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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Red Sea Deliverance


He gave a command to the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led his people across on dry land” (Psalm 106:9, GNT).


Each of us at some point will face a Red Sea. It will be something harder than we ever imagined. There will appear to be no way through or around it. It will appear that there is no answer. But just as the Lord parted the Red Sea for His people fleeing Egypt–just as He dried it up so they could move safely forward–just as He provided what was necessary at their most desperate moment, He parts the Red Sea and makes a path for His children now.


Moses never failed in trusting God. With the Red Sea in front of him and the Egyptians advancing from behind, he stood with the Israelites at the very edge of what appeared destruction. He had followed the Lord's leading, and now there seemed to be no hope. There was no visible escape. There was nothing but his faith in the Lord who had brought them to this place. Moses had promised God's people to lead them to freedom. The Red Sea rising ahead was not freedom; it was sure death. Yet Moses believed God would not fail in His promise. “'Do not be afraid,' Moses told the Israelites. 'Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still'” (Exodus 13:13-14, NIV). Moses told the Israelites to be still and wait for the God to fight the Egyptians, but God asked for something more. “Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground'” (Exodus 14:15-16, NIV). God said to move on in faith into what appeared destruction, and He would give them a way of escape. He would also destroy that which had driven them to the very edge.


When faced with our Red Sea, we sometimes try to pull back. Perhaps we see it rising in the distance, and we turn from its imposing presence. But the army of life presses us closer, and we cannot turn back. Suddenly we stand the edge. We believe that there is no way to go further, and there is obviously no retreat; we give up and are paralyzed by our fear. To experience freedom, we must move into our Red Sea. It is at that moment when circumstances allow no retreat, that we must go forward into the unknown for God to part the waters and make a way through it. That imposing Red Sea presents the greatest fear. But without facing the fear and moving right through it with God's help, we will never overcome that which has driven us to the very edge of ourselves.



My Red Sea lies ahead. Circumstances press from behind. I know that I must face my Red Sea. There is no escape. I can either allow it to paralyze me, or I can step forward in faith and allow God to part the waters. I can either try to control what I cannot control, or I can release my fear to God and move forward in faith. At the very edge, I make my decision. It is not only the edge of my Red Sea; it is the edge of myself. I know that there is nothing that I can do. If I step into the unknown, I will discover the power of God to strengthen and deliver me. Believing and trusting that the waters will part, I will go forward through what otherwise might destroy me. It is there in what appears destruction that I experience His power to deliver and even change the circumstances which have driven me. It is there in the depths of my fear that I discover in letting go, I find Him. I find His peace, and the pure joy of victory.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Continually Changed


“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).
What is the grace of God? It is favor from Him that I don't deserve. There is nothing I can ever do that will earn His favor. His favor is a gift. His mercy delivers me from the punishment my sin deserves, and His grace blesses me even though I am not worthy. His grace that is sufficient for my every need would not be real if Jesus Christ had not loved me enough to die for me. But He did, and because of His sacrifice, His love, mercy and grace have rescued me.
In view of His tender mercy that forgives my sin, I choose to offer myself as a living sacrifice, and live each moment in surrender to the amazing love that saves me. I choose for my mind to be constantly renewed and molded by His grace and His power. In choosing to live a righteous life, I honor His faithful obedience to sacrifice His life for me (Ephesians 4:23-24). An obedient heart is one that chooses to sacrifice selfish desires out of love and commitment. He was obedient to death on a cross. No sacrifice of mine can ever be as great.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind!” Paul declares in Ephesians 4:23, (KJV). “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind!” He instructs in Romans 12:2 (NIV). This instruction is life-changing. To be renewed and changed by Him is an obedient decision that I make. In return He brings His power to transform and renew my thoughts and my desires. It is my choice to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24, NIV). It is my decision “to make every effort to add to my 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 (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV). I allow Him to change my life when I purposely seek these qualities.

When I make the decision to spiritually grow into the person He knows that I can become, He faithfully changes my self-focused mind into one that focuses instead on others. If I constantly and consistently surrender my mind to the power of His Spirit and choose to add these qualities in my life, I will be continually renewed in the “spirit of my mind”. I shall not only be effective in what I do for Him (2 Peter 1:8), but I shall never look again at anything with a mind which has closed itself to all possibilities. My whole perspective will be changed by His renewing power; I will realize with His spiritual understanding what my human understanding could never perceivethe unreachable depths of the greatest love which continually changes me.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Choose the New

Have you ever longed for your mind to think only of good things, and believe unceasingly in what God promises? I have! You hope to believe. You 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–even though we believe the old should be over, we sometimes struggle to move forward in faith. We cannot fully perceive the depth of the incredible spiritual transformation that new life in Christ really promises. He means for us to be completely free from the chains of old baggage, and to live in the freedom the Holy Spirit imparts (2 Corinthians 3:17).

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18, NIV). 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 former things. 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 amazing– 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).

When our minds do not dwell on what has been, hope for something new is much easier. “See,” the Lord declares, “I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)? “See” is another strong word, and it means “to understand, realize, or perceive.” It does not mean to just “look”. “Look” is concerned with appearance only. “Look” glances, and then moves on and misses the depth of God's truth. “See” takes “look” to a depth that calls for change.“See” seeks, and perceives that God is doing a new thing. Spiritual sight goes beyond what appears to the eye. The kind of “seeing” used in this verse believes in the new even when nothing appears to have changed. Actually something amazing and new has changed. Greater faith has sprung up.

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland,” He promises me. “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, NIV). Even though I may walk through a wasteland of pain and failure, 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 to forget the old and to find this new and greater faith He has for me. It is time for this new in my life. I choose to perceive it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Soar in Him


"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”(Matthew 17:20).

Do you sometimes feel limited in what you do for Christ? There are times I feel limited. This morning I remind myself that there is no limit to what I can accomplish with His power. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). If God has called me to do something, He will supply the strength that I need. He faithfully empowers those He calls (1 Thessalonians 5:24). I will never give up because something seems beyond my power to accomplish. In my weakness, I shall realize His strength and power that moves mountains.

What has the Holy Spirit called you to do that seems beyond your capability? In your mind, it may be. But the Lord always sees your potential. There is power in what you consider weakness in your life. Your weakness is just an area that calls to be surrendered to Him so that His power and glory may be exemplified in you. Consider the weakness of what you might think is your small faith. When that small seed of faith is surrendered to the Lord, you can tell your mountain to move. Nothing is impossible.

Pansies have the potential to bring color and beauty to a winter morning, but when the air is freezing they are shriveled and withdrawn; their beauty is hidden by the cold air pressing upon them. As warm water pours gently upon them, they open and stand strong and beautiful in the frigid air. I, just like a pansy, may be weary and shriveled from circumstances which weigh on me, but if I surrender to the warm power of His Spirit, and not to pressing circumstances which surrounds me, He pours himself into my life. I can also stand strong and beautiful in Him. There is no task that He calls me to do that I can't accomplish.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29,31, NLT). When I surrender the little that I possess to the power He offers, I experience faith that believes nothing is impossible. I soar in Him, and He moves the mountains in my life.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Weighing Motive


All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2, NIV).

Have you ever had the Holy Spirit “weigh” a motive for something you have done? Have there been times He has revealed to you that something you thought was done “in love” was actually not done “in love”? I have. Perhaps the appearance of an act was loving, but the motive behind it was for less than an altruistic reason. Something that we do to help another person may appear to be inspired by pure love, but God looks on the heart. The Holy Spirit invites us to evaluate the motives behind our actions.

Guilt or shame can be the motive for an action. We may try to help someone for what we believe is a good reason, but what we do actually becomes an attempt to lessen a shame or assuage a guilt. God wishes what we do to come from a heart that has been cleansed of guilt and shame. We might also feel forced by circumstances or others to do something that appears wonderfully giving. However, our motive does not come from a heart that has been broken of selfishness. If we give expecting something in return, then we also give in selfishness. God wishes us to have a cleansed heart with pure motives. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,” Paul wrote, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV). If we give freely in love without analyzing any personal cost, our giving comes from a heart that understands the cost of what Christ gave. He laid down His life. His motive was pure and unrestrained love. Ours should be the same.

John Wesley believed that sin is discovered in the motive of the heart. I yearn for my heart to be pure in God's sight. Today I ask once more for the Holy Spirit to reveal the motives of my heart–if my actions are inspired by His love or by any guilt or selfishness. If the least bit of guilt or selfishness is involved, I ask Him to expose it and continually cleanse my heart. But if His love is my motive, I praise Him for cleansing the thoughts and attitudes of my heart! There are no chains that bind. I am free to cheerfully give myself away expecting nothing in return but His love to fill and sustain me.

Continually create in me a pure heart, O God,” I pray, “and always renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Heart of Wisdom

The wisdom from above,” James writes, “is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere” (James 3:17, NLT). The wisdom that God imparts is gentle, pure, and peaceable. It yields to others and does not insist on its own way. His wisdom is full of mercy because He is forgiving and merciful. His wisdom brings forth a wealth of good fruit in my life. His wisdom never creates something that is not true in order to make a “point”. It is honest and sincere.

I looked up Proverbs 10:18 in several translations. “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin” (NIV). “A wise heart takes orders; an empty head will come unglued” (MSG). “The wise are glad to be instructed, but babbling fools fall flat on their faces” (NLT). If I don't want to be a “chattering or babbling fool” or have an “empty head” or “come to ruin” or be “unglued” or “fall flat on my face”, I will receive God's instruction gladly and allow Him to guide what I say. Without His wisdom, I chatter with no purpose and I have no peace. If I babble to hear myself talk, I do not yield to hear what someone else has to say. My interest is in me and not in someone else. My words have no power to impart hope and faith to another, because they are full of what I consider “my” wisdom instead of God's wisdom. I chatter on unaware of my own emptiness and shallowness. My words fall flat, and so do I.

More than anything I want what I say and how I live to make a difference in the life of someone else. To receive God's wisdom, I must yield to His instruction, and accept it gladly. His instruction brings out the best in my life. It results in the wealth of His fruit living in me–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Unlike a chattering tongue with no depth, His wisdom gives the ability to speak truth that makes a difference─that brings hope─ that instills peace─that offers greater faith──that gives a new perspective.


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11, NKJV). This kind of wise word makes a difference. A friend was speaking of an opportunity that God had extended, and how she believed God was opening doors. Suddenly she began to speak of her fear of failure. Another friend said to her, “do you really believe that God would set you up for failure?” Those simple words were born in a heart that seeks God's wisdom, and they made a difference in another person's life. Let's seek His wisdom, and receive His instruction. Let's pray for our words to be filled with His wisdom, and never our babbling own.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Seek Wisdom


Proverbs is an incredible book that encourages the reader to seek wisdom. “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance” (Proverbs 1:5, NLT). With simple truths that bring amazing clarity, Proverbs imparts wisdom that has the potential to develop godly character. If we seek His understanding and allow its message to impact our lives, God's wisdom has the power to change us.

