Learning to Walk in Faith throughout Your Day

whats_goodContinued from here.

I was blown away by this teaching and can personally testify to the truth of the importance of maintaining an atmosphere in your life that is conducive to your faith. I have not been as consistent with surrounding myself with friends of faith to spur me on, but I do have some dear Christian friends who I reach out to for prayer support when I am struggling. It helps to talk with someone who has been in the trenches and has personally experienced God’s faithfulness as you are facing your own storms in life.

If you want to be a man or woman of great faith – not just in size but in duration – I strongly encourage you to partner with others who are chasing God and to take intentional steps to control your atmosphere. Even if you can only set aside five minutes at a time, follow Daniel’s lead to set aside three times a day to pray and thank God. This simple act can radically change your outlook, shifting your focus from the size of your storm to the size of your God.

Also, remember that endurance is built one step at a time. Think about an alcoholic following the Alcoholics Anonymous program one day at a time. It’s too much to think about never drinking again, but it’s manageable simply to get through this moment. The program encourages accountability through a sponsor – perhaps find a “faith sponsor” for yourself to hold you accountable for growing your faith. And the program also encourages a change in atmosphere, such as no longer frequenting bars or being in relationships with people who are going to encourage the alcoholic to drink. In the same way, we can change our atmosphere to remove ourselves from the influences that lead us to doubt God and replace those influences with those that encourage us to keep walking toward God, no matter how stormy the waters. Just as an alcoholic can learn to live sober, you can learn to continue walking in faith, one step at a time.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing by a staircase and asking, “What’s good?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Extend Your Faith through the Atmosphere You Surround Yourself With

storm_cloudContinued from here.

Pastor Ashley also made the observation that Peter’s faith faltered because of the atmosphere around him. As if stepping out onto water was not daunting enough, his feet sought to walk on a body of water that was stormy, with the waves crashing against him and the wind whipping him. This atmosphere was a distraction from his faith, leading him to doubt and sink.

Pastor Ashley pointed out that we are responsible for the atmosphere surrounding us, and the best way to change that atmosphere is through praise and worship. Amen to that! I have been living this reality for a long time now. In fact, God had led me to meet with him in prayer followed by praise & worship three times a day – first thing in the morning, midday, and then before bed.

I have been starting my day with God (the first hour) for years now, and I noticed that it was easy to hold onto my faith in the mornings. No matter what storms hit me at work or in my personal life, I could rest in the stability of a God who loves me and is in control. However, by midafternoon, I was much more susceptible to becoming unstable in my faith. Why? Because I allowed the atmosphere surrounding me to change. Too much time had passed since I filled up with the Living Water in the wee hours of the morning, so the storms of life that could not touch me before lunch had the ability to shift my focus from Jesus to my problems in the afternoon. The antidote has been engaging in prayer, praise, and worship after lunch to provide me with the stability I need to maintain my faith throughout the afternoon. This is what Daniel did, which is how he managed to maintain his faith in the lion’s den. If we want Daniel-type faith, we need to do what Daniel did and maintain an atmosphere that focuses on our God rather than on our problems.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing under a dark cloud with lightning and pouring rain. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Extend Your Faith through the Company You Keep

need_new_friendsContinued from here.

Pastor Ashley’s first piece of advice for increasing the duration of your faith is to surround yourself with people who are chasing God. He pointed out that Peter had the faith to step out of the boat when he was surrounded by the other disciples. However, he stepped out alone and wasn’t next to Jesus yet when he doubted and began to sink. Perhaps if he had stepped out of the boat with James and John, the story would have had a different ending.

Contrast this with two other stories in the Bible about people who surrounded themselves with others of faith and were successful. Pastor Ashley’s first example was Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who together refused to bow to an idol, even at the price of being throw into a fiery furnace. Pastor Ashley pointed out that in every group, you typically find a rule-keeper and a rule-breaker, both of whom can influence the group. You want to surround yourself with people who want to keep the rules in following God and break the rules of your circumstances that say that something is impossible. Perhaps Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego might have buckled under the pressure if they had stood before King Nebuchadnezzar alone, but by standing together, they were able to extend the duration of their faith on to victory.

He second example was the men who lowered their paralytic friend through the roof of where Jesus was preaching. Alone, each one might have given up because it seemed impossible to get their friend to Jesus because of the crowds. However, these men worked together and refused to leave until they got their paralyzed friend to Jesus. I’m sure it was not easy to carry a paralyzed man onto the roof, cut through the roof, and lower him down to Jesus, but they did it by working together. They urged one another on, extending the duration of their faith. Pastor Ashley’s advice is to surround yourself with other people who will help spur on your faith so that it will last.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking sad and opening a door under the words, “I need new friends…” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Increasing the Duration of your Faith

runningContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, the story of Jesus telling Peter he has “little faith” after he walked on the water (albeit briefly) makes much more sense if you consider that Jesus was not judging the size of Peter’s faith when he stepped out of the boat but, instead, making an observation about the short duration of that great faith, which ceased when he began to doubt. As Pastor Ashley pointed out, doesn’t this happen with us? We are inspired at church on Sunday and take a great leap of faith in moving that mountain that has been blocking our way for decades. However, by Tuesday, the duration of our faith has ended as we begin to doubt and sink back into our circumstances. We conclude that our faith on Sunday must not have been real, but perhaps, like Peter, it was great faith … it just didn’t last because we doubted.

