Category: thoughts 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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“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8

There was a man in the church where I grew up who prayed the most eloquent prayers I have ever heard. He would often pray during the service and when he did, I heard others talk about how beautiful his prayer was. He just had a way with words.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have come before God while I have been in places so dark and confusing that I could barely speak. The most I could utter was, “Help me. I need you, Lord.”

I’ve known many believers, both young and old, who don’t like praying out loud in a group because they don’t feel like they have the right words to say. But if we can get past the words and just share our heart, then we begin to open ourselves up to each other and align our wills with the heart of God.

Jesus taught that it is not the eloquence of speech that God desires when we come to Him in our need. In fact, the only ones who are impressed are other people. He doesn’t delight in fancy words. He delights in a heart that comes humbly to Him.

Even when we have no words, whether from joy or pain, the Spirit, who lives in us, knows our needs and prays for us (Romans 8:26). The Father knows what we need before we even ask. We only need to call out to Him.

Lord, I am thankful that you know me so well. Be near to me. Thank you for hearing what’s in my heart even if my words are few. Amen.

By Debbie West
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His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:10-11

Our culture loves sports. We cheer for those who can run the fastest, jump the longest, or catch a ball with skill. We honor athletes who make difficult feats look easy. We erect statues to them. We have halls of fame to honor their accomplishments. Many pay lots of money each year on merchandise representing their favorite team and player.

What about those of us who are not as skilled in sports? Does that make us less worthy? I dream about crossing the finish line in an Ironman competition. Chances are I’ll never have the time to train or the mental stamina to complete that massive goal.

Athletic goals are wonderful, but God values something more deeply. As great as it is to train, compete, and to honor those who accomplish great goals in the sports realm, I’m comforted that He primarily looks at the heart.

God created our physical bodies to run and play and do the work He has given us to do. I believe God enjoys seeing us use our bodies the way He made them to function. But He delights in a heart that is devoted to Him. He exalts those who humble themselves and yield to His plans. He honors those who spend time with Him in order to just get to know Him. Life is a marathon, but with God we can finish the race (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Lord, help me grasp the truth that your greatest delight is not in what I can do, but in my devotion to you. Amen.

Thought – Our culture is not so different from Biblical times. The people of the Bible were often guilty of overlooking the qualities of a person’s heart and seeing only the physical appearance or abilities. Read 1 Samuel 16 and see how God chose a king based on the heart, not on appearances.

By Debbie West

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We demolish arguments and every pretention 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

If I don’t think about everything that makes me anxious, what am I going to think about?” I asked my counselor. I had to laugh at hearing myself ask the question out loud. But for someone like me, who spent a great deal of mental energy worrying about things, I wanted to know what my life would look like if God could really change my mind.

Part of growing in Christ is thinking like Christ. Scripture is full of references to changing the way we think in order to mature in our Christian walk. Yet after accepting Christ as my Savior, I struggled for years with anxiety, fear, and depression.

The answer for me was realizing that I had never really thought about what I thought about. I didn’t know why one small disappointment spun me downward into a pit of depression. Once I prayed and asked God to show me where my thinking was veering off the right path, I began to see how my deep-seeded beliefs about myself were fueling my anxiety.

We all grow up with a certain belief system. Christian or not, our experiences, family of origin, and disposition inform our worldview. If we believe something contrary to God’s Word, like we’re not good enough, then anything that reinforces that lie can send our thoughts into a self-defeating cycle.

Taking the time to meditate on God’s Word and reflect on our own thoughts can help us “take our thoughts captive” and turn them to be more like Christ.

Lord, help me be more aware of the path my thoughts take throughout the day. By your Spirit, will you help me take any thought captive that does not please you and turn it around? Amen.

By Debbie West
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“…. give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

You know the saying, “You don’t ask, you don’t get?” God makes it clear in His Word that He wants us to ask Him for the things we need. When Jesus told His followers how they should pray, He included a request for “daily bread.” In other words, God wants us to come to Him for the daily necessities of life.

I think it is very easy for us to forget where our resources come from. Most of us are very independent when it comes to making a living. We work to earn an income so we can buy food, clothes, and a roof over our head. We may work long hours away to provide for our families. Sometimes we get so focused on our own efforts that we overlook the reality that God gives it all.

Jesus’ earthly brother James, wrote in his letter, You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:2) Could our lives be less hectic and our emotions be more balanced if we asked God every day to provide what we needed? The children of Israel were commanded to only gather manna (their bread) for the day. When they tried to store it up, it rotted.

Relying on God takes practice. Seeking Him daily through prayer and asking for what we need for the day means we must trust Him to provide. As we learn to trust in His daily provision, the anxieties of our own efforts are lessened.

Lord, give me this day what I need to serve and work. I trust you to do what you have said you will do and give me what I need today. Amen.

By Debbie West
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All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.1 Peter 5:5

What do you do when you hear that someone was hurt by something you did? I heard through some friends that another friend was upset with me. When they told me the reason why, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Seriously? That’s ridiculous! I was trying to help!”

Have you ever had a similar experience? Despite your best intentions, have you ever upset someone else? It’s likely we all have. So as a Christ-follower how do we handle it?

It’s easy to get defensive and express our frustration with the other person. But, in Scripture, God calls us to humble ourselves toward each other. The indignation we might feel is merely pride, which rubs against our relationships and is contrary to grace.

Now, God does not call us to be doormats or to be manipulated. The difference is, when we are humble, we choose to value other people as much as ourselves.

In the situation with my friend, I apologized in front of the group in case I’d done anything to overstep my bounds. Another member of the group said to me privately, “You didn’t have anything to apologize for. She was being overly sensitive.” I nodded. “Maybe so. But she is struggling right now and my relationship with her is more important to me than being right.”

When dealing with the Body of Christ, we have to take the attitude of our Savior Jesus who knew His rights as God, but chose to humble himself to be in right relationship with us.

Lord, guide me in my relationships with others. You said that the world will know we are your followers by the love we show to each other (John 3:35). Help me to set aside my pride and to act in humility. Amen.

By Debbie West
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But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20

Is serving God your obligation or passion?

I was sitting alone in a hotel room in Rome, thinking to myself, “Why am I here?” I grew up believing that in order to be a good Christian, I needed to do certain things. I believed my value was based in what I did for God. Then, God changed my heart. He began to show me what it meant to truly love Him and let that love motivate me to act.

I had committed to a mission trip, which included a week of training in Rome, then two weeks of service in Birmingham, U.K. In the middle of the week of training, I began to doubt my own intentions. As I prayed for clarity, God gave me Acts 4:20, which affected me deeply: “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

The early Christians were not motivated by obligation. They did not live their lives based on a rigid set of rituals. The early followers of Christ were compelled by something much more significant. Many had been in the presence of God in the form of the man, Jesus Christ. They had seen things they could not reason away. The sick had been healed. The dead had been raised. They had experienced a love and a power they had never felt before ? and they could not stop talking about it, even at the threat of imprisonment or death.

If any of us feel like our devotion to God is based on ritual or if we are trying to gain God’s favor by doing something for Him, we’ve got things upside down. We shouldn’t have to ask why we are doing what we are doing if our motivation is love ? for God, and for others.

Lord, why do I serve you? Search my heart and change me if my motivation is wrong. Let me never do anything to earn your love because I already have it. May I never serve from a need for recognition or out of obligation. Help me know you and serve out of the overflow of your love. Amen.

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Hebrew 11:34 God makes a practice of turning weakness into Strength

The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel … I will be with you.’” Judges 6:14,16

Israel was in trouble again. They had turned away from God again. And again God gave them over to their enemies. The Midianites came in like a swarm of locusts and destroyed crops and livestock. The Israelites were impoverished and cried out to God for help.

Just like He had done before, God heard their cries and he made a plan to fix things. He chose a man named Gideon to head up the army and get rid of the Midianites.

However, Gideon did not think he was qualified for the job. In fact, he was so hesitant, he asked God for sign after sign to make sure he was hearing God correctly. He was afraid of his family. He was afraid of the people in his town. He snuck around at night so the people wouldn’t see him. This was not the character of a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).

God makes a practice of turning weakness into strength (Hebrews 11:34). Time and time again in scripture we see how God chose the ones least likely to succeed. He chose the youngest, the ones with bad reputations, and the ones with physical limitations. In Gideon, he chose a very fearful man to lead an army.

