Category Archives: Faith

Hope is Influence

2 Things Everyone Should Know About Being a Positive Influence on Others -  Happify Daily

While you were growing up, many of you were probably told by your parents and teachers to be a good influence on the people around you. I heard it a lot. But honestly, the words went in one ear and out the other because I didn’t really understand what they meant. The phrase was often used as a reprimand or a threat, as if the saying of it was going to jerk the slack out of me and I’d become a model citizen of the human race. Whatever (shrug). And then what did I do? Grew up and repeated the process with my own kids.

This morning, I heard this quote, “Those who carry the greatest hope have the greatest influence.” Suddenly, the words hope and influence expanded in my brain. Pause with me for a moment and look at the definitions.

Hope: to believe, expect, or trust with reasonable confidence.

Influence: the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others:

I put the two together and got my own definition: When you believe, expect, and trust with reasonable confidence, you have the capacity or power to be a compelling force on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others.

Read that again.

Now look at these two verses of scripture.

Living within you is the Christ who floods you with the expectation of glory! This mystery of Christ, embedded within us, becomes a heavenly treasure chest of hope filled with the riches of glory for his people, and God wants everyone to know it! Colossians 1:27 (TPT)

But give reverent honor in your hearts to the Anointed One and treat him as the holy Master of your lives. And if anyone asks about the hope living within you, always be ready to explain your faith. 1 Peter 3:15 (TPT)

You have Christ, the Anointed One, embedded within you. That’s pretty incredible all by itself, right? But there is also hope. Lots of it. And you know what comes with hope (see my definition above)? You influence others to experience and act on the same. Jesus is the hope, and that hope influences the people around you.

Live your life to carry hope. In your countenance. In your behavior. In the words you speak. And when people ask what it is about you that’s different, you have the opportunity to influence – to explain the reason for the hope. That reason lives in you and around you and through you.

His name is Jesus Christ.

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I Just Don’t Care

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In response to his uncle’s teasing at a Thanksgiving celebration, our youngest grandson (three years old at the time) simply turned and walked away saying, “well, I just don’t care.” All of us burst out laughing and since that time, the phrase has become a common response in our family.

But something important happened. A small child evaluated the situation and reached a wise conclusion all in a matter of seconds.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I’ve had a year or so to consider how beautifully that little boy delivered a life lesson. His ability to clearly see a potentially awkward or uncomfortable encounter on the horizon enabled him to cut it off before it even had a chance to become anything. He wasn’t clouded by “what if’s” or “maybes”. He just stood his ground and declared truth.

We care too much, sometimes. We take on worries about stuff that doesn’t matter, and those worries weigh us down, cause stress, inhibit our growth, block opportunities, and they can immobilize us completely. We have all experienced a measure of that since Covid-19 changed the world. It’s hard to say we just don’t care when the crisis (real or manufactured) is thrown in our faces all the time.

Here’s the thing.

We have the Father God, who has given us His Holy Spirit to help us to discern what is worth caring about and what isn’t. We can rely on His direction when we don’t know whether or not to get involved in things that could potentially harm us or move us ahead. We have Jesus, the Counselor, who teaches us what we need to know, where to find answers, and when to act.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, give us the confidence to say, “well, I just don’t care,” when the enemy lies to us, in whatever form that may take. And he will lie because deception is all the devil knows to do.

Care about the things that really matter. Walk away from the rest.

Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Philippians 4:6-8 (TPT)

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Get Your Own Word

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One of the “trademarks” of the Christian circles I was a part of for the past forty years was the overwhelming desire of many to receive a Word from God. People would flock to the prayer lines at the end of hours-long church services hoping that the pastor or guest speaker or someone would have a word from the Lord for them. When and if received, this word would presumably change their lives. For the better, of course.

Please understand that I absolutely believe God can and does give messages to people through others. I have delivered a few myself. But I also know how easy it would be to speak out something that sounds prophetic to someone standing in front of you, desperate to have God, through you, tell them what to do. I’ve been on the receiving end of “thus saith the Lord” a number of times, and I would have to say that at least half were definitely not God’s word. I knew it at the time and I still know it today.

I have to say, though, that while it is really, really awesome to have God speak to you this way, you don’t need to go to every church meeting in town to hear His voice. You can get your own word.

I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t go to church, or that you can’t hear from God while you are there. You should and you can. But a church building is not the only place God speaks. And the person in the pulpit is not the only person God speaks through. The Lord has things to say to you specifically when you take the time to talk with Him, to read what He has to say in the bible, and to listen for His voice. Become aware of Him. Notice His presence in you and around you all the time. Get your own word.

