Transformation by Trial

     As I read a blogger’s lament about her inability to see how God is working for her good amid a difficult situation, I wonder why she has failed to read the next sentence beneath Romans 8:28 in the passage from which she quotes.

     Romans 8:28-29

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” ESV

     The good God is referring to is to hone us into the image of Jesus Christ. While circumstances may not feel good, trials and tribulations are like a chisel chipping marble into a beautiful work of art. They cut away all that does not glorify God and as a result we become more Christ-like.

     In his commentary on the book of Romans, “Be Right,” author Warren W. Wiersbe writes: “The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trial because he knows that God is at work in the world (Rom. 8:28), and that He has a perfect plan (Rom. 8:19). God has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory. Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ. Best of all, God’s plan is going to succeed.”

     I contemplate the notion that trials and tribulations work for my good. The word “good” in koine Greek is agathon, something useful and profitable, beneficial.

     If I never have an adversary, someone who slanders or perhaps takes advantage, how will I learn to do good no matter how I am treated or to be kind to the ungrateful and the evil? (Luke 6:35)

     If I never experience a financial setback, how can I learn contentment? To live content is to be satisfied with the food on my table and clothes in my closet. As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)  

     If I am never put in a place where forgiveness is difficult or tempted to consider myself better than another person, how can I learn to judge not? (Luke 6:37)

     We can read our Bibles daily or memorize verses from each book, but unless we have the opportunity to practice them, we won’t know if we can walk it out.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, we are told in Romans 12:2. And we truly do begin to think differently, approach situations with a Christ-like attitude when we live in the presence of God. However, just as we take tests in school to see if we have truly learned what was taught, we need to be tested to see if our head knowledge became heart knowledge.

This fallen world is filled with tribulation. We all have times when we struggle. But these adverse situations give God a chance to work His magic.

Let’s Talk:

1-What transformation has taken place during times of tribulation that has made you more Christ-like? Please share in the comment section!

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Siegella from Pixabay

Christians are Called to be Action Oriented

     This week I posted a short piece on Instagram and Facebook titled “Becoming Part of the Solution.”

     I had taken a photo of a couple refrigerators out in the woods where I walk and wrote that my first reaction to such dumping is anger. But on this day, I had another thought. “How can I be part of the solution?”

     About 10 minutes after I posted the piece, I got a call from my nephew. He had been dirt bike riding in the hills behind his house, which is high desert sage brush, and came across discarded appliances, tires, and other garbage. He made a quick call to the local landfill to negotiate an affordable dump fee, and after soliciting the help of a friend began the site cleanup. Four loads later, the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails were clear.

     That is a good deed.

     A few weeks ago, I learned of another person who is trying to reduce the feral cat population in my town by transporting these animals to a clinic in Reno where a vet offers to spay and neuter them for $25 on a certain day of the week. I was impressed by her willingness to take action rather than simply talk about a problem.

     Neither of these people profess Christ, but what they do is certainly sacrificial. They gave of their time and money. I was told the “cat lady” leaves town at 4 a.m. each Tuesday morning to take the felines to the vet in Reno, a two-hour trip.

     So, I ask as followers of Jesus Christ shouldn’t we be ready to take part in problem solving when there is a problem? Yet I often hear Christians opt out. They say they aren’t “called” to it.

     James tells us that we should put our faith into action. This is how Eugene Peterson, author of the commentary Bible titled “The Message,” words James 2:19-24.

     “Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”?  The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?”

There are lots of needs in society today. We read about them in newspapers or news websites or hear about them on television. Often the best we can do to be part of the solution is pray. At other times, however, we are like the Good Samaritan who came across the man who had been robbed and beaten giving us opportunity to act. At those times we can choose to be used by God to be part of the solution.

[NOTE: The Bible tells us to do good works but this is not for our salvation from eternal destruction (Matthew 25:46, Revelation 20:15) due to the sins we have committed (Romans 6:23). Salvation is a free gift from God, we don’t “work” for it.

How are we saved? The following information is from Got Questions (

How did God provide salvation?

Because the just penalty for sin is infinite and eternal, only God could pay the penalty, because only He is infinite and eternal. But God, in His divine nature, could not die. So God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. God took on human flesh, lived among us, and taught us.

