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Relationship not religionDo you know the God of religion or relationship?

I re-discovered something precious in the Word of God this morning. I was reminded, as I was reading in Acts, that I know and serve a God of relationship, not religion.

And I am so thankful for that.

The god of religion is the one who asks you to do a number of things to prove yourself worthy. The God of Relationship recognized we will never be worthy, but He chose to love us anyway.

As I was reading in Acts, I realized,  once again, that God knew that none of us could ever be worthy of Him.  So, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place — not so that we would have to follow a bunch of rules in our lives. But so that we could know Him (and obey and serve Him) through a relationship.

In Acts 17:24-25 the Apostle Paul told a group of Greek and Jewish philosophers about this God of relationship who wasn’t interested in having them DO a bunch of things for Him. He told them of a Creator God who is also a Sustainer God who wanted to be their Savior God and live in relationship with them:

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question_markDo you ever find yourself questioning God?

Why now, God? Couldn’t You have waited another week or so?

Why her, Lord? Couldn’t you have let it happen to someone else?

Why this, God? Couldn’t you have gotten my attention in some other way?

I found myself questioning God when something my husband and I had hoped for didn’t turn out the way we had expected or prayed. And God’s answer, from His Word, reminded me again Who is in control:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts.

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than   your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NASB).

That was God’s gentle way of telling me that He has a bigger picture that is above and beyond anything that I can see right now. And so I am asked to trust Him.

God sees our entire story in the spiritual realm that we can’t yet comprehend. He has reasons that are far above our own because He is God and we are not. And we are asked to simply trust…

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Miller bookDo you want to see growth in your marriage?

Once a month I try to encourage my blog readers who are married. So I’ve asked my friends, Larry and Kathy Collard Miller, to share some insights on my blog this week about how you can begin to see growth in your marriage. Here are some of their insights from their newest book, Never Ever Be the Same, which is for anyone –single or married — who wants to see change, not the same old dysfunctional patterns that plague our lives:

How do you envision spiritual growth in your marriage?

Most of us think of it visually like a linear time line. On the left side of the line we make a step of progress and the temptation seems to be behind us and we won’t address it again. We have moved along that line to the right and we’ll only encounter new challenges—not old ones.

And we think our spouse will do the same. Once he (or she) has changed in an area, we expect that he will not struggle with it again. And when he does, we might be crushed, thinking he can never change. We might even expect that all hope is gone. We (Larry and Kathy) certainly felt that way at times.

But that’s not an accurate visual of change. Change is more like a spiral. Let’s call it a whirlpool. We’re going around and around in life and every time we reach a certain situation or person, there’s a rock, representing a sinful strategy that hits us, tempting us to behave badly. If we think there are no rocks (as if they are behind us in a time line), we’ll be surprised and unaware of their approach.

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Have you ever had a God encounter?

Let me rephrase that question. Have you ever had a week in which it seemed like nothing went right?

I used to wonder why that happened. Now I know better.

Now I realize that a cruddy week is often my glimpse of a God encounter. Because it’s a week in which I get to know Jesus just a little bit better.

Unfortunately, at least in my life, a God encounter is not a bright light, a loud voice from heaven or the sudden realization of a dream.

Nope. When God shows me more about Himself, it’s usually in those times that I truly need Him. Those times when I’m downright desperate for Him. Those times when nothing seems to go right.

For me it was a week that started off with disappointing news from a friend, a car repair that I couldn’t afford, and then a bad case of food-poisoning that had me wiped out, physically, for two days. It all occurred on a week that I really needed to get a lot of things done. And instead, I found myself on my knees (and flat on my back) talking to God.

It was then that I remembered a treasured truth from God’s Word.

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Blog quote - difficultWhat seems impossible that you are waiting upon God to accomplish?

While we can easily be hating the waiting, I encourage you to embrace the adventure of waiting upon God for your “impossible.” When we are in the midst of waiting, God is often in the midst of doing His best work.

When God told 99-year-old Abraham that his 90-year-old wife would conceive and bear a child — within a year — his wife laughed at the possibility.

But it wasn’t just a possibility. It was a promise. And God wasn’t smiling at Sarah’s reception of his promise as a joke.

God’s response to her unbelief was:

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

God seems to specialize in doing the difficult, arranging the impossible, accomplishing the unfathomable. The only problem is, we don’t like being in the portion of His project where everything still looks difficult, impossible, and unfathomable. Yet, while we’re waiting, God is building in us a dependence on Him and a better idea of what it means to trust in His timing.

Here are some of the “impossibles” that I’m waiting upon God for right now:

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GSTquote10Are you wondering why God won’t answer a particular prayer of yours?

