Sunday, January 31, 2016

The If-Girl

Today, we arrive at the greatest secret found in Philippians 4 involving our trust in the Lord:

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 12-13

This section of Scripture has carried me through the toughest times in my life and I know will continue to provide light for as long as I walk on this valley of sorrows called Earth.

Through loneliness, through sadness, through anxiety, through loss, through infertility, financial hardship, health problems, cancer, problems with my kids…etc., etc. etc., these Holy Spirit-breathed words of Paul have reminded me and assured me that no matter what life puts in front of me, I will be able to face it because it is not by my puny strength that I’ll get through it, but by the Mighty Power of Christ.

I remember hearing, many years ago now, my first sermons on contentment at my beloved New Bedford Church. Pastor Doug’s excellent teaching methods guided me through my first understanding of the word…a word that had not been part of my vocabulary before.

A quick definition of contentment circles us around by saying it is “the state of being content.” That doesn’t help much, but when I looked up the word content, I found it defined as:

pleased and satisfied : not needing more


Concise but infinitely charged with meaning, this definition is a bit of a slap on the face for me. For as long as I have walked on this planet, regardless of where I’ve been or lived, I’ve always felt the sting of discontent. I have always experienced the pressure of dissatisfaction…

When I look at the definition above I see how it somehow hints at the fact that the state of satisfaction derives from not needing more. However, in my personal experience, my discontent comes not exactly from “needing more,” but from “wanting different.” Too often I’ve been that gal that sighs: “but if…”

I have a great job, but if I could only work at __________ Instead of __________. I am thankful for my kids, but if they would only be that way rather than this way. I love my husband, but if he would only (let’s not even go there with this one, huh? J

I’m like the biggest “if-girl” in the world. But one of the “but if’s” I struggle with the most have to do with health issues. I know God can work all things for the good of those who love Him and put their trust in Him (Romans 8: 28) and that He is able and often does turn something that was meant for bad into incredible good…but if only He would have kept me from getting cancer…sigh…

I’ve been afraid of cancer ever since I heard of it for the first time as a young girl. That has been the single-biggest fear I’ve ever had. So when my diagnosis came positive…I felt a descent into a pit of panic and anxiety I have not been able to shake off completely just yet.

Every test, every doctor’s visit, every waiting room…opens the flood gates of worry once again. I really should have no reason to be so concerned about it at all…but I am. I am doing better this year in dealing with the anxiety of upcoming checkups, but the cold sweats still remain. If God would only free me from this mental anguish…if He would only give me peace…instantaneous peace…like magic!

Peace is indeed like a river. It flows abundantly…but not automatically and too often not instantaneously either. It is not that God could not just give us peace in a supernatural way, of course He can. He is God! He can do whatever He wishes. But sometimes there is a process, a road He needs us to go through, to walk on in order to arrive at that river of peace. And the most amazing thing is that it is precisely on that road which we have actively tried to avoid, that we usually meet Jesus transfigured.

As I sit and fret about the tests I’m facing…I wonder if it is not really about being unafraid…but if it really is about trusting Him despite of our fear.

I don’t know if I will ever not be afraid while on this side of Heaven…but what if it is about realizing that I cannot do it on my own. I believe His victory is my victory. I believe that I don’t have to overcome the world because He has already done that for me. He has done it all for me. He has paid it all…and all to Him I owe. What if it really is like my sister in law told me a few days ago…and all I have to do is “enjoy the ride”?

I don’t think I need to be too hard on myself and judge my fear as a sign of complete lack of faith. I think I should look at it as if I am on the road to Him, not there yet, not yet done…and even if I never stop being the “if-girl” I am…it doesn’t matter, because I am not here to seek perfection. I’m here to seek Him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Joy Comes in the Morning!

“Please Lord, may your presence be evident to me today…” I prayed these words as earnestly as I could Sunday morning when I woke up. I’ve prayed this same prayer for people around me as they walk through that valley of the shadows of death which often we have to wander through…however…as the familiar words began to form in my mind, I realized I have never truly prayed them specifically for me.

So I did.

His presence is what sustains us, what comforts us, what keeps us together, what strengthens us…and I am in certain need of all of that right now. So I prayed, half expecting Him to do something wonderful…and half not knowing what to expect…

The night before we had already decided to go to our home church, so we got up early, got ready and left. Upon entering the building, as it always happens, my heart began to feel the warmth of the familiar surroundings. After all, it was within those walls, years ago, that God decided it was time to reveal Himself to me in the most powerful of ways through His Words proclaimed by Pastor Doug and through the embrace of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And this past Sunday, once again, sitting on those bright-orange-cushioned pews facing the most impressive wooden cross I’ve ever seen…a cross that literally sustains the entire sanctuary… I was overtaken by the power of the Almighty. The message I heard that morning felt tailor-made for me. It was a message of joy…and how joy does not depend on our circumstances, but on our relationship with Christ.

I cannot reproduce the exact words, but what stuck in my mind is the thought that even though I may lose my happiness, I must learn to never lose my joy. No matter what situation I am in, I need to learn to re-direct my eyesight toward love Him, serve Him and His children and speak my faith…and the peace that comes with trusting His plan will cover me and surpass all my understanding.

I was overwhelmed by His mercy…and we sang about that too, which I thought was just like the proverbial cherry on that mythically wonderful sundae…

Then, if that wasn´t enough, I attended Sunday School, and of course…the entire class revolved around the topic of the negative effects of excessive worry. What resonated in my spirit the most was the affirmation that if we fill our time of anxiety with prayer, there would be no room for worry because we cannot continue to worry at the same time that we pray…it is simply one or the other.

Another thing that made me ponder was the idea that God gives us situations that may seem above our head, but they are never above His head. If all He would give us in this life were easy fixes, we would sense no need for Him. We would feel self-sufficient. Hardship has a purpose. And its main purpose is to draw us closer to Christ, the One who truly can put an end to all suffering as He makes all things new. Human nature is so, that far too often it takes the darkness of the depths of the pit for us to turn our head toward the Light.

I cannot tell you how refreshed I felt as we drove away that Sunday. I was overcome by melancholy…the bittersweet taste I experience each time I have to remember I don´t live across the street from my church anymore…but I was also overcome by joy…the plain sweetness of knowing I´m never truly far away from the One who sustains me, for He lives in me and His presence comes to my rescue regardless of where I may be.

Linking with: and

Saturday, January 23, 2016

May My Anxiety Lead Me to Christ

Personally, I’d say that developing godly traits is not an act of magic. The Holy Spirit invests the right measure of time in us to turn the wilderness of our soul into a plowed, fertile ground where good seeds can grow…where His fruits can bloom! Therefore, developing an attitude of trust in God does not happen overnight. It takes time and it involves experiencing a wide range of situations in order for us to actually learn how to trust Him. Along this process of practicing trust, we’ll see that sometimes we are successful at it, but as it is the case in my personal experience, way too often I fail.

Right now, I’m entering yet another season of anxiety due to the approaching checkups for my thyroid which will begin in a couple of weeks. I know there is no reason for me to be worried…but I worry nonetheless…sigh…

During the last few days, however, God, in His great Faithfulness, Love and Mercy has been using different venues around me to remind me that I need not worry, but instead, I have to trust Him.

For example, there was the sermon last Sunday where the last words I heard said something like: “use your anxiety to lead you closer to God.” I can’t tell you what the lesson was about…but that last sentence became branded on the walls of my mind as if with hot iron. Then there is the message on the radio about the woman, who had been praying the Lord would take away her insecurities, but He hasn’t…instead, He has showed her that it is precisely her insecurities which lead her to Him and keep her from wandering off. Yesterday, I read in my devotional: “Anything that tends to make you anxious is a growth opportunity.”

I don’t know about you, but I am really thick-headed…I am slow to learn…but as I am the densest of students, He is the wisest and most patient of Teachers. I praise Him for He knows I need repetition and He provides it. Like a kid trying to learn the multiplication tables, God constantly drills me and quizzes me on the subject of trust, but I still can’t say I’ve committed it to memory. I still struggle. My palms still become sweaty at the thought of tests and pending test results. But I am trying to remember, as I walk in this valley, that it is all part of the process of perfecting my complete trust in Him. It is all part of the experiences that will ultimately lead me to His arms.

For now, I will keep in mind the fact that perhaps, this anxiety, which the enemy uses to harm me, My Father and Shepherd uses to pull me closer to Him.

Linking with:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

He Knows Me and Still Loves Me

Still thinking about old friends…mind you, I don’t mean friends who are old here, OK? I’m talking about friends who have been in my life for a long time…though they might actually be rather old, now that I think about it … tee-hee…

Anyway, I was thinking how incredible it is that I have a few life-long-friends who, despite the fact that they actually know me pretty well, still like me and are not apprehensive about admitting that they are my friends! That to me is a miracle! The collection of hidden and not-so-hidden flaws I have makes me for a tough sell when it comes to the likeability department. But these people graciously stick by me even though I am a total mess…and often, a big phony.

If that is not unbelievable enough, let’s think about God and how we said He is our oldest and most dependable of friends. Stopping to think about that truth should make us feel overflowed with awe and wonder. The same God who created the galaxies and everything in existence not only created me as well, but knows me…He knows me by name since before I was even formed…that is mind-blowing!

Before I was born the Lord called me;

from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. Isaiah 49: 1b

Not only is He not apprehensive about admitting that He knows us, but He even claims us as His own!

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. 
John 10:14


My friends may know a lot about me. However, it is rather impossible for anyone to truly KNOW everything about someone else. God, however, KNOWS EVERYTHING about me. He knows my deepest and darkest secrets. He knows my motives (YIKES!). He knows my desires (Double yikes!). He knows my heart…sigh…and He still likes me…He still Loves me…He loves me enough to die for me.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5: 8

Honestly, I have so much darkness in me that, had I lived in Jesus’ time, I’d been one of those yelling: “Crucify Him!”

