Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Present Moment

Read: Philippians 4:5-7

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” - Psalm 55:22

Most of the time people function on automatic pilot! If we stop to analyze our thoughts, they are usually either on the past or on the future. Neither of those topics is very useful for the present moment.

Yes, we learn from the past and we plan for our future, but we do not obsess over them! We do not allow them to keep us from paying attention to the “here and now.” For the Born Again Christian, the past is over and forgiven and we are not promised a future, so dwelling on them is futile and only hinders our effectiveness in the present.

God only promised us this moment in which we draw our breath. We are not guaranteed the next breath! Therefore, give your prayerful attention to the moment as God gives it to you to enjoy. By doing this, we live in awareness of His presence in our lives and follow the leading of His Holy Spirit moment-by-moment throughout the day.

Fully living in the present moment is the ONLY way to stay in tune with the Spirit of God. The problem with dwelling in the moment is that we were hurt by the past, which makes us fearful of the future. God helps us to heal from the painful parts of our past and He also helps us to deal with our insecurities and fear of the future. 

Whenever your inner peace is distrubed by negative emotions, follow the advice of these verses and those already mentioned:

Proverbs 16:3… “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

Proverbs 3:5-6…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own
understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”

Psalm 22:8… “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let Him deliver him,
since he delights in Him."

In the present moment, we encounter God on a personal level. In this rendezvous, we start to realize the extent of God’s love for us as His unique child. The outcome of sitting quietly in His presence is that we begin to pay attention to what we feel, smell, taste, see and hear in this one moment of time. It is through this attentiveness to what is actually going on around you right now that you develop complete awareness and are fully alive.

This understanding allows us to minister more effectively, because we are in tune with God’s Spirit moment-by-moment. The trauma of the past and the fear of the future have no place in the present moment. Once He heals us, we no longer feel shame for the past and we entertain no worries about the future. We are safe and secure in the arms of God in this present moment, even if the circumstances around us are full of turmoil and conflict.

As we dwell in the moment, we become conscious of our union with God through Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit inhabits our spirit and leads us moment by moment throughout our day. His perpetual presence permeates our being as we start to consciously live in the moment. Kenneth Grabner, CSC in his book Awake to Life, Aware of God makes a wonderful statement, “If we take no time to be with God in silence and in quiet, we will never be aware of God in the midst of noise and activity."

That is why a daily quiet time of praise, devotion, and meditation on God’s Word is so important. As we emerge from our quiet time in His presence, we radiate joy and walk in peaceful calm in the midst of all of life’s difficulties. We also provide a lifeline to all of those around us. We do not have to arrive at perfection to minister to others in their walk with the Lord. We just need to contain a willing heart for God to use. 

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you told Simon Peter that Satan asked for permission to sift him like wheat, but You pleaded in prayer for him, so his faith would not completely fail. Once Peter repented, he turned back to you and was a great strength as he built up the faith of his brothers and the rest of Christianity through the ages (Luke 22:31-32). Thank you for pleading for us as well (1 John 2:1). Strengthen us and keep us focused on You.

Thought for the Day:
God did not put us on earth to amass worldly goods, but to serve as His vessels from which He can redeem others.




Thank you, Beth Howe, for the use of your photo.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

White Washed Tombs

Read: Matthew 23:27-28

In my early years as a Christian, while talking with our Associate Pastor’s wife, I concluded a very lengthy monologue. She responded by summarizing my description, “Then what you are telling me is that you are a white washed tomb.” 

A tomb? Me? But…as I reflected on what I just told her, I realized that she described me perfectly. I was a white washed sepulcher (Matthew 23:27-28)!!! 

Although I already repented of my sin and believed in Jesus Christ for my salvation, presently busyness pervaded every moment of my life. These distractions prevented the Holy Spirit from using me as He so desired. I appeared clean on the outside by Jesus’ blood, but actually putrifying sins and attitudes occupied my inner, carnal nature. The horrible fact about this ungodly predicament is that I had absolutely NO idea how to change this situation in my life!

I knew God; yet, I did not know how to be one with Him. For years prior to this day, I spent my time trying very desperately to please God. I knew my eternal Salvation was guaranteed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but I still tried to earn God’s love by my works. I was so active FOR God that I could not squeeze a personal relationship with Him into my busy schedule.

After all, I had three children and a Pastor husband who brought with him the responsibilities of a growing inner city church. Everyone in the family looked to me to match socks, find shoes, and have hot meals on the table three times a day. The phone rang constantly with church members calling for me to quote the price of mushrooms at the grocery store, to head some committee, to start some new program for the church, or to give them counsel on some malady. When did I have time to do more? I never even had time for myself, unless I stayed up late at night, which I often did.

