By Faith: Contentment

Living in a state of contentment is rough. It seems like there is always someone we wish we could be more like or something we wish we could have. We are driven by how things look on the outside and that appearance brings about jealousy or discontentment with what we have. Jealousy brings anger and we can so easily lose our focus and lose our way.

In Genesis 4 we find the story of Cain and Abel. This is an elusive story to me because God doesn’t really provide a lot of details. The basic gist of the encounter is that Cain and Abel both brought an offering to God based on their work; vegetation and meat. God accepted Abel’s offering and didn’t accept Cain’s offering, though we don’t get to know exactly why. This sends Cain into jealousy and bitterness. Cain has a conversation with God in which God encourages him to do well so that his gift will be accepted in the future. Cain doesn’t like this and so he goes and kills Abel because he is so consumed with anger. Later, when God asks him what happened, he lies and tries to hide what he has done from God. Cain let his emotions get the best of him.

Cain clearly didn’t live a life of contentment and he is a great example of how easy it is to do something drastic and wrong when we allow jealousy and bitterness any entrance into our lives. Cain appears to have been jealous that his brothers offering was accepted and instead of asking God more about how to make his own offering acceptable, he chose to just get angry at his situation. He didn’t look to grow, he looked to blame. He had no interest in improving, he just wanted to remove his perceived barrier.

In the book of Philippians (4:12-13) Paul talks about living a life of contentment. He tells his audience, and us, that he has learned how to live with plenty and live with need and in both instances, live content knowing that his strength always and only comes from Jesus. A few years ago, I started asking God to show me how to live like this, in the contentment of Paul. Let me tell you something, I have had days where I have regretted that prayer! I went from a job where I made more money than I knew what to do with, to a job where I made a little more than one-quarter of my previous salary and really couldn’t make ends meet. I also went from feeling secure about myself because of my career and status to doubting I had much value because I was in deep need. Through all of the challenges of the past few years, both physical and emotional, I have learned one amazing blessed lesson that I wouldn’t trade: I can do all this through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:14 NIV). When my emotions start to take over, I immediately pray for contentment and ask God to remind me what is most important…that I am His child.

Our offerings, our lives, will only be deemed acceptable when they are honest and authentic. Clearly Abel knew what Paul knew, that in God is where we find everything we need so there is no need to feel jealousy or bitterness because there is no comparison of any kind with anyone else. My being right with God is about me, not about you. You have your own life to lead and it will absolutely look different to me because I only get to see what you let me see. I may see the shiny car on the outside and not see that you’ve had to take that car to the shop over and over and it’s costing you a small fortune. To live a life by faith in contentment, I have to stay focused on what God is doing in my life and learning that He will keep me close no matter what. I may choose to lean away, but He never will.

You can’t really live by faith in contentment if you don’t know Who you are relying on and understand that He will never allow anything to remove you from His hands. Knowing the Who of your contentment is the foundation. You have to place all of your faith in God and know that no matter what your facing, you are able to stay content and present an acceptable offering in your reactions and actions. You never have to be jealous or bitter, you can choose to trust God and seek contentment.

Here are the verses I recite over and over when life feels like it is too much to handle:

John 10:28 I give them (His sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:39 …(nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These verses help me take a deep breathe, refocus on Jesus and seek contentment. The enemy wants me to live in chaos and emotion, God wants me to live in peace. Living by faith in contentment means that regardless of my outward circumstances, my heart is at peace in Christ. 

Shalom,

KA

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By Faith: Faith-filled Words

Words are powerful. I think by the time you end preschool, you realize that a the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” isn’t true. A lot of pain and trauma come from words. A lot of life and joy come from words as well. Knowing the power we all hold in our words should make us more mindful of how we speak to others and, how we speak to ourselves.

I love the creation story in Genesis because it is a great example of just how powerful words are and in particular, how powerful the Word of God is for life. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that by faith, we believe/understand that God created the earth and everything on it through words. I love the beginning of Genesis because it reads like the opening statement of an epic story…and it is!

     “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face     of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

My imagination can see this verse playing out on a large movie screen with a wonderful voice narrating. I can feel the anticipation as we wait to see how God is going to create something from nothing!! And what is God’s first action? He speaks. Each moment of creation beginns with, “And God said…”. Powerful words kick off everything!! By faith, as we walk on this journey, we have to remember that God’s words are a source of power. They are the ultimate source of power!

What kinds of words are you speaking? Are they filled with faith or are they filled with doubt? Proverbs 18:21 tells us that both life and death are in the tongue. You have the power to kill or create, which are you choosing? Living by faith means to live to create and build. Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t speak the truth, it means you speak in love (Ephesians 4:15) with a desire to build up either the person you are speaking with or yourself. 

