Tag Archives: faith

Blank Pages: The Best Days Are Yet to Come


Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

Good-bye, 2016!

The New Year’s Eve parties are over, the last of the New Year’s Day football has been watched, the black-eyed peas (if you’re southern, like I am) have been eaten, and the holiday guests have gone home. It’s January 2, 2017, and 364 more brand-new, unsullied days stretch out before us. Social media is filled with people lamenting how terrible 2016 was. And really, it wasn’t great. We lost too many favorite celebrities and watched the worst mud-slogging political race most Americans have ever seen, to mention just a couple of rotten apples 2016 gave us. 

But that was then; this is now. This is the moment the new year really begins. The day people return to their jobs. The day the Christmas tree is put away, holiday leftovers are thrown out, checkbooks are balanced, and the first tentative steps toward keeping the new year’s resolutions are taken. This is the day that always reminds me of the first day of school, when my crayons stood in bright, fresh soldier rows, my little cigar box held my newly sharpened pencils, and my Red Chief writing tablet lay empty and open on my desk, just waiting to be filled with carefully crafted cursive letters and a good bit of side-doodling. Nothing yet was dirty, crumpled, torn, or marked on. Possibility and imagination sprawled before me, inviting me to write something wonderful. Today is that day. Today is the day to pack away any leftover bitterness, resentment, depression, or hopelessness that 2016 hung around your neck. Today, this day, is full of promise and hope.

Hello, 2017!

As I turn my face away from 2016 and look to the new year, I am reminded of God’s word in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; even now it springs up. Do you not perceive it?” The word perceive is defined as “to become aware of or conscious of something; to come to realize or understand.” So, perceiving, then is the key to understanding this verse. The word of God teaches us that we must walk by faith, not by sight. That is, we must see with the eyes of our heart, where our faith resides, because our physical eyes may not actually see what God is doing. We have to perceive, become aware of, become conscious of, the areas in which He is already working in our lives.

How does that happen?

To do this, we must look expectantly at our future with our faith-eyes wide open. Anything is possible. Miracles of forgiveness, healing, financial blessing, restoration of broken relationships, and redemption. What do you need this year? God says to ask and you will receive. He goes on to say, “Which of you, if your child asks for bread, would give him or her a stone?” Our Father tells us to approach his throne boldly, with confidence, as you would expect your own little ones to approach you, knowing that He wants to hear from you. He wants to provide. We are to ask, expecting to receive because “if you, then, though you are sinful, know how to give good gifts to your own children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7: 7-11)

Make it personal

I am in no way proclaiming that God is the great Santa Clause in the sky, just waiting to fulfill your total wishlist and drop that luxury car in your driveway, but I am saying He desires good things for you, and He sees your every need, both spiritual and physical. And the Father is even now doing a new thing for you, do you not perceive it? If you don’t, if you can’t see past the fog of 2016’s disappointments and hurts, ask God to open your faith-eyes.  Try it out! Tell him your needs and wait expectantly for Him to act. Keep believing that He will act. Stand in faith while you wait.  And if you don’t get around to doing all that today, remember His mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Every day with God is a blank page. Consider carefully how you will fill those pages, whether with faith or with doubt and despair. But if you want to choose joy and faith, let the eyes of your heart perceive what the Father is saying to you even now.


Filed under Spiritual Journey

Hope Sings



The Word in Me Today: Hope











Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos



Emily Dickinson wrote :

“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.”

Solomon, in Proverbs 13. 12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.”

Without hope, people become depressed, see only darkness, lose perspective, and become physically ill. Some even take their own lives out of desperation. But hope is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

The word hope is used in the Bible (KJV version) 126 times – 68 times in the Old Testament and 58 times in the New Testament.

Look at these verses as examples:

“….Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” II Thessalonians 2:16-17

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” Psalm 71:5

Out of those verses, my personal favorite is Hebrews 11:1.  God wants us to live by faith and not by what we see. So we hope for that which we don’t see, and we trust in God’s provision for our needs. An Old Testament story in I Kings 17: 7-16 illustrates this precept.

