Tag Archives: Bible

How do we increase our faith?

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(Old Testament trash talk)

You know when God teaches you something in his Word and you just want to share it? This is one of those posts because it’s my blog and I can do what I want to.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel lately because it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible because, well, David. I can’t help but love the guy. Anyway, I get to the story of David and Goliath and God showed me something in that story that I never knew. Don’t you love when God does that? He takes a story you’ve heard since childhood and makes you see it in a completely new way.

I always assumed David was afraid, even though I knew he volunteered to fight Goliath. Like he was shaking in his sandals and no armor, but God gave him the courage to slay the giant. After reading the text, I’m not so sure that was the case.

“When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” 1 Sam. 17:48 ESV (emphasis mine)

He RAN QUICKLY. Basically he sprinted to meet Goliath, A GIANT, at the battle line. Scared people don’t sprint to meet their enemies. People who are fearful enter into battle carefully, with a well thought out plan. They may have summoned the courage to fight but they’re still sweating bullets when they enter onto the battlefield. No one shows up for a fight with a slingshot and a few little rocks and no armor to fight his opponent who is fully armed.

No one but David.

Was he just young and naïve? Rebel without a cause? Was he a teenager that thought he was going to live forever? Nope.

He was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would deliver the people of Israel. He was betting his very life on it. See, we have to back up a little in the story to understand why David would have such confidence. Earlier in the passage, Saul is trying to talk David out of fighting Goliath, reminding him he’s just a boy and Goliath is a man trained for war.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Sam. 17:34-37 ESV)

Oh, I’m sorry, did it say LIONS and BEARS? When hearing this story as a child I’m envisioning cartoon lions and bears. Like Simba and Baloo. It didn’t even seem real at the time. As an adult, if you told me my teenage son would be fighting off lions and bears to protect our families’ sheep, I would have a heart attack. Literally. I would also tell him to go ahead and say goodbye to sweet lamby because his mama ain’t gonna let him fight no wild animal. What kind of person fights lions and bears to save one little lamb? The person who has something to protect and, in this case, a person who knows he cannot lose.

David goes on to say:

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

Whoop there it is. David remembered.

How did David know God would help him defeat Goliath? Because He had done it before against lions and bears. David remembered God’s faithfulness to him in the past, which gave David faith for the present. David was certain of God’s faithfulness to him. He knew he was beloved by the Father and that the Father would protect him and deliver the people of Israel out of the hands of the Philistines. Oh to have that kind of faith! The kind that assures me that I can do the hard, scary things and God will show up. He always shows up for His kids.

Want to increase your faith? Remember a time when God has been faithful to you. Recall a time He came to your rescue. God is always faithful even when we are not. We are his beloved sheep that He gave His own Son’s life to save…before we even knew him.

We would do well to face our giants like David.

RUN QUICKLY to the battle line.

REMEMBER God’s past faithfulness.

BE CERTAIN of victory.

This is how we face our fears. This is how we move mountains. We may not win the battle every time. We may very well crash and burn. This doesn’t mean God didn’t show up. It just means He has other plans. There is much to learn when we feel we’ve been defeated and we take that with us as we go into our next battle. My internal victories are far more significant than my outward successes by a long shot. I think when God spoke of the “work He has planned for us” (Eph. 2:10), much of it was on ourselves, in our hearts. And rest easy, God has already slain the enemy. Victory is oursWhat’s the mountain facing you?

-Courtney

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She Reads Truth

When I asked for comments on what kind of topics you sweet readers wanted me to write about, one of the responses was about bible studies I like. The one I’m doing right now is my favorite, hands down. It’s from the lovely people at She Reads Truth. It’s called Women in the Word. They put it out this summer and I’m still enjoying it. (Read: Summer was crazy and I didn’t get to my bible study every day.) My favorite thing about this bible study may not appeal to everyone. I got the workbook and it is basically passages of Scripture and space for your response. With many devotionals I’ve read before they give a little Scripture then a little synopsis of the Scripture or a story that relates back to the Scripture. These are all fine and good and definitely have their place. Too often the problem for me is I tend to read the verses then someone else’s thoughts about the verses then close the book and move on. I rarely sit and think about what God might be saying to me through His Word. This book gives me the space to do just that.

