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Archive for October, 2013

What Faith Looks Like

“Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works.” When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well” Luke 7:9-10 (The Message).

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I’m struggling today. And yesterday. And the day before that. However, I’m determined not to struggle (as much) tomorrow. I’ve shared with you my faith journey for the past two years and how I was stretched this past summer to reveal what true faith looks like. God has brought me and my family through quite a bit, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. However, I’m still struggling and to make matters worse, I’m disappointed in myself for those struggles

I’ll explain more about that shortly, but first I want to talk about a passage that keeps drawing my attention in Luke 7:1-10, about the Centurion. There was a centurion, who was of Roman descent, not Jewish lineage, who had a sick servant. The centurion asked for elders of the Jews to go to Jesus and ask him to come and heal this servant whom he valued very highly. Jesus listened to the elders’ request and agreed. Before Jesus reached the officer’s home, some friends were sent to intercept Jesus. Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (NIV). And you know what Jesus’ response was? Luke 7:9-10 says, ’I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well” (NIV).

I love the centurion’s statement of faith, but even more I love Jesus’ response. I’m struggling in my own life right now because I want to be the centurion. I want to have faith in God so strong that it never waivers, despite circumstances that threaten to scream louder.

As I spoke about last time, this past summer I was warned I’d be losing a significant chunk of my income within six to eight weeks. That should have given me enough time to find something to replace what I’d be losing. Even though I tried many different avenues, and even surrendered my desires completely to God and what He wanted me to do, the doors remained closed. Despite the deadline approaching closer with no real prospects, or at least no prospects that would result in immediate income, God’s peace continued to whisper I was doing what He was asking of me. He had given me Exodus 14:13-14 this past spring and I was daily clinging to the promise of that particular passage, to stand firm and let God deliver our family from these circumstances.

The day of the deadline I asked God to give me some reassurance I was truly walking in His direction, not being lazy, and not procrastinating. I needed to know I was obeying His will and pursuing the path He had chosen for our family at this particular time, even though most of what I was hearing was “wait”. Come back next time to hear how God answered.

Have you experienced times in your life when you thought you were obeying God’s voice, but circumstances don’t seem to be changing quickly?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given” John 1:16 (NIV).

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August 8th came and I still had no idea how God was going to provide. I just knew He would. It’s been over a month now and God has provided enough to supply our needs. Instead of focusing on how our bills will be paid, God has filled me with peace. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have times of panic, but they are shorter in duration and don’t rear up as often.

That’s how it works when we submit to God’s authority. Sometimes we have to walk through unpleasant times, but when we submit to our Father, it’s actually fun to see the results. I’m learning to love letting go and giving God full control, knowing His end product is much better than any plan I could devise on my own. But, the first step has to be submitting to His ways, His plans, and His time. And, I’m finding that I usually have to submit before I see any tangible evidence of the outcome.

So, that’s why this summer we chose to tackle the difficult task of teaching submission to our children. Are we still dealing with it? At the time I’m writing this, yes, but we are seeing definite growth. Isn’t that how it is in life? It usually takes lots of practice in order for something to become second nature. Just as I am still learning how to fully submitting to God in all situations, our children have the opportunity to practice submission to us as their parents for quite a few more years.  Our prayer is that by learning to submit to us, they will learn to fully trust God.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!” Proverbs 3:5-7 (The Message).

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Last time we were together we talked about the issue of submission. It’s not a coincidence that during the summer while dealing with this issue as a parent, God asked me submit to Him on a deeper level. I believe God wanted me to grow in the area of trust, and He used my job as a way to cement that teaching. Late June I found out my income would be lessened significantly in six weeks. My first reaction was a panic attack.  However, God had something better in mind for me than that. I’d learned a few months ago to praise God even when things looked bleak, so that’s what I did. After praising Him for an opportunity for something better, without knowing any specifics, I asked for peace while I waited. During the downtime, I still panicked some and had many conversations with my Father about what I was willing and not willing to do. I reminded Him I didn’t want to work outside the home because my desire is to be a stay-at-home mom, but if He wanted me to do Plan A, B, or C, that would work into my schedule fairly well.

