Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Consumed With Hope

Read: Job 11:13-19 (Hope-filled Verse)


“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” - Romans 5:5 (NKJV)

Life rarely transpires as simply as we hope it will. Nothing is ever easy. Something usually goes wrong that rearranges our plans and causes stress, confusion and sometimes even depression. I know what it feels like to wallow in a hopeless cesspool of gloom. Only the mercy of God gave me the hope I needed to climb out of the dark pit of self-pity, which I dug for myself.

In Romans, Paul reminds me that if I have the courage not to give up, and if I hope in the Lord, then God will strengthen my heart. Daily, God prompts me to learn from my past mistakes and to meet each pure, fresh day with renewed enthusiasm. I find success if I obey His Spirit, even though it may greatly differ from what I had planned and regardless of what forces try to hinder me.

God did not promise us tomorrow, but He inspires us with His hope for today. Hope sheds light on our path, cheers us on our way, and grows brighter even if our circumstances darken. We also aid others along life’s way by empathizing with their discouragement; by sharing Bible verses with them, which lightened our heart; and by encouraging their hopes and dreams.

Prayer:
Lord, keep Your eye on those of us who hope in Your mercy. Remind us that our ultimate hope rests in living for eternity with You.

Thought for the Day:
Life in Christ is secure, because He is our hope.




Monday, January 30, 2012

Inadequacies and Failures

Read: 2 Peter 1:5-8

“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - 2 Peter 1:8

When it was time to make Saul the King of Israel, the prophet had to consult God in order to find him. Saul hid among the baggage because He was riddled with fears due to his insecurities. These inadequacies also caused him to rule ineffectively as the King. Rather than to trust that God had a purpose for him during his reign, he focused on what he considered his lack of abilities and forgot that God ordained him for this position. He ended up consumed with himself, possessed by evil spirits and crippled with depression.

As a young Christian, I did this too. I remembered negative comments made by significant others in my past, and I fell prey to their destructive influence. I allowed my inadequacies and failures to add to my fear and mistrust, and to influence these derisory feelings flooding my soul. Sometimes, because of these negative experiences and beliefs, I even declined the opportunities God gave me to allow Christ to make a difference in someone’s life through me.

Once I started stepping out of my comfort zone and gaining a bit of confidence, my motives in ministry still reflected my need to earn God’s love. I tried to prove to Him that I was worthy of His calling. I relied on my own talents and knowledge to accomplish God’s will in my life. I failed every time too, or I end up only partially accomplishing what God called me to do. In fact, the negative baggage in my life often hindered me from fully seeing the incredible power of Christ in me working through me.

Over the years of walking in His presence, God cleansed me from the effects of this unconstructive criticism and these past failures. Now, when I make the effort to rely on the unlimited power of Christ in me (Galatians 2:20), my success rate increases dramatically. Instead of depending on myself, I can step aside as the Spirit within me directs my words and deeds. I trust Him to work all things out for my good and the good of those to whom I minister. Empowered by His Spirit, I can do all things, because He lives in me (Philippians 4:13).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I thank You for forgiving me when I allowed fear to hinder me from obeying Your will for my life. Thank You for giving me small successes to build up my confidence in Your ability to work through me. Help me to be instant in season and out of season, because the darkness is closing in toward a time when people will no longer endure hearing sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

Thought for the Day:
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. - 2 Peter 1:3




Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Dream or A Dreamer

Read: Proverbs 13:11-16

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy. Proverbs 13:12

I watched a movie where a young man pursued a young lady, but she rejected him. She gave as her reason, "You have no dream. You are just a dreamer."

That says a mouthful to me. She realized that he had no direction in his life. He got easily distracted and wasted time and money pursuing unrealistic goals. He was not serious, and she understood that he was not worthy of her interest.

Dreamers spend more time dreaming dreams than accomplishing a dream. They have no focus or ambition. They just flit from one thing to another with no lasting impact. They are lazy and never succeed (Proverbs 12:24b). They resent authority, they despise wise council and discipline (Proverbs 1:7), and they want to do everything their own way (Isaiah 53:6). They have many dreams and many words, but their life is empty (Ecclesiastes 5:7).

Of course at the end of the movie, he recognized this as a blind spot in his life; so he followed her advice. He developed a single focal point; and with concentrated purpose, he made both of their dreams come true.

Reaching a dream takes work and focus. If we have no vision, no dream and no guidance from God, we end up spinning our wheels, using up a great deal of resources and never accomplishing anything of value (Proverbs 29:18). We have nothing to show for our life’s work and no legacy to leave behind for others to build upon. When we pursue more than one dream at a time, we split our focus and accomplish nothing (Ecclesiastes 7:18).

The first part of Proverbs 12:24 admonishes us to, “Work hard and become a leader.” People, who fear the Lord, spend the first part of every day seeking His will; and the rest of the day following the Spirit’s direction to accomplish it. They avoid all distraction and extremes. They live in moderation in all things. They have principles and bearing, and are willing to do the hard work to reach His goals for their life. They hold on to the dream He gives them, until they achieve it.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I know that everything You do will endure forever. You prove Yourself, so that men will revere You (Ecclesiastes 3:14). Teach us to follow Your example. You did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit (Philippians 2:3). You did only what You saw Your Father doing (John 5:19). Train us to do the Father’s will also.

