“What if?” — Two Words Can Change A Life

What if something as small as two words could change the trajectory of your life, improve your relationships, bring increased joy and renew purpose. Maybe you think I am exaggerating, but honestly, I’m not.

Twelve years ago, my husband and I refused to retire and chose to repurpose our lives instead. We shifted from business owners to working for paychecks and shedding the load of business responsibilities. Then just five years ago God interrupted our pleasant lives with what seemed like an impossible proposition. There was a sudden urgency to publish a “children’s” book.

Others encouraged me. However, the pressures of full time work, ministry obigations, and family life squeezed the majority of my time and energy. Eventually, I resigned from work to give writing and publishing complete focus. After jumping into the deep waters of unknown outcomes, persevering through disappointments, frustrations, and many tears, Olivia & Me was published in 2017.

What a journey! It was like running a marathon without training. Whether stubbornness, frugality, or simply the quest to learn, determination ultimately pushed me into the diverse and “techy” processes involved in website development, writing, formating, book design for interior copy, graphic design for covers, coordinating with printers, and forming marketing strategies.

Now just five years later, the eighth book, Great and Awesome God is in the publishing queue. When we are willing to give God our “Yes, Lord!” anything is possible!

“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him: though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:23

Stumbling

Honestly, stumbles and trips still occur almost daily. Even now, I struggle to overcome many obstacles — some internal and others external. But “what if” my roadblocks became highways to success.

These two little words are capable of changing anyone’s perception, even mine!

We all know the voice of our internal critic.

  • You are not enough!
  • Nobody will buy these.
  • You will make a fool of yourself.
  • This is nothing but a waste of money.
  • You have no training for this.

However loud your harassing voice, we all have the ability to silence it.

  • What if God is enough!
  • And what if people buy them and are encouraged?
  • What if others grow spiritually, even if at times I might look foolish?
  • Or what if the money spent becomes an investment into the eternal futures of people?
  • What if I seek training, engage in writer’s groups for support, and God does fill in the gaps with His wisdom and the help of others?

“Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.'”
Luke 18:27

These two little words exceed any positive thinking strategy. They open a heart and mind to trust God for His possibilities worked in and through our lives. The only thing we have to offer Him is a segment of our time and limited resources.

Possibilities

Although creativity infused my life in a multitude of ways and I had once played around with oil paints, my inner critic told me (in no uncertain terms) I could not illustrate a book. After my husband bought $350 worth of watercolor paints and supplies for me, I cried, absolutely convinced it was a waste.

One step at a time, God led me like a little child to create color charts by blending one color with another and to watch numerous online tutorials.

Alone one day, when no one could watch me fail, I sat with a broken HB2 pencil and began to sketch the image of a baby. To my astonishment, a beautiful face began to appear on the paper! What if this was possible, thoughts broke through the inner voice of condemnation. What if God is all I need . . . and more!

These two little words, “what if,” transformed my pessimistic mindset to one of God possibility.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Ephesians 3:20

There Is More

We all face daily challenges.

As covid restricted personal contact with people, my confidence took a nose dive — especially in the area of markteting. In person meetings gave people opportunity to see me, hear the message, and develop trust. On line, however, seemed cold, detached, and artificial. To propel me through the challenges, God connected me to Christian Book Academy, where I found support, prayer, and strategic tools.

What familiar chant does your critic play through your thoughts, pointing out roadblocks and limitations. It may be saying something like:

  • Your marriage is doomed to fail.
  • Your business is about to collapse.
  • You will never survive that blunder.

And more and more . . .

Last week God encouraged me to make a list of critical and negative thought patterns. Then with a stroke of the pen, He led me to create a different outcome beginning with “What if . . .” What if God works through us to establish a beautiful, healthy marriage? What if this downturn is actually for a longterm benefit? With God, even my greatest mistakes become what if possibilities for character develop and lessons learned.

“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:21-22

Faith Rising

This may sound foolish, but by the end of the exercise, I was high-fiving, fist-pumping, and cheering in triumph around my living room. (Fortunately, there were no cameras present!) God strengthened my faith, blowing the lid off perceived limitations.

Everything becomes possible with God on our team!

I would encourage you to make your own list. Then give God room to fill in the “what if” over your situations, relationships, businesses, dreams, and desires.

I pray that by sharing my simple experience you will find courage to transform negative thinking into God thoughts over your life. May you have faith to believe in God possibilities. What if your roadblocks are God’s highways to something great? What if your difficult season propels you something better than you could imagine?

May we al give ourselves permission to believe the “what if” thoughts of God!

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Christianity — The Greatest Movement in History

Christianity - The Greatest Movement in History

Time has proven the greatest movement in history has undeniably been the sustained growth and expansion of Christian faith, despite extreme persecution of its followers by oppressive regimes to eradicate it.

The ministry of Jesus spanned three short years. Yet today, roughly one third of the world’s population profess some form of Christianity — about 2.38 billion people according to the last count. Rather than a diminishing belief, people are coming to faith in Jesus Christ in greater numbers now than ever before.

Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, women approached his tomb to mourn and give Him a proper burial. How shocked they must have been at the angel’s announcement,

” . . . Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”
Matthew 28:5

Many people still believe Jesus to be dead, buried, and gone. Oh, how wrong their perception! Both He and His church are alive and well!

Just As He Said

On multiple occasions, Jesus forewarned His disciples about His death and ressurrection. He prepared them for the future, telling of many things yet to occur. Rather than the church weakening or becoming just-another-religious organization in His absence, He said Christianity would become a powerful, unflinching force that would neither cower nor bow.

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.”
Matthew 11:12 NLT

All the original apostles, except for Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Faith in Jesus, rather than fear of political or religious leaders, drove them to ferociously defend and advance the Kingdom of God.

“We are certainly not those who are held back by fear and perish; we are among those who have faith and experience true life.”
Hebrews 11:39 TPT

The same attitude embodies Christians around the world today. Christianity remains the greatest movement throughout history.

Greater Works

It is difficult to comprehend Jesus’ promise that His followers would continue and exceed the ministry He began.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

Greater works than Jesus? Since Jesus said it, we can confidently believe.

