October 16, 2017/9-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Quenching Satan’s Darts

Satan is powerful. He is more powerful than we are. That is why we desperately need the armor of God. But as powerful as he is, he is far less powerful than God. That is why the Bible declares that greater is He who is in you (the Holy Spirit) than he who is in the world (Satan) (1 John 4:4). Satan’s darts are quenchable; God’s are not. You can flee the presence of Satan; you cannot flee the presence of God.

We must be wary of Satan’s right and left fists. He is a kick-boxer as well. Just when we shield ourselves from his hands, he cheats and uses his feet. Here his guile is most effective.

One characteristic of Satan is his metamorphic power. He has the cunning and uncanny ability to appear under the auspices of good. He can transform himself into the appearance of an angel of light. You don’t find him so much in the Saddam Husseins of this world. He is not so crass. He appears as a saint, a paragon of virtue, waiting to seduce you.

He is, above all, a fraud. His work is anti-Christ not merely in the sense of working against Christ but in the sense of seeking to act as a substitute for Christ.<./p>

The good news about Satan is this: his doom is sure, and one little word will fell him.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Think about ways Satan has deceived you in times past as an “angel of light.” Ask God to make you more perceptive to his deception in the future.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 15, 2017/8-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Denying Dualism

The Devil-as-myth view is Satan’s right-hand punch. If that one doesn’t get you, then watch out for his left hook. The left-hand attack moves the disinformation to the opposite extreme. If Satan can’t get you to ignore him by denying his very existence, he will cunningly lead you to attribute power to him far beyond what he actually possesses. He will seek to persuade you that he is virtually equal to God.

Dualism, as a philosophy and a religion, has vied with Christianity from the beginning. Dualism affirms that the universe is the staging area, the combat zone, for two equal and opposite beings who struggle with each other eternally.

Satan is falsely described in terms of omniscience, omnipresence, and the power to do actual, not merely counterfeit, miracles. He is given attributes orthodox Christianity labels as the incommunicable attributes of God and he is assigned power over nature that rivals the Creator’s.

The Bible teaches that Satan is a finite spiritual being. He is temporal and created. In a word, he is a creature. He is more powerful that we, but he is not omnipotent. He is not immutable, as God is. Indeed, Satan’s mutability is profound. His most obvious mutation is his fall. He was created a good angel. He fell from his original righteousness and is now totally malevolent.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Have you been attributing power to Satan beyond what the Bible indicates he possesses?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 14, 2017/7-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Recognizing Satan’s Reality

I once asked a college philosophy class, ” How many of you believe in God?” Out of thirty students, twenty-seven raised their hands in the affirmative; three abstained.

Then I asked, “How many of you believe in Satan as a personal reality?” This time the vote was reversed.

I pursued my inquiry. I asked, “Why do you believe in a supernatural being who has the capacity to influence us for good (God) and not in a supernatural personal being who has the capacity to influence us for evil (Satan)?” Their answers indicated that the Devil they were rejecting was what they perceived to be a nonexistent mythical caricature.

Many qualified their positions by saying, “I do believe in the reality of an impersonal force of evil in the world.” I found this response fascinating. I asked them, “How can an impersonal force be evil?”

What is this mysterious impersonal force? Cosmic dust? Radioactivity? Impersonal objects, forces, or powers can be many things. One thing they cannot be is morally evil. Here the attempt to be modern and sophisticated becomes an exercise in intellectual regression.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Do you believe Satan is a personal reality? Why do you believe as you do? How has your belief affected your response to him?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 13, 2017/6-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Facing Double Jeopardy

“If the right hand doesn’t get you, then the left one will.” This maxim expresses the double jeopardy faced by a prizefighter in the boxing ring. Like the ambidextrous pugilist, our adversary, Satan, has a two-pronged strategy. To defeat him, we must wage war on two fronts. The tactic is simple. He conquers by spreading disinformation about himself. He divides the church by creating two myths, two erroneous views of his own identity: The first is that he is a myth. The second is that he is as powerful as God.

The first deception from Satan about Satan is that he is a ridiculous myth. As a mythical figure, he can be put in the category of goblins, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Nothing pleases Satan more than to persuade people that he doesn’t exist at all.

If we are convinced that Satan doesn’t exist, we will hardly waste time preparing to make war against him or find ways to resist him. To put on armor to ward off imaginary fiery darts is as much a fool’s errand as Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills. On the other hand, a stealth bomber can have its way, unimpeded in its mission, if the enemy is persuaded that there is no such thing as a stealth bomber.

Satan loves the modern image of himself. Who gives credence to an ugly little imp in red flannel underwear with cloven feet and horns, bearing a trident and flashing a diabolical grin?

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

What has been your perception of Satan in the past? How has this perception affected your response to him? To God?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 12, 2017/5-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Confronting Satan’s Deception

It is the nature of Satan to be deceptive. Scripture says he has been a liar from the beginning. His first appearance in Scripture comes under the guise of a serpent. The credentials of this malevolent creature are announced in his introduction: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1).

These words fall as a sudden intrusion into an otherwise glorious account of God’s majestic work of creation. With the words “Now the serpent,” the whole atmosphere of the biblical record changes dramatically. A sudden and ominous sense of foreboding enters the narrative. An uninspired author of Genesis 3 may have introduced the record of the fall by saying, “It was a dark and stormy day.” But such hackneyed prose would have failed to yield the foreboding dread contained in the words “Now the serpent was more cunning.”

Cunning. Craftiness. Subtlety. Guile. These are the descriptive qualifiers that paint the biblical portrait of Satan.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Cunning. Crafty. Subtle. Full of guile. How has Satan used these attributes against you in the realm of personal temptation?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 11, 2017/4-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Understanding the Nature of Corruption

The technological explosion proliferates in geometric proportion. Yet the human spirit of corruption remains. We are still trying to be God. We still grasp for autonomy, refusing to have God rule over us. We now reach beyond the heights of an ancient ziggurat. We walk on the moon and call it a real step forward for mankind.

We are indeed “enlightened.” No longer do students carry switchblades to school. They carry guns. Gangsters don’t use tommy guns. Machine-gun Kelly has become obsolete in the face of assault weapons and rocket launchers. The battering ram has yielded to the ICBM. Our cities are armed fortresses, and we need more brick and mortar for prisons. We are still confused. Our politicians babble to us daily on the magical technology of television. And still everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

But there is no technology sophisticated enough to fulfill the Serpent’s seductive promise. We are not gods. We shall not be gods. We cannot be gods. Only God can be God. Only God can be supreme. The issue in Eden is the issue today. Who will have dominion over man and man’s technology? Our margin of error shrinks each day. Now we have the technology and techniques not to destroy God, but to destroy ourselves. It is technological madness.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Examine your personal life. Are you grasping for autonomy? Refusing to let God rule your life? Trying to be as God?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 10, 2017/3-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Going to the Root Cause

The twentieth century was the start of the age of high technology. The technological advances of our age have eclipsed all previous generations.

It was the nineteenth century that evoked an unprecedented spirit of human optimism. The Enlightenment concluded that man no longer needed the God-hypothesis to explain his origins and purpose. An optimistic humanism was born that promised a coming utopia. Education, science, and technology would produce the acme of evolutionary development. Peace would prevail and poverty, disease, crime, and war would be banished by the modern techniques of government, economics, and education.

World War I temporarily burst the bubble until it was decreed to be The War to End All Wars. Somebody forgot to tell that to the sons of Lamech: Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin, Mao, and the corporal from Bavaria. The twentieth century brought a new horror to world history, the phenomenon of global war.

We cannot blame this on technology. It is not the instruments that are culpable; the root cause is the users of the instruments. The same scalpel that is used to save a life in surgery is now used to hack into pieces millions of unborn babies. The same atomic energy that supplies power for living is harnessed for weapons of incalculable destruction.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Pray for God to reveal the root causes of your problems, bad habits, or recurring sins.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 9, 2017/2-9

CONFRONTING THE ENEMY IN GOD’S STRENGTH

Comprehending the Pattern of Evil

After the flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth. Noah’s descendants became hunters and builders. A new technology emerged to provide more stable and suitable shelter. Brick and mortar became the means by which whole cities could be built: “They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves'” (Gen. 11:3b–4).

Immediately after the flood, Noah erected an altar, a structure on which to offer the sacrifice of praise and worship. The building project at Babel was something else. Again, it was a reach of pretended autonomy, a stretch for heaven, an attempt to rip God down from His throne that man might make for himself a name. The result of this effort? This primitive scientific undertaking was chaos. The language of man was confused and communication gave way to babbling.

This pattern has not changed. The greater the technology, the greater the chaos. The more sophisticated the tools, the more sophisticated the violence.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Are there spiritual “Babels” in your life that need to be torn down, such as an attempt to make a name for yourself? A project that takes precedence over God? An idol that is more important than God?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 8, 2017/1-9

 Tracing the Development of Sin

“You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). This was the original temptation, the archetypal seduction aimed at our first parents by the Serpent. Created as vice-regents with dominion over the earth, Adam and Eve wanted more. They reached for autonomy, stretching greedy arms toward the throne of God, only to fall headlong into the abyss of evil.

Expulsion from Eden was their fate. They could not go back. Paradise was lost. An angel with a flaming sword stood guard at the gateway to the garden. This is the first reference in Scripture to a weapon of any sort. Before God gave the “power of the sword” to men, He gave it to the angel to patrol and guard the border west of Nod.

With the fall came a rapid expansion of sin. One son of Adam and Eve murdered his brother, introducing fratricide to human history. Then came Lamech, who celebrated warfare in his famous “sword song” (Genesis 4:23–24). Man used his nascent technology to turn the tools of farming into implements of war. The plowshare became a sword, and the call to subdue the earth was distorted into a conspiracy to conquer one’s brother. The means of production became the means of destruction, and human technology and scientific discovery were used not to honor God but to assault Him, by attacking His creation and His image-bearers.

Then God said no to the expansion of corruption and brought the flood, a storm of judgment upon the earth, a deluge to clean the planet.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

How is the first temptation, “You will be like God,” evident in temptations you have faced or are facing? What should be your response?

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries. Get a free book from R.C. Sproul at Ligonier.org/freeresource.

October 7, 2017/5-5

THE PRAYER THAT TURNS THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

Every generation of Christians must learn to make the request, like the disciples   before them, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Every generation of Christians must also remember that Jesus’ response to that question now is the same as it was two thousand years ago. If we would have the Lord himself teach us how to pray, then we must turn to the Lord’s Prayer for instruction. .
Each petition is a theology lesson in itself. None of Jesus’ words were careless and this is particularly true of the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer turned the world upside down. This prayer is dangerous, overturning the kingdom of the principalities and powers of this world. This prayer is hopeful, expecting the kingdom of God to come in fullness with Christ on the throne. This prayer is compassionate, teaching us to call God our Father and depend on him for our every meal. This prayer is reverent, showing that   nothing is more sacred than the name of God. This prayer is good news, reminding each of us that God forgives sin and delivers us from the powers of darkness.
In an age of superstition and superficiality, the Lord’s Prayer is a beacon of true biblical piety and theologically informed worship. As Christians await the arrival of God’s kingdom in its fullness, let us continually return to these words, asking with humble hearts, “Lord, teach us to pray.” . .   .
We never pray this prayer alone, but with all Christendom, and we never have to wonder if this prayer is pleasing to God. Christ gave it to us! And, yes, we know that God has heard our prayer when we pray like this.
That is really what Amen means. And there is no more perfect way to end our   study of the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that turns the world upside down, than with Amen.

October 6, 2017/4-5

THE PRAYER THAT TURNS THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

Jesus’ reminder to pray regularly against temptation reminds us just how prevalent   and dangerous the appeal of sin can be in the Christian life. Once again the issue of kingdom and kingship is front and center. Sin and temptation are harsh masters. As the story of Cain reminds us, sin doesn’t just want to play a minor role in our life; it wants to “rule” over us (Gen. 4:7). Asking to be delivered from sin and temptation is a cry that emerges only from the heart  of a citizen of God’s kingdom. We desire to submit to the rule and reign of God, not the dominion of sin. This petition is one of kingdom warfare, asking that God conquer the powers of sin, Satan, and the demons so that we might live for his heavenly kingdom.
This petition also reminds us of several other very important points.   First, Christians must recognize that temptations are a real and daily threat to communion with God and life with Christ. The most dangerous thing a Christian can ever do is believe that he is somehow immune to temptation. In fact, failing to account for the dangers of temptation betrays a severe misunderstanding of the gospel. In the gospel we come to recognize both the depravity of our hearts and the freedom of God’s grace in Christ. If we, at any point, think that we are somehow freed up from fighting temptation, then we have both overestimated our own spiritual state and grossly underestimated our need for God’s grace.
Second, this petition reminds us that we are not able to resist temptation by our own power. Most people know by experience that our willpower is not quite as strong as we would like to think. Anyone who has ever struggled to keep up with a diet plan knows just how weak-willed we can be. Even as we work to achieve our goals through sheer willpower, we find ourselves incapable of willing more willpower!
The gospel, however, and this petition in the Lord’s Prayer turn our attention away from our own strength to the strength of another. Jesus does not teach us to pray, “Lord, give me more willpower in the fight against sin.” He teaches us to ask for shepherding and deliverance—“ Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.” These words express a heart of dependence, not self-sufficiency.

October 5, 2017/3-5

THE PRAYER THAT TURNS THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

While many Americans view debt as an annoyance, in the ancient world debt was   punishable by prison sentence. In the Roman Empire, prisons were not generally filled with criminals; they were populated with debtors. Most convicted criminals were executed or were forced to serve some other form of punishment for their crimes, but those who could not make good on their payments were incarcerated until they could pay what they owed. This system was meant to put pressure on the families of the incarcerated debtor to find the necessary money to pay their debts to free their loved one from prison.
In the Roman Empire, then, debt typically meant severe pain and tragedy for an individual and a family. In our day we experience frustration and anxiety with debt, but in the days of Jesus debt was a matter of life and death. This is the context in which Jesus teaches us to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus’ use of the word debts is meant to evoke in our mind both a serious offense and a corresponding serious punishment. To be forgiven a debt was no mere trifle, but an act of extravagant mercy.
If the petition “give us this day our daily bread” emphasizes our most urgent physical needs, the petition “forgive us our debts” emphasizes our most urgent spiritual need. Saying we owe a debt to God means that we have failed to give him the obedience he is rightly due. We owe God our obedience, and we have failed to pay up. Thus, as sinners, we stand before God condemned, rightly deserving his just wrath. Only God’s forgiveness can clear our guilt and establish a meaningful relationship between God and us.
This petition reminds us that the Lord’s Prayer is not a casual prayer for the generically religious. This prayer is a gospel prayer. We can only say these words and ask these things of God when we stand on the finished, atoning work of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this petition demonstrates that the theological rock bed of the Lord’s Prayer is nothing less than the gospel. We can only rightly pray the Lord’s Prayer when we recognize that we are deeply sinful and only God’s grace in Christ can remedy our souls.

October 4, 2017/2-5

THE PRAYER THAT TURNS THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

The first lines of the Lord’s Prayer paint an awesome portrait of God. In light   of these truths, Jesus’ subsequent turn to consider our own needs—“ Give us this day our daily bread”—serves as a clear and unmistakable reminder that we are merely creatures; God is the creator. We are needy; God is the provider.
God has designed humans to be dependent. From the moment of birth, we rely   on the kindness of others to meet our needs. We need our parents to feed us, dress us, and even train us to sleep. Even as we grow older, we remain tremendously needy. We depend on others for relationships. We need communities in which to live and work. We depend on the government for safety and security. In other words, there is no such thing as the “self-made man.” We have no sufficiency in and of ourselves, and we delude ourselves by believing we can be truly independent of others. Luther once reminisced that our physical needs remind us that we are but creatures composed of dirt. Our lives are frail, fragile, and wholly dependent on the goodness of God.
The petition “give us this day our daily bread” reminds us of our dependence on God for even the most fundamental needs of life. The contrast with the depiction of God given earlier in the prayer is striking. He is glorious, hallowed, in heaven, and omnipotent. We, on the other hand, are incapable of even getting basic sustenance without his help. In these words, then, Jesus teaches us to exalt God while humbling ourselves. The radical God-centeredness of the prayer continues. Man’s pride has no place before the throne of God.

October 3, 2017/1-5

THE PRAYER THAT TURNS THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

We long for revolution. Something within us cries out that the world is horribly   broken and must be fixed. For centuries, the word revolution was scarcely heard, buried under ages of oppression. The word itself was feared and speaking it was treason. And then, revolutions seemed to appear almost everywhere.
Some historians have gone so far as to identify our modern epoch as “The Age of Revolution.” Is it? Perhaps it is more accurate to refer to our times as “The Age of Failed Revolution.” Looking across the landscape it becomes clear that very few revolutions produce what they promise. Arguably, most revolutions lead to a worse set of conditions than they replaced.
And yet, we still yearn for radical change, for things to be made right. We rightly long to see righteousness and truth and justice prevail. We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the kingdom of God, and for Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and a King whose rule is perfect.
This is why Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer. As we will see, this is the very prayer that Jesus taught his own disciples to pray. So Christians pray this prayer as a way of learning how to pray and what to pray—as Jesus teaches us to pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that turns the world upside down. Are you looking for revolution? There is no clearer call to revolution than when we pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But this is a revolution only God can bring . . . and he will.
This short prayer turns the world upside down. Principalities and powers hear their fall. Dictators are told their time is up. Might will indeed be made right, and truth and justice will prevail. The kingdoms of this world will all pass, giving way to the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ.
It all comes down to one of the shortest prayers found in the Bible. The Lord’s Prayer takes less than twenty seconds to read aloud, but it takes a lifetime to learn. Sadly, most Christians rush through the prayer without learning it—but that is to miss the point completely.

October 2, 2017/4-5

THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE BATTLE PLAN

DAY 4: The Bait of Bitterness

I was stewing in my own juices. My husband had abandoned me with a two-year-old and tons of debt so he could suddenly start a new life with a woman about half his age in a foreign nation. I was enraged and vengeful. I was bitter—beyond bitter—and it didn’t take the gift of discerning of spirits to see it. I hated him, and I was mad at God.

Bitterness is deadly. Over time, bitterness will defile our spirits and dull our ability to sense the presence of God or hear His voice. If you are mad at God, be honest with Him. Give Him your anger, and He will turn that anger into peace and a greater revelation of His sovereignty if you will let Him.

Lord, I choose to forgive those who hurt me, offended me, abused me, despitefully used me, or wronged me. Help me, Lord, to recognize the enemy’s strategy to trap me in resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Help me not to hold people’s sins against them. Teach me to avoid responding with a judgmental heart when I am hurting. Heal my emotions and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

October 1, 2017/3-5

THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE BATTLE PLAN

DAY 3: Fear’s False Feelings

Fear started riddling my soul when I was a small child. I vividly recall seeing the spirit of fear in my bedroom most nights and screaming for my mother. My mother came in with a broom and chased it away, thinking it was merely my overactive imagination at work. But it always came back with a vengeance.

As an adult, after I had suffered many traumatic events, fear dominated my life. Fear’s false feelings were no longer just feelings. I had a legion of fear spirits that impacted every area of my life and manifested in diverse ways.

Fear is your nemesis. It is a master weapon in the enemy’s hand that defies God’s promises in your life. Fear comes to stop you from advancing in God. But you can be free from its stronghold in your mind. You can take authority over fear when it tries to rise up against your soul.

Father, in the name of Jesus I come to You repenting of giving in to feelings of fear. I rebuke the spirit of fear that is working to entrap me, steal my faith, rob my peace, and otherwise riddle me with anxiety, in Christ’s name. I choose faith, trust, and love. I fear and trust the Lord only, in the name of the Christ. Amen.

September 30, 2017/2-5

THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE BATTLE PLAN

DAY 2: The Spirit of Jezebel

The spirit of Jezebel seeks to seduce and often works through teaching and prophecy. This spirit seduces the saints into idolatry and immorality. This spirit may use control and manipulation to do it, but ultimately that’s not the end game. Jezebel’s end game is murder. The wages of sin is death, and Jezebel leads people into sin.

Pastors—or anyone, for that matter—who fall into sexual sin are among Jezebel’s trophies. If you are doing anything at all for God, Jezebel wants to cut off your voice. If Jezebel can’t cut off your voice, it will try to pervert your voice by seducing you to defile yourself by tolerating its activity.

Jezebel is not something you can tear down once and for all, but you can break agreement with it and refuse to tolerate it.

Father, I repent for tolerating Jezebel and ask Your forgiveness, in Jesus’s name. I ask You to heal my heart of any detected or undetected hurts, wounds, offenses, pains, pride, rejection, rebellion, or any other open door that may have let or could let Jezebel into my life.

I break Jezebel’s witchcraft, controlling powers, flatteries, deception, word curses, fearful assaults, false accusations, polluted prophetic utterances, subtle seductions, sorceries, intimidations, and other foul operations, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 September 29, 2017/1-5

THE SPIRITUAL WARFARE BATTLE PLAN

DAY 1: The Battle Against Evil

When I got saved, I thought I’d spend my life walking beside still waters and lying down in green pastures. I had no idea embracing Jesus as the captain of my salvation meant I was enlisting as a soldier in the army of God.

I’ve since learned that believers are soldiers and Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. I’ve discovered that I’m more than a conqueror in Christ, which also tells me ungodly and unseen forces are trying to conquer me.

Keep this truth in mind: the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Every demon has the same mission. How they go about it—their strategies and tactics—are different. A spirit of fear attacks your faith, for example, while a spirit of rejection attacks your identity. Satan is strategic. His army is highly organized, and he is sending specific spirits against believers to derail them from their kingdom purpose.

My prayer is that you will gain discernment to identify spirits opposing your life—and the lives of those you love—and develop spiritual skills to battle back. Spiritual bondage can manifest in many ways, but the good news is that victory can be ours. By walking in our God-given authority, we can effectively do battle and win in warfare.

September 28, 2017/7-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

A Little Kindness

There are differing interpretations of the first part of this verse. Some think that it is referring to a man who is truly desiring to show kindness to others, while others think it is referring to a rich man who desires to use his wealth to be a blessing to others. No doubt that such is the testimony of every Christian who has the love of God within them, to have money enough to help others who are in need.

We see this benevolence immediately manifest itself with Zacchaeus, who, the moment he came to the Savior, said that if he had wronged anyone, he would pay them back fourfold (Luke 19:8). Imagine what a shock that would have been to those he had overtaxed, to have that little man come to the door and with a big heart say, “I have put my faith in Jesus of Nazareth, so here is four times the amount I overtaxed you.”

May we also shock this world with kindness.

Soul Search: When was the last time I made an effort to right a wrong I had done to another?

Father, let me go the extra mile with others. Amen.

Join Ray Comfort exploring a different proverb every day of the year in the devotional Think on These Things: Wisdom for Life from Proverbs. Find this devotional and additional resources at Livingwaters.com.

September 27, 2017/6-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

Everything is Transient

Nothing is permanent, except God and what He says. Everything else is temporary and subject to corruption. Even the sun isn’t permanent. This massive earth fits into the volume of the sun a million times, but in time the massively huge sun will burn out and turn to stardust.

But the word of the Lord will last forever (Isaiah 40:8), and the Bible says that all who trust in the Savior have everlasting life. They will be part of a kingdom of which “there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).

His promises are immutable. Trust them with all of your heart. He will never go back on what He says will take place. It shall stand. This is so very reassuring in a world where we are forever disappointed by other people’s promises, despite good intentions.

Soul Search: In what do I find my security? Do I cling to God for my very life?

Father, thank you that you keep every promise you make. Amen.

September 26, 2017/5-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

Making Dumb Wise

Scripture can make the dumbest of us wise. All it takes on our part is a listening ear that will send truth to the heart. But even legitimate rebuke is often hard for our proud, Adamic nature to take to heart. We want to run from it rather than embrace it.

Many years ago a Christian friend noticed a flaw in my character (one of many). He saw that as a new Christian I would sometimes inject humor at an inappropriate moment. He gently took me aside and shared how the Scriptures say that to do so is like a filthy fly in a beautiful ointment.

That incident happened over forty years ago, but thankfully I have never forgotten what was said. It left a deep impression on me because it was based on Holy Scripture. His wise words have guided me in personal relationships and when witnessing to the lost, as well as in many pulpits.

Soul Search: Am I hurt by legitimate rebuke, or do I welcome it?

Father, please help me to always be open to correction. Amen.

September 25, 2017/4-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

The Family Unit

In recent years we have seen a dissipation of the family unit. Not only do people shack up together, but mothers are left to raise their children without the stabilization of fathers. The fathers have shirked their responsibility to raise their own offspring, and this has had a devastating effect on society.

Fathers are not the glory of children, because the children don’t even know who their fathers are. So we have kids who grow up with no respect for the police and law, and, more importantly, no fear of God. They lie, steal, and kill, and couldn’t care less.

Psalm 11:3 asks, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The only answer is for us to preach the everlasting foundation of the gospel as we’ve never done before.

Soul Search: Where do I find my stability? Is it in the knowledge of my Father’s love?

Father, help me to be content with the love you expressed at the cross. Amen.

September 24, 2017/3-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

Getting Better

“Better” is only satisfied when best is achieved, and only God can claim to be the best at anything. Better is a carrot for which we should all strive. We always need to be better husbands, better wives, better neighbors, better students, better preachers, and better when it comes to reaching out to the lost.

The biggest better, however, is the better that says that we should be of a humble spirit with the lowly, because the door of eternal salvation has been set very low.

God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, and grace is the door to heaven. Pride may promise pleasure, but it can’t deliver eternal life to dying and damned sinners. Better we humble our hearts and end up in heaven than keep our arrogance and pride and end up in hell.

Soul Search: Who would I rather be with, the proud or those who have a humble attitude?

Father, may I show grace to the humble. Amen.

September 23, 2017/2-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

Mountains and Molehills

It’s often a challenge when someone sins against us. We naturally want to talk about the person to invoke sympathy for ourselves. Yet love covers the sin. It overlooks it. It shows grace and mercy, and it does so in the light of Calvary’s cross.

If God’s love can overlook our mountain of sin, we can overlook the molehill of someone else’s sin. Such godliness guards our hearts against gossip, and against the subtlety of bitterness.

Soul Search: What reoccurring memories do I have that evoke negative thoughts toward somebody?

Father, may I never lose sight of what I have been forgiven in Christ. Amen.

September 22, 2017/1-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR LIFE FROM PROVERBS

 Taking Advantage of Today

How we should take advantage of the freedom to enter the harvest fields and reach the lost!

Imagine if, in years to come, it became illegal to give someone a gospel tract or to preach in public places. It is then that we will look back to these days of freedom and say that we should have been wise and gathered in summer. How shameful if we close our eyes and take rest when sinners are sinking into hell.

