christmas-joy

Increase Your Faith

increase-your-faithIn the middle of trials, it is easy to find our faith weakening. We don’t intend for this to happen, but as the sickness, heartache, or trouble drags on, it can take its toll on our faith, as well as our bodies and spirits. We must be vigilant to make sure this doesn’t happen. But what do you do when you realize it has already happened?  How do you renew faith? Can we regain it? Are we able to strengthen it?

Yes! Not only are we able to, but God’s word gives instructions on how to increase or renew our faith.  It’s quite simple. Read the Bible. Listen to it. Sing it. Quote it. Listen to extra sermons. Immerse yourself in Scriptures. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. Listen to the word of God today.

Ask God to increase it! Do you remember the father that brought his possessed son to Jesus? He had already brought him to the disciples, but they had no help for him. He brought his child to Jesus, begging for help. Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” I love the man’s reply, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” It sounds like his faith is weakening a bit. He believes, but he feels compelled to ask God to also help his unbelief. Lord, strengthen my faith. When we need anything (even faith), we only have to ask our loving Father.

We can also increase our faith by remembering what God has done in the past. 1 Samuel 30 reminds me of this. David and his men return from an unsuccessful attempt to go to war. They arrive home to they find the city burned with fire, and the women and children taken captive. It’s a bleak day, made even darker by the people talking of stoning David. I love the end of verse 6, “…but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.” Having read the rest of the records of David’s life, I can only think of one way David might have encouraged himself in the Lord: to remember, and recount, God’s faithfulness up to that point.

When our faith is weak, or gone, we can always remember God’s faithfulness. Recount to yourself all of the blessings you can remember. Intentionally remember how God has delivered you, and provided for you, in the past. Count your blessing.

Read biographies of Christians. I have often seen my faith increased when I read stories of Christians who struggled, but saw God do mighty things. Reading of God’s faithfulness to others is just as encouraging to me as remembering His goodness to me in the past. What is your favorite biography? If you don’t have one, ask your friends and pastor to recommend some. You will also find links to a few great biographies on the Resources page of this site.

What will you do to increase, or restore, your faith today?

steps-to-increase-faith

christmas-joy

Be Content and Praise

You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”

Being content...even when God doesn't give us what we want. Be content & Praise!I used to teach a kindergarten class at church. With children ages 4 and 5, there were often tears, whines, and sighs when they didn’t get what they wanted. They didn’t want that for snack. They wanted the toy someone else got, or they didn’t want the color crayon they were given. We would remind them, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.” We were doing our best to teach them to be content. Be thankful for what you receive.

But I Wanted…

As an adult, I have to go back and remind myself of this lesson. It is so easy to get discouraged and out of sorts when we don’t get what we wanted. When my sister-in-law married my brother at 18, and gave birth to their first child at 19, I was upset that God had given her what I wanted before He gave it to me. (Yes, I was that childish.) It was my dream to marry right out of high school and have 6-12 children. Why did God give her my dream and leave me wondering what He was doing in my life?

As I keep up with friends and family on social media, I often see pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and all the other milestones that come with having children. The temptation is there to grieve because God has given them what He has denied me. I didn’t get what I wanted. They got what I wanted. When I think about it, it’s still quite childish if I give in to this temptation.

Not What I Wanted

When I was growing up, I wanted to marry a preacher and have a dozen children. I also wanted to be like my mother and grandmothers. They were strong, hard-working ladies. Most of all, I wanted to be godly. I wanted to be a praying lady like my mother and grandmother. As I began miscarrying babies, I lost sight of those last dreams. I focused on the other dream that was slipping through my fingers.

Therefore be Content

Scripture teaches us that we should be content. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul did not have all he wanted. He had been persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, and generally mistreated. Yet he had learned to be content.

The most straightforward command to be content is found in Hebrews 13:15. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We are to be without covetousness and be content with what we have. Ouch! If I don’t have children, I am to be content. If I am thousands of miles away from family, I am to be content. When God chooses not to give me good health, I am to be content. This is not if I feel like it. It is not optional. It is a command.

