cocoon me in this season, drawing me toward hope.”

Help On the Way

Second, I would like to offer you one or both of my books on prayer at half price

Enter the code “2023PRAYER” to receive the 50% discount. Then click the “Apply Coupon” button beside it.

Third, if you know someone who may also appreciate these books, please pass on the details. Too many around us have been suffering for too long without hope. Perhaps, this unexpected way will bring fresh and living hope to others.

Blessings!

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Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Are you adventuresome? Do you dare to try what others hesitate to do? Are you the first to step into the water, or do you wait and watch?

Maybe my zany attitude for the thrill of attempting new things comes from remnant trauma. My older brother often “pushed” me into doing things I wasn’t quite ready for but was too stubborn to back down from. Can anyone else relate? I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my fear, held my breath, and stepped into the unknown — sometimes with painful consequences. He rarely led the way, but followed if I successfully survived the test!

Or maybe I cast the blame on my brother too quickly. Perhaps God designed me as a curious explorer.

Sometimes, the greatest wisdom rests with those who wait and watch, allowing others to break new terrain. But how many experiences would I have missed if I would have been too afraid to dare to try? Too late I realized the foolishness of always trusting my brother. But I know that I can completely trust the Lord’s lead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Dare or Faith

God never pushes or dares! Rather, He invites us to a journey of faith — a journey that may lead to unexpected places and opportunities.

Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, inspires me. These pioneers held enough faith in God to dare to try the unexpected and step into the unknown. Exploring options only possible through God, they each heard the whisper of His invitation and responded.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

Noah wasted no time trying to convince God an ark would be useless since not a single drop of rain had yet ot fall on the earth. He just started building this thing called an ark. Abraham uprooted his family and headed toward a yet to be revealed destination. Joseph refused to allow a prison cell lock up His faith. Moses, the failed prince, may have stuttered at God’s invitation, but he willingly stepped into unknown waters.

Some achieved earthly success. Others never witnessed the full reward of their faith until they entered heaven’s realms. But they each explored the faith possibilities.

Faith or Fear

Fear of the unknown attempts to keep us from venturing into the realms of unlimited faith. Choosing the path of faith leaves no regret. Bowing to fear or comfortable predictability often does.

Their circumstances will never shake them and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe … ”
Psalm 112:6-8 TPT

We discover many aspects of God’s character only through the path of faith. We all desire hearts that are firm, security in our faith, and a steadiness and strength of character. These by-products of following God’s leading develop best in the soil of faith.

Fear or Love

The power of God’s love for us and in us propels us to explore previously unknown pathways.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

The Passion Translation of John 14:15 reads, “Loving me (Jesus) empowers you to obey my commands.” Love empowers! How wonderful!

The awareness of the immeasurable love of God over us empowers us to step into whatever He invites us into. Whether new territory or untested ground, He leads with perfect love. God’s love enables, empowers, and encourages us to dare to try.

Fear evaporates in the face of such pure love.

Invitation

Where you are going is not where you are right now. Who you are now is not the fullness of who you are becoming. What you have had is not what you are going to have. God always has more for us than we could ever imagine.

Nothing limits what God can and will do through a yielded life. Where is God’s love welcoming us to venture? How is He inviting us to yield to His transformational love? What faith steps is He calling us to move into?

Father God, I sense Your invitation to dare to step into a new level of my calling and destiny. I receive the fulness of Your love for me. You have greater and better things for me than I am experiencing right now. There are areas of my life hungering for the impact of Your Presence. I thank You for Your faithfulness in the past. I turn my heart toward You for the faith to step boldly into today and the days to come. May I look to the examples of other faith-walkers while becoming an example for still more. Trusting not in my own understanding but leaning totally into You, I draw the courage, tenacity, and boldness I need to explore the impossibilities You place before me. May past experiences and failures not limit future prospects or diminish hope. You are a good and loving Father.
Amen.

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Two Paths — The Easy or the Hard Way

Two Paths — The Easy or the Hard Way

In almost every decision, we have the option of two paths — the easy or the hard way. Only one way offers a permanent reward.

I crested the rise, coming to a small plateau leading to a forested dip before rising higher up the steep grade. The well-travelled path was broad and deeply indented by annual tourists seeking a better view of the lake below. The path narrowed through the trees, shrinking to a barely visible trail up the steepest and highest slope. The majority of hikers contented themselves to climb the easiest section, declining the more strenuous upper portion. The further the trail ascended, the more difficult the climb became. Because few people possessed the initiative to scale to the upper ridge, the path was barely visible.