A question I’ve been hearing a lot lately is “Why pray? It seems futile. God isn’t doing anything about it.”

My how we hate the silence, and yet God does some of His best work in the quiet.

If you’ve been asking God to bless a certain area of your life, or you’re just feeling that He doesn’t hear you or doesn’t answer, let me offer you three things to think about:

1) God is under no obligation to bless anything that is not surrendered to Him.

We get the idea that because we pray, God is obligated to answer. Yes, God is good. Yes, He is loving. But His promises and blessings are to those who are obedient to Him (Psalm 5:12). We must be careful we don’t confuse God’s unconditional love with unconditional blessing. God makes it very clear throughout Scripture that there are requirements for His blessings (Psalm 1; 2 Corinthians 1:20):

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These are the questions that burned on the hearts of my readers this past year:

  • How do I know if that open door is from God?Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. woman standing in doorway looking out at bright sunny day, view from behind and below
  • What do I do when I feel stuck?
  • How do I move on from the pain inflicted by my father?
  • How do I trust God when I really don’t understand what’s going on? 
  • When will God give me a husband?

You asked. And I answered. And since my answers to YOUR questions represented my  top 5 most popular blogs in 2014, I’m running the links here in case you missed any of them.

Be encouraged…and share this blog with a friend who needs encouragement, too.

Cindi’s Top Five Blogs of 2014:

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Do you have a plan for growing spiritually in the next 12 months?girlreadingbible

I had to start writing out a plan every January to ensure I didn’t end the year in the same place, spiritually, as I was when the year started. Year by year, we might not notice a lack of spiritual growth in our lives. But you’d be surprised how quickly ten years can pass without having memorized one verse of scripture, without confronting a habitual sin in your life, without having shared the gospel with an unbeliever, without having experienced a point in your walk with God that lit a fire under you and caused you to live differently.

Instead of making “new year’s resolutions” each year, I sit down with God and ask “How will I grow more in love with You this year?” By being intentional about setting goals to prioritize my relationship with God, I’ve found the result is growing in my relationships with my family and friends, as well. Setting some spiritual goals for the next year also helps me ensure that there is fruit developing from my life each year instead of being a sponge that continues to soak it all in, but gives little out.

Here are some examples of a few of the spiritual goals that I’ve set through the years, many of which repeatedly stay on my list from year to year. Try a couple of these, and maybe even come up with some of your own, so that you are one year closer to Christ — and to those you love — by the time next January rolls around:

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Blog-goalsAre you dreaming of something you’d like to see happen in 2015? I hope so.

To have something to look forward to keeps us going — whether it’s a financial goal like saving enough money to take a family vacation, or a personal goal like becoming more healthy, earning a promotion at work, or spending more time with your children or grandchildren.

I have found that the best way to make changes and improve your life from year to year is to go step-by-step into some positive goal-making as you move into the new year.

Here is how I do it and perhaps these five simple steps will help you:

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blogquote_gratitudeHow healthy are you going into this holiday season?

While you can try to steer clear of germs, pump up the antioxidants, and even get your flu shots, three of the healthiest things you can do have nothing to do with germs and everything to do with attitude. That’s right. Numerous studies exist that show a direct relationship between improved health and a positive, happy attitude toward life.

So here are three things you can start doing now to ensure you have a happier, healthier holiday season:

1. Cultivate a Grateful Heart

I’m sure God had our physical, as well as spiritual, health in mind when He inspired the Apostle Paul to write: “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Did you catch that? In everything give thanks. In the good times, as well as the bad. In the pleasantries of life, as well as in the pain. During difficult times, trying times, and frustrating times, too. When we’re thanking God, we’re focused on our blessings, rather than the bitterness of whatever else might be going on. And that keeps us positive.

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Blog quote - Psalm 139I recently lay on my side in a dermatologist’s office as she cut a football-shaped incision into the back of my shoulder and carved out all visible traces of surface skin cancer.

“Basal cell carcinoma — it’s the result of long-term sun exposure,” my doctor told me — and echoes of my husband’s warning for the past several years (“Cindi, cover your shoulders, you’re going to get burned!) rang through my ears once again.

Funny how that cancer didn’t develop overnight. Or from a one-time stint in the sun. It was from years of neglect. Years of thinking I was fine and ignoring the warnings of the dangers of sun exposure. Years of living care-free, thinking “But I like the sun, and I want to be tanned, and this No. 4 Dark Tanning Oil will be just fine.”

I wasn’t cautious even though I was told of the dangers of sun exposure. I never thought it would happen to me.

