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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Persevere, Grow, and Receive

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NIV).

God promises He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. His promise is not dependent upon who we are or what we are. All that we must do is accept His will, and make every effort to follow it. He gives us His divine promise that though we may fail at times in striving to accomplish His will, if our heart’s desire is to serve Him, His promise must be fulfilled. He cannot deny what He has done on the cross. If He is our Savior, and we strive to serve Him, His promise will be fulfilled in our lives.

Do you think that when Jesus called Peter to follow Him that He did not know his strengths and his weaknesses? God knew Peter. He knew that despite human weakness, Peter would discover His strength. If you feel weak and lacking in power, remember the Lord chose Peter knowing His potential―knowing that one day He would be filled with the Spirit and with power.

God's choice of Peter is encouraging. Choosing a weak Peter to serve Him encourages us that, we too, can be used for God's service. Take heart. No matter what your struggle or your area of weakness, God knows your potential, too. He extends love and forgiveness along your lifetime of service so that you may achieve it. Peter, as a result of God's grace, forgiveness, and power, discovered spiritual maturity.

“His divine power.” Peter writes, “ has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

He has called you to serve Him.... not because of who you are..... but because of who He is. His divine power is available so that through Him, and through His precious promises, you may become more like Him. You can reach a level of spiritual maturity where you are effective and productive in your Christian walk (2 Peter 1:9). But you must “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).



Monday, December 30, 2013

No More Gathering Thoughts

“We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer” (Proverbs 16:1, NLT).

This morning I needed a verse to encourage me. My mind was torn suddenly in the night with some thoughts that were very difficult and heart-breaking if true. I prayed to the Lord to help me sort them out, and not to make wrong assessments about them. I wasn't terrorized in fear by them or feeling condemnation, so I believed that the Lord might want to teach me something or correct me about something. My mind played havoc with my heart, and I realized that I just needed to give it all to the Lord. So I prayed and I fell back asleep.

Just a few minutes ago I was ready to read and pray, and I opened my NLT Bible to Proverbs 16:1. What I read sounded as if it came right out of the Lord's mouth. I can gather my thoughts all I want, but the Lord gives the right answer. This told me right away that I was not to try to reason and “gather my thoughts” about what I thought about in the night. It told me that he would give me the right answer.

I went online to Bible Gateway to read other versions of this verse, but before I read the other versions, I checked the NLT version. It read, “we can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.” I looked at my old NLT in my hand. It still read “we can gather our thoughts”, and it did not read “we can make our own plans.” The meanings were similar, but this morning I needed to read that it was useless for me to “gather my own thoughts.”

God amazes me. I still don't know what the thoughts were all about in the night. But He will give me the right answer when He is ready to give it to me. And I have peace about that. The thoughts will not be difficult or heart-wrenching now. He will give me the right answer at the right time. I just need to stop “gathering my thoughts” about all of it.

My version of the NLT is an older one wrapped in duct tape because it is falling apart. I treasure it this morning more than ever before. God knew exactly what was there, and the exact wording that would bring peace to my heart.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

His Word His Life His Light

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:1-5, NLT).

Before everything else.... before creation.... before life.... the Word breathed. It lived. It not only was with the Creator, it was Him. It was His very being.... His very essence. It was His Truth, and His purpose. That purpose brought forth His creation, and nothing came into being unless it came through His Truth and His Word. His essence of Truth became substance, and substance became matter. And His Creation existed. His Word breathed life to all that He created. His light now shines in the darkness, and will never be put out.

Whatever the state of the world around you.... whatever seems to control it.... whatever you face in this life... whatever attempts to strike terror in your heart.... REMEMBER, His Word still lives. His light still shines. It can never be extinguished. You are His creation, and Jesus Christ, the light that can't be extinguished, desires to live in you and breathe life into you everyday. If you take Him into your life, He is your light, and He lives in you. That life... that light can never be put out. That life will live forever... just as His Word will live forever. His Truth and His Word, continually shine in the darkness bringing His light and life to His creation. No matter what His creation becomes, take heart. His Word and Truth lives and breathes and lights His world. It can never be extinguished. He has overcome the world.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Have I?

Have I grown spiritually this year? Have I continually learned from His Word? Have I given of myself as He desires? Have I followed His will for my life? Have I been His servant in the lives of others? Have I shared His hope? Have I shared His love? Have I forgiven as He has forgiven me? Have I looked for potential in others as He has always seen potential in me? Have I completely surrendered everything in my life to His wishes? Have I read and absorbed His Word until it has changed my life over and over again? Have I prayed for others with as much passion as I have prayed for myself? Have I unselfishly given myself away with no reservation? Have I given Him a sacrifice of praise when life has been hard? Have I praised Him for His faithfulness to me? Have I worshiped Him in Spirit and in Truth? Have I rejoiced with those who rejoice and cried with those who cry? Have I made myself the least so He can be the most? Have I been what He has wanted this year? Have I?

Friday, December 27, 2013

I AM RESPONSIBLE

In the 1980’s Jim Bakker built a ministry. He thought he built it for God, but he really built his own empire. Bakker started the PTL ministry because of a desire to serve the Lord, but as the ministry grew, love of earthly possessions and lust for power waged war. Jim Bakker took his eyes off God too many times, and his empire fell.

