Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cure for Discouragement - Part 2


 
(Please first read yesterday's post: "Cure for Discouragement – Part 1")

King David expressed his heart-felt thoughts and emotions in his Psalms. We see in many of them that he begins by describing his feelings of utter fear, defeat and hopelessness. As he works through the issues that are plaguing him, putting on paper the deepest griefs and attitudes in his heart, the Holy Spirit ministers to his spirit. David usually ends all of his psalms with words of encouragement and solace that he finds both through God’s Spirit and in the encouragement of God’s Word (1 Samuel 30:6). 

We can follow David’s example in our life. Get a big, fat notebook from the department store, and a pen in your favorite color of ink and size for your hand. Open the clean white pages of the notebook that are poised and waiting for you to fill them with the thoughts and emotions, which are weighing down your soul – your mind, will and emotions. Describe in detail all of the issues in your life that depress, annoy, frustrate and anger you. Use uncensored words and allow your soul to unburden itself on the pristine pages of your notebook. Let the words flow from your heart freely and exactly as you feel them. Fill the pages of your notebook with everything that burdens your mind and emotions.

Once you finish writing, you can reread what you wrote. You may be surprised to see exactly what it is that is bothering you. Pray about each issue and ask God for courage to take care of the issues you are able to fix, and the wisdom to leave the rest of them in His capable hands. Then, you can remove the pages from the notebook, and put them in an empty can. Take the can outside and drop a lit match on the pages. Then imagine the smoke rising from the can as your spirit’s prayer to God to work all these troubles and trials out for your good (Romans 8:28).

God does not turn a deaf ear when we feel depressed or discouraged. Many people have deep pits of prolonged depression. I know one Pastor that used to pray something to the effect of, “Lord, I am going to be the best depressed person You have ever created. Then, when You are ready for me to stop being depressed, You will lift me up and encourage me.”

God is in us and walks with us through all of the hard and dark places in our life. He will show us, as He did King David, the way through each dark valley and over every steep mountain we encounter. We only need to ask Him to show us the way, to bring us His Word of encouragement and to fill us through all of our being with His fullness and unfailing love (Ephesians 3:19, Amplified).

Prayer:
Father God, King David did not waver through unbelief regarding Your promises, but was strengthened in his faith. He always gave all the glory to You (Romans 4:20). You are my rock, my fortress and my deliverer in whom I take refuge. You are my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:2). Deliver me from the oppression of life, and from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel. You are my hope, Sovereign LORD. I put my confidence in You, ever since my youth (Psalm 71:4-5).

Thought for the Day:
Wait for the LORD. Be strong, be encouraged and wait for the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cure for Discouragement - Part 1

 

Years of turmoil give us a probable reason to lose hope in God’s intervention in our life. However, is it really His fault? At times, we have unrealistic expectations of the Lord in the areas of marriage, home, finances, job, church life, community, etc. We do not have what we need, because we either do not ask for it specifically or because we ask for things that are contrary to the will of God for our life (James 4:3). Where do we turn when life lets us down? The Word of God is full of encouraging verses that speak to our particular seasons of life.

We have no need to be afraid of or discouraged by the difficulties and disappointments we experience in life, because we have a greater power within us than is in the people and events coming against us (1 John 4:4). We have the Lord as our Helper to fight our battles (2 Chronicles 32:7-8). As we learn to walk in the presence of God moment by moment all throughout our day, we will see and know without a doubt that God is with us and that He is working all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

The more time we spend with God, the more authentically we come to know through practical, personal experience that God’s love within us far surpasses anything Satan or this world can use to discourage us. We are filled through our entire being with the richest measure of all the divine fullness of God. We feel God Himself completely flooding us with His divine presence (Ephesians 3:19a, Amplified Bible).

God is completely able to fill us with his power, which works within us. He is able to carry out His purpose for our life supernaturally in ways that far exceed anything we could ever dare to think or even to ask for. As we walk with Him and in Him, He provides for us and answers our prayers infinitely above and beyond our wildest dreams, hopes and desires (Ephesians 3:19b, Amplified Bible).

As we trust God with all of our heart, we start to see His victorious hand working in our life. Regardless of the outcome of any battle we go through, we know that Jesus already won the war and has given us eternity as our reward (
1 John 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ecclesiastes 3:11). With our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we walk in victory through every physical, emotional, emotional and mental trial life brings our way.

Loss comes to us in many forms. We may lose a pet, a friend, a mate, a family member, a job, a home, a church family, a special material item that we love, etc. Grieving is healthy and a necessary part of loss in life. Our tears wash away our pain as we submit them to God’s care. He keeps every one of our tears in His bottle and He writes about them all in His journal (Psalm 56:8). He will also bring revenge on those who caused our tears (Romans 12:19; Isaiah 35:4).

