“Placing Hope in a God Who Sees”, from L.Willows (trust, faith, encouragement )

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My journey both in prayer and in life continues to rebound back to the theme of Hope and how miraculous God’s encouragement is when I walk forward in faith. If I am tempted to lean into outer sources or anything other than God for reassurance or hope – I falter, there is a struggle. I realize that the message is clear. (was I listening before, where have I been?) In the walk with Christ, we are not meant to lean into the temporal world for hope or take assurance from a source other than God.

When I walk with trust, placing all into God’s capable arms, everything enters a realm that I can only describe as ‘lifted’. I am out of the way. Faith is emboldened. Trust is strengthened. The God who Sees is a great encouragement. (Why didn’t I take this leap before? I thought that I did.)

Affirming Hope. Sharing Trust.

From Strongs Concordance the Biblical definition of “to lean upon” is to affirm confidently. I can clearly affirm that when we lean upon God we are assured of hope that will be encouraging to our hearts and in our lives. Nothing has ever built a lasting sense of confidence in my own heart and mind than feeling seen and loved by God.

Confidence is an important word. It means belief and faith. It measures the level of trust in something. I will honestly share with you that for me, confidence and levels of trust have been things that I do not easily give out. Now, my complete confidence and trust are in God, more than any words could ever describe.

We learn and move forward in our walk with God in degrees as our hearts and mind open up to Him. It is a journey that keeps expanding and growing.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” 

Our confidence belongs only in God Himself.

As we form the picture of what we hope for and how to put confidence only in God Himself, it is helpful to see where and how we usually fall from this not because we want to but because of our mortal state. We are His precious beloveds, but we do walk the journey in this life wearing blindfolds that can mar our ability to “see” with acuity. Our vision of life and of truth is dimmed. We cannot even see God as he truly is.

We are promised that in 1 Corinthians that when we are face to face with the Lord, and see His Glory in its’ fullness, we will then See Him, we will know him as we have been known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

For now, we see only in part.

We see God’s reality partially. We see only in part. The world that we live in and see and touch is only this world. It is the world of ‘for now’. It is like seeing in a mirror dimly. His beauty and truth are veiled here yet we can experience His Love and Transformative Resurrection Power as we walk in His Love here and now.

That is what we hope for. This is the power of faith in God. Though we cannot see Him, we are convinced (by all evidence, all of His Promises, His Truth) that He is The Eternal Reality that we live in and amidst.

We have hope in a God Who Sees.

I am so grateful that when I pray it is to a God who sees all of my heart and each detail of my life. Often I will be stilled with awe to praise His vastness because He sees every heart and life the same generous mercy and kindness.

I am awed to fathom how a God that is the Creator of the Heavens, the Earth and each of us also has the ability to hear all of our prayers and everything that we utter from the depth of our hearts. Witness that He does. God is greater, vaster and more miraculous than what our mortal hearts and mind can even fathom.

Experiences from scripture describe this:

Psalm 52:2 “God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.”

Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”

Our God is one that Sees. Seeing, when it is from God- is active, creative and embracing. It is more than we can fathom with our mortal ways of conceiving. We can pray that by the power of His Spirit we are given wisdom and faith to increase our ability to absorb the miracles of being seen by God. They are life-altering. Faith strengthens. Hope increases. We are Encouraged.

We begin to see this world in a New Light – call it Gods’ Lense; Hope born in Faith, encouraged by God’s Love.

The Active, Creative and Embracing Power of God alters us.

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

We get distracted when we try to place hope or confidence in what we can see. (When I use the word “see”, I mean notice with our senses including the faculties of the brain; ie thinking; it sees and notates more than the physical eye, but is it a clear vision- who is the notator?)

We live in this world and we have mortal hearts and minds that wake up each day. We absorb, respond and desire what our senses interact with. That means all that we feel and all that we think. Have you ever really watched your thinking? It is like AM, FM and some really interesting satellite programming if you are honest!

