Author Archives: vickitillman

About vickitillman

I've finished homeschooling my 5 kids. I still have a life :)

Spiritual Growth, Contemplation and the Real World

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Spiritual Growth, Contemplation and the Real World. How to find God's gift when much of the world has gone mad.

The older one gets, the more one must work to grow (as in continuous growth is a necessity…and it’s hard work). That’s what I am finding.

It applies across the board:

  • If I quit working at physical health, my body will deteriorate.
  • If I quit learning, my mind will deteriorate.
  • If I quit hungering and thirsting after righteousness, my spirit will deteriorate.

Thus, spiritual growth is a mandate. I imagine that spiritual growth will last eternally, not just for my time on earth. I have long wanted to be a mature (or as Paul said it: perfect) Christian. Hopefully I arrive someday.

Here are the ways I am working on my spiritual growth. The easy ones first, then the tough one: Contemplation in the face of the real world…

I seek God’s face.

Where is He showing himself to me today? I look for his handiwork in the world around me. I look for his movement in the people around me. I look for his guidance in my own spirit. Psalm 27:8 says: When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, shall I seek.

I humble myself.

I have a friend remind me once that God is God and I am not. A great fallacy of my job as a counselor is believing that everyone must be healed and whole, that the world must be just and right…and that God needs to follow my plan for making it so. I Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…

I read God’s word.

Really. God bothered to share his wisdom in the Bible. When I keep myself current in my knowledge of his word, I am less likely to fall for the nonsense that sometimes passes as religious teaching but has nothing to do with what God said. Matthew 4:4…Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

I pray.

Often I pray a formal prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer. Mostly I pray in intercession for my nation, all those in authority, all people- especially those I care about and those who have made themselves my *enemies* (all the more important since I can’t run the universe). II Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.

I listen (wait).

It’s easy to be too busy to listen, but I’ve learned he speaks in a still, small voice…even when I’m not listening. The minute I slow down and listen, he is waiting to share his love, wisdom, peace and courage. Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

When I’m hungry and thirsty for food, I engage in behaviors that will satisfy that need.When I pay attention to my spirit, there is hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus said that I am blessed when I hunger and thirst for righteousness and that I shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

The behaviors that are just and right for me are: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). In other words, righteousness for me is doing what is right and merciful towards others (especially those who are weaker or in need) and remembering that God alone gives me the power to do so.

Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness.

I contemplate.

Currently, the most important way to care for my spirit is contemplation. There are many definitions of contemplation, so I have digested them into: Contemplation is holy noticing. Where ever I am, God is there and is. In him I live and move and have my being. Acts 17:28

When I live contemplatively, I am awake to him and notice what he is doing and being.

That’s huge. Of course it is. It is overwhelming to contemplate an infinite God.

On my latest silent retreat, I found a book that summarized some practices that is helping me grow in contemplative health.

The practices I am working on are from The Rule of Benedict and says that the contemplative life has 4 dimensions:

  1. Recognizing the presence of God in my life. I’m not any better than the prophet Jonah at running from God and I sure don’t want to be ignoring God. I simply need to graciously notice his presence. To do this, I need to ask him daily, “O God, come to my assistance…”.
  2. Accepting the gifts of others. This is easy when the gifts are lovely. However, some *gifts* are the opposite. I am learning to ask God’s assistance in accepting the fact that some others are blind, misguided or hateful. This is a gift to me when I am able to graciously notice those distasteful gifts and without joining the blindness, misguidedness or hatred, then hand it to God. Then I wait for his assistance to handle in mercy and truth the guidance he gives me. (Accepting the gift is important to me in these days, in the real world there is rudeness, greed and hatefulness that are accepted, taught and even glorified. I don’t need to be drawn into the brokenness but can speak the truth in love as God leads, then allow God to tend my heart while hoping for his healing of this broken nation.)
  3. Let go of false expectations in daily life. Step 1 on this is recognizing what a *false expectation in daily life is*! Ugh. But letting go opens me up to the submission to his will, which is the point of it all, anyway.
  4. Receive others kindly. Knowing my limitations, I can accept them. That does not mean to agree with them or kowtow to them. It does mean in the power that grace gives, I can treat them kindly.

Someday, I long to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant.

