Doubting God

*Reblogged from Words in High Def

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
–Albert Einstein

When doing strenuous exercise it is wise to keep your head above your heart so that your brain is getting plenty of oxygen-rich blood flow. I find that principle applies to many other areas of life as well. If we make major decisions primarily guided by our hearts instead of our minds, we may act unwisely.

One exception to this rule is when we talk about faith. The moment I begin to contemplate some of the stories, promises and principles in the Bible from a strictly cerebral perspective doubt begins to creep in. Think about it: water turning into wine, multitudes being fed by a few loaves of bread and a couple of lousy fish, a sea parting so that people can cross without learning the backstroke, little guys killing giants, dead people coming back to life…come on! Sounds like something from a Tolkien novel.

Fortunately God knows of my over-thinking, doubting nature (just as He did of Thomas) and loves me in spite of it. When my mind begins to wander down the path of doubt all it usually takes is to steer my mind toward the opposite. Can I believe Jesus was a liar? Could God not be real or faithful? Is there no plan for my life…everyone’s life? When I die is that the end? Are you doubting God?

Well, when you put it that way the answer is a resounding NO! I simply do not believe we are in the world alone to fend for ourselves and turn into dust at the end. I’ve experienced too many spectacular, undeniable encounters with my God to stop believing. But it has to be one or the other; I either believe or I don’t and the answer becomes clear (once again) that I DO.

Why is my faith so weak? I’d like to think it’s because my mind’s so strong, but that’s obviously not it. I simply fall into the “What have you done for me lately” camp. I need to be reminded frequently that God is always with me but that I often forget to do my part; seek His face. I go on about my busy life, and then suddenly need comfort, peace, protection or rest and wonder why I’m not getting it.

Faith needs to be exercised and nurtured in order to gain strength. The sustenance for faith comes in the good times and the busy times, not just in the needy and desperate times.

If you start to doubt God’s love, promises, faithfulness, or even His very existence, try imagining how it would feel to stand firmly claiming those things are false. Can’t do it, can you? So get off the doubting road and get back to the path of believing, then stay put. Time to change up and keep your heart (and spirit) above your head. You may not always be able to see what He’s done for you lately, but what He did once and for all is the undeniable foundation to build lasting faith on.

Are you a Doubting Thomas or a Faithful Francis? When you have doubts, how do you regain your faith equilibrium? Share comments here.
Diane Markins

Debbie Doubter

Don’t be a Debbie Doubter. No, that’s not a typo, although both apply. Doubting is a downer. Pump the brakes and put a stop to self-doubt and God-doubt. Ok, you might not be feeling it right this very second, but you’ve been in that place before and you’ll probably revisit sometime in the near future.

I was sitting in that spot a little bit ago, feeling tired, overwhelmed and teetering on the edge of why bother? I woke up about every 12 minutes during the night and the insecurities gained momentum. Peace was at somebody else’s house that night, in spite of all the prayer I could lay out. I know this is not what you wanted to hear or that I’m supposed to say, but the cold fact is; sometimes God doesn’t instantly meet our requests. He wants us to experience this pit for a minute…wrestle with our stupid selves until we drop.

There wasn’t a magic burst of light when I got up the next morning. I didn’t instantly come alive with renewed faith and inspiration. But I did feel a little less horrible. I kept telling God what was going on (ahem, like He didn’t already know) and asking Him to lend a hand.

Then I reminded myself that my abilities are only limited by my mind when it comes to accomplishing what I’ve been called to do. When God calls us to do something and we keep after it, that’s all that matters. He doesn’t tell us what the results of our labor and obedience will be. The actual results might even look like failure to us, but the act of following through is a huge win in God’s opinion.

Where does Debbie Doubter show up most often in your life? As a parent…in your job…your financial well-being…your health…your marriage? It might be something completely different. But I can tell you it’s not unique. Countless other people are trying to get rid of DD in the exact place you are.

Don’t be a Debbie Doubter. Here are a few promises from God that you can throw at her the next time she visits:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

See ya Debbie.

