Blog Archives

Turn On the Light

turn on light #2

“Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),  and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” Eph. 5:8-10

It’s interesting how the presence of light affects us. When I return home after dark, I love to see lights on in our windows; so I leave our Christmas candles in the windows well into springtime. An unlit house seems to uninviting. On rainy days at home, I turn on lights in whichever room I’m in – lots of them; otherwse the dreariness makes me sleepy. I’m noticing there are other people like me.

We host a house-church fellowship in our home every Sunday morning. And I’ve noticed something interesting: on sunny days the conversations are more animated, and attention and participation in our “Celebration” time are more enthusiastic. On dreary, overcast days the mood is more subdued; on those days I make it a point to turn on the lights in the family room where we gather.

Recently our weekly Sunday meeting day started out sunny, but a short way into our fellowship time, the skies darkened and began to pour rain. The rain started just after we had been called back from our coffee break to hear the message my husband had prepared to share. I hurried into the meeting room to turn on some lights, but David had already begun to speak. So, I didn’t get to the light at the front of the room where he sat on a stool, nor to the one at the end of the room nearest him. Not wanting to distract or interrupt his message, I quietly found a seat at the opposite end of the room.

My husband’s message was about how believers have “unveiled faces” (unlike Moses, who in the Old Testament, after he had spent time with the Lord in his tent of meeting, had to veil his face so the people would not be frightened by the radiance of God on his face). David shared that as we look at the Lord, His glory (radiance) is reflected in our faces more and more, and we begin to be changed into His likeness – to look more like our Savior, Jesus.

The darker the skies got outside on that Sunday morning, the darker it became in the portion of the room where David was speaking. His facial features were almost hidden, even though his voice was animated. He rose from his stool a few times to address the people with more animation. I noticed that the lady sitting in the chair next to me and three other people in the room had fallen asleep. It wasn’t due to the lack of vocal volume or animation; it was an important word, but they were missing the message due to the lack of physical light in the room, because they couldn’t see his face, they became drowsy in the half-light of the room . It was a living example of what a lack of light will do.

This situation triggered a thought; you might say a light went on in my head: often people can’t “see” our message of God’s love because His image is not clearly visible in us – perhaps we’ve neglected to spend time beholding Him,  or maybe we’ve let our own trials and difficulties turn our focus from God to our circumstances; in either case, the glory has faded. If the light of our Lord is not shining out from us, if people are not seeing His glory reflected in us, they will not be “awake” to our message. Our witness will be a spiritual slumber inducer – mere words without spiritual illumination.

My house has lots of windows; I love the feeling I get from all the light in my home. In an earlier post I wrote about my plastic penguin that dances in the daylight on an old green chest in front of my uncurtained dining room window. He dances most vigorously in sunlight and only rocks a little when the clouds block the sun. He does not dance at night. I’m a lot like that plastic penguin. Light gives me energy; overcast days dull me.

There are also people who energize me and others who drain me; people who give off light and people who seem to have the switch in a permanent “off” position – always complaining about something and diffusing my joy.

When people radiate the Lord, I love being in their presence; it stirs up a spiritual energy in me and also causes me to see my heavenly Father more clearly. That kind of light attracts me like a moth is attracted to our houselights at night. This is a big part of what drew me to the Lord as a young teenager – the light of Christ shining from the youth workers who spent time to reach us with God’s message of love.

If we want to be effective in bringing light into this ever darkening world, we need to be attentive to spending time in God’s presence, soaking in it; this should be a life priority, because He is the source of our spiritual light – that transforming “sonlight”.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory (radience) to another.” ESV

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and  give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  NKJV

Spend some time with the Lord today, then get out there and show the world what He looks like. Live the message and turn on the light so people can find their way to Him.

By the way, my penguin is dancing today, and so am I.


©2014, Marcy Alves



Renovations? Hurry Up and Wait

Change is inevitable. Renovation is necessary. We know it has to happen, but we put it off as long as we can. No matter if it’s our house, our church building, or our lives – we delay as long as we can, then we want it to happen “right now”. Extended process is not fun – but often it can’t be done any other way. We just have to wait for completion.

