Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Living Through Grief

Have you ever felt the effects of grief in your life? Have you experienced the feelings of denial, bargaining, depression, anger, betrayal and abandonment that come with grief? I have felt this way more than once. I am sure you have as well.
Through these experiences, I found that in a time of loss, the greatest comfort we receive comes from clinging to God for consolation and provision. God in His wisdom answers our prayers according to His will, not according to our wishes. He sees the finished project. He knows what is best for our lives. Even when we double over with the emotional or physical pain caused by our circumstances, and we doubt God’s love and wisdom, He is working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28). He has only our blessings in mind, even though it does not appear like that at the moment. 

God promises in Jeremiah 29:11-13 (TLB), “For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.”

Paul reminds us in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (TLB), “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting comfort and hope, which we do not deserve, comfort your hearts with all comfort, and help you in every good thing you say and do.”

God will use this time of recovery to bring good things into your life. Besides your grief, you may also feel intense anger toward your mate, parent, child or God whom you trusted. This is a normal. Your anger is part of your recovery. Anger at God is proof that you still believe in Him. That is a good sign. You may feel debilitating depression with no hope of recovery. You may feel intense fear of the future with no prospects and no peace.

I want to encourage you to keep a journal during this time. Write out all of your uncensored thoughts and feelings as they come to mind. This is very therapeutic and brings you relief to the depths of your soul – your mind, will and emotions. It keeps track of your journey. You may even use it to write a best seller someday!

Stay active and spend time with others. Fill your days with joy that lightens your grief. Find something to look forward to each day. This will help you to face the sunrise without fear and remorse. Adopt a pet to give you companionship and a reason to get out of bed. In serving others in their grief, you will also lighten your own load. Do not be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of all of your tomorrows for you. Live one day at a time, one moment at a time, and give yourself permission to feel the joy of the Lord (Matthew 6:34).

Give God all of your worries and cares, because He always watches out for everything that concerns you. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through circumstances similar to yours (1 Peter 5:6-9). Tears wash away our grief, so never prevent your self from indulging in a good cry. Always remember, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Prayer:
Lord God, whoever dwells in You will find shelter and rest in the shadow of the Almighty God. You are my refuge and my fortress. You are my God, in whom I trust. God of mercy, Who saves us, I no longer fear the terrors and dark of night, the arrow that flies by day, the plagues or the evil pestilence that may come near my house. I completely trust in Your love, Your provision and Your will for my life. - Psalm 91

Thought for the Day:
I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. - Psalm 121:1-2







                   

Monday, July 30, 2012

Enjoying Life

Read: John 8:34-37

“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”  - 1 Peter 2:16


The needs of each person’s soul differ, but we all love to play. Fortunately, God abundantly gives us all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). There is a debate, however, between the ideologies of decency and decadence. Some believe there is no freedom in the face of morality. I contend that true freedom only comes within the safe parameters of these ethical boundaries. Otherwise, the mob rules and we all know that leads to chaos. Jesus agreed. He told us that we are slaves to sin, and reminded us that only the Son sets us free (John 8:34-37).

Sin makes us subservient to itself and there is no freedom in slavery. Fleshly indulgences are only enjoyable for a time. The dividends of depravity come in the form of ill health, addictions, unmanageable circumstances, jail terms, broken relationships, poverty and eventually death without peace (Luke 21:34). Paul gives wise counsel on how to live in Eph 5:15-19 NIV, “Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

The world tells us to ignore our conscience and to give in to the secular reasoning that “If it feels good, do it!” Who judges right from wrong if the Bible is not our standard? Society leaves it up to individuals, most of whom have trouble discerning truth in any form. Experience proves that a pursuit of money, immorality, fame, drugs, alcohol, relationships, looks and success only brings us temporary joy. In attaining these “prizes” we face a hollow victory. We immediately grow dissatisfied and want something more. The graveyards are full of people who died unhappily, even though they had one or more of these supposed guarantees to a happy life.

I see no need to fear moral restrictions. There is an unlimited amount of wholesome activities for spiritual people to enjoy, such as: learning something new, reading a book, taking a leisurely nap, canoeing the river, popping corn and watching movies, gathering with friends, sports, enjoying nature and developing new hobbies, to name just a few. We do not need to live a life of sin in order to enjoy life.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am learning that there is no true happiness apart from You. I only experience completion in my life through my relationship with You. This is more fulfilling than any human relationship I ever enjoyed. Because You live within me, You are closer to me than any other bond. Jesus, thank You for coming to give us abundant life, which is filled to overflowing (John 10:10, Amplified Bible).

