Childlike Faith

by Garry Bouwman

Little children have this wonderful ability, through their actions and words, that allows us adults to peek back in time and re-experience pure innocence. I had such an experience just a short while ago.

I’m blessed to be able to see my 4 year old grandson Spencer most mornings before I go to work. My wife watches him during the day and he gets there early enough that he comes and rousts me out of bed.

This particular morning Spencer came in and talked with me for a few moments and then decided that he would wait for me in the living room while I got ready for work. He closed the door behind him and then almost immediately reentered the room and said he needed a big hug.

“Spencer you have my heart “, I said as we hugged.

“No Grandpa, I already have one, and it’s this big.”, he said holding two fingers about half an inch apart.

I looked at him and said. “Spencer, your heart is much, much bigger than that.” Of course I confused him because I wasn’t speaking in terms of size but rather in terms of the amount of love in his heart. He just looked at me funny, smiled, and went to watch Spongebob.

I found myself in awe of that child’s innocence and love, and I began to wonder about something. At what point in time did I lose my childlike faith? How is it that I find it so difficult to live and love like that? I thought about it for a couple of days and basically came up empty, except for the usual “Sunday school” answers.

Then, because I serve a faithful and mysterious God, I got my answer from an unusual source. I love to read epic fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, and I had just started a new novel when I read something that struck me as a possible answer to my question. Here is what I read:

“When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind”.
Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind (emphasis mine)

Thank you Lord! That was the answer! Spencer has little or no concept of the future yet, the decisions he’ll have to make, the problems he’ll have to solve, or anything else that is yet to come. He is living and loving in the here and now, moment by moment. I was so stoked to have an answer to my question! God is so good!

But (and there always is one, isn’t there?), I also realized the ominous overtones of what I just read as well. There will come a day, and it will come sooner than any of us would like, that Spencer, my other grandson Shane, and every child like them will realize that there is a future to deal with. At that point, their childhood begins to slip away. I am struggling not to cry as I write this because I wish there was a way I could keep that from happening. But I cannot.

However, there is something I can do, and that is to help them deal with it. I need to show them Jesus, and share with them what He says in His love letter to us.

God talks to us about having a child-like faith.

He also tells us not to worry about the future.

I don’t know about you, but I had never tied these two passages together before. It makes perfect sense however. Not worrying about the future IS childlike faith.

I find it hard to not worry about the future given this insane world in which we live. However, it would be impossible if it were not for my faith in God. Knowing that He is control is a great comfort in the midst of everything. This is the way I need to live each day. This is what I need to teach my grandsons.

Thank you Lord, for teaching me about faith and innocence. Simply because I grew up, I have lost that childlike innocence. But that doesn’t mean I have to lose my childlike faith. I’m asking you to help me get it back. Help me to trust you and know that you are a sovereign God and that you hold the future in your hands.

Read more articles by Garry Bouwman or search for articles on the same topic or others.

Campfires and Faith

by Becky Brown
Matthew 5:14-16

My husband and I love to go camping. We enjoy seeing new places and have met a lot of wonderful people. We were sitting around the campfire one night and God spoke to me. As I looked at the fire, I realized the only way the fire keeps burning is if my husband puts more wood on it. When he stops putting wood on the fire it eventually burns down. When he puts more wood on it, it begins to burn and you can see the flames once again. Pretty simple concept, huh?
I began to think about faith and the Christian walk and how it relates to a fire. When we first become a Christian, we are like the fire with flames shooting up. We are excited and we want to share with everyone. We are on fire for the Lord! Sometimes it is hard to contain us. We are excited and we want to go in a million different directions. We have lots of thoughts and ideas to share with others. We want them to know about our love for Christ and His love for us. We are eager to read our Bible, we want to pray, we want to witness, and we go on and on. As time goes on we begin to slow down.

