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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Keep My Eyes on the Praise


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).

How many times in my Christian life have I heard these verses to inspire me to keep running the race of faith? To keep reaching for the prize that I shall receive? To persevere to win? To throw off everything that keeps me from pressing on? To fix my eyes on Jesus who ran this race before I did? To not give up or lose heart? To keep my eyes on the prize?

These verses in Hebrews 12 inspire us to keep on running the race, but another verse in the very next chapter of Hebrews reveals something that makes this race so much easier. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” Hebrews 13:15, NIV). One of the most powerful things I can do to make this race easier is to praise the one for whom I run it! This verse instructs me to continually give God a sacrifice of praise. It is easier to praise God on the mountaintop than down in the valley, but I am instructed to continually praise Him no matter what is in my life now or what lies ahead. If I praise Him on the mountaintop, He rejoices with me. If I praise Him in the valley, my praise is a sacrifice that honors His faithfulness, and in my praise He carries me. Whether high or low, I praise Him, and He is with me.

Praise reveals who God is in my life. He rewards my continual praise with the grace of His presence. He is my God, and He will never fail me. His strength and joy will conquer all that comes against me. He is my guide through the pitfalls. No weapon can rise against me. No discipline can tire me. No problem can terrorize. I shall persevere, and hold on. I will run this race and make it through any difficulty because I have praised Him in all moments. He is my strength because I have none within myself, and in my lacking, I have discovered His. How do I keep these truths strong in my life? I praise Him because He is my prize.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rest and Know

Rest and know that I am God,” He speaks softly to my whirling mind. (Psalm 46:10). “Be still and at peace knowing that you are held completely safe in my hand.” 
If I will be still, and dwell upon Him instead of my problem or worry, I will be filled with His faithful presence instead of consumed with fear or with something I cannot handle (Isaiah 26:3). In my worrisome state, I am constantly filled with a fear that causes one of two things. That fear will either drive me to self-destructing despair where I retreat from life, or it will cause me to try to change circumstances or myself without letting God direct me or heal me. I try to fix circumstances within my own strength, and heal myself without completely surrendering to Him. And that never works. The peace that I so long for is out of my grasp because I try to make happen what I perceive is needed.

My hand is not shortened that it cannot save” He reminds me again (Isaiah 59:1). My attempts to save myself are useless. In fact, they get in the way of His ability to help me. Without surrender to His saving hand, I will sink into the depths of my own despair. My rescuer is with me so why do I fight His attempts to pull me safely to shore? What I perceive to be my safety has become my own destruction. This boat of my own making is sinking, and I will sink with it if I do not grasp His hand and allow Him to pull me out of it. 
Often the struggles of life overwhelm my heart and I feel like the psalmist who wrote "all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” (Psalm 42:7). But the same psalmist also wrote, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."(Psalm 40:2). Consider the wonder of that truth! He is my safety for He rescues me from the pit. He is my security because He sets my feet upon His rock‒solid foundation. He is my guide in all things because He directs the way that I go. 
This is a beautiful picture of what He wishes to do in me—save me from that which destroys my heart—give me security to trust in His faithfulness. Allowing Him to guide me is the proof that I have grown and trusted in Him. I will allow Him to direct my steps. I will not question. I will trust, and give all my worries and fears to Him. I will be still and rest in Him‒knowing that He alone is my deliverer and my peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cheap or Costly Grace

One of my favorite authors is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he wrote, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again… It is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

If you will read Luke 14:25-33, you will see how Jesus addresses those following Him who want to experience the excitement of His ministry without really being part of any commitment. Just on the sidelines is what I call Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” crowd. Jesus addresses their motives for being there. If they want to follow Him without making any personal sacrifice, they will never understand the depth of what it means to know Him. Three times he reveals why they can't be be a disciple: they love their family and their own desires more than Him; they will not carry their cross and follow Him, and they will not give up everything for His sake.


The Lord seeks a disciple who believes that loyalty and love for Him is greater than any other attachment or even his deepest relationship. He has counted the cost of this commitment, and is willing to pay it. He has placed himself completely under the guidance of His Master, and has a love for Him that is greater than he has for anyone or anything else. This disciple has resolved to give and also give up whatever is necessary to follow Him. Jesus’ question in Luke 14 about the crowd's willingness to give up everything is not addressed to those twelve disciples who have have already given everything. His question is directed to others on the sideline who offer quickly to serve, and then fade away when the cost of commitment becomes too great.


Jesus' requirement to “carry your cross” calls for a commitment to sacrificially follow Him, and make a daily decision to deny self. Each believer has a cross made just exactly for the amount of faith that needs to be tested and matured. His cross has to be more than he can bear, or he will not be spiritually stretched. Carrying our cross will mean nothing if it does not make us seek more of Him in order to carry it. Each one of us must be willing to honestly evaluate ourselves. Am I a part of that crowd that thinks I have carried my cross for Him only to discover I have little sticking power? Am I one who has cheapened His grace by not paying the price that is needed? Am I one who hasn't counted the cost? Am I on the sidelines or a disciple? Do I love other things more than Him? Have I sacrificially committed to follow Him? Where am I?