There are many comparisons between a wise person and a fool, but in Proverbs 17:10 there is a one that makes me stop and take deeper notice. A wise person will learn more from a warning than a fool will learn from a hundred lashings” (Proverbs 17:10, NCV). Personally I would rather be someone who can be instructed with one warning that be someone who is so foolish that a hundred beatings will make no difference. A fool can't be taught. Wisdom imparts a teachable spirit, and one that responds well to instruction. When God disciplines my life, I want to realize it quickly without punishment needing to be repeated. If I have wisdom, I can discern the difference between when I am disciplined for something I have done wrong and when I am pruned for greater growth so that I might flourish. The pain can hurt terribly in both instances, but the reason is vastly different. God disciplines because of sin, but He prunes to get “self” out of the way so that I can understand my purpose in His kingdom. With discipline I die to sin. With pruning I die to self and learn surrender. Wisdom teaches that if I say “no” to sin in my life and “yes” to God's pruning in my life then I shall flourish under His divine guidance.


God offers His wisdom so that I might grow spiritually. If any of you needs wisdom,” James writes, “you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you” (James 1:5, NCV). When I seek wisdom, God gives it generously, and will not criticize me. The fool with a hundred lashes regards his punishment as criticism because he has no wisdom (Proverbs 17:10). He sees it as undeserved. The wise person receives instruction with one warning. He sees his warning as training in character. A man who is foolish regards pruning of self as punishment for sin. A man who is wise understands the difference. A man who is wise understands that both discipline and pruning develop his life for greater purpose. Do I see God's discipline and pruning in my life as criticism or instruction? It is my choice whether I seek His wisdom or settle for less.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Masterpiece


Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a, NIV).

Always strive‒always persevere to fulfill the calling that you are given, and leave the results to Him. The work that He has given you has been designed for you. When you carry it out faithfully and obediently, the result will be what He has planned. Listen to His voice, and follow His guidance. Even those who are wise do not completely understand the purpose that He has designed for you. Often they have enough trouble understanding and following their own. The masterpiece that He has designed for your life is made for you alone, and you are the artist to complete it.

He knows you intimately–your heart–your character–your capability–your greatest potential. When He directs you to do something, it is done with full knowledge of just who you are. Do not allow hardship and circumstance to pull you from your course. They only have the ability to refine you for greater purpose. When you follow Him and give Him your best, the result is glorious and rewarding beyond anything you can imagine.

Move forward in faith and follow the path that He has designed. Be strengthened by His power. Keep your eyes on Him. Run your race with perseverance. He began this faith and this work in you. If you continually surrender your heart and your will to Him, He shall perfect His will in you. You are His artist, and He has birthed a masterpiece in you. Open up your heart; listen to Him, and obey Him. Allow Him to complete you
His beautiful and amazing masterpiece.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

He Lingers for His Purpose


When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it'” (John 11:4, NIV).

When Jesus heard that his friend, Lazarus, was near death, He did not rush to his side. He lingered two days before going to him. He knew the outcome was life for Lazarus, and a witness to the amazing power of God. At that point others around Him could not see that truth. They just did not understand why Jesus, who had healed so many others, would not rush to heal His friend. Jesus knew it was an opportunity to bring glory to God. Whatever sickness or problem or situation or danger we face, it is also another opportunity to bring glory to God. Jesus lingers sometimes in rescuing us, just as He lingered in rescuing Lazarus, so that we might learn a lesson in the midst of hardship, or grow closer to Him through a prolonged illness, or discover a depth of faith to believe in what we cannot see. He knows of our troubles and our illnesses, and He comes when the time is right for deliverance and healing. He does not linger in order to punish us, but to bring greater promise and purpose to our lives.
When you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, and believe He is your Savior, His promises in His Word are true for you. Now here is a promise! “Heal me, Lord,” Jeremiah declared, “and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14, NIV). His Word is truth. He does save and He does heal, but His ways and timing are not ours (Isaiah 55:8). It is in His time. Always remember that no matter what you face right now, God is faithful. He will never allow more than you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). One day He will rescue you. In the midst of your pain and hardship, seek and pray for faith to believe.

“Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.' When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go'” (John 11:40-44, NIV).

If you believe, you shall the glory of God. Believe, and watch your stone roll away. Don't despair in the midst of your illness or your struggle or your problem or your heartache. Praise Him for His faithfulness to you even when He lingers for your benefit (Hebrews 13:15). He calls forth your healing, your deliverance, and your promise when His time is perfect. He rescues you from what would kill your faith and your spiritual life. You walk forth out of the grave clothes that have held you in bondage into His newness of life (Romans 6:4).




Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Place of Safety


You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” Isaiah 26:3, NLT)!
Perfect peace is not a dream or something that is just beyond reach. It is absolutely real and thoroughly attainable in the midst of any situation. Instead of drowning in fear, I can know and rest in His peace. Peace is born of trust in who God is and what He promises. It is discovered when my mind is trained to focus only on the truth of His Word─His unchanging and forgiving love, His faithfulness, His power, and His promise. He carries me safely through and often above the worst circumstance or pain. I don't have to be anxious about anything when I give all of my fear to God (Philippians 4:6). If I dwell only on my circumstance, I don't allow God to handle what I can't handle. I try to control what I am unable to control, and fear consumes me. Instead of dwelling on my circumstance or my pain, I can train my mind to think on His truth that I can do all things with His strength (Philippians 4:13) and that He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19). If I trust the Lord and give Him the fear that consumes my mind, I can receive His peace.

My human mind can't comprehend or reason His peace. It just comes when my mind continually dwells on His Word, and His absolute unchanging faithfulness to me (Philippians 4:7-8). Trust blossoms as I lay more and more on His altar in my times of need (Hebrews 4:16). As I train my mind to dwell on Him, I capture thoughts that destroy trust, and pull down strongholds which fear has wrought. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). I reach a place of trust where nothing can destroy the peace that He promises. This doesn't mean that I “feel” right about everything. It means that I “know” He is taking care of everything no matter how I “feel”. My faith rests on the firm foundation of His Word, and not on the roller coaster ride of my emotions. When my mind remains consistently fixed upon Him, I “know” His peace.

