Category Archives: Praise and Thanksgiving

Endure with Joy

I’ve long been inspired by the vibrant faith of believers in China’s underground church. No one is sure, but some think there may be over 60 million believers in these secret house churches. Astounding when you consider all the forces over the years that have tried to stamp out the Gospel in China!

Chinese believers are known for their steadfast and joyful faith in the face of intense persecution. A man who had just returned from visiting members of an underground church was asked how the believers were able to cope with the continued trials.

“These brothers and sisters know this is not the end of the story,” he explained.  “They EXPECT God’s glory to come at the end of their trial.  They believe the trial will end. And they expect to be victorious.”

Are you wrestling with a tough problem? Maybe it feels like your trial will never end. Perhaps we don’t suffer the same kind of intense persecution as Chinese believers, but we fight the same devil. James urges us to “resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7).

Peter also challenges us to join the “resistance:” Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8).

We can draw strength from the example of Chinese believers. They remind us that our trial “is not the end of the story.” They inspire us to “expect God’s glory.”

We strengthen our own faith when we encourage each other to stand “firm in the faith.” Joy in our journey comes as we team up with other believers.

The Christian life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.  So daily, let’s ask the Lord to help us find joy while we endure!


In Honor of Ordinary Fathers

Sometimes you find heroes in the most unlikely places. Since today is Father’s Day, I want to honor those ordinary dads everywhere who are living quietly, faithful lives. These guys are the real heroes.

A few months ago, I traveled to our nation’s capital. I was there with my husband for the 64th annual National Prayer Breakfast. David and I walked our nation’s corridors of power and met influential men and women who faithfully serve our country. We spent time with our congressmen. And we took fascinating tours of the capitol,  awestruck at the compelling stories about the faith of our Founding Fathers. They were truly great men of honor. Their names are written in history, and their impact will last for generations.

But the real hero showed up—of all places—in a taxi while we were traveling back to our hotel. Our driver was a gentle,  friendly man with an east African accent. He began talking about his 33 years driving a cab in Washington DC. Times had changed, he explained, and drivers now had to guard against criminals who no longer just robbed, but sometimes killed taxi drivers.

So he had moved his family to the suburbs. His three kids, he went on to tell us, had all graduated from fine colleges on scholarships. He beamed with that special dad-kind-of-pride. All three now held prestigious jobs in the DC area. “I’m blessed,” he smiled. “I have my health and I’m able to work. I have all I need,”

“You must have done some pretty good parenting on your part,” I commented. “What’s your secret?” “My secret,” he laughed, “is America.” “In America, if you’re willing to work hard, you can reach your dream.”

“Hmm,” I replied. “There are some who would say it’s not possible here.” “Ah,” he paused. “They have never lived in another country.” He was from Eritrea, he went on to tell us. One of the most oppressive countries in the world, Eritrea heavily persecutes Christians. Some refer it the “North Korea of Africa. He was a man of deep faith and I noticed the cross prominently displayed on his dashboard. “People here don’t know what it’s like to not have freedom,” he said quietly.

He fled the persecution and came to America. Educated as an accountant by trade, he managed to find work as a cab driver.  A job he’s held ever since.  Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. But he made sure his kids were successful. “They are very smart kids,” He smiled.

His other secret to raising successful kids, he confessed, is his wife. “My wife, too. She is very nice.”   “Even though our kids now have professional careers, they call every weekend and want to come see us.” They say, “Mom, what are you cooking?” “Yes, I am a blessed man, indeed.”

I reflected on how the extraordinary can happen when an ordinary man lives a faithful, ordinary life. I knew we’d been in the presence that day of an honorable man. A hero.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of honor this year since David and I completed our books on how to reclaim honor in marriage: Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Husband and Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Wife. One way I’m trying to recapture this lost art is to notice and celebrate honor when I see it.

Let’s reflect on those quietly honorable husbands and fathers in our lives today. And perhaps let them know just how thankful we are for their faithfulness in the ordinary.


21 Days of Strength-Day 2

Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen. We reach the end of our strength. We’ve played out.  Hit the wall. You know what I’m talking about. When we’re worn out, our state of mind is affected. Even our faith can falter. As someone once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Add to that, the increasingly busy life most of us lead, and you have a sure-fire recipe for exhaustion.  And for the discouragement that follows close on its heels.