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Growth quote 2Do you ever worry that you aren’t growing enough, spiritually? And should it be something you worry about?

One of my readers recently said:

“I often worry about my spiritual growth. Sometimes I feel like I am not growing.”

I, too, used to worry about my spiritual growth:

  • Am I where I should be, spiritually, considering how long I’ve known God?
  • Is there something more I should be doing — or something more I should be studying — so I can grow in an area where I still need to become more like Christ?
  • Am I being obedient enough?

And yet, I realize now that I’ve been asking the wrong questions.

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When my friend sent me a text upon learning her husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, I was surprised — yet encouraged — by her reaction:

“God’s got this,” she said confidently.

I want that type of unswerving trust in the One who can handle all things. And I know you do, too.

Last week I asked you what you worry most about so I could encourage you to trust God in those areas. Here is what you, my readers, said:

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You are not alone when you feel discouraged because it seems like God isn’t answering your prayers. Even if it appears that God is silent, He is still there, still listening to your prayers, and still working out the details of your life, as you surrender to Him.  girlpraying

In this video interview with, I share with you how God can do amazing things with our disappointments and things we don’t understand — like unanswered prayer.

Watch my 3 1/2-minute video and be encouraged about what happens When  God Sees Your Tears.  And then pass this on to a friend or family member who needs this encouragement.  Watch now.

JoyI recently posted a devotional on the Proverbs 31 Ministries site and received about 900 comments from women, most of them with heartbreaking stories.

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, another woman will break my heart with what she has gone through in her marriage, as a parent, or as a woman who has experienced physical or emotional pain. Hurt will never go out of style. And I remember thinking, as I read through those stories, that as long as I’m writing for hurting hearts, there will, sadly, always be an audience for my books.

It’s sad, but it’s a reality of the broken world we live in.

And yet…I’m thinking you could use a little joy about now. Well, I’ve got good news for you: Experiencing joy is easier than you think.

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question_markWhy even pray if it seems like God’s not there?

Do you ever find yourself thinking that?

I know what it’s like to ask God for something and to keep waiting for an answer. It’s easy sometimes to wonder if He’s listening at all.

But I’m also convinced that God sees our story from beginning to end and He knows exactly what He is preparing us for while we’re waiting on Him….even if we can’t imagine He’s doing anything on our behalf.

If you’re in the frustrating phase of trying to get God’s ear, I want to share with you, from my new book, When God Sees Your Tears, three sources of hope for you to hold onto during this time when God appears silent:

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weddingphotoHugh&CindiThis week my husband and I will celebrate 26 years of marriage. More than two decades ago, we told each other “I do” in front of family and friends. And after all these years, Hugh is still putting up with me. 🙂

I could be all gushy and say “I can’t imagine my life without him,” but honestly speaking, sometimes I have imagined that. And those are the times I am reminded that marriage isn’t — and never has been — about me. It’s about the One who called me to live, work, and serve alongside this man to accomplish God’s will for His glory.

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faceboobanner1My readers often ask me where I get the inspiration to write my books.

Truth be told, God has to deal with me in certain areas of my life and then He has me write what I have learned as a way of cementing those truths into my heart. In other words, He keeps teaching me about Himself, where I’ve messed up, and what I still need to grasp in order to follow Him more closely.

So, I want to give you, in 10 simple statements, the most impacting truths He’s taught me in the past 15 years, which also represent 10 of the 14 books I’ve written.

Pay attention to the key words in boldface. The first person to respond in the comment section with the titles of the books these statements have inspired will receive a free book of their choice. Keep reading, there will be another way to win a book at the end of this list, too.

The Top 10 Things God Has Taught Me in the Past 15 Years:

1. God is the Only One who can satisfy our heart’s hunger and meet our primary emotional needs.

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prayer-on-my-knees4I’m a firm believer that God knows exactly what He’s doing when He says “no” to our prayers, when He seems to wait before answering our prayers, or when it seems He isn’t listening at all.

Psalm 145:8-9 says: The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

That tells me that His graciousness, compassion, and love are at work — even in unanswered prayer. So here are seven reasons to thank God even when you’re not getting an answer – yet:

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GST6Do you know what it’s like to ask God for something and to keep receiving a “no”?

I do. Whether I was trying to get a book published, trying to have a second child, or trying to pry open a door of opportunity, every time I received a “no” it was discouraging. But looking back now, that “no” was really God saying “wait — I have something better for you, instead.”

Sometimes God’s “no” is because He’s protecting us from what we don’t yet see. Other times it’s because He is waiting to give us something far better than we requested.

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