His perfect peace is absolutely real. It is that place where the thoughts of my mind are made new by His Spirit (Ephesians 4:23), and where I receive His perfectly sufficient grace over and over again. His peace is my place of safety where nothing can steal or destroy my faith in His love for me. “
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:1-2, NLT).


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Perfected for His Purpose


Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you ” (Hebrews 13:5b, NIV). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8, NIV).
 
My Savior is perfect for me. He will never forsake me. He is constant and unchanging. He upholds me with His unfailing love, and never-ending strength. His understanding will provide the best for me. His strength will carry me through the deepest waters safely to sure harbor. If He gives perfect love, then I can believe without question that His love will take care of me. If He gives perfect strength, then, in whatever trial I face, I can be confident that His strength will protect me. If He has perfect understanding, then I know I will always be understood. If He is perfectly patient, then He never tires as I struggle to learn His lesson. He is perfect for me.

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, NIV). 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 become more like Him. Spiritual growth brings faith to believe in the precious promises in His Word. I mature under His guidance; I am able to believe that He is my unchanging anchor, and my constant companion on life's journey. I discover that I will not be ineffective or unproductive in living my life for Him.

Living for Him means that I allow Him to change my life so that I am perfected for His purpose. “Dear brothers and sisters,” Paul wrote, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT). Not only do I change the way I live, but I change the way I think, act, and respond. I add to my faith goodness. I grow in my knowledge of His Word and apply it to my life. I discover self-control, and the ability to perseverance through hardship. I learn the qualities that make me want to be more like Him. Ultimately I love others with His love that changes my life.


Being perfected for His purpose does not mean that I am ever perfect. Paul understood this. He wrote, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12, NLT). Pressing on helps me understand God's pleasing and perfect will for my life, and spiritual growth brings the ability to be effective in my life here on earth. Paul knew that his life would have to be focused on the end in order to diligently hold on. “Dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (perfection), but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT). Being perfected is about pressing on toward the goal, and learning just how He is perfect for me. To hear “well done” one day is absolutely worth the journey.

Monday, May 18, 2015

In His Word I Find My Answer


"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV).


I remember the moment I found these verses in Isaiah. The words on the page suddenly became full of promise for me. They were like a hidden treasure,and I was hungry for what they offered. I wanted them to accomplish His best in my life. As the pain, loss, and troubles of life have hit me fully in the face, God has always reassured me with the promises I have discovered in His Word. Through many years He has continually given me peace with the power they impart.


Two of my favorite verses are Philippians 4:6-7. "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” (NIV). Whatever happens I can trust God to handle my pain. I can trust Him to carry all my worries and problems. But I must release all of it to Him, and allow His peace to work in my heart and mind. I have to choose to surrender everything to Him, and that process means letting go and allowing His strength to become mine. I must face my fears and problems head-on, believing He will carry me through each ordeal. I must exercise faith trusting that no matter what the outcome, He will provide for my every need. My attempt at control will only make my anxiety worse. His control promises peace for my heart because I have allowed Him to be responsible for whatever I face. I have allowed Him to bring about His answer. It is my responsibility to continually surrender control to Him, and follow His guidance through the trials of life. If I surrender control and follow His direction, then responsibility for the outcome is longer mine. It is His. I no longer carry that burden. I choose to trust that He will take care of my life. The peace that these verses impart comes only through my surrender.


The Word says that He is my hope and promise! "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23, NIV). I choose to believe in His promise! “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame" (Isaiah 50:7, NIV). Unswervingly! With my face set like a flint! This is way I choose to believe. He will provide the strength to overcome my fears, and face my problems head-on. "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, NIV). "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:24, NIV). I will never give up! I choose to believe that He is faithful to take care of whatever I have released to Him. I believe that when I surrender my body, soul, spirit, mind, and heart to Him, I receive what He has promised me. He gives me victory over fear, problems, struggles, and I have a peace that the world can never give. It is His peace that passes all my human understanding. I know Him through His Word alive in my heart, and His Spirit alive in me. He truly is my strength, my victory, my Savior, my peace, my joy, my love, and my life.

The best for my life is in His Word. He sent His Word for His purpose...you and me. There is no greater love and no greater purpose than its promise for our lives. What is your need?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Choose An Accountable Life



No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13, NIV).

Thirty years ago 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 falling from God's grace. He 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.  In the garden of Eden Eve's desire for what she did not possess–her insatiable hunger for that which was forbidden-her longing to know what was more than her capability to handle, finally brought about the fall of mankind from God's perfect grace.

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. Each chose sinful compromise.

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. 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. If I allow worldly desires to claim my heart 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.

I never wish to forfeit God’s blessings! I will keep my life focused on His sacrificial love which changes my selfish heart. I will not allow earthly influences to pull me off course. I shall seek God's kingdom first, and allow His treasures to become the love of my life.  Daily I will seek the Lord’s counsel through prayer, and study of His Word. Daily I will choose to stay accountable. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, NIV).

If I allow the world to become more important that my God, then I will lose what Solomon lost–my first love. It is my responsibility to keep my heart and my purpose focused only on Him. He began this work of faith in me, and He will finish it–if I will allow it.