Henry David Thoreau, in his book, Walden, mentions the “mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation.” This quiet desperation threatened to strangle the life from me. I realized that I needed to get serious with this problem, before it got serious with me!

Someone said, “The good things can become the enemy of the best things.” Sometimes we forget that the good we do often robs us of time that we could be doing the best thing. Our goal in life as Christians is to be led by the Holy Spirit moment-by-moment throughout the day. This is the only way to possess ultimate fulfillment and an intimate relationship with the true and living God.
Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for caring enough to show me that busyness robbed me of intimacy with You. Thank You for teaching me to spend quality time with You every day and for drawing me closer to Your heart in the process.

Thought for the Day:
Making mistakes is part of living; but thankfully God forgave them all by dying.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Renewing Our Mind

Read: Ephesians 6:10-18

Read this verse very carefully:
"
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

Many people misinterpret this verse by saying that God will not give us more trials than we can bear. Clearly, this is not addressing hardships, but is about the temptation to sin. Every recognized version of the Bible, which you read will give you this same word…tempted.

God does not diminish our trials, because He uses trials to work character in our life (James 1:3). He does, however, strengthen us to resist the temptation to sin. He wants us to walk away from temptation as victors, rather than to succumb to Satan’s trickery as his victims.

Temptation is common to all of mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13) and does not affect our Salvation. The first unholy thought is not a sin; it is a temptation. It is Satan’s tool to draw you away from spiritual pursuits. We only sin when we agree with and entertain those ungodly thoughts and quests. When we are tempted, God always gives us His wisdom to see right through Satan’s lies, if we will just take the time to pay attention.

One way we withstand temptation is by renewing our mind (Romans 12:2) with the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Another way to outsmart the devil is by pursuing eternal matters rather than allowing issues in the earthly realm to consume us. This is easier said than done.

Since we live in this world, its shackles continually pull us back to earth. Some people are spiritually immature and do not recognize Satan’s wiles. They give in to a wider range of fleshly, degenerate, fraudulent behavior that ends up bringing God’s judgment on their lives.

Others are less overtly sinful; yet, they are still excessively preoccupied with worldly pursuits. Some people are just idle gossips or full of anxiety or prideful about their own accomplishments. These are all sins, however, that God always gives us a way to escape from, if we will listen to His still, small voice.

If we make a commitment to follow Christ, then withstanding temptation gets easier every day. As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, read the Bible, listen to the preaching of God’s Word, worship with fellow Christians and share with others what Christ is doing in our life, then Satan will find very little that he can use to tempt us to sin. This is especially true if we renew our mind by putting on the mind of Christ (Psalm 27:11).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the tools You give us to live a faithful life, which is victorious over sin. When Satan attacks, prepare us to do battle using Your armor (Ephesians 6: 11-14) as our defense.


Thought for the Day:
Our defense against temptation is to be fully dressed for battle (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Monday, June 25, 2012

So, You Want to Give Up?

Read: Habakkuk 3:17-19
 
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 Sometimes it is easier to escape than to endure. Life gets so difficult that there seems to be no way out our troubles. The torturous events go on and on. One negative experience follows on the tail of the previous one until we are covered with an avalanche of destruction all around us. People say, “Trouble comes in threes”, but sometimes, that is an understatement!

I wrote a song that speaks to this topic:
When my ship is all but sunken,
And my treasure’s lost at sea,
When my crew has all deserted
And I know not the fate of me.

When the paycheck’s always shrinking,
And the landlord upped my rent.
When my friends all turn against me
And my motorcycle’s bent.

I will put my trust in Jesus.
I will call upon His name.
And I know my battle cry
Will still remain,

The battle is the Lord’s. Hallelujah!
The battle is the Lord’s. Praise the Lord!
The battle is the Lord’s. Glory, glory!
The battle is the Lord’s forevermore.

In God’s economy, it is never time to give up. Remember what He did with so many of the Biblical saints? He waited until Job lost everything before He gave Job more than he had to start with (Job 6:8-9). He sent angels to rescue Daniel only after he was in the lion's den (Daniel 6:19-21). God rescued Peter from prison the night before he was to be executed (Acts 12:4-11). Paul says God rescued him after he had the "sentence of death" within him (2 Corinthians 1:9).

He works like this in all of our lives. He waits until the last minute according to our timetable. That is why people call Him “The God of 11:59”.  He is actually always on time, according to His time schedule. He always rescues us right on time and with an abundance of blessings that follow. We find joy in hope and peace in times of trouble, when we immerse all things in prayer at all times (Romans 12:12).

