When Faith Grows Strongest

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Photo by artemisphoto taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Those who know me well are familiar with my slight obsession with music. If a song touches or tugs on my heart, I’ll listen to it over, and over, and over. It’s interesting, in a round-about way, that through a certain song that’s landed on my replay list and Scripture verses read each morning, God appears to be saying the same thing, and that thing is focus. Surrender. And stay ever close, because life is too short and the stakes are too high to become complacent or self-centered.

The first two lines in this song get me every time, and call me to pray. To surrender. To fight the tendency to become complacent, distracted and lukewarm.

(To my sweet friend SandyT, I wanted to text you this song yesterday but couldn’t do so from my phone.)

I encourage you to prayerfully listen to this song by Cloverton before reading Paula Rose’s post below.

Turning From Lukewarm Faith by Paula Rose

There was a time in my life when I let my faith become lukewarm. It’s not an abstract, intangible place. Looking back, I realize this was my own doing. I hadn’t my circumstances nor my trials to blame. Pressure and pain weren’t the catalyst. My cool down came at a time when I was fine, but I was waiting in the hallway of life feeling like I’d been standing there too long, waiting for a window to open.

How can I even think about how long was too long?

I came to realize through tragedy something I forgot through the plush mountains of good times and inside the periods of “not just yet.”

My timeline isn’t His.

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Photo by anankkml taken from freedigitalphotos.net

We are all aware that tragedy will bring you to your knees like nothing other, but tragedy also brings with it silver linings that make you realize you are not alone. In the midst of pain, we can find who and what has been missing, and this is the greatest present of all.

I wasn’t granted a perfect ending. I was granted the ability to return to His embrace and to realize how off track I’d traveled. Through our life many changes will happen, people will leave, and our role may be increased or decreased on a certain stage. However, even through these emotional roller coaster rides, He is there.

I found in life that we can travel full circle and back again, but we might let go of Him when we’re too comfortable or too hurried. I’ve realized that the truest test of my faith wasn’t the tougher times, but for me, the true test was in the hallway. In the end, I had failed, but I was still welcome. I had failed, but I was still loved. I stayed silent too long, but He waited to hear from me.

This was how I came to be devoted, all over again.

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Author Paula Rose brings an “average” family into extraordinary situations, brushes with life-size strokes of reality, adding just a touch of humor, and coats with suspense inside Christian fiction. Paula’s research gives readers a panoramic view from law enforcement and lends to character authenticity. She enjoys writing in the romantic suspense, suspense, and mystery genres, but when she’s not writing, Paula Rose is reading or playing amateur photographer. Member of ACFW. 2015 Genesis Contest judge. NetGalley member. 2014 Grace Awards judge.

Visit her online at Books-N-Reviews and on her website.

unnamedHer novel, Revenge:

As a job coach, it’s up to Olivia Foster to ensure her clients work in a safe environment, understand their positions, and serve their employer’s mission. The death of her brother drives her career choice, and she loves her job. It remains her only focus until one of her autistic clients goes missing. Then Olivia’s employer ends her position and adds her to the suspect list, but she makes plans to bring the missing young man home.

Detective Lt. Phillip Landon is deep into second-guessing his career choice, but his well-honed instincts see major flaws inside this missing person’s case. Surprising contacts, mysterious happenings, and threats can turn deadly. Can he keep Olivia safe, protect his heart, remove the job coach from someone’s target list, and adopt a faith he never knew all while adjusting to the new lives of his old family?

Find it online at ACFW Fiction Finder AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks, and discover deleted chapters and more of the story at Kobo!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! When do you feel closest to God? When do you find your faith to be strongest and most influential? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Last Sunday a double amputee from my church shared his testimony, and in it, one phrase really stood out to me. He said God had trusted him to go through the trial he had.

Wow, is that not powerful? You can see his testimony in its entirety here:

Reality Stories – Dave Newell from Reality Church on Vimeo.

Finally, for those who are local and looking to do some Christmas shopping, stop by Barnes and Noble in Omaha near the Oakview mall on Dec. 13th from 1pm-3pm(ish); I’ll be signing all three of my novels.

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Peace Amidst the Storm by Lynn Squire

Today’s devo first appeared on Lynn Squire’s Faith, Fiction, Fun and Fanciful on September 29, 2010. I read this on a particularly stressful day, and was instantly brought to tears. The soft, gentle reminder to release the reigns, to let go and let God, penetrated deep into my heart, reminding me that the battle was not mine to fight. My job was to abide and obey, the rest was up to my Sustainer and Creator. I pray that God will speak those same gentle words to your heart today and that as you read this devotion, you will rest in His sustaining love for you, knowing He is in complete control and He will never leave you nor forsake you.
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At the heart of every trial, every emotional upheaval, every tribulation, faith sits facing personal weaknesses. Words and actions and reactions whirl around like a violent tornado undaunted by human attempts for solutions. But God, the Creator, can still the storm with a simple “peace, be still.”