The Bible tells us that doubt makes us double-minded and unstable in all that we do. Peter was able to walk on the water briefly, but it wound up being inconsistent because he doubted. And don’t we do the same thing? God tells us to come through impossible circumstances, and we respond to that call, taking a huge step in faith that feels “right” in the moment. But then we break our eye contact with Jesus and focus our attention onto the storms around us, leading us to doubt and sink. Our lack of faith and consistent focus on Jesus makes us unstable, causing us to have great leaps of faith followed shortly by sinking back into our circumstances, causing us to doubt that we ever had any faith in the first place. Sound familiar? It sure does to me!

I’ll share what Pastor Ashley advises to do about this in my next two blog entries.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Different Perspective on Peter Walking on the Water

whyI apologize for not posting any blog entries last week. I was out of town over the weekend and did not have time to write.

While I was out of town, I visited the Influencers Church, which is affiliated with Hillsong in Australia. What a wonderful experience that was! I planned to share a link to the sermon because the pastor said it would be uploaded to the website, but I cannot find it. The topic of my blog entries for this week come from the lead Pastor Ashley’s sermon on September 30.

His sermon was based upon the well-known story of Jesus walking on the water and inviting Peter to join him (Matt. 14:22-33). This story has always bugged me because Peter had the faith to step out of the boat and onto the water and is the only one of the disciples who actually did walk on the water (albeit briefly), and yet Jesus said, “You of little faith.” What about the lack of faith of the 11 disciples who never climbed out of the boat or even tried? Doesn’t Peter get some sort of credit for having the faith to step out of the boat? And if Peter had “little faith” when he stepped out of a boat onto water and walked on it briefly, what hope do I have of ever being a woman of great faith?

Pastor Ashley had a unique perspective on this story that I had never heard before, and I think he got it right. Perhaps Jesus was not referring to the size of Peter’s faith in stepping out of the boat when he said Peter had “little faith.” After all, it took great faith to step out of the boat. Instead, might Jesus have been referring to the duration of Peter’s faith? More thoughts on that perspective in my next blog entry.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging behind the word, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

I Will Trust You Lord

sinking_shipContinued from here.

I have been struggling for several weeks to find my way out of a deep emotional pit that has both physically and emotionally worn me out. I have earnestly prayed throughout this time. I have sought God’s leading. I have steeled myself for following God, no matter what. And I have gotten back up again and again to follow God in the midst of emotional pain that runs so deep that I cannot put it into words. I have looked for a way out, and God led me to it through an oldie but goody – Twila Paris’ song from the 1980’s entitled Do I Trust You, Lord?

The bottom line is that either I trust God, or I don’t. If I trust God, I will keep getting back up and following Him, no matter how many times that I am knocked down. I will keep believing that He will restore me, even when I am so blinded by the pain that I cannot see the blessings. I will keep forgiving the people who are unknowingly pouring salt into my wounds as they judge me in my brokenness. I will keep extending those people grace, even as they continue to hurt me. I will keep loving them. And I will keep loving and giving to others, even as I am tempted to withdraw from everyone to lick my own wounds. I will continue to prioritize what God cares about, not because I feel like it but because I trust God.

The cry of my heart has become the climax of Do I Trust You, Lord?:

I will trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why.
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain.
You were God before, and You’ll never change.

I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.
I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.

I will trust You. I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.”

Trusting God, even while blinded with pain, is the way out.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a tuxedo playing the violin on the tip of a sinking ship. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Do I Trust You, Lord?

shrugContinued from here.

While I can choose not to judge the wounded and broken, that does not prevent others from doing this to me. I have been reeling for weeks as God is healing my post-traumatic stress at a deeper level. God is allowing the iron in my soul to surface so he can heal it, and it’s a painful process. Being judged for falling short of others’ expectations when it’s taking everything within me to stand upright (or even to stand at all) has been extremely painful, and I have been struggling with how to hold onto my faith and keep believing that God is working all of this pain for good.

I am spiritually mature enough to know that there’s no Plan B – either God will come through for me, or I’ll spend the rest of my life flattened. At this stage of my relationship with God, it’s not an option to walk away from Him, nor is it an option to stop following Him. And yet the weight of the emotional pain has been unbearable for weeks, with some Christians in my life heaping judgment on me when it’s taking everything within me simply to keep getting back up. How do I keep pressing on and following God amidst all of this?

God blessed me with KLOVEclassics.com, which has me listening to Christian songs that blessed me all the way back in the 1980’s. One particular gem has become my anthem during this incredibly painful season in my life: Twila Paris’ Do I Trust You?

I will be graduating soon with my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, so I particularly relate to this lyric:

I know the doctrine and theology, but right now they don’t mean much to me. This time there’s only one thing I’ve got to know: Do I trust You, Lord?”

I know the “go to” Bible verses for suffering and pain. I know that God will work this all for good. I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He is good. However, knowing all of this “doctrine and theology” isn’t much comfort to the wounded child inside – the little girl who experienced so much trauma and who, even after many years of therapy and healing work, is awash with deep-seated pain as God surfaces the iron in her soul to heal her. And that “doctrine and theology” isn’t helping as some Christians in my life – the very ones who should be extending me grace and praying me through this pain – are instead judging me in the place in my deepest vulnerability.

So, in the place between knowing what the Bible says and experiencing pain that threatens to break me … when the “doctrine and theology” aren’t making a difference … where is the way out? It’s found in a simple question: Do I trust you, Lord?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders with a thought bubble showing an emoticon shrugging its shoulders. Courtesy Bitmoji.]