Full of Faith

purefaithWhat does it look like when someone is full of faith? How do you become someone that is recognized that way? Watch this progression: Faith filled> Faith Full> Faithful. If we want to be faithful, we need to be faith filled.

We fill our hearts and minds with a lot of things. Some positive, growing us towards a mature faith, other things cause us to doubt, fear and eventually erode our trust. When you want to become full of something you have to consume it, it needs to be a major part of your daily diet.

1 Peter 1:7, The Message “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory”

How powerful is that? What an amazing illustration of being faith filled, to be proved genuine. That means you are the real deal through and through. Nothing false or hidden to taint the outcome, but faith-filled which causes you to live faithful. How does Peter describe the process of our faith being proved genuine; through fire. Through being refined. There it is, it is about being refined.

You want to be a person of faith you say? So do I! Then why is it every time we feel the pressures of life, the areas of frustration and disappointment when things don’t play out exactly how we want we call into the question the goodness of God? In reality the refinement is in process. I know there are tragic moments in life, where we can’t see how a certain situation can be used for good. The truth is that many moments are not good, but God, who is rich in mercy, comes in and takes the scrap metal of tragedy and works to make a monument of grace when we have faith.

Friends, be consumed with faith. Allow your day to be led by your default being set to faith not fear, so when the refinement comes, and it will, you will be proved genuine. Then it will be your faith, not your gold that God will display as evidence of his victory, awesome!

Today’s worksheet: handout 10_01_2013

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Great is Your Faithfulness

faith“Yet this I call to mind  and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,  for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
  to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly  for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26, NIV

I have used this scripture once all ready in the last two weeks, but I am beginning with it again today for one reason: He is faithful! When everything else fails, He is still faithful! This week we are going to be focusing on faith, faithfulness, faith filled lives, and the reward of our faith. Are you ready for a faith filled journey this week?

This scripture has been a rock to me, literally. It has reminded to look back, make an account of all the places that God has been faithful to me. Then apply that to my present day or my future. Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever I can rest assured that He will be faithful to me today and every day ahead of me. That isn’t a promise that things will go the way I want, but it is a place of confidence that He will walk me through whatever is ahead of me.

What is ahead of you today? Do you need to be reminded of God’s amazing grace and faithfulness in your life? Give an account, put it on paper, all the moments where his faithfulness has been evident in your life. When doubt overwhelms you or fear in the moment causes your heart to beat wildly, be reminded of His hand on your life.

Let’s work out our faith today by giving thanks together. I would love to hear how God has been faithful to you!

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_30_2013

Love being in the Word with you!

Cheryl J

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Forgiveness looks great in the rear view mirror.

rear-view-mirrorWe have spent a lot of time this week looking at the different sides of forgiveness; when you need to be forgiven, how to forgive yourself, forgiving others, forgiveness as a natural reaction, and grace with forgiveness. One of the best views of forgiveness is in the rear view mirror. The satisfaction of knowing, I didn’t think I could do that, and really I couldn’t; it was a God moment.

My husband uses this phrase a lot; “every nightmare is a great story once it’s over.” So true isn’t it?  Forgiveness is the same way; having surrendered our hearts by walking out grace in action to let something or someone go. It is a victory worth celebrating and a story worth repeating. It is a pleasant sight in the rear view mirror.

The other thing that stands out to me is the further down the road you get from the moment of forgiveness, the less you remember of the depth of the pain. You always remember it as a place of difficulty, but if true healing has taken place, then your memory is usually kind to you. Your tone even changes as you tell the story, there are seasoned words of grace and compassion woven in where there once were words of sarcasm, criticism and anger. Forgiveness, it changes the story.

Ephesians 2:7-10 from The Message, “7Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

I love this version of these verses. He does all the making and saving, we do the giving up and the letting go. I challenge you to carry forward a life of forgiveness every day. The best part about it, is getting a glimpse of God’s miraculous work in the rear view mirror.

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_27_2013

Love being in the Word with you!

Cheryl J

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It’s a Surprise!

hiccupThat is what my husband always says to me about hiccups, they always surprise you. It is also true in relationships, the hiccups and bumps surprise you.  Since it is a surprise when conflict occurs, you aren’t prepared ahead of time for what is coming your way and your response will be, how can I say this…unfiltered? What is in you will come out quicker than you realize. Then the bigger surprise may be that you can no longer hide the real you. The quick to judge, get angry and respond part of you is out in full glory before you know it. You know what I am talking about, the unrestrained response that causes you to cringe in hindsight. It was all a surprise.

There is a place of maturity that we all need to get to. You may or may not have arrived at this place, the truth is not only do you need to be there, but you need to help others arrive as well. The place where the fruit of our life is no longer in question every time the bumps of life come along, instead a grace filled moment of forgiveness fills the space.  Have you ever been more appreciative then when someone shows you unconditional grace in a moment that got the best of you? When someone says to you, “I know this isn’t how you wanted to react, let’s move on and believe for the good in each other.” We learned yesterday of one definition of grace; when God freely extends himself to us.

That is the example we are to operate in towards others, even in the midst of the hiccup, extend yourself toward someone else who may not be on their best behavior. Philippians 4:5 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” I want to grow more in the surprise moments, how about you?

1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Look at this part of the scripture, ‘as though something strange were happening to you’, surprises are not unique to just you. When you begin to think that you are the only one dealing with bumps in life, your perspective becomes skewed and you miss the normalcy of it. Fight the urge to live with a victim mentality. When you deal with people, there will be bumps, don’t be surprised by it.

We are getting close to the weekend, thankful for a great week in the Word with you! This topic of forgiveness hits close to home for all of us. It is a tool that we need to have ready and in hand throughout our days.

I will close today with this thought: While we were on sabbatical Steve and I practiced this saying, “If it’s not a big deal, don’t make it a big deal.” Agreeing to use this as our code of conduct every day, saved us from getting knocked off center by the surprises along the way.  Enjoy your day, look for opportunities to sow seeds of kindness and grace in the middle of the hiccups that catch you by surprise!

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_26_2013

Love being in the Word with you!

Cheryl J

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Speak grace to the mountain of forgiveness.

stone of graceWe are dwelling on the topic of forgiveness this week and I am reminded about a post I wrote several years while we were in the building process of our new campus. The compression was overwhelming to say the least, but during that season we did a bible study called “The Covenant” by James Garlow. One of the items in studying the New Covenant is the exchange of symbolic items; one in particular is the exchange of belts representing strengths or assets. Our weakness for God’s strength, our poverty for His glorious riches, who wouldn’t make that exchange? The key is all about being willing to walk in His strength and not your own. This is one of those discipline issues. Choosing to give yourself over to the one who holds all power, and relinquishing feeble control over areas of your life. This would be, and still is my lifetime battle.

The season of leading our church in a building program was relentless in shaping and refining my ability to walk in trust and faith, to really exchange my weakness and poverty for His strength and provision. It was amazing to watch the shaping taking place in so many hearts and lives of our church family. The growth of faith and standing firm for what God placed in their hearts was awesome.

One of the items from the bible study years ago that I continue to call on, was a deeper understanding of grace and it’s role in “strength”. In the study it gives a fuller definition, as “Grace, biblically understood, is God’s willingness to unleash His power on my behalf though I don’t deserve it.” (p.37) The biblical example comes from Zechariah 4:6,7 ““Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”

The author summarizes it this way, “God is telling Zerubbabel to “speak grace” to a mountain. What does that mean? It means He’s going to partner with you. “Together we’ll bring this mountain down and make it a plain,” God says. (p.38) I love that, speaking grace to my battles, fears, weaknesses and areas of unforgiveness: grace.

Today I am reminded once again that God is willing to unleash His power on my behalf (by grace) to bring the mountains in my life down, as I exchange my weakness for His strength. You may be asking, what does all this have to do with forgiveness? Have you ever tried to walk out forgiveness without grace? If you are going to see forgiveness through, then you need God to unleash His power on your behalf (by grace) and bring the mountains of offense, hurt and pain down. You need to speak grace to the mountain where forgiveness is needed.

When the enemy taunts you with all the reasons why you shouldn’t offer forgiveness, bring the message of grace into the conversation. Whose grace? God’s grace! It isn’t something you have to make up, it is something you have the promise of in the exchange of covenant. Through covenant you are empowered to do all that God calls you to do!

Empowered to Forgive, Grace as an exchange!

Today’s worksheet: handout 9_25_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

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Forgive, do you know what it means?