But He doesn’t care. And the main reason He doesn’t care is because He IS the Savior, not me. If I were good, righteous and perfect on my own, I would not need Him. There would have been no need for Jesus to die if we could have done it all on our own. But we are not the Savior…we are the saved. We are not the Shepherd…we are the sheep. And like the sheep on the field, we are lost without the love, care and proximity of Our Good Shepherd.

I pray I remember this truth…this miraculous mystery that is God’s love for me every time I feel lonely, afraid, abandoned, lost or unloved. I do have at least One Good Old Friend who loves me so much, that allowed nails to be driven through His flesh to save me, to claim me, to call me by my name.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I Trust the One Who Knows Me

An important part of trusting someone is to be aware of his/her past actions so we realize how dependable that person really is. By knowing what they have done in the past we can anticipate, to a pretty accurate and reliable degree, what they will do in the future. That’s why it is easier to trust an old friend than someone who we have just met.

We, hopefully, all have a special someone or someones to whom we go whenever we are in great need of advice, guidance, support, company, a shoulder to cry on, etc., etc., etc. We go to them because they have been there before and we have a well-developed sense of their reliability. We have had a relationship with them, and out of that relationship, trust has been built.

So it is also with God. Our trust on God develops, grows and solidifies…because we know Him…because we have a relationship with Him. The more we know Him and the longer we walk with Him, the more intimate our relationship becomes and the more we remember what He has already done for us. Just like a good old friend, the more we know Him, the more we trust Him because we know He is Faithful:

In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." Isaiah 25: 9

He is that “Old Friend.” He is the Oldest of Friends whom we have known since before we were formed. As anxiety and fear begins to build up in our hearts, let us remember our relationship with Him. Let us remember how He is that Friend who has always been there for us regardless of how we have treated Him. He is the Friend we can always call, regardless of the time of day or circumstance. He is our most reliable Friend for we recall His promises and see that they are all true!

Our trust, however, doesn’t only come from the fact that we know Him. Ultimately, our trust is truly based on the fact that He knows us. It is because we have a God who knows us and seeks us to the point of becoming man Himself in order to come and walk among us and die for us, that we realize how deep and wide and high and long His care and love for us is (Ephesians 3: 18). At a very personal and intimate level…He knows us…He knows each one of us at such a deeper level we’d never have anyone else knows us that way ever:

You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways. Psalm 139: 1-3

That is why we do not fear. He who created us and knows us, loves us and redeems us:

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Isaiah 43: 1-3a

Therefore, I know that because He knows me, I can face whatever life throws at me. Therefore, instead of fear I choose to trust and praise!

Praise the Lord, my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
Praise the Lord, my soul, 
and forget not all his benefits— 
who forgives all your sins 
and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit 
and crowns you with love and compassion, 
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103: 1-5

Friday, January 15, 2016

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Today we see the rather paradoxical nature of God’s economy. In God´s Kingdom, as we give of ourselves to others (Philippians 4: 10, 15-18), God meets our needs. And the best part is that God does not meet our needs according to the world’s standards but according to the riches of his glory in Chris!

Trust grows as we selflessly give and offer of ourselves to others while we trust that He will provide. Trust grows as we share in our brothers and sisters’ problems while we trust that we will be taken care of even as we pour ourselves out onto others.

It’s a riddle…to the eyes of the world it may seem like opposing concepts...but to the eyes of God…it is the way to become more intimately acquainted with the meaning of total dependency on Him.

May we realize that as we give the fragrant offering of our service to others, Our Heavenly Father will amply meet our very own needs not according to the measure of what we have given, but “according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Linking with

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It Was Good of You To Share in My Troubles

We demonstrate our trust in God in the way we serve and take care of others…in our willingness to depart with our most prized possessions. And possessions are not just material things. We express our trust in the Great Provider when we are willing to serve our brothers and sisters by offering of our time, our thoughts, our talents, our prayers and even our loved ones.

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it…

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 
Philippians 4: 10, 14, 17-18

This combination of verses from Philippians 4 takes me back two years ago to the day. I was entering a treatment process for thyroid cancer which even though not as involved and devastating as other types of treatment…it was none the less just as frightening.

As part of the treatment, I needed to be in isolation for 5 days. I spent those five days in a house all by myself. However, I was not alone. I had an outpouring of love and prayers which covered me and sustained me throughout the process. Dear friends from my home-church brought me meals every day. And members of the new church we had begun attending after moving to a different town brought meals to my husband and sons back at home. I received notes of encouragement and messages of hope by cards, phone calls, e-mails and texts. The presence of the Holy Spirit was evident all around me in the presence of those who took the time to express their love in the offering of themselves to me in my hour of need. I certainly “rejoiced greatly in the Lord” as my friends showed their concern for me. And I am sure; their gestures were, indeed, “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

As they continue to share in my troubles, little by little, the acts of kindness of those around me have contributed to helping me in my walk to fully trust fully trust in His provision. I pray that, likewise, as I continue in my path, I too also learn that by sharing in the troubles of those alongside my journey, I am growing in the confidence that God is Trustworthy and Faithful.

