Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween Light

Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you know that today is Halloween. It’s one of those holidays that is confusing to most Christians. Do we celebrate it? Do we hide from it? Is it ok to dress up? Are “Fall Festivals” an appropriate alternative? There is such a wide range of beliefs on this holiday in the Christian world. I remember trick or treating in the neighborhood as a kid. I also remember going to church sanctioned Fall Festivals.

Somewhere along the way, the belief sprang up that we should shun Halloween, turn off all the lights in the house and lock the doors. We couldn’t give out candy because we would be celebrating the devil’s holiday. When someone still knocked on the door, even though the lights were out, everyone would get quiet so the person outside wouldn’t know we were in there. Hopefully, they would think we weren’t home and go to the next house. Then we would try to figure out what kind of person knocks on a door where all the lights are out.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to disagree with that approach to Halloween. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said we were the light of the world. So why would we turn out our light on the one night people other than Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons come knocking on our door? Tonight is your greatest opportunity all year to be the light of the world that you were called to be.

There isn’t another time this year that you will have complete strangers coming to your house asking for a treat. What better treat is there than God’s promises? I’m not saying that you should just put Bible verses in everyone’s bags. They’re coming for candy. Give them candy, but also give them God’s Word. You can buy labels for your printer and print John 3:16 out on it. Attach that sticker to candy.

If you don’t want to do that, sit on the porch with Christian music playing on your radio while you talk to neighbors and hand out candy. There are lots of things you can do to be light tonight. Closing your door, turning off your light and hiding is not one of them. Jesus didn’t just preach in the temple. He took His message into the homes of others and also to the hillside. We are not to hide behind the walls of the church or in our homes. We are to go outside and be who He called us to be.

Don’t let tonight just be another Halloween. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Your good works could be passing out candy, hot chocolate or anything. Jesus said if you give even a cup of water in my name, you will be rewarded. Don’t just give someone a sugar rush tonight. Give them a spiritual rush. Give them life and light because that’s what you have. Don’t hide it under a bushel.

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God’s Questions

In my job, I not only get to teach people how to ask questions, I get to ask them. There are different ways to ask the same question in order to get a more complete response. After I have given information to a group of people, I use questions to check their knowledge of the content that I presented. I often ask open questions and pose them to the entire group. I see who is paying attention and who gets it by doing that. I also ask direct questions to individuals in order to engage them in the conversation.

I’ve noticed that God does that too. He often asks questions that are open to all of us and other times He asks us directly. In Isaiah 6:8, God asks the questions, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah was standing right there. I can see him raising his hand, bouncing on his tippy toes and wiggled his fingers saying, “Ooooh. Ooooh. Pick me! Pick me!” I wonder if he knew what he was getting into. I wonder if any of us really know what we’re getting into when we volunteer for God.

There are other times when God asks very direct questions of us. Jesus did this to Peter. He asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” I can see Peter a little stunned by the question. His eyebrows furrowed, head tilted to the side and saying, “Uh, Lord, you know I do.” Then Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.” I’m sure you know Jesus asked him two more times if he loved him. Peter got a little upset at Jesus for His persistence in asking a question He knew the answer to over and over. When God does that, it’s for our benefit, not His.

He often asks things of us to see what our response will be. It’s not that He doesn’t know what our response will be. It’s that He wants us to be sure in our purpose. What I’ve found is that when God asks us a question, action on our part is required beyond our answer. When Isaiah answered, he had to go deliver God’s message Israel. When Peter answered that he loved Jesus, he was then given the command to feed God’s sheep.

Whenever God asks a question of you, know that He is looking for a commitment beyond your answer. Answering is the easy part. Following through becomes something more difficult. You’ll have to make changes to your life, sacrifices to your schedule and give of yourself to someone else. God is looking for us to serve others for Him. We are to be His hands, His feet and His voice to show and to speak His love to those who need it.

I think God asks that same question to us that Jesus asked to Peter. “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.” If we love Him, we will find ways to feed others both physically and spiritually. He also asks, “Who can I send? Who will go?” While many of us love Him, not all of us are ready to say, “Here am I, send me.” Faith requires action on our part. James 2:17 says, “Faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).”

So what is God asking you right now? What will you need to do beyond what He is asking? Are you willing to make the changes and sacrifices required? The men and women in the Bible who followed through after God asked them a question were blessed beyond measure. I believe you and I will be too if we respond in obedience with action.


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Becky’s Struggle

This a guest post from Becky Woods. She is a mother of young children and is fighting Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She and her husband are blogging through their journey of faith, family and fighting cancer. You can find their blog here. This is an excerpt from today’s post.

I don’t know what it is about the past week, but I’ll admit I’ve struggled. I’ve felt a little more nausea this time around, although I wasn’t sick or anything. I just had that constant gross feeling in my chest that made me JUST miserable enough to not enjoy my day. But honestly, when I think of how small that side affect is compared to what so many people experience with their chemo, I feel like a fool for complaining. But since this is my blog 🙂 I’m going to be honest with what’s been hard for me, regardless of how minor it probably is. And I’ll be honest, I’ve had a tough week with not feeling great and then feeling almost depressed for no apparent reason.

Here’s the thing. I KNOW that in order to keep the doubts away, in order to keep my mind from feeling anxiety, in order for me to avoid allowing depression sneak in, and in order for me to feel close to God and to be reminded of his purpose for me through all of this I NEED to be in His WORD! I need to be spending time with Him! But am I? Not like I need to be. I will try to dwell on the encouraging scripture that friends and family pass on to me but that’s not enough. If I want to know Jesus better each day and feel his presence and feel like my focus is in the right spot and feel His peace, I need to stop giving my silly excuses (like being too tired, like being too busy with kids and babies) and start disciplining my time better and prioritizing my relationship with God! How interesting it is when a “tragedy” first happens to you how quickly you run to God and know exactly what you need to do, but then as time passes and things ease up and seem a little more normal, God starts taking a back seat again to life. I get so mad at myself every day for allowing this pattern to continue when I KNOW BETTER! It reminds me of one of the most confusing verses in the bible 🙂 I’ll just recap some of it:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do………As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no , the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing……” (Rom 7:15-20) And so on!!

I don’t want to waste this time and this journey that I”m on. I want to grow and learn more about God and how good He is and what higher purpose He has for us through this. I want to be transformed and taken past my fears and doubts. I want to be an example to my kids of a GODLY parent that is always modeling for them a passion for Christ, even in my quiet moments at home and with how I choose to spend my time. So you can pray for that for Jonas and I. And please pray for my emotions to KNOCK IT OFF and return to normalcy 🙂 so that I don’t struggle with moments of numbness or moodiness. I want and need the joy of the Lord to fill me and I could use prayers for me getting my priorities on the right track again concerning spending time with THE SOURCE of joy.

I thought once I reached the half way point of my treatment I’d feel thrilled but instead I almost feel overwhelmed that I still have all that time left to go before I’m done. And, I’m still trying to pray against the fear of it coming back. I KNOW people have encouraged me with how they had their cancer come back but fought it again and are now cancer free, but I DO NOT want to hear the word cancer again in my future EVER! I’m trying to give this worry up to God completely but it’s hard for me.

Thank you again for praying. I need it. This time might be more of an emotional struggle for me but I so appreciate your prayers for me feeling great and staying happy and positive.


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Perception or God’s Reality

It has been my experience that each of us go through times of low self esteem. We begin to see ourselves the way we perceive others see us. Thoughts creep in if how inadequate we are, how ugly, fat or skinny we are. We begin to dwell on those things and we end up believing them. Once we begin to believe them, we begin acting in a manner as if it were true. We begin to shut out others in our lives and isolate ourselves until we are lonely and depressed.