The Bible says that those who win souls are wise (Proverbs 11:30). So let’s be wise today, and seek and save those who are lost.

Soul Search: How can reaching the lost—obedience to the Great Commission—be a priority in my life?

Father, please help me to take advantage of today so I will have no regrets tomorrow. Amen.

September 21, 2017/1-7

THINK ON THESE THINGS: WISDOM FOR  LIFE FROM PROVERBS

 Taking Advantage of Today

How we should take advantage of the freedom to enter the harvest fields and reach the lost!

Imagine if, in years to come, it became illegal to give someone a gospel tract or to preach in public places. It is then that we will look back to these days of freedom and say that we should have been wise and gathered in summer. How shameful if we close our eyes and take rest when sinners are sinking into hell.

The Bible says that those who win souls are wise (Proverbs 11:30). So let’s be wise today, and seek and save those who are lost.

Soul Search: How can reaching the lost—obedience to the Great Commission—be a priority in my life?

Father, please help me to take advantage of today so I will have no regrets tomorrow. Amen.

September 20, 2017/7-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

He wants you to fulfill His special purpose for this generation

God has a purpose for your life. Everything you do has significance. God wants to work through your hands, speak through your voice, and love through your heart.

He will bless you and make you a blessing to others as you seek to glorify Him in all you are and all you do.

He will guide you into all that is best for you and into all that will take you to the highest expressions of His love. He will lead you by His way, by His words, and by His will. He will guide you down the paths that lead you straight to His heart.

Always remember, when God made you He did so with a purpose and a plan. His hand has remained upon you to this very day. He calls you by name. You are His beloved child… the apple of His eye… the delight of His heart.

Today you are in the exact place He wants you to be, and tomorrow He will be with you as He has always been – in goodness, in kindness, in faithfulness, in love.

Question of the day:  Are you open to the ways God wants to use you in your generation?

If you enjoyed this devotional and want to bless someone with its uplifting message, visit  dayspring.com to view a wide selection of greeting cards, jewelry pieces, and gift books – all inspired by the original poem “Just Think” written by DaySpring Co-Founder Roy Lessin.

You can also learn more about DaySpring  and the way we help you #LiveYourFaith.

 

September 19, 2017/6-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

He has allowed you to be here at this time in history

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

There is no reason to wish you had been born at a different time in history. You were born at a perfect time. God didn’t make any mistakes concerning you.

The Lord’s ways are beautiful, and everything He does in you and through you will be a beautiful work.

God is almighty and He will bring to pass His purposes for your life.

He has everything that is needed to see that it is done. He will do it perfectly, in the perfect way, at the perfect time.

Question of the day: Why is it important for you to wait for God’s time and to trust His timing?

 

September 18, 2017/5-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

You lack nothing that His grace can’t give you.

When God made you, He didn’t expect you to make it through life on your own. He made you to know Him, to enjoy Him, and to look to Him for all you need. He didn’t make you for failure or defeat.

He wants to live His life in you – a life of righteousness, peace, and joy.

Through grace, God will give to you over and over again. Because His supply is abundant, you will never be without, because His heart is full. You will never be empty, because His resources are endless, you will never lack any good thing.

The greatest thing your heart can experience is God’s presence. He is greater than any of His gifts, more enjoyable than any of His blessings, and more satisfying than any of His provisions.

When He gives Himself to you, there is nothing higher than He can give.

Question of the day: Why is it important for you to understand the meaning of grace?

To send this shareable scripture to someone who may be uplifted by God’s Word, visit dayspring.com

September 17, 2017/4-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

He compares you to no one else – you are one of a kind.

God is the source of all creativity. He made only one “you.” He didn’t use a mold to form you – He used His hands, and He will never use His hands in exactly the same way again. The plans God has for you and the things He will do through you will never be duplicated.

God was the One who formed you, gave you the breath of life, and brought you into the world. He did this so that His arms could embrace you and His love could keep you.

He loves you completely. You never need to earn His love. There has never been a time when you were without His love.

God knows you best, and He knows best how to fulfill His purpose and plan for your life. He will not fail you.

As you look to Him, always remember that He is looking out for you. You can be assured that above you are His tender mercies, around you is His unfailing love and underneath you are His everlasting arms.

Question of the day: Why is important to understand and appreciate your uniqueness?

September 16, 2017/3-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

His hand formed you and made you who you are.

God’s Word says that when a child is conceived, God is present, forming the life of that child.

He has been involved in your life from its very beginning. Long before you knew your mother’s loving touch, God was there in perfect love, watching over you.

There is never a time when you are not in His thoughts, close to His side, and near to His heart. His presence in your life is not a small thing or a big thing – it is everything.

In His great generosity, God has given to you freely, bountifully, and joyfully. He has given you the finest, the highest, the deepest, and the fullest measure of His love.

All that He has given He will continue to give to you all the days of your life.

Question of the day: Why do you feel more valuable knowing that God formed you?

If you would like to share this encouraging eCard, visit dayspring.com.

 

September 15 2017/2-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

You are the one He calls His own.

Some people would have us believe that the universe and everything in it happened by chance. The Bible tells us that the universe was formed by our Creator God. Everything that God created was for a purpose – nothing is here by random selection or by unpredictable chance.

What could be sweeter or dearer than to know that no one is nearer to your heart, your soul or your deepest desires than the One who created you?

His caring eyes are upon you, His protecting hands are over you, and His assuring voice says to you, “I have made you. You are mine.”

What an incredible journey Jesus made; what an overwhelming expression of love He expressed; what an awesome purpose He had in mind.

When He became a man on earth, He was seeking you; when He stretched out His hands upon the cross, He was reaching out to you. You are the sheep He has come to shepherd.

Question of the day: Why is it important to know that God created you and that you are not here by chance?

September 14, 2017/1-7

JUST THINK: FROM GOD’S HEART TO YOURS

Just think, you’re here not by chance, but by God’s choosing.

 

Just think,

you’re here not by chance,

but by God’s choosing.

 

His hand formed you

and made you the person you are.

 

He compares you to no one else –

you are one of a kind.

 

You lack nothing that

His grace can’t give you.

 

He has allowed you to be here

at this time in history

to fulfill His special purpose

for this generation.

 

The above copy, “Just Think”, was originally written as a card by DaySpring Co-Founder Roy Lessin in the late 1990s.  Due to its widespread popularity, “Just Think” branched out into its own product line including a series of cards, gifts and a devotional book – which is the inspiration for this study .  To learn more about DaySpring visit http://www.dayspring.com.

September 13, 2017/5-5

HEARING FROM HEAVEN

The Power of Priority! 

We all have priorities in life. Some seek name and fame. Some look for partners, marriage and happiness. We are living in a world full of people who are blindly pursuing the wealth of life. Is this what really matters the most? We neglect relationships, family and God to gain status and security. It’s not the wealth of life but the depth of life that matters the most. When you seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness, all these things will be given to you! Health, wealth and all that you need, God will provide. If we prioritize God and his Kingdom above everything else, guess what? We become Heaven’s responsibility! God becomes the source of our security. His wealth is at our disposal, to use for His glory! And it is greater than all of the human wealth and wisdom put together on this earth. Think of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego in the bible. They sought God no matter what. There was no compromise! Eventually success came after them. What are you running after today? Let’s get the order right. Let’s seek God first and all other things will follow us. God’s priorities precede God provision and promotion! Let’s pursue the depth of life, as we were created to!

September 12, 2017/4-5

HEARING FROM HEAVEN

The Lie the Devil Will Tell You Today

Have you ever seen a mirage in a desert? A mirage looks wonderful, hopeful, and pleasurable, but it’s not real. Temptation is like a mirage. It will promise you the moon and stars but it deceives you. The enemy uses temptation to trap you, to destroy your purpose & destiny in God. I always enjoyed using mouse traps as a child. The mouse trap has a bait to attract the creature. The bait leads you to a trap and eventually kills you. The bait of Satan is temptation; it traps people in sin which kills you and aborts your God given future.

The enemy is not after your relationships, money or your wealth but He is after your Identity and Purpose! He hates and trembles when a child of God discovers their true self and steps out to accomplish a heaven ordained mission. Remember Jesus in the wilderness? Right after heaven was opened, and Jesus was introduced as the ‘Son of God’, launched into public ministry, the devil came and challenged his Identity. He tempted Jesus to deviate him from the very thing that Jesus had come to fulfill on earth. Satan promised pleasure, power and fame but Jesus stayed focused on heaven’s assignment. Christ knew where He had come from and what He had come for! Today, like Jesus, will you stay focused on who you really are and what you are called for? Because heaven is behind you and Holy Spirit will help you to overcome evil.

Whenever you are tempted, speak to one of your spiritual leaders or a friend: Seek help! Keep yourself accountable. Temptation is common to all man, irrespective of titles, spirituality and positions. The same battle you face, your leaders also face and they can help you. Watch how a lion kills a deer. First it disturbs the flock and isolates one and gets it alone. When you’re isolated in your journey, you are weak, vulnerable and it’s easier for the enemy to get you. This is what the devil wants. He wants to isolate you by lying to you: you’re the only one going through this, what if others misunderstand me? I feel ashamed, what if they judge me? This is not true. Seek help and never face your temptation alone. The purpose of temptation is to distract you from your purpose. Stay focused today!

September 11, 2017/3-5

HEARING FROM HEAVEN

Obedience Inspired by Faith

Obedience to God unlocks understanding. What are you waiting for? Sometimes we wish that God would show us the entire picture before we can obey Him. Have you restricted your walk with God to only what you understand? Guess what?! Our minds can never fully grasp what God wants to do through our lives. Our logic would never dare to go there. But faith will! Obedience inspired by faith unveils the hidden things of God. Your knowledge and intelligence will only accomplish the dreams and destiny designed by man. But your Faith and Obedience will get a hold of heaven’s plans and God-designed destiny for you. Abraham’s extraordinary faith and act of obedience to God connected him to a supernatural plan of heaven.

Do you want to live for something greater? What is stopping you from believing and obeying? Fear? Doubt? Anxiety? This will only cripple you. Today, let me challenge you to replace it with Faith, Strength and Courage. It liberates you! You are called for something greater. I pray that you walk in extraordinary faith believing only in the One who has called you and in simple obedience to the One who knows you. For obedience inspired by Faith will take you where your knowledge and intelligence would never dare to go.

September 10, 2017/2-5

HEARING FROM HEAVEN

 Who You Really Are   

We are living in a time and age where more prominence is given to what you accomplish in life. People often identify and value you with relationships, titles, looks and bank accounts. But is this where your true significance lies? No! There is nothing ordinary about you. You are not a result of an evolution or a big bang theory. You are a product of Heaven, bought with a high price, set apart for a great purpose and your story is significant.

I once read about a man who visited an art gallery which had many pieces of art in the room. One piece from among them was priced very high. When the man asked why this was so, the guide replied that the piece was unique because of its artist. What an amazing truth it is about us then; we are a masterpiece of the Heavenly Father. Our worth is not defined by what we have done on this earth, but it’s in what heaven has done for us. Jesus died for you and me on a cross and shed His blood for us. Your price tag is not in dollars, silver or gold but it’s much more! It’s the precious blood of the Lamb and His name is Jesus.

Your significance is not in your earthly fame but it’s in your Heavenly Father’s name. Today, you are a child of the Most High and all of Heaven’s attention is on you! May you live each day of your life in this truth and let no one tell you otherwise.

September 9, 2017/1-5

HEARING FROM HEAVEN

God Still Speaks 

Let me lay out this profound yet simple truth as a foundation on our 5 day journey to hear from heaven. God desires to speak to you more than you would ever long to hear from him. The book of Job says, “for God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.

Sometimes we may wonder, does God really speak to us today? Yes, he does! Is he too busy for us? Has He forgotten us? Is He far from us? No, he is not! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. If he spoke with Moses at the burning bush, Abraham at the altar, Samuel in the temple, He will speak to you today. The Bible is an expression of His longing to reveal himself to you. There are 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,205 verses and over 2,500 promises in the Bible. This is how much God wants to talk to you! You cannot even fathom the number of thoughts He has for you. He wants to have a relationship with us. In fact, He created us for fellowship with Him. When we decide to draw close to him, His voice becomes more and more clear to us.

Let me give you the most important key to hear from God: BE AVAILABLE .By now we know that God is still able to speak, but are you available to hear from him? Allocate time and space in your daily schedule to hear from God. Be available to hear from Him!

 

September 8, 2017/7-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES:  A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

Shelter for the Swallow

My girls were taking riding lessons at our neighbor’s place. As the horses were being brought in, I happened to look up and see a barn swallow’s nest built against the rafters of the barn.

As I stood there admiring these fascinating birds, God reminded me of the words of Psalm 84. I found myself thinking, What an accurate picture David painted of their nature and their nests.When a swallow builds its nest, it will first find a barn or other structure with a supply of mud close by. It will carry mud and twigs in its little beak, making trip after trip, carefully constructing a sturdy nest on a rafter beam of the barn. The outside of the mud-dauber-type structure dries and hardens, becoming very solid and secure. Yet, the inside of the nest is lined with downy feathers and is soft, warm, and inviting. Instinctively, swallows know how to do this, and it serves them well.

The thought struck me: Swallows build their nests the way they do because, instinctively, they know that the safest place to build is up against the wall. Now we humans use the expression “up against the wall” to describe feeling trapped or being out of options when we have no place to run and no way out. We don’t have the same instincts as swallows and other animals. God’s Holy Spirit leaves us to make our own choices, having shown us in His Word the narrow road to follow. Sadly, we misjudge and miscalculate. Our mistakes and failures leave scars of fear and anxiety, which cause us to think that running away is the only way to stay safe. Oh, that we would learn from the graceful swallow the wisdom of God, allowing our Divine Shepherd’s leading and guiding to become such a deep part of us that we can mirror the powerful instincts He has built into His creation. The place of abiding is found where difficulty crosses our will and our fear. That is actually the safest place.

Therefore, we should turn around and start running toward what is uncomfortable, because that is exactly where we are going to find Him.

Softly, tenderly, quietly He’s calling you from the depths of His wonderful presence. How will you respond? Will you join Him in the secret place?

For more Women on the Frontlines and to learn more about how you can get connected, empowered, equipped and mobilized together with like-minded women around the world visit .woflglobal.com.

 September 7, 2017/6-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

 

Gwen Shaw: A Passion for Nations

God called Gwen Shaw to China. However, somewhat ignorantly, Gwen had married a young man who was not as fervent about God’s purposes. Desiring to still pursue God, Gwen prayed and prayed for a change. Eventually, the Lord moved on his heart, and in obedience they went off as faith missionaries to China.

In December 1947, they landed in Shanghai. Having responded in obedience to the call of God upon her life, she received a passionate burden from the Lord for the pChinese people.

Gwen loved the Chinese, and she considered them her people. She shared, “I belonged to them, and their need was my need; their pain, my pain.”

Eventually, though, she and her husband grew apart in vision and calling, and this had resulted in a painful separation of ways. The Lord used this pain as the redemptive part of a breaking process in which He took Gwen into a deeper place where He alone became her husband, shelter, and refuge.

At times, Gwen’s loneliness became so acute that it pierced into her heart like a knife. Only God knew her tears, pain, loneliness, and longing.

At one point, she started to make excuses to try to escape God’s call, and she nearly lost all three of her boys. Danny almost drowned in the South China Sea; David slipped right in front of a fast oncoming car; and Tommy was miraculously rescued out of a sewage-filled river. Still, the Lord promised His fatherly protection if she would only keep following Him.

Gwen knew that God was speaking loud and clear, warning her of how costly it could be to put anything before Him—even her children. The price might be more costly than the one she was already paying. So again, she counted the cost and said “yes” to her Lord. That’s when she received her next assignment—India.

India became Gwen’s great love. She often would say, “China was my first love, and India was my great love.” She couldn’t find words to describe what it meant to feel God’s heartbeat of love for a nation.p

May we join Gwen in praying: Lord, I give myself to You. I give my life to You. I feel Your call. I believe I was sent to do the will of my Father. I will take orders from You.

September 6, 2017/5-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

Gwen Shaw: A Passion for Nations

God called Gwen Shaw to China. However, somewhat ignorantly, Gwen had married a young man who was not as fervent about God’s purposes. Desiring to still pursue God, Gwen prayed and prayed for a change. Eventually, the Lord moved on his heart, and in obedience they went off as faith missionaries to China.

In December 1947, they landed in Shanghai. Having responded in obedience to the call of God upon her life, she received a passionate burden from the Lord for the Chinese people.

Gwen loved the Chinese, and she considered them her people. She shared, “I belonged to them, and their need was my need; their pain, my pain.”

Eventually, though, she and her husband grew apart in vision and calling, and this had resulted in a painful separation of ways. The Lord used this pain as the redemptive part of a breaking process in which He took Gwen into a deeper place where He alone became her husband, shelter, and refuge.

At times, Gwen’s loneliness became so acute that it pierced into her heart like a knife. Only God knew her tears, pain, loneliness, and longing.

At one point, she started to make excuses to try to escape God’s call, and she nearly lost all three of her boys. Danny almost drowned in the South China Sea; David slipped right in front of a fast oncoming car; and Tommy was miraculously rescued out of a sewage-filled river. Still, the Lord promised His fatherly protection if she would only keep following Him.

Gwen knew that God was speaking loud and clear, warning her of how costly it could be to put anything before Him—even her children. The price might be more costly than the one she was already paying. So again, she counted the cost and said “yes” to her Lord. That’s when she received her next assignment—India.

India became Gwen’s great love. She often would say, “China was my first love, and India was my great love.” She couldn’t find words to describe what it meant to feel God’s heartbeat of love for a nation.

May we join Gwen in praying: Lord, I give myself to You. I give my life to You. I feel Your call. I believe I was sent to do the will of my Father. I will take orders from You

 

 September 5, 2017/4-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

Fanny Crosby: Songs from the Secret Place

Fanny Crosby was blind since birth. Despite this, Fanny wrote about nine thousand hymns in her lifetime. Her style was revolutionary for her day. Instead of mimicking the traditional, old-fashioned hymn language, she expressed thoughts and prayers in common words that touched the hearts of worshiping believers. Her obvious passion for God drew the lost into His kingdom.

Fanny was 28 years old when the event inspiring her hymns occurred. In 1848, cholera broke out and Fanny contracted the disease. She recovered, but her close brush with death made her think about dying. She had believed in God and His goodness but had never experienced conversion. During this time of seeking and soul-searching, Fanny dreamed she visited a dying man. The man asked her if she would meet him in heaven after their deaths. She responded in the dream that, by God’s help, she would. The dream ended as the man said, “Remember, you promised a dying man!”

The experience drew Fanny to a deeper place of seeking God. After a couple of attempts, the third time she went to the altar something happened. Bonnie C. Harvey described what followed: “During the fifth verse of ‘Alas and Did My Savior Bleed?’ Fanny prayed, ‘Here Lord, I give myself away. ’Tis all that I can do.’ Suddenly Fanny felt ‘my very soul was flooded with celestial light.’ She jumped to her feet, shouting, ‘Hallelujah! Hallelujah!’ She said, ‘For the first time I realized that I had been trying to hold the world in one hand and the Lord in the other.’”

Fanny called this event her “November experience.” From that point on, her life was totally dedicated to God. It was out of this experience that many of her later hymns were born. Fanny freely gave away the gift that God deposited within her. She wrote under at least 204 pen names, and she wrote verses for friends who published them with their own melodies. No one actually knows just how many hymns and poems she wrote. It did not matter to her who got the credit, as long as God could be glorified.

Fanny understood the power of distraction and would purposely take time alone with God at night. Every day, she found a place to be alone with Him, even when it meant sleepless nights. He was her rest and peace.

.

 September 4, 2017/3-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

Teresa of Avila: Possessed by God’s Love

On March 28, 1515, a light flickered in a dark chapter in Spanish history. A tiny girl was born in southern Spain. She was given the name Teresa de C0epeda y Ahumada.

Teresa of Avila was a beacon of light in an uncertain age, a messenger of the secret place of God’s presence who modeled Christ as a place of safety, comfort, and certain refuge. Throughout her life, her soul would often be caught away to be with God, where she would be filled with visions of the Lover of her soul.

One day, in her young life, something shocking put an end to everything worldly in Teresa’s life—she fell to the floor as if dead. Many believed that she lapsed into a coma, although little proof has been offered. Doctors found no pulse, and all attempts to revive her failed.

Thinking she was dead, the doctors left and a priest anointed her body with holy oil; prayers for the dead were recited and nuns set her body aside to stiffen before burial. The family made funeral preparations and a grave was prepared. Four days later, her father and her brother witnessed a supernatural fire as it hit her body. Her eyelids began blinking, her arms moved, blood rushed to her face, and she rose from the bed inexplicably. While everyone had been thinking that Teresa was dead, she was having a heavenly vision, seeing her family and communities of nuns.

Later, sent to a convent school, Teresa was still unwell and in pain, and she convalesced at the convent for several years, continuing to slip in and out of consciousness at times. Sometimes, it appeared as if no life inhabited her body for weeks and she lay on her bed like a beautiful corpse. Yet, each time, Teresa would recover her senses.

Though she had walked through a dark night of the soul with great physical pain and affliction, from this time on it seemed as though the tangible presence of Jesus was with her.

In her poetry, she writes:

Let nothing trouble you,
Let nothing scare you,
All is fleeing,
God alone is unchanging,
Patience,
Everything obtains.
Who possesses God nothing wants.
God alone suffices.

September 3, 2017/2-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES:A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

The Depths of God

Intimacy with God…hmm…sounds romantic, doesn’t it? B5ut our God is holy and His holiness is a consuming fire. He draws us closer to Himself by kindling a fire that draws us like moths out of the darkness toward its great light. Drawn by a force that’s beyond ourselves, we come closer.

As we get closer, the fire of God begins to make us uncomfortable. The light of His holiness begins to scorch the dross and the chaff within us. We experience turmoil as we become painfully aware of our sins, shortcomings, and unworthiness to be in His beautiful, holy presence. We become painfully aware that we have become idolaters, nurturing false passions of our soul and flesh, and that our idols have kept us trapped in worldliness.

Our turmoil grows deeper and stronger until it becomes a battle over our very souls. We long for Him and we remember the seal of the Holy Spirit, like the engagement ring pledged as a promise of a coming wedding day. Yet at the same time we are overwhelmed with our failings, angers, jealousies, and lusts. Within, we cry out, How could He possibly love me or want me as I am?

Oh, but our heavenly Lover already sees and knows everything. Fully aware of our every fault, He nevertheless calls us to Himself. Unfortunately, our sense of unworthiness causes us to resist Him and hold back from running into His arms with abandonment.

So, we hang onto our worldly passions, interests, positions, power, possessions, people—all in an attempt to anchor ourselves here on earth, where we feel a little more secure. We worry, What will He ask of me? What will He force me to give up? We attempt to bargain our way out of our perceived losses. What will He let me keep?

Sooner or later, we look up. Who is this Man standing before us? It’s Jesus! His heart calls us tenderly, Just let go of your struggle. Let it go…and come to Me!

What am I waiting for? we ask. Letting go of all fear and resistance, we run headlong into His arms. Instantly, the Holy Spirit breathes upon the embers of our smoldering passion, setting our hearts ablaze with love for Him.

September 2, 2017/1-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO THE SECRET PLACE

When I’m Calling You

In recent decades, we have been learning great lessons about prayer. Many ministries have sprung up to teach Christians how to be prayer warriors. Yet, for all our praying, many of us lack a sense of closeness and intimacy with God to whom we pray. We may have no clue how to truly find God in our prayer time. With all our understanding about God’s awesome power, it’s as if we’ve lost sight of God Himself and His longing to be intimate with us.

If we want to find God in our everyday experience and sense His real presence throughout life’s struggles and joys, we must learn about a kind of prayer few of us understand: the prayer of inner quiet. In the psalms, we discover long lists of God’s amazing attributes and His great and mighty acts. We read, “You are the God who does wonders,” “You have demonstrated your power among the people,” and “With Your mighty arm You have redeemed Your people.” We get into the pace of those words, imagining a God who is always on the move. Unfortunately, often we miss the all-important instruction at the end: selah—“pause a minute and calmly think about what you’ve just read.” In this, we hear the echo of God’s voice calling us to come apart to be alone with Him. But we miss His voice in the midst of our busy days; we run until we drop and then we get up the next day and start all over again.

Although we often complain about our demanding, stressed-out lives, most of us have become accustomed to the frantic pace. We scarcely know what to do with ourselves when things slow down. Some of us are even afraid to slow down, afraid of what will happen. Our running keeps us just ahead of the wind at our backs. And if we should suddenly stop, the whirlwind of promises we’ve made and responsibilities we’ve picked up will catch up with us.

At the same time, we sense our own desire to retreat to the wonderful spirit-place, the quiet sanctuary where God abides.

What is the only requirement for finding your way to the secret place with God? Just begin. Begin by abandoning yourself to God, which means learning to rest in His divine presence no matter what your circumstances may be.

 

September 1, 2017/7-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

You are Chosen

Consider for a moment the women whose lives we have profiled. They are so different from each other in race, nationality, culture, background, and time in history. What is the common bond between them? What connects Joan of Arc, Vibia Perpetua, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Aimee Semple McPherson, Lydia Christensen Prince, Bertha Smith, Corrie ten Boom, and Jackie Pullinger?

Very simply, they are all ordinary women who knew an extraordinary God. When they gave to Him their very ordinariness, when they came to Him in their human weakness, He showed Himself strong on their behalf and used them in extraordinary ways.

You may feel that you are the least qualified for God to use and the most unlikely candidate for His Spirit to fall upon. But you know what? You are just the kind of person He chooses! God makes a point of choosing the weak things of the world to shame the mighty and the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (see 1 Cor. 1:27). God is revealed and glorified in your weakness.

When you accept yourself as among those whom God has chosen, you must understand that your position carries great responsibilities as well as privileges. I am so thankful that the Lord is bringing a release for women in ministry today. He is setting us free and unshackling our voices, our arms, our legs, and our hearts. In the midst of it all, though, we must be careful to keep our focus pure. In the days ahead, we will have opportunities for far more battles than we can possibly endure. Therefore, we must choose wisely and carefully discern the battles that the Lord has given us to fight.

Listen closely and look deeply for what you can glean from these women. They would say to you, Serve the Lord with all your strength. Love him with all your being. Do not miss the day of your visitation. While it is yet your day, seize it. Seize your destiny, your calling, your opportunity.Seize the day! Yes, there is a call to courage being pronounced in our day. Warriors are being searched for, and are desperately needed.

Do you hear the call? If so, sign up right now!

