Are You a Doubting Thomas?

“Thomas told them, ‘I refuse to believe this unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my fingers into them, and put my hand into his side’”—John 20:25 (GW).

Are you a doubting Thomas? Maybe you’re a believer, but you doubt God could ever love someone like you. Maybe you’ve been ridiculed or bullied, struggling with your self-worth.

As a child, were you told you weren’t good enough? Did you become a performance addict with a need to prove you were likable, lovable and valuable? Do you know you’re not alone, today?

Pastor Chip Ingram says, “Many of us struggle with conceptualizing the enduring, sacrificial, infinite, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father. I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into our own human terms—and our terms always fall far short.

“Our human relationships have conditioned us to measure love by ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘becauses,’” he adds. “‘I’ll love you if you do this.’ Or, ‘I love you because you did that.’”

Finding Spiritual Lessons in Everyday Living

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal”—Matthew 6:20 (ESV).

When my phone rang, I hesitated to answer because the caller was unknown. I answered to an urgent voice. “Carol, there’s black smoke coming out of your house near you deck stairs.”

Thanking my next door neighbor’s sister, I hurried out the door. Standing on my deck, I couldn’t see anything to my right or my left.  Returning indoors, I grabbed my cell phone and headed out the front door to seek the source of the smoke. Walking around the exterior on all sides of my house, I still didn’t see anything.

Calling Diane back, I asked, “Where exactly did you see the smoke?”

“Underneath the deck,” she replied.

Running around the side of the house again, I peered over my fence and saw black smoke pouring into the frigid air. Without hesitation, I dialed 911. My heart pounded as I raced back into the house, grabbed my dog, my car keys and my purse. Just as I pulled out of my garage and parked my car out of the way, the city police and fire chief pulled in, followed by a fire truck and an ambulance.

God’s Word Paints a Living Picture

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”—Hebrews 4:12 (NIV).

Focused on beginning a new column, I was startled when movement outside my office window distracted me. One, two…no, three deer were running through my yard headed to the wooded ravine behind my house. With white tails pointed upward, the three traveled near my backyard fence where my dog joined the action with his barking.

My description above might depict a country scene. However, I live in a residential neighborhood where red foxes and raccoons also roam. Before a thick forest of trees was leveled to make room for new houses a block west of me, I encountered many deer on my daily walks.

Our walk with the Lord is much like seeing beauty in nature. To encounter the Living God, we need to spend time in scripture each day. Some shy away from the Bible, citing a lack of time or a lack of understanding. It requires commitment, an investment of time and effort, to read and study God’s Word.

His Story is Our Story

Scripture paints a living picture, a story, not just God’s story, but ours as well. The Bible is God’s written word to us, not just a book of do’s and don’ts, but a guidebook to the Christian life.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us the “Word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”

God’s Word, according to the same scripture, also “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Our words (and actions) create our life’s painting. Do they reflect light or darkness? Do they lift up or tear down? Do they comfort or bring pain?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul addresses the church’s lack of spiritual growth. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?”

Made Perfect in our Weaknesses

“but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”—2 Corinthians 12:9 (NRSV).

Slipping through my fingers, the delicate dessert dish shattered as it hit the counter top. What else could go wrong? The small, stemmed dish was one of six, a set belonging to my mother.

Earlier that day, the chain of my favorite necklace broke. The next day, I was cleaning, rearranging and organizing my office when I accidentally knocked my computer printer to the floor. Broken into several pieces, I tried to reassemble it. It was beyond fixing. I had to order a new one.

When we invite Christ to be our Savior and Lord, we’re made new. However, that doesn’t mean we’re automatically perfect. It means we’ve accepted we’re imperfect sinners in need of His amazing grace.

In an imperfect world, perfection can never be achieved by human effort. But, as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”

While I was a believer, I wasn’t a Christ-follower until I accepted His gift of grace in my late 40s. Before then, I was a perfection addict. Striving to achieve that goal meant denial of my imperfections.

We Are His Marvelous Works

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well”—Psalm 139:14 (NKJV).

Sharing the Good News and encouraging others in their faith walk is my passion. My other passion is my grandchildren. In May, we will welcome grandchild number seven, a girl.

For Christmas, I received a journal from my future granddaughter, courtesy of her mother. Inscribed in ink on the inside cover is the following: “Nana, Please use this journal to write your favorite scriptures, recipes and stories just for me!”

Her parents have chosen the name Ruby for granddaughter number three. When my daughter-in-law mentioned the name to my son, she wasn’t aware that Ruby was my mother’s name.

As Ruby’s grandmother, I want to impart how “fearfully and wonderfully made” she is by a loving Heavenly Father. Her older siblings and her cousins will be a wonderful example.  I continually remind them of the importance of “living for Jesus” because He is what matters most in life.

In a Noisy World

In today’s noisy world, it’s often difficult to stay focused on Jesus. For today’s generation, the opportunities to become distracted are more prevalent than ever before.

When I grew up in the 50s and 60s, we didn’t have the myriad options available today. Nature was our playground, where God’s creation spoke to us of His marvelous works.

Letting Go of “Selfie”

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less”—John 3:30 (TLB).

The word “selfie” gained international recognition in 2013 when it was named the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year. Their definition follows: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Selfies abound on social media, especially Facebook.  Although the younger generation is more likely to post self-portraits, I’ve seen others, from their 50s on up, post photos, not of their faces necessarily, but of wounds they’ve accrued through accidents or after surgery.

The first “selfie,” according to different websites I checked out, was posted on Facebook by a 22-year-old Australian man who had suffered a busted lip after tripping and falling face-first at a party. The man apologized for the somewhat blurry photo of his lower lip when he said, “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

Two words in his statement jumped out at me when I read the story—focus and selfie. Looking at these two words through spiritual eyes, we are reminded through various scriptures not to focus on ourselves, but God and others.

Make Commitments in 2018, not New Year’s Resolutions

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans”— Proverbs 16:3 (NIV).

How many of us make New Year’s resolutions but fail to follow through? We resolve to lose weight and get healthy. We promise ourselves we’ll pay off debt and save money. We plan to give up habits detrimental to our well-being. Most of the time, most of us don’t accomplish what we yearn to do.

Why do we begin a New Year full of hope and promise, only to fall back on old habits and ways of thinking? Is it because we’re trying to accomplish our goals without the help of the One who has our best interests at heart?

Instead of resolutions, what if we made commitments? What would that look like for each of us? What if we saw ourselves through the eyes of God’s Holy Word? Would that make a difference?

Make spiritual growth a commitment

What if our first commitment was to grow spiritually? Would that lead to healthier physical and fiscal habits? Would we drop pounds and fatten our bank accounts so we were physically and fiscally able to help others?