Jesus didn’t leave us powerless. The indwelling Holy Spirit continues to flow through those who follow Him. Holy Spirit working within believers accomplishes the same things Jesus did when He walked among humanity. Now, with Jesus’ followers numbering in the billions, greater works are being done. Billions of Spirit-filled believers actively carry out His mandate around the world.

Much Fruit

The greatest movement in history continues to flourish and dominate social cultures and political landscapes, not apart from Jesus, but through Him, by Him, and for His glory.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

In a recent dream, I saw a large, open field. I knew the land was once rolling terrain, dotted with sandy hills in some areas and wasted swamp in others. Yet, now the flat field produced an extremely thick crop of plump wheat. The ripe heads of wheat were thicker and fuller than any natural wheat heads. It was a supernatural crop. As the legal owner of the land, I knew it was my responsibility to bring in the harvest — an impossible task to accomplish on my own. This supernatural harvest would require a supernatural team, including Jesus and others.

Together

John records Jesus’ prayer — first for Himself, then for His followers, and finally for future believers (like you and me).

” . . . I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:20-23

This unity between believers from diverse denominations, complex cultures, and numerable nations creates a synergy, adding momentum to the greatest movement in history and bringing in the supernatural harvest. Christian unity offers people everywhere a visual demonstration that Jesus is alive.

Jesus continues to visit people through dreams and vision, supernatural healings, signs, and wonders. Borders cannot stop His entrance. Governments cannot stop His movement. His is alive! His church is growing exponentially in numbers and maturity. He compared it to yeast working through dough,

” . . . The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Matthew 13:33

Do Not Be Afraid

Sixty pounds of flour is a whole lot of flour! Once blended in, yeast can never be separated from the dough

The first words the angels spoke continue to resonate, “Do not be afraid!” Jesus continues to lead His church to victory! Rather than standing off in obscurity, He actively moves among us, drawing the prodigals home, opening the ears and eyes of the spiritually deaf and blind, while softening even the hardest of hearts.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Oh, precious reader, take courage! You are not alone! Wherever you live, God is with you. If you have declared Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you belong to His amazing powerful Church, the greatest movement in history.

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Fresh Air! A Fresh Wind Is Blowing

What memory or image most clearly represents “fresh air” to you? Is it mountains, forests, or laying in a hammock beside a lake? Developers and marketers attempt to package and advertise their latest scent to entice you into buying everything from laundry detergent to shoes. Why? Our nose knows!

When I close my eyes asking God for alert spiritual senses, I “smell” a shifting aroma that excites my spirit. I smell a fresh wind blowing, swooping across the nations of the world. It is starting almost imperceptibly, building strength, riding the prayers of God’s people of all nationalities, disrespecting political boundaries or earthly terrain. Like a powerful stallion sent from heaven, it comes — unbridled and free.

Long ago, in another land, a wind blew.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Acts 2:2-4

“Suddenly” they ALL heard and saw things they had neither seen nor heard before. Perhaps, God again is repositioning us for new things previously unseen and unheard — times of refreshing, times of revival, times of awakening.

Hope

I invite you today to close your eyes for a moment and turn your heart heavenward toward the One upon His eternal throne. May you commune heart to heart with Him who loves you, knows you intimately, and sees your situation.

Neither distant nor distracted, He waits, listening for your voice. Like a loving Father, arms outstretched, welcoming you to come.

You are not abandoned! You are not forsaken! God has not forgotten your name.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Ephesians 1:18

Oh, that we each may “know the hope to which (God) has called” us! Renewed hope breathes fresh air upon us. Do you smell it?

Courage

The fresh breeze blowing rides upon the wings of courage.

“But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Matthew 14:27

We take courage, grabbing hold of it. We all possess the potential to choose courage. Courage shines strongest in the face of fierce circumstances. Courage disarms fear, exposing its faulty system.

It may be -30 degrees celsius outside, but today I unlocked the door and stepped onto my balcony with slippered feet. I shouted long and loud, laughing (literally) at fear. This simple gesture created a powerful inward move, refusing to entertain fear. The fresh air made me cough, pause, then breathe a glorious deep breath.

I smelled again the scent of newness, of God invading this earthly realm in ways my heart yearned to see.

Faith

Have you ever smelled the humusy aroma of fresh turned earth after a long winter’s rest? It is one of my favorite things, reminding me the old is gone and a new season has come. Faith smells just like that! Faith dares to turn over the moldy remnants of growth long dead, preparing for the planting of new seeds.

We enjoy the fruit of whatever we willingly sow, both in the natural and the spiritual.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-contol. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Sow the seeds! Reap the fruit! Breathe in the aroma of the fresh air of God’s Spirit rising.

In prayer, I saw an eagle, rising, circling upon a fresh wind. It rose higher and higher until I could no longer see it, but I knew it was there — powerful, strong and free. Suddenly, the eagle swooped taking captive what needed to be taken captive. Then flaming arrows came from heaven, lighting fires all over my nation of Canada. Not destroying fire, but fire that lights and warms — inviting fires, needed fires, holy fires.

The fresh air of Holy Spirit ignites flames of passionate worship, surrendered hearts, and yielded wills. I smell it, though I don’t yet see it.

Prayer

Yes, Lord! Bring in the fresh air of Your Presence. Blow across this and all nations with hope, courage and faith. Release over the earth the wind of Your doing. May Your church be ready! May she be waiting and watching — anticipating the newness of this day and hour. Turn over and overturn all that is dead and dying. Prepare the soil for Your harvest.
May Your people unite in perfect unity and harmony, declaring Your unfailing Word, without shame, throughout the streets and roadways, to neighbors, family, friends, and strangers.
May the winds of revival and restoration come! Remove what must be removed. Ignite holy fires. Shoot Your powerful arrows restoring Your purposes and plans. Light the path for those who have wandered far to find their way safely home.
This is a season of renewed hope! A time of great courage! Unwavering faith stirs among Your church — young and old, male and female. She is beautiful and strong. She will not be diminished! Through the burning fire of oppression she comes — radiant and unashamed.
She is learning to love as You love. She carries with her the fruit of Your Spirit, scattering it abroad. Lavishly generous, she freely receives and gives with open hands.
Awaken us, Lord! Awaken our senses to know the tremendous season upon us. It smells like fresh air, turning us toward You.
Amen.”