For more Women on the Frontlines and to learn more about how you can get connected, empowered, equipped and mobilized together with like-minded women around the world visit .woflglobal.com.

 

August 31, 2017/6-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

Jackie Pullinger: Lighting the Darkness

As a young woman, Jackie Pullinger attended a special prayer meeting with friends where she heard God speak to her. He said, Go. Trust me, and I will lead you. I will instruct you and lead you in the way in which you shall go; I will guide you with My eye. Jackie knew that she must take action and obey God’s call.

She bought the cheapest boat ticket that stopped at the greatest number of countries and prayed for God’s direction to know where to get off and how He wanted her to proceed from there. So, with this great act of faith, Jackie found herself stepping off a boat in Hong Kong in 1966 after traveling halfway around the globe.

There, Jackie began a youth club to reach out to the young people of the Walled City. This club enabled her to befriend young people who were members of the feared Triad organizations. Suddenly, light began to break through the darkness around her and lives began to be changed one by one.

Jackie took seriously her call to help the people at their point of need. She looked for ways to help and minister to the most “poor in spirit and body” of those around her, which ultimately led her to preaching Jesus and ministering to the needs of the drug addicts. Jackie discovered that a sincere heart, prayer, and praise could often help an addict go through withdrawal in a short and relatively painless way.

Jackie’s one-woman crusade within the Walled City not only led to the development of a very successful drug rehabilitation program but also gave birth to an active, vibrant, Spirit-empowered church within the confines of the Walled City.

Jackie Pullinger entered Hong Kong with no human resources to fall back on. She followed the Spirit’s leading to Hong Kong and knew that she was totally dependent upon God for her protection, resources, and success. Her life is a testimony to the truth that there is no limit to what one person can accomplish when he or she commits him or herself completely into the hands of the Lord.

(A Call to Courage includes multiple stories of warrior women on the frontlines of faith. Be sure to check out the book for more encouraging, inspirational stories of women such as Sojourner Truth, Corrie ten Boom, and more.)

 

August 30, 2017/5-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

Bertha Smith: Walking in the Spirit

Olive Bertha Smith was appointed as a missionary to China by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention on July 3, 1917.

Years later, when the Japanese invaded China in the spring of 1937, Bertha faced a dilemma. The American government had urged all Americans to leave the country and declared that it would not be responsible for the safety of any who decided to stay. Bertha debated what to do. Through prayer she became convinced that she should stay. It was God who had placed her in China, not the American government. She could not bear to leave the Chinese people, particularly the Chinese Christians who would be undergoing such hardship.

While war raged in the countryside surrounding Tsining, Bertha labored faithfully and courageously. She opened her home for any who wanted personal help in making decisions to receive Christ. Bertha realized that many of these Chinese would soon be fleeing from the Japanese and she knew that many of them would die. She was deeply concerned that they come to Christ and be firmly established in the faith while there was time.

She regularly visited the local hospital to talk with the wounded soldiers and tell them about Jesus. Bertha made a practice of seeking God’s specific, direct guidance for every move she made. She could not address everyone’s needs, so she depended on God to show her where to go, what to do, and whom to talk to. In this way, walking with God, she was led to the people in whom he was already working.

After Tsining fell to the Japanese, the mission compound where Bertha lived and worked housed many refugees, most of them women. Japanese soldiers were constantly looking for girls and young women for illicit purposes, and more than once Bertha squared off face-to-face with the soldiers, protecting those whom God had placed under her care. She had a holy boldness born from many years of prayer and fellowship with Christ. Bertha was totally surrendered to God and trusted him absolutely, and he protected, provided, and guided her steps.

The secret of Bertha’s courage and effectiveness throughout a century-long life is that she learned how to die to self—to regard herself as being dead to sin but alive to God through Jesus Christ.

 

August 29, 2017/4-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

Harriet Tubman: Go Down, Moses

Harriet Tubman’s commitment to freedom was forged by two major influences in her life. The first of these was slavery itself. As a young child of six years, Harriet had been hired out by her owner to work for a succession of different people, many of whom abused her terribly. As Harriet grew older, the conviction grew in her heart that everyone deserved to be free. Freedom was worth any price.

The second influence in the development of Harriet’s character was her faith. Along with many other slaves, Harriet and her family found strength and comfort in the community they shared together. The slaves found hope and encouragement in the experiences of biblical characters such as Job, Joseph, Noah, Paul, Abraham, and Moses. Jesus was especially dear to them because he had suffered the way they suffered.

By the time Harriet reached adulthood, her hatred of slavery had made her determined to be free at any cost, while her faith in God had instilled in her a confidence in her success and a fearlessness regarding her own personal safety. Those who saw Harriet in action during her years of personally leading slaves to freedom were impressed by the fact that she displayed absolutely no fear for herself while taking every care to protect the runaways she was responsible for. She believed implicitly that God was directing her steps and protecting her, and that she would be taken only when and if God willed it.

Harriet made a total of nineteen trips into Maryland in the decade before the Civil War. She is credited with personally leading more than three hundred slaves to freedom, including, as she had promised, her parents and all her brothers and sisters and their families.

What is even more remarkable is that she never lost a single one. Every slave who followed Harriet was delivered safely to freedom in the North. Harriet was bold, fearless, creative, cunning, and, when necessary, severe.

Harriet Tubman’s life is a testimony to what a person can do when he or she learns to listen to God’s voice and obey without question. Because she trusted not in herself but in Him, she found his courage, strength, wisdom, insight, and protection available to her. Those same resources are ours as well if we will trust God and not depend on ourselves.

 

August 28, 2017/3-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

Joan of Arc: The Cost of Courage

Joan of Arc simply loved God. She never received any theological training and knew very little about the official doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, the only church in France at that time. All Joan knew was that when she went to mass, God met her there. Joan knew God, loved to spend time with Him, and would do anything for Him.

In the summer of 1425, when she was thirteen, Joan experienced her first heavenly visitation: a blaze of bright light accompanied by a voice.

Over the course of three years, she had dreams of horses running in battle and of herself being led away with an army of men. During this time, she gradually became aware of the call of God on her life. He seemed to be telling her that she was to go to the aid of the disinherited Charles, the true king of France; drive the English away from Orleans and out of the country; and lead the procession to see Charles enthroned. At first, she resisted: I’m just a girl. I have no education, no training in military skills. Who’s going to listen to me? Her voices became more and more insistent.

By May 1428, Joan was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was leading her to go to Charles’ aid. She loved God so much that she would go anywhere and do anything to fulfill His desire. She believed that God was true and that He would back her up in everything that He called her to do.

By April 1429, Joan and her army had moved rapidly and entered the city of Orléans. Within a week, they had captured all the English forts surrounding the city.

We can take courage from the simple fact that Joan was so ordinary. By normal human standards she had no qualifications for the mission she undertook. She had no education, no religious training, and no leadership experience. In fact, she lived during a time when women’s freedom in both church and society was greatly restricted.

What made the difference? Joan possessed the only qualification that mattered: she loved God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. She was completely sold out to Him. God chose her and used her because she made herself available to Him.

 

August 27, 2017/2-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES:  A CALL TO COURAGE

I’m in the Army Now

Many believers have the wrong concept of courage. The enemy has fed us a lie that says courage means being without fear and that if we struggle with fear, then we must not be courageous enough. That is absolutely not true. All of us, even the most courageous among us, must deal with fears.

True courage means acknowledging fear, turning it over to God, and pressing ahead despite it. Courage means regarding the dream as more powerful and worthwhile than the fear that would keep us from it. Courage arises out of the security of knowing who God is and our identity in relation to Him.

By ourselves we are weak and can do nothing. But because He dwells in us, we have His power, wisdom, and courage. As we walk with Him, we understand more and more how much He loves us, and He begins to reveal His heart to us. We can take courage from these things. Courage arises from confidence in the vision the Lord has given to us; it comes from the quiet place of contemplation before the Lord where He visits us and speaks to us.

Courage comes out of resting in his strength. Courage also means taking one step at a time without demanding to know the complete journey up front. We tend to want to have everything mapped out in advance so we can know what we’re getting into before we start. God rarely works that way. He says, I’m not going to tell you what it looks like at the end. I’m only giving insight for right now. Trust Me and follow Me.

There is a reason God does this: walking one step at a time builds faith. God knows that our puny little brains can’t handle the whole picture all at once. Sometimes God speaks things to us that seem so overwhelming that we can’t see how in the world He will ever do it. Yet He pours out His grace and leads us one step at a time. We take that step and then watch for the next one. The Lord will open a doorway of grace to enable us to take the next step and the next and the next. As we walk this way, our faith grows and so does our courage.

 

August 26, 2017/1-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COURAGE

No More Fear

One night, the Lord gave me (Michal Ann) a dream that dealt with intimidation—how strong of a force it can be and how it can tempt us to do things that we would not otherwise do. In this dream, my oldest son, Justin, and I were in China running food, clothing, and other items to needy people.

As I was preparing to leave one house, the authorities broke in and grabbed me. I was taken to face the enemy leader. He wanted to punish me by torture—hanging me by the neck, not until I died but long enough to choke me and leave rope marks on my neck. It was a very intimidating situation.

I almost consented to the punishment when all of a sudden, a light went on inside me. How foolish of me to entrust my life into the enemy’s hands! Once the noose was around my neck, I would be completely at his mercy. How could I trust the word of the enemy?

In the dream, rather than giving in to the intimidation and agreeing to the punishment, I began preaching the gospel to the enemy leader.

As I continued preaching, I pulled from my pocket an uncut, unpolished purple gem, like an amethyst. As I spoke, the gem grew larger and brighter. The enemy leader reached out to take the stone in his hand. It continued to grow as I continued to preach the Word. He was holding a miracle, a wonder of God in his own hand, and with his own eyes watched it grow and glow.

It seems to me that the gem in this dream symbolizes the Word coming forth from within. When we are on the verge of a breakthrough, the enemy will come and try to intimidate us and make us settle for something less than we should. If we press through, confronting the enemy of intimidation and allowing the boldness of the Holy Spirit to come on us, we become like the stone—growing and glowing with the truth and power of God’s Word.

The time has come for us to do business with God and with the enemy. It’s time to decide to not let intimidation and fear strangle us any longer.

August 25, 2017/7-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COMPASSION

Compassion Acts

The world is desperate for help. According to recent studies, seventy-five percent of the world’s population lives in poverty. Approximately fifty percent of the world’s population is female. Women suffer more from poverty than men. Forty percent of the world’s population consists of children. They are the ones who suffer more than all others. In fact, over one billion children are at risk today, and many have become victims of extreme poverty, homelessness, the loss of their parents, child labor, abuse, slavery, sexual exploitation, AIDS and other illnesses, and the effects of war and religious persecution.

In certain parts of the world, orphaned children are conscripted into armies, where they suffer physical, sexual, and mental abuse. They are forced to carry guns and trained to kill. At times, the governments involved are willing to “sell off” numbers of these children to ease their financial situations.

Sometimes it can be quite easy to read the words but not engage our hearts in the reality of what they mean. If those children were our children, or those people our family, don’t you think our attitude would be different? I know mine would. That is what the Lord wants to do––to enlarge our hearts to such a degree that “they” become “our family.” They are His kids, the love of His heart, and we just don’t seem to get it or care. When will we get it? When will we do something about these needs? If there ever was a time for compassion in our world, it is today!

I’m looking for Jesus; I’m waiting for Jesus. But could it be that Jesus is waiting for me? Could it be that as I engage my heart to not only hear the Word of God, but to live the Word to those who do not know Him, Jesus just might come to me? That sounds like the kingdom of God coming on this earth. I want to be a part of establishing God’s kingdom and raising up a whole army of like-hearted loving warriors who have embraced the call to compassion. He is waiting for you. Will you enlist in this army? I pray that your answer is yes, and that you are stirred to action—because compassion acts.

For more Women on the Frontlines and to learn more about how you can get connected, empowered, equipped and mobilized together with like-minded women around the world visit .woflglobal.com.

August 24, 2017/6-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COMPASSION

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: The Humble Road

Mother Teresa moved in compassion among the poor in her beloved Calcutta, India, and among the rich and famous around the world as well. She was a flesh-and-blood example of what compassion looks like, and she seemed to exhibit the qualities of humility and love wherever she was.

She was born in 1910 in what is today Macedonia and was the youngest of three children. At the age of twelve, Agnes strongly felt the call of God on her life, and she knew that she was destined to become a missionary. The overarching desire of her life from then on was to spread the love of Jesus Christ, particularly among the poor, the sick, and the outcasts of society.

Mother Teresa was known as an “angel of mercy” to the poor. Most people who lived in Calcutta during the 1940s lived in the worst possible conditions of extreme hunger, deprivation, squalor, and filth. She went through these great trials with the Indian people, so she knew how intense their suffering and hardships were. She gathered the city’s “throwaway children” from rubbish heaps. Many were orphans. She explained, “We do our best to nurse them back to life.” This valiant nun could see the life of Jesus in every child and adult, and she approached each one as if he or she was the Lord himself.

After being granted permission in 1950 to establish a new order of Catholic nuns, Mother Teresa opened Nirmal Hriday (“Pure or Immaculate Heart”), a home for the dying, in 1952.

One of Mother Teresa’s best-known mottos is, “Do small things with great love.” She also said, “Never forget you are co-workers of Jesus.” These two quotations form the framework of Mother Teresa’s life and ministry, and, when we apply them to our own lives, we will see exciting changes taking place in our life and ministry.

Reflect on these words by Mother Teresa and apply them to your life: “When there is a call within a call, there is only one thing to do, to say ‘yes’ to Jesus. That’s all. If we belong to him, he must be able to use us without consulting us…I had only to say a simple ‘yes.’”

 

August 23, 2017/5-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES:A CALL TO COMPASSION

Gladys Aylward: Rejected by Man, Approved by God

Gladys Aylward endured many harrowing trials while journeying to China, the land where her heart longed to be, so she could lavish hungry souls with the love of Jesus. She finally arrived in China in 1932.

In 1936, Gladys Aylward became the first foreign missionary to become a Chinese citizen. Later, during Japan’s invasion of China, Gladys was interviewed by an American freelance journalist named Theodore White in 1940 or 1941. Her compelling story was published in Timemagazine and was read by millions of people, which unfortunately included the Japanese army. This ended up endangering her life and the lives of those under her care, as the Japanese put her on their wanted list—offering a reward for her, dead or alive.

Once word got out about the reward for turning her in, Gladys found herself needing to find shelter for 200 children currently in her care. Half of them were safely taken by a fellow convert, but the other 100 children she had to personally guide to safety. The travelers slept in Buddhist temple courtyards, in the open air, in small homes, wherever they could find shelter. They trekked over mountains with bruised and cut feet, the younger children in great despair, crying for lack of food and afraid. The older girls, whose feet had been bound previously, had great difficulty because of weakness and abnormal bone formation. Finding enough food to feed one hundred children every day was more than just a challenge and Gladys herself was dealing with a strange tiredness—a result of the rifle blow to her head. But she refused to give up and instead kept going.

By the end of it all, Gladys was found to be suffering from fever, pneumonia, typhoid, and malnutrition. However, she still delivered every child to safety; not one of them had died or become seriously ill.

In our life and faith, may we be as courageous as Gladys Aylward, never fearing obstacles but trusting in God to find our way through.

Father, I pray that I would be so in love with You that no obstacle would keep me from doing all I can do for Your name’s sake. May man’s opinion not sway or affect my focus and determination to do all You have deposited in my heart.

 

August 22, 2017/4-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COMPASSION

Gladys Aylward: Rejected by Man, Approved by God

Gladys Aylward endured many harrowing trials while journeying to China, the land where her heart longed to be, so she could lavish hungry souls with the love of Jesus. She finally arrived in China in 1932.

In 1936, Gladys Aylward became the first foreign missionary to become a Chinese citizen. Later, during Japan’s invasion of China, Gladys was interviewed by an American freelance journalist named Theodore White in 1940 or 1941. Her compelling story was published in Timemagazine and was read by millions of people, which unfortunately included the Japanese army. This ended up endangering her life and the lives of those under her care, as the Japanese put her on their wanted list—offering a reward for her, dead or alive.

Once word got out about the reward for turning her in, Gladys found herself needing to find shelter for 200 children currently in her care. Half of them were safely taken by a fellow convert, but the other 100 children she had to personally guide to safety. The travelers slept in Buddhist temple courtyards, in the open air, in small homes, wherever they could find shelter. They trekked over mountains with bruised and cut feet, the younger children in great despair, crying for lack of food and afraid. The older girls, whose feet had been bound previously, had great difficulty because of weakness and abnormal bone formation. Finding enough food to feed one hundred children every day was more than just a challenge and Gladys herself was dealing with a strange tiredness—a result of the rifle blow to her head. But she refused to give up and instead kept going.

By the end of it all, Gladys was found to be suffering from fever, pneumonia, typhoid, and malnutrition. However, she still delivered every child to safety; not one of them had died or become seriously ill.

In our life and faith, may we be as courageous as Gladys Aylward, never fearing obstacles but trusting in God to find our way through.

Father, I pray that I would be so in love with You that no obstacle would keep me from doing all I can do for Your name’s sake. May man’s opinion not sway or affect my focus and determination to do all You have deposited in my heart.

 

August 21, 2017/3-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COMPASSION

Catherine Booth: The Mother of the Salvation Army

A true heroine of faith and compassion, Catherine Booth, paved the way for the liberation of women, children, the downtrodden, the lost, and the dying.

Catherine’s compelling writings were well-known throughout England, and she was known simply as “the woman preacher.” In the early days of her public ministry, she spoke these strong words about her role: “I dare say many of you have been looking on me as a very devoted woman, but I have been disobeying God. I am convinced that women have the right and duty to speak up; yes, even to preach! I have struggled with this for a long time, but I’ll struggle with it no longer.”

 

Catherine went on to teach Bible studies, visit in the homes of the poor, and reach out to women who were greatly abused and oppressed. She became a heroine and mentor to thousands of women.

During the first few months of 1861, while the Civil War was raging in America, Catherine began accepting invitations to preach in public. When her husband William became sick during the summer of 1860, Catherine had to take over all his duties, for it took him several months to recover. As a result, her remarkable abilities became known to many and her fame as “the woman preacher” grew far and wide.

Later in life, Catherine became the primary promoter of the Salvation Army, while William continued to work among the poor in the East End. She organized Food-for-the-Million shops, where the poor could afford inexpensively priced hot soup and three-course dinners. On special occasions such as Christmas, she would sometimes cook more than three hundred dinners that were distributed to the poor. By 1882, there were almost 17,000 people worshiping under the auspices of the Salvation Army.

Catherine Booth was the mother of the Salvation Army—a true “mother in Israel.” She knew that compassion acts.

Father God, thank You for the wonderful example of Catherine Booth. Help us to be like her, people who fall at your feet and open our souls before you. I ask You to light the fires of passion in my heart, that I would be aflame with Your love and go forth in compassion to those who need to know how much You love them. Let me become a true agent of change in the world, as I act in mercy to others.

 

August 20, 2017/2-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES:A CALL TO COMPASSION

The Compassionate Power of Tears

One evening, my friend Marcus Young and I (James) were waiting on the Lord together. I received a remarkable spiritual vision of seven consecutive doors. Over each door there was a word written. The word “Forgiveness” was engraved over the first door. As I crossed over the threshold, I was able to see the second door: “Cleansed by the Blood.”

I went on through the third and fourth doorways; they dealt with areas of holiness and sanctification through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then I came to the fifth doorway: its title was “Grace.” As I walked through, I discovered that grace empowers the believer with the anointing, and I also learned that all of God’s giftings are received by grace. These are what I call “gracelets,” little drops of grace. I learned that the degree of anointing one has comes from passing through God’s doorway to grace. It is then that the oil of the Holy Spirit begins to fall on us.

The word “Mercy” was prominently displayed over the sixth doorway. Whereas grace had dealt with God’s actions toward me, I now learned that mercy had to do with our actions toward others.

This was a very long passageway, but at its end I could make out what was written over the seventh door: “Union with Christ.” I wanted so desperately to get to the seventh door, but I knew I couldn’t do so until I had completely passed through the sixth corridor—the realm of mercy. This realization filled my heart with anguish.

All I could do was cry, “Lord, teach me your mercy,” for I knew then that the only way I would ever be able to enjoy complete union with Christ would be by walking in mercy and compassion at all times.

As you wait before the Lord and give Him your heart, He will touch you with a portion of His burden and give you His heart to enable you to carry others at least for a while before His throne.

Stop by the gateway of the sixth door as I have, and drink deeply from the brook of mercy. This will enable you to continue to move forward in your walk of being more like Jesus and to empower you to do the works of Christ.

 

August 19, 2017/1-7

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINES: A CALL TO COMPASSION

God’s Heart of Compassion

On a trip to Thailand, I (Michal Ann) found myself sitting in a restaurant in Bangkok.

As I looked through the front window, I noticed a young man standing outside. He was holding a sign, and he had several little toys dangling on fine strings all around him.

He was deaf and had created these little toys, which were crickets, out of bits of bamboo. He was selling them for a modest price of twenty baht (approximately fifty cents) apiece so he could buy food. Though he was a simple and needy young man, he didn’t look like he was begging. He stood upright, showed no emotion, and was not really trying to sell us anything. He did not have the typical pleading eyes of a beggar, and he did not gesture for our attention. I was impressed by how he stood with an air of quiet self-respect and seeming uprightness of heart.

When I bought a cricket from this young man, I gave him my promise to do all I could with my life, to make a difference in his life and in the lives of others like him. In response, he gave me the privilege of touching his life, of making a difference.

I caught a glimpse into the heart of God. This young man showed me that you don’t have to be somebody who is important or famous to change lives; you just have to be available. You have to be willing to engage in the journey and walk the path that Jesus walks every day.

Do you want more of Jesus? Is your heart engaged with the things that move His heart? Do you want more of the Father’s love deposited in your heart?

True compassion and mercy stem from a passion for the Father’s heart. When we learn to truly love mercy and compassion, then out of our passion for God’s heart we will be motivated to act justly.

If you have compassion, you will be moved to take action, as Jesus always did and still does. God wants you to know and receive His compassion, and then live and share His compassion with others. You will discover compassion is a deep well that moves heaven on behalf of others.

 

August 18, 2017/6-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

The Battles Women Face: Words

Have you ever felt a pit in your stomach after you’ve shared something you shouldn’t have… or said something too quickly?

Gossip often feels good because it can be pleasant to hear or share. Often, we even feel a sense of momentary satisfaction when speaking maliciously, talking sarcastically or giving a rude comment. In the Christian community, it is easy to gossip under the umbrella of sharing to pray. It doesn’t take much to spread hurtful words.

However, if our conscious pricks us in our spirit, we feel regret and shame. Today’s passages remind us that our words actually expose our heart. Where is your heart?

It is difficult to undo the damage of gossip or a hurtful word, but there are ways we can prevent making this mistake and ways to fix the damage if it’s already been done.

Here are some practical ways to watch our words:

  • Slow Down: Think before your speak. The Bible has much to say about guarding our lips and speaking rashly.
  • Talk Less: The Bible advises us to avoid people who gossip and says that we are considered wise when we hold our tongue. We can save ourselves a lot of embarrassment and regret when we know how to be quiet. Sometimes listening is more valuable than talking.
  • Damage Control: What do you do when your words have hurt someone? Humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. You release yourself from being imprisoned by your own words. Don’t wait too long. The sooner you deal with the hurt caused by those words, the sooner you will free yourself.
  • Hide God’s Word in your Heart: Having disciplined quiet time with God allows you to stay in tune with His Word. God deposits his wisdom in you so that you can avoid gossip and be an encouragement through your words.

The next time you are tempted to share some juicy details with someone, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? If the answer is no, then it is safer to stay silent regarding the matter.

Our words expose our heart. May our lips speak truth and kindness to those around us so that others can see the Christ who rules our heart.

 

August 17, 2017/5-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

The Battles Women Face: Rejection

Have you had a door close in your life recently, or maybe even slam shut? And now here you are left feeling rejected?

Don’t take it personally.

On second thought…if You are a believer, asking God for His will to be done, maybe you should take it personally.

In 1 Samuel 29, David is on the run from King Saul. He is tired and worn out and finds a safe haven in an unlikely place, amidst the ungodly Philistines.

David became so chummy with these new found friends, that he even offered to join their army. King Achish was ready and willing to take David up on his offer but the other Philistine rulers resisted. They knew of his great reputation as a leader in the Israelite army. “Isn’t this the same David about whom the women of Israel sing in their dances….He can’t go to battle with us. What if he turns against us in battle and becomes our adversary.”

David might have forgotten his calling, but God didn’t.

A couple of chapters later, Saul dies and David is appointed king.

Imagine if God hadn’t closed that door? What would have become of David? Would we still have our Psalms? The great King of Israel might have become the not so great king of the Philistines.

Isn’t God good?

We all have a story like David. I know I have tried to open doors. Doors which would have led me down some pretty crazy paths… but thankfully, God in His mercy, took the time to close those doors. What seemed like rejection proved to be God’s hand of intervention and grace.

And I know He has kindly closed doors for you too.

So take heart and don’t be discouraged when you feel the sting of rejection as more doors seem to be closing for you rather than opening. Give it time. I believe you will look back one day and see God’s hand in your situation as well.

The same God who cared enough about the destiny of David, cares about your destiny too. God has the final word.

 

August 16, 2017/4-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

The Battles Women Face: Purpose

I’m a sports fan, specifically a football fan. When my team was in a win-or-go home game, I was…let’s just call it…highly enthusiastic. As we watched the game with some friends, I would stand up and yell basically when anything happened. Apparently, it got to be a bit much for the person behind me because he kindly asked if I could stay seated so he could see the TV. My response to him was an emphatic, “I can’t help it!”

I think our purpose is a lot like that.

In today’s reading, we encounter Moses. He had the unique experience of hearing God say, “…You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt”. Interestingly though, even before that happened, we were already seeing glimpses of how God intended to use him.

When Moses was back in Egypt and saw one of his fellow Israelites being beaten by an Egyptian, what does he do? He steps in to defend him. The next day, he sees two Israelites having a feud and again, he tries to help them resolve their dispute. Later on, he comes to the aid of some women who were being harassed in the wilderness.

So, before there was the calling of deliverer, Moses had been living out that role.

We often think our purpose is a big mystery to be discovered but could it be it’s actually been a part of us all along? What situations have you been in where you just couldn’t help but do something about it? It may not have felt like anything big but it could be an indicator of something big that God wants to do in you and through you.