When the people rejected Him and His message, and sought to kill Him, He willingly sacrificed Himself for us, allowing Himself to be crucified (John 10:15). Because Jesus Christ was human, He could die; and because Jesus Christ was God, His death had an eternal and infinite value.

Jesus’ death on the cross was the perfect and complete payment for our sin (1 John 2:2). He took the consequences we deserved. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead demonstrated that His death was indeed the perfectly sufficient sacrifice for sin.

How can I be saved? What do I need to do?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). God has already done all the work. All you must do is receive, in faith, the salvation God offers (Ephesians 2:8-9). Fully trust in Jesus alone as the payment for your sins. Believe in Him, and you will not perish (John 3:16). God is offering you salvation as a gift. All you have to do is accept it. Jesus is the way of salvation (John 14:6).

Sculpting Takes Time but the Work of Art Emerges

     I long to cut away every character flaw that is not of God until I am the person He created me to be, a reflection of His Son. But I know it is a work of the Spirit, and takes time. It’s the chiseling process, similar to a sculptor with a chunk of marble creating a work of art.

     Renaissance artist Michelangelo worked on his sculpture of David from 1501-1504.

     The word of God is the chisel.

     “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV

     As I write today, the Holy Spirit is chiseling at my tendency to become frustrated, an expression of distress and annoyance that is triggered when plans are foiled and all my efforts have no impact. According to people are especially vulnerable to frustration when they lack the ability to change or achieve something. This description is very fitting, for frustration does kick in when I struggle to change or achieve an outcome.

     Recently, I tried to join a scheduled Zoom meeting but had difficulty getting in because the web address in the email message wasn’t set up to allow automatic access. When I pasted it into the location bar, it didn’t work. I typed the problem into the Zoom chat and followed their instructions, but wasn’t successful. Finally, I was told to try a different browser which solved the problem, but I joined the meeting about 20 minutes late.

     Did this experience activate that feeling of frustration? Yes! My thoughts toward the person who had organized the meeting were less than kind.

     The Holy Spirit began the chiseling process with a question posed in a Bible study I am doing with other women in my church. Which command is burdensome, or difficult, I was asked. Immediately, the Spirit reminded me of “the way of love” described in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. There are only two words which describe what love is… patient and kind.

     The Spirit’s message to me was simple, “love is patient and kind” (1 Cor. 13:4a) The agitation that results from frustration is neither patient nor kind.

     In the space allowed for the answer I wrote: “If I am easily frustrated, I am not patient. Therefore, I am not acting in a loving manner.”

     There was a second part to the question—“What does this reveal about your understanding of the loving fatherhood of God?”

     I realized that my loving Father does not get frustrated with me, but patiently teaches. If I am to reflect my heavenly Father to others, I will show patience.

     Does this knowledge instantaneously correct my behavior? Most likely not. But now that I am aware of my behavior, I can recognize situations that cause frustration and determine to exercise patience. It will need to be developed but we are told to practice righteousness in 1 John 3:7 and I know mastery comes with practice. I learned how to ride a bicycle by practicing. I learned how to type by practicing. I learned how to drive by practicing.

     And thus, I will learn patience with practice. Collecting all the Scriptures that teach this virtue, studying and memorizing them so the Holy Spirit can chisel away all that is not of God and hone me into Christ’s image.

Let’s Talk:

1-Is there something the Holy Spirit is chiseling at the moment? What is emerging?

2-Looking back over your walk with Christ, what characteristics of His have you developed that you didn’t have before you knew Him as Lord and Savior?

Use Negative Experiences for the Good of Others

     Michael has come a little early to church and is sitting alone. It seems he is listening to the worship team as they warmup. I start to pass by on my way to the foyer to greet people as they arrive for the service but stop. Instead, I sit next to him and begin a conversation. He is very receptive.

He’s not quite 13 and his family doesn’t attend church, but he comes faithfully. Would I be comfortable walking into church by myself at age 12? Most adults don’t even like to come alone, especially if they have trouble interacting with people. It can be difficult to break into conversations when people are linked by their history with one another.

Once when I was new to a church, I tried to approach small groups after the service but most had no room for me. Knowing how uncomfortable it is to be on the outside, I look for those who might need to know they are welcome and wanted.

