Category: <span>thoughts by Debbie West</span>

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.

By Debbie West
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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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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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Man alone son friend fog

“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.

By Debbie West
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Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5&6

In the fall of 2013 I found myself in a very deep pit. I was over-committed, exhausted, stressed out, and severely depressed. Circumstances and habits of worry had started me on a downward spiral that ended in extended time off from work, counseling, and medication. I knew I had to make some permanent changes in my life.

Thankfully, I got the help I needed and I began to dig my way out of the pit. Little by little I began to find my footing and learned how to put margins in my life and live healthier. In the beginning, I remember how much it meant to me when someone told me, “You’re going to get through this. You will get better.

Not only did I get better, I gained more than I ever imagined through the experience. I found my strength and I found my voice.

Read more of Debbie’s story of burnout. https://issuesiface.com/burnout

Looking back on the whole, horrible experience, I see what a precious gift it was. My life and health was entirely in God’s hands — and only then could I experience His strength to get me through. It is a gift I share with other people now. Some people live with the shame of mental health issues like depression, but I found that being open about my experience has forged strong relationships with other people who struggle with similar issues. My story has helped others get out of their own pit and have hope that life can get better.

God, help me be truly thankful for the hard things and send my way others whom can benefit from my story. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Friends talking & listening

Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.Proverbs 10:19

We live in a world that won’t stop talking. We have 24-hour news stations. We can watch video after video on YouTube. Radio talk shows want listeners to call in or tweet their opinions on certain stories. Our society encourages constant communication.

In light of Proverbs 10:19, I have to wonder if God is pleased with all this talk. In the 21st century, communication is faster and farther reaching than it has ever been — and yet it is so much harder. We are constantly bombarded with talk. But is anyone really listening?

When we are constantly talking, we are not connecting. And God is all about connecting. Connection comes from listening to understand.

As an introvert, I’ve tried to fit in more with our extroverted society. I’ve tried to say more. I’ve tried to be louder. But it wears me out. After many years of questioning God’s motives for making me this way, I’ve come to the conclusion that He did not make a mistake when he gave me a quieter spirit. He gifted me with a temperament that’s drawn towards reflection and listening. I’ve come to believe that attentive silence is one of the most valuable skills a person can possess, as I’ve experienced the difference it has made in my relationships. Therefore, I’ve chosen to hone that skill in my life.

James tells us in the New Testament to be “slow to speak” and “quick to listen” (James 1:19). Practice the habit of listening.

Lord, I live in a world full of people who desperately want to be heard. Help me be a better listener to You and to the people around me. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Prayer to Keep my Peace - devotional

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 2:26

God often speaks at the most unexpected times. One day I was casually talking with a friend about a situation at my job. In the middle of the conversation I said, “This is driving me crazy.” My friend simply looked at me and said, “Only if you let it.

In five words, my friend had summed up one of the major issues I have been struggling with for years: how do I keep from giving away the peace I have in Christ?

I confess that I am a perfectionist. If something doesn’t go the way I want it to go, I get anxious and upset. I feel out of control.

I have to remember that the peace of God is with me because the Spirit of God is with me. I must keep my mind on the person and promises of God instead of letting circumstances lead me into thoughts of anxiousness. To me, this means remembering some important truths:

•    I am a child of God (Romans 8:14).
•    God is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31).
•    I have the favor of God (Proverbs 8:35).
•    God’s love for me surpasses my understanding of it (Ephesians 3:19).

It takes practice to keep my mind on Jesus and not on the turmoil around me. But when I can do it, I have His perfect peace in the middle of the storm

Lord, help me cooperate with You to keep my peace. Help me focus my mind on You. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Talk is CHEAP, Love is PRICELESS

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.1 Corinthians 13:1

One day in the summer of 2003, I stood on a street corner in New York City debating with a young man about why I thought the Bible was real. I was in Manhattan with a group from my church. We were there to promote a new church in the city by passing out subway maps and other literature.

This man who stopped to talk to me proclaimed himself a student of religion. He had studied many holy books and wanted to know my thoughts on the difficulties he saw with the Bible being authentic.

At the end of our conversation, I felt proud that I had intelligently countered his arguments. But looking back now, I am bothered by the realization that my knowledge probably did little to bring him closer to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We parted, both of us still entrenched in our own understandings.

Having background knowledge of our faith is important, but if we don’t love people the way Jesus did, then, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, we are just noise.

What if I had asked about his family? What if I had asked to pray for him? What if I had encouraged him to open his heart to a love that is bigger than his understanding?

Second-guessing myself is never helpful. However, in the future I want to focus my attention less on winning a debate and more on showing God’s love to those who need to see it.

Lord, break any fear that You see in me. Holy Spirit, teach me how to love the people around me the way You do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

By Debbie West

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Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all of you who are upright in heart!Psalm 32:11

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Have you ever had a secret? As children we likely all kept secrets from our parents about the things we did that we knew were against the rules. It’s part of growing up.

As adults, many of us have secrets. We may have done things that have severe consequences if someone found out. We conceal our past actions because they could bring embarrassment or humiliation on us. Maybe we fear the way someone we love will see us if they knew.

The problem with keeping secrets is that they bring consequences of their own. Living in fear of discovery affects our happiness and our relationships. It stands in the way of true intimacy with other people.

King David learned that keeping secrets from God was detrimental to his mind and body. In Psalm 32, David describes how keeping quiet before God about his sin haunted him day and night. He writes, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away…. my strength was sapped.” But when he admitted his mistakes to God, his guilt was gone.

