God is Faithful

Author: Lila Diller

My testimony always sounded boring to me. I never had a miraculous change or an obviously God-thing happen so that everyone could hear the “Hallelujah” chorus being sung over my head. I simply grew up in church all my life. I heard all about Jesus and His love for me ever since before I can remember.

My pastor always began the invitation the same way every service: “Bow your head and close your eyes. All those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are saved, raise your hands.” I peeked every Sunday and saw everybody raise their hands. “Now,” he would continue, “anybody who couldn’t do that, who doesn’t know for sure that you are saved, raise your hand so I can pray for you.” Nobody ever raised their hands that they weren’t sure.

I asked my mom one day while she was sewing, “Why does everyone get to raise their hands every Sunday at church?” She told me I needed to be saved and taught me the sinner’s prayer. I bowed my head and repeated that prayer, raising my hand right then.

I just wanted to be like everyone else in my church. That’s just what everyone in my world did. Salvation and baptism were just what every good little church girl did. And I was determined to be the best little church girl. I followed all the rules, trying to please my parents, Sunday School teachers, pastor, and school teachers. When my pastor baptized me, he asked me some questions about salvation. I don’t remember what they were or how I answered them, but whatever my serious answers were, they prompted the entire congregation to laugh at me.

Character of God Lila DillerThe next year, when I was seven, my little sister started asking questions about heaven and hell one night after church. My mom and dad sat us both down and told us again about the Gospel. I felt that I hadn’t really understood it before and was scared to think I might still go to hell whenever I died. I prayed again, and I believe I truly repented that night. But I had already been baptized in front of everybody, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I remember being excited enough to tell the Gospel to my best friend at school. She was shocked when I used the word “hell.” I was always really active in the church youth group and made it a point to “do” my daily devotions every morning.

But I struggled with doubt all through my school years. I would wonder, “What if I didn’t say the right words? What if I didn’t mean it sincerely? What if I hadn’t understood it enough? What if I couldn’t remember the exact date or the exact words I prayed?” I would pray over and over, “Lord, if I wasn’t really saved before, save me now.” But I was never sure.

When I turned 15, the year of spiritual darkness began. I doubted everything I was ever taught, even down to the existence of any god whatsoever! Through soul-searching and a little bit of research in our tiny little school library, I decided there had to be a higher being that created the universe. It couldn’t have just happened for no reason; there is no effect without a cause.

Lila Diller God is FaithfulThen I wondered if He was just a Force or maybe the God of the Muslims, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I had many times before felt Him speak to me through His Word, enough to prove to me that He was the God of the Bible. But was the Bible to be interpreted literally or liberally? I was even forced into debating religion at school. It was me against all my other classmates, who were either Mormons or atheists. I had answers for all of their arguments and questions. But I still doubted every once in a while.

I made the decision early on to go to a Christian college. I desperately prayed, asking for guidance in college choice as well as career choice. I never got a definitive answer for the career, but I felt my choices narrowing and narrowing until I chose PCC. The very first week of my Freshman year, they held a revival. I realized all this time, though I knew the doctrines and believed intellectually in all the right beliefs, I had not been trusting in Jesus alone. I had been trusting—or rather, not trusting but doubting—in my prayer and understanding of my salvation prayer. After that, I never doubted again! “He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Praise the Lord!


KODAK Digital Still CameraLila is an author of Christian Romance novels, blogger, and homeschool mom. She loves sushi and Mexican food, Hallmark movies, anything dark chocolate, the color purple, and reading in her pajamas. Lila, outnumbered by a houseful of males, lives with her supportive husband Chris, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog in Statesville, NC. She loves to help readers create romance in their marriages and in their spiritual walks with Jesus. You can find her at liladiller.com and at www.facebook.com/loveisseries.

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Thriving in Change and Uncertainty

I’ve been struggling to thrive lately, pulled in every direction by life’s constant changes. I’m thankful and content one minute, then discontent or afraid the next as I remember all the unknowns and ‘what ifs’ of the new year ahead.

Rachel Olson ThriveMeanwhile, I keep thinking of the apostle Paul – a man who’d been through shipwrecks, prison, and all sorts of things, yet learned to be content in every kind of situation. I want to learn the same.

