Category: thoughts by Debbie West

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“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” Psalm 77:11

A few years ago in my journey toward healthy living, I came to a game-changing realization. Despite my efforts to the contrary, I was a very unstable person. I was highly susceptible to feelings of inadequacy. Perceived rejection or loneliness led me down a road toward anxiety and depression. On the other hand, words of encouragement sent my spirits through the roof.

I lived on a roller coaster controlled by my emotions and other people’s opinions. If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster, you know they are great fun. But nobody wants to live on one.

My breakthrough came when I understood that I could choose. I could ride along with the emotions or I could step out of the car and choose to act on the truth of God’s Word.
The writer of Psalm 77 understood the same principle. His mind was troubled. He could not be comforted. God seemed far away.

Then he thought about the times when God had been there. He remembered God’s power and His miracles of the past. The writer decided to focus on the goodness of his God rather than on his current troubles.

We don’t know if the writer got an answer from God about his problems. But he ended the psalm focused on stories of God’s might and His faithfulness to His people. No matter what our feelings tell us, we can choose to live in peace and confidence of God’s goodness and His love for us.

God, Your Word records Your faithfulness toward Your people. Remind me of those things when I’m discouraged and can’t feel You near. Amen.

By Debbie West
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”For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

During a political campaign, not only does a candidate try to convince voters that they have the experience for the job, they also try to show that they understand voters’ concerns. Citizens want to elect representatives who understand the issues they face daily and can therefore make those challenges known to the government.

The same must be true of the one who represents us to God Almighty. Our representative is Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The relationship Jehovah God established with Israel involved a priest who represented the people and pleaded their case. In Jesus’ day, the High Priest was the chief religious authority. Yet He was often set apart, inaccessible and unfamiliar with their daily lives and struggles.

But Jesus walked among us, fully God and fully man. He got thirsty and hungry. He had family and friends. He was loved and He was betrayed. He was tempted just like we are, but He never gave in. When Jesus went to Heaven after His resurrection, He became our High Priest, pleading our case to the highest authority, God the Father. What a perfect representative Jesus makes!

Because we have such a perfect representative, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:16

Lord, I am so thankful for a representative who understands my challenges. In the name of Jesus, my High Priest, forgive me of my sin and hear my requests. Amen.

Today, tell God an issue you have been hesitant to talk to Him about. With new confidence in the grace and understanding of Jesus, ask Him for what you need.

By Debbie West
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Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 13:11

I saw a T-shirt online this week that made me laugh because I think it applies to me. It read, “Wait a minute, let me overthink this.”

I’ve come to realize that I spend a great amount of time preparing to do something and less time actually doing it. I am so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing that I over-analyze or talk myself out of doing anything. But when I do something, I often ruminate on it over and over again. The desire to be perfect can be paralyzing.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about what would happen to them as believers. He knew they would be persecuted for their faith. But Jesus encouraged them by promising they would not be alone. When they were asked to defend their faith, the Holy Spirit would give them the right thing to say in the moment they needed it.

I don’t think it is a mistake to know Scripture in order to promote the Gospel to others. But we can’t dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit in moments when we speak to others about Christ’s salvation and his work in our lives. If fear of saying the wrong thing overtakes us, we could possibly neglect the most important work of the Gospel — telling those who are lost about God’s love.

No matter if we are defending our faith or we are sharing God’s Word with someone far from him, the Spirit inside us will guide our words so that, as Mark recorded, “..it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

Lord, help me not give in to fear when speaking about you. Give me confidence in the Spirit’s ability to give me the right words to say at the right time. Amen.

By Debbie West
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All the trees of the field will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’” Ezekiel 17:24

National Park. Tall trees cover the landscape and give life to animals of all kinds.

As a native of North-Central Texas, I’m not used to trees that tall. Our trees are typically short enough that we can see clouds rolling in and the storms approaching from miles away. So, for me to be surrounded by the trees of Yellowstone was humbling. To glance down at my feet and see a cone, knowing that the tree next to me began like that, caused me to just stand in awe.

As I go through my life, I try to have everything planned out.

I’m four steps ahead, knowing what my next move will be. I’m confident in my own abilities. Then, often, without warning, I will find myself in the presence of something so much bigger than I am, that I’m forced to stop and consider how big God is and how small my plans are.

He created the tree and he is able to dry it up with one word. With another word he sprouts a seed in its place. He brings the rain and the sun to make it grow.

This same God is able to clear the path for me in my life, and the same for yours. With a word, barriers fall and circumstances change. The impossible becomes possible. Hearts are turned and relationships restored. He is always faithful.

