Thursday, May 31, 2012

Changing Your Focus

Read: Luke 12:29-34

“He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”  – Isaiah 42:6

I want to tell you a secret!  It will change your life because it will help you to … Change Your Focus. I used to be a very negative, melancholy person, drowning in the depressing circumstances of my life. The intense dread I felt over the situations I encountered kept me living in a constant state of anxiety and tension. I lived most of my time with my stomach in knots, taking very shallow breaths. The situations deepened so much at times, that I felt like I would burst if I held my breath a minute longer! Does this sound familiar? Let me tell you how God changed this aspect of my life.

The Bible reminded me that Jesus taught us by example how to relate to our circumstances. He had the most horrifying of all experiences, when He faced the scourging and the cross of Calvary. As I prayed about my fears and anxieties over life, I realized that so far my circumstances had not yet killed me! Therefore, hope must be hidden in my circumstances somewhere! I wanted to learn from Jesus’ example, so I turned to the Bible.

Jesus, when He entered his time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, focused on the upcoming pain of the cross and He began to sweat blood, as well as water. But then, He changed His focus from the pain of the cross to the joy that awaited Him back in Heaven. This is how He was able to endure the horrifying circumstances of the cross. He changed His focus! 

Paul learned this lesson also. Look at Hebrews 12:2… “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Paul suggests that we look to Jesus and follow His example.

Jesus kept His focus on eternal matters, and the earthly matters faded into the distance. He was able to endure the circumstances of a brutal beating and crucifixion by picturing His relationship with His Father. We too must take our eyes off our circumstances and put them on the joy that Jesus provides in the midst of those situations.

Here are some practical ways to apply this knowledge. As you go through life, pay close attention to your body, your thoughts, and your feelings. What kinds of thoughts preoccupy your mind? Have you taken the time to identify them? Feelings such as worry, anxiety, discontentment, and anger are the result of your soul ~ your mind, will and emotions ~ trying to communicate with you. Ask God to show you what is causing those feelings. Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to apologize? Are you feeling guilty over some past event? Can you do anything about it? Are you concerned about the future? What are you worried about specifically?

The Serenity Prayer gives us a guideline here. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know what situations you can change, and which you must leave in His hands. Ask Him for the strength to deal with the issues that He reveals are your responsibility and to turn the rest over to Him with an attitude of acceptance about them. You cannot change them, so praise God for them, in them, and through them. By doing this, you can walk in serenity.

What is it in your life that is causing you a problem?  Ask God to help you change the situation. If He does not show you how to change your circumstances, then ask Him to help you to change your focus about the dilemma, so that you can accept it as His will for you at this time.

Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. --Reinhold Niebuhr

Thought for the Day:
I guarantee that changing your focus from an earthly perspective to an eternal one will bring you joy unspeakable that is full of God's glory!








Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Make a Lasting Difference

Read: Luke 10:38-42

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” - 1 Corinthians 10:31-32

The story of creation proves to me that God intended for us to live in paradise. Instead, mankind chose to exalt himself as equal to God and ended up in this pain-filled earth. God’s Spirit within us, however, makes life in this sin-filled world, not only bearable but also victorious. We only need to accept God’s complete forgiveness and relinquish our will to His in order to make a lasting difference in our life and in the world around us.

Mary realized this truth and she relinquished her need to control her environment and chose to sit at Jesus feet. Martha, on the other hand, had to be in control to impress Jesus with her efforts. Busyness often causes mental breakdowns and emotional wounds. As we simplify our lives and walk in the Spirit, however, we end up doing only those activities, which God’s Spirit leads us to do. We accomplish only what God calls us to do each moment of the day. We have a much less busy schedule and the positive results of our efforts are much greater.

Prayer:
Lord, teach me to adjust my priorities and eliminate busyness, which needlessly contaminates my thoughts and clutters up my time. Help me to find my fulfillment in You, so that I have no need to participate in worldly pursuits.

Thought for the Day:
Though many things may seem important, only God’s will is necessary.


Monday, May 28, 2012

The Balancing Act

Read: Matthew 6:25-34

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."  - Luke 22:42-43

A child’s spinning top and a seal spinning a ball on its nose have little in common except that both of their performances require balance. This caused me to think about the balance in our lives. Often we find ourselves thrown off center by spinning confusion and instability. Each compartment we meticulously created now slants like the Tower of Pisa and everything falls to one side.

Conditions appear out of control. We get disoriented and feel insecure and fearful. We panic and make poor decisions. We try unsuccessfully to manage the people and events in our life in an attempt to make us feel safe again. But this never helps and usually increases our anxiety by creating frustration in others.

As we keep our eyes on Jesus ~ the author and finisher of our faith ~ feelings of peace replace disheartening panic and uncertainty. We live our lives according to His example. He prayed before beginning each day. 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. 