     Our negative experiences can have a positive effect on our behavior. They help us to walk out the scriptures. This has been true for me while learning to walk out Luke 6:31–“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  

     When I first read this passage of scripture, I really didn’t know how to implement it. I thought perhaps this might apply to picking up the lunch check at a restaurant, or allowing someone to easily merge onto the freeway and change lanes, or not talking during a movie at a public theater. These were all behaviors I appreciated.

     Yet a deeper, more profound meaning began to emerge as I examined the scars I have, which are evidence I live in a fallen world. The scars are a result of being wounded.

     For example, when I was about 19 years old, I worked at a summer resort as a busgirl in the restaurant. For some reason, I am not sure why, my boss did not like me. He was critical of my work and nothing I did to improve pleased him. He was an authority figure, and instead of training, helping, and advising he was demeaning and belittling. I dreaded work and cried in private. However, since I didn’t have much of a resume, I was afraid to quit not knowing if I could find other employment. I needed to save money for college.

     This experience has given me a better understanding of how to treat others. Especially if I am in a position of authority. Although it happened years ago, it left a scar as a reminder.

     Scars can develop when we are wounded. They can happen anytime occurring when we are a child, a teen, a young adult and into our senior years. Also, they can be left by the hand of anyone. Sometimes we know and love the person who wounds, while at other times it is a passing interaction, someone we barely know.

     Has anyone ever had a difficult conversation with a physician who was condescending? What about a teacher who made you feel stupid rather than looking for ways to help you understand the curriculum being taught?

Scars can be left by both words and actions.

Words that are demeaning, sarcastic, critical, or unkind might scar. They are often a result of not being well thought out. Sometimes it is best to remain silent, until we know how to deliver a message in a way that builds up rather than tears down.

Of course, we are told actions “speak” louder than words. We can say we care about someone but unless we show it as well, our comments seem disingenuous.

I encourage you to think about your scars. Remember how you obtained them. Then use these experiences to guide your interactions with others. This is practicing “do to others as you wish them to do to you.”

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image from Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What negative experience in your past has helped you treat others better?

2-Please share an example in the comment section of how you or another Christian has put Luke 6:31 into practice.

Is it Possible to Live Satisfied?

     Martin’s Nursery is open. Where I live this is a big deal. We get to plant flowers and vegetables making the drab, winter landscape vibrant. A trip to Martin’s is a rite of spring.

     Many make it an annual outing. I know a mother and daughter who meet there each year to pick plants for their gardens. They live in towns 120 miles apart. A friend and I often schedule a time to go together and then have lunch.

     My usual purchases include a big bucket tomato plant that is ready to produce (in the mountains I don’t have a lot of warm months to nurture a plant from a shoot), several annuals to fill pots, and a few perennials that return yearly after the snow melt.

     But this spring I hesitate. Snow, hardpacked and icy, still dominates my backyard measuring halfway up the fence. With planting uncertain, I am not sure I can keep plants healthy in my kitchen lugging them daily out front into the sunshine where the snow has receded.

     A friend gives reason to purchase. She texted to let me know she already shopped at Martin’s Nursery, afraid they would sell out if she waited too long.

     New to the area, she asked if it was okay to plant as soon as the snow melts. I texted- “Watch the weather reports. If the temperature is near freezing during the night cover your plants with a frost cloth.”

     Even with indoor options and frost cloths I have decided to wait. Take my chances. If the plants are gone at Martin’s I will look for them someplace else.

     This decision is unusual for me. I am driven by those whispers “You might miss out!” “It will be all gone.” “Get it while you can.” “Stock up so you don’t run out.” I am the hurry up type, not the laid-back type.

     Frankly I am not sure I will be able to live happily with only the perennials that return each year if I do miss out. Or with planter boxes filled with the plain petunias from Walmart. Will I be satisfied with less than what I am use to, what I expect?

     Satisfied—“pleased or content with what has been experienced or received.” (

     The synonyms string together an enticing summation of such a state: blissful, glad, joyful, thankful, delighted, happy, pleased. These are all emotions I often strive to achieve.

     But I want to dig deeper. Look more closely at this state. See if satisfaction is only guaranteed when my yard is filled with blooms and hummingbirds swooping down to draw sweet nectar from my feeders.