So, today when I see my niece’s baby bump, when I see friends and family post pictures of their children and grandchildren, I am to be content. I still grieve, but I am also to be content.

What tempts you to be discontent? Will you let it win, or will you obey Christ’s command and gain the peace and joy He promises?

 

christmas-joy

The God of the Valley

The Battle

nature-landscape-wallpaperI love the story of 1 Kings 20. The chapter begins with Benhadad, the king of Syria, bringing war and threats to Israel. He’s completely confident that he is going to win this war. No one, not even the God of Israel, is strong enough to stop him. Ahab, the king of Israel, follows the instructions of the man of God, and God soundly defeats the Syrian army with “a great slaughter”, according to verse 21.  Benhadad’s advisers think they have the answer. The problem is that they fought Israel on the hills. Surely Israel’s gods must be the gods of the hills. So, we just have to fight them in the valley.

They think they have it all figured out, but they don’t know who they’re dealing with. Verse 28 reads, “And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” God is about to prove to everyone involved that He is indeed the God of the hills, but He is the God of the valleys too.

Is God Big Enough?

Sometimes we are like Benhadad’s advisers. We hear stories of God giving victory, giving peace, or bringing someone out of their valley. We read of God giving the barren woman a child. Someone gives a testimony of God healing those who were past medical help. What about that person who was completely hopeless, but God gave them a job, saved them, or worked some other miracle in their life? Yet we think God may do for others, but He isn’t doing for us. We stop short of saying He can’t, but that’s what our heart is telling us. We think God is the God of their valley, but not of mine.

I have heard stories of God healing those with Chronic Lyme Disease,and Satan asks me why God doesn’t heal me. We have met so many people that were struggling with infertility, but God had given them their miracle baby (or babies). Yet our arms are still empty. The enemy tries to get us to believe that God can, and will, work for others, but not for us. What horrible, wretched lies he tells!

Truth

The truth is that God could heal me, give me children, and give me the energy I once had. And He can do it today. God can heal you. He could have stopped your loved one from dying. He could have saved your job or given you a better one. God is able to change your circumstances in an instant. He is enough. What He has done for others, He can do for you.

God is also wise enough to know that giving me healing, children, and energy may not be what I need today. He knows that trials and heartache bring me closer to Him. Our God is able to use the darkest days in our lives to make us more like Christ and reach others for Him. He is wise enough to know what I need, powerful enough to give it to me, and gracious enough to give me joy and peace in the midst of less-than-my-ideal situations. I can trust Him. You can trust Him too.

christmas-joy

Strength for the Day

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work, or spiritual strength to endure the trial; God is the only One who can give us the strength we need.We are preparing for a team to come help with outreach. We are excited, and just a wee bit overwhelmed. Well, I am overwhelmed. My husband is just amazing. It never fails that right before company, a trip, special meeting, or other “big thing”, I get sick. I’m not really sure why this is. I’ve even been paying attention to make sure it’s not just because I overdo it. It’s just one of those things. I run out of strength for all the tasks ahead of me.

This past week has been a bit rough, so I asked some friends, missionary ladies, to pray for me. I have been praying that God would give me strength for the work that needs to be done. For the last few days, I’ve woken in bad shape. I fully expected to not get anything accomplished.

Imagine my surprise when I look back over these past three days and see that I’ve caught up on my dishes, cleaned my kitchen, done 2 loads of laundry, sorted bedding for the group coming, made bunk beds (That’s an amazing feat even if I’m not sick! Ugh), cleaned out a closet to make room (and organize so I can find what I need), and a few other bits and pieces. How is it possible? Strength for the day. God answered prayer, and gave me the strength I needed for the tasks of today. He didn’t give me strength for all I wanted to do, but for all I needed to finish.

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work or spiritual strength to endure the trial. God is the only One who can give us the strength we need. There were days it seemed He didn’t give the strength I needed. But I realize now that those were the days He didn’t want me to accomplish anything, He only wanted me to rest in Him.

