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Saturday, October 31, 2015

God, My Rock

“I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?' Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:9,11, NIV).

If God is my rock, my anchor, my purpose, then in the depths of my soul, even though I may not feel His presence, I know He has not left me. He has not forsaken me. I may cry out “why have you forgotten me,”, but deep inside my soul I know He is still my strength. Even though I might not “feel” Him, I know He is my God, my support, and my only hope. Yet sometimes I mourn what I perceive to be the loss of His presence, and feel so alone. I remind myself I am never alone no matter whether I feel His presence or not.

Fear and my worry can keep me from feeling His presence, and then a lack of feeling His presence can make my sense of desertion even worse. Into my life shines His hope! Hope urges me to grab His hand, and place my mustard seed of faith into what I cannot see. That ray of hope begins to spread and dispels the darkness of my despair. And as it spreads throughout my soul, faith begins to rise. Why should I be so downcast or disturbed? I choose to place my hope in my God. I choose Him instead of a feeling of despair. I choose to praise Him for He is my Savior and my God. I know that in this choice I will find greater faith to believe.

I choose hope in Him. I choose to believe. I choose praise. “God, my Rock” becomes more than just something in which I am “suppose” to believe. He becomes my anchor, my strength, and my sanctuary.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reaching Heaven

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops” (James 5:16a-17, NLT).

Prayer is powerful. When the heart of a person who lives a righteous life prays, his prayer has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are yet his prayers were powerful. He was a man who experienced great emotional highs when he prayed, and then ran and hid in a cave when fear of retribution from Jezebel consumed him. If God can answer the prayers of a man like Elijah, who led a righteous life and yet was so human, He can also answer our prayers. He can use us just us powerfully.

What is a righteous life? It is a life which lives in obedience to God's Word. A believer who lives a righteous life chooses to do what is right because of love for his Savior. This person is so humbled by the sacrificial love of His Master he desires nothing more than to live a life that pleases Him. He is a disciple that is focused and surrendered to God in not only heart but in action and attitude. A person who does not live a righteous life is self-focused, and self-righteous. He is prideful and full of his own desires. His feelings dictate his actions, and his attitude is determined by his perception of justice instead of what God determines is just. Situational ethics are his standard, and his life has no anchor. He is plagued by every wind of false teaching, and adrift in a sea of his own making. When fear attacks him, He can't focus on God.

Elijah was a righteous man. He was not self-focused, but obediently focused on what God called him to do. He was humbled by God's power in his life, and his prayers were powerful. Yet he faced fear just like we face fear. He ran just like we sometimes run, but God drew him back because Elijah could hear and know God's guiding voice. He heard God's gentle whisper in the midst of his fear because He was a righteous man that lived for God's purpose (I Kings 19:12-13). He was a man who even though He dealt with human emotion believed God would act in accordance to his prayers. The fire fell on Mount Carmel in response to his prayer. Rain fell in response to his prayer (I Kings 18). Fear claimed Elijah for a little while, but God's soft call drew him out of hiding, and back into His purpose. He heard God's voice because of the intimacy that a righteous life fosters. He heard God because he was a praying man.

If we choose to live a righteous life devoted to God, we, too, can pray powerfully as Elijah prayed. We also can pray down the fire and rain even though sometimes fear tries to claim our heart. We, too, can pray earnest prayers that make a difference. If we choose “to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8), and if we choose to come humbly, but boldly, to His throne in time of our need (Hebrews 4:16), we also can reach heaven. He will hear and He will answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Living by Faith in God

Have you ever experienced disappointment or discouragement? How do you discover assurance that God is in control of all circumstances? There is even a harder question. How do you wait for God’s promise? This kind of spiritual assurance comes when we live totally by faith. Living by faith means we understand that waiting patiently on God is our best choice, because He has chosen the “what, when, where, and how” of our promise.

The minor prophet, Habakkuk, offers an example of human understanding which learns to wait for the spiritual. Habakkuk was highly frustrated with the Lord for not punishing sinners in a way he thought was best. He brought his complaints to God, and then stood still and waited for the Lord’s answer (Habakkuk 2:1). The Lord’s answer to Habakkuk is timeless, and reveals the patience of a faithful Savior who speaks to the impatient heart of his complaining child. “Habakkuk,” the Lord explained, “I have heard your complaint. What I tell you now can be carved in stone, and heralded as truth. I will move when I know the time is right. It might appear to take forever, but it is for my appointed time, and it will not fail. Though my promise lingers, have faith that it will come and will not delay. You, as my righteous child, are to live by faith no matter what happens” (Habakkuk 2:3-4).

The writer to the Hebrews spurs us on to greater faith in the Lord. “Don’t 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. For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith” (Hebrews 10:35-38a, NIV).

“Live by faith and wait upon the Lord!” we read in both Habakkuk and Hebrews. Living by faith and focusing on the Lord, and not upon what He has promised, teaches us to persevere against all odds. However, when we are consumed with what God has promised instead of being consumed with God we lose the ability to persevere. Faith which is born from a promise will absolutely fail. When faith is born from our love of God, it will prosper. What is important is discovering His will for our lives because of our love for Him, and not what we shall receive. There is also a danger in focusing upon the way in which we think God will provide our promise. We might miss the “what, when, where and how” God supplies the need.

God tells us in His Word that we are not to shrink from the hard times of life. We are to face them head-on with faith (Hebrews 10:38b-39). When we faithfully seek God in the storm, He rewards up with greater faith to believe in His unchanging character (Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 13:8). Our time of waiting upon the Lord then becomes our greatest time of spiritual fulfillment.

“Even though I can’t see your provision, Lord, I will be joyful in you,” Habakkuk decided, “for you have lifted me far above my concerns, and made me sure-footed as the deer. I will not slip in faith, Lord. I choose to believe because you are my strength” (Habakkuk 3:17-19). No matter what the circumstances of life, God is faithful to perform that which He has promised. Perhaps one day we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You waited well.” Are we faithful to wait expectantly–believing and trusting in His chosen time?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

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 accomplish miracles in the name of God.

3 John 2 reads, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (NASB). Paul might have been writing to Gaius, but the Holy Spirit speaks to me through these words! 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. He 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 my sin, and give His life unselfishly for me.

What does my Savior with His great sacrificial love wish for me? He longs 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, NLT). 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 put down roots that anchor me.

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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Power of Agreement

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew: 18:19-20, (NIV).

What a powerful promise! When two or more of His disciples agree in prayer, He is there with them. He meets with them in prayer. He connects their souls in prayer. When they focus on Him, He joins their minds and hearts in prayer. As they allow the Holy Spirit to direct their prayers, something miraculous begins to happen. Their desires become one with His will, and He binds them together to achieve this most powerful promisethat if two agree about what they ask for, it shall be done.

He is the lover of your soul, and He is with you when you pray alone in your private prayer closet. He hears your prayer and acts in accordance to His will. Never forsake the heart surrender of private prayer time with the Lord (Romans 8:26-27). Without individual prayer lives, this promise of the power of agreement has little power. However when two of His lovers come into His presence in agreement seeking His face, two wills are surrendered instead of one. Not only are two wills surrendered, but they are linked together in petition, and His power is unleashed to achieve His greatest purpose. When He becomes our total desire–when we seek His heart agreeing in faith–our prayers become His prayer. We limit God when we hesitate to believe. We limit the power of agreement when we do not come together believing, trusting, and applying faith. We have not because we ask not. If two are truly surrendered to the Holy Spirit together in prayer, what they ask shall be in His will, and their prayers will always be answered.

Always claim this promise of agreement. Never limit it. When two pray together in His Name, united by one purpose in His Spirit, He is also there.  He joins spirits and prayers in agreement. We become one in prayer with Him, and nothing can hinder the power with which God answers.

Lynn Lacher (Lynn's Daily Devotional)
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Monday, October 26, 2015

Your Chosen Portion

Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.'  But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:42, ESV).

On that day when Jesus came to visit Mary “chose” to sit at Jesus feet. Unlike Martha who was “distracted” by preparing and serving, Mary sat down at the feet of her Master. She wasn't “distracted” with anything around her–not even the physical things that needed to be done to entertain their guest. She was not distracted by her sister's demand for help. Mary's attention was completely focused on Jesus. Later, just a few days before Calvary, Mary worships Jesus as she pours out expensive oil and wipes His feet with her hair (John 12:1-3). Taking care of feet was the duty of a servant. Mary had a servant's heart. The oil was costly, but Mary could care less about the cost. It was also uncommon for women to let their hair down in front of other people. However, Mary was unafraid to let her hair down before Jesus. She was humbled in His presence. Just as the time when Jesus came to visit at her home, Mary was completely focused on her Master. She did not only care what anyone thought. She had no idea of anything else around her. She was unshaken, and once again focused on Jesus.

Remember in Luke 10:42, we read that Jesus was her life and her “chosen portion”. The word “portion” (Luke 10:42 in the ESV study Bible) is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. In these passages “portion” is coupled with the idea that fellowship with God is one of the sweetest things you can have in your life. In Psalm 16:5-8 we discover words that Mary herself could have uttered at Jesus' feet. “The Lord is my 'chosen portion' and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (ESV).

Is He your “chosen portion”? You choose Him to be. Do you focus on Him no matter what others do around you to distract you from His presence? Mary was not shaken or distracted. Do the harried voices of “Martha” call out keeping you from choosing Him as your portion? Are you humbled in His presence? Do you worship Him no matter who is around you to distract? Mary focused, listened, and learned and worshiped at His feet. She chose Jesus above all else. You will not be shaken either when you choose Him as your portion. If you will “draw near to God He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NIV) “He will keep you in perfect peace when you keep your mind focused on Him” (Isaiah 26:3, NIV).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Love Comes Down

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety" (Psalm 61:2, NLT).

Friend, I want to remind you today that nothing can come against you. Nothing can destroy your security and promise in Jesus Christ. Your heart and mind may be overwhelmed with the circumstances of life. You may struggle with all that you face, but when you cry out He hears you from the ends of the earth. No matter how little and alone and estranged you feel, He hears your cry. He is with you in that moment when you feel you can't take your next breath. He is with you when you feel that unimaginable problem choking your faith. He is with you in each fear that overwhelms your heart. When you feel you can't carry one thing more and you cry out for Him to handle what is too much for you, He is with you in that instant. He is your rock of safety in a life that is full of uncertainty and pain. He is all that you need. You belong to Him. There is no greater peace than when you allow His love to rescue you. Whatever comes He is with you. Whatever change life brings He is with you. Remind yourself of all He has done. That feeling of being overwhelmed will lift as He lifts your load from your terrified mind, and brings peace to your trembling heart.

Love Came Down” (Kari Jobe)

If my heart is overwhelmed
And I cannot hear Your voice
I hold on to what is true
Though I cannot see

If the storms of life they come
And the road ahead gets steep
I will lift these hands in faith
I will believe

I'll remind myself
Of all that You've done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
Lord I'm forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

When my heart is filled with hope
Every promise comes my way
When I feel Your hands of grace
Rest upon me

Staying desperate for You, God
Staying humble at Your feet
I will lift these hands in praise
I will believe

I'll remind myself
Of all that You've done
And the life I have
Because of Your son

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
I am forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours

You are forever His. Love will come down and rescue you. This is not just your hope. This is your promise. Choose to praise Him and believe Him in each moment. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Give Once More

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

Have you ever started something and never finished it? Maybe circumstances kept you from reaching your goal. Perhaps you were distracted by other things. Whatever the reason, life happened and you lost your drive to complete what you started. We have all been at that place where we have lost interest or heart to finish a project.

Now what if the work you once started came from a vision that God gave you? It was something that He called you to bring to life. In the beginning you believed in that vision with all your heart and soul. You poured your life into it. You gave your time and your financial support, but you never saw your efforts make a difference. Perhaps you became weary because of constant struggle to attain that vision. You just lost heart.

You were the one to whom God imparted the vision. You were the first to get it started. “Now finish the work” Paul writes, “according to your means.” You can only finish to the best of your ability according to what you have been given. God's perfect will is for His vision to be completed, but you can't make a vision happen–even from all you have done to inspire others to catch it. If you have given the work your very best, God will do one of two things. He will bring it to completion with the support you have around you, or he will give you another means to achieve it. It is His promise for the work to be completed.

You are rich because of the sacrifice of Jesus! He has made you rich in His purpose. He is your reason for living, and He has called you. Allow God to stir the vision again. Allow yourself to believe in it once more. Give what you can, and trust Him to complete what only He can finish. “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (I Thessalonians 5:24, NLT).

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

His Victory in Your Valley

I remember the moment when I heard a minister instruct a congregation that “God is not in your valley. He is just in your victory”. God is not only in my victory! He is also most definitely in my valley! If the Lord had not been with me in each valley, I would have never survived. The valley is my opportunity and your opportunity to grow spiritually stronger through the grace of Jesus Christ. The valley reveals how much of His strength we have and whether we shall fail or make it. We do not know of what we are made until we are tested. It is in the valley where we discover who we really are and who He really is. It is in the valley that spiritual maturity has the potential to flourish.

In the midst of a trial we become weary and anxious when we don’t know what is next. “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul wrote, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6:7, NIV). We are to pray with thanksgiving in our heart–choosing and then allowing God to be in control. No matter what our human mind perceives or analyzes we are to believe in His promise and omnipotent ability to handle what we are incapable of handling on our own. We are not to worry about anything because we are instructed to petition the Lord who not only created every molecule in this world, but also controls each one. Is He not also able to handle any problem? Thanking the Lord for His provision reveals trust in His promise and faith in His character. Thanking God brings His peace. The promise is clear. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).

“You have made this too simple,” perhaps you insist. “It is not that simple.” But His direction is simple. God did not make His promise difficult. We make the valley difficult by not applying His direction in the midst of the struggle. We miss the peace of God because we try to humanly analyze each struggle instead of leaning on God to lift us above the trial or to carry us through it. Your mind can only be guarded from fear of the unknown when you praise and thank God for His faithfulness, and when your mind dwells upon His infinite grace instead of worrying and creating potential scenarios. God knows what His accomplishing scene will be. Trust Him for it, and spiritually “analyze” His loving promise instead of humanly expanding your problem.

Be willing to endure the earthly trial for the spiritual lesson God wishes to impart. He may lift the trial or He may let it remain, but it is His decision. Seek the Lord everyday and discover your burden is much lighter when you focus on the Lord instead of what is going on in you life. You will discover His supernatural peace when you give your trial to Him through prayerful petition. It is a peace that nothing in this world can offer (John 14:27), and it can only be found through the struggles of life. It is a gift from the Savior to lighten your load (Matthew 11:30).

The night before His crucifixion Jesus reminded His disciples of all the things He had instructed them “so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). Christ has overcome every problem that exists. You don't just “survive” in the valley. You “flourish” because Christ has poured living water into what might have otherwise been a desert. You have allowed Him to turn your valley into His victory. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Heart-Change Compassion

Someone states that he is a Christian, but his actions offer little evidence. Another quietly reaches out to care for others, and his life speaks of his faith. John Wesley believed that our faith should create a deep longing in us to serve others. Jesus’ brother, James, agreed. “As the body without the spirit is dead,” he inscribed, “so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26, NIV). The worth of a Christian’s faith is revealed in the loving service he imparts. It is revealed in surrender to give his life away because Jesus gave His life. The sacrificial and obedient love of Christ has changed his heart.

Compassionate Christian service arises out of love for Christ. “‘For I was hungry’ Jesus said, ‘and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me'” (Matthew 25:35-36, NIV). If faith without works is dead, then faith applied as Jesus spoke in these verses is definitely alive. We are to share compassion because of the sacrificial compassion Jesus had for us.

Ask yourself, “how do I respond when I know a need exists?” “Do I reach out and share a helping hand? Do I provide shelter or food or a share an encouraging word?” These questions aren't asked to spur you into just running out the door and looking for needs to be fulfilled! What they really ask is what is the state of your heart? What kind of faith do you have? Is your heart really His? Are you available when a crisis occurs or God brings a need to your attention? Do you have the love of Christ that breathes life into hard situations? We are to live a life of compassionate ministry every moment of our lives, because of what Christ has done for us. This is to be our way of life until the day we die. It is a heart attitude that should always affect how we respond to the needs of people everyday and in every walk of life.

Our heart attitude toward serving others should be the same as Christ’s. Although the Son of God, He had a humble heart (Philippians 2:6-7). The apostle Paul urged, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4). We are called to give sacrificially expecting nothing in return. True compassionate service is born of sacrifice, and recognizes the costly price Jesus paid so that it might be rendered.

Loving service to others is a lifestyle. Is it my lifestyle? Is it your lifestyle? Is my faith alive in what I do for others? Is my heart available to reach out in love as Christ reached out to me? If what I do to help someone is inspired by faith and not by “show”, then the love of Christ that I share will impact that person's life. If my heart is made new by His love, He can use me to help another find freedom from the pain of life. My life shall be a life of worth, because He has remade my heart, and I have allowed Him to love through me. In giving my life away, I have given His compassionate heart.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Losing My Life for His Sake

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (Mark 8:35, NLT).

Sixty years ago a young Presbyterian missionary named Jim Elliot was killed in Ecuador by Acua Indians. His wife, Elizabeth, wrote years later in “Discipline the Glad Surrender” about her husband’s passionate love for God. “Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.”When God’s incredible mercy and grace have brought new life, then giving myself away for His sake should be as natural as breathing. Jesus calls for me to know Him as He has always known me. He yearns for me to place myself completely into His hands, and trust Him with the unknown of what is to come.

“In a deeper sense that any other species of earthbound creature,” Elizabeth Elliot also writes, “I am called. And in a deeper sense I am free; for I can ignore the call…I can say no call came. I can deny that God called or God exists. What a gift of amazing grace—that the One who made me allows me to deny His existence. ” When I say “yes” to God, then I am no longer my own. I have realized the cost of my obedience, and have agreed to give whatever is necessary.

“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35, NIV). Not only are the “Jim Elliots” through past centuries an example of this truth. The news is filled today with those who lose their lives for refusing to deny Christ. In the Mideast Christians are beheaded for standing for Christ. In America they are persecuted and some have also given their lives. Do the examples of men and women who have given all for Jesus Christ inspire us to do the same? Jesus calls each one of us to leave all our personal desires behind, to take up His cross and follow Him. It is a call to absolute surrender of body, mind and spirit. It is a call to the deepest discipleship–to the greatest commitment.

One who is a disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who has counted the cost of surrender and then placed himself completely under the guidance of the Master. His love for Christ is greater than his love for anyone or anything else. He resolves to give and also give up whatever is necessary. These requirements don’t attract a large number of followers, but for those who do follow, the result of such a decision is guaranteed. Lose your life for Jesus and you will discover the infinite spiritual depth in your own soul (Matthew 16:24-25).

God gives us the freedom to choose—to choose either the shallowness of personal desires or the reality of His fulfillment. When you trade your life for His life, you discover your true identity. Having searched all your life for fulfillment, you find the pearl of greatest price, and you give your very life in order to possess it (Mathew 13: 45-46). “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:7, NIV). The unfathomable depth of the Spirit of God calls out to that which we do not yet know ourselves to be. Do I hear? Do you? Do we accept? Are we willing? Only each one of us can answer that question.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Delegate Leadership

Micromanagement is defined by Miriam-Webster as an attempt “to control or manage all the small parts of something (such as an activity) in a way that is usually not wanted or that causes problems”. Those who try to micro-manage actually take what can be positive character traits (attention to detail and a hands-on-attitude) to the extreme. They feel driven to not only “perform to perfection” themselves, but they in turn drive others who work with them to do the same. In trying to drive those around them to success, micro-managers risk losing the confidence of those they lead. They hurt their ability to do positive work, and frustrate them to the point where they quit trying. Loren Pinilis, author of “Life of a Steward” blog writes about Jethro's wise advice to Moses, his son-in-law, on micromanagement.

Stop Micromanaging: Jethro's Advice to Moses on Delegating Leadership

By Loren Pinilis (Life of a Steward)

In Exodus 18, Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, offers sound advice that all leaders should take to heart.
From morning to evening, Moses would judge the disputes of the people. And from morning to evening, they would stand around waiting to have their cases heard. Jethro counseled Moses: “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you.”
Moses was essentially micro-managing things by allowing all decisions to be funneled through him.
Note that Moses had good intentions. He wanted the people to know and understand the law, and he took his influence and responsibility over the nation seriously. He judged each case personally because each case mattered to him and to God.
It’s the same for leaders today, particularly in ministry roles. We have a reverence for even the smallest areas under our influence, and we have a healthy respect for our duties as leaders.
But there are very serious consequences when we let our concept of a sacred duty turn into micro-management.
Jethro could see that this pattern of behavior would cause utter exhaustion for Moses, and that’s what most people focus on when they mention this passage. But Jethro also realized that Moses’s leadership style would have a negative effect on the people. The court would get backlogged, the nation would be frustrated, and eventually many would abandon the idea of receiving justice.
When a leader insists on making or approving every decision, an organizational bottleneck is created. The limiting factor for that organization’s effectiveness becomes the time and attention of the leader.
An interesting thing then often happens. The leaders recognize that they can only do so much. But rather than delegate some of their decision making (often out of a well-intentioned respect for their responsibility), they engineer the system to accommodate for their limited time.
Teams prepare proposals and reports to pre-digest the information for those who have the ability to pull the trigger. It seems sensible: you’re minimizing the time the leaders spend on approving decisions and therefore maximizing what your organization can do.
But this is designing the entire organizational structure around the limitations of the leader. It’s the exact opposite of how leadership should work.
Imagine how many hours the team spends preparing reports to save the leader a few minutes. Imagine what else could have been done with that time and energy. This is the price of micro-management.
Jethro’s advice wasn’t to streamline the court. It wasn’t to appoint people who would summarize the information for Moses so he could render quick verdicts.
Instead, Jethro’s wise counsel was to delegate: to train up leaders who could take a portion of Moses’s authority and participate with him in caring for the nation. Moses could lead instead of holding everyone back.
He could handle his workload. The people wouldn’t be frustrated. Leaders would be trained for greater things. And Justice would be administered.

Friday, October 16, 2015

His Wisdom Anchors

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (James 1:5-8).

Life requires wisdom. When we are plagued with problems, we need God's wisdom to get through each hardship. When we have decisions that must be made, we need His wisdom to guide us. When emotions rage, we need His wisdom to keep us from actions which are based on our feelings alone. In these verses James explains we should pray and ask God for wisdom. Not only does He give it, but He is generous with it. We may ask why something happens, but God wants us to understand that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours–that we can trust His wisdom above our human feelings. If we trust Him and ask Him for the ability to handle our trials, He gives spiritual wisdom to deal with them. He directs us in every trial that we face.

In these verses James not only imparts that we should pray for wisdom, but tells us that we should pray trusting and believing that God will provide. If we pray for wisdom and feel we don't receive any, it is not because our faith is lacking. Feelings have nothing to do with faith. Faith that is as small as a mustard seed is great enough to move mountains. James identifies the problem as being double-minded. A double-minded man grabs hold of “but what if”, and his faith depends on circumstance instead of placing what little faith he has in God's faithfulness. A double minded man is also one who sits on the fence and can't quite plant his mustard seed of faith in God. His mind has not been brought under the control of Christ. James writes that this man is unstable in all his ways. Why should God grant him wisdom? However, a person who is surrendered to the Lord, and believes in God's faithfulness, doesn't ask “but what if?” He chooses to believe in God's unwavering truth. Instead of being double-minded, He is single-minded in faith. He is focused on God's faithfulness instead of his circumstance. He knows that without God's help, He will fail. When this single-minded person cries for out for faith to believe–when he cries out for wisdom, he receives generously from the Lord. “No matter what I will trust Him” replaces “but what if”. In his cry for wisdom, he surrenders his fears to Jesus Christ and receives greater faith to believe that God will guide him safely through troubled waters.

I pray to always be single-minded, and never doubt God to supply His wisdom to handle ever trial in my life. I don't want to be like a ship tossed on the sea with no anchor to secure my faith. Are your tired of waves buffeting you and sending your mind in all directions? He is your anchor and guide through the storms of life. Begin the process of bringing your thoughts under the control of Christ by making a mental decision to believe in His faithfulness. Fight “but what if” thoughts, and reach to believe in “no matter what I will trust Him”. He will reward you with His wisdom, and anchor your safely.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Open to Forgiveness

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NIV).

What is the best gift you can give someone? It isn't found in a store. It isn't something that you can touch or feel. It isn't something that will one day get lost or damaged. It is real and changes hearts. This is the gift of forgiveness. God's unconditional love always inspires forgiveness. Forgiveness is free and keeps no record of wrong that has been done. It lets go of hurt and releases the one who caused the pain from any debt. It does not judge or condemn. In return you are also forgiven. Love and forgiveness and another chance are the very best gifts you can give to others and to yourself.

When it comes to forgiving yourself, this is where forgiveness can become difficult. If you can extend forgiveness to others, you can also receive it within your own heart. When you have repented and don't forgive yourself for what God has forgiven, you give those past wrongs the ability to wreck havoc in your life. That mistake or sin or fault can sit in the back of your mind and grow large and overwhelming. It can destroy your assurance of God's love and forgiveness, and make you question if He has truly forgiven you. He is a “God, ready to forgive, gracious and merciful” (Nehemiah 9:17, NIV). He has forgiven you completely and your debt is gone. The condemning guilt you feel can heal.

How can you forgive yourself? That is a hard area and there are no pat answers. What I share in this next paragraph comes from my own experience. Perhaps you believe you have forgiven someone for a betrayal or something they did that was dishonest. Perhaps you believe you have forgiven them for rejecting your love or neglecting your trust. But if you have forgiven them for what they have done, why can't you accept God's forgiveness for your own betrayal of others, or your own action that was less than completely honest, or that time you rejected love and neglected a trust? His love forgives when you repent. Perhaps the inability to forgive yourself lies in the fact that there are underlying unresolved feelings from things that have been done to you. Even though you have reached out and made amends and also been forgiven by others, maybe you still feel guilty and unworthy of forgiveness. Although you believe you have forgiven others for what they have done to you, your inability to forgive yourself might reveal something you haven't even realized–an inability to really forgive those who have hurt you. When you can reach the place where you truly forgive others for the same things for which you have been forgiven, then you also have the power to forgive yourself.

Forgiveness begins with a decision to forgive. Decide to forgive others, and decide to forgive yourself. Jesus has told us to forgive and that we will be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of will. His forgiveness within your heart begins with a mental decision to do it. When you open your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit, He begins a work of healing of unresolved feeling in His time and in His perfect way. Choose to forgive what has been done to you and choose to not hold anything against anyone who has hurt you. Ask God to help you deal with all feelings that are involved. Choose to forgive yourself, and let go of any anger you harbor. Allow God to open you to what you need to face so that any emotional pain can be healed. He will help you move forward in His complete love and forgiveness, and He will deal with the past hurt and pain. He promises to take to the grave all the pain and hurt and bitterness and anger and rejection and neglect that you have experienced, and to raise you with Him in newness of life. Today is a beginning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Race with Praise

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

I can't count the many times in my Christian life that these verses have inspired me to keep running the race of faith–to keep reaching for the prize that I shall receive–to persevere to win–to throw off everything that keeps me from pressing on–to fix my eyes on Jesus who ran this race–to not give up or lose heart! This race to live a life of faith which honors God can be a great hardship. So many times we just want to give up, but God says not to lose heart no matter what we face in life. A verse in the next chapter of Hebrews reveals something that makes this race so much easier. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” Hebrews 13:15, NIV). One of the most powerful things we can do to make this race easier is to praise the Savior for whom we run it. This verse instructs us to continually give God a sacrifice of praise. It is easier to praise God on the mountaintop when everything is right in our world than down in the valley when life is hard. But we are instructed to continually praise Him no matter what we face now or what lies ahead. If we praise Him on the mountaintop, He rejoices with us. If we praise Him in the valley, our praise is a sacrifice that honors His faithfulness. Whether high or low, we praise Him because in all things He carries you, and He carries me.

Praising God no matter what I face in life reveals how much I trust Him. It reveals who He is in my heart, and how much I have focused my mind on His truth. When I praise Him in all circumstances, He rewards my praise with the grace of His presence. He is my God, and He will never fail me. His strength and joy will conquer all that comes against me. He is my guide through the pitfalls. No weapon can rise against me. He will protect me. No discipline can tire me. I will learn the lesson He wishes to impart. I will not blame another, but will face and accept responsibility for any thing that I have done. I will also forgive anyone who has hurt me so that the enemy can't destroy my faith. Nothing shall terrorize me. I will trust God to take care of any fear that tries to defeat me. I shall persevere, and hold on. I will run this race and make it through any difficulty because I have praised Him in all moments. He is my strength because I have none within myself, and in my weakness, I have discovered His. I run the race with a heart and mind to endure at all costs, and I praise Him because He is the reason that I run.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finally Peace

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Here in this moment I am finally still.

All that has bombarded my mind is silenced.

The voices that have plagued me are no more.

Here in this moment there is no need to analyze–no need to know why.

My mind is at rest in your peace which surpasses my human need to understand.

If not for your moment of surrender and sacrifice, I wouldn't have this moment with you.

I wouldn't have this peace which has come from surrender of self–of a need to know.

Here in this moment I surrender all I have struggled to perceive.

I sacrifice my attempt to control that which has bound me.

I lay down my heart upon your altar of grace.

Here in this moment I am loved as I have always longed to be loved.

I only know that you are my God, and that is all I need to know–nothing more.

Here in this moment I have you alone.

Here in this moment I hold eternity.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Light to Guide

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NKJV).

When His Word guides and empowers my life, there is no problem or circumstance or difficulty that has the power to destroy my faith in Him. His Word gives direction to handle each circumstance that arises, but for the light of His presence to guide me safely through each moment of life, I surrender all of my will to His. I surrender not just some of my will, but all of it. If I try to handle whatever I face alone without His guidance, I will ultimately fail in my attempt. If I allow Him to direct each decision that I make and each step that comes, I will follow His lead safely and securely into a future that He alone knows.

Circumstances may lie ahead that I would never be able to handle in my present moment. If I trust Him, then I have peace in the present, and peace in His promise to take care of my future. As He accompanies me along my path, His light reveals only a few steps. The path, as it twists ahead, is unclear and shadowed. It is darkened because the light of His presence lights my way now. When I reach another bend in the path, He will light my way then. I need not worry at what might come. As today passes into tomorrow, He will walk with me. The same light which guided me–the same power–the same peace will continue to guide my way.

Today's path starts to dawn, and I anticipate what the next hour will bring. However life has a way of changing everything. The path may unexpectedly bend, and I must surrender to its lesson knowing the light of His Word will reveal and sustain and guide and empower. The path of life always changes, but His strength and support and power are constant. He never changes. I will trust Him for my moments now, and those that are around the next bend. I have committed my life, and I will follow His will steadfastly through this life into the next.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reaching for Our Runner's High

Are you someone who can't handle well what you face in life? Do you look for something that will ease the pain of hard circumstances with a quick solution? A quick solution is the easy answer, but it doesn't require any change on your part. It makes you feel better for a moment, but it doesn't last. Eventually the problem will be exposed for what it really is–something which controls your thoughts and actions. Life will remain the same until the Lord is allowed to change you. He will not be a quick solution. His solution takes surrender and sacrifice, but it will last, and you will discover a spiritual "high" in Him that brings peace.

We live in a society of instant fixes. We don't want to wait for anything. We rush through busy lives unable to take a moment to discover the beauty in God's creation. In our hurried commotion we don't hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling to the void within us. He whispers, “I'm here”, but we do not hear Him. He tries to hold us when we are hurting, but we do not feel His grasp. He waits, but we do not respond. He longs to carry the pain, but we do not let it go. Letting go means that we will have to allow Him to have control.

The depth of the Holy calls to the depth of man. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Isaiah 42:7, NIV). We fight against that deep call because it means that we must allow Him to sweep over us. It means that we must sacrifice “self” in order to soar in Him. Instead of learning to soar on the wings of the Holy Spirit, we seek an instant solution which sets us up for failure. To soar through anything we face in life we must sacrifice our need for an instant answer. We must yield to the lesson God wishes to impart. We must face our problem head-on, seek His will, and surrender to whatever is required.

Life will overwhelm us if we have not prepared ourselves spiritually. Faith must be exercised for it to grow stronger. We make a daily decision to fill our lives with His presence instead of our preconceived desires. We make a decision to surrender our busy time to take time for Him. We feed our spiritual lives everyday through prayer and study of His Word. We seek Him for the best answer instead of taking the easy way out. We believe in what He reveals in His Word, and we stand upon it. We speak life to problems instead of death sentences. We look for the best when the world looks for the worst. We believe when the world says to give up. We place all the faith we can muster in His strength and His promises, because we believe He never fails. We let go of fears that have defined us, and allow faith in His love and care to define who we are. These are conscious decisions that we make everyday to soar above what the day brings.

Spiritual grow is not instant! It does not just happen! We train to be spiritually stronger. Consider a runner who prepares for a marathon. He does not just decide to run a marathon. If he does he has set himself up for failure. He trains for many months until he has the strength and ability to run the race and finish it. Have you ever heard the term "runner's high"? It refers to a euphoric state of mind experienced by many runners during a long run. When the body is pushed to the limit, as in a marathon run, it begins to experience pain. To compensate for the pain the body produces endorphins. Not only do endorphins have a pain-killing effect, but they also produce a sense of well-being.

Isn’t this what the Lord wishes for us as we grow spiritually? That we get to the point where the circumstances of life spur us on to soaring heights and pain brings us to a greater faith in His ability to handle life’s struggles? There is a peace that passes all understanding, but it is only found in giving each trial to Him. It is only found in our thankfulness for His provision (Philippians 4:6-7). It is only found in letting Him have control. When we have discovered this euphoric peace of mind, we have found our “runner’s high”.

C.S. Lewis was once asked why he still prayed when it looked as if God was not going to save his wife from cancer. His answer is powerful in its truth. “I pray because prayer changes me.” God never changes. He is our constant in the storm, but we must change and grow spiritually in order to realize it. When we surrender and began to exercise our faith, He becomes the wind beneath our wings, and lifts us above whatever we face. No, He is not an instant answer, but He is the best. He lasts, and in Him we not only run the race of life, we soar through it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Times of Refreshment

“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings” (Psalm 84:6, NLT).

Autumn is almost upon North Georgia. It was in the air as my cousin, Marilyn, and I drove these last three days through high valleys and gazed down through thinly scattered clouds from high atop Brasstown Bald. Leaves were just beginning to turn a pale pumpkin color that always announces the bright red and yellow hues of fall are soon to follow. The pungent smell of apples was discovered in tiny hollows tucked between winding curves. Even though the sky was a crystal blue the rain that had washed the laurels and hillsides the day before we arrived still moistened the mountain air.

Our trip was a time that was very needed–one of retreat and sharing that had waited far too long to take place. Only six months apart in age, my cousin and I had known each other since infancy. There had been times together throughout sixty-six years we had lived in different states, but those times together had always come with a hurried purpose to visit family. Two years earlier life had been hard on both of us. We had lost our mothers. That year we had walked through, what the psalmist so perfectly described, a valley of weeping. As we drove the twisting curves of North Georgia roads, streams followed our journey. Cold mountain water sliced through and around rock formations refreshing life within the streams. And as we talked and shared, we found for this moment in time, a place of renewal and refreshment all our own. We were safely cocooned sharing our hearts with each other and with God.

Life is too short and uncertain not to share moments. Those moments don't just happen. Planning times to be together takes effort. But it is an effort that is worth whatever work is needed. Such moments bring a joy that can never be replaced. The time you spend with those you love is too precious. It is too priceless. Life is a but a vapor. You are here one moment and gone the next. Take time out of your busy life of work, smart phones, laptops, and iPads to reach for a hand, hug a shoulder, or wipe a tear. Slow down before life with its special moments of love passes you by. My cousin and I were born in 1948. It was the beginning season of our lives where we grew from baby to adult. Before we realized it summer was upon us with marriage and growing children. Now that we are in the autumn of our lives, we reach to love the next generation of our family and the next as life continues. One day winter will be upon us, and soon it will be time to let go of this world and join our Savior and mothers in heaven. But for now we have discovered, as the psalmist also wrote, that in these autumn years the rain of His blessing always refreshes, and especially in moments where we have shared our hearts.

As the seasons of your own life change, remember this. Weeping in your valley only lasts for a night. Joy comes in the morning. The sadness of one day anticipates the joy of the next to come. Reach out to those you have in your life now. Share your heart and forgive where it is needed. Love where it is needed. Cry with those in your life, and then rejoice with them as they discover new purpose and hope. It is truly your circle of life that is only broken by death. Live to the fullest before your circle is broken, and never waste a moment to love those God has given you. These seasons of life will always need times of refreshment. Create your moments with those you love, and the rain of His blessings will continually clothe their hearts with memories that will sustain and comfort when you have passed on to be with Him.

Grow in His Grace

And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled tha...