Also remember this, just because it is your purpose doesn’t mean it will be easy. Moses had to deal with Pharaoh and a bunch of complaining Israelites along with the challenges of the Red Sea and living in the wilderness. But every time, God was faithful to take care of him.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made with a unique set of skills, talents, and strengths. God has equipped you to live your life on purpose for Him. Before you know it, maybe you’ll be saying, “I just can’t help it!” as you begin to fulfill that calling.

August 15, 2017/3-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

 

The Battles Women Face: Purpose

I’m a sports fan, specifically a football fan. When my team was in a win-or-go home game, I was…let’s just call it…highly enthusiastic. As we watched the game with some friends, I would stand up and yell basically when anything happened. Apparently, it got to be a bit much for the person behind me because he kindly asked if I could stay seated so he could see the TV. My response to him was an emphatic, “I can’t help it!”

I think our purpose is a lot like that.

In today’s reading, we encounter Moses. He had the unique experience of hearing God say, “…You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt”. Interestingly though, even before that happened, we were already seeing glimpses of how God intended to use him.

When Moses was back in Egypt and saw one of his fellow Israelites being beaten by an Egyptian, what does he do? He steps in to defend him. The next day, he sees two Israelites having a feud and again, he tries to help them resolve their dispute. Later on, he comes to the aid of some women who were being harassed in the wilderness.

So, before there was the calling of deliverer, Moses had been living out that role.

We often think our purpose is a big mystery to be discovered but could it be it’s actually been a part of us all along? What situations have you been in where you just couldn’t help but do something about it? It may not have felt like anything big but it could be an indicator of something big that God wants to do in you and through you.

Also remember this, just because it is your purpose doesn’t mean it will be easy. Moses had to deal with Pharaoh and a bunch of complaining Israelites along with the challenges of the Red Sea and living in the wilderness. But every time, God was faithful to take care of him.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made with a unique set of skills, talents, and strengths. God has equipped you to live your life on purpose for Him. Before you know it, maybe you’ll be saying, “I just can’t help it!” as you begin to fulfill that calling.

The Battles Women Face: Identity

An elderly lady walked up to the pharmacy counter and spoke softly to our clerk, “Could YOU help me?…I’d rather HER not…HER kind of people are dirty.”

I was the ‘HER’ she was referring to, standing at a distance behind the counter.

Aside from some name-calling by a middle school bully, this was my first real experience with racism. It’s been over a decade since the incident occurred, but I still remember how it made me feel. My heart raced. My voice quivered. Her words stung.

But I knew who I was. And I was not dirty. No part of me believed or received those lies. I knew who I was (and still am) in Christ.

I am treasured. I am sacred. I am His.

It grieves me when I think that so many precious people do not understand their value. They have believed the lies of the enemy spoken through the lips of a parent, spouse, coworker, acquaintance or stranger.

John chapter 4 tells the story of a woman who knew the sting of racism and social prejudice. She was a Samaritan woman and a five time divorcee. In those days, both titles screamed insignificance.

But I love how Jesus works and who He targets. It was to this insignificant, and ostracized woman, Jesus chose to instill hope and reveal Himself. “If you only knew the gift God has for you….I am the Messiah.”

One encounter with Christ and this woman’s insignificance was buried and a new identity was birthed.

Maybe you have believed the lies of the enemy. A parent who should have affirmed you, didn’t. A husband who promised to honor you, lied.

Whatever your situation, do not allow the voice of the enemy to penetrate into your Spirit and tear you down. Rather, let the words of our Messiah infiltrate your soul and give you hope, “For if you only knew the gift God (still) has for you.”

Most importantly, I pray the words of our Messiah will remind you of your true identity.

You are treasured. You are sacred. You are His.*

(*Lyrics from Beautiful by Mercy Me)

 

August 14, 2017/2-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

The Battles Women Face: Forgiveness

The battle to forgive comes in all shapes and sizes…the childhood or innocence that you lost, the promotion that you felt was rightfully yours, or the happily ever after ending you wished you had.

Forgiveness simply means to release someone from a debt. Usually, it’s a debt that the offender, even if they wanted to, could not repay.

However, God in his infinite wisdom commands me to forgive. Why would God want me to let the person that hurt me “get away” with what they did to me? Because He knows that unforgiveness holds me as prisoner. Unforgiveness and bitterness harm me, not my offender. The scripture says that bitterness defiles us and makes us captive to sin. But we are not only affected spiritually, but physically as well. Research shows harboring unforgiveness, anger, and hatred leaves our bodies in a state of chronic anxiety and stress, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and an increased likelihood for depression.

Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus not to give the devil a foothold. The devil in this scripture is translated as “slanderer”. Andy Stanley says that when we hold unforgiveness, we are giving the offender a staging ground into our life. The person we hold unforgiveness towards might have moved on, but we continue carrying that person into our future. He asks the question, “How long do you want to let your offender influence your future?”

Forgiveness is not earned because of what the offender does. It is freely given, just as Christ freely forgave us. It is unconditional and one-sided. It is required whether or not reconciliation ever occurs.

So how do I forgive?

  • Make a decision to forgive.
  • Be specific. Make a list of everything you feel you lost as a result of the offender.
  • Pray for God’s help.
  • Decide that the offender does not owe you anymore.
  • Choose to walk in forgiveness on a daily basis.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you” – Lewis B Smedes

 

August 13, 2017/1-7

THE BATTLES WOMEN FACE

The Battles Women Face: Boundaries*

A year ago I learned something shocking about myself: I was a boundaryless person. I found myself focused so much on being loving and unselfish, that I forget my own limits and limitations. I was exhausted from never saying no out of fear. I felt I did not have the freedom to express my own thoughts and opinions. I was unable to manage my own feelings and detach from the manipulative emotions of others. Sadly, I had not taken ownership of my life.

Thankfully, God’s Word showed me it was time to use biblical boundaries appropriately to achieve the relationships and purposes that God intends for me as His child. I wanted to live a life of love, freedom, responsibility, and service.

The ability to set clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. In relationships, boundaries define who we are and who we are not, which impacts every part of our lives.

Fences are physical boundaries with the message: this is where my property begins. Boundaries define what is me and what is not me. They show me where I end and someone else begins. This leads to a sense of ownership, which gives us freedom. Boundaries indicate what we are responsible for and what we are not responsible for.

Boundaries help us:

  • distinguish our property so that we can take care of it;
  • to “guard our heart with all diligence”;
  • keep the good in (what will nurture us) and the bad out (what will harm us);
  • guard our treasures.

Whether it is a dysfunctional family, the world, your own religious self-righteousness, or the brokenness of being lost, God can help you go from being an unhealthy person without boundaries to a healthy person with boundaries.

Remember David’s prayer. God’s desire is for you to know where your weaknesses are. Ask Him to shed light on the significant relationships and forces that have contributed to your own boundary struggles. Seek God’s help to protect your heart and to guide you with wisdom. Find that you too can have the ability to say no when it is beyond my limit.

*Concept from the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

 

August 12, 2017/5-5

WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE

A John 17 Movement

As we learned yesterday, a united church brings joy and passion to our faith. But unity is not uniformity. It is not just some static state of being but rather a powerful movement God forming that is transforming a people to rise to places of service, opportunity, and identity.

There are several components and characteristics of this work of grace. The work of unity will arise and serve to better connect a currently fragmented church. We will begin by uniting the various branches of the Evangelical movement, and subsequently, we will see greater Kingdom collaboration between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church, particularly on issues of life, religious liberty, and strengthening the core institution of marriage across the world.

The work of the Spirit toward more unity in the church will include stronger Euro-American-Latino relations. Denominations will become much more multiethnic and racially diverse or they will continue to diminish in size and influence.

When Faith Catches Fire also ushers in a movement with a passion for wholeness!

This will be a wholly healed, healthy, happy, and humble movement.

As a well-structured, theologically sound movement, it will engage people with the holiness of God (1 Peter 1:16), the healing virtue of Christ (1 Peter 2:24), healthy living (3 John 1:2), joyful living (John 15:11), and humble living (Luke 14:11; 18:14) where people emerge so blessed that they thrive and become a great blessing to everyone they know (2 Corinthian 9:8).

Feed the Fire: The Spirit of God brings unity and sets our faith on fire so that it shines for the world to see. How are you reflecting the wholly healed, healthy, happy, and humble movement of God?

Thanks for reading through this YouVersion Reading Plan! To enter to win a copy of When Faith Catches Fire click here

 

August 11, 2017/4-5

WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE

Enter the Joy of Unity

There is a new song arising! Can you hear it? It is deep within and longing to rise from a sacred place of silent hope to be a sound that will pierce the darkness. There is a new song arising!

This new song will not be sung exclusively by a black chorus, a white ensemble, a Latino band, or an Asian soloist. No! This new song will be sung by a multiethnic, multi-generational, kingdom-culture choir washed in the blood of the Lamb. A church united.

But rest assured, this song rises not out of programmed promptings or emotional exuberance, but rather out of the depths, out of the leading of God’s spirit at work in the hearts of surrendered men and women. It is not born out of hype but rather of hope.

It is time to sing a new song! The new song reminds us of our identity. So who are we? We must respond with clarity, conviction, and courage and affirm the following:

  • We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
  • We are a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14)
  • We are a people of the Word (Matthew 4:4)
  • We are the salt of the earth (Matthre 5:13)
  • We are prophetic and not pathetic
  • We are disciples, witnesses, and Christ followers (Matthew 28:16-20)
  • We are children of the cross (Romans 8:17), fruit of the empty tomb (John 12:24), and products of the upper room (Acts 2)
  • We are the redeemed of the Lord (Psalm 107:2)
  • We are forgiven, free, and favored (Galatians 5:1)
  • We are called and chosen (1 Peter 2:9)
  • We are warriors and worshippers (Psalm 144:1)

We are not first and foremost brown, black, white, or yellow, Hispanic, Charismatic, Pentecostal, or reformed.

We are above all the born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-empowered children of the Living God.

Feed the Fire: If there’s anything the devil fears, it’s a united Church. While hell divides, heaven unites. Do you truly desire unity?

 

August 10, 2017/3-5

WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE

Answering the Prayer of Jesus

We ask so many things of God in prayer, but what would it be like if we instead actually answered one of Jesus’ prayers for a change?

While the great cities of the world are becoming more diverse and more complex, the prayer that Jesus prayed to the Father seems even more clear and simple than ever: “that they may all be one…even as we are one” (John 17:21-22, ESV). His prayers were not for a particular platform or body but rather for men and women transformed by the gospel into a family of faith.

How do we grow toward being completely united? What are steps we can take in our lives, our families, our churches, and our cities to do so?

Building unity for us means learning to draw circles of honor. Every person in the world needs a circle of honor in which to dwell, live, and thrive.

When you draw a circle of honor around someone, something powerful happens. In a culture quick to dishonor, you refresh a soul by seeing the person the way God does: as someone made to reflect his image.

The idea of honor in the Bible is deeply relational. It reflects how people in a group, community, or society relate to God and to one another. It is the glue of true community.

Start today. Start drawing circles. Seize the honorable moments. Begin looking for people in your world around whom to draw a circle of honor…in your family, your church, and your community. And as you do, here are a few things to remember.

It Takes At Least Three to Make A Circle

When you honor a person one on one, we call that encouragement. But when you honor someone in front of others, now that’s more than mere encouragement; it’s an event!

There Is a Difference Between Flattery and Honor

Flattery is when we merely say something we think people want to hear, often in order to get in return something we want. Honor, on the other hand, is sincere and authentic. It affirms the good in people and brings out the best in them.

Be Quick To Pass the Praises on to Others

Passing the praises we receive on to others doesn’t diminish our moment in the sun; it just reflects more of it around us and on others. Ultimately, honor is something that flows from God himself. It is best seen at work among the persons of the Trinity. And honor is a crown Jesus himself placed on our heads and in our hands to place upon others’.

Feed The Fire:

Who are some people you want to honor this week?

 

August 9, 2017/2-5

WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE

The Third O: Passio Dei

The apostle Paul was passionate and soulful in his faith. He emphasized the heights and the depths of knowing Christ. He described faith as “of” this, “through” that, “in” this, “by” that, “for” this, “beyond that” and on and on.

The teachings of Jesus and of Paul and the nature of Christianity itself is all about fullness. Christian tradition and theology tend to underscore orthodoxy and orthopraxy much more than they do orthopathy.

The first “O” — orthodoxy — is often tied by theologians to the nature of God and His image. Thus, orthodoxy is connected to the emphasis on the Imago Dei — the image of God, a human description of God’s character and nature.

Additionally, the Mission Dei — mission of God — is more indicative of the second “O” — orthopraxy. It is focused more on the great work and purpose of God shown in the gospels and in the blessing of Abraham — to become a blessing to the nations of the earth.

This, however, leaves another key component and the third “O” — orthopathy. Perhaps embracing the term Passion Dei — the passion of God — would be a good complementary term to adopt and use more often as soulful Christians.

We are being conformed to the Imago Dei (the image of God) shown by our engagements in the Missio Dei (the mission of God) and energized by the Passio Dei (the passion of God).

How do we celebrate and live out all three in our daily lives? Sometimes in order to find out more of what we need to be doing right we need to consider the things we are doing wrong. Here are seven ways to snuff the passion of your faith:

  1. Neglecting the person of God and the practices of faith—God, prayer, and worship.Overlooking the simplest aspects of faith develops a shallow soul.
  2. Centering your life on yourself. This forms a shrinking soul.
  3. Dependence on natural talents and abilities alone. This leads to a self-sufficient soul.
  4. Ethnic exclusivity. This creates an isolated soul.
  5. Overlooking and dishonoring the generations. This yields an unsupported soul.
  6. Disconnecting from community and relationships. This produces a selfish soul.
  7. Conforming to the world, one compromise at a time. This leads to a conflicted soul.

However, when our faith catches fire…

  • our beliefs turn into boldness.
  • our desires turn to desperation.
  • our prayers turn into soul cries and intercessions.
  • the written Word of God in our minds becomes the spoken Word of God to our hearts.
  • we move from knowing about God to becoming intimate with God.

Feed The Fire: How are you living out the image, mission ,and passion of God?

 

August 8, 2017/1-5

WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE

Embracing a More Passionate Faith

God loves a heart on fire. There is something about fire, something that catches our attention and makes us want to stop whatever we are doing and draw closer.

Whether blazing logs under a living-room mantle or encircled by stones at a campsite, a fire quickly becomes the hearth, and heart, of a family or a community. It keeps people warm, illuminates their interactions, and becomes a focal point that brings people together.

And a fire is an ideal metaphor for passion, a burning and consuming force that is unquenchable. It is also a fitting image for faith. When belief moves from the mere mental assets to a deep, convictional belief, it does something powerful. Faith catches fire.

The face of American and global Christianity is changing. And Latino Christians are leading the way, not just by sheer demographics but also through their purpose, passion, and promise.

And there is much to learn about this fresh approach to a more soulful (soul-full) Christianity.

Their passionate approach is both vertical and horizontal. In contrast, non-soulful (soul-less) is either predominantly vertical or horizontal.

Soul-full faith is vertical, which means we look up to God, and it’s about God and His kingdom. Soul-full faith is all also horizontal, which means it’s about our families and communities.

We can learn a few key lessons from how Latinos embrace a more passionate faith. These include:

  • a deep conviction, almost simple assumption, that the only way to experience power in your life and ministry is by engaging deeply in practices of prayer
  • joy-infused singing and worship
  • a passion in preaching the gospel that is underscored by a sense of a prophetic immediacy and urgency
  • a powerful but natural merging of evangelism and compassion, of help and of hope, of giving people the gospel, and the kind assistance of a good neighbor

Feed The Fire: What parts of your faith are naturally passionate—and in which areas to you struggle to feel emotionally engaged? Do you want to embrace a more passionate faith?

Prayer: Father God, thank you for a revival that is sweeping the entire globe. I want to embrace a more passionate faith — a vertical and horizontal faith. Fill me afresh with the power of your Holy Spirit so that I can look up to you and advance your Kingdom as well as impact my family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and colleagues with your hope and your peace. Amen.

 

August 7, 2017/14-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Suspicious of Suspicion

In today’s scripture, these words about love are familiar to most of us, but I can honestly say that living them has not always been easy for me. As a child, I was not exposed to this kind of love–in fact, I was taught to be suspicious of everyone. I was told that the motives of other people were not to be trusted.

While it is wise to be aware of people’s motives, we must be careful that we don’t allow our suspicious nature to negatively affect our feelings about everyone. An overly suspicious nature can poison your mind and affect your ability to love and accept other people. Consider this example.

Suppose a friend approaches you after a church service, and says, “Do you know what Doris thinks about you?” Then the friend tells you every detail of the things Doris said. The first problem is that a true friend wouldn’t share such information. And the second problem is that with an already suspicious mind, you now believe secondhand information.

Suppose that one day in church, Doris is sitting just a few rows in front of you, praising the Lord. Immediately you think, “She’s such a hypocrite.”

Then the Holy Spirit directs your thoughts to your own condition, and the fact that you were praising the Lord while harboring bad feelings toward Doris. Didn’t Jesus tell us to make peace with others before we present our gifts to Him? (See Matthew 5:24.)

Convicted by these words of Jesus, you apologize to Doris for the bad feelings you have toward her…and she stares at you in absolute shock. Then you realize your mistake. You misinterpreted the information your friend shared with you about Doris, allowing the devil to turn you against a wonderful, godly woman.

This is a good example of how suspicion can cripple relationships and destroy our joy while it leads us astray.

It took me a while to overcome a lifetime of suspicions, but I finally learned that when we love God’s way, we have no place for suspicions of others.

Pray: Lord, I thank You for showing me how to overcome my suspicious nature by teaching me how to love others with Your kind of love. Thank You, Jesus, for being patient with me and for being my great example. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

August 6, 2017/13-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Suspicious of Suspicion

In today’s scripture, these words about love are familiar to most of us, but I can honestly say that living them has not always been easy for me. As a child, I was not exposed to this kind of love–in fact, I was taught to be suspicious of everyone. I was told that the motives of other people were not to be trusted.

While it is wise to be aware of people’s motives, we must be careful that we don’t allow our suspicious nature to negatively affect our feelings about everyone. An overly suspicious nature can poison your mind and affect your ability to love and accept other people. Consider this example.

Suppose a friend approaches you after a church service, and says, “Do you know what Doris thinks about you?” Then the friend tells you every detail of the things Doris said. The first problem is that a true friend wouldn’t share such information. And the second problem is that with an already suspicious mind, you now believe secondhand information.

Suppose that one day in church, Doris is sitting just a few rows in front of you, praising the Lord. Immediately you think, “She’s such a hypocrite.”

Then the Holy Spirit directs your thoughts to your own condition, and the fact that you were praising the Lord while harboring bad feelings toward Doris. Didn’t Jesus tell us to make peace with others before we present our gifts to Him? (See Matthew 5:24.)

Convicted by these words of Jesus, you apologize to Doris for the bad feelings you have toward her…and she stares at you in absolute shock. Then you realize your mistake. You misinterpreted the information your friend shared with you about Doris, allowing the devil to turn you against a wonderful, godly woman.

This is a good example of how suspicion can cripple relationships and destroy our joy while it leads us astray.

It took me a while to overcome a lifetime of suspicions, but I finally learned that when we love God’s way, we have no place for suspicions of others.

Pray: Lord, I thank You for showing me how to overcome my suspicious nature by teaching me how to love others with Your kind of love. Thank You, Jesus, for being patient with me and for being my great example. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

 

August 5, 2017/12-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

D.V.

He told me that he and his wife were missionaries to Chad, Africa, and then he said, “We plan to return in January, D.V.”

I didn’t know what D.V. meant, but I didn’t say anything.

As he described his evangelism program for the interior of the country, he kept saying, “D.V.”

Finally, I asked, “What does D.V. mean?”

“It’s a Latin phrase I learned in school, and it means a great deal to me,” he said. “It stands for ‘Deo volente,’ which means ‘God willing.'”

As we talked, I realized how seriously he meant D.V. He said he had great ideas about things he wanted to see in Chad, but more than that, he wanted to be sure his ideas were in line with God’s. “When I say D.V., that’s a reminder to me–it’s my way of saying, ‘This is what I’d like. Is it okay with You, Lord?'”

There are a lot of boasting people out there–they decide what they want and expect everything to run smoothly. That can be a trick of Satan. If he can get them to focus on tomorrow or next year, they don’t have to deal with the problems in their lives right now. They can live in a world of only good things that will take place in the future. Isn’t that like driving a car down the highway and ignoring what’s right in front of us because we’re focused on the traffic signal five blocks ahead? We’re setting ourselves up for a wreck.

Jesus promised us a life of abundance (see John 10:10). But we can’t enter into that abundance if we’re not giving our lives fully to Him. Don’t spend today planning tomorrow and avoiding the issues that confront you now.

Pray: My heavenly Father, please help me live today. Whether I actually say the words D.V. or not, remind me that Your will is more important than anything in my life. Help me not to allow Satan to get me thinking so much about tomorrow that I fail to live today in a way that pleases You. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

August4, 2017/11-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Defeating Unbelief

Sometimes we unintentionally give the wrong impression about spiritual warfare. We know that our enemy is the devil and that we must fight daily to win, but that’s not everything. If the Christian life were nothing but battles, it would be discouraging to fight every hour of every day.

The Christian life is one of joy and peace. God gives us a great sense of fulfillment, and we’re at rest because we know we honor Him by the way we live.

In today’s scripture, Peter wrote to Christians about their enemy–warning them and urging them to be vigilant, which is where we often put the emphasis. Just before he wrote those words, however, he said, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully” (v. 7). We must remind ourselves of God’s love for us.

Satan tries to destroy our faith with lies like: “If God really cared about you, why would He make you go through this trial?” “If God truly loved you, would He treat you this way?” If he can make you think you’re not loved or that God doesn’t have your best interest at heart, he can plant tiny seeds of unbelief.

When struggles, trials, and hardships come your way–and they always do–you have a choice. You can heed Peter’s words and give God your cares, worries, and concerns. No matter how dark the night or how evil the situation, you must remind yourself that God is not only present with you in those situations, but He also loves you and will provide for you.

Pray: Dear heavenly Father, the enemy often tries to fill me with unbelief and make me deny Your powerful love for me. But like Abraham, I stand firm on Your promises. Thank You for the comfort I find in Your assurance that You’re always with me. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

August 3, 2017/10-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Be Careful What You Think

If you are going to win the battle of the mind and defeat your enemy, where you focus your attention is crucial. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the stronger you’ll become and the more easily you’ll win the victories.

Too many Christians don’t realize the difference between meditating on the Bible and reading the Bible. They like to think that whenever they read God’s Word, they’re absorbing the deep things of God. Those who meditate on God’s Word are those who think–and think seriously–about what they’re reading.

They may not put it in these words, but they are saying, “God, speak to me. Teach me. As I ponder Your Word, reveal its depth to me.”

In today’s scripture I quoted from Psalm 1. This psalm begins by defining the person who is blessed, and then points out the right actions of that person. The psalmist wrote that those who meditate–and do it day and night–are like productive trees…and everything they do shall prosper.

The psalmist made it quite clear that meditating on God’s Word brings results. As you ponder who God is and what He’s saying to you, you’ll grow. It’s really that simple. If you read about and allow your mind to focus on God’s love and power, that’s what operates in you.

Be careful what you think about. The more you think about good things, the better your life will seem. The more you think about Jesus Christ and the principles He taught, the more you become like Jesus and the stronger you grow. And as you grow, you win the battle for your mind.

Pray: Lord God, help me to think about the things that honor You. Fill my life with a hunger for more of You and Your Word so that in everything I may prosper. I ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

August 2, 2017/9-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Positive Belief

The story of Abraham amazes me no matter how many times I read it. It’s not just the birth of a son when he was a hundred years old. That’s a miracle. But just as amazing is the information that he waited twenty-five years for the fulfillment of the promise. He was seventy-five when God promised Him a son.

I wonder how many of us would believe God and live in expectation for twenty-five years. Most of us probably would have said, “I didn’t really hear from God.” “Oh, I guess maybe God didn’t really mean that.” Or “I need to go somewhere else to get a fresh word from the Lord.”

In our impatience, we often take matters into our own hands. I say we get “bright ideas”–plans of our own, which we hope God will bless. These plans open the door for confusion and chaos. Then their results must be dealt with, which often delays our miracle.

The Bible gives us promises, hope, and encouragement. God promises good to those of us who serve Him. Despite the adversity of our circumstances–and some people have absolutely terrible situations–God still promises good. Our sense of goodness, however, may not be the same as God’s. Getting what we want immediately may not be best for us. Sometimes waiting is the best thing because it helps develop the character of God in us.

The Lord chooses to do good to us and to make us happy; the devil chooses to do wrong and to make us miserable. We can remain patient and keep believing God’s promises, or we can allow the evil one’s whisper to fill our ears and lead us astray.

Positive belief in God’s promises yields good results because the Good One sends them to us. Refuse to give up, and you will see the results of your positive belief.

Pray: Dear Father in heaven, forgive my lack of belief. Forgive me for allowing Satan to deceive me or make me think I’m worthless or unworthy of Your miracles. I am worthy because You made me worthy. You are the God of the impossible, and I ask You to help me wait on You and never give up. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, I pray. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

August 1, 2017/8-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Getting What We Want

I usually know what I want, and I like to get it. I’m exactly like most people. When we don’t get what we want, our negative feelings flare up.

Too often, we Christians expect life to be perfect and for everything to go smoothly for us. We expect success, happiness, joy, peace, and everything else. When we’re thwarted, we pout or complain.

Although God does want us to have a good life, there will be times when we must be patient and endure not getting our way. These disappointments test our character and level of spiritual maturity. They actually show whether or not we truly are ready for promotion.

Why do we think we should always be first? Why do we think we are entitled to the perfect life? Perhaps sometimes we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. A humble mind enables us to take a back seat and wait for God to move us to the front. God’s Word says that we inherit the promises through faith and patience. Believing God is good, but can we continue to believe God and trust Him when we don’t feel that life is fair?

The secret of the Christian life is that we commit ourselves fully to God. If we surrender our wills to God, what happens doesn’t make us angry. If God doesn’t give us what we want and ask for, our faith is strong enough to say, “Not my will, but Yours.”

Pray: God, help me. I often have strong desires, and when I don’t get what I want, I get upset. Forgive me. Remind me that Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross, but He lived in total submission to Your will. I ask You, through Jesus Christ, to help me live in total submission and be content with what You give me. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 31, 2017/7-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

A Perfect Plan

What does it mean to think that God has a perfect plan for us? Perhaps it’s the word “perfect” that troubles us. We’re fallible and make so many mistakes. How could anything be perfect in our lives? We know ourselves too well. Immediately we think of our shortcomings and shake our heads.

That’s a trick of Satan! The plan isn’t perfect because we’re perfect; the plan is perfect because God is perfect. God has a special plan for each of our lives.