Lord, I don't want to be part of the “cheap grace” crowd, who by their callous hearts do not recognize the cost that was paid on the cross. I want to be one of the “costly grace” group, who understands the depth of your sacrifice, and gives all for you. I want to be spiritually stretched until I become all you see in me, and all that I haven’t realized myself. Take me and use me. I have counted the cost and I am willing the pay the price....whatever it might be.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Perfect Harmony


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9, NIV).

There is no closed door with Him, but only that which I have shut. He waits for me to seek Him, and the promise is that I will find Him. I will discover that intimacy which makes the struggles and hardships in my life simple. The spiritual struggle that I face in finding peace is caused by unrest within myself

Discord does not exist in His spiritual life. Spiritual harmony is His promise for my life. When there is a stronghold in my life that needs to be conquered, I lose that perfect peace. My spiritual life with Christ must be deeply intimate. When I seek Him, I discover all I face is nothing compared to the perfection of peace I find in my relationship with Him. He brings all that is perfect into my life. His promise is all I need‒perfect peace, perfect love, perfect harmony. He brings power to overcome all that I face. He makes my life perfect no matter what happens. He brings harmony to all that attempts to bring discord. No weapon that comes against me will survive. I will survive in His peace and promise because He is my life.
So very often I lack the power and promise of His presence because I have lost that intimacy. I believe He has failed in His promise, but it is not Him. It is I who have failed because I have not sought that deep precious intimacy that brings all supply and all harmony and all peace into my life. I will seek Him, and I will ask. I will knock, and He will open the door to all His promises. I will more than survive in Him. Nothing that comes against me will prosper. I will be the one to prosper in faith because He has become the harmony of my life.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Give Thanks

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:28, NIV).
Lord, I am thankful for the moment you came into my life. Everything changed in that instant. I was no longer alone. I was no longer bound in the dregs of my past. In that instantin that moment, I knew I was loved no matter what I had done or been.Your love set me free to become what you knew I could be.
You always see my potential and carry me safely through circumstances that try to destroy me. Your Word tells me to give thanks in all circumstances because that is your will for me. Not that my circumstances are necessarily your will, because life happens. But your will is for me to give thanks always no matter what comes in my life. Praise should be constantly within me. It should always be my sacrifice of faith (Hebrews 13:15).
You walk with me everyday, but more incredibly and wonderfully you live inside me. It is your heart that lives in me, and it is your forgiveness that flows. I have none of my own. You make all the difference. You make my life complete, and for that I cannot give you enough thanks.

Today I give you all the praise and thanks I can. You are my life, and my God. I love you, Jesus, for loving me beyond measurebeyond anything my limited mind can imagine. You just are, and in your constant promise, I am fulfilled. I give thanks.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Let Joy Shine


“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good  works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).

Let my light shine. Let nothing dull its luster. Let no hardship in life, or fear, or problem, or trial reduce its brilliance. The light of Christ in my life can't be hidden. It must shine. This light is His joy. It should be constant in all circumstances, because He is my rock and my fortress. Nothing can destroy my confidence and trust in His abiding love. I can praise Him in all circumstances because this is His will. My sacrifice of praise reveals my faith in His love no matter what comes. Praise rises up to defeat the enemy's attempt to destroy my faith. I will praise Him no matter what, because I trust Him. Trust and faith bring His joy in unending supply. His joy is an artesian well of living water that never ends–springing up to always conquer. If I abide in Him, remain in Him, live in Him, His joy shall always rise! His promise is that others shall see His joy in me, and they, too, shall give glory to God. This is my desire–no matter what life brings, whether good or bad, for His joy to shine consistently in my life, and for it ultimately to glorify the Savior who gave all for me.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Examine My Heart's Motive

To the angel of the church in Sardis write: 'These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.'” (Revelation 3:1, NIV).

I know your deeds” reveals two things about the church at Sardis. The thirst thing that it shows is that Sardis was an active church, and a church with an outstanding reputation. It helped those in the community, and was known as a church that got things done.  The second thing that the statement, “I know your deeds,” reveals is the fact that God was watching Sardis–just as God watches what I do today. He doesn't only know what I do, He knows exactly the reason that I do it. He knows the motive in my heart. God knows me better than I know myself. He knows my true motive for ministry–whether it is really in His name or for my own recognition. The church at Sardis had a lot of things it provided that made a difference in the physical lives of those that they helped. The community recognized the church's efforts and spoke of it as a church of great character. However the church at Sardis had a very great problem.

The angel said to the church, “I know your deeds, but you are dead.” The church had a worldly recognition of being alive, but their name and reputation did not come from God. The church was so busy doing things and trying to please the community instead of God, they forgot that ministry was meant to be in God's name–not their own. In all their “doing and helping” they missed that the church had died. They had convinced each other that their work was totally “spiritual”, and in the process they had failed to realize that they had died on the vine. Yes, Sardis helped those with physical needs, but they couldn't help those with spiritual needs because they needed spiritual help themselves. They had no spiritual intimacy with God, and thus their motives had found a place in their own vanity.