If we are not careful we begin to burn out. We decide to slow down. We forget one day to read the Bible, or we forget to say our prayers. Or maybe we have a chance to share our witness and don’t. Our fire begins to slowly burn down. Then one day, we suddenly realize our fire for the Lord is now just an ember. How did we get it that way? What happened? How do we once again get on fire for the Lord?
Sometimes we have to stoke the fire and then begin to add wood to the fire. How do we do that in our Christian walk? We do that by learning to set priorities. We need to look to see what has prevented us from taking the time to read our Bible or pray. We have to figure out what is more important in our lives. Yes, families are important but it is more important to stop and pray and read the Bible. We must put God first in our lives and our families second. I know this is a hard task to do. At one time I realized God was second and my family was first. My fire was beginning to burn down.

If we don’t put God first, if we allow our families to run over us and we constantly are taking time for them (and not for ourselves), then we will run out of steam. We become a machine doing things for them and no longer living for Christ. We do things automatically. We have to let our families know what is important in our lives. They need to know they are important, but they also need to realize God is first in our lives. They need to realize that if we take the time to read the Bible and pray, this will help us be a better parent. Having God on our team, we will be better equipped to handle the everyday happenings. If your family sees you pray and reading your Bible what better witness can you be for them? They will learn from you how to let God be first in their lives. They will realize how you and God are handling things. What a great impression to leave on your children or grandchildren.
Another way to add wood to a fire is to revive it. How do you revive your faith? Once a year or every couple of years I think we need to look at attending a retreat; a time to get away from family. A time to sing praises, to share with others, to study His word, a time to reflect and then a time to renew your own faith. We need a time to revive that fire.
There are several retreats that are available. Ask your pastor or church secretary if they know of one. If one is not available, then get some of your peers together and go away and have your own retreat. Go somewhere where you can take some music to sing along with, take your Bibles to study from and then just be willing to open up to share with others. Nothing is more healing or refreshing than to hear from others how God is working in their lives. You will come back refreshed and your fires will be burning once again.
Instead of letting your fire burn down to an ember, take time every day to maintain your fire. Add a little wood every day by reading your Bible, taking time to pray for others, listening to God. Going to church is an excellent way to keep those fires burning, but not just one morning a week. We need that mid-week service or that Bible Study to help us keep the fires burning.Here is an idea, how about having a prayer partner to keep us accountable and to help us through the rough times and even to share the good times.
As I sit and watch my husband he is constantly keeping the fires burning. He is poking, adding wood, or just keeping an eye out for when it begins to die down. That is the way it should be with our faith. We should be constantly working on our faith. We need to maintain our faith daily. We should be busy keeping our faith on fire for the Lord. We should never let our faith become just an ember.
It says in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lamp stand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in Heaven”.
If our fire for the Lord is nothing but embers, how will others see our light? If you get a chance this fall to sit around a campfire, reflect on your own fire. How are you doing at burning? Are you just an ember or are you on fire for the Lord, or are you just slowly burning out? If you are burning out, start poking at the fire and begin adding wood. Don’t be just an ember.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint”.
Isaiah 40:31
“Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me”.
Psalm 51:10

Prayer:
Dear Lord, As we study Your word, pray and go to church it is our desire to keep the fire burning. It is hard sometimes to keep the fire from burning out. You have given us hope. We know if we trust You, You will renew our strength and our fire once again will burn brightly. We want to soar like eagles, we want to run and not grow weary, but it is only with Your strength we can do that. Help us not to trust in our own strength, but in Yours. We thank you for Your love, Your grace and Your mercy. We give You all the honor and glory as we once again renew our faith in You. Thank you also for creating in us a clean heart and renewing our Spirit. In all these things we ask in Your name. Amen.

Read more articles by Becky Brown or search for articles on the same topic or others.

Beauty For Ashes

by Karen McKenney

Believe for God to take the ashes of yesterday’s ruin and give you beauty in every area of your life! Isaiah spoke of it prophetically before the proclamation was uttered from the lips of our great High Priest, Jesus, when he promised:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified (Isaiah 61:3). God wants to give you beauty for ashes!

