Flowing Faith

January 28, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
0 comments

Ultimate Love

Ultimate loveFully grasping the depth of God’s love is most likely out of our reach. I think God’s love is so endless that we just don’t have the capacity to fully know it. Or, at least, it is a life-long process. Everything in God’s time. But even just getting a small glimpse of God’s love leaves us awestruck. God so loved the world, each and everyone of us, that he gave his only son that no one would perish. Jesus paid the price so that we could be set right with God! That’s the bottom line of God’s love. There is no way we could ever top that. God’s love is the ultimate love.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (John 3:16-18, MSG)

Accepting God’s gift of salvation is the beginning of a life-long adventure of living in God’s grace. It is our choice to respond to his invitation, believe in him and receive the gift of grace. To know the love of God requires us to believe in him and commune with him regularly.

Each day we can choose either to continue to live in God’s grace or to turn away from God. But God will always hold on to his end of the deal. He is always there waiting for us to (re)turn to him, to live in his presence and bask in his love.

I am a Christian because of God’s love. Very often you hear stories about people who turn to God when everything else has failed. I grew to love God through his loving care in my normal, everyday life.

The more I studied the word of God, the more drawn to God I became.
The more time I spent in God’s presence, the more drawn to God I felt.
The more I experienced the power of prayer in my life, the more drawn to God I was.

Finally, I realized there is nothing better than knowing the love of God. I want to spend my life and eternity to learn more about the ultimate love of God- And revel in it. And share it with everyone I encounter.

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
(Eph. 3:16-20, MSG)
AMEN

Q4U: How have you experienced the love of God?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you revel in God’s ultimate love!

Image design Mari-Anna Stålnacke. This post is refurbished from 2010. Linking up today with Unite the Bloggersphere and #tellhisstory.

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January 26, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
12 Comments

Jesus is the Key

22556_Jesus_is_the_AnswerThis is just a short – and hopefully sweet – reminder to not forget Jesus. Because Jesus is the key to all the locks. Jesus is the answer to all the questions. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. According to Jesus “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, CEB).

That’s why I have to ask: How long has it been that you’ve confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? 

For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (John 5:4-5, NLT)

Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God have eternal life.
Only those who believe Jesus is God’s son are victorious.
Only those who rely on the fact that Jesus is Messiah are familiar with the conquering power that brings the world to its knees.

Anyone who confesses (acknowledges, owns) that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides (lives, makes His home) in him and he [abides, lives, makes his home] in God. (1 John 4:15, AMP)

Jesus is the key to make our home in God. There’s no other way into God’s presence. There’s no other way to be right with God. There’s no other way to live forever.

Why then do we so often forget about Jesus? We talk about God and spirituality but we shy away from talking about Jesus. But Jesus is the key to everything. Whether we wanted it or not.

 

Gracious God,
You are truly amazing.
You provide everything for us
to be made right with you.
Thank you for sending Jesus
to live for us,
to die for us,
to rose for us.
Empower us to live for you,
to boldly confess that Jesus is your beloved son.
Thank you for allowing us to make our home in you.
In Jesus’ precious name,
Amen

Q4U: How long has it been that you’ve confessed that Jesus is the Son of God? How do you live out your faith in Jesus?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you make your home in God!

Image courtesy of Kevin Carden. Linking up today with Sharing His Beauty, Unforced Rhythms, Playdates with God.

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January 23, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
4 Comments

Listen to God

listen to GodIt feels awful when you are not heard. It undermines your core being and it does not feel good. At all. But even though other people don’t value us or listen to us we have someone who always does. And that is Jesus. If he is our rock, no one can erode our foundation.

Sometimes we complain that even God does not hear us. But he always does even when we feel that he doesn’t hear us. We are always welcome to him no matter how badly we have messed up. And we don’t have to wait until we are feeling good to enter God’s presence, we are always welcome to him no matter how angry or sad or depressed we are. Because he has cure for everything. It is not our job to heal ourselves. Our job is to say yes to his invitation.

I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might,
    I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.
(Psalm 77:1, MSG)

But, sure, sometimes we still might feel God does not hear us. That happens especially when we are not getting answers to our prayers or at least not answers that we’d like to hear. We can rest assured that God always hears us. And he also wants to talk to us. We just need to find time to really listen. God wants to be heard too.

Yesterday I was passing on this quote on Facebook “Complaining about a silent God while your Bible is closed, is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.” This unknown quote hits the nail on the head. God really does try to speak to you. But are you listening? Are you keeping the communication lines open? Do you let God speak into your heart?