Habakkuk really had a rough time too. His fig trees refused to blossom. His vines produced no grapes. His olive crop failed and his fields yielded no produce. Even his livestock dwindled until there was nothing left. But, he had a battle cry similar to mine. He said, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, and be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights" (Habakkuk 3:17-19). We can always set our hope in God, because He will deliver us continually (2 Corinthians 1:10).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when I see nothing but shadows all around me, Your Word shines a light on my path and gives me a lamp for my feet (Psalm 119:105). It keeps me from stumbling in the darkness. Therefore, even in this dark time, I can grasp Your hand and hold on. You alone are my hope (1 Timothy 4:10).

Thought for the Day:
God always brings us victory out of defeat.



(Thank you, Ann Hill, for sharing your lovely photo.)


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Feeling Empty Inside

Read: Ephesians 3:16-19

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

So many people today feel forsaken and lonely, disconnected from love and care. They have lost homes, loved ones, financial security, job longevity and friends they once held dear. They wander in virtual darkness, wondering what lurks just around the corner for them, and dreading it with every passing day (Ecclesiastes 2:20). They wonder if they will ever find happiness again and they despair of ever feeling whole once more. Satan convinces them that God no longer cares about them, and that they are lost in the darkness of their circumstances forever.

Why are we so discouraged? Why is our heart so utterly sad? The Psalmist repeatedly declares that if we put our hope in God, He will never let us down (Psalm 43:5a). We have no need to hope for something which we already have. Hope does sustain us, however, when we cannot see any way out or any success in our future (Romans 8:24).

If we put all of our hope in the Lord, and not on anything or anyone of this world, He will renew our strength. He will see to it that we take flight on wings like eagles; that we run, but do not grow weary; and even when we have to climb the steepest mountain, we will not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

When calamity falls upon us, and everything we try bears no fruit and every resource we once had fails, we can still be joyful in the Lord (Habakkuk 3:17-18). He never leaves us and He never fails (1 Kings 8:57). In His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). This hope only comes through praising Him and recognizing Him as our Savior and God every waking moment (Psalm 43:5b).

We all connect with God differently. When you wake up in the morning, meet with God and walk in unity with Him all day long. Take a walk and pray, sing worship songs, listen to Christian music, spend time in nature, sit quietly in God’s presence in your prayer closet, read His Word or whatever helps you to feel closest to God. Only as you keep your mind focused on Him can He keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). The minute we take our mind off Him, negative emotions will flood our soul.

When you feel your peace slipping away, go to a quiet place and ask yourself why you feel as you do. Once you realized what robbed you of your joy, fix the issue. If you cannot fix it, then give it to God and trust Him to work it out for your good in His timing (Romans 8:28). Do not ever entertain negative emotions. They rob you of your joy, peace and hope, as well as your physical, emotional and mental well being.

Focus on the positive aspects of your life and thank God for those. He will provide all of your needs according to His riches in glory in His own time, not in your time. Praise Him for all things, even the bad things, each and every day. God inhabits our praises (Psalm 22:3). So, when we praise Him, His presence fills us to the fullest.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, fill us with Your presence and allow us to feel Your love flowing over us like a waterfall as we sit in Your presence. I
pray that, as the source of all hope, you will fill us completely with joy and peace, simply because we trust in You. Help us to overflow with confident hope through the power of Your Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:13)

Thought for the Day:
The severest of trials cloaks a miracle just waiting for you to believe.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Worldly Wisdom

Read:
1 Corinthians 1: 20-24

"The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."
- 1 Corinthians 1:18

It makes me giggle when I see people on TV who speak as if they are experts on some subject. They pontificate their brand
of philosophy as if they have a market on the truth. However, wise men, scholars and debaters are all proven foolish when their brand of truth is held up against the standard of God’s Word. The Bible trumps the wisdom of the world every time. 

God calls everyone, regardless of their nationality, religion, economic or social status, or financial position, to have a personal relationship with Him and to share with the Saints the glory of heaven. He provides us all with the power and wisdom of God through Jesus Christ. The message of the cross makes no sense to most people, though. They cannot accept that their worldly wisdom is foolishness and that they need the Spirit of God in their lives (1 Corinthians 1:18). 

It is because of God that I am in Christ Jesus. He called me and saved me and redeemed me for eternity. He offers this same opportunity to anyone who will humble him/herself and repent of their sins and allow Him to convert their lives from a sin-filled one to a righteous one. Everyone has an equal opportunity to choose His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). 

When I gaze into the sky at the sun, moon and stars, which He set into place in such perfect order; when I see His handiwork in the woods and streams and mountains and plains; when I consider that He numbers the hairs of our head and that He knew us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb, I shed tears of joy and fall on my face in worship of Him.

Prayer:
Lord, the majority of people in the world do not receive Your wisdom, because they consider them fairy tales and myths. They cannot understand them, because Your words must be discerned by Your Spirit. Help us to share Your truth so that others may share your blessing with us, and so that Your Spirit may instruct them and give them the mind of Christ.