Throughout the Old Testament, men and women who were confronted with crises and paralyzed with problems sat in sackcloth and ashes before the Lord. Take, for instance, King David who became an adulterer and murderer then sat in sackcloth and ashes before the Lord in repentance for his sin.

Job, whose children had died, his fields were pillaged and his house was burned, bowed in sackcloth before the Lord. But it was out of the ashes of his life that God was able to bless his latter end more than his beginning (read Job 42:12 for yourself).

The fire in your heart for God may seem to be growing cold. The love for your spouse may seem but a flicker. The hope and belief for any future good may seem but a remnant of bygone days. But from the smoldering embers of your past God is smoldering the ashes and rekindling His promise of hope in your life. He is restoring unto you the joy of your salvation. (See Psalm 51:12.)

For your ashes, the Lord will transform you with beauty. In return for the spirit of heaviness, He will cover you with the garment of praise.


Read more articles by Karen McKenney or search for articles on the same topic or others.

Ambition

by Jeff Beneze

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3 KJV)

Strife or vainglory? As in an empty glory, a selfish ambition, contention, or faction? Now, hold on a minute. Let us think about this a second. Is this really something that we ought not do and if so why not? I know there is a certain fluff in wanting to present a surface level appearance of not being selfish, conceited, and to avoid being in the “inner circle” of a faction. Yet, can there not be a very powerful core of motivation if you propel yourself? Is that not the point of these otherwise ridiculous Christian Life profile type surveys? The kind of surveys that ask you (and perhaps a few close friends) dozens of questions to help you pin point exactly what your gifts and talents are, so that you can in turn learn to specialize and focus in these now revealed strengths?

What is the point in doing any kind of self assessment if the results are not to be taken seriously with a personal level of motivation? How is this at some level not a contradiction of James 1:22-27? Is not the point of looking at your reflection to then in turn do something about it?

This dilemma begins to play itself out right about the time that you hear the Lord softly speaking to you about something He wants you to do that is not in the “strengths” quadrant of your matrix. You reply with complete honesty that this is not a good fit for you. It is certainly an honorable thing that needs to be done. It contains a great deal of blessing. It is even needed right there in your community, but there are others who do that kind of work so much better than you do. You feel that if you stepped out into that type of work that you could easily set the clock back centuries rather than move the initiative forward. It is a train wreck waiting to happen and it would be better if God just spared everyone involved the splinters that this is likely to leave you in.

Now things gets to be a little clearer. You begin to see what part of the ambition is the selfish part. You begin to see that the reflection that James was speaking of is a reflection of God’s Word rather than how you perceived God’s Word. There is suddenly a gap between how you wanted the Word to be applied and how God seems to be applying it. In the words of the Joker, “Foiled again”. A plot that did not even seem like a plot to advance yourself finds itself dragged into a thorough bath of reality and a realization that it must be with the honor of God in your heart first. Shortly followed by a love for your neighbor.

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:4 KJV)

Anxious Living

by Martin Wiles

I opened the letter slowly, noting the return address. My employer’s name glared at me and since it was spring of the year, I imagined bad news.

Sure enough, I wasn’t offered a contract for the next school year. The economy had slowed and funds were cut from the district’s operating budget. Unnecessary help had to go. Having recently lost a career and remembering how difficult it was to find the present job, my anxiety level rose significantly. I had bills to pay and children to care for.

The next two months were consumed with filling out employment applications, undergoing interviews, making my unemployment check stretch to the limit and praying for God to act. Eventually he did, and interestingly he put me where I met my future wife.

Jesus’ friend Martha knew a little about anxious living. Jesus stopped for a visit with her and her siblings only to be questioned about his concern over her having to do everything while her sister did nothing but listen to him teach.
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40). Mary discovered the only thing we should be anxious about-our spiritual focus.

Jesus tells us not to worry (Matthew 6:25) and Paul says we shouldn’t be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6-7). Anxiety is debilitating emotionally, physically and spiritually. But believing God is in control of our life’s details, seeking his guidance through prayer and thanking him in all circumstances brings a mind altering peace that’s beyond understanding but comforting nevertheless. Let God help you handle the anxious moments.