Our church sanctuary is currently under renovation. It’s a rather extensive process and when I say “under” renovation, I mean that literally. There are pieces of equipment, tools, supplies, plywood, etc. lining one side and the back of the room. The chairs which are being used at Sunday Celebration are arranged off to the other side and in the middle of the room. The re-structuring part of the renovation project will probably take a few more weeks, then comes painting, laying of carpet, and somewhere in the schedule the installation of the new audio equipment and the sound tech’s work table.

The job is taking a long time for completion because volunteer churchmen, most of whom have full-time day jobs, are doing the work for free – which is saving our fellowship a great deal of money, but not sparing the hassle of sanctuary clean-up prior to each Sunday service – and yes, the not-so-eye-pleasing temporary “décor”.

We believe that the project will result in a beautiful and functional new worship room. But we’d really like to hurry the process along. The problem is that certain things have to be done before other things can happen. It does no good to paint the walls and install carpet before the bigger jobs are completed and the equipment and supplies for those jobs are removed.

I was thinking today of how the renovation project in our church Celebration Center is similar to our personal renovation. We know there need to be changes in our lifestyle or character.  Mental and spiritual structures need to be torn down and replaced with firmer, more reliable structures; we need better “audio receptors” to be able to hear our Heavenly Father’s voice; our spirits need dusting off and regular vacuuming after the messes we make with our self-renovation projects; we need new insulation in our souls to keep out the cold winds of adversity and to hold  in the heat of the Holy Spirit.

And occasionally we need a new spiritual paint job to brighten up the space we occupy in this world – something that speaks of faith and love and joy and a trusting heart instead of depression, gloom, complaint, anger, irritability, jealousy, etc.

We know it needs to happen, and we want it to happen “right now” – all-at-once instead of a long, drawn-out process. But just as timing is important in the renovation of our church celebration room, the timing of our own spiritual, mental, emotional and even physical change can’t be rushed.

Just as we see the weekly results of our volunteer laborers in the worship room of our church, though most of us haven’t seen them doing the actual work, in the same way, God is steadily and patiently and invisibly working in us. We have this hope from Scripture: Philippians 1:5  “Faithful is He who has begun a good work in you, for He will bring it to completion in the day of Christ.”

“In time” our church renovations will be completed. And in “His time”, our personal renovation will be completed by our Father God.

Don’t quit in the middle of the project. Don’t settle for half-way-there. Don’t get discouraged in the process.

That’s where trusting God comes in: Romans 8 tells us that God will pull it all together one day – causing “all things to work together for our good” and this will result in our being “conformed to the image of His Son”. When He’s finished His work in our lives, we’ll look like Jesus. Steady and slow – progressive conformation.

Where are you in this spiritual renovation process? Are you any different this year than last? Any closer resemblance to the image of God’s Son?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Do You Want to Be Healed?

It was a time of celebration in Jerusalem, a day of feasting for the Jewish people. Jesus went up to participate. He stopped by a public pool called Bethesda, which is near the Sheep Gate entrance into the city. There were five covered colonnades that surrounded the pool providing shade in which a large number of invalids lay on pallets.

There was a folk-belief at that time that an angel would occasionally come down and stir up the water in the pool and that the first person into the pool would be healed.

Several of the Scripture translations say in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, that there was a multitude of blind, lame and paralyzed lying there in the portico. Among them was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. We aren’t told why Jesus noticed that man among the large number of disabled people.

Jesus asked the man a strange question. At least I think it’s strange. He learned that the man had been in this condition for a long time and asked him: “Do you want to be healed?”

Why would Jesus ask that question? If Jesus were to ask me, “Do you want to be healed?” I would say, “Duh, of course. Why would I not want to be healed? Wouldn’t anyone who is ill or invalid want to be healed?”

Not necessarily. But why not?

Some sick people have learned to live with the illness and are used to others taking care of them. They may not be able to imagine a life of wellness with all the responsibilities that go with being well.

Perhaps their illness is used to get attention or to manipulate and control others.

Maybe it’s pay-back for some grievance or wound in their spirit from a spouse or family member or some other person.

Or the invalid may be full of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s easier just to be this way, depending on others to provide personal care and make decisions that seem impossible for them to handle.

Even asking God for healing is untenable for some who are ill. They are be too proud to ask God to heal them, or uncertain that He is capable of healing them, or doubt that He would even want to.