Friday, May 15, 2015

Live in Freedom


“Sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Romans 5:20b-21, MSG).
You have been set free from sin,” Paul writes, “and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 16:18, NIV). Because of Christ's love for me, I have freedom from sin's clawing bondage. Where once I was in slavery to my own desires, now I am willingly enslaved to His. When sin attempts to increase in my life, His grace increases more (Romans 5:20b). His grace is sufficient to hold me safely in Him, and is sufficient for my every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). Grace invites me each day to choose His goodness, His love, His righteousness, His power, and His freedom! Each day that I choose sin will not be my master, I choose the powerful love of undeserved grace. When I choose His sacrificial and sanctifying love over any bondage, He empowers my choice to live for Him.
Real freedom is found only in Him. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, KJV). I love the King James Version that says “free indeed”. Other versions say “through and through”. If He has freed me from sin, then I am released from its bondage. It is a complete work–not partial, but a finished work. His work in me will always be one that calls for personal obedience, sacrifice, and perseverance. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NASB). The power of His grace can be realized in my physical life. If I persevere to grow in His grace, I will not lack in His power to sustain me. My deliverance from sin's bondage is daily appropriated by my faith in Jesus who saves me from my own destructive nature. For this work to be complete in me, I choose each day to live a righteous life, and not one that will destroy my faith. Sin will not be master over me if I daily choose not to be its slave (Romans 6:14).


Complete deliverance from sin's control is found in the redeeming gift of His grace, and that grace grows in my life through obedience
through knowing and living His Wordthrough prayer and the power of His indwelling Spirit. His grace takes me where the Word is no longer a book of rules and regulations that must be followed. Grace makes the Word a gift which offers the freedom of unburdened life in His Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6b).His Word reveals the power of His grace, and the fact that His grace always prevails. It prevails through any battle so I might stand strong against the threat of sin. It shall always empower me to choose His freedom.
Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things,” Paul writes. “Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God” (Romans 6:13-14, MSG). If God makes me free, I am indeed free through and through!




Thursday, May 14, 2015

Celebrate Recovery



In 1993 I was part of a 12-step recovery program called Emotions Anonymous which was started at our church to help members that were dealing with emotional issues. Disturbed with the reference to God as only a “higher power”, we modified the program and made our recovery program biblical-based and Christ-centered. Little did we realize at the time we began our group that another Christ-centered program existed across the continent at Saddleback Church in California. Pastors Rick Warren and John Baker had begun this program in 1990 to meet the needs of members in their churchnever realizing how one day it would be alive and well in over 20,000 churches. From the very first moment of its inception, lives have been changed by the power of God. Now twenty-five years later, Celebrate Recovery still is used powerfully by God to bring healing to hurting lives.

For some reason many believe that Celebrate Recovery is a program that only helps people with drug or alcohol addictions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is a program that offers recovery from the pain that life has inflicted. It is a program that attacks fear head on and defeats its power to control your life. It is a program that changes your perspective from that of victim to that of victor. Celebrate Recovery is for anyone with hurts, habits, or hang-ups. If we are willing to be honest, that includes most of us. Jesus Christ can change our lives when we learn that feelings are not meant to control us. We are meant to control them with the power of God. Celebrate Recovery is an opportunity to honestly face the failure of the past, deal with the pain of the present, and realize the hope and promise of healing for the future.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith in her book, “Set Free to Live Free”, lists some indicators that can reveal the presence of emotional issues.
  • I tend to focus on the negative more than the positive.
  • I feel sad more than 50% of the time.
  • I sometimes feel guilty and worthless.
  • I sometimes find myself going through the motions and not enjoying life.
  • If I have a bad day, I feel tired and fatigued.
  • I find it hard to cope with things that use to be manageable.
  • I often wake at night with bad dreams.
  • Since my loss (divorce, job, death, etc.), I no longer feel confident in that area of my life.
  • I worry about what the future holds for me.
  • I am restless and easily irritated by others.
  • I have trouble falling asleep because I can't get my mind to slow down.
  • I have lost interest in activities that I once enjoyed.

Do any of these sound familiar? The power to overcome emotions that control your life comes through the Holy Spirit and “the constant flow of His grace, mercy, love, peace, and joy”. Celebrate Recovery offers this constant flow of healing for your heart and mind.


Chandra Huguley, founder of Harmonizing Christian Way, has joined Edgewood Church and brought Celebrate Recovery into our fold. Edgewood Church is now an official sponsor of this program. Each Thursday night the program meets from from 5:00 to 7:30 PM. If you are dealing with a hurt or pain or a habit that is wrecking havoc, Jesus Christ has the the power to change your life. Come and discover that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is healing. Come and discover that His love perfected in you casts out all fear. You can find freedom from any issue that binds your heart and life. Hope is offered each Thursday. Lives are changed by the power of God. Your life can be changed too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Unintentional Mistakes


 
“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (Psalm 130:3-4, NIV).

In my own imperfect Christian life I have discovered that I make unintentional mistakes. To some an unintentional mistake might not appear large, but to me it is. I know the life of someone might be affected. I ask for forgiveness and pray for whoever might be hurt as a result. If I allowed it, the enemy could tear me apart over something like that. He could throw a guilt trip that could keep me from serving the Lord. Once you ask for forgiveness, don't remain burdened by feelings of guilt. Allow the Lord to show what you need to do, and what you don't need to do. If you have truly turned it over to Him, He will guide you perfectly in how to handle your unintentional mistake.
I have made unintentional mistakes where the intention of my heart was actually to help or encourage someone else. I have stepped into situations where I have been unaware of other dynamics taking place. In my ignorance, I have fallen short of what God has intended. My failure has not been in lack of caring. It has been in not allowing the Holy Spirit to guide me.