Years following the building of the temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon found himself in the same predicament. Solomon allowed his pagan wives to pull him away from his first love. He still offered sacrifices in the temple, but worship had become only a formality. His heart was not fully God's, and his soul suffered from his desire to create happiness for the thousand of women in his life.

A woman’s desire for knowledge brought about the fall from God’s grace in the garden. Adam tried to please Eve by doing what she asked. It also might have been Tammy Fay's hunger for more possessions that spurred on Jim Bakker’s fall. King Solomon’s desire to please the many women in his life truly began his descent into a meaningless existence.

However, in the last analysis Solomon did not fall from God’s grace just because of heathen wives. Jim Bakker also did not tumble into sin just because of Tammy Fay, and Adam could have said no. Each man was ultimately responsible for his own decisions and actions. Sinful compromise separated these men from their God.

And what about me? I am responsible for my actions and my decisions. I am accountable. No one else leads me astray. Certainly others will offer temptation, but it is my choice whether I follow Christ or not. If I allow worldly desires to claim my heart instead of following after Jesus Christ, then I void my witness, and lose any credential I have to share the love of Christ. If I don't live what I believe I will lose what I have been so freely given.

It is impossible to serve two masters. I will love one and grow to hate the other. I must always choose between spiritual pursuit and worldly values. Earthly treasures will not only destroy me, but they are like sand that slips through my fingers. I can't hold on to them. I should seek God's kingdom first, and allow His treasures to become the love of my heart.

How do I keep from straying as Solomon or others have done? I need to keep earthly influences from destroying my walk with the Lord. How do I know each decision that needs to be made? I seek the Lord’s counsel through prayer, and study of His Word. I don’t wish to forfeit God’s blessings. If I allow the world to become more important that my God, then I will lose what Solomon lost–my first love.

And what about all of us? We should keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, and follow only Him. He began this faith, and He will finish it.....if we allow it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Obedient Life-A Blessed Life

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
How many of us really make a determined endeavor to follow God's commands? Perhaps we don't because following Christ means sacrifice. We want to follow Him, but it means giving up who we are for who He is. It is going to cost us. Selfishness and pride are two of the first things that must die. Following Christ also takes up our time and uses our energy. We sometimes make our Christian walk circumstantial and based on our feelings instead of God's desires. But if we sacrifice our feelings and follow His will in all circumstances, God's blessings “will come upon us and accompany us”.

It is God's desire to bless His children who make a commitment to follow Him. His blessings are His gifts which come when we sacrifice our personal desires for His. However, we must never regard obedience as a means to earn God's blessings. Then pride enters, and makes us see God's blessings as a reward for our sacrifice. Sacrificing our desires for His desires brings blessings because of God's love for us.... not based on our efforts.

His blessings are an outpouring of who He is. He is the love which gave His life for ours on Calvary. He is the love that is only completed in us when we give all of who we are to Him. His blessings flow as a result of who He is, and never because of anything we have done. “I have come,” Jesus said, “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). God wants us to experience the fullness of our relationship with Him.

In these verses in Deuteronomy God's blessings are intertwined with our obedience. His direction is very clear. If we fully obey the Lord our God and carefully follow all His commands, His blessings will come to us. And His blessings are the very best. Different from any humanly-inspired gift we might receive, His blessings will change our very lives. We will learn that sacrificial obedience brings His abundant life. In giving all of ourselves to Him, we shall receive all that His chosen for us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A CHILD

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

For unto us a child is born. Not just any child, but a child to save the world. A child to change you, and a child to change me. A child to give hope where the world speaks discouragement. A child to give joy where the world speaks despair. A child born to die for us, and a child to bring the only peace that our hearts cry our for. A child, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is born today.

A child is born who will “appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).

There is hope in the midst of discouragement and despair. There is joy and peace. His name is Jesus Christ, and He came as a little child into this world to save us from our sins. Today ask Him into your heart. Today is His birthday and it can be yours, too.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Never Forsaken

“He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b, NIV).

Christmas can be a lonely time for those who have lost a loved one. It can be a sad time for those who do not have a loving family. It can be a lonesome time for those who have no one in their lives to encourage them and offer hope. Even if you are in a loving church that brings joy to your life, Christmas can still be a sad time when those church friends gather with their own families.The season brings joy to so many, but it is also the time of year when so many feel deserted and alone.

If you are one who feels alone, please remember the greatest promise that offers hope. You are never really alone. The Lord will never leave you. He will never forsake you or abandon you. When it seems the rest of the world is too busy for you, He is not. When your own family does not love like it should, He does. When you feel rejected, you are not. If you have asked Him into your heart, He is your Savior, and you are not alone.

If you are one who has a loving family and friends, then share your Christmas with others who don't. Open your hearts to others who have no one this season. Love with the love He has given you. There is someone in your life that feels alone. There is someone who needs a touch from a loving hand.There is someone who needs to hear the words “he will never leave you or forsake you.”

I pray you have a merry and loving Christmas.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Changed Heart

In the midst of the hurry of Christmas we are prone to forget the message of Christmas―the miracle of the birth of a Savior who came to change our hearts. But this morning as I read one particular Bible verse I remember again, as I do every Christmas, the miracle that Christ's love made in my life one Christmas morning when I was fourteen.