Thought for the Day:
To accomplish God’s will, we must not only dream, but also act; not only believe, but also obey.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trials Are Blessings in Disguise

Read: Luke 22: 31-32

"Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." - Philippians 1:14

So often we view negative issues in our life as obstacles, when they are actually designed by God as blessings in disguise. When people come to Christ they believe that life will now turn into a sweet scented rose garden. Well, it does…but they are forgetting about the thorns! Jesus warned us that as long as we live in this world, we will experience troubles and dangers (John 16:33). However, He did not leave us alone or hopelessly lost in depression. He also stated, "But be of good cheer! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). He won the war, so that we can enjoy the victory.

Just look at some of the Biblical characters as examples. Every one of them had trials and tribulation. Job wins the prize for the most persecuted man in history. However, many people overlook the fact that in the last half of Job’s life, God blessed him with increased wealth, family and goods that exceeded what he lost during his trials.

Paul was beaten, jailed, hunted, stoned, shipwrecked and lost at sea (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). Paul endured his troubles by changing his focus from his miserable conditions to God’s promises (Romans 8:18). He was so blessed by doing this that he actually sang in jail! Paul’s life shows us that God uses our attitude during our trials as examples and an encouragement to others who suffer in this life (Philippians 1:14).

Jesus told Peter this same thing, when Satan wanted to sift him like wheat (Luke 22: 31-32). You probably know people whose lives are a testimony to the power of God in spite of their circumstances. Their faith in and love for God barely waiver in the face of debilitating difficulties.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery to get rid of him; but God used their malevolent behavior to bring Him glory, to bless Joseph’s family and for Joseph’s good. The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did all throughout his life (Genesis 39).

Some people mistakenly believe that God promises never to give us more trials than we can bear. They quote 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 when they say this. But if you actually look at the words in these verses, the word is temptations, not trials. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.

God does promise, however, never to give us more trials than HE can bear (John 16:33). So, do not be discouraged when you encounter difficulties. Life is full of them. We are either in a trial, just finished with one or are about to go into one. When we pray, God removes some of our trials like mountains crumbling into the sea. However, God uses other complications to test our faith, to strengthen us for future trials or to prove that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for using our trials to make us stronger, to increase our faith and to draw us closer to You. Shine Your light through our life. This way people will glorify You, when they see us trust in You with a positive attitude and Godly behavior in spite of our unbearable circumstances (Matthew 5:16).

Thought for the Day:
View your trials as opportunities to bring glory to God.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Word Fitly Spoken

Read: Ephesians 4:21-32

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” - Ephesians 4: 15

At the risk of sounding like a schizophrenic, if you ever held a conversation with your “self,” you know that as humans, we possess more than one identity within our soul. Many doctors, knowledgeable about the mind, call these inner ego states: the Inner Parent, Inner Adult and Inner Child. I agree with them, and with the Psalmist when he refers to his soul as a weaned child (Psalm 131:2).

At conversion, I persuaded my “Inner Child” to no longer use profanity to express my feelings. God taught me to articulate them with rational words rather than to curse at the person hurting my feelings. However, even after I eliminated profanity from my vocabulary, I still exploded in anger when someone’s words or behavior caused a fearful or insecure reaction in my soul. I used excessive anger to protect my “Inner Child” from perceived injustices. My anger struck hot and quickly like a volcano, and I left just as many deep scars behind in my wake.

In times like these, God recommends that we are quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19). Anger is actually a God-given emotion to use to protect us from injury, not to inflict injury. He allows us to feel the anger as a "red" flag, so that we know that something is wrong. Then, He cautions us to be slow to express it, and to guard against crossing over into sinful behavior with this possibly volatile emotion (Ephesians 4:26).

Anger allows other people to understand that what they just did or said is not acceptable to us. People will behave toward us in the way in which we teach them to treat us. If we allow others to abuse us either verbally or mentally or physically, we are inviting more of that same behavior in the future. Over the last two decades, I developed a habit of using premeditated wording to express my feelings, rather than to use hasty words to verbally attack the offending party.

I am learning to stand up for myself without hiding behind fierce anger and coarse words (Ephesians 5:4). Now I can say, “I feel afraid when you …;” or “I feel like you spend more time with …. than with me, and I need more of your attention;” or “Thank you for your opinion, but I do not agree with you;” or “I will not allow you to do that (or say that) to/about me anymore;” or “I think that you misunderstood the meaning behind my words/actions. Let me further explain to you how I feel (or why I took that action).”

In the face of confrontation, we still make it known in no uncertain terms that the offensive behavior is no longer acceptable to us; however, we respond with a confident, businesslike and resolute attitude. Even in the face of a verbal onslaught, we can state our feelings more clearly with firm, calm words than we can with angry, irrational ones. My husband and I use a notebook to write out our feelings to one another. This way we do not speak off the top of our head and potentially hurt one another more deeply.

God encourages us to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). We cannot ever control another person’s actions or responses towards us, but we can put distance between an abusive person and us. We do not need to overreact and divorce the person, but we can separate and work on reconciliation between us through counseling and calm discussions.