God never fails to show us His unfailing love when we put our trust in Him. He directs us in the way we should go and He lifts up our soul from the pit of discouragement. He rescues us from our enemies as we hide our self in Him. He teaches us to do His will, because He is our God. His Spirit leads us through life on a level path, free of any mountains or valleys (Psalm 143:8-10).

Prayer:
Father God, You gave your Spirit to instruct the Israelites. You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths, and You gave them water for their thirst. (Nehemiah 9:20). You provide for me in the same ways. You refresh my soul and guide me along the right paths for Your name's sake (Psalm 23:3). Search me, Oh God, and see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in Your everlasting way (Psalm 139:24). Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are my God and my Savior. My hope is in You every moment of every day (Psalm 23:5). 

Thought for the Day:
Allow the Lord to show you His ways and to keep you on His path for your life.
- Psalm 25:4

Friday, March 29, 2013

Go Deeper - Part 2


 
Please, first read Go Deeper – Part 1,  before reading this post.

God calls us to go deeper into the river of His spiritual life. He wants an enhanced, more intimate relationship with us. The first step into the shallow water is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior from our sinful lifestyle. We make Him the Lord of our life and desire to do only His will on a daily basis. Then we continue into ankle deep water and start the practice of weekly worship, daily devotional reading and prayer.

Some people fear the unknown and decide to live as shallow Christians rather than to totally surrender to the Will of God. It is so much easier to live in shallow carnality where we have more control over our destiny, than to trust God in the unfamiliar aspects of life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:15,25). However, God is calling us to go deeper. 

A few will slowly move deeper into the river. As the water rises up to our knees, it is darker here and murky. We cannot see where we are stepping or what is lurking beneath the surface of the water. At this level, we begin to exhibit faith in God’s faithfulness. We start attending more than one church service a week. We take notes on what we hear and we review our notes during the week. We attempt to allow the Lord to order our steps (Psalm 37:23). Many Christians want to hold onto their secret sins and they have no desire to go deeper spiritually. Yet, God is calling us even deeper.

As we get thigh deep in the river of our walk with God, we add a ministry to our weekly schedule. This allows the Lord to work through us to further His Kingdom. We are also more fully surrendering our will to the will of God and are guided by His peace, which transcends human understanding (Philippians 4:7). We find our true identity and self-worth in Him. Many Christians never go any deeper with the Lord. They just want to be fed by the Word of God. Their soul and spirit grow obese, because they continually feast at the Lord’s Table, without the exercise of giving back to the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, God continues to call us deeper yet.

Those willing to follow God’s call this far find themselves waist deep in the river. Now, we start to spend quiet times with the Lord. We pray and listen to His voice. We praise and worship God for who He is without expecting anything in return. We fully submit our will to the will of the Father; and we relish our deepening personal relationship with the Trinity. Some people swell with spiritual pride at this point. They elect their self as judge and jury, and they constantly complain and criticize the church and its leaders. They do not want to go deeper, so they try to discourage others from going deeper as well. Nevertheless, God is calling us all deeper still. 

The water rises to our chest now. We start to lose our earthly footing as the natural buoyancy of the Spirit causes us to float. Our friends and family try to discourage us from continuing with our desire to cross the river into the Promised Land. Satan will also try to stop us at this point. He wants us to drift along in apathy. If he cannot convince us to go back to the worldly side of the river, he attempts to drape us with a complacent attitude of indifference. We dodge these arrows of the devil by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18).

As we continue to follow the Lord, the ground falls away from our feet. The water is over our head now. We must either go back to the bank, start to swim or drown. If we have the courage to swim across the river, we learn to pray without ceasing and to communicate to others what we learn in God’s Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). We may not be able to teach or to write, but we can share with anyone who will listen about God’s Truth and the peace He provides for us (John 14:27). We take up our cross daily and walk in tune with the Spirit’s direction each moment of the day and night (Luke 9:23; Galatians 5:16,25).

Incredibly, God’s Spirit leads us to go even deeper. We are almost to the Promised Land and we realize that we are either in a trial, coming out of trial, or about to go into another trial. Broken tree limbs, submerged and drawn by the current, hit us without warning. Rip currents, piranhas, eels and alligators threaten our life. We start to lose faith and spin into a spiritual spiral. As we start to drown in the circumstances of life, we totally give up our life and completely surrender to the Spirit of God. We realize that the only way to live is to die to our own desires, ambitions and goals, and to hide our life with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). It is then that we enter the Promised Land of oneness with Christ on a daily basis.

Prayer:
Father God, we trust in Your protection of us each day of our life. Life holds no surprises for You. Our committed walk unfolds before us in one accord with Your perfect will for each one of us. Even if we end up in a foreign country, in jail, in the hospital or in the nursing home, we completely surrender to Your will, because You have a ministry for us there. You are with us and Your Spirit will guide and direct us no matter where we live, or with whom we live, or even if we live quite alone. Your faithfulness gives us the faith to cross the river and to enter into this intimate union with You that is perfect and eternal.

Thought for the Day:
Will you accept the challenge and go deeper in your relationship with the Lord?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Go Deeper - Part 1

 

How long are you willing to wait for God? Wait…without being distracted by TV, radio, food, friends, family, the mall, work or any other created thing. Wait…for the Creator of heaven and earth to fill you through all of your being, with all of His fullness (Ephesians 3:16-19). It may take a day, a week, a month or a year. Are you willing to completely empty your soul of negative attitudes, beliefs and emotions and then wait for Him to entirely fill you up with His presence?

Wait… pouring out your heart to your Heavenly Father, praising Him for who He is and what He does for you. Then, sitting motionless, silent and listening we focus on God. What will distract you? Will the phone, hunger pains, stiff muscles, a headache, a knock at the door, sirens in the distance or any other diversion draw you away from sitting quietly before the Lord?

Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is much more intense than practicing a religion. What we do and say matters more than we realize. Our words and actions impact the lives of everyone around us. A curt word in place of encouragement, a smirk instead of a smile or a phony attitude rather than authentic interest will put a wedge between others and us. It will also negatively influence their relationship with Christ.

God is interested in us living in oneness with Christ. Our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. He lives within us. We are not our own, we are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19). God wants us to break out of the status quo in our churches and in our lives. He calls us to go deeper into the water of His Spirit and to allow Him to carry us to unknown places of service and worship. God calls us to a deeper and deeper relationship with Him on a moment-by-moment basis. Let us set our affections on things above (Colossians 3:2), on the eternal aspects of life. Then we can rise above the limitations of this mundane earthly realm.

God directed Ezekiel to enter the river, rather than to continue standing on the bank. As the prophet describes his experience, the water gets deeper and deeper until he can no longer stand, but must start to swim (Ezekiel 47:1-12). Our natural tendency when traversing a river is to fear drowning or being attacked by some animal from under the water. It is so much easier to stand on the bank, so that we remain safe with our feet planted firmly in the earthly realm of existence.

If we have the courage to enter the river of life, we start in ankle deep water with a shallow relationship with God. We continue to a knee-deep obedience to the Holy Spirit; however, we still attempt to rely on our own works to accomplish great things for God. As the water rises to our waist, we are forced to make a commitment to go all the way with God.

Once our feet leave the ground in deep water, we must turn back, swim or drown. If we dare to swim, we enter into a place of complete surrender to God. This is where we reap the blessings of absolute unity with the Trinity. Our constant awareness of the Almighty brings us into a realm of oneness with Him. This total harmony leads to complete fulfillment for each individual willing to cross the river and enter into the Promised Land (Joshua 3, 4).

Prayer:
Father God, going deeper in our relationship with You is a fearful endeavor. There are so many unknown factors. We do not even fully comprehend the whole picture of what it means for us to walk more deeply in a relationship with You. Help us to have the courage to press on, to set our sights on the prize of Your high calling (Philippians 3:14), and not to get sidetracked or allow fear to deter us. Give us a vision of what it means to go deeper in a relationship with You.

Thought for the Day:
Would you like to go deeper in your relationship with God? Read tomorrow’s post in this blog for more details in: Go Deeper - Part 2.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Miracle of Prayer



Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is our direct line of communication with God. He actually bends down His ear to hear our prayers (Psalm 116:2). The Bible gives us God’s general thoughts and directives for our life. Prayer gives us the specifics for our every day life. If the thoughts we “hear” in our prayers ever contradict the Word of God, these thoughts are not from God (Galatians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 11:4). We start every prayer with praise and thanksgiving for who He is and what He does for us; and then we pray for one another and for our own needs (Psalm 95:2, 66:17; Colossians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3-4; Acts 12:5).

Most people never take the time to listen when they pray. They talk to God and give Him a list of requests; but then they never take the time to persevere in prayer or to listen to His still, small voice. They expect God to speak with the magnitude of an earthquake or with the intensity of fire. God speaks with a still, small voice (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Kings 19:12). He will show us great and mighty things, which we do not understand, if we will simply call on Him and listen to His response (Jeremiah 33:3).

What we commonly call, “The Lord’s Prayer” was not a specific prayer that Jesus prayed. At the apostles’ request, He used these words to give them an example of how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus never intended for us to repeat these words as a prayer or as some divine formula (Matthew 6:7-8). God always prefers that we pray in the Spirit, with our own words and with confidence, rather than with vain repetition (1 John 5:14-15; Matthew 6:7). God wants us to ask in faith, not doubting His faithfulness, so we do not waver as the sea, when it is driven by the wind (James 1:6).

We are not to pray with anxiety, but with thanksgiving, giving everything to God and making all of our requests known to Him through prayer (Philippians 4:6). This way the peace of God, which rises far above human understanding, will guard our soul through Christ (Philippians 4:7). We can call on God in our day of trouble and He will deliver us. Then we can joyfully glorify and praise Him (Psalm 50:14-15). As we pray for victory, He will save us (Psalm 118:25).