Reaching the summit, I scanned the view. From here, I saw details of the lake and surrounding terrain obscure from lower levels. Vehicles and people moved between miniature houses far below. The refreshing breeze tangled my hair as I rested in the warm sun. I quietly watched as groups of hikers turned back after reaching the first plateau, saddened that they wouldn’t see from this perspective.

I thought of these words of Jesus:

“Enter through the narrow gate because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! The narrow gate and the difficult way leads to eternal life—so few even find it!”
Matthew 7:13-14

The Hard Way

The hard and most difficult way always proves to be the least travelled. We all crave the way of least resistance — minimum output for maximum returns. But wisdom leads us through the “narrow gate” and up the steep slope of hardship.

My dad often questioned, ‘Why do you do everything the hard way?”

Sometimes, it was because I anticipated the challenge. At times, no other way but the hard way seemed available. Other times, I recognized choosing between the easy or the hard way determined a lesser or greater outcome. Often, I looked beyond myself to the long-term benefits for future generations.

By choosing the hard way now, I somehow hoped to make life easier for others. I knew that if I didn’t choose the hard path, someone else would have to. I trusted God to help me break through the generational cycles of addictions, depression, and poverty thinking. My tough work would bring freedom for others to come.

Life is hard! God doesn’t promise any of us a fair or easy lot.

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance. And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
James 1:2-4

Quick and Easy

Human nature leans toward quick and easy ways. We look for the smooth road and the fast track to success. We sow seeds of faith today, expecting to instantly receive a bountiful harvest.

Advertisers everywhere shout, “7 Easy Steps to …”, “5 Quick Ways to …”, “10 Days to …” Promotions invite us to flock down the wide road of ease.

The hardest way will always be the Jesus way. Jesus calls us to the narrow and difficult path of self-sacrifice and self-denial. He commands us to

 ” … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44 

and

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23

When given the choice between the easy or the hard way, few choose the difficult way of fully following Christ Jesus. But those who do, brightly shine among us.

A Reward

Seldom do we reap the full reward of the difficult path on this side of Heaven. Eternity, like the high view, will reveal the full scope of our efforts.

Many who have walked before us left a vivid example of choosing the difficult road — giving abused children a home, enlisting in war to defend godly values, sacrificially caring for the sick and dying, burying personal dreams to promote others, laboring long hours to support the needy, working through difficult relationships for the benefit of the most vulnerable … Their full reward awaited them, not always in this life but certainly in the eternal one ahead.

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.”
2 John 1:8

The loss people experience in choosing an easier path far exceeds anything this world offers. We have everything to gain and lose through the daily paths we choose.

Faith and Maturity

The sign of true maturity shows in our willingness to choose the hard path over the easy one — to choose to love amidst hate, to give out of our need, to forgive through pain. Such obedience to Jesus carries a deep cost. Are we willing to do the tough thing? Will we abandon the tough to others? Will we choose the easy or the hard way?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus warns that doing what we want, even if it’s good stuff, will never validate our love for Him. In obedience to Him, we find our true connection to Christ. By choosing the hard road over the easy, we become like Him through suffering.

These thoughts I share with you today come out of a deep conviction to keep walking the tough road, the hard path, the way of sacrifice and pain. Too often, I have quit too soon. Too many times, I have served and obeyed Him from the plateau of comfort and convenience.

God spurs me, and us, further into radical obedience — to fully love Him and others along the gruelling path.

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Prayer

“Father, forgive us for the times we have chosen the smooth road and self-serving ways. Forgive us for narrow-minded thinking and self-seeking intentions. We turn our faces toward You — the One who travelled the most difficult path to the cross because of Your love for us. When we were utterly wicked and steeped in sin, You rescued us, saved us, and claimed us as Your sons and daughters. Give us boldness, courageous fortitude, and faithful, pure hearts willing to take the high way, the most difficult way — representing You well to those around us. In our weakness, give us strength. In our poverty, make us rich in love. Shape us into sons and daughters willing to follow You wherever You lead us. Strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees to go higher and further with You than we ever dreamed. Help us to become faithful and true followers of The Way, leading many others into life eternal.

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