Six Ways to Increase Your Hope

Hoping for Hope

Doom and gloom are the punks that sometimes try to take over. They squeeze into your mind and push their way into bigger spaces until there’s not much room for their counterpart: hope.

My niece is fighting a critical health battle at this moment. When we read about her condition hope begins to recede like a car driving away…getting smaller and smaller in the distance. We have to squint to find it because the “facts” obscure our view.

The loss of hope means you just don’t have it in you to believe your circumstance is going to improve. Ever. When that happens, it’s really hard to keep going. I mean, why bother?

Maybe you’re married to an alcoholic who has made a thousand empty promises of getting sober. You might finally accept that you’ll never get the job or promotion you’ve been striving toward. Perhaps you long to be loved but every new relationship ends in pain. Possibly you, or your child/spouse has an “incurable” illness. Could be you’ve just read too many horrible news headlines lately.

When you face awful, impossible trials, hope is often MIA… nowhere to be found. But in order to be found, something that’s lost must be searched out. If your hope is absent, are you still looking?

One might argue that you have to have hope in order to even believe hope could be found (you know, hoping for hope), but that’s way too existential for me on this Monday morning. It’s also where grace comes in. So I’d just like to remind you that hope is never gone completely. That’s a promise from God. And (even at your darkest) you can make a choice to take a peek around in the light to see if it’s come home.

Here are six ways to increase your hope.

  1. Pour your heart, desires, fears and grief out to a friend who will listen, love and encourage you.
  2. Be honest and real with God, even if you’re really mad or are doubting. Don’t hold back.
  3. Be still and quiet in God’s presence. Then let Him speak words of truth, peace, faith and hope to you. Try writing a letter from God to you. You’ll be amazed at what He’ll say.
  4. List all the ways (even if you think they’re impossible) that things could improve.
  5. Dream big. Journal as though things have already changed for the better. Maybe make it a thank you note to God. Lord, thank you for healing me and for this new, beautiful life. Thanks for my wonderful marriage and a career that I love. Thanks for allowing me to make a difference in people’s lives. See it in your mind and look forward to the day when it’s real.
  6. If your lost hope is in any way related to clinical depression, see a doc and get a treatment plan. God often heals through medicine and health care professionals. Mental illness is no exception.

Stop focusing on the “facts” that are dominating your attention and replace them with God’s truths. These are just a few verses you might look up and hold on to: Jeremiah 29:11, 12, 13; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Romans 12:12; Deuteronomy 31:6; Philippians 4:19; Romans 15:4 and Ephesians 3:30.

And please remember, “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen.” Hebrews 11:1

God is in Control, Right?

God is in control. It sounds so good when I say it. And I want to believe it so darn badly. In fact, I thought I did believe it until my friend Glenna Salsbury got in my face and challenged me.

“Diane, you say that believing God is in control is one of your core values but I’m not sure you really mean it,” The Mighty Glenna said. “When you spend time fearing, worrying or revisiting/regretting bad choices you sure aren’t showing it.”

Blunt much? At first I was a little offended and denied her assessment with a tiny sniff. I fired off a few defensive examples to prove she was wrong, but in each case she answered with a right hook.

Ouch! It really hurts to be exposed to your own lies (albeit unintentional lies).

So this is my public apology…to you, to the One who matters most…and even to myself. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to entirely let go of the ME in my life’s equation. And unfortunately simply realizing it doesn’t mean it will be instantly changed or be fixed. This is my flaw and I want it to go away because God is in control, right? (Glenna, thanks for helping me look in the magnifying mirror.)

Some of my friends (especially on Facebook) seem to have this thoroughly under control. They talk about trusting God in all things and then actually let their worries float away like a flock of butterflies on a spring day. That just ain’t happenin over here at the Markins house.

Don’t get me wrong. I spend time reading my Bible and soak in all God’s promises. I recount the zillion times He has come through for me and say “thanks again.” But just like the disciples that actually hung out with Jesus, I have a memory problem, which really translates to a faith problem.

