All posts in “Faith”

true strength and influence

The Simplest Way To Gain True Strength and Influence

J
ust about everyone knows how to build physical strength. We all know that things like eating healthy, hitting the gym and lifting weights will increase physical strength and power.

But if I were to go out on the street and ask the question, “How does a person gain true strength?” the answers might not come as quickly.

So that is what I want to talk about. What brings mental and moral strength? What brings influence, authority and the capacity to do great things? And once we determine what that is, what’s the simplest way to gain it?

The answer doesn’t come from the latest New York Times best-selling author or the hottest new entrepreneur. It comes from the Author of the best-selling book(s) of all time. God Himself. Here it is:

A wise man is strong,
And a man of knowledge increases power.

Proverbs 24:5 (NASB)

Wisdom and knowledge.

I like how the Contemporary English Version (CEV) puts it: Wisdom brings strength, and knowledge gives power.

Some might ask, “Well, what is wisdom, really?” I believe there are different types of wisdom. There is the wisdom of this world, and there is true wisdom; i.e. wisdom that comes from God. However, many worldly people have acquired some true wisdom.

For example, there are certain principles that just about everyone agrees are crucial to success. Things like preparation, self-discipline, diligence, hard work, excellence and continual self-improvement, to name a few. Those principles are straight out of God’s Word, but of course many people who apply those principles aren’t Christians. They’re just sensible people who have learned some genuine wisdom, which paved the way to their success.

To get back to the question on wisdom, I would say that true wisdom is the ability to judge correctly and to follow the best course of action, based on acquired knowledge on how life generally works. Another sense of the word wisdom is: truths or teachings from God on how life works.

If we want to become a stronger person, it’s essential to continually gain wisdom.

How do we get wisdom? Some people think that wisdom only comes with age and life experience. It’s definitely true that wisdom usually comes through life experiences and learning from mistakes or trials. So wisdom often comes the hard way.

But we don’t have to get wisdom the hard way.

We can bypass a lot of the pain, sorrow and regret that comes from bad decisions by learning wisdom directly from God. We become stronger, able to make better judgements, able to stand against the enemy, less likely to fall for deception and able to overcome challenges when we gain wisdom by immersing ourselves in God’s word.

God reveals truth and wisdom to us in a way that is amazing and hard to put into words. Have you ever noticed that you can hear something a million times, but it just doesn’t sink in? But when God opens our eyes about something, it is life-changing. It moves us to action. It transforms us, and that is when we become stronger, better and more spiritually mature.

quiet-time1A daily quiet time with God.

It took me a long time to learn (on a heart level) the importance of a daily quiet time with God. Long story short, it finally got to the point where I knew that I needed to do something different, because I felt stuck. God showed me that I needed to have that daily time with Him, in an intentional way.

Once I committed to having that special time every morning, connecting with God and being in His word, it was life changing. I got out of the stuck season and entered into a new season of personal development and spiritual growth. I could see that God was working on my character and slowly but surely transforming me, like a Potter with clay.

So to sum that up, the simplest way to become stronger and transformed is to have a teachable heart and continually learn directly from God. And not just hear it, but apply it. I did the opposite for years, and through all the pain and heartache that came from that, I learned that doing things God’s way is really the smartest thing one can do. I really wish I would’ve known that years ago.

Let’s talk about knowledge in general

True knowledge brings authority and influence. So if we want to make an impact, it’s so important to always continue to learn.

That may be a no-brainer, but think about how many people stop learning after they’re finished with their formal education. It’s not surprising that one of the things that very wealthy, successful people have in common is their continual quest for knowledge and self-improvement. They aren’t interested in things that waste time, like TV, for example.

Thomas Corley, the author of “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals” writes:

The wealthy are not avoiding watching TV because they have some superior human discipline or willpower. They just don’t think about watching much TV because they are engaged in some other habitual daily behavior — reading.

To be clear, by bringing that up, I’m not saying that money equates to true success. I believe that true success is fulfilling our true calling, as I talked about in this post.

But it’s still worth noting that wealthy people who have achieved a form of success usually have the habit of reading and continually seeking knowledge.

Simply having knowledge is not enough, though. If we are willing to share that knowledge, with honesty and a heart to serve and make a positive difference, then I believe God blesses that. We will have favor and authority and influence.

So if you want to be stronger and more influential in 2015, as I do, then gain wisdom and knowledge! Seek it from the Source of all true wisdom and knowledge. Let’s do this together. : )

I want to end this post with a prayer.

Thank you God, for teaching us that wisdom and knowledge are crucial, if we want to get stronger and have influence. I ask for a spirit of wisdom and revelation, for myself and for whoever is reading this post, so that all of us will know You better, the source of wisdom! Thank you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

5 Reasons Why Distrusting God Is The Height of Foolishness

P
eople often bemoan all the problems and evil this world. But how often do we seriously consider the root causes, and check our own hearts to determine whether or not those roots exist in us?

I believe that one of the biggest causes of problems in this world is unbelief or lack of trust in God.

