Archive for August, 2013

“God will never leave you empty.  He will replace everything you lost.  If He asks you to put something down, it’s because He wants you to pick up something greater” (Author unknown).


I’ve come a long way in my trust journey since I started doing blog posts back in 2011. When I first began, there was more fear than faith in my life.  I had to actively choose faith while walking in fear at times.  God has continued to provide repeatedly through various trials in my life while my faith muscle has received a good workout. I can now say there is definitely more faith in my profile than fear.  The tide has changed.

Today I want to share what living a life of trust (faith) looks like to me on a daily basis. Remember what God is willing to do for me, He’s already done for countless other people and is more than willing to do for it you as well.

I’ve found the more I study Scripture, the more God shows me how I can trust Him. There are countless examples I could talk about, and today I’ll share about Ruth.  Ruth was a Moabite who fell in love with and married a man from Bethlehem.  Time went on and he died, along with his father and brother, leaving his mom (Naomi), Ruth (his wife) and Orpah (his sister-in-law) widowed and childless.  Naomi heard it was safe to go back to Bethlehem (her hometown) and told Ruth and Orpah to go back to their families, remarry, and live their lives.  Ruth chose to stay with Naomi and serve God alongside her even though worshipping God was opposite-thinking from the way she was raised. The story of Ruth talks about how through all their hardships, God had a plan for them and ended up blessing Ruth and Naomi more than they were previously blessed before the death of their husbands.

First, however, Ruth had to make a choice.  She could choose to follow Naomi to her homeland and serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or go back to her hometown and worship the gods of her people.  Ruth made the right choice to serve God.  There were sacrifices that God asked Ruth to make along the journey, but in the end, she married an upstanding, loving man named Boaz and they had a son who carried on the family name.  If that wasn’t enough, Ruth is even mentioned by name in the genealogy of Christ Himself.  Talk about a family tree!

That’s just one example of the many times God has blessed His people over and above what they had before they walked in faith and obedience, even when it seemed hard.  As I wrote about in my article, titled Judgment Versus Grace, I used to believe God was ready and waiting to judge me harshly every time I messed up.  My thinking, though, couldn’t have been further from the truth.  God doesn’t ask for our obedience when it’s hard because He wants to torture us No…it’s the exact opposite.  He wants to bless us.

God hasn’t set out to destroy our lives or to make things harder.  However, He does ask that we give up certain things in our lives even if we don’t understand why. I’ve found I’m not able to fully appreciate the blessings He has in store when I’m holding onto things that get in the way.  When this realization hit me, I was able to trust God, not just because I was taught I was supposed to, but because my heart now agreed with my thoughts.  That’s when my level of trust in Him grew rapidly.  I was able to obey Him faster when He asked me to give up something because I knew I could trust whatever I was giving up wouldn’t compare to what He had waiting for me.

When bad things happen (and believe me, they will), I know with certainty God is in control of the situation.  If I continue to obey and ask His will to be done, I may not know what the result is going to be, but I know I can trust Him for a great outcome in His time, even if it looks completely different than what I thought it should.  When I start to get discouraged, all I have to do to regain hope and excitement in the journey is to remind myself of the various examples in the Bible where God has blessed His people.

Lastly, I believe the act of obeying is part of the reward.  When we obey a specific request made by God, it’s a lot harder to rationalize we had anything to do with the blessing we receive.  For instance, if God lays it on my heart to give someone a set amount of money even though money is tight and He comes through and pays the bills, there’s no way I can rationalize that by saying I’m part of the show Extreme Couponing! Sometimes God will reward with double portions (Isaiah 61:7), sometimes God will reward you with the exact thing you had to sacrifice (Galatians 6:9), and sometimes God will completely blow you away and give you your heart’s exact desire (Psalm 37:4).

The God we serve is very personal.  If He asks something personal of us, He’ll wow us with something even better when we seek His will and choose to obey. That’s one reason why I now strive to choose faith over fear.  Not to get the reward, but to be at peace.  Because I now know the God we serve can be trusted in every area of our lives.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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Opposite World Thinking

“When we pray, God hears more than we say, answers more than we ask, gives more than we imagine…in His own time and in His own way”

(Unknown author).