I don’t think I’m alone. I hear too many sad, desperate prayer requests over and over again…the fear and worry not appearing to fall away.

So in addition to this confession and commiseration I’d like to offer up a reminder. It’s not our fault. We are so dang limited as humans. Our teeny minds can’t get ahold of the magnitude that is God.

AND it’s not possible to work harder to have more faith. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit.* At our very lowest measure of believing all we can do is ask, not for an answer to a pressing issue, but for more faith.

If you struggle with honestly believing God is in control, quit beating yourself up and humbly ask for a bigger portion.

The very coolest thing about all this is that His love, mercy and control in our lives doesn’t depend one bit on how much faith we have. If it did, that would put us in control.

Whew, that takes a massive load off, doesn’t it. When my faith is running low, His ability and faithfulness never miss a beat.

Do you ever struggle with relaxing and believing God is in control (without your help or worry)? Maybe there’s a club for us to join.

*Here are a few verses I found about faith being a gift:

1st Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 2:7, Philippians 1:29 and 2nd Peter 1:1

Your Foundational Verses

In 2016 our church is focusing on foundation. They’re using it in a cutesy double entendre because it not only applies to our core beliefs, it just so-happens that the church is moving to a new location where a foundation has to be built.

The pastor will be basing his messages on 40 key verses from the Bible. I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to narrow it down to such a measly number of verses. Do you focus on the ones that explain or declare the salvation message? Do you place heavy weight on the history of the Old Testament? How about the words of hope and encouragement? Or do you really zero in on wisdom for daily living?

It would be impossible to pare down this treasure trove to just a few tidbits, right?

I’ll confess, I’m pretty bad about memorizing scripture…particularly with references. But, each year I ask God to direct me toward a verse that I center myself around… foundational verses, you could say. You’re dying to know, aren’t ya?

I’ll get to it in a minute. First let me tell you about some from the past. One of my favorites is:

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”  Joel 2:25

Your response might be, “I don’t get it” or “Never heard that one before” or “Did you have a bug infestation that year?”

Not to get into too many nasty details, but I was pretty far from living the life God wanted me to for a while. The first couple chapters of Joel refer to God’s warning to sinful people (Israel) and telling them to knock it off or else. They didn’t, the pesky locusts ravaged their land and there was nothing to eat. This puts a huge dent in one’s capacity for joy.

When they stopped all the nonsense and turned back to the Lord, He began to bless them hugely.

That little verse is a simple reminder that when we get back on track with God, He will make things right. I needed that and it was my focus verse for more than a few years. There are lasting consequences to sin and, like turning a massive ship around in the ocean, it’s not always a quick process.

Another verse I held onto for a few years was:

“You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17

It was a season of concern for my kids (eh, teenagers!) and I spent a lot of energy trying to fight and fix things. God gave me this verse to remind me that sometimes there is absolutely nothing we can do except trust Him to slug it out for us. All ended very well!

I promised I’d get back to this year’s verse. Well, I fooled you because I honestly don’t know yet. More time in prayer, reading some of those long-forgotten verses and listening to God are in order before I get the message. My bad. I promise to post it as a comment and on social media when I land on it.

Until then, would you take a few seconds to offer a couple of your foundational verses – those that have held you together or brought you hope… or empowered you to take giant steps in a new direction?

We all need the foundation that at least 40 verses can add to our lives.

Forgive, Let Go, and Live

While some opportunities may be in short supply, the chance to practice forgiveness is never-ending. Holding on to offenses and hurts causes physical, emotional and spiritual harm. Read below to see the experiences and advice shared by Deborah Smith Pegues, a woman who knows all about forgiveness.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins

Forgive, Let Go, and Live

by Deborah Smith Pegues

“Even as a little girl, when kids would cross me in any way, I never let them back into my good graces.”

My mom’s words echoed in my spirit and found rest there for many years of my life. Similarly, my father never forgot a single offense that anybody committed against him. He and my mom argued frequently about things that happened or were said in the far distant past. Although they served faithfully and sacrificially inside and outside the walls of the church, unforgiveness plagued them. Near the end of both their lives, God’s redeeming grace prevailed and they finally released the pain of holding onto the hot coals of unforgiveness.

With such a heritage, I knew unforgiveness was poised to become a stronghold in my life. The pattern had already developed. If people offended me, I never viewed them the same. Depending on the nature of the relationship, I would either keep my emotional distance or make a mental note never to trust, favor, or include them again in my dealings. My most common tactic was to hide behind being “too busy” to interact with them—ever. They finally got the message: Once you offended me, you were out. No three strikes policy here!

It was not until I saw how one of my beloved spiritual mentors modeled true forgiveness that I began to make headway in conquering this emotional giant. She frequently proclaimed, “I release everybody who has hurt me.” Unforgiveness had wreaked havoc in my life long enough. It had caused me to write off several relatives, friends, coworkers, and others. I spent way too much time in my head rehearsing the wrongs people perpetrated against me and imagining the awful things I could have said or done to retaliate if I weren’t a Christian. In my heart, I wanted to please God. As I delved into His word, I realized two truths that were hard pills to swallow:

  • God had foreknowledge of every single offense ever perpetrated against me; yet, in His infinite wisdom, He chose not to prevent it. His Divine purpose was obviously greater than my comfort or convenience. Therefore, I embraced the truth that every hurt will ultimately work together for my good because I love God and He has a purpose for every thing that comes my way (Romans 8:28). Perhaps this was the truth that caused the victims’ families to forgive Dylann Roof after he murdered nine people in a June 17 shooting at a Charleston, Carolina church.
  • My decision to forgive–or not–has a direct bearing on whether God forgives my transgressions (Mark 11:25). Simply put, if I don’t forgive others, He isn’t going to forgive me. I don’t want to suffer such dire spiritual consequences.

Life has presented many opportunities for me to practice the forgiveness principles found in the Word. Unforgiveness is a giant I could never conquer in my own strength. Thank goodness my Heavenly Father gives me “the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 NLT). Therefore, from my childhood molester to the Ponzi scheme crook who duped me out of thousands of dollars to the doctor who botched my foot surgery, I’ve released them all. I’m free. I’m on a mission to forgive, let go, and live.


Bestselling author of 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue

Death and Life

Death is simply brutal for those still living. The one who dies stops suffering, or if there was no illness or pain- doesn’t have to endure the intense ache of losing a loved one.

In spite of this, most of us would choose to be the one who continues to live.

Have you given this much thought? Probably. I know I have. Certainly I’d rather go before my kids or grandkids. They’re young and have rich, full lives ahead of them without me. I know my mom felt this way before she died. And I have continued on with a terrific existence. But there is a distinct missing piece in her absence.

Playing that game with my husband in mind is a lot harder. From a selfish standpoint, I’d like to be the first to go. I wouldn’t have to know the loneliness and lost feeling I see in the haunted eyes of other widows. But if that’s the case, I have to think about what my husband (left behind) would have to face. I’d never wish that much grief and adjustment on him. Damn!

Thankfully, we aren’t the ones who make this all-important call, so speculating is a futile waste of time.

Death is on my mind today because of a woman I know (in her early 40s) who is in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. She isn’t playing the game because she knows that (without supernatural intervention) she will leave this world ahead of her beloved family and it will be very soon.

Death is on my mind because a couple days ago a family friend- a 60-year-old man- went to bed and didn’t wake up to the alarm clock the next morning. His wife nudged him but he was already gone. Game over.

Death is on my mind because I saw a post on Facebook yesterday asking for prayers. A young woman died during childbirth leaving her husband and baby girl to face the rest of their lives without her.

Yes, death is a part of life. In my opinion it’s the worst part. Being totally honest, I wish God would have implemented a different plan for life that didn’t involve death.

As a follower of Christ, I am confident that what comes after death is glorious. Maybe I’m just not strong enough or faithful enough, but that sincere awareness doesn’t make up for the heartache of those who are staring death in the eye as they approach their final days with the people they adore. Neither does it alleviate the sorrow and despair of widows and orphans in the aftermath of loss.

Later…much later, after the shock and misery begin to subside, the hope and promise of Heaven become meaningful again. The certainty that those we cherished haven’t ceased to exist- that they are merely absent from our current lives- becomes a sweet salve to our wounded hearts.

If you have lost a loved one, my hope is that you are feeling the comfort of what’s to come… when you meet again. If you aren’t grieving, pray for those who are…there is an abundance of people who need it.

Unseen Powers and Prayer

With a new poll showing that about 80 percent of the population believes in angels, Jack Graham’s message should be well-received: “Behind every win and every loss…beneath every success and every failure, spiritual forces are at work.”

His new book is entitled Unseen; Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell… and Winning the Battle for Eternity. That’s a mouthful and a lofty title, but the book doesn’t fall short.

Graham says he didn’t learn much about “spiritual forces” during his youth. Regarding heaven and hell, he (like many of us) was taught that one was desirable and the other wasn’t.

He says, “my plea to you is this: We mustn’t brush this reality aside, thinking that what we don’t know won’t hurt us. What we don’t know absolutely will hurt us, and hurt us in powerful ways.” No wonder Mark Batterson endorses Graham’s book!

In my eye-opening interview with him we talked about fear, Satan’s strategy and the mission of angels. He explains in very simple, common terms what it means to put on the “armor of God” every day.

Graham says that warfare prayer is different from the every day, “God is great, God is good” type prayers. “Warfare prayer is militant praying, aimed solely at dispelling darkness with light, at overcoming evil with good, at advancing the causes of Christ in the world. We need more believers praying this way. We need them fighting from their knees,” he says.

Some of the important ingredients to warfare prayers are faith, humility and a righteous heart. Primarily, warfare prayer is worship.

If you’ve been avoiding thinking about the “unseen” powers that fill the Bible, now is the time to take a look and recognize that you don’t have to see to believe. The battle is raging on around you even if you aren’t willing view it with spiritual eyes.

We can expect to net some huge gains by warfare prayer, such as: power, protection and provision. What have you got to lose? Ask God to reveal the “unseen” to you today and ramp up your prayers to make a much bigger impact.

Share your supernatural experiences and awareness in a comment below. You might win a copy of Unseen.

Prayer – It’s What Gets Us Through the Trials

We all love a great sermon or speech…as much as we hate a bad one. Meaningful, engaging messages don’t just pop into the mind and out of the mouth. They take a boat-load of effort- and PRAYER. Prayer takes us through the trials of life too. Read this hugely helpful post and listen to what H. B. Charles says about his books It Happens after Prayer and On Preaching.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

On Writing Sermon Manuscripts

by H.B. Charles

The pastor left his sermon manuscript in the pulpit. When the janitor found it, he couldn’t resist the urge to read it. He was impressed, until he stumbled over a note in the margin: “Argument weak here. Start yelling!”

Old story.

Timeless truth: Passion is never a substitute for clarity. If you write yourself clear, you won’t have to yell to cover up a weak argument.

I am a manuscript preacher who cheats. Most weeks, I write a complete manuscript. Most weeks, I do not carry anything to the pulpit but my Bible.

I believe both practices sharpen the preacher – writing manuscripts and preaching without notes.

Here are 11 tips for writing yourself clear in sermon preparation.

  1.  This is not a cursory step. You should pray before and throughout your study of the text. And you should pray your way through sermon preparation. You need guidance in what to say and how to say it to your congregation.

Start with a sermon skeleton. Begin by determining the title, theme, central idea, outline, and other elements that make up the framework of the message. Establish the structure of the sermon. Then put meat on the bones.

  1.  You will never write a manuscript if you do not write a manuscript. Don’t procrastinate. Sunday is coming. Starting writing. Write for as long as you can. Get your ideas on paper. Don’t worry about how good it is yet. A bad page is better than a blank page. Just write.

Write it out word-for-word. Type out your introduction, explanations of the text, scripture references, applications, illustrations, and conclusion completely. “The Vacation Story” or “Charles Spurgeon quote” may suffice in your pulpit notes. Not here. Write it all out. After you start writing manuscripts regularly, this practice will also help you to gauge how long your sermon is.

Write for the ear. A sermon manuscript is not a term paper, theological essay, or potential book chapter. It is a transcript for a message you will deliver to God’s people. As you write, think about those who will listen to what you say, not those who may read what you write.

Preach it as you write it. Talk it out as you are writing it down. This will help you communicate clearly and effectively. Some words that are easy to write are not easy to pronounce. That long, run-on sentence that looks so beautiful on your computer screen may be a nightmare to say. Likewise, preaching it as you write it aids memorization.

Strive for clarity. Process your word choice, sentence structure, cross-references, transitional sentences, and illustrations as clearly as possible. If you do, style and creativity will take care of themselves. Clarity is its own style.

Craft transitional sentences. Car accidents often happen at intersections, during lane changes, or when making a turn. Likewise, moving from the introduction to the main body, from point 1 to point 2, or from illustration to application can be as dangerous as driving in rush hour traffic. So work on smooth transitions. Don’t say, “Let me say three things about the text.” Give them three reasons to pray or four ways to resist temptation or two benefits of trusting God.

Work around writer’s block. I rarely write a sermon from beginning to end. And I struggle to write my introduction and conclusion first. I write as it comes to me, which may be point two. If I get a mental block, I start working on another part of the sermon. This helps me to keep writing when a section is not yet clear.

Mark the manuscript for preaching. I put the main points in red font, sub-points in dark blue. Scripture references are italicized. Quotes are blue. Illustrations are purple. “Runs” are green. Hymn lyrics are orange. I highlight, underline, and change font sizes. This helps me memorize the message. Or if I have to preach from the manuscript, ideas, sections and transitions pop out on the page.

Edit maliciously. The manuscript is a draft until you preach it. Keep working on it. Explain technical words or choose simpler ones. Shorten your sentences. Take out cliché, well-worn words and phrases. Find a different way to say it. Use one cross-reference, instead of three. Cut out that section that was good study material but doesn’t fit in the message. Eliminate unnecessary repetition. Have the courage to leave some hard work on the cutting room floor for the sake of clarity, unity, and movement.

Got Grace? “Proof” Says that’s Enough

Our culture is so performance-based that it can be a challenge to get our heads around God’s culture that is based purely on grace. Stop striving and start living in the fullness of God’s pleasure. Check out this post below and listen in on the show. Don’t forget to comment to win Proof by Dr. Timothy Jones.

Bold Living airs on stations in various cities and for easy on-demand access, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search Diane Markins) from my website.  Diane Markins 

Grace is Enough

by Dr. Timothy Jones

Martin Luther once commented that humanity after the fall is no longer able to imagine any way to be made right with God other than works. Our tendency by nature is to slip into the delusion that our standing before God somehow depends on what we do. Or we overcorrect and slip into another delusion, that what we do doesn’t matter at all.
In the first instance, we diminish the finished work of Christ by living as if God started our salvation by grace but then we have to finish it. In the second instance, we miss the truth that grace doesn’t simply save us, it also changes us.

The purpose of the new book PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace is to reawaken believers to the wonder and the beauty of authentic grace–God’s wonderful acceptance of us not because we have earned it or deserved it but because he gives it to us freely in Christ. In this book, we show that the answer isn’t found in trying to balance legalism and license. It’s rather in recognizing that, everything God gives to us, he gives in Christ and that this placement of us in Christ and Christ in us changes everything. United with Christ, we are both captive and crowned, slaves of Christ yet free, already positioned as righteous in Christ yet empowered by his Spirit to pursue righteousness.

*Share your experiences of working too hard, especially to gain God’s approval. Win a copy of Proof.