God says to each of us, “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.

Lord, show me how big you are. Help me see you for who you really are. Amen.

By Debbie West
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You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17

King David is one of the great men of the Bible. He is held in high esteem among Christians and Jews as a pillar of the Faith.

But a closer look shows just how broken David was. Though he was known as a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), David was far from perfect. His affair with Bathsheba and the plot to kill her husband did not reflect the heart of God at all. To his credit, when confronted with his sin, David repented.

The prophet Nathan told David that, because of his actions, his household would be filled with violence and his infant son would die. In response to this news, the king could have been angry with God and turned away from him in defiance. Instead, David’s heart broke over his own pride and he fell into a deep sorrow. As his son lay near death, tradition says David wrote Psalm 51. In it, David pleads with God for mercy. He asks God to make him clean. He offers God a sacrifice, not of an animal, but his heart.

David knew what is still true today. God doesn’t want our money or the ritual of our religion. He wants us. Like the woman who poured her tears on Jesus’ feet, God cherishes a heart that is broken over sin and desires to be his. Come to the throne of God, where he will make you whole again, and ask for his mercy.

Lord, you will not turn away a heart that is broken. Take this heart and make it whole again. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” Mark 4:40

Being from North Texas, I am quite familiar with storms. I can recall many occasions when I was hunkered underneath a mattress, in a closet or bathroom, listening to the local radio weathermen report on the track of tornadoes in the area. When conditions are right, tornadoes can touch down without much warning. It is important to stay alert and safe.

When we experience storms in life, how do we tend to act?

Do we fearfully take cover, waiting for the storm to pass and life to get back to normal? Does God give us another directive?

The disciples were terrified when they found themselves on a small boat in the middle of a great storm. Yet, Jesus was so calm, He was asleep. The disciples feared the worst. They reacted the way most level-headed people would. They were even appalled that Jesus was not as frightened as they were. His apparent lack of concern was troubling to them. So they woke Him up.

Jesus asked them a simple, yet profound question,

Why are you so afraid?

Jesus linked their fear with their lack of faith.

If we ask ourselves the same question Jesus asked His disciples, we might come to a better understanding of ourselves and of our view of God. If He truly is all-powerful and loving toward us, then we can be at peace and trust Him to take care of us in the middle of the storms.

God, You command us many times in Your Word not to fear. Help us understand the root of our fears and help us see circumstances in the proper perspective. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

The mind is like a super-highway. Our thoughts travel roads called neural pathways that are formed from the time we are very young. Some well-traveled paths become wide and deep, like roads we travel every day. These thoughts end at beliefs, which are also formed over time and make up our character and the way we handle life.

When something happens to us, our thoughts automatically travel on the path we’ve built for them and end up reinforcing the beliefs we’ve learned. For example, when we feel rejected over a relationship or a job, our thoughts might travel the path that says, “I’ll never be good enough.

We can keep those beliefs as our reality, or we can change them. Brain research is showing us that we can change the paths our thoughts travel by being mindful of them. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a renowned researcher of the mind, says it this way, “The mind controls the brain, not the other way around.” The Bible says, take captive every thought...”

When we begin the practice of thinking about our thoughts and where they go, we can change our lives. Instead of spiralling into depression when we experience conflict or pain, we can create new paths that build on new beliefs of God’s love, grace and His perfect plan for our lives.

The choice is ours. Do we continue to let our thoughts travel on auto-pilot and lead us to despair? Or do we begin to really think about our thoughts and use God’s Word to change our destination?

Lord, open my eyes to how my thoughts are controlling me and how I can begin controlling my thoughts to bring them in line with your Word. Holy Spirit, teach me how to replace my “stinkin’ thinkin’” with the truth. Amen.

By Debbie West

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The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

I like watching American football. There’s something about the fighting, the clawing, the tremendous effort it takes for players to take the ball those last few important inches.

Whatever the sport, we get excited when an athlete pushes forward with every ounce of grit they possess to score, win, or make it first across the finish line. We honor the fight.

However, in our relationship with God, restraint and rest are often required instead of fighting. Throughout the Bible there are stories of God’s people getting ready for battle, only to be told by God to be still. In Exodus 14, when the Egyptians were on their heels, God told Moses to tell the people to just be still. In Joshua 6, instead of mustering all of their strength to attack Jericho, the Israelites were instructed to march around the city and enjoy an easy victory. When two great armies came against Judah in 2 Chronicles 20, God told them that they would not have to fight, because he would deliver them.