We try to get a bit more honest about what we see and may not see, we become self-searchers:

  1. We learn to let go of what we are holding on to and trying to create by our own strength alone and we embrace the strength and love of God instead.
  2. We shift from having faith in what is external and temporal to having faith in the Eternal Truth and Promise of God.
  3. We learn to discern the voices of our senses and desires; the ‘response chatter’ that elicits reactions and replace it with inner quiet that is able to listen for the Voice of God’s Spirit.
  4. . We recognize that our hearts and minds are powerful absorbers of our environment and actively take part in filling them daily with pure sources.
  5. . We become faithful “living Bridges to God” as we build up our own commitment to daily prayer, spiritual resources, fellowship, scripture reading and develop a willingness to review our own hearts with humble honesty about what we do not see.

When we allow ourselves to be open and humble before God, He joins us in generous ways. His Grace is active and creative. Faith is filled with miracles, hope, and encouragement.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” 

We are encouraged to find that He leads us towards more that we might ever have hoped for with a mortal perspective. The Lord, who is our Shepherd, who sees what we do not see is able to provide the steps and the details of the near and the far future that will give you and me all that we could ever hope for.

Hope, for all, is a trust placed in the Lord alone.

Psalm 71:5-9 “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.”

All Hope is for, from and towards God. As Psalm 71 so eloquently praises, The Lord is our constant hope. God, our Father formed us before birth in our mother’s womb and brought us into this world. Using the word “trust” (biblically) literally mean “a bold, confidence, certain security or action based on that security.”

We have heard of things like a ‘trust fund’, something put away for the security of the benefactor. In this case, trust a way that we benefit (we are the beneficiaries) from having confidence in God. When we lean completely upon the strength of God (and not upon our own) we recognize who we belong to, who has our inheritance, (from what treasure we benefit) and where we need to place our hope.

God is our hope and our trust.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Prayer ~ A God Who Sees

Thank you, Father, that you are with us – that you are a God who Sees.
Thank you for being our eternal hope and our trust.
I praise you for being our security, the source of all belonging and the One that placed us in Your Precious safekeeping, in the womb of Your Creation.
Thank you for the plans that you alone have, I place my heart and my mind in Your protective care now, today for this hour and all time, with You, for You and because of You.
I lift my heart, my life, and my gratitude to you. 

In Jesus Name,
Amen

© 2019 Linda Willows

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“Go to God for Strength in Difficult Times”; Bible Scripture for prayer and inspiration

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Scripture for Prayer and Inspiration in Difficult Times

Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Habakkuk 3:19 “The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Psalm 27: 1-3 The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts ofjoy.”  1 John 4:4 “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’”

1 Chronicles 16:11  Seek the LORD and his strength;  seek his presence continually!

Psalm 32:7-8 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Exodus 33:14 My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.

Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

A Prayer to Lift our Hearts

Father, we look to you for every need, every hope and every prayer that rests upon the hearts of each in your family everywhere. We know that you hear our pleas and that you are able to fathom the cries of those from the farthest reaches of Your Created world.  All is known to you and held together by your faithful love. You reach to us with protection and the embrace of redemption since the beginning of time. You are our eternal Provider and Protector.

Lift us to your Heart and bind us closely to you in these times, Lord. We are dependent upon you for strength. We ask for patience, endurance and deepened faith. Help our hearts to be strong and courageous. Show us your will. Help us to bypass our weakness for grasping at our own goals and desires. Help us to learn to sacrifice for a greater good. Let us grow a vision that is discerning of what is Good to You, Lord.

We praise you for all that you have so generously given to each of us. We each have so much to be grateful for. Father- we praise you for the beauty and wonder of Life. Help us to honour you as we live this day. Teach us to live and walk forward with courage and gratitude. May we glorify you and inscribe your name upon our hearts.

In Jesus Name, Amen 

 

 

“Assured by God’s constant Love, Protection and mighty Faithfulness” from LWillows

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Assured by God’s constant Love, Protection and mighty Faithfulness, from LWillows

“When I am assured of the constancy of God’s Love, the power of His Protection and the might His eternal Faithfulness I rest in Him, savor His Promises and soar with joy.”

Promised.

The word assurance itself means “confident in, promised” characterized by security. In life, amidst the swirling and rapidly changing circumstances that we each live in, it can be easy even for the most solid minded and strong hearted of us to lose the sense of feeling secure. We assume our confidence by attaching value, even our own value to the state of our circumstances, often to our relationships as well. We look to these rather than to God for the reflection of who we are and “how we are”.

Secure.

Our sense of security can be easily swayed by temporal things, especially those that we don’t like to name as temporal like our “heart possessions” and many things that we hold on to dearly. We want to be assured that we are loved, safe, protected and often- needed as well. Being needed can convince us that we are loved but it is not a substitute nor will it fill what is truly seeking to be filled. The heart longs to be reunited with God, to be in a tangible relationship with The true source of Love, Protection and the one that is forever Faithful. God knows all of our needs before they are even expressed. We run to try to fill one another but God is the only true full-filler.

Belief 

I have noticed that there is a vast difference between assurance which is the result of “belief” and our current culture’s grasp of “knowing”.  Belief is defined as the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true.

“Know” or knowing, as we use the word today is an awareness that is the result of an investigation or the gathering of information. I developed a lifelong habit of seeking to know as a way of gaining control over chaos and uncertainty. Surely in a world that spins out of control, we are want to know more and more. Yet it does not actually satisfy. It is a false comforter.

When David asked for knowledge in the Psalms, he spoke with great reverence and humility before God. His asking for knowledge was not one that investigated God, it was already submissive to The Sovereignty of The LORD. God’s answer and prompting would be received with complete faith and belief. Prayer is the best companion during spiritual transformation. Our own hearts cannot lead us.

Psalm 25: 4-5 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

David’s belief was powerfully in God. He knew God’s character. This was the God of his salvation. He prayed day and night.

He had Godly Belief.

The kind of belief that advances us is Godly Belief. This is belief not in the things of this world or in anything temporal but in what is God-Breathed, in The LORD’s holy word. Godly Belief leads to prayer and worship. Prayer and worship a personal relationship with The Lord. This holy relationship inspires faith, the unseen of belief.

Godly Belief is holy hope, it is the substance of faith and the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Assurance.

Assurance is one of the most beautiful states of being. It implies a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise. When I used the word assured you are resting in confidence but the beauty of its significance is that it is not your own strength that you rest in but in the strength and power of God. You claim assurance because you can positively declare that your confidence is in God’s promises. Your confidence has come to a full dependency upon the strength of The Lord. In this you find certainty. Your sentence can begin with the words. “I am assured”. I rest in this because all confidence is in God.

I am so grateful to have a prayerful and worshipful relationship with The Lord. The more that the character of God becomes revealed to me in ways that are vivid to my heart, the more my faith increases. When I believe that “I am assured of the constancy of God’s Love, the power of His Protection and the might His eternal Faithfulness I enter into a state of rest and peace”, it causes all of me to soar.

Faith.

I see life and circumstances differently. Challenges are not obstacles they are part of an ongoing sojourn. Everything that we face can be embraced because we humbly realize that we cannot do it alone. All confidence is in God. As I am assured of His Love and Protection I need not live in fear. I cannot. Love and fear cannot reside in the same space. As I believe and faith increases, trust becomes a powerful ally.

Trust, hope, faith, believe, love, confidence in God. This is the assurance in living in the might of His eternal Faithfulness.

Joy.

My heart is bursting with joy as doors swing open in this Faith walk. How could we want to move forward in any other way? After being so loved with such might and carried even when we thought we were left behind, how could we not run to the One that has been so Faithful to us?

Then,

who am I? I am a child of God. how am I? at peace; secure in His Love.
When I am assured of the constancy of God’s Love, the power of His Protection and the might His eternal Faithfulness I rest in Him, savor His Promises and soar with joy.