Now this is where I must really look at the state of my heart. Am I more concerned about how someone I might have unintentionally hurt feels about me or am I more concerned about how my mistake hurts them? The focus must never be on me. If I am concerned about the appearance of being “perfect” all the time, the focus is on me. That is wrong! But if I realize that in my own imperfection, He alone perfects me, then I am free to honestly admit my mistake. I don't want another person to suffer or hurt in their Christian walk because of it. I am willing to admit what I have done and ask for forgiveness. In receiving God's forgiveness, I discover freedom from condemnation the enemy brings to bear for a mistake that was never meant to happen.
Perhaps you have found yourself in such a situation. If you discover you have made an unintentional mistake, there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. You are more than a conqueror in Him. Beth Moore puts it like this in “Praying God's Word”. “He who is unconvinced of God's love is unconvinced he is more than a conqueror.” In all that happens in your life, intentional or unintentional, you are more than a conqueror through Him who loved you and gave His life for you (Romans 8:37). There is forgiveness, and there is victory.
If we can repent and be forgiven for an intentional wrong, then we are also forgiven for our unintentional ones. With His forgiveness and in reverence, we can rise up and serve Himagain and again.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I am His Beloved



There is a saying that confession is good for the soul. Surely that comes from James 5:16. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (NASB). Confession is good for the soul because it releases the spiritual burden of sin to Christ. It also releases the emotional and mental burden of sin to the person to whom you confess. Paul wrote, “The Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT). When such a hard burden of guilt is released, then there is spiritual openness, and freedom makes healing possible. The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective. They accomplishes miracles in the name of God.

III John 2 reads, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (NASB). I am special to Jesus Christ. He calls me “beloved.” He died for me so I might discover wholeness for my body, mind, and spirit. He wishes me to prosper and to be in good health. He does not wish me to suffer, and have illness. His loved me enough to give His life for so that I might be healed. He sacrificed his life so that I might receive continually through faith. There is no greater love––that someone who had no sin in His life would willingly take mine, and give His life unselfishly for me.

What does my Savior with His great sacrificial love wish for me? To know His love and truth, and have them alive and well in my life. To receive continually through faith, I must grow spiritually. “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). As I prosper spiritually, studying His Word and applying the lesson, faith for the healing of body, mind, and spirit becomes easier to grasp. The truth of God's message becomes more real when I have put down a foundation in Him.



 My heart rejoices because I have learned another lesson in this walk with the Lord. He trains me in the way that I should go so that when I am finished on that last day, I will be refined as gold (Job 23:10). His sanctifying refinement liberates me to believe in what human eyes say is not true. His report is always good. I will always seek Him and find the lesson, realizing that God can turn a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) into a time of spiritual, physical, and emotional victory. Even though the battle might rage, it still has been won through faith. I am more than an over-comer in Christ. I am His “beloved”.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Remain Connected


Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green” (Psalm 92:14, NLT).

If you are like me, you might feel your physical body wearing out! However, your life can still beat with His purpose. Yes, even in older age, you have a purpose! You can still make a difference in someone's life. Your life can still bear fruit. It is all up to you to keep your spiritual life vital and green and supple in His hands.

To remain spiritually vital you must abide or remain in Him. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” Jesus told the disciples the night before His death, “for a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:2, NLT). The only way to stay green and supple is to remain in close spiritual contact with God. “In abiding you seek, long for, thirst for, wait for, see, know, love, hear and respond to a person” (Bruce Wilkinson, SECRETS OF THE VINE). Jesus Christ longs to have a deep intimate relationship with you–not just one that scratches the surface of your heart, but one that draws you daily into His presence. It is a relationship that changes the very core of who you are, and drives your life into utter fulfillment.

Jesus is the vine, and you are the branch (John 15). You stay vital and green if you stay connected to the source of your spiritual life. If you don't, you dry up and wither away. “Think about the meeting place of vine and branch,” Wilkerson writes. “Why would Jesus give us a picture of a living thing whose life forcethe sapis mysteriously out of sight? One reason could be that, in abiding, what happens on the surface doesn't count; what's happening inside does.” There is nothing (not age or other excuse) that should keep you from the powerful spiritual life-changing force to be found in surrender to Him. Abiding or remaining in Jesus Christ keeps you vital and green for His purpose.

Do you abide and remain in Him? Do you long for His presence? Do you seek His truth and purpose? Thirst for His living water? Do you wait for His guidance and answer? Do you see with His eyes instead of what you see with your own? Do your hear with His ears instead of what your own receive? Do you understand with His spiritual mind instead of what your human mind perceives? Jesus' love disciplines sin and prunes self so His purpose can be realized in your life. Abiding is your response to His love.

More than anything, I want to remain vital and green until the day that my life here on earth is over. When my aging body finally gives out or when He just takes me home, I want my soul, having just been taken from His work on earth, to enter heaven spiritually on fire with His love. My body may wear out, but my spirit can still sing! It is up to me to keep that connection of branch to vine alive and filled with His purpose!






Friday, May 8, 2015

Beyond My Failure


Times when I feel that I have failed in what He wishes, His voice reaches deeply into my failure. Quietly and gently it moves within my heart. “Do you love me?” He asks.

I might as well be Peter at the water's edge, leaning over a bed of hot coals, rubbing, warming my hands, and remembering the three times of failing Him when He needed me. “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” I attempt.

Do you love me?” He says it again exposing my shame.

Lord, you know I love you.” I repeat, my failure ringing even louder.

Do you love me?” He repeats slowly and firmly.

Yes, Lord, I love you.” My failure is completely before me, binding my heart in its grasp.

If you love me,” He pauses for a moment. I feel His touch, lifting my chin to peer into eyes that also once burned into Peter’s. It is at this moment the failure is gone, and I, lost in His gaze, overwhelmed by His love, know I have been forgiven. “Feed my sheep,” He whispers.