Thought for the Day:
How totally pointless the pursuit of self-indulgence appears after we attain it, and what a bitter taste of repulsion it leaves in our empty soul.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Coals of Fire

Read: Philippians 2:12-13

“Fire blazed forth from the Lord's presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.” - Leviticus 9:24

When I read in Leviticus 9:24 that God lit the initial fire in the brazen altar, I was as amazed as the Israelites. Once He lit the fire, then God constricted the tribe of priests called the Levites into the service of keeping that fire lit at all times as they ministered in His Tabernacle.

When we ask Christ to forgive our sins and to come and dwell in our spirit, God lights His holy fire within us too. Then He constricts us as His priests (1 Peter 2:5,9) into the service of keeping the passion of our heart fires lit. It is not by our own self-effort that we do this, but by daily seeking first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), by being led by His Holy Spirit moment by moment throughout the day, and by ministering God’s love and mercy to the people in our home, neighborhood, workplace and church as God gives us an opportunity to do so.

The Word of God clearly states that the Kingdom of Heaven is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). The Kingdom of God is not about the tangible physical aspects of life, but about our spiritual passion resulting from God moving into our spirit. He immediately starts His sanctifying work in our soul – our mind, will and emotions; calling us to allow Him to work in and through us as we walk in His holiness.

If you are like me, you get discouraged sometimes when you do not see the fruit of your labors. When your efforts are rejected or if your words go unheeded, you want to quit doing the Lord’s work. However, the book of Hebrews tells us not to cast off our confidence (Hebrews 10:35).\, because if we do not grow weary, we will reap a great reward (Galatians 6:9).

These words admonish us to have patience, so that once we do the will of God, then we will receive His promise. So often, we lose persistence, hope and confidence in our ministry for the Lord. We allow the passion of our fire for God to go out, and we end up forfeiting the promised rewards that come with serving Him.

God calls us to walk out our own salvation, but He also promised to give us the power both to have the desire and the ability to do His will and to bring Him pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). Therefore, when we get discouraged, we can refocus on God’s plan and purpose for our lives, we can confidently do the works God calls us to do, and we can keep the holy fire burning within us, leaving the results of our ministry to the Lord.

Prayer:
Lord God, You gave us a simple job to do, to be light and salt in the earth (Matthew 5:13-16). This is impossible, however, without Your Spirit dwelling within us, perfecting us and enabling us to be ready in season and out of season to do Your will (2 Timothy 4:2) to preserve Your truth in the midst of sinful humanity and to share Your light in a world of darkness.

Thought for the Day:
The most powerful force in the world is a heart on fire for God.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Intimate Bond

Read: Psalm 63:1-8

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” – Psalm 62:5 

Who holds the place in your heart as your closest friend? What words do you share, dreams do you imagine together and what joint focus do you both maintain in your lives? How intimate are you? What news or emotions do you withhold from this person in spite of your close relationship? Do you ever tell him/her a little white lie to protect your image in their eyes? Do you have more fears than fulfillment in this relationship?

Our relationship with Christ, who lives within us, has the potential to be more intimate than any human bond can ever hope to fulfill. Christ knew you before your conception (Psalm 139:13). In fact, He knew you before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)! What human being knows you that well? Who could ever grant the desires of your heart as intimately and completely as Christ can (Psalm 37:4)?

This intimate relationship with Christ is only a prayer away. Simply admit that you are a sinner, turn away from these sins, thank Jesus Christ for saving you from the everlasting punishment, which you deserve because of your sins; and then ask Him to come and dwell in you by breathing His life into your spirit, which is currently dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Walking in the presence of the Lord and being led by His Holy Spirit is without a doubt the most fulfilling experience available in this earthly realm. This union cannot be compared to any earthly relationship. The peace, joy and security that God provides is second to none. Many secular organizations attest to the healing and freedom obtained by turning over control of our lives to our Higher Power.

Therefore, once you accept Christ’s atonement for your sins, He raises you from eternal death. You can now set your heart on eternal matters rather than on earthly, carnal concerns. You are now dead to the old nature and are born again into Christ’s life with God (Colossians 3:1-3).

How fulfilling is a relationship where more than half of the decisions, which are made, are all one-sided? How close can you feel to someone who insists on always having his or her own way all of the time? How often do you have to put aside your needs and desires in order to keep the peace in a relationship or in order to insure that you do not lose someone’s love in your life? This is no way to live, right?

Well, we are guilty of treating our relationship with Christ in this same manner. How much time do you devote to your relationship with Him? Do you insist on having your own way? Do you ignore His mandates and live life as you see fit? Have you created a designer God, one that is the figment of your own imagination and fits your carnal philosophy of life?

It is time to completely surrender your life to the Lordship of the true Lord Jesus Christ. Submit yourself to God and live according to His plan and purpose for your life. In His presence is the only place on earth where you will ever find fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

How often do those closest to us on earth let us down? Christ never will! Hebrews 13:5 in the Amplified Bible reads, “For God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let you down, nor relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!” This verse brings us great comfort.