My father served that year as an interim Justice of the Peace in Woodstock, Georgia. We were in the midst of opening presents when the doorbell rang. A woman with two little children stood on the doorstep.
Daddy guided them into the kitchen, and Mother followed. We three children were left in the living room with our grandmother. No one said anything. Why did these people have to interrupt our time together? We couldn’t open our presents without Mother and Daddy. They were going to spoil everything. I looked through the living room door. The woman sat at the kitchen table with Daddy, listening to his soft voice. She nodded every few seconds. The little girl sat in her lap. The boy held on to her arm, his thumb in his mouth, tears streaming down his cheek. Mother came into the living room to tell us that a warrant had been sworn out against the woman’s husband, and they would stay with us until he had been arrested.

Our Christmas was no longer pure and untouched. Ugliness had come into our home. The little boy toddled over to me. He gazed up at me. The soft skin around one eye was swollen. I couldn’t ignore him. He kept staring at me. I slowly reached down and touched his reddened cheek. Everything changed in that instant. My stony heart broke, and I knew the ugliness had not invaded our home this morning. The ugliness was in me.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” I read this Monday. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). A changed heart is what God requires. It is an on-going process for Him to keep my heart and your heart spiritually soft as flesh. Fifty years ago this verse might not have meant much to me, but I now understand that this was the miracle the Lord rendered in my stony heart that Christmas morning. I remember it every year to keep my heart tender. I remember many other times through the years to keep my heart tender.
The moment my heart becomes stone is the moment I say “no” to the Savior who came into my heart as a child. My Christmas prayer for you and for me is that our hearts will always break with His love, and that we will always have a heart that He can move.

 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

HE IS WITH ME

He is with me. Though His presence is comforting, inspiring, and joyful, I do not need to always “feel” His presence. I “know” He is with me. To ask for the sensory experience of His presence all the time is, in a way, to ask for proof or for a sign. I do not need a sign. I know His peace that passes understanding even when all around feels so dark. I know in whom I believe, and know He is able to keep me safe no matter what happens.

It does not matter how I feel. What matters is what He is, and that He shall ever be with me. He is my strength when I “feel” weak. He is my peace when I “feel” shaken. Feelings depend upon moods, circumstances, and outward pressures. His peace comes from within and never without. I may be influenced by circumstances, but He never is. His promise is always kept. He is with me, and He never forsakes me. 

To have His peace that passes understanding, I give Him all that I feel and choose to believe all that He has promised.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Always Room with Mama

Are you missing someone this year for Christmas? I am. Mama always made Christmas special. When I was a child, Christmas seemed a miraculous time. My grandparents, Big Tom and Gigi, always came Christmas morning to share in the excitement of the day. When I had young children, we often went to Mama and Daddy's house in Georgia for a time with all of our family—my brother and his wife and two children and my sister would be there. Sometimes other people would come just to be a part of our family—friends that were lonely and needed love. God always brought those who had needs into Mama's life.

Christmas was a time to share the Christmas story, and reflect on the miracle of the child who was born to save us. Christmas was a time of games and music. We learned not to play Trivial Pursuits with Pat. He knew all the answers. We played fictionary and other games that took a lot of imagination. Often two folding tables would be set up in the family room, and different games would be going on at the same time. Laughter filled the room. We also sang a lot. My brother played the guitar, and we sang. The Hamptons always sang.

When the house was full, some of the younger ones slept on a bed in the garage. There was always a place to sleep, and a place to share, and be loved. There was always a place of acceptance, and a place where you were inspired to be more than you thought you could be. There was always room. Always.

Mama always saw our potential, and inspired (often pushed) us to achieve it. She believed in who we could be when we had little belief in ourselves. Even up to the time of her death in February of this year, she always inspired and reminded us of our potential. Christmas Eve last year I knew she was failing, and that she needed to come home from Autumn Cove for a special evening. And it was a wonderful time. She prayed in her shaky voice. It was the last time she would come home for Christmas, and it was not too soon afterward that she never left Autumn Cove again.

I miss Mama this Christmas. I miss her laugh. I miss her look that said “you need to think that one through.” I miss the look that could see right through me. I miss watching Matlock with her. I miss holding her hand, straightening her room, and hearing her say, “aren't you about ready to quit fussing so much?” I miss her loving concern for everyone in her life. A week before her death she was asking staff at Autumn Cove about their families, and sharing her love with them.

So this is our first Christmas without Mama. I still love her and miss her. The greatest promise I have is that I will see her again. She probably has her family already organized in heaven.....waiting for the rest of us to come. Mama's legacy of love lives on. Although she is not with us physically this Christmas, the memory of who she was in our lives will be with us.

I pray each one of you who has lost a loved us will remember the good times and the good memories. Bring the memory of who they were into your home this Christmas. Love your family completely and unconditionally. Pray for all to know the promise of God's unfailing love.

Mama, I pray I got this right.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sometimes I Forget

I know what I’m doing,” says the Lord. “I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you, and bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it” (Jeremiah 29:11-14, MSG).

Sometimes I forget that God knows what He is doing. It is in these moments when I try to take control, I discover only discouragement and failure. But not only that..... as I try to handle what only He can handle, fear takes root. Fear will not only separate me from His peace. It will keep me from feeling His perfect love (1 John 4:18). God knows what He is doing. I don't have to know His plans, but I do need to trust and have faith in His love for me. How can I not trust the very one who gave His life for me? When I seek Him with all my heart and desire Him more than anything else, I will discover more faith to believe in His faithfulness to me. If I persevere to do His will each day, I shall receive His promise (Hebrews 10:35-36). He will bring me out of the place where I have felt alone, where I have suffered and felt abandoned. He will turn things around for me. I can trust Him for it. It is His promise to me.

 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

JUST LOVE ME

Have you ever felt that you will never accomplish anything of worth? Have you ever believed that there is nothing you can say or do that will ever make a difference? Have you ever known the burden of expectation that seems out of reach? At some point in your life you have experienced rejection, discouragement, despair, and pain. At some point you have felt that you were just not good enough. I am what I think I am (Proverbs 27:3). If I believe I am worthless, I am worthless. Whether I realize it or not, I “do unto others” what has been done unto me. If I have been labeled as never quite being good enough, then I pass that negativism along in my expectations of those I love. If I see myself as being beyond hope, then I see others in the same light.


Into this seemingly endless cycle of despair at never quite being good enough, God attempts to break into our negative and pessimistic minds. He waits to speak life to all that we have suffered in our past, life to our present, and life to our future. He wants who I am to “be” found in Him alone. He wishes for us to realize that unlike what expectations we may have felt from others, whether real or imagined, His expectation is thoroughly attainable. He sees the promise in my life where another might not see it, and, if I truly listen to Him and obey His instruction, then I will find release from my human failures. I will discover who I really am. In His love, I can break that bondage of despair and frustration. I can do more than just hope one day that I can “become” free of all that has defined who I am, I can choose to really “be” free.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” (1 Corinthians 13:11a). I was once a child. So were you. Those who loved us watched us struggle to crawl or learn to walk. They watched every move we made, expecting to see miraculous change. They rejoiced over us when we achieved a new accomplishment, and they were sad when we failed. We were only little children wanting to me loved for who we were right at that moment.... not for any accomplishment. God does not love us because of anything we have done. He loves us because of what He has done for us. He sees our crying out to be loved. When you accept His love, the bondage is broken, and you are able to not only know freedom, but to extend freedom in your expectation of others.



“Just love me!” is our cry. I pray that God gives each one of us His eyes to see the potential not only in ourselves, but in others. I pray we learn to speak life to each heart instead of death. To speak blessing instead of failure. To speak joy instead of despair. To speak life full of joy and healing. To see promise where we have seen failure. To believe in what cannot be seen, and to know that one day it will be true.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Something New

Have you ever longed to forget what has happened, and dwell on the promise of something greater? Have you ever wished your mind would think only of good things, and believe in what God promises? “Yes!” our hearts hope, and “impossible” our minds declare. And here lies the battle. We hope to believe. We cry out to believe. Even though we are meant to be new in Christ, even though we know that all things in our lives are meant to be new, and even though we believe the old should be over, we struggle to move forward in faith. We cannot perceive what this new life, free from the bondage of old chains, really means.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18). This Scripture tells us not to wrap our minds around what has happened, and not to continually think about the past that has defined us. It instructs us to make a decision to forget the past. Forget is a strong word, and it means “being unable to call to mind, unable to summon up, or unable to picture.” Now that sounds incredible! Not to remember or even have a picture in my mind of past fears or failures. Forget means that the past is gone. So we shouldn’t continually think about it or dwell on it. He will keep me, and He will keep you in perfect peace when our minds dwell on Him (Isaiah 26:3).

“See,”the Lord declares, “I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it” (Isaiah 43:19)? When my mind does not dwell on what has been, hope is much easier. “See” is another strong word, and it means “to understand, realize, or perceive.” It doesn’t mean to just “look”. “Look” is concerned with appearance only. “See” takes “look” somewhere it has never gone before. “Look” glances, and then moves on and misses the depth of God's truth. “See” expectantly believes that God is doing a new thing. Faith is the “new” thing. Faith is not dormant. It is alive. It springs up. Can I not perceive it?

“I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,” He promises. “The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21). Even though I may walk through the wasteland, it will not destroy me. It will not define me. He created me to love and praise Him, and I belong to Him. He gives me everything I need to survive and flourish. I choose today to forget the old and to find the new and greater faith He has for me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rest in Me

"End your frantic pace," He speaks to my tired heart, "and don't fight. Quit struggling and find rest in me. Rest quietly and wait for me. Wait until my power fills you once more. The very thing you have asked me to handle.... will you now finally quit trying to control it? Your attempt at control is destroying your peace. I promise peace. I give rest.

“In the quiet with me, your strength will return. Many believe that my strength is seen in action. But my greatest strength is given to you in your quiet time with me. It is true that in the quiet times of refreshing you will find confidence and strength to rise up again and face your giants. However, the peace you find in giving all your worries and fears to me is my promise to you. It will remain in rest. Facing your giants means that I give you the strength and the guidance to face the enemy, but you don’t carry the weight of command. If you allow it, I am in control for these battles. You will lose your peace at the moment you try to control what is not yours to control.

“In this moment find rest and know that I am your God. Rest in me brings you power to believe. And it also gives you the strength to let go. Allow me to take care of what you were never meant to resolve. What peace for your heart! Knowing that I will handle it, and that you are free to be my beloved child. Rest in me.”

Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 46:10, Philippians 4:6-7.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't Miss the Expectation of Your Promise

Like Zechariah don't miss the anticipation of your promise. The angel Gabriel told him he would be a father, and he didn't believe it. Everything in the natural realm told him that for him and Elizabeth to have a child would be a total impossibility. Zechariah paid for that lack of faith. The promise would still come true, but he lost something valuable.....the joy of the anticipation of His promise... the expectation of something that was coming that needed to be shared and spoken. He lost the ability to speak. He lost the anticipation of the promise to come.


Elizabeth and Mary were both expectant with their promises! Be expectant with yours. Have faith to believe in the impossible. Enjoy your time of waiting for your promise knowing that God is doing a miraculous thing in you. Persevere and do His will, and believe the promise will come (Hebrews 10:35-36). All things are possible with God, and it is always in His timing.


Elizabeth and Mary felt the promises within them growing and maturing. They knew the joy of expectation. Enjoy your time of waiting. It can be almost as joyful as the arrival of the promise itself. God's promise to you is just as real. But don't focus on just the time that it will come. You will lose the joy of expectation in the waiting.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Help Me, Lord


Life is not always easy. It is especially not easy when I allow the enemy to distort what is true. His distortion might certainly appear to be truth, but it never is. I must pray and seek beneath his lies to see God’s truth in each matter. Appearance does not always reveal what is true. The perception in my mind is where the enemy's lies can take root. But it is also where God's truth and promises can be realized.

The parables Jesus’ shared teach the lesson that appearances are not always true. No matter what the enemy might lie about.... no matter what he might distort, there is always God's truth that reigns. There is always more beneath the surface that Jesus means for me to understand. He explained this to his disciples in Matthew 13: 13-15. “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Lord God, I do not want to have a calloused heart and mind that listens to the enemy’s lies, and never perceives what you really impart. I don't want to be ever hearing and never understanding or seeing and never perceiving. I want to perceive with an open heart, ears, eyes, and mind all the truth you wish to tell me. Help, me, Lord, to be one of these who hear, see, and understand your truth with my heart, spirit, and mind.

You speak hope to me, Lord, and the enemy speaks defeat. You speak life to me, and the enemy speaks death. Give me the power to rise above the lies of the enemy with truth you impart to my spirit. How I long for you to see in me the quality you saw in your disciples! “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17).

Help me, Lord, to hear, to see, and to understand only you. When my spirit sees only your truth.... when it hears only your voice speaking your truth... and when I understand within my spirit only your truth, then my mind has the capability to receive your peace. Then I will know healing as I have never known it before. I will be whole and complete in only you. And no weapon of the enemy will prosper against me.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Give Him All of Your Heart

Do you know that you have been called to a great work? Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called to a great work. The angel, Gabriel, came to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Mary trembled at the news, but she replied, “I am the Lord's servant.”
 Mary had a heart to obey. She never walked away from God's calling. Don't walk away from what God has called you to do for the sake of time or personal need or even fear. The desire of His heart is for you to know Him completely, to be fulfilled in your calling, to have a pliable heart, to know the power of His presence, and to receive what He has promised. The promise is realized when you allow Him to work in your life, and you give Him the gift of an obedient heart. What God has promised you is true, and He will bring it to pass in His time. 
Jesus is the reason for this wonderful season. Christ was born for you and me, and He died for us. It came at the greatest cost─His life for yours and mine─His pure life for our sinful one─His perfect love for our rejection─His pain for our stubbornness. And what will it cost? A repentant, and obedient heart. His will instead of our own. Perhaps you were once wandering, longing to be used by the Lord, longing to be fulfilled in His purpose. The Holy Spirit opened a door, and you walked joyfully through it, and knew the joy of His promise and His purpose. His purpose and His will is your anchor which sustains through all the trials and hardships. Never let go of it.
Have you made a decision about your life which has placed His will on the shelf? Have you let go of the precious gift of His calling for the sake of your own personal need or because of fear? Long ago I did. There was no joy in placing my desire before His calling. I knew great loneliness and pain. At the time my decision seemed so right, because my need seemed so great, but I learned later I had lost so much of what He had promised. And my greatest loss was in failing Him. I lost so much believing I was making the best decision, when all He wanted was for me to allow Him to be in control. He just wanted my obedient heart. He longed for me to trust Him to bring about what He had promised. And what it cost was the loss of His presence. Never again will I turn from His will for my life. 
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “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). Mary realized the omnipotence of a great God, and the importance of what He asked. She realized that He was higher in every way than she could ever be─that His purpose and vision in every way surpassed Her own.
 If He has promised you something allow Him to bring it to pass in His time. Give Him the gift of an obedient heart this Christmas. Give Him all of you. That special promise He has brought into your life will be fulfilled in His time.

Friday, December 13, 2013

He Gives Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NIV).
When I am tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, depleted, I go to Him for rest. But I don't just go. I stay. I wait. I let go of all that pulls me down and drains my heart and spirit. And I stay with Him. I stop all that rushes my mind and disturbs my spirit. I go to Him because I know He alone is my help and my restorer. He is my help in my time of need. His presence is constant and sure, and I wait until He fills every crevice of my tired and hurting heart. I fine peaceful rest in His presence.

His rest is fearless. His rest supplies all that I lack. His rest is complete, and is all that I need to complete my journey. I rest in Him until He shows me it is time to go again....until my spirit sings with His strength and purpose.

Whatever your struggle or pain or heartache or want, rest in Him until you are strong again, and your spirit is renewed. He will lift your head up again. He will raise you up. You are rich in Him, and He will supply all your needs. You, too, will sing again with His strength and purpose.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Heart to Believe

“The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.' 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her” (Luke 1:35-38).


Isn't it absolutely amazing that because a young girl named Mary said yes to God that we have a Savior to worship? Can you imagine how she felt when the angel Gabriel appeared suddenly and told her that God had chosen her to give birth to the Savior of the world? And that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would become pregnant with God's miraculous promise? Even though her mind might not comprehend, Mary offered a willing spirit of surrender. 


When Gabriel visited Mary, he found a girl whose heart was already full of faith, and ready to believe God’s words. Consider Zechariah, the Priest. He was also visited by the same angel and informed that his barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a baby. Zechariah was a man of the law, and supposedly attuned to God’s voice, but he had trouble believing God’s messenger (Luke 1:13-18). Compare Mary’s faith to that of Zechariah. When Gabriel explained how God would use her, she was in awe of God’s majesty. Mary, an ordinary village girl, had more faith in God than a priest.

Often it is easier for a Christian of a fresh religious experience to exhibit greater faith than a person who has forgotten the miracle of his own changed heart. Mary’s innocent faith believed in the impossible. It was not compromised by the religious attitudes of man or the human explanations of Pharisees. Her faith needed no explanation for Gabriel’s miraculous words.
 
In Mary's young life the promise of the salvation of mankind rested. Is your heart full of Mary’s kind of innocent faith, or has lukewarm religion dulled its luster? God desires your heart to be as Mary’s—easily moved by the Holy Spirit—one that believes in what appears to be impossible—one that says yes to whatever God asks. Nothing is impossible with God. Pray for a heart to believe.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NEVER ALONE

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Has your heart been ripped into shreds? Do you forget how to reach for His comfort and strength? Does discouragement rule your moments? Do you feel deserted and alone? So many of us face these feelings of betrayal and rejection at some time in our lives. No matter how rejected we feel or betrayed we feel, there is the promise of His constant presence and abiding love. He never betrays or rejects. He accepts where we are. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is no change in His love and abiding care. He is our rock.

I can say, “The Lord, my rock, goes before me to protect me from what lies ahead. He will remain with me. He will never leave me or forsake me. I don't need to be afraid or discouraged, because He will take care of all that concerns my life. His strength will carry me through all that comes. I won't be discouraged because I might feel alone, because I'm not. I have the greatest ally on my side. Fear will not take over my life, because His perfect love for me will cast out all my fear.

“I will always remember that I am not alone. I will always remember that He will never forsake me. He cannot deny the love He has freely given to me at Calvary. Whatever comes, I will not be afraid or discouraged. I will trust His heart and His love for me. My heart will heal,and one day His peace and joy will reign completely.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Created to be a Masterpiece

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).

Making Christ's joy complete is on my mind and heart this morning. Being complete is being fulfilled. He wants to experience fulfillment in each one of us. He wants to joy in us, and in our lives. How can I make fulfillment to Him? How can I give Him joy? In these verses in Philippians I find my answer. If I have been encouraged by the Lord–if I have been comforted by His love–if I have shared with my brothers or sisters in His spirit–if I have had any tenderness and compassion, then I bring Him joy by having the same love and being unified in spirit and mind.

Unity is absolutely necessary for good spiritual health in the body of Christ. However, it is so hard to find, and then it can be so hard to keep. We are all so different. We come from different backgrounds. We are different ages. We have different likes and interests, ideas, and preferences. But it absolutely possible to be united without everyone being unanimous in a vote or in a decision. Being like-minded doesn't mean having the same opinion, but it does mean having the same attitude. We need a team-attitude. A team works together to accomplish the same goal. We work together to accomplish the Great Commission. Having the same love and being one in spirit and purpose bring unity. Even if we aren't always one in our opinions, being one in Christ means means we seek His will instead of our own. It means that we lay down any agenda, and seek to come together in His purpose.

Kate, my artist friend in Greece, creates mosaics. She uses different materials to create a work of art.....perhaps colored glass, stones, or other things. The materials she uses are of all different sizes, colors, shapes, and of different substances. From all these unique materials with different consistencies she creates a beautiful masterpiece. Just as she creates a beautiful unified work of art, Jesus Christ can take our unique differences and create something beautiful in the church. Our unity can only come from being unified with Jesus. He is the cornerstone and our anchor. As long as we regard Jesus Christ as our anchor and our reason for being....as long as we realize that our treatment of each other is the way that we treat Christ...as long as we put Him and His love first before any of our own ideas or opinions, we can discover this unity of spirit that brings us together in love.