     Looking back at that definition copied from the dictionary it seems like living satisfied is based on our perception of an experience or something we have received that meets our expectations. If this is so, satisfaction may be erratic.

     Or it may be a carrot on a string. Something we must work for, strive for, chase after. We work toward goals that promise bliss… a master’s degree, a vacation in the Cayman Islands, the completion of one more item on our bucket list, enough money to enjoy retirement, our dream home… If only we would reach these goals, then we would be satisfied.  

     I begin my exploration. Is it possible to live satisfied or is it only for fleeting moments of time? Is it a skill to learn? 

     My first test looms. I am taking my chances on Martin’s Nursery.

Let’s Talk:

1-Please share a circumstance that was less than satisfying and how you reacted. Have you gained any insight on how to address the circumstances that stirred dissatisfaction?

2-What scriptures does the Holy Spirit bring to mind when you become discontent?

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Pexels at Pixabay

Blessings We Miss When Our Perspective is Skewed

     The second week of April was a check list week. A calendar filled with tasks that must be done.

Scheduling an imaging appointment made the list. My oncologist needs the results of a CT scan before my next follow-up.

Getting a blood draw required before the scan was also on the list. A lengthy process, it includes a half hour drive to my local hospital and a wait to register for the procedure before being sent to the lab. There is no lab draw appointments, therefore anyone with an appointment for imaging and other tests can be called to the registrar’s desk ahead of me.

     And a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles for the second time in a week was added to the list. Online registration for the used pickup truck I just purchased was kicked back for some reason.

Yes, these chores have a purpose, but seeds of resentment began to sprout in my heart. They are the treadmill moments of life, thieves that steal time.

     I am reminded of the list of chores I had to do when I was a child if I wanted my allowance. There was a chart on the wall with assignments for the week. Sometimes it was dusting furniture, other times vacuuming, but always there was doing the dinner dishes a couple nights. My siblings and I rotated through the tasks.

     The most difficult for me were the dishes on a summer night when the sun set late so playtime melted into bedtime. I cherished the times my mom would take the dishrag from my hand, releasing me from my duties. 

     Words like duty sound harsh. According to the definition for this word is “Obligatory. Tasks, conduct, service, or functions that arise from one’s position (as in life or in a group).”

     An obligation, something I must do and my flesh cries out.

     My husband once brought to my attention my tendency to use the term “have to” when going over my schedule for the day. There’s a difference, he says, in having to do something and getting to do something.

     So, I look once again at the things on my calendar. They seem like “have to” tasks, but do I have the right perspective?

     The pickup was one of those great deals you just can’t miss being a blessing from the Lord. It was owned by an elderly person who didn’t drive it much so although it is an older model it has low mileage and is like new. I get to register my “new” truck.

     The lab work and imaging appointment I have been completing every six months for three years now. This means, I will reach the milestone of three years cancer free. What a blessing to be cured of cancer!

     I get to live in a day and time when there are tests to uncover cancer and treatments that eradicate the cells of many types. I get to follow-up to monitor my health and make sure the cancer is caught early should it return. And each day for three years I have lived cancer free.

     My perspective shifts from a “have to” mentality to a “get to” mentality. Obligations can be the result of a blessing.

     If you have been blessed with children, you are obligated to support them. If you have been blessed with a home, you are obligated to maintain it.

     These are all things we get to do because of God’s love, goodness, kindness, provision, grace, and mercy. We can give thanks for these duties that arise from the positions God has given us in life. I am a cancer survivor and the owner of a “new” truck.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image from StockSnap on Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What chores do you have to do? See if you might turn them from drudgery to joy by shifting them from “have to” to “get to.” Please share the results in the comment section!

2-Think of a few things that might be a duty because of your position in life or in a group. How might these obligations be a blessing?

Learning From our Less Than Perfect Experiences

     Monday morning, I was at the Department of Motor Vehicles renewing my driver’s license. I so rarely go to the DMV the protocols are unfamiliar.

     “Put your thumb on the blue light.” I hesitate and the clerk points to this small square on the counter that captures your thumbprint.

     The experience made me apprehensive. But why?

     It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to identify the reason. Pride. Fear of making a mistake, looking foolish, being looked down upon, made fun of…

     Most define pride as conceit, having an excessively high opinion of ourselves. Or perhaps haughtiness, which is acting in an arrogant manner. But there is a type of pride that prevents us from stepping out.

