More of a Mess than a Manuscript

As the New Year arrives and it seems everyone is thinking resolutions,lightstock_142968_small_helena_ I am doing something completely different.  A few days ago I decided to go back and read my prayer journal for 2015.  The journal is nothing fancy… an old fashioned college rule COMPOSITION BOOK.  When I write in it I use one writing instrument exclusively… an extra fine mechanical pencil and only one brand of those is acceptable.  I guess that is part of my quirky nature that makes me a writer.  God doesn’t care what I write with or what my handwriting looks like… He is oblivious to spelling and grammar and punctuation?  But He does like it that I actually focus my attention on what I’m writing to Him… the cell phone is put down, the TV is turned off, even the dogs have to make their nests somewhere besides my lap.

Reading the journal confirmed that I do not spend time with God everyday… perfectly; never missing a day 365 days each year.  In fact it exposed a haphazard, inconsistent totally unscheduled pattern of prayer entries.  4 days, skip 1, 1 day, skip 3, 7 days, skip 2 yeah… pretty much like that all year long.  In fact I had one month that had not a single prayer entry… my silent absence screamed off the page to me when I realized that.

In the midst of my unfaithfulness I experienced His grace for me… that He wanted me to return no matter how long it had been, no matter how far I had strayed, no matter the condition I was in when I finally turned back.  Those entries began by thanking Him for always being there.  Eventually I realized that I had wandered but I was never alone in my wanderings for He would never leave me or forsake me.  Where I went, Christ went also; gently and persistently reminding me of His love, His forgiveness and His grace.  As the year progressed the absences grew shorter and less frequent.

The prayer entries varied in length as well.  A paragraph or two; four pages of anxious, scribbled slashing; two sheets of calm, neat penmanship; a page of joyful, loopy words with underlines, hearts, smiley faces and exclamation points for emphasis!  I just lay it all out there… my frustrations, my hopes, my fears all tumble onto the page in an attempt to reach His heart.  I never follow a format… at times praise happened, thankfulness happened, joy was expressed.  But my prayer journal is more of a mess than a manuscript… and in 2015 God used it tremendously in my life!

I rarely read my journal entries after I write them.  I’m usually afraid to read it… afraid of it in the same way a close look in the mirror can cause great discomfort.  All the extra pounds, gray hair, wrinkles; every imperfection shows up… how will I go on in life after seeing myself like that?  Reading my prayer journal exposed it all!

On those pages…

I trembled in anxiety and fear… for my family, my finances, my future!

God listened.

I railed at God… my heart full of anger, doubt and questioning.

God listened.

I wept in self-pity.

God listened.

I approached God as almighty, all knowing, all powerful… basically seeing Him through the eyes of an abandoned, frightened, wide-eyed little girl who crept into the room with God and hid behind a chair whispering her prayers.

God listened.

I sat before him buried in shame from my past.

God listened.

Several months into my 2015 prayer journal my focus shifted… it was less about me and more about Him.  I sampled different names for God… Almighty, Heavenly Father, Father God, Daddy God… then one day I called him Papa and our hearts connected.  I told Him all about stuff… the hurts, failures and the forgiveness I craved.  I spewed out all the lies I hear in my head, the accusations and condemnation, my vulnerability showed and so did my pride and critical spirit.  Papa came through with His truth!

I began to write a while… and then listen… write some more.

I poured out my love, concerns and desires for my family, my friends, other women I knew were hurting, confused, suffering from loss and destruction in their lives.  I searched the Word for just the right words to pray… I began to forget about me for a time and focus on them.  Breathing got easier and time seemed to fly by whenever I sat with that composition book and bible in my lap.

Flair-ups came, emotions got triggered, and old habits reappeared that are difficult to stop… it’s all there on the pages of my prayer journal.  But inside me… fear and anxiety are being replaced with peace and assurance; lies are replaced with truth; bitterness and rejection are being replaced with forgiveness and concern for others; sadness and loss are replaced with comfort and love.

Because God listened… and I listened to Him.