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God’s Names: God’s Nature: Why Study God’s Names

God’s names reveal God’s nature. When God reveals a new name in the Bible, He uncovers previously hidden attributes of His character. The more we know His Name, the more we know our God.

We understand names carry great significance. Businesses invest time and money in deliberation, strategically choosing and designing catchy names, brands, and logos. Parents mull over baby names for hours, carefully deciding on the perfect name their child will carry.

Recently, a young companion illustrated to me the importance of a name. She chattered non-stop as we headed toward the barnyard. Upon arrival, she proudly held fuzzy balls of purring fluff for me to see. Each meowed and purred at her attention.

“I call this one Calli, because she is a calico kitten.”

Good choice, I thought.

“Here comes Greg,” she said, as a dusty grey kitten squirmed into her lap.

“And this one?” I asked as I held up another.

“Oh! I named him Tucker, because of his tortoise shell markings.”

Pretty smart, for one so small, I thought again.

I studied the litter of kittens more carefully. Their names revealed characteristics I previously ignored. As she continued to point out details of each one, I held another soft bundle of fur, gazing closely into its bright green eyes as whiskers twitched and wet paws stretched.

At that moment, I realized again the importance of studying and valuing the things that matter to us. There in the barnyard, I remembered God’s many names and the significance of them. Over time, I have grown to know Him more clearly, love Him more deeply, and appreciate Him more fully by studying His names.

Written below you will find a few benefits from studying the names of God. God’s names really do reveal His nature.

Security and Identity

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. ” Genesis 1:27

In the first chapter of the Bible, God introduces Himself as Elohim — Creator God who spoke all things into existence. All except for mankind! Humanity He created in His own image, forming every detail personally with His hands. Then in the ultimate expression of love and intimacy, He bent low, placing His mouth upon clay-formed lips and breathed.

How amazing! God intimately filled mankind with the essence of Himself. I wonder if at the core of our insecurity and at the root of lost identity, we might find a lack of knowledge of the nature of God’s commitment to us and His loving care.

Elohim, the first name we discover, presents God as one who will not rest until He brings confusion into order, darkness into light, and dust into life! In Him we may trust and in the power of His Name we rest. We discover true security and core identity only in the knowledge of His Name.

Salvation

When Peter speaks before the Sanhedrin, he draws from the Psalmist’s words, “Then I called on the name of the LORD: O LORD, save me!” Peter boldly declared,

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

What Name bears such significance? What Name, unlike any other name, rescues and saves? There is only One! Only one of God’s names reveals such excellence — the Name of Jesus!

The beautiful Name of the Lord Jesus Christ — each portion carrying deep significance — should be the first Name we learn. Lord represents the Father; Jesus identifies the Son; Christ (the Anointed One) signifies the Holy Spirit. In His Name we find salvation and the fullness of the Trinity.

Confidence in Prayer

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, and I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91:14-16

Whether in desperate situations or the monotony of everyday life, as we acknowledge and declare His Name in prayer, God releases power and authority through our humble words. He hears. He moves and responds. By proclaiming His Name over situations, circumstances shift. Confessing the greatness, the goodness, and the glory of His Name releases His Spirit into unseen realms, transforming the seen ones.

At times uttering His Name takes on a warrior tone, another Name spoken in hushed reverence, still another sung with joy. What assurance comes as we pray, not to a deaf and distant god, but to our Lord — our Healer, Provider, Shepherd, and Peace.

Puts All Things Into Perspective

“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘LORD, save me!'”
Psalm 116:1-4

Just as the small moon, at times, blocks the sun’s light from reaching earth, present reality, at times, eclipses the larger truth of who God is and the greatness of His Name. The more we study God’s names and His attributes, the clearer we see the fleeting nature of this present life and difficulty.

Limits constrain everything earthly. But nothing constrains God! He defines Himself in limitless terms: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, without beginning or end.

Deeper Awe and Worship

“Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, you his servants; praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.”
Psalm 113:1-3

For some people, finding a reason to praise God may initially appear difficult. Yet as we practice the adoration of His Name, worship bursts forth. God remains forever worthy of exultation. He commands worship, not because He is a self-seeking egotist, but rather because worship strengthens us! As we pour out unrestrained worship to Him, we become complete and fully satisfied.

For me, the abandonment of worship flows easily. When asked why, I give no other reason than He is worthy!

Every morning when I awake, I ask, “Today, is He worthy?”

Every morning, I come to no other conclusion but, “Yes! Yes! Today, and every day, He is worthy! Today, and every day, my God is worthy of ALL praise.”

Strength under Trial

“We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:7-8

Allow these words to comfort, strengthen, and seep over you.

“The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Proverbs 18:10

When everything feels like it is closing in, when there seems no way out or around a difficulty, “our help is in the name of the LORD.” God’s Name is always enough. In sickness, the whisper of that Name brings healing. In defeat, the mention of His Name secures victory. Where depression and anxiety paralyze thoughts and actions, the uttering of His Name enables release.

Power in Spiritual Battle

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Psalm 9:9,10

To “know” God’s names means to know both intellectually and experientially. It means to personally “know.” As a child, I knew I could run to my earthly father in times of trouble. Why? Because he was strong enough, loving enough, and wise enough to deal with any struggle I faced.

How much more my Heavenly Father!

“The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
Daniel 11:32

When we “know” His Name, He gives us authority to release the characteristics and qualities of His Name into situations we are contending for.

David came against Goliath, “in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45). As we face our own battles “in the name of the LORD Almighty,” He fills us with courage, boldness, audacity, tenacity, and anything else we might need to overcome.

Increased Faith

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.”
Isaiah 50:10

We face our personal faults, fractures, and failures daily. However, the more we gaze into His magnificence and perfection, the more we will realize success and living life well depends not on us, but on God. Every mighty man or woman of God comes to the same conclusion. Though weak, they become strong in Him. Though fearful, they grow bold in Him.

One only needs to turn to Hebrews 11 to read the exploits of faith-filled ones, those who knew God well. The more we know God through His names, the more we too become “fully persuaded that God (has) power to do what he (has) promised” (Romans 4:21) and faith builds, rising to dominate our words and actions.