     An internet search uncovered this definition: “consciousness of one’s own dignity.” It was referred to as self-esteem and the opposite was shame.

     I can hear my mother’s words when I was a child, “What will people think?”

     This phrase usually had to do with family honor. What would people think of our family if we wore shabby clothes out in public, put our feet on the furniture while at a friend’s house, or were unfriendly to a student new to our school.

     Being concerned with what people think can result in good, kind, behavior. But rather than looking at it from the perspective of acting in a pleasing manner to keep from bringing shame on yourself or your family, I would like to consider ways we shame others that result in this apprehension at the DMV and other places. Does our behavior bring shame to another?

     I ask this because I realize my problem with unfamiliar places is a result of past embarrassment or shame. I am fearful of situations that result in these experiences. Knowing this, I tend to focus on reacting well to the actions of others, not allowing their behavior to deter me from practicing righteousness. But I can do more. I can make sure I do not cause such shame and embarrassment to others.

     “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

     Sometimes it is impatience we have for others that makes them feel inferior. I hesitate to enter the “self-check” line in a store where I am not used to the machines. Those who routinely self-check can have an attitude of disdain when someone is slower than they are or makes mistakes and requires the clerk’s help.

     I put a check in my mental notebook next to “be patient” with those who are learning a new skill. Patience prevents shame.

     Navigating a freeway system in a large city, I do not know, causes apprehension as well. As I frantically try to read signs so I might change lanes to make the interchanges, other drivers tailgate, refusing to let up on the gas so I can squeeze into their lane to make an exit. Mentally I note, “practice kindness.”

     I think of things I don’t want to admit to others because I will be laughed at or called stupid. Once I subscribed to a publication that promised a “daily word” I assumed was from the word of God, only to find out that it referenced the Bible but was false teaching. What are people afraid to share because it might bring humiliation. I vow not to humiliate others.

     As Christians, we often remind each other that it isn’t so much what others do to us but how we react. I frequently grab the command to love our enemies and if someone does something despicable to us respond in kindness. (Luke 6:27-28)

     But after my trip to the DMV, I am reminded to make others feel comfortable in those unfamiliar situations by coming alongside with patience and kindness. Making sure I am not that person who brings shame upon another, prompting them to determine how to respond kindly to me despite my callousness.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Al Gr from Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What “less than” experiences have you had that have resulted in a greater understanding of how to treat others?

2-What have you learned from the acts of unkindness you have experienced that has helped hone you into the image of Jesus Christ?

The Joy of Jesus

Jesus went to the cross for the joy set before Him. I know this joy.1 Because He lives, I live.

My greatest experience was the moment I walked into the presence of God. It happened in a split second, as if blinders were pulled from my eyes, allowing me to see Jesus. At that moment I understood who He was. I knew Him.

When I read that all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus2 I understand why I struggled in the ways of the world before I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

I floundered like a swimmer in water over her head, caught in the current of a world in which I did not belong. This current pulled me into life choices that just did not seem to fit. Now, I no longer struggle to keep my head above water, because my feet are on solid ground.

Because Jesus went to the cross to redeem me from the clutches of this world, I belong. And He is restoring what was lost when Adam and Eve were stumbled by Satan into doubting God prompting them to go their own way. As a result, they experienced death. First spiritual death, and eventually physical death.

We are spiritually dead until we receive spiritual life through faith in Christ. (Eph. 2:1; Romans 3:23)

Life is different after the second birth, the birth of our spirit.3 Once we are reborn, instead of struggling to shape ourselves into the mold society requires, we begin to discover who we were created to be. There is no greater compliment than to be told you are reflecting the attributes of Jesus.

This “joy” is more than a feeling, it is a quality of life.4

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

There is joy as we mature in Christ. This is a shared joy among all believers. Paul wrote of it in his letter to the Thessalonians telling them that their unwavering faith was his joy.5

This maturity brings like mindedness. We have the same love; we are of one accord and of one mind. We do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves and look out for the interests of others. This mindset is ours in Christ Jesus.6 What joy this brings to the body of believers.

 Joy may also come out of suffering and sorrow for Christ’s sake, writes Terry Miethe in “The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words.” He sights several Scriptures to back his conclusion.