Prayer: Merciful Lord, when our anxiety levels rise calm them with Your soothing peace. http://www.lovelinesfromgod.com

The Young Dreamer

 – by Anna Darlene Edmondson

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28 ESV)

On several occasions, I was late for supper and Mom yelled, “You’d better make a beeline toward home, young lady!” I didn’t know the meaning of ‘beeline’ then, but since learned it’s a direct route to a certain destination without detours. On that note, let’s look at a character in Genesis named Joseph. Highly favored, perhaps Joseph imagined the dreams God gave would carry him along an easy path without potholes. So far so good…that is, until he shared the visions with his family. Jealous hatred entered his brothers’ hearts, and they formed a different opinion of how Joseph’s life should end. They conspired murder, but sold him to traveling merchants instead. Eventually, the young dreamer became property of an Egyptian official.

Together with leaving his homeland (Canaan), his mother, Rachel’s, death, and the possibility of never seeing his father, Jacob, again, Joseph hit bottom, literally (Genesis 37:24). To add fuel to the flame, the Hebrew slave was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. Tortured both inwardly and outwardly, Joseph trusted God. By correctly interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph found release from bondage. These adversities prepared Joseph for the deliverance of countless lives including his birth family. We learn that the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished in all people. Sometimes, as seen in Joseph’s life, God allows gut-wrenching heartaches to bring about a greater good (Genesis 39-45). Even though tormented, Joseph’s character remained Christlike, showing forgiveness “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). How might we change, if we believed, “He who began a good work in us will complete it?”

Darlene is one of 50 Christian writers who have had their testimony featured inTrials and Triumphs II. Contact

Bewail My Fears

By Pam  Ford Davis

I am cowardly by nature, thrive on acceptance and wince at rejection. Yet, standing upon my Christian convictions is not optional; it is essential. Bearing my soul, I bewail my fears.

Humanistic and heathen influences run rampant.

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance as I told you before that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21 HCS).”

Red flags serve as high wave warnings; God raises His banner and warns through Holy Spirit inspired Scripture. I need to stand up for Jesus; He laid down His life for me. Today, in morning mediation and prayer He succinctly spoke through His unsheathed sword.

Before I can take a consistent bold stand, I first must humble myself and bend the knee. He is my source of strength.

“Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand, Stand therefore (Ephesians 6:10-14a HCS).”
With God all things are possible!

___  Published articles in Mature Living Magazine, Secret Place, Daily Devotionals for the Deaf, Light from the Word Daily Devotional. Available now in book store: FORGET-ME-NOT DAILY DEVOTIONAL http:/ebooks.faithwriters.com/ebook-details.php?id=520

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.com <a href=”http://www.faithwriters.com”>CHRISTIAN WRITER</a>

Preservation of a People

Numbers 27 has a lot less in-your-face action than we’ve seen in previous chapters, but there is a lot that’s going on. Okay, well maybe not a lot, but a pretty big miracle if you really stop and think about what you’re reading.

God commands another census to be taken of the people of Israel. Now, one commentary I read said that at this point, we’re about 38 years into the journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. So, they’ve got about two to go, but they’re much closer on the timeline to entering into the Promised Land. God commands that a census be taken of all the men of all the tribes who are able to go to war, from the age of 20 on up. Keeping in mind that both of the censuses were taken of “fighting men” only, look at these totals. The first census totaled 603,550 men of fighting age. The second totaled 601,730. Those numbers aren’t too far apart, are they? Also keep in mind, these are only men from 20 on up, and only those physically able to go to war. That excludes, then, anyone under 20, any women, any crippled men, or any too old to fight.