Learn to trust what you are hearing based on how you know the Father. Of course, you are going to trust the person closest to you, right? God is even closer than that closest person. He has no ulterior motives, no hidden agenda, and He doesn’t mess with your mind. What He tells you is always completely honest and true. You don’t have to second guess Him. Ever. He will speak things that are for your ears only, precious and wonderful things that He wants only you to know. His mysteries. His secrets. His heart. They are things between you and God and they are not for public scrutiny. Get your own word.

I have a picture in my head of God sitting on the edge of His seat, clapping His hands, and grinning in delight when I ask Him if He has time to talk. He always says yes. He has so much He wants to say to me and He’s so eager for me to know all His things. He’s thrilled that I want to listen – that I want to be with Him just like He wants to be with me. And He really wants to give me my own word.

He’s got a few for you too.

But God now unveils these profound realities to us by the Spirit. Yes, he has revealed to us his inmost heart and deepest mysteries through the Holy Spirit, who constantly explores all things. 1 Corinthians 2:10 (TPT)

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This We Believe

The denomination in which I was raised did not practice infant baptism, but rather, encouraged a personal decision to follow Jesus Christ, usually followed by baptism and church membership a few years later. I was eighteen years old and about to graduate from high school when I got baptized along with several of my friends.

Prior to baptism, all candidates were required to complete a catechism course (ours was taught by the truly awesome pastor of our church), and we studied a book called This We Believe, by James H. Waltner. I lost the original copy of my book somewhere along the way and it’s out of print now, but a few years ago I came across one at a thrift store, so I forked over fifty cents to go home with a piece of my past. My purpose? I wanted to trace my faith back to its roots to discover if what I believed, or was told to believe in that catechism class, was what I still believed today.

Reading the book has surprised me. First of all, the deep description of the Christian faith is remarkable. I’m pretty sure that as a teenager I never read the book with much serious thought about how and why my salvation was actually possible. It just was. Second of all – and this may sound like a contradiction to my first of all – the book barely scratches the surface of where my faith is today.

Does that mean I’ve made progress? I sure hope so. What I do know is that the more I study God’s Word and spend time with Him, the more I realize how much I don’t know. But instead of being frustrated by that knowledge, it motivates me to dig in and study more. Allowing the Holy Spirit to teach me the things I need for where I am right now is the absolute best place to be and the best way to grow spiritually.

It’s sad when people give up on their faith because they think God doesn’t hear them, or because reading the bible is too complicated, or following Him requires too much sacrifice. None of that is true. Sometimes, however, it requires a return to the basics to find out what you believe and why you believe it.

What do you believe.

For this is how much God loved the world – he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it! John 3:16-17 (TPT)

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Help

When I was eight or nine years old, I thought I was going to drown. I was at a lake with my family and, being a dauntless kind of kid, I jumped into the water at the end of the dock. No big deal, right?

Wrong.

The water was deeper than I had anticipated and I couldn’t swim, at least not well enough to compensate for the depth I was in. I started thrashing around, went under, came up and thrashed some more. That’s when I decided it might be a good idea to call for help. Except no one was around. No. One. I think my guardian angel must have rolled his eyes when God gave him the nod to get me out of yet another mess of my own making. By some miracle (thanks, God), my legs straightened out and my feet touched sand. I made it to the shore and upchucked a few gallons of lake water. I was safe.

I don’t know what I expected when I cried out for help. I had no conscious thought of calling on God for assistance while I was flailing around in that water, but He heard me and made certain that a foolish and terrified little girl didn’t drown in the lake that day. I admit that I never even thought to give Him credit until years later.

This memory reminded me of how often we find ourselves drowning. Drowning in trouble, in sorrow, in debt, in broken relationships, in loneliness, in anger, in confusion, in fear, in unforgiveness, etc. It’s an awfully long list. We plead with God to help, asking for answers that don’t seem to come, and we grow weary. Hopeless. Desperate, even. We sink, floundering in the deep water.

In those impossible situations, it’s hard to see the answer, especially if it doesn’t look like we think it should. We have ideas in our heads for what we think the perfect solution is, but our Father, who knows us even better than we know ourselves, always provides the best way to overcome the problem. How often do we miss it because we’re looking for our way and not His? We revert to survival mode instead of trust-in-God mode. Believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t work. At least not as well as it would have had God’s direction been followed.

Trying to keep yourself from drowning isn’t fun. I know this. Neither is relying on your own resources. They may keep you afloat for a while, but you’ll sink eventually. Call for help. Listen to what the Father has to say about your circumstances, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Trust Him.

He really does have the best answers. I know this too.