The apostle Paul suffered to help the church mature, making the word of God fully known.7 The apostle Peter told believers they are blessed when insulted for the name of Christ, because the Spirit of glory and of God rested upon them.8 The author of Hebrews wrote that sometimes Christians are publicly exposed to reproach and affliction and sometimes they are partners with those so treated.9

Of most importance is the fact this inexplicable joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit.10 We are given this Spirit at our rebirth, and He makes it possible to experience “chara,” the koine Greek term translated into English as “joy.”

 C.S. Lewis describes this joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” He adds that the only thing in common this Spiritual joy has with happiness or pleasure is the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.11 

 Lewis wrote that he found this joy to be a Person. And so, it is. In John chapter 15 Jesus tells us to abide in his love by keeping his commandments. He tells us this so his joy may be in us, and our joy may be full. We remain in his presence by walking in the light as he is in the light. Not going our own way but His. And this walk was made possible when He went to the cross, paying the penalty for our sins and thus redeeming us. And now restoring us for His glory.

     “He is risen!” “He has risen indeed!”

Happy Easter.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Let’s Talk:

1-How have you discovered “joy” in the Person, Jesus Christ?

2-What special ways do you have of commemorating the victory of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?


1-Hebrews 12:2

2-Col 1:16

3-John chapter 3

4-The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words by Terry L. Miethe published by Bethany House Publishers Minneapolis, Minnesota.

5-1 Thess. 2:19-20

6-Phil 2:2-5

7-Col 1:24-25

8-1 Peter 4:13-14

9-Hebrews 10:33

10-Gal 5:22

11-Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, as quoted in The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words.

Draw Closer to God Through Prayer

     “Draw near to God.” This is one of the 54 directives James gives in his letter to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.

     How do I move toward, come closer, approach God?

     When I think about the steps people took to move closer before Christ made it possible for us to freely walk into His presence the contrast is astonishing. In Exodus chapter 19 we read that God told Moses He would come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people, but before they could meet with God special instructions had to be followed. First came consecration, then limits were set. “Don’t go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.”

When God appeared, the mountain was wrapped in smoke and trembled. The voice of the Lord came in thunder. (Exodus 19:7-25)

     In modern society our steps are much less daunting. We grow closer to God through Bible study, worship, prayer, and fellowship with like-minded Christians. Shared experience has always been beneficial to me. Hearing the stories of brothers and sisters in Christ is like a new page to the manuscript of old. How God meets us as we seek Him.

     Instructions in a book I have been reading on studying God’s Word, written by Jen Wilkin, inspired a way to draw near through prayer.1

     Use the acronym PART, she suggested, which stands for praise, admit, request, and thank. Then she gave examples on what you might pray in each category before, during, and after Bible study.

     Although her examples were for Bible study, this thoughtful prayer seems a good way to approach every moment, each day.

     Praise God for the revelation we receive about His character as we study, she wrote. Can’t we do this as we see God in the midst of our situation when we see His provision, unfailing love, grace, or mercy?

To explain the final letters of the acronym she states that we can admit to frustration or confusion as we study the text. We can request help with the hard passages and thank Him when we receive correction from the scriptures.

Use PART to consistently pray throughout the day

     We may spend time in the presence of the Lord early in the morning before the sun rises while the household is just stirring and preparing to meet the day. But we can also spontaneously pray from morning to evening. Prayers spoken on the fly perhaps uttered while driving, while pushing a cart through the grocery store, at our work desk, and during dinner prep.

     Got a doctor’s appointment? Praise Yahweh Rophe, the Lord who heals. Admit that you are fearful about the medical journey you may be on and that you are desperate for an outpouring of His grace. Request that He heal you and thank Him for providing the medical care that you need.

     Are you giving a presentation at work, or speaking at a women’s event at your church? Praise God for His direction, as the Holy Spirit inspires you and the tools you need become evident. Admit your insecurities and request that God will give you the peace you need when you stand before your audience. Lastly, thank Him for His faithfulness.

     Is your day feeling mundane, ordinary? Praise God for the example He sets for order. Each time I read about the Israelites in the wilderness breaking camp I am reminded that the process He set in place was far from chaotic, each tribe moving at an appointed time. Admit that you are feeling bored and request that God help you find something extraordinary about the day. Thank Him for the clothes you are washing, the bed you just made, and the food in your cupboard for dinner.