As we walk the tightrope of life, rather than focusing on the details of our circumstances that often spin out of control, we can focus inwardly on the peace that He gives us. Then we focus on the balance God affects in our life as He uses our Spirit-led responses to these circumstances. Life varies like the ocean with a continuous ebb and flow. Trusting God more and striving less gives us a life raft to ride out these storms of life. Faith in God’s faithfulness imparts serenity to our inner core that is consistent regardless of the circumstances (James 1:2-4).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach us to keep our eyes focused on You, so that the Murphy’s Law that controls life on this earth does not cause us to get too discouraged or to lose hope all together. Help us to discern Your will in our circumstances, which You use to bring forth Your fruit in our life. Show us clearly how You are working all things out for our good.  

Thought for the Day:
God’s peace within us displaces fear and uncertainty regardless of our circumstances.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Evidence of the Spirit Within

As I fondly look back on experiences in my life, I see that the Holy Spirit continues to slowly replace in me the negative attributes of my personality with His spiritual fruit recorded in Galatians 5:22-23…”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

What do these words mean:
Love – affection for others
Joy – exuberance about life
Peace – serenity
Patience – willingness to stick with it
Gentleness – compassion from the heart
Goodness – kindness that pervades our entire being
Meekness – humility and service
Self-Control – guided by the Spirit
Faith – trust that God knows what He’s doing
  
Now look at their opposites, these negative characteristics:  Envy, strife, hatred, bitterness, self-centeredness, pride, criticism, worry, depression, quitters and complainers, backbiters, and people who put work and fun ahead of God (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Take a moment to go back over this list of negative characteristics. Read each one and think about it before you go to the next characteristic. Do you see any of these negative attributes in your self? Are you willing to submit this area of your life to God? Are you willing to allow Him to replace these negative traits in your life with the fruit of His Spirit?  

The Good News is that Jesus Christ sanctifies us moment-by-moment! Let Him replace: hatred with love, depression with true joy, discontentment with peace,  irritation with patience, criticism with gentleness, backbiting with goodness, pride with meekness, excess with self-control, and worry with the faith of God as we are controlled and guided by His Spirit.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help us to walk in obedience to Your Spirit, filled with your fruit, so that we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh or exhibit any of these ungodly characteristics in our lives. Help us to overflow with your spiritual fruit so that we splash out Your goodness on everyone we meet.

Thought for the Day:
Fruity people make the best friends.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

He Remembers Them No More

Read: Psalm 103: 9-13

“But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” - Psalm 130:4
God is collecting His anger over the sin of mankind in a cup of wrath. He also declares that He will not always strive with us or harbor His anger forever. God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). His desire is that everyone will spend eternity with Him. He does not even make us pay the consequences we deserve for our sins. Once we repent, He covers us with the blood of Jesus and He casts our sins
as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

Imagine a plane flying north. Once it reaches the North Pole, and follows the curve of the earth, it will begin to head south. So, if God removed our transgressions from us as far as the north is from the south, there would be a definite limit to His forgiveness.

Now, imagine a plane flying east. When does it start to fly west? At what point does the east meet the west? It never does. There is no polar axis going through the earth from east and west as there is going north to south. The plane continues flying east until it lands or runs out of fuel. It never, ever meets the west. That is exactly how far from us God removed our sins. They will never ever catch up with us. They will never be returned to us or thrown back up into our face. They are gone forever.

Our Heavenly Father has compassion on those who fear Him. Once we recognize the omniscience, the omnipresence, the omnipotence of God, we realize how truly great He is. Jesus paid a debt, which He did not owe. He suffered persecution and crucifixion for sins, which He did not commit.

When we realize the great sacrifice, which He made for us, we have no recourse but to fall on our face and repent of our sins. We are humbled by His love, grace and mercy, which we do not deserve. We reverence Him as He deserves to be worshipped. At some point we ultimately make up our mind to serve Him with every ounce of fiber in our being, because of the obligation we owe the perfect Lamb without spot of blemish for paying our sin debt for us.

Having an eternal viewpoint of our life on this earth, gives us a whole new perspective on what we experience. The carnal world and fleshly desires fade away, and we focus on doing the will of God (1 John 2:17). We learn to be content just as Paul did when he was shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, hungry, exhausted, lonely and forsaken by everyone he held dear (Philippians 4:12).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we will rejoice in You always (Philippians 4:4). Help us to trust in You, instead of relying on our human wisdom (Proverbs 3:5). This way we will walk in Your perfect will for us moment by moment throughout the day.

Thought for the Day:
As Christians, we receive such a feeling of oneness with our Creator, such fulfillment from helping others in their time of need and such a deep joy in His love that it defies description (1 Peter 1:8). 


Friday, May 25, 2012

Gladness and Joy

Read: 1 Peter 1:8-9

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

There are so many unhappy people in the world. They despise their job, disrespect their spouse, are irritated with their children, want a better house and car and wish they could go to some exotic island for vacation. They live vicariously through books and movies, trading this figment of their imagination for reality. They are usually so busy working to get more stuff that they do not have time to attend church and to develop their spiritual life.

Sadly, some Christians often fit into this category as well. We put our own pursuits above God’s directives. We lay up more treasure for our earthly tabernacle than we do our heavenly one. At other times, we are so involved with searching for God's will that we are often frustrated when God seems silent on the topics we address with Him in prayer. God’s will is simple. He wants us to be transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). If we keep our mind on Him, He will keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). If we seek Him first, He will take care of every other component in our life (Matthew 6:33).

When we live each moment of the day in gratitude for what He already provided, He continues to abundantly supply our needs for that day as well. No matter how desperate the circumstances are in our life, He promises to work them out for our good (Romans 8:28) in His timing and in His way. As we live our life with open communication with His Spirit, He puts us in the right place, at the right time to give and to receive a blessing.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, although Your love is too great to fully comprehend, let us experience this love each day as we follow hard after You (Psalm 63:8). Let us be made complete in You, with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You (Ephesians 3:19). Give us Your shield of victory and sustain us throughout the trials of this life with Your mighty right hand (Psalm 18:35).

Thought for the Day:
Gladness and joy will overtake us, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.- Isaiah 35:10

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Joy Set Before Him

Read: Genesis 29:15-29

“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Gen 29:20 NKJV

In a world of uncertainty and peril, courage and comfort often elude me. Although Paul promises they are simply "light and momentary afflictions" (2 Corinthians 4:17), my trials often feel heavy and insurmountable. I try focusing on eternal promises rather than my current issues, but sometimes hope fades away.

Jacob worked seven years to earn Rachel for his wife. Instead of focusing on the time and labor ahead of him, he allowed their love to comfort him. His bliss made the time pass like days. The promise of Rachel gave Jacob the courage and comfort he needed to persist through the pain and burden of the years of toil.

Even though Jacob ended up working fourteen years for Rachel, he endured the time with joy in his heart and he trusted God to bless him financially as well. When Jacob felt God’s call to return to the Promised Land, he took with him more wealth than he left behind. God always gives to us abundantly, if we trust in Him.

Jesus also changed His focus in order to endure the suffering of the cross. He put his mind on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2) instead of the pain. Jacob and Jesus and even Paul, who changed his focus from the earthly realm to the eternal, give us examples of how to change our focus and live in joy.


Jesus promises us a personal, eternal relationship with Him, which starts the moment we confess our sins and ask Him to save us. He moves in by His Spirit and resides in us, giving us heaven on earth. The Spirit starts working in our lives – manifesting His fruit in our thoughts, words and deeds. (Gal 5:22). His love makes it easier for us to lay aside temptations, to have hope in our trials and to look forward to His great and true promises. 

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for loving us, even when our faith fails us. Help us to focus on the joy that You set before us. Help us to be faithful with a little so that You can bless us with much (Matthew 25:23).

Thought for The Day:
God wants you all for Himself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Standing Up

Read: Luke 21:14-19

“But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. - John 15:21 (NKJV)

Sometimes, when we stand up for Jesus, our relationships with others fall down. Even close family members reject Him and may reject us as well. However, when we live with an eternal mindset and vision, the carnal, temporary life holds little value in the whole scheme of what is truly valuable.

A few years ago, my daughter told me that if I respected her, I would never mention Jesus Christ or scripture to her or her friends again. I explained that Christianity is not what I do, but who I am. Therefore, I could not take it off and put it on again. It is permanent. She chose to end our relationship because of what she perceived as my lack of respect for her.

I take comfort in the fact that the world rejected Jesus also. I also continue to pray that once she knows Him who sent me, our relationship will be restored.

Prayer:
Lord, I pray for those I love who do not know You as their Lord and Savior. Thank You for revealing Yourself to them now and always.

Thought for the Day:
Sometimes life demands that we let go in order to receive.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Life's Treasure Chest

Read: Rom 8:34-39

“…Be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”  James 1:2-4 TLB

Sometimes, the life we encounter on this “blue marble” we call earth is overwhelming! We craft clearly laid out plans and goals, but in spite of our preparations, events often careen out of our control. We rarely end up seeing the total realization of our dreams. We often fail to triumph over obstacles too high for us to scale. In spite of these bitter disappointments, however, God tells us that His grace gives us sufficient strength to face our trials and weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).

After 60 years of walking through life’s interruptions, I discovered that there are actually clues to hidden treasure within each difficulty we face. God brings these assets from deep within each one of us as we put one foot in front of the other on our arduous journey through life (Matthew 13:44). There are keys to buried riches contained in each trial and tribulation that comes our way (2 Corinthians 4:7). The proverbial silver lining in every cloud and pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is just waiting to be discovered.

Our God of hope fills us with abounding joy and enduring peace every step of life’s way (Romans 5:13)! He abundantly rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). His Word and Spirit reveal even more hidden treasure, when we seek Him through His scripture and when we place our trust in Him. God also promises that when those who love and obey Him pass over the threshold of heaven, we will all receive the treasured crown of eternal life (James 1:12).

We may not have this world’s goods, but our life both now and in heaven contains an enduring treasure that rust and moths cannot ever destroy (Matthew 6:20).

Prayer:
Lord, help me to treasure every second of life and to see You in the midst of every event. Help me to look at my trials as You see them, and to look for the miracle, which You hide within each one. Keep me from looking too far into the future, which I cannot predict anyway, and to seek You one moment at a time.

Thought for the Day:
The real treasures in life are found in nature, literature, music, art, family and enduring friendships; but primarily in the gift of a personal relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baker's Dozen

Read: Mark 4: 30-32

“If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” - Matt 17:20-21 NKJV

Life usually flows as smoothly as a river following its natural boundaries, until it unexpectedly throws us a sharp curve or rocky rapids for which we are unprepared. This sudden inconvenience often hits us right between the eyes and throws us for a loop, if it doesn’t knock us out completely. Sometimes we lose our faith, even for a short time. At other times, however, Satan sends one too many negative circumstances, which will cause people to curse God and walk away from Him before they ever had a chance to form an intimate, personal relationship with Him.

To set the stage for the point of this post, let me explain the origin of the phrase, “a baker’s dozen’. England has a long history of regulation of trade. Bakers or brewers who gave short measure could be fined, pilloried or flogged. Therefore, bakers were afraid of selling bread that was underweight. They gave an extra loaf when selling a dozen in order to avoid being penalized for selling short weight. It did not take long for this practice of giving thirteen instead of twelve in any transaction to be called “a baker’s dozen”.

Recently, I read about an elementary school art teacher that had several very talented young students. One student in particular was very expressive in her drawings and usually had deeply contrived meaning behind her work. When this child drew 13 petals on all of her flowers in one of her projects, her teacher asked her, "Why?" 

She answered,“My mommy says thirteen is called a baker’s dozen. God never gives us only what we need, but He always gives to us abundantly.”

Her teacher, stunned by this prosaic answer, could only smile in return.

Oh, to have the faith resembling this little child’s. Simple faith to realize that God always gives us a baker’s dozen, even when circumstances suddenly take a turn for the worse.

Prayer:
Lord, we often take You for granted, and we forget to acknowledge Your provision for us each and every day. Remind us to thank You for Your abundant blessings in our lives. Thank You for giving us this day our daily bread.

Thought for the Day:
All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired. – Martin Luther

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Breaking From Tradition

Read: Colossians 2:8-23

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

There are churches that purport a “works” theology that substitutes our efforts for Christ’s work on Calvary. I believed their rhetoric until I realized that we are wasting our time by trying to earn God’s love by being good enough to deserve it. Even at our best, we deserve hell. All of us are unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Jesus willingly died to fulfill the law for us. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that our Salvation comes not by good works, but by faith. When we try to earn our right standing with God, we grieve the Holy Spirit, because we are putting on the shackles of the law of sin and death rather than relying on the law of life through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).

I am learning not to substitute saying the "correct" words, responding in the "correct" way and doing the “correct” things for walking in obedience to the Spirit.  These traditions have the appearance of effectiveness and wisdom, but they are full of self-imposed rituals, false humility and harsh regulations. In the end, they simply lack any success in restraining us from sinning or any true value in helping someone who needs a word from God.

I am attempting to stop, listen and obey the Spirit throughout the day instead. Even if what He leads me to do breaks with tradition or makes me feel uncomfortable, I would rather reap the fruit of righteousness than to stay within my comfort zone. I do not need to fear what any person will do to me or what they will think or say about me, as long as I walk in the Spirit. Pleasing God is my goal and I will not let anyone judge me except Him.

Prayer
Lord, help me to obey your Spirit’s inner promptings, even if I end up being unpopular. Help me to value Your approval over man’s recognition or acceptance. Remind me that there is nothing I can to do to earn Your love or my right standing in Your eyes, because You already won both of those for me on Calvary’s Cross.

Thought of the Day
I would rather stand on the rock of Christ than on the sand of tradition.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What's the Gimmick?

Read: Ephesians 2: 8-9

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” - Ephesians 2:8

Why do so many people miss the opportunity to receive God’s free gift of Salvation (Romans 5:15)? There are as many rationales to answer this question, as there are individuals who decline His invitation. Pride will keep a person from the humility needed to call out to God. The idea of having to sacrifice their desires scares many away. Having someone else in control of their life causes many people to shrink in horror. Letting someone else known their deepest, darkest secrets is daunting to others.

Another explanation may be that Jesus did not present Himself in a very popular humanistic light from His birth all the way to His death. Just think about it! He was born in a stable, worked as a carpenter, never owned a home, never married and never conceived any children. How can He relate to the majority of people on earth, and how can we relate to Him?

He only had twelve good friends in the whole world. Even his siblings failed to believe in Him until after His resurrection. He was not handsome to look at (Isaiah 53:2). To the disappointment of those who looked for a King, He was born as a pauper and he died a common death between two thieves.