So glad you’ve joined us for 21 Days of Strength. For three weeks, our focus will be on strength. How to find it. How to keep it. How to make good use of it. How to receive it from God. I’ll say it again. God is close to us when we’re weak, but He wants to make us strong.

The Bible is honest about human frailty, revealing story after story of men and women who reached the end of their strength. But it also shares secrets of how they found strength in God.

We’ve observed how David “strengthened himself in the Lord after a marauding army of Amalekites raided his village and captured all the women and children.  And how God empowered David and his mighty men to regain all they had lost.

I’ve been thinking back to times in my life when I’ve “hit the wall.” When tough times hit, how do I draw strength from God?  Here are a few simple ways that work for me:

  1. I literally go into my room (or my car) and shut the door. Often I will turn my cell phone and laptop off so I won’t even hear the “ding” from someone trying to contact me.   It was Jesus Himself who reminded His disciples to “go into their room and shut the door” when praying to God (Matthew 6:6).
  2. I take out my Bible and dig in.  I’m alert to promises that speak directly to my heart,  reveal an area of sin, provide wisdom for a tricky problem, add fire to a dream.   Or I may look in my concordance for verses related to the topic I’m wrestling through. As I read, I commit whatever is on my heart to the Lord in prayer. By pouring over God’s Word, I notice promises that shed light on my situation or give me hope.  I can almost feel my faith re-fire. Romans 10:17 puts it this way: “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.”
  3. I keep watch during the day to notice God at work . I look for the tiny ways He may begin to answer my prayers, solve my problem, fill me with fresh hope and strength. I remember to thank and praise Him. Which in turn, seems to strengthen my faith and breathe even more energy into my tired soul. Psalm 5:3 encourages us to seek God daily and to live with expectant hope: “Morning after morning, I lay my requests before You and eagerly watch for the answers.”

So I’m curious. How do you strengthen yourself in the Lord?


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 26

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Blog photo-Bible

I’ve heard it said that the person whose Bible is falling apart–isn’t  falling apart.  It’s true.  When you combine the regular reading of God’s Word with prayer, you naturally strengthen your hope.  You probably realize by now that the point of our 30 Days of Hopeful is not just hope—it’s also faith. And faith, as we’ve learned, is the “substance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, faith is the foundation for our hope.

So how do we build our faith?  Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God.” Ponder that for a minute.  Faith is a gift, but we nourish it through a prayerful reading of Scripture.

God’s Word reveals His will, which in turn, helps us to pray in alignment with His purposes.  Prayer helps us communicate with God.  And praying  according His Word is a key to answered prayer.  Prayer helps us get to get to know God so that we become more familiar with His will. Our technique doesn’t matter as much as the condition of our heart.  The point is to weave prayer and Bible reading into our ordinary days… and to pray continually, or abide.  This builds hope.

It takes spiritual muscle to stand on God’s Word when we face seemingly impossible situations. His promises help us defeat fear and worry.  They strengthen our hope and our faith—but not without a struggle.  No wonder it’s called a fight of faith. As my prayer partner is fond of saying: “We glance at the problem, but we gaze on the promise.” Praying in line with God’s Word gives authority to our prayers. And prayer fuels hope. 

Another way to strengthen our hope is to keep watch for signs of God’s work all around us–especially in response to our prayers.  John Wesley encouraged his early followers to include the “discipline of watching” as part of their daily spiritual walk. Wesley’s advice on reading your Bible? “Be sure to read…with great attention, with proper pauses and intervals so that you may allow for the enlightenings of divine grace.”  Click here to read more on Wesley’s Bible reading method.

Watch, pray, and read God’s Word.  Simple ways to keep the fires of hope alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 


30 Days of Hopeful: Day 24

Let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8). 

Helmet JPG

The most fitting description of the Christian life can be summed up in one word: war.  Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see the theme of the “fight of faith.”  Did you know that hope can help us fight our battles?  The Bible tells us that hope is part of our armor.  Ephesians 6:11-17  describes each piece of our spiritual armor in detail, with hope being the helmet that protects our minds.

The most vulnerable part of any soldier in battle was his head.  Archaeologists have learned  that helmets were “purpose-built” to protect the wearer against the specific weapons he faced.  Ancient helmets were pointed at the top, to deflect the downward force of a club. But as time went on and the ax became popular as a weapon, the shape of the helmet was modified to counter the cutting edge of a downward-falling blade. Continue reading