Monday, December 9, 2013

THE PROMISE OF HOPE

John 3:16-17

After all the hurried decorating, shopping, visiting, wrapping presents, and holiday singing, we wait in anticipation for the true meaning of Christmas. Bells have rung out their message of peace while we have busied ourselves with the fun of the season. The world has rushed and hurried in the busy celebration. We have sung Christmas songs, and even carols—their words have barely touched our hearts. But now it is time. With the last caroler's fading voice, and the last bell's echoing resonance, all is quiet with hope of what this season really means. We wait breathlessly for the promise of hope for the world. 

That promise of hope is found in a little baby born to save me from my sin and to save you from yours. In one incredibly miraculous moment in God's great plan, Jesus Christ came into our world as an innocent child. He grew in God's wisdom and understanding. Completely human, and yet completely God, He understood our pain and suffering, yet He also knew the gift of His life on a cross was the only answer. Jesus gave His life for me and for you without hesitation. I stand in awe of His sacrifice and love. The most amazing thing is that He lives today! He did not stay in the grave. He rose in new life, and I can live in that new life! Such amazing love.

Lord God, I am in awe of such amazing love....that someone would actually give his life for me. I am humbled by who you are, and all that I am not. My mind cannot understand or fathom the depths of this kind of love, but my heart and my spirit cry out for its release. You came into the world to rescue me from all my failures, my sins, my hurts, my pains, and my suffering. I long to know the freedom of your great promise. I long to know your love inside my heart. Come Lord, Jesus, come, and bring the peace and joy of your presence.

Amen.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I AM CONVINCED



For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Am I convinced that there is no separation from God? There is no separation from His love, but sometimes I don't feel the peace that I long to know. When I lose that peace, I feel separated. Because I love Him and want to obey Him, I yearn to make sure that my decisions are what He wishes for me. I have a fear I will make the wrong decision and fail God. What I don't understand in that moment is that He is in control, and if the desire of of my heart is to follow Him, He will take my decision, whatever it might be, and bring about His plan for my life. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).

I am convinced that He knows my heart. I am convinced that there is no separation from His love. I am convinced that since He knows my deepest desire to follow Him, He will take whatever decision I make, and bring about His purpose for my life. 



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Choose to Believe Him

“Forget the former things…do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19.
Why is it so hard to get rid of negative feelings? Why do we have trouble trusting God? If we are new creatures in Christ, why don’t we sometimes feel new? Why do things from the past still control our feelings? Why are things from the past still affecting our lives? Why do we allow them to define who we are? Why can’t we just grasp His hand and believe without a struggle?

If we have accepted Him as Savior, we are new. The old is done. Negative thoughts of what we have been are no longer true. I am not a failure. You are not a failure. We have what it takes. We have Jesus Christ, and He is the way, the truth, and the life which brings new promise to our lives.

To truly forget the former things, and not dwell on the past, we can't just believe IN Him, we must BELIEVE HIM. To be free from worries that control my life and your life, we must BELIEVE HIM. We must believe that He can do what He says. We must believe that we can forget the former things, and they will not control our lives. I am free in Him. You are free in Him, but we must BELIEVE HIM, not just believe in Him.

When we BELIEVE HIM, newness springs up, the old is no more, and we can perceive His truth instead of the lies of our past or circumstance. It is a promise that no matter what we face He is our strength, and brings life-giving streams of hope and promise to the barren deserts in our lives.

I choose to forget the former things, and BELIEVE HIM.

Friday, December 6, 2013

FINDING ME

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).
"I'm so glad, Lord, you accept me in my frailty. I am who I am with you. There is just you and just me. There is no image I have to keep. There is no agenda that has to be met. There is no perfection that I must maintain. You see beyond all my limitations, and you still love me. You always see my potential, and never my failures. You know what you have created me to be, and that is not something that I must struggle to receive. I am a new creature in you because of who you are. Not because of who I am. The idea that the you love me with an everlasting love is beyond my human ability to conceive. It just is. And you just are. And in that wonder, I discover whom you have loved and drawn in unfailing kindness. I find me.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Forgiving Heart

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Has someone hurt you? Are you unable to forgive what they have done? Is your heart now as cold as stone? Jesus asks you to forgive. He waits for your response. He offers hope through conviction. Satan wants you to remain wrapped up in anger and bitterness. He wants your hardened heart to grow even harder. Christ forgave you. Are you willing to offer what He has freely given? Will you actually do as He asks? Make something good come out of what is bad. Turn it around for God’s glory. Open your heart so that another might be healed. Allow forgiveness to set you free from the bondage of anger and pain. The Lord will remove that heart of stone, and give you a heart that forgives. Once opened your heart will rejoice in its freedom. You will discover that forgiveness is a mighty work of God which springs eternal in the human heart.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finishing the Work

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means” (2 Corinthians 8:9-11).

Do you have a vision from God that you believe with all your heart? Is it something into which you have poured your heart and soul? Have you not seen the work of your hands bring you closer to that vision? Perhaps you have become weary because of constant struggle to attain that vision. You were the one to whom God imparted the vision. You were the first to get it started. “Now finish the work” Paul writes, “according to your means.” You can only finish to the best of your ability according to what you have been given. God's perfect will is for the vision to be completed, but you can't make a vision happen.... even from all you have done to inspire others to catch your vision. If you have given the work your very best, God will do one of two things. He will bring it to completion with the support you have around you, or he will give you another means to achieve it. It is His promise for the work to be completed.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ has made you rich in purpose. He is your reason, and He is your life. You will see the vision completed.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What Does My Life Say?