However, the more I trusted God had a plan and His plan would be for my good, it was easier to submit and say, “Your will, Lord, not mine.” I remember about two weeks before my “official last day,” putting my hands up and saying, “Whatever You want me to do, Lord, I’m willing. It’s not about what I want. You know my desires better than I do.” The amazing part about my prayer was I became excited to give it all over to Him and watch Him work. I didn’t grudgingly say words I was supposed to; no, with a grateful heart I willingly submitted to God’s plan. That full submission even included peace about employment outside the home. I trusted if that was His plan for our family, He’d work out the details.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you had to submit to God but were afraid? What were the results?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

 

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“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” Proverbs 16:3 (NIV).

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Through the long summer of providing opportunities to learn about proper submission, not only to us as parents but ultimately to God, I learned a few lessons myself. I learned to appreciate how God gives us plenty of practice. I learned even as an adult, submission to God and to others continues to be a lifestyle. And I learned the sooner I submit, the easier the path will be (usually) than if I fight to hold onto (perceived) control. I also learned many tears can be involved as our spirit of not wanting to submit is removed and we finally obey God (or others) with a willing heart. Just as with our child, the outcome isn’t a broken spirit, it’s a submissive spirit. There is a difference.

I still want said child to be the terrific person I see in front of me. I’m not trying to squash the independence, energy, or enthusiasm for life. I just want said child to realize when we willingly lay down our agenda and say, “Your will, Lord, not mine,” how much easier life will be. God doesn’t ask us to submit our will to punish us or devise ways to make our life more miserable. On the contrary, when we submit our lives to God and willingly allow Him to guide us where He wants, our lives are better as a result.

Next time I will share how God used the lesson we were trying to instill in our child to help me walk through a trial that was around the corner.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

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  1. “God is a God of order. God doesn’t think His order is the ‘right way’ or the ‘best way’ – He thinks it’s the only way!” (Robert Morris).

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This summer my husband and I were given a choice. We could either take the easy way out and “keep peace,” or tackle a behavior that on the outside looked annoying and innocent, but had a longer lasting potential for disaster. We chose the latter.

One child in particular was refusing to submit to our authority. Modern society could argue that it wasn’t really an issue of not obeying our rules, instead said child was just trying out independence. It was a natural step in the “breaking free” process. Or maybe our child was just a born leader and therefore submitting to parental authority was something that didn’t come naturally. On the contrary. My mother heart knew differently. I knew we weren’t dealing with a clever child trying to get out of doing chores or fine-tuning some terrific lawyer skills. No, we were dealing with a heart issue.

How did I know this, you might ask? By examining the heart behind the words. Said child debated everything. From chores to food to hobbies. It didn’t matter what the issue or request. This particular child wanted to be in charge and resented having to submit to anyone. My husband and I realized, though, we want our children to learn the important lessons while still living at home. We realized if our children can’t learn to submit to our authority, people who are seen and heard and felt, then they would continue to struggle submitting to God’s authority. It was shown very clearly to us, it’s our job to guide regarding submission. Our children have the choice whether or not to accept the teaching, but our job nevertheless was to instruct.

Do you have a similar issue in your life? If so, how have you handled it, or how are you handing it currently?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 (NIV).

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So how did I succeed embracing the interruptions in life instead of letting life dictate what happened? First, I prayed and asked God to help realign my priorities with His. Just as some people are born to have a career, I’ve always had a deep desire to stay home and raise our family.  But, I’d need to juggle some form of a career while having that privilege. I’m blessed to have a steady income while working toward a career that was more in line with my gifts and talents. However, at times, this transition phase was crazy! My heart wanted one-on-one talks and dates with my husband, but I was met with deadlines and turn-around- times that left me exhausted. I spent more quality time with work than with those I worked to provide for.

Once I prayed and asked God for a solution to my insane schedule, I waited. I continued to work to the best of my ability, and praised God for a solution, as I knew He would give it in His time. The answer began sooner than I thought and certainly not in the way I expected. I love God’s sense of humor!