What about your life? What about mine? Have we reached the point where God considers us a Sardis? That what we do for Him is really spiritually dead? Are the deeds we do for Him really coming from a repentant heart that knows without God nothing is possible? Or are we doing them to get ourselves a good name and reputation? Perhaps we don't even realize that is where we are, and that is a dangerous place to bejust as it was for Sardis. Colossians 3:17 says “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” God sees though all my many layers of reasoning, and straight into to my heart. He knows my motives.


Lord, help me to look at my heart today, and examine each motive for each deed. Do my deeds spring from faith or they from myself? I don't want to be known for just being “active”. I want to be known as being used to help others draw closer to you spiritually. The minute that ministry becomes about me is the minute I need to lose it. More than anything, I want what I give you to come from a heart that offers your love. Make me examine my heart until I know the real reason that I do things for you. May the works of my hands always come from a broken and spilled out heart.



His Love Perfected in Me


There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a).

There is a perfect love which conquers fear, and brings faith in God's faithfulness to overcome it. What is this perfect love? It is the love of God who gave His son, Jesus Christ, for me. If that is beyond my human capacity to understand, it is suppose to be. I can't understand such a perfect love with my mind. It is useless to try to analyze it. My mind can't comprehend this depth of sacrificial love, but my heart and soul can receive it.

The only way to receive this perfect love that conquers fear is to allow Christ into my heart. He loved me enough to die for my sin so I might be set free from its control over me. He, who was perfect and knew so sin, became sin, so it might be crucified forever it my life... so I might receive His perfect love.

Fear can only be defeated with His perfect love living in me. When I let go of what is imperfect in me, I receive His love which washes away all that I have been so I may receive all that He is. With His perfect love in my life continually changing me, His love becomes more perfected in me. It stirs greater faith to conquer any fear. 

God's perfect love drives away fear, and sets me free. He will keep me in His perfect peace and love, when my mind remains on him instead of any circumstance (Isaiah 26:3). I rejoice in the promise that His perfect love drives out all fear. It will....when His love is perfected in me. That is my promise and that is my journey....to be perfected by the Lord who gave all of himself for me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Press On to Grow Up!

It is time that we take responsibility for who we are, what we believe, what we say, and how we act. We are not responsible for circumstances over which we have no control, but we are responsible for what we do or say and how we respond to circumstances, our failures, our mistakes, our problems and life. We are totally responsible for our actions and our reactions.

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” (Hebrews 5:12, NIV). If I never make an effort to get off the bottle and grow up, then I will remain an infant in my actions and attitudes. But spiritual growth in Christ is a requirement in my life. It doesn't allow me to make excuses. It tells me that I must take responsibility for my bad attitude or any fly-off-the-handle reaction. It means that I should learn from my failure, and if I am responsible for a 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 which honors God. To do this I need to have grown spiritually until knowledge of His will pervades my life. “We continually ask God,” Paul writes, “to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:9a-10, NIV).

“Bearing fruit in every good work” means that I will live a life worthy of of the Lord and please Him in every way (Colossians 1:10) It means that my actions and reactions will be controlled by the Holy Spirit. A life controlled by the Spirit 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 taken to the grave so I can be raised in newness of life in Christ (Romans 6:4). When I am willing to be crucified with Him and to make this selfless journey... when I am willing to accept my responsibility for all that I am.... when I am realize that without Him I cannot become my true self...then I have begun the journey to grow deeper in Him.

Have I matured to the point where my actions and reactions are controlled by Him instead of an unchanged and immature nature? God's plan for my life is always ahead, but I cannot realize it until I allow Him to control me with His love and guiding hand. One day we all 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.”

I agree with Paul. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV). I press on toward the goal to which God has called me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blessed Beyond Measure


“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV).

If I trust in the Lord and have confidence in Him I will be blessed and favored by Him. I will receive all of the Lord's strength for whatever comes against me. I will stand strong against the enemy's attempt to destroy my faith. Like the roots of a a tree seek water for life, my soul, mind, and spirit shall seek His living water. They will persevere through whatever tries to impede their progress until living water is found. Once discovered this water, His Word, will feed my soul with all I need to withstand the onslaught of life. My roots in His Truth shall anchor me strongly, and I shall live safely and securely in His presence. His perfect love will cast out any fear. I shall be like a tree planted by water that continually receives water for nourishment. Faith will secure me, and no circumstance shall create fear. I will continually draw from His living water, and thrive in His Truth. No matter what may come against me, my life will remain supple with pliable with His purpose. No worry will grow where faith has taken root. I will store His living water in my roots so in times of drought, I shall draw from their truth. He will remain in me as I remain in Him. As long as I continue to seek His living water, my life will bear His fruit. My life, filled with peace, will live His grace, mercy, and love. 