The world teaches us to be self-reliant, to work hard to reap rewards, and it’s okay to use others or let our values lapse “just this once” while climbing the corporate ladder.  The world tries to falsely convince us it’ll somehow all work out in the end.

God’s view is opposite thinking.  He also wants us to work hard, but as it says in Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”  God wants us to take action, after first consulting His plans, His timing, His purpose.  Once we’re sure that our desires line up with His word, then He wants us to work hard, but leave room for His outcome.  He wants us to use the Bible as our guide regarding how to work.  While the world says it’s okay to use people to get ahead, God says to love others as we love ourselves.

The world admires people who are making their mark in this world, even if it means their family or other important relationships become a casualty.  If we work hard using the principles God outlines of keeping Him our first priority, family next, and then work-related activities in their proper place, we too can reap the benefits of a fulfilling, successful life, usually with a peace that otherwise escapes those whose priorities are out of line.

I find for myself when I concentrate on beginning my day by reading from God’s Word, the rest of my day flows better.  I’m reminded of how God wants me to live my life and it’s easier to ignore or keep the world thinking in its proper place.  God is a God of love and the commands He gives me to live by are for my benefit, not to punish me or make my life miserable.  When I keep my priorities in the right order, then I’m able to have a great relationship with my family and be successful at work.  When I don’t try and get ahead by pushing other people down, I sleep better at night since I have no guilt keeping me awake.

I want to encourage you today to try God’s opposite world thinking if you haven’t already put it into practice.  With the God of the Universe in charge of your decisions and choosing to follow His path, you might find yourself with a little less stress and a lot more peace.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” I Kings 17:16 (NIV)


During my faith journey, I’ve learned an important lesson.  It involves obedience, and sacrifice. Stepping out in faith usually requires something of importance from us.  The more I study the Bible, the more I learn that to trust God and grow in faith, a giving up of something important will always be involved.

When we obey and step out in faith, the rewards we receive are far greater than anything we may have been asked to give up.  There are many examples in the Bible of this.  In I Kings 17: 7-15, God talks about a widow and her son who were very poor.  There had been a drought in the land and as a result, she had very little oil and flour left to feed them.  God commanded Elijah, a prophet, to seek out the widow and ask for some food from her small supply.  The widow obeyed and made a small cake out of the oil and flour she had before making some for herself and her child.  As a result of her obedience with what little she had, God allowed her supply to never run out.  “She went away and did as Elijah had told her.  So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.” (I Kings 17:15).  By giving from the little she had first (sacrifice) and trusting God to supply her needs (obedience), she ended up with far more.

Think about it.  Here’s a woman without a job or husband, and a child to feed.  She had very little resources and was asked to give some to feed a stranger.  But because God commanded her, she obeyed.  That’s the kind of woman I want to be.  When God stirs my heart to share our resources, my time, or our finances, I want to do it without fear, but instead with faith.

Another example of this concept hits closer to home for me as it involves my mom.  Several years ago she offered to go help her parents for a few days while my grandmother went to the hospital for a small procedure.  Nine months later, after being away from my dad and the rest of her family, money for plane tickets, and having to leave her church body and friends for the majority of that time, she finally came back home for good.  The blessings she received have far outweighed the sacrifices she made.  She obeyed willingly, even though there was sacrifice involved.

I have found personally and by reading inspiring stories about others, God loves a cheerful and generous heart.  He wants us to give not only when we have more than enough, but give when we have barely enough.  If God is truly laying someone or something on our heart, when we step out in faith and in obedience, His blessings will far outweigh whatever sacrifice He’s asking us to make.

I’m not saying throw your money around carelessly or give everything away “just because.”  I’m saying when God speaks to you clearly to help meet the need of someone else, He will bless you for the sacrifice you make.  He gave us many examples of that in the Bible to learn from.  Since He’s the same God today that He was back then, you can be certain what He did in the past for others, He’s willing to continue to do now for you.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”  Matthew 6: 16-18 (NIV).


When we met last, I gave an overview about the discipline of fasting in the life of a Christ follower.  As I said previously, fasting isn’t for everyone at every time in their life, so please discuss it with a medical doctor before deciding if fasting is right for you at this stage in your life. I’m not a medical doctor and I’ve never played one on TV either.

The most important part of fasting, in my opinion, is to be led by the Holy Spirit.  I’ve struggled with food issues my whole life.  Therefore, I have to be very careful when I decide to fast, making sure I’m not just looking for a quick starvation diet or a way to jumpstart a weight loss program.  That attitude or mentality doesn’t please God.

I’ve been led twice in my lifetime to fast for forty days.  The types of food and how much food have been different each time, but have always been a true sacrifice.  The last fast I participated in was liquid only.  Each time I’ve fasted has been a different experience, usually for a different request, and therefore God has asked me to give up different things.  The above fasts have occurred after I felt a strong urging by God to pray and fast for specific things.

I was inspired by a person who fasted one day a week his whole life and great things happened in his family as a result.  I want great things to happen for my family as well, not for personal gain but for blessings to affect my children, their children, and so on for generations to come.  This past school year, I declared a one-day fast every week.  For those fasts, I would fast from after dinner the night before until dinnertime the following day.  That has been easiest for my schedule and for my body.

God tells us clearly in the Bible that when we fast we are to do it in secret.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t fast together with your church family, your spouse, or even include your children. (Although, due to health reasons, children should fast from processed food or dessert or snacks rather than not eating any food.  Again, please check with a doctor first especially if there are preexisting conditions.).  It just means you shouldn’t go around telling everyone what you’re doing and how much you’re sacrificing.  If you’re fasting, it should be between you and God, or you and whoever is fasting with you and God.  It’s not a time to complain about your stomach growling (and it will for the first day or two before it realizes you aren’t going to give in) and not a time to ask for sympathy.

If you think about it, the reason you’re fasting is to bring a request, in faith, to God while expecting miracles to happen.  When you focus on the potential rewards that could come from fasting, what’s there to be upset about?  Sacrificing a little food for deliverance from a debilitating illness, financial concerns, or for a better job isn’t something to avoid.  And, I’ve found in my own life, sometimes the best reward that results from fasting is the closeness I feel toward God afterward versus anything material He chooses to bless me with.  More often than not, when I’ve completed a fast, I miss the intimacy I experienced with my Heavenly Father.

Another area I’m working on in my personal life is deciding how to introduce the discipline of prayer and fasting to my children.  I think they’re old enough, even the littlest, to declare a fast from a particular food…more than likely their favorite treat.  I would never force fasting on them as I believe it’s a personal experience between God and each individual, but I would encourage them to talk to God themselves to see what God wants them to do and when He wants them to start this discipline.  If nothing else, I want to introduce them to the topic of fasting so that as they grow into adults, they see it as a part of being a Christ follower and have already learned the basics.

When it comes to the actual discipline of fasting, I’m still considered a child.  I didn’t grow up fasting and I really didn’t start practicing it until I was in my 30s.  Even then, it was a few years ago when I started participating on a regular basis. I didn’t realize the importance of fasting, but now that I have, it’s something I enjoy giving to God.  When I first started, I didn’t go on a water-only fast.  In fact, I’ve never yet participated in a water-only fast.  I haven’t felt led to at this point, but I do know I’m growing stronger in the area of fasting.  I’m willing to give up more and more for Him each time as I see the blessings He provides.  And, I have felt the closeness that comes with obedience to God in this area.  No food, not even my favorite, compares to that.  He gives me so much all the time – to give Him some of my food for a short timeframe in order to grow closer to Him or have Him help break through areas of my life that need an extra amount of divine intervention is a privilege, not a chore.

Something I do which helps me keep the perspective is, before I start, I write down my commitment to God.  After spending time quietly with my Father, making sure I hear His voice regarding how long and what He wants me to fast, I write down the specifics.  That way, especially in the beginning when I’m hungry and going through withdrawal, I can’t manipulate myself.  It’s too easy to conveniently “forget” what I promised I’d give up.  Was it coffee with creamer or just creamer?  Was it all processed food or can I eat pretzels?  Each fast I’ve participated in, the circumstances have been different and I’ve given up different foods.  When I write down specifically what I’m giving up as well as the length of time, it’s much easier to keep my commitment.

During my second 40-day fast, I took it one step further and began a blessings journal.  Every day I wrote down a praise or blessing I received from God during those forty days. I have to say, especially toward the end when it’s easy to say, “one french fry won’t hurt” going back and rereading that journal along with all the blessings God provided was enough motivation to keep me obedient.  I didn’t want to stop early and possibly miss out on some great blessing God was waiting to give me. I spent time rereading the journal today, a few months after my fast, and it’s amazing how many of those blessings I had forgotten about already.  I was blessed again by rereading all He chose to do for me.

Sometimes the breakthrough I’m praying and fasting for doesn’t happen during or even immediately after the fast has ended.  I’ve read countless stories about people who have fasted  and their answered prayers, but sometimes they don’t arrive until days, months, or years later.  That doesn’t mean the time of fasting and prayer wasn’t fruitful.  It’s during the waiting when we need to continue to thank God for the answers He has provided and wait patiently to see the miracle happen.

One word of caution:  If you are fasting as a way to manipulate God; if you’re harboring anger or unresolved conflict with someone in your heart; or there are areas in your life where you’re deliberately disobeying God, it says very clearly in His word God won’t hear your requests.  He wants us to come to Him with a clean heart, not for selfish reasons or to make requests that go against His Word and His beliefs.  He wants us to come and present our concerns before Him, laying them at His feet, believing in faith He’ll provide the right answer. He listens to the cries of our heart, wants us to share with Him what bothers us, but ultimately, He wants us to have faith that He’s big enough, powerful enough, and smart enough to provide the best answer for each and every circumstance.

If you’re interested in learning more about fasting, there are some great books out there that will go through the discipline of fasting step by step.  Below I have listed the names of three books that have helped me through my journey to fasting, answered questions I had, and encouraged me during the process.

When we present our requests to God, through prayer and fasting, expecting in faith great things to happen, God always comes through.  The way He does that is usually bigger and better than anything we can imagine ahead of time.  But, if you fast without the element of prayer to our Heavenly Father, and don’t surrender your will to His, then it might as well just be called a strange diet.

Books I Have Read Regarding This Topic:

The Miracle Results of Fasting  by Dave Williams

Fasting by Jentezen Franklin

The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast, by Kristen Feola

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16 (NIV).


We’ve been discussing faith journeys lately and during one of the discussions, I mentioned the discipline of fasting.  I explained a little bit in My Isaac Moment – Part II, but I wanted to take time to discuss it further for those who aren’t familiar with fasting or those who are interested in digging deeper.

Before I begin, though, I want to stress that not everyone should fast the same way and there are times in your life when fasting may not be advised.  I’m not a medical doctor and therefore everyone (especially if you have preexisting medical conditions, are a child, or are pregnant or nursing) should seek the counsel of their medical physician before deciding to fast.  The following are my thoughts about what I’ve read from the Bible, great Bible studies on the subject of fasting, and the way God has led me in my journey.  As I say countless times, our God is a personal God and the direction He leads me isn’t necessarily the same direction He’ll lead you.  Remember these are my thoughts based off Scripture.  I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I am a Christ follower who loves God with her whole heart.

In Scripture, there’s a lot of discussion about different individuals who fasted regularly.  Matthew 6:16 talks about when you fast, not if you fast.  Now, there are lots of other religions that fast as well as nutritionists who encourage people to go on juice fasts or to abstain from certain foods for a set period of time.  That’s not the fasting I’m talking about.  To declare a Biblical (or Bible-based) fast, your focus is only on growing closer to the One true God.

There are so many great examples in the Bible of people who have fasted and prayed, and as a result, God has heard their prayers and blessed them.

I Samuel 1 describes Hannah, a woman who couldn’t have any children, as someone who fasted and prayed for years for a child.  Not only did God grant her a son, Samuel, but He blessed her with three more sons and two daughters.  Another example is found in the book of Esther.  Queen Esther, a Jew, was married to King Xerxes, and the King’s right hand man Haman, wanted to kill all Jews.  Esther declared a three-day fast before petitioning the king not only for her own life but the lives of all Jewish people.  She went to God first, before presenting herself to the king, knowing it was his right to have her killed since he didn’t ask for her to come visit him. My last example involves Daniel.  He and his three friends, who were training to be part of the king’s army, asked to be allowed to only eat vegetables and drink water for ten days before being tested against the other men who were in training but eating foods God had forbidden Daniel’s people to eat.  By obeying God’s rules regarding their food choices, at the end of the ten days Daniel and his friends were found to be healthier and better nourished than the men who ate everything presented. (Daniel 1: 17).  There are many more examples in the Bible of how God blesses people who pray and fast regularly.  I encourage you to read for yourself these stories as the Bible explains them.

There are many different ways to fast.  Some fast by drinking only water for a set number of days.  Some participate in a Daniel fast, which has various interpretations but follows the general guidelines of eating only vegetables, and fruits.  Others may give up “meats and sweets” (a form of a Daniel fast) for a set time while others just give up their comfort foods, such as desserts and caffeine.  

A popular way to fast is from midnight one day to midnight the next; while others fast from after dinner one night until dinner the following night.  There’s no wrong way to fast except with the wrong attitude.

The next time we get together, I want to explore further about fasting and share some of my personal experiences regarding this exciting topic, which God wants to be a regular discipline of those who are His children.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow”(Unknown author).


 Last time we met we talked about how in order to have real faith, we all need to come to the place where we realize sometimes the only option left is divine intervention.  That moment when we realize there’s nothing humanely possible that can be done to create the desperately needed miracle.  Even though that’s one of the scariest places to find yourself in, it’s also one of the most peaceful.  And that’s where I found myself in February of this year.

God and I wrestled one night, over a decade ago, about a certain promise.  A promise born out of one of my deepest fears, back before my faith muscle was very strong.  A promise that has been tested numerous times, yet I’ve clung to, ever since.

During this journey, approximately six years ago, God laid it on my heart to fast and pray for forty days for my family.  For those of you not familiar with fasting, it’s willingly sacrificing something, usually food, for a set amount of time.  It’s taking the time and attention you would normally give to something and instead give it to God, showing He is indeed first in your life.

The first week of those forty days reshaped our family’s life as we had previously known it.  It began a journey I can’t say we welcomed with open arms.  However, I can say that along with the various trials laid before us, we experienced many blessings as well. Fast forward to February of this year.  Yet again I felt very strongly that God was calling me to fast for forty days for my family, specifically for divine deliverance regarding the crisis that began back in 2007.  I obeyed and trusted God that He would deliver on the promise He spoke to me over a decade ago. After the fast was complete, I continued to praise and thank God for a promise that hadn’t actually occurred yet, but trusted (had faith) was coming.

Around the end of May, I began reading a terrific book, The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson.  He explained how to pray circles around promises you feel are from God.  I again felt led to fast, but since I had just ended a forty day fast for the same promise, I wondered if I was giving in to fear and trying to take back control through manipulation. I prayed for almost a week asking Him to make it clear to me whether or not I was to take this leap of faith and fast again.

I told God I would be more than willing to fast if that was what He wanted me to do, but to let me know, please, without any doubt it was His will and not me trying to be in control.  As He usually does when He wants to communicate with me without distractions, God woke me up extra early the next morning so I could enjoy my quiet time.  God made it very clear He was asking me to fast.  This time I felt He was calling me to a higher degree of sacrifice.  Seventy-two hours was the answer given to me and I agreed.  Never being good at math, in the early morning hours without a calculator in hand, I thought that meant six days.  If you stay with me, you will see the point I’m making once you stop laughing.

This occurred right before Memorial weekend.  That meant I was agreeing to begin the fast on Wednesday and I wouldn’t resume eating until Tuesday morning.  Normally going without food for that long would be a struggle in itself for someone with food issues, but over a holiday weekend seemed extra difficult. However, I realized if God was asking me to sacrifice six days out of my life for divine intervention, I was willing to obey.  The anticipation of having a long asked-for promise fulfilled would be a bigger blessing than getting to stuff my face with my loved ones.

I finished my quiet time and went back to bed.  It wasn’t until I woke up to start my day that I discovered 72 hours is only three days.  However, I believe God allowed me to make that mistake for this very reason.  I was willing to step out in faith, giving up food for six days in order to trust God for a miracle.  Because of that willingness, He blessed me not only with a peace about His answering my heartfelt cries for my family, but He gave back half of what I was willing to sacrifice within the first few hours.

When we step out in faith and give up something of importance strictly in obedience for something He’s calling us to do, despite the fear we may feel, He gives back in greater quantity.  That’s the way a loving Father works.  That’s the assurance we can have from the God of the Universe.

Will there be times in our lives that our sacrifice seems too great? Absolutely!  Will there be times when it feels like we’re only getting the trials and not the blessings?  Yes, that’ll occur to, but only for a time.  In the end, (and the end is different for all of us since God’s timetable is personal for each of us separately), the blessings far outweigh anything God asks us to give up.  But…in order to reap the benefits, we have to step out in faith, and that usually doesn’t occur unless there is an element of uncertainty, fear, or we have reached the end of our human resources.

That’s the encouragement I want to offer you today, my friend.  Are you at a crossroads in your life?  Is there an insurmountable obstacle in your life that will require a huge leap of faith to overcome?  Have you considered giving it to God or have you been too afraid to give up your sense of control?

God isn’t the enemy.  He isn’t waiting to strike you down or punish you for your fears, your insecurities, or your mistakes.  He is instead, lovingly waiting with open arms for you to come to Him in faith, not knowing how but trusting that He will.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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“Living a life of fear doesn’t change the circumstances; just ruins the journey” (Author unknown).


If you’ve spent any amount of time reading my blogs, you’ll soon discover that the topic of faith versus fear comes up regularly.  I talk freely about how God is delivering me from a life of fear and helping me grow a stronger faith.  Around the end of July, I shared two blog posts entitled The Faith Staircase  where I shared ways to grow in your journey of faith and included a personal example from my own life.  Well, God loves me so much (as He does you) that He wanted to take me to the next level on my journey.  He is yet again helping me to grow in this area; one that is very important in the life of a Christ follower.

You see, the more I study God’s word, the more I realize great things happen in the lives of people who have strong faith.  God loves when we put our trust in Him more than in ourselves. While God still calls us to work hard, He wants us to trust Him for the outcome, not our own efforts.

I’m beginning to realize that’s a huge element in building my faith.  The older I get, the more I realize I’m a bit of a control freak. I hate feeling out of control.  I hate not knowing what’s going to happen next.  It’s taken fourteen years of marriage and a lot of patience from my husband, but he has learned I’m much calmer when I have a basic idea of our agenda.  I don’t have to be in charge of what we do, but I like to know the general outline of what’s expected.

I’m discovering, though, that traveling a faith journey is just that – an exercise in faith, not facts. By growing in faith, you’re essentially giving up control.  For some that’s a hard choice to make.  However, it’s the best choice.  The alternatives I have are to either take over and try to make it work myself or live a life of fear, always in defensive mode, waiting for the next disaster to unfold.

In order to explain more about giving up control and how God honors faith, I would love to share with you a story about Abraham.  His story is where the phrase “Isaac Moment” originates Genesis 22, although Abraham’s faith journey began long before this specific circumstance.  Abraham and Sarah had been unable to have children, yet desperately wanted them.  Years earlier, God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and his offspring would number more than the stars.  Many, many years later, God fulfilled His promise, long after Sarah was out of her childbearing years, and gave them a son, Isaac.  Abraham loved his child as any parent would who had waited for this blessing for so long.  God tested Abraham one day to make sure Abraham still loved God more and that his priorities were in their proper place.  He commanded Abraham to take Isaac, who was old enough to ask questions, on a trip up a mountain to sacrifice him.

This was no small command.  The Bible talks about how Abraham and Isaac, along with two of his servants, traveled for three days before they reached the destination God had planned.  He didn’t have any distractions like we do today except conversation with his child to keep his mind off what God was instructing: killing his offspring.   However, Abraham did have a history with God and knew in his heart what a loving and kind God He was.  He also knew the God he served didn’t go around sacrificing children.  Therefore, He chose to obey, to take that step of faith, not knowing how God would provide a way for his son to remain alive, but trusting God enough to know He could handle the situation (faith), despite how the circumstances looked (fact).  At the right time, God supplied a ram for the sacrifice, and Isaac’s life was spared. Abraham is known in the Bible for his extraordinary faith in his Heavenly Father. He trusted God enough to step out in obedience, not knowing the details, but believing in the One who was completely in control.

That’s the kind of faith God wants us to have in our lives.  However, in order for it to be faith and not a manipulating of circumstances by our own doing, there usually is some sort of sacrifice involved. I’m not talking about killing another human being, but it usually is something which requires some discomfort on our part.  I believe God allows this aspect of the journey in order to see if we really are trusting Him with the details or trying to take matters into our own hands.

Next time I will share with you an example from my own life regarding this amazing adventure.

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them”  Mark 11:23 (NIV).


I’ve always been kind of a slow learner.  When I was in school, I had to study extra hard for tests and quizzes, writing and rewriting notes before the facts would sink in.  To be honest, I guess I didn’t care enough about certain aspects of learning because some subjects never stuck.

I’ve read the Bible since I was a young child, but the more I study it, the more I learn and the more fascinated I become.  In order to really understand the Bible, it’s necessary to know that the Old Testament (the parts of the Bible written before Jesus walked the earth as a man) was a time period of judgment.  The people who loved God had to offer sacrifices when they disobeyed and God judged people harshly back then.  However, the New Testament sees a shift from the period of judgment to one of grace.  When Jesus entered the earth as a baby and lived among the people for thirty-three years before dying on the cross, being raised from the dead, and ascending back into Heaven, He introduced the concept of grace.  Burnt sacrifices weren’t necessary anymore because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.  He died on the cross so all people would be able to go to Heaven if they just admitted they were a sinner, confessed their sins, and asked Jesus into their heart.

Even though I’ve been a Christ follower for years, I’d been falsely living under the Old Testament way of thinking.  I was expecting God’s judgment on me every time I made a mistake instead of living in the grace offered to me through Jesus’ dying on the cross.

One example of this involved a pair of headphones.  I had fasted earlier this year regarding some personal things and afterwards, I was on the lookout for God’s blessings that come when we obey.  Around that time, my headphones for my job broke.  Now, to a medical transcriptionist, headphones are an essential part of giving my best to the job.  It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.  My husband had found an amazing deal on a set of $300 headphones for almost 75% off.  They worked wonderfully for about two years. Right before Easter, they broke. First we tried to jimmy rig them, but that didn’t work.  Then we tried to glue them, but that didn’t work either. Well, turns out they had a lifetime warranty and when I called the company to inquire about whether or not they would be covered, it sounded as though all I would have to pay for was the price to ship the broken ones to their factory.  I was praising God for this wonderful financial blessing.

Fast forward a month and I finally received what I thought was the new set of headphones. I opened the box and it was the original, broken set.  Turns out that by gluing the headphones in an attempt to fix them, we annulled our warranty.  Automatically, my thoughts turned to Old Testament judgment thinking.  God must be angry at me to take a blessing He clearly gave and turned it into a financial hardship.  He knows I can’t afford a new set of headphones.

A few days later, I was talking to a friend about my situation and she helped me put it into perspective.  God wasn’t angry with me.  Our society is facing financial hardship as a whole.  I couldn’t blame a company wanting to save a few hundred dollars by replacing headphones for free when I was the one who made the mistake of trying to fix them.  It wasn’t that God was mad at me and took away my blessing; it was that I messed up and God had another plan instead.  God still loved me just as much as He did previously and I could either learn the lesson so I didn’t make the mistake again or I could continue to feel “blamed” and not learn anything at all.

I chose to learn my lesson and be thankful.  God provided a different set of headphones for a significantly discounted price.  I finally received them in the mail last week and they work just as well as my originals, costing considerably less than I would’ve paid for brand new ones.  So…maybe God wants to work with me on learning how to be financially responsible.  Maybe He wants to show me He’ll provide when I ask Him.  Maybe He wasn’t trying to teach me anything specific except that He isn’t out to get me, but He’ll take my mistakes and turn them into something valuable if I let Him.

I don’t expect this lesson is quite finished for me.  After all, I’ve had many years of practice automatically assuming God’s angry with me and punishing me for things I’ve done or not done.  However, at least I’m starting down the road to considering the alternative to judgment, which is grace.  I have to admit, it feels a whole lot better when I allow grace to penetrate my heart instead of harsh condemnation. I’m thinking that as I allow grace to fill my soul, I will in turn be kinder and more ready to show grace to others: My husband, my children, strangers on the road…the possibilities are endless.

When you think about God, do you consider Him to be a mean judge ready to punish you for your mistakes or do you see Him as the God of love that He is?  Do you believe He is ready and waiting to take your mistakes and turn them into opportunities for blessings?  Is there a particular time in your life when you felt harsh judgment or a time when you felt His blessings?

© 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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Good Morning Friends,

Do you like to read?  Are you someone who enjoys finding out what’s new to read, new authors, new topics?

If you haven’t checked out bookfunmagazine yet, you might want to check out this issue.  It’s totally free (always has been) and it’s a great way to discover new books from favorite authors or some new authors, both fiction and nonfiction, from a Christ-centered perspective.  There’s lots of other great articles that appeal to everyone, some of which include tasty recipes.

Also, if you’re looking for new blogs to follow, there is a whole section of terrific blogs out there for you to choose from.

Follow the link below. It’s a great magazine to read on the beach, in your hammock, sipping some iced tea – whatever way you enjoy relaxing on this beautiful weekend:


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The Tough Choice

“May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” Psalm 25:21 (NIV).


There are no two ways around it. If your desire as a parent is to raise children who can function independently as adults, there will be tough choices you need to make along the way.  I’m a nurturer by nature and therefore, sometimes, those difficult choices are downright excruciating.  Even though I know in my head I’m making the right choice by expecting my children to follow through with the choice they chose, it can be torture.  Our household experienced one such incident not too long ago.

One of our children was in the process of growing independence.  I was asked for a certain privilege.  Knowing the impulsiveness of the age group, I gave three days for said child to solidify the request, making sure said child truly wanted to do what was being requested, outlining clearly what I was willing and not willing to do once the decision was made. After three days of not wavering, I went ahead and took care of the details, reminding said child once the plans were in place, there was no going back.  The terms were agreed upon.

Twenty-four hours later said child wanted a “do over.”  Fears started setting in and regret soon followed.  This is when parenting got tough.  Knowing my child was experiencing natural feelings and this was just a normal growing pain, I sat said child down and held firm.  Follow through needed to occur.  It was a tough period of time as there was much pleading, and I was even offered different scenarios of how I could fix the problem by said child.  I stayed firm and while repeatedly assured said child this wouldn’t last forever, stated what was started needed to be finished.  In the end, our child was glad I didn’t allow the habit of quitting.  Perseverance was learned and said child realized a strength that was inside all along. I hope all my children learned we are parents who, while firm in requiring follow through, love them fiercely and stand by to support them while they continue to grow.

Isn’t that the way it is with God?  He is all knowing, all-powerful, and loves with a love we can’t comprehend, amazingly more than we’ll ever love our own children.  He knows some things are truly for our benefit and will help us grow and mature, becoming more and more who He wants us to be, but may hurt during the process.  It’s during those times, when we stay close to Him, He wraps us in his strong arms and reassures us we aren’t alone.  He’s right here with us as we take the necessary steps to become the person God wants us to be.

Whatever choices you are facing in life, sometimes downright scary ones, I encourage you to go and talk to your Heavenly Father about them.  After asking for His will, then take the necessary steps, courageously, knowing God is right there with you, guiding, loving, protecting, and yes, at times, allowing you to experience less-than-pleasant circumstances because in the end, the final results may yield something much better.

I know it gets scary at times to venture into unknown territory. If we as parents are willing to stand alongside our kids, cheering them on, offering advice and a hug now and then, how much more is God willing to do that for us?  I think when it’s all over, you will be glad you did!

Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell

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