It has been amazing what God has taught me about the women of the Bible. With this study, I work through the words and pray through my thoughts to get to the meat of what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to me. And let me tell you, it’s been eye opening. God raised women up to positions of power in a culture where the value of a woman was dependent on how many children she could have. People tend to think that men are the heroes but what I’m learning is that women held great power over those said heroes. I mean, other than Jesus. He stood alone. No one held power over Him. Just to be clear.

When I read stories from the Old Testament, it’s clear that women are vital to men’s decision making. Good and bad decisions. Sarah told Abram to sleep with her maidservant Hagar because they wanted a child and he did. Bad decision. Delilah manipulated Sampson into telling her where is strength came from. Bad decision. Hannah, after getting pregnant with Samuel, convinced her husband, Elkanah, they should dedicate Samuel to the Lord and let him serve under Eli the priest. Good decision. Abigail protected her servants from David and took the blame for her husband, Nabal’s, bad behavior towards David. God struck Nabal dead and David took Abigail to be his wife because he was enamored by her beauty and discretion. Good decision.

As I read through His Word, He’s showing me how important women are to Him. Over and over when speaking of women the Bible says things like: He heard their prayer, paid attention to their need, He listened to them, He dealt well with them. In a culture where bearing children was their main job, God listened them and saw them. He had relationship with them. He valued them. By reading God’s Word without any other person’s voice in my ear it has helped me see and hear more of who God is. His Scripture is enough to teach us about who He is. Commentaries are wonderful. Hearing what others think is great in challenging our own way of thinking. But let’s not miss what the plain words of Scriptures say. God’s voice alone has a whole lot to teach us if we’ll just read it and listen to it and pray for discernment of it. We have so much to gain from reading the Word of God. This bible study has taught me much in the importance of that truth.

If you want to take a look at their stuff, here’s your linky-loo:  www.shereadstruth.com

They also have an app called She Reads Truth for women and just recently they launched an app for men called, wait for it…He Reads Truth. The format of the app is Scripture and a devotional written by the amazing people that work there. The app is awesome because you can read it whenever you have time since it’s right there on your phone. They have all kinds of studies and plans available. Some are free and some cost maybe $1.99. I think all the plans are a week or more worth of devotionals. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Go download it! Or if you want to do a workbook go to the website and order one. You won’t regret it!

-Courtney

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Controversy

“Don’t let the world teach you theology.”

My pastor, Dr. Michael Easley, says this all the time at church. I’ve always loved this because it reminds me not to look to the world for truth, instead, I’m to look to the word of God. If I’m ever not sure of God’s will or don’t know what to believe, I can go to the Bible in search of God’s truth. Granted, there are some things that aren’t discussed in the Bible so I guess I won’t get an answer to some of my questions until I meet God in heaven, unfortunately.

That being said, I really didn’t want to write this post. Like really really didn’t want to write it. I am aware that what I’m about to write could very possibly alienate friends and family that are very dear to me. My view of them has not changed; they will always be amazingly wonderful people. My fear is that their view of me will change and that worries me a great deal since I’m one of those people who want everyone to like them. It’s a sickness, really. That’s why I try to be funny, I mean who doesn’t like funny? So please hear me when I say writing this post wasn’t easy or fun but I had that feeling about it. You know, that sick-to-your-stomach-makes-you-want-to-throw-up feeling. This feeling usually indicates that I’m supposed to do that thing I’m scared of. I hate this feeling but the only way to appease it is to do the thing I don’t want to do. So here goes.