Let’s think about that plan. In Philippians 1:6, Paul told us that God saved us and started a good work in us. Paul also wrote, in Ephesians 2:10, that we are God’s handiwork (or workmanship). The two verses before that tell us that we’re saved by God’s grace. We have nothing to do with the act of salvation–we haven’t earned it or deserved it. We are born into the kingdom of God as a gift.

As we think about God at work in us, we remind ourselves that God is perfection. Nothing we can ever do would be good enough to satisfy God’s perfection. Only Jesus, the Perfect One, is good enough. Nothing but our faith in Him makes us acceptable to God.

As soon as we say, “But wait! I’m not perfect! I fail,” we have taken our attention off God and allowed Satan to distract us with wrong thinking. Our loving Lord pleads with us to turn our minds and hearts fully over to Him. The more fully we do that, the more completely we live by His good and perfect plan.

Pray: Perfect God, help me in this battle for my mind. Satan constantly reminds me of my imperfections and my weaknesses, but I ask You to remind me of Your perfection, Your love, and Your closeness so that I can always walk in victory. I ask these things through Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 30, 2017/6-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

First the Suffering

“Why do we have to suffer?” “If God truly loves us, why do all the bad things happen to us?” I hear such questions often. For years, people have wrestled with those questions, and they still haven’t discovered the answers. I don’t even try to answer the questions. I do make one comment, however: “If God only blessed us after we became believers–if He took away all suffering, hardship, and turmoil for Christians–wouldn’t it be a way to bribe people into the faith?”

That’s not the way God works. The Lord wants us to come to Him out of love and because we know we’re needy–so needy that only He can fill those needs for us.

The reality is that from the time of birth until we go home to be with Jesus, we will suffer at times. Some have harder tasks than others, but suffering is still suffering.

I also think that when people watch us as we turn to God for help in our hardships and they see our victories, it provides a witness to them. That witness may not always make them turn to Christ, but it does show God’s presence in our lives and makes them aware of what they’re missing.

The other day I had a new thought: Suffering results in thanksgiving. When our lives turn chaotic and we don’t know what to do, we turn to the Lord for help, and He answers our prayers and sets us free. God speaks to us and comforts us. And the result is that we’re thankful.

The time between suffering and thanksgiving is when the devil truly attacks our thoughts. He may begin by saying, “If God really loved you, you would not have to go through this.” The truth is, we’ll have problems if we’re believers; we’ll have problems if we’re nonbelievers. But as believers, we’ll also have victories. As believers in Jesus Christ, we can have peace in the midst of the storm. We can enjoy our lives during the hardships because we truly believe that God is working on our behalf to bring deliverance.

Pray: My Master and my God, forgive me for always wanting an easy life. I admit that I don’t want to suffer, and I don’t like it when things go wrong. But I ask You to help me have a good attitude and to trust You to bring good out of it. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 29, 2017/5-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

“I Can’t Help It!”

When God begins to deal with us about wrong behavior, it’s easy enough to say, “I can’t help it,” but it takes real courage and faith to say, “I’m ready to take responsibility and get my life straightened out.”

Much of our thinking is habitual. If we regularly think about God and good things, godly thoughts become natural. Thousands of thoughts flow through our minds every day. We may feel we have no control, but we do. Although we don’t have to use any effort to think wrong thoughts, we have to use much effort to think good thoughts. As we begin to make changes, we will have to fight a battle.

Our mind is the battlefield, and Satan’s primary way of initiating his evil plan for us is through our thoughts. If we feel we have no power over our thoughts, Satan will entrap and defeat us. Instead, we can determine to think in godly ways.

God has given us the power to decide–to choose right thinking over wrong. But once we make that choice, we must continue to choose right thoughts. It’s not a once-and-for-all decision, but it does get easier. The more we fill our lives with reading the Bible, prayer, praise, and fellowship with other believers, the easier it is for us to continue choosing right thoughts.

It takes time to learn to choose good and push away evil. It won’t be easy, but we’re moving in the right direction every time we take responsibility and make the right choices.

Pray: Powerful God, remind me that I can and do make choices every day. Please help me to monitor my thoughts, choosing only those that will help me overcome the devil and win the battle for my mind. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 28, 20174-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE  MIND DEVOTIONAL

Don’t Quit

I’ve been a Christian for twenty-three years,” Cheryl said. “I’m just not getting anywhere. I’m as weak as I was when I first accepted Christ as my Savior. I still fail. I just don’t know if it’s worth it.” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she continued to talk about her failures. “By now I know all the right things to do, but I don’t do them. Sometimes I deliberately do something mean-spirited or unkind. What kind of Christian am I?”

“Probably a growing Christian,” I said.

A startled look appeared on Cheryl’s face. “Growing? Did you hear–? ”

“Yes, I heard. But if you weren’t growing, you wouldn’t lament your failures. You’d be satisfied about your spiritual level or tell yourself how good you are.”

“But I’m so discouraged, and I fail God so many times.”

I went on to tell Cheryl she was correct–that she had failed. All of us do at times. If we’re not careful, we allow the devil to point to what we haven’t accomplished and where we have been weak. When that happens, it’s easy to feel bad or want to give up.

That’s not the way of the Spirit. No matter how we mess up our lives, God doesn’t give up on us. The Spirit constantly nudges us.

We can allow our thoughts to dwell on what we haven’t done or how spiritual we ought to be after all these years in our Christian faith. If we focus on what we’re not or what we haven’t accomplished, we are allowing the devil to make advances on the battlefield of our minds.

“Don’t quit. Don’t give up.” That’s the message we need to hear. I think of Isaiah 43:1b-2: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you…; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.”

This is God’s promise. He doesn’t promise to take us completely out of troubles or hardships, but He does promise to be with us as we go through them. And when God is with us, what is there to worry about?

Pray: God, despite my failures, You are with me, encouraging me not to give up. Please help me to remember that, with Your help, I can win. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 27, 2017/3-14

BATTLEFIELD  THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

As We Focus

Years ago, I learned an invaluable lesson: Whatever we focus on, we become. That simple statement taught me a great deal. Wherever we put our energies or our attention, those things will develop. Another way I like to say it is, “Where the mind goes, the man follows!”

If I begin to think about ice cream, I will soon find myself in my car pursuing ice cream. My thought will stir my desires and emotions, and I will make the decision to follow them.

If we focus only on the negative things in our lives, we become negative people. Everything, including our conversations, becomes negative. We soon lose our joy and live miserable lives–and it all started with our own thinking.

You might be experiencing some problems in life–not realizing that you are creating them yourself by what you’re choosing to think about. I challenge you to think about what you’re thinking about!

You might be discouraged and even depressed and wonder what caused it. Yet if you will examine your thought life, you will find that you are feeding the negative emotions you are feeling. Negative thoughts are fuel for discouragement, depression, and many other unpleasant emotions.

We should choose our thoughts carefully. We can think about what is wrong with our lives or about what is right with them. We can think about what is wrong with all the people we are in relationship with or we can see the good and meditate on that. The Bible teaches us to always believe the best. When we do that, it makes our own lives happier and more peaceful.

Pray: Dear patient and loving God, I ask You to forgive me for focusing my thoughts on things that are not pleasing to You. I pray that You will help me fill my mind with thoughts that are clean and pure and uplifting. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 26, 2017/2-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Know the Truth

In my book Battlefield of the Mind, I write about John, a low-key type person. He was a man who had been verbally abused by his mother and taunted by playmates in childhood. He hated confrontation and couldn’t stand up to his wife, Mary’s strong will.

John was convinced that it didn’t do any good to stand up to anyone; he was going to lose anyway. He thought the only way to get along was to be quiet and accept whatever happened.

John also believed another lie–that he wasn’t truly loved by God. Because he felt that way, he had believed the devil’s lies. “I felt as if God said to the world, ‘Believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved.’ I got in on some kind of package deal–but I never felt I was worth loving.”

If the enemy of your mind can convince you that you’re too bad or too worthless, he has set up a stronghold in your mind.

Although John was a Christian, his mind had been imprisoned by his enemy.

John needs to know that he is loved, and that he is as valuable to the kingdom of God as Paul, Moses, or anybody else. For John to win his battle and cast down the mental strongholds the devil has built, he needs to know the truth. Jesus said, “If you . . . [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free” (John 8:31b-32).

John learns truth as he reads God’s Word, prays, and meditates on what it says to him. He also learns as he applies God’s Word in his daily life and has the experience of watching it work as Jesus said it would.

I have learned from the Word of God and life’s experiences that God’s Word is filled with power and will tear down the strongholds Satan has built in our minds.

You cannot be free unless you know that the weapons of warfare are available to you and that you can learn to use them.

Lord God of heaven, remind me that I am important to You and that I am loved by You, even if I don’t feel loved. Help me to learn that I am as important to You as any other Christian and that You love me as much as You love them. I thank You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 25, 2017/1-14

BATTLEFIELD OF THE MIND DEVOTIONAL

Well-Laid Plans

“How could you?” Helen screamed. “How could you ever do such a thing?”

Tom stared helplessly at his wife. He had committed adultery, faced his sinful actions, and asked his wife to forgive him.

“I never planned for an affair to happen,” Tom said with tears in his eyes.

Tom wasn’t lying. He knew he was making a few bad choices, but he hadn’t looked ahead at the consequences of his actions. After almost an hour of pleading, he said something that helped Helen begin to understand and eventually to forgive.

“I was unfaithful to you before I ever committed adultery.” He spoke of their being too busy to spend time together, his critical attitude, her lack of emotional response, her not listening to him when he talked about problems at the office.

That’s exactly how Satan works. He begins by bombarding our minds with cleverly devised patterns of irritation, dissatisfaction, doubts, fears, and reasonings. He moves slowly and cautiously (after all, well-laid plans take time).

Tom began to doubt that Helen truly loved him. She didn’t listen, and she didn’t always respond to his amorous moods.

One of his coworkers listened. One time she said, “Helen doesn’t deserve a warm, caring man like you.” (Satan also worked in her.) Each time Tom took a tiny step off the right path, he justified his actions in his mind: If Helen won’t listen to me, there are people who will.

The coworker listened. Weeks later, he hugged her and wished he could feel that caring response from his wife. It was a harmless embrace–or so it seemed.

Tom didn’t grasp that Satan is never in a hurry. All he needs is an opportunity to inject unholy, self-centered thoughts into our heads. If we don’t kick them out, they stay. And he can continue his evil, destructive plan.

We don’t have to allow those wrong thoughts to take residence in our heads. For the weapons of our warfare are . . . mighty before God. . . . [We] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Lord Jesus, in Your name, I cry out for victory. Enable me to bring every thought into obedience. Help me not to allow Satan’s words to stay in my mind and steal my victory. Amen.

From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2005 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

 

July 24, 2017/14-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Brave”

I want to pick up and build on where we left off yesterday. We said that anxiety is about control and that we need to give up control of our lives to God. The problem is the unknown. It’s easy to give up control when we know the outcome, when we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But what about when God is silent, or seems distant, or doesn’t answer our prayers right away (I’m preaching to myself again)? The Psalmist exhorts and challenges us. He tells us to “take courage” and “wait for the LORD.”

Waiting is difficult—yes. We all know that life isn’t easy and life isn’t fair. The truth is life is tough. That’s why I named this devotional Take Courage. It takes tremendous courage to face and then overcome our fears. You must be brave. Let me encourage you to listen to the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music.

I’ve listened to the song on repeat. I let it comfort my anxious fears and embolden me. Scripture teaches us that when we wait on the Lord, God then renews our strength. He fills our tanks with courage, endurance, and the perseverance needed to make it through this challenging life.

Remember, I never said life was easy or downplayed the reality of fear. But I have said that, “God is with us and He is mighty to save.” He is our Deliverer. He is our Shield, our Strong Tower. Like the old hymn says, “A mighty fortress is our God.”

So as we end this devotional journey together, remember to trust God and take courage. Billy Graham once said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”

You never know whom is watching you to take the first step, to come out from under the covers, to take that first step, and then make that bold leap of faith. You just might be very one God uses to help another person deal with their own fears.

William Shedd said, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” Be brave. Be bold. Live your life to the fullest. God is with you. God is for you. You are not alone.

Read today’s Scripture passages and let them bring you strength, hope, and encouragement.

 

July 23, 2017/13-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Joy and Rest”

Take comfort in these amazing words from Romans 8: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In his Experiencing God Bible study, Henry Blackaby writes, “God wants joy, not fear, to dominate your life.”

If you haven’t already, place your full trust, faith, and life in His hands. Know that He has your best interests at heart and desires to bless you. When we realize these truths and hold onto the promises of God, then joy—not fear—should overflow from our lives.

We have a purpose and a great calling to be ambassadors of Christ; to be the hands and feet—the body of Christ—to a hurting and lost world. You can’t live on mission if you’re paralyzed by fear and crippled with anxiety.

Please hear me: I know this is easier said than done. I’ve battled anxiety and fears for 30 years. However, I have come to believe, know, and understand the truth that, “Greater is He that is in me, than He that is in the world.” I have come to know and believe that God has plans to protect and prosper me, not harm me. He wants to give you a future and a hope.

I’ve learned over years of counseling and therapy that anxiety is about control. Please join me in resting in the fact that God is in control. Let go of your powerful grip on fear, anxiety, unrest, and your desire to control every situation and every outcome. Place your faith in the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. He can handle it.

Pray about this. Believe this. Trust this. Meditate on this and then live this out.

 

July 22, 2017/12-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Renewing Our Mind”

Yesterday we looked at the daily discipline of putting on the whole armor of God and a new way of looking at that—the idea that when we put on the whole armor, we actually put on Christ. Today we are going to look at the daily discipline of renewing our mind.

Just living in a fallen world and dealing with each day as it comes is difficult and challenging enough. Add that to our specific ups and downs of life and we are assured of the reality that we have a spiritual enemy who seeks to disrupt, discourage, distract, and ultimately destroy our lives.

Without the daily discipline of reading God’s Word and allowing it to transform the way we think, thereby renewing our minds, we are helpless to stand against the enemy’s schemes.

Being transformed by the renewing of our mind gives us the ability to discern between fact and fiction, truth and lies, right and wrong, and good and evil. If we are left on our own to make the tough decisions and face the real trials and fears of life, we are bound to live a defeated life and believe the lies of the enemy who asks, “Did God really say that?”

Daily time in God’s Word allows us to know, understand, grasp, believe, and trust in the promises of God. His Scripture allows us to know the truth, thus being able to spot out a lie from hell.

Get to know God’s voice (His affirming, loving, calming voice) and be able to distinguish between the enemy’s voice of deception, condemnation, and fear.

I think of the song by Casting Crowns, “The Voice of Truth.” Listen to the lyric: “And the voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid.’” Now there’s a weapon against fear! Knowing and trusting the truth of God’s Word.

When we daily let it renew our mind, it becomes one of our most powerful fighting instruments. Reflect upon this, read today’s Scripture passages, and be armed with the truth of God’s Word.

 

July 21, 2017/11-14

TAKE COURAGE-WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Put on the Armor of God”

Over and over again, the Bible teaches us to “take courage,” “do not fear,” and “be strong in the Lord.” But how do we do that? Certainly not in our own strength. Scripture teaches us in Ephesians 6 that we must daily put on the “whole armor of God.”

So let’s talk about the armor of God and maybe look at it with new eyes. When introducing the armor of God, Paul exhorts us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” He goes on to say that we need to put on the whole armor of God, so that we “may be able to stand against… the devil.”

What is the armor of God, and what does each piece represent? Well, we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Each piece is powerful, potent, and necessary to live a victorious life. I encourage you to put on, pray over, and study each piece carefully.

I want to encourage you to look at this familiar passage in a new way by seeing Jesus Christ as the armor of God. Think of it as Paul’s way of encouraging us to put on Christ each day. Now let’s think about it and break it down.

Christ is truth. Christ is our righteousness. Christ is our peace. He is the Prince of Peace! We place our faith in Christ. It is Christ who is our salvation. And Christ is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The Bible calls Christ the “Living Word.”

When we are clothed in Christ, we are powerful and potent and the enemy fears us. When we move, breathe and operate out of His might, His glory, His strength, and His gospel and are clothed in His armor—His very being—we can conquer our fears and be overcomers.

The key is to do this daily and to remember that we cannot do this in our own power. We must put on Christ and live under His protection and follow His guidance. This is the key to the Christian life: clothing ourselves in Christ and walking by the Spirit.

 

July 20, 2017/10-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Lay it Down”

Yesterday we explored God’s goodness, greatness and compassion for us. In light of that fact, today we want to take all of our worries, fears, and anxieties to Him. Let’s lay them at His feet and unburden ourselves.

Every pain, every sin, every sickness and disease, every lie, every ounce of evil, every shame, guilt and regret was nailed to the cross. Jesus carried that burden for us. Let’s not try to pick it back up and carry it again. Our burden was nailed to the cross. Our debt has been paid. We are free in Him. Rest in that peace.

Today, think of Christ’s strength and love that overcomes our fears and anxieties. Reflect on His goodness, His death and resurrection, and His victory over sin, death, and evil. Meditate on this.

 

July 19, 2017/9-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“The Faithfulness of God”

I want us to revisit the faithfulness of God, like King David did over his life. A beautiful reality is that God is faithful to those who love Him even when we are not. The Bible says, “His mercies are new every morning.”

He truly does care for us, and he can handle anything we throw at Him, including our fears. Pastor and author Steven Furtick once wrote that all we need to know about God comes from that simple, little prayer you hear children pray: God is great and God is good.

Why are these two characteristics so foundational to our faith? Because if God was good, but weak, He would love us and care for us but not be able to save, rescue, and deliver us.

If God was great, but not good, He would be terrifying. He would be all-powerful (and He is), but what would He do with all that power? Would He destroy us?

Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder or worry. God is great and God is good. He holds the universe in His hands. He’s strong. He’s mighty. He’s all-powerful, and nothing is too hard for Him.

He is also loving, compassionate, and full of mercy, grace, and truth. As the Psalmist says, “His love endures forever.” He cares for us and is quick to listen to our cries for help and mercy. What a great and good God!

Today, just reflect on God’s greatness, His goodness, and His faithfulness.

 

July 18, 2017/8-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON  FEAR

“Fearing God”

I don’t want to assume anything about anyone, so if you will allow me, let’s get real and personal for just a moment. For some of us, our fear isn’t about trials and circumstances that come up in life. For some of us, we fear God. We’re terrified of Him.

Maybe you grew up in church and attended Sunday school, where you learned to “fear the LORD.” This phrase can be greatly misinterpreted and, in the wrong hands, be a dangerous thought to put into a young mind.

The fear of the Lord means that we draw close to Him in awe and wonder. When we properly fear the Lord, we have a wonderful intimacy with Him.

The Bible tells us that, “Fear is the beginning of wisdom.” It also says that, “the friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him.”

He doesn’t want you to be scared of Him and fear Him. Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father right now praying and interceding on our behalf. God loves us and wants us to appreciate and respect Him and His great love for us.

So let me just put your fears at ease. God is not angry with you. All His wrath was dealt with on the cross and has been satisfied. God is not sitting in heaven waiting to strike you with lightning. This is good news. Take great comfort in it.

Even better, when God the Father looks at us, He sees us through the blood and sacrifice of Christ. He sees us as holy, blameless, righteous, forgiven, and joy of all joys – He sees us as His beloved children. Meditate on this today.

 

July 17, 2017/7-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Short Memories”

Yesterday we looked at young David’s unbelievable victory over a giant named Goliath. He remembered what God had done for him in the past, and he was full of faith and confidence in the face of a great warrior.

Today we learn that we have good days and we have bad days. We don’t always quickly remember what God has done. If it has been a while since we’ve worshiped, prayed, read His word, and been amazed by His presence, we can lose that wonder, awe, and confidence just like David, now King, did.

In today’s reading, we hear adult David crying out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me…?” What happened? Isn’t the LORD the same God who delivered him from the lion, the bear, and the giant?

Yes, but we have short memories, and when fear strikes (and it will strike), we run back to our old ways of worry and doubt. We can feel alone and isolated. These are all schemes of the Evil One.

“But God.” Don’t you just love those words? The Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

When you doubt God’s love and faithfulness, remember the cross. When you doubt your forgiveness and adoption as sons and daughters, look to the cross. When you doubt God’s capability to overcome and turn around any situation, look to the cross and the power of the resurrection. Meditate and think on these things.

 

July 16, 2017/6-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Looking Back”

Sometimes we have to look back to go forward. Have you heard of the story of David and Goliath in the Old Testament? It’s a powerful and entertaining story that I grew up hearing. Little children love learning about young David defeating the huge giant named Goliath.

When David spoke up and said he’d fight Goliath, everyone laughed, including his own brothers. But David was a young man full of faith, and he knew something they didn’t know. He knew God’s faithfulness and power. Never forget we serve an awesome God, and that our enemy trembles in His presence.

In the famous story, young David referred back to the times that he had killed lions and bears while taking care of his father’s sheep and goats. And he declared that the same God who rescued him from the claws of the lion and the bear would rescue him from the giant.

You see, David had to look back, and that propelled him to boldly move forward. What treasured memory of God do you possess within you? How many times has He rescued you?

How many times has He come through for you? How many times has He comforted and strengthened you? Look back and then move forward with confidence. When Davids rise, giants fall.

 

July 15, 2017/5-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Still Loved”

Why did we start out looking at God’s love for us? Because it’s essential. It’s essential to whom we are (our identity), it’s essential for salvation, it’s essential for our relationship with the Father, and it’s essential to conquering fear.

Sometimes our fear comes from childhood trauma, shame, and regret—the fear of people finding out who we really are. That’s a valid fear. The good news is there is One who knows us inside and out, the good, the bad, and the ugly—and still loves us.

Pastor and author Tim Keller says, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Meditate on this profound truth today.

 

July 14, 2017/4-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“The Presence of Jesus”

So far, we’ve delved into fear and have talked about ways to conquer it. But for many of us, we need more Scripture to comfort and guide, more words of hope, more words of peace. I totally understand that.

I titled this devotional Take Courage because they are famous words from Jesus when He roamed the earth. When the disciples were scared to death and feared for their lives, Jesus comforted and exhorted them to, “Take courage.” Remember when the disciples were on the sea in the middle of the storm? They ended the night seeing Jesus walking on water.

Af first the disciples were afraid, but the presence of Jesus calmed their fears. Like the disciples, you may have lost sight of Jesus, but He hasn’t lost sight of you—and He is ready to rescue. One study Bible commentary notes, “To recognize Christ’s presence is the antidote for fear.” Wow! That is a simple, but deep concept.

My ESV Study Bible notes that Jesus’ words to the disciples, “Take courage. It is I,” were a throwback to Moses and his burning bush experience. In Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” The same God in the form of Jesus years later and now in present times, says, “Take Courage. It is I. (I am who I am) – Do not be afraid.”

Whatever fears you struggle with, whatever mountains or obstacles you face, Jesus looks at you with love and says, “Take courage. It is I.” What does it mean that God is the Great I Am? It means that whatever you face, whatever you fear or need, God is the calm to that fear, the answer to that need.

Do you need love? God says, “I am love.” Do you need peace? God says, “I am peace.” Do you need forgiveness? God says, “I am The Way to be right with the Father.” He is all you need. Don’t be afraid. Trust and believe in the God who has never taken His eyes off you. Meditate on this today.

 

 

July 13, 2017/3-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Preach to Yourself”

When you think about King David, do you ever think about him preaching to himself? Scripture tells us he did. I do the same thing just like the Psalmist, the man who had God’s heart, did.

These truths and promises are beautiful. They are precious and timeless. The problem comes when we forget them, or we fall for the lies of the enemy who says, “Did God really say that?”

We’re in this together, and for us to be victorious over our constant, nagging war with fear, we must know God’s truth, believe God’s truth, trust God’s truth, declare God’s truth (preach to yourself), and walk in it.

I spent a period of about two years in Psalm 103. Something about that passage resonated with me. Day after day, I felt led to keep coming back to it until I had memorized and internalized it.

In the Psalm, David is preaching to himself, saying with his mouth what he believes in his heart and knows to be true. David is boldly declaring the truth, power, grace, and mercy of our Creator God—the God who forgives each and every sin and nails our shame to the cross.

I have to share some key words from David’s beginning of the Psalm. I love the way the New King James Version says it. Read it (out loud) with me:

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! And forget not all His benefits:

He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns and satisfies, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Friends, that’s good news. That’s declaring the good news of the gospel to yourself, and for some of us, we need to declare it again and again. Meditate on this Psalm today.

 

July 12, 2017/2-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“No Longer Slaves to Fear”

Fear is referenced in the Bible many times over. God knew that as humans we would struggle with this emotion. For some of us, that struggle is a daily battle. For some of us, it’s a nightmare.

Don’t give up! There is hope. Hope is a Person—personified in Jesus Christ our Savior. He is our Peace. He is our Strong Tower. He is our Help. He is our Resting Place. He is our Shield. He is our Deliverer.

Yesterday we were reminded that we are dearly loved. Scripture teaches, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. What a promise! What a Savior!

I love the song “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music and encourage you to listen to the lyrics: “I’m no longer a slave to fear/ I am a child of God.” Do you believe those words? Hear me loud and clear: You are a child of God. Rest in that. Again, it’s your identity.

The song goes on to say, “My fears were drowned in perfect love.” We have the promise that, “Perfect love casts out fear”. I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of this—again and again.

Does God love me perfectly? Yes! Does perfect love cast out fear? Yes! Do you really believe that God loves you? Perfectly? Passionately? Unashamedly? Unconditionally?

I know answering these questions isn’t easy, but tomorrow we’ll talk about why trusting and believing in His perfect love can lead to a breakthrough in our struggle with fear. For now, just say out loud: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Say it again. Stand up and walk around your living room and kitchen, or if you’re in your car, shout it out. Meditate on this truth throughout your day.

 

July 11, 2017/1-14

TAKE COURAGE- WINNING THE WAR ON FEAR

“Confidence in Your Identity”

At some level we all struggle with fear. Let’s just be honest. It starts when we’re children and carries over into adulthood. For me, I have an anxiety disorder and find myself battling fear daily. It’s exhausting. The only place I can go for reprieve is Scripture.

So in this devotional, we will look at scriptures that have carried me through some tough times. I pray they will encourage and embolden you, too.

The Bible tells us that, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” This foundational verse gives me peace, boldness, and confidence in our great and good God.

We have the same power that raised Christ from the grave living inside us. Think about that! God has also given us the capacity to love and be loved. Do you know that you are loved by a holy God? Do you realize that you are a dear, cherished, and adopted son or daughter of the King? That’s your identity. Rest in it.