In addition, while I waited for God to direct me His way, I began to have a heart change. I realized I needed to change the way I viewed life. I needed to embrace the interruptions, because, in actuality, some of life’s greatest moments occur when we least expect it. Letting work sit for a few more hours so I could enjoy a lunch date with my mom; agreeing to tackle a home project with my daughter while she shared with me some struggles; or popping some popcorn, picking a movie, and snuggling up as a family for a night of laughs. These were some of the things I hadn’t allowed myself to enjoy because I was too busy checking off my “to do” list. It took me realizing how replaceable I am at work and irreplaceable with those I love to see the reality of how misplaced my priorities had become.

I thanked God He gave me the desire to obey Him and that He helped make possible the shift I needed to realign my priorities in the correct order.

Does this mean I automatically get it right all the time? No! There are still deadlines and responsibilities that loom large. However, when I put God first and ask for His help to juggle work, finances, and other tasks, I’m rewarded with a pleasant surprise. I actually enjoy life’s interruptions because that means I’m living the life God intended.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

 

 

 

 

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“The legacy of your life will not be judged by how many emails you responded to or how well you maximized your lunch break. It will be measured, I believe, by how interruptible you were.”  (Jeff Goins)

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In 2013, God gave me the word moderation. For three quarters of the year, I struggled trying to grasp what moderation meant in a world with three children, two-and-a-half jobs, extracurricular activities, and a love of reading. I knew I needed adequate sleep, healthy food, and a chance to move my body on a regular basis. How was I supposed to do the above and meet deadlines, find time to date my husband, be there emotionally and physically for my kids, and spend quality time growing my relationship with God? And shouldn’t my relationship with God be first and not relegated to whenever it fits?

God used a series of events all year to gently show me what exactly defines an interruption. I wrote previously in “So Many Hats” about where my priorities need to be; however, knowing that truth and being able to put it into practice on a daily basis were two different things. I came to the realization I never wanted my relationship with God, my interactions with my family, and my health to become inconveniences with work receiving my best. I knew I needed to make some serious changes to keep my priorities in line with what God’s word instructs. However, I didn’t know how to do that since life continued to travel at breakneck speed. I didn’t think I could afford to slow down long enough to jump off.

It was then I realized God gave certain instructions for our life for a reason. He doesn’t tell us to rest on the Sabbath to keep us from having fun. No, He knows our bodies need a chance to truly relax in order to rejuvenate and enjoy good health. By allowing both our minds and our bodies to stop at least one day a week, we have a chance to truly rest and feel less stress. (Genesis 2:2-3). When we let go of anger and learn to forgive grievances quickly, our bodies and our minds are free to live peacefully instead of in turmoil. When we learn how to separate ourselves from our job and enjoy a relationship with God first, then healthy relationships with friends and family, I’ve found life is more enjoyable.

What about you?  Are you trying to find moderation in your life or has God already taught you this principle?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“But my servant Caleb—this is a different story. He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately. I’ll bring him into the land that he scouted and his children will inherit it.” Numbers 14:24 (The Message).

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While God promised a life of abundance to those who follow Him with their whole heart, He never guaranteed a life free of problems.  He promised He would be with us the entire time, taking care of us, but He never promised a life free from problems.

In the past, when I read about the Israelites, I guess I stopped reading once they made it to the Promised Land. I’d read too many fairy tales as a child because I assumed it was “happily ever after.” However, as with Dreamworks fairy tales, for instance Shrek, if there’s a sequel involved, it’s a guarantee another conflict will develop.

Knowing that, why would I think once I’ve come out of a trial in my personal life that things would all be flowers and cupcakes?  When the Israelites reached Jericho, they had to contend with a giant wall filled with angry people that needed to be taken down in order to claim the land God promised them.  And, why would my assumption be that the Promised Land looked like the wild West in American history – vast open spaces that were uninhabited?