     Making prayer PART of our daily life will take practice. It may be something we need to remind ourself at first. But I think it helps us remember God is present. Also, we address our sin swiftly and repent. Not by our willpower but by recognizing our need for God in the process. And we focus on thankfulness rather than complaining.

     In Scripture we are told that God inhabits the praises of His people. (Psalm 22:3) Obviously, praise will bring us closer to God. But so will confessing our sins, seeking Him for help, and remaining in a state of thankfulness. Such activity keeps our focus upon Him, therefore we will become more aware of all He is doing in our life.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Himsan/Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-If you find yourself praying throughout the day, please share what prompts your prayer.

2-Try the acronym PART as a prayer prompter for a day and then return to this comment section to share what impact it had on your relationship with God.


1-Women of the Word, How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin. Published by Crossway Wheaton, Illinois.  

Steps to Purity of Heart

     Sometimes we make things harder than they are. Such as the sixth beatitude in the book of Matthew.

     “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8 ESV

     At first glance this seems impossible. But I came across a little booklet that provided insight. A Bible study on the Beatitudes written by Pat King and George O. Wood and printed in 1984. I am so thankful this sister and brother in Christ shared the insight God gave them.1

     In the introduction I read: “You can be pure: pure from envy, pure from hatred, pure from lust, pure from pride and selfishness. Jesus has said you can be pure, and this lesson shows you how.”

Those of you who read my blog posts regularly, know this year I am asking “how” do we put into practice Scripture. When we are given commandments such as “Be holy as I am holy” [1 Peter 1:16]; “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” [Matthew 6:33] ; “Love your enemies do good to those who hate you” [Luke :627]… I search for the details on how I might put into practice commands that do not reflect my nature.

We can strive to accomplish all God’s commandments, make them hard work, or we can ask God to show us how to walk in His ways. Sometimes the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the steps and other times He will show a sister or brother in Christ, and we can learn from one another just as I gleaned wisdom from the authors of this little booklet.

Here’s what I learned.

A pure heart is the result of being cleansed of sin. The authors of this booklet showed how this cleansing takes place.

**For a pure heart:

1-Confess sin.

As we become aware of sin, we are to own it. (1 John 1:8) Also, we are to confess it.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 ESV

No matter how horrific we think our sin is, or how many times we have committed the same sin, we take it to God asking His forgiveness and cleansing.

But we remember that confession is not glib words, but words spoken in contriteness with a brokenness of heart. The authors of the booklet wrote: “Continued brokenness will bind the sin. Coldness of heart will perpetuate the sin.”

2-Pursue righteousness.

Also necessary for a pure heart is the pursuit of righteous living. 2 Timothy 2:22 teaches that those who call on the Lord from a pure heart are people who pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. defines righteous as acting in accord with divine or moral law. We might say it is choosing the right way to live, God’s way over the ways of the world or our own assessment of right and wrong.

We not only go after a clean heart but all the gains we make we try to maintain. In James 4:8b we are warned against double-mindedness. In modern Christian language we refer to this as walking with one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot in the world.

3-Rely on God.

Finally remember who is at work in us, who will help us.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, either can you, unless you abide in me.” John 14:4 ESV

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12b-13 ESV

In Psalm 51 David goes to God asking that He purify him so he will be clean, wash him so he will be whiter than snow, and to blot out all his iniquities. He approaches God because he knows his sin is against God.

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4a ESV

He approaches God expectantly asking that he create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him. (Psalm 51:10)

Jesus tells us in the sixth beatitude that a pure heart is a blessing because we will see God. This alone is incentive to keep our heart pure.

©2023 Susan Cort Johnson *All Rights Reserved

Image by Nenad Maric on Pixabay

Let’s Talk:

1-What reasons can you list for desiring a pure heart? (Share them in the comment section!)

2-Can you paraphrase Matthew 5:8? Share this beatitude in your own words in the comment section.


1-The Beatitudes, Expressing the Character of Jesus by Pat King and George O. Wood. Published by Women’s Aglow Fellowship, International, Lynnwood, WA 98046-1558.