Now, think about this. God had decreed that none of the old generation would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. So, only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, were included in both of the censuses. Yet, God preserved the population of Israel. Can you imagine? The desert is a harsh place to make a home. Numerous plagues and disasters had swept through the nation. That’s aside from the normal illnesses, death by critter, etc. Yet they were about to enter the Promised Land with almost the same size host as when they left Egypt. That’s miracle!

Lord, I thank You for those times when You work behind the scenes in ways that we can’t readily see. You are so good, maybe especially in those times, because we’re less grateful and much less patient when we can’t see Your hand moving in our lives. But You are always there! And You are always orchestrating the events of our lives for Your glory and our good. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Awesome, Saving Power

 – by Abby Kelly

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Luke 10:19

I love a good workout as much as the next girl. I love seeing physical changes, especially the growth in strength and stamina. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul compares Christians to an athlete. Other places, he talks about, “running the race,” and “buffet[ing] my body.” We’re also told, over and over, to grow in the knowledge of God, to increase our faith and to stand strong. There are means of grace and godly behaviors that we must practice in order to grow as Christians.

When someone begins physical training, those first few workouts reveal their baseline-the amount of strength they have in the beginning. Barring a specific disability, no one starts at ground zero. The same is true in the Christian faith.

Paul says, “I do not cease to give thanks for you … that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him … and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe … “.

In the Greek, the word power is, “dynamis,” meaning, “power residing by virtue of one’s nature”.

There is a power at work in, and available to, each Christian, that has nothing to do with how faithfully they’ve had quiet times, how much Scripture they’ve memorized or how often they go to church. The power that saves us, is God’s power exerted for us in Christ. Nothing we can do will weaken or restrain that awesome, saving power.

Abby is the senior editor at www.tblfaithnews.com. Contact

 

You Can’t Worship Wherever You Please

I was reading through Deuteronomy 12 this afternoon, and wanted to take the time to say something about it – just a little something, I promise!

There are a couple of phrases that are repeated throughout this chapter that bear dwelling on. One is “you shall not”, which is usually followed by something along the lines of “worship God wherever you want in whatever way you so choose”. Instead, we see the second phrase repeatedly popping up after this – “the place the Lord will choose”.

I think this should provoke a little bit of discussion amongst professing believers and here’s why. Too often in this day and age, people call themselves Christian, but they forsake the fellowship of their brethren, in direct contradiction to God’s Word in Hebrews 10:24-25. We’re too eager to sleep in on a Sunday morning or get home and rest on a Wednesday night. We can make up all sorts of excuses for it, too.

  • We’re tired from work.
  • We almost never miss a Sunday, so if we want to sleep in just this once, surely God won’t mind!
  • I can listen to the sermon online later, so I’m not really missing anything.
  • I don’t have to attend church at all; I can watch a sermon on television and worship and get fed that way.
  • I can worship God wherever I am, be it in the car, fishing on the lake, at home or at church.
  • I feel closer to God in nature, out enjoying His creation.

You see? Have you ever heard any of these excuses? Have you ever made them yourself? (Ouch, right?) The truth is, at least as far as I can tell from Deuteronomy 12, that we can’t worship God however and wherever we please. Instead, we do it where, when, and how God chooses. He is the sovereign God after all, so doesn’t it make perfect sense that He would ordain something as important as His worship?

For most Christians I know, this means meeting with a local (not on television, not hearing their “amens” recorded on the podcast) body of believers, who will encourage you and help you to grow in Christ, sharing their spiritual gifts with you as you share yours with them, all to the glory of Christ. It means that you attend ONE church REGULARLY with this local body, AT LEAST on Sunday mornings (and from personal experience, I highly recommend Wednesday nights, too). You don’t have a hit-or-miss philosophy on attendance, you don’t make it optional for yourself, or men for your families), and you don’t hop from church to church every time  your nose gets out of joint or the preacher steps on your toes (that’s usually called conviction, people!). Why? Because this is the means that God has ordained for our worship of Him. It is a gift of grace by which fellow believers come together to encourage and aid one another in a sin-riddled world.

Just read Deuteronomy 12:4-5 if you don’t believe me.