Feed my sheep” rings in my soul. I know what He wishes for me, but I am always aware of how I fail in His desire for my life. I never feel that I give Him enough of myself because I focus on my failure and not on Him. Now I try again. I wait for words to form in my heart and in my mind. I pray that they will be His words and not my own.

As He has loved, so must I love through each word I speak or write. I am to inspire others to love—His child with little hope, the one who offends, the woman lost in her failure, the man deep in sin. We are just as Peter. The redeeming love that looked beyond Peter’s failure, and called for His best, also calls for ours. Jesus reaches beyond our failure and sees us with His vision. In tenderness He brings each of us to our place of failure and forgives. Once more He calls for our potential.“If you love me, feed my sheep,” He whispers.

John 21:15-17

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Receive His Gift


I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27, NLT).

What God gives is not what the world gives. His peace is not the peace caused by calm circumstance. No! His peace is the perpetual calm in the midst of any storm. It is rich, complete, amazing, supernatural, and more than can be described by any pen. It is abundantly given.

What the world gives demands something from you. The world gives only expecting something in return. Not God. He offers you His gift of salvation that has the power to free your mind and heart to experience joy and peace. He doesn't demand or force you to receive. When you allow His gift to change your mind and heart, your life is transformed. When you pray for Him to take your fearful burdens from your mind and release your heart from its pain, He floods your life with His supernatural peace (Philippians 4:6-7). You are released from fear and its ability to destroy your life. Once received His peace can never be taken from you. You can only lose it when you take your mind off of Him and focus instead on your circumstances (Isaiah 26:3).

Prepare your heart to receive. Don't let it be troubled and afraid. Keep your mind on Him. Receive the gift He offers so freely. Accept His love for you. Make room for Him by clearing out the clutter of the world. Empty yourself of its demands and expectations. Empty yourself of all of you so that you can receive all of Him. And you shall receive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Contentment and Peace


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, NIV).
We will never know true contentment and peace without God in our life. Nothing on this earth can offer such peaceno possession, no person, no joyful anticipation. Only God promises the deepest peace which comes from abiding trust in His faithfulness. It is a peace that surpasses circumstantial contentment when all feels right with the world. God's peace is the peace we know when all is not right in our world. When the circumstances of life speak despair and fear, His perfect will is for us to know the greatest peace in spite of what rages.
Paul said that he had learned to be content in every circumstance. He 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 in the world 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. In allowing the Lord to define his well-being instead of his surroundings to discourage and control him–in allowing the Lord to use him completely no matter what His circumstance, Paul discovered the power which accompanies such surrender, and the joy of a spiritual fulfillment that nothing in the world offers.
We often discover that many things are just impossible. We can't find contentment and peace because of our circumstances. Struggling doesn't help. Anger only makes our circumstances worse. We long for peace, but can't seem to grasp it. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart,” Jesus said the night before His crucifixion, “and the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27, NLT). This is a peace that passes our understanding, and comes with the surrender of our attempt at controlling what God wishes to control (Philippians 4:6-7). When we seek to know God as intimately as Paul, we can give Him all that rages, and take refuge in Him. Paul's life reveals that is it absolutely possible to have peace and contentment when we trust God.  The “roller coaster” circumstances of our life can become as a quiet gentle wave upon the shorenever eroding the contentment and peace that God has bestowed. When we have God's peace, we believe that no weapon can defeat. We face faithfully and peacefully everything that comes against us, because Jesus Christ gives us the strength to accomplish it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Without Anything in Return

“You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35, NLT).

“I love you,” God says, “even when you have decided you don't love me. I love you even though you have cheapened my grace, and turned away from my love which died for you. I love you even though you cannot forgive another. I love you in your sin. I died for that sin which separates you from my love. I died so you might be set free. I gave everything for you to know my love and to share it freely. I gave my life so that you would understand that your love is also about others.”

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Paul writes. “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10, NIV). Even though Jesus' love was all about me, my love is not! His love is the greatest example of giving my life away. He gave everything for me. My love should be completely about others. My love should honor His sacrifice, and the needs, hurts, and pain of others. His love is not about what I might want or think I need. If I honor His sacrifice and love for me, I give without expecting anything in return. 

Jesus Christ was God, but He did not insist on any rights. He gave up all His rights on Calvary. He put me before Himself. As Bill Snow once said, “Jesus had a non-survivalist attitude.” He lived for others. He did not demand His own way. “Rights are where survivors go,” William Young writes, “so they don't have to work out relationships.” Life is about living out relationships, and Jesus revealed how to love others no matter how they respond in return! Christ's love is all about extending undeserved grace. He did not deserve to die for me, and extend me undeserved grace, but He chose to do just that! He knew that if I chose to honor the gift of His life by giving my own away, I would discover precious truths. In giving myself away, I would receive the joy of sacrifice. In dying to self, I would learn to live victoriously and completely in Him.

Do I really believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Do I put the other person first? Are my desires second? Do I give to another person without expecting anything in return? Does my attitude depend on how another person responds to me? Or is my attitude that of Christ? Even though He had all the power to save Himself, He chose to become a sacrifice for me. One day I will stand before the Lord who gave everything for me. In that one moment the love I gave on earth will face the love of God in its revealing clarity. In that moment, I will know if it was enough.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cherish Him Most

 
We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV).
 
The things we have in life do not last. The car, the television, the new thing we had to have–they are all fleeting. They are for a moment in time, but sometimes we make them the most important elements of our life. If God has allowed them in our life, they are His gifts to either abuse or cherish. We abuse them when we make them the most important aspect of our life. They are cherished as God wishes when we love Him the most.