Others believe it is humble to accept illness as God’s will.

Or as we learn later about the man Jesus confronts, their illness may be due to personal sin and they feel unworthy of God’s attention.

It’s obvious that the man at the Pool of Bethesda does not know who Jesus is, perhaps because his public ministry had just begun. The man does not directly answer Jesus’ question; he tells Jesus that he has no one to put him into the pool when the angel supposedly stirs the water.

Even with his indirect answer, Jesus has compassion on the man. Jesus has already gotten His assignment from His Father, God. Remember Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing? (John 5:19)  And He only spoke what His Father commanded Him to say? (John 12:49)

The passage says nothing about the invalid’s faith, or the faith of anyone near him. The man does not even ask to be healed – he just expresses his need and his position of helplessness.

Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, ”Get up. Take up your sleeping bag and walk”. What confidence His presence must have radiated! The man did not argue “What do you mean walk? Didn’t you hear me say that I can’t walk? Can’t you tell that I’m an invalid?”

I believe the lame man read compassion in Jesus’ eyes and sensed authority in His words. Power was released as he obeyed Jesus’ command. He was healed in obeying that voice. He stands and rolls up his bed and walks.

It was only later that Jesus finds the man again and warns him: “See, you are well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” This leads us to consider that the man’s invalid condition may have been brought on by his own sinful actions. But even so, Jesus heals him and gives him a second chance.

This passage in John 5 also points out that even invalids sin – sickness does not cure the human nature of sin. But the Son of God heals both sin and sickness.

What a Savior we have!! Even if the mess our life gets into is our own fault, God forgives, heals, sets us straight and warns us away from further danger.

So how about you? Do you want to be healed? Of sickness, of sin, of bad character, of anger, of addictions, of self-righteousness, or selfishness and self-centeredness? Let’s dialogue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind – Pt. 3

Part 3 of 3

If you have not read Part 1 OR Part 2 of “Renewing Your Mind,” it would be good to go back and start at the beginning.

We ended the last installment with the question unanswered of how do you get your mind renewed. That’s where we’ll pick up here.

Because I write from a Christian perspective, where spirit is as important as mind and body, the steps I will recommend for renewing your mind have a “spirit” base. You have to start at step one and settle the question of what it means to become a genuine Christian: this involves confession and repentance of sin, acknowledgment that Jesus took the penalty of your sins upon Himself on the cross, and an invitation to the Lord to take up residence in you via His Holy Spirit. Applying the principles I recommend becomes a combination of your will (spirit) and God’s Holy Spirit working together.

After settling the first step, renewal of the mind begins in earnest. I have found the following steps to be absolutely necessary as the process of mind-renewal begins and continues to develop throughout your Christian growth experience. God is constantly working on the renewal of my thought habits, and through that, the transformation of my life and character.

1.  Practice the presence of God

If you are a true follower of Christ, a regenerated child of God, the Holy Spirit lives in you.  There is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do where you don’t take Him and where He is not involved in your actions.  Always respond knowing that He sees, hears and enables; He’s in it with you.

Is. 41:10 Fear not for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

2.  Practice “God thoughts”.  You have to see what the Lord thinks about the things going on around you. Remember that His “thoughts are higher than your thoughts”.

What does God’s word say about you (his child); personal relationships; use of money; treatment of the poor, the sick and the elderly; social justice; use of your tongue; control of your thought life; marriage and divorce; lawsuits; tithing; caring for elderly parents or children?

3.    Spend time enjoying His presence.

Develop a quiet time of prayer, scripture meditation and reflection.  Include a time of listening to God.  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”

4.   Learn to say “NO to thoughts that come from the enemy or from the old nature.  Nip them in the bud, because thoughts precede actions. Use Scripture to turn those thoughts off, such as:

  • Accusing thoughts about past sins – I John 1:9 “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Negative thoughts about others – Satan is the “accuser of the brethren”.  (Rev. 12:10) I will not co-operate with him.
  • Worry or anxious thoughts – Phil. 4:6-8  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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. Finally . . .  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. (NIV)


In keeping with Romans 12:1-2 that we looked at in part 2 of this series: after you present your body as a living sacrifice, after you break out of the pattern of this world, after you cooperate with the Lord in the process of renewing your mind . . .

