Going Beyond our Earthly Family Bonds to Invest in our Spiritual Family – Part 1

What Does Your Spiritual Family Tree Chart Look Like?

What Does Your Spiritual Family Tree Chart Look Like?

When we read an obituary, it usually talks about surviving family members on earth as the legacy that someone leaves. But what about people who don’t have kids?  What is their legacy after living their lives?  If we gauge the legacy of a life on how many children they had, then there’s no place for people who didn’t have children.  It’s a valuation that single people can’t win at.  It almost makes their lives not have any value if they aren’t passing down their genes through a family line.

I know many wonderful people who may or may not have children to pass things down to.  I think we need a different criterion.  It may or may not be what great contribution we left to society.  What if we faithfully fulfilled our existence in life by serving others, but didn’t invent something amazing that changes the world?

I believe God has individual criteria for us to which we can all excel.  Did we do all that God created us to do?  Who would recognize this? What would it look like?  God gives everyone certain gifts and each of us contributes things that bring God pleasure.  Have we figured out what these are and developed them, and offered it unto Him?

There are lots of people on this earth who have wonderful and loving families and are great family members.  And this is fulfilling God’s call in life. But what about those of us who come from broken families?  What about those of us who don’t have children of our own? Does who we love count for something?

See Also:  Going Beyond our Earthly Family Bonds to Invest in our Spiritual Family – Part 2


Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – Part 7

Kick Start Faith with Pushing Beyond the Fear

Kick Start Faith with Pushing Beyond the Fear

This is Part 7 in a series on Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward.  We’ve looked at Step 1 – Try Forgiving Someone, Step 2 – Feelings Follow Decisions, Step 3 – Flexibility Builds Faith,  and Step 4 – Through the Fog.  Now we continue to consider Step 5 – Push Beyond the Fear.

Another group of fear issues is around the fear of what other people might think.  Fearing other people’s opinions or other people’s approval are symptoms of what the Bible calls “fear of man.”  This is strong.  It doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention to social mores.  It does mean we honor God and what the Bible says more than we care about what someone might think of us.  After all, we don’t really know what they really think of us on the inside.  Some of the biggest scorners verbally actually have a deep respect for people who stand up to their verbal abuses.  It helps to see God standing next to the person that we “fear” and consider what God’s opinion might be of us verses their opinion.  Or to consider what God’s opinion of the scorner might be.  It helps to seek counsel in complex matters.  We must not lose sight of pleasing God and what His opinion of us is.  This is what the Bible calls “fearing God.”  Let God be the one whose approval we seek.

This concludes our look at Five Steps to Kick Starting Standstill Faith to Move Forward.

In Review, the Steps are…

Step 1  Try Forgiving Someone

Step 2  Feelings Follow Decisions

Step 3  Flexibility Build Faith

Step 4  Through the Fog

Step 5  Push Beyond the Fear

 

 


Prayers for the Parched: Becoming More Like Christ

Becoming Like Christ is a Process of Learning to Do Each Step Like Christ

Becoming Like Christ is a Process of Learning to Do Each Step Like Christ

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5: 1-2

 

With the increasing volume of information to cycle through every day, every week and every year, it helps to let God be our editor.  With the most precious of resources, time, it helps to let God show us what to love and value.  Aligning ourselves with God’s perspective is to become more like Christ.  And this is God’s goal for our lives.

 

Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know

To love what I ought to love

To praise what delights thee most

To value what is precious in thy sight

To hate what is offensive to thee

 

Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes

Not to pass sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant people

But to discern with a true judgment between things visible and spiritual

And above all, always to inquire with what is the good pleasure of Thy will

 

A Thomas a Kempis Prayer


Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – Part 6

Kick Start Faith with Pushing Beyond the Fear

Kick Start Faith with Pushing Beyond the Fear

This is Part 6 in a series on Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward.  We’ve looked at Step 1 – Try Forgiving Someone, Step 2 – Feelings Follow Decisions, Step 3 – Flexibility Builds Faith, and  Step 4 – Through the Fog.  Now we look at Step 5 – Push Beyond the Fear.

5.         Push Beyond Fear

Eventually, everyone faces fear at some level.  Fear is one of the enemy’s best weapons against faith.  Fear and faith oppose each other frequently.

Some of us deal with the “what if” type of fear.  What if we fail?  What if this terrible thing were to happen?  What if it can’t be done?  If God has called us to do something, He will give us the faith to move forward.  Faith may not come with the absence of all fear.  We may have to move toward what we’ve been called to do with shaky knees ignoring the butterflies in our stomachs.  Most likely the Israelites had some levels of fear in their stomachs when they had to march by the tall walls of Jericho day after day looking at all of Jericho’s fortified walls and practiced warriors.  They must have wondered if Joshua really heard accurately about the details of their battle plan as they silently circled the city.  Nonetheless, they marched and shouted on the seventh day.  They followed the Lord’s instructions.  They acted in faith together in obedience despite the illogic of the action plan in the natural.