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 10.47.17 PMColossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I thought I knew the meaning of forgive until I took a closer look at it. I was sure it would say this; use the words “I forgive you”, be sincere, don’t carry an offense and then move on. You are not obligated to pick up the relationship immediately because new boundaries need to settle in for everyone’s health. Don’t carry anything negative forward, and never speak ill of the person who you had an offense with. There you have it, clean, tidy easy to wrap your head around.

But then….I took another look and what I found turned me upside down in my thinking! I looked up forgive in the dictionary of etymology and this is what I found:

Forgive: Old English forgiefan “give, grant, allow; forgive,” also “to give up”
The modern sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” is from use of the compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Latin perdonare , see pardon; Pardon: “passing over an offense without punishment”

Wow, I have been hit right between the eyes with this definition. To be truthful I have operated with a definition of ‘forgive’ that looks more like this; let it go, show grace, turn the other cheek, yeah we are ok. But this definition of ‘giving up the desire to punish’….that takes my breath. Even more it says ‘giving up the power to punish.’ It isn’t forgiveness if I still have the desire or power to punish you, what does that mean?  It means if I have still have you on a time out, then I am punishing you.  If I still desire to avoid you at all cost, then I am punishing both of us. If I have the power to influence others to not show you favor, I am in the wrong.  Anyone else feeling as if they are getting hit hard over the head and heart on this one?

Before you jump too far on this, let me say that I know not all relationships are to be restored, but to the best of our ability they are to be reconciled. Either directly with that person, but if not possible then through the path of reconciliation we have through Christ. Why is this reconciliation so important? If we don’t allow it to be reconciled in our spirit it will become a bitter seed with roots that will take hold of the very things we value the most. It won’t be evident right away, but over time it will creep up in our thoughts, conversations and behavior. Yes, it is for our benefit that we really understand what it means to forgive and how to really walk in it.

It is hard not to be totally humbled when you read from today’s scripture as it closes with this, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Really levels the ground doesn’t it? How did the Lord forgive me? Completely, without hesitancy, without me needing to defend myself or having to explain my position, He forgives it all. I am asking today for God to give each of us new seeds of forgiveness to plant into the lives around us; without explanation, no holding someone out at an arms length, just forgive because He forgives you, and He forgives me.

Today’s worksheet, If you haven’t done the downloads yet with this study, please do it today, you don’t want to miss it: handout 9_24_2013

In the Word with You,

Cheryl J

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Who is Keeping Score?

scoreboardAre you a scorekeeper? The reason we keep score when we play games is the desire to know who is ahead, who the winner is at the end of the game. I can remember when our kids were small and they played T-ball. The first parent meeting would unveil the concept of “not keeping score’. It was such a joke because at every game parents were keeping score even though they weren’t supposed to. After every game, in the car on the way home the inevitable conversation would take place with your child about whether they really won or lost the game. Have you ever been a part of one of those games? No losers, everyone is a winner, everyone gets to play. The problem is that in our heart of hearts we know it isn’t true; there is a score, there is a winner, there is a loser, which is why we call it a game.

Somehow we have carried that same mindset into our spiritual walk as well. I love what Ecclesiastes 3:15 says: “Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”

Forgiveness turns the scorecard over to someone who knows what the real score is: God-everything, Me-nothing. All our failures, faults and losses are taken over by our redeemer. He does a spiritual reset and changes it all. At the end of the day God has the final word, and His word for those who believe and receive is a simple yes. The score is settled at zero, our debt has been paid.

Palm 139:23,24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.” We are reminded here of four things by the voice of King David:

  1. Know my heart and test me.
  2. Know my anxious thoughts.
  3. See if there is any offensive way in me.
  4. Lead me in the way of everlasting.

The practice of these four processes eliminates your spiritual scorecard. It keeps our spirit in check with God’s spirit by constantly pruning us, removing things that hold us back and hinder the work of God in our lives.

Often times we use the scripture, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Can I challenge you with this thought today; If God is for you, then why are you against you? God will give you the supernatural seed of forgiveness that you need to apply to yourself. It is a daily practice to let go of our past, trust God with our redemption and walk out the forgiveness that has been appropriated for us by Christ. Forgive, forgiven, forgiveness; it all begins with Him and ends with Him and the scorecard, well He owns that too.

Be sure to download today’s worksheet: handout 9_23_2013

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