And God gives us a sound mind. This truth is really important to someone like me who suffers from anxiety and can sometimes listen to those negative thoughts that haunt me, especially at night. Scripture says, “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

As pastor and author Derwin Gray once said, “Remember, fear is not from God; power is.” As we go through this two-week daily devotional, rest in the fact that God has given you His power, His love, and a sound mind. Be at peace resting in Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 

July 10, 2017/6-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Getting Rid Of Fear

One of the best things you can learn to do when you’re afraid is look for help. Even more so, give it over to God, and He will help you.

All our fear and worries can get pretty heavy. We worry so much!

You can’t carry your worries around. They’ll get heavy. They’ll wear you down.

So, what do we do?

We do what it says in Psalm 55:22 and pile our troubles on God’s shoulders. We trust He will help us.

We need to give them all over to God because He can handle all the weight of our fears.

So what fears, worries, or anxieties do you need to let go of and give over to God so He can bear that weight for you?

 

July 9, 2017/5-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Fear Of Failing

Let’s start off with this: failure is an event—never a person.

It doesn’t always feel that way, though. When you go to tryouts and you don’t make the cut, it can be easy to think it’s you.It feels like you don’t make the cut—period. If you fail a test, you might think you’re not smart enough.

But people who understand that failure is an event and never a person are the ones who go on to do something great.

Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team but went on to be the greatest baller who ever lived.

Oprah got demoted as a news anchor and was told she wasn’t fit for television, but through her talk show she became one of the most influential women in the world.

They realized they weren’t a “failure,” and they kept going.

Don’t be afraid to fail. When you do, take it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and try even harder.

 

July 8, 2017/4-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Fear Of Rejection

Have you ever worried about what other people think about you? We all have.

Maybe you act a certain way and you know it’s not you, but you do it to fit in with people. Or, you dress a certain way so you don’t stand out in a weird way or get made fun of.

You want people to like you. That’s okay. It’s actually a good thing—a healthy thing. But it becomes a problem when we become so afraid of what other people think of us that we stop being ourselves.

Look at the verse you just read. Here’s what it’s pretty much saying.

We shouldn’t try to impress others, and we don’t need to impress God. He loves you just the way He made you, and He wants you to be you.

I know we all want to belong and fit in, but you need to know you belong to God first. Once you understand that, you’ll begin to understand who God has made you to be, and you’ll notice that being rejected isn’t so scary.

So, stop trying to be someone else, and start to focus on who God made you to be.

 

July 7, 2017/3-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Fear Of The Unknown

Fear of the unknown is common. What makes the unknown so scary is that, well, it’s unknown. We don’t know what’s going to happen.

But here’s the thing, you don’t have to know the unknown to be safe.

The unknown can actually be an awesome adventure, and trying something new can change your life for the better.

So what’s something you’re not sure about that worries you?

Remember the Scripture you just read, and don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t worry about the future. Don’t worry about the unknown. God will take care if it. God will take care of you!

When we fear the unknown, it’s actually a lack of trust that God is in control.

So don’t worry about tomorrow. Trust God. He’s in control of the unknown.

 

July 6, 2017/2-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Fear Keeps Us Stuck

One of the worst things fear does is it keeps us stuck. It causes us to freeze.

Fear will make you miss out on great experiences and keep you from having great relationships with people.

There’s no reason to be afraid. If you let Him, God will be in control of your life. He will take away your fear and give you the strength to get through it.

When you understand that God is always with you and you’re in a situation that makes you fearful, you can stand strong and know, “I’m going to get through this. I can do this. This ain’t no thing,” because you know God is right there with you. He will help get you through.

 

July 5, 2017/1-6

FIGHT FEAR- SWITCH

Fear Has Its Place

Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way. Fear serves one—and only one—purpose: to keep you alive. It’s nothing more than a survival response.

Here’s what that means. If you’re in the woods and you run across a massive bear with razor-sharp fangs and long, pointy claws, your fear response should kick in and tell you, “Don’t go pet the bear. You know what? Actually, RUN!” That fear will help you survive.

But other than that, when fear becomes anxiety or worry, it’s a bad thing.

God didn’t create us to live our lives in fear. He created us to live with power, love, and a sound mind or courage.

So what are you worrying about? Where do you have fear, anxiety, and worry in your life?

Know that God gave you a spirit to overcome that.

July 4, 2017/7-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Insecure

Psalm 139 is the perfect antidote when you are feeling insecure. You may think that people would not like you if they really knew you. But the Lord knows you so well that He even understands your thoughts. He knows you intimately and loves you anyway!

David also talks about the Lord’s protection, how the Lord hedges him from behind and before. To me that means the Lord redeems your past, therefore you don’t have to replay all of your past mistakes. In Christ Jesus, you are forgiven and He helps you profit from the lessons of the past.

In addition, the Lord hedges you before, which means the Lord secures your future. In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord gives you a promise: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Because the Lord has your future in His hands, there is no need to worry about it!

David also talks about the Lord’s constant presence in his present. Isn’t it comforting to know that the Creator of the entire universe is with you always? In Him is all the wisdom you need to handle every circumstance. Imagine having an audience with the smartest man on earth. Even that man will look like an idiot compared to God’s wisdom!

I also love that David affirms the person that God created him to be. He talks about the Lord forming him and creating his inward parts. Once you know that God took a personal interest in man’s creation, how can you ever think that He would forget about you?

To think that, it would mean that God Himself is like a neglectful landlord. He owns the property, but has no interest in taking care of it. But because you know God then you know that is not true. You can have security in your identity in Jesus Christ, knowing that you belong to Him.

You can also find security in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world! So you can walk forth in all confidence in God, knowing that He will lead you and guide you into the wonderful future that He has for you.

July 3, 2017/6-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Fearful

Remember the story of how David defeated Goliath of the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 17)? A few years later, the Philistines captured David and he wrote about his fear of being in the enemy’s hands. However, he chose not to give into his fear but put his trust in the Lord instead.

David knew that his trust was not misplaced: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”

Now someone in David’s situation might have said, “Well, the Philistines can hurt you and they can kill you.” But Jesus taught his disciples the proper mindset: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:28-31).”

Nothing happens to you without the Lord’s knowledge. Because you are valuable to Him, you have no need to fear what man can do to you. Like David, you are confident that whatever happens is in the Lord’s hands.

This scripture also reminds me of Psalm 91:1-2, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’”

Check your positioning when you are afraid. Are you abiding under the shadow of the Almighty? Make the Lord your hiding place. Scripture tells us that God’s perfect love casts out fear. The Lord does not want any of His children living in fear of man nor circumstances.

Because you are secure in God’s love, you know He will answer you and at the sound of His voice, the enemy has to flee. So whenever you are afraid, put your trust in the Lord and ensure that you are positioned under His shadow, in the will He has for you. There is no safer place to be than the center of God’s will!

July 2, 2017/5-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Discouraged

In Psalm 42, the sons of Korah wrote about discouragement. Discouragement means that your courage is taken away, which can happen when the source of it is misplaced.

When I am discouraged I often ask myself, “Where is your hope?” I never fail to recognize that I have placed my hope in another person or circumstance during those times. But the truth is that other people can fail or disappoint you; circumstances can change unfavorably. However, our God in heaven is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I believe that during times of discouragement, your soul is really thirsty for God. That is when you need to re-connect with the source of your hope and courage, seeking the Lord’s presence, studying the Word, prayer, praise, worship, singing Spiritual songs, and serving others for God’s glory.

The sons of Korah knew how important it is to seek God’s face continually. You can hear their longing for God in the question “When shall I come and appear before God?” You see, they did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit inside of them.

However when we accepted Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of us. So we can go into the temple, into our innermost being, to meet with the Spirit of God right where we are. We have confidence that when we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we are filled!

The sons of Korah knew the source of encouragement: “Hope in God.” When you remember that your hope is in God, not a person nor circumstance, it steadies your soul and makes your countenance brighter. In the Psalm, they speak of remembering the Lord, His presence, His power, His lovingkindness, and the song He has placed in their hearts.

Although you may feel that the Lord has forgotten you sometimes, he hasn’t. This is another situation in which your feelings have to be measured against God’s word. Scripture records that the Lord has his people engraved on the palms of His hands (see Isaiah 49:16)! So we are with Him permanently.

During times of discouragement, we must always remember where our help comes from. Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven, Earth, and us.

 

July 1, 2017/4-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Anxious

When I read the 23rd Psalm, I am taken to a place of tranquility and peace instantly. My anxious thoughts quiet down at just the first sentence: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I love the image of God being my Keeper, Protector, and Deliverer. I am not alone. I have His Presence with me at every hour of the day.

Have confidence that the Lord makes you to lie down in green pastures, which means that He is taking you to a place of rest and stillness in Him: “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).”

If you are always running around and don’t have quiet time with the Lord, then how can you receive restoration in your mind, will, and emotions? Modern life can drain you dry if you let it. That is why so many people are emotional wrecks. They are running on empty. But God promises to restore us.

Once you receive rest and restoration in the Lord, then you can walk with Him as He leads you in paths of righteousness. He shows you how to think right, believe right, and live right.

Even though your circumstances may make you feel like you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, you will not fear because you know the Lord is with you. God’s goodness toward you will be so visible that even your enemies will see His handiwork upon your life. They will see God’s grace abounding toward you.

What is God’s grace? Grace is everything God is and God has made available to you. In old movies about royalty, you see people addressing the King or Queen as “Your Grace” as they bow down. Jesus is “Your Grace.” He gave His very life for you. In Him, you have a new identity as the beloved of God.

In Jesus, you have forgiveness of sin and victory over sin. In Him, you have peace and joy because He left you with both. In Him, you have love and with His love, you are empowered to love your neighbor as yourself. When you consider this, then you see that material things cannot compare with the riches of His grace! Because Jesus is your Shepherd, then you indeed shall not want when you meditate on all you have in Him.

June 30, 2017/3-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Angry

Psalm 58 can be politely called, “David’s rant against the wicked.” When you read it, you can practically hear David’s indignation about people who wrong others. David’s anger is perfectly natural as he describes the character and deeds of these people. However in verse 6, he takes a dark turn. He starts asking God to hurt them physically!

I have read that certain pastors say that it is okay to pray for harm to come to your enemies. They call it “imprecatory prayer.” But that is wrong and it contradicts what God tells us to do.

In Luke 9:51-56, a Samaritan village did not receive Jesus. When His disciples saw this, they asked Jesus if they should command that fire should come down from heaven to consume them.

But Jesus said they did not know what manner of spirit they were of. In Matthew 5:43-48, he tells us how to deal with enemies: “’You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.’”

In Ephesians 4:26, we are told “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath…” David was okay in expressing his anger, but he started sinning when he prayed for harm to come to his enemies.

You might say, “Well, he didn’t do anything; what could be the harm in wishing, hoping, or praying that your enemies be hurt?” Well, Jesus also taught that murders, adulteries, and other sins come from the heart.

We need to avoid allowing anger to take root in our hearts. One way you can do that is to forgive quickly. Forgiveness is not a suggestion but a command. Jesus says that if you don’t forgive others, that our Father in heaven will not forgive you.

God says that vengeance belongs to Him and He shall repay. So trust in the Lord to mete out justice in His good time and in His sovereign way. Plus, you know your obedience will be rewarded. God’s word says that it will and you must take God at His word.

June 29, 2017/2-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Feeling Abandoned

I have been abandoned before. My father left my mother when I was just a baby. Even though my mother loved me, I spent a great part of my life with a painful question: Why didn’t my father love me enough to stay?

So I can relate to Psalm 88 in which Heman the Ezrahite wrote about feeling as if he was abandoned. He felt despondent, as if there was no hope in his situation. He felt far from friends and family to care for him.

As you read the Psalm, you can feel his raw pain through the words he has chosen to use to describe his feelings. His word choice largely included those associated with death: grave, pit, slain, depths.

Psalm 88:8-9 summarizes the height of his despair: “You have put away my acquaintances far from me; you have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out; My eye wastes away because of affliction.”

In this Psalm, the writer expresses his belief that God was responsible for his troubles. He felt as if God was nowhere to be found in his troubles and that God was angry with him.

Now the writer’s words were true in that they truly expressed how he felt at the time. But were the thoughts behind those feelings true according God’s word? No, they were not.

Even though the writer felt like God had abandoned him, God’s own word in Deuteronomy 31:6 says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. So even though the writer couldn’t “feel” God with him, yet God was there because He promised He would be.

So if you are feeling abandoned, you can acknowledge that you feel that way, but give yourself a reality check. God’s word promises His eternal presence. Feelings change all the time which is why they can’t be trusted, especially if they are based upon lying thoughts.

You are not alone. You are not abandoned. Some people may leave you but God never will. Comfort yourself by reminding yourself of the truth. God is with you, even during times of affliction. If God is for you then who or what can be against you?

June 28, 2017/1-7

HEALING NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Managing Your Emotions God’s Way

Do negative emotions threaten to overwhelm you? Through the power of God’s word, they do not have to overcome you! God created us to experience emotions, however there are Godly and ungodly methods to manage them.

Consider the word itself: e-motion. Emotions move you to action. Your emotions originate from your thoughts. If your emotions are based upon lying thoughts (those that do not agree with God’s word) then they can lead you to take ungodly actions.

Here is an example: I suffered from depression for many years. One thought driving that depression was that no one cared for me. While the feeling was true, it was based upon a lying thought. If I had not questioned it (and persistent thoughts like them), they would have led me to suicide.

The enemy often sows lying thoughts into Christians’ minds to steal, kill, and to destroy us. But Jesus came that we might have life. We can live in His peace when we develop His mind according to 2 Corinthians 10:5: “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

Because Jesus is the living Word, your goal is to assess your thoughts to ensure they agree with His word. Acknowledge your feelings but then ask yourself, “What must I believe to feel this way?” That will help you to uncover the thought behind the feeling and see if that thought agrees with God’s word.

From my example, I believed that nobody cared for me. To take the thought captive to the obedience of Christ, the next question is important: Is this thought true?

If I only kept looking at my circumstances, I could say ‘yes’ because no one was around to comfort me. But human perception is limited. So I realized that I needed to look into God’s word because His thoughts are higher than ours and so are His ways.

Looking at God’s word in 1 Peter 5:7 revealed to me why my thought was a lie: “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” So that scripture told me that God cares!

Remember: Just because you “feel” an emotion does not mean the thought behind it is true. Therefore, to glorify the Lord with your actions, ensure that your emotions are based upon the truth in God’s word.

June 27, 2017/5-6

FINDING COMFORT IN PAIN

If you’ve been at a hospital to say goodbye to a loved one, at the scene of a natural disaster, at the funeral of a child, in the midst of a divorce, or another terrible crisis, you’ve likely asked, “What’s the point of my life?”

Like nothing else, terrible trials have a way of stripping away everything until we’re left staring at the remaining, fragile pieces of our lives with this question, “Do these parts really matter?” We’ve worked hard, done right, obeyed, prayed, eaten healthy, gone to church, helped others, read the Bible, and still this horrible tragedy is happening.

If living right doesn’t guarantee a happy life, does it matter what I do? Does my life count? These questions are in the Bible, and so are the answers. The answers aren’t very easy, but they’re very good.

A well-cared-for earthly life will grow like a green, healthy field, full of beautiful flowers, and ripe for harvest. Yet, this field will wither, storms will destroy crops, and flowers will fall as seasons change. But, God’s Word endures forever.

When we decided to follow Jesus, we made a place for His Word to grow in our hearts. Our flesh will fail, but now with this seed planted in us we will live forever. Trials are temporary, but God’s Word in us—His life in us—is permanent.

As you read through today’s passages and think about the trials of earthly life, ask, “Why would Jesus join me here?”

Consider:
Where are you looking to find the reason for your life?

Pray:
God, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the Holy Spirit. I believe my trial is temporary and Your words are forever. Will you help me know the reason for my time on Earth?

June 26, 2017/4-6

FINDING COMFORT IN PAIN

Trials are often embodied in some form of want. Not enough money, not enough time, not enough love, not enough safety, or perhaps not enough wisdom. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus’ disciples just wanted life. They were in an enormous storm when they awakened Jesus from some much-needed shut-eye with a desperate request for help.

It’s not crazy to think trials and life’s storms are some of our best chances to ask God for help. Yet, in this story in Mark, no later than Jesus told the wind and waves to take it easy, He turned to ask His disciples why their fear was so big and their faith was so small. It’s as if Jesus expected they would believe they need not fear the storm with the Savior on board.

Lacking something we asked for or expected is likely the source of the pain we’re facing. We’ve asked people for love and felt rejection, for a father and got a boss, for a boss and got a tyrant, for a loan and got debt, for another chance and got the door. We could all make a list of human disappointments.

Like the disciples on the boat, we could also make lists of ways we doubt God’s presence in our storms. So, when we read Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter seven, we’re encouraged by the part about God being a loving Dad who wouldn’t give us something tricky when we ask for something good. He won’t give us a snake instead of jump rope, or a knuckle sandwich instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a shipwreck instead of traveling mercies.

However, before Jesus reminds us of our good Father’s character, He tells us how to ask. Ask, seek, and knock, He says. These words progressively increase from desire to confidence. Think on that. Also, in Jesus’ example, the son is not making a safely generic request for provision, or a slightly more specific request for food. Instead, he asks for fish with the tenacious confidence of a son who thinks highly of his father’s ability to angle fish.

So, should we ask for God’s help when we need or want it? Yes, and when we do, we should ask with the sure belief that He will come through with abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Consider:
Do you believe that Jesus is in your same boat? What do you need to ask for with increasing confidence that God is who He says He is?

Pray:
Jesus, thank You for inviting me on Your boat. I trust You to get us to the other side. Will You give me Your same confidence to rest my head in the midst of a storm? God, thank You for being a good Father. I give You the desires of my heart.

June 25, 2017/3-6

FINDING COMFORT IN PAIN

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul describes a thorn in his flesh. Have you ever grabbed a rose thinking the thorns had been removed? The result is a pins-and-needles poke followed by a bone-throbbing reminder of your mistake. Yet, he doesn’t describe his pain as a thorn-puncture. Paul describes a thorn that remains in his flesh. Ouch.

Why does Paul risk his reputation to put his personal struggle in permanent ink? Because the thorn causes him to rely on God, and he hopes Corinth will rely on God, too. We tend to gladly accept this part of the passage. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We envision that God carries us when we’re too weak to walk, and He probably does.

However, it’s the notion of verses, seven, eight, and 10, that promise the most unnerving revelation for our modern minds. These passages indicate that Paul’s thorn—which he also describes as a messenger of Satan—was not a seldom occurrence of weakness but rather a steady companion of pain. Harder still, Paul explains this thorn was given to him as a strategy to poke a hole in his ego. Pain so that God’s work could not be claimed as Paul’s work. In essence, Paul calls his perpetual pain a gift that reveals God’s true comfort for man. In other words, pain reveals God’s “together-strength” that transforms our failure into His perfection.

Who else received thorns as a strategy to unveil God’s good way for humanity? No wonder Paul and James refer to trials as joy and delight. They know they have company in their pain with their Savior.

Consider:
What are some thorns you need to see for their roses? What can your pain accomplish for others?

Pray:
God, I’ve been asking You to remove this trial. Today, I ask You to reveal Your power in my trial. Will You show me how Your strength can be seen through my weakness? Jesus, would You let me feel Your company today?

June 24, 2017/2-6

FINDING COMFORT IN PAIN

How do we respond when we experience great pain, failure, or struggle? In addition to other things, we pray to God for His comfort now and His supernatural relief from discomfort later. In this mode of thinking, God’s comfort represents a barrier between pain and us. Comfort is to sleeping on a feather bed as discomfort is to sleeping on the rocky ground. But, should we seek a comfy life when Jesus himself had no place to lay his head? Doesn’t God desire to comfort His people?

The history of the word “comfort” reveals an important narrative. The word is made from two Latin word parts, com-, an intensifying prefix which means “together with,” and fortis, which means “strong or strength.” Later, the Latin word confortare comes to mean, “to strengthen much.” Eventually, an Old French word, conforter, would add words like “solace” and “help” to the definition. In the 14th century, another French word conforten is defined as, “to cheer up, console.” Finally, by the 17th century, the English version of the word implies the sense of physical ease that we understand today. In about a millennia, this word went from meaning, “together-strength,” to meaning “pain-barrier.”

With this new (old) understanding of comfort as “together-strength,” look at how God has comforted our world. The prophet Isaiah foretold of a Messiah who would enter our world to be wounded for our transgressions and striped for our healing. If the very nature of our faith is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, then let us consider His response to pain. In 1 Peter 2:21-25, we see a Savior who accepted pain quietly despite having done nothing to earn it. Jesus does not avoid pain, or look for a scapegoat; He comes into our world and makes our pain His pain.

Together-strength.

Consider:
When faced with great trial or pain, are you more likely to seek a way out or to seek the footsteps of Jesus?

Pray:
God, I don’t like pain, but I love You. Please change my understanding of Your comfort and help me to feel it. Holy Spirit, show me where Your “together-strength” is carrying me through this. Jesus, help me to know how You bore my pain.

June 23, 2017/1-6

FINDING COMFORT IN PAIN

Think back to your first hard fall. Let’s say you’re like, eight-and-a-half, sort of clumsy, and you fall hard—real hard—off of some moving plaything with too many (or not enough) wheels. In one moment, the pavement becomes the proud owner of half the skin that only milliseconds earlier belonged to your knees and palms. Then, your dad tries to cheer up your sobbing face with words like, “That must hurt, but have you apologized to the sidewalk yet?”

This preposterous suggestion that the lifeless sidewalk got the bad end of the deal is intended to divert your attention with a laugh. Your dad made light of your pain in effort to make your pain lighter. Maybe the author of James was a dad, because the first verses of the first chapter make a similarly preposterous suggestion.

Whenever we face terrible experiences of all sorts, James wants us to count them as unadulterated joy.  Not just sometimes, whenever. Not just some trials, many kinds. Not just, “don’t worry,” but pure joy. Not because someone else has it worse, but because the trial itself—that testing of our faith—carries with it the potential to make us mature and complete.

James is not just saying, “It’s okay, you’ll be all right,” he’s saying, “Throw a party, this trial means you’re closer to Christ!” So, go ahead, mark this trial in the win column of your future, and bolster the trophy of life and more life.Consider:
Identify how you’ve fallen real hard, or like the sidewalk, something came fallinreal hard on you.

Pray:
Good Father, thank You for this trial I’m in. I don’t understand it right now, but I believe in Your goodness. Please give me wisdom so that my decisions will lead to maturity and completeness.

 

 June 22, 2017/14-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Waiting for You in Heaven

Colton Burpo was only four years old when he survived an emergency appendectomy. His parents were overjoyed at his survival. But they were stunned at his stories. Over the next few months, Colton talked of his visit to heaven. He described exactly what his parents were doing during the surgery and told stories of people he met in heaven—people he had never met on earth or been told about. In the book Heaven Is for Real, Colton’s father relates the moment that the four year-old boy told his mom, “You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” The parents had never mentioned the miscarriage to their son. He was too young to process it. Emotion filled his mother’s face:

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” “She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.” “It’s okay, Mommy. She’s okay. God adopted her.” “Don’t you mean Jesus adopted her?” “No, Mommy. His Dad did.” “What’s her name?” asked the mom. “What was the little girl’s name?” “She doesn’t have a name. You guys didn’t name her.”

The parents were stunned. There is no way Colton would have known this. He had one more memory. He shared it before he went out to play: “She said she can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven.”

Someone in heaven is saying the same words about you. Your grandpa? Aunt? Your child? They are looking toward the day when God’s family is back together. Shouldn’t we do the same?

From Thomas Nelson’s God Will Carry You Through [2013] [Max Lucado] Learn more at www.thomasnelson.com/god-will-carry-you-through

June 21, 2017/13-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

God Was in the Crises

During the time Joseph was struggling to reconcile with his brothers, he was also navigating a catastrophe. It’d been two years since the last drop of rain. The sky was endlessly blue. The sun relentlessly hot. Animal carcasses littered the ground, and no hope appeared on the horizon.

The land was a dust bowl. No rain meant no farming. No farming meant no food. When people appealed to Pharaoh for help, he said, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do” (Genesis 41:55 NKJV).

Joseph faced a calamity on a global scale. Yet contrast the description of the problem with the outcome. Years passed, and the people told Joseph, “You have saved our lives; let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s servants” (Genesis 47:25 NKJV).

The people remained calm. A society that was ripe for bedlam actually thanked the government rather than attacked it. Makes a person wonder if Joseph ever taught a course in crisis management. If he did, he included the words he told his brothers: “God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you” (45:5–7).

Joseph began and ended his crisis assessment with references to God. He assumed God was in the crisis. Then he faced the crisis with a plan. He collected grain during the good years and redistributed it in the bad. When the people ran out of food, he gave it to them in exchange for money, livestock, and property. After he stabilized the economy, he gave the people a lesson on money management.

Joseph never raised the dead, but he kept people from dying. He never healed the sick, but he kept sickness from spreading. He made a plan and stuck with it. And because he did, the nation survived. He triumphed with a calm, methodical plan.

 

June 20, 2017/12-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

God Puts Pain to Use

I enjoyed breakfast recently with a friend. Most of our talk revolved around the health of his fourteen-year old son. Seven years ago a tumor was found behind the boy’s spleen. The discovery led to several months of strenuous prayer and chemotherapy. The son recovered. He is now playing high school football, and the cancer clinic is a distant memory.

The discovery of the tumor was the part of the story I found fascinating. When the boy was seven years old, he was horsing around with cousins. One of them accidentally kicked him in the stomach. Acute pain led to a hospital visit. An alert doctor requested a series of tests. And the tests led the surgeon to discover and remove the tumor. After the cancer was removed, the father asked the physician how long the tumor had been present. Although it was impossible to know with certainty, the form and size of the tumor indicated that it was no more than two or three days old.

“So,” I said, “God used a kick in the gut to get your boy into treatment.”

Then there is the story of Isabel. She spent the first three and one-half years of her life in a Nicaraguan orphanage. No mother, no father. No promise of either. With all orphans, odds of adoption diminish with time. Every passing month decreased Isabel’s chance of being placed in a home.

And then a door slammed on her finger. She was following the other children into the yard to play when a screen door closed on her hand. Pain shot up her arm, and her scream echoed through the playground.

Question: Why would God let this happen? Why would a benevolent, omnipotent God permit an innocent girl with more than her share of challenges to feel additional pain?

Might he be calling for the attention of Ryan Schnoke, the American would-be father who was sitting in the playroom nearby? He and his wife, Cristina, had been trying to adopt a child for months. No other adult was nearby to help Isabel, so Ryan walked over, picked her up, and comforted her.

Several months later when Ryan and Cristina were close to giving up, Ryan remembered Isabel and resolved to try one more time. This time the adoption succeeded. Little Isabel is growing up in a happy, healthy home. A kick in the gut? A finger in the door? God doesn’t manufacture pain, but he certainly puts it to use.

June 19, 2017/11-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

The Process of Forgiveness

Complaining to others is another matter altogether. It opens the door to deadly sins such as self-pity and rage. Whenever you are tempted to grumble, come to Me and talk it out. As you open up to Me, I will put My thoughts in your mind and My song in your heart.

Begin the process of forgiveness.

1. Keep no list of wrongs.

2. Pray for your antagonists rather than plot against them.

3. Hate the wrong without hating wrongdoers.

4. Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Jesus did for you.

Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them too. If he thinks they are worth forgiving, they are.

June 18, 2017/10-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU  THROUGH

Revenge Builds a Lonely House

In 1882, a New York City businessman named Joseph Richardson owned a narrow strip of land on Lexington Avenue. It was 5 feet wide and 104 feet long. Another businessman, Hyman Sarner, owned a normal-sized lot adjacent to Richardson’s skinny one. He wanted to build apartments that fronted the avenue. He offered Richardson $1,000 for the slender plot. Richardson was deeply offended by the amount and demanded $5,000. Sarner refused, and Richardson called Sarner a tightwad and slammed the door on him.

Sarner assumed the land would remain vacant and instructed the architect to design the apartment building with windows overlooking the avenue. When Richardson saw the finished building, he resolved to block the view. No one was going to enjoy a free view over his lot.

So seventy-year-old Richardson built a house. Five feet wide and 104 feet long and four stories high with two suites on each floor. Upon completion he and his wife moved into one of the suites.

Only one person at a time could ascend the stairs or pass through the hallway. The largest dining table in any suite was eighteen inches wide. The stoves were the very smallest made. A newspaper reporter of some girth once got stuck in the stairwell, and after two tenants were unsuccessful in pushing him free, he exited only by stripping down to his undergarments.

The building was dubbed the “Spite House.” Richardson spent the last fourteen years of his life in the narrow residence that seemed to fit his narrow state of mind.

The Spite House was torn down in 1915, which is odd. I distinctly remember spending a few nights there last year. And a few weeks there some years back. If memory serves, didn’t I see you squeezing through the hallway? Revenge builds a lonely house. Space enough for one person. The lives of its tenants are reduced to one goal: make someone miserable. They do. Themselves.

No wonder God insists that we “keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time” (Hebrews 12:15 MSG).

His healing includes a move out of the house of spite, a shift away from the cramped world of grudge toward spacious ways of grace, away from hardness toward forgiveness. He moves us forward by healing our past.

June 17, 2017/9-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

“It Stops with Me”

Some years ago a dear friend of mine was called to the funeral home to identify the body of his father, who had been shot in the middle of the night by his ex-wife. The shotgun blast was just one in a long line of angry outbursts and violent family moments. My friend remembers standing near the body and resolving, it stops with me. (And it has.)

Make the same resolve. Yes, your family history has some sad chapters. But your history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.

June 16, 2017/8-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Ultimate Victory

Life turns every person upside down. No one escapes unscathed. Not the woman who discovers her husband is having an affair. Not the businessman who has his investments embezzled by a crooked colleague. Not the teenager who discovers that a night of romance has resulted in a surprise pregnancy. Not the pastor who feels his faith shaken by questions of suffering and fear. We’d be foolish to think we are invulnerable. But we’d be just as foolish to think that evil wins the day. The Bible vibrates with the steady drumbeat of faith: God recycles evil into righteousness. Perhaps you read this book in search of a quick fix for your challenges. “How to Overcome Obstacles in Five Easy Steps.” Sorry to disappoint.

I don’t have an easy solution or a magic wand. I have found something—Someone—far better. God himself. When God gets in the middle of life, evil becomes good. Haven’t we seen this discovery in the story of Joseph? Saddled with setbacks: family rejection, deportation, slavery, and imprisonment. Yet he emerged triumphant, a hero of his generation. Among his final recorded words are these comments to his brothers: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV).

This is the repeated pattern in Scripture. Evil. God. Good. See the cross on the hill? Can you hear the soldiers pound the nails? Jesus’ enemies smirk. Satan’s demons lurk. All that is evil rubs its hands in glee. “This time,” Satan whispers. “This time I will win.” For a silent Saturday it appeared he did. The final breath. The battered body. Mary wept. Blood seeped down the timber into the dirt. Followers lowered God’s Son as the sun set. Soldiers sealed the tomb, and night fell over the earth.

Yet what Satan intended as the ultimate evil, God used for the ultimate good. God rolled the rock away. Jesus walked out on Sunday morning, a smile on his face and a bounce to his step. And if you look closely, you see Satan scampering from the cemetery with his forked tail between his legs. “Will I ever win?” he grumbles. No. He won’t.

Jaune 15, 2017/7-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Thank You!

I attended a banquet recently in which a wounded soldier was presented with the gift of a free house. He nearly fell over with gratitude. He bounded onto the stage with his one good leg and threw both arms around the presenter. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” He hugged the guitar player in the band and the big woman on the front row. He thanked the waiter, the other soldiers, and then thanked the presenter again. Before the night was over, he thanked me! And I didn’t do anything.

Shouldn’t we be equally grateful? Jesus is building a house for us (John 14:2). Our deed of ownership is every bit as certain as that of the soldier.

June 14, 2017/6-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

In Her Own Words

Missy’s Story

My story is about disappointment . . . and hope. Of fear . . . and faith.

On May 30, 2007, my children and I watched their dad, my husband, take off in his plane to go to work. As a naval aviator and federal air marshal, he traveled often, and this plane allowed him to be home sooner. As he took off, though, the engine failed, and the plane crashed into the hill in the distance. I fell to my knees crying out, “Please, God! I am not ready!”

The sheriff who came to me to deliver the news that I already knew turned out to be my former next-door neighbor and a minister at a local church. He prayed with me. Friends showed up almost immediately with food and began cleaning my home. Over the next several weeks, I was also blessed to have a friend handle the legal matters and other friends help with my four children. Two school communities poured out their prayers and love, and they donated money to my family until financial matters were settled.

At a point when certain important paperwork had to be postmarked, I was praying in the bank elevator. I wanted the process to go smoothly because I was tired and afraid of what lay ahead. The woman at the bank said she usually did not come to this particular building, but she felt as if she had “a divine mission” to fulfill. When she overheard me on the phone, she knew God had sent her to pray with me.

A message on the Christian radio station I listen to said, “If you think you cannot go one more step, know that God is there to carry you.” I heard this just moments after I had pulled my car over and spoken aloud those exact words—“I can’t go one more step.”

Time after time, in the most difficult moments of my grief, God has blessed me so vividly that all I could do was praise him. He has been my strength from the moment the plane hit the hillside to this very moment that I write these words. It is true . . . God will carry you through.

June 13, 2017/5-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Choosing to Be Grateful

Gratitude doesn’t come naturally. Self-pity does. Bellyaches do. Grumbles and mumbles—no one has to remind us to offer them. Yet they don’t mix well with the kindness that we have been given. A spoonful of gratitude is all we need.

Joseph took more than a spoonful. He had cause to be ungrateful. Abandoned. Enslaved. Betrayed. Estranged. Yet try as we might to find tinges of bitterness, we don’t succeed. What we do discover, however, are two dramatic gestures of gratitude.

Most parents go to great effort to select the perfect name for their child. Joseph did. These were the days of abundance. God had rewarded Joseph with a place in Pharaoh’s court and a wife for his own home. The time had come to start a family. The young couple was reclining on the couch when he reached over and patted Asenath’s round, pregnant tummy. “I’ve been thinking about names for our baby.”

“Oh, Joey, how sweet. I have as well. In fact, I bought a name-your-baby book at the grocery store.” “You won’t need it. I already have the name.” “What is it?” “God Made Me Forget.” “If he made you forget, how can you name him?” “No, that is the name: God Made Me Forget.”

She gave him that look Egyptian wives always gave their Hebrew husbands. “God Made Me Forget? Every time I call my son I will say, ‘God Made Me Forget’?” She shook her head and tried it out. “‘It’s time for dinner, God Made Me Forget. Come in and wash your hands, God Made Me Forget.’ I don’t know Joseph. I was thinking something more like Tut or Ramses, or have you ever considered the name Max? It is a name reserved for special people.” “No, Asenath, my mind is made up. Each time my son’s name is spoken, God’s name will be praised. For God made me forget all the pain and hurt I experienced at the hands of my brothers. I want everyone to know—I want God to know—I am grateful.”

Apparently Mrs. Joseph warmed to the idea because at the birth of son number two, she and Joseph called him God Made Me Fruitful. One name honored God’s mercy; the other proclaimed his favor.

June12, 2017/4-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Life comes at us with a fury of flying fists—right hook of rejection, sucker punch of loss. Enemies hit below the belt. Calamities cause us to stagger. It’s a slugfest out there.

Some people once knocked down never get up. They stay on the mat—beaten, bitter, broken. Out for the count. Others, however, have more bounce back than Bozo. With God’s help, you can bounce back. Who knows? Your rebound may happen today.

June 11, 2017/3-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

In Her Own Words

Jennifer’s Story

God definitely carried me through one of the most challenging years of my life.

I had grown up in the church and gone to church camp every summer, so I had heard many testimonies of how the Lord used different situations and trials in people’s lives to make them who they were today. I prayed that the Lord would give me a story—and little did I know what he would do in response to that prayer!

I had finished my first semester in college and gone home for Christmas break. I went to the dermatologist for an infection on my face and mentioned that I had a mole on my foot. And it was a good thing I mentioned that mole: two weeks later I got the call that I had stage-four malignant melanoma. The cancer became more real when I had to find a surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and an oncologist in just one week. Then after two surgeries, I not only had to learn how to walk again, but then I began a year of chemo.

As I write this, I am almost seven years cancer-free! It is amazing to look back and praise the Lord for healing me. My scars remind me every day of that painful time, but I choose to embrace what he’s done because I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t faced that disease. My scars also remind me of his scars and what he sacrificed so that we would have life and have it to the fullest!

 

June 10, 2017/2-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

Stay Focused on God

Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV) reads the sign on God’s waiting room wall. You can be glad because God is good. You can be still because he is active. You can rest because he is busy. . . .

To wait, biblically speaking, is not to assume the worst, worry, fret, make demands, or take control. Nor is waiting inactivity. It is a sustained effort to stay focused on God through prayer and belief. To wait is to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; . . . not fret” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV).

Fresh strength. Renewed vigor. Legs that don’t grow weary. Delight yourself in God, and he will bring rest to your soul.

 June 9, 2017/1-14

GOD WILL CARRY YOU THROUGH

God Has a Plan

Down to Egypt. Just a few hours ago, Joseph’s life was looking up. He had a new coat and a pampered place in the house. He dreamed his brothers and parents would look up to him. But what goes up must come down, and Joseph’s life came down with a crash. Put down by his siblings. Thrown down into an empty well. Let down by his brothers and sold down the river as a slave. Then led down the road to Egypt.

Down, down, down. Stripped of name, status, position. Everything he had, everything he thought he’d ever have—gone. Vanished. Poof. Just like that.

Just like you? Have you been down in the mouth, down to your last dollar, down to the custody hearing, down to the bottom of the pecking order, down on your luck, down on your life . . . down . . . down to Egypt? Life pulls us down.

Joseph arrived in Egypt with nothing. Not a penny to his name or a name worth a penny. His family tree was meaningless. His occupation was despised. The clean-shaven people of the pyramids avoided the woolly bedouins of the desert.

No credentials to stand on. No vocation to call on. No family to lean on. He lost everything, with one exception: his destiny.

Through those odd dreams heaven had convinced him that God had plans for him. The details were vague and ill-defined, for sure. Joseph had no way of knowing the specifics of his future. But the dreams told him this much: he would have a place of prominence in the midst of his family. Joseph latched on to this dream for the life jacket it was.

How else do we explain his survival? The Bible says nothing about his training, education, superior skills, or talents. But the narrator made a lead story out of Joseph’s destiny.

The Hebrew boy lost his family, dignity, and home country, but he never lost his belief in God’s belief in him. Trudging through the desert toward Egypt, he resolved, it won’t end this way. God has a dream for my life. While wearing the heavy chains of the slave owners, he remembered, I’ve been called to more than this. Dragged into a city of strange tongues and shaven faces, he told himself, God has greater plans for me. God had a destiny for Joseph, and the boy believed in it.

From Thomas Nelson’s God Will Carry You Through [2013] [Max Lucado] Learn more at http://www.thomasnelson.com/god-will-carry-you-through.

June 8, 2017/21-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Hopeless is  a strong word. Do you believe God exists in what you may consider a “hopeless” situation? God tells us to “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG)

So what brings us out of these hopeless situations? We must be constant with God because he is constant with us. As we seek and listen, the doors are opened and our path is made straight, hope then follows.

Remember 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)  Have encouragement today that God is truly with you; don’t worry about tomorrow for He is here today, alongside you, and He is your anchor. God wants us to rely on him alone, securely fastened with His hope. Seek Him first so that your life will resemble a well-crafted ship, carrying you through rough seas and still waters, always secure in the solid anchor available to you through Christ.

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Taylor’s gift is a gift that keeps on giving.

To others.

To us.

But the greatest gift we’ve received through this journey didn’t come from Taylor. It came from God.

The gift of hope. No matter how tragic our circumstances, God was always there for us. Whether we acknowledged Him or not, He was always there.

And whether we heard Him or not, He was always present.

He will be there for you too.

Of course He will.

You are His gift. You are His child.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

How secure is your anchor with God? Do you stay constant with him, believing he is constant with you?

Pray for God to be your anchor and for the Holy Spirit to guide you into the light of hope.

June 7, 2017/20-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

What are your plans today? Like most, you probably have a long list of things to get done. If God could sit with you and go over your list, how would He prioritize it? Would he just scrap the entire list and add the items that you’ve been putting off for a long time, the items that belong to Him? “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

As the Aposlte Paul sat in a Roman jail, he wrote a letter to the Philippians to help stregnthen their love of Christ. In his letter Paul wrote “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every siutation…. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV) Christ is our answer to living a content life. Once we submit to Him, he strengthens us in all situations so that our priorities then shift. What we once planned for our own lives may take a drastic “unplanned” turn.

We must remember that God is the author of our life. Today, make your top priority to “do all this through Him who gives me strength” and remember He is here with you today.

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Our purpose comes from God, who is the Author of our stories, our lives, whether we like the plot or not. He was the author while Taylor was alive, and He was the Author of her story even in her death.

But her death is not the end of her story. God is still sovereign and He is still writing. Taylor’s next chapter continues — it just continues in a new setting. And mine continues as a mother of three, though I don’t see one the way I used to.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Is your life what you planned? Are you making plans without God’s counsel? Are there things God has put on your to-do list that you keep procrastinating… stop smoking, start going to Church, get counseling, stop the affair, turn to Him completely?

Pray today for God to give you the strength to make Him a priority. Ask God for the wisdom to see His plan for you and for Him to reveal it. Ask God to ready your heart, mind, and spirit for His purpose and allow you to feel content in Him.

June 6, 2017/19-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Genesis 2:22 “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” (NIV) Matthew Henry’s commentary shows how this is a beautiful picture of the love and respect men and women are created to have for one another: “That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

When our faith is strong, our marriage is strong. When we love our spouse, we love Christ. Both husband and wife must stay focused on their faith, especially during a crisis.

Does this mean that we always get along and agree? No! But, it does mean that we love each other as Christ loves us. During extremely difficult times, our true character shows…the true character of how much God really is in our life, and thereby, in our marriage.

If we are strong in our marriage we also teach our children how to select and love the mate that they will have some day. Strong, Christ centered marriages create families that emulate Him! Is this the legacy you are creating in your marriage?

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Over the past year we’d suffered great loss, but we’d also gained some things. Our marriage was now stronger than it had ever been, and so was our faith. We had a deeper connection with each other and with God. While the three recipients we’d connected with certainly didn’t replace Taylor, the hope for their futures replaced the despair we had in Taylor’s death. Being an organ donor was Taylor’s gift to them, but it was also her gift to us.

On the fifteenth, I wrote a note to Taylor in my notebook: I’m not falling apart like I thought I would. A gift from you and God. One year without you. How did I ever make it?

That night as Tara and I sat together in the kitchen, I said, “If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.” But the truth was that we had done more than make it. Though it had been the hardest year of our married life, I loved Tara even more now than I did a year ago.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Do you lean on your spouse for support when times are challenging or difficult or do you take your fear and frustration out on them?

Pray today for God to strengthen your marriage or relationship in a way that glorifies Him. Take any problems to God first, then your spouse.

June 5, 2017/18-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Prayer is our direct access to God. In the beginning, he walked the earth with Adam and Eve each day in the beautiful Garden of Eden .. can you imagine it? We know through the book of Revelation that once Christ returns again, we will walk with Him and he will be the light of the world. But for now, we must “Rejoice always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

God’s desire is to have an intimate one-to-one relationship with us. He wants us to be thankful for everything throughout our day; the beauty of a flower he masterfully designed, the delight of a child’s giggle. It’s easy to only go to God in prayer when times are difficult or at a scheduled time. It’s easy to forget to delight in God’s majesty throughout our normal days. But he desires our full attention and when we thoughtfully give it to Him, He is glorified.

If we allow our day to overpower our faith, we disallow God to have the glory that He desires. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. .” (Romans 8:6 NIV) The daily tasks of life, both good and bad, should not stop us from focusing on Jesus and spending time getting to know Him.

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

That night I went to bed early. I hugged and kissed Tara and the kids, including a hug and kiss to Taylor in heaven. I said my prayers, and before I fell asleep I got out my notebook and wrote.
The next day I would post it on my blog:

I miss her so much, but know she is with me all the time. Thanks for being there with me, Christ. Thank you for allowing me to process this grief and put it to good use each and every day . . . and when I don’t feel I can, continue to show me the path.

Another day.

Another 15th.

Good night.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

How often do you go to the Lord in prayer? Is it only every night before you go to sleep? Do you see things throughout your day that you can thank God for? Today,
thank God for the good and the difficult times in your life.

Pray for Him to show you the path and for you to have His wisdom to follow. The next time you see something beautiful or moving, thank Him for it so He can have the glory!

June 4, 2017/17-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Even though our circumstances change, God does not. God is always and has always been the same, his promises of salvation, grace and mercy have never changed.

He does not promise us a trouble free life, but he does promise us an eternity filled with joy and holiness.

We are to use our circumstances boldly for Christ bearing witness to those who seek Him, who need comfort in their circumstances. Our light in darkness shines bright for those whose darkness surrounds them because when we say yes in our obedience to God, joy comes!

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

After returning from New York, Todd and I had to stop by Austin Elementary, where all three kids had gone and where Peyton now attended.

While we were there, a custodian stopped me and said, “Can I talk to you a minute?”

She went on to tell me how her fifteen-year-old son was facing a medical issue with his heart, and it was affecting his behavior and attitude. He was leaving home and not coming back, not taking his medicine, and exhibiting other self-destructive behaviors. “How do you cope with this?” the woman asked.

Our situations weren’t the same—Taylor had died in an accident; her son was facing a long-term illness and possibly death if he didn’t make some adjustments in his lifestyle.   However, I understood her fear, and the feeling that things were spiraling  out of control. I knew how helpless she must have felt, so I said, “When I feel like you do, I pray.” I then asked if I could pray for her and her son.  She nodded, trying to hold back the tears.

I knew I didn’t have any concrete answers for her. Tragedy strikes different people in different ways, and the only sure thing is that God understands our pain and will help us get through it. That was the best I could offer—a way to connect with him.

Todd was with me and joined me in praying for her. On the way home Todd said, “It really touched me when you ministered to her. Knowing how much pain you are still carrying, it was just so beautiful to see you reach out to her even in the midst of your own grief.”

His words meant a lot. He was right; I dealt with a lot of pain, and I wasn’t sure I could say it had lessened much. But I had come a long way from those initial days. Some days I still felt like I had a long way to go.

A few days later, I was reading Scripture when I came across 1 Peter 5:10, “The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good” (Message).

I already knew the good days on earth were temporary; my faith told me the bad days would soon end too. My hope was in God, not in my own ability to fix things.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Do you believe God has eternal and glorious plans for you?  If so, is this reflected in your daily life, a light that shines brightly on its stand?

Is your light dimming from the pain of your circumstance?  Pray for the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart for the true light of God to shine through you and serve others in need.

June 3, 2017/16-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

God’s Word prepares us for everyday living. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)  His Holy Spirit helps us understand His word and also helps us recognize moments He brings us that can only be “Of Course” God moments. By recognizing these moments, God is glorified! Words can be very powerful. No words have more power than God’s living Word!

The light of the Spirit inside us should be visible by everyone we come into contact with. When we are around other believers, the Holy Spirit in all of us lights up even brighter . Have you ever felt this?

The Spirit also allows us to shine God’s presence before those who do not read and study His word, who do not believe, who may be lost.

So, today when you are out and about, realize that some of the people you come into contact with may only have seen God’s light that day because of it’s shining through you. Open your eyes to God’s gifts as they come, as big or as small as they may be. He brings them to you for His glory and when you share them with others, His light will shine!

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

After the guys left to get food, Patricia and I sat alone in her living room, and I felt safe asking her a very intimate question.

“I’d like to hear her heartbeat like I used to—without a stetho- scope. Can I put my head on your chest?”

“Of course,” Patricia said, wrapping her arm around me and pulling me closer. With my eyes closed, I pressed my ear against her warm skin, marveling at the sound of my daughter’s heart pumping in Patricia’s chest.

Bump-bump. Bump-bump. Bump-bump. BOOM.

Suddenly there had been a loud kick. I waited a second, then sat up and looked at Patricia.

“Did you feel that?” she asked. “Yes. I did.”

I put my ear back to her chest—and BOOM! It happened again, like a huge kick. “What was that?” I asked.

“That was Taylor,” Patricia said with a smile on her face. “Does she do that often?”

“It’s never happened before,” she said. “But while you were listening, I was praying to God and asking Him to give you a sign from Taylor.”

I was speechless.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

How much time do you devote to growing in God’s word? Do you look for Him throughout the day and then thank Him if you feel He’s done something special just for you?

Pray for God to season you with understanding His word. Ask God to direct your day in a way that brings Him glory and shines His light in a beautiful way.

June 2, 2017/15-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

The bible teaches us in Joshua “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5 NIV)

God is our protector, the only one that makes impossible things possible here on earth. There are  situations where it is difficult to fathom God’s love for us In these times of loss, separation, or despair,
God’s love for us will not be shaken. “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6 NIV)

When we come to Christ through acceptance of the revelation that He is the one and only Son of God and all salvation is through Him, repentance should follow.  Repentance is not saying I’m sorry,
it is saying I’m done! I’m done with seeking acceptance of the world and now I am focused on the cross. It is then that God can meet all our needs and make the impossible, possible. Remember
Psalm 37:3-4 “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight  in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV)

 

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

“I just want to meet the person who gets her heart,” Tara said. “Even if I never get to meet any of the other recipients, I need to hear her heartbeat again.”

Tara wobbled as we made the last few steps up to the door. She had to be nervous; I was. I rang the bell and then stepped back to let Tara enter first. Joe answered the door and welcomed us in. Then Tara saw Patricia. Without saying a word, these two brave women reached out and wrapped their arms around each other. It was more than a hug; it was as if they clung to each other.

My eyes filled with tears. I knew how important this moment was for Tara, and it touched me deeply to see such a positive first impression.

Patricia slowly moved the stethoscope around on her chest. “Tell me if you can hear it,” she said. Tara hesitated for a second, then looked at Patricia and closed her eyes. She nodded softly. Tara was lost in her own world, listening to the rhythmic thumping. She was very composed—peaceful and pained—all at the same time.

I felt such overwhelming relief and gratitude to God for that moment. This is the thing Tara wanted more than any other, and I’d felt such pressure to get it for her. I’d never thought it would happen. Though I felt like we’d received so many blessings from God since Taylor’s death, this was by far the biggest.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

What in your life seems impossible today?

Pray today, through Christ, that God will make the impossible possible in your life and show you the things of this world that you need to leave behind.

June 1, 2017/14-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Faith is a gift from God.  It is action oriented, where salvation can only come through belief and acceptance of God’s son Jesus Christ.  We as Christians draw strength from Him and are called to walk according to His will.

In  our darkest hours, faith is given to us by God as we glorify Him through our trials and tribulations.  Faith is invisible, but seen in our actions.  As we walk according to God’s will, He builds our faith like a mountain.

The more we obey, the more He gives.  It is difficult to wrap our human minds around God’s plan.  This is only for Him to know as we cannot see what He sees, that is why He gives us faith.  In our darkest hours, His treasure is found and He is glorified through the faith we present to the world by our obedience.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

“In the hospital in Grand Junction, Todd had promised to be my rock. And he had been. I marveled at his strength.

There was only one way to explain it—it was the work of the Holy Spirit.”  I often imagined the Holy Spirit swirling around Todd and protecting him.

How else did he have the capacity to handle the things he handled? How else could he juggle simple but overwhelming tasks, like answering the hundreds of emails that poured in?

Or more complex things, like taking care of a wife who was totally incapacitated and always on the verge of losing it?

Without help from God, how else could he deal with setbacks when his own loss was so fresh?  I thought about Pam Cope saying we were handpicked for this.

Who were we to be chosen? But aren’t we all chosen for something? We had a choice. We could follow God’s leading, or we could strike out on our own.

We could curl up in grief and shut everyone out, or we could stay the course, even when it got hard—even when there seemed to be no end to the pain.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1 NIV). Faith was belief without proof. Though I didn’t have evidence, I believed that one day in the future, the pain would get easier.

I also believed there was a place where Taylor waited for me—and I had faith that in that place all pain would be gone.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

What source do you draw strength from in your dark hours?  Who do you FIRST turn to when times are difficult or seem impossible?

Pray for God to strengthen you and give you the faith you need to make it through your circumstances.

May 31, 2017/13-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

It’s difficult being a heaven bound spirit living in a broken human world. Doubt and fear are everywhere..the media, schools, the workplace, and sometimes even the church. Without our eyes focused on God daily, it is easy to be tossed by the sea and wind of this world

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you asks, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James1:5-6 NIV)

Personal quiet time is a powerful way to direct the focus of our day on God. God can generously give us His wisdom, especially when we are in the depths of grief, despair, anxiety or depression, God wants us to “…not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

When we are facing trials, God wants us to turn to Him first. He wants a deep relationship with us, his children. If you do not know exactly what to say to God, ask for his intervention because He knows all and understands what we need far better than we do.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Since I wasn’t going into an office every day, I tried to be as disciplined as possible at home. I got up at the same time every morning and went outside to sit on the back porch to read and pray.