 

How to Take Time on New Year’s Eve for Reflection

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how to take time on New Year's Eve for reflection VickiTalksPrayer.com (1).jpg

When we think of New Year’s Eve, we often think of:

  • Preparation for a party with friends and family or Watch Night Service at church
  • Creating your new New Year’s Resolutions

That’s good stuff. Here’s another thought that might be personally life-changing. What if you dedicate a few minutes of reflection about the outgoing year and the important things you have experienced or learned?

Spending time in reflection might sound airy-headed, but it I think it is simply a practice of wisdom. How can you truly learn about yourself if you don’t slow down and think about what has happened in life, what is good and not-so-good in yourself (and in life) AND what God is doing?

If we all spend a few minutes thoughtfully reviewing the past year, we might learn something that will help us in the New Year.

Here’s how to take time on New Year’s Eve for reflection:

Choose a block of time that is realistic to you (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 2 hours, whatever is realistic for you).

  • Grab a journal or open a document.
  • Create some heading on things that would be valuable for your reflection:
    • Things you are grateful for this year (large and small)
    • Significant events from this year (wonderful, weird or tragic)
    • Important people in your life this year
    • Challenges you overcame, survived or made progress on this year
    • Successes you experienced this year
    • Good things you have done for others this year (large or small)
    • Ways you have seen God’s hand, support, intervention (or felt His silence, which is also valuable- He means many things by His silence)
    • Questions you have for God and for yourself in the upcoming year

When you are done, you will know yourself and God’s work in and through you better. It might even help you set your New Year’s Resolutions.

New Year's Reflection VickiTalksPrayer.com.jpg

How to Take Time on New Year’s Eve for Reflection

 

A Prayerful Guide to Voting

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A Prayerful Guide to Voting Vicki Talks PrayerLet me just say it: Many Christians are sinful voters.

What on earth am I talking about? Let me explain.

Prayer people like me often love this verse as a foundation for our intercession:

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV

We intercessors then spend a lot of time praying that God will cause people (particularly non-Christians) to behave righteously.

But can I make a Biblical point? II Chronicles 7:14 says: If MY people.

It’s God’s people who need to turn from their wicked ways. I believe one of our wicked ways is: slothful voting.

Slothfulness is laziness. We Christians are often lazy. We vote what we are told to vote. We have an *assigned party* and we vote party line without ever checking in (and truly seeking his face and listening penitently) with God about His opinions.

I have noticed 4 things:

  1. Each major party has what I call a *golden carrot* that it dangles in front of it’s members to keep them voting with the party. This carrot is powerful and party members believe powerfully about it.
    1. For Republicans the golden carrot is abortion. For 40 years, abortion has been the one reason many people stay with the party. It is the only party that takes a pro-life stand. (I’m pro-life and have been watching this for 40 years.)
    2. For Democrats the golden carrot changes, but each election cycle the carrot is the one reason many people vote with the party. Right now the golden carrot is climate change.
  2. Each major party has no intention whatsoever to actually DO something meaningful about the golden carrot issue. Think about it:
    1. Republican party: Has there been any change toward pro-life legislation in 40 years? 40 years? Nope. Legislators often throw a weak bill into committee just to say they’ve done something or tack a regulation of abortion onto some other random bill knowing it will be dropped or the bill fail. But nothing meaningful.
    2. Democratic party: Is there lasting, powerful legislation about climate or the environment? Not really.
  3. Why is it that the golden carrot issues never get fixed? I believe that if legislators actually take action on these issues and the problem is solved, the *one issue* voters won’t need to stay with the party. Think about it.

This is where our slothfulness as voting Christians comes in.

What if God wants us to tackle these golden carrot issues in a more effective manner? What if the Holy Spirit has wisdom about these issues that we are not learning from Him because we don’t listen. We just vote the party line and forget about it.

You know the AA definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Here’s a question that leads into the 4th thing I’ve noticed:

4. God is not a Republican…or a Democrat. He’s God. His ways are not our ways.

What if we voting Christians become praying, seeking God, repenting of our laziness Christians? What if we open our hearts to God’s agenda, whatever that is?

In II Kings 19, King Hezekiah was faced with a hopeless situation. Jerusalem was besieged by the Assyrians who had just sent him a letter with totally non-PC threats of what they were soon going to do the the city’s residents.

Hezekiah had exhausted his options. The situation was hopeless.

So Hezekiah tore his clothes in repentance, took the letter to the temple, spread it out before the Lord and prayed.