I cannot count the number of times I have worn myself out getting ready for a battle I knew was coming. I planned what I would say and how I would respond to the other person. There were far fewer times when I paused and asked God to fight for me. What anxiety I could have given up in exchange for peace in him!

God promises to fight for us. We don’t have to live with anxiety over the battles. We can live with peace knowing that God’s got this.

Lord, help me trust you in the battles I face. Increase my peace as I let you fight for me. Thank you for your promise. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“Then Peter stood with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd”  Acts 2:14b

I remember as a shy, quiet kid, wishing I could stand up to people with different opinions. I was so fearful of what people thought of me that I wouldn’t risk stating a different viewpoint.

Even as an adult, I face times when I have to decide if I believe something strongly enough to stand alone in my beliefs, especially when the stakes are high. Living a godly life when others around me are not can be hard. Sometimes a job or a friendship is at stake. In some parts of the world, loss of family or loss of life are real dangers when going against the established authority.

The Apostle Peter gave in to his fear when he denied that he knew Jesus. Though he had been a close, trusted friend to Jesus, Peter feared being associated with a man whom the authorities considered a criminal.

Yet just a short time later, the book of Acts records Peter speaking to crowds of people, accusing them of killing the Son of God and calling them to repent and follow Him. (Acts 2:22-41) A little while later, Peter and John stood before a council of Pharisees (Acts 4:1-20) and spoke boldly about what they had seen and heard.

What brought about the change? Where did this boldness come from that replaced Peter’s fear? It came as a result of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Peter addressed the crowd after the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost. (Acts 2:2) He spoke to the Pharisees while being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 4:8)

When the Spirit of God is present, fear is overcome by boldness as we step out in faith.

Lord, fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may live a godly life and proclaim Your Word with boldness.

Thought:  Write down an area of your life where you wish you had more boldness. Pray for fresh empowerment by the Holy Spirit so you may walk in confidence.

By Debbie West
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“And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

Over the course of my life, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out God’s will. When I was in high school, I needed to know what college to go to. When I was in college, I wondered if my major was right. After college, I looked for the right job, the right place to live, the right church, and the right one to marry.

In our modern society, we have a lot of choices for our lives. Even within our talents and gifts, many opportunities are available to us in regards to where we live, work, worship, shop, and so on. As a result, choosing our path can be more complicated that it needs to be.

1 John 3:23 states God’s desire for us very simply: believe in Jesus Christ and love people. That’s it. That is how God wants us to spend our time here on earth. If you want to fulfill your purpose, do those two things, wherever you are. No matter what job you have, you can love God. No matter where you live, you can love the people along your path. In your everyday existence you will come across people who need God’s love through your warmth, your love, and your kindness.

God gives us gifts and talents to use for His glory. But the biggest influence we might have for the kingdom of God is seeking Him with all of our hearts and serving the people who surround us.

Lord, as I get to know You better, help me love other people better. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said,Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  Mark 15:39

Throughout his life, Jesus affected people on many different levels. Some responded to the miracles he performed. Some followed Jesus after he healed them. Others were drawn in by his radical teachings.

A Roman centurion, who had a brief encounter with Jesus at the cross, may have gone to work that day expecting no more than to oversee yet another crucifixion. Or maybe he knew about the uproar over Jesus and expected a hectic day of keeping order among rising tensions in Jerusalem. Regardless, this centurion, who had probably seen many people die at the hands of the Roman Empire, saw something different in Jesus’ death.

This story always makes me pause. In the middle of chaos, when others were in despair over the tragic turn of events, this Roman, a professional killer, had a moment of clarity and saw Jesus for who he really was.

We never know how a person will come to faith in Christ. Maybe it’s a kind gesture from a neighbor. Maybe an invitation to a Bible study, where questions are asked and debated, will lead them to believe. It might take a hundred different encounters to draw someone to Jesus.

We never know how our actions and words will affect someone, or how our prayers may turn someone’s heart to seek a deeper relationship with Christ.

Perhaps some people need to hear your story of faith. Pray for the people around you. Show kindness when possible. Point others to Jesus.

Lord, show me who needs to see you today. How can I reflect your love to those around me? Lead me by your Spirit to those who need you. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid…. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….’”
Genesis 50:19-20

Joseph had every reason to be bitter: his brothers had just sold him into slavery. One could argue that he had it coming: his dad played favourites and Joseph really rubbed it in with his older brothers.