Something to think about this weekend. Do we pile up so much happenings and ought-to-dos that we don’t have any time left for God? And then we wonder why we feel so overwhelmed and confused. But help is near and the cure is sure. Turn to God and talk to him. And remember to listen. God has a lot to tell you.

 

Gracious God,
Forgive us for being so self-centered.
Make room in us for you.
Teach us how to listen to you
in the midst of chaos.
Speak to us, Lord.
Let us know what’s on your heart.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: How do you (find time to) listen to God?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you listen to God!

Image courtesy of creationswap.com, design Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Linking up today with Faith-filled Fridays, and Faith Barista.

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January 21, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
10 Comments

Joy-Warriors

joy-warriorsAre you a joy-warrior? Would you like to be? I hope so. That’s who we are called to be here on earth. We are called to love God above all else and others like ourselves. It’s not as easy as it sounds but the benefits are out of this world.

Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Cor.13:11, MSG)

A joy-warrior is someone who’s fighting back with joy, not only his or her own battles but also fighting the battles of his or her friends. Margaret Feinberg in her brand-new book Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears shares how critically important friends were in her battle against cancer. She writes “Whenever you experience a sense of withness—the awareness that others are alongside you—you can’t help but experience the presence of joy.”

And that is our calling in this life: to love others with God’s love. Most of the time these acts of love are very small and we might even notice them ourselves. But the impact can be tremendous. With the words of Margaret “In the fights of life, people can be conduits of great joy and deep refreshment.”

We are a body of Christ. We are dependent on God but we also need other people. We are called to live in unity and love. It does matter how we treat each other. We can be joy-warriors by helping others, being extravagantly generous by our time and money. It takes a village to fight back with joy. But it can be done. Because God is with us. And his supply of joy is unlimited. Because God is joy. And he loves to pour out not “just” love and grace but also joy.

Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. (1 Tim.6:17-18, MSG)

God is the ultimate joy giver. And we are all called to share joy with others. God has more joy than we can ever use ourselves. We will never be short-changed. The more joy we pass on, the more joy we have. This is a beautiful mystery of God. But it works. And makes us victorious joy-warriors. Thanks be to God!

 

Gracious God,

Thank you for the gift of joy
and the gift of joy-warriors in our lives.
Enable us to become amazing joy-warriors too.
To bring joy in the midst of sadness and depression
and victoriously fight back with joy.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: Are you a joy-warrior? Do you have joy-warriors in your life?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you receive and pass on as much joy as possible!

Image courtesy of Photobucket, design Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Linking up today with Unite the Bloggersphere and #tellhisstory.

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January 19, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
4 Comments

Amazing (G)Race?

amazing graceIs receiving the grace of Christ an amazing race or amazing grace? It is a relief to know it does not require to be the winner of the amazing race to receive the grace of Christ. There is nothing we can do to earn the grace of Christ. It is the amazing gift from God; it is amazing grace.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:4-10, MSG)

If it is free for all, how can I receive it? That’s really simple. Whether it is your first time or 10000th time, you ask God to forgive you for the sake of Jesus Christ and you will receive grace upon grace! Yet it’s important to remember that receiving grace is not the end of the story.

God has invited each and every one of us to live in faith and grow in grace. There is nothing we can do to make us more pleasing or acceptable to God but we can return God’s love by loving him back by responding to his invitation to join him in the amazing race to win the whole world for Jesus!

We can start our amazing race knowing that God has already made us all winners of the grand prize: AMAZING GRACE. The amazing race begins when we have been made right with God. We have been created in Jesus Christ to do good works. God has prepared our adventures and good works in advance. God is calling us for an adventure in Jesus Christ: to love, to serve, to share.

Receiving the grace of Christ enables us to successfully race the amazing adventures God has planned and prepared for us. Receiving the grace of Christ starts the process of bearing spiritual fruit in our lives. Receiving the grace of Christ surprises us again and again. Go God!

 

Gracious God,
Thank you for your amazing grace!
Thank you that we are not saved by works but by your grace.
Save us through faith, Give us your grace.
Enable us to work for you.
Help us to race an amazing race for you.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: How is your amazing race going?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you receive grace upon grace!

Image courtesy of Mike H. This post is refurbished from 2010. Linking up today with Sharing His Beauty, Unforced Rhythms, Playdates with God.

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January 16, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
6 Comments

Dressed in Readiness

Dressed in ReadinessDo you know how to be dressed in readiness? Then I want to hear from you. My word for the year 2015 is ‘readiness’ and I am trying to figure out what readiness means for me and how I could practice it more fully.