Thought for the Day:
My faith does not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:5

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Soul's Place in Eternity

Read: Luke 16: 22-31



There is a longstanding issue about whether or not our soul - our mind, will and emotions - lives on after death. The difficulty of accepting the reality of the soul as a vital element in our human existence, and then distinguishing it from the spirit and the body, is one of the most important conundrums of philosophical debate for centuries. The argument is heated at times, because of the lack of proof about whether or not the soul accompanies us into eternity.

The soul is made up of our mind, will and emotions. The mind’s function is to interpret what we experience in our body. It also defines the ideas and beliefs, which we hold dear. The soul also registers the emotions, which we feel. Then, considering our thoughts and feelings, the will makes the decisions, which we act upon. The soul is intangible; therefore, it requires a body to exist. We receive our body and soul at conception; however, our spirit is dead in sin until it is rebirthed in the regenerated Christian person.

The soul cannot be the spirit of man. The soul of the unregenerate man is functioning normally. It is the spirit, which is dead in trespasses and sin. The spirit is instantly regenerated or Born Again at Justification. Then, the soul takes the center stage as the Holy Spirit transforms our soul through the Sanctification process. This takes a lifetime. Eventually, the body will be saved through Glorification in the instant when we see Jesus. At that time, we shall have an immortal body, just like Jesus does. 

Verses such as, "Fear ye not them that kill the body . . . but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28), birth the idea of the Dualism of man, which means we only possess a body and a soul and causes people to equate the soul with the spirit. However, as scholars researched Bible verses further, they broadened Dualism to the doctrine of the Trichotomy in man. We are made in the image of God. He is a Trichotomy of Father, Son and Spirit. We are a Trichotomy of body, soul and spirit.

Paul shows our Trichotomy in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (body), and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Another reference is in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ’s teachings center on the spiritual side of man's nature. Of course, the demise or the salvation of the soul is of great importance when considering our eternal existence. However, Jesus’ teaching in Luke 16: 22-31 sheds some light on this topic. Although both the rich man’s body and Lazarus’ body are in the grave, they can both perceive thoughts and emotions through their soul, as well as experience in the soul what is usually registered through the five senses of the physical body.

Read with me from Luke 6:24…“So he called to him, 'Father Abraham (sight), have pity (emotion) on me and send Lazarus (thoughts) to dip the tip of his finger (taste) in water and cool my tongue (touch), because I am in agony (touch and emotion) in this fire (smell).” He also experiences the sense of hearing when Abraham advises him about his request in the verses following this one.

This scripture passage gives us a clear picture that our soul “feels” all of the physical sensations, which our body feels. When our body goes to the grave, the soul goes to heaven or hell for eternity. When Christ returns, we will all receive an immortal body, which will either experience the torments of hell or the glories of heaven for eternity, depending upon our belief in or rejection of Christ as our Savior and Lord.

Even scientists observe that the soul is independent and exists apart from the body. During our sleep, our soul carries on its work through our dreams. We express our self through our soul, not only on earth but also in heaven. Our physical life is merely temporary, while our soul exists continually. Scientists say that the physical proof of the soul’s existence comes from facts such as: the mysteries behind birth and death, the cessation of conscious thought during sleep, and the memory and imagination. All three of these give proof that there is an existence of the soul in addition to the body and spirit.

Yet, even with the obvious importance of the soul, mankind treats it with passing notice, sometimes even bordering on disdain. Some Christians insist that when we take up our cross daily, we crucify the God-given aspects of the soul, right along with the carnal, “fleshly” appetites of the body. What confuses me is that we dote on our physical condition, exercising and eating regularly to keep the body healthy and functioning. We feed our spirit with regular Bible reading and worship with other Believers. Yet, so many people ignore or try to crucify their soul, equating it with the “flesh”.

Peter calls us to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). This clearly shows that the soul is separate from the fleshly lusts and that we are to care for our soul. In my opinion, we need to pay equal amounts of attention to developing and nurturing our soul as we do with our body and spirit. Otherwise, we are like a stool with only two legs: unbalanced and virtually useless.

Paul explains that the natural (unregenerate) man does not believe the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he understand them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). His spirit is dead. I like to visualize our triune state as a basketball. The outer pigskin is the body, the thin inner tube is the soul and the air inside (if one is born again) is the spirit. A person without the Spirit of God within resembles a ball without air…just a dud!