This is my perfect dream! To achieve this kind of faith.... a faith that withstands all that comes against it.... a faith which fear cannot destroy! I wish to live such a life that continually speaks His peace, remains calm in all seasons, offers hope to others, and lives His love. The truth is this kind of faith is absolutely possible. But I must do my part. I choose to place my trust and confidence in Him. I choose to seek Him. I choose to put down deep roots in His Word. I choose to apply it to my life. I choose Him over anything else. Then I shall understand that He chose me long before I chose Him. Into every fiber of my being, I will draw His love which sets me free. I will be strong because He is strong. No weapon that comes against me will uproot His faith in my life. I will be blessed beyond measure.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A GREATER DESIGN

You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4, NIV).
 
Trials serve a purpose. They actually serve a greater design. Trials teach an important character trait‒perseverance. You can have commitment in your life, but commitment means nothing without the ability to stand strong no matter what comes against you. Perseverance does a work in your life. Persevering during trial shapes and molds you until you become more like Christ. You must not fight against the trial. You cannot change it anyway. Let it build this character trait in your life. When perseverance has finished its work, hopefully you will be spiritually mature, and able to stand against whatever life throws at you.
 
When have you grown the most? Certainly not during times that are easy and demand nothing of you. You grow when your faith is tested during times of hardship. These times of hardship are times that discipline you and produce a peace that only comes as a result of perseverance. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV).
 
Joseph was one who was trained by trial and hardship. Sold into slavery by his brothers, he faced desertion by his family and loss of freedom to live his own life. When his master's devious wife attempted to seduce him, his faith was tested and ultimately strengthened when he refused her advances, and endured her lies. Persevering in prison, his faith still grew stronger. God was with him shaping and molding his character. Joseph was ultimately rescued from his life of slavery and prison, and given the position of second in command in Egypt. When handed the opportunity to take action against his his brothers for selling him into slavery, he had no revenge in his heart. He had learned God's lesson of forgiveness and greater purpose through all he had endured. “You intended to harm me,” he told his brothers, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, NIV). Joseph saw a greater purpose in his trial, and realized that God had placed him in his position to provide sustenance for his own people at this time in their history.
 
Do you persevere and allow the trials of life to mold your character? Molding of your character produces hope. “We also rejoice in our sufferings,” Paul wrote, “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4, NIV). “The more you go on in this way,” Peter wrote, “the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8. TLB). Allow the trials of life to shape and teach you the ability to persevere and build your character. You will grow spiritually and mature, and not lack in your ability to stand whatever comes your way.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Cover Me


I wake up rejoicing today. It is Easter, and I am free because of your sacrifice for me. You rose from the grave so I might walk in newness of life. I am reminded of this once more as I remember Myra's face as she sang “Cover Me” last night. This morning you come once more into my heart and make me your own.

You are my place of safe retreat. You are my refuge from my own self. I can retreat from others into myself, but I can never hide from myself–from my own failures, my fears, my sins, my weaknesses, and my own limitations. I find that within myself there is no relief. Thank you, Lord, that I can never hide from you. In these early Easter hours I discover again that you are my sanctuary. You cover me with the gift of your precious blood until I forget my limitations, and my failures....until I am only aware of your love and forgiveness. You cover me until my own sins are washed away and remembered no more. You cover me until relief from my failure begins to fill my heart. You cover me until fear fades from memory. You cover me with your love and hide me from myself until the relief of your grace brings freedom and joy.

You are my joy. You have saved me from myself. You have covered me with the love of your sacrifice, and, if I allow it, you will always cover me. I am free of who I have been, and free to be new in you alone, because you cover me.






Saturday, April 19, 2014

Create in Me

Lord, if I have wounded or made someone stumble, forgive me. If I have said words without thinking that have broken a heart, I can't bear it. My heart breaks for the person I have injured, and breaks because I have failed you. Lord, if I have turned away from someone's cry for help because I might suffer too, then I have failed you once more. If I have been cold and unfeeling to someone's need, break my heart so I might understand what I have done. If I have run from my responsibility to someone, and longed to be hidden from its requirement, then, again, I ask forgiveness. Lord, forgive me if I have wounded another person's heart.
 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “Have mercy on me, O God,” David cried, “according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). If I confess, Lord, you are faithful to forgive, and cleanse my heart. Your love is unfailing, and I will know and experience forgiveness once again. My heart will be pliant in your hands. If I fail you in anyway, my heart will ache painfully with its failure. I will feel and know your pain as if it is my own.
 
Create in me a pure heart, O God,” David cried, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Renew your spirit within me, Lord, and I will be set free from my failure. Keep me soft and pliable on your altar so your steadfast spirit is secured within me. Guide me, and keep me safe from my own ability to fail you. I place my life in your hands today, and trust you will do whatever is necessary to create a pure heart in me.
 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Encouragine Your Life

 
Are you discouraged? David, the writer of most of the book of Psalm, knew discouragement. Saul, his one time friend, sought his life. In hiding David cried out in his misery. “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and sticks to the roof of my mouth” (Psalm 22:15a). But David, in the midst of his despair and fear, developed a valuable trait. When there was no one to build his strength, David encouraged himself with the Lord's faithfulness. “You hear, O Lord,” he declared, “the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10: 17).
 