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. (Luke 12:35, NASB,*)

We are all called to be ready for Jesus. But readiness for Jesus means more than ‘just’ being saved. And that’s what I will be exploring this year. What does it mean to be dressed in readiness?

First of all, I want to remind all of us that everything starts with God’s readiness.

God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness. (Titus 2:11-14, MSG,*)

Second of all, I want to remind us that our calling as Christians is to create readiness in others to receive God.

He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. (Matthew 13:11-13, MSG,*)

Okay, you say. Isn’t that already a lot of readiness? Yes, but there’s also this third kind of readiness that I feel called to practice. God has been preparing me for something new for awhile now. I don’t know exactly what it is but I’ve called to be ready and readily available whenever God calls me to step up to the plate. So…my questions are: How can I increase my readiness? How can I be truly dressed in readiness?

 

Gracious God,
Thank you for your readiness to give and forgive.
Thank you for calling us to create readiness for you.
Prepare our hearts and minds for you.
Dress us in readiness so your will
would happen in and through us.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: What do you think? What does it mean to be dressed in readiness? What are your best tips to create readiness for God?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you become readily available and alert to God!

* [As you might have noticed, I enjoy reading the Bible in different translations and love comparing them. I have started linking the Bible verses to Biblegateway.com so you can easily read (and compare) them in the different versions I’ve used while preparing each post.]

Image courtesy of Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Linking up today with Faith-filled Fridays, and Faith Barista.

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January 14, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
5 Comments

Embracing Joy

joy is your heritageAre you fighting some sort of battle right now? May I recommend a book for you. Margaret Feinberg’s brand-new book Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. Margaret’s fight was against cancer but all of us are in some kind of fight. Life is not easy and battles are certain. Hence we need to learn how to fight back in order to thrive in the midst of them. And this book shows us how to do that.

Margaret states “Everyone who wakes to confrontation and crisis—whether you picked the fight or the fight picked you—has an important choice: which weaponry will you choose? Cynicism and spite? Complaint and control? Or perhaps you are prone to deny and withdraw. To let your fleshy heart turn to stone. But there is another arsenal available to the daughters and sons of God.”

And that’s joy, believe or not. And it works. Because “Joy is a far more dynamic, forceful weapon than most of us realize. The abiding sense that you are fiercely loved by God? That kind of joy empowers you to rise above any circumstance.”

Margaret explains “When we fight back with joy, we no longer size the character of God according to our circumstances, but we size our circumstances according to the character of God and his great affection for us.” And that’s the key. When we are with God, we are safe and sound no matter what.

Margaret continues “Practicing defiant joy is the declaration that the darkness does not and will not win. When we fight back with joy, we embrace a reality that is more real than what we’re enduring and we awaken to the deepest reality of our identity as beloved, joyful children of God.”

The main thing in fighting back with joy is to embrace joy as our heritage, purpose, and destiny. We were created for joy. We are called to live in joy. And joy is where are headed. Embracing joy is what Jesus wanted for each of us.

I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing. (John 15:11, AMP)

It’s time for each of us to start embracing joy as God’s amazing gift to us. It is indeed our heritage, purpose, and destiny. It’s time for each of us to start practicing joy, embodying it by how we respond to the circumstances before us. It is indeed possible to fight back with joy.

 

Gracious God,
Thank you for creating us for joy.
Thank you that joy is our heritage, purpose, and destiny.
Show us how to always embrace and embody it.
Pour out joy upon joy, Lord.
We gratefully receive all of it.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: How do you define joy? How do you live out joy?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you embrace joy as your heritage!

Image courtesy of Margaret Feinberg. Linking up today with Unite the Bloggersphere and #tellhisstory.

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January 12, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
3 Comments

Looking for Happiness

Find what you have been looking forAre you looking for happiness? Most people are. My heart cries out for all the people who are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. How people are so lost and don’t have any idea where to find what they’ve been looking for all their lives. This is nothing new under the sun though. When you read through the Bible you realize people were acting exactly the same way thousands of years ago than they do now. People are still addicted to lust, allergic to God and looking for happiness in all the wrong places.

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2 Tim 3:1-5, MSG)

Life is serious business. Our choices do matter. C.S.Lewis states “Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern. There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”

My heart rejoices when I see how radically some people embracing the call to follow Christ. My heart rejoices because these people are losing everything for Christ and by doing so they’re gaining everything. They’ve found what they’ve been looking for all their lives. They’ve  found that Jesus is the answer for everything. Just like C.S. Lewis has said “Look for yourself and you will find loneliness and despair. But look for Christ and you will find Him and everything else”.