That is not God’s will for you. Quit imaging what you think others see when they look at you and find out what God says about you. In Psalm 139, David records how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God made you just who you are and accepts you for that. He loves you more than any human ever could. Verse 17 says, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.” God is so crazy about you and thinks about you so much that you can’t even put a number to the amount of times He think of you.

Who God says you are is more important that who anyone else says you are. Quit placing value on the words of men and place it on what God says. Ultimately what He says matters. He says in Ephesians 2:10 that you are His workmanship and in I Corinthians 3:16 that you are His temple. God created you to be who you are for a reason. You were made for His purpose as His temple. God doesn’t create junk and because He chose to make you His temple, He is telling you that you are beautiful to Him. Until you see yourself through His eyes, you will be disappointed by what you think others see.

Once you begin to see yourself through God’s eyes and you accept that you are who He says you are, you need to change your thoughts about yourself. This is the hard part. Romans 12:2 says, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” We often hold on to those thoughts and fail to transform into who He created us to be. Here, Paul says to let go of those thoughts and let God change how you think so you can be transformed into that new person.

Our thoughts are very powerful. Thinking right things goes a long way to changing our behaviors. Philippians 4:8 tells us to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. I love the first one: think on things that are true. Don’t believe the lies that you are worthless, ugly, fat, skinny, beyond help, alone, a failure or unworthy. Those are not true. God says you are a royalty through Him. You are His child that He is crazy in love with. Think about that and let God transform how you see yourself into how He sees you. When you do that, everything will change.


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God’s Love Language

If you’ve ever read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary chapman then you know we each give and receive love in different ways. The ways described in this book that we each receive love are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. While you can have several, you typically have a main one. After reading this book, we found that my wife’s love language is quality time. For her to have her “love tank” full, I need to spend quality time with her.

With busy schedules, a kid and life’s distractions it can be hard to carve out quality time. Every once in a while she says, “You’re taking me on a date.” The translation of that is, “We’ve had no quality time together. It’s time to shut everything out and go somewhere where we can be alone and spend time together without distractions.” If we don’t spend that time together, our relationship suffers.

I think one of God’s main love languages is quality time too. He desires to spend quality time with us, but we get busy with life, work, family and obligations. We throw quick prayers up to heaven every so often when we really need something and rarely carve out that time that He desires with us. We then wonder why God feels so distant. We can’t figure out why we stumble in our daily walk. When we fail to show God love, we fail to fulfill our purpose.

Jesus was very busy when He walked the earth. Everywhere He went, people followed Him. They pressed in on Him. They wouldn’t leave Him alone. While He was down here showing us God’s love, He still had to go away and spend quality time with the Father. In Mark 1:35, it says that in the early morning Jesus got up, left the house and went to a secluded place to pray. He did this often because He knew the importance of spending quality time with the Father.

God asks the same of you and me. He wants us to find that time to put away the distractions of this life and to go be with Him. He wants us to turn off our cell phones, to turn off the TV, to get away from anything that would distract us and to pray. He doesn’t need it all the time, but He does need it. He needs those moments where He has your undivided attention where He can speak to you and you can speak with Him.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus said, “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” He wants to be alone with you so you can have an intimate conversation. He said to shut the door behind you so you can shut out all distractions. Build a perimeter around your prayer time so that you won’t be distracted by other things. Shutting the door keeps the things that would like to barge in on your time together outside. They’ll be there when you’re done praying and you can handle them then.

If you want to show God love in His love language, spend some alone time with Him. If you are feeling distant from God, carve out some time where the two of you can be together without distractions. As an example, I’ve given Him my commute time. I turn off the radio and put the phone on vibrate. Each morning and afternoon, I set that time aside to pray and to spend time with Him. Where and when do you have time in your schedule for God? What can you do to spend consistent quality time with Him? If you make the time, He’ll show up and you’ll be thankful you made the time.