May our confidence and trust in Our Heavenly Father grow stronger with every opportunity we have to show concern for others.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Things Decorating Christmas Cookies with Kids Teach us about Life and Trust

I can’t believe it took until January 12th and after all the decorations were neatly (overstatement!) packed away to finally look and feel like Christmas! UGH!

At any rate, as I browsed one last time over some of the pictures I took this last Christmas season, snow gently piling up outside, I came across a picture of Dylan decorating cookies. The memories of that day came back rushing into my head and a thought began to emerge:

Life is truly like decorating Christmas cookies with kids…

It is messy…totally messy. No matter how much you plan ahead and carefully cover the entire work-area to protect your kitchen or dining room table where the kids are going to be decorating, icing just finds its way everywhere. From the kids’ faces, arms and clothes, to the remote corners of your kitchen floor…there is always a grand mess to clean up after all the damage…I mean…decorating is done.

Not so unlike it with life…often we start out in our youth laying out a dream-plan of how our life is going to be like. Some young women even plan their entire weddings years before they have a potential groom in the picture. Some know how many children they are going to have and they even have names for them! I never did any of these things, but I did dream of having a place of my own…a super cool apartment in a high-rise, preferably with a stunning ocean front view…sigh…Everything is perfectly and neatly designed in our heads. All the “I”s are dotted and everything fits right in its place…until life actually begins to unfold and the proverbial icing goes everywhere. You get the idea, don’t you?


It’s frustrating. We give the kids clear instructions on how to work the icing ON the cookie. We demonstrate it. We give them samples. We hold their hands to try to guide them. But they push and squirm until they are free from our grip: “I want to do it myself!” They resolve. And of course, we RELUCTANTLY let go, only to see them do completely the opposite of what we have instructed. SIGH…Did they listened to ONE thing we said? We wonder… “Why are you using brown icing on a snow man!?” “it looks like it rolled over on dog poo!!!” UGH! Just forget it!

I don’t know about you, but the dreams and plans of my youth did not come true. The dreams and plans of this morning when I woke up did not come true. And seeing life take seemingly wrong turns can be sorely frustrating.


It’s completely unexpected. Frustration gives way to the realization that your kid has a mind of his/her own. No matter how much I try to control my kids’ actions, in the end, they are going to do whatever they want to do because they are their own person. The beautiful, GREEN, Christmas tree cookie, shimmering with glittering sprinkles that you had in mind turned out to be a blue blob, too heavy on the chocolate chips…sigh…

And so it goes in life…it takes us through pathways that we were not expecting. We thought we would go to college, get a degree in Marketing and work for a multinational corporation so we could afford the ocean-front penthouse of our dreams. But, we end up returning to school to get a teaching degree because we hate marketing and can’t stand sitting at a desk in an office 10 hours a day, EVERYDAY! The thing we thought would bring us joy chokes us dead. The groom or the children never come. The perfect wedding never happens. Nothing turns out the way we planned it…

However, one thing is for sure: it is extra sweet!

In the end, if we hang on long enough, keep our expectations and frustrations in check and go with the flow, we find out how the cookie always turns out gloriously sweet! Even the “poo-covered” snow man, with M&M eyes too large for its face tastes like a piece of paradise when we close our eyes.

That’s what trust is all about: not being afraid of God’s plan for our lives, even if His plan turns out to be nothing like we imagined it. Even if it is messy, frustrating, completely unexpected…if we keep holding on to His Hand, in the end we will see and taste how sweet it actually is.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Replacing Panic with Thanksgiving!

Before I move on to the next passages of Philippians 4, I’d like to revisit a previous portion…after all, we just got done exploring how we are to “put into practice whatever we have learned from Paul,” right? And one of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned so far is the importance of prayer when striving for an anxiety-free life filled with peace.

I was reminded of this passage this morning as I read my Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young. Here’s an excerpt of the reading:

When you bring Me prayer requests, lay out your concerns before Me. Speak to Me candidly; pour out your heart. Then thank Me for the answers that I have set into motion long before you can discern results. When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank Me for the answers that are on the way. If you keep on stating your concerns to Me, you will live in a state of tension. When you thank Me for how I am answering your prayers, your mind-set becomes much more positive. Thankful prayers keep your focus on My Presence and My promises.