Another way to get past these kinds of fear is to counter the “What if…?” questions with the “So, what if it fails?” questions.  This means instead of living in dread, we choose to believe in faith that even if it all comes apart, God will sort out the pieces with us and make all things work together for good, as we love him.  Romans 8:26. We will move forward one way or another.

See Also Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – Part 1

See Also Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – part 5


Thanksgiving Hymn: Thanks to God for My Redeemer

Let us Give Thanks to God and Praise His Name Psalm 100:4

Let us Give Thanks to God and Praise His Name Psalm 100:4

I discovered this hymn in one of my favorite devotionals: The One Year Book of Hymns.  Each day the book selects a hymn with the lyrics and a short biography of the author.  This hymn refocused my musings about the day going on in the back of my mind as I read about thanking God for the thorns and the roses.  Yes, I can thank God for what He denies as well as all the many blessings. Thank God in all things.  We have Jesus as our redeemer, the most precious gift of all.

 

THANKS TO GOD FOR MY REDEEMER

 

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,

Thanks for all Thou dost provide!

Thanks for times now but a memory,

Thanks for Jesus by my side!

Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,

Thanks for dark and stormy fall!

Thanks for tears by now forgotten,

Thanks for peace within my soul!

 

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,

Thanks for what Thou dost deny!

Thanks for storms that I have weathered,

Thanks for all Thou dost supply!

Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,

Thanks for comfort in despair!

Thanks for grace that none can measure,

Thanks for love beyond compare!

 

Thanks for roses by the wayside,

Thanks for thorns their stems contain!

Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,

Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!

Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,

Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!

Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,

Thanks through all eternity!

 

August Ludwig Storm (1862-1914)

Translated by Carl E. Backstrom (1901-)

 

August Storm wrote this hymn in 1891 while working for the Salvation Army in Sweden.  It was published in the Salvation Army magazine, The War Cry, which still publishes hymns and poetry along with wonderful uplifting articles.

 

See this hymn played by an organ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB3jbMxNIx0


Key to Surviving the Holiday Season with Difficult Families: Do Not Let Them Define You

Family Dinners - Big and Small - start with prayer of Thanksgiving to God

Family Dinners – Big and Small – start with prayer of Thanksgiving to God

Why is it that going to families—our own, or others—at holidays is so challenging?  I have some friends, very few, who have loving, caring families where people are honest and nurturing and caring and loving.  The rest of us psych ourselves up to visit our own or extended families or even friends’ families at holidays.

The number one key I tell people when they call for prayer before heading out, is to not let them define you.  I point them to the way God thinks of them.  He tells us in so many ways how much he loves us in scripture.  I remind them to fill their head with these thoughts and phrases of eternal truth.

During many family holiday events, old arguments surface, opinions formed when we were children get reintroduced not noticing any changes, criticisms get voiced, and parents’ expectations come out in a “look.”  They key is to not let their opinions and expectations define us.  As Christians, our confidence is God’s everlasting love for us.  Even if God has us in training to get rid of an old habit that needs changing, he’s generally very merciful about it.  He encourages us forward.  Difficult families make it our problem until there’s change and then there’s a life long doubt that it might not be enough.

Visually, I sometimes have to imagine my sibling and God in the same room.  When my brother gets into his monologues, I look from his face to God’s face.  What does God have to say about the issue?  It’s God’s opinion I care about.  My family member may or may not be right about everything in my life.  They may have counseled with God first.  Usually I’m getting unedited and hurtful comments.  I can hear God saying, “Take it up with me.  It’s not an argument I want you in.”  I let it go with the person and I do take it up with God with an attitude of willing to change if God tells me.  My family tried to enforce impossible changes.  God gives me methods and action points that I can succeed at. God sets his children up for victory.  He never asks anything of us that we can’t do. It may seem impossible, but if God asks us, it is possible to do something.

In conclusion, today’s key to holiday family moments is not let your family define you.  Let God’s ways be your victory path for life.

 


Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – Part 5

The sun shines above the fog cover we experience on foggy days

The sun shines above the fog cover we experience on foggy days

This is Part 5 in a series on Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward.  We’ve looked at Step 1 – Try Forgiving Someone, Step 2 – Feelings Follow Decisions, and Step 3 – Flexibility Builds Faith

4.         Through the Fog

Also when our faith runs into obstacles and we can’t understand what God is or isn’t doing, it can feel like God doesn’t love us.  It’s easy to feel like a black cloud of circumstances has made our world foggy.  We must keep in mind that sun is above the fog.  Eventually the fog will burn off, the clouds will dissipate, and we will see the sun again.  Our circumstances are subject to change.  We can’t let our faith be dependent on circumstances or it can lead to fickle faith.  We must remember that God is above our circumstances.  The sunshine of His love never changes.  He fulfills his promises throughout the ages. “Not one word has failed of all his good promise.” 1 Kings 8:56.  His righteousness never tarnishes.  He is God of the ages.

