What do you hear?

So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17

“Trials produce faith.”

“Think of this situation as a chance to grow your faith.”

“God lets us go through hard times so our faith will be strengthened.”

These are all phrases you’ve probably heard at one time or another, in one form or another. It makes it seem so simple to have, grow, and use our faith, doesn’t it?

I found myself wondering, after a lifetime in church, how do you really get from Point A (no faith) to Point B (strong faith)? After all, people on both sides of the line, Christian and carnal, go through rough spots. The Bible tells us that it “rains on the just and the unjust.” Why do those same trials not produce a harvest of faith in those who don’t believe on Him?

Because faith has a starting point, and that is hearing the Gospel. And I don’t mean just the initial “good news” that Jesus saves, but the everlasting, eternal message of hope He brings.

How do we as Christians grow our faith through hard times? By returning, again and again, to the Word. That Word made flesh is what saved us, and the inspired Word of God is what keeps us. Faith doesn’t develop just because we face bad situations. It develops when we seek out our Savior in the midst of those situations. It’s digging into His word, prayer, and praise – those “unglamorous” spiritual disciplines – that actually bring about the faith we need to be victorious in this life.

It’s not just hardships that build faith – it’s what we do, what we pray, what we listen to in those times that matters. So when you’re facing a struggle, what do you hear?

Cultivate that fruit!

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23

My family and I recently started taking Krav Maga classes, the type of self-defense training taught to the Israeli military. And boy, is it ever intense! We’re at the very beginning of our journey, but I can already tell that it’s going to be hard, yet rewarding work.

On the first night, our instructor challenged us to not only stretch before each class, but to stretch during the rest of the week as well. He said it was much easier to maintain flexibility if we made it a lifestyle, not a once-a-week thing. We can’t just be flexible once a week; to be effective, we have to maintain that condition constantly.

And we can’t just conjure up the fruit of the spirit only when we need it, either. We have to cultivate a lifestyle, dwelling in that frame of mind at all times. That way, the fruit will be there whenever we need it – because we don’t have time to suddenly develop peace when a crisis hits, or joy when bad things happen, or self-control when we are tempted to lash out.

Be always seeking after the fruit, letting it grow and produce results in your life. Cultivate it at a lifestyle, and it will always be there when you need it.

Wandering thoughts

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Hebrews 26:3

The third verse of Hebrews chapter 26 has got to be one of my very favorite scriptures.

Why? Because the promise it holds is so simple, yet so necessary.

Perfect peace – in Bible language, “perfect” doesn’t mean “without fault.” It means “complete, whole, lacking nothing.”

Complete peace – I could let out a sigh of relief just reading that.

And could the instructions be any clearer? The promise is to those who trust in God, and who keep their minds focused on Him. The worrywart in me needs to hear that regularly! My thoughts begin to wander, and I have to snap them back to attention and focus them again!

As I lie in bed at night pondering the chaos around me, that verse returns like a goodnight gift from the Holy Spirit. He reminds me that as I keep my focus on the One who can cut through the chaos, He will bring me the peace I seek.

Complete peace. Whole peace. Perfect peace.

Could you use some of that today? Watch where your thoughts are wandering. They might be the key to unlocking a promise of peace!

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” Psalm 112:7

You know what “they” say, don’t you? (Whoever “they” are!) “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

What a terrible way to live!

I’ve spent most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know the feeling – bad news is coming, even if what I’m hearing now is good. It can’t last long. Never does! Everything ends up in a mess anyway.

That isn’t how God sees us, and it isn’t how we should see the world.

Don’t fear that other shoe. Yes, bad times come to all of us. Yes, things happen that are beyond our control. But they aren’t beyond God’s control. Even when we doubt and question why He allows things to happen, we can have confidence that He still cares for us.

It’s called faith. Having confident hope of what we can’t see. Trusting Him even when He seems untrustworthy.

No matter what you’re facing today, let this verse sink into your soul. Don’t be afraid of what’s going to happen next. Place your trust in the One who holds “next” in His hands. Lean on His strength, and you won’t have to worry if you have enough of your own. And even if that shoe does drop, you won’t have to fear, because You know He is right beside you.

Catch a glance

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:22-23

How do you feel about mirrors? Some folks can’t seem to get enough of them. You’ve seen them – gazing at their reflections in actual mirrors, or in glass or polished steel if those aren’t available! They post several selfies a day, each one modified and filtered until they are no longer recognizable to the naked eye. Instagram has become the modern mirror through which we see ourselves.

We can put filters on our lives and try to make them look better, but God sees that too. The face we present to the world may be different from the one that He sees. Our Father knows what we truly look like. He sees through the filters, into our hearts and intentions. We may be so good at it that even we don’t recognize our true selves, but we’ll never fool Him.

And God’s word is just like that. If we think we are “listening” to Him, but we don’t then “act” on what He says, we aren’t fooling Him! He knows exactly what’s up, and His word is like a mirror to show us who we really are – the good, the bad, and everything in between. No filters. No disguises.