I don’t know about you but there are many parts of the Bible I sort of wish weren’t in there. I wish it didn’t talk about gluttony being a sin because I like to overeat (Prov. 23:20-21). I don’t always want to turn the other cheek because I think it’s unfair (Matt. 5:39). It’s really hard not to exasperate my children when I’m having a bad day (Eph. 6:4). It’s difficult to see the benefit in not repaying evil with evil (1 Pet. 3:9). Doing things without complaining (Phil. 2:14)? Not my strong suit. Even if it’s only in my head, my complaining and grumbling sounds an awful lot like a pity party. Truth be told, I wish I could brush all of these under the rug because they don’t suit me all the time and I want to do what I want to do and not feel bad about it.

When the SCOTUS ruled last week in favor of legalizing gay marriage, part of me wanted to sweep what God’s Word says under the rug. A small part of me wished I could be on board with it because it’s getting celebrated all over the country and who doesn’t want to be part of a celebration? It seems so happy and fun. Then I had that thing in my stomach; the thing that reminds me I’m on the unpopular side of controversy. “Don’t let the world teach you theology.” So I looked up verses about marriage in the Bible half-hoping I missed the verse where God said “Marry whoever you want. #lovewins” Guys, there is no such verse and no such hashtag in God’s Word. God was clear about a marriage covenant being between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:24). At no point in the Bible does He change His mind or wording on this. He always used a man and woman, a husband and wife, to be the representatives in marriage (Prv. 31:10-11, Eph. 5:22-33). It seems that any time in the Bible when God mentions things over and over it’s because He’s trying to make a point. And if I’m going to write about how my faith is rooted in the Word of God then I can’t skip over this. I have to take God at His word.

A long time ago I told God that I believed Jesus was His Son who died on a cross to save me from my sins, and rose from the dead to affirm He was the Son of God and the giver of eternal life. When I surrendered myself to this belief, I also surrendered my life. In doing this, I was telling God His way is better than my way, His thoughts are more important than my thoughts, and ultimately what He wants is more important than what I want. Now, hear me on this: I have a hard time with all of these and I most certainly don’t do them even close to perfectly. God never said that following Him would be easy but He said it would be worth it in the end. So I’m putting all my eggs in His basket and trusting that He will do what He says. But while I’m here living on this earth I made the decision to believe, and try to live by, what the Bible says. Again, I don’t do it all that well but it’s my understanding that’s what grace is for. My fear is that this post will come off like I’m some holier-than-thou punk. I’m well aware that Jesus died on that cross for the whole world, not just me, which let’s me know He loves all of us. And since I’ve chosen to believe this is true, I owe Him my life. I owe Him a life of obedience and gratitude for what He did for me.

So I believe marriage is a covenant before God between a man and a woman because that’s what the Bible says. I also believe that I am supposed to love others like Christ loved me because the Bible says that too. Remember how I said when you see repetition in the Word it’s because God is trying to make a point? Jesus tells us over and over to love one another. Don’t believe me? Read the book of John. God also tells us not to judge. Don’t believe me again? Read Romans 2. My (our, if you’re a believer in Christ) responsibility is to love. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I can’t love you. And vice versa.

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Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This is how I’m supposed to identify myself with Christ. I’m supposed to be kind and love those I disagree with. If I only love people I agree with wouldn’t that be just a tad superficial? The people Jesus hung out with were nothing like him but He loved them just the same. I have to live out what I believe, as do you. So thanks for letting me get my thoughts out so my stomach could get back to normal. And I’m fully aware some of you may quit reading my blog after today and that’s ok. Thanks for sitting in my headspace for a few minutes.

-Courtney

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Is comparison the ONLY thief of joy?

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve liked this quote since the first time I heard it. It’s one of those that made me say “Exactly! That is so right!” So many times in my life I miss joy because I’ve compared myself or my circumstances to someone else’s.

Recently I’ve found something else that steals my joy. Expectation. Expectation has been the thief of my joy. What I’m finding to be true in my life is that when I put my expectation in anything other than God, it’s coming up short. When my expectations are not met, it leaves me angry and irritated.