Sarah Young bases her writing on these two verses:

Colossians 4: 2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” (NASB)


2 Peter 1: 3-4, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (NASB)

Her interpretation of Scripture brings great comfort to a soul that is constantly running low on peace. As anxiety begins to rise while I see the days of my yearly check-ups fast approach, I’m in great need of a reminder not to succumb to panicky prayers. This reading gives me a technique, a tactic or an antidote if you will, that should keep me from such anxiety-ridden petitions: remaining in an attitude of gratitude.

There is no need to be anxious once we realize that He has already given to us everything we need “pertaining life and godliness.” By calling us and giving us knowledge of Himself, He has taken care of our every need…therefore, our job is to devote ourselves to constant communication with Him, keeping alert for the enemy’s schemes that try to derail us, and offering thanksgiving for the victory we know we already have.

Even if our present circumstances do not speak of victory but rather scream of defeat, pain, suffering and disappointment…the promise is that it is only for a little while. (1 Peter 1: 6) There soon will be a day of no more tears, no more pain and no more fear! (Revelations 21: 4)

That’s why, in those moments when the chills of fear pinch the bottom of our spine…rather than resorting to panic-induced prayers, we ought to remember this truth,

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7

Give thanks for the answers that are already on their way and rest in the peace of His knowledge and presence. Trust Him!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Make Google Work for God

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 9

Today, we continue exploring the secrets to trusting God which we can discover in Philippians chapter 4. We are still looking at verse 9, which encourages us to listen to sound advice and to learn from godly teachers as a way to sense God’s peace in us, which will in turn transform our doubt into trust. The thing is that we need a sizeable dose of discernment in order to weed out the false teachers from the teachers who speak the truth.

Scripture is our plumb line. The Word of God is what separates falsehood and lies from the truth.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4: 12

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can wield the sword that is the Word and pierce the heart of deceit.

And the best thing is that we don’t have to be Bible scholars in order to test things against the Word of God. In this age of instant information at our fingertip, all we have to do is type something like: “what does the Bible say about…” and there we have it! (Back in the days of my youth checking facts about the Bible required looking in a book called the Concordance or in Bible Dictionaries which nobody really had readily available…which means it also required a trip to a building we used to call a library).

Talking about sources of deceit…the Internet probably ranks among the top, but if we are savvy, the Internet can also be a tremendous source for good. For example, once again, if we are savvy, the Internet is a great tool to check things against the Bible. I know, you probably already do this and have found even better ways to proceed, or you might have never heard of it, and might feel a bit suspicious…regardless, you can actually make Google work for God! Here’s a few ways I do it when I’m trying to test issues against Scripture:

1. If you want to see what the Bible says about any particular issue, but you haven’t the slightest idea where to start looking in the Book, you can only type on your browser exactly that: “what does the Bible say about [insert issue/concept]” or “Bible verses about [insert issue/concept]” and you will get a bunch of websites that will link you to lists of Bible references and passages addressing the issue you are wondering about. What I usually do is I copy the Bible references of the passages I want to further research and paste them on one of my favorite sites for Bible References online:



I actually prefer because it gives me the same passage in all the English translations that there are…or Spanish or any language you’d want! There are other apps that you can use. But this is the one I’m most familiar with, so that’s why I write about this one.

Once I find the translation I want to read, I expand it so I can read the context. I might read the entire chapter where that passage is located or as much of the book as I need to in order to get a good idea of the elements around the passage. Then, also gives me other places in the Bible where that same concept/issue/idea appears…so I go there as well to get an even broader context. Then I think back about the way I heard the issue dealt with and pray to the Holy Spirit to give me discernment as to whether that issue was dealt Biblically or not [actually, I pray the whole way through because, let’s face it, without the Holy Spirit it is pretty impossible to find our way through anywhere].

Of course, you can use your physical Bible. Since I am not as experienced with the location of books in the Bible as I’d like to be, I find it very helpful to use since it finds it for me and it also gives me the other places where that issue is addressed in the Bible right there, on the right margin. This way I have immediate access to what I need in order to dig deeper. But again, that’s just me…because I’m not Bible proficient… anyway…on to number 2.

2. Sometimes you may know part of a verse, but don’t know it in its entirety nor where to find it in the Bible…again, you can simply type what you do know on your browser and chances are you will get the Bible reference(Book of the Bible with chapter and verse #) where you can locate that passage. Then you can cut it and paste it onto (or go to your actual Bible) and read the whole thing.

3. Yet, some other times, you may be wondering if this or that saying is actually from the Bible. Go ahead and type it onto your browser and if it is…you guessed it…you’ll get the Bible reference for it so you can go and double check it. If it is not a Biblical concept, you will not get a Bible reference for it. Like for instance, the saying: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is not Biblical. If you type it on your browser you won’t get a Bible reference for it, because it is not in the Bible. It is more of a Far Eastern religions type of teaching.

