Isaiah 26:3

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

From the New Life Study Bible:

We can never avoid strife in the world around us, but when we fix our thoughts on God, we can know perfect peace even in turmoil. We focus our mind on God and his Word, we become steady and stable. Supported by God’s unchanging love and mighty power, we are not shaken by the surrounding chaos. Do you want peace? Keep your thoughts on God and your trust in him.

 

Running the Race of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-2

New Living Translation:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now, he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Good News Translation:

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

There are many takeaways from this passage from Hebrews:

1. We are not alone in our struggle to stay faithful to God. The large crowd of witnesses are the people who came before us. We can think of them as up in the heavens, cheering us on in our “race.” They crossed the finish line a long time ago, but they haven’t forgotten about the rest of us. And we shouldn’t forget about them!

2. The “weights” that hold us back are difficult to let go. But we can pray for the strength to leave them behind. Once they are gone from our lives, we’ll finish our race stronger and lighter. The burden of these sins, these addictions, these people in our lives who don’t fit in with our faith have to be let go.

3. There’s no giving up. We might become discouraged at times because our circumstances get too hard, because life is unfair and because we might become persecuted or “unfriended” due to our beliefs. Jesus didn’t give up. We can’t expect to be as strong as our Savior, but we can think of the way he died for us as a reminder that as tough as we think our lives are, they can’t compare to the live and death of Jesus. We aren’t expected to be Saviors, but we can live our life as close to Christ-like as we can.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What weights are holding you back from finishing your race of faith?  Think of ways you can lighten your load, running towards the finish line with faith-filled endurance for Christ fueling you every step of the way.

Falling Short while Looking Up

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

Today’s verses really hit the nail on the head as far as sin goes: We all fall short. We all sin. You can categorize some sins into “Big” and “Little” sins but in the end, we all fall short of His standard. Even Paul recognized this in his letter to the Roman.

It’s somewhat of a relief to read this though, because we probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to certain expectations; maybe from our spouses or parents or co-workers and friends. We might fall short in those relationships, too. But it’s comforting to know that God understands that as humans, we are not perfect and will have moments of walking away from God. In those moments of sin, we aren’t living up to His expectations.

But there’s Good News: He declares that we are righteous. When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. As the Deacon at my parish told me just yesterday, “God can read our hearts.”  When we stray, and we confess that we have strayed, God welcomes us back. He can read our hearts that we are sorry.

So while you may feel you are falling short, remember to look up. Look up to Him, confess, be forgiven, and walk the path of righteousness that God has set for you.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Where are you falling short, not just in God’s eyes, but in other parts of your life? We are not perfect but we can strive to be better Christians by looking up to God, before we fall down and sin again. Confess and be forgiven, then get up again.

 

Be Not Afraid

Joshua 1:9

This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Today’s message is so simple, it really doesn’t need much commentary. How much more clear can you get? The Lord asks us to be strong and courageous. We have no need to be afraid of anything because HE is with us. Of course, you have to believe that He is with you. That might be the most difficult part to accept. We are so used to doing things on our own, we don’t like to rely on others. But God wants us to count on Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. How encouraging it is to read these words – The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Fit In Your Faith Today: What are you afraid of this week? What discourages you or causes you to doubt yourself? If you remember that the Lord is with you wherever you go, whatever situation you are in, it can help give you the courage to keep going. Don’t be afraid of taking the wrong action, be afraid of taking NO action. The hard part is listening to what God wants us to do. So be strong, be courageous in all that you do today and the rest of this week!

Does Your Faith Grow?

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Good News Translation:

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.

How does one grow in faith? It’s probably easier to dismiss our faith sometimes, especially when we lose hope.

This verse from the book of Romans tells us God is our source of hope. Not only a source but THE source. The earlier translation says he is the God OF hope. But trusting that God will bring us the hope we are looking for isn’t all that’s good about this verse. We are also told that with the power of the Holy Spirit, our hope will overflow and continue to grow.

It’s not enough to just hope that things will turn out okay. It’s easy to say, “Oh I hope so!” or “I hope this all works out.” We need to add to that by exclaiming and saying, “My hope is in God and I have faith through the Holy Spirit that this will work for me!”