 
David had the faith that God would encourage him, and give him the strength he needed for whatever he faced. “But you, O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me” (Psalm 22:19)! Do you seek to know that kind of faith ? It is the kind of faith believes no matter what hardship surrounds you. It is the kind of faith that sustains when fear threatens. It is the kind of faith that trusts in His encouraging promise when all is dire and dark. It is the kind of faith that hears the Lord’s encouraging voice when there is no one else to encourage you.
 
“I will declare your name to my brothers,” David promised God. “In the congregation I will praise you” (Psalm 22:22). Praising God before others increased David’s faith.Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Speaking of God’s faithfulness increases your faith. Praising God no matter what you face is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of praise that can only come through faith in His unfailing love. God honors your surrender by encouraging you.
 
If you feel overwhelmed and face great discouragement today, it is time to focus on His Word and learn of His faithfulness. It is time to take all the energy that you place in worry, and place it in Him. He rewards those who seek Him with their whole heart. You will be encouraged when you look for Him like a drowning man needing rescue. He is there just waiting to encourage your heart, your mind, your spirit, and your life.
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

MY fUTURE

 
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
You are not alone. I am with you," He whispers to your troubled mind. "I have all the concerns of your life in my grasp. Don't worry about what is ahead in your life. Don't worry about what tomorrow holds. Today is enough for you. Don't dwell on what has not even happened. I keep your future from you on purpose. Your faith is precious, and it cost me my life. Don't sacrifice my love for you by not trusting in me. Trusting and having faith in me comes by hearing and knowing my Word. It comes through an intimacy with me that creates deep trust in my faithfulness to you. Learn of me. Know me, and your future is safe and secure in me. No weapon that forms against you will succeed. No problem will be too great or horrible for you to handle. You will soar above whatever might come because you have waited on me instead of trying to take matters into your own hand. You have sought me. You have learned from me. You have taken my Word, and it has become your very life. No matter what your future might hold, it is secure in me. I am your unassailable defense, your fortress, your strong tower, and I will never leave you or forsake you. Believe me, not just believe in me. Then nothing shall break the faith you have in my plans for your life.”
 
 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

His Simplicity Everywhere we turn we are told that we need something more to complete our lives. But what we desire and ultimately possess, does not complete anything. It creates a lust for more. We feel stressed, exhausted, and always lacking. The hurried pace to have more overwhelms us, and we are lost in its control. Christ teaches us that we can be free from this horrendous struggle. It will not be our master, because we are under grace (Romans 6:14). We can learn how to live simply in Him. The simplicity that Christ offers frees us from the rat race of life and brings peace to our harried existence. This grace teaches that we are more important than what we own. Possessions are not meant to possess us. They are meant to enrich our lives. When we learn to live simply, we discover that people are more important than what they have. The complexity of life becomes one of peaceful simplicity. “This is not possible,” you say. “How can I live a simple life in this world that demands me to achieve… to be better… to have more… to climb to the top?” It is not possible when your heart has not reached a place of surrender. It is not possible when you are the one in control of the desires of your heart and not Him. It is not possible when your flesh is more powerful than His Spirit. But it is possible when your heart lets go of its own desires and seeks His will. Because His will is simple. His message is simple. His heart is simple. Love as He has loved you. Not things, but others. Christian simplicity is a discipline of mind that comes from a heart that has been broken from its own selfishness, and given the grace to live selflessly. It is a grace bestowed by God. We cannot will ourselves to live selflessly and simply. It is a gift that we must receive from Him. It is a gift that must be consciously surrendered in His service again and again. Simplicity in Him frees us from what encumbers. It liberates us from the bondage of things. It focuses our mind and heart on what is important. His love. His forgiveness. His purpose. His heart. It frees us to give ourselves away because He has become more because we have become less. We can find His simplicity that liberates. We can discover a haven that inspires. We can have peace when faced with an overwhelming world. We can be content in the midst of unrest. It begins in our heart, and frees us from the tyranny of emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental havoc. Whoever He sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Greater Faith



So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Have you heard some bad news–news that turns your world upside down? Perhaps you have heard that you face a horrifying illness that has the possibility to take your life. Or maybe someone you love faces forces beyond their human control. I have been in your shoes. I know the fear that rises when you hear news like that. It claims your heart and mind. As fear consumed my life, I was convinced it was going to destroy me before any cancer.

The Word became my life. I needed help and answers, and I believed with all my heart I could find them in the Word. I discovered 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” God had not given me this “spirit” of fear, but one of power, one of love, and one of a sound mind. This fear, of course, was not from him, and greater still, He had given me power to overcome it. The promise was that it was possible to know His love, and have a mind free from torment. How could I discover that power and peace?

It was at this time I discovered Philippians 4:6-7. I had read these verses before, but now I clung to them like a drowning woman. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. The fear had to be addressed before I could even consider what was next. There two verses helped me address this fear on a daily basis. I believed what they told me, and I wanted to know His peace through what was coming in my life. Every day they helped me give my fear to God for what that day had to offer. His peace soon started to overcome the fear.

I wanted to believe Him for the greatest promise. I wanted to have greater faith to believe that this illness would be conquered. And then I found a verse that revealed to me my responsibility in this journey. ''Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2, KJV). John might have been speaking to Gaius, but in these words, God was speaking straight to my heart. Above all things, God wished me to prosper and have health. “Even as my soul prospered” or “even as I grew spiritually” told me that with spiritual growth I would realize the faith to believe in His promise.

His power to handle your battle against your fear is available at all times. Seek Him, and His truth for your life in His Word. Claim it, and use it daily. His power, His strength, His faithfulness, His consistency, His balance-it is all yours to exercise everyday. You can never ask too much of God. His provision is unending for each moment you face. He has made a way to provide exactly what is needed for your journey. You are His child, and He will not forsake you or leave you. Seek Him, and you are never alone.



Monday, April 14, 2014

HIS WORK IN ME


"The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Why do I sometimes believe I am incapable of doing the task God has called me to do? If He has called me to step out in faith, He expects me to reach further than my own strength. He empowers what He has instructed. Yes, it is more than I am capable of. It should be, or I would not need His guidance and His strength. I would try to accomplish the work on my own, and it would have little impact. I need to reach beyond my limited capability to discover His, or the work I do in His name has little ability to accomplish His purpose. What might seem overwhelming in its intensity, is nothing to Him. When He summons me to a specific task, I know that He has looked beyond my limitations, and seen His potential in my life.
I think I know me. I have little knowledge of who I really am. He sees my capability and my potential. He is faithful to provide all of Himself for the little that I have. He will do the work. That is His promise when I surrender my control, and let Him develop me. His calling is not just for His work in the world. It is for His work in me.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nowhere to Hide



Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:7-12, NIV).

There is nowhere to run–nowhere to hide. You are everywhere I turn. You are everywhere I try to find relief that is not from you. Why do I look where I already know there will be no lasting answer? Why do I try to flee from what I know is the best for me? Why do I insist on my own way? How could I have forgotten that you you will always find me, and hold me fast? You are with me in my darkest moments and brightest days.

If I think the darkness will hide my pain from you, I am so wrong. If I believe the darkness will conceal the struggles of my sinful heart, then I am wrong. I may hold myself captive with bitterness, hurt, anger, and resentment in a darkened place of no hope, but you are with me no matter where I might try to hide. You are with me in that place. Help me to understand that is in my surrender that I finally discover peace.

Lord, forgive me. Strengthen me. Raise me. Guide me. I am so tired of holding this mask in place. You will carry me through the fire, and give peace that my mind cannot comprehend. I am so thankful that nothing is hidden from you. It is in the light that all is revealed. When I let go the struggle to hide what you already know, I am finally free.

Friday, April 11, 2014

You Know Me


You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Psalms 139:1-6, NIV).


To realize that I am known so greatly and so deeply goes beyond my limited human understanding! I open up my heart to you, God, and my soul yearns for you to continually search me. I thirst for you, my living God, with an unquenchable thirst. You are the living God! I cannot move without you knowing it! Every step that I plan may be formed in my mind, but your Spirit directs my steps. My thoughts are not as high as your thoughts, but you know and understand them because you became human for me. You understand me, your creation, because you became one with me in your suffering for my sake. You know when I am at ease and when I am distraught. You know when I have the faith to move mountains, and when I need rest to be revived. You are familiar with every part of me. Before I even speak, you know what I am going to say. Because you know my heart, you know if it is pained or if it rejoices. You know if I will speak life because of great joy or if I might possibly speak death because of great despair.


Why do I ever become downcast? I can again hope in you. Because you know me and created me, I am yours, and you are mine. Lord, today, I pray for my words to only speak your life. I pray right now before a word is ever spoken, that my words are directed by you, Holy Spirit. I long to have a joyful heart that speaks life. You discipline me, Lord, and guide me in the right direction. You chastise me when I fail, and you encourage me when I succeed. You have placed your hand upon my life, and I always aware of your steady pressure. Your love and call is too much at times for me to even fathom. It is too incredible to even understand why you have loved and chosen me.