Just as the Israelites needed to put into practice the lessons God patiently taught them in the desert, I need to take the skills God is teaching me now in my trial and continue to use them where God places me.  In addition, when the spies were about to be discovered scouting out Jericho, God provided Rahab (a prostitute) to hide them on her roof, providing safety.

So, instead of thinking in terms of my Promised Land being a place free from worries and a chance to just rest, I need to realign my view with a more accurate one.  I can complain that I’m still dealing with issues I thought I had conquered in the desert or I can praise God for all the practice He provided so I can defeat these issues, with His help, faster and more effectively as they crop up (less frequently).  And, I never want to forget to praise God for all His blessings along the way as well as after I’ve reached my destination.  He provides encouragement, safety, and provisions, usually through the least likely source, at exactly the time they’re needed.

When I look at the Promised Land from that perspective, instead of discouraging me, it actually gives me hope.  Not only does God have something special planned for my life when I learn the lessons He is trying to teach me, but He believes in me so much, He thinks I’m worth investing time in to learn the lessons to begin with.  Keeping my eyes on God and His plan, instead of focusing on the heat and uncomfortable conditions I’m in presently make the journey more bearable and almost kind of fun…almost.  If I were to be completely, honest, though, I’m not one who enjoys heat and humidity.  That’s why I’m keeping focused on the milk and honey God promises is ahead.  I wonder if I can have some coffee with mine.  After all, a little bit of heat in the right quantity is quite enjoyable.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“We went to the land to which you sent us and, oh! It does flow with milk and honey! Just look at this fruit! The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak” Numbers 13:27-28 (The Message).

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I’ve been fascinated with the Israelites and their journey across the desert. I want to discover what they did right and wrong during the forty years they wandered in the desert.  My studies have led to a few interesting discoveries.

The first is this:  Only two of the original people who left Egypt were allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Those aren’t good odds considering there were millions of people along on the hike.   The only reason those two were allowed to enter was due to their obedient heart.  The reason the rest had to wander around in the heat until they died was because they repeatedly refused to obey God.

That brings me to my next discovery.  I realized God used the testing in the desert to prepare His people for the Promised Land.  I seemed to remember the story a little differently.  I was under the false assumption for years God tested the Israelites for a different reason.  I thought He tested them solely to teach them to rely on Him to guide, protect, and provide.  I thought once the lesson was learned, then they were “safe.”

On the contrary.  Yes, God wanted their hearts devoted to Him.  However, there was a bigger lesson He wanted them to learn. He wanted a relationship with His people every day. He didn’t want them to collect faith like shopping for groceries, filling up for a few months before coming back to Him for more.  No, He wanted them to come daily with their burdens, asking for His help, His provisions, and His guidance.

Lastly, I was reminded about a truth regarding their victory.  In Numbers 13, twelve men were sent out from the desert to spy on the “Promised Land.”  Returning to the camp, verse 27 and 28 tell us their report.  “They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there”(NIV). Whenever I thought about them reaching their destination, I remembered the milk and honey but seemed to skip over their second discovery.  The people who lived there were powerful with very large, fortified cities.

I learned a lot from my study of the Israelites.  God wants a relationship with us daily, not just every few months when we need to restock our pantry.  God wants my obedience.  Choosing to obey or disobey determines how long I stay in the desert and whether or not I reach the Promised Land.  The trial I’m going through today is preparation for the Promised Land He delivers me too.  Some of the issues I deal with during the desert might remain once my trial is over. I can choose to keep giving those issues to God or I can choose to complain and risk going back to the desert.  I know what I want to choose.  How do you react when you’re stuck in the desert?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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Praying Promises

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” Matthew 21:22 (NIV).

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What would you say if I told you there’s someone who loves you so much, He’s promised healing from addictions and sickness, a rich abundant life, safety from your enemies, and help when you’re in trouble?  What if I said you could find out more about Him by reading your Bible?