Jesus had a solid purpose for all of this, however. He needed no reputation, He proved that He could relate to the vilest of human sufferings, and He gave us an example of how to live by taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7). He went around for three years doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because of the Spirit of God dwelling in Him (Acts 10:38). This same Spirit dwells within us as well, because of the price Jesus paid for our salvation and because He became righteousness for us (Romans 10:3-4).

Most people today want to make their own mark on the world. The self-made man is touted as having special abilities and influence that we all respect. The entrepreneur is lauded for his creativity and drive. Even someone who inherits his/her fortune, and manages to administrate it wisely, is credited with success.

Human nature tends to believe that we have to earn what we receive. We have heard the saying, “There is no free lunch;” therefore, we look with suspicion on anyone who comes around offering us something for nothing. The thought of Jesus trading us His right standing with God in exchange for our sins makes no human sense at all.   

To admit that we are orphans in need of adoption is humiliating. It is a bit far fetched to believe that another human being, who died on a cross in a particular point in history at the height of the Roman occupation of Israel, is truly the Savior of the world. Unbelievers insist that there has to be a gimmick hidden somewhere in the offer. They maintain that there has to be more to it than meets the eye.

I encourage them to “read the fine print” located in the Bible, and to see if they can discover any verse that proves we are trying to deceive them. Then I point out to them that even nature points the glory of God out to everyone (Romans 1: 20) and it reveals that everything has a creator (Psalm 19:1-6).

God does not condemn anyone. We actually condemn ourselves by our unbelief, but God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, so that we are able to inherit eternal life (John 3: 16-18). This starts the moment we repent of our sins and believe that we need Jesus for our salvation. God's part is to save us (Isaiah 43:11). Our only part is to believe (Acts 16:31). Once acquired, this salvation is eternal. Just as man cannot go back into his mother's womb, neither can a believer go back into an unregenerate spiritual state (John 3:1-7).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, please open the hearts of all of those that we come in contact with throughout the day. Open their eyes to see and their ears to hear the truth of Your Gospel message. Enable us to put aside our ego and to speak with conviction in the power of the Holy Spirit the exact words that they need to hear in order to be convinced of their need for You in their life. 

Thought for the Day:
God designed salvation so that no one can take credit for earning it. - Ephesians 2: 8-9

Friday, May 18, 2012

"But You Were Not Willing"

Read: Matthew 23: 37-39

“…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37

I was so discouraged today because I share the gospel of Christ with so many people all week long, and most of them turn a deaf ear. My heart is bruised and crushed with the weight of their refusal and my eyes weep tears that flow unchecked down my cheeks.
Eventually, I gave my burden to Jesus as I usually do. Then, as I waited quietly to see what He would tell me. He spoke to my heart, "Now you know how I felt when I wept over Jerusalem” (Matthew 23: 37-39).

My heart is lighter, because He shared His grief with me. However, my tears flow even more freely now as I type. Our King and Savior who died a horrendous, torturous death would not change the status of the world when His heart was broken, because He gave mankind...a free will.

What do we do with that free will? Refusing to live God’s way, we willfully usurp His authority in our life, taking pride in our rebellion. We work to stash away huge amounts of worldly goods; and then we live for the weekends in order to lustfully consume what we bought. We compromise God’s standards with our ungodly behavior. Sometimes, we even step on anyone who dares to stand in our way of reaching the goals we set for our life.

God makes it clear that He desires for us to live in His righteousness, to love His mercy, and to walk without pride before Him (Micah 6:8). As I sit here tonight, I have decided, this is the least that we can do for Him, in response for what He did for us.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You bore our sins in Your body on Calvary’s tree, so that we might die to sin and live in moral purity. Your wounds healed us and give us both the desire and the power to walk in Your will for each moment of our day (Philippians 2:13). Help us to lay down our carnal desires and to live righteously before you all the days of our lives.

Thought for the Day:
Are we willing to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God?




Thursday, May 17, 2012

Living in Joy

Read: Psalm 92:1-5

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” – Psalm 59:16

Living in the present moment keeps us from fearing the future and taking life for granted. As we pay attention to what is going on right now at this moment, we find joy in:
... the rising and setting of the sun,
... a butterfly floating on a breeze,
... the air we breathe,
... the laughter of little children,
... modern conveniences,
... dogs barking in the distance,
... the tick of the clock, 
... the whir of the dishwasher or lawn mower, 
... the flowers blooming along the roadside, 
... rain for our garden, 
... toes to balance our body, 
... clothes to keep us warm, 
... soap and shampoo, 
... singing birds,
... the sound of a neighbor starting his car or a loved one returning home, 
... the antics of a pet, 
... the glitter of the sun on the water, 
... the shape and color and scent of flowers, 
... the shape and texture of the clouds in the crystal blue sky
... and for a roof that does not leak! You can add your own blessing to this list.