What does it mean to thrive when life is good, but my soul is still restless and discontent – hungering for something more? How do I thrive when life constantly fluctuates from one extreme to the next – full of joy and redemption; loss and grief; deep friendship or loneliness, and daunting unknowns? Circumstances are ever changing. I cannot thrive while I’m focused on my surroundings.

When I start grasping for hope and stability in the world around me, I come up short, floundering through every change and disappointment. But when I take my question back to Scripture, Jesus draws my eyes away from my fears and back to himself.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thrive Rachel OlsonOver and over again, I see the same answer: Remember Me. Seek Me first. I am faithful.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk describes a day when the fruit trees will not produce, the crops will fail, and the stables will be empty; nothing is left. In an agricultural society, this could mean starvation. Habakkuk’s basic survival is on the line. And yet his trust in the Lord is so deeply rooted that he can rejoice. Just like the apostle Paul, his eyes are firmly fixed on God, above his circumstances. His hope is not in his surroundings, but in the God who shaped the earth and put breath in his lungs.

This begs the question, where is my hope? Can I look beyond today’s uncertainty and rejoice in the God who holds the entire earth together? Whether today brings laughter, tears, or exhaustion, it makes all the difference to stop and remember whose world we’re in. What is it worth to depend on our own strength or the outlook of our circumstances? God is the one who puts breath in our lungs and sustains us moment by moment. He sees us, He cares, and He holds each situation we face.


Rachel Olson HeadshotRachel Olson recently moved back to the US after making Africa home for 2 years. She hopes to live there again someday soon, where she enjoyed sharing life with hospital patients, learning (and eating!) new things and seeing God offer hope in life’s hard places. Here in the US, she loves a good street taco, card game or deep conversation with friends and family. She longs to see Jesus at work in all of life’s changes, joys, and struggles, and writing helps her make a little more sense of it all. You can find more from Rachel on her blog and Instagram.

Choosing, Forging, and Keeping Terrific Friendships

“You will not make it in life unless you are really good at choosing, forging, and keeping terrific friendships.”

Timothy Keller, a well known and respected pastor who hails out of New York, stated this in a video I recently watched for a church leadership class. It’s fitting, really, that for the whole month of May our training devoted itself in the art of relationships. Questions that stirred included, “What makes a friend? How do I choose them as an adult? Am I a good friend?”

Keller friendship (1)Keller went on to explain that “Friendship is the only love that is absolutely deliberate. It will not push itself upon you.”

That makes me stop and think–I need to choose well in regards to my friends, but how do I chose well? What are the characteristics of a friend that I should seek after? Or vice versa, the characteristics that I must display that will make me an affectionate, loyal, loving friend?

The video progressed to explain four things needed to create a friend: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel.

Constancy

I must be faithful and dependable. Proverbs 18:24 challenges us with these words: A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” To me constancy means I am that faithful friend, one who can be called (or texted) in the middle of the night. I come over when you’re overwhelmed with a pick-me-up coffee and a smile. I show up, time and again, without question. I let you in, all of you, and don’t shy away when life gets particularly hard or messy. A true friend sacrifices their time in order to be there for their people. I am determined to be a constant friend.

Carefulness

To be a faithful friend I need to be aware of my friend’s well-being and emotional state. This is the second aspect of a good friend. When friends are walking through perilous times in their lives, I am sensitive to their needs. I am unable to rejoice in my life when my true friend is unwell. On the contrary, when my friend is rejoicing, I am celebrating with them. I am acutely aware of their emotional and mental health, and display empathy. I am determined to be a careful friend.

Candor

I will be a truth-teller. I speak into my friend’s lives with frankness and honest expression. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” I know someone is a true friend when they are not afraid to share with me things I need to hear, but might not want to hear. Do I wield the truth to my dearest friends, even if it’s uncomfortable? Am I speaking God’s Word into their life when lies deceive and they are lead astray? I also recognize their giftings, remind them when forgotten, and spur them on in serving the Kingdom of God. I am determined to be a candid friend.