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The more time my little companion spent with her kittens, the more she knew them, not just by color, but by their character. She knew which ones would play inquisitively and which ones would withdraw to solitary corners and watch.

The more we spend time with our God, studying His names, the more we will know Him and His ways. God’s names reveal His nature, attributes, and character.

The intentional study of God’s names results in eternal dividends.

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The Beauty of God’s Fire – A Prophetic Word

The Beauty of God's Fire

Flames, rising and falling, swirling and twirling, perform a mesmerizing dance, but the beauty of God’s fire surpasses all others. Spiritual fire performs divine purpose. Holy fire consumes, leaving no trace of the former content, while in other ways increases, fortifies, strengthens, revives, and restores.

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On a cool evening, one family circled a campfire on a sandy beach overlooking a small lake. They cooked hot dogs and roasted marshmallows over the open flames. With laughter, they sang songs, shared stories, and fortified generational bonds. There they lingered long after the moon rose and stars cloistered against the darkened skies. Before retreating to their warm cabin beds, they carefully covering the fire’s last golden embers with sand.

The next morning, another family arrived on the beach. All four doors simultaneously swung open as a rush of shoeless children raced excitedly toward the water. Their towels flapped cheerfully behind them in the warm summer breeze. Time halted with the ear-piercing screams of the youngest, as we all watched, horrified. She froze mid-stride. Then instinctively, she dropped her hands to the ground while trying to lift her feet. My father knew immediately what had happened. He grabbed her writhing body, dipping her burnt hands and feet in the cool lake before rushing her to the nearest hospital a half-hour away.

Campfire

The same fire that brought delight to one family, meant weeks of torturous burn treatments for ours.

Fire! Both beautiful and painful! Simultaneously taking and giving!

And so it is in the beauty of God’s fire through painful trials — this union of removing what no longer belongs to secure what must eternally remain.

A Prophetic Word

I feel stirring in my heart a prophetic word — an unction of the Holy Spirit. I see with spiritual eyes both a flame burning and a newness rising. For those willing to endure the flame of God’s purging fire, there is coming victorious freedom and release.

The invitation to surrender completely to His flames extends to every one of us. However, I feel it will be men, both young and old, who will respond and rise with strength during this season. There is a generation of flaming ones, unstoppable in the Spirit, who are coming through the flames of adversity and trials. They believed they were being utterly destroyed, but God has been purging and purifying them for greatness and triumph.

These flaming ones will see and do awesome things through the power of God — divinely prepared, ignited with passion, and released into this generation.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”
Isaiah 48:10-11

Former generations have robbed God of the glory due His name. In pride, they set themselves on false pedestals and built crumbling edifices of their own doing.

No more!” God says. “I will not yield my glory to another.”

Torch

Through the beauty of God’s fire, He is shifting leadership from positions of authority. We see faint shadows of it already, but God is bringing forth a divine rearranging. Only those who willingly surrender to the flames of refining will rise, bringing God glory and reflecting His face.

“This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”
Zechariah 13:9

The Refining

Silver and gold are “tested” in the refiner’s fire.

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1: 2-4

A refiner heats the metal until the impurities, or dross, rise to the surface. Then he skims it off. Over and over, he repeats the process — heating and removing. Each time, he “tests” the purity of the molten metal by looking into the surface. Only when he clearly sees his own reflection in the metal does he know it is pure.

Refine Metal

Throughout Scripture, God uses the illustration of a refiner’s fire to explain His process in removing the contaminates from our lives. He refuses to quit until He clearly sees His own reflection in us.

Everyone goes through trials and adversity. Will we not only allow but welcome them, yielding to the beauty of God’s fire, working out His greater good, bringing us to maturity, and purifying our faith? Or will we resist refusing to suffer pain, while pacifying ourselves with the soothing ointments of pleasure and self-gratification?

” . . . I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.”
Isaiah 1:25

The Invitation

The prophetic word invites us all to become His flaming ones — those who find a place of rest in the beauty of God’s fire. Not once! Not twice! But continually choosing to live within the flame of His Presence.

May God never speak a similar warning to us as He did to the Laodicean Church.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Revelation 3:15-16

Heart on Fire

Paul encouraged both Gentile and Jewish believers in Rome with these words:

“Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.”
Romans 12:11 AMP

Flaming ones, those aglow and burning with the Spirit, best reflect His image. When tested, those filled with zeal and eagerly serving the Lord prove faithful and pure.

As much as I cringe at the thought of being purged by fire, I long for the flame of His Holy Presence to remove everything that mars Christ from clearly being seen in and through my life.

The Worship

God commanded the priests of the Old Testament to never allow the fire on the altar to go out (Leviticus 6:13). God still commands us, His New Testament priests, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, in true worship.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sister, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.”
Romans 12:1

The embodiment of worship extends beyond singing congregational songs on Sunday mornings or any other day of the week. Worship means giving ourselves daily to Him, sacrificially for Him, and holy unto Him. In true worship, we step willingly and knowingly into the beauty of God’s fire, becoming living torches of His Presence.

Light Candle

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'”
Hebrews 12:28-29

Isaiah referred to Jesus, saying,

“The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame . . .”
Isaiah 10:17

Within this image, God places us!

Us in Christ and He in us — together burning! As a perpetual act of worship, we combine our small flames with THE consuming fire and THE fiery flame. Little flames within His great flame and small fires amidst His glorious fire, creating ever-increasing, globally impacting intensity!

The Baptism

John the Baptist preceded Jesus, baptizing with water — a baptism of repentance. He spoke of another baptism and another Baptizer,

“John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Luke 3:16

This Holy Spirit baptism of fire is available to everyone, of all nationalities and creeds, who desires it. God is faithful! He offers great joy, freedom, and power to those who will abandon themselves to His purposes.

But will I surrender and submit to God’s plan and become a flaming one? Will you?

Flame Candles

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Does God Hear and Answer Prayer

Hear and Answer Prayer

One question we may ask is, “Does God hear and answer prayer?” We might know He responds to the prayers of others, but what about mine? Can I pray with confidence, believing He turns His ear toward my petitions and that His hand opens to my needs?