Rom. 12:2  “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do any of you have plans to hurt your children?  Neither does God have plans to hurt you.  He has a good, pleasing and perfect will for your life. And part of that includes transforming your character.

What does the transformed life look like?  Read the rest of Romans chapter 12 to find out.

Overcoming negative, self-destructive thinking is very important.  Learning to recognize the lies you have believed from your past is a part of the transformation that God wants to bring about in your life

Dumber than Dumb

Victor Soriento was 16 years old and in high school, when his adviser strongly suggested that he drop out of school because he was “dumber than dumb.”  She felt he would be doing everyone a favor.  For the next 16 years Victor held 76 different jobs trying to scrape together an existence. At age 33 he was seeking employment at his 77th job, when the human resource director asked Victor if he had ever taken an IQ exam.  Victor said, “No.” So the resource director had him take the IQ test.  The test results revealed the truth about Victor:  he had an IQ of 161.  In one simple moment, he went from being called an idiot to being labeled “genius.”  Later in Victor’s life, Associated Press wrote a 3-column article on his brilliant research in laser surgery.  The truth is always so important!  When Victor found out the truth about himself and believed it, he had a renewal of the mind, and it changed his life.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

A renewed mind means a new way of seeing:

  • A new view of God
  • A new view of yourself
    • Your identity
    • Your circumstances
    • Your potential
    • Your purpose in life
  • A new view of the world around you
    • People
    • Events

I can assure you that if you stay in the process, your whole world will look different, your life will take on new meaning and your relationship with the Lord will be both life changing and life sustaining. What have you got to lose? Nothing worth keeping.

QUESTIONS: Which of the steps listed have you taken recently?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind – Part 2

Part 2 of 3

In part 1 of this article we looked at some of the reasons we may be on the merry-go-round of busyness, stress and futility. We know we need a change – but how do we get there?

It all starts in the thought-life; “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. So how do we get our thought-life under control? And whose control? For the Christian, “self-control” is not “self” at all, but a fruit of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

Is. 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you (Living Bible)

The book of Romans in the New Testament has some interesting things to say about the process of renewing your mind. Let’s take a look.

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Living sacrifices – In Old Testament and even in NT times, pagan religions required human sacrifices to appease the gods.  Or, as in extreme Muslim cults today, people sacrifice themselves to their god through suicide missions in hopes of reward.  But God does not want us to kill ourselves for Him or for any cause – He wants us to live for Him – that’s really harder to do.

He does not say “offer your time or your gifts or your money,” but offer your bodies as living sacrifices.  That means

    1. what we put into our bodies,
    2. what we put on our bodies,
    3. where we go in our bodies,
    4. what we do with our bodies must be in keeping with a “holy lifestyle”.  Holy means set apart to God, with the object of pleasing God, not others, not ourselves.

How do you treat your body?  I spend time exercising, try to eat healthy things and attempt to get from 7 to 8 hours sleep a night. I’m careful where I go, how I spend my time, what I watch on TV or read, what kind of music I listen to – what I’m feeding my spirit. I even try to stay away from negative thinking and speaking people.

Treating our body as the dwelling place of God, does not only have physical ramifications, but according to Romans 12: 1 it is “your spiritual act of worship

When you present your body as a “living sacrifice” to God, worship becomes daily and not just something we do in a church service on Sunday morning.

Rom. 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world . . .”

Have you made a piece of clothing? You probably used a pattern and cut around it to form what you saw on the picture on the cover of the pattern.

There are patterns of this world that we should not conform to, among which are the following:

    1. taking care of #1 – in the sense of putting yourself first
    2. doing what feels good, rather than what is good
    3. doing what’s right for you – without considering others
    4. using people to get where you want and what you want
    5. measuring success by material possessions
    6. taking part in questionable activities, such as sex toy parties
    7. use of crude language
    8. being afraid to talk about your faith
    9. looking down on people of different race or social level
    10. having your kids lie for you when you don’t want to take a phone call
    11. and many others

“. . . but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“Transform” means to markedly change the form or appearance of, or to change the nature, function or condition of something.

It is the same Greek word which is translated in Mt.17:2-8, speaking of the Jesus on the mountain being “transfigured” before the disciples.  Transfigure means: 1. to alter the figure or appearance radically,  or 2. to exalt or glorify.