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Point Guards of Faith

In high school I played basketball. There are several positions you can play like point guard, shooting guard, forward and center. Of those, I was a shooting guard. I preferred to stay out around the three point line and shoot from there. We had point guards on our team who were very good. They would drive the lane and score from inside the paint. They weren’t scared to go into the middle where everyone was to try to score. They weren’t afraid to get fouled or rejected. They knew that the percentages of scoring were higher in there than where I was.

Most of us live our Christian lives like I played basketball. We try to stay outside where we can’t get hurt, fouled or rejected. We lob shots from where it’s safe and never take the risk of going in with everything we have in order to score for God’s kingdom. We let others take charge, call the plays and do the work. While it is possible to score from way outside, it isn’t where the high percentages are.

The disciples in the book of Acts weren’t like that. They went everywhere telling others about Jesus. When they were dragged to court and told to stop, they kept on preaching. They knew what it meant to get fouled and rejected. They were persecuted and thrown in jail, but it never deterred them from preaching. They were the point guards of the faith.

They risked their lives, their jobs and their families for Christ. They went wherever anyone would listen and they would share what they had seen. Some like Stephen were stoned to death for his beliefs. Others like Paul spent time in prison. No matter what the cost, they took the Gospel to the lost. In Acts 20:22-24 Paul said, “I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned to me…of telling others the Good News about the wonderful Grace of God.”

That reminds me of Steve Camp who was a Christian singer in the 80’s. He sang a song called “Run to the Battle.” The song started out, “Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell.” Those lyrics have challenged me my entire life. I ask myself, “Am I someone who wants to stay where I can hear the chapel bells of safety or am I someone who wants to abandon it all and set up camp just outside the gates of hell?”

It’s easy to know and to say what the right answer is, but doing it seems so much harder. In basketball, I knew I needed to drive the lane, take a risk, get fouled or rejected. In Christianity, it is the same. I need to go where others dare not go. There will be risks involved. I may get fouled or rejected, but then again, I may just win some for the Kingdom. I’ve heard it said before that no risk equals no reward. We need to risk our money, our time and our talents for God so that others may know Him.


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Is God your everything?

There have been times when I’ve faced things that didn’t make sense. There have been times when I didn’t understand why I was going through something. I’ve had those moments when I’ve cried, “Make it stop.” I’ve been to the dark places where you question everything. There’s a place where I’ve questioned my faith, God’s existence and life itself. It’s scary to be at the end of your rope and to question letting go. I found that even in those places and moments God is there.

He is not afraid of you asking the hard questions. He is not scared to go there with you. When it seems everyone else has abandoned you and you are all alone, He is there. When life has broken apart and all is lost, He is there. He is an ever present help in your time of need. He is shelter from the storm that won’t stop beating you down. He is strength when the bottom falls out again. He never fails.

I’ve learned that when I’ve come to the end of my rope, when my strength gives out, His grace and strength are sufficient. I don’t think most people get to experience God this way. Most don’t want to. It’s a high price to pay in your life to get to that point. When you’ve lost all, He becomes everything. When He becomes your everything, you are never the same. You don’t look the same. You don’t act the same. You don’t think the same.

Once you hit that point in your life, God quits being a convenience and He becomes a necessity. I’ve lived my life both ways. I know what it’s like to have Him around and use Him when it was convenient. But I’ve also been to the point when there was nothing but me, Him and a whole lot of darkness. I’ve been to the point where He became so real it was as if I could reach out and touch Him. It took me getting to the point of desperation before that happened though.

I know that’s how it happened for me, but I don’t think God wants to wait until we get to that point to become our everything. I think He would rather hold that position in our lives even when things are going fine. Whether we are riding high on the mountain tops, struggling with the climb up, falling down or stuck in the valleys of life, God is there and He wants to be a necessity in your life. He wants to be your strength. He wants to be more important to you than your next breath.