I give you my limited life today, because that is what I only have....a limited life waiting to be fulfilled. Take it, and complete it with your purpose. Take it and make it your own. Take it, and never let me claim it again.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dear Friend


I thank you for your heart which listened to me tonight. I thank you for your time which you gave so completely. I thank you for your love which always looks beyond my fault and sees my potential. I thank you for your forgiveness which you give unconditionally. I thank you, Lord Jesus, my friend, because you are the friend who listened to my prayer tonight when I was distraught. You are the friend who lifted me from my lowest state, and gave me hope to believe in your promise of joy and peace. You are the friend who reached into my heart, and removed all the hurt and pain. You are the friend who has always known my failure but encouraged my best. You are the friend that knows the things of which I cannot even speak. You are the friend who knows me so intimately that, when I am ready to speak, you know my words before they are even uttered. You are the friend who sticks closer than anyone in my life. I can't thank you enough for never giving up on me. I can't praise you enough for your sacrifice and absolute forgiveness that makes my life new. I can't give you enough for all you have given me. Thank you for giving your life just for me, and saving me from the selfishness of my own heart. Lord, there are just not enough words to thank you for your friendship that lasts forever.



“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

God's Love in Me

“Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7b-8, NIV).

There is no way I can understand God's love unless I seek Him. I can't understand His love until I know Him intimately. His love for me more than fulfilled the law. It changes my heart so I can understand the reason for it. His sacrifice offers the greatest love so that His word becomes the height and breath my soul can reach. The one who loves is born of God, because he is born into a new life in Christ who is the greatest love. It is my choice to live in that love. And as I live in His love, He prepares my heart and mind to receive the truth of His message. That message softens the hardest of hearts, causes indifference to flee, and opens my heart to desire all of His best in my life. The love of God makes everything crystal clear. If I live in His love, God lives in me.

“We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16, NIV).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Come Near for Completion


“Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8a, NIV).

This is an incredible promise! But it is more than that. It is a requirement to live a spiritual life in Him. I must seek Him before I am even aware of His presence. In every moment or problem or trial or circumstance I must immediately and unconsciously turn to Him. It can be praise or it can the silent cry of a tired heart. He hears all.

Nothing is needed but that silent cry. There is no need for me to say anything. There is no need for me to plead desperately. There is no need to make vain promises for Him to hear. He is there always listening to the cry of my heart. If I draw close to Him, He always comes near to me. Help comes in answer to my heart's need. But it is not only help that comes, but the sweet joy of His presence.

Drawing near to God makes me more aware of His perfection and my lack of it. When I open myself to His presence, I invite His character into my life. As He comes nearer His presence shines the light of His holiness into every area of my life, and reveals what is wrong and what is right–not only in action but in thought and desire. My heart breaks to know how I have disappointed Him. To remain in the sweetness of His presence, I seek His forgiveness, and it is immediate. My heart rejoices in its freedom with Him. He then reveals things in my life that bring Him pleasure, and I am in awe of His passion for me. Drawing near to God means I am refined by His beauty.

If I draw close to Him, I am encompassed by all that He is–His love–His perfection–His protection–His faithfulness–His promise–His mercy–His grace–His power! I lack in nothing, and I am completed in Him. This is a time of sweet closeness of His spirit with mine which always brings peace no matter what might come.


Monday, April 7, 2014

The Promise at the Summit

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV).

It's another Monday. You now face the work week, or other duties that beckon. Your day may sing with promise, but most likely little problems and irritations will arise. It's life. It's inevitable. Don't dwell on the problems that come up each day. Recognize each struggle for what it is: a lesson to carry you further to the goal. When you climb a mountain and concentrate on the hardship of each step, you never see the beautiful reward waiting for you at the summit.

Don't dwell on the emotional pain that hits you when problems overwhelm your heart. That is where you will be defeated. Guard your heart. Regard each problem that arises as a springboard to reach the top. Keep your eyes on your goal, and then as you climb, each step will become another solid foundation of growth. If you consider each step as a means to carry you to the promise at the peak, your climb will not bring despair, but great hope.

What is the promise at the summit? The fruit of the Spirit, active and alive in your life. Your life will radiate the love of God. His joy will reign no matter what you face. His peace will calm your heart through hard times. Patience with circumstances and with others will pervade your mind and spirit. Kindness will be the first thing extended to all in your life. God's goodness will overflow from your heart, and faithfulness will be your promise that is fulfilled to others. Gentleness shall be the power of Holy Spirit under control in your life, guiding you wisely and carefully in your relationships. Self-control will define your life in all areas. You will have surrendered your life completely to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Does this sound unattainable? It is attainable, or He would have not revealed the promised fruit in Galatians 5:22-23. Each problem you overcome and each step up the mountain will bring great reward. Persevere and never give up. Face each step head on, and overcome each obstacle.  “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV).  Peter put in like this. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, NIV). I don’t know about you, but I will keep on climbing the mountain!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Given with Integrity


I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent” (1 Chronicles 29:17a, NIV).

Do I ever look at the gifts of my heart, and ask if they are given with integrity? Whatever I givewhether love, friendship, compassion, time, a listening ear, advicemust be given willingly. They must be given with honest intent. There is no hidden agenda. There is no subterfuge. There is no mask. They are given because of His love and His work in my own heart. What I give away should not be given to make me feel better about myself. I should give because of His love in me... a love that sees that the need in someone else is greater than my own could ever be.