Okay. We’ve heard this before and have probably sang the children’s song,With Jesus in My Boat I Can Smile at the Storm. But for me, the meaning deepened through a series of almost humorous but very stressful trials.

This summer we got a puppy after our wonderful dog, Bizmark was put to sleep for an unfortunate mishap.

Before we went “dog shopping” at the local humane societies, I made a very clear statement to my children that we would not be getting a puppy, because a puppy is too much work. I knew exactly what I wanted . . . another Bizmark.

But two little rottweiler puppies about 8 weeks old huddled together in a cold cell while large vicious animals barked around them and humans made all sorts of strange noises at them. The puppies big brown eyes looked up at us. Their little tails swished back and forth, and they sang a song of misery with their little puppy voices.

Later that day, I received a call to come and pick which puppy we would take. My daughter had her eye on one, and I had my eye on the other. She got her way despite my better judgment. The most rambunctious of the two rode home in the van with us and gained the name Jasmine, or Jazz for short (which suits her far better).

Weeks followed with me stressed out and ready to turn myself into an insane asylum. “I didn’t want this dog!” would be followed with a flood of tears as I worked to clean up the disasters Jasmine produced. Sleepless nights for the hollowing and several middle of the night potty breaks . . . I felt like I adopted a baby.

. . . until I’d reached the end of my coping ability and slumped down before God begging Him to take me home to Heaven since I was no longer capable of handling things on earth.

Then I knew Jasmine’s life purpose.

She would forever be a meter measuring my boiling point and a spiritual stretching machine to lengthen my character and faith muscles. Oy.

For once in my life I came face to face with something I could not control, no matter how hard I tried. I’ve stopped a running horse by bulldogging its muzzle. I’ve knocked two attacking great danes down to the ground Arnold Schwarzenegger’s style (see the movie, True Lies). I’ve rounded up stampeding horses while riding bareback and cracking a lunge whip, but I could not keep this little 15 lb puppy from turning my world upside down.

Things needed to change, and the change needed to begin with me.

God, in His great mercy, pointed out through Scripture that if I truly trusted Him, something as little as a puppy could not steal my peace. Oy. How humiliating.

He then wrapped His loving arm around me and pointed out that He was in control, I just needed to let Him have the reins (or should I say leash). That was the first step.

Each week, as Jasmine gained five or more pounds, I gained a little more flexibility in my spiritual fingers . . . letting God have that much more control.

We faithfully took Jasmine to puppy training once a week. At the end of the sessions even the trainer was throwing her hands up and the air and wondering how anyone could want a dog like her. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. God wanted us to have a dog like her because He loved me enough to kindly point out my weaknesses, and how I need to change so that I could better glorify Him.

I learned that Jasmine was not motivated by food but by praise. I’ve also learned that when I let stress get the better of me, she goes crazy. My meter. My measure given to me by God to know when I need to let go and trust God and stop trying control every situation.

I also got a deeper understanding of love. That love expressed according to I Corinthians 13 is positive reinforcement . . . the very kind of love Jasmine responds to.

Through His Word, God revealed a wealth of things about why I am here–even when things are out of control, even when I fail, even when I’ve concluded that I’m utterly worthless–I’m here to glorify Him and for His good pleasure.

Jasmine is adorable. She wiggles and smiles and is probably the happiest puppy on the face of the earth. And while she is mischievous and completely self-centered, she can easily wash away my frustrations with her loving licks and rapidly wagging tail. She’s no Bizmark. She’ll never win any obedience trophies. But she brings us a lot of joy. If this creature who creates havoc can bring me pleasure, than perhaps, in some small way, I can do that for God.

But I needed to change. I needed to stop thinking I’m the one that solves all the problems and when things go wrong that I’m a big failure.

I came up with an action plan that arose from my devotions during this time. Here’s the short version:

  1. Praise the Lord, rejoice in Him, and maintain a thankful heart–always.
  2. Positive reinforcement in every relationship – Love with God’s love (I Cor 13).
  3. Live for God’s glory and pleasure.
  4. Trust God completely–in every situation and in every relationship.
  5. Pray without ceasing.
  6. Be gracious and kind no matter what opposition I might face.

While these six things seem simple, they are not. But by the grace of God and the guidance of His Holy Spirit I will strive each day to replace the craziness of my control-freak attitude with these that do produce the peace I so earnestly seek.

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Lynn is a born again believer of her  Lord Jesus Christ, a wife, mother and author. Visit her blog, Faith, Fiction, Fun and Fanciful to find out more about her and her writing. And as always, if you loved this devo and want it to make my top three of 2010, tweet it, fb share it, “like” it, or leave a comment. (I tested the “like” button yesterday and it is working, although you might need to be a subscriber to “like” the post.)
As you listen to the following song, ask God to show you one area you need to release to Him today, then commit to obey.