One question

The past few weeks of my life have been filled with joy, exhaustion and peace. Sounds pretty nice, but none of these feelings came from myself or what took place. They came as the consequence of the growth in my faith. 

At the start of the school year, I made a promise to God that I would become a mentor to some of the new kids coming to our youth group. This was a promise to try to be a mentor as Paul was to Timothy. I targeted a friend group of 7th and 8th grade girls to start a small group. We talk about our week, the lesson, share prayer requests and pray for each other. As you can imagine, a room full of junior high girls can get crazy sometimes, but they honestly have been a great representation of what growing faith should look like.  We are a group of ten to fifteen girls, sitting in a room, talking to and about Jesus. 

One random Wednesday night, one of the girls spoke up and said she was struggling with reading her bible and praying. Without hesitation, they started coming up with bible study topics, books of the bible that were good places to start reading and even tips on how to stay focused while praying. I was taken aback a little because I did not expect for this group of young teens to be so ready and excited to help a sister grow her faith in Christ.  The only thought that ran through my mind was, “These seventh grade girls are so hungry and fired up for the Lord…I want to be like them.” These girls encouraged me to improve my faith simply by growing their own and God used them to inspire today’s devotional. It’s funny how the mentor to mentee relationship works!:)

So my question today is what are you doing, not only as part of a group, but as an individual to grow your faith and get closer to Christ? 

God grabbed my attention this week with Proverbs 13:20 – “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”  We as teachers, leaders, mothers and friends should always pursue growing our faith. We should look for the opportunity to walk with the wise and to become the people who are walked with.  Seek out those who will encourage and support you, nurturing your growth.

As leaders, we are heard, watched and observed at all times.  Our lives and actions provide examples and outlines that impact the growth in our sister’s faith.  So what do your actions and words say about your faith? Are you a sister that is wise or a fool?

Growing faith requires investment, commitment and determination.  My encouragement to you is to not let the fear of, as my coaches say, “putting in the work” diminish your desire to grow your faith. A phrase my parents and I always use is, “when you pray for a hole and God gives you a shovel, don’t be afraid to get some calluses.” In other words, if you want to grow your faith and God gives you a time to pray or a time to read His word, use it to the fullest! 

No matter what your age, no matter where you are in your faith walk, we are called to continue to grow in our faith. Even more we should strive to help our sisters in Christ to grow their faith as we all walk this road together.

Joy unspeakable

Are happiness and joy the same? The answer is a big “NO”!! We often get the two confused, but they come from completely different places.

Happiness depends on what happens, in other words our circumstances at the moment. It is an external feeling that can leave just as quickly as it is felt. Joy is internal, it comes from deep within our spirit, from the Lord, and is ours forever.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

One of the most important ways to have this complete joy is to have an attitude of full surrender to God. The closer our relationship with Christ the more our joy increases. He gives us the power to rejoice even when our circumstances aren’t what we would want.

If we are seeking God and praising Him during our trials, burdens, sorrows, losses, sicknesses etc., He provides us with the strength to endure. We may not always carry the smile that comes with happiness, but our spirit can be content and at peace in knowing that He watches over us and helps us during these moments in life.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

As christians we have a forever joy in our spirit, so the devil wants nothing more than to steal our joy in every circumstance. We have to stay alert and remember our attitude of praise and thankfulness will help us fight the urge to give up and give in. That is why we must make sure we are in close fellowship with the Lord at all times.

Our sin can also steal our joy. When we fall into a sin it causes a division between us and God. That is where our obedience to the Lord comes in. Be aware if you start to feel your joy slipping.

Have you neglected time with the Lord? Is your focus on things of this world? Is there a sin you don’t want to let go of? Ask the Lord to show you what is causing you to lose your joy, then ask Him to help you overcome the obstacle and to restore your joy.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12

We can have joy everyday in every circumstance just by remembering our joy is in our salvation. What is more wonderful, as christians, than rejoicing in the hope that our names are written in Heaven? We can have full confidence in God’s word and pass that on to others. The joy of our salvation gives us the opportunity to win people to Jesus. It is proof that what we have is real and that it satisfies, praise God!!!!! The Lord rejoices in every sinner saved, Hallelujah!!!!!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

He always holds firm

Here ya go. If I need to fix anything let me know. Also, here’s a bio update to look more like everyone else’s.

Hi, I’m Tracy Baker. I was born and raised in Kountze, Texas and I’m still here living the dream. I love Jesus, I’m a wife, mom, GIgi, retired teacher/coach and have been a business owner alongside my husband for 23 years. All Glory to God.

For Rays of Sunshine 11/8

Years ago In a women’s Sunday School class we were discussing women in the Bible and how Jael killed Sisera with a tent peg (Judges 4:19). We made jokes that we should keep a tent peg in our purse for emergencies. Recently the Lord showed me that a tent peg is so much more.

(Zechariah 10:4) From them will come the cornerstone, From them the tent peg, From them the bow of battle, From them every ruler, all of them together. ( NASB )

After I read that verse that I know I’ve read before, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. Tent peg. I’ve always heard Jesus referred to as a cornerstone and I get it, vaguely. I don’t use cornerstones, my house doesn’t have one, so to me it’s just a general reference.

A tent peg is a different story. I’ve dealt with those firsthand. If you have every fought with a tent and lost then you get it. Or, if you ever left the bag with the stakes or pegs at home you get it. Without the pegs you just have a hot mess, but when you put those pegs in the corners and at the end of the guidelines you have a stable and secure shelter.

That’s a great analogy for a life with Christ. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior He brings stability and peace. We can rest in the fact that we have a security we can count on. Storms can blow and our little tent of life may sway a bit, but Jesus our tent peg always holds firm.

If you are on the outside looking in and wondering how this can be true, I pray you seek Jesus out today. He is right there waiting for you to come to Him.

Don’t give up

Jesus didn’t give up on you, so you can’t give up on Him or anyone else.

I mean can you even imagine if Jesus were to stop? What if He didn’t die for you? What would you be doing now?

Think of every time you get mad at someone or something. You get really mad, maybe even say a few mean words. Maybe you even give up on them because of what they did. That person kept on doing the same thing that hurt you over and over again. But instead of forgiving and loving them, you just give up.

Guess who doesn’t do that? Jesus.

He didn’t give up on you. You keep on disobeying, you keep on not listening. But Jesus never gave up on you. Even when it hurt Him so badly He kept loving you.

So think of that everyday. Don’t give up on someone when they keep on hurting you.

Because where you be if Jesus gave up on you?

Romans 3:23, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Hebrews 13:1, “keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”

Just keep on loving like Jesus.

Be mindful

When Maverick was in second grade one of his friends came over to stay the night. At dinner we started talking about how Maverick would soon be baptized.

And in that moment God gave me a good ol’ reality check.

The friend asked what the word baptized meant. I remember being truly shocked. I didn’t let him know that, but I was. How did someone that grew up in America not know what baptism was – let alone someone that grew up in the Bible-belt? It just wasn’t something I could wrap my feeble, little mind around.

I then sat in awe listening to my second grade son witness to his sweet little friend.

Proud mom moment.

But I couldn’t let it go, y’all. I still can’t. God knew I needed that sweet kiddo to ask me that exact question on that exact day so that I would always remember. So that I would always remember not to take “knowing” for granted.

Not everyone has a grandma and a grandpa that takes them to church.

Not everyone has a momma and a daddy that play praise and worship music on the radio.

Not everyone hears the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve.

Not everybody.

But that is the reality for somebody.

We need to be mindful.

We need to be understanding.

We need to be considerate.

We need to be ready.

We need to remember that not everyone knows the same theological language that we’ve been taught since we were knee high to a grasshopper, but everyone does know what love is – and that’s a language that we can speak out loud to everybody – everyday.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Don’t miss the mark

Young ladies. Heck, all ladies.

◦ Let me share the message that has been on my heart for a few weeks now:

If you’re here to be popular then you are missing the mark. And the truth of the matter is the more you fall in love with Jesus the less you care about that mess anyways.

▪️If you’re serving God you don’t have time to count the [likes].

▪️If you’re in the word you don’t have time to listen to [words].

▪️If you are kingdom-minded there isn’t space between those two ears for [negativity].

Sisters, we don’t have time to worry about what others are doing or saying – the time is near. Jesus is coming. Let’s win souls for God.

Let’s be so focused on God that He is the only thing on our mind – and when that happens everything else will fall into place.

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2

God’s Way

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

I was encouraging a friend of mine a few week’s ago to trust in the Lord’s plan. As my friend was facing life altering decisions where fear can quickly creep in, us as humans can have doubts and second guesses. Encouraging the reminder of trusting the Lord’s plan brought to my mind – why do we struggle so much to trust His plan? Is it because we think our plans are better? Less scarier? More comfortable?

His will be done. We cannot compete with it even if we try. So why do we?

Us Christians who have surrendered our ways to follow the Lord’s ways – why do we still try to figure it all out on our own? We gave our life to Him. It is not our life to figure out. It’s a life that belonged to Him in the beginning, and it belongs to Him now. We should not want it our way, but His way. I love the verse in Psalms and the key word it begins with. I will “instruct” you.

Merriam Webster defines “instruct” as: To give knowledge to. To teach, to train. To

provide information and advice.

How neat and comforting to serve a God that truly wanted to teach us His ways. While learning His ways, He will show us the way to go. You won’t be alone, and you will be counseled.

Limit the doubts, the second guesses, and lean into the one who wants to instruct you in the way you should go. He wants to be the light to your path and life.

I encourage you today to give your life to the Lord. When you do – give up your ways. Trust His ways. Trust His instruction and love to guide you – every step of the way.

I Dare You

I want to address the “older generation,” and by “older” I mean anyone aged 30 and up. I have heard and even spoken myself about the identity crisis that plagues the younger generation. We have prayed for and battled against this on their behalf, but after service one Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit gently asked me, “How can you come to me about the younger generation having an identity crisis while being blind to your own?”