Counsel

friend Sarah DLastly, as a true friend, I am to counsel those I love and have chosen to be in my life. James 3:17 shares, But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” When I am counseling a friend, I am first seeking after truth from Scripture. I am always ensuring that my counsel is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and finally, sincere. If my counsel does not align with these characteristics, it is unwarranted and therefore not useful. I am determined to be a counseling friend.

In my lifetime, I have encountered many a friendship. Some friendships turned out to be more seasonal, some have lasted over half of my life. The beauty of a friend is that they are irreplaceable, and a gift from God. C.S. Lewis beautifully sums up friendship in the Four Loves.

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

As I am reminded of Keller’s four characteristics of a good friend, I am also reminded that God is always at work, even in our friendships. He knows that in order to make it through life, we need friends to cleave to in adversity and to rejoice with in happy times. Friends are a reflection of God’s goodness and faithful love toward us.


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.

 

 

Christmas Moments Amongst the Mundane

Last year, when Christmas tunes began to ring out from the radio, our mostly quiet family of three became a raucous party of seven. My husband and I have one teenage daughter and, while we weren’t on the list for emergency foster care, four siblings (ranging in ages from 7-15) were delivered to our home during a crisp late fall morning so they could spend the holidays together, connected.

As we folded new family members into daily life, I realized they knew very little of the true story of Christmas. The way in which we celebrated Christmas was drastically different from what these kids commonly expected. The holiday season became a time of learning about these kids and their traditions, and articulating our own. Christmas for us tends to go deeper than the kinds of food, type of music, and activities we participate in. As we explained that, we began to see opportunities woven throughout our days to speak the truth of God’s grand plan to seek out, love, and mend hearts.

God instructed his people in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 to teach their children of Him in all aspects of life, to let the everyday moments become meaningful.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6:4b-8

We too can speak the good news throughout our days, sharing that the Savior came in the form of a fragile baby who would change the world. There may be no other season that presents more opportunities to connect the dots between our lives and the story of God in a way that deeply matters to our children, our neighbors, and our own souls.

To be honest, I didn’t plan to have any of the conversations that came about. Instead, the light of the world began to illuminate in the moments I least expected. In the car the youngest exclaimed “Jesus is the King of Love,” as she remembered the lyrics to a song she had heard. On another occasion, as we were hurrying along, the preteen asked me in a public restroom, “Why is it important that Jesus was born. Wasn’t he just another baby?” I didn’t expect to get to explain the whole story of redemption as we washed our hands and talked over the whir of the electric hand drier, but I had the privilege to do so.

Isn’t that exactly how God intersects with our lives? The moments we could never plan are when He makes Himself known.

Though these siblings were able to be reunited with family by the time Christmas morning arrived, I came away from the season acutely aware of the meaning of each moment. The real story of Christmas just needed to be pointed out. Not in a grand production, or lengthy speech, but in the simple moments wherever the Holy Spirit brought about a connection.

Today, may we ask God to illuminate the places where His overarching story of glory and grace melds the mundane moments with the eternal epic. May God connect the dots of the busy with the dots of the meaningful. Let us ponder with awe the baby in the manger and share with glad and sincere hearts of the hope He brings. May this season be steeped in moments that deepen our faith and point us to Christ.

~~~
Readers, How do you share the true meaning of Christmas with those around you? Tell us in the comments.

b0de0-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

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Faithful Choices

I met my husband at the city center bus depot. We stood downtown amongst a handful of other college-aged students ready to work and share hope with homeless teenagers. Over the following weeks, in the midst of exhaust fumes and ministry, something began to blossom and we began dating a few months later. I remember distinctly, as we began to discover what God might have in store, the charming line he espoused that has now been quoted in at least one wedding toast, “You can fall in a hole, you can fall in a pile of poop, but I don’t think people really fall in love. Love is a choice.” Later, we stood before hundreds of friends and family and vowed to choose to love one another every day. No matter what.

In a few weeks we’ll have been daily working out that promise for 6 years. We have failed each other and forgiven; we have chosen self and chosen the other; we have battled over small things and held each other in deep sorrow. Faithfulness did not keep us from failures, but it did help lift us from them. We choose it even in the moments when the other does not, for this is what God does for us.

“If we are faithless, [God] remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:13

Faithfulness is an expression of the fruit of the Spirit that I believe comes through small mundane choices that build into a solid foundation. Countless opportunities are in front of us each day to build or tear down the life God can build when we choose to look to Him to help us love.

In no way is marital faithfulness the only area God grows devotion and consistency. Small, deliberate choices over time change the trajectory of life in friendships, raising of children, vocation, and virtually any relationship with another. To have a relationship for any length of time means that both parties must choose at some point to forgive, overlook, or assume the best. If not, a trail of broken relationships is all that will be left behind.

Faithfulness is counter cultural in the era we are living in. Gone are the days of choosing a vocation and retiring years later from the same industry with an engraved gold watch to testify to years of trustworthy service. People these days don’t stick with much. We throw away items rather than mending them, quit when things get hard, and move quickly from one friendship to another.  It becomes easier to leave than work out the hard things. Our devotion is short lived, and looks more like passing interest than an investment of time and energy.  

This is the amazing truth about God’s faithfulness to us:  He loves us, and is devoted to us even though we mess up constantly.  His faithfulness is the bedrock that gives us incredible security. He has chosen to love us. Amazingly, he then gives us the fruit of the Spirit so that we may mirror Him. We too can be given the power to love other people through all sorts of days.  

So we:

  • We call our Mamas to let them know we love them. Let’s be honest, we will never fully understand what it took to raise us.
  • We go to work even when we don’t want to.
  • We visit the friend who hasn’t been able to visit us.
  • We reach for the hand of a spouse even when in the midst of an argument, because, even though our blood may be boiling, we faithfully want to show we are in this together.
  • We check in with Grandma remembering to ask about that last doctor appointment, because that has become a regular part of her life.
  • We parent through horrible tantrums when we want to just give up.
  • We do what we know is right.
  • We choose love.
  • We show up.

Faithfulness comes out in the small things, but eventually builds into a way of life. Luke 16:10 tells us, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much….” A sincere, faithful life is one soaked in integrity that points at Jesus.

Love is a choice every day; we know that because God puts people in our path that we have been chosen to love. Yes, just because they are there, for they are there by design.  Not because loving others is natural (it is much easier for us to love ourselves), but because that is the way God has loved us.

~~~

Readers, we each have a million choices and opportunities to love one another over time. Who needs a faithful act from you today?

ff717-holly2bsquareHolly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.

The Faithful Oak

The soft grasses sway in the light breeze. The luscious meadow appears to be dancing to a tune not played for human ears. The afternoon sun warms the rippling brook framing the ancient oak tree that still stands firm.  Its roots delve deeply into the earth below. The knotty bark echoes stories of children swinging on summer days from a rope and families gathering to picnic. The branches, strong and plentiful, provide respite from the heat as they offer shaded shelter with their leaves. Storms have attempted to destroy the old oak, but it tarries through. It has purpose, and its might is evident. Those who know this oak seek and find refuge beneath its splendor.
As I sit down to write this post on identity, I envision the old oak tree above. I want to be this oak tree. Rooted. Strong. Someone who can provide refuge for others. Near to a source of Living water. Purposeful and hearty.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 shares, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

If I’m honest, in the past few months, I have had many anxiety-inducing thoughts attempt to ravage my peace and make home in my head. I have a feeling of restlessness. The unrest is not dissatisfaction with my life currently, but an acknowledgment that God is stirring up my heart. He is up to something and is busy readying me for change. I am unsure of what development may unfold, but it’s coming. I can feel it. Trusting in God’s plan and purpose during this time has been challenging. I have felt a disconnect with people and the activities that I love, and my heart aches. Despite all this, at my core, I know God is so very good. Whatever it is, I know it will be better than what I could plan for myself.
As I wrestle through this period of uncertainty, my heart longs to identify with the tree in the meadow, rooted, bearing fruit, and seeking sustenance from God. To know like the stream, I  need not be anxious during this time of disquiet, but faithful and obedient in my current surroundings as I flow toward His will. I may not know what lies ahead in my life, but I know that if I identify with the characteristics of the old oak tree, I will not sway with passing storms. I will not be enslaved by fear, but I will stand strong. Trusting in the Lord and His purpose.



Readers, What is God asking you to trust Him with today?

Sarah believes Go0752d-sarah2bsquared has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog, and you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.