Don’t try “filter” your way into God’s abundant life for you. Let God’s word show you who you truly are, and then let Him remake you in His image. We can put whatever spin on it that we’d like, but it’s best for us if we look at our spiritual selves head on and use His teachings to correct what is wrong and make that reflection look more like He intended.

All my words, all the time

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

I was praying about a situation where I was going to have to speak with someone about an important matter, asking the Holy Spirit to help me with the words I needed to say.

A thought began to form in my brain, one I was surprised hadn’t been there before: I need all the words I say to be but there by the Lord.

Not just when I have an important conversation on the horizon. Not just when someone is coming against me and I need to respond. Not just when I’m conscious of what comes out of my mouth. All the words, all the time.

How much of a difference would I make in the relationships around me if I only spoke things that God was pleased with? How different would the world be if we all made that commitment?

Lord, all my words, all the time – may it all be pleasing to you!

His delight is in us, our hope is in Him

“He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse or in human might. No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10-11

If Psalm 147 was written today, it might say, “God doesn’t care how many Twitter followers you have or what your stock portfolio looks like.”

All He cares about is your heart.

He reminds us over and over in His word – it’s the heart that matters. Not the externals that man thinks are important, but what’s deep inside where no one sees.

My prayer lately, more than ever, has been that my will be His will; that my wants be His wants; that I will always and only be right where He wants me, doing just what He wants me to do.

And then I read in His word that this wish of my heart makes the Creator delight in me? How awesome and awe-inspiring is that?

So take courage today, brothers and sister. You don’t need a horse or human might, or even a bunch of Twitter followers or a rockin’ stock portfolio. None of those things that the world sees as making you successful are important. All you need is to center yourself on God, on His will, and on His path for your life. Focus on Him, put your hope in Him, and He will bring to pass what needs to be for you.

Whole hearted, or half-hearted?

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9

God doesn’t want just part of you. He wants all of you, and believe you me, He knows when you’re giving less than everything.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, gifted with supernatural insight from God Himself. When his father, David, was giving him the charge to build the temple, he also gave him some additional advice: Worship God with your whole heart. Not part of it, not just a smidge – the whole thing. And lest he (or we) forget that God is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (always around), David reminded Solomon that God sees every heart, and knows all of our thoughts. There’s no hiding our motives from Him!

Surely you know someone (or have yourself) who has tried to go after God in a half-hearted attempt. I say “attempt” because, as my daughter says, it never ends well. Serving God isn’t something we can do part time, when we feel like it, when we need something, or when we have nothing better to do. Serving God is a full-time, all-in, no-holds-barred proposition. There’s a reason the word “surrender” is used when describing turning our lives over to Him. It’s all or nothing.

Today, let’s give Him everything. Let’s try shutting out the distractions and concerns that try to crowd in, and focus on God alone. Let’s resolve that we are in it to win it, all in, no holding back, and serious about our service.

Good ideas, GOD ideas

Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

It seems, sometimes, like there are no good ideas out there anymore. I dare you to look at the listings for your local multiplex theater. How many movies are sequels or “reboots?” How many television shows are tired, recycled plots from a generation ago, just spiced up a little?

There may be “nothing new under the sun” as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, but make no mistake: there are good ideas, and then there are God ideas!

A God idea is something that you know you could never have come up with on your own. It’s a hint dropped in your spirit, an answer to a question that supposedly comes out of thin air, or a sudden new way of looking at a situation.

A good idea can change your life. A God idea can change the world!

Sure, we can spend hours on Google and Pinterest, trying to come up with the perfect solution to a problem. But divine inspiration can strike at any moment, if we’re only listening for His call.

But you say, “I’ve got the inspiration – now what do I do?” Paul made it clear in his second letter to the Thessalonians that it’s God who gives us the energy to work out the calling and ideas He has placed in us. If He isn’t behind our effort, it won’t amount to a hill of beans. He expects us to put feet to our faith, and He gives us the strength to do it.

God has never, and will never, run out of ideas. He is infinite; we are finite. If you are in need of divine inspiration today, do as Paul suggested all those years ago: honor God with your life, and He won’t just give you good ideas – He’ll give you God ideas!

Walk in truth!

“Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!” 3 John 1:4

There is a difference between knowing the truth, and walking in the truth.

For instance, we can know the truth that it is 15 degrees outside, and yet not dress appropriately for the weather. Even in the worst conditions, you will almost always see someone out in shorts and a short sleeved shirt!

John knew this, and he didn’t say he was happy to hear that other believers knew the truth. He was overjoyed to hear that they were walking, or as The Message translation puts it, continuing diligently, in it!

Walking in the truth means application of God’s principles to our lives, our character, our way of thinking. It means that when a questionable situation arises, our behavior depends on the unbending word of God and not what the trend of the moment is. It means filtering everything we see through the lens of scripture.

You may know the truth of God’s word. Many of us have heard scripture or even committed it to memory over the years. But are you applying that word to your life daily, to your interactions with others, to your outlook on life? There is a difference, and it makes a difference!

I don’t want to just know the truth. I want to walk in it every day! How about you?

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