Don’t be a dud! When you realize your sinful condition, turn your desires and affections toward God. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept His grace for salvation. When the Spirit of God brings salvation to the spirit of a man, and we choose to surrender our body and soul to God, we enjoy unconditional fellowship with our Lord, and our soul cries out as the Psalmists’ did, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, teach us to submit our Trichotomy to You. Give us the desires of our heart so that they align with the desires of Your heart. Help us to walk in Jesus' footsteps. We thank You for saving us body, soul and spirit and for giving us the opportunity to live as a completed human being in Your Kingdom for eternity.

Thought for the Day:
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground (body), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit), and man became a living soul.” - Genesis 2:7


(Research done at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04744b.htm)

Thursday, June 21, 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.” Genesis 29:20 NKJV

In a world of sure uncertainty and increasingly threatening peril right in my own backyard, courage and peace often elude me. Although Paul promises these trials are simply "light and momentary afflictions" (2 Corinthians 4:17), they feel heavy and insurmountable to me while I am experiencing them. I try focusing on eternal promises rather than on my current issue, but sometimes I struggle to walk in hope.

According to Genesis 29:20, Jacob had more faith than I do. He was able to fix his attention on the prize, rather than on the process. He 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. The promise of his true love gave Jacob the optimism and consolation, which he needed to persist through the pain and burden of the years of hard labor. This made fourteen years pass like days.

I love this verse. What an amazing love story we have here with Jacob and Rachel. In the rest of the Biblical account of their life together, and even after death, their love persisted. Jacob preferred the children he fathered with Rachel to his children by Leah and their concubines. His desolation at Joseph’s demise almost killed him, but Benjamin came along to console him during his later years without his beloved. Seeing Joseph again in Egypt brought him great comfort and joy. It renewed his feeling of pure love, since Rachel died in childbirth with Benjamin. 

Jesus also gave us an example of how to endure tragedy, when He faced the prospect of his daunting death on Calvary’s Cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He wrestled with the horrific torture he would face that very night (Luke 22: 41-44). He eventually surrendered His will to His Father’s and focused on the glory set before Him in Heaven, rather than considering the coming pain of the process of His death. Once He did, God sent an angel to strengthen Him.


Today, God promises all mankind the gift of a personal, eternal relationship with beloved Son. The love Jesus has for each one of us rivals the love story between Rachel and Jacob. It starts the moment we turn away from our sins and ask Him to save us. He moves in by His Holy Spirit and resides within us, giving us heaven on earth. The Spirit starts working in our lives – manifesting His fruit in our thoughts, words and deeds (Galatians 5:22-23). His love makes it easier for us to lay aside our fears, foibles and temptations and to look forward to His eternal promises instead. 

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. Remind us that You have a higher purpose for all of our days and that You work out even the negative things in our lives for our good (Romans 8:28).

Thought for The Day:
God jealously wants you all to Himself. He longs to draw you into His loving embrace and to live within you throughout your lifetime.






Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Woven into the Warp and Woof

Read: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” – Exodus 18:18

It is not good for anyone to dwell on a physical or emotional “island” apart from the rest of humanity (Genesis 2:18). In fact, God realized it was not good for Adam to live alone; therefore He created Eve to keep him company and to help him in tending the garden. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, also recognized the importance of relationships (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Regardless of our nationality, personality, specialty, punctuality, rationality, partiality, originality, proportionality, sentimentality, constitutionality or individuality we all have similar goals to succeed at something in life and a comparable desire to live happily. Our Heavenly Father recognizes that we work better in a team. This is why He puts Believers in a Body. We each have an ally in times of trouble. We help one another and protect each other.

Our most common denominator as human beings is our need for a Savior. When two people join ranks with the Lord, that three-fold cord cannot ever be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). God provided a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through repentance of our sinful thoughts and ways along with a belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It is just that simple! There are no good works to strive for, no penance to make and no sackcloth and ashes involved. He gives us this firm foundation for our life as a free gift.

However, most people go through life oblivious to or ignoring their need for a connection with God. They struggle with thoughts, emotions and circumstances that threaten to overwhelm them at times, even to the point of considering suicide. Yet, they refuse to surrender their life to God. Once we are in right standing with God, though, we can begin to reconcile with other people in our life with whom we are experiencing strained relationships.

Those who do submit to God are then joined to the diverse Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). We are never alone again. We can go anywhere in the world and find fellowship through the Spirit of God with other believers. In spite of our differences or our geographic diversity, the Spirit of God helps us to feel instantly at home with one another.

We depend upon each other, laugh together, move in concert with the Spirit and readily help one another. If one member suffers, we all feel their pain (1 Corinthians 12:26). When another member rejoices we all share in their joy. Separately God's children lack stability, but together we can accomplish great things for God in the earth. Look for other Believers, which God placed in your life, and then allow Him to weave you into the warp and woof of their fabric.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we thank You for being the head of Your Body and for allowing us to make up its members. Teach us our function in Your Body and give us the grace and inspiration to function in our calling. Allow us to be such a presence in the earth that everyone we meet will want to believe in You and to be a part of our fellowship.

Thought for the Day:
Too often, mankind is too self-sufficient to feel the need for redemption.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hearing From God

Read: Ephesians 3:16-19
   
“Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

No person, place, animal, or thing can bring you satisfaction from within or bring you fulfillment in your life. The depth of intimacy we experience in a personal relationship with God is the most nourishing experience of our lives. It affirms our very existence. Yet, we humans do everything we can to avoid it!!!

We get so caught up in our relationships, our ministry, and our accomplishments that we allow these earthly things to crowd out our intimate times with the Lord. Then, at other times, when we do take time for God, we often have distracted, barren, or faltering times. Don’t be discouraged, however, Satan is just providing road blocks that Jesus will soon overcome.

Have you ever prayed and heard or felt nothing? Then, just praise Him for who He is, what He’s done and what He means to you. God inhabits our praises and Satan runs from them (James 4:7-8; Hebrews 10:19-22). Sometimes, God remains silent and distant. He hides His face from us. Rest assured, however, that He continues to work in you.

In these barren or quiet times, His concentration is on our subconscious level of thought; getting us ready to be responsive to His next urging in our spirit. These quiet times cause us to hunger after God. They create a longing in us to return to our first love with Jesus, who is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Lord.

We allow the pressures and distractions of life to monopolize our attention, so often, that we fall into an exhausted sleep each night without ever having been to that still, small, inner place to meet our Father. When the mind is full of clutter and distractions, we get pulled in many directions without any goals or purpose. We find a lack of depth in our devotion. God’s voice cannot compete or penetrate our awareness, because the clutter is too overpowering and we are not listening for His voice. Often we hide our sorrow in some addiction that further separates us from the arms of our Holy God.

What I came to see as the critical element of hearing from God is that we expose ourselves to His holy presence, open our heart to His probing and listen with our inner, spiritual ear in the private sanctuary of our spirit -- that place reserved just for you and God. The place where there are no lists, no worries, no pressure, and no oughts. The only thoughts we have are clear directives that are totally Spirit led; and, when acted upon, will bear much fruit for the kingdom of God.

As we perfect the art of being fully and calmly aware of God’s presence within, we carry that awareness with us even as we live life at a full sprint. The object, however, is to simplify our lives at the same time that we abide in His presence.

Rather than working for God, we allow Him to work in and through us. We cut out everything in our lives that is not absolutely relevant. We stop any activity that is sinful. We empty ourselves of all of our inner clutter until we are totally void and empty enough to be totally filled with all the fullness of God. This takes time, effort and commitment.

During the day, when you feel your peace leave, stop! Go to a quiet place and focus your attention on your spirit, your body and your soul ~ your mind, will and emotions. Concentrate on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), relax and talk to God like you do to your best friend.

Journaling is a great way to hear from God. Sit down, prop up your feet and bask in His presence (Hebrews 4:10). Write down your questions, your needs, your concerns and your desires. Then sit quietly and listen. Allow God to conform you from the inside out. He will put a thought in your mind to answer your questions and to give you advice and wisdom.

Pray for wisdom to know if you can change the situation and how to change it. If you find that you can’t change the situation, ask God to show you how you should change your focus about the incident. Once you hear the answer from the Lord, then put the negative thoughts and circumstances in God’s capable hands, and focus on the positive aspects He shows you.

Habakkuk recognized God’s voice speaking to him (Habakkuk. 2:2). Elijah expressed His voice as still and small (I Kings 19:12). Sometimes He uses the words to a song, a sentence in a book, a Bible verse, or a comment you hear from another person or on the radio or TV to speak to us. At other times, a friend will confide in you and when God gives you wisdom for them, it will apply to your life as well.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and in the Jewish Temple, there was a great wall of fabric that separated God’s presence from the people. When You died on the cross, that wall was torn from the top down to the bottom. God rent that veil to show that Your death opened up His presence to us all. (Luke. 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-22). Remind us to take advantage of this and to spend time in Your presence.

Thought for the Day:
Be still, and know that He is God. - Psalm 46:10

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Read: Matthew 7:21-23

"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” - Matthew 7:22

Some people, at some time in their past, felt conviction over their sin and decided to believe in Christ. That is a good step, but only half of the step. Yes, they said the sinner’s prayer, went to church, talked to God and He continually draws them to Himself. However, there was no spiritual rebirth. No transformation took place in their lives.

They may have cleaned up their act somewhat; but they are still seeking first the world and its pleasures, rather than seeking first the Kingdom of God. Their mind is carnal and dwells on earthly things, rather on the eternal matters of life. They barely squeeze an hour a week out of their busy schedule for God, because their priorities follow the dictates of the devil, the world and/or their own pursuits. Their prayer for salvation was only a sentimental occurrence in their soul and their spirit is still dead in sin. They believe in God and are sorry for their sins, but they still live a carnal life.

These people are not living a converted life. They are not saved from the power of sin. They were double-minded in their prayer and not sincerely ready to give up their life to God’s control. They changed nothing by praying the sinner’s prayer, or even by going to church, serving in a ministry, talking to God, getting baptized or tithing their income. They are just doing good works, and that does not get you into heaven (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:12-14 & 7:13, Matthew 5:27-30). Their unconverted spirit proves that they are lost and going to hell.

Those who believe and repent are born again in their spirit, and they seek first the Kingdom of God. They cannot habitually live in sin (1 John 2:3-6, James 1:12-16, 1 John 3:7-10). They seek the kingdom of God first in their priorities. Then God adds to their lives everything they need (Matthew 6:33). It is their Father’s good pleasure to give them the kingdom (Luke 12:32).

Jesus made it very clear that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). God delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13). We have redemption through Christ’s shed blood, as well as the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). All we have to do to inherit the kingdom of God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ and to truly repent of our carnal ways (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). Jesus explained this when He told Nicodemus that God’s kingdom was invisible to most people (John 3:3). He said that in order to understand it or experience it, a person must be renewed by God’s Spirit (John 3:6).

Jesus made it clear that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36-38). When we continue to pursue the things of this world more than we work to further the Kingdom of God in the earth, that is a pretty clear indication that our spirit is not born again. We all have to earn a living. However, if we spend more time, money, energy, resources and mental capacity seeking worldly pleasures and material possessions than we do in supporting and working for the spread of the Kingdom of God, it is a clear indication that we are not eternally minded. Friendship with the world is hatred toward God (James 4:4).

The parable of the ten virgins gives us an excellent example of good people who all profess to be saved by Christ. They all took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. But only half of them had enough oil for their lamp. While the foolish virgins went to buy more oil, the bridegroom came. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. When those who were not ready returned, they said, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But he answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:1-12) They had a profession of faith, but they were not converted. They knew the Lord, but He did not know them.

Jesus confirmed this sentiment with Matthew 7:21-23, when He said that not everyone who professes Him as Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of His Father. He even points out that people will do many religious works in His name, but He will declare their good works as lawlessness and He will tell them to depart from His presence. Conversion has nothing to do with works, but depends upon believing in Jesus as the Christ AND in repenting of our sins (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when the Pharisees asked You when Your kingdom would come (Luke 17:20), You replied that we cannot see it, and that it is already within every born again Believer (Luke 17:21). Let us truly repent and be born again, so that we can see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Then the Kingdom will truly dwell within us, because You live within us by His Spirit.

Thought for the Day:
Those whom Christ knows, He has already brought into His Kingdom. - Colossians 1:13


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Abundant Supply

Read: 2 Kings 4:3-6

When the creditors threatened to put the widow’s sons into indentured service, she cried out to God for help. God sent Elisha to meet her need. After collecting every available pot and jar she could find from all of her neighbors, the widow started pouring oil from her tiny oil jar, as directed by the Prophet of God. The oil did not stop streaming out until the last jar miraculously filled to the very top.


After selling the abundance of oil, the widow paid her bills and spared her sons from a life of slavery for someone else’s profit. She also had oil for herself, the prophet and her family.

What if she told the prophet she was too tired to gather all of those pots and jars? What if she decided not to bother her neighbors? What if she had quarreled with her neighbors and no one agreed to lend her a jar or a pot? She would have missed out on the blessings of God. It is to our advantage to keep our relationships with our family, friends and neighbors open. You never know when God will call upon you to reach out to them in your time of need; or to minister to them in theirs.

What if she went a little further out into the neighborhood and gathered even more pots and jars? Did she limit God’s provision by gathering too few containers? She had no idea why the prophet gave her this command. She may have considered him a little crazy for telling her to do such a silly chore. As we obey the promptings of God’s Spirit and trust Him no matter how silly His directions sound, He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). God gives us the anointing of His Spirit to do all that He calls upon us to accomplish.

Sometimes, I feel too tired to talk to one more person, go to one more meeting or visit one more church prospect. What would happen if I failed to obey the Spirit of God and decided to hide under my covers instead? I would miss the benefits of God’s supply and deny someone else the blessings that God has in store for them. God gives us the anointing of His Spirit to do all that He calls us to accomplish. He gives us the energy to rise up with wings like eagles and soar (Isaiah 40:31).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You that You care for us and already provided for every need we will ever have. Thank You for Your Spirit to lead us every moment of every day in the center of Your perfect will for us.

Thought for the Day:
God never promises more than we need, but He does declare that He will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Matthew 6:33).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

God's Antidote For Negative Emotions







According to educated people, these are the negative emotions we humans deal with on a regular basis. (This chart is borrowed from an internet source.)

Dignity/
Respect/Self-Worth
Ashamed
Beaten down
Cut down
Criticized
Dehumanized
Disrespected
Embarrassed
Humiliated
Inferior
Insulted
Invalidated
Labeled
Lectured to
Mocked
Offended
Put down
Resentful
Ridiculed
Stereotyped
Teased
Underestimated
Worthless

Freedom/Control
Bossed around
Controlled
Imposed upon
Imprisoned
Inhibited
Invaded
Forced
Manipulated
Obligated
Over-controlled
Over-ruled
Powerless
Pressured
Restricted
Suffocated
Trapped
Love/Connection/
Importance
Abandoned
Alone
Brushed off
Confused
Disapproved of
Discouraged
Ignored
Insignificant
Invisible
Left out
Lonely
Misunderstood
Neglected
Rejected
Uncared about
Unheard
Unknown
Unimportant
Uninformed
Unloved
Unsupported
Unwanted

Justice/Truth
Accused
Blamed
Cheated
Disbelieved
Falsely accused
Guilt-tripped
Interrogated
Judged
Lied about
Lied to
Misled
Punished
Robbed

Safety
Abused
Afraid
Attacked
Defensive
Frightened
Insecure
Intimidated
Over-protected
Scared
Terrified
Threatened
Under-protected
Unsafe
Violated

Trust
Cynical
Guarded
Skeptical
Suspicious
Untrusted
Untrusting



Do any of these feelings sound familiar to you? God has positive characteristics that will displace these negative ones in our lives. He calls them the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, goodness, self-control and faith. Once we submit to His healing hand, He will bring us through the dark pain of our past into the glorious light of His freedom.

The Psalmist experienced these depressing times in his soul too:
"So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land." - Psalm 143:4–6

God has other promises for us too, when we feel fainthearted and weary:
Isaiah 40:31, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Hebrews 12:3 ESV,Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

2 Peter 3:13 ESV,But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Jeremiah 31: 25, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."

God will never fail to comfort us in all of our distressful times in life and then use us to help others experiencing the same trials we did:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." - 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we give our negative emotions to you. We cast off the restraints Satan tries to cripple us with to render us ineffective for the work of Your Kingdom. Help us to seek You first (Matthew 6:33) and to trust you to add to us everything we need in body, soul and spirit.

Thought for the Day:
"God keeps track of all our sorrows. He collects all of our tears in His bottle. He records each one in His book." - Psalm 56: 8

Friday, June 15, 2012

Expressing Negative Emotions

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

In times of tension and miscommunication, 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 used to protect us from injury, not to inflict injury. Anger is a flag to let us know that something is wrong. God cautions us, however, to be slow to express it, and to guard against crossing over into sinful behavior with this possibly volatile emotion (Ephesians 4:26).

The feelings of anger or resentment in our soul inform us that someone else’s behavior is offensive to us. Once we recognize this breach of our boundaries, then we can help the other person 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 - verbally, mentally or physically - we are inviting more of that same behavior in the future.

However, we can develop a habit of using premeditated wording to express our feelings, rather than to use hasty, angry words to verbally attack the offending party. Rather than to attack in anger, I learned to say:
“I feel afraid when you …”
“I feel like you spend more time with …. than with me. I need more of your attention.”
“Thank you for your opinion, but I do not agree with you.”
“I will walk away if you say/do that again.”
“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).”

We can learn to stand up for our self without hiding behind fierce anger and coarse words (Ephesians 5:4). In the face of confrontation, I still make it known in no uncertain terms that the offensive behavior is no longer acceptable to me; however, I try to respond with a confident, businesslike and resolute manner. Even in the face of a verbal onslaught, I endeavor to state my feelings more clearly with firm, calm words rather than with angry, irrational ones (Proverbs 15:1).

My husband and I even 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. We also write our positive feelings in our notebook. They are such cherished keepsakes.

Some people may never learn to treat us with respect; and they may never change their behavior towards us. These people are not safe. We need a firm boundary between them and 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 from them or any attack against us.

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. However, I want to caution you not to overreact and divorce your mate. A separation for the purpose of reconciliation through counseling and calm discussions is far better and more in line with Biblical teaching.
There is no justification for divorce except for sexual immorality, according to Biblical principles (Matthew 19:6; Matthew 5:32).

I also take my hurt feelings to the Lord. He helps me to forgive the offender and to pray for their blessing, whether they ever respond positively to me 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. 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



(Many thanks to Matt Milligan for the use of his cheerful photo.)