For many people, this is the point of wavering faith. Does He listen me? Will He respond to my voice?

When I turn the hot water tap on in my house, the water initially runs cold. By leaving it running, I confidently know that the hot water will flow through the pipes eventually getting from the heating tank to me. Prayer is like that hot water tap. I don’t always experience an instant response, but if I keep the “prayer pipe” open, the desired results will come.

But what do we do when answers don’t flow like water? When faith fades? Or hope hides?

I relate to the words of the psalmist David,

“I’m hurting, Lord — will you forget me forever? How much longer, Lord? Will you look the other way when I’m in need? How much longer must I cling to this constant grief? I’ve endured this shaking of my soul. So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?”
Psalm 13:1-2

Hot Water Tap

I appreciate David’s honest bearing of his soul. “How much longer,” forms a familiar refrain for many of us. As we read further, however, we discover God heard his cry. The answer to David’s longing came. Later, he penned psalms of thanksgiving and praise for the answers sent his way.

“For (God’s) anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

But will God hear and answer my prayer? Will He turn my weeping into joy, my struggle into success, or my darkness into the brightness of day?

Take Courage

I take hope from a short passage in Exodus. After generations of immersion in a wicked and foreign country, not to mention cruel slavery, God’s chosen people finally cried out for help. They should have known God as their Deliverer, but they didn’t. God’s faithfulness seemed distant, His promises forgotten. So in misery they cried!

” . . . The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.” Exodus 2:23

They didn’t remember to look to God or ask Him for help. Yet, their pain-filled cries reached Heaven’s gates and God’s throne. God heard. He answered by sending Moses to lead them to freedom from their oppressors.

Watering Can

Many of my prayers resonate with cries and groans. I, too, sometimes forget to look to God for the answer. As a compassionate Father, He responds. The answer may come in unexpected ways and unpredictable timing, however.

“Lord, how much longer?”

Never Too Late

Unlike the Israelites in Egypt, the priest, Zechariah, and his wife, Elizabeth, stayed close to God. At first, their prayers overflowed with faith and anticipation. Years passed. Decades slipped away. God’s deafening silence prevailed.

I wonder when they stopped praying for a child. When did they resolve themselves to barrenness, childlessness, hopelessness . . . When did their groaning and crying cease? Now too old to hope for their miracle, they gave themselves to intercede for others. They loved and served God with unflinching devotion, without expectation of personal gain.

Did the ache ever leave? That longing for a child of their own. Did they sometimes wonder how different life might have been with children and grandchildren, or even great grandchildren?

Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes!

Water Spout

” . . . ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”
Luke 1:13-14

God sent His angel to announce the good news. He heard! He answered! His perfect timing arrived. Those faith-filled prayers, long silenced on Earth, echoed in Heaven. God hadn’t forgotten, even when it seemed He had.

Keep Praying

A Roman Centurion named Cornelius also devoted himself to prayer.

“He and all his family were devout and God-fearing, he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:2

One would expect such consistent praying from Jewish believers, not a Gentile — one considered outside the realm of God’s care and concern. Cornelius dared to keep the prayer tap open, believing God, in grace, would hear and answer. He was right!

Because Cornelius prayed, the entire direction of the early church shifted. God shook Peter from religious mindsets and false paradigms. He proved His availability and accessibility to everyone, Jews and Gentiles.

” Cornelius answered: ‘Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.”
Acts 10:30-31

Now that’s a rare occurrence! Angels seldom come to assure us that our prayers are being answered. Because this Gentile man faithfully prayed, trusting somehow, some way God would respond, he received the greatest of miracles.

Fountain

As Peter told Cornelius, his family, and friends about Jesus, they all received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter baptized them into the faith and later stayed to teach them more.

Does God hear and answer prayer? Yes, more often than we realize.

Not Now

The hardest responses for me to receive are the “not now” answers. Everyone loves the miraculous, supernatural responses to prayer. We gladly share our testimonies of when God came through in desperate times.

” . . . who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the word; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again . . . “
Hebrews 11:33-35

Ah! We watch movies and read books about such exciting exploits. We gladly sing praise to God for His great love and awesome power demonstrated in such amazing ways.

But . . .

Dripping Faucet

But there are times when and others who

” . . . were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Hebrews 11:39-40

Their faith rose to the challenge. The Bible says, “The world was not worthy of them!” (vs 38) Yet, miracles stayed distant. God answered, “Not now. I have something better for you, faithful one.”

Only a quiet trust in God’s better, higher, perfect ways holds us in such times.

The Word of God

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Romans 10:17

Though I would love to offer pat answers and fixed formulas, none exist. God is God. Though He chooses to hear and answer prayer, He owes us nothing. Nothing obligates Him to respond to our efforts to garner His attention.

Nonetheless, He is a good God who delights in responding to the call of those in relationship with HIm. Oh, what confidence we gain from this wonderful assurance,

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6

He exists! He rewards!

Faith builds as we read the Bible and the testimony of God’s faithfulness to multiple others. It grows in the shelter of God’s unfailing love and His steadfast devotion. Faith, not in prayer, but in the God who answers prayer, flourishes on the foundation of His unchanging Word.

No word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1:37

Fountain

A daily time reading the Bible and praying keeps our spiritual taps open and the channel clear for God to hear and answer. There is no substitute or easy fixes. God’s Word saturates our hearts, fills our minds, and lifts our spirits to believe.

The roots of trust take root until we know that we know that we know, God will hear and answer. It may be soon, but it will never be late.

Patient Endurance

I can either be annoyed because the hot water takes so long to reach the sink, or be thankful when it arrives. Attitude determines altitude someone once said. An attitude of patient endurance as we wait for the full result of prayer to develop is essential.

Let’s not grow weary or give up, saints! The answer is on the way. May we rejoice even before it arrives, while we keep the tap open and expectation flowing.

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Focus on the Greatest: Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, Love

Can you imagine the impact upon us as individuals and upon our society if everyone would turn their focus toward faith, hope, and love? These are undoubtably the greatest and best assets anyone could possess and share with others, not just now but for eternity.

Many people live frivolously, even selfishly, expecting unending tomorrows in which to “eat, drink and be merry.” But what if we knew our time was short, our opportunities limited? Would the flow and direction of our lives change? Would an eternal perspective help us refocus our priorities and energies?

“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you . . . ” ‘ ”
Luke 12:19-20

It is all too easy to become distracted by the trivial and consumed with the mundane. Too often the responsibilities of life dictate our agendas and demand our time. The urgent pushes ahead of the necessary. Re-evaluating our focus helps to center us, pulling us toward far-reaching eternal goals and targets.

Whether I speak, write, teach, mentor or encourage, I’m continually brought back to the motivation behind it all — faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

“These three remain,” existing for eternity!

Faith

Paul commends the church in Corinth for their effective use of spiritual gifts. He asks them to remember and honor each individual, valuing their uniqueness. Like us, the Corinthian church struggled to maintain unity within diversity. Like us, they elevated the minor and diminished the major. They found it easy to focus on the external functioning of gifts and ignore the deeper issues of the heart. They faced these challenges — sometimes well, sometimes not.

Faith, Hope, Love

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

That’s an impressive list, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a faith to move mountains or the gift of prophecy? What about an ability to understand the deep secrets and mysteries of God? Many people pursue these gifts and receive them. God, speaking through Paul, clearly states that these things don’t impress or please Him. Unless, of course, they spill from a heart overflowing with love.

Unbelief, scepticism, cynicism, and doubt permeate our culture. But there’s good news. they are all temporary ailments of a society in which God is absent. Every negative will come to an end. Faith leads the list of eternal qualities, replacing all negative undercurrents.

Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12

Never before have people become so connected yet disconnected at the same time. The bombardment of information and influence serves only to amplify our loneliness. People feel incredibly isolated and ignored while their social media “friend” lists explode and expand.

Hopelessness in various forms pervades. Hope defers. Heartsickness abounds.

The Greatest Things

The longing within us refuses to be quenched and screams for more faith, hope, and love. For a while people hope; often, they give up. Like the faint scent of rain swept away by the harsh winds of reality, hearts lie barren and dry — hopeless in a world without significant hope.

Jesus restores hope!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it lasts for a season. Jesus Christ grants each one of us an eternal and living hope. Receive your inheritance of hope, securely kept for you. Hope floods your eternal future! Nothing and no one can stop it!

Love

We have all experienced frail, fickle, and faltering love. Genuine love, never fails or falters. We all crave a love that endures. It is a basic need of all humanity.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:8

Even in Christian circles, we easily major on the minors and overlook the major or greatest qualities within God’s Kingdom. No attribute outweighs the significance of love.

I don’t need to look outside myself to find a discrepancy between belief and action. Oh, how frail, fickle, and faltering my own love often becomes!

Jesus Love

Many people feel rejected, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe, you know the feeling all too well. Listen to the following verse and allow God to speak directly to your heart,

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

It’s possible for mountains to shake and crumble, but impossible for God’s love to be shaken, let alone cease. I find it comforting to know that hatred will end, but God’s love remains eternally secure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Since God’s Word is true, enduring forever, how should we respond? Since everything else will eventually pass away, how can we nurture faith, hope and love, first in our lives and then in others?

God has given to each of us a measure of these qualities in seed form. When we plant and nurture them (activating them), they will grow and increase. The principle of sowing and reaping runs throughout God’s Word.

  • “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” Psalm 126:5.
  • “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” Proverbs 11:18.
  • “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Sharing Faith

Together, let’s aim to live our lives in the best way possible. Let’s pursue the eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love, both in ourselves and in others. May we commit ourselves to inspire faith, instill hope, and ignite love. How we each accomplish the task will look different, but every one of us possesses the ability to make a difference.

May we focus on these greatest and enduring qualities of faith, hope, and love, receiving them fully, and then just as freely, giving them away. Let’s stop for a moment to ask God how we might spread these attributes further.

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The Holy Spirit — God’s Gift at Pentecost

Holy Spirit in You

Leading up to Pentecost, many people fast and pray, seeking a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Why such earnest hunger for God’s gift? May I present one possible answer? We are a broken people. We leak and run dry. (Or at least, I do.) People of all ages and creeds desire a refreshing experience of God both within and upon them, bringing wisdom, revelation, and power.

In the desiring comes a waiting — a waiting in His Presence for more of His Presence.

Something significant occurs while waiting, both for the disciples and for us. These men and women pressed through three years of personal sacrifice and transition, public expectation and humiliation, and finally Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus knew they needed rest in their waiting. By comparison, the past days and years paled to what loomed ahead.

“On one occasion, while (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
Acts 1:4

Prayer

The Gift

I love giving gifts! Often the smallest gift brings the greatest joy. Someone else goes through the effort and pays the price for gifts given. Someone else considers carefully the most appropriate gift.

As much as I appreciate gifts, I often find it difficult to receive gifts well. Perhaps these strong-minded disciples shared my handicap. There in the upper room, they gathered in preparation to receive. Others assembled with them.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
Acts 1:14

Years ago, I painted a landscape picture for someone I deeply cared for. It was my first attempt at oil painting, created with love. Initially, the recipient gladly welcomed my gift, but later returned it. They found something newer and better, which probably wasn’t difficult. My gift, now shunned and rejected, stayed hidden in a closet.

Give gift

Have you given something, perhaps a piece of yourself, only to have it rejected? At some time, we all share the experience. When Jesus offered the gift of the Holy Spirit to these men and women, He ultimately offered the gift of Himself. No gift compares to the valuable treasure of the Holy Spirit. Yet like my painting, it too often becomes pushed aside, shunned and rejected.

In order to receive the Holy Spirit well, we must understand what makes this Gift the best, most appropriate, and needed gift.

A Powerful Gift

For over three years, Jesus cared for and supplied everything His followers needed. But now they struggled to adapt without Him. Jesus knew they needed something, or rather Someone, more.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8

For the duration of time they were with Jesus, they operated under His mantle of authority and power. God performed amazing miracles through them. They travelled into the surrounding towns and villages sharing the good news, casting out demons, and healing all kinds of diseases.

That was yesterday! Today called for a difference only the Holy Spirit could make. The most beneficial gifts match the season we live in.