Intimacy with God is more fulfilling than any relationship on earth. You can share your deepest thoughts with Him and divulge your most dreadful concerns to Him without fear of ridicule or rejection. He cares deeply for all that you are, all that you do and all that you hope to become. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for the intimacy You give each one of us who will take the time and make the effort to seek Your face moment by moment throughout the day. Help us to walk in Your Spirit and to do that which You give us to do. Shower us with your peace and joy as we face life’s trials and remind us to always put our trust in You.

Thought for the Day:
You are, at this moment in time, as intimate with God as you choose to be.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Choice is Ours

Read: Phillippians 3:1-11

"Apart from Me you can do nothing." - John 15:5

The Bible declares that Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Scholars call this theme “Paul’s Obsession”, because he used the phrase “Christ in me” or “In Christ” more than 170 times in his writings. If we have Jesus Christ living in us, He daily delivers us from sin’s dominion by His resurrection life within us (Romans 5:10). He also gives us new values, priorities and goals in life (2 Corinthians 5:17). He gives us His peace that transcends human understanding (Philippians 4: 6-8). If we do not have the Son of God living in us, however, we do not have any of this (1 John 5:12).

Christ’s salvation goes beyond the spirit to the soul and body as well (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The original Biblical language uses three words for salvation: sotheis, sezosmenos, and sozomenos." They mean that believers are currently saved in our spirit through Justification, that we will be saved in our body when we see Jesus through Glorification, and lastly that we are being saved in our soul – our mind, will and emotions - through the lifelong method of Sanctification. Salvation is a process, three stages in an exciting journey that gets sweeter as the days go by.

I desire to know Jesus more intimately every day and to see myself grow into His beloved, mature child. My right standing before God is by faith in all that Christ accomplished on my behalf. I do not have to work for or earn this position. If I really believe this fact, then I will take advantage of the opportunity, which He gives me, to get to know Him more intimately as my redeemer, friend and brother. I do this by spending time reading God’s Word; by prayer – talking and listening; by attending a Bible teaching church; by fellowshipping with other Christians and by sharing with others what God is doing in my life.

On a recent trip to visit my friend in the hospital, I spoke to a lady in the elevator whom I did not know. She wore a beautifully ornate cross around her neck. I asked, “Do you know the Jesus who died for us on the cross?” Shocked at my question, she blurted out a bit sarcastically, “Well, not personally.” I felt so sad for her, so I said, “Well, He wants to have a personal relationship with you. Just read your Bible and attend a Bible teaching church and He will be your best friend just like He is to me.” The elevator door opened and I never saw her again. I truly hope she took the time to meet my best friend.

God freely offers everyone this gift of a personal relationship with Him. We have the option to either embrace His friendship or to refuse to acknowledge Him. The choice is ours. God gives us this opportunity to get to know Christ and to grow in our understanding of His power, His resurrection and in what He has to offer us in eternity. We can experience first hand both Christ’s sufferings and His victories as we walk through our trials with Him within us. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5); but in Him we are conquerors over every trial, because He loves us (Romans 8:37).

Christ suffered rejection by the religious leaders of His day. They did not believe they were actually crucifying the living God, because they did not recognize Him for who He was. We do know Him, however. We have the opportunity every day to fellowship with Him; to walk in His mercy, power and grace; to be led by His Holy Spirit and to live with Him in eternity in Heaven. When we put our trust in Jesus and allow Him to live in us and to work through us, His power flows through us and from us as it changes the world around us.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your death on Calvary’s cross, which paid the penalty for my sin (Romans 5:8). Thank You for Your resurrection that gives me life in my spirit, soul and body. Thank You for Your redemption that guarantees me a place in eternity with You. Thank You for life to live on this earth. Help me to make every day count for Your glory.

Thought for the Day:
Jesus gives me the opportunity to be one with Him in perfect love and acceptance, apart from any good deeds, pious performances or imposed restrictions, which come from my  self-effort.

Thursday, July 26, 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 or to develop their spiritual life at all. Christians often fit into this category as well.

If we change our focus to eternal matters, we live each moment of the day in gratitude for what He already provided. Then, He continues to provide our needs for that day as well. As we live our life open to the leading of His Spirit, He puts us in the right place, at the right time to carry out His will. No matter how desperate the circumstances are in our life, He promises to work them all out for our good (Romans 8:28) in His timing and in His way. All we need to do is to trust that He knows what is best for us.

Having an eternal viewpoint of life on this earth, gives us a whole new perspective on what we experience. The carnal world and fleshly desires fade away, as we focus on doing the will of God (1 John 2:17). God’s will is actually very simple. He wants us to be transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). If we focus on Him, He will take care of every other component in our life (Matthew 6:33). This way, we learn to be content just as Paul did when he was shipwrecked, beaten, imprisoned, hungry, exhausted, lonely and forsaken by all those he held dear (Philippians 4:12).