4. Last but not least, always remember to start this process in prayer. Bathe your search in prayers for guidance from the get go and throughout. Pray that the Holy Spirit guides you through your understanding of whatever message God is trying to send to you. Pray for discernment. Pray for wisdom. You will get it! Remember King Solomon!? (See this Bible Reference? Go check it out! 1 Kings 3)

At any rate, what I’m trying to say, very inarticulately, is that God does place people in our lives who are bearers of the truth, and we should listen to them. He will, however, also alert us as to when we are being deceived, and we should listen to that as well. We know what I’m talking about…we have felt it. We call it different ways, a red flag, a gentle nudge, an uncomfortable feeling, a bad vibe, a strong urge to barf (although this can just be the flu-so you should also check with your doctor on this one) or any other sensation that indicates, ever so subtly, that something is not totally right…that is the Hand of the Holy Spirit warning us, and urging us to be discerning…to go to Scripture and test it.

That is why Paul also tells us somewhere else:

Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5: 20-21

Our ability to trust God is enhanced, therefore, by the gift of His Word, which He has provided to us so we can discern the truth as we listen to the teachers that He has placed on our path…and as we feel God’s peace descend into our hearts.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. 
Psalm 19: 14

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Secret to Trusting God – Part 3: Trust Scripture to Discern the Truth

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 9

In other words, what Paul is talking about in this passage is the fact that God speaks to us through other Christians. Of course He can talk to us directly. He is God! He can do whatever He wants! In my personal and very limited experience walking along the way of Christ, however, I mostly hear God’s voice in His Word, and also in the voice and writings of His children who speak His Word. He sends me teachers from whom I learn the lessons that He wants to teach me. If I’m willing to see it, He surrounds me with His presence, mainly in those He sends to walk with me.

This world is so full of darkness and deception, though, that it is often difficult not to be a cynic and distrust everyone around. Many of us don’t trust the advice we hear because we’ve been burned before…we have been led astray after listening to what others had to say, so we just shut everyone out. We run into, perhaps, well-intentioned teachers, but we have a hard time paying attention because we are too concerned with whether or not they are telling the truth. So…how do we know the teacher is right? Well…we need to test the validity not so much of the person, but of his/her message.

As a teacher, I obviously believe in the power of education. As a college professor, however, I am aware of the double-edge-sword teaching could be. Young minds can be easily persuaded into the wrong path by a charming, convincing, knowledgeable and charismatic teacher. I don’t necessarily believe that any teacher would intentionally deceive his/her students down a back alley of lies. But I do know that some teachers have been led to believe lies that they later pass on to their students as truths. That’s why students are encouraged to test everything they hear from their professors…as well as children of God are encouraged to test everyone who comes around proclaiming to preach God’s truth.

Discernment becomes then, one of the most important skills the Holy Spirit can ever bestow upon the Christian who wants to find the truth among all the falsehood disguised as truth. Therefore, the biblical admonition to put everything to the test is of crucial importance:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4: 1

If we think about it, discernment is a circular motion. Since we are all called to spread the Gospel, that’s every Christian’s great commission! (Matthew 28: 16-20) we are teachers at the same time that we are students. So the process of testing every notion goes both ways. We ought to test what comes out of our mouth as well as what comes into our ears. The warning pertains, therefore, to testing everything we hear AND say. But, what do we test it against? Scripture, of course. Only the Word of God could serve as the plumb line that will indicate the veracity of what we hear and proclaim.

Knowing The Bible, knowing the source of truth is the only way we can spot the counterfeit.

Our ability to trust God is enhanced, therefore, by the gift of His Word, which He has provided to us so we can discern the truth as we listen to the teachers that He has placed on our path.

We will continue to explore this concept tomorrow as there is a whole world of ideas surrounding this passage of Scripture that we still need to discern. For now, let’s just pray that the Holy Spirit will open up our minds to hear His truth being proclaimed in this space.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19: 14

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Secret to Trusting God - Part 2: Be Intentional about What You Entertain in Your Mind

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4: 8

We all know how the mind is a wonderful thing. God endowed humankind with such a powerful tool that we still haven’t even begun to decipher but a small percentage of the potential of the mind. Humanity has discovered and created truly spectacular things thanks to the unlocking of the mind’s most impressive device: imagination.

The power to imagine makes the power of the mind almost limitless. The only boundaries the mind knows, when it comes to imagining, are the ones we impose ourselves. The thought process that goes on when we activate our imagination is so complex that it can’t even be explained without using our imagination…the problem is that sometimes, when we allow our imagination to go too wild, it can take us to places we don’t really want to go.

This concept applies to any and every facet of life. Personally, however, the biggest problem I have when it comes to letting my imagination loose is that I inevitably end up in places of fear that cause me great anxiety and even panic. The thing is that I have such a vivid imagination that I end up losing grip of reality and begin to believe that what’s in my mind is truly real…hence the self-induced state of anxiety and panic.

It’s exhausting…

This is why I LOVE today’s passage of Philippians 4. It helps me refocus. It reminds me that, regardless of how hard it might be to accomplish it, I am in control of what’s in my mind. It just takes being intentional. It takes me setting up some boundaries.