Elijah and The Widow of Zarephath

Elijah, the prophet, was hiding from King Ahab, whom he had angered when he brought a word of judgment from God. Elijah now moved from place to place in the desert as God directed him, and the Lord had told him to seek out a certain widow, whom God planned to touch in a great way, in the town of Zarephath.

When Elijah found the widow, he discovered she and her son were starving and down to their last meal. The prophet asked the widow to prepare a little cake for him, and she said, “As your God lives, I have nothing baked. Only a little handful of meal in a jar and a little jug of oil. I am even now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for my son and me, so that we may eat it and die.”

This woman’s heart had grown sick! She was powerless to save her son, not to mention herself. She had exhausted all of her own resources and was down to the last ingredients in her pantry. We don’t see the woman’s back-story, but no doubt she had tried everything to sustain herself and her child.  Most likely she had begged for food. Maybe stolen for food, even.  But a famine gripped the land, and there was no food to be had.

Elijah saw this woman’s need, but he knew that if she were obedient to God, He would fulfill that need abundantly. So he told her to prepare the food anyway, and that God would not allow her meal or oil to run dry until rain came upon the land and there was food again. And this little widow, even though she was not one of the covenant children of Israel, made a decision to hope in Elijah’s words…in Elijah’s God. She prepared the food for him, and God fulfilled His word to her. She had food that lasted through the whole famine; her jars did not run dry!

What Can We Learn from the Widow’s Story?

Obedience Births Hope: The widow obeyed God without question, even though she did not know Him. She was not one of the children of Israel, but a worshipper of pagan gods. Notice that she says to Elijah, “as YOUR God lives…” She doesn’t identify herself in any way with Jehovah. Yet, she hoped in what she did not see. She obeyed God’s directive and she hoped in His promise!

God Rewards Obedience: 1Samuel 15:22 tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. In the Old Testament culture, a yearly sacrifice for atonement was necessary. In fact is was demanded by God. Yet, here He says that He desires obedience even more.  Elijah looked at the woman’s need and knew that if he obeyed God in asking her for food, God would bless her and reveal himself to her. Elijah had just come out of the desert where ravens had brought him food. He had seen God deliver on His promises over and over. But he asked this little widow, who did not know Jehovah, to hope in something she had never seen. She did, and God rewarded her obedience.

God Uses the Little that We Have: What do you think would have happened if the widow had refused Elijah’s request? I think God would have found someone else in need to bless, and that lady would have sadly buried her own child and died of starvation and a broken heart.

How many times have you heard someone say, “If I just had more money, I’d give to missionaries.” Or “If I had a bigger house, I would hold a Bible study.” Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. God doesn’t need you to have more money or a bigger house so He can use you. He doesn’t want your “if onlies.” He wants to use what you have now, if you offer it to him with an obedient and humble heart. If he wants you to have a bigger house, He will provide it, but not doing the thing you know you’re called to do because of your circumstances, would be the same thing as the Widow of Zarephath refusing Elijah. God gives us circumstances to create hope, and then when we trust him, he fulfills our hope.

It Can Work for You!
As you look at your life circumstances today, are you filled with hope? Does it perch in your soul and sing to you? Or is your soul dry, down to the last meal and oil, in danger of drying up and starving. Sometimes the burdens of life become so heavy, that we feel we can’t get our hopes up one more time. I’ve been there, too. I encourage you to get up again. Reach down deep and pull that hope to the surface. Give it to God, even if your hands are shaking as you do. Dare to hope. Dare to believe that God is who He says He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek him.

What is He asking you to do today that you feel is beyond your capacity? Do it anyway. Trust that He will increase your resources as you pour them out to Him. Hope for what you don’t see.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


Filed under Word in Me Today

Come! Step Out onto the Water!

Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

With the quickening of the night breezes, the wind shifted and increased until a small fishing vessel pitched and yawed with every punishing wave. The boatmen were exhausted from working all day, and now they had to use the last of their strength to keep the boat from being swamped.  The men must have grumbled. “Why has the master asked us to set out at night after we worked all day?” one might have said.

“We fed 5,000 people today! Wasn’t that enough?” another possibly added.

Perhaps someone tried to still the grumbling and complaining, but the night wore on and the strain began to take its toll on the little company of men. As the long night entered the fourth watch, those last long hours before dawn, one of the men thought he saw someone walking toward the boat. Walking on top of the waves! Impossible! He surely rubbed his eyes and looked again, wanting to be sure before alerting the others. “Look! A ghost!” he cried. And the others trembled in fear with him and took up the cry of “ghost!”

But then, the Master spoke. “Take heart! It is I; do not be afraid!” And though the men saw Jesus with their eyes, they could not wrap their minds around the fact that He walked on water. No one could walk on water…..could they?

So Peter, always the pragmatist, called out to Him, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” And with a quick gesture of his hand, Jesus said simply, “Come!”

Full of brash boldness as always, Peter jumped out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. What did he feel in those moments?  “Look! I’m doing it!” he might have shouted as he stared intently into his Lord’s eyes.

But then the wind rose and the waves came up, and suddenly the man of faith looked not at Jesus, but at the tempest. Fear rose up in him and replaced his faith, and Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, the Word tells us –IMMEDIATELY, Jesus reached out his hand and rescued Peter.

You of little faith!” came Jesus’ rebuke. “Why did you doubt?”

And when the two men climbed into the boat, the storm stilled and the other disciples worshiped Jesus as the true Son of God.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this one little story!

  • Why did Jesus have the men push out to sea after such a long day? Maybe to show them, and us, that when you think you’ve done all you can do, He gives you strength to endure.
  • Why did Jesus wait so long to come to them? Why didn’t he come before the waves and wind became dangerous? We all want to be rescued before the storm starts. It’s human nature. But if we could all sit around on satin pillows, having our every wish and need fulfilled before we even ask, never facing anything difficult or sad or frightening in our lives, what type of people would be? Weak, ineffective and useless to the Kingdom of God, that’s what! It’s the constant battering of wind against trees that strengthen and harden them. Trees that are in dense forests where the wind does not reach them don’t put down deep roots, so they easily topple. God doesn’t want us to be easily toppled when Satan blows winds of adversity our way!
  • Why did Jesus ask Peter to join him? That one simple command from Jesus – “Come!” – speaks volumes. He is open to us. When we call to him, he is there. And He wants us to be effective for Him.  He didn’t say to Peter, “No, this special privilege is reserved for me only.” He said, “Come!” Jesus tells us that we can do all the things he did and even more, if we only have faith.  In John 14:12, He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Does Jesus need us to walk on water? Probably not, but if we read this passage with a discerning mind, we will know that whatever he calls on us to do, no matter how difficult, He will enable us to complete the task.
  • Why did Peter Fall? The answer is so simple. He took his eyes off the source of his strength and looked at the circumstances instead. Satan will always magnify the circumstances in our minds if we allow him to. When the waves threaten us, and the stormy winds blow in our relationships or finances or health, looking at the storm will only increase the fear. When I was a child and was afraid of a storm, my mother would get me to play cards with her or do something else to take my mind off the situation. Before I knew it, the storm was over!  As long as Peter’s mind was off the situation, as long as he  looked to Jesus, the author and finisher of his faith, he could stay above the waves. But one look at what the enemy was throwing his way, and his faith went  down in one mighty gulp of fear.

And while Jesus did rebuke Peter for his lack of faith, mercifully, He also reached out his hand to keep Peter from drowning.  Jesus wants us to have faith. To look at Him and not to the right or left, but only at Him. Yet he knows we are human, and that we succumb to our fears. So while he gently calls us out for not holding onto our faith, His hand is reaching out in deliverance at the same time.