An example of this happened just last week. I had gone to a doctor’s appointment at 7:30 in the morning. It was going to be a long appointment because I had to receive an infusion (for my UC) and those last usually between 2.5-3.5 hours. After it was finished I was told I needed to get a scan done. My appointment for the scan wasn’t until 1:00 but they were sure I could be “worked in.” So a little after 10:30 I finish my infusion and walk over to my next appointment. They check me in and I take a seat. I wait. And wait. Then I wait some more. Finally after an hour, I go up to the desk to ask if my name has been called and I somehow missed it. She went back to check then told me no. She also asked me if I was aware my appointment was at 1:00. Yes, I told her, I know but I was told I could be “worked in” (Don’t worry, guys, I didn’t use air quotes.) She said ok, they’re just a little backed up. Then she proceeds to tell me that I’m next on the list for this scan. Perfect. I don’t mind waiting a little longer. Another hour goes by. At this point, I want to leave but I feel like I’m too invested. I’ve waited too long to leave now. If I leave now, I’ll just be a schmuck that fell for the old “You’re next in line” bait. (Side note:: I couldn’t help but think of the Friends episode when Phoebe stays on hold for a day because the recording kept telling her she was the next caller. I feel you, Pheebs.)

Finally after 30 more minutes, I get up and walk over to the front desk, hand her my clipboard, and tell the lady I’m leaving. She asked if I wanted to reschedule, I said I’d call. I had let myself get to the “I’m so angry my voice is shaky because I’m trying not to cry I’m so angry” place. It was really a precious sight. I walked out of that place at 1:30. I had waited for 2.5 hours. I felt like a schmuck.

I had the expectation that I could be worked into their schedule and when that didn’t work out I let the waiting steal my joy. The people-watching was sort of phenomenal so at least there was a bit of a silver lining. So often in my life I let my expectations hold my joy. If I put expectations on Kyle and he doesn’t meet them, I’m disappointed. If I put expectations on my kids to be kind to one another or not fight and they do it anyway, I’m irritated. If I plan a day perfectly and it doesn’t work out that way, I feel defeated. If I exercise and eat healthy for 5 days and my body doesn’t change on the outside, I want to give up.

Then it’s like God taps me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “You’re putting your expectation, or HOPE, in the world. The world was never meant to fulfill your HOPES. I am the only One who can do that for you.”

 

When I was looking for affirmation of this in the Word I found many verses that supported the truth that our hope is to be found in the Lord, not the things of this world.

 

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”   1 Tim. 6:17 (ESV)

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”   Heb. 11:1 (ESV)

 

“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.”   Rom. 15:13   (NIV)

 

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”   Rom. 8:24-25 (ESV)

 

When I let my hope, or my expectation, reside in this world I always get what the world has to offer me: disappointment. I’m learning there’s a reason for that. When I allow the joy of knowing Jesus Christ to fill me up, I quit expected Kyle to fill me up. When I remember to deal with my kids the way Christ deals with me, I don’t expect them to be perfect. When I allow for flexibility, or grace, in my schedule, I feel at peace with the day. When I rest in the fact that God doesn’t care if I ever weigh 125lbs again, I can workout hard and know that I did what was best for my body even if the scale doesn’t move. These are the things I need to remember. The world can’t offer me this kind of hope. It’s just not capable of doing it. The world tells me I have to look a certain way or have a certain body to be considered pretty. The world also tells me if people don’t make me happy I should leave them. The world tells me I’m only as good as my Pinterest board or Facebook page makes me look. The world tells me that my job as a parent is to make my kids happy.

The world is full of crap.

The world has made idols of these expectations. These are things we’re supposed to strive for then our lives will be perfect. Have you ever wanted something so badly and then when you got it, it was just ok? This is what we’ve fallen into. We think if we can just be this, or do that, or reach this goal, then we’ll really be somebody. Then when we get there it’s just…ok. If we put our trust and in the God who created us and knows us, this is the only chance we have at joy. He’s the only One with the ability to give it completely.

Expectations are the thief of joy.

Yes, I think this statement is much more accurate.

 

PS–Waiting rooms are also the thief of joy.

-Courtney

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