Based on what I read in Scripture, I believe that because of God’s nature and His relationship with David, God had forgiven David’s sin long before David asked for forgiveness. But the guilt David felt lingered. The moment David confessed his sin to God, his guilt was gone, his spirit was lifted, and his relationship with God was restored.

God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am forgiven of my sins. But, Lord, I want to be free from any guilt that I feel. Help me be honest with myself and with You about the truth of my pride and rebellion. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”   Psalm 37:5-6

We live in a world that demands justice. It is the top news story nearly every night. Someone was treated unfairly, and the ones who were responsible should have to pay.
We see the same theme in the movies we watch. The bad guys wreak havoc on innocent people; the good guys sweep in and give the bad guys the justice they deserve. It leaves us with a sense of balance and rightness in the world.

But real life is seldom like the movies. Sometimes injustice goes unpunished. The drunk driver goes free. A hard-working employee loses a job because of someone else’s mistake. The thief gets away with someone’s life’s savings. We can get treated unfairly and told that there is nothing that can be done.

David saw his share of unfair situations. In his youth, crazy King Saul chased him around with the intention of killing him. The only thing David was guilty of was being appointed as Saul’s successor. He did not deserve the treatment he got.

But after years of walking with God, David knew the One who would have the last word. Even in an unfair situation, David writes, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). He knew that God was just, and in His time, God could be trusted to bring balance to every situation.

God, when things are unfair, remind me that You are the author of justice. Though I may not see the outcome, help me trust in Your ability to handle every situation. God, may Your justice win so that Your name is praised. Amen.

By Debbie West

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Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Social media has seeped into every aspect of our lives. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is now worth $245 billion. The reason why it’s so popular is because it allows us to keep in touch with people. It gives us the platform to express our opinions and our lives. And to be honest, it feels good when people respond to us. When comments show up on a recent post, it affirms who we are and what’s important to us.

But isn’t there something we’re missing amidst all the likes and comments? What about actual connection? Is Facebook something that exists for us just to keep tabs on each other? The truth is it’s easier to hide behind a computer screen than to engage people. Shouldn’t it really be called unsocial media?

I’ve begun policing myself by asking some hard questions: “Why am I posting this rather than calling a friend?” And, “If none of my friends were on Facebook, would I know what is going on in their lives?”

It seems paradoxical to be ambitious about leading a quiet, private life, but that is what the Apostle Paul asks of the Christians in Thessalonica. He was trying to stop the schemes of the busybodies of his day. I think we can take his advice in order to put balance in our lives.

Making real connections with the people God has put in our lives is the way we fulfill our destiny. Social media only resembles real connection. Putting down our devices and reaching a hand to the people directly around us gives us real significance.

Lord, show me my motivation for using social media. Am I keeping real connections with the people in my life? Is the draw of expressing my views and sharing my life with a bigger audience leading me away from the people you have placed in my immediate path? Show me how to use my time wisely and bring balance to my day. Amen.

Action: Take a Facebook fast. Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media for a week. Or make a deal with yourself that for every check of your news feed or every post you make, you must call or meet face-to-face with one friend. (That’s right, call. Texting doesn’t count!)

By Debbie West

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daily devotional“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.Psalm 16:8

As a single woman, I have a lot of freedom. But with freedom comes occasional loneliness. Many of my friends and co-workers are married. They go home to their husband and kids. The weekend is filled with activities and family time.

Though I am happy with my life and content with my situation, sometimes I wish I had a person to share life with on a daily basis.

The longing for companionship is part of being human. God created us to need other people. But, primarily, He made us to need Him. God wants to fulfill our need for companionship. He is always with us. He is there to guide us in making decisions. He is there to teach us and show us His love through our circumstances.

Since Jesus is not physically present with us, we can easily forget that He is there. As we go about our day and feel frustrated, excited or nervous, we crave the chance to share those experiences with someone. Sometimes a flesh-and-bone friend is there. But we need to remember that God is there too. His Spirit lives in every believer. Closer than a best friend, He is there to listen and show us His love in the middle of our circumstances. If we pay attention, we can be aware of His presence and experience His companionship through every part of our day. We will find His friendship to be unshakable.

Lord, thank You for being my friend and constant companion. Please show Yourself in every situation I go through. Amen.

Thought: Keep in mind throughout the day that you are not alone. God is there. Set an alarm on your phone, tape a reminder on your desk, or write a message on your hand: “God is with you. He is at your right hand.”

By Debbie West

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How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.Isaiah 30:19-21

Many of us are very good at what I call the ‘What-if‘ Game. “What if the situation turns out this way? What if it goes that way?” We plot and we plan. We play the options over and over again in our heads, rehearse what we will say and think of all the possible ways the others involved might react. We might even be confident in our ability to sway other people to our way of thinking in order to get what we want.

The Israelites fell into this trap. When their enemies came, the Israelites ran. It seemed the sensible thing to do. They counted on their ability to run faster than their enemies. The prophet Isaiah warned that if they relied on their own abilities instead of on God’s, they would not be able to outrun the enemy.

God told them through Isaiah that rest and reliance on Him were the answers to their problems. The moment they turned to God and confessed their need for Him was the moment He spoke.

King David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) The Israelites didn’t have to be stronger or smarter. They just had to listen to their Creator. God’s protection and guidance was theirs and is ours today if we will be still, resist the urge to figure it out ourselves, and instead wait for the Teacher’s voice.

Lord, help me resist the desire to rely on my own wisdom and abilities. Give me your peace in every situation and give me the strength to wait on your instruction. Amen.

Thought: Be conscious of where your mind goes today. If you find yourself playing the ‘What-if’ Game, direct your thoughts back to God and His Word. To help you do that, you could put the following verse on your phone or write it down somewhere handy:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7

By Debbie West

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