Yes, more important than your next breath. You rely on your next breath for life, but do you rely on God for your next breath? When God takes that place in your life, He is no longer a convenience. He is your everything. He is your life. He is your strength. He is where He wants to be in your life. I’ve had moments where He was there. Keeping Him there is the hard part. Paul got to that point too. In Philipians 1:21-22 he said, “For me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain [the gain of the glory of eternity]. If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose] (AMP).”

When God has become your everything, your next breath doesn’t mean very much. If it doesn’t come, I’ll be ok because I’ll be standing in His presence in the next second. If He grants it, then I’m here to do His will and to be fruitful. God’s power and presence in your life can be so powerful and so real, but you have to learn to trust Him with your everything. For me, it took getting to that dark lonely place where I was hanging by a thread. You don’t have to wait until that point though. Wherever you are, reach out to Him and make Him your everything today.


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Potatoes or Mangos?

The other day I opened the pantry door looking for something to eat. While I was looking at the snack shelf, my son walked in and was looking at the lower shelves. He saw a sack of potatoes and grabbed one. I heard him say, “Mmm mango.” I looked down to see him try to bite the raw potato. You can imagine the look on his face when he tasted a hard, dirty potato instead of a soft, sweet mango. I laughed and took it from him and reminded him it was a potato, not a mango.

I don’t think many of us make that same mistake and I don’t think he’ll make it again either. When it comes to spiritual food, we often make that mistake though. We bite into something thinking it’s one thing and then find out it’s another. Our spirit needs to be fed as much as our physical body. It requires water from God’s word and food as well. Jesus Himself said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” in Matthew 4:4. He was referring to spiritual food and feeding your spirit.

How hard would it be to function if you ate one or two meals a week? How would that affect your work? How would that affect your daily routines? For many of us, that is all we feed our spirit. We go to church on Sunday and sometimes Wednesday. Other than that, we don’t think much about God, we don’t read christian books or the Bible daily and we rarely pray. These are all ways that we can feed our spirit.

When someone is physically starving, we can clearly see it in them. They first begin to lose weight and then they lose strength. It isn’t so easy to see when someone is spiritually starving, but the same thing happens. We need our spiritual strength to fight off temptation and other attacks. Ephesians 6:10, 11 in the Amplified says, “Be strong in The Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him… Put on God’s whole armor [the heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able to successfully stand up against all strategies and all the deceits of the devil.”

Being strong in The Lord requires that you spend time with Him and to build yourself up in Him so you can draw your strength from Him. Putting on heavy armor also requires strength. When our spirit is weak, it can’t handle that heavy armor. We look like David did when Saul tried to make him wear his armor. We need to armor on so we can successfully stand up against the attacks of the enemy. Without being able to bear that armor, we open ourselves to being deceived and to falling for temptations.

Are you facing attacks right now without armor? Are you being easily defeated in life? Do you keep falling into the same temptation over and over again? Those are signs that you need to strengthen your spiritual man? We need good food to feed our spirit man. Spend time praying each day, carve out a few minutes to read a verse or two from the Bible and then think about that verse, what it means and how you can apply it to your life. Read books that equip you to be a better Christian and help you to grow. Spend time with other believers and talk about spiritual things too. Don’t settle for potatoes when God has mangos for you!


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Beauty for Ashes

We traveled recently to northeast Texas to property that my sister in law’s family owns. As we drove near the property and even onto the property, we noticed the devastation that the wildfires of 2011 left behind. At first we were saddened as we tried to imagine what it had looked like before. What we saw now were blackened trees standing naked in acres of fields with a grey sky as a backdrop.

As we stood outside and stared at what was compared with our imaginations of what had been, I began to notice all of the green bushes that were growing at the base of the trees. My wife mentioned that in a strange way, it was kind of beautiful. My brother said that periodically, fire is actually good for the forest. It’s just hard when the period you own it coincides with the period of fires.

As I looked at, with my wife’s words echoing in my mind, I remembered the scripture in Isaiah 61:3 that said God will give beauty for ashes. I then thought of my life and others I know whose lives had been burned. I remember standing there in shock after my life burned to the ground. I spent a lot of time remembering the way life was before and often wishing I could go back. I spent almost a year in a daily rut of trying to remember the good old days and trying to forget the pain.

My brother was right. Fire can be a good thing. I remembered seeing a billboard with the web address of once. I looked it up to see how a fire can be good. It said that through controlled burning they can increase healthy habitats in the forest, they can promote a varied population and it provides nutrients to the soil that creates quality increases in plant life. The devastation that fire brings increases life.

I think the same holds true in our lives. You may be where I once was. You may be looking at the charred remains of what was your life wondering why God allowed this to happen. I know the feeling. What I’ve learned is that God will replace those ashes with beauty. He can use the fire that burned you to create new life in you. You can’t see it right away and certainly not while you are looking at the remains of the past. You have to search for it. Find that new life. It’s there. It may be just budding, but it’s there.

I remember someone speaking to me a word that they felt God had given them for me after everything I had was burned. They said, “What seems like an end is only a beginning. I have not left you, nor have I forsaken you. I am here by your side. I’m not in front of you or behind you, but here by your side. Where I am taking you, you will experience joy like you’ve never known. Trust in me.” I believe that holds true today.

You may be looking at what seems to be an end. All might seem lost, but it’s not. The fires burned away what was temporary in your life. God wants to create a new beginning in you. He wants to bring you life. He holds to His promise that He will never leave you or forsake you. He knows and sees the pain you have for now. Hang in there, He will create beauty from the ashes of your life.

Here is a song by Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenole that came to mind this morning.


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What to do with an incomplete calling

I had the privilege in the mid 90’s to work with the Lilian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut, Egypt. I would take the train from Cairo about once a month and visit the orphanage. I got to speak to the kids at services and play with them during the day. The orphanage was started in the early 1900’s by Lilian Trasher. She was about 10 days away from getting married when she told her fiancé that she had been called to Africa. He told her that he did not have that same call on his life and they broke up.

She had very little money saved when she decided to board a ship to Africa. Her parents were against the idea, but she believed in her calling so much that she went anyway. One day while she was there, someone came to her and said that a woman needed help. Not long after she arrived, the woman died. An elderly woman in the house was holding the deceased woman’s baby and said she couldn’t afford to keep it alive. Lilian took this baby, nourished her back to health and the orphanage began.

Within a few years, she had over 50 babies that she was taking care of. Today, just over a hundred years later, that orphanage has over 1,000 kids in it. They have a school on site, a church and places for the kids to learn vocations such as weaving. It is an amazing place that still operates because one woman believed so much in God’s calling on her life that she left everything behind to follow it.

Many of us believe we have a calling of God on our lives. We believe we were meant to do more than just survive 70 or 80 years and then go to Heaven. We believe that we can be a vessel that God can use to help others or to lead others to Him. Some people are called to Africa, Asia, Europe or South America, but most of us are called to be a light where we are. You may be a salesman, an accountant, a manager, a janitor or a teacher. Wherever God has you, He has called you to be salt and light.

Lilian wasn’t sure why she was called to Africa. She had not received a calling on her life to go build an orphanage. She just knew she had been called and put herself in a position to be used of God. Just because you don’t know the full extent of your calling, it doesn’t mean that you should wait to do something for God. You should put yourself in position within that calling and look for God to open the door.

Faith is about stepping out when you don’t have the full picture. It’s about leaving a fiancé and your parents knowing God has something for you to do. It’s about looking at every situation as an opportunity for God to use you in and then being willing to obey. We often look at the end of the journey or where we’d like to see God use us in time. We think of the big things we can do for God, but they all start small and with one step of faith at a time.

Has God called you to do something or go somewhere? What step of faith can you take today to put yourself in position to be used of Him? Faith is about action. It isn’t about waiting until you have the whole picture or vision. Take one step of faith today towards the calling He has placed on your life and look for Him to open doors you never saw before.

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