What are you facing today, Friend? Is your load heavy? Or your grief overwhelming? Does your pain seem unbearable? Do you wonder how you will ever make it through? Remember that our strength comes from the Lord. He sometimes does give us more than we can bear, then invites us to cast all our care upon Him. Because He cares for us.

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower strewn pathways, all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
-Annie Johnson Flint

christmas-joy

When Joy and Pain Live Together

I posted this on “Myra’s Musings” on March 29th, but wanted to share it with you here.

Even in the darkest pain, God gives joy when I focus on Him.Today would have been my due date for our last baby “born to Heaven.” For the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating what an adventure these first 6 months in Botswana would have been if we had been expecting, and preparing for, the arrival of this little one. (The guests we have with us this week would have had to schedule for another time.) But instead of holding, or preparing to hold, our child, we’re celebrating his/her life in Heaven.

Our first baby would have been 2 1/2 now, or the second would have been 2, or… You get the picture. Images of what might have been have played though my mind. But in spite of the pain of loss, images of what is plays even stronger. You see, all 6 of our children are enjoying Heaven. All 6 of them see our Saviour’s face. Not one of them will ever know the ache of loss, pain or bad health, the agony of betrayal, or the sadness of separation.

More glorious than that, they are enjoying Heaven and Jesus in the purest, most blessed way possible…without regret. No sorrow over sin or wrong decisions. No shame over having grieved God in this life. They get to enjoy the beauties of Jesus and Heaven in the purest innocence. No mother could ask for more than that for her children.

Yes, my arms are still empty. My heart still hurts. I still miss them every day, and more so on due dates and birthdays. Pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and all the other milestones I see others celebrate still cause joy for them, mingled with sorrow for our loss. Yet in the midst of sadness, there is peace when I keep my mind stayed on Jesus. I will never hold them, or see them grow up here, but I will go to them one day. And for now I can rejoice in remembering that Jesus gave them a great blessing when He gave them Heaven without the sorrow that comes from living on this fallen earth. And my mama’s heart is content. Sad, but content. Because my God doeth all things well.

christmas-joy

Light Affliction?

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:61-18

light-afflictionMy Bible study this morning included 2 Corinthians 11: 23-28 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. As I was reading and studying, I was struck by Paul’s words, “our light affliction”. I had just read the verses in chapter 11, where he recounted his sufferings. He was given 39 stripes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, stoned, shipwrecked 3 times, spent all day and night in the deep, imprisoned, cold, hungry, weary, and in pain. Yet he calls it “our light affliction” when encouraging the Christians at Corinth. How could all of this be considered light?

The key to it is in verse 18, looking not at the things which are seen (temporal), but on the eternal. These afflictions we endure now are indeed light, when we look at them in the perspective of eternity. The times of extreme pain that left me bedridden for days are nothing in the light of eternity. Going through 6 miscarriages was overwhelming to me, until I began looking at it with the right perspective. The spiritual perspective.

In the flesh, these things are not light. The pain, fatigue, heartache, the empty arms…Paul’s excruciating pain, exhaustion, imprisonment…they are hard. They hurt. We feel weak and wonder if we’ll make it through. Yet we’re not to walk in the flesh. We’re to have a heavenly perspective.

Never Forget

God has given such victory to me, but it is so easy to slip back into the old ways. All I have to do is let my focus slip back to me. Stop being thankful. Stop remembering that God is working in me. Forget He wants to use me. Forget He loves me, and gives me His best. All I have to do is forget that this life is just a tiny vapor, and it will be worth it all when I see Jesus.

So today, let’s remember that the pain we endure, the heartache, the betrayals, the weight of ministry, whatever we are enduring, it’s just a light affliction. One day we will look on our Saviour’s face, and it will seem like nothing. We’ll be thankful for this affliction, because we will see how God used it in our lives.

christmas-joy

When I Need Help

I will lift up mine eyes

When you’re full of grief, dealing with ongoing health issues, or in a dark place, you want help. You need help. I remember needing help for the basic things in life. At times, I needed my husband’s help to walk very far. I needed help with basic household chores. I needed lots of help. I still need help. I need help with the pain today. I need help cleaning my kitchen. I need help getting it all done.