After being sold, he ended up in Egypt. After working his way into a good position, he was thrown into prison for two years. Even though he became a powerful man in the end, many would say he had a right to hold a grudge against his family.

Somewhere through a lot of ups and downs in his life, Joseph learned the value of forgiveness. When his brothers came to him in a time a great need, Joseph chose to put his hurt and anger behind him and acknowledge that God had used every circumstance for good. Many lives were saved through events that had originally caused him great pain.

Forgiveness is something that can be misunderstood. From small irritations to major life-changing hurts, we all need to forgive. It’s a choice, and it’s also a process. Often a hurt must be dealt with before forgiveness can come.

Most of all, forgiveness is for us, not our offenders. It releases us to live in freedom and to learn from the hurts in our past. But it’s not for weaklings; it makes us stronger.

Lord, show me if I need to forgive. Deal with my hurt and guide me to set things right before You and others. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life….” Matthew 6:25a

Worry and anxiety constantly plague us. We worry about completing our to-do lists, what our bosses or co-workers think of us, or having enough money to make it through the month. It sometimes gets to the point where we don’t feel right if we’re not worried about something.

I know people who find part of their identity in being worriers and who actually define themselves by it. But when Christians do this, it seems like a major contradiction. Worry is another word for fear. And in God’s Word, the message is clear: do not worry (Matthew 6:25). Do not fear (Isaiah 41:10).

In 2 Timothy 2:7, Paul writes that God did not give us a “spirit of fear.” So if fear is not from God, then it can be defeated through the work of God’s Spirit in us and through the renewing of our minds in Christ. Changing our fearful minds is hard work, but the Apostle Paul challenges us to “work out our salvation” with the fear of God, not out of fear of the world around us (Philippians 2:12).

Our world is full of frightening things. We are all works in progress. But when someone becomes a believer in Christ, that person gains the power to overcome fear. We are children of the One who created the world and everything in it, and co-heirs with Christ who overcame the world (Romans 8:15-17; John 16:33).

Lord, I recognize that worry is an attempt to control things over which I have no control. Fear rules in my mind when the things and people around me seem bigger and stronger than You. Forgive me and help me switch my thinking from fear to trust in You. Amen.

Thought: Write down some of the things you worry about on a regular basis. Ask God to show you where this worry comes from. Then ask Him to help you take steps to overcome the habits of worry and anxiety.

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t really know. Take some time to get to know God in “The Spirit-Filled Life.

By Debbie West
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“…Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

The news reported the attempted robbery. A young man tried to hold up a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Texas, but in the process was caught and arrested.

The news crew spoke to the store manager. He had sat with the teen while the police took statements. He told the young man that he had a bright future ahead of him if he would only turn from the path down which he was headed. Instead of condemning him, the manager showed that he cared about him. When the reporter asked why he had taken time with the young man this way, he replied, “It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.”

Don’t we serve an amazing God? He loves us even in our rebellion. He cares for us even when we make the same bad decisions over and over again. While we continue in our self-destructive ways, he is still there, speaking life.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tries to convince the early church not to condemn those who do wrong because God has shown them such grace. How can we show the grace of God if we judge others? No one wants to be in relationship with someone who they think disapproves of them. No one wants to know a God they think will zap them at every wrong move.

It’s the love of God that brought each one of us into a loving relationship with him and it’s our job to show that to the world.

Lord, help me remember that it was your love and kindness that brought me close to you. Teach me how to show that to others. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.” Numbers 9:17

I put a lot of thought into figuring out God’s will for my life. I don’t know about you, but I fret over where I need to work or live. I pray and ask God if I’m headed in the right direction. I want to make sure I am following where he leads.

Though my intentions are good, I don’t think following Jesus is as complicated as I like to make it. A local radio personality puts it this way, “We are called to love God and serve people.” It’s that simple.

When the Israelites left Egypt, God led them to the Promised Land. Along the way, God appeared in the form of a cloud above the camp. All they had to do was follow the cloud. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. Sometimes the cloud settled for several days. Sometimes it was only there for one day. God’s people never knew how long they would stay in one place. They simply followed the cloud.

I suppose we modern Christians tend to think we need a long-term plan in order to follow Jesus. Just as with business or personal goals, we like to map out where we want to be in 5 or 10 years. I think we all need to remember that God will lead us when we need to move. His Spirit will show us the way. We merely need to know Him so that we recognize his voice and move when he tells us to.

Lord, help me relax when it comes to your will for my life. Help me to know you so that I know when you tell me to stay or go. Amen.

By Debbie Wet
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