See, if you just place your trust (and that’s a big word right there, don’t skim over it) your trust in the Lord that HE is the one providing you with and giving you the hope that is inside of you. The Holy Spirit is working in you to bring that hope outward and show it to others. Prove to everyone that you do not despair. You do not wallow and worry that you whatever you are going through is going to fall apart. You don’t waiver in your faith because you have hope…God provides it. God gives it to you and the Holy Spirit lets it pour out of you, helping others, not just yourself.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you find yourself waivering in your faith sometimes? If you need a reminder that God is the source, the one who gives us hope, re-read this verse today and write it down for yourself. Your faith can only grow if you trust in God. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you today with these words in your heart.

A Change of Plans

Proverbs 16:3

Ask the Lord to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out.

What plans do you have in mind for yourself today? Tomorrow?

In this passage from Proverbs, we can ask the Lord to bless them and look upon them as favorable and good. It might be something as mundane as driving to work. Do we ask the Lord to bless our “plan” to get in the car and drive? Maybe! But we can also ask him to bless us as we go about our day. What plans do we have once we get to work? Is there a meeting that you’re nervous about? Is there a co-worker you need to have a discussion with that you are not looking forward to having?

Think of your plans as not just ordinary tasks that you must check off a list. Think of everything you have to do as being blessed by God. Almost like asking Him for approval. Think about something you never ask God to bless…perhaps a task you know in your heart is not right. Perhaps it’s risky or conflicts with your values. Maybe it’s acquiring a new client through your job but you have doubts as to whether they will be a good fit. Or it could be you neglected to invite someone to an outing with friends on purpose because you don’t get a long with them. We wouldn’t ask God to bless those events would we? But maybe, if we pray beforehand, we might get a sign from God that these aren’t good plans and we should reconsider what we are doing. He could talk us into a better plan for ourselves in order to be successful.

Fit In Your Faith Today:  What are your plans for the day? For the week? Have you asked God to bless them so you can be successful? Think about the last thing you did that you feel wasn’t right or just or appropriate. Next time, ask God for guidance in these situations. He might change your plans for the better!

What God Wants From Us

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

To be joyful always, to pray constantly, to be thankful throughout our lives – This almost sounds like an impossible task.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy, a reason to stop praying and a reason to be ungrateful. We can find many reasons to think, “Prayer doesn’t work,” or “What’s there to be happy about? I can barely pay my bills!” or “Who should I thank for hitting my car and not even bothering to leave a note?!”

It’s difficult to turn those unfortunate circumstances around and think, what’s so good about this situation I’m in?

This passage from St. Paul reminds us, no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for. We kind of have to search for it sometimes. It’s not always so obvious.

For instance, to be joyful always, even when it’s not exactly a joyous occasion can be really challenging. It’s not in our nature. But let’s some circumstances and try and reverse them:


 

Loss of a loved one after a long battle with a debilitating disease. How can we find joy in such a sad circumstance as this?

The joy can be found in the friends and people who come to support you during the wake or viewing. The joy can be found in the stories and memories that are always with you and never leave. The joy can be found in the photographs when your loved one was healthy and vibrant. The joy is found in the life that person lived while they were here. And there’s joy knowing your loved one is no longer sick. The pain and suffering is now over.

Praying at all times in our lives can also be challenging. People may think that prayer couldn’t possibly work because they don’t see the results instantaneously. But the way prayer works is not always instant, it works on God’s time. Also, there’s always something  and someone to pray for. You can pray for the blessings in your life, you can pray for someone else who needs help, you can pray to God for the ability to find the JOY in all circumstances.

Being grateful is also a challenge when times are tough. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right for us. But to be grateful when things seem like they’re going downhill can be especially difficult. Perhaps you have lost your job or having a hard time getting over a breakup or divorce. What’s there to be grateful for in these situations?

One saying I like to share is: “No matter what is going on with you, there’s always someone somewhere who has it much worse.”

So although you might not have a job, be grateful for your former boss who wrote that letter of reference for you so you can find a better job. Or be grateful for your previous job that gave you experience that you can put on a resume. If your relationship has just ended, you may feel lost or incomplete.

What’s there to be grateful for here? You can be thankful for a new beginning. You can be grateful that you are now in a position to be solitary and spend time alone, but not lonely! You can be grateful that someone you may have thought was the person for you, is not and that means perhaps the one you ARE meant to be with can now find you.

Fit In You Faith Today: What do you struggle with currently – Lack of joy? Showing ungratefulness? Never praying? Focus on one of these actions this week to grow in your relationship with Christ. As St. Paul has said, “This is what God want’s from you.”