You cannot change your actions until you change the way you view things.  As your thinking changes, your responses and reactions change.

How do you get your mind renewed? We’ll look at that in the third–and final–installment of “Renewing Your Mind”.

In the meantime, consider what it means that the way a person thinks determines what he/she becomes.

QUESTION: What do you see from your own life to support or refute that statement?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Renewing Your Mind Part 1

Part 1 of 3

Are you part of the stressed-out generation; too busy to enjoy life? We survive on TV dinners and fast foods.  We take sleeping pills to get to sleep and drink caffeine to wake up.  We run from the time we get up until we fall into bed at night exhausted.

The things that cause anxiety, mental confusion, worry, fear, frustration, hopelessness and disappointment are common to our times.  We treat our symptoms with antidepressants, stimulants, sleeping pills, relaxants, stress relievers, and pain pills.

We don’t need more pills as much as we need power –

God’s power – to transform us.

We don’t need a change in circumstance, as much as a new mindset,

a new viewpoint.

When I was a little girl growing up in Franconia, VA, we always went to the 4th of July parade. Often I could not see what was going on because of the crowd. But my dad was 6’ 2” tall and would lift me up onto his shoulders. The view from up there was a lot different than the view from the ground.

When life starts to spin out of control, we need a new perspective, we need to see things from God’s point of view.

Is. 55:8-9:   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

We need ask our Heavenly Father to hoist us up onto His shoulders, so we can see things as He sees them.

Often, in order to get better perspective of how God sees things, we need a clearer view of God himself – who He is, His awesomeness, His power and His love. There are many snapshots displaying God’s character in the Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments.   It was Jesus who said, “When you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” We get to know more about God’s character, His desires, His love for us and we begin to see things differently.

What are some signs that you have need of a new perspective?

Are you having any of these problems:

  • Sluggish spirit – slow to respond to God
  • Unable to receive spiritual input
  • Troubled by worry or anxious thoughts
  • Lack of rest in your spirit
  • Lack of joy and peace in your life

One of three things is possibly the cause:

1. You do not yet have a real relationship with God.

You may believe there is a God, you may attend church regularly, you may consider yourself religious, moral, even good, but you have no sense of a personal connection with God. You actually have a dead spirit.

Some verses of Scripture that may be helpful:

Eph. 2:1 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins . . ..” (NIV)

 However, your “dead” spirit can be brought to life:

Eph. 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . (NKJV)

Rom. 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (NIV)

2. You are a true believer, but are walking in known disobedience to God. You have not yet done the last thing He told you to do or stop doing, such as:

a. to get things right with someone you have hurt

b. to forgive someone who has hurt you

c. to end a wrong relationship – adultery, homosexuality, unmarried sex,

or separating yourself from someone from whose influence God has told you remove yourself

d. to let go of “things”

e. to reach out to someone you consider beneath you

f. to let go of some church or civic duty or job that hinders your marriage or your family life

g. to get off the computer or out of that chat room that consumes your time or where temptation looms like a giant.

3. You are a true follower of Christ, but have hit hard times and are “hanging in there by the skin of your teeth” and  desperately need a renewal of your mind and spirit.

If you are miserable to live with and out of sorts and negative, God is not the problem, neither are those around you. It may be that you don’t have a problem, you are the problem.

If you are in relationship with God the Father, if you are walking in obedience to His instructions and directions for your life, if you are earnestly wanting to experience renewed spiritual vibrancy, God will meet you there in the midst of your current challenges. He says, “draw near to me and I will draw near to you”.

In the meantime consider, do you really want to get off the merry-go-round?  We’ll look at how to do that in the next installment as we deal with “Renewing Your Mind – Pt. 2”.

©2011, Marcy Alves

What, Me Worry? Or Why Pray When You Can Worry? – Pt. 3

Part 3 of 3

How do you keep God’s peace in your life in those times when your human nature tells you that you need to worry? Everything seems to be falling apart around you? Someone you love is dying? You’ve been jobless for months and the bills are mounting with no reserve? Your dinner burned because of an unexpected protracted phone call from a high pressure collection agency? Your new puppy just chewed your new pair of shoes? You daughter just joined the National Guard.