Your internal monologue will influence your external dialogue. If you are not speaking words of faith and hope to yourself, you won’t be able to speak those words to anyone else. The same is true of the words you are receiving. If all you are hearing are words of discouragement, your internal words will have to fight to be life-giving. Words make us feel great or down. We certainly have the power to control how we react to words, but isn’t it awesome when someone says, “Hey, nice job!” or “You look great today!”.

Now that we are rooted in the truth that words hold life and death, and we can acknowledge that we have the power to control our words, my question is, are you in God’s Word so that you know what He has said about you and can speak those promises and life over yourself and others? You can’t just look at the Bible and say you know what God has said, you have to read it and experience it. And while a good sermon can make a huge impact, it’s not the same as daily spending time reading the words of God. God has spoken so much life and promise over you already, that if you aren’t searching out what He said you will miss so much joy and freedom!! Your identity, your heart’s condition, your challenges, your pain, your joy…all of these and so much more are addressed in the Word of God. Living by faith means living by faith-filled words and you build your vocabulary by reading scripture. 

Be aware that the last thing the enemy wants is for you to be reading God’s word. You may have already believed some of his lies like the Bible is boring, it’s hard to read, it’s just a bunch of stories and so on. If you feel like those types of reasons resonate with you and keep you from the Word, I would encourage you to simply try a different translation of scripture. There are several amazing bible apps available now that put hundreds of translations at your fingertips and they are free! Also, don’t decide you are going to read the Bible cover-to-cover because honestly, that is a rough journey. I always encourage people to start by reading the book of John. John is an amazing narrative about the life of Christ and it is an easy read. It will get you more excited about reading more of God’s Word. Ask God where to begin and He will show you what you need to read to build your faith-filled words.

Faith-filled words are not always easy it speak but, they are always appropriate and powerful. Living by faith includes speaking by faith so be mindful of what you are saying and make sure your words are building up and life-giving. We are all fully able and well-practiced at negative words so let’s endeavor to change those in our heads and our mouths. God is speaking life over you just as He did in the beginning, be sure to let those words take root and produce beautiful fruit.

Shalom,

KA

By Faith: Faith Defined

Faith. When you really think about it for a human perspective, faith doesn’t make much sense because it is inherently risky. Faith requires hope and hope is simply a desire or desired outcome. Faith isn’t static, it is dynamic and by that I mean that there are levels of faith depending on the situation at hand. 

Let’s think about faith and hope in a practical terms. Every morning I come out to the living room hoping to sit in my chair and do my bible study. My hope is that my chair will hold me so I activate my faith and I sit down. My hope and faith in my chair is made possible and easy because of historical data: my chair held me yesterday, it will hold me today. I never have one ounce of doubt as I flop into my chair at any point in the day, I always fully believe it will hold me. This is easy faith for a few reasons: 1) history shows that my faith in my chair will be rewarded with comfort, 2) if for some reason my chair doesn’t hold me, the risk in the outcome is minimal and non life threatening. It doesn’t take much to have faith in my chair because if it breaks under the wear and tear, big deal, I’ve probably got a funny story.

Now, faith in God? Well, that’s a whole different story!! Or is it? The only reason we ever think God has failed us is because He didn’t act exactly as we wanted and so, we determine Him to be untrustworthy and therefore not worth the risk of faith and hope. Faith comes with a certain level of expectation and when that expectation isn’t met, we get nervous and leary of the person or object we put our faith in. However, if my chair breaks under me, does that mean I will never sit in another chair again? Of course not! How crazy would that be? So when God doesn’t act as our faith had hoped, when we feel let down and upset by an outcome we weren’t expecting, why do we turn our backs on Him? 

Faith in an object is easy to dismiss when it doesn’t meet the expectation because there are usually a ton of reasons that we can explain away easily. It was old. I didn’t use it correctly. I wasn’t paying attention. All of these justifications for why something broke down have elements of common sense and are easy to understand. Faith in God after a family member just died and you begged Him to spare them doesn’t have a list of easily explained reasons. Your faith says He could have saved them but didn’t and so you question His love. Your grief causes doubt that God hears or that God cares. You stop having faith because God didn’t act like you wanted Him to, you stop sitting in chairs. 

What if when our chair breaks, we flipped the script and said something like, “that chair has served me well and I loved the comfort. I will miss it!”, and then go buy a new chair. The same principle applies when we have prayed for something that didn’t happen as we wanted. What if when our hearts are broken under the weight of faith and hope that didn’t get the desired outcome, we blessed all of the good that took place, acknowledged the sadness or disappointment, and then went on to greater faith knowing that God’s perfect plan is always in action. He will bring you comfort, guaranteed. He will never leave you, guaranteed. He does know what He’s doing, guaranteed. He is trustworthy and worthy of the risk of faith, guaranteed.