Why does God choose the weak? God’s answer to Paul, recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9 is that, “[God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” Our faith and courage cannot be grounded in our own abilities, but in the strength of our God to carry us.

Lord, help me take pride in my weakness because it is through weakness that your power is on display. Amen.

By Debbie West
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Prov. 29:25- “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but,  whoever trusts in the Lord  is kept safe.”

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.Proverbs 29:25

Ten months ago I was diagnosed with depression. Stress, over-commitment and lack of sleep sent me into a downward spiral. My body was in a state of constant tension and my mind could not power down. I had a hard time just dealing with daily life. God allowed me to go through a deep valley where I had never been before and the perfectionist inside me had to admit to herself and to Him that she did not know how to get out. I needed help.

Through counseling, I’ve discovered that I have an unhealthy need for others’ approval. I want to be known as the woman who has it all together. Some counselors call it co-dependency. The Bible calls it the “fear of man.” It is an ever-present trap in our world. It keeps us dangerously busy trying to earn our worth.

The motives for our busyness are not wrong. We want to be the best wives, husbands, parents, employees or church members we can be. The problems come when we find our value in all the things we’re involved in, not in who we are in Christ. In many cases, as in mine, our busyness also affects our mental state and physical health.

Through God’s restoring power in my life, I have more peace and less anxiety. I’ve learned that He loves me as I am, imperfections and all. He will guide me if I take the time to be still and listen to His voice.

God, my life is busy. Show me where I need to say “no” in my schedule so that I can say “yes” to spending time with you. Amen.

Thought: Today, schedule 15 minutes to be alone with God. Thank Him for the blessings in your life, and thank Him for the lessons you’ve learned in the valleys as well. Ask Him what He wants to say to you that you may have been too busy to hear.

By Debbie West
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Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

I remember talking to one of my ministry leaders at church a few years ago about service. He explained to those of us who had volunteered for the worship team about his belief that we were more than volunteers. We were called to serve in that position.

I squirmed in my seat a little and said, “But to me, serving means sacrifice, and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing. I don’t have to lead worship on Sunday. I get to lead worship.

He said, “But you make sacrifices of your time to prepare for Sunday morning. You have to memorize lyrics and get your heart ready to lead people in worship. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because you are operating in your giftedness and calling.”

Like a piece of art reflects the heart of the person who made it, we reflect the heart of God. We do it best when we serve with joy in an area where we use our unique gifts, talents, and temperaments. Some of us are great teachers. Others are great administrators. Still others understand technical issues and can solve complex problems. Maybe we do that thing for a living, or maybe we simply do it for our neighbors, our coworkers, or those in need. Whatever it is, never consider it unimportant because it doesn’t quite feel like a sacrifice. Thank God that you can glorify Him by fulfilling that for which He created you.

God, thank You for creating me with unique gifts, and show me how I can glorify You through those gifts. Amen.

By Debbie West

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You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

There are a lot of angry people out there these days. I see it all over the media. People are upset over perceived betrayal, injustice, and prejudice.

I think some of the anger is justified. We are, after all, a world made up of imperfect people. But I have learned that anger is a masking emotion. Anger covers over other issues brewing deeper within us. Probably the most common feeling that anger attempts to disguise is fear. When our confidence in the things we trust is shaken, we get scared, and we get angry.

When we trust the doctor to make a correct diagnosis, but our loved one doesn’t get better, fear sets in. When the job we were counting on falls through, we panic. When the spouse on whom we put our trust walks out, it shakes us to our core. Where there is fear, there can be no peace. It is difficult to look past the things we see around us and trust that everything is going to be okay.

God, however, never defaults on His promises. He never walks away. He never gets it wrong. God’s Word tells us that He is a rock when everything else we may put our trust in is sand. He is able to move the mountains and part the waters ? for our protection and safety. When we make up our minds to depend on God and His provision for our lives, despite our circumstances, He sets our minds at perfect peace.

Lord, if I am depending too much on my ability and circumstances to bring me peace, help me train my mind to put my trust and dependence on you. Amen.

By Debbie West
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I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:12-13

God, when is it going to be my turn?”

I’ve asked that question more times than I can count. I’ve watched over and over as people close to me have gotten married and started their families. I’ve cried and wondered what was wrong with me. My heart has been broken over relationships I thought might be the one for which I was waiting.