2016… I’m a few days into the year and I’ve missed a day or two with my prayer journal.  But it’s there… waiting for me.  And as I pour my heart out onto the pages God listens.

A Prayer

Almighty God… Heavenly Father… Papa,

In the midst of all that is happening in this world today, billions of people, political, economic and social upheaval and destruction; monumental needs… still you listen to me, Your child.  Personal, present and compassionate You sit with me every time I return to You.  You nurture, counsel, comfort and guide me with all wisdom and grace.  Your patience for me is boundless… Your love for me is everlasting! Thank you that in 2016 You will draw me… beckon me… wait for me to return to You in prayer and then You will listen. 

In Jesus Name,  Amen

 

Stepping Stones… Revealing God’s Plan

“Lord, your word says you have a plan for me… a good plan… for my good and to give me a hope for my future.  Lord, what is that plan?  What does it look like exactly and how and when will I see it fulfilled in my life?  I want to know Lord!  I thought I knew Lord… I thought when I stepped out and started that business, or when I got involved in that ministry, or when I married my husband and we started our family that I was doing what you planned and that it would definitely lead me to a future filled with hope and joy.  But God, now I’m not so sure.  I look around and my current life doesn’t look like what I expected… we’ve lost the business, the gift and talent you placed in me hasn’t been fulfilled in ministry; my husband and I are uncertain about our future.  What is happening God?  How can I know I’m following your path… your plan?”

I recently said a prayer that sounded very much like this.  It was closely followed by several conversations with women who were asking themselves and God the exact same questions… each of us struggling with uncertainty; struggling with the pain of disappointment over the past; struggling with big questions about our future.  God’s grace and His word speak truth in response to our heart felt questions…

The struggle happens when I view God’s plan as a specific role, position or achievement in life that, once reached, will somehow secure my future.  I want an “X marks the spot” and a map of how to get there.  I want God to specify my job or my ministry, where I live, who I marry or how many children I have.  Now, I know absolutely that God knew all those specifics about my life long before I was born… but still, they do not constitute God’s plan.

  • From the moment I turn my back on my old life God’s plan is for me to participate in the life of Jesus.

God’s plan is to renew my mind; mold my heart and transform my life into the glory of His son… Jesus Christ.  God’s plan is not a destination but a moment by moment journey.  Are there specifics along the way?  Sure there are… but they are not the goal or the thing by which God brings us into His kingdom.  The picture here is of Jesus leading and directing me on His path; where He goes… I go.  What He does… I do.

  • Jesus lives in me… I want to build on what I have been given.

Everything that goes into God’s plan for my life; into pleasing God, is given to me as I get to know Gargrave_stepping_stonesJesus personally and intimately.   God has laid stepping stones that clearly show me His path.  Jesus leads me… one step at a time.  And as He shows me what to do He also shows me how to do it… what my heart attitude needs to be.  As I walk along with Jesus I imitate Him… honesty – displayed in my business dealings, gentleness and patience – shared with my family, strength – shown to the doctors in the hospital, trust – when I lose my job, my retirement and my home.  Jesus teaches me to add to my faith… the qualities that enhance my effectiveness in sharing Him with those around me.  God’s plan for me starts the moment I surrender my life to Jesus and continues as I increasingly participate in His life and in His character.

  • Looking at my circumstances… focusing on my feelings… hanging on to what I expect or want life to look like means I lose sight of God’s direction for today.

It’s easy for me to blindly go through my day oblivious to the fact that Jesus wiped all my sins off the books and that he holds nothing against me that will separate me from heaven.  My perspective becomes narrow and my focus is on me… no rejoicing in my salvation, no thankfulness for Jesus… sometimes I just want what I want, when I want it.  That’s why it is so important that I commit my day to the Lord in prayer first… early in the morning… before I start anything else.  He gently reminds me of His presence and His everlasting love for me.  He infuses my spirit with His Spirit through His Word.  Jesus takes up His position… He leads, I follow.

  • Do what God sets before me to do today.