Here are some practical suggestions that really work:

      1.  Learn to function from a base of trust in God

Isa. 26:3   “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.”

If you’ve read my blog series on “Real Faith”, you know that you can’t have faith unless you trust God.

I recently was visiting in the local hospital with the mother of a very sick young woman and spoke with a nurse (a believer) who is a friend of that family. I asked her if she saw many miracles on the surgical wing of the hospital where she works. The nurse, who is from Liberia, said: “No. What I see here in the US is that people put much more faith in the doctors than they do in God. So, they don’t see many miracles.”

We’ve got to choose to put our trust in the One who has credentials that surpass any specialized, educated, experienced, highly respected medical professional; the One who is responsible for providing the earth with the “stuff” out of which all medical treatments are derived.

      2.  ”Turn negative, peace disrupting thoughts over to God

2Cor. 10:4-5   The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Once my husband, David, and I were house-sitting for some friends who owned a bed & breakfast, horse ranch.  Our first day there I looked out the window and saw the horses on the front lawn instead of in the corral where they belonged.  We went outside and tried unsuccessfully to chase them into the fenced-in area.  Then my husband got a bright  idea.  He went into the barn and returned with a bucket of feed and a rope.  One by one he approached the horses with the bucket; as they lowered their heads to eat the grain, David slipped the rope around their necks, one at a time, and led each one back to the corral.  This is a good picture to keep in mind when thinking of what it means to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.  Picture each thought as a run-away horse being lead by a rope to Jesus – hand the rope over into His able hands.

      3.  Learn to turn to God in prayer on a regular basis,

Phil. 4:6   Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.

How’s your prayer life? It’s interesting how we are often prone to talk to everyone else about our problems and needs, but not to the One who can do something about them.

There once was a woman who wrote to me that her mother had a certain mental condition, which tendency can be genetically transmitted to offspring. She and her brother were worried that they might develop the same condition. I shared the Philippians passage with her and it gave her great encouragement. God has promised that when we “present our requests” to Him – with thanksgiving, He will guard our “minds”. Awesome!

      4.  Practice the presence of God.

Alexander MacClaren once said, “Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.”  More Gathered Gold, pg. 219

An elderly Christian was asked by some young believers what his secret of tranquility was.  They asked him, “Don’t the temptations [to worry] that bother us come knocking at the door of your heart anymore?”  He answered:  “The temptations that trouble you do come knocking, but I answer:  ‘The place is already occupied.’”

We need to learn to  trust in God and remain in constant communication with Him so that we know that we are not alone in our situation.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago I came home a little numbed by the experience. I was not distraught or fearful or totally overwhelmed. I was puzzled about the reason for it. I don’t believe any experience we have in this life, good or bad, is a wasted experience.

When we returned home from the hospital after that diagnosis I retreated to my favorite prayer spot and entered the presence of my heavenly Father. There was such peace there. I presented my questions to my Lord: “How? Why? What now?”. He gave me several words – which have sustained me for these three years: 1. “This experience is not just for you – I will use it in others’ lives.” 2. “Don’t be afraid.” 3. “Wait on me.” 4. “Trust me.”

I can only rest in those words from God by practicing His presence daily. And when negative, peace disruptive things come into my life – in self-defense, I run into the protection of His arms, and put my trust in Him, who is still on His throne.

May our Father bless you and take you out of a place of worry into the place of peace, as He leads you beside still waters and restores your soul.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Real Faith – part 2

Part 2 of 2 [Read Part One yet?]

We said in part 1 that there is human faith – evidenced in everyday experiences – like faith in the government, verbal contracts, your spouse, the chair you are sitting on, etc. Human faith is sometimes turned toward God. But it’s not the kind of faith that will get you through difficult times or actually change your circumstances.

For dealing with the tough decisions, difficult problems, times of real trial, and the experience of miracles, real faith is necessary. I call it spiritual faith or real faith, to distinguish it from mere human faith.

Where does spiritual faith come from?

Jesus is the source of real faith:

Heb. 12:1-2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . .

Acts 3:16 (NIV)By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing . . .”

Faith originates with God – it is His gift to us:

Rom. 12:3  “. . . think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

The “measure of faith” is – just what you need to get the job done. This is faith given at a particular time of need or for a particular purpose; for instance, the saving faith that brings us to God.