The following became a life scripture for me when I memorized it as a child. I like it in The Passion Translation:

Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Proverbs 3:5-6 (TPT)

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Perception

Now you see it, now you don't: what optical illusions tell us about our  brains

Years ago, someone had the wrong perception about me. They discovered that I was a long-time Beatles fan, which was an appalling flaw, apparently, since I was a leader in the church. Another time, someone was shocked to see me laughing and dancing around with my small grandchildren at a social event. They had the perception that Christians weren’t supposed to have fun. More recently, there have been some who frown upon my current lack of church affiliation, as if that were an indication of declining spiritual commitment. All these perceptions were and are based on people’s personal belief systems and not on actual conversations with me. In most cases, they didn’t really know me at all.

Perception: The act of perceiving or of receiving impressions by the senses; or that act or process of the mind which makes known an external object (Webster’s Dictionary 1828).

We all have notions and ideas – perceptions – that came along for the ride as we grew up. These were formed as a result of what we saw around us, what we were told by our parents, teachers, friends, or the media. While many of our perceptions may have been based on fact and are therefore correct, a whole lot of them were not. We act on those perceptions and they become what we believe. Then we become what we believe.

Think about God the Father and what you believe about Him. Is He going to reject you unless you come to Him in a certain way or believe the right things about Him? Will He love you less if you don’t measure up to the standards of the world, the church, your family, or most of all, His expectations of you? Does that specific sin cancel your ticket to heaven?

You probably answered no to those questions because, of course, everyone knows that God doesn’t operate that way, right? But come on, who hasn’t heard the “God is going to be so disappointed in you” phrase, whether it be a voice in your head or from someone else.

Perceptions.

And so, another question arises. Do you believe and know the Father God? Or do you perceive and so believe and trust something else?

Really knowing God for myself – not someone else’s perception of Him – is an ongoing game-changer. It’s an amazing process. I spent most of my life listening to other people tell me about God, the bible and what His will was for me, and I just accepted it all until it became my perception too. It was gaining knowledge about Him rather than an experience of knowing Him. There’s such a difference. When I allowed myself to respond to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and put aside all those notions and ideas (perceptions) of who I thought He was so I could know and experience Him for who He really is, I also began to know myself in Christ.

Discovering who you really are – who God created you to be in Him – will lead you out of old ways of thinking which keep you convinced that you aren’t who you are. These are Satan’s weapons. Deception. Lies. Surrendering old thought patterns (perceptions) can be scary to your mind, and the devil knows it. Who do you think put the fear there in the first place? When you introduce something new, the neurons in your brain throw up warning flags. It takes work to change how you think. It’s always easier to give up and not make the effort. But there is no victory in that.

For me, there was, and still is opposition. Opposition from others who cling tightly to their perceptions and tell me I’m heading down a dangerous path. Opposition from within – the fight to dredge up my own perceptions and look at them through God’s microscope. Change is hard. Questioning why I believe what I believe is hard, and it’s a process that doesn’t always have simple answers.

But I trust my Father, so I think I’m in pretty good hands. I know He is real. I know He hears me. I know He speaks to me. I know He is in me and around me all the time. I know He loves me and cares about what I think and feel and do.

He is good.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

Another translation puts it this way:

Drink deeply of the pleasures of this God. Experience for yourself the joyous mercies he gives to all who turn to hide themselves in him. Psalm 34:8 (TPT)

If you’re looking for me, I’m hiding in Him.

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Leaning

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Every year around Christmas we watch the 1995 romantic comedy, While You Were Sleeping. We’ve seen it so many times that we can pretty much recite every line from memory. In one scene, the main characters have a conversation about the word leaning as an action between a man and a woman who may be interested in each other. It’s funny, and we chuckle nearly every time we hear the word spoken in any context.

Today, however, I read about leaning toward Jesus – leaning into Him rather than leaning into a religious culture that portrays a vastly different Jesus than the One in the bible. That is, if Jesus is portrayed at all.

My Christian upbringing and subsequent “maturity” in the faith was a litany of Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know, John 3:16, and a steady stream of admonitions about my shortcomings. I am exaggerating a little, because I have also had some excellent bible teaching over the years, but I think you know what I mean. Although the focus seemed to be on Jesus and having a relationship with Him, the how-to was not clearly explained or demonstrated. And to be honest, I didn’t even realize it.

I had questions, though. Lots of them. I was afraid to voice some of those questions for fear of being told I was being disrespectful to God, or to the pastor/teacher/leader I wanted to ask. The few times I did gather up the courage, I was made to feel foolish for asking. Now there’s an example of religious culture. Believe what we tell you to believe and don’t ask questions. Period.