As we rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) and trust in Him instead of relying on our human wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6), we end up walking in His perfect will moment by moment throughout the day. We receive such a feeling of oneness with our Creator, such a fulfillment from helping others in their time of need and such a deep sense of joy the defies description (1 Peter 1:8). 

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Communicating with God

Read: Psalm 105:1-5

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” - Psalm 27:8



We communicate with God in the same manner in which we communicate with people. There is no need to use long sentences, flowery words or to translate English into Greek and Hebrew to impress God with your prayers! There is no need to pretend with God, because He knows you better than you know yourself. We just need to be authentic and to allow our true self to communicate with our Heavenly Daddy.

There is a time coming, during the Great Tribulation, when mankind will cry out to God and He will not hear them. But right now, if we seek the Lord and call upon Him, He is always near to us. He calls the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous man to submit his thoughts to God. He wants everyone to return to Him (John 3:16-18). If we will, He will have compassion on us all and abundantly pardon all of our transgressions (Isaiah 55:6-7).

If, with a thankful heart, we bring everything to God in prayer for what He already provided, we have no need to worry about anything. He will continue to supply. He actually invites us to make our requests known to Him. He is the God of such deep, abiding peace that we cannot even comprehend the depths of it. Therefore, He is capable of guarding our hearts and our minds, and of providing all of our needs, as we stay in tune to Him (Philippians 4:6-7).

God speaks to us, through the Bible, in prayer, by His Holy Spirit to our spirit, through our circumstances and in His still, small voice within our mind (1 Kings 19: 11-13). His grace is sufficient for all of our needs (2 Corinthians 12:9). His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That is why Paul declared that he preferred to boast about his weaknesses, so that the power of Christ could be strong in him (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

At times, the darkness in the world threatens to overwhelm us. God promises to be the light all around us, because even the darkness is not dark to Him. The night is as bright as the day to the Lord, because darkness and light are alike to Him (Psalm 139:11-12). God is not afraid of the darkness and His Spirit in us will give us confidence to face dark circumstances with courage and victory.

God is just waiting for us to give him the opportunity to have compassion on us. He is the God of justice, and we are blessed when we long for Him with our whole heart (Isaiah 30:18). He hears our voice and our requests, because He bends down His ear to hear us. We have no excuse not to call upon Him every day of our life (Psalm 116:1-2). He longs to be gracious to us.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, what do you require of us in order for us to receive Your blessings? Your Word tells us to reverence You, to walk in all of Your ways, to love you with all of our heart and soul, to serve You with all of our strength and to keep Your commandments, which You provided for our own well-being (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13). When I consider all that You do for us, this is such an easy thing to do for You.

Thought for the Day:
Never start a day without first saturating it in prayer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christian Freedom


Read: Galatians 5:13-16

“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” - Psalm 28:7



The first key to freedom in Christ is humility. If we keep blaming others for our failure, nothing ever improves and we are never set free from the bondage of the past. Humility is absolutely transforming. The humility to admit that we are powerless leads to surrender. This surrender leads to serenity.

Serenity is peace, which transcends our circumstances. This deep peace leads to joy, which does not depend on what is going on around us. Happiness is a fickle human emotion that ebbs and flows with the tides of life. However, the joy of the Lord is our continual strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It gives us the energy to follow the Spirit’s leading as we live in the moment throughout the day.

A Christian sister reminded me that she is a teacher; and, therefore, must plan her calendar. She wondered how she could plan and still live in the moment. We can plan our life as the Spirit gives us direction, but living it moment by moment takes away our regret over the past and our worry over the future. We are also able to enjoy each moment as God gives it to us, because we are unencumbered by negative emotions.

Negative emotions are the red flags of our soul. They alert us to the fact that we have an unresolved conflict causing unrest in our mind. Ask God what is causing this negative feeling of fear, anger, rejection, hopelessness, confusion, invalidation, bitterness, depression, etc. The root of these emotions is hidden in an experience, which muddied the peaceful stream of our soul. Until we find this root of unrest, and bring it to God to heal, it will continually stir up strife in the depths of our soul. The minute God speaks His truth about this situation, however, the passion within the negative emotion is extinguished and the joy of the Lord returns.

This brings up the concept of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). People wonder how to pray without ceasing and yet continue to live up to their daily responsibilities. We certainly cannot stay on our knees in our prayer closet all day long. Some people say this means that we live in an attitude of prayer. I assert that we are actually called to pray about each moment as God gives it to us. We ask Him what He wants us to do, and we follow His Spirit’s leading as we do it. Then we pray about our next endeavor throughout the day. Life flows much more smoothly with prayer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, remind us to follow the trail of tears from the negative emotion disturbing our peace, back to the experience where Satan planted it. It may not be rooted in the current situation we are experiencing, but in some instance it stems from, which is deep in our past. Give us courage and wisdom as we seek Your healing for all of the negative emotions that rob us of our joy.