I recently asked a group of women to write on paper three negative things they think about themselves. Why negative things? Because, generally speaking, we tend to only think of ourselves in a negative light. Even if we have a moment or a day where we truly allow ourselves to think of ourselves in a positive light, we tend to squash those thoughts, because we’ve been taught “not to think too highly of ourselves.” I then went around the room and had them each say what their thoughts were toward another woman in the room. I asked the women if what the others had to say about them matched what they had written on their paper. Not one of them did. In our efforts to overcome pride and keep it at bay, we’ve swung the pendulum to the opposite end of the spectrum denying confidence its rightful place in our hearts and minds.

The church doesn’t operate the way it was designed to, because we have so discouraged ourselves that we don’t believe we can heal the sick or “bind up the broken hearted” even though Jesus clearly stated that we would do “greater” things than even He did. Instead, we look around at our mess and let that determine our boundaries and the access God has to our lives. We think to ourselves, “God can’t possibly use me in my mess.” Jesus came as our messiah. Those first four letters? M-E-S-S. Mess. Those last three letters, iah, come from the Hebrew word, “Yahweh,” meaning, “I am the Lord.” He literally called himself the Lord of our mess! What we were called to do was never about us or our mess. It has always been about Him. We were called to carry the Kingdom with us wherever we go. The atmosphere of any room we enter should shift because the Kingdom has just walked into it. He called us a city on a hill. His intent was never for us to be hidden behind false humility but to shine for the entire world to see so He could be glorified!

We have come into agreement with the lie that we cannot have the confidence to believe that God would use us to call out the destinies of others, lay hands on the sick and see them recover, or for businesses to be blessed simply because we have walked in their door. We need to begin to speak life to the promises that God has given us. Life and lie are seperated by only one letter, “f,” which in Hebrew means “spear,” “hook,” or “tent peg.” It’s time we become like Jael and drive a tent peg into the lies of the enemy by speaking life. By being life to those around us.

We cannot condemn the generation behind us for not walking in a freedom we have never known ourselves, in a freedom we have not modeled for them. We’ve been criticizing this generation for picking up and running with the mantle we’ve given them. It’s time we stop talking about the Bible and start living it. Those words are not just history, they are His-Story, and we’ve been tasked with writing the next chapter. See someone limping? I dare you to pray for them. See someone broken? I dare you to prophecy to their dry bones. I dare you to walk in everything the enemy has told you that you can’t. I dare you to bring Heaven to Earth. I dare you.

Residual effects

Bronchitis and Laryngitis.

That was my diagnosis, and that’s what stayed way past its welcome.

I self-medicated.

I went to the doctor.

I got a shot.

I got antibiotics.

But none of that touched the cough of all coughs that I had kicking. Did I mention having a cough right now is the most taboo thing in the world? Yeah. Fun times.

I finally broke down and went to minor care where they gave me IV meds that finally did the trick. I had Covid last January and the doctor said the way this bronchitis lingered was due to the residual effects.

Seriously? I am so over Covid.

But it got me thinking – what are the residual effects of our sins? What’s sticking around long term whether we want it to or not?

Because even though there’s forgiveness and grace and mercy – there are still consequences. And those consequences don’t just affect me, they have the potential to affect every person I surround myself with and even future generations.

Now that’s something to keep at the forefront of all decisions that we make. The choices we make today have the potential to hinder and haunt us for a long, long time.

Let’s stay prayed up.

Let’s stay in the word.

Let’s be ready to battle against the temptations that this world flings at us day in and day out.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

Unfinished

The garage, closets, and underneath the bed are places I tend to stash unfinished projects. The beginning of something – things I started and have left undone to finish (if I do) another time.

My intentions started out strong and then the creativity and work came to a halt. Some of my unfinished projects are labeled with things like “loss interest” or “not turning out like I’d like.”

Quite honestly, I’m pretty proficient in starting things – just not as good at finishing them.

There are times in my life where I have felt a little incomplete, as if my promises were forgotten or like I was stuck in a place of questioning the way things were going or not going.

Throughout scripture we find God’s Word reminding us that He has been with us since the very beginning. Verses like Genesis 28:15 where God reminds Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”

The phrase “will bring you back” carries the idea of returning to an original starting point. Starting points indicate where things begin. We find the beginning of all creation and our original relationship with God in Genesis. We also find the fall from that relationship and the beginning of death and separation. But there is hope because we also find the promise of redemption through the offspring of Abraham.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

I find hope that God, the creator of all beginnings, is working to bring his purposes for me to completion – molding and making me. The promises I have stored in my heart are not sitting on a shelf somewhere but are near and dear to the Father.

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.

Be confident of this friend…

He is walking beside you.

He is surrounding you with a hedge of protection.

He will not leave you.

He is not limited or bound by space, distance, or time.

There is no power or force that can stand in the way. He is continually working to fulfill what He has already arranged and appointed for your life.

“And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Our blessings and hope are always in Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith.