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Tuesday, September 29, 2015
How blessed is my child who does not listen to the advice of those who don't know me. He is mine. He finds his joy and his direction in my Word. He meditates on it during the day, and then again at night. He sinks down deep roots into me-roots that hold him fast when the storms of life assail. Because he is planted deeply into my Word, He grows strong in me. He does not fail, but prospers and yields a great harvest. When days of persecution come, he stands firm in my truth. He girds himself with the full armor of God, and not only resists the arrows of the evil one, but is planted more firmly than ever in me. I have made him more than any conqueror. He has overcome all that would destroy him through the power that I have given him. He looks only to me, and to none other. Nothing can separate him from my love. I rejoice in him as he also rejoices in me. One day I will rescue him from this fallen world, and bring him home. I will show him those things that have been seen through a darkened mirror, and the reflection of his struggles on earth will be clearly understood. In one moment he will know why, but then it will not matter. He shall be forever with me.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13
Monday, September 28, 2015
“You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope” (Psalm 119:114, NLT).
“Lord, when the struggles of this life overwhelm you are my sanctuary. When I'm not strong enough to stand, you are the strength that carries me. When I feel vulnerable to the onslaught of those who come against me, you are the shield that protects. You are your Word; you and your Word are my sources of hope in this world. When the world speaks defeat, you speak victory. When the world speaks death, you speak life. When the world turns its back, you are constant and unchanging. When the world accepts the latest belief, your Word is solid and pure. It inspires all the hope I need to reach for you. I can't place hope in a word that changes because then my hope would have no meaning. But your Word is rock-solid and unchanging. What it promises it promises. I can believe in what you impart through your abiding Word. I can believe in your faithfulness above all the world's fickleness. Your Word is truth above all else.”
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2, NLT). The Word existed in the very beginning of this world! Not only did it exist, it was the very heart and being of the Creator. The New Living Translation speaks of the Word as “he”. The Word was God in the beginning. The Word is God now. If I want to know God, I will know His Word. If I want to know His hope, I will make His Word my most intimate resource.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Roman 5:3-4, NIV). How do I glory (rejoice) in that which is my refuge and shield? I rejoice when I grow in perseverance and character and hope. I rejoice when God's Word inspires me to discover His promise for my life. Hope does not disappoint–it does not discourage–it does not shame when it is placed in God's Word. His love has been poured into my heart through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that love anchors me to believe in that which a volatile world cannot believe.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
“This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26;28, NKJV).
The greatest burden that we carry is sin which separates us from God. Not confessing and shedding sin causes the weight of that burden to weigh even heavier upon us. David wrote of the weight of this burden. “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat” (Psalm 32:3-4, NLT).
The Law given to Moses was never meant to forgive sin. The Law only revealed sin. Shedding the blood of animals could never bring a perfect and complete atonement for the sin which the Law revealed (Hebrews 9:23). A perfect sacrifice was needed, and God chose His son, Jesus Christ, to be that perfect sacrifice. In the Upper Room the night before His death, Jesus raised a cup of wine, gave thanks and said, “'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'” (Matthew 26:27b-28, NIV). Jesus shed his blood on Calvary to forgive you and to forgive me. He shed His blood so that we might, when shedding the sin which so heavily burdens, find lasting freedom from its ability to control our lives.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” writes the author to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:1, NIV). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). If we confess and shed the sin that entangles, He faithfully forgives. He not only forgives but purifies our heart. There is no sin too great that cannot be forgiven. Where sin increases, the grace of Jesus increases all the more (Romans 5:20).
“Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” Romans 3:23, NLT). There is not a day that goes by where sin does not try to rear its ugly head. Not one of us is perfect. Only Jesus was perfect, and became the perfect sacrifice to forgive us. Never allow the weight of sin to tear your life apart. Continually and daily lay your life before the perfect sacrifice, and the power to shed whatever sin plagues your life will be yours.
Friday, September 25, 2015
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27, NIV). “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mathew 11:30, NIV).
Not only do we share our burdens to lighten our load. We also shoulder them so the Holy Spirit can develop our character. Sharing a burden may lighten a load, but it doesn't take away whatever you are carrying. What you are carrying may cause pain and discomfort. We all hate to “feel” uncomfortable. How many times have you wanted nothing more than to feel at ease over your burden? Your mind might race in ways to work everything out comfortably, but have you considered that maybe God doesn’t want you to work out your problem comfortably? What does working something out so you can feel comfortable have to do with God’s will for your life? Carrying and shouldering a burden is not comfortable, but it is God's will if you want be His disciple. It is His will if you desire for your character to be molded and shaped into His image.
In Luke 14:16-20, Jesus actually talked about how people desire to “feel” comfortable. This is the parable of a man who gave a dinner party. Invitations were sent out, and excuses were given.
“Listen, I’ve just purchased some land.”
“I just got married.”
“Oh, too bad! I’m just on my way to try out a new yoke!”
Each excuse revealed an inconvenience. Inconvenience and feeling comfortable are not compatible. Jesus has issued an invitation to take up your cross and follow Him. That is inconvenient. Is it comfortable? Hardly. But if you decline His invitation you miss the value of a wilderness experience.
The value offered for a wilderness experience is “character”. A few words that come to mind are honesty, integrity, and diligence. You don’t develop character through easy times. You must be willing to launch out into the deep; be willing to feel uncomfortable; be willing to experience vulnerability; and be willing to run the race set before you. How we in our humanness long to avoid the discipline of the race! But Jesus wishes us to be like Him.
“For this very reason,” Peter writes, “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, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV). Feeling comfortable or escaping a lesson to be learned is not making an effort to add anything to your life. You accepted Jesus into your heart by faith. God's desire is for you to add these virtues in your life. For example, how is goodness added to faith? Testing of your faith can cause bitterness or it can produce goodness. Will you learn from your experience? Will you accept the invitation and shoulder your burden? Will you carry your cross which actually shall become lighter as you grow spiritually? Or are you too busy like the excuses given in the parable? Are you trying out your own yoke instead of His? Remember His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Comfortable, it’s not. To add the other virtues in 2 Peter 1:5-7, you must surrender continually over and over again.
What is the result? “If you possess these qualities in increasing measure,” Peter writes, “they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8, NIV). His love overflows in your life. His training in righteousness creates a desire to me more like Him. For these qualities that Peter writes about to be real in your life and in mine, we need to shoulder whatever burden He sends or allows with a positive attitude. To understand the depth of His power found at the mountain's summit, we must allow the valley to refine our character and lighten our load.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
“Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NLT).
What burden might you need to share? Whatever is too heavy for you to carry alone. This kind of burden usually tears you up emotionally and robs you of hope. Often Jesus helps you carry this burden by sending someone into your life you can trust with your struggle. However, if you bury that burden inside, you might miss the help He has sent. Realize that He has made a way to lighten your load. Take advantage of His offer. When you share your burden, you lose your sense of being alone. You pull down walls that have isolated and kept you in turmoil. When you share an emotional burden, you share your pain with not only the person He has brought to you, you also open your heart to the healing work of the Holy Spirit. When you admit anger, hurt, bitterness, resentment, feelings of rejection, and any other negative emotion, sharing helps your lose an unwillingess to forgive. Sharing also makes you look at yourself and what you are carrying from an objective perspective. Sometimes you have to deal with a false sense of pride in your life. Sometimes you have to face your own liability in a problem, and ask forgiveness for your part in the matter. Other times you just have to forgive as He has forgiven you.
When the Holy Spirit sends someone to you, never ignore His gift to you by denying that you carry a burden. Don't miss God's help to lighten your load. Open your heart and obey the law of Christ. In sharing you actually shed what you were never meant to carry alone. When you share you gain healing! You gain freedom from the bondage of pain! You experience forgiveness! You gain support in knowing you are not alone!
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Have you ever felt that nothing you do has any value? Have you ever believed that there is nothing you can say that will ever make a difference? Have you ever known the burden of expectation that seems out of reach? If you are human, then at some point in your life you have experienced rejection, discouragement, despair, and pain. At some point you have felt that you were just not good enough. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7a, NKJV). If I believe I am worthless, I feel worthless. Whether I realize it or not, I “do unto others” what has been done unto me. If I have been labeled (either by others or by myself) as never quite being good enough, then I pass that negativism along in my expectations of those I love. If I see myself as being beyond hope, then I see others in the same light.
Into this seemingly endless cycle of human emotion, expectation, and despair at never quite being good enough, God attempts to break into our generational bondage. He waits to speak life to all that we have suffered in our past, life to our present, and life to our future. He wants who we are to be found in Him alone. He wishes for us to realize that unlike what expectations we may have felt from others, whether real or imagined, His expectation is thoroughly attainable. He sees the promise in our lives where others might not see it. If we truly listen to Him and obey His instruction, then we will find release from our human failures. We will discover who we really are. In His love, we can break that bondage of despair and frustration. We can do more than just hope one day to be free of all that has defined who we are. We can choose to really be free.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” (1 Corinthians 13:11a, NIV). Just like me, you, also, were once a child. Those who loved you watched you struggle to crawl or learn to walk. They watched every movement you made, expecting to see miraculous change. They rejoiced over you when you achieved a new accomplishment. They were sad when you failed. But you were just a little one wanting to me loved for who you were, and wanting to feel loving and accepting arms. You didn't want to be watched for what you might become. You wanted to loved for who you were at that moment. God loves you right in your moment, and He sees you crying out to be accepted. When you allow His unconditional love into your heart, you open the door for Him to break the bondage of the expectation trap. You begin to see yourself through His eyes. And one day when you are free to understand His promised potential for your life, what others think or do will not determine your attitude or your outcome.
I pray that God gives each one of us His eyes to see the potential not only in ourselves, but in others. I pray we learn to speak life to each heart instead of death. To speak blessing instead of failure. To speak joy instead of despair. To see promise instead of failure. To believe in what cannot be seen, and to know that one day it will be true.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
In this early morning stillness I wait for you. I know it is only a moment before your first morning touch grazes my cheek. It is only a moment before I hear your Word from within my heart encouraging and uplifting me–telling me that you are with me and all is well. It is only a moment before you sweep over my questioning mind, and bring my turbulent thoughts to rest. I know your promise will come, because I have pleaded with you to lift that which weighs so heavily. I anticipate the peace and joy which you have promised. My heart and spirit begins to settle as my mind focuses on you. I remember your faithfulness through so many other days and nights. I remember your strength and presence for all that has passed through the years. You are about ready to lift this struggle from my heart. Your peace is just a moment's breath away. Suddenly you are upon me. Suddenly you are with me lifting this burden and restoring joy. Your peace lifts the turmoil that tried to rob the rest of my night. You overcome the ebb and flow of my uncertain world with your quietening peace. You are with me, and I can breathe. I need nothing else. No thought that tears my heart. No worry of what might come. No circumstance to be fixed. No purpose in this moment to fulfill. Nothing but your heart beating from within mine. Nothing but you praying from within me. And in this moment with your heart pulsing within mine, all is right because you have overcome the uncertainty of my world. You have become all I need not only for this moment, but for whatever is to come.
Monday, September 21, 2015
“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 12:2, NIV).
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, a Quaker author, in his book Celebration of Discipline,” is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.”
Society also teaches us that whatever is wrong in our life is not a result of anything we have done. “Don't blame yourself,” society forgives, “someone else caused this to happen. You couldn't help it.” It is time that we take responsibility for what we are, what we believe, what we say, and how we act. We are not responsible for circumstances over which we have no control, and it would be self-defeating for us to analyze the cause of each one. But we are responsible for how we respond to failures, trials, problems and life. We are totally responsible for our reaction.
Spiritual growth in Christ is convicting. It doesn't allow for excuses. It tells us that we take responsibility for our bad attitude or fly-off-the-handle reaction. We learn from our failure, and if we are responsible for a problem we make every effort to not create that problem again. Spiritual maturity tells us that the next time we are faced with circumstances, either of our own making or not of our own making, we will react in a mature way. In all our relationships (no matter what the circumstance) we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The only way that we can have the fruit of the Spirit alive in our lives is to be transformed from within. We allow our selfishness to be crucified with Christ. We allow our rebellious spirit to be crucified with Christ. We allow His pruning to mold and shape us into His perfect will. When we are willing to make this selfless journey and allow the Holy Spirit to transform the way we think and act–when we are willing to accept responsibility for our actions and reactions–when we realize the sacrifice that is necessary for spiritual growth, then we 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.”
Are you tired of quick answers that offer no lasting peace? Are you tired of an attitude that never seems to change? Take responsibility for who you are, and ask Him to continually make you new. Allow His Word and the Holy Spirit to re-create, stretch and mold your character. You will discover that “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Spiritual maturity breaks the need for masks. It sets you free to believe and know the person He designed you to be. And if you grow spiritually, you are free in His design and purpose. Society may not grasp your freedom, but you will know that you are indeed free.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
“I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me” (Psalm 13:5, NLT).
He has rescued me. Have I grown enough spiritually to grasp what this amazing truth means? Has my faith grown until I trust in His unfailing love? Have I continually learned from His Word, and allowed it to permeate my heart until self no longer wins? Have I given of myself as He desires? Have I followed His will for my life? Have I been His servant in the lives of others? Have I shared His hope? Have I shared His love? Have I forgiven as He has forgiven me? Have I looked for potential in others as He has always seen potential in me? Have I completely surrendered everything in my life to His wishes? Have I prayed for others with as much passion as I have prayed for myself? Have I unselfishly given myself away with no reservation? Have I given Him a sacrifice of praise when life has been hard? Have I praised Him for His faithfulness to me? Have I worshiped Him in Spirit and in Truth? Have I rejoiced with those who rejoice and cried with those who cry? Have I made myself the least so He can be the most? I pray that He accomplishes all this in in life. I will never forget that He has rescued me. I will continually praise Him for His love that never fails. The bones that were once crushed now rejoice. I lay down all of me so that He can continually change my heart. He is mine forever as I have always been His.
Friday, September 18, 2015
"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you" (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).
I place my life before God today and surrender myself as His offering. I fix all my attention on Him. As this day unfolds, I embrace all He has for me. I face this day with the anticipation of His guidance, and also with the promise of His strength for what lies ahead. All I want is for Him to mold me and change me from the inside out. I want to be renewed in my heart and mind, and open to all He wishes to pour into my life. Like a sponge I want to absorb Him so that I might grow spiritually in my understanding of His grace.
Without spiritual maturity my life will have no emotional and mental stability. I will be like a ship on the sea with no anchor to hold it fast. Subject to every circumstance that arises, I will be tossed in the storms of life with no lasting peace. My mind will be so self-absorbed I will have no purpose but worry and fear. My ears will be attuned to the accuser's voice instead of the convicting and encouraging voice of God. However, if I learn God's moral truth and apply it instead of allowing “self” to rule my life–if I focus on Him instead of any circumstance and seek to be stronger as a result–if I choose to add God's virtues in my life (2 Peter 1:3-8), I will be changed from the inside out. He will rescue me from the drowning waters of my own making, and set me on His rock-solid foundation of truth. I will recognize the lesson He teaches, and respond to it without hesitation. His peace will anchor me safely through the storms that always come. His joy will spring up like a fountain always offering a fresh perspective. His strength and power will continually be there to rise above any circumstance or temptation. I will not be pulled back down to a level of immaturity that will ultimately destroy the life I have found in Him.
He is the potter, and I am His clay to shape as He wishes. He is the searing heat in the kiln of life which fires me to His completion. I place my life in His hands to be created and transformed to His desired vessel. He will bring out the best in my life–if I allow.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. All his brothers who had come with him to bury his father returned with him. After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers talked among themselves: “What if Joseph is carrying a grudge and decides to pay us back for all the wrong we did him?”
So they sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: 'Tell Joseph, Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly. Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?'” When Joseph received their message, he wept.
Then the brothers went in person to him, threw themselves on the ground before him and said, “We’ll be your slaves.”
Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart (Genesis 50:14-21, MSG).
Joseph spoke heart-to-heart with the brothers who had sold him into slavery. He reassured them that even though what they had done had come from evil it had brought about great good–life for many people. When he received their message of repentance, he wept. It was not their repentant message that made Joseph weep. He had forgiven them long before the message. It was just the fact that they were there. It did not matter that it was a famine which brought them into his presence in a time of need. It did not matter. The brothers he had forgiven in his heart so long ago were there. Joseph extended grace where none had been extended to him.
Jesus explains in Luke 6:35-36 that we are to “love our enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Joseph did all of this. He extended mercy when others would have never forgiven. He realized God's purpose in what his brothers had done. At the time it had wounded Joseph so much to be sold, but the good character that had been instilled in Joseph rose through the years that followed to forgive time and time again. When faced with the cause of his pain, Joseph wept in relief that he could now love them freely.
When we are devastated by someone's action, we have a choice what to do with the hurt and the bitterness. If we allow that hurt to define who we are, that pain can isolate and immobilize us. We find ourselves in bondage to our bitterness and hate. It directs our lives, and consumes our waking and sleeping moments. Jesus wants us to be free of the controlling pain of unforgiveness. The Holy Spirit invites us to forgive so that we might be free from its bondage. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” Paul writes (2 Corinthians 3:17). God does not want us in bondage to our hurt. Just as Joseph we, too, have the freedom and the power to forgive.
Are we ready to be released from the bondage of resentment, bitterness, anger, hurt, frustration, and all that claims a hardened heart? If we choose to forgive, His power will enable our choice and transform our heart. We can live in the freedom of that forgiveness just as Joseph lived in his freedom and wept for joy that those who had hurt him were in his presence. We can love as Joseph loved his brothers. We can love as Christ loved and forgave us. Heart-to-heart freedom will not just be something that we desire. It will be real.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
“The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).
Scripture says something about itself. What it reveals speaks clearly of its own worthiness. The Word of God is alive. It breathes powerful truth and life into my tired dry existence–into my heart that is crushed–into my mind upon which the enemy etches lies–into my dry bones which ache for His breath of life. It slices through doubt and speaks faith. It exposes wrong attitudes and desires of my heart. It opens my mind to listen to His instruction and obey His truth. It sets me free from my own conditional attitude, and imparts hope in His promises. The Word brings life to that in me which so desperately needs to soar.
I can trust God's Word in every moment of my life. It is timeless and unchanging–just like Jesus Christ. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I can believe its truthful direction for all the circumstances I face, and for decisions I make. “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). His Word has a purpose, and it will accomplish its purpose in my life if I will study it and open my heart to its truth.
Not only is the Word of God timeless, it is absolutely trustworthy. It is God's living Word. He breathed it into human writers with the breath of His Holy Spirit. I can stand on what it says. I can believe in its promises. Not only does the Word of God direct me to believe in what it teaches, but that I also respond by applying its truth. Each action in my life should honor its truth. As I study the Word of God, its power to sanctify my life increases. I am changed by its powerful message, and I long to respect and honor its truth by living what it teaches. The Word creates in me a clean heart and renews His right spirit within me. It changes the attitudes and desires of my heart. I can rejoice in what God asks of me, because His Word continually broadens my understanding and changes my heart (Psalm 119:32).
Monday, September 14, 2015
Do you have an idea you wonder if God has placed on your heart? Could it be God’s burden for you to take on your shoulders? You must determine if what you believe to be God’s call is truly from Him. In prayer you discover that a burden from the Lord persists. The Holy Spirit seems locked on one subject no matter how much you attempt to deter Him. God also never calls His child to something that contradicts the truth of His Word. Hence, His truth needs to be known. This can only come from studying and meditating on the Word. He will most likely send confirmation through a word or a person or a circumstance. The human mind conceives many venues of confirmation, but God is never restricted. As you seek Him in prayer and study His Word, if what you “feel” is truly from Him, the burden to say “yes” grows.
When you determine that the burden you feel is actually a call from God, He expects a positive response. There might be a quick fear at the sudden overwhelming realization that the idea is from the Lord, but at the same time you experience peace knowing your imagination is not working overtime. Refusal shuts the door to not only your spiritual growth, but to God’s purpose and anointing. If you agree to shoulder His burden, His power working through you is limitless. When you give the Lord complete right-of-way, enthusiasm and determination grows stronger and replaces the perception of how heavy the burden might become.
Just as Jesus had a responsibility to God’s call upon his life, so have we (Romans 11:29). Christ yielded completely to His Father’s desire for ministry, and greater still to His Father’s purpose on the cross. He gave His life away willingly. When you say “yes” to God's call, you allow your own will to die and you learn more than just obedience and diligence. You learn the joy of sacrifice.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Jesus whispers, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). “Rest for your soul” is the peace that comes from saying “yes” to the will of God. It is only when you are willing that you find fulfillment. “Give away your life,” Jesus implores, “and you'll receive more life in return! You will find real life and blessing when your will is lost in mine” (Luke 6:38)!
God has placed His heart and the burden of His call within the heart of man, and that call means sacrifice. What is God’s burden for you? Only you can make it resound with His promise. His passion for you took Jesus to the cross. Your passion for Him is revealed in your response to His call.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
His Promise of Joy
"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5b, NLT). “Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name” (Hebrews 13:15, NLT).
Whatever my sorrow or my pain, it does not last forever. Whatever my despair or my heartbreak, one day it will be over. The promise of His peace is real. The sadness I feel in the darkness anticipates His promise of joy to come. His strongest children are those who, in the night of weeping, confidently believe in the promise of joy in the morning.
I choose to believe in His promise of peace. I choose to walk in victory and not defeat. I choose to live with purpose and without hesitation. I choose to believe Him above whatever I may hear and trust in His promise whatever I may see. Fixing my eyes completely upon Him–keeping my ears attuned to His voice–filling my spirit with His Word, I will trust His will for my life. I know He has overcome whatever I face. In the darkness of the night I choose to continually praise Him for His bountiful mercy and grace.
Whether the weeping of the night or the rejoicing of the morning, I am never forsaken. If I abide in Him and remain in a lasting relationship with Him, He promises to abide and remain in a lasting relationship with me. Our relationship brings strength, hope, and peace when I allow Him to carry what I am unable to carry alone. Without hesitation or doubt I rejoice through each dark moment knowing that morning always comes.
Friday, September 11, 2015
“Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works” (James 2:20, 26, NLT).
What does my life say? Is my life about me or about others? I don’t want to be a part of the “me” generation, but what do my attitudes and actions actually reveal? Does my faith in Christ make a difference in the way I treat others? Do I rejoice when others are blessed? Do I cry when others are wounded? How does my faith effect my relationships? Does kindness rule? Is patience prevalent? Does the mercy of His heart humble mine? If Jesus is my anchored purpose, my life is not meant to be about me. I need to examine my life–each moment, each thought, and each action to really see if Jesus is my reason for living.
If He my Savior and my anchor, He is the core of my very being. If He is my heartbeat, then His faith and His love within my heart have nowhere to go but outward. It cannot be inwardly directed or it will destroy me. If He has broken the selfishness of my heart so that I may be filled with His love, then how can I not want my heart to be broken for others? James was explicit when he penned that "faith without good deeds is useless". Likewise, he lets me know that deeds without faith has little meaning. If I love Jesus, then my life is not about me. It is about the needs of others. My life should reveal the Savior who redeemed me and filled me with His love and purpose. I should live His love in each moment, in each thought, and in each action. If He is my first love, then my life will be claimed by Him. I will live the change that His love has brought in my life.
This morning Jesus knows the state of my life. He knows if selfishness reigns or if His love has completely claimed my heart. Am I ready to be honest and truthful with Him? Am I ready to surrender my selfishness and pride out of love for Him? Am I ready to examine my motions and purpose? Am I ready to let go of my own desire and realize that I am called to regard others better than myself? I want to be used by Christ to make a difference. I long to speak peace in the midst of any turmoil. I yearn to be a catalyst of healing. I long to be the part of the body of Christ which brings healing unity to the whole. The only way I can become all that He wishes me to be is to give Him total control. Today I want to be real with Him so that I can be real with others. I pray to lay down each thing in my life born of selfishness and seek the love that gave all for me. I long to be nothing more than His hands and feet in a world that desperately needs to experience His love.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts” (Psalm 15:1-2, NIV).
In this precious morning silence I draw my next breath. This time is your gift to me. My moment to draw closer. My moment to seek you. My moment to give you my time and heart. I've come to worship you with a heart that so desperately needs you. My life is opened before you. You already know every thought and every sin in my life, and it is against you alone that have I sinned, Lord. Perhaps I have harmed someone, but the truth is I have harmed myself and broken your heart that loved me enough to die for me. From the very moment I was conceived, you have designed my life to be one of honesty and integrity–to be one of unbroken fellowship with you. I ache to enter your presence, but to be in your presence my life must be honest and open, and my heart sincere. I yearn for that moment where your heart beats within mine–that moment you pray what I am unable to pray. Reveal to me my sin. Reveal to me my bad attitude. Reveal to me my selfishness. Reveal to me my failure. Let nothing in my life stand between me and your forgiveness. Have mercy on me, Lord, Because of your sweet compassion and unfailing love, wash me clean. Purify my life. Change my heart. Break my heart for love of you. I lay all on your altar this morning. I lay it all down so that I might again enter your presence. Give me back my joy again! Let my life, now broken of the guilt, rejoice in your holy presence. Continually create in me a clean heart, Lord, and place a loyal spirit within me. Never send me from your presence, Lord. I can't survive without my heart-to-heart worship with you. I can't survive without that moment I know that I have once more been able to enter your presence. I am restored by the joy of your forgiveness. I am restored by your mercy and grace. I am restored. I don't want to leave your presence, but I must step into my day. Nothing that arises in the day before me can alter my heart connection with you. I have been in your presence, and you have bestowed upon my life all that I need for each moment. My heart's cry is not to fail you. I pray to walk forth from this time in your spirit. I pray that my life is one of worship that speaks honesty and sincerity throughout the day before me. I have been with you, Lord, and I will carry you with me. Guard my life and my tongue and my action. May each moment glorify you, and may I never fail in your desire for me. You are my life, and I want nothing more or less. Just you, Lord (Psalm 51).
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
David, the shepherd boy who took down Goliath–the man after God's own heart–the great king, knew discouragement. “My strength is dried up like a potsherd,” he cried, “and sticks to the roof of my mouth” (Psalm 22:15a, NIV). David developed a valuable character trait. When there was no one to build his strength, David encouraged himself in the Lord. “You hear, O Lord,” he declared, “ the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more" (Psalm 10:17-18, NIV). As Saul sought to kill him, David was alone and hiding in fear. Realizing each day that death stalked him, David drew closer to God. It was in this time of suffering that David learned to encourage himself. Work on developing this personal trait and you will discover that fear will not rule your life. Your faith in God will flourish.
David had faith that God would 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, NIV). David also discovered that sharing with others what God had done, not only encouraged others, but helped him. "I will declare your name to my brothers,” he promised. “In the congregation I will praise you” (Psalm 22:22, NIV). Praising God continually increased David’s belief in God’s faithfulness. He knew what God had promised Him, and that God would provide.
Encourage yourself–especially when you don't feel like it. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15, NIV). Give the Lord a sacrifice of praise when you least feel like it. He sacrificed for you. Share His joy when you feel down. It will increase your own, and give you strength. Share His faithfulness when you struggle in fear. It will place your fear on His altar, and bring peace. A sacrifice of praise is not about emotional feelings. It is about loving and praising God no matter how you feel. When you, like David, praise Him from a place of fear and suffering, He will honor your surrender by encouraging you.
Friday, September 4, 2015
“Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp” (Psalm 131:1, NLT).
Lord, you call me to do things that seem beyond my strength and ability. I'm so thankful that in times of weakness, you give me all that I need to accomplish your desire. Often what lies ahead overwhelms my heart, but your will is all that matters. Often others do not understand, and I feel stripped, alone, and vulnerable. It is in that moment that I realize that you are all I need. You were stripped of all support for me. Now you are my constant support and my constant strength. You carry me through fire with your joy still alive and strong. You carry me safely through deep waters that would drown me if you were not my anchor and shield. You are my strong and mighty tower that endures through every moment of life.
Lord, keep me from a prideful spirit. Keep me on your altar until my heart is so broken that it remains forever pliable in your hands. I don't want to have my way, Lord. I want yours, and I seek it. I won't be concerned over things that are too deeply complicated at this time for me to grasp. You create the masterpiece. I know my life is only a small part of your greater plan. I trust you to take care of that which is beyond me. I let go of all “self” that hinders and keeps me from greater reliance on you. I trust you over any perceived promise. I trust you over anything my human mind conceives. I love you, Lord, more than anything else. You are all I need. Thank you, Lord that you are God, and I am not. You are Savior, and I am not. I never create or save. I pray to always be your available instrument, but, thankfully, I am free because I know that you are in control. Thank you for believing in me when at times I can't believe in myself. I choose to believe who you are in me. “Self” is on the altar, and even though “self” wants me to pick her back up, I leave her there. And I choose you.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Purify me from my sins,and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Psalm 51:1-4a, 7-8,10-12, NLT).
When David was confronted by the prophet, Nathan, about his sin with Bathsheba, he immediately sought forgiveness from God. These verses reveal the heart of a man easily convicted by the Holy Spirit. The thought of his sin separating Him from God was overwhelming. He was broken before the Lord.
That is what the Lord wishes for me–to be easily convicted when there is something wrong in my life. God disciplines the child that He loves. It is proof of His love for me (Hebrews 12:6). My response to His loving discipline is repentance, and to do whatever He instructs me to do as a result of it. If my heart is truly broken, my attitude will change. Whatever God might instruct me to do will not be done because I “have to”, but because I “yearn to”. I never want to lose the intimate heart fellowship of His presence.
My changed heart–my changed attitude is what restores the joy of my salvation. My heart is free from its sinful burden, and my mind discovers freedom from the thoughts that burden has brought. The Holy Spirit abides within my heart, and I long to obey His will. If I ever need discipline again, I know He disciplines me because He wishes for nothing to separate me from His love.
“Always create a clean heart in me, O Lord. Always create the deep need to constantly renew my love and obedient loyalty to you. Mold my life like a piece of clay, and change me into a vessel that brings glory to your name. It hurts to be molded, but in the molding I become your craftsmanship. I am no longer adrift without purpose or focus. You are the heartbeat of my life. I never want to let you slip away because I was too tied up in “self” to draw closer to your heart.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
“I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives” (1 Chronicles 29:17a, NLT).
Do I ever really look at the intention of my heart, and ask if what I do for God is offered from a heart of integrity? I can believe that I love God with all my heart, but if I don't continually strive to have a heart of honesty and integrity, then I fall short of what He desires. Whatever I offer–whether love, friendship, compassion, correction, time, a listening ear, advice–must be offered from a heart with no hidden agenda. It must be offered from a heart that seeks nothing in return. What I do or words that I speak must come from a heart that does not create in order to receive. There is no mask. My heart lies open before Him. He knows the motives of my heart. Another may not know who I really am, but He does. He rejoices when He finds integrity, but His heart breaks when I am less than He gave His life for me to be.
My life in Jesus Christ is not about me. Whatever I give or whatever I do in His name should come from what He creates within my life, and never from anything of my own making. He will constantly test my heart to see if it is filled with honesty and integrity. 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.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:22-24, NLT). Lord, I am so thankful that you always search my heart for anything that is not honest or anything that does not offer integrity. You know anxious thoughts rise up in my mind when there is something that needs to be addressed in my life. Help me to honestly search my heart, and admit in humility what needs to change. I need to confess from a heart that is broken for you so that I might experience your forgiveness and grace. Forgive me for anything I have ever done or said 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 do or say or offer will come from a heart that is honest and true.”
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