What I do today is not insignificant, not good enough or a waste of time. It is where God has me for today.  God doesn’t waste anything!  The way I conduct myself with my family, in my job and out in the community is important!  Jesus is always teaching me something… warm friendliness, passionate patience, sure determination, gentle acceptance, and generous love… these are the character traits that lead to excellence and integrity.  They are what I learn from Jesus when I participate in His life in and through me.

  • Find joy in the moment… no day will pass without my experiencing the life of Jesus within me.

I realize that with each moment comes an opportunity to take my time with what I am doing, time to explore and get the most out of whatever it is.  It is all important, and the joy of seeking and hearing the voice of the Lord in the moment fills me.  In Christ I avoid the trap of thinking that what I do today is the only thing that determines where I will be down the road.  It is “a” step… not “the” step.  Sometimes I put so much focus on individual situations that I either try too hard to do it perfectly or I get overwhelmed at its importance, get discouraged and quit.

  • Jesus keeps moving forward… He doesn’t stop and He doesn’t look back.

Do what God sets before me to do tomorrow and each day thereafter. When I look back I focus on my failures or miss-steps.  Jesus says, “Keep going.”  If I stop I guarantee much time will be wasted… He tells me to stick with Him.  I’m on firm footing, solid ground; a path leading through my circumstances, no matter what they are.  With these qualities growing in my life, He will use them to mature and complete me… according to His plan.

 Scripture: 2 Peter 1: 3-10

 A Prayer

 Father thank you that your plan for my life is for me to fully participate in the life of Jesus!  You have given me everything I need for a godly life through Jesus when He called me by his own glory and goodness.  My hearts desire is to increasingly walk in His character.  Every step I take with Jesus is an opportunity to add to my faith… goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love in increasing measure.  These are the things that bring peace and joy in the midst of my days, despite my trails and oblivious to my failures.  I thank you Father, the in Jesus I will not stumble on your path… I see your plan for my life fulfilled!

 

House on a Rock

I love Wyoming, especially the area around Green River and Rock Springs.  It is high389229_395b_1024x2000 desert, 6000 feet above sea level.  It is dominated by wide expanses of sage brush and rock, as rough a terrain as any you find in the United States. It’s dry, dusty and windy… completely gray/brown for eleven months of the year.  There are many miles of high desert that are uninhabited.  Visitors are constantly warned not to venture off the road, in fact they advise never traveling without a provision of water, extra warm clothing and other survival supplies – even when you stay on the roadway.  It is wise to heed the warning… cell phones are of no use across the Wyoming range.

Yet there is a beauty and majesty in the midst of this place.  A marvelous herd of wild horses roam freely, their coats gleaming in the sun when you come upon them.  Deer, antelope, elk and other animals find both water and sustenance on this seemingly barren terrain.  They graze on the sage brush and shelter in the ravines and rocky cliffs beside towering buttes. In fact they not only survive… they thrive!  No matter how inhospitable and lonely the Wyoming range may be… God’s creation is cared for.

All of us experience dry, windswept, lonely times in our life.  As I pray for the women I personally share the Word with each day I am acutely aware that each one needs the living water and sustenance that can only be in Jesus Christ.  Some are raising young children; some have an illness or injury that they struggle with across the terrain of their day; a few have suffered great loss recently; some are quiet, strong women who graze on God’s Word and seek to drink in His life giving presence so they can overflow into the lives of those around them; some are searching for a deeper, more meaningful, and more “real” relationship with Jesus as they are just starting out on their journey across the wilderness of life.

  • One thing…

Although many things are needed to survive the high desert there is really only one thing that is absolutely crucial – water!  Water is the vital necessity that, if you are caught, broke down on the range; your survival would depend on it.  Jesus is that one thing in all our lives, He is our living water.  First, it is necessary to surrender to Him as Lord; then we need complete dependence on Him and on His Word. All the tasks of the day; the difficulties in our relationships; the rough decisions; the feelings of inadequacy or rejection – they all expend tremendous energy and require sustenance.  Have you sat and drank deeply of God’s Word before venturing out and tucked a verse in your pocket to drink from all day long?

  • Beauty in the wilderness

God takes the harsh, rocky and windswept days of our lives and causes them to blossom.  There is nothing more beautiful than an ocean of sage brush in bloom!  It is purple across the range with a sharp, poignant smell.  Steve and I once came upon a magnificent stallion standing at the ridge of a huge valley… ears perked and muscles tense and rippled beneath his gleaming coat.  Possibly the perfect mount for Jesus when He returns.  My heart pounds with anticipation at the thought of that day.  So too, God gives us beauty in the midst of our struggles.  Jesus gives us strength and fortitude when we have none.  He sends the love and comfort of friends when we are weakest, ripples of laughter to sustain our joy, peace and quiet that can only be found in the wilderness.  Do you see the beauty of the Lord today?

  • High upon a rock
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The tiny figure is my son Jack, the valley drops off hundreds of feet below him.

To live at a higher elevation means to live in rougher terrain.  It also means to experience the awesome power of God to carry us through the wilderness and shelter us from harm.  Along the sides of ravines all across the Wyoming high desert are outcroppings of rock… towering hundreds of feet above the valleys below.  Once, when my son Jack was visiting us in Wyoming we stopped our truck atop White Mountain to see the view of Green River far below.  Jack decided to climb one of these outcroppings.  I could barely watch… he says it was the scariest thing he ever did in his life… also the most magnificent.  I thank the Lord for his safety that day!  But with Jesus we can dwell… that means we live each day… atop just such an outcropping.  We can live high above the valley… and it is the safest place in the world.   Jesus is the rock we can depend on; drink from; rest in His shelter.

Psalm 27:4-5 NIV

 One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

What an awesome picture of what it means to life in the presence of God through Jesus.  Have you allowed Him to take you out of the valley and set you high upon His rock?

A prayer

 Father God I ask that I may dwell in your house, in your presence today and everyday.  I will seek you with all my heart… in all my decisions… for you wisdom and guidance… for all my needs.  My heart pounds with the joy of living my life atop the rock that is your son Jesus.  That He may be glorified in and through my life.

Please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

Tug of War

Have you ever been in a tug of war?  You know the game you play whe8686830726_57fac80c1c_bre you use a great big rope that fills your hands and is a challenge to grip.  You are the person right up front, with a six-foot expanse of goo-ey, wet mud between you and the opponents on the other side.  Losing means being dragged in.  Wet, cold and dirty!  Winning takes strength, determination and perseverance.

The second chapter of Boot Camp is about just such a tug of war!  Losing is messy, cold and painful.  Victory is sweet!  Who is the Enemy teaches a foundation scripture. Yes, there is a tug of war.  It takes place in our lives every day.  Only in this tug of war we get to choose whose team we wish to be on.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

Who is speaking? Jesus.  In the Amplified Bible it reads, “till it overflows.”  Do you have an idea of what abundant life looks like?  If you close your eyes and allow God and your God-given gift of imagination to day dream… what does an abundant life look like?

In my thinking true abundance is peace.  It is an overwhelming sense of peace and joy; love for one another.  Abundance includes the ability to work and prosper; relax and have recreation and fun; an end to strife in relationships; an end to the pain and struggles so many people go through physically, mentally and emotionally.  My loved ones, friends, neighbors will come to know the Lord and walk in the mercy and grace of Jesus; assured of eternal life… that’s the ultimate abundant life.  That’s what an abundant life looks like.  That’s what Jesus comes to give us.

I have mentored people and when I ask them what an abundant life looks like they sit and hang their heads and look down at their feet and they don’t have any idea… My heart cries out to those that are so down trodden, so oppressed and depressed that they don’t know, can’t even imagine. We need to know that Jesus came to give us an abundant life. If you are able get a glimpse or a glimmer of Jesus abundant life, then… praise the Lord.  We need to be able to do that.

That’s one side of the tug of war.  Go to our resource page and read Who is the Enemy, the second chapter of Boot Camp to learn who is tugging the other side of the rope; what he does and how he does it as he tries to pull you through that mud puddle.

A Prayer

 Father God I thank you for the great abundant life Jesus secured for us by His amazing love and sacrifice.  He came to give us that life both now and for all eternity.  Help me to understand what happens to bring destruction into my life instead of abundance.  In the tug of war that goes on every day… thank you that in Christ I have victory.

Never Lost in Uncertainty

I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.

I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a couple days. On Saturday a tragedy struck a family I have only known a short time, but have grown to care deeply about.  Ever since I heard, everything else has seemed somehow insignificant, and my words seem to fall into the abyss of well meaning yet unknowing chatter that brings nothing of importance.  So this morning, on my scheduled day to post I have nothing.  I am so glad that God’s Word has all I need.

There are so many times when we don’t know where to turn, what to do or how to take the next step.  Everyday tasks can mount up until they seem overwhelming.  Young women and mature women alike live such busy and demanding lifestyles today.  The ordinary things of life… our jobs, our children, our spouse… not to mention the interest we have in our communities and other life fulfilling activities, all of these can truly blind us.  They create a whirlwind of choices and decisions that swirls around in our minds and keeps us lost in uncertainty.

Sometimes we are faced with sudden and painful circumstances that make it difficult to know what to do… what to say… how to persevere and continue in life.  Depending on how personal the circumstance is to our life… the pain can be total anguish that completely blinds us and turns our life into total darkness.  Taking any step at all seems impossible.  God is there for each of us… in every situation.

I teach in Boot Camp that the way to God’s direction is in our relationship to Christ and constantly including Him in our choices and decisions.  Key to that principle is being convinced that God does not forsake us!  To forsake means to abandon or desert.  We need to be certain that God is always with us… not just in the overall, general sense of God being everywhere that we learned or heard as children.  But in the personal – intimate with our confusion and pain – sense that God is talking about in this verse.  We need to know that when we can’t see the next step He is right there to guide us.  We need to know the depth of His love for us.

God brings light into the darkness.  Have you ever been in a cave and had the tour guides turn off the lights.  Pitch dark! So dark you can’t see anything even an inch from your eyes… it is exactly what it’s like to be blind.  To think you might be alone in that place is staggering.  But then they light a match and the light that surrounds it is amazing.  You know you are not alone.

My personal experience of being abandoned as a child hindered this “knowing” for many years.  I struggled with the lie that when I needed God the most He was not there.  I listened to that lie and would keep my eyes shut tight… no sense looking for someone whom I was convinced wasn’t there.  Then I would blindly try to find my way, groping and grasping for anything that I thought might bring me comfort.  But God was there and He never left me even for a moment.  When I read and listened to His Word; when I listened for His still small voice in my heart, He brought grace and truth and I would eventually open my eyes and my circumstances glowed with His presence.

In the ordinary life struggles and in painful loss and tragedy God is there. In His moment by moment presence we receive mercy, love and comfort.  When we don’t know the way, He takes us by the hand and guides and directs us.  This verse shows us exactly how God works… In Christ we accept that He is present with us and reach out to Him… He comforts our lost and hurting hearts; levels our paths, guides and directs us … overcoming our blindness and confusion we become convinced even more of His love and presence with us.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”

                                                                      Isaiah 42:16 ESV

A Prayer

Father God thank you for your constant and unfailing love for each one of us… individually… personally and intimately.  You are aware of the everyday yet overwhelming things of life. You are especially present in the midst of the tragic, desperate confusion we all experience sometimes. Your son Jesus experienced it personally; it was at those times He withdrew alone to pray.  I ask you to guide my steps, each choice and decision that awaits me today.  With you, my way becomes level and smooth, my heart becomes calm and sure.  Thank you that you do not forsake me!

Teaching on how to experience God’s direction moment by moment in your life is available in Knowledge~Relationship~Decisions under resources: Boot Camp Workbook.  Also please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

Discover Your Core

abounding in goodness and truth

I never thought I would have one of these but… I have a personal trainer.  Several months ago I began a physical fitness program.  At the time I started I was in pain throughout my body, had terrible balance, even the motion and effort required for everyday activities challenged me.  My poor condition was the effects of an old injury, an auto-immune disease and overall poor physical fitness.  I was desperate to feel better and I finally faced the fact that I needed to take a hard look at my physical fitness if I was ever going to see physical change take place. From the first day my trainer has told me… “It all starts with your core!”

