Praising God in the Storm

This has been a hard thing for me in my walk with God, and I think a lot of it has to do with the way Christians are taught in the United States. Those of us who live here know that we are an individualistic, performance-based society. That makes it hard to ask for help when we need it or to even ask for a listening ear. Of course, it comes from the other side as well. We, as Christians, need to be willing to help others or provide that listening ear.  Scripture is replete with many examples of Jesus ministering to others and praying for others, and He wants us to do the same.

So, how do we praise God in the storms of life? First and foremost, I believe it is a conscious choice. Every day I wake up with a choice to make whether to let my burdens overwhelm me to the point of despair or to praise God despite my burdens. That doesn’t mean the burdens are ignored. It just means the burdens are left in God’s hands, and our hearts are lighter. A funny thing happened as I was writing these last few sentences. I turned on my phone to play some Christian music. Those of you who have iPhones are familiar with the shuffle button. I pressed it, and you will never guess what song came up first. If you guessed Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns, you would be right. I think it’s neat that God sends messages through the smallest things.

Second, it helps to have others carrying and praying for your burdens which means you need to be willing to share them. Now, that is a very hard thing because it means making yourself vulnerable to rejection. There have been many times where I’ve felt rejected when I’ve shared something, even with people who claim Christianity.  I believe that’s where God gives us courage though (divine courage, as someone recently told me). It’s not between being afraid and not being afraid. It’s being afraid and allowing God to carry us anyway.  It’s being afraid and praising God anyway. It’s letting God work through us, our fragile human selves, anyway.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, and I will probably be figuring it out until the day I die. But, I will still praise God every chance I get, even in the storm.

God’s blessings on you today.

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day in the United States–the day that this country declared independence from England two hundred and thirty-eight years ago. Many people will spend today going to barbecues, watching fireworks displays, or spending time with family and friends. All of these are good activities, and I hope everyone has an opportunity to relax at some point during this national holiday.

I had some thoughts though about how a person of faith might relate to this holiday. Is a Christian truly independent and only relying on himself? If you think about it in this fashion, the answer should really be no.  Spending time on my knees every day in prayer and relying on God for His counsel on how to live my life is paramount in directing my days as a woman of faith. Is this something I am perfect at? No, not a chance. I fail at some point every single day and have to ask God for His forgiveness. Isn’t that the point of grace though? To be able to ask for forgiveness and know that God is right there waiting for His children to come home. The verses at the top of this page certainly illustrate that, and there are many more where those came from in the Bible.

So, on this day, on Independence Day, I will be spending time on my knees praying to God to direct my life and praying for my nation,  for those who are people of faith and for those who are not.

God’s blessings to you today!

Uncomfortable Conversations

There are times we have to have uncomfortable conversations. But, it is necessary if we are to be honest with each other. It is especially important to have them in the faith community. Yes, in the church. For those of you who have faith, I bet you have five or more topics that come to mind when you think of an uncomfortable conversation at church. Some of these topics might include: songs that are sung or not sung during worship; what the pastor chooses as a sermon topic; whether women should have a part in worship or not; or whether instruments are used or not.

In my opinion though, the topic that would rank highest as an uncomfortable conversation at church is money–how much money has been given, what the money is being used for, what influence the money giver might want to have. I’m sure you can think of many more.

But, those particular topics about money are not what I want to discuss today. It is important that people who are members of a faith community support the work of their church. No, what I want to discuss is something that might not be obvious to members of the Christian church, especially the Christian church in the United States.

When Christians think of supporting missions in foreign countries, especially Third World countries, they would make the correct assumption that their church had more money than the mission they were supporting. I also think  if this hypothetical church was helping ministries in their community, they would also make the correct assumption that, as a collective whole, they would have more money than the ministry they were helping. Where I think members of this hypothetical church would fall down on their assumptions though would be the income levels of the members within their churches. Even though Christians as a whole within the United States have higher incomes than the rest of the world, there are most certainly differences in income levels in an individual church.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, what’s the problem here? Everyone in a church needs to support the church as they are able. And yes, I would agree with you there. Where I believe this is a problem is in the number of extra things that a church does which cost money. This can occur in many different groups of the church such as the men, women, youth, or children. And these extra things might include youth retreats, fellowships, mission trips, or opportunities for the church to get together and socialize. In our society, things cost money, and I understand that.  But I think the people who organize these things need to keep something else in mind. They need to realize someone might not be able to do something because of the cost. What worth does going on a $300 retreat have on the Kingdom of Jesus Christ? Is it going to bring someone to faith? Maybe.  But how many more people could be brought to faith if Christians paid attention to these things and kept in mind what the church was asking people to spend their money on?

Another thing to also consider would be how this marginalizes people of lower income strata within a body of faith. There can only be so many times that people would see these opportunities offered and get discouraged in their faith because they were unable to go. I wonder what Jesus would think of that.

I’m not saying I have the answers to all these questions. I most definitely don’t! I do know if we don’t have these uncomfortable conversations within the church, the community of faith, the opportunities to share about Jesus’ saving love and grace will be greatly diminished.

God’s blessings to all of you today.

A New Beginning

This blog represents a new beginning for me. In my previous blog, I touched on my Christian faith, but realized that I needed a place to talk about it, fully and passionately.  So, that’s what this is. A place where I will talk about the things I’m learning through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and how I’m applying them to my life and to my heart.

First is an explanation of the title of this blog. As you can see, it is “Thriving in Grace”. There are several definitions of the word thrive. For my purposes, I will use this one–“to prosper, flourish”. What do you think of when you see those words? I think most people think of gaining wealth or material things. There are also words in the definitions though that speak to things besides gaining wealth. These things include growth or progressing towards a goal. That’s what I mean when I use the word thriving in my title. I’m growing in grace, progressing towards grace.

Now, what about grace, the most important part of the Christian faith? The verses you can see above illustrate the concept well. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. ” There is also a definition in the dictionary along these same lines. “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”  But people have a hard time accepting grace, accepting that they don’t need to do anything for this miracle. Why is that? It might have something to do with the way people have been brought up–especially in the United States–thinking that everything has a cost. But, that’s not the case with grace. God’s grace is given freely. His son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for us, for all of our sins. The only thing, the only thing, that is required is belief. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done; it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel adequate. The gift is the same for everyone.

Now, as you read this, you might think there’s no way you could accept this free gift–that I have no idea what you’ve said or done, that I seem to have it all together. That would be the furthest thing from the truth. I have been a professed Christian for a long time, but I have to re-accept God’s grace every day. Every day I am not worthy of what he has done for me. And that is why I have titled this blog, “Thriving in Grace”. I want to show all of you how you can flourish, how you can grow in the grace God wants  to give you.

Looking forward to starting this adventure with you.

God’s blessings to all of you today.