It Can Work for You!

What are you believing for today? Do you have the faith to get out of the boat, i.e. your comfort zone or security, and walk above the storm toward Jesus’ open hand? “Come!” he says. Come and see what I have for you. Come and see what you can do when you trust me. Tell Him your request, and listen for him to say “Come!”

(Story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus found in Matthew 14:22-23)

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When the Going Gets Tough….The Tough Start Praising!

Photo by Karen Mitchell Smith of TopShelfPhotos

I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t either singing or playing an instrument. And although I’ve sang and played a variety of music genres and instruments, at the center of my repertoire….at the center of my very being…is praise. I’ve made it through some of the hardest times in my life with praise! We live in tenuous times. Financially and politically, we as a nation, and as a church, are going through some of the hardest times many of us have seen in this country. Our tendency is to talk about it, gather at Starbuck’s and commiserate with our friends while we hash and rehash the problems over and over, but what does that accomplish? What should we do instead?

Get Praising!
I want you to know that when the going gets tough, the tough start praising! God ordained praise to help us overcome the challenges and obstacles that our enemy Satan, who goes about like a roaring lion, puts in our way everyday. It doesn’t matter which form your praise takes, as long as you are worshipping in spirit and truth. Praise can be sung, played, shouted and danced as we see throughout the Old and New Testament.
Where Did Praise Begin?
The Bible indicates in Ezekiel 28 that Lucifer, or Satan, was the chief musician of Heaven before he became jealous of God and aspired to be like Him. In verse 14, we are told that his “timbrels and pipes” were set in gold and created in his very workmanship, or being, on the day God created him. Imagine how beautiful Lucifer must have been! A timbrel is a tambourine and a pipe is a flute or woodwind instrument. Music was not something Lucifer created with an external instrument – he WAS the instrument! Apparently, he had the ability to make orchestral sounds within himself, and his body was at least partly made of gold. But Lucifer despised God and wanted to take his place, so he was cast to the earth because of his war against God. And when he hit the earth, a fire came out of Lucifer and consumed his beautiful form to ash, taking away the music that was meant from the beginning to glorify God.
Worship Overcomes the Enemy
How fitting it is then, that God uses worship music to overcome the enemy! His word teaches us that when we praise, He sets ambushes against the enemy. (II Chronicles 20:22.) It also tells us that God inhabits, or dwells, in the praises of his people. (Psalm 22:3) Now we already know that if God is for us, no one can be against us! So when we praise, we are inhabited by God himself, and the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.
When we praise God, He comes to our rescue!
Paul and Silas
Consider the story of Paul and Silas in prison. (Acts 16:16-25.) The two men had been beaten and abused for their ministry, then chained and thrown in prison. Verse 25 says that at about midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God, when an earthquake caused their chains to fall and the doors to swing open. Not only were they freed, but ALL the prisoners were freed, and the jailer and his family accepted Christ because of this act. At a time when most people would be singing Poor Poor Pitiful Me, these two men of God were praising, and God defeated the enemy’s plan in that moment! And not only did their praise affect their own circumstances, it brought freedom to those around them.
It Can Work for You!
Be assured that no matter how big the wall in your life is, no matter how tight the prison door is locked or the chains are wrapped around you, God inhabits your praise. God ascends to His throne amid your shouts of joy, and he sets ambushes for your enemy. If you have a heavy heart, or you’re facing obstacles you don’t feel you’ll ever overcome, I want you to have hope. GOD wants you to have hope! Worship God with all your heart. Throw your hands up in the air and shout your hallelujahs. Don’t look at the circumstance, but look at the Deliverer and thank him for his soon-coming rescue! Sing songs of praise and let faith rise up in you. Trust God that, just as he did with Paul and Silas, he will deliver you from your chains, too!


Filed under Word in Me Today