I found out what he meant when I started the workouts.  I discovered my core… the abdominal muscles at the center of my body.  These muscles, when fit and strong, stabilize my spine; enable me to keep my balance; ensure that I move properly and protect me from injury.  Right from the beginning the exercises required me to use those core muscles.  I was constantly challenged by them… the exercises were uncomfortable.  The possibility of further pain or injury made me anxious… my trainer validated my nervousness and encouraged me to continue the exercise.  He told me to do them consistently, diligently and with a constant awareness to use proper form.  I finally decided that it doesn’t matter how I feel about the exercises… I just do them.  The result has been slow, steady improvement.

Just as my physical fitness stems from my core muscles, my spiritual fitness stems from my core beliefs.  When emotional pain and stress escalates my assurance of God’s promises wane; doubt and fear come in.  I get desperate for change in my life.  Three core beliefs must be strong to allow change to take place despite my feelings and circumstances!  I must decide what I believe in my heart!

  • I must decide to believe that “God is.”

As simple as this may sound – It is easy for me to give mental agreement to God out of habit, or fear or the fact that I have heard about him since I was a child.  However at my core I must decide that God exists, that He is real and no matter how I feel I refuse to let go of that certainty.

  • I must decide that “God doesn’t lie.”

Before Jesus, I had never in my life experienced someone who didn’t lie to me.  I had learned to lie too… for my own protection and then simply to get my own way.  I assumed everyone lied.  But for the Word of God to mean anything to me I need to believe at my core that God does not lie.  Only then I can take all the lies I hear… I’m not good enough; it’s never going to get any better… lies that steal my joy and peace – and replace them with God’s truth.  His word, His promises, everything He says I am is true.

  • I must decide that “God is good.”

There are times when my feelings all scream at me that this last one isn’t true… how could it be with everything that has happened to me in my life?  When I first surrendered my life to Jesus I was frightened and alone. (Life Saving Truth)  Yet deep inside I had a glimmer of something that said, “God is good.”  I didn’t understand where it came from and didn’t spend time trying to analysis it.  I just decided to believe it. We all have a glimmer of the goodness of God… He’s in sunsets, oceans and stars.  At the core of our hearts we must decide that God is good!

Those decisions to believe God still get challenged daily and I make those same decisions over and over again!  When I falter in them I struggle and my feelings grow monstrously dangerous.  Exposing my core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  The awesome thing is that when I do I expose the lies that keep me from God.  Then, I can replace them with the truth!

When I settle on those three decisions I have a rock solid foundation.  I believe that what it means to surrender my life to Jesus is that Jesus is actually alive within me and He is Lord of my life.  From that foundation I begin to set my feelings aside and seek what I need from God… through His Word, through prayer and through the comfort and counsel of other Christians.  I begin to experience the goodness of God.  My core beliefs keep me stable and balanced… able to move forward as His loved and cherished child… not necessarily because I feel that way but because He says that is who I am.  The decision in my heart, to believe God, is my core.

Everything that happens in your life requires the same core beliefs.  Exposing your core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  I want to validate your feelings and bring a measure of comfort and encouragement.  I also want to encourage you to discover your core.  Ask yourself in the midst of the struggles… What do I believe about God?

If you are struggling with any or all of these core beliefs, please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a comment below and post it to this blog.

A Prayer

 Thank you Father that I am who you say I am… your precious daughter in Christ Jesus.  Thank you that I can seek answers to my struggles and trials; wisdom for my everyday life; and comfort for the pain and turmoil this life holds at times.  Thank you Father – your Word brings peace to my heart.  I have decided to believe that everything you say is true and good.  Thank you Father for Jesus… he is the strength at my core! 

Scripture: Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:9-10