As we tune in to God's joy all around us, we start to notice a change in the feelings within our own soul. We take our negative emotions to God and learn how to heal them. We also learn to multiply the positive feelings we experience each moment of the day. As we put our trust in Christ, we live in abiding peace and joy ~ not only in our spirit, but deep within our soul (our mind, will and emotions) as well.

Prayer:
O Lord our God, save us and gather us from the nations. We give thanks to Your holy name and we glorify and praise You (Psalm 106:47). The works of Your hands are faithful and just; all of Your precepts are trustworthy (Psalm 111:7). I meditate on all of Your works and consider what Your hands have done for the children of men (Psalm 143:5). I will tell everyone about Your kindnesses, O Lord. We praise You for Your deeds and for Your compassion and many kindnesses (Isaiah 63:7).

Thought for the Day:
Remember…Every tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Transforming Martha-moments into Mary-miracles

Read: Luke 10:38-42

“My soul waits for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.”  - Psalm 130:6

As a pastor’s wife and mother of three children, I raced through a life full of ministry opportunities. As each day progressed, I went from one Martha-moment of service to another. I cared for my immediate family, as well as my extended family, my church family, my neighbors, my community and my friends around the world.

But at night, when the house settled down, the chores were done, the phone stopped ringing and everyone else slept, my disposition transformed from Martha to Mary. It is in these night watches that I experience the miracle of His presence within me. I enjoy these times, even now that my children are grown and my responsibilities are greatly diminished.

I am still. I take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet. I thank Him for air to breathe, for our daily bread, for flowers that beautify my path and for our blessings in spite of living in a sin-cursed world. I praise Him for being Lord of the universe, as well as my Strong Tower when I am afraid and my Refuge on stormy days. His love cascades over my soul like a waterfall. I find my comfort under the shadow of His wings.

I absorb the ministry from His Spirit, drinking in the true peace and joy that only He can provide. My spirit melds with His Holy Spirit as I receive direction and wisdom for my personal guidance. I experience the Mary-miracles, which can only come from a personal relationship with the Living Lord of the universe. His encouragement refreshes my spirit and prepares me for the next day in my role as Martha.

Then, during the first few hours after midnight, I give in to silent slumber. I am already centered in Him, with my spirit totally focused on Him, even as I sleep. Rising eight hours later, I seek His will for my first efforts of the morning. Then I proceed throughout the day, listening moment by moment to His Spirit’s direction for each task, which He leads me to accomplish during my Martha-moments.

At times, my duties pull me in several directions at once, but His Spirit always tells me what to do and in what order to accomplish them. Satan’s penchant for distracting me from doing the Lord’s will (Psalm 5:8) is tempting; but I surrender instead to God’s plan for my day. As Mary, I already prepared my spirit, soul and body for this new day. As Martha, I find fulfillment in the path He chose for me before the foundation of time (Romans 8:29).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for being my center, my rock and my shield; but most of all, thank You for being my Savior. Thank You for meeting with me in the night watches and for leading me by Your Spirit moment by moment throughout the day.
 
Thought For The Day:
Stay centered on the true reality of life by focusing on Jesus and His Word.




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Silencing Rumors

Read:
Proverbs 10:11-21
Proverbs 15:1-7
James 3:1-12

“He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.” – Psalm 10:18

So many people try to lure me into gossip by using the guise of a prayer request. They give their lurid details of something they heard or saw and expect me to carry on the prattle. Have you ever noticed that the gossip often talks with his/her hand in front of their mouth and a sly smirk on their lips with their eyes rolling into the back of their head. They usually end the narration with a nervous little laugh that definately gives them away.

There are legitimate needs to share in prayer requests, and I am always glad to hear of them and to pray for them. I love to pray. I trust God to listen to my requests, and I see results from my prayers. I always end my requests with the words of the prayer that never fails, “Lord, Thy will be done.”

It’s the catty chitchat, which people bring to my attention, which distresses me. This mostly comes from hearsay and grows more sensational with each telling. By the time it gets to me, there are very few facts left and the truth is nowhere to be found!

I once heard a preacher say, “If you aren’t part of the problem or the solution, refuse to hear the tale about someone else.” I think those are very wise words. My pastor husband has a rule that when someone brings gossip to him, he immediately takes that person to the one being discussed. This often stops the rumor in its tracks, or it may even cause the gossiper to backpedal and refuse to go to the person at all.

If the facts of the allegation are substantiated, then we can pray for the request. If it is merely hearsay, then we have a moral obligation to dismiss the information and definitely not to repeat it. If we take this stand, then soon the gossipmongers will stop coming to us at all, which will relieve us of this burden. Prayerfully, they will also stop gossiping!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I have come to learn that when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable. Your Word tells me that it is wise to restrains my lips. I want to have the tongue of the righteous, which is as choice silver, because the heart of the wicked is worth little. Give me the lips of the righteous, so I may feed many. I do not want to die for lack of understanding as a fool (Proverbs 10: 19-21).