Our faith should be placed in God, not in anything else. Faith is being sure of what I hope for…I hope for the perfect will of God to be active in my life and that I will never be a barrier to all that He wants to do. Faith is sure of what I do not see…I can’t see God physically moving with me and around me but like the wind, I see the effects of God in my life. When challenges come your way, don’t put any faith in the situation, put all of your faith in God and ask Him for help to hold your faith steady. Faith in God is about your surrender, not about your strength.

Shalom,

KA

By Faith: Introduction

Have you ever been reading through the Bible and all of the sudden a verse or phrase jumps out at you and you think, “Wait, what?”? That happened to me this morning and as I was pondering, God started revealing His nature and it was an astounding and lovely revelation. God’s promises and His blessings are activated by faith. Sounds simple right? Wrong! God is able to do amazing and mind-blowing things at any moment but at times, He waits on us to have the faith needed to receive from Him. He could so easily just make ever single dream come true, but that wouldn’t increase our faith, He would just be a holy ATM. 

Let’s take a closer look at Isaiah 54:1. For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman. How on earth is that possible? It’s not! On earth, with only our earthly human abilities, no woman who is unable to have children will ever have more children than a woman who is fertile. And here is where most of us stop. “It’ll never work”. “I can’t do that, I’m not able”. We recite the lies of this world that say no instead of invading the truths of heaven that say yes. Our human viewpoint can’t get there because we can see all of the reasons it’s never going to happen so we walk away and we miss the invitation. The invitation comes in the Word of God saying, “I’m asking you to live by faith. I know it looks hopeless but how it “looks” and how it actually is are two different things. Live by faith.” 

Now, here’s the other catch: historical data. I bet you could all rattle off a list of things you’ve had faith for that didn’t happen, God didn’t step in. I would challenge you to look again through the lens of heaven, not the lens of earth. Sometimes the thing we are asking for is simply answered in a way we didn’t really want because our hearts want things made whole now and God wants things made truly whole for eternity. Just off the top of my head I can think of situations like someone is sick and they die when we prayed for healing; marriages fail when we prayed for restoration; children wander when we prayed for salvation. All of these situations create doubt and make living by faith so much harder. And yet, God’s Word never erases Isaiah 54:1, For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman. 

Faith doesn’t mean understanding. I don’t have to understand in order to live by faith and in fact, the odds are not stacked in my favor that I WILL understand here on earth. Faith is hope, hope in what I cannot see and do not know will actually happen (Hebrews 11:1). Faith shifts our gaze from the temporal and earthly to the eternal and heavenly. When things are falling apart, faith prays, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing so please show me what I need to know. I believe You are good and that You have a good plan, help me increase my faith that You are at work and will reveal all that I need in perfect timing. Help me process any disappointment or pain and don’t let the enemy have any entrance. I love You.” 

Living by faith is risky and the reward is amazing, abundant and out of this world! Living by faith in God sets you up for abundance, joy, freedom, love, grace, peace and all of the blessings of heaven. Living by faith doesn’t mean you have to understand, or even like what’s happening. It simply means you are putting God first and trusting that He is working everything out for your good (Romans 8:28). You may never see the outcome but that doesn’t mean God didn’t answer, it just means His timing isn’t yours. Live by faith, my friends, it’s worth the risk. 

Shalom,

KA

Do Not Hold Back

Small is safe. Small dreams. Small goals. If we don’t reach a small goal, it doesn’t feel like such a big deal because it was small. We aren’t ever really that invested in something small because, well, because it’s small! I believe God is inviting us to BIG.

Enlarge. Stretch out. Do not hold back. Lengthen. Strengthen. The language in this passage of Isaiah (chapter 54) is not small language, it’s HUGE language. In the original text, the word used for enlarge means to make wide open. Wide open!! You can’t do small in wide open. Wide open means all of it, big, huge, without end and without restraint. This language is vast and, as a human, terrifying to me.

What if I fail? What if people don’t like me? When we start to move into places of enlargement or wide open spaces, the risk increases. Risk brings fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure. Small is easily laughed off, big is easily laughed at. We end up staying small because it’s safe, problem is that we don’t serve a small God.

God is our safety and our refuge but following God is not a “safe” endeavor. When we put our faith in Jesus, we take a risk from the human perspective. We have no physical evidence that God is who He says He is, but we know it to be true. So in this passage of Isaiah, God’s inviting us to go big. Enlarge our dreams, stretch out o places you’ve never been, lengthen and strengthen your sphere of influence, do not hold back. DO NOT HOLD BACK!!

God is leading you somewhere because He is always leading us into deeper places. We all have a call. What’s yours? Are you going for big and risking it all on God, or are you staying small? God is never going to let you down so you have to keep your heart focused on heaven and not earth. Success and failure aren’t defined in heaven as they are here in earth so seek out the heavenly definitions. 