I remember at one of my lowest points physically, I was crying and telling the Lord I just couldn’t do it. I needed help! We were on deputation, I was sick, I was dealing with the miscarriages (and not dealing very well at that point), and I just couldn’t do it. My amazing husband was calling and emailing pastors to set up meetings, studying and preparing for those meetings, preaching, presenting our work to Africa, and carrying most of “my” load as well. He helped clean missions apartments when we left, loaded the van, helped me with whatever I couldn’t do, and encouraged and cheered me on when I was overwhelmed, and did all the driving between meetings. But I still needed help. I needed help making it through our next meeting and lunch/dinner with the pastor. I needed help to smile and be engaged with them when my heart was breaking and I just wanted to crawl back into bed. I needed help packing up and driving to the next place to do it all again. Don’t get me wrong. I loved deputation, but it was physically very difficult, and I was on an emotional roller coaster with the thrill of each pregnancy, and the anguish of each miscarriage.

I needed help when people joked that we couldn’t be “real missionaries” because we didn’t have children. I needed help when people told us deputation was easier for us because we weren’t doing it with small children. In those cases, I needed help in the form of the Lord’s hand over my mouth, and help not bursting into tears in front of them. I needed help to keep smiling and be gracious. I needed a lot of help.

It doesn’t matter what your struggle is, we all need help. You may need different help than I did, but we both need help. And I found that help was ever-present. “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” I will be honest here, I didn’t always want His help. I sometimes just simply wanted my own way. I wanted Him to take the pain and sickness away and give me my children. Was that too much to ask? He is God. He can do anything. So why wouldn’t He just do these two simple things? But when I was ready to stop clinging to wanting things my way, and accept the help He wanted to give, I found He was all I needed. No, I didn’t suddenly have more energy and less pain. I still can’t keep my house clean and keep up with Bible studies and other ministry. And I don’t have children in my home. But I have His help. I have the strength for what God wants me to accomplish today. I have peace in the midst of frustration. I have joy in the midst of my sorrow. He is my help…and He truly is all I need.

I would never have chosen this path I’m walking. I had other hopes, plans, and dreams for my life. (They included good health and lots of children!) But I have learned that even when God gives me what I would not choose, it is good. I am learning that even when it hurts, it’s best. I know that even when it’s the exact opposite of what my heart yearns for, He doeth all things well. I can trust Him and He will help me through. That help may not look like what I wanted or expected, but it will be what I need. I have grown in ways I didn’t even realize i needed to grow. I have learned so much.

If you are struggling today, lift up your eyes. Look to Jesus for the help you need. It may not be the help you want, but He will give you all you need for today. Be willing to turn loose of your agenda, and your demands, even your desires, and accept the help your Father wants to give you.

christmas-joy

A Sacrifice of Praise

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:12-15

sacrifice-flower-picPraise is important in Scripture. In the Old Testament we find where the Levites were being assigned their work in the service of God. Some were given the specific task of singing and praising God!

We don’t usually think of sacrifice and praise in the same sentence. We usually think of praise in terms of joy and victory, when it comes pouring out of an abundant and overflowing heart, without effort. But think of it. Aren’t there times when praise truly is a sacrifice? Those days when the heart is broken, the body is ill or tired, life is full of frustrations and we find it much easier to cry, sleep, or complain than to offer praise.

During these times we have to make a decision to praise our God because it is right and good and He is holy and worthy of it, not because it comes flowing forth effortlessly. We choose to sing through the heartache, discouragement, fatigue, or pain.  We offer up our praise to our God as a sacrifice that is well pleasing to Him. Not because we feel like it, but because He is worthy of it.

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalms 22:3

“I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Psalms 18:3

“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:23

“Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” Psalms 33:1-2