About four or five years ago, I allowed the Lord to begin unraveling some of the tangles in my beliefs, which weren’t wrong per se, but had some gaps and disconnects and a bit of unbiblical basis. I flipped between stubborn and fascinated. Some of the tangles were easy to comb out and it was so good to be free of the mess. But others, well, they required (and still do) continuous care and attention, uprooting and planting, clearing out junk and replacing with new things. The process is another story.

The point is that there was and is a constant.

Leaning.

Leaning on God, the Father. Leaning on Jesus, the Teacher. Leaning on the Holy Spirit, the Helper.

And as I lean on Him, He leans into me. He holds me up and sustains me. He moves through me, in me, and around me. He reveals Himself to me in His Word, with His Word, and around His Word. I am in Him and He is in me.

All. The. Time.

There are still tangles in my beliefs, to be sure, although not as many as before. And there are still gaps and disconnects. But leaning into Him and He into me? There is nowhere else I’d rather be.

But the Lord God has become my divine helper. He leans into my heart and lays his hands upon me! Psalm 54:4 (TPT)

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Out with the Old

I don’t know about you, but after ten months of relative isolation due to Covid-19, I have been forced to come face to face with some habits that need to go. They’re minor things that wouldn’t even be noticed under ordinary conditions. Yet, these seemingly insignificant routines have potential to grow into big problems over time.

One of those dangerous habits is waiting.

I understand that there will always be situations where waiting is required. That’s life. But I’m referring to fruitless waiting. Waiting for the right time to start that project. Waiting for someone else to spark the flame to get motivated. Waiting for the pandemic to end so I can get back to normal. Waiting, waiting, waiting. If I could tack on all the time I’ve spent waiting to the end of my allotment of years, I’d live to be 125.

Here’s the big one. Waiting to do/be something new because it’s scary or might be hard or someone else might not like it or it might not work the way you thought. Guess what? It is scary. It will be hard. Someone, maybe even more than one, won’t like it. And there’s a good chance it’s not going to work exactly the way you thought.

But what if, despite the scary and hard, the new thing is better than the old? What if the new thing can’t happen until you get rid of the old? The problem is that the old stuff has taken root and now there is no place for the new stuff to be planted amidst the gnarled, twisted, unproductive tangle. You’ll never know how much better the new will be until you attack the old growth, get rid of it, and prepare the soil for that new thing.

This is where you decide. Will you yank out old roots – habits, thought patterns, excuses – to make room to plant new things? If you say yes, it will take determination. Commitment. Hard work. Faith.

I am done waiting for something to happen so I can embrace that new thing. The housecleaning process has begun and there is a growing pile of dead stuff in the trash. I am keeping my focus on Jesus Christ, the One who knows everything about me and loves me anyway. He will stick with me while I make room for the astonishing new He is holding out for me to receive. And He will stick with me to see it through.

Out with the old.

Trust Him with the new.

Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (TPT)

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All Things New

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I started at the back of the Book this morning and the scripture below caught my eye.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. Revelation 21:5-7 (NKJV)

The phrase “all things new” stood out because I really like it when God says all. When He says all, He means all. He will make all things new. He will restore all things. He will renew all things in your life story. He will renew your strength once and for all, and give you joy that endlessly overflows.

Even though you may not see it right at this very moment, God is working on your behalf. He’s dealing with those prayers you prayed yesterday, or even years ago, ensuring that they are answered at exactly the right time in exactly the right way. Have you been looking for Him? Listening to Him? Getting yourself ready for the new things He is waiting to place in front of you?

God is freely giving the water of life to the ones who are thirsty for Him. Remember to drink from that fountain. Know that He is good, He is on your side, and He will never fail you.

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This is Now

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It’s that time when we are reminded to reflect on the past year and set goals for the next. This is all with the hope that the new year will be everything that 2020 was not, as if that last tick of the clock at midnight will reset our lives.

Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t work that way.

This is now. It’s what you have.

I’ve concluded that I spend far too much time thinking about what happened in my past and, on the flip side, wasted so many precious minutes fretting about what could happen in my future. Really, how dumb is that? I don’t want to use my brain power on things I can’t do anything about.

The past is done. Over. Finished. You can’t change it. Remember the good stuff and learn from your mistakes. Move on.

The future is yet to come. Set your course to accomplish the things you need to in order to achieve whatever prize it is you’re reaching for and do it.

My point is: THIS. IS. NOW.

Are you missing the blessing, the love, the wonder, the joy of today because you’re mired in the past or caught up in what could happen in the future? Our Father, in all His infinite wisdom, gave us NOW.

Stop what you’re doing. Look around. Smile. Send a text message to someone you haven’t talked to for a while. Pick up the phone and call a friend or a family member. Write something positive in your journal. Thank God for your life, your health, your home – for His care.

No excuses.

Let this be your focus:

Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life. Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:17-19 (TPT)

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