This is what God wanted from Hezekiah. God sent the prophet Isaiah to him to let Hezekiah know that God was fed up with the Assyrians. In the morning, the king woke up to the news that an angel of the Lord had slain 185,000 Assyrians during the night and the rest had gone home.

We Americans aren’t in Hezekiah’s situation but we still need God’s help. What if we seek God’s help:

  • To identify what golden carrots are being dangled to manipulate us
  • To learn how God wants to handle the truly pressing issues of the time
  • AND Who God would like us to vote for in this election (it may come as a surprise)

May I encourage you to seek God’s face, pray and turn from any sinful/slothful voting ways? Wouldn’t it be cool if we aligned ourselves with God rather than one party? Let’s see what He will do in our nation.

The World is Not a Better Place

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I’ve been around a long time and learned a lot of things. Here is one thing I have learned recently: The world is not a better place.

I remember when I was a kid that grownups were telling us that each generation of humans were evolving to get better and better. They would say, “Look how much better the world is than back in the pioneer days!”

That generation of adults looked to my generation (the Boomers) with misty eyes, just knowing in their hearts that the wars they had fought and the economic despair of the Depression they had endured would be a thing of the past for our generation, or at least, our kids’ generation.

The adults back then would talk glowingly about how our democracy gets better and better with each generation. They knew that we would live in peace and prosperity. They sacrificed so much to bring the hope of a better world to my generation.

My generation is now nearing the hand-off to the present and future generations. And guess what?

The world is NOT a better place.

The world still is devolved into:

  • Wars and rumors of wars. (My adult kids don’t really remember a time when our nation hasn’t been actively engaged in military conflict.)
  • Hatred and distrust of other races and places. (Think about what it’s like being African-American and not knowing what will happen if you get pulled over for a traffic stop. Or what it’s like to be a Native American who wants clean drinking water and finds corporately funded, militarized *police* standing against their stand. Or to be an immigrant in our unfriendly environment. Or to be Jewish and just want to worship in safety.)
  • Greed, corruption, self-serving-ness in those with power and money. (I don’t have room for the examples…)
  • Egocentrism and lack of courtesy in everyday life.
  • (And lots of other rotten stuff)

The world is not a better place…

…unless you look at the things that may be more true than the evil and the not-better.

It is true there is bad, but it is more true that there are people who take prayer, like I Timothy seriously. They pray.

I Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV

I imagine that in God’s eyes, these prayers are more important than the greed and corruption that perpetuate poverty and hopelessness, the wars and hatred. Maybe in God’s economy, there’s a different *currency* than money?

Maybe what is richness in God’s economy is:

  • Graciousness
  • Courtesy
  • Fruit of the spirit
  • Justice

Maybe *the world being a better place* is not the present goal for God, but us being the better people is most valuable.

Maybe in God’s economy, a few humble, praying people are more valuable than a group of greedy politicians and businessmen who profit from being in power.

The world is not a better place…

…unless you look at behavior that may be more true than the evil and the not-better.

Maybe what is most true is that there are a few people who show grace and courtesy, who live life according to Micah.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

For instance, maybe the gracious act of the young man who courteously gave up his seat for me at an overbooked concert weighs more in God’s kingdom than the 3 young athletes and store employees that pushed in front of me during in my latest grocery store trip. I imagine that in God’s economy, 1 gracious young man is more valuable that 3 rude young people.

God’s economy is SO upside down from ours.

If we become better people, maybe we will seek God’s face before voting for any other greedy, bigoted, self-serving official to any level of government… Maybe God will give us wisdom to vote in wise and good men lead our local communities, states and nation.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV

Maybe if we seek God’s face, we will find His grace to live our personal lives justly, mercifully, humbly…more of the world will know grace and courtesy.

I’ve learned a lot of things over the years. One is that the world is not a better place.

But I’ve also learned that God has values and plans that are different than mine and He holds me (and all people) to a high level of accountability. He gives us mandates and we are required to live and act on them. Here are 3 mandates:

I Timothy 2:1-2, Micah 6-8, II Chronicles 7:14 (all quoted above)

I hope I will live closer and closer to that humble, God-seeking person He created me to become. I hope the same for my nation.

I want to choose to live gratefully in this present world because I know the more true world of God’s kingdom. (Even though, I admit it, I wish He’d just go ahead make the world a better place in the way I want…)

Want to pray together for our nation? I started an informal, non-political prayer group on Facebook. Join me? https://www.facebook.com/groups/553733668413863/

 

 

 

5 Christian Responsibilities to the Nation in Light of Scripture

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Praying together for the nationWhat a drab title!

