Author Archives: marilynnchadwick

Complicated!

Following Christ gets complicated when we try to live by the standards of this world:  Work hard. Dream big.  Solve life’s problems with good sense and hard work.  Measure your worth by your success.

James points us to another reality—a different power source.  A God who cares. Who answers prayers. Who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves:  When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is… double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:6-8).

Ask. Believe. But be sure to resist doubt, says James. Easier said than done.  Sometimes, living in two worlds can get very complicated.

The Greek word translated “ask” also means “to pray.” James knew a thing or two about prayer.  His reputation as a man of fervent prayer earned him the nickname “camel knees.”  The oldest half-brother of Jesus, he was an eye-witness to the resurrection.  James became the leader of the believers in Jerusalem.  The book of James is thought to be written shortly before he was martyred.

Who better to teach us to stand firm in our faith? To believe and not doubt. To resist the dangers of being double-minded.

Double-minded, or dipsychos, describes someone who has “two minds.”  That’s the very definition of complicated, according to Spiros Zhodiates, PhD, editor of the Key Word Study Bible. I lovingly call this my “Big Fat Greek Bible.” It’s my personal favorite!

Let’s take a few minutes to read and reflect on these verses from James in the Amplified version:

It must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind.  For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides]  (James 1:6-8 AMP).

Wow. These verses challenge me to believe when I pray. They warn me about the dangers of doubt. I’m letting the words sink deep. Searching my heart for unbelief. Repenting of doubt.  When it comes to my faith, maybe it’s time to stop being so complicated.


Trials!

The Olympic Trials are a spectacular event. Young athletes from all over the United States compete for the few coveted spots on the US Olympic team.

Of all the Olympic hopefuls, swimmers endure some of the most grueling training schedules. They practice before dawn. Miss out on vacations. Barely remember a lazy day off.  Pretty much sacrifice a normal life—all for the chance to make it to the Olympic Trials.  “Training for trials” has become familiar jargon around here since our youngest son happens to be a competitive swimmer.

As believers we, too, should train for our trials. Like any good coach, James encourages us to face our trials head on: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2 NIV).

I’m so glad you’ve dropped in for our One Word Devotional:  “Journey through James.” Today’s focus is on the word trials. Have you thought about how your daily routine of prayer, reading God’s Word, listening, and obeying—day after day after day—prepares you to stand strong when you are faced with a trial?

Training for trials prepares you for the battles ahead.  Dear friend, do you love the fight of faith? Paul calls it a “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12).  It’s been said that we should love the fight of faith in the same way an athlete loves his sport.

I don’t know if I’d say I love trials.  But there’s something invigorating about approaching each day on the offensive. Strengthening myself in God’s Word. Being intentional about prayer.

I should walk away from my devotional time armed and ready.  Expectant and watchful.  Alert to signs of God at work. Prepared for opportunities to step out in faith.  Ready to share the Gospel. Meet a need. Take back territory from the enemy.  Determined to stand strong in the inevitable trials of life.

Let’s reflect on the rest of this passage from James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4 NIV).

Meditate on these verses, paying special attention to the word trials. Notice that James takes us beyond merely enduring trials.  He encourages us to consider our trials as an opportunity for joy. The very tools God uses to strengthen us, build endurance, make us complete!

Think about the joy of an athlete winning his race. What if that same kind of joy awaits us when we prevail in our trial?  Today, let’s agree to train for our trials. And look forward to our victory through Christ!


One Word Devotionals

Your minutes matter—especially when life gets busy. That’s why I’m starting a new series called One Word Devotionals. You can read each devotional in about three minutes. Honest—I timed it.

I hope you’ll join me for the first in this series—a journey through the book of James.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll post a short devotional each morning on this practical epistle written by the half-brother of Jesus. These reflections are designed to help you meditate on a very small portion of Scripture.

Why One Word? Meditation on a single facet of Scripture helps you focus on a specific truth. It’s a good way to fill your mind with God’s Word.  Plus, it helps you frontload your prayers with a burst of power for the rest of your day.