Scripture is clear about this topic. God wants us to be alert and rein in our mind…He wants us to reshape it and renew it in order for us to discover Him:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12: 2

And how do we exactly do that?

It isn’t easy. But with prayer and hard work, it is possible in the Lord!

We start with prayer. We pray for guidance and for strength. We pray the Lord makes us disciplined and picky as to what we allow into our minds. We pray He makes us choosy and intentional about what we entertain in our thought-life.

We continue by taking steps toward saturating ourselves with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”…and thinking about such things instead of thinking about the things that seek to destroy us. We inundate our brain with The Word!

Then, as we flood our mind with all things God, we stay alert. We try to catch ourselves in the act of taking our first steps down the road of toxic thoughts, and we flip on the switch of the Word in any way, form or shape that is most readily accessible to us at the moment. And, since the roads begin to get slippery usually when we are having down time, we ought to consciously select the best activities to fill in or pass that time.

In my case, I try to always have Christian music on. I hardly ever listen to anything else anymore, so the Word often comes to me in song. If I fill my brain to the brim with Christian music throughout the day, I find it hard to think of anything destructive. Some may be avid readers, well, there’s nothing more effective to trigger our imagination than reading. Therefore, carefully selecting our reading material will have a great impact into our thought process. Like these, any other thing we do to fill in the time will have the potential to influence our thought-life…for good and/or for bad. This is why; the self-imposed boundaries come in handy.

It is not a matter of being legalistic and self-inflicting pain in order to attain the perfection of a life of only pure-thoughts. That is NOT at all what I’m saying…battling evil with evil is never the way.

What I’m saying is that we ought to keep in mind, whenever we are choosing what to do with our time, that:

"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10: 23

Choosing what is beneficial and constructive is our task as we live our lives enjoying the believers’ freedom. The days are, indeed, evil…so we better redeem our time! (Ephesians 5: 16) The reward of renewing our minds and redeeming our time is getting closer to knowing the plan of God for our lives…and that’s when trust truly begins to flow. Once we taste the perfection of God’s will for us, nothing would be able to shake our trust in Him.

So the brain IS a wonderful thing. It can lead us to a deeper knowledge of God and it can open the door to a life of reliance and trust in the One who designed such an amazing tool.

*Can you think of any way you can begin or improve the renewing of your mind by the careful selection of the things you do to pass the time?

*Can you think of ways in which you can redeem your time? 

Linking with:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Secret Part 1: Prayer Leads to Trust

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 6-7

A search of the word Trust in my blog yielded 10 pages each containing between 3 to 4 posts on the subject. Hmmm…

God has been working hard in my soul to teach me how to completely trust and rely on Him and Him alone…but I’m not there yet. If you ask me…I’m not even close! This time, His lesson has taken me to the fourth chapter of the Letter to the Philippians, which I’m finding to be one of my favorite spots in the Bible. It is a part of Scripture that brings me great comfort and hope…and on the road to trusting God, sensing His comfort and His hope are essential.

This is also where I’m finding out important secrets of the faith. Not secrets as in nobody-must-know-about-this type of secret…secret as in clues or steps, tips…revelations to get somewhere or to achieve something.

Today’s secret has to do with how prayer leads to trust and reliance on God.

First, we find comfort in the knowledge that the Lord is near! (Philippians 4: 5) Therefore, we know that we can communicate with Him at all times. And the way to establish this communication is prayer. Prayer is like a direct line to God that is never out of service. It is better than an unlimited data plan. It’s like a limitless family plan that covers all the way to infinity and beyond!

God has opened the door to Him and the way through the threshold is on our knees.

The Most High, Our Heavenly Father commands us through the words of Paul, to NOT be anxious about anything! Do you know how big that is for an anxiety-ridden soul like mine?! It’s mind blowing! And the secret to not being anxious is what? Praying!

The secret to freedom from the bondage of anxiety is to pray…to petition…to ask Him, and to be thankful.

Praying, constantly communicating with God about everything that is going on in my life, bringing all my neediness, fears and sorrows to Him and appreciating Him for who He is and for His nearness would open up the floodgates of peace…and with that peace trust would come rushing in. And that complete reliance on the One who is in charge would eventually dissolve anxiety in the calming waters of the River of Life!

Prayer, not so much panicky prayers, but confident prayers, prayers that rest on the knowledge that the battle has already been won regardless of what life may look like in the here and now, is the first secret, the first step to a victorious life of trust in the Most High.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The second half of verse 5 in Philippians 4 brings me great comfort and hope:

The Lord is near. Philippians 4: 5b

In a world that seems to be falling apart and when fear creeps in uninvited, remembering that the Lord is near calms my anxiety and gives me back a sense of peace that helps me move on…that helps me put one foot in front of the other even when I just don’t see the point.