However, that’s what I need to talk about: Christian responsibility to the nation in light of Scripture.

This is not about guilt: we can’t be perfect followers of Christ. (Few of us have time to move to a monastery and spend our days totally devoted to prayer and fasting.) However, we live in a day, where we Christians could seriously up our game. We have responsibilities.

There are mid-term elections coming up. We should definitely use our voices in casting our votes. Even more important, we need to is to get our priorities straight. If we do so, when we vote, we’ll hopefully have not only voted our conscience but also God’s will (rather than voting our political party’s conscience or social media’s pressure).

So, here are 5 Christian responsibilities in light of Scripture that we need to use to recalibrate ourselves:

Responsibility #1: Pray

I Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV

Seriously. Pray for our nation daily. No matter what we think about the people in charge of the nation, we need to pray for them to follow God’s directives, not their own greed, lust, confusion, or political pressures. We also need to pray for all people (not just *me and mine*).

What would happen if Christians truly prayed for all people, for leaders, for authority figures: that they follow God’s wisdom, guidance and goodness? What if we prayed for them to live in truth, to fulfill God’s mission (rather than their own)? Can you imagine a nation where the people, leaders and authority figures lived like that?

Responsibility #2: Live the Big 3: Justice, Mercy, Humility

There are 3 things God has shown us to do in order to live like He’s shown us to live:

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (KJV with Vicki’s updated verbs and pronouns)

Live the Big 3: Justice (Do justly)

This means to do what is right and just toward people and God’s creation. The word *justly* here is *mishpat*, which can be translated as *good deeds*.

Responsibility #3: Live the Big 3: Mercy

Love mercy 

This means to place high value in mercy. The Hebrew word for *mercy* is *chesed*, which connotes having loving-kindness toward people; and reverence and respect towards God.

Responsibility #4: Live the Big 3: Humility

Walk humbly with your God

Remember, we have the warning that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) We need to live with the consciousness that God is with us and attentive towards us. What would humility look like if we really believed that the God of the universe was watching us?

Responsibility #5: Seek God’s face, turning from our own wicked ways

Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV

Before we vote, before we post on social media, what if we do 2 things:

  • Seek God’s face
  • Turn from our *wicked ways* (biased presuppositions, selfishness, gullible-ness, stubbornness, greed, hopelessness)

What if we genuinely walk 2 Chronicles 7:14 with clear mind and conscience? What could God do through us and in our nation if we got the party pressures, social media pressures, peer pressures out of our hearts and concentrated on what God wants to do?

I’m praying daily for my nation. Want to join me? I’m going to work on justice, mercy, humility, seeking God’s face and turning from my own wicked ways. Want to give it a try? Let’s see what God wants to do!

I am starting a Facebook group for praying for our nation. I am endeavoring on Monday mornings to FB live a prayer for the nation for others to watch or join, plus a daily prayer for the nation. I will do this until the midterm elections, and if God leads, longer. Would you like to join me there?

5 Christian Responsibilities to the Nation in Light of Scripture

God’s Economy

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Ever feel like God doesn’t give a flip about what you are experiencing?

Of course, we all go through times where we pray and do our best to walk the walk of faith but it seems that our needs and desires are ignored by God.

I’m not going to do a Bible study here on the book of Job, the trials and tribulations of the apostle Paul or the prophet Jeremiah. I just wanted to take a minute and talk about God’s economy.

Economy is based on value. Human beings tend to value tangible things or things that we interact with :

  • Money
  • Time
  • Health
  • Fun
  • Family

We know by reading Scripture that God’s economy is based on some other things such as:

Love 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves is born of God, and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 ESV

Justice, Kindness, Humility

He has told you, O Man, what is good;

What does the LORD require of you

But to do justice, love kindness,

And walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 ESV

We need stuff, we need health, we need time. But sometimes, in God’s economy, what He appears to be valuing is something different than what we value.

Take for instance: The Story of Lots of Stress vs the Crickets.

There are lots of stressors in my life. Everyone has lots of stressors. What I’d like is for God to intervene and change the stressors. It seems logical to me that if God loved me, He would fix the tough circumstances, right? Easing the difficult things is an important value, in my opinion.