Eph. 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God also gives faith as an anointing of the Spirit:

1 Cor. 12: 7-10 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit . . .”

We don’t own these anointing-gifts of God – they come and go as God pleases. Without the Holy Spirit, we can’t operate in these gifts. Remember, we are just the mailmen delivering His package for a particular need on a given occasion.

Though there are measures of faith and anointings of faith, faith is also a fruit.

As a child I could only recognize the kind of trees in our small orchard by the fruit that appeared on them in fruit season. The fruit began as a flower, then formed a small fruit “bud”, and grew until it reached maturity and ripened.

Faith as a fruit:

John 15:7  “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit . . .”

2 Thess. 1:3   “We ought always to thank God for you. . . because your faith is growing more and more and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.”

Not only does the fruit that grows on a particular tree depend on the nature of the tree, but that fruit has to remain on the tree until it is fully grown; it won’t continue to grow after being picked from the tree.

You cannot maintain freshness and continue to grow the fruit of faith without maintaining a relationship with the branch, connected to the tree, fed by the “root of faith”.

There are a two important things the Scripture says about the operation of faith.

1. Faith and love work together:

In the New Testament there are about 50 references to faith in the same context as love.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus . . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

1 Cor. 13:2   ”And if I have faith that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing.”

Without a love for God and a love for people, we would misuse faith. We would pray selfishly, or without thought of consequences. Love is greater than faith, and will moderate the use of faith.

1 Cor. 13:13 – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

2. Faith and patience work together

Heb. 6:12  “Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Through patience, faith’s work is perfected in us. Faith is not about getting our will done – it’s about getting God’s will done. It’s about “on earth as it is in heaven.”

I want to operate in “real faith”, not an imitation – only the supernatural kind that can’t be explained away. The kind that will bring glory to my heavenly Father and bring heaven into this realm; the kind that will cause people to say, “What a dad you have! I’d like to get to know Him.”

What have you discovered about faith that you can share with us?

©2011, Marcy Alves

Real Faith

Part 1 of 2

Do you sometimes wonder what “faith” is? Do you often wish you had more faith?

The Bible has much to say about faith.  There are more than 360 verses in the NT alone that speak of faith or being faithful. A key faith verse is Heb. 11:6  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

So, what is faith? I think it’s best to start with what faith is not, because I believe that what we think is faith often isn’t faith.

My personal journey requires faith. I want to make sure I have the real thing. Join me on my “what is faith?” exploration. Following are some of my conclusions so far:

Faith is not belief.

Belief is something you can come up with on your own.  We can believe things that aren’t true – about God or people or situations. We can believe the right things, but not act on them – faith seems to have an active component.

Believing the right things can lead us into faith, but it’s not the same as faith.

In Mark 16:14 the resurrected Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and “rebuked them” for two things: 1. “their lack of faith and 2. their stubborn refusal to believe” those who reported they had seen Him after He had risen from the dead.

When we mistake “prayers of belief” for “prayers of faith”, we may pray for things that God is not leading us to pray for.

And when we do not get what we pray for, then we feel that prayer doesn’t work, or God doesn’t love us; that God is powerless, or just not interested in our plight, that God has more important things to attend to than responding to our requests. Or, that God can’t be trusted.

The struggle we have with faith is often not a struggle with faith at all, but with trust.  Many people who believe in God do not trust God.

If we trusted God, we would not be so easily disappointed when we don’t get our prayers answered in our timing – or when God says, “No.” when we want Him to say, “Yes”.

Faith is not feelings.

We can feel good about something we want to happen, but that’s not the same as faith. Because we can feel good about the wrong things if we’re not walking in a current relationship with our heavenly Father.

Faith is not desire.

We can want the wrong things.  Or we can want the right things at the wrong time. Though the Scriptures say God will give us the desires of our heart – there is a condition to it. The Scripture says if we “delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” Are you delighting in the Lord, enjoying fellowship with Him?

Faith is not something we can get by struggling for it, something we can earn, manufacture, or create by professing we have it. It is not a magic formula. So, what is faith?

What faith is:

Heb. 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (KJV)

Faith is assurance, knowing you have something that does not yet appear.