Too easily, the disciples might have dashed into the world ill prepared for the new season ahead. Too easily, self-effort and self-sufficiency may have dominated their strategies. Old season thinking needed to give way to new season momentum.

Living gift

The gift of the Holy Spirit comes with power — power to share Jesus at home and abroad and power for a few men and women to face a world against impossible odds. Sometimes people move out in ministry before the Gift. Then later, they joyfully experience what a difference the Gift of the Holy Spirit makes in missionary endeavors.

A Needed Gift

Paul traveled to Ephesus. His first recorded question reveals much about his priorities in ministry.

“. . . There he found some disciples and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'”
Acts 19:1,2

When Paul learned they hadn’t even heard about the Holy Spirit, he immediately baptized them and prayed. “The Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:5,6). With that, the needed gift of the Holy Spirit arrived in Ephesus. Yet years later, Paul continued to pray for this mature, thriving church to experience the Holy Spirit in ever-increasing ways. Why?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
Ephesians 1:17

The Holy Spirit enables us to know God better — to know Him more deeply, intimately, and fully. To begin to comprehend the vastness of “the glorious Father” requires Holy Spirit’s help, “wisdom, and revelation.”

May the hunger and desire to “know Him better” be the propelling force, preparing us to receive the Gift available to all who will receive.

The Gift that Gives

Paul’s second prayer for the Ephesian church reveals another reason.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:16-19

Love gift

Paul packs punch into his prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to root and establish his listeners in God’s love. He desires the Holy Spirit to help them “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” the love of Christ is. Who can deny that God’s overwhelming love “surpasses” human knowledge and yet the Gift provides the way? Paul longed for the second generation of Christians to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” It’s a longing straight from the Father’s heart.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop there. In the rooting, establishing, and grasping of God’s love, the Holy Spirit gives the ability to offer the same love to others. Isn’t this the greatest expression and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s Presence among us? The remainder of Paul’s letter speaks of loving and living through the Gift of the Spirit.

When I first encountered Jesus Christ, my prayer was, “Lord, teach me to love.” Over four decades later, my heart’s cry remains. To love as the Father loves is beyond personal ability. Only the Holy Spirit enables and empowers such love — even in the smallest form.

The Holy Spirit in You

I apologize as I struggle for words to articulate in a few paragraphs the expanse of the Holy Spirit within us. The Gift turned red-necked fishermen into fishers of men and transformed the uneducated into teachers of the learned. Their lives, and the lives of multitudes since, speak louder than letters and words formed into sentences.

Peter spoke far better than I,

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him as you yourselves know.”
Acts 2:22

Receive

Peter saw and knew Jesus as a man sent by God. We might easily forget He came to earth fully human. Yet this one Man, Jesus, through the Spirit, performed miracles, wonders, and signs. Let Peter’s words sink in. “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs.”

Any limitations rest not in our humanity. We are no more or less human than Jesus was. Limitations originate in our responsiveness (or lack thereof) to the Holy Spirit. That’s good news! What God gave to the disciples on the first Pentecost, He fully and freely offers to us. His Presence overcomes any and all human weakness, bringing hope for everyone.

We don’t need to wait for a certain day of the year like Pentecost Sunday to receive this gift. Every day, the Father extends His Gift to us. May faith reach to ask and trust welcome to receive the Holy Spirit in you.

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Give Thanks to the Lord, For He is Good

Give Thanks to the Lord

The Bible exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord, because God is good. He demonstrates His unwavering goodness throughout all generations. The truth of God’s goodness resonates through the pages of the Bible. Do you know beyond doubt the goodness of God? Is that knowledge a fixed reality of your faith?

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good his love endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1

When we become discouraged by circumstances, doubt because of unanswered prayer, or become disappointed by outcomes, we may question and even deny God’s goodness. The wounds of life become festering sores into which the deceiver plants his lies regarding God’s enduring goodness. “If God really is good, He wouldn’t allow war, famine, plague, divorce, abuse, bankruptcy, hell, and numerous other maladies ” he rants.

Truthfully though, God’s goodness reaches humanity through both His mercy and His grace.

Father and child

Doubt

Satan’s ploy to lure Adam and Eve away from God’s perfect design sprung from establishing doubt in their minds toward God’s goodness.Every aspect of earth’s degeneration resulted. At the very core of our own questions lie the same seeds of the enemy’s power to deceive us into believing God is not good.

God created humanity to live in eternal, unbroken fellowship and communion with Him. He desires limitless time to express His limitless love to each of us. Despite people’s rebellion, He sent His perfect and holy Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem and restore that relationship.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let the house of Aaron say:
‘His love endures forever.’
Let those who fear the LORD say:
‘His love endures forever.’ “
Psalm 118:1-4

God created Hell for satan’s eternal confinement, and where rebellious angels will join him. But He created Heaven for unending communion with people, made in His likeness and image, who love and honor Him.

Father and daughter

God leaves the choice of our eternal direction to each of us. Though the option and resulting consequences appear staggering to our human reasoning, God, in His goodness, could do nothing less. Perfect love never forces itself on another; perfect love invites willing participation. With God’s love flows His grace.

“The truth of God’s grace humbles a man without degrading him and exalts a man without inflating him.”
– Kris Vallotton

Grace

God’s goodness and grace interweave like golden strands throughout humanity. Grace is love extended towards the undeserving — including us. By grace, God gives us nothing less than Himself!

We find one of the most encouraging Scriptures about grace in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” The Christian life involves process, the process of being daily changed from what we used to be into what we will one day become — perfect re-presentations of Jesus Christ. Every step in that process involves God’s goodness expressed through grace. Spiritual growth occurs as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
Titus 2:11-12

Father and child walking

“(God) has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”
2 Timothy 1:9

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His grace proves sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8

Partnered with grace, we find mercy.

Mercy

Mercy involves both the withholding of judgment and the provision of compassion, gentleness, and forbearance. According to the Old Testament mercy meant to “stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon, and to show compassion.” The Bible interchanges the words mercy and lovingkindness for the same word chesed in Hebrew and charis in Greek. Mercy represents “a sure love that will not let go.”