I spent many years struggling with being single. My mind and my heart seemed constantly restless. Then, somewhere along the road, it got better. As I pursued and obeyed God, He opened my eyes to the blessings I have right now.

The Apostle Paul knew what it was to live a life he never planned. Paul was educated as a Pharisee (a very learned Jewish leader of the time). He was well respected, even feared. Paul was also a Roman citizen with all the perks that came with that. He was a powerful man in the early days after Jesus’ crucifixion. Acts 7:58, 8:3, 9:13-14

With all that he had going for him, one encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus changed everything. He went from privilege to hardship. He embraced a completely different life and learned how to be content, no matter what. His peace came through the strength Christ gave him.

We all struggle with life’s circumstances. Very few of us have the life we imagined when we were young. But, like Paul, we can find our peace in knowing that God is in control and that His plan for us is perfect.

Lord, I am struggling. I want to be okay with my present circumstances but I can’t get there. I admit I want something else. Show me how to be at peace. Amen.

By Debbie West
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I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

It’s easy to get discouraged when we look at the world around us. There is so much poverty, violence, immorality and just plain rudeness. The news is filled with discouragement. The streets are filled with angry drivers. Some of our workplaces are filled with impatient customers.

Some days it’s hard to find something good to hold on to. It’s comforting to think that a day will come when we will be in Heaven and away from the troubles we have here on Earth.

As nice as it is to look forward to that day, God also promises to bring us good days now. David expressed his confidence in the fact that he would see God’s goodness while he still walked on Earth. This was the key for David: he knew his hope of seeing “goodness in the land of the living” was being intimately connected with God. He longed to dwell in God’s company and He knew that God would love and protect him.

We, like David, can walk with God daily and experience His goodness in our lives. Meditation on His word, time spent in prayer, desiring to do things His way and a confidence that He wants to bless us, are the keys to experiencing His goodness now. God is still incredibly good when the world feels ugly, and He wants us to taste and see His goodness daily.

Lord, I wait confidently for Your goodness in my life. Even if I can’t see it now, I believe it is coming. Amen.

Thought:  Change your focus. Decide to believe that good things are on their way. Say this out loud: “I will see the goodness of the Lord“.

By Debbie West

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Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

When is praise to God a sacrifice?

It is a sacrifice when I feel like complaining about my circumstances, but I choose to accept them. If I want to truly praise God, I must be content where He has placed me, trusting that He has a reason for my challenging circumstances.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:10).

It is a sacrifice when I feel justified in holding on to a hurt, but still choose to forgive. A heart that truly praises God must release past hurts to live in the freedom of God’s love.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

It is a sacrifice when I want what I want, but choose to be happy with what He gives me. Accepting the resources God has given me makes me grateful for all that comes from His hand.

When you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things” (Psalm 104:28b).

Praising God means we sacrifice our right to hold grudges and to choose our own paths. We lay down our wants, desires, and hurts on the altar to die. True praise comes from a grateful heart, which comes from someone who gratefully acknowledges the sovereignty of God in his or her life.

Lord, help me be grateful for what you have given me. I praise you, Lord, because you give me good things. Amen.

By Debbie West
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“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8

Lately I’ve encountered many well-meaning people who are frustrated with trying to support their family members. My friend Alyssa has helped her older brother get out of one financial mess after another, only to see him make the same bad decisions over and over again. Another friend, David, is dealing with a family member who is mentally ill but refuses to stay on her medication. She goes from crisis to crisis and calls David to bail her out.

Both Alyssa and David want to follow Paul’s instructions to take care of their families. But, like so many others, they deal with the frustration and guilt of wanting to throw up their hands and walk away.

Paul wrote about helping our family, but he also spoke about personal responsibility. In letters to the Thessalonians, he encouraged the believers not to be idle and not to be dependent on anybody. Jesus didn’t pick up the lame beggar, He told the man to pick up his mat under his own power and walk (John 5:8).

When confronted with a similar situation, it is important to get wise counsel and know you are not in this alone. Have the courage to only offer the kind of help that will encourage your family member to take responsibility and stand on his or her own two feet.

God, give comfort and wisdom to the ones who don’t want to see their loved ones hurting. And give them the courage to set boundaries that encourage personal responsibility. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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