What am I to other people? What does my life say? Is it about me or about others? I don’t want to be a part of the “me” generation, but what do my attitudes and actions render? Does my life have an anchored purpose or is it like a boat with no anchor? These questions challenge me to examine my life–each moment, each thought, and each action to really see if Jesus is my reason for existence.

Is He my anchor–the core of my very being? If He is my heartbeat, then His faith and His love within my heart have nowhere to go but outward. It cannot be inwardly directed or it will destroy me. If He has broken the selfishness of my heart so that I may be filled with His love, then how can I not want my heart to be broken for others? James was explicit when he penned that "faith without works in dead". Likewise, he lets me know that works without faith has little meaning. If I love Jesus, then my life is not about me. It is about the needs of others. My life should reveal the Savior who redeemed me and filled me with His love and promise. I should live His love in each moment, in each thought, and in each action. If He is my first love, then my life will show it.


He knows where I am, and the state of my heart–whether it is completely claimed or unclaimed. Am I ready to be truthful with Him? Am I ready to surrender my selfishness and pride out of love for Him? Am I ready to examine my motions and purpose? Am I ready to let go of my desires and realize that I am called to regard others better than myself?


I want my life to speak peace in the midst of any turmoil.I want my life to be a catalyst of healing. I long to be the part of the body of Christ which brings beautiful unity to the whole. The only way I can become all that he wishes me to be is to give Him total control of my life. Today I want to be real with Him so that I can be real with others. I want to become His hands, His feet, His ears, His mouth, His eyes, and His heart.

Monday, December 2, 2013

CONTROLLING ME


The world teaches us that whatever is wrong in our life, it is not a result of anything we have done. “Don't blame yourself,” the world says, “someone else caused this to happen. You couldn't help it.” It is time that we take responsibility for what we are, what we believe, what we say, and how we act. No, we are not responsible for circumstances over which we have no control, and it would be self-defeating for us to analyze the cause of each one. But we are responsible for how we respond to failures, trials, problems and life. We are totally responsible for our actions and our reactions. I am responsible for me and how I act...what I say and what I do. Nobody makes me respond the way in which I respond or react. In fact my reaction is all I can control in any situation.

Spiritual growth in Christ is convicting. It doesn't allow me to make excuses. It tells me that I must take responsibility for my bad attitude or my fly-off-the-handle reaction. It means that I should learn from my failure, and if I was responsible for the problem, to make every effort to not create that circumstance again. Spiritual maturity also tells me that the next time I am faced with circumstances either of my own making or not of my own making, I will react in a mature way that exhibits the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The only way that I can have the fruit of the Spirit alive in my life is to allow all the selfishness of myself to be crucified with Christ. When I am willing to make this selfless journey, when I am willing to accept my responsibility for all that I am, and when I am realize that without Him I cannot become my true self, then I have begun the journey to grow deeper in Him.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” Paul writes, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). I want to go deeper into His Word, and His Truth. I want my life to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. I want my mind and how I think to be renewed so that I search for God's pleasing and perfect will instead of my own lacking one. I do not want to act or react without Him controlling my words, my thoughts, my actions and my reactions.

What controls me? What controls you? Have we matured to the point where what we say and what we do are controlled by Him and not by an unchanged and immature human nature? These are all questions we must ask ourselves because our lives are shaped from our actions and reactions. God's plan lies ahead, but we cannot discover it until we allow Him to control us with His love and guiding hand. One day we will answer to Him for all our actions, interactions, reactions. We will answer about how we loved, and if we respected each other. I pray that I will be able to say, “Lord, I have been crucified with you, and you have lived within me.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Contentment in all Things


“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

We can't know true contentment and peace without God in our lives. Nothing on this earth can offer such peace.... no possession, no person, no joyful anticipation. Only God promises spiritual contentment and peace, and that is something the world can never give. 

The Apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in every circumstance. This kind of peaceful contentment does not depend upon our circumstances. It is an inward contentment that is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul didn't want to be in prison, and he certainly didn't want to be dependent on others to provide for his needs. He longed to be out of jail. But, no matter what he faced, he was content. 


Nothing made Paul content. His contentment came from his deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God gave him peace, and with that peace a purpose to fulfill. His incarceration could not stop him from trusting in God to meet all his needs. His chains could not keep him from writing of God's great goodness. He had learned the secret of being content in every circumstance.


Often we discover that many things are just impossible for us. We cannot find contentment and peace in our circumstances. Struggling doesn't help. Railing at God doesn't help. In fact, it makes it worse. But there is a peace that passes our understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). When we know God as intimately as Paul, we can give Him all that rages, and take refuge in Him. Paul shows us that is it absolutely possible to have peace and contentment when we trust God. 


When we discover this inner peace and contentment, nothing can come against us. We discover that nothing is impossible for him. We can do whatever God calls us to do. And we can do everything through Jesus who gives us to strength to accomplish it.

A Revelation of His Love

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3...