Some fogs are our funk.  When we get a “no” answer to a prayer we wanted a “yes” response to, it can spin us out and cause our faith to go in a giant loop.  Ultimately a choice will be made to trust God’s goodness again.  Sometimes we do this after we understand everything with enough time and explanation.  Sometimes we have to choose to trust God without understanding His purposes.  It helps to walk alongside a mature friend with faith during these times, and borrow from their faith.  Sometimes it’s just a choice.  I made my mind up along time ago that some day when I get to heaven, God will show me what I can’t see from my perspective here on earth. Then it will make sense.  Meanwhile,  he’s already factored it in to all his decisions.  I’d rather have his justice than my limited earthly perspective of justice.  It’s the choice point of faith.

See also My Definition of Faith

See Also Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – Part 1

See Also Five Steps to Kick Start Your Faith to Move Forward – part 4


Prayers for the Parched: Believe! – Part 2

Believe and Grow.  Growth comes with Growing Pains

Believe and Grow. Growth comes with Growing Pains

Believe you have a calling

Believe that if you seek it, you will find it

Align yourself with me, according to my word

As you believe, joy and peace will follow.  Believing is not based on seeing

Ask My Holy Spirit to believe for you, in you

As Mary said to the angel Gabriel, “Be it done unto me as you have said.”

ALLOW for me to give unto you

Acknowledge that there may be more options to a problem

Than you can see at first glance

Where there is no path, I can create a path

Ask me.  Talk with me about it

Listen to your sentences, especially sentences with the word believe

Ask new questions about the same problem, because there are new answers

 

Believe I am at work

If I have promised something, I will do it

Thank me for what I am doing, even when you can not see yet what I am doing

Your thanksgiving will increase your believing

Praise me for what I am about to do

Praise me that it is my nature to fulfill my promises

 

I am stretching you

Growth comes with growing pains

Believe in the design of the process

KNOW that this process will never be more than you can handle

But it’s not what you think you can handle, but what I KNOW you can handle

I am maturing you.  There is joy out in the deep

Joy that is not based on emotions

I am giving you new emotions, a fuller set

Like teeth, your baby set of emotions will fall out and mature emotions will replace them

CHOOSE to believe in my purposes

Believe they are good

KNOW that I know what I am doing

There are no surprises for me

Believe that you are coming along

See Part 1 of this Prayer:  Prayers for the Parched:  Believe! – Part 1


Becoming Committed and Hopeful Prayer Warriors

Pray with Expectant Prayer

Pray with Expectant Prayer

Behold, the eyes of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy.  Psalm 33:18

While talking with a dear friend the other day, I asked her what she saw as the difference between hoping and wishing was.  Some people wish things were better.  My Dad wishes that certain people in our family got along better.

Other people seem to hope that their children will find Jesus.  They aren’t just wishing for something nice to happen all by itself.  They actively hope that the things will be better.

There’s a difference and I asked her about it.  She said the difference is a commitment to the prayer. Some people wish.  Others put a commitment behind their prayers doing what they can do and asking God to do what He can do.  They confidently believe and know their prayers are heard.  They know that the things they care about are of concern to God.  1 Peter 5:7. They confidently pray for what God has said he wants in scripture.  There’s a commitment to faithfully believe that God is actively working on the prayer while they wait in faith for the answer to be seen on earth. They develop a confident hopefulness because they expect to see the answer one day.  There’s no pressure or anxiousness.  They confidently believe God is at work on their prayer.  They are waiting in hope.

People who hope water the seed of their prayer daily.  Then they thank God in advance for what he is doing.  They praise God for His goodness and greatness believing that God is sufficient to the accomplishing of what He’s been asked to do. They know the heart of God to carry out prayer requests in love and mercy.  They join with other people in praying for the concerns of one another.  These are God’s committed hopeful prayer warriors.

“Thank you Lord for hearing my prayer  Thank you Lord for wanting good things to unfold on earth and in the lives of my loved ones.  Thank you Lord for answering this prayer in love and mercy.  You are good. I’m hoping in faith.  I pray this in the powerful name of Jesus.”

See also Looking at the Hebrew Word Qavah:  To Hope or to Wait?

 

 


Steph’s Recipes: Thanksgiving Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Relish is a Family Tradition

Cranberry Relish is a Family Tradition

I share with you a Neff Family Tradition at Thanksgiving.  No matter where we all are in the world, every Neff family member will be making this Cranberry Relish recipe in their kitchen a few days before Thanksgiving.  It comes with and creates new memories every year. We take it with us if we’re going to Thanksgiving at someone’s home and people rave. It is absolutely fabulous.  Enjoy!

 

THANKSGIVING CRANBERRY RELISH

2 or 3 tart apples, such as Granny Smith (if large, use 2) peeled, cored and diced

2 slightly ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced

2 pounds fresh cranberries (note that bags of cranberries are only 12 oz)

½ cup golden raisins

2 c. sugar

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 Tbsp grated orange rind

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liquor)

 

Mix all ingredients, except Grand Marnier, in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until thick.  Stir in the Grand Marnier, let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate, covered, until serving time.