There are different types of unbelief. There is unbelief in God’s existence, AKA atheism. And then there’s unbelief among believers. That may sound contradictory, but this is a different type of unbelief, it’s not about His existence. A better way to describe this type of unbelief would be distrust – distrusting God’s promises, or His power or His intentions toward us. This is the type of unbelief I’m going to be focusing on here.

Let me give an example from the bible.

sarah-hagar-abrahamAbraham and Sarah (who were among the heroes of the faith, in Hebrews 11) initially disbelieved God’s promise that they would have a child, in their old age. Sarah’s reaction was to laugh or scoff at the idea that she would conceive a child, when she was past her child-bearing years.

That initial unbelief had disastrous results. Most of you know how the story goes. Abraham and Sarah’s lack of trust caused them to take matters into their own hands, and they decided to “help God out” by having a baby through their maid-servant Hagar. That union was outside of God’s will, they did it without asking God, but out of distrust that God would follow through on His promise to give them a son.

Their presumptuous act led to the birth of Ishmael, considered to be one of the forefathers of Islam. And of course the tragic family feud that I believe continues to this day, between Jews and Muslims, about who is the true heir or true “son of promise.”

There are lots of other examples, but let’s get to the list. Here are 5 reasons why distrusting God is the height of foolishness and a grave mistake to avoid at all costs.

1. Our faithlessness or distrust grieves God’s heart

Have you ever been in a situation – either face to face or online – where someone misinterpreted something you said, and even after you explained that they misunderstood, they simply refused to believe you?

That happened to me a few months ago, on a discussion forum I used to post on. A very bitter person chose to think the worst of me. Do you know that feeling? It can be hurtful when someone distrusts you. It’s almost like a slap in the face.

If it is disrespectful to unjustly distrust a human being, who is fallible…then how much more disrespectful is it when we do that to God, who is is infallible? Perfect. Holy. Sinless.

So distrusting God is an entirely different level of insult than distrusting another human.

I would say it’s an even bigger slap in the face when God has already demonstrated His love and trustworthiness.

distrustI’m reminded of the Israelites, as they were led out of Egypt. Think about all the amazing, dramatic miracles that they witnessed. The parting of the Red Sea, the plagues on Egypt, the supernatural food in the desert…all sorts of things that demonstrated God’s power and faithfulness.

Yet many of the Israelites still lacked faith and trust. They worried, doubted, complained and quickly forgot about all the amazing things God did for them.

According to the scriptures, God was not pleased by their distrust.

If we distrust God, after He has demonstrated His goodness and faithfulness to us, then we too grieve God, the one being who is actually worthy of our trust, at all times.

It should be stated that from a New Covenant/Grace perspective, God isn’t grieved because He is disappointed in us, or because He’s angry at us for breaking a rule. He grieves because when we distrust Him (or sin in other ways) it hurts us. And other people. He loves us and wants the best for us. So when we do something as foolish as distrust Him, it grieves Him in a similar way that a good parent is grieved when their child does something that is harmful or unwise.

2. Distrusting God prevents us from moving forward.

The “stiff-necked” unbelief of the Israelites had grave consequences. Many of them lost their lives, and most of them never saw the Promised Land. Instead, they wandered around in the desert for 40 years and it was the next generation that made it into Canaan. Imagine how different things would have been for the doubting Israelites, had they simply trusted God.

When we lack trust, we can end up wandering in circles like those Israelites, instead of moving forward, and getting to the place God wants us to be.

It can hinder our growth, it can hinder us from exciting opportunities to be used by God, and it can keep us stuck in an unfruitful season, for far too long.

3. Distrust robs us of joy and blessings

Distrust robs us of joy, peace, blessings and future rewards that God wants to give us.

Throughout the bible, we can read that trusting God and being secure in Him brings joy!

For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

Psalm 33:21

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, it comes from God. So, it makes sense that when we grieve the Holy Spirit through our distrust or lack of faith, we’re not going to have joy at the same time.

Faith, on the other hand, is what pleases God. He delights in those who put their hope in His unfailing love! (Psalm 147:11)

The stiff-necked generation of Israelites missed out on the blessings and abundance that awaited them, because of their unbelief and self-centeredness.

The biggest blessing of all is God Himself, and being in a right relationship with Him.

All who are saved – born from above – are completely forgiven and we don’t have to worry about God ever leaving us or forsaking us. However, even though we are forgiven when we lack faith, there are still consequences. We miss out on certain things that God wants for us in this life, and future rewards in heaven.

4. Distrust dishonors God before others and damages our witness

Faithlessness not only grieves God and hurts us, but it damages our witness to the world.

Strong faith, through any circumstances, glorifies God and moves hearts.

Strong faith touches not only the hearts of those who don’t know God, but fellow believers as well. I know from experience that being around Christians who are strong in faith, and filled with passion and joy is so edifying.

Distrusting God, on the other hand, dishonors God, even if that wasn’t our intention. And that can lead people astray. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the seriousness of that.

5. The sin of distrusting God is at the root of numerous other sins

The distrust of the aforementioned Israelites led to a slew of other sins. Idolatry, complaining, ungratefulness, false accusations and lust, to name a few.