Thought for the Day:
If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (James 3: 2b).







Monday, May 14, 2012

The Least of These

Read: Judges 6&7

“And the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are...” – 1 Corinthians 1:28

The Bible constantly chronicles God’s method of choosing the weak to prove His strength. During the Midianite oppression of Israel, God chose to use Gideon to deliver His people. Scholars tell us that Gideon came from the weakest clan in Manasseh and was the least in his family.

Gideon struggled with God’s call and wavered in his faith. He used an animal’s fleece as a sign, which God miraculously kept wet or dry according to Gideon’s prayer. God did not want Gideon to take credit for the victory against the Midianites. Therefore, before the fighting even began, God used a series of tests and dwindled Gideon’s army down to just three hundred men.

Then, God’s Spirit came upon Gideon and gave him a plan to deliver God’s people. In the midst of all of the bright lights and trumpet blasts, God confused the Midianite army. They ended up warring against one another. Even though the Israelites were outnumbered and had no weapons of war, they won the battle anyway.

When I remember the oppressive circumstances, which make up my past, I recall frequently feeling that they were impossible to overcome. I lost courage so often. I begged God for signs to pump up my faith, just like Gideon did with his fleece. From my years as a new Believer to those now as a veteran child of the King, I can testify with certainty that God always works all things out for my good (Romans 8:28). He will undoubtedly do the same for you, if you will courageously surrender the control of your life to Him, and dare to trust Him with the outcome.

Prayer
Lord Jesus, never let us put our confidence in the multitude of our chariots and in the greatness of our horsemen, but let us always look to You to deliver us (Isaiah 31:1). Remind us that You are faithful to Your children and that You use even the worst of circumstances for our good.

Thought for the Day
When I am my weakest, He is the strongest (2 Corinthians 12:10); and He uses me the most.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lord of the Flies

Read: Psalm 92:1-5

“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation." - Ps 91:15-16  

The window air conditioning unit mounted into the wall of our miniature, antique cottage home quit working. My husband removed the defective unit and went to purchase a new one. During his absence our house quickly swarmed with flies pouring through the opening! Their constant buzzing got on my nerves, so I commanded them to leave in Jesus’ name. I never doubted they would go because of promises such as Psalm 34:15-17 and Psalm 56:9.

After tucking my husband into bed that night, I went to snuggle into the fluffy couch pillows with a Christian novel. It was not until then that I realized there were absolutely no flies in the house! Humbled that I failed to thank God sooner, I jumped off the couch and joyfully pranced around the living room with my hands raised and loud whispered thanksgiving pouring from my lips to our awesome God. He did not have to answer my prayer, but He abundantly accomplished my request (Ephesians 3:20-21).

God delights in answering the prayers of His Saints (Proverbs 15:8). The perfect antidote for insomnia is to thank Him nightly for His faithful care. Even in the most adverse circumstances, we triumph over every difficulty by waiting on His Spirit’s leading moment by moment throughout the day.

Prayer:
Lord, it is so good to give You thanks. Help me to remember to praise You for answered prayer. Even in the sad times and the mad times, I will sing praises to Your name. Amen.

Thought for the Day:
We relish in God’s constant provision, but we do not really show Him appreciation until we start declaring His loving kindness to our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why God?

Read: Jeremiah 32:37-38

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” - Proverbs 3:5

Have you ever questioned God’s behavior, promises or direction? You are not alone. Everybody does it. For instance, Jeremiah questioned God's reasoning in Jeremiah 32:24,25: "See how the siege ramps are built up to take the city? Though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, You say to me, 'Buy the field'".  

Jeremiah’s puzzled prayer received an answer from God, but it did not make any more sense than God’s directive to purchase the field. The enemy was about to overrun the city of Jerusalem, and all God said was, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27).

It turns out that God, in His foresight, wanted to use this piece of land as an object lesson for Israel. It was an earnest of their future inheritance. It was a symbol of God’s promise to their forefathers that Israel would always be God’s people and He would always be their God (Jeremiah 32:37-38). The purchase loudly proclaimed to Israel that God would eventually bring them back to dwell in safety in the Promised Land once again.

So often we have trouble seeing the big picture. From our perspective, the oddly shaped piece that God provides does not fit into the puzzle of our life in any way. He gives us a directive or opens a door or leads us down a road that just does not make any sense to us. We end up arguing, pleading and cajoling with Him.

When that does not work, we shift into a passive aggressive mode – pretending to obey, when we actually have absolutely no intention of carrying out what we view as an incomprehensible move.

Then, we go off and try unsuccessfully to solve the problem on our own. After hitting the brick wall a few times, we eventually give in and obey; although, we continue to wait impatiently for the desired results. We pace, we fret and we battle with growing anxiety, until we sit back and pray out of frustration, finally relying on God to reveal the purpose of His plan in His timing. While trust God during these puzzling times in our lives, our spiritual growth increases and our closeness with Jesus, our Bridegroom, improves.