Thought for the Day:
Humility admits that we cannot, and acknowledges that God can.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Praying in Jesus' Name

Read: Isaiah 43:2

”The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” - Psalm 34:18


Demons tremble at the mention of the name of Jesus (James 2:19). This name is above all names and it has a power that is in no other name (Philippians 2:9). When we conclude our prayer with the words, "in Jesus' name", we are telling God that we are coming to Him with our requests because of the power behind Jesus’ name, especially if we pray together in agreement with other believers (Matthew 18:19-20). We come boldly to the throne of God (Hebrew 4:16) and we ask anything "in Jesus' name" with confidence that we will receive it (John 14:13-14).

After we repent of our sins, we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). From this point forward, God spoils His children. We can ask anything in His name and He gives it to us so that our joy will be full (John 16:24). Of course, as with anything worthwhile in life, there are parameters and cautions.

For instance, if we pray covetously to gain this world’s goods, we are praying from our fleshly lusts instead of from our heavenly nature (James 4:3). God feels no compulsion to answer these prayers, whether we pray in Jesus’ name or not. When you pray in Jesus’ name ask for things that will honor and glorify Jesus, not to receive worldly goods. As we seek first the Kingdom of God, then He will take care of all of our needs (Matthew 6:33).

It is not really the words of our prayer that are important, but rather it is the intent with which we pray that matters. So use your own words when you petition God or praise His name. There is no right or wrong way to talk to God. As we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying in agreement with God’s will.

God is not a genie or an Aladdin’s Lamp to grant all of our prayers with a "Yes". Sometimes, God also answers our prayers with a "No," or a "Wait". He wants our faith to grow and He wants us to love Him more than we want the answer for our prayers. Sometimes, God just wants us to persevere in prayer. In the parable of Luke 18:1-8, Jesus teaches us the importance of persisting in prayer.

God wants us to love Him even if He does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to. He promises to deliver us out of our troubles and make us a testimony for the world to see...just like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. They refused to worship the king's idol and he tossed them in the furnace to die. Jesus met them there and kept them safe until the King called them out of the furnace again. God will keep us safe too, even in negative circumstances.

If your prayers are not answered, examine your heart, and ask God to show you the truth. Getting right with God leads us back to sweet communion with Him and more answered prayers. All of these areas can keep our prayers from getting answered. Ask yourself:
‎A. Are you asking selfishly?
B. Have you turned away from God or are you walking in disobedience?
C. Are you harboring unforgiveness in your hearts against someone, even yourself or God?
D. Have you allowed discord to creep into your marriage, family, church, workplace, etc? 

Often, Satan blinds us to the fact that God really is answering our prayers. Satan does not want us to see God’s provision in our life. He does not want us to praise God or to give Him any glory. Satan would prefer for us to be mad at God, for our anger to burn against Him and for us to grow cold and fall away from serving Him.

If you take an honest look at your prayers since dedicating your life to God, you will realize that God has resolved each one for you. You may be having continual trials, but that’s because Satan is trying to get you to give up! If you look at these circumstances more closely, God is actually answering every one of your prayers. In this world, we will have tribulation…but be of good cheer, because Jesus already overcame these trials for us and He lives within us (John 16: 32-33).

We can believe in faith that God will deliver us out of every trial and negative circumstance, because He promised that He would ~ not in our timing, but in His own. He will also use our trials to further His Kingdom in the earth and to help us to grow spiritually (Psalm 34:7, 17,19) as we pray in Jesus’ name.

Prayer:
Lord, sometimes You put people in our life to teach us to love them in spite of their idiosyncrasies. Satan will actually use these people to badger us, until they quit bothering us. Help me to remember that these people are actually hurting, and they need You in their life. I may never change them, but they will change me for the better, because You will use them to work Your fruit into my life. I pray for them in Jesus’ name.

Thought for the Day:
When doubts filled our mind, God’s comfort gives us renewed hope and joy (Psalm 94:19).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Assurance of Our Salvation


Read: Ephesians 2:1-19


“Now we can come fearlessly right into God's presence, assured of his glad welcome when we come with Christ and trust in him.” - Ephesians 3:12 


So many Christians are tormented by Satan’s lies concerning their salvation. It is wise to consider your salvation experience and to make sure it is secured. Have you truly repented? Have you surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Are you attempting to walk in the Spirit and to avoid the temptations of the flesh? Do you have a hunger for Bible study? Do you enjoy praying? Do you have a heart for spiritual things? If so, then you are truly saved.

Therefore, you can ignore the doubts Satan whispers in your mind. God’s Word gives us assurance of our salvation. It brings comfort and peace to our soul and strength to our spirit to help us to grow into everything that God created us to be.

We were once under God's curse, doomed forever because of our sins. We went along with the secular crowd and followed their example. All of us used to be just as they are, doing every thing that our passions or thoughts led us to do. We were born with evil natures, and were under God's judgment just like everyone else. However, now that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and Emmanuel, God in the flesh who dwelt with us, He is our Savior and we are actually joint heirs with Him and children of our Father God (1 John 5:1-4).

God gives us the rich experience of knowing Christ with certainty and clarity (Colossians 2:2). There is no eternal doom waiting for those who trust in Jesus for Salvation (John 3:16-18). God expressed His richest mercy toward us and raised us from the dead with Christ. We did in no way deserved His favor, but He lifted us up from the grave into glory anyway. Salvation is not our reward for being good. We cannot take any credit for it (Ephesians 2: 8-9). It is God Himself who has made us who we are today. He gave Salvation as His free gift to whomever chooses to believe (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 17:30). Are you a Believer?

I never want to forget that I was once a sinner. I never want to judge anyone else in the moment of their negative behavior, but to give them the same measure of mercy and grace that Christ gives me. We are now all one family, because Christ broke down the walls of derision and suspicion that used to separate us. If we have love in our heart for other Christians, this proves that we have been delivered from hell and given eternal life (1 John 3:14). I never want to say that I love people without proving it by my actions, so that my conscience will be clear before the Lord.
 
Loving God means doing what He tells us to do, which is not really hard at all. Every child of God can obey him, defeating sin and evil desires by trusting Christ to help us. We are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but members of His family, citizens of His country, and we will abide forever in His household (Ephesians 2:19). We can go boldly to God’s throne of grace in our time of need, trusting Him to receive us, simply because we have been sprinkled clean with the blood of Jesus and washed pure with the water of His Words in the Bible (Hebrews 10:22).

God put His Holy Spirit into our hearts as a proof to us that we are living with Him and He lives within us (1 John 4:12-17). I never grow bored with living the Christian life and I never want to become spiritually apathetic or indifferent (Hebrews 6:12). My confidence in my salvation is now a strong anchor for my soul, because it connects me with God himself.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving Your home in the glories of heaven, for sacrificing You life on the horrendous torture of Calvary and for preparing a home for us in Heaven (John 14:2-3). Help us to stand firmly assured of the complete work You did for us on the cross, and to walk in that assurance every day of our life.

Thought for the Day:
We can live confidently in our salvation by trusting in Christ.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Read: Luke 4:1-11

“No one is righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10

I always get defensive when people blame God for the negative circumstances in our world. They say, “If there really is a God, why did He allow this to happen?”

Quite honestly, God created Paradise for us. He wants to provide for our every need and to give us a perfect environment in which to live.

However, God also gave us all a free will and the ability to make choices. Our choices and/or the choices of others are what cause all the horrid things in our lives, not God. Even inclement weather is caused because of the curse produced by Adam and Eve’s sin. God is not calous to our suffering. He feels our sorrows and is acquainted with our griefs. After all, our sin nailed Him to the cross.

I do agree that there really are decent people in this world who are very kind, generous and good to others. They are honest and some are even spiritually minded. Even though they are not perfect, they are attempting to live lives of service to others. So when they suffer, it angers us because we do not think they deserve to suffer in this way. We wonder why God would allow bad things to happen to them?

The surprising answer to this is found in the Bible. There are no “good” people. We are all influenced by sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Romans 3:10-18). Yet, Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, why did God allow a good man like Jesus to suffer and die? In order for Him to pay the penalty of our sin. Sin in every form is what causes all the bad things in the world to happen to people who are really trying hard to live a good life. God only wants our best in life. It is our choices and the choices of others that open the door for evil to affect us. Of course, Satan plays into this too. The existence of evil points to the reality of a God who is good, holy and just. Satan’s tool is deception and his aim is to steal, kill and destroy your life (John 10:10).

We are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against Satan and his demons in the spiritual realm. They wield mighty powers of darkness and they rule the world. God gave Adam and Eve jurisdiction over the earth (Genesis 1:28).  However, when Adam and Eve sinned, they relinquished control over the earth to Satan. He is now the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Our holy God did not leave us defenseless, however. The Bible encourages us to put on the whole armor of God so that He can protect us from the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 11:6, 12). Each piece of God's armor has a specific purpose and allows us to resist Satan so we can stand firm in this spiritual warfare. God’s righteousness is our body armor and His truth is our belt. If we walk in His righteousness and support this holiness with His truth, then the vital aspects of our life are protected. Although we may suffer physically, He protects our soul and spirit (Matthew 10:28).

God then guards our spiritual walk by the peace that comes from a personal relationship with Christ. He also gives us faith to shield us when Satan tries to discourage us, distract us and lure us to return to serving him. God protects our mind with a helmet fashioned by our salvation through Christ. This allows us to take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 12:5) and to put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Then, last but not least, He gives us the Bible as our sword. We can defeat Satan with God’s Word, just like Jesus did in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-11).

As with Job, Satan attacks us with illnesses and plagues to try to break us and make us curse God. Even so, God works all of these horrors out for our good (Romans 8:28), just like He did for Job. Instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him with all of our heart and not to depend upon our own understanding. He wants us to acknowledge Him in everything we say and do, so that He can keep us on the straight and narrow path (Proverbs 3:5-6). In this way, we make far fewer mistakes and we reap many more positive consequences.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, for those who are asking this question, give them the comfort of Your presence in their life. Break through their pain and give them Your peace that supercedes human reasoning. Flood them with Your joy as their strength. I pray that You will put Your salve upon their hurting hearts and that You will reveal the love of Your Son Jesus to them, right where they are.

Thought for the Day:
Out of our suffering, God forges strong souls. He fashions the Godliest of character in those who are tormented with the most affliction.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Raising the Lazarus in Your Life


When Jesus visited Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus died, 4 days had passed since the burial. In John 11:21, Martha says to Jesus, "Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."  Martha was overwhelmed with sorrow at her brother’s passing. The loss was great to their entire family, their friends and community. They wanted Jesus to come while Lazarus was sick, so that He could heal him. In their minds, Jesus failed to show up in time. Martha was bitterly disappointed.

Can you relate to Martha's attitude? Many of us are overwhelmed with our troubles. Stuck in anxieties we cannot seem to let go of. Drowning in sorrow that threatens to sink us into the pit of despair. We have tried several strategies to overcome the obstacles, yet none of them worked out. Have you given up hope of something that you have struggled with for an extensive amount of time? Have you decided that there is no sense in even praying about it anymore, because it is not going to happen?

Of course, we all know the ending to Martha’s story. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. In the same way He answered Martha’s prayer, Jesus will raise our "Lazarus" from the dead as well. Our God is great. He is mighty and awesome in power. There is nothing too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17,27). He wants to work all things out for our good (Romans 8:28). Are you willing to believe and to wait on Him? Just call upon Him and He will answer you and show you great and mighty things (Jeremiah 33:3). Once Lazarus came forth from the tomb (John 11:40), Jesus responded, "Did I not tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?" Lazarus died for the glory of God, so that Jesus could bring him back to life.

Let’s look at this scenario from another perspective. What if God actually chose this as Lazarus’ time to die? Jesus would not have raised him from the dead. Would his family, friends and community ever recovered from this tragedy? Some people look at death as defeat. They think that if God allows someone to die, then He failed to heal them. This is only the opinion of people with a limited, earthly viewpoint.

Death is actually the ultimate healing, because God takes us home to live with Him in heaven. This is actually far better than healing in this earthly realm, because now there will never be any more sickness, sorrow or death for our loved ones. They already passed through the veil into eternal life.

As we choose to trust God with our "Lazarus", we will see the mighty hand of God working in our favor. We all struggle with sin, anxiety, frustration and so much more. However, God can raise every hopeless situation we ever encounter in His timing and in His own way for His glory. We can all be raised from deadly circumstance, through His power working for, in and through us.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help us to keep our focus on You and not on our circumstances. Help us to look at our life from an eternal perspective and to trust you to work all things out for our good. Help us to share our faith with others through prayer, so that our effectual, fervent prayer will heal the sick, in body, soul and spirit (James 5:16).

Thought for the Day:
The existence of the entire universe is an impossibility, which God made possible.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heavenly Compassion

Read: Psalm 103: 9-13

God is collecting His anger over the sin of mankind in a cup of wrath (Jeremiah 25:15). He does declare, however, that He will not always strive with mankind or harbor His anger forever (Genesis 6:3). There will come a day, when He will unleash the furry of His wrath over the ravages of sin and He will take vengeance against all of those who caused innocent people to suffer and grieve. God collects all of our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and He will avenge every one of them (Romans 12:19).

In spite of His justice and holiness, however, once we repent, God does not ever make us pay the consequences we deserve for our sins. He covers us with the blood of Jesus and He casts our sins as far as the east is from the west. How far is the east from the west?

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 pole going east and west as there is going north and 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 removes our sins. They will never catch up with us. They will never be returned to us or be 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. Our sin caused Him to pay a debt, which He did not owe. He suffered persecution and crucifixion for sin, which He did not commit.

The benevolence of the perfect Lamb without spot or blemish paid our sin debt for us. Once the enormity of His sacrifice pierces our heart, we fall on our face and repent of our sins. This is when we are humbled by His love, grace and mercy, which we do not deserve. We revere Him as He deserves to be worshipped. At this point, with tears of awe and gratitude spilling down our cheeks, we make up our mind to serve Him with every cell in our body for the remainder of our life.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you do not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. You do not punish converted Believers for our sins. You do not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. Thank you for Your unfailing love toward those who fear You, it is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. Thank you for removing our sins as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103: 9-13).

Thought for the Day:
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. – Psalm 103:13

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Restoration of All Things

Read: Romans 5:8-10

“Through the Son, God also reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, thereby making peace through the blood of his cross.” - Colossians 1:20





God not only tells us that He loves us, but He also demonstrated this love when Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. Jesus justified us with His blood and saved us from God’s wrath, which He pours out on unrepentant mankind (John 3: 18). Once enemies of God, drowning in a sewer of sin, we are now reconciled to God through Christ’s death and saved through His life. Jesus reconciled us to God by taking the punishment for our sins. The word “reconcile” means to restore a relationship.

The Bible delights us with tender story after story of restoration. The prodigal son reconciles with his father, the lost lamb returns to the flock, the lost coin is found once its owner sweeps the whole house and a man sells all he has to buy a pearl of great price. In the last days before Christ’s return, God will reconcile all things to Himself. He will pour out His wrath on the unrepentant and He will exalt Jesus and all of those who humbled themselves, repented of their sin and reconciled with the Father through Jesus Christ.

Now that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, He has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our first step in delivering the message of reconciliation is to invite people to enter into a personal relationship to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). God is calling us all home to Himself. He desires for us to live with Him throughout eternity. No sin is severe enough to prevent the possibility of a relationship with God. No amount of time rejecting Jesus can eliminate our chances of reconciling with the Father. We merely need to surrender our will to His and to admit that we are sinners that need saving by His grace.

The next step in reconciliation is found in Matthew 18:15-17. This verse emphasizes how to restore our relationship with one another. If someone hurts you, go and tell that person why their behavior affected you negatively and express your desire for reconciliation. If this person listens, then the relationship is restored.

At times, a difference of opinion, or a differing viewpoint of the events that led up to this break in the relationship may hinder reconciliation. Humbly seeking forgiveness for your part in the dispute may bring restoration. If this person still refuses to reconcile, however, then a counselor or non-biased party may be able to arbitrate the issues and help you to iron them out.

But if the other person ultimately refuses to reconcile with you, then you have done your best to restore your friendship, and you can leave the person in God’s capable hands to deal with as He sees fit.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, there are so many people all around us who do not enjoy the beauty for our fellowship with You. Please break down their walls of resistance and help them to be willing to hear the Good News of the Gospel. You died to set sinners free and to give us all eternal life. Help us to live authentic Christian lives and to share Your love with everyone You bring into our lives.

Thought for the Day:
A commitment to reconciliation brings peace and joy to everyone involved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Count It All Joy

Read: Philippians 4:5-7

"Rejoice in the Lord always - and again I say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4). 

A life free of worry and fear is ours when we choose to live in contentment with gratitude. This freedom can only happen if we surrender our whole soul – our mind, will and emotions - to God’s will for our life. Our Heavenly Father is capable of handling all of our problems, including our future. So that leaves us with little to do but to rejoice. We develop a habit of gratitude, which flows from a heart of thanksgiving for all that Christ did for us and all God provides for us on a daily basis. 

Due to his heritage, we may mistakenly conclude that Paul enjoyed an easy life, stress free and privileged. On the contrary, Paul suffered more than most (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). At one point, the Romans detained Paul. Under house arrest and chained to a Roman soldier, he gave us an example of how to rejoice in every situation. In his letter to the Philippians, while he awaited trial, he penned the legendary words and exhorted them to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4).

In fact, in 2 Corinthians 4: 17, Paul encourages us to look at our afflictions as "light and momentary". Paul held no animosity toward his captors. In the past, he too sought out Christians and killed them. He learned the art of forgiveness and acceptance from Stephen (Acts 7:59) and others that he persecuted. His whole mindset changed when he met the Savior on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:6-7). He took his eyes off of his earthly existence and placed them instead on eternity.

If we harbor negative attitudes, we are unable to rejoice. This happens when we adopt a carnal perspective of life. Our focus is riveted on earthly desires, objectives and dreams. We lose sight of the blessings of a life centered in Christ. 

When we follow Paul’s example, however, and completely embrace the truth of eternity, we enjoy a different attitude about the occurrences in our life. We have a different framework for our thinking and we see things from a heavenly perspective.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help us to keep our eyes on You. When life hits us with a trial, help us to look at it from Your perspective. Help us to learn contentment as Paul did (Philippians 4:11), no matter what circumstances develop during our day.

Thought for the Day:
When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. - James 1:2