We also need to pray for the unsaved to call on the name of the Lord, so they will be saved (Romans 10:1,13). We pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Israel (Psalm 122:6). We pray for our Pastors (Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:11). We pray for our president and all of those in high positions in our country, so we can live a quiet, peaceful, holy and honorable life in every way (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We call for the elders of the church and pray for the sick, anointing them with oil and praying for their healing in the name of the Lord (James 5:13-14). We pray because the prayers of righteous people have great power working through them (James 5:16).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the people who have Your unfathomable peace, are people of prayer. Remind us that the most powerful position in our life is when we are on our knees. Help us to pray even when we do not feel like it, because You encouraged us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In our life of prayer, keep us from grieving Your Spirit by sinning, so we will never lose our fervor for You or our favor with You (Romans 12:11).

Thought for the Day:
God listens to the prayers of His righteous Saints and hears every word.
- Psalm 66:19

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Caring for Our Soul



At the age of 40, I realized that I am a “person” too! In the same way that I minister to the needs of other people that God brings my way, I can also minister to myself without feeling selfish or self-centered. Sometimes we sit back and complain because our spouse, our children, our friends or our parents don’t meet our relational, emotional, intellectual or even our physical needs. This shifting of blame does not accomplish anything.

Our soul care is not their responsibility, it is ours alone! This may not seem like truth to you at first. You may think that this is a selfish attitude. But, I want to assure you, that if you have not met the needs in your own spirit, body and soul – mind, will and emotions - then you will not be able to adequately meet the needs in others. You can only give from what you have.

Conversely, some people only care about their self. They are selfish, ambitious and uncaring toward others. This is an entirely different issue. If this describes you, then you would benefit from realizing that life is not all about you. If you embrace this truth, it will bring you enormous relief. This realization opens you up to all types of possibilities and frees your full potential. It will also improve your relationship with other people. As you give more love and care for others, they will care for you and love you more as well.

The Bible tells us to “Love our neighbor as our self” (Matthew 22:39). If we have not cared for our own needs, we will have no emotional, mental, physical or spiritual energy to meet the needs in others that God brings our way. If you do not feed your body, you will have no physical strength. If you do not feed your spirit, you will have no spiritual direction. In the same way, if you do not feed your soul, you will have no intellectual or emotional energy to meet your needs or the needs in others.

If we wait on God, He helps us to meet our needs in His own way and timing. Learn to laugh, love and appreciate the unique person God created you to be. Some people feel guilty about allowing others to minister to their needs. This attitude actually stems either from false pride, a lack of self-worth or from unforgiveness toward our self. Please realize that you can accept help from other people, because it comes from God.

We may also feel guilty if we do not meet all the needs of all of the people who come our way. When others ask you to do something for them, if you do not hear God saying, “Yes,” then it is much wiser for you to say, “No.” This is especially true if you are not used to refusing requests. This may take practice! The real issue here is the will of God.

If you do not feel God saying, “Yes,” then please, say, “No.” To do otherwise is disobedience to God! Then you are out of the center of His perfect will for your life and you are frustrating God’s will for that other person too. If God calls us to serve in some position at home, work, church or community, He also grants us the grace to meet these needs. If we find that we regularly lack peace in what is expected of us, then we must seek God’s will about our life. If we are out of His will, He will redirect us by His peace (Philippians 4:7).

Prayer:
Father God, we know we are walking in the center of Your will if we have Your complete peace within our spirit (Philippians 4:7). When we feel anxiety or any negative emotion, remind us to stop and pray! Help us to follow the leading of Your Holy Spirit each moment of the day. When we feel complete peace again, regardless of all the natural considerations, we will know that we are back in the center of Your will. Our fulfillment only comes as we live in Your peace.  

Thought for the Day:
Follow the Holy Spirit to do God’s will rather than allowing the compassion of your soul to lead you to meet the needs of those around you or the obligations you feel are placed on you by your position in life. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Transcendent Peace

 

If asked what their greatest need is, humanity would probably say, “To be loved and to have peace.” They share this intimate detail with longing in their voice and a vague sense of hopelessness, as if they truly believe they will never acquire either one of them in their life. It is a far off dream that is conceivable only in their mind’s eye: a wisp, a vapor of an idea that is just beyond their grasp. They come to this hopelessness due to the millennia of time these very prizes were sought and lost by them, as well as so many others before them.

There is a remnant of humanity, however, that walks in perfect love and peace. They shine as lights in this world of darkness and they attempt to light the candle of life in all of those within their circle of relationships. Striving endlessly, they desire to impart to everyone they meet the secret they found to securing these prized possessions for themselves. They have no desire to keep these treasures hidden, but to share them with anyone humble enough to receive them.

There is very little peace in this world, but we can find a facsimile of it from time to time. Only the humble may receive the key to unlock the door to this utopian existence. If there is an ounce of rebellion in the soul of the seeker, there is no hope that they will enter this illusive door to eternal love and peace. No amount of money, status, possessions or people in our life is gratifying apart from this deep inner peace. This tranquility that we all covet only comes from one place, the Spirit of God.

The door to Utopia is Jesus Christ, and the way to enter the door is to repent of all self-centeredness in exchange for total Christ-centeredness. Living a life hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3) is the only way that we will enter this eternal realm of unconditional love and peace. The Kingdom of God is not centered on earthly values and activities, but is full of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17-19).

Living in total submission to God’s Will for our life is a fearful realm to enter. We think of all the scenarios that God could put us in, if we totally surrender to Him, and we blanch at the possibilities. We hear of people selling all they have and moving to remote countries to preach the gospel. We hear of top executives leaving their lucrative professions and taking on the challenge of pastoring a poor little congregation on the edge of some small, remote town.

Jesus proclaimed Himself as the only way, truth and life (John 14:6). Jesus gives us His peace that surpasses anything this world has to offer, because He already overcame the world (John 14:27, 16:33). If we depart from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue it, we will find it in Jesus Christ (Psalm 34:14). The Lord gives strength to His people and blesses His people with peace (Psalm 28:11).

The future of the man who walks in holiness is peace (Psalm 37:37). Those who love God’s law have great peace, and nothing will cause them to stumble (Psalm 119:165). If we keep our mind focused on God throughout the day and trust in Him, He will keep us in His perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Therefore our heart will never be troubled or afraid, when our mind is focused on God (John 14:1, 27).

We go throughout our day with joy, because He leads us by His peace (Isaiah 55:12). We are filled with all joy and peace because we believe in Him, and this hope abounds in us by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). In eternity, the mountains and the hills will break out in song and all the trees in the fields will clap their hands together in worship, as every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 55:12; 45:23).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we have no need to be anxious about anything. In every situation, we can communicate with You, thank You and petition You for all of our requests. Your peace, which transcends human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Your power within us (Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 4:6-7). You have only our good in mind. You provide for all of our needs. You require all, but You give us all in return.

Thought for the Day:
The Prince of Peace came as a child to give us peace for eternity.
- Isaiah 9:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Soul's Portion



The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never end; they are fresh every morning. His faithfulness is great and never ending. My soul received the Lord as my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him. The Lord provides every good and perfect gift for those who wait on Him, to the soul that seeks Him. Salvation is not something we must grasp at or steal away. It is a free gift that comes to those who patiently wait on the Lord (Lamentations 3:22-26).

My soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than a night watchman waits for the morning light to dawn (Psalm 130:6). I plant my hope in His Word, because He is my help and my shield (Psalm 28:7). He brings joy to my soul because He showers me with His unfailing love. Both riches and honor come from Him, and in His hand is all the power and might we need to live fulfilling and spiritually vibrant lives (2 Chronicles 20:6).

The Lord longs to be gracious and rises to show compassion on the whole earth. I will never finish singing His praises. I will never stop testifying to anyone who will listen about what He does for me, and what He longs to do for them. I will always give thanks to the Lord, and never fail to call upon His name in any time of distress. I will constantly sing praises to Him, and tell of all His wonderful acts (1 Chronicles 16:8-9).

He does not treat us as our sins warrant, nor does He repay us according to the punishment our sins deserve (Psalm 103:10). He restrains His anger over our sin, time and time again. He is so merciful, because He repeatedly forgives our sins (Psalm 78:38). He who promises salvation to us is faithful; therefore we can cling to our hope in Him (Hebrews 10:23). His eyes are always on those who honor and respect Him, and who hope in His unfailing love (Psalm 33:18).

Even the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they are a testimony to His goodness, and night after night they prove His existence (Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20). I trust in God’s loyal love. My heart rejoices in His salvation. He blesses me bountifully, which makes my soul break forth into singing and rejoicing (Psalm 13:5-6).

During times of deprivation and abandonment, we can cling to the fact that God has big plans for His children. He brings us prosperous blessings and protects us even in times of trouble and trial. He is our future and our hope (Jeremiah 29:11). We can take courage from Him and from His Word. We have no need to be afraid, no matter what life throws at us. The Lord Jesus is with us - no matter who we are, where we live or what we do for a living on this earth.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, let Your unfailing love rain down upon us, even as we put our hope in You. Bring us to a place of surrendering everything to You, so that we may live according to Your will. You have only our best at heart; so help us to trust in Your mercy and grace forevermore. We praise You for Your great love and compassion, which never fail us.

Thought for the Day:
God is love; and His love demands justice for the wages of our sins. Yet, in His love, He gave His only Son to die to pay for us the penalty of our sin.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Time For God

 

Many people complain about not having time in their busy schedule to spend time with God. That is the sign of someone who is way too busy. There are many ways we can incorporate prayer into our daily agenda. One idea is to Prayer Walk. This accomplishes several things at once…exercise, prayer for your neighborhood, a time to praise God for the nature all around you, and a time to share your concerns with God and to listen to His advice. Another idea is to stop watching television, which robs us of so many hours in our day. We can also put worship music on while we do household chores and worship right along with the singers.