We have often made faith a condition of the mind – but it is really a condition of the spirit. It is a grace of the heart.

There’s spiritual faith (which I call “real faith”) and there’s human faith.

John’s Gospel refers to people putting “their faith in Him” (Jesus)– yet most of his early followers later turned away from Him. They had human faith, not spiritual faith.

If the faith you operate under results in your turning away from Jesus and not trusting God, you need a different kind of faith – it’s not REAL FAITH.

What kind of faith do you operate under? Human faith, or spiritual faith? Next installment we’ll look at “spiritual faith”: what it is and where it comes from.

Take me to “Real Faith” part 2

When God’s Voice is “Indistinct” part 2

Part 2 of 2

If you have not already read When God’s Voice is “Indistinct” part 1, please go back and do so, or what follows might not make sense. Thanks.

Often when we experience delays from God, we are not sure whether He’s saying something new about our situation, keeping us on the older track, or not speaking at all; or whether we’re just not hearing – like wax in our spiritual ears.

I had one of those times recently. And the thought came to me, that I should again ask God to confirm my particular journey of faith, or redirect it. I figure I either need to keep waiting or change what I’m doing regarding the experience of cancer.

So I asked God for confirmation of the earlier words I received when this journey began. Of course, I also hinted that a visit from an angel would do wonders to bolster my faith walk.

I have had some remarkable dreams from the Lord during my lifetime that have fueled faith in my heart. But thus far, no angelic messenger from God to deliver to me His unmistakable assurance.

After asking for the Lord’s confirmation, I opened a daily devotional book, Streams in the Desert, that I received as a Christmas gift from a friend. The verse for the day was Matt. 9:29  “According to your faith will it be done to you.”  Whoa! Was that you, Lord?

There was a reminder in that reading that “no earthly circumstances can hinder the fulfillment of God’s Word.” Also, there was the encouragement to pray through, “to the point of assurance . . . that your prayer has been accepted and heard . . . [and] actually becoming aware of having received what you ask.”

I said “thank you” to the Lord, but also reminded Him (or maybe He reminded me) that 2 Cor. 13:1 says  “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” when a matter of truth needs to be discerned.

So I asked the Lord for confirmation of 2 more witnesses, that I was to stay the course or that He will specifically direct a change of course for me. I then went back to my morning writing work.

I was looking through some things that were in my “Marcy’s Writing” files, when I came across “Sabbatical Insights” – a piece I wrote last April when David and I were on our sabbatical. This was witness #2.

God revealed something to me through a book by Henry Blackaby entitled Experiencing God, which I read during our sabbatical last year. That is when I got a couple spiritual “ahas”!

Last April’s “Sabbatical Insights” excerpts:

When reading the Bible or a thought-provoking book or blog or twitter, or listening to a speaker (recorded or live) a truth insight breaks in, at that point I am experiencing God. Recall that Jesus said, “I am the truth.” So an experience with a spiritual “truth” is an experience with God – not just the words on a page. Wow!

As I read further in Blackaby’s book, other “God encounters” took place. I entered the following in my journal:

Silence from God in response to prayer should increase anticipation for the answer He is preparing to send at just the right time – not our “right now” time, but His absolute best time. Meanwhile, God’s silence is to draw us deeper in to where He waits for us – waiting to reveal Himself to our spirit in a more profound way. When we pray we need to keep our spiritual eyes open and our senses alert to see what God is already doing to prepare our character for His well-timed response to our prayers.

My on-going experience with breast cancer has moved me to just such a place of waiting for His timing. I know what God said to me early on:

1.This experience is not just for you, but for also for others.

2. Wait on me.

3. Don’t be afraid.

4. Trust me.

5. Be still and know that I am God.

And as time has gone on:

6. This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God.

7. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

8. Let the peace of God “rule” in your heart.

9. Stay the course.

So, in the meantime I am doing my part: waiting, listening, trusting and enjoying the peace of God’s presence. When I feel any bit of anxiety creeping in, I run into Him who is “my strong tower”.

Back to now:

I’m now waiting for the third witness. I’d still like the visit from an angel, but I’ll take whatever God sends to establish the truth of what I am to do or not do.

What do you do when God’s voice seems indistinct? Or when the memory of His word to you becomes a distant whisper?

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