If you were with me for the 21 Day Experiment in John, you know I’m a “word nerd.” I like to explore the Scriptures in the original Greek. It’s a good way to unpack every morsel of truth in God’s Word.

It’s often challenging to keep our faith—and our cool—when the stresses of life hit. Maybe you need a “little faith-fix” as you approach the holiday season.  I know I do. The book of James is filled with lots of practical wisdom. That’s why some call it “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” Just the book to help us focus on what really matters!

Sometimes, all the craziness in the world today threatens to wreck our calm. Plus, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season can cause us to lose focus. Let’s reflect on what James has to teach us as we anticipate the birthday of Jesus.

The five short chapters in the book of James pack a wallop!  Over the years, the powerful truth in this little book has ignited several life-changing moments for me.  So I can’t wait to dive in again!

God’s Word never returns void. Never leaves us empty. So…are you ready?  Tomorrow, we’ll begin our Journey through James.  Expect to be changed.

I encourage you to stay alert. Be sure to watch for signs of God at work all around you.  And remember, Jesus loves to surprise us with Christmas miracles!


21 Day Experiment-Day 21

Way to go! You made it to the finish line! You’ve been faithful to seek the Lord during our 21 Day Experiment. I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the ways the Lord has spoken to you.

I repeat this little experiment about once a year—usually when my faith needs a pick-me-up. This morning I’m listing some of God’s fingerprints I’ve noticed along the way.

I even have a special box for spiritual momentos I’ve collected over the years—they tend to show up when I’m doing the 21 Day Experiment.

An ordinary penny taped to a card is one of my favorites. The penny reminds me of a surprising answer to prayer years ago. I hope this story encourages you to keep watch for God in your ordinary moments:

Pennies from Heaven

I don’t remember the first penny that caught my eye. I had been noticing pennies in the strangest places—just as I was praying. Funny, I thought. It’s almost as though God wants to let me know that He hears my prayers.

I sure hoped so. I was going through a spiritually dry season. I was a young mom at the time with two small children. My husband David and I had worked hard building our church ministry for over ten years. Sometimes, the sheer load of caring for so many people became exhausting.

Could these pennies really be little messages of encouragement from God? Perhaps it was wishful thinking. After all, the world groans with the weight of earthquakes, famine, and war. God has better things to do than send me pennies.

Still I hoped. And there it was—another penny. This one in the heel of my shoe! The last one, under a glass on the kitchen shelf. The one before that, in the middle of my bed!

I happened to share my penny story with my friend Kenna. Pretty soon, Kenna began finding pennies of her own!

Pennies from heaven—that’s what I called them. Every time I found a penny, I dropped it into a pretty jar on my kitchen shelf.

I happened to be doing the 21 Day Experiment at the time. John’s Gospel never failed to encourage my faith. One morning I was reading in John 20 about the man we know as “Doubting Thomas.”

The chapter tells about Jesus’ death on the cross and how His followers felt hopeless. But suddenly, Jesus appeared to His disciples—alive! They all saw Him. That is, except Thomas. I could imagine his face fell as the disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

Discouraged, Thomas vowed, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe!” I felt for Thomas. For I, too, was in need of encouragement.

Jesus appeared again eight days later. This time, He singled out Thomas. But instead of scolding him, Jesus said, “Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:22-24).

Could it be that God cared enough to encourage doubters like Thomas—and like me? Maybe all those pennies really were God’s way of speaking to me.

Lord, I prayed silently, I do believe You’re sending me those pennies. But I need something more. As an afterthought, I added, Lord, You showed your nail-scarred hands to Thomas. I want to see Your nail marks, too!

 I never told anyone about my prayer. How could God possibly show me a nail hole? A few days later, I received a card in the mail from Kenna.

“Dear Marilynn,” she wrote, “I found this penny in my dryer and I thought of you. Perhaps the Lord sent this penny as an encouragement to us both.”