Those who spend time with God are closer to living a spiritual life than the person who spent hours in Bible College. To do both is even better! Once we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit teaches us all things as we read the Word, listen to sermons and fellowship with other Christians. The longer we live the Christian life, the more tempted we are to think we have arrived. We get complacent and cold hearted toward spiritual things. We grow bored with reading God’s Word and going to church services.

If Satan cannot take you back into a life of sin, the second best weapon he has is to deceive you into apathy in your Christian walk. The Bible tells us that in the last days, the hearts of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). There will be a great falling away of people who live as cultural Christians and who do not have a fervent, personal relationship with Christ by His Spirit (Revelation 12:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

In America we have unlimited access to spiritual tools and events. Yet, we make every excuse to miss fellowshipping with other Believers and learning from God’s Word. Our worship turns mechanical and we grow colder by the day. We honor God with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13).

An intimate relationship with the God of the universe allows us to love and be loved, to walk in victory through the trials of life and to be led by the Spirit of God moment of moment throughout the day (Romans 8:14). When we commit all of our body, spirit and soul – our mind, will and emotions - to Him, we receive blessings from Him in return. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), and just waiting for us to enjoy them.

If our spirituality is not infiltrating every compartment of our life, we are not allowing Jesus to live as our Lord. The goal is for us to walk in the spirit at work, home, school, church, the shopping center and on the roadways. The closer we walk with Him the easier it is to trust Him in the hard times (Psalm 56:3; Joshua 1:9). Our uncompromising habitual service to God (Psalm 50:9-10) is more important to Him than occasional grand gestures. He meets us the moment we long for His presence (Jeremiah 29:13), and gives us both the desire and the power to accomplish His will in our life (Philippians 2:12-13).

Prayer:
Father God, You dearly love all of Your children. You shower us with patience and provide everything we need to live a Godly life. Help us not to choose Satan’s lies, but to choose repentance instead (2 Peter 3:9). You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place and to appease Your wrath over our sin. You provide Your Holy Spirit to lead us into Your truth and to strengthen us through the trials of life. Help us to faithfully follow the leading of Your Spirit and to do Your works until Jesus returns to the earth.

Thought for the Day:
God is not an emergency technician that we only call in times of trouble. He is our Lord and Savior and deserves our committed life of devoted worship to Him.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Broken and Spilled Out



The idea of being broken means to separate into parts, usually by some violent act. This causes the broken pieces to have rough, uneven and disconnected edges. We are often crushed, cracked, strained and fractured by events in our life. We feel confused and fearful. We inadvertently injure others because of our own jagged, inner wounds. We have an imperfect life ruined by the ravages of sin. Jesus allowed His own body to be broken and His blood to be spilled out for our eternal healing in body, soul and spirit (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). He came to heal the brokenhearted by the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18).

Even if we are pressed in on every side by troubles, we are not crushed. We may be disheartened, but not driven to despair. Our enemies may hunt us down, but God never abandons us. Even if we are persecuted, it happens so that Christ’s character can be revealed in us. We share in Christ’s eternal life, even if we also share in His sufferings (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). God is always near to the broken hearted and He saves those who are crushed in Spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Our suffering here on earth cannot even compare to the unspeakable glory and joy that God will reveal in us and to us through the power of Christ’s resurrection. He comforts all who mourn (Matthew 5:4). God requires from us a spirit, which is humbly broken and contrite (Psalm 51:17). If we fall upon Christ by faith, we may be crushed; but He will save us. Conversely, those who reject Jesus actually expose themselves to danger, ultimate ruin and eternal destruction, because the rock of Christ will fall on them and annihilate them (Luke 20:18; John 3:16-18).

Due to their unbelief, the Jewish branches were broken off from God’s vine. This allowed the Gentile Believers to be grafted into Jesus, who is the vine (Romans 11:19; John 15:5). However, God will not allow the crushed stem to be completely broken or their feeble light to be put out entirely (Matthew 12:20). After the times of the Gentiles, when the Bride of Christ is at her wedding feast, the Jews will receive another chance to accept Jesus as their Savior during the Great Tribulation period (Romans 11:25; Revelation 7:4). Then together we will rule and reign with Christ for eternity (2 Timothy 2:12).

It is only after we humbly recognize our need for our Savior that we call upon Him. He will always answer us, and show us great and mighty things (Jeremiah 33:33). As God does His sanctifying work in us, we slowly come to a place where we completely surrender our plans for our life and follow God’s will for us instead. It is then that we wonder why it took us so long to submit to His unconditional love. In reality, we can do nothing less than offer our total life, broken and spilled out in our love for Christ. Through this sacrificial love we will change the world, one life at a time.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, just like the alabaster jar You allowed Your body to be broken and spilled out for the salvation of mankind (Matthew 26:7; John 10:18). Through this act of sacrifice, You gave the most generous, impossible and extravagant gift to the whole world that we can ever receive - the free gift of salvation through Your  blood. You opened the way for us to enter into the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-22); so that we can worship You together forever.  



Thought for the Day:

A broken life becomes a willing servant of the Lord.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Championing the Abused



Gracious words are sweet and healing to the soul (Proverbs 16:24). However, as Christian mentors we may end up discouraging the wounded and hurting rather than helping them. We have good intentions, but our methods and attitude may increase their wounds rather than help to bring them healing. We may belittle their circumstances and even intimate that they are the one at fault in their situation. This is rarely the case, and we are never to condone verbal or physical violence or abuse in anyone’s life.

The Bible speaks out strongly against divorce, but a separation for a victim of violence and abuse is always recommended. This gives the abuser a chance to take responsibility for their abusive behavior and to get some counseling in order to change. This also keeps the victim safe from any further abuse. Sometimes, it is even recommended that the victim go to a “safe house” or to another state to stay with family during this time of hopeful reconciliation.

The Bible condemns violence. The Lord hates those who love violence and promises to punish them (Psalm 11:5; Zephaniah 1:9). He is wearied by the violence in homes and those who make excuses for divorcing their mate, whom they should be protecting (Malachi 2:16). Even verbal abuse is dealt with in the Bible when God inspired Solomon to write, “violence covers the mouth of the wicked” (Proverbs 10:6,11). Jesus equates anger without a cause as murder, and He speaks out against verbal abuse (Matthew 5:21-22). 
 
Our religion is in vain if we cannot even bridle our tongue (James 1:26). We are not to allow any profanity or corrupt speech to proceed out of our mouth; but to speak only edifying words that minister grace to the hearers (James 3:10; Ephesians 4:29). Paul tells us to stop allowing bitterness, wrath, anger and contention to express themselves through our mouth in malicious words (Ephesians 4:31). The antidote to anger and verbal abuse is to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath (James 1:19-20). If our own inner pain fuels anger, God will bring healing to our soul (Psalm 41:4).

God cares about the abused and the oppressed. He does not look down upon the mistreated, and He abhors their affliction. He gathers their tears in His bottle and records them in His journal (Psalm 56:8). He promises not to hide His face from them when they cry out to Him, and He champions their cause (Psalm 22:24, 140:12). He redeems the soul of the afflicted from deceit and violence. Their blood is precious in His sight (Psalm 72:14).

God promises to lift up the distressed above those who try to hurt them and to deliver them from violent people (Psalm 18:48). He makes things right and provides the afflicted with a refuge from oppression and trouble (Psalm 9:9; 103:6). He brings down the haughty evil person and saves the afflicted (2 Samuel 22:28). God tells the church to bear one another burdens (Galatians 6:2). We encourage each other in our times of distress (Hebrews 12:12).

We can serve as a Guardian Ad Litem for a child, or help out in a shelter for the abused or visit the imprisoned and widows. We plead their cause, care for their needs and relieve their misery as if we are right there suffering with them (Proverbs 31:9; Hebrews 13:3; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3). God wants us to point people to Him, His care and His love, because He will come with vengeance to repay the evil done to them and bring deliverance to the abused (Isaiah 35:3-4).

If we see the anguish in another’s soul and turn away from them when they seek our help, we will suffer distress in return (Genesis 42:21). We are even supposed to share the Gospel message with the wicked, because they will surely die in their sins if we do not. If they listen to us, we gain a brother; if they ignore us, then at least we have delivered our soul. If we fail to warn them, however, then God will require their blood on our hands (Ezekiel 3:17-19). We are not to treat the wicked like an enemy, but to entreat them with kindness and empathy and to care about their needs (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, remind us to be kind, merciful, humble, patient and forgiving to one another for Your sake (Ephesians 4:32; Romans 12:10; Colossians 3:12-13). If we only love each other in word, but not in truth and in action, we fail to love others as You love us (2 Peter 1:7; 1 John 3:18; Matthew 18:33). Help us to provoke one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).

Thought for the Day:
Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Joy of Forgiveness - Part 2



(First, please read: The Joy of Forgiveness – Part 1)
 
When Jesus hung from the cross, He looked upon His persecutors with His vitality ebbing from His body. In His lasts moments of life, He prayed for God to forgive His persecutors (Luke 23:34). How many of us could do that? The only way this is possible is if we are transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). The more time we spend with God in prayer, Bible study and fellowshipping with other authentic Christian, the more spiritually minded we become.

Forgiveness is the truest sign of a life hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4). The only way that we can totally forgive injustices done to us is by the power of the Cross. We realize, as Jesus did, that the actions of mankind toward us are merely a temporary inconvenience, because God has a higher plan and purpose for us in them all (Jeremiah 29:11). We are a true example of Christ when we forgive, and it touches the lives of all those who know about the situation (John 17:23).

God is the only One whose opinion of us really matters. When we relinquish our need to be “right” and to have everyone believe that we are innocent, then we have a better chance of being free from the tyranny of their opinion of us. God calls us to put aside our quarreling, jealousy and pride and to be kind to everyone, to be teachable and not to resent anyone (2 Timothy 2:24).

Forgiveness does not require that we trust the offender. However, God does required that we Agape them ~ love them with God’s love in their time of need (Matthew 5:44). We do not, however, have to welcome them back into our life with open arms. We can still keep them at arm’s length until they prove to us that we can trust them. We do not even have to like them. The Bible never commands us to like someone. God only requires that we allow Him to love that person through us.

Forgiveness is not something we can do through self-effort. When someone injures us, treats us unfairly or misunderstands our intent, it wounds us to the core. We want them to be humble and to ask us for our forgiveness before we consent to forgive them. However, Christ gave us the perfect example on Calvary’s cross of true forgiveness.

Luke 6: 27-31 is our guide…"But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other cheek also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask for them back again. And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

What advice do we find here:
1. Pray for those who mistreat us.
2. Ask God to bless them.
3. Do something good for them.
4. In time, God will give us His love for them.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we humble our self, confess the sin in our heart and go to Your Cross for forgiveness for our desire to control our own life. We acknowledge our need for Your forgiveness. Remind us that we are not worthy to cast the first stone at others (John 8:7). Help us to submit to the dealing of Your Holy Spirit in our life and to trust You to finish Your sanctifying work in us that You started at the moment of our salvation.

Thought for the Day:
Forgiveness requires daily crucifixion of our pride and total submission to God’s Spirit.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Joy of Forgiveness - Part 1

 

Sometimes, forgiveness is easy; at other times, it is almost impossible. The key is to remember that unforgiveness keeps YOU as its hostage and does not hurt the offender whatsoever. Forgiveness does not exonerate the offender from the offense. It does not free him/her from blame or guilt. Our refusal to forgive does not hurt the offender at all. Unforgiveness keeps us prisoner to their offenses, because God cannot forgive us unless we forgive others (Matthew 6:15). Forgiveness does not depend upon our feelings! It is a choice, an act of obedience to Christ’s command.

Forgiveness does not release the offender from the debt they owe us, we just let God collect it for us (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; 1 Samuel 26:10; Proverbs 20:22; Jeremiah 51:36; 1 Thessalonians 4:6; Hebrews 10:30). Once we forgive the offender, the fruit of the root of bitterness - anger, anxiety, depression, irritability, meanness, pride, self-indulgence, and doubt - are pulled out of our soul. Now, the Holy Spirit can move in and plant His fruit in their place (Colossians 3:12-17). Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control and faith replace these negative emotions, attitudes and feelings in our soul (Galatians 5:22-23).

The person who offended you is actually reacting from his/her inner pain, from wounds perpetrated on them in the past. Something you said or did triggered that pain, which was already in them, and they reacted as they did. This is not your fault. You can pray that God will heal their inner pain. Then show them kindness and tolerance in response to their attacks on you. This attitude may take some time to develop in your soul. Go ahead and take that time. Just do not return evil for evil, but bless those who hurt you so that God can bless you in return.

Even after you forgive, the pain of the experience may remain with you for a very long time. The pain is no indication that you did not forgive. Forgiveness erases the intensity of the pain over time, but the memory of their offense is never really forgotten. Forgiveness is not making excuses for the person or their behavior. It is not sugar coating their actions or minimizing the effect of their actions in our life. We can feel our pain and we can protect ourselves from future pain from that person be erecting time and distance boundaries between them and us.

If we have unforgiveness toward our self, then it is very difficult to forgive someone else. You are a person too, and Jesus died so you can be forgiven just like everyone else. So, forgive your self! The only requirement God gives us concerning forgiveness is that each time you remember the pain, you follow Jesus’ example and pray: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You can use this same principle when forgiving your self.

When God forgives, He removes our transgressions and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12). He casts them as far away as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Once we confess our sins, God faithfully and justly forgives us and purifies us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). He never counts them against us again (Romans 4:8). God asks us to bear with one another in this same way. To forgive grievances against one another and against our self, just as the Lord completely forgives us (Colossians 3:13).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we are blessed when You forgive our transgressions and cover our sins with Your blood. You will never again count our sins against us. You paid the penalty of our sin on the cross (Romans 4:7-8). If we fail to forgive sin, or to ask for forgiveness of our own sin, then we stand the chance of being overwhelmed with excessive sorrow or of making someone else feel this way too (2 Corinthians 2:7). Help us to remember that You forgave Your persecutors and help us to forgive ours in this same way.

Thought for the Day:
"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
-Romans 4:7