Take some time today to read Isaiah 54. God’s invitation to dream big are followed up by His promise to bless you. Don’t hold back, God wants to use you in big ways.

Shalom,

KA

Your Story

When you have encountered Jesus, your story becomes a powerful testimony of His love, grace, peace and mercy. The only way for the power to be released is for you to tell your story. Telling your story means you have to face it, process it and then release it into the hands of the Holy Spirit to provide opportunity to share.

The Samaritan woman was an outcast in her community. She went and got water in the heat of the day all by herself. She either wasn’t invited to go when the other women went to the well, or she decided it was better to go alone. Sometimes our own self judgment makes being around other people unbearable. Even if they aren’t judging us, we write their story as if they are and then we heap a double portion of shame on our souls. So on this day once again, as she trudged her wa to the well buried under the weight of her life choices and how they had played out, she had no idea her life would change forever AND, that her story would become a saving testimony to others.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? He steps in where we least expect Him to and He flips the script. Notice in this encounter that He doesn’t hide her past, He calls it out! He offers her a an invitiation into relationship when He asks her to go get her husband because her only answer is one of revelation about her story. Do you see the crack of light into her darkness in His response? He acknowledges that her answer of not having a husband is in fact true, and then He gently takes her heart a little deeper and tells her things that He had no way to know. The relationship deepens as He unfolds her story in love, grace, peace and mercy. He isn’t calling her names or speaking in judgment, He’s simply laying out her story and helping her to face it. 

Here’s the deal and we all know it: you can’t change history. I can’t go back to when I was 13 years old and say “no” to my first taste of alcohol. I can’t go back and and not fall in love with my first love who died tragically. I can’t go back and get my mom to the hospital sooner so that the aneurysm didn’t kill her and I didn’t spiral deeper into anger and alcoholism. I can’t go back to all of the hundreds of poor choices and make better choices and guess what, neither can you. Here’s what we can do though…face those choices, process them and then release them into the hands of the Holy Spirit so that our story, like the story of the Samaritan woman, will be shared and bring people to healing and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Your story is a battefield and don’t doubt that for one second. The enemy wants nothing more than to keep you from telling your story so he plants shame-bombs all along your path. I don’t know about you but I don’t need someone from the outside judging me because I’m incredibly proficient at judging myself! And in that judgment, in that shame, the enemy wins because the truth is that we won’t share a story that causes us shame. We just won’t. The only way to release the power of your story is to speak light into the darkness of it and expose the shame for what it is, a lie. God isn’t judging you so why are you judging you? God is loving you, freeing you and releasing you to tell everyone around you about His love.

Face it. Process it. Release it. Your story is the key to someone else’s salvation so you have to fight for it. Jesus died for your story, don’t let the enemy steal the power away from you. Your story is not only the story of your salvation, it’s the beginning of the story of someone else’s salvation.

Shalom,

KA

Fully Yielded

**Picture is from my bible**

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not whither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3

I’m think a lot about this tree David is speaking of and asking myself, what kind of tree am I? This tree is fully yielded to the place it is planted. It’s in good soil near fresh water so its root system must be good and strong. It’s consistently bearing fruit right in time for the season. It’s beautiful and lush because it’s leaves are not withering up. This tree is prosperous because it is thriving and operating at its best all the time. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to be this tree!!!

Now the reality sets in, the tree doesn’t have free will. Bummer! The tree is perfectly planted by the Master gardener and so long as it never moves, which it won’t just pick up and move on it’s own, it will thrive and be prosperous. Our lives aren’t that steady, or at least mine isn’t. I have the choice to not stay in the perfect will of God. I have the choice to move out from where He planted me or to bend one way or another. This perfectly planted tree doesn’t have those choices.

Here’s the other thing the tree doesn’t have, redemption. If an earthquake or storm hits and moves the tree, it can’t get back to the place where it is perfectly planted, fully yielded and beautifully prosperous. It’s stuck right where the natural occurrence left it. Not true for you and me, our free will offers us the opportunity to return. That’s the glorious grace of God. 

I want to be a woman like this tree. I want to stay in the perfect will of God: nourished, radiant, fruitful, prosperous. God wants me there too, that’s why He put me there in the first place. I may get distracted by things around me or knocked off my spot a little by external forces, but I am always able to reach out to God and He will bring me back to the right place, His place.

If you’re right where God wants you, awesome! Stay firmly rooted and be prosperous in ALL your ways. If you aren’t where God wants you, ask Him to correct your path. You can’t be all you were created for if you aren’t in His perfect will. You can still have a good life, good outcomes, but they won’t be as amazing if you are off center. 

Let’s all strive to be this tree!! Fully yielded to the perfect, loving, gracious will of God and producing th perfect fruit in the perfect season.

Shalom!

KA