What I know from years of experience is that God is working in HIS economy and giving me gifts from HIS economy. His economy is different from mine. In His opinion, the things that have value are:

  • His grace
  • Some tangible things (not all the things I feel I need or want)
  • AND the beauty of the world around me. For instance: Right now it is August. In August where I live the crickets and cicadas sing ALL day long- loudly! In the early morning, the sun comes up all golden through a mist over the farm fields with the cricket and cicada songs at an almost deafening din.

In God’s economy, the crickets’ songs are more valuable than what I feel I genuinely need. God is abundantly giving me the more valuable things.

I wonder what it would look like if I could see God’s version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? (Maslow’s hierarchy defines needs going up a scale from physiological needs, to safety needs, to love and belonging needs, to esteem needs, and capping at self-actualization needs. We can’t truly proceed well to the next need if our lower need isn’t met.)

I wonder if God’s hierarchy of needs for us looks more like:

God’s love for us needs, to grace for daily living needs, to gifts of beauty needs, to giving/sacrifice/justice needs, to fruit of the spirit needs, and capping at worship needs.

I know God cares about the more tangible things, too, but in a different way than I do.

My job is to change my values. I can recognize my needs and wants. They have value, but in God’s economy, not as much value as the crickets’ songs.

In God’s economy the cicadas and the crickets are what are important. Those are his gifts to me.

God gives a flip and He gives gifts…gifts that He values from His economy. If I can tweak my values a little to notice His, then maybe it will strengthen me for the trails of the present.

A Little Twist on Faith

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A Little Twist on Faith

A Small Twist on Faith VickiTalksPrayer.com

Faith is a multi-faceted thing, don’t you think? In my many years of religious experience, I’ve had lots of opportunities to be educated about what *faith* is. Can you relate to any of these?

When I was a child, I was in a denomination that only used the word *faith* in the phrase *saving faith*.

Once I had confessed that I was a sinner and believed that God raised Christ from the dead (accepted Christ’s sacrifice), I had a saving faith. That was cool, but eventually I needed *faith* to be more than insurance against hell.

Saving Faith is one kind of faith VickiTalksPrayer.com

I had some learning time in a fundamentalist denomination where not only do you receive a saving faith but you learn that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17 KJV).

So learning the word of God (Scripture) was the way you helped your faith to come (or grow). That makes sense to me: How can I truly have a relationship with someone if I don’t know what they:

  • have done
  • do now
  • how they talk?

I learn about God from Scripture. In that fundamentalist denomination we focused on the Scripture:

2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for instruction, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (KJV)

Respect for Scripture and eagerness to learn about God through His word was strengthening to my faith, but it seems to me that faith is more than that.

Then I had some fun but name-it-and-claim-it… or *Word* churches. They took a totally different view about God. This *faith* was about God looking out for US.

In a harsh and uncaring world, I found it a great relief to know that God loves me and cares about the minutiae of my life. This kind of faith taught that Scripture knowledge was the door to growing faith so that I could know God better and be rewarded by receiving what we will.

It was sort of on the *God is a cosmic vending machine: I do my part and He’s required to do His part*. One of the big Scriptures we were taught was John 15: 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. (KJV)

Faith Comes Through Knowledge of God VickiTalksPrayer.com

After a while, I got tired of it. However, I do believe that faith is a thing that grows. It is fed by knowing who God is, by loving Him, and by time with Him. My faith tells me God cares about all the parts of my life. But I wanted more.

Recently, I was reading in Luke 17 during morning devotions. It is the story of faith and gratitude. Here is the story (thanks to BibleGateway.com)

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (KJV)

It seemed to me that Jesus was appreciating the leper’s gratitude. Jesus was connecting faith and gratitude and healing for the leper.

What this story said to me is that gratitude is a KIND of FAITH.

Luke 17 affirmed to me what I’ve already been experiencing. As a prayer discipline, I’ve been keeping a daily written gratitude list for about a year now. As I’ve noted the big and small things that I have to be grateful for, it has helped me calibrate my soul with the way that God does things. This has, I believe, given me a deeper and quieter faith.

I had never thought of faith and gratitude as being interconnected. It was a *twist on faith* for me.

Gratitude is offering my faith back to God VickiTalksPrayer.com

Understanding faith is a journey for me. So far I’ve learned that there’s:

  • Saving faith
  • Faith that grows as we learn about God through Scripture
  • Faith in a God who looks out for us
  • Faith given back to God in the form of gratitude

What have you discovered about faith? What helps your faith grow?

A Little Twist on Faith