We can get so wrapped up in what we believe is ours! All things belong to Him―even our relationships. When something doesn't work right, we sometimes frantically try to fix it. The Holy Spirit does not want us to be frantically controlled by anything―whether a possession or a relationship. He wants us to be free to enjoy the gifts He has given. He wants us to know that we can't fix either one without His guidance when there is a problem. When a possession does not control our life, He gives the wisdom to either take care of the problem without frustration or just let the problem go. When we realize that a problem in a relationship is His to solve and His direction is ours to obey, then we see that friendship as the gift He has given. Whether a possession or a relationship He has given, each one is to be cherished as a gift and not abused. Each belongs to Him, and not to us. If either one controls our life, we have frustration and unrest. If He is in control we have His peace no matter what problem arises. It is His place to direct. We cherish Him most when we relinquish control and lay down all we try to fix. When we follow His direction through the dark interpersonal waters of relationships, we not only learn He can take care of any problem. We learn that He will never fail us.

As humans we have a tendency to focus on what can be seen, and not what can't be seen. However, the Word says that if we fix our mind on Him, we can have His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He is the unseen. We can't see Him, but we know Him because He lives in us. What we have on earth, either possession or relationship, is for the number of days He has allowed them in our life. We should cherish each as God's gift. Yes, we should do our best to take care of that which He has entrusted to us, but we should do it with His guidance, His power, and especially His grace.

His love is the only thing that lasts in your life and in mine. I make a decision to treat His sacrificial love with the tenderness and greatest respect it deserves. I will hold fast to Him because He started His work in me. If I continually surrender my life to Him, He will complete it. I will run with perseverance the race He has marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, who perfects my faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2). My heart knows the unseen finish line. I cherish Him most when I allow the people and things He places in my life to perfect my heart for eternity.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I Am Responsible

“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4a, (NLT).

We live in a quick fix society. We don't like to wait for anything. Patience is something that is foreign. Whatever we go through, if it involves any discomfort or pain, we want it to end immediately. Commitment and perseverance are virtues that have fallen by the wayside. “Superficiality,” writes Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline,” is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.”

Society also teaches me that whatever is wrong in my life, it is not a result of anything I have done. “Don't blame yourself,” society forgives, “someone else caused this to happen. You couldn't help it.” It is time that I take responsibility for what I am, what I believe, what I say, and how I act. I am not responsible for circumstances over which I have no control, and it would be self-defeating for me to analyze the cause of each one. But I am responsible for how I respond to failures, trials, problems and life. I am totally responsible for my reaction. I can't say as the comedian Flip Wilson once exclaimed, “The devil made me do it!” No, I made me do it. I am responsible. Against God alone have I sinned.

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 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 responsibility for all that I am–when I realize that without Him I cannot become my true self, then I have begun the journey to grow deeper in Him.

“The desperate need today,” Richard Foster concludes with his thought about superficiality, “is not for a greater number of people or intelligent people, or gifted people, but for a deep people.” I want to go deeper into His Word, and His Truth. I want my life to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and my mind to be renewed. I yearn for the virtues that Peter writes about in 2 Peter 1:3-7 to anchor my life—those spiritual qualities of diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness, brotherly kindness, and love! 

Are you tired of easy answers that offer no lasting peace? Take responsibility for who you are, and ask Him to continually make you new. When commitment and perseverance are fully developed in your life, you shall be mature and standing strong in Him (James 1:4). You will know the freedom that comes with spiritual growth and accountability. No more masks to hide behind. No more trying to find a way to avoid what you face. You will know that where the Spirit of God is, you have been set free. And those who are free, are free indeed!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Step Out in Faith



"So do not fear for I am with you," God promises. "Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).

Several weeks ago I sent this devotional. I have been asked by our pastor to send it again to encourage us to step out in faith. Yesterday we looked at God's faithfulness to strengthen and uphold us when we choose to risk everything to believe His promise. Today I pray we are encouraged not to just think about about what might happen if we risk believing! I pray we will step out in faith and allow God to show us!

Do you ever feel fearful and alone? Downcast? Struggling with no sense of hope? This verse in Isaiah encourages you that even though you may feel deserted and alone, you aren't! You can't trust your feelings. They will betray you. But you can trust what God says in His Word. He won't betray you. His truth is rock-solid, and unchanging. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). You may feel afraid. God says, “Don't be afraid, because I am your God. I haven't given you this feeling of fear. I've given you power, love, and a sound mind!” (2 Timothy 1:7). You may feel evil battering you. God says, “No evil that comes against you will prevail” (Isaiah 54:17). Then He says something that will cost you, but if you pay the price you will discover greater faith. “Trust me,” He says, “and don't be afraid. If you feel weak don't give in to it! Move forward, and faith will meet you. I will carry you.”

Faith will cost you. It will cost you to trust in something that you can't see or feel (Hebrews 11:1). It will cost you to trust in God's truth over fearful feelings. Faith is a decision. When faith is chosen over and over again, and you have continually acted upon it, feelings will one day fall in line with God's truth. You will have trained your mind, your heart, and your very being to believe in God's Word over what human emotion dictates. It is a battle to be won, and you can win it with your decision to step out in faith, and God's promise to uphold and strengthen you. One day you will discover it is easier to believe in God's Word rather than trust how you feel in a moment of time.

Don't ever forget God's promise to uphold you with His righteous and holy power! Don't ever allow fear to keep you from stepping out in faith. Look beyond how you feel at this moment. With one step forward you will discover His strength. Give God a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Praise Him for the promise that His truth is greater than how you feel. “Trust me,” He says.“Don't worry because I am your God. I will strengthen you, and uphold you. You're never alone.”

You can trust Him over everything else. Don't just think about what might happen if you trust Him and step out in faith. Allow Him to show you.


KNOWING JESUS

  Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing...