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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, and able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19, NLT).
It's another day. You face duties that beckon. Your day may sing with promise, but most likely little problems and irritations will arise. It's life. It's inevitable. Don't dwell on the problems that come up each day. He is your strength and in control. Recognize each struggle for what it is—a lesson to make you surefooted and carry you closer to your goal to walk in His strength and His Spirit. When you climb a mountain and just concentrate on the pain of hardship found in each step, you don’t realize the beautiful reward waiting for you at the summit.
Don't dwell on the emotional pain that hits you when problems overwhelm your heart. That is where you will be defeated. Guard your heart. Regard each problem that arises as a springboard to reach the top. Keep your eyes on your goal, and then as you climb, each step will become another solid foundation of growth. If you consider each step as a means to carry you to the promise at the peak, your climb will not bring despair, but great hope.
What is the promise at the summit of your life? It is the fruit of the Spirit, active, flowing, and defining every moment. It is walking in His Spirit above what the flesh might dictate. It is radiating His love, and extending His Hand. His joy will reign no matter what you face. His peace will calm your heart through hard times. Patience with circumstances and with others will pervade your mind and spirit. Kindness will be the first thing extended before any judgment arises. God's goodness will overflow in your heart, and faithfulness will be the solid foundation of all your relationships. Gentleness shall be the power of Holy Spirit under control in your life, guiding you wisely and carefully in your relationships. Self-control will define your life in all areas. You will have surrendered your life completely to the control of the Holy Spirit.
Does this sound impossible? It is not, or He would have not revealed the promised fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Each problem you overcome and each step up the mountain will bring great reward. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV). Persevere and never give up. Don’t allow the circumstances of life to defeat you. The promise at the summit is worth it all.
Friday, August 26, 2016
How often when instructed by the Lord do I procrastinate or even become disobedient to His command? If the Lord instructs me to do something, He expects my obedience. If He speaks to my heart about an attitude, He expects my obedience to change that attitude. If He speaks to me about something in my life that is wrong, He expects my obedience to repent and stay away from it. He expects my obedience to live a righteous life that glorifies His name, but often I, like others, can find a reason not to listen. If I am not careful, the excuses will mount to the point where my calloused heart no longer hears His voice. If I don't want to lose His intimacy in my life, then I will “let God transform me inwardly by a complete change of mind” (Romans 12: 2a, GNT),
Obedience is not an option, and it does not just happen. It is born of deep commitment to God. It certainly calls for personal sacrifice. When it is born of sacrifice, obedience speaks of my willingness to submit to God’s desires instead of my own. Disobedience stems from pride. Longing for personal acceptance by others, it says “no” when the sacrifice calls for humility. Often obedience contradicts the desires of my own heart. This is where obedience really begins–in my willingness to say “no” to me, and “yes” to God. When I put Him before everything else in my life, I discover the peace and joy found in surrender. Surrendering to the Lord's desires for my life reveals my reverence for the costly price of His sacrifice, and my surrender allows Him to transform me. “Your heart and mind must be made completely new” Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:23, GNT). Allowing Him to transform my heart and mind is where I discover who I really am. It is my greatest fulfillment.
The Lord yearns for you and for me to have an obedient heart—one that listens to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit and follows His will without argument. He longs to hear, “Without delay I hurry to obey your commands!” No hesitation in obeying His will–no delay in laying down our own “rights”. Are we pliable in His hands? Do we allow Him to mold our life or are we rigid and unyielding? To discover the fulfillment that a surrendered life brings, we yield and become pliable in His grasp. His sure and constant pressure brings forth a beauty of character that is unsurpassed, and a life that joyfully and consistently experiences peace. If we surrender we will be able “to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect” (Romans 12:2b).
Lynn Hampton Lacher
Thursday, August 25, 2016
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” (Psalm 119:165, NLT).
Be still. Be quiet. Quit all striving. Give me your struggle. Seek my peace which surpasses your human understanding. No man—no person—no stress—no hardship—no problem has the power to destroy this great peace. But you can destroy it by allowing worry to claim your mind and distractions to rob you of its promise. You can destroy it by trying to control what only I can control. You can destroy it by opening your heart to despair and your mind to the enemy who whispers his lies. However, when you focus on my Word and the love I have for you—when you surrender all that holds you in bondage to fear, I speak my life into your very being.
Make it your mindset to allow nothing to destroy your faith in my love for you. Focus your mind on my truth, and rest your heart. Retreat from seeking the advice of others whose ideas promise peace. Perhaps they have good advice, but it may not be mine. Seek what I have for you. My advice brings great peace. Never let others rob you of your peace of heart and mind. Recognize each problem that arises as a step towards acquiring my great peace. It is real and it lasts in the face of all opposition. Each obstacle has the power to bring you closer to its promise.
You have great peace when you love and live what I instruct. Nothing will make you stumble. When you allow me to guide your life—when you allow selfishness to be crucified at my altar—when you seek my righteousness, you receive all of me. Love me with all your being. Love my Word, and you will discover the power of faith that grants this peace. It is my gift that calmly holds you no matter what the world throws at you. It is real, and nothing can destroy it when your heart continually seeks me.
I am your greatest peace. There is no other.
Lynn Hampton Lacher
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2, NIV).
James, the brother of Jesus, did not believe in Jesus as the son of God until after the Resurrection. After his conversion James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem, and eventually became the head of the church there. In this verse he addresses Christians in Jerusalem who face persecution because of their beliefs, and he encourages them to consider the trials of their faith as joy. James calls it “pure” joy. It is the kind of joy that has been refined in the fire of life. All impurity has been burned away, and only the purest element remains.
A trial tests strength. For the early Christians and for us, it tests our faith, our honesty, and our spiritual ability to withstand the world's onslaught. You don't know how strong or how weak your faith might be until it is tested by a trial. James declares that our lives are filled with trials. We may be plagued by illness, or a financial crisis. We may face the death of someone close to us, or great loss in other ways. Someone may take advantage of us, and perhaps we may be falsely accused of something we didn't do. The phrase “whenever you face trials” reveals that trials are just unavoidable. You can’t escape them. The Lord does not insulate us from the trials of life. He allows them to shape us and, hopefully, make us stronger. Look at Job. He believed in God, and was a righteous man. God allowed Satan to test Job, and his whole life was a massive trial. Trials can make us bitter or they can make us better. Job would not turn against the Lord no matter what came against him. “He knows the way that I take,” Job declared. “When has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NIV).
Job's attitude during his horrendous suffering was paramount for his faith in God to flourish. Your attitude in the midst of life's trials is paramount for you to spiritually become the person God intends you to be. You can just endure with a bitter attitude, or you can consider whatever you face as something which will make you stronger–something which will burn away the impurities of bitterness and negativity. Job's kind of attitude makes the best of whatever happens. It sees positive whenever faced with trials and struggles. It believes in God's best no matter what it hears or sees. It believes in the potential that only God sees. That kind of attitude turns what Satan can use to destroy you into what God can use to prosper you (Romans 8:28).
“Consider in pure joy,” James writes, “whenever you face trials.” God wants you to spiritually grow and realize that trials can actually produce joy which remains strong and unshakable. When tested and fired in the kiln of life, this kind joy becomes refined as gold, and nothing can rob you of its promise. You have fought for it, and allowed it to define your life. It is joy of the purest kind.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
I once placed a large sign on my refrigerator. In huge letters I reminded myself every time I opened the door that I needed to “choose life”. Seeing that message everyday forced me to consider my food choices. It is easy to understand that food choices affect good health. What is sometimes more difficult to understand is that my heart choices can speak life or death.
What is a heart choice? It is what you believe, and it affects your attitude about everyone and everything that impacts your life. It is whatever motivates your action. It is whether you approach each circumstance as a learning experience or as something to endure. It speaks of who is really in charge of your life—of who is in control of your mind. It speaks life or it speaks death.
Just before his death Moses spoke to the Israelites and instructed them to choose prosperity and life instead of destruction and death. They were poised on the brink of the Promised Land. “Love the Lord your God! Walk in His ways,” Moses pleaded. “Keep His command” (Deuteronomy 30:15)! Moses spoke from his own failure to obey God. He would not see that land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord sets before His children the same command today. Our promised land waits. In fact we can smell its fragrance and its promise, but it is just beyond our reach. “Choose life,” the Lord pleads, “the land is waiting for you to enter and possess it!” But you can’t move forward into your promise without a surrendered heart and mind.
“What I command you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach,” Moses instructed. “The Word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it! Choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)! The Word of God is alive and active. It is meant to reside within your heart so that you might obey its instruction. But “if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not receive what I have promised you” (Deuteronomy 30:18)! The Lord wishes His children to keep their hearts and minds upon Him. He yearns for each one of us to reach our promised land! But often we don’t consider the fact that the motivations and attitudes of our hearts keep us from what God has promised.
In the very next verse Moses offers another strong reason to choose life—so that others may know His life (Deuteronomy 30:19). Your attitudes affect the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through you and touch the life of another person. When a person feels condemned because of your bad attitude, then the Holy Spirit can't move in freedom and His love can’t be experienced in your life. But if you have a surrendered heart, His love speaks conviction instead of condemnation and life instead of death. Because we are a society where everything revolves around our feelings instead of that of another, selfishness reigns. Christians are meant to live unselfishly. Putting others first, though, is one of the last truths that we take time to consider. However if we grasp this truth and determine to have a good attitude, we surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. We live His love, and walk in the freedom of His Spirit. Our surrender to His Lordship reveals that we have chosen blessing instead of curse and life instead of death.
Spiritual death comes without heart and mind surrender. Always listen to His voice instead of your own. Never forget that the Lord is your life, and He has promised you great and wonderful things (Jeremiah 33:3). “Surrender your heart to me,” the Lord imparts. “Allow that surrender to continually renew the attitude of your mind. Choose me. Trade your life for mine. Trade the negative for my blessing. Give up death for my abundant life. You will taste and see and know that I am good. You will enter your promised land to possess it for my purpose.”
Monday, August 22, 2016
“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:4).
A woman watches her once-believing husband return to an old lifestyle. Her heart breaks, but most importantly, God’s heart breaks. God, through his son, Jesus Christ, has chosen to love this man even though he has rejected His love. This husband may have lost his first love, but God has never lost His love for him. God once brought Israel out of bondage in Egypt; blessed them with abundance; again and again stood with them against their enemies. In the book of Hosea, God finds Israel playing around with other gods, and his heart breaks for her harlotry. In love, He reaches for his child, longing for her to come home.
“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms,” the Lord cries in Hosea 11:3, “but they did not know it was I who healed them. The verb “to know”, a term to describe the intimacy of the marital bed, literally means to have direct knowledge of something or someone. Israel had a direct and intimate knowledge of other gods. Like an adulteress who scorns the intimacy of her own marital bed, Israel scorned intimate knowledge of God. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them,” Hosea continues in the next verse. The expression "the cords of a human kindness" refers to God’s tender care. It is also an indirect reference to the umbilical cord that supplies life to a baby inside the mother’s womb. (Isaiah 26:17; 66:7; Jeremiah 12:12). In Jewish culture, a parent guides his toddler with a “cord”. The child learns to follow in the steps of the parent. Not only did God create the nation of Israel, and give birth to it in great pain (Isaiah 21:3), He also supplied His hand for guidance. He lifted the yoke of slavery to sin. But without an intimacy with God Israel did not have a spiritual awareness of God’s guidance or sin that separated her from His presence.
Do you have an intimate relationship with God? Are you able to identify with His pain? God labored for you, and watched His own child die so that you might live. Hosea wept because Israel did not “know” the abiding love of God. Do you “know” the redeeming love of His son? If you are a parent, close your eyes and remember your child as he crawled, and then finally stood. Remember your hand holding his as he took his first shaky step, and your strength steadying him? For days he refused to let go. He needed you. One day he pulled his hand from yours, and took his first step toward independence. With independence and his freedom to choose, you offered him a guiding hand. He either accepted or rejected it. It was Israel’s decision whether or not to seek an intimate relationship with God. It is also ours.
When Israel was a child, God loved her in her innocence. He too offered guidance. When she failed, He still loved her in her guilt. A child often doesn’t recognize until grown the love and nurture of his parent. Consider God, the father’s, unconditional love and sacrifice for you, His child. He has led you in kindness, and lifted your burden. Have you grown up enough to realize His sacrificial love for you? Or have you, in not placing Him first, forgotten your first love? As His heart broke for Israel, His heart and His body have also been broken for you.
Friday, August 19, 2016
“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 it moves the heart of God. 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 is lived 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 incredibly 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 us, and He will answer.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
“God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8, NLT).
How often in our Christian walk does God need to jerk us up like a disturbed parent, and tell us to behave? Sometimes we get so self-satisfied with where we are—with what we do—with where we lead—with how we instruct, that we lose our ability to be taught. We become hardened to the Holy Spirit without even realizing it. He calls us to live a pure and holy life. A pure life not only honors Him outwardly. It is a life that honors Him inwardly with the hunger of a teachable spirit that yearns to know Him intimately and be instructed by Him.
The Holy Spirit reaches out with correction and guidance, but we often miss Him because we are so wrapped up in self. “What you do speaks louder than what you say,” He speaks to those of us who believe we have all the answers. “Sometimes you say one thing and do another. You instruct another in my ways, but then do the very thing you said another shouldn't do. My Word calls for honesty and integrity in all areas of your life. When your life does not support what you say, then you make my sacrifice worthless. It breaks my heart just as my body was broken for you. Don't rationalize your actions until you no longer hear my leading. Don't become so self-satisfied with where you are in your walk with me that you miss my heart. Don't miss the very best for your life. Give up the past that has defined you. Give up your ‘my way is the only way’ attitude. Don't get to the place where you have made so many excuses that you no longer feel my conviction. I want you to see that you have areas of your life that need my hand to mold. Never be casual about me. I am not casual about you. I gave my life for you. Now I am life, and I wait for you to allow me to mold you. You cannot correct or encourage another with patience and careful instruction if what you say is not realized in your own life. Cry out for me to always keep you pure of heart. Live your life broken before me—filled with my love and my Word. Allow my necessary instruction to mold you and accomplish what it was sent to bring forth—my life in you. I love you child, and I long for you to know my heart completely.”
Isn't this necessary instruction for all of us? God calls us to stay open and pliable in His hand. The moment we choose our own way and follow our own direction, is the moment when we go astray. It is the moment the Holy Spirit is silenced. The moment that I believe I understand all the incredible depths of my Lord is the moment I no longer grow spiritually. The moment that He becomes casual to me is the moment that I have placed other things before Him. The moment that my life does not support what I say is the moment I speak death instead of life. The moment I believe I have arrived is the moment that I have failed.
Lord, I surrender myself again. I lay all on your altar again. Break me each day, and teach me.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” Isaiah 26:3, NLT)!
Perfect peace is not a dream or something that is just beyond reach. It is absolutely real and thoroughly attainable in the midst of any situation. Instead of drowning in fear, I can know and rest in His peace. Peace is born of trust in who God is and what He promises. It is discovered when my mind is trained to focus only on the truth of His Word—His unchanging and forgiving love, His faithfulness, His power, and His promise. He carries me safely through and often above the worst circumstance or pain. I don't have to be anxious about anything when I give all of my fear to God (Philippians 4:6). If I dwell only on my circumstance, I don't allow God to handle what I can't handle. I try to control what I am unable to control, and fear consumes me. Instead of dwelling on my circumstance or my pain, I can train my mind to think on His truth that I can do all things with His strength (Philippians 4:13) and that He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19). If I trust the Lord and give Him the fear that consumes my mind, I can receive His peace.
My human mind can't comprehend or reason His peace. It just comes when my mind continually dwells on His Word, and His perfect unchanging faithfulness to me (Philippians 4:7-8). Trust blossoms as I lay more and more on His altar in my times of need (Hebrews 4:16). As I train my mind to dwell on Him, I capture thoughts that destroy trust, and pull down strongholds which fear has wrought. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). I reach a place of trust where nothing can destroy the peace that He promises. This doesn't mean that I “feel” right about everything. It means that I “know” He is taking care of everything no matter how I “feel”. My faith rests on the firm foundation of His Word, and not on the roller coaster ride of my emotions. When my mind remains consistently fixed upon Him, I “know” His peace.
His perfect peace is absolutely real. It is that place where the thoughts of my mind are made new by His Spirit (Ephesians 4:23), and where I receive His perfectly sufficient grace over and over again. His peace is my place of safety where nothing can steal or destroy my faith in His love for me. “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him” (Psalm 91:1-2, NLT).
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
“God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29, NLT).
God calls you. He draws you. One day in response to persistent prayer, you realize what God wishes from your life. The realization of His will initially frightens you, but then apprehension finally gives way to surrender. With surrender anticipation builds. You live your purpose with fervent desire. You serve the Lord unquestionably, and believe that what you offer makes a difference. You experience the joy and fulfillment of knowing you are in the Lord's will. But in the midst of the joy of service you unexpectedly deny something that calls for a deeper level of commitment. You discover that you have suddenly failed Him. In guilt and grief you question your worth.
“Lord,” you cry, “what should I do?”
“Do you love me?” He asks. The unanticipated question strikes hard. You might be Peter on the shore, leaning over a bed of glowing embers, warming his cold hands, and remembering another coal fire where he had failed Jesus.
“Yes, Lord,” you manage to respond. “You know I love you.”
He repeats the question two more times, and each time you answer, you are abruptly aware of your failure. The Lord gently lifts your trembling chin to peer into eyes that also once burned into Peter’s. It is at this moment your failure is gone, and you, lost in His gaze, know you are forgiven. “If you love me,” He says, “then feed my sheep.”
His words are a statement to the fact that you have been called. Lovingly the Lord has brought you to your place of denial—your place of failure, and then called for your sacrificial best so that you might understand that your worth is not defined by your failure but is found in the humility of your heart. What is the actual price of your sacrificial best? Being sold out to the Master means that no price is too high to feed His sheep. You rise from the misplaced altar of your coal fire, and you choose to make Him your altar. He is your focus now, and not your failure.
Never allow failure to hinder you, but to humble you. Continue to share Christ’s message, His heart, and His love. Learn from your failure, and move on. Remember that “feeding the sheep” is not about you. It is about loving Him. Leave the failure of your denial, just as Peter did, and rise once more to His calling.
Friday, August 12, 2016
"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV).
Paul writes that we are to make Christ’s joy complete. What does the Holy Spirit reveal to me about these two verses this morning? Being complete is being fulfilled. Jesus wants to experience fulfillment in each of us. He wants to joy in us, and in our lives. How can I give Him fulfillment? How can I give Him joy? In these verses in Philippians I find an answer. If I have been encouraged by the Lord—if I have been comforted by His love—if I have shared with my brothers or sisters in His spirit—if I have had any tenderness and compassion, then I bring Him “complete” joy by having the same love and being unified in spirit and mind. Being unified in spirit and mind is not having the same opinion about everything. It is Christ's love that binds us. In spiritual unity we agree that God's Word is our standard and our purpose. We also agree that even in our differing personal opinions we find common ground in Him.
Unity is absolutely necessary for good spiritual health in the body of Christ. However, it is so hard to find, and then it can be so hard to keep. We are all so different. We come from different backgrounds. We are different ages. We have different likes and interests, ideas, and preferences. But it absolutely possible to be united without everyone being unanimous in a vote or in a decision. Being like-minded doesn't mean having the same opinion, but it does mean having the same attitude. We work together to accomplish His purpose. Having the same love and being one in spirit and purpose brings unity. Even if we aren't always one in our opinions, being one in Christ means we seek His will instead of our own. It means that we lay down any agenda, and seek to come together in His purpose.
I have a friend who creates mosaics. She uses different materials to create a work of art–colored glass, stones, broken ceramic and other things. The materials she uses are of all different sizes, colors, shapes, and of substances. From all these unique materials with different consistencies she creates a beautiful masterpiece. Just as she creates a beautiful unified work of art, Jesus Christ can take our unique differences and create something beautiful. Our unity can only come from being unified with Christ. As long as we regard Him as our anchor—as long as He is our purpose—as long as we realize that our treatment of each other is the way that we treat Christ—as long as we put Him and His love first before any of our own ideas or opinions, then we can discover this unity of spirit that brings us together in love. If we have the same unselfish attitude of Jesus (Philippians 2:5)—one that gave His life for us—then we can make His joy in us complete.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
“You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4, NIV).
Trials serve a purpose. They actually serve a greater design. Trials teach an important character trait‒perseverance. You can have commitment in your life, but commitment means nothing without the ability to stand strong no matter what comes against you. Perseverance does a work in your life. Persevering during trial shapes and molds you until you become more like Christ. You must not fight against the trial. You cannot change it anyway. Let it build this character trait in your life. When perseverance has finished its work, hopefully you will be spiritually mature, and able to stand against whatever life throws at you.
When have you grown the most? Certainly not during times that are easy and demand nothing of you. You grow when your faith is tested during times of hardship. These times of hardship are times that discipline you and produce a peace that only comes as a result of perseverance. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV).
Joseph was one who was trained by trial and hardship. Sold into slavery by his brothers, he faced desertion by his family and loss of freedom to live his own life. When his master's devious wife attempted to seduce him, his faith was tested and ultimately strengthened when he refused her advances, and endured her lies. Persevering in prison, his faith still grew stronger. God was with him shaping and molding his character. Joseph was ultimately rescued from his life of slavery and prison, and given the position of second in command in Egypt. When handed the opportunity to take action against his brothers for selling him into slavery, he had no revenge in his heart. He had learned God's lesson of forgiveness and greater purpose through all he had endured. “You intended to harm me,” he told his brothers, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, NIV). Joseph saw a greater purpose in his trial, and realized that God had placed him in his position to provide sustenance for his own people at this time in their history.
Do you persevere and allow the trials of life to mold your character? Molding of your character produces hope. “We also rejoice in our sufferings,” Paul wrote, “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4, NIV). “The more you go on in this way,” Peter wrote, “the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8. TLB). Allow the trials of life to shape and teach you the ability to persevere and build your character. You will grow spiritually and mature, and not lack in your ability to stand whatever comes your way.
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a, NIV).
There is no perfect earthly love. Earthly love changes with circumstance and changes with feeling. But there is a perfect spiritual love which conquers fear, and lives in faith that God will take care of anything that comes against it. This perfect love carries me safely through all of life's struggles and heartaches. It never deserts me, and it never changes. When this spiritual love perfects my life, I receive greater faith to believe in the impossible. What is this perfect love? It is the love of God who gave His son, Jesus Christ, for me. If that is beyond my human capacity to understand, it is meant to be. I can't understand such a perfect love with my mind. It is useless to try to analyze it. My mind can't fathom the depth of this sacrificial love, but my soul can receive it.
The only way to receive this perfect love that conquers fear is to allow Christ into my heart. He loved me enough to die for my sin so I might be set free from its control over me. He, who was perfect without any sin, willingly took my sin so it might be crucified forever in my life and I might receive His perfect love. Fear can only be defeated when His perfect love lives in me. When I let go of what is imperfect in me, I receive His love which washes away all that I have been so I may receive all that He is. With His perfect love in my life continually changing me, His love becomes stronger in me and perfects me. Only His perfected love in my life can drive out fear, and give me faith to believe. If I remain rooted in His love and growing in His grace, perseverance will finish its work so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything (James 1:4). I will be strong enough to choose faith over fear.
If I am dealing with great fear, then His love has not been perfected in me. My mind has been focused on my struggles, and my feelings have pulled me away from His promised fullness of life. The Lord will keep me in His perfect peace only when my mind remains on Him instead of any circumstance (Isaiah 26:3). I cannot grow stronger on what I “feel”. I can only become stronger on what “I know”. Today I rejoice in the promise that His perfect love drives out all fear. It truly does drive it out as His love is continually perfected in me. That is my promise and that is my journey―to be perfected by the Lord who gave His life for me.
Monday, August 8, 2016
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, NIV). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV).
My Savior is perfect for me. He will never forsake me. He is constant and unchanging. He upholds me with His unfailing love, and never-ending strength. His understanding and wisdom provides the best for me. His strength will carry me through the deepest waters safely to sure harbor. If He gives perfect love, then I can believe without question that His love will take care of me. If He gives perfect strength, then, in whatever trial I face, I can be confident that His strength will empower me. If He has perfect understanding, then I know I will always be understood. If He is perfectly patient, then He never tires as I struggle to learn His lesson.
Not only is He perfect for me. He wants to “perfect” me for His purpose. Peter shared this “perfecting” in my life in this way. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, NIV). This is a great promise! If I allow Him to mold me, crush me, raise me, turn me inside out, teach me, guide me, chastise me, encourage me–if I allow Him to add these qualities found in 2 Peter 1, then I become more like Him. Spiritual growth produces greater faith to believe in the precious promises in His Word. I mature under His guidance. I am able to believe that He is my unchanging anchor, and my constant companion on life's journey. I discover that if I allow Him to grow me, I will not be ineffective or unproductive in living my life for Him.
Living for Him means that I allow Him to change my life so that I am perfected for His purpose. “Dear brothers and sisters,” Paul wrote, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT). Not only do I change the way I live, but I change the way I think, act, and respond. I choose to add to my faith the virtues that He wishes to impart. I grow in my knowledge of His Word and apply it to my life. I discover self-control, and the ability to perseverance through hardship. I learn the qualities that make me want to be more like Him. Ultimately I love others with His love that changes my life.
Being perfected for His purpose does not mean that I am ever perfect. Paul understood this. He wrote, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12, NLT). Pressing on helps me understand God's pleasing and perfect will for my life, and spiritual growth brings the ability to be effective in my life here on earth. Paul knew that his life would have to be focused on the end in order to diligently hold on. “Dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (perfection), but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT). Being perfected is about pressing on toward the goal, and allowing Him to daily mold me for His purpose. Whatever lies ahead one day I will know it has been absolutely worth the journey.
Friday, August 5, 2016
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NLT).
“More is better” is the cry of this fast-paced world. Everywhere we turn we are told that we need something else to complete our lives. But what we desire and ultimately possess, does not complete anything. It creates a lust for more. We feel stressed, exhausted, and always lacking. The hurried pace to have more overwhelms us, and we are lost in its control. Christ teaches us that we can be free from this horrendous struggle. It will not be our master, because we are under grace (Romans 6:14). We can learn how to live simply in Him.
The simplicity that Christ offers frees us from the rat race of life and brings peace to our harried existence. This grace teaches that we are more important than what we own. Possessions are not meant to possess us. They are meant to enrich our lives. When we learn to live simply, we discover that people are more important than what they have. The complexity of life becomes one of greater simplicity.
“This is not possible,” you say. “How can I live a simple life in this world that demands me to achieve—to be better—to have more—to climb to the top?” It is not possible when your heart has not reached a place of surrender. It is not possible when you are the one in control of the desires of your heart and not Him. It is not possible when your flesh is more powerful than His Spirit. But it is possible when your heart lets go of its own desires and seeks His will. Because His will is simple. His message is simple. His heart is simple. Love as He has loved you. Not things, but others.
Simplicity is a discipline of mind that comes from a heart that has been broken from its own selfishness, and has been given the grace to live selflessly. It is a grace bestowed by God. We cannot will ourselves to live selflessly and simply. It is a gift He bestows that must be consciously surrendered in His service again and again. Simplicity in Him frees us from what encumbers. It liberates us from the bondage of things. It focuses our mind and heart on what is important. His love. His forgiveness. His purpose. His heart. It frees us to give ourselves away because He has become more because we have become less. We can find His simplicity that liberates. We can discover a haven that inspires. We can have peace when faced with an overwhelming world. We can be content in the midst of unrest. It begins in our heart, and frees us from the tyranny of emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental havoc. Whoever He sets free is free indeed.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free:” (Psalm 188:5, NLT).
Distress. It is a place of despair—a place where you feel deserted and alone—a place where your mind runs havoc with worry. Are you distressed at this very moment? Is life overwhelming, and is fear choking your faith? Your distress, instead of a place of imprisonment, can become a place of freedom. The Lord waits for you to come to Him. He waits for your need to come to His altar. When you turn to the Lord in prayer, He answers with the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. When you surrender all at His altar, you too are raised into the freedom of new life.
“Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God,” the writer to the Hebrews imparts. “There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT). He waits at His throne of grace with a love that looks beyond your failures and sin, and recognizes your need. He waits with a grace so forgiving and so complete that nothing can impede it powers to change your life. When you come in distress and torment your soul cries out for His mercy and for His help. Your soul thirsts for His grace when your heart is strained to the breaking point. His mercy forgives, and His grace lifts you up when you have fallen down. You come to His altar—to the all-powerful, infinite, and sovereign God who can move mountains and change circumstances and lives.
There—at His altar—He waits for you to come to Him, this omnipotent God, who yearns to love you intimately and wants to call you His child. There, on your knees in complete surrender, you receive His mercy and His forgiveness—there you find freedom from sin that that has claimed your heart. There you discover freedom from despair and worry. He lifts your head to meet His gaze, and you are lost in the love of His sacrifice. You receive His grace to meet any need. You are free in His forgiveness and love. You know He has not only redeemed your soul, but redeemed all that has burdened your heart and tormented your mind. You rise in His grace and freedom. You rise in victory and joy. You rise in peace and purpose. You rise free from sin and free from self. You rise in His new life—set free by the Savior who by His sacrifice opened this throne of grace to you. You rise in new life because you have knelt before Him, and allowed Him to own you heart.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
“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 to the depth of the Holy Spirit within a man, and bids that man come. When the Holy Spirit is the one who calls, then it is the man surrendered to the Holy Spirit, who accepts. Do you realize that you are called? Has God taken possession of you? Jesus calls each Christian to leave self behind, take up His cross, and follow Him (Luke 14:27). These requirements don’t attract a large number of followers, but for those who do follow, the result of such a decision is guaranteed. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).
In Luke 14:25-33 Luke shares a story about Jesus and His disciples on a trip to Jerusalem. Just on the sidelines wanting to share in the miraculous without making a commitment are those unwilling to surrender and obediently say “yes” to Jesus. Three times in Luke 14:25-33 Jesus addresses their motives. He reveals who cannot be His disciple—those who love family and their own desires more than Him, those who do not carry their cross and follow Him, and those who do not give up everything for His sake. Without submitting all their desires and completely surrendering to His call, Jesus knew they would miss discovering their potential and all that God had created them to be. Jesus asks for your complete surrender, too. When you refuse to surrender all that Jesus’ asks you to let go for Him, you also miss out on the reason God created you. But when you lose your life for His sake, you discover the purpose for which He created you. Just as He called those on the side of the road wanting to experience the glory without making a commitment, He also calls you to be a disciple.
A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who believes that loyalty and love for Him is greater than any other relationship. He believes that carrying his own cross requires a commitment to sacrificially and obediently follow Christ—to believe the truth of the Gospel and daily deny self. To give up everything doesn’t mean rejecting everything in your life. It just means that you are willing to let go what is needed. A disciple determines, as do the builder and king in Luke 14, exactly how much it will cost him to complete the work, and whether or not he is willing to pay that price. Jesus wants you to count the cost to follow Him, and be sure you are willing to pay it. Are you willing to place your life completely under the guidance of the Master? When you say yes to this call, your love for Jesus Christ outweighs all else in your life. It is greater than your closest earthly relationship, and you are willing to give whatever it takes so others may know Him.
As a small child my five year old son followed behind me in heavy snowdrifts—each small foot stepping into the footprint that I had just made. Jesus Christ calls through the snowdrifts of your life, and offers a way to follow Him. Will you place your feet into His footprints? To walk as He walked and not be eternally lost in the confusion of shifting desires and earthly loyalties? Jesus Christ has shown the way through the blizzard, but you must decide about the cost.
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