Topping Up Your Faith

A well stocked pantry is essential for spontaneous bakers such as myself.  Not only is it important to have the essentials on hand, like flour and butter, but also an ecclectic array of the odd and unusual, such as saffron and vanilla beans.  It takes time to grow your stock necessary to whip up something special at a moment’s notice without having to make a grocery run.  You also have to learn to keep an ongoing mental list of how much you have on hand of each ingredient.   There is nothing more annoying than having to go to the store in the middle of a recipe because you don’t have enough of something to finish the job. Keeping your pantry topped up is important.  

Much like baking, faith needs a deep repository of ingredients that are grown over time in order to create a feast that will supply daily Bread, even during times of famine.  Basic faith, all that is needed to initially become a follower of Christ, is to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that by His death, burial, and resurrection He has overcome sin and death and has given us eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Scripture was written by about 40 different men, as the Holy Spirit prompted them (2 Timothy 3:16), over 1,500 years and is a wellspring of history, personal experience, wisdom, prophecy, fulfillment of prophecy, law, gospel, poetry, and letters giving first-hand accounts by eyewitnesses who had dealings with our eternal God across time.  All of these were written for our learning (Romans 15:4) and can be mined to give us everything we need in order to grow our faith through hope, truth, love, peace, joy, patience, endurance, faithfulness, forgiveness, mercy, grace, obedience, submission, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, understanding, wisdom… and so much more! 

The growth of faith is directly related to how much time, effort, thought, and personal devotion we put into topping it up.  Recognizing and experiencing God in one’s personal life with the aide of the Holy Spirit, when combined with listening to Him as you study scripture and talking to Him through prayer, combine to help us live our best and fullest life in Christ.  It is this fullness of faith, one that is constantly being filled and topped up, that shifts our viewpoint from life here below to that of the promises given about life above.

As we see every day on the news, bad things happen in the world. If you have lived very long at all, you know that unsolicited bad things will happen in the lives of the ones we love and even to ourselves.  Christians are not immune from failure, brokenness, loneliness, sorrow, or hardship of all kinds.  Accidents, illnesses, viruses, diseases, and death will touch and eventually take us all. 

BUT instead of despair and hopelessness when these things happen, we Christians can reach into our diligently topped up storehouse of faith and praise God through the storm instead of blaming Him.  We find ourselves resting in His ever present, faithful hands and feel a deep assurance that He has lovingly pressed us against His heart to keep us safe.  Not necessarily that He has removed the travails that happen to us in the flesh, though He certainly can do so if it is within His will! But, no, I mean the safety of our faith.  The promise of His love and His sovereignty alive and over our lives no matter what situation or diagnosis or trouble we find ourselves in. This kind of faith is possible because Jesus Christ has overcome sin and death by His resurrection and is the source of eternal life for all who call upon His name. He has overcome everything in this world and, as a result, there is now nothing that can harm those who believe in Him – not even death!

Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 8:34-39, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”.

To me, the promise that nothing can separate me from the love of God through Christ Jesus my Lord tops me up to overflowing! If you are already a Christian, don’t forget to keep topping up your faith each and every day through scripture and prayer. If you are not a Christian, but you want to know more about how to become one so you too can be filled to the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 3:19), then send me a message and I would count it a privilege to share the Gospel with you!

To the praise of His glory! ❤️Amy

If Only

The whole world is mad enough to chew nails and spit rivets at each other.  The wildfire of anxiety already fueled by a viral pandemic and financial hardships has roared into an inferno fanned by outrage over racial injustice.  Add all of this to an overly politicized, deeply divided, radically idealized, and seemingly diabolicaly opposed Left and Right presidential election year and, voila, here we are.  McCarthyism (“The practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigate techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.” – Dictionary.com) turned into Cancel Culture (“The popular practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Dictionary.com).  Unsurprisingly, we (collectively as humans) have learned absolutely nothing from God or history on how to get along with each other.  Like sheep, we’ve all gone astray.  The only difference between us and sheep is that we like to point and call out the wrong courses everyone else has taken, but never look back at our own errors.

As a result, I’ve been rationing my news intake and limiting my time on social media platforms.  I can’t take all the lava-hot words and vitriol spewing out of the mouths on all sides of the world’s current, self-inflicted problems.  I don’t know how to heal or even understand the differences of opinion and the vast chasms that seem to lie between the logic and thinking of some of us.  So, with that admission, what can I do?  I have been and will continue to lay them down at my Father’s feet.  He is the answer to everything, always. God excels in doing what everyone says is impossible. 

I’m doing the same on a personal level.  While the huge fires of the world keep burning, so too do the little flames within my life.  I’m sure you understand because we’re all the same.  My personal fire is called MS but yours might be named such things as Furloughed, Job, Money, Stress, Anger, Divorce, Death, Parent, Child, Spouse, Cancer, Diabetes, Aging… just about anything, really.  For me, MS is constantly melting away tiny pieces of my own sovereignty.  It’s very difficult to let go of the things in life that make you feel like you have some control, such as driving, shopping, cooking, and walking. 

In much the same way that I realize I can’t put out the MS fire in my own life and deal with the destruction it leaves in it’s wake on my own, we, as a nation and even world, must understand we will have to work collectively to bring the flames of our society back under control.  The solution will not be conceived in fear of an unseen germ, worry over the next great depression, or riots that break our neighbors’ windows and loot their livelihoods because of injustice.  No, if it could then we would already have the answer.   The fix is to be found in love.  The kind of love the apostle Paul described in I Corinthians 13:4-7, the sort God has for us.  His love is patient, kind, happy for others instead of envious, lifts others up instead of boasting about self, is well mannered instead of rude, seeks the good of others instead of self, is slow to anger, keeps no records of wrongs, delights in holiness instead of evil, rejoices in the truth instead of sensationalism, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. 

I realize what I am about to say is very Pollyannish of me, but…  If every person would recognize the truthfulness and wisdom of this type of love and make it their own personal goal to practice it, without policing others and how they are doing as they attempt to do the same, all the infernos of the world would simply burn themselves out.  If only.

Changing Seasons

A chill in the air, pumpkins, bales of hay, colorful leaves, small town festivals and fairs, costumes and candy, long sleeves, and warm bowls of chili.  Autumn is my favorite season and I am not alone. More poems have been written extolling Autumn’s winsome ways than any other season. One of my favorite childhood memories is playing with my younger sister for hours in the leaves.  I would rake “roads” out of the leaves in the backyard and she would “drive” her Tonka Truck through them all with Ken and Barbie dressed up in their warmest outfits in the driver and passenger seats.  

It wasn’t until I was older that I understood how the changing seasons reflect the stages of our lives.  I am now in the early autumn of my life as the big 50 lies in wait to spring upon me in six months time. I miss the never ending energy and gusto of the spring of my youth.  I fondly remember the excitement and first-time experiences of living through the summer season, too. All the “adult” things like the first job in my chosen profession, buying my first house and my first car, being entirely responsible for budgeting my first paycheck…and so on were exciting times.  During the first two seasons of life the sun hardly ever seemed to set and youth had enough vitality to live the long days to their fullest measure.

Now, in the early autumn of my life, my energy wanes like the shortening days, with fewer productive hours to get things done.  There are not nearly as many firsts to experience, either. However, what has been lost from the previous seasons has been made up for in privileges only afforded to those blessed with long years.  I have lived long enough to have naturally accrued some wisdom along the way.  

I’ve learned how to tell the difference between what is important and what is not, and the truth from a lie.  People are more important than things. I can look back and see how God has led me through the fires and floods to safer, higher ground.  And I have learned having fun is different than living a life of joy, the latter being so much more important and meaningful. Chasing after experiences does not equate experiencing life to the fullest.  The fullest life is one that surrenders self in order to experience the indwelling of the living God, Christ living in me and me living in Him.

As the trees change to autumnal colors and I find myself purposefully traveling roads with hilltops that afford me a larger breadth of view so I can soak in all the beauty, I look back over my life to see the distance I have travelled.  Not all the views are beautiful, I’ve not lived perfectly, just humanly. However, I can see and feel the hand of God lifting me higher and higher until the dead and barren patches are covered over with His forgiveness, mercy, grace, and loving-kindness.  He calls us all to live, move, and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28). He really does make all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

God’s blessings,
Amy  

God’s Attributes

One of my favorite Christan authors, Merrill C. Tenney, who was Professor of Bible and Theology at Wheaton College in Illinois, wrote a book titled, Galatians:The Charter of Christian Liberty.  Within it he explained and applied ten different approaches to studying the meaning of Biblical text “so that the reader can imitate the procedure and thus have the joy of making discoveries in the divine revelation.”  Over the course of the past two years, I have applied these strategies to four different books of the New Testament and found them to be like a key that has unlocked beautiful treasures of incomprehensible wealth.  

I just finished my journey through Romans and would like to share my new found favorite component within one of these methods, the “Theological Method.”  This method includes going through the book and finding all references to God’s personality and attributes, Christ’s personality and attributes, the Holy Spirit’s personality and attributes, and then the specific instructions for what Christ’s churches as well as each individual Christian’s personality, attributes, and behavior should be in order to reflect the Godhead. I found this particular exercise hugely beneficial, faith-strengthening, and awe-inspiring.

The following is a list of the attributes I found describing God’s personality and who He is as I read through Romans.  You can easily follow along, if you wish, by reading Romans yourself, since I wrote this list in chronological order as I read through the book.  If a particular attribute or personality trait was mentioned more than once, I did not repeat it on the list. However, several of His revealed traits were stated in slightly different contexts so I included them on the list.

God’s Personality and Attributes:

God is a promise-keeper

God is Father

God loves us

God witnesses our works

God has a plan for us

God made the gospel as the power for our salvation

God is righteous

God is wrathful against wickedness

God has made plain His truth

God made His invisible qualities evident through creation

God is eternally powerful

God is divine by nature

God is full of glory

God is immortal

God is truthful

God is creator

God is to be forever praised

God gives us over to wickedness when we defy Him

God made the knowledge of Himself evident

God makes righteous decrees

God is judge

God is kind

God is tolerant

God is patient

God leads us

God is wrathful

God is Giver of eternal life

God is angry at evil

God does not show favoritism

God sees

God has a relationship with us if we have faith

God is to be honored

God speaks

God entrusted us with His Word(s)

God is faithful

God is true

God is available when we seek Him

God is to be feared

God is the giver of grace

God is forbearing

God is just

He is God of Jews

He is God of Gentiles

God is the only God

God is to be trusted

God is to be believed

God credits righteousness to us through Jesus Christ

God is our guaranteeror

God gives life to the dead

God raised Jesus from the dead

God gives peace (We do not have to fear judgement)

God gives hope

God poured out His love to us through the Holy Spirit

God loved us while we were still sinners

God is to be rejoiced in

God gifted grace through Christ to us

God has given us an abundant provision of grace

God makes us alive to Him once sin dies in us

God is the One to whom we bear fruit

God is our master when we die to sin

God sent Christ to be a sin offering for us

God is our Abba, Father

God is the giver of true freedom

God works for the good of those who love Him

God has foreknowlege 

God predestined that we be conformed to Christ

God has called us

God justifies us

God is for us!

God chose us

God has loved us with an inseparable love

God does not fail

God has a purpose for His children

God is merciful

God is compassionate

God hardens whom He wants to harden

God formed us

God does not reject His own

God answers

God is stern to those who fall

God grafted Gentiles into the branches of Israel

God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable

God has bound all (at some point) over to disobedience in order that He may have mercy on us all

God’s wisdom is deep and rich

God’s knowledge is deep and rich

God’s judgements are unsearchable

God’s paths cannot be traced

God has made all things from Him, through Him, and to Him

God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect

God gives us a measure of faith

God avenges

God repays

God established earthly authorities

God’s kingdom is of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit

God gives us endurance

God gives us encouragement

God gives us a spirit of unity

God gives joy

God will crush Satan under His feet

God is wise

I hope this has encouraged you as much as it does me.  Perhaps you can use this technique yourself as you read through scripture in order to get to know God more completely.

May God’s blessings be upon you.