Even with all of our precautions, some people still may not accept what we say, and they may never change their behavior towards us. It is better to steer a wide path around such people who tend to abuse us, rather than to constantly put our self in harm’s way. When we take a step back and look at their actions from a spiritual frame of mind, we can pray for them and also about our response to them, by speaking firmly but kindly in the face of any imposition or attack against us.

I also take my hurt feelings to the Lord. He helps me to forgive the offender and to bless them (Proverbs 25:22), whether they respond positively or not. How they feel about me or what they think of me has no bearing on who I am or on my relationship with my Lord and Savior. In reality, His opinion of me is the only one that really matters.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me to put away slander, malice, coarse words and explosive anger. Remind me to use positive words to communicate how I feel and how I want to be treated. Let me kindly tell the truth in love, even when it hurts.

Thought for the Day ~  “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loving Mercy

Read: Deuteronomy 5: 7-10

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 NKJV

None of us are, nor will we ever be, worthy of God’s love; and that’s the Good News! We can do nothing to earn His love and nothing to lose it. It’s a free gift! Tender mercy is the aspect of God's love that causes Him to help us when we break His law or are drowning in our circumstances. Mercy triumphs over the deserved retribution for our behavior, which condemns us to hell.

God’s great mercy saved us and allows us to approach His throne boldly to find grace in our time of need. We have every reason to trust in God’s mercy, which surrounds us and follows us all the days of our lives. He makes our paths full of mercy, so that we can rejoice and sing praises to His name. God’s abundant mercy is just a call away and comes in spite of the fact that we do not deserve it and never, EVER will!

Prayer ~ Lord, if my foot slips, Your mercy will hold me up. Multiply to us Your mercy, peace, and love.

Thought for the Day ~ God takes pleasure in those who hope in His mercy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seasons of Life

Read: Ps 27:4-5

“…There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” - Prov 18:24

Jesus Christ revealed Himself to me during a meeting of the Baptist Student Union on the campus of our local college when I was 18 years old. I loved to spend time with Him in prayer, studying His Word and attending Bible studies and worship services. Each week, I filled my days with more and more of Him. Then, I got married and three weeks later conceived my first son, Michael. After nine months of morning sickness, and nine more months of sleepless nights, I conceived my second child, my daughter Julia. Eighteen months later, I repeated the process for my third child and second son, Daniel.

I love being a mommy. I enjoyed playing with my children. I filled each day with teaching them their alphabet, shapes and colors, as well as to recognize the world all around them. They were a blank slate, ready for me to introduce them to life. I wrote songs for them and taught them praise songs, as I serenaded them with my guitar. Each day was filled with new adventures and new learning experiences. However, as they each went off to school, one right after the other, I am the one who cried. I felt at lose ends. I had no purpose or direction for my time. So, I cried out to God for guidance.

I felt led to take a notebook and to sit quietly in the middle of our king-sized bed. I started writing whatever came to my mind…grocery lists, to do lists, reminder lists, lists of people I needed to forgive, and lists of those of whom I needed to ask forgiveness. The various lists went on and on without end. Hour after hour, I sat with no radio, no books, no Bible, no phone, no food, no guitar, and no finger nail polish!!!  I just sat and wrote, emptying everything in my mind out on the pages of my journal. I did this for days on end, until I finally realized that there was nothing left, except me and God.

Through this experience, God showed me that when we allow the pressures and distractions of life to monopolize our attention, we run at full speed all day and then fall into an exhausted sleep each night, without ever spending quality time with our Father. Then, the next day our mind refills with clutter and complications and we get pulled in too many directions at once. We lack depth in our thoughts and actions. God’s voice cannot compete with our preoccupations nor can it penetrate our awareness, because the clutter is too overpowering and we are not listening for His voice. Only as we deliberately enter the recesses within our soul and conquer our cluttered thoughts, can we ever hope to obtain a deeper intimacy with Him (Ephesians 3:16-19). 

Over the years, as I aged and my children started having children, my leisure time increased. I no longer scurry around behind the patter of little feet, but I spend more time sitting at Jesus’ feet. I have more time to stay in tune to His replies, since I no longer race around in tune to children’s cries. I still serve as a pastor’s wife with all the responsibilities accompanying that title, but I reserve my personal time for Him alone. My hearing of His directives improves as I sit quietly and praise Him as the great “I am.” Then I follow His will as I pray for specific people, care for my husband and home, visit someone in need, or mentor another lost soul.

A fulfilled Christian life comes only under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Achieving this status takes time, effort and commitment. He truly is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, a refuge in the storm, and our comforter and guide. I would not exchange one day of my lifetime of moments with our Savior and Lord. He never leaves me and never forsakes me. He is all I need, want or seek after.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, never let us fail to hear Your voice as we wait on You. Obtain our undivided attention. Help us to simplify our life by getting rid of the inner clutter first, and then by ridding our home and office of everything that is unnecessary. Help us to abide in the Vine, and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us moment-by-moment throughout the day and night. 

Thought For The Day:
Only thoughts and actions, which are totally Spirit-led, will bear any fruit for the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Judge or Not To Judge

Read: Job 34:5-11

"Brothers, if someone is overtaken by a fault, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (Gal 6:1).

A person reprimanded me the other day for daring to say that I thought it was good to point out our blind spots to one another. He inferred that pointing out blind spots requires a judgment, and that we should leave that to the Lord. He implied that it is God’s duty to point out blind spots, because that was the most effective way to bring about change in someone’s life.

If this was true, then we would have no doctors or counselors in this world, and no teachers or overseers in the Body of Christ (Hebrews 13:17). There would be no older women teaching the younger (Titus 2:4). There would be no teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16). We would leave all the healing and instructing for God to do.

Many people quote the verse, “Judge not, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1).” If they would continue reading, they would find, For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

These verses actually encourage us to correct one another. They tell us to “remove the speck from our brother's eye.” If you ever had a speck in your eye, you know how good it feels and how grateful you are when someone removes it for you. But first, these verses caution us to clean up our own act, before we start giving advice to other people. They also warn us that we will be judged by the same standards by which we judge others. This reminds me of what President Harry S. Truman gave as a warning, “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen!” In this case, if you can't take advice, don’t give it; if you can’t handle correction, don’t provide it.
‎In Job 34:4 Elihu said, "Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good." I love to learn together what is true and right and pleasing to the Lord. I feel so blessed when someone “mothers” me, even when they “smother” me with words of instruction and correction. I usually respond with a sarcastic, “Yes, Mother!” Then, I always encourage them to keep it up, because I know they only speak to me like this because they genuinely care about me.

In Galations 6:1, Paul encourages us to point out our blind spots to one another, "Brothers, if someone is overtaken by a fault, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." That word “gently” is very important. Rather than beating people over the head with the Bible, we can ask them what their motivation is for their behavior, then instruct them using scriptural advice.

Sometimes, people misinterpret our words or actions and they falsely assume we have a faulty motivation for it. I do not mind someone pointing out my faults, but I despise being falsely accused. I already do so many things wrong that to be accused of what I did not do, only discourages me beyond hope! In Job 34:5-11, Job says the same thing. He points out that he is innocent, but he gets no justice. He tells the truth, but he is considered a liar. He informs us that the feeling of contempt for him among his family, friends and neighbors is as plentiful as water. Did you ever feel this way? Eternity will tell the whole truth about our life, unvarnished by what anyone else thinks about us.

In John 8:15-16, Jesus said that human beings judge by human standards. He made it clear that He passes judgment on no one; but if He does judge, His decisions are right, because He stands with the Father who sent Him. That is why it is so important for us to judge with righteous judgment, once our heart is pure and as tender as softened butter. God calls us to discern according to Biblical principles rather than to pass judgment according to our own prejudices or opinions.

Jesus says, “Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” He gives us an example here of how we should correct each other, by helping our brothers and sisters to stand in righteousness. Judging with derision and contempt, correcting with condescension and pride, or rejecting someone due to their choices in life is certainly wrong. On the other hand, discerning a fault and correcting, admonishing and encouraging one another is a noble effort. Timothy is another Biblical author that encourages us to correct one another. He simply advises us to use great patience and careful instruction with love when we do so (2 Timothy 4: 2).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Job concludes his speech in Job 34:5-11 by saying that You are our judge. You repay a man for what he has done and You bring upon us what our conduct deserves (Lamentations 3:39). We do not need to be concerned about another person’s opinion of us. You have mercy on whom You will have mercy, and compassion on whom You will have compassion (Exodus 33:19). I am so glad that we can rely on your grace, and that Your love covers a multitude of our sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Thought for the Day:
“Those who mind, don't matter; and those who matter, don't mind.” - Dr. Seuss

Monday, January 23, 2012

Healing Us Completely

Read: Matthew 11: 28-30

“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a well watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”  - Isaiah 58:11

The apostle Paul wrote a prayer for the church in Thessalonica asking for the God of Peace to sanctify them entirely and to preserve their SPIRIT, SOUL and BODY completely and without blame (1Thessalonians 5:13). The power of redemption is provided to not only sanctify our spirit, but also our soul and our body.

In the Hebrew Bible the term “soul” is nephesh. It is used 756 times. This word can refer to “life” (Genesis 1:30), or simply to the “person” (Deuteronomy 10:22). The soul is identified as the mind, will and emotions of man. It is the center of our feelings, desires and affections, which influence all of our choices and our actions.

Health specialists assert that those who have mental and emotional problems fill more hospitals beds than all the physical and surgical ailments combined. Psychosomatic illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are cause by emotional wounds that pierce our soul. It happens when we cannot face the reality of our life here on earth, such as after traumatic events. PTSD occurs not only in the lives of soldiers, but also in anyone who suffers abuse of any kind. This trauma affects the connectors in our brain, as well as the very cells of our body. It also causes damage that goes deep into our soul.

Job experienced this trauma throughout the trials with which Satan plagued him. He felt like he teetered on the edge of a deep dark abyss. He prayed for his soul to be brought back from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life (Job 33:30). The Lord wants to heal us in every facet of our spirit, body and soul; so that our fellowship with Him will remain unhindered by the corruption of our carnal nature (Hosea 14:4). The Lord yearns for the restoration of our soul, in order to return it to the place of harmonious communion with Him, which was lost when Adam and Eve sinned (Jeremiah 32:37).

A generous, daily application of God’s Word to our lives does wonders for “restoring” our soul’s stability, as it also strengthens our spirit at the same time (Psalm 23:3). The inner healing we receive from an intimate relationship with God also eliminates the need for illegal pills, tobacco, alcohol, pornography, compulsive behavior, excessive financial spending, sex outside of marriage and all of the sins that kill both our body and our soul.

Jesus promised rest to all those that would come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). The first step to receiving this eternal rest is through salvation, which embarks us on a life long journey with the God of the Universe as our best friend. Our spirit, which was dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), is Born Again. The second step comes when He restores our soul as we read His Holy Word. In modern society, we are so blessed that God gave us not only the Old Testament, but also the entire Bible to enjoy (Psalm 19:7). The third step comes when the peace and joy of God floods our soul through our daily communion with Him in prayer, which heals us of these wounds from the past. The final step comes as we walk in His ways and obey His precepts.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Psalm 23 describes us at the end of our human life. The shepherd author praises You as our great Shepherd, who restores our soul (Psalm 23:3). Not only do you award us with complete healing as we enter through the door of death into Heaven, but You also heal us through every dark valley we ever experience during our lifetime on this troubled earth. We stand in awe of You, and we sing Your praises now and throughout eternity.

Thought for the Day:
Make an appointment with our Great Physician, resolve to take His prescribed therapy, and watch your body, soul and spirit prosper (3 John 1:2).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Living Lives of Grace

Read: Romans 5:17-21

“I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” – Exodus 31:13b (NKJV)

Adam brought condemnation on all of mankind when he disobeyed God’s only commandment for him. Consequently, this sin nature is passed down to every baby born throughout the centuries of time. God relinquished His only Son, Jesus, to give His life for the forgiveness of all sin and to restore our fellowship with Him.

Sin, of any kind, results in death (Romans 6:23). Even the smallest white lie bears negative consequences in our life. Though we do not deserve this love, Christ’s sacrifice demonstrates to the world the true definition of God's grace (Romans 5:8). This grace comes to us with conviction for repentance and reigns through righteousness to produce eternal life in us.

The concept of grace is hard to communicate to people through words. Therefore, we can show them by our loving actions toward them that God does not condemn the world, but desires that all men might be saved (John 3:17). Grace grants us an intimate relationship with Christ that begins at salvation, continues through a lifetime of sanctification and ends in our glorification when we see Jesus Christ face-to-face (1John 3:2). Though we often hurtle headlong into sin because of our freedom to choose, amazing grace convicts us to repent and to surrender to God’s will. Living lives of grace toward our self and others makes a huge difference in our world.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, be with us through every step of our journey in life. Keep us on Your path for us and help us to convey your grace to others by living as an example of your unconditional love.

Thought for the Day:
God's love covers our all of our sins and His grace gives us strength to do better the next time.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fertile Soil

Read: Mark 4: 14-20

In the parable in Mark 4:14-20 the farmer sows the seed of the Word of God. The seeds fall on four types of soil: upon the path, among the thorns, within the rocks and then on the good soil. The main emphasis of this parable is that the seed needs a place to send down its roots. If the ground is hard, thorny or rocky, there is no room for the roots. Only in the garden of prepared soil can the plant take hold and grow to full maturity.

Unless people avail themselves of the spiritual food provided in every Bible teaching, evangelical church they will wither up and die like the first three seeds in this parable. This is why these churches also offer Wednesday and Sunday night Bible studies, as well as extra classes for men, women, children and youth on Sunday mornings and during the week. The only way to withstand the winds of adversity or the scorching trials and temptations we encounter in this life is to have our roots sunk deeply into spiritually fertile earth.

Jesus said that we know His disciples by their fruit. If people are to produce fruit, they need good, rich, tilled, fertilized soil. Many churches are barren wastelands with nothing nutritious to offer the Believer. They focus on providing glitz and glitter to attract people, and then they supply only spiritual junk food, rather than wholesome provisions.

Once we receive God’s Word with conviction and repentance, we are ready to receive the proper nourishment. God raises up an army of teachers with every generation - those who faithfully sow the seeds of the truth of God’s Word. Find a Bible teaching, evangelical church, prepare your soil and start blooming.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, cause a hunger to blossom in our soul to search for and to find a disciple-making church. Provide us with teachers who share Your Word after seeking You in prayer. Lead us to a caring and loving fellowship of Believers. Even in these end times, please keep a remnant of these spiritual places where we can go and feast upon Biblical principles and in turn bear much fruit.

Thought for the Day:

A true relationship with the Living and Holy God is not a one-time event or a single prayer. It is a lifetime commitment.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eternally Minded

Read: Luke 18:29-30





"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
 - Hebrews 11:1

 
As I sat on my lanai, drinking a cup of hot cocoa and reveling in the cool breeze blending with the warm sunshine in southern most Florida, I reflected on the fact that I live so far away from my grandchildren who live in Missouri. I despise the fact that I rarely get to see them. Even when I plan a visit, their schedule and mine do not always coincide. I miss them, and they tell me all the time that they miss me.

I know I cannot live in more than one place at one time; so I petitioned God for some way to change my perspective. I did not want to feel this intense anguish over the great gulf of time and space that separates me from my cherished children. I could not do anything to change the situation; so I put it in God’s capable hands.

True to form, God clearly answered me, “Your grandchildren have Godly parents and you will have your grandchildren and their parents with you throughout eternity. I moved you to the southern tip of Florida, because there are people here who will not be in Heaven, if they do not have your and your husband's influence in their lives.”

My initial response was overwhelming joy at this insightful concept. I felt awed and privileged that my Lord and King would use me in such a way. Yet, in spite of the profound nature of God’s reply, I still struggled with submission to His will. This was yet another area of “self” that I needed to lay down on the brazen altar. I did not want to give up quantity time on this earth with my little munchkins. I longed to be involved in their lives on a daily basis. I did not want to be satisfied with an eternal perspective on this issue. I wanted to be with them now, as well as in eternity.

As I observed my response to God’s words, I realize that yet another level of attachment to this world remained entrenched in my soul. This caused the Holy Spirit to drench me with a double dose of conviction. Here lay in me an added area of carnal-mindedness. After over 40 years of walking with God on an intimate basis, I found one more area of my life still way too attached to this earthly realm. Sure, I have no affection for material possessions, worldly success, or recognition of any kind. Now, however, I realized that part of me is still very much bound to this world ~ the grandma part of me.

God is not as interested in our natural family as He is in our spiritual family. Mark 10:29-30, Luke 18: 29-30, and Matthew 19:29 all share this same concept. Luke 21:16,17 even states that some of our natural friends and family may actually deliver us up for persecution and death. Jesus makes it very clear that we will not always get along with, or be physically close to people in our own friend and family circle, due to our relationship and calling in the Lord. Jesus felt this same distance from His own friends and family; and the servant is not greater than her Lord (John 15:20).

The more I thought about it, therefore; the more spiritual excitement filled my soul. In eternity God will free us from all of these natural barriers and conditions that strap us to this earthly sphere. The moment we are absent from this body, we will be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) and we will know and be known (1 Corinthians 13:12) for eternity.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am not happy with this situation. I am struggling with laying down my need to enjoy my own dear grandchildren’s company more often. I rely on You to give me both the desire and the power to live out Your will for me in this earthly realm, regardless of the circumstances in my life (Philippians 2:13).

Thought for the Day:
God’s reality looks nothing like our earthly existence.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Volcanic Anger

Read: Proverbs 15:1-2

"Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” - Eph 4:26-27 NKJV

I get so frustrated when I say something and people don't pay any attention to me. In the past, I felt like I was walking around with a bag over my head. I resorted to anger to get my point across. I acted like a volcano, bursting forth with a huge eruption and then cooling quickly. The only problem with this is that just as a volcano leaves scars on the earth, I also left scars on human hearts.

There is nothing wrong with feeling angry. God gave us anger as a legitimate emotion to protect us. The problem arises when we use anger inappropriately. I struggled for years, blowing up and then feeling sad that I hurt the people that I love. Several years ago, I learned a simple remedy.

Now I make sure to get the person's undivided attention before speaking. I ascertain all the facts before I form an opinion. I try to understand the other person’s viewpoint. Then, I voice my opinion, feelings or needs. I very rarely ever feel angry any more, because people usually take me seriously. I do not always get my way, but I do always agree with the decision that we ultimately choose.

Prayer:
Lord, remind me that You did not speak to Elijah in the wind, the earthquake or in the fire. Help me to have the incorruptible beauty of a tender and soothing spirit, which is a treasure in Your sight.

Thought for the Day:
The still, small voice still receives the most attention.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Playing Catch Up!

Read: Leviticus 23:26-32

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1: 9)

The older I get, the more mistakes I make. I used to multi-task with the best of them, but now I forget the simplest things. I find myself running around after myself, playing catch up rather than follow the leader. As flawed humans, our only hope of salvation comes from our atonement, paid for by Jesus Christ. We live best as we follow His lead.

Thankfully, He no longer requires us to prove our allegiance through dietary restrictions and religious works as He did in the Old Testament. He simply asks us to repent of our sins, to accept Him as our personal Redeemer and Lord, and to allow His Spirit to transform our lives. He nailed our failings to Calvary's cross, and He sets us free to serve Him with all of our hearts. Then He gave us the commission to lead others to Him, and to encourage others to follow us as we follow Him. He even gives us grace to do this on each new day.  

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, lead me by Your Spirit so that I may accomplish Your will for me in leading others to know You more completely.

Thought for the Day:
The bleeding, dying, risen Savior gives hope to all of mankind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Alone in Silence

Read: Matt 14:22-23

Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him;" - Lamentations 3:28

So often we rush through life meeting deadlines and using up every ounce of human effort we possess. We slug caffeine to wake us up, and then some pills to quell the headaches produced by a hectic lifestyle, and yet another pill at night to put us to sleep. We depend on self-effort to deal with whatever life throws at us. We mistakenly think that nothing will ever get done if we do not do it. We forget that God does not leave us abandoned in this world. He does not call us to work for Him, but rather for us to allow Him to work in and through us.

When we sit alone, we are never lonely as long as the Spirit of God resides within our spirit. When we craft deliberate times during our day to be alone - "all-one"- with the Lord, He readily meets us right where we are. We can be united with Him, engulfed by Him and filled through all of our being with Him. We can be one with Him while walking on the sunny beach listening to the lulling cadenced of the swishing surf and the call of gulls floating on the breeze, or while driving in rush hour traffic commuting to and from work, and also as we move through the routine of our daily life. God is always within us, ready to commune with us whenever we give Him the chance. All it takes is for us to silence the cacophony within and without; and then to focus all of our attention on His Spirit in us.

It is evening now, and all of my chores are done. I hear my husband’s contented snoring in the bedroom. Crickets chirp outside of our office window with an occasional frog adding his opinion to the conversation. Once I finish writing this blog, I look forward to nestling into my fluffy recliner, wrapping in my furry afghan and taking time to enjoy concentrated “all-one” time with Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, my soul waits silently for You, because You are the source of all of my joy. My soul finds rest in You alone; my salvation comes from You (Psalm 62:5). Help me to enter that quiet place within my spirit all throughout the day, no matter what responsibilities claim my time, so that I can focus on You and enjoy fellowship with You every moment of my life.

Thought for the Day:
The essential ingredient for growing closer to Christ is silent time alone with Him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our Christian Hope

Read: Romans 5:2-5

“The faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, which is the gospel.” - - Colossians 1: 5

Why is a Christian hopeful? To start with, we hope in our salvation through Jesus Christ. We do not have any physical proof that this occurred, but hope that is seen is no hope at all. No one hopes for what he already has. God gives us this hope when we are saved (Romans 8: 24). It is the seal of the Holy Spirit who lives in our born again spirit from the moment of our conversion.

Our salvation gives us confidence in a better hope of heaven, which draws us ever nearer to the heart of God (Hebrews 7:19). He cares about everything in our life and encourages us to cast all of our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). He is the God of our hope and He fills us with all joy and peace, as we trust in Him. The power of His Spirit in us makes us overflow with hope (Romans 15: 13).

God gave us this promise before time began and prior to the formation of the world (Titus 1:2). It is our hope of eternal life that commences on the day we believe God and continues throughout infinity (Titus 1:2). God raised Christ from the dead and restored Him to His former glory on His throne in heaven. Soon, God will also raise us from the dead, or rapture us from the earth, and bring us into His glorious presence (1 Peter 1:21) for eternity.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross to insure that we can enjoy eternal life both now and throughout eternity. We hope in Your salvation and look forward to living with You in the new heaven and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13).

Thought for the Day:
Faith and love spring from the hope that is stored up for us in heaven.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let God Be God

Read: Hebrews 11: 1-40
 
Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in Thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto Thee.” Ps 143:8 KJV

People curry God’s favor for many reasons and in many different ways. Most of us agree that we need God, but the way in which we relate to Him tells a great deal about our relationship with Him.

Some people treat Him like a genie in a lamp and entreat Him for what He can do for them. They trust in Him as their “fire insurance” to keep them from going to hell. They blame Him when things do not go their way, especially in the way in which they expected them to transpire.

Others create God in their own image. They ignore Him or curse His name in their everyday conversation. If pressed, they would say they and God have an understanding: He won’t bother them and they won’t bother Him. They only call on God when they make a bargain with Him to bail them out of some type of trouble they got themselves into; although, they never seem to keep their end of the promise in the bargain.

Then there are those who deny God’s existence. They do not blame Him, nor do they go to Him in their time of need. They may take His name in vain, but they do not believe that He has any more reality than the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Finally, there are those who believe in God by faith. They actually stake their existence on the validity of His authenticity. They live a life of faith in His will and obedience to it. They let God be God in His own timing, wisdom, and manner in their lives. They trust in Him alone, regardless of what He provides or promises. Their faith rarely waivers, because it is built on the Rock of Christ, rather than on the sand of life’s circumstances and the behavior of others.

I suppose you can say that I held a membership in each of these groups. I shared all of these viewpoints for a short span in my lifetime. Then, I joined the ranks of Hall of Faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. I came face to face with the Savior. Now, His abundant holiness leaves me awestruck. His graciousness humbles me. His loving kindness meets me anew every morning and blesses me all through my day. His peace holds me above troubled waters and His joy is my only source of strength.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for authoring and finishing our faith. Guide us each day, and help us to trust You more. Let our light so shine that others will see our good works and glorify You as their Father also. Commission us to do Your will each day of our lives and use us to further Your Kingdom in the earth.

Thought for the Day:
Faith alone, without works to back it up, is dead.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

An Eternal Perspective

Read: Isaiah 57:14-19

"Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You."  - Psalm 9:10

Living with an eternal perspective gives life all the vibrancy and fragrance of a blooming flower. This lifestyle makes it so much easier to align the desires of my heart according to God’s ultimate plan for my life. I no longer look to the body or the soul to find fulfillment, although I do not neglect their legitimate needs. I delight more in reading His Word and in fellowshipping with His Body instead. I start taking every opportunity to invite people to church and to share Christ with every weary soul that He brings my way.

In order for us to have an eternal outlook, God needs to pull out all of the roots of pride, selfishness and self-reliance that prevent us from fully surrendering to Him. This takes years as the roots are strong and deep. Initially, this pruning is uncomfortable. However, ultimately, it frees us from the encumbrances of the flesh and the world. This new spiritual mindset allows us to walk in abiding joy, peace and gratitude as we accomplish His will for our lives on a daily basis.

When we sell out for Christ, we live with a stronger desire to please Him. We love God with all of our heart and we lean on Him for wisdom and guidance throughout the day. We follow Him to the cross and we lose our life for His sake; but then, we find new life through this glorious new intimate relationship with Him (Matthew 10:38-39). As we faithfully follow His precepts, our love for and trust in Him also increases. Simply doing the will of God on a daily basis brings both Him and us so much joy and satisfaction. From then on, the grief we experience when we live outside of His will sends us running back into His everlasting arms.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of Your peace and let me inspire others to believe in You and to willingly shed the pounds of earthly ties that cripple us in so many areas of our life. Give us Your eternal perspective and help us to relinquish the areas of our flesh that bind us to a carnal life.

Thought for the Day:
God's will is a continual journey, not an ultimate destination.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Then, GOD Said

Read: Genesis Chapter One

According to most astrophysicists, all the matter found in the universe today -- including the matter in people, plants, animals, the earth, stars, and galaxies -- was created at the very first moment of time, thought to be about 13 billion years ago. They believe that every speck of energy was concentrated into a very tiny point. Then, this extremely dense point exploded with unimaginable force, creating matter and propelling it outward to make the billions of galaxies of our vast universe. Astrophysicists dubbed this titanic explosion the "Big Bang."

I find it so sad that people prefer to believe in an explosion of gas as the catalyst for creation. When you ask one of them who created the gas, they usually scuff their shoes on the rug and stare at them very intently as they mumble incoherently. Then they suddenly remember that they are late for a very important appointment as they dash out of the room.

If they would stick around, my next question would be, "Who created time?"

One of the Bible’s very prominent themes is that of God as Creator. As Creator, God possesses the heavens and the earth, and He has the right to do with them as He pleases. In the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, God often reminds those to whom He is speaking that He is their Creator. Many statements and promises of the Bible are based on the truth that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the rivers (Psalm 24:1-2).

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:6-9).

The heavens are Thine, the earth also is Thine; The world and all it contains, Thou hast founded them (Psalm 89:11).
 
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).

Prayer:
Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created. (Revelation 4:11).
 
Thought for the Day:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Surviving The Balancing Act!

Read: James 1:2-4

A seal spinning a ball on its nose and a whirling top have little in common except that both of their performances require balance. This reminded me of the fact that life also requires a balancing act. We often find ourselves thrown off center by confusion and catastrophe, which come when we least expect it. Like the top and the ball, our normally peaceful life spins out of control. Each compartment of our life, which we meticulously created to provide us with security and a safe haven, suddenly  tilts to one side like the Tower of Pisa.

We get disoriented and feel insecure and fearful. Then, we panic and make poor decisions, reacting with negative emotions that create even more problems. We throw ourselves into trying unsuccessfully to manage the disruptive people and events in our life in an attempt to make us feel safe again. But this never helps. In fact, it usually increases our anxiety, when these people react to the frustration we create in their lives.

Part of the problem occurs when we acquire more possessions than we need. Our life slowly sinks under a burden of stress created by trying to pay for this accumulation. Another factor comes if we lean toward making deviant decisions. We end up reaping what we sow. Then, we also sink under the weight of the demands, which others place on our life.

So, what is the solution? We owe it to our self to simplify our life. We accomplish this in many different ways. We can sell off some of our accumulated goods and discipline our spending habits. We make wise choices and maintain an unadulterated life of purity and serenity. We also find a balance between what people need from us and what God wants for us.

Matt 6:25-34 reminds me that worry never helped anyone. Peace comes only by trusting God to order our lives according to His will. He generously provides all of our necessities, even when life disintegrates before our eyes. In James 1:2-4, the author exhorts us to keep a positive attitude throughout difficulties and temptations. He tells us that in this way our patience has a chance to grow. Then, patience gets us ready for anything life throws at us. Adversity develops strong character in us, which helps us to withstand the disheartening uncertainty of life and to ward off the eventual panic when it arises.

Paul admonishes us, in Hebrews 12:2, to keep our eyes on Jesus ~ the author and finisher of our faith. By following the examples from His life, we learn how to successfully live our own life. He prayed before beginning each day of ministry. He lived in the moment and did not worry about tomorrow. Jesus listened to His Father and followed His will in every word and deed. His focus stayed on God’s kingdom rather than on amassing worldly goods and fame. Ultimately, He humbled Himself, even to the point of death on the cross. 

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, as we walk the tightrope of life, rather than focusing on the spinning details of our negative circumstances, help us to focus on the equilibrium You achieve within each moment that we live. Life wavers like the ocean, with a continuous ebb and flow, but You gave us the words of the prayer that never fails: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42-43 NIV)

Thought for the Day:
When we trust God more and strive less, serenity seeps into every area of our life, no matter how the circumstances play out around us.