© 2018 Linda Willows

His Promises

Psalm 119:32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 89:2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

“Faith is the Source of Courage” from Reverend Chris Sicks

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“Faith is the Source of Courage”
Reverend Chris Sicks Reverend Chris Sicks
Pastor of Mercy

A few Sunday’s ago, as with all, I was once again like a child as I took my seat in the sanctuary of the church.  It had been a challenging week. I looked forward to the sermon by Pastor Chris Sicks, our pastor of Mercy at Alexandria Presbyterian Church.

One of the highlights of the sermon was the theme of how putting confidence in our own strength rather than in Christ renders us with the least potential gain. Instead, mortal confidence was the opposite of faith, it placed dependence upon the substance of that which keeps us apart from the One that we need the most.  “Our confidence needs to be in Christ, not in ourselves. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

True, I thought. True about me and specifically about the whole idea of confidence, strength and especially control. Since childhood I have been familiar with the culture of  “goals, dream mapping, destiny shaping, aiming your will, shaping reputation, defining borders, drawing upon conceptual ideology, thought control, positive redefining, mind mapping; time sculpting: have you had enough?? It is not art. It is all false confidence, all ways to cling to a self that is desperately afraid of losing ground, losing face and being revealed as pride, the opposite of love, the opposite of the Eternal.

It is like sand that is always sinking. No wonder it feels such a need to replenish and refill. At its core is a like a sinkhole.

But we have also been given the seed of Spirit, implanted in us at Birth, waiting to hear God’s Call. “Wake, I will come for you and lead you Home.” He put His Breathe in each of us.

“Our confidence needs to be in Christ, not in ourselves. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. You see. Faith is not in strength. Faith is weakness holding onto strength.”

Though this is not a new message my heart, the one that He gave to me needs to hear it again and again.

Pastor Chris Sicks explained that we needed to really grasp how weak we really are. I keep thinking that I know how weak I am. I know how weak I am,  but then I catch myself trying to muster up the strength to “do something or face something difficult”. So I don’t, I am fooling myself and actually still trying to control situations by doing just what he is about to talk about in the sermon. This he explained is the opposite of how we are to act when we face difficulty or conquer the “enemy situations” of our lives.

I had just spent the week in prayer and surrender. I thought that I had put my faith in God. I remembered again that we grow in Grace by degrees. Rather, be growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Peter 3:18).

I like this excerpt from chapter ten of The Transformed Soul by Dr. W. E. Eckstrand”  in it author Jerry Bridges says on The Discipline of Grace-

Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5) – In theory we believe that, but in practice we tend to live as if we can do some things – each of us has areas of our lives where we feel fairly confident, and we don’t sense the need of the Holy Spirit’s aid.  But that is contrary to what Scripture teaches – we cannot do anything “spiritually good” apart from the working of God’s Spirit within us.  If we are going  to make any progress in becoming “more Christlike,” we will have to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit rather than on our own virtues and abilities.

How do we grow in a conscious sense of dependence on Christ?  Through the discipline of “prayer” – prayer is the tangible expression of our dependence on God.  Think about that.  Obviously, if our prayer life is meager, in effect we are saying that we can handle most of our spiritual life.  One of the chief characteristics of our flesh is having an attitude of “independence toward God.”  Undoubtedly, one of the reasons God allows us to fall to temptation so often, is to teach us exper-ientially that we really are “dependent on Him” to enable us to grow in holiness.  So if we want to become holy we must pursue, not a spirit of independence, but a “spirit of dependence” – and the best means God has given us for doing this is the discipline of “prayer.” (127-143)

Continuing with the Sermon, Pastor Sicks spoke about David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17:39-53. There are many commentaries on this famous scripture. That day, I listened to a “new” David. I heard of a son who was the youngest, weak, fallible and with a life of sin. David was offered armor for slaying Goliath by his father, King Saul and refused it. The sermon did not rest there but my heart did.

In retrospect, I see that the armor that David refused for he had not “tested them” was an amazing moment. The real test was the moment that the armor was given to David by his father. He was able to define who his real father was. Was he going to wear the armor of his father the king or His Father, King Jesus Christ, The Lord? He chose to wear the Armor of God. That is why he won. For me, this moment of testing is David’s first victory, the battleground is the second. I pray that as I live out this week, I will see the moments when I have the choice to put on the Armor of God. I pray that I recognize that the Armor of God is Faith.

Our Pastor continued, it is faith that fights out battles and has the power to overcome the circumstances of our lives that seem insurmountable. Faith, he said is the source of Courage. This meant much to me since many members of the church are military and ex-military, some war-heroes. Even on this day, a number are facing near-fatal illnesses with extraordinary courage and witnessing their faith during these times has strengthened and deepened my own.  I find that my “neighbor’s mile had become my own”. I just don’t walk alone anymore. When you witness courage, which is really witnessing the Love of Christ, it alters your own heart.

He explained that we keep trying to be the power and the hero of our own lives by seizing control that we don’t have. (Only our ego/pride speaks to us in a way that confidently lures us into believing that this is the truth. )

Self-reliance is the opposite of faith. It is the opposite of strength, it is like fake strength, a part of our minds pretending to be strong holding onto control so that fears are allowed to stay hidden. This way, Pride is the master that is obeyed. It is a substitute for God, a false idol.

The sermon continued as the theme expanded with Hero analogies. Now our Pastor was moving on to another part of the lesson. One of the delightful things about Pastor Sicks’s sermons is his ability to engage humor when the topic gets tough. He said “Do you all want to be Batman? Or maybe Robin?  Did you all think that you were Luke Skywalker, the hero captain of the Ship? Or maybe you thought that you were a Princess Leia?” He had our attention. I could feel a lot of us nodding in remembrance. I felt myself in a gown with braids around my head.

Then he said, “Yes, but the truth is, we are really all Ewoks.”
Laughter. Ok. I am an Ewok. Yes. I like this. Then He said. “Actually, when the ‘Big Launch’ happened not only were you probably not the pilot or the co-pilot but we might have been way back in the audience.”

Ok. I thought- I am the niece of a cousin of an Ewok with a backseat in the balcony at the Launch and the only way that I can see anything is with a Powerful Lens. That means I need God from wherever I am seated- I don’t want to miss the event- Him, Now, Life, His Love, His Protection, His Spirit, The Power of His Kingdom.

It was a great moment of recognition as we all got the point. He continued by explaining that the Disney version of a man deciding to conquer a goal by generating courage from “inside” of himself was a false notion.

We cannot conquer a goal or a challenge by generating courage from some point on the “inside” of ourselves. That is a false notion. It is the superhero mentality. 

We all were taught to be heroes in a culture that told us that we had to pull it out of someplace in us, like a superhero with superpowers. This is our fantasy but it isn’t real. We are mortal, fallible, without superpowers, living in a world quite real, evidenced by our own experiences.

My heart spun and I wanted to send a message to my sons that grew up with Star Wars figures clutched in their hands. “Let Go!” You are loved by an Almighty Father! That message got through to me! I did not know it but I was about to go through a few week when I would have to give full control to Christ. I was ready. It was a beautiful, glorious experience. I put all confidence in Him. Every time a detail came up, I relaxed and affirmed that my complete confidence was in God. My Faith was in His Strength; I had none of my own, I was weakness holding onto the precious Beloved One that I kept my gaze upon, and returned by gaze to. I beheld the Love of Christ. His armor was with me, surrounded me and before me protecting me. This was the message that I took with me. Thank you Pastor Chris!

“You see. Faith is not in strength. Faith is weakness holding onto strength.”

“Christ does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Our confidence is in Him. We surrender to Him. When we encounter life, we ask, ‘how does this point me to Him?”

© 2018 Linda Willows

Pastor Chris Sicks is the author of “Tangible”, Making God Known Through Deeds of Mercy and Words of Truth” and Pastor of Mercy at The Alexandria Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, VA USA

Photo: Rachel Nielson