When I compare Jeremiah with Jonah, I see the difference between obedience and doing things my own way. From now on, I vow to obey rather than to argue when I do not understand. I will take a lesson from Jonah’s negative behavior, and I will save myself a great deal of trouble!

Prayer:
Lord God, we often have difficulty comprehending how all of the pieces of your plan will work together for our good. Even if we follow your direction, we often unsuccessfully understand Your purpose - especially when things fall apart before they get better. We tend to rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Help us to patiently trust You; because, after all, You are God! 

Thought for the Day:
Life operates more smoothly when we remember that God does all things beautifully in His time.



Friday, May 11, 2012

Success in Life

Read: Hebrews 12:5-8

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  -Matt 7:13-14 " (RSV)

God does not punish us; He disciplines us. There is a difference! Punishment comes from the desire to hurt the other person in retaliation for him hurting you. Discipline is for the purpose of teaching us self-discipline, a trait paramount for our success in life.

As we embrace God’s chastening, the correction of an employer or the advice of a parent, we grow in wisdom and maturity. When we face a rebuke, we can feel encouraged that the person cares enough about us to speak up and make the correction. God uses discipline to teach us to use self-control. The Bible tells us that the Lord loves those He chastens, and that if He does not correct us, then we are not His sons (Hebrews 12:6). Thank God that He disciplines us for straying from the straight and narrow road.

Although it requires a great deal of effort, we also need to discipline our children. They need to learn that there are consequences for negative behaviors. Nurturing discipline helps prepare children to achieve self-control, self-discipline, proficiency in decision-making, and consideration for others. We do this by affirming their behavior when we see them doing something positive, by providing them with opportunities to make wise choices and to develop ownership and responsibility of their own lives a little at a time, and also by helping them to learn to use their words to express their feelings rather than to use foul language or to strike out physically when they are frustrated or angry. Loving discipline is a positive tool in encouraging all human beings to excel to their utmost for God’s pleasure.

Prayer:
Lord, help me to embrace Your discipline and to learn from it what You want me to know. Thank you for loving us enough to keep us on the straight and narrow road. Help us to discipline our children so that they can grow up as self-disciplined adults who make productive citizens and Godly saints.

Thought for the Day:
When parents are angry, irritable, depressed, fatigued, and stressed they are more likely to use corporal punishment instead of loving discipline, or to use a permissive parenting style that teaches children nothing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spirit, Soul and Body

Read: Luke 16:19-31

Genesis 1:26 states, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."

God is a triune being...Father, Son and Spirit. He created us triune beings in His image. That triune image manifests itself in mankind in the spirit, soul and body. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

For the Christian, the life of Christ flows through us. It affects us physically because He brings us healing; it affects us spiritually, because if we ask Him to, He dwells within us and guarantees us eternal life (Romans 8:11); and it also affects our soul. People live a lifetime trying to find fulfillment in their soul ~ the mind, will and emotions. They cater to the flesh, buying every gadget known to man to make them happy, trying to amass wealth in the process. Yet, they are never happy and always want something more or different.

I know some people who are never happy in one place for very long, so they move often. Others want every new fad in clothes and accessories, phones, stereo equipment, cars, etc. Some people constantly change jobs, trying to find one they enjoy more than the previous one. Some even change mates whenever the current one is no longer exciting, solicitous or physically perfect. They seek pleasure rather than Godliness.

We often pray for the body to get well, and for God to fill our spirit; but do we ever pray for the soul? With the Spirit of God residing within us, He will fill our soul with all the fruit of His Spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control and faith (Galatians 5:22). He will heal us from every negative emotion from the past, which we have hidden in our soul (Philippians 4:8). Our mind is renewed with the mind of Christ (Romans 12:2); our will is submitted to the will of God (Philippians 2:13); and our emotions are controlled by the spirit of God dwelling within us (James 1:19).

Therefore, when we are angry, we can sit quietly and ask God to fill our soul with gentleness, love and peace from our spirit. When we are anxious, we can ask God to fill us with patience, peace, and faith. When we feel self-sufficient, we can request that God fill our soul with meekness, goodness, and self-control. When we feel sad or depressed or hopeless, we can request an infilling of joy that will strengthen us (Nehemiah 8:10) and give us peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

More important than the soul, however, is the spirit. The spirit is dead within us at birth, until we ask Jesus Christ to be our Savior. We cannot truly live integrated, connective lives until we are born again. Then the Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life into our spirit. Genesis 2: 7 states, "And the LORD God formed man (body) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit); and man became a living soul." At death, the body ends up in the grave. However, the soul and spirit go on to our eternal destination (Luke 16:19-31). Where will you spend eternity?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help us to remember that the main point in life is that in order for You to fill our soul, we first need to be filled by Your Spirit. Our spirit must be born again by asking You to be our Savior and our Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

Thought for the Day:

The Spirit will lead you into all truth (John 16:13). He comforts us with His everlasting love (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).