Did you know that God’s Word offers promises for those who’ve made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ and allow Him to be in charge of their life?  I’ve known about the promises in the Bible, but I didn’t really believe they were for me until a few months ago.  I thought they were for other more spiritual people.  I assumed I’d missed the email explaining who the blessings were for and what I had to do in order to receive them.  However, I’m learning it is a lot easier than I thought.

You see, God loves each and every one of His children equally.  So, if I’m reading in the Bible and I find a promise that He has given, it’s as much for me as it is for any other of His children.  And, if it’s in an area in my life where I need to apply that promise, well, once again God has shown how much He loves me because He doesn’t make me jump through hoops to receive the blessing, or promise. This is just one more reason why I grow more and more in love with God every day.  He’s been showing me what will help unlock the way to receive the blessings that He wants me to have.

Have you ever heard of praying Scripture?  I’d heard of it, but I never understood exactly how to put it into practice.  If you’re like me and want to learn more, I would suggest picking up a book by Stormie O’Martian.  It doesn’t matter what season of life you’re in.  If you want to learn more about how easy it is to pray Scripture, she’s a great teacher.

However, you can also simply go to the Bible itself and start there. Are you afraid and want to pray Scripture for the blessing of courage?  One of my favorite verses as a child was Isaiah 41:10.  I memorized this verse and would repeat it many times in situations where fear got the best of me.  However, I wish as a child I had learned to take it one step further and pray the Scripture over my life.  The original verse says: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV).

However, to pray Scripture takes it one step further.  Basically, you personalize it.  So, instead of saying it word for word as above, you would say something like this: “I don’t have to fear, for You, God, are with me; I don’t have to be (upset), for You are my God.  You will strengthen me and help me; You will uphold me with Your righteous right hand.” 

Now, if you want to make it even more personal, you can choose a version of the Bible that helps with that and then personalize it some more.  Using the same verse, here is another example with The Message version. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”  When you pray Scripture, it would go something like this: “I don’t have to panic.  You are with me. I don’t have to fear because You are my God.  You will give me strength.  You will help me.  You’ll hold me steady and keep a firm grip on me.”

Using The Message Bible, here is how you can pray Scripture for someone else.  Say, for instance, you have a friend, Sarah, who needs some extra courage and asked for prayer. You could pray something like this: “Lord, please help Sarah not to panic.  Let Sarah know you are with her.  Sarah doesn’t need to fear for you are her God.  You will give Sarah strength. You’ll help Sarah.  You’ll hold Sarah steady, keeping a firm grip on her.” 

Satan is very real and he wants us to stay afraid, in debt, sick, or addicted. He knows if he can keep us suboptimal, then we won’t be as effective as we can be for Christ.  And, when we aren’t as effective for Christ, then we can’t do the job God has asked us to do. Before Jesus went into the ministry, He went out into the desert and fasted and prayed for forty days and nights.  At the end of the forty days, He was hungry and tired and worn down.  Satan knew that was a great time to approach Him and try to get Him to mess up.  The way Jesus got Satan to go away was to speak Scripture back to him.  Because, you see, Satan can’t remain in the presence of God’s Word.  He can’t argue with Scripture because He knows it’s irrefutable.

When we pray God’s word at our fears, addictions, debt, or sickness, believing the promises God speaks, the attacks are shortened and blessings arrive sooner (II Timothy 4: 7-8).  God loves when His children show faith before we see the results.  God loves when we’re strong enough to resist Satan’s arguments using Scripture.  God loves when His children love Him so much they study His Word and “talk His Words back to Him.”  Not in a prideful, selfish way; but in a “Wow, God, you really want me to have all this?” way.

So, there are many advantages to praying Scripture regarding the promises God has for His children.  Does this mean God won’t hear our prayers unless we pray Scripture?  Absolutely not!  God wants us to pray throughout the day.  There are many times I pray from my heart, using my own words and just pour out my feelings to God.  However, sometimes, during my quiet time, it can be more effective to use God’s own words to speak promises in faith for a particular situation.  And, there’s something special about speaking God’s words back to Him.  To think, the God of the Universe used people to write down the very promises and blessings that we are speaking.  That in itself is pretty awesome.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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