For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18, AMP)

If you’re looking for happiness, look no further than Jesus. Happiness is found only in Jesus. You might find substitutions for real joy elsewhere. Nothing but Jesus can bring you happiness in the long run. Nothing but Jesus. But the message of the cross is the power of God. The message of the cross has everything you need now or ever. Just dig deeper: Peace, love, hope, faith, joy and all the good things waiting for you.

 

Gracious God,
We pray for all the people who are lost
and don’t know you.
May they hear you calling their names
and have courage to turn back to you.
Give us all strength to hang on to your saving grace.
Give us all courage to radically follow you.
Give us peace to choose you day after day.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: Where do you stand? Have you found what you’ve been looking for? Have you chosen your side? Do you know the power of God?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you fight the good fight of the faith day by day.

Image courtesy of Mary Brascia. This post is refurbished from 2011. Linking up today with Sharing His Beauty, Unforced Rhythms, Playdates with God.

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January 9, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
5 Comments

Where Righteousness Is at Home

Where righteousness is at homeThe world news are very upsetting, don’t you agree? Every week we read about some horrific news. It makes us homesick to God. We long for a place where righteousness is at home, where we can all be at peace. Blessedly, heaven is such a place and we are all invited. Even the price has already been paid by Jesus. Hence anyone who believes in Jesus is more than welcome there.

Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness. (2 Peter 3:11-13, MSG,*)

But how should we live now? I think it is essential to live a holy life. What do you think? What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness while waiting for all this to happen? Each of us need to make every effort to be found by Jesus living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless. Then we are ready to live forever where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found by him in peace—pure and faultless. (2 Peter 3:14, CEB,*)

Grace is utterly wonderful and it sure paves the way to heaven for us. But grace is also power to live according to God’s will. Hence we really do not have any excuses to not to do our very best in leading holy lives.

 

Gracious God,
Thank you for loving us so much.
Thank you for being holy and righteous.
Thank you for creating a place where righteousness is at home.
Thank you for inviting us there and providing the way to get there.
Thank you for empowering us to become holy like you.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: How are you reacting to the horrific news every week? Are you homesick to God?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you strive to be holy like your God is holy!

* [As you might have noticed, I enjoy reading the Bible in different translations and love comparing them. I have started linking the Bible verses to Biblegateway.com so you can easily read (and compare) them in the different versions I’ve used while preparing each post.]

Image courtesy of ochristian.com and creationswap.org, design Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Linking up today with Faith-filled Fridays, Five Minute Friday.

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January 7, 2015
by Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith
9 Comments

Proved Joy

I love joy. So anytime someone is writing a book on joy I am most likely to check it out. But when I heard Margaret Feinberg was writing a book on joy after battling cancer during the last year and half, I could hardly wait to get my hands on the book. Because this book was going to be war-tested and genuine book on real joy.

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. (1 Peter 1:7, MSG) And real joy put in the fire comes out of it proved joy.

Proved joy is real joy. It’s not just happiness. It’s not wish-washy. It’s not circumstantial. It’s God-ordained, God-inspired and God-breathed. It’s real even during the hardest battles of our lives.

Fight back with joy

Margaret writes in her brand-new book Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears “During the last year and a half, I felt my way through the darkness of despair and stared death in the face. Somewhere along the way God unveiled a spectrum of joy I had never experienced—from the joy expressed as lighthearted laughter in an impossible situation to the joy gained from hearing the deep voice of God during times of great pain.”

more than whimsy
Margaret continues “Through it all, I learned something startling: More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.” I want to learn to do this. I want to become an expert on proved joy. Make-believe joy will not do. With the word of Margaret “The true power of joy supersedes a chirpy disposition, candy-coated emotion, or saccharine fantasy. It’s far more tangible than any magical notion of clicking your heels and discovering your bliss.” Only real, proved joy will do. That’s why I can’t wait to read this book.

Blessedly, the wait is over! Fight Back With Joy is finally here! Check it out yourself and join me next two Wednesdays as I blog on the first two chapters of the book.

Gracious God,
Thank you for giving us real joy in you.
Thank you for this brand-new book on proved joy.
Thank you for blessing Margaret during her battle with cancer.
Thank you for healing her and strengthening her.
Thank you for teaching us how to fight life’s battles with joy.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Q4U: How do you fight life’s battles? Are you a friend of real, proved joy?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you live, work, play and fight with joy!

Image courtesy of Mari-Anna Stålnacke. Linking up today with Unite the Bloggersphere and #tellhisstory.

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