When we distrust God, we are in danger of falling into numerous other sins, because we’re not being led by the Spirit, but our flesh or emotions.

eveAs was stated earlier, so many of the problems in this world are rooted in unbelief or distrust in God, and it has been that way since the very beginning.

Adam and Eve sinned because they allowed themselves to doubt God’s goodness. They fell for the deception of the enemy, who insinuated that God lied to them, and had evil motives.

Have things changed that much among human beings? Not really. Just as it was back then, to this day people fall for the lies of the enemy, allowing themselves to distrust God.

Faith is about trusting God’s character – His goodness, faithfulness, power and love… through all circumstances. It’s easy to trust God when the sun is shining and all is right in the world.

The true test of our faith comes during the darkest days and most difficult trials.

Again, we glorify God when we trust Him, no matter what!

I don’t want this to come across as condemning. When I think about all the times in the past 14 years that I was lacking in the trust and faith department, I can see how – like the Israelites – that prevented me from moving forward and being victorious.

How patient God has been with me! How merciful, loving and awesome God is, to put up with me… a person who has been slow to learn important spiritual truths. But I have learned some things, and I’m still learning.

So I want to thank God for that and say a prayer right now, that maybe some of you can relate to.

God, I’m sorry for all those times that I didn’t believe You or trust You. When someone does that to me, it doesn’t feel so good. It can be hurtful. So how must that feel to you, someone who is actually worthy of trust, no matter what.

Thank you for your patience with me, and thank you for teaching me the importance of complete trust! I pray that if there is anyone out there struggling with trusting You, that you would give them a fresh revelation on how essential it is to trust you, through ALL circumstances. Not just when the sun is shining, but during the worst storms, as well.

I pray that you will continue to teach us to step out in faith, so we can honor you through our faith, trust and obedience.

Amen!

photo credit: Dick Vos, via Flickr, cc

What Brings Favor With God And Man?

O
ne of my all-time favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:3. As I was reading the bible this morning during my quiet time, Proverbs 3:3-4 spoke to me, in a new way.

I had always viewed that verse in a very general way, as a beautifully worded teaching on the importance of love and faithfulness.

Today, however, God spoke to me through that verse on a personal level.

I’m about to launch a second blog (Great and Mighty Things – a project I had put on the back burner for months, but now I’m back to it and super excited about it!) and I have some other big changes coming up in my life, including a move to a different city, which is really exciting! I will probably write about that later, but for now suffice it to say that I’m entering into a new season and starting on a number of new projects. So I’ve been busy, and at times, a bit overwhelmed.

Busyness, focus on work and being a “solopreneur” are all good things… but I don’t want to ever lose sight of why I’m doing the things I do. Today I felt like God was reminding me that loving others and being kind and faithful (trustworthy, reliable) leads to favor and a good name, with God and man.

Maybe this is a “fear of man” issue that I need to work on, but sometimes it hurts my feelings when someone doesn’t return a message on Facebook, or doesn’t respond when I reach out to them in some way. But then I realized that I do the same thing to people sometimes…. Sometimes it takes me way too long to return an email, or follow through on things that I told people I would do.

And I think about how things like kindness and integrity are so important if we want to build trust, find favor and have a good reputation. I think about certain people I know who are always loving, kind and faithful, no matter how busy they are or what the circumstances are (my friend Anna comes to mind!) and then I can clearly see what God means by that scripture!

Let’s take a look at it:

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Proverbs 3:3-4

Favor with God and manThe truth and wisdom of that passage is exemplified in the life of Joseph, in the Old Testament. Remember how Joseph was horribly mistreated, sold into slavery and then thrown in jail? Yet his kindness and faithfulness never left him, it was there, even in the worst of circumstances.

His love and Godliness not only brought him favor, but took him all the way to the top – he went from being a slave and prisoner, to the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Proverbs 3:3 doesn’t mean that we as Christians will never have problems. The bible clearly states that we will have trials and tribulations in this world.

However, it is still true that being genuinely kind and faithful or true is what impacts hearts, and brings about trust and favor with people.

That’s why I love the book of Proverbs. It has so much practical wisdom and good advice for every day life.

If you – like me – are busy and super focused on certain things, sometimes to the detriment of other things, I hope that this reminder to be loving and faithful speaks to you too.

What do you think? Do you love that scripture too? Please share your thoughts below!

God bless!!!

Do you ever feel like an “alien” in this world?

I
remember the first day that God lifted the veil from my eyes and I began to believe…this was in the late 90’s, a couple years before I became a Christian. As the magnitude of that moment set in, all sorts of “what ifs” went through my mind. If I become a Christian, what if my entire life changes? What if I have to get all new friends? What if I become a religious nut? (the kind of person I had always disdained.) Continue Reading…

Salvation By Works Does Not Work (Video)

I know it has been a long time since I’ve written a blog post… but I’ve been putting my thoughts into video form recently. So once again I want to share a video that I just finished.

It was inspired by some lively debates on a discussion forum, on the nature of salvation. The debates started on the topic of once saved always saved (which I believe is true, but often misunderstood) then it went to the subject of how we are saved – by grace through faith, or faith + works. I was sad to see that so many people believe in salvation by works.

Continue Reading…