Taped to her card was an ordinary penny. But as I looked closer, I caught my breath. Right through the center—was a nail hole! I sat transfixed. And suddenly I knew. God had sent me a nail mark, just as I’d prayed.

As I touched that penny, I felt like Thomas touching the nail hole in Jesus’ hand. What could I say but “My Lord and My God!”

Suddenly, it was clear. God is awesome. He is powerful enough to rule the entire universe! But He’s also personal. And tender enough to send a nail-pierced penny to another “Doubting Thomas” in need of encouragement—just like me.

Now What?

Over the years, I’ve learned that God’s signs are often quiet—like a whisper. And ordinary—like that penny. So if I’m not watching, I just might miss them! That’s why it’s important to develop a daily habit of watching for signs of God at work.

Why not commit to making time in God’s Word and prayer your top priority? I call it my “daily launch.” A friend of mine, one of the busiest women I know, recently shared how her life was transformed when she began having a morning quiet time. Now it’s her favorite hour of her day. She’s collecting plenty of “God stories” of her own.

Something extraordinary begins to happen when we give God our first fruit. The 21 Day Experiment is a good way to jumpstart this habit. Carry this momentum with you to the next portion of Scripture. I’ve used this same simple method to read through several books in the Bible. If you like to study, you might choose to invest in the Key Word Study Bible. Bible Gateway is a great online resource to read the Bible in multiple versions.

For further reflection, answer these questions:

  1. Before I began the 21 Day Experiment in Prayer, I was struggling with _________.
  2. After reading through John’s Gospel, I’ve noticed____________________________.
  3. One tangible sign I’ve received from the Lord is _____________________.
  4. A verse from the 21 Day Experiment that has special meaning:_______________.
  5. As a result of my experiment, I commit to take this step of faith:___________________.

Just for fun, why not find a box and start a collection of your own spiritual momentos? It’s a great way to become more alert. More watchful. More thankful!

Morning by morning I lay my requests before you and eagerly watch for the answers (Psalm 5:3).


21 Day Experiment-Day 20

Someone once said “seeing is believing.” It is much easier to believe when we can see the evidence. Yet sometimes faith is the belief in the unseen—otherwise, it wouldn’t be called faith. Much like the t-shirt I saw recently with this bold slogan across the front: BELIEVING IS SEEING!

The disciples fought to cling to their faith as they watched Jesus die on that wretched cross.  Everything they could see pointed to utter defeat! But what they could see with their eyes was not the whole story as they would soon discover.

The word SEE is sprinkled throughout today’s reading of John 20:

Mary Magdalene was the first to visit Jesus’ burial site. All she could see was an empty grave! Peter and John raced to the tomb to see for themselves. They looked inside to see the grave cloths folded, but no sign of Jesus anywhere!  The Bible says they “saw and believed” (John 20:8).

Later, Jesus appeared to Mary. She sees and believes. Then, He walks though a locked door and appears to the trembling disciples. They were overjoyed to see Jesus—and they believed!

Somehow Thomas missed out. So he refused to believe unless he saw for himself the nail marks in Jesus’ hands.  Jesus makes a special visit to “doubting Thomas.” He lets him see and touch the nail holes—then challenges Thomas to stop doubting and believe (John 20:27).

The Lord understands we sometimes wrestle to believe. Especially when it looks like evil has won the battle. That’s why John’s Gospel leaves us with these words of encouragement:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name” (John 20:30,31).

Signs are like God’s fingerprints.  He wants us to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That’s why Jesus left signs—to help us believe!

Have you seen God’s fingerprints during our 21 Day Experiment? Maybe there’s a friend or family member that would be encouraged by your story. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the story of one of my own fingperprints from God.

As we come to the end of our 21 Day Experiment, I encourage you to carve out some extra time tomorrow to reflect on—and even write down—what you’ve seen. What’s you’ve heard from God. And what you believe about Jesus the Christ.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Your fingerprints. Keep me watchful. Alert. Above all, help me to believe, even before I see what You are doing in and around me. That’s called trust—so today, I simply trust You.