This life in Jesus is not about me. Whatever I give or do in His name should come from what He creates within my life, and never from my any fabrication. He will constantly test my heart to see if it is filled with integrity and honesty. If I draw close to Him, He will draw close to me (James 4:8a), and His presence will reveal the intentions of my heart. I will be stripped before Him. Nothing will be hidden. In that moment, I will know if He is pleased with me or not.

I know, my God, that you always test my heart. I know that you always yearn for what I do or give in your name to be born of honesty and integrity. Lord God, I want what I give to come from a heart that has been purified by you. Forgive me for anything I have ever given that has come from other motives than what you desire. Always create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew your steadfast spirit within me. Then I will be refined by your love. I will be made new.... and what I give away will come from a heart that is honest and true.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

His Good WIll

 
Do you want to know God's good, pleasing, and perfect will for your life? Become a living sacrifice.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 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 12:1-2, NIV).

If you are transformed “within”, you will understand what to do “without”! Be renewed in the spirit of your mind and you will know His will!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Receive Him and Receive Freedom

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV).

“To know Christ and the power of His resurrection” takes on a powerful meaning when you battle something in your life over which you have no control. In other words, your stronghold. If you study His Word and continually seek Him in prayer, you will enter a deeper intimate relationship with the Lord. As you grow in understanding of His love for you, you will also grow to understand His amazing sacrifice that made such a great love possible. “To participate in His sufferings” means that you surrender to whatever is necessary in your life to mold you into His creation. “You become like Him in death” when you die to your own self–to your own sinful desires. You are resurrected into new life when you continually receive His life. Then you will discover His power that sets you free.

Christ longs for you to experience healing, and to be free from that which binds your heart, mind, and spirit. You do not have to be bound in fear that your stronghold is everlasting. It isn't. He is everlasting, and His promise of deliverance is true. He love is incredibly powerful, and He promises that you will have a sound mind and spirit (2 Timothy 1:7). Persevere in seeking Him, and knowing His Word, and you will receive deliverance. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). Don't ever give up. You will receive His promise. He is faithful.

Daily confess your stronghold to the Lord. Ask for Christ’s forgiveness. Study the Word and grow in knowledge of His truth. Apply faith to what you have learned from the Word in order to overcome your stronghold. Maintain an intimate and vital relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer. Share with others what Christ has done for you. This reinforces your faith, and reminds you daily of God's power.

Your path to freedom from your stronghold resembles a fingerprint. It is not exactly like mine or that of anyone else. Yet the truth found in God’s Word is the same for each Christian. It accomplishes exactly what God sends it to achieve (Isaiah 55:11). Complete deliverance waits when you are ready to begin your own personal journey. You shall experience the love that sets you free, when you seek the heart that died for you.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Walk with Him


Never worry over things you can't figure out. The answer may not be for now. It may not even be for this life. Trust the Savior who gave His life for you. If He cared enough to die for you, He certainly cares enough to carry you through trials of life that are beyond your understanding.

This life is a journey with Him. Many things He will allow you to understand, but many He will not. “There is so much more I want to tell you,” He has said, “ but you can’t bear it now” (John 16:12, NLT). He knows what you can handle and what you can't. Quite your mind, and its constant need to know the reason... to analyze why. You can't understand the infinite with your finite mind. You can only understand what He allows. Step by step this life is a journey which is meant to carry you to greater heights of faith.

He suffered, and you shall also suffer in this life. But there is a great joy that comes to those who walk this life with Him. This joy is never the result of suffering. Suffering drives you to Him. In this close intimacy of Savior and friend, peace prevails, and joy arises. Such joy only comes from a deep personal relationship with Him.

Walk your life's journey closely with Him, and on that last day, you will know and understand. But then it will not matter because you will be in the presence of the only answer you ever needed. Him.


 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Perfect for Me

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” (Hebrews 13:5). 
 
My Savior will never leave me or forsake me. He is constant and unchanging. He upholds me with His unfailing love, and never-ending strength. So why do I fear when I face another trial or another change? His love will never leave me. His understanding will provide the best for me. His strength will carry me through the deepest waters safely to sure harbor. He is perfect for me.

If He is perfect love, then I can forever be sure of that love to take care of me. If He is perfect strength, then, in whatever trial I face, I can be confident that His strength will protect me. If He is perfectly patient, then He never tires as I struggle to learn His lesson. If He is perfect understanding, then I know I will always be understood.

Not only is He perfect for me. He wants to “perfect” me for His purpose. Peter shared this “perfecting” in my life in this way. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8). This is a great promise! If I allow Him to mold me, crush me, raise me, turn me inside out, teach me, guide me, chastise me, encourage me... if I allow Him to add these qualities in my life, then I will become more like Him. I will not be ineffective or unproductive in my knowledge Him. I will find myself on the greatest journey of being perfected in Him.

Taste and See

  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! —Psalms 34:8 (NKJV)     God is good all the time. You don’t...