Knowing and remembering the Lord is near helps me trust. I trust He is right here with me. I trust He never leaves me. I trust His hand is ready to pull me out of the pit if I fall. I trust His arms are waiting to embrace me when I’m alone. I trust His Light shines forth when I’m in the darkness. Better yet, I trust there is no loneliness…there is no pit…there is no darkness in Him.

I resolve to say: I trust You, Jesus, no matter what happens to me or to my loved ones. I trust you have a perfect plan in place, even if I don’t understand it. I trust You love me. I trust You are near. Please make me aware of your presence…Please make me sense your embrace, see your Light and feel your hand.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

As we continue to spend some time meditating on the concept of trusting God, we arrive to the first half of Philippians 4: 5,

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

I have to admit that not only I have issues trusting God, but also, I am so NOT a gentle person…hence, I feel completely inadequate to write about either of these topics…hence…my total reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

When I think of gentleness, I think of many things and people, but today, as I look at my friend’s Bethanne’s photograph that I’m featuring on this post, I am reminded of one very special image of gentleness…the soft December breeze in my hometown.

Growing up in Chitré, a small city in the center of Panamá, I remember my favorite month of the year was December. It wasn’t only because of Christmas and presents…of course that was a huge part of it…but it also was because that’s when our summer vacation started. As a tropical country, Panamá only has two seasons: rainy and dry. December ushers in the dry season, and that’s when kids are off school. December was, therefore, a magical month for kids all around the country…and the magic was always introduced by the soft breeze from the north that announced fun was finally here.

I remember sitting in my bedroom with all the windows opened, listening to the rustle of the tree branches outside…no melody was more beautiful…

I remember going out to my childhood home’s yard which was populated by all kinds of fruit trees, just to close my eyes and feel the gentle caress of the breeze on my cheeks and my hair…like angels’ wings…

That breeze had such calming effect in my always frazzled soul…it was as if it spoke to me! And I long to hear and feel it again…


Like the beloved soft breeze of my youth, God speaks to us softly…not in the great winds, or fires or earthquakes of the world…but in gentle whispers (1 Kings 19: 11-13). Likewise, He wants us to act in gentleness, following His example.

Gentleness, however, is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23). Therefore, it is not a virtue I or anyone else for that matter, can exhibit without the divine intervention of the Most Holy One in us. Here’s where trust comes in…as the Gardener of our souls, the Holy Spirit grows His fruits in us in His own time and manner…we trust in His work.

Looking at the picture above, I can almost feel the breeze in that scene…can’t you? I pray that the Holy Spirit who dwells in us may guide us, as we trust in His power, to make gentleness be evident in our lives to all we encounter on our path.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Joy is Always Near

This series on Trust will feature beautiful pictures by my friend Bethanne Runyan, a gifted photographer and daughter of the King who has graciously allowed me to use her art to embellish my words.  THANKS Bethanne!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4: 4

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d like to usher in the New Year with a series of posts on the topic of trust. This series will be based on several segments from the Book of Philippians, particularly chapter 4. Today, January 1st, I think it is appropriate to start with this verse that encourages us to rejoice.

The first day of the New Year is always, at least for me personally, a day of mixed emotions, so I find it very fitting that when I woke up, my younger son Dylan was watching the movie Inside Out by Disney Pixar. If you haven’t watched this movie, I encourage you to spend the time and see it. I think it will be a well invested 1 ½ hour of your life.

Without going into much detail, one of the themes the movie addresses is the reality that growing up means our emotions become more complicated. We go from the simplicity of an infancy filled with joy to the intensity of a messy adolescence until someday; we land on the complexity of adulthood which involves a life colored by a wide range of emotions. Every circumstance, as we grow up and mature, is not mono-emotional. Everything we go through as “grownups” is tinted by a multitude of emotions which make every situation unique and defining.

For instance, an even that we think of as tragic or sad, may be just the prelude to inexplicable joy and peace. Fear may give way to strength. Need may show us the way to provision. Failure might be just what we need to become humble.

As children of God we know these things. We also know that no matter what…no matter the circumstance-induced emotions we might feel at any given time, joy is always possible…because joy is a state of mind. Joy is the result of a mind and a soul filled with the presence of God and directed by the Holy Spirit. Joy is the decision we make to see life as a series of adventures that we get to embark with Jesus at the wheel, rather than as a pit of darkness that we are trying to just survive. Joy is the assurance that our name is written in the Book of Life. Joy is knowing that the same God who made the galaxies, knows our name and holds us in the palm of His hand. Joy is accepting that it is not by our own doing, but by what Jesus did that we are saved. Joy is knowing that no matter how many times we mess up, fail, stumble and fall…He is there, He’s got us, and He will never let go.

Paul tells us to rejoice “always” not just when things are going our way…but ALL the time…even when we are sad, afraid, angry or disgusted…the bright tint of joy can always be found behind every memory.

I pray this first day of 2016 that the Lord will fill us with His presence, because that’s all we need to remember that joy is always near.