I read recently that the word mercy in English comes from the Greek word, eleos. Eleos originates from the word for olive oil, often used as a soothing agent for bruises and wounds. One poured the oil onto the wound and massaged it in, soothing and comforting the injured part (Fr. Anthony M Coniaris). Mercy demonstrates God’s goodness and compassion toward those who are suffering.

Father and child

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

Too often, we only associate God’s mercy with withheld judgment. Here are but a few Scriptures connecting God’s goodness and mercy:

  • “Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me.” Psalm 69:16
  • “The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:9
  • “For the LORD is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Psalm 100:5
  • “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6
  • ” . . . The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth . . . “Exodus 34:6

Goodness

The knowledge of God’s unfailing goodness establishes a rock-solid foundation withstanding times of trouble. No one speaks so succinctly as Tozer on how important this understanding is.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us . . . Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God . . . The most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”
– A.W. Tozer
Father fishing with daughter

Does our mental image of God align with His Word? Do we see Him as One who is altogether loving, gracious, merciful and good? If not, we will tremble with the times. David, who experienced more than his fair share of difficulties, said,

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”
Psalm 27:13

Oh, how I know what quivering faith feels and looks like! Nothing short of God’s grace and mercy, entwined in His eternal goodness kept me on track. The sure foundation of the Word holds fast.

“”Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor or your majesty . . . I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works . . . I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
Psalm 145:3-7

God’s abundant goodness merits acclaim as much as His mighty acts, glorious splendor, wonderful works, and great deeds.

Give Thanks to the Lord

May we pull aside from our daily struggles and exhausting activities long enough to give thanks to the Lord. May we, even if only for a few moments, ponder God’s goodness, grace, and mercy. As we do, hope will rise, faith will take root, and a calm assurance will wash away doubt. God is eternally good! May we echo the psalmist, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!”

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”
Psalm 107:8-9

We become recipients of whatever we thank God for. As we thank Him for His goodness, He promises to satisfy our longing and fill our hungry souls with His goodness. May you be filled and renewed today, as you think about God’s abundant goodness.

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Where a River Flows — An Increase of Faith

Increase of Faith

The river of God’s divine mercy flows from the high mountains of struggle to the ocean of grace, producing an increase of faith. We find ourselves in such a time and place.

Many people today are experiencing the intense pressure and weariness of rock-hard impasses — immovable, constricting, and looming large. Take courage! God turns such gargantuan opposition to serve divine purposes. Because “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), I’m switching up my normal pattern of writing this week to focus entirely on praying the truths of Scripture.

As you read these words, may you experience an increase of faith for whatever trial you are facing. Take heart! “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us(Romans 8:31)? “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).

Fast flowing water

The following prayer originates and finds root in direct Bible verses. As you pray, release God’s power and authority over yourself and your situation.

God of The Impossible

“God, we approach Your throne of grace with confidence (with outspoken frankness, bluntness and assurance), yet also in humility, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16) . . . We are facing what appears impossible for us, but God, with You all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) . . . Jesus, You declared that ‘Everything is possible for (those) who believe’ ” (Mark 9:23).

“Without faith it is impossible to please You, Lord, because anyone who comes to You must believe that You exist and that You reward those who earnestly seek You” (Hebrews 11:6) . . . We believe! We know and proclaim You to be loving and infinitely good. You reward all who choose to seek Your face.

Rushing Water

“Just as Paul spoke of the believers in Rome, may it be said of us. May our faith remain unwavering during this season of pressure, believing Your promises, being strengthened in our faith, and giving constant glory and praise to You, O God. May we be persuaded that You have the power to fulfill everything You promised” (Romans 4:20-21) . . . For no word from You will ever fail! . . .

“God, grant us an increase of faith . . .

Walking by Faith

“We do not belong to those who shrink back, but we move forward courageously in faith. You deliver us from every assault of the enemy (Hebrews 10:39) . . . By your grace, we live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) . . .

“We choose today to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11) . . . May our lives produce lasting work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3) . . .

The testing of our faith produces perseverance. When perseverance finishes its work, we become mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4) . . . Lord, may we consider ourselves crucified with Christ, no longer living for ourselves, but recognizing that Christ lives in us. The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20) . . .

Rapids

“Lord, in every action, word and deed, may we not be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes . . . For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’ ” (Romans 1:16-17; Habakkuk 2:4) . . .

“You have already given to each one of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Lord, we ask for an increase of faith in each one of our hearts . . .

Warrior Faith

We take up the shield of faith, extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16) . . . Everyone born of God overcomes the world. We are Yours! You have named and declared us to be overcomers! . . . This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1John 5:4) . . .

“Thank you, Lord, for the great confidence we have before You. This confidence rests completely in who You are and all You have accomplished . . . ‘Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ ” (Romans 5:1) . . .

“The time is now! Warriors of faith, strap on the weapons of our warfare and take a stand against sickness and disease . . . Heal us, LORD, and we will healed; save us and we will be saved, for You are the one we praise (Jeremiah 17:14). You are the Lord who heals us (Exodus 15:26) . . . Breathe new life into us . . . Pour your soothing oil into the broken-hearted . . .

Prayer of Faith

“Lord, You invite us to ask big, to believe large, and to come expecting the impossible, so increase our faith . . . You said, ‘if we say to the mountainous obstacle, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and do not doubt in our hearts but believe that what we say will happen, it will be done for us. Therefore . . . whatever we ask for in prayer, we believe that we will receive it, and it will be ours!’ ” (Mark 11:22-24) . . .

Mountain, Rock, River

“So, we come today laying our petitions before You. We speak to our impossibles in Your precious Name, ‘Be moved!‘ . . . “Give us grace and courage to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous and strong (1 Corinthians 16:13) . . .

“Do it again, Lord! The things we read about in the Book of Acts, we ask You to do again. We ask for an advancement of Your Kingdom in our day and in our time. We ask for multitudes to be drawn into Your family. Lord, raise up a generation of men and women, young and old, with an ever-increasing faith. May they pray confidently and humbly, desiring nothing more than to see Your Name glorified and You exalted in our time . . . May they live fearlessly for Your honor . . .

“Encourage the weary ones. Restore the wounded. Revive the frail. Oh God, come to our aid, we pray. You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

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