I had decisions to make for the foundation, and so many things were coming up that I had to seek direction and guidance from Scripture on a daily basis.

I liked using the YouVersion app to read the Bible on my phone because I could quickly find related verses or search by topic.

One day I started reading James, and for the next several days, I found myself working through his words about suffering, such as, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2–3).

James also talked a lot about how action should come from our faith—something that resonated with me. Tara would often join me outside. We just needed to be near each other.

Over time, I noticed she was also reading. First, it was books on grief—most written by mothers who’d lost a child. Tara couldn’t focus for long periods of time and stories seemed to hold her attention the best. After a while, I noticed she had started to read devotionals. But lately, I noticed she’d also begun to pick up her Bible and read. I asked her about it one day.

“I think you reconnected with God faster than I did,” she said. “You immediately saw a purpose and his divine fingerprints on things. I’m still searching.” At least she was looking in the right places.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

What are your doubts and fears today? Have you taken these fears to God in complete belief that He is in control and will hear you?

God wants to guide us each day.  Will you ask him for direction? Remember Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (NIV)

May 30, 2017/12-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Miracles, do they still happen? Some days it’s a miracle to get our teens out of bed, but beyond that, are they still around? What constitutes a miracle today?

Before Jesus’ time, there were burning bushes, parted seas, a man surviving inside a fish for 3 days, cloud pillars, and on and on.

Then, Jesus came and healed thousands, fed thousands with only a few loaves of bread, brought people back from the dead, healed diseases, and ultimately provided salvation for all through his death and resurrection.

Today, miracles do happen. Miracles are born out of faith! Bible scholars say that most of the miracles that are similar to the Old Testament days happen now in oppressed countries where people are desperately seeking Christ. But there are miracles in your town each day. The drug addict who turns to God and goes on to witness to many, sharing their testimony and giving others hope in Christ. The mother or father who have suffered the loss of a child, and are now changing the lives of countless many through their walk of faith.

The hardened hearts of so many who God turns into shining lanterns of His light, these are true miracles happening every day. What miracles have you seen?
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

When the third call came, the transplant coordinator said, “We got an awesome heart; this one is really going to happen.” And so it did. As soon as Patricia woke up from the surgery, she said, “Who is she? I want to know who she is!” Somehow she sensed it was from a female donor, but the doctors couldn’t tell her more.

While she was in surgery, her husband, Joe, got a call from a friend in Colorado who told him about a local skiing accident and a girl who had died, leaving her heart to a thirty-nine-year-old woman in Arizona. By the time Patricia’s heart surgery was done, Joe already knew the donor, so although the doctors couldn’t tell Patricia who it was, Joe could.

He pulled out his laptop and showed Patricia pictures and videos of the thirteen-year-old donor.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Are you praying for a miracle today? Have you been watching for the small miracles that happen around us every day?

Pray for God to open your eyes and give you wisdom to experience His glorious miracles around you.

May 29, 2017/11-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Some days, all we can do is hide in God’s word. Hiding in His promises of hope when little is around, hiding under his cloud of grace when few give us grace, and remaining hopeful of an eternity where pain and sorrow are replaced with springs of living water “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelations 7:16-17 NIV)

Keep faith and hope for Jesus’ return. Be watchful for today, mindful to walk along God’s path as tomorrow all believers may be home for eternity with those who have gone before us “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the End.” (Revelations 22:12 NIV)

So what do we do today? Paul tells us in the book of Romans our answer is perseverence “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV). God loves us in ways we cannot understand. When we feel alone or abandoned, God is with us, our Emanuel.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

One morning when I woke up, I had the usual question of why. Why swirls and never stops at an answer. Just like the mornings before it, on this day I moved past the why only to land in more dark thoughts.

The cycle was starting again. I looked above our bedroom door. We’d hung a crucifix on the wall when we moved in years earlier.

Though God and I still weren’t talking, I focused on the cross and tried to concentrate on my thoughts to get out of the darkness swirling around me, but my mind remained confused.

I picked up a book near my bed and opened it—a devotional. I looked at the page, but the words just swam and ran together. I closed the book and looked back at the cross.

I felt so abandoned by God. I was lost and alone, and not even the God of the universe cared. Somehow, one clear thought made its way out of my fog.

This is all for Your glory. It was so distinct from everything else swirling in my mind that I said it out loud. “This is all for Your glory.”

For someone who wasn’t talking to God, it was at once jarring and peaceful at the same time. Then I said it again. “This is all for Your glory.” And again. “This is all for Your glory.”

Soon, I was repeating it over and over. Even as I said it out loud I thought, How can this ever be for Your glory? But somewhere in the saying of it I believed it, and I started to cry.

I didn’t have any answers, but for some reason, I had a tiny bit of faith. “This is all for Your glory!”

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

No matter what your situation is today, will you go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to carry you close to His heart?

In your moments of doubt, confusion, pain, or suffering, shout to the Lord “This is all for Your glory!” And then rest in faith that He is with you, your Emanuel.

May 28, 2017/10-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

The coldest and darkest part of the night is right before dawn. When dawn breaks, light shines forth and the temperatures begin to climb. God gives a new beginning each and every day, a fresh start.

But in the hours before the dawn, the darkest hours, tragedy, heartbreak, disappointment, and grief can pull us down into the abyss. At times it seems almost impossible to come out of it.

These are the times that we must reach out to God and let him infuse His light in our lives. It’s a choice for us to make.

We can stay in the pain and seclusion of our situation, or we can reach out and grab onto God’s promises “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
You may feel that you can’t “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NIV).

No matter your situation today, take refuge in God’s word “As for God, his way if perfect, the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:30 NIV) He will be there for you with love and mercy that only come from Him!
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

It was close to bedtime, and that meant sleep. I welcomed sleep, but I couldn’t stand the thought of waking up the next morning and reliving the pain all over again.

I stood in the shower and silently begged, Oh, God, please take this pain away. It feels like it will never stop. I miss Taylor so much, and I can’t stand the hurt anymore.

I would rather be there with You and her than down here, living with all of this pain.

It was my lowest moment ever. But through his texts, Father Alfonse helped me realize it was because I was focusing on myself—on my own pain.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

What do you need God to do for you today? Have you asked Him? Do you believe He can do it?

Pray today for God to be your shield and give you the desire to take refuge in Him. If you know someone in this situation, pray this prayer for them.

May 27, 2017/9-21

HOPE: A  COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

These days we seldom have to  wait patiently for an answer or request. Today, we expect everything at lightning speed and assume tomorrow’s response will probably arrive even faster!

So it’s easy to start expecting God to work this way; that we’ll pray in the morning and have an answer by lunch. We think God isn’t listening because it’s taking so long.

God wants us to wait with patient endurance for answers and then, watch “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2 NIV). Waiting on God is how we were designed so that we would be always aware of Him at every moment.

What are you waiting for? God’s timing coupled with our patience renews our strength, increases trust (faith), ensures obedience, and leads us to peace. Can you be patient with God?
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

“You’ve changed,” she said, her warm cheek pressed against mine. “In the past, you would have made a decision and followed up on it, but now it’s as if you’re waiting for something,” she said.

That night, we discussed all the what-ifs. I didn’t have many answers except to say I was trusting God to do it. If He called me, He would equip me.

“I agree. He will take care of us,” Tara said. “And you’ve always taken care of us. Honestly, though, it scares me a little bit.”

I didn’t say anything out loud, but I thought, It scares me too.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Are you willing to wait for God’s timing and sovereign answer, or do you expect Him to deliver answers and solutions right now?

Pray today for patient endurance. Ask God first, take a deep breath, and focus your mind on peacefully soaring with Him while waiting to hear His answer.

May 26, 2017/8-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root he lasts only a short time. When trouble or
persecution comes becuase of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:19-23 NIV)

God calls us to Him and we must answer the call so that He can be deeply rooted in our lives. When He first calls us, we may be rocky soil. Once we respond and faith builds, the rocks are removed and our soil becomes richer.  When we are persecuted for our beliefs and we remain steady in who we are with God, even richer soil develops. Finally, when we start diving into God’s word, listening to him even in the darkest times, stepping in faith through pain or confusion, beautiful fruit bearing plants come to life and thrive.

God is glorified every step of the way!
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

God had helped me stay open to what he was doing – no matter how ridiculous it sounded – and then, he revealed himself to me in way I couldn’t have imagined.

I was no longer concerned about failing. With God on my side how could I?

Now that I was actively seeking God’s plan in my life, I saw him every day.  Things other businesses worked years to achieve, or other nonprofits one day hoped to have, were being handed to us.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

So what kind of soil are you today? Are you rich soil, full of God’s Word deeply rooted and faithful to His will?

Pray today for God to enrich your soil, your walk with Him. Pray Philippians 4:13 (AMP) “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Hi Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].”

May 25, 2017/7-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me” (Proverbs 8:17 NIV).  God’s love for us extends beyond our comprehension, our pain, our anxiety. God wants to be our shephard, the one who leads us every day.

Our circumstances can drive us away from God being our main focus “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6 NIV)

God’s timing is perfect and He uses ordinary people every day to make extraordinary things happen, triumph from tragedy.

So today, cast your worries on Him, He will not fail you!  Allow God to guide your day letting Him work out the details so that your focus is His.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Father Alfonse encouraged me to read about Christ’s suffering on the cross so I could understand my own pain. That led me to read about other people who had suffered. I began to pray and read my Bible more, something I had never done regularly. I felt the need to get up early in the morning and spend time reading and praying before I officially started my day.

Often, I returned to the Scriptures late at night as I searched for purpose in my own life. Father Alfonse encouraged me, answered my questions, and comforted me as I tried to find meaning in my suffering. More than anything I wanted to follow God’s will.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Are God’s blessings in your life today good enough for you, or do you want more now and are not willing to let Him work through you in His time?

Pray today for God to calm your mind and heart so that His blessings can pour through you.

May 24, 2017/6-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH Thank

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

If you were really honest with yourself, would you say that you are strmong-willed, maybe even stubborn? If you have ever parented a strong and stubborn child, you know how frustrating and challenging it can be. When God looks at you, does he see His child in this way?

Obedience is not an easy way to live. Disobedience pre-dates us all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. When we are obedient we must give up power and control to someone else and follow their will rather than our own. Obedience involves trust, and surrender. Jesus Christ was the only person in our world that was completely obedient to God. “Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.” (Hebrews 5:8 MSG)

Trusting God and being obedient to His will move us into his glorious presence where we can feel safe surrendering our lives to Him. Is this where you are today? If not, what do you need in order to surrender to God?

More faith? More focus? Or maybe, just more of Him and less of you.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

What is it that You want me to do? What is Your plan for my life? How am I supposed to serve You in the midst of all this?

When Tara was awake, she spent a lot of time outdoors, and she would watch me work in the yard. One day, I sat down next to her and said, “I feel as if there is something more for me. I feel like I need to quit my job and be the executive director of the foundation.”

Tara and I weren’t talking much at this time, which, in hindsight, was a good thing. Instead of asking for her advice, I had been seeking God and praying harder than ever. While I knew my words came as a surprise, she listened as I explained my thoughts and prayers. More than anything I wanted to follow God’s will.

“So, I am waiting. I’m waiting to see what God is doing,” I said.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Do you truly trust God, even when the answer is not what you want?

Pray for God to guide you into a life of responsive obedience. Ask God for the faith necessary to truly submit to Him in every way.

May 23, 2017/5-21

HOPE: COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6 NIV)

Grief can manifest itself in our lives in many ways; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a marriage, a friendship, innocence lost, even the loss of a pet or something we cared deeply about.

Grief is a different process for each person. Have you ever judged someone because they were not grieving the way you thought they should? Have you ever been deep in grief, almost paralyzed, and felt guilty for a smile or a giggle, feeling shamed for one moment of joy? It’s okay to grieve differently than others. It’s okay to grieve for longer than someone thinks you should, or deeper than society says is “normal.”

God is our Father who grieves alongside us. God understands loss; after all, his only Son was hated, rejected, and ultimately killed. Only He can give you the strength to stay faithful through your grief, and only He can turn our grief into joy, bring triumph out of tragedy.  “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16: 22 NIV)

Today, rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you and He is powerful enough and understands you enough, to comfort you in this moment. In the opening scripture Peter tells us “for a little while you may have had to suffer grief”. “A little while” can be days, months, or years. Some grief will stay with us for a lifetime, but God will change the level and depth of the pain over time so that your life can still bear fruit and have joy.
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

A few visits later, Randy and I went outside for a walk to give the women some privacy. I told him how difficult it was to watch Tara crying all the time, unable to get out of bed.

“It’s okay that you don’t want to see her sadness,” Randy said. “And it’s okay when she’s sad and you’re not. It’s even fine to be mad at her because she’s sad; just don’t act on it. Don’t do anything that would drive a wedge into your relationship.”

Pam and Randy gave us permission to grieve separately and differently. Randy taught me how to accept Tara’s sadness and her need to sleep away the days.

Pam told Tara it was okay if I wanted to laugh, get lost in my work, or go outside and hang out with friends. We each needed what we needed. We didn’t have to like it, but we had to respect it.

Finally, someone had given us a plan for our grief—something we could follow. It was the best advice we’d ever been given. It saved our marriage.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

What are you grieving for today?

Pray for God to strengthen you and comfort you in your grief. Ask Him to show you your purpose in your situation and be patient for the answer. Pray for God to lift your grief enough to have the strength to act on His divine will.

May 22, 2017/4-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

I “I know you well enough to know you’re going to want to do it all yourself. And you’re going to tell people ‘we’re fine’ and ‘we don’t need anything,’ but if you deny people the opportunity to help, you’re taking away their blessing. You’re taking away a gift they want to give you.

So, you’re going to have to figure out how to let other people help you,” he said. Charlie went on to remind me that though I might feel abandoned, my faith would be the strength that would help me
survive. “Be open to hearing, seeing, and feeling God through all of this,” he said. “It’s not about you, but it’s about a much, much bigger picture, and there is a reason behind this that
will help carry you through.”

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Who in your life would stand beside you no matter what?

Pray for God to continue to fortify your inner circle with Christian friends that will support you in your walk of faith.

May 21, 2017/3-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTIONAL – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

Today, what is God’s purpose for you?  Wouldn’t it be nice if you received an email, morning telling you God’s will for you today?  During the great Isrealite exodus from Egypt, God led Moses and the Israelites each day by a pillar of cloud …

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. ” (Exodus 13:21-22 NIV)

Today, we do not have pillar clouds to guide us, but we do have something far better, the Holy Spirit!  As we listen to the Spirit through bible study, prayers, other Christians, or that nudge you get that can only be Him, the light turns on.

God speaks to each of us in His Word, and through our walk we learn to see Him and hear Him.   “Coincidence” can be God speaking to us and saying, “Here I am.”  Once we hear him, we can then begin our journey of Christ-centered purpose.  Faith must be involved in this process as hearing and doing are different.  Sometimes when we hear God and it’s not convenient for us or we’re unsure of what we are hearing, becuase of our circumstance, so we don’t act in faith.   Remember, God loves us and everything through him serves His purpose and is for His glory!  If He brings you to it, he will bring you through it!
FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

Father Alfonse flipped through the blank pages. “Look at that, there’s a Scripture at the bottom of every page.”  “Yep,” Peyton said proudly. Let me pick one and read it,” Father Alfonse said. He randomly flipped to a page and read, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.”j

He finished reading and then slowly looked up, glancing first at Bernie, then Tara, and then me. As the words he read sank in, it was as if they struck a match.

The Scripture was illuminating the darkness inside of me, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I looked at Tara. From the expression on her face, I could see she felt the same way.

It could have been a mere coincidence that out of all the pages in the journal, he opened to this one, but we didn’t believe in coincidences. It was clear to us that God was trying to tell us something.

Could there be a purpose in this? Could Taylor’s death be used for good in some way?

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Do you look for purpose even in times of sorrow or pain?  Pray to the Lord, cry out for Him and He will give the answer “Here I am.”

Pray today for God to reveal His purpose for you and quietly listen for His answer.  If you hear an answer that seems unreasonable, pray for the faith to continue in your purpose and God will be your rear guard.

May 20, 2017/2-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

“If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God, I’d throw myself on the mercy of God. After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts; there’s no end to his surprises. He gives rain, for instance, across the wide earth, sends water to irrigate the fields. He raises up the down-and-out, gives firm footing to those sinking in grief.” (Job 5:8-11 MSG)

Life can change in the blink of an eye. Our lives can go from contentment and happiness one day to complete pain and despair the next. Yet though tragedy and heartbreak can be our walk today, God is with us and will sustain us through any situation. As followers of Christ, we must keep in step with the Spirit “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25 NIV).  Does this mean nothing will befall us during our time this side of heaven? No!

But it does mean that as we traverse this life on earth, we are helped, comforted, and strengthened by the Spirit through our situations.

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

There is nothing more horrifying than the sound of a mother crying for her dying child — unless that mother is also your wife. It was if my insides had been shredded and spit out; my guts spilled across the floor. The pain of that single moment in time was unbearable, indescribable.

“I have one more question,” Dr. Pemblee asked. “Would you be willing to donate Taylor’s organs?” I looked at Todd to make sure we were in agreement. “Absolutely!” he said. “It’s what Taylor would want,” I agreed, and then I burst into fresh tears.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Pray today for God to turn your wailing into dancing. Pray for the strength and power each day to stay in step with the Spirit.

If you feel God is not with you, will you take a step towards Him?

May 19, 2017/1-21

HOPE: A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF FAITH

DEVOTION – TODAY’S DISCUSSION

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:  God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:15 NIV)  Can you imagine pure light where there is not one speck of darkness?

As humans we see and experience so much darkness throughout our lives.  It is difficult, and at times, almost impossible to see God’s glory, God’s perfect plan when we are suffering at the core of our being.

Yet in our darkest hours, God is with us, holding us with His arms so that we do not fall “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV)

Even though you may not see Him in the moment, He is there and he does promise us the pain will end “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.” (Isaiah 60:20).

Living in collaboration with God day by day, step by step, allows His pure light to shine in our lives. Is He waiting for you to take the first step?

FROM “TAYLOR’S GIFT” THE BOOK

“Taylor has a severe brain injury with a lot of swelling,” Dr. Pemblee* began. “We operated, trying to do everything we could, but—”

“Oh, God, have we lost our daughter?” Tara said, not wanting her to finish her sentence.  I was on the edge of my seat. My chest burned like an invisible vise was squeezing it, preventing me from breathing.

“In the twenty-two years I’ve done this surgery, I’ve never seen anyone survive it,” Dr. Pemblee said. “You need to prepare yourselves for that. That’s the reality.”

There was a long pause as I tried to make sense of her words. Taylor was alive? But, for how long?

Tara grabbed the edge of her seat as if to hold herself back, and then she suddenly started screaming. “Get out! Get out! I need you to leave—right now!”

“Tara, wait!” I said, grabbing her wrist. “She’s not going to die! She’s not!” Tara screamed. Dr. Pemblee looked down, busying herself with the notes in her lap. I wrapped my arms around Tara and pulled her toward me. She buried her face into my chest and sobbed.

TODAY’S REFLECTIONS

Do you believe that no matter what your circumstances are, God is truly with you and never leaves your side?

Our circumstance is not always ours to understand.  Can you stand in faith today and cast your worries only on Him through prayer?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

May 18, 2017/9-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

The Final Word

A legacy-minded man is more concerned with becoming something than he is about checking off a to-do list. He is focused on understanding and not just an intellectual exercise. A legacy-minded man lives in two places at the same time. He gets up each day and fights to win the battle in front of him, but he also gazes into the future and lives in a manner that will build a lasting legacy.

God created you to win. Always remember that you are not in this alone. God is on your side, and so is an army of legacy-minded men. Jesus is the foundation, God’s grace is the cement, and the Holy Spirit is the builder within those who rest in Christ’s peace. Now that is a team we want to be a part of. How about you?

Life is funny. I often laugh that God has chosen me to speak to men on many of the issues listed in this book. This can be especially humbling because everything I am encouraging you to do, I got wrong at some point in my life. I’m not expecting you to be perfect, and neither is God. This, of course, is no excuse to purposely and repetitively do wrong things. The reality is, in my best efforts I still come up short at times. As a matter of fact, I still have difficulty dealing with things I have done. I know I cannot live in the past, nor can I change it—I can only learn from it.

I want to encourage you that, when you are not perfect, God gives grace. Grace does two things: it covers our mistakes and it also empowers us to do better the next time around. You can’t do these things in your own strength—no one can—but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). I get better because I refuse to quit and I refuse to settle. I believe you are a fighter too, whom God created to do amazing things. In fact, one of my favorite scriptures captures it best: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

For ways to engage, encourage, equip, and resources visit legacymindedmen.org.

 May 17, 2017/8-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 7: Power

Back in 2011, our house flooded from Hurricane Irene. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit and we faced the threat of even more flooding. However, something almost worse than flooding happened—the power went out for seven solid days. How do you survive with no electricity for an entire week? Fortunately, we were blessed to have a generator. Unfortunately, when I tried to start the generator, it wouldn’t start.

After a round of troubleshooting, I asked a neighbor who is mechanically inclined to take a look at it. He came over, flipped the switch, pulled the cord, and it started right up. I was dumbfounded. I asked him what happened, and he told me, “You never engaged it. You had the fuse set to off.” Many times, when we want to plug into power, we fail to engage; we fail to connect in a way that turns the power on.

I had a generator capable of powering my entire house, but it was not functioning. Similarly, many men have faith in Jesus as their Savior, but his strength is not running their lives. Sin or unbelief is short-circuiting their connection to the power of the Holy Spirit in their day-to-day lives. They are not allowing him to direct and empower every aspect of their lives, which means there is no power. My problem was not in the generator, but in the connection.

There is a great difference between calling Jesus our Savior and calling him our Lord—yielding to his wishes and handing him the keys to your life. This is a tough thing for men to do, but if we could fully understand the power that this generates, then watch out.

Power is summed up easily in the person of the Holy Spirit. The key to our victory is to rely on him for everything!

Think About It:

  • God is still a God of power! What miracles have you seen?
  • God is love, so His power works towards people. What practical ways can you release His compassion towards people who are hurting?
  • What are ways you can depend on the Holy Spirit more in your daily life?

Legacy Lifter:

When your strength is gone or feels weak, that’s where Gods strength takes over.

May 16, 2017/7-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 6: Perseverance

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). If we are to get the prize, then we have to run like we mean business. Giving up on small obstacles will get us nowhere, but if we persevere, keep our eyes on the goal, and keep running, we can experience that elusive place where success and purpose become one.

Unfortunately, many times we give up just when we should persevere a little bit longer. Paul encourages us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). While some of God’s promises are unconditional, many of them give a clear condition that we have to meet. Our side of the deal in this verse is to “not give up.”

Hardship is a part of life. We can wish it were otherwise, but the reality is that we all will face trials in this life. This is why Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:3–4, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” To leave a legacy, we must endure hardship.

Paul uses the metaphor of the Christian as a soldier who is single-minded in his purpose and does not allow himself to get “entangled” with civilian matters. He is wholly focused on his mission and the battle at hand. Legacy-minded men need that same single-minded focus so that they are able to persevere during hardship.

Perseverance will see you through. Many times the first impulse is to quit and succumb, but perseverance gets you to the other side of that difficulty.

Think About It:

  • Do you still regret something you quit?
  • Are there things now you’re tempted to give up on?
  • Not giving up sounds great but what are practical steps to keep going?

Legacy Lifter:

Non-enduring tools fail under pressure, but God has formed you as a tool that he can use in difficult situations that will get the job done and bless others.

May 15, 2017/6-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 5: Priority

A man who was teaching on priorities had a large jar and several large rocks. He placed five or six large rocks in the jar until no more could fit. Then he asked his audience, “Is the jar full?” and almost everyone shouted “yes!” He smiled and then pulled out a bag of smaller rocks and dumped them in until no more could fit. Then he pulled out a bag of sand and poured that into the jar until it couldn’t hold anymore.

Lastly, he pulled out a jug of water and poured water into the jar until it overflowed. He then paused and asked the question, “What was the point of this example?” The answers began to fly: “You can always add a little more,” “You should never be satisfied with the amount of things you are doing,” and “If you try harder, you can always do more.”

The crowd was pleased with itself until the speaker smiled one more time and said, “You are all wrong—very wrong.” He said, “The moral of this example is this. If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never fit them in. You see, we often lose in the areas that matter most because our time and energy are consumed on the little things and keep us from winning when it matters most.”

Many people cringed as they realized this was a picture of their overscheduled, underprioritized lives. Their lives were packed with the small rocks, the sand, and the water—their jars were full, but they were not doing the things that mattered most. Interestingly, you can skip your priorities and still seem “successful” to the outside world.

Priorities are the foundations that your house of life will be built on. They become life-goals that help set your path and direction.

Think About It:

  • What are your top five priorities?
  • God loves replacing our priorities with his; are there a couple you’d like God to swap out?
  • What are practical ways you can make your marriage a priority? Kids?
  • How does your career fit into your list of priorities?

Legacy Lifter:

If you haven’t made a list of priorities yet, begin to pray and start writing out one. A great idea is to have a pastor or church leader review it. Where your priorities lie, time and finance will follow.

Legacy Lifter:

When you turn your life toward God’s purpose, your dreams, goals, and desires come alive. You begin to see how important you are in God’s eyes.

May 14, 2017/5-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 4: Purpose

Your path and destiny upon the earth are wrapped in two words—divine purpose! You are not an accident, an afterthought, or a mistake. You are part of God’s plan.

Three things you can do to help you understand your purpose and achieve it are:

  1. Define what you are passionate about. Generally, we are driven internally by a purpose given to us by God. What is that thing that wakes you up at night or the first thing you think about when you get up? Many times, our purpose is connected to what we are most passionate about.
  2. Define what you are good at. There is a difference between a hobby and a purpose. Many of us love to do things but may not be the best at them! When you sit down and really look at your talents and abilities, that’s where our life purpose is most often seen.
  3. What trusted feedback do you regularly receive from others? When we surround ourselves with the right kind of people, they often give us solid feedback on who we really are. I am not saying to listen to everyone, but who do you have in your life that has experience and wisdom. I (Joe) have experienced that when I spend time with the right people, they actually see my gifts in ways, that I did not see in myself. I would not be where I am today without this encouraging feedback in my life.

It is important to have a firm grasp on both our general and specific purpose as we go through life and its many storms. These can act like an internal GPS to keep us going through the ups and downs that we all face. You were crafted for purpose. Identify it and put it to work for God’s glory!

Think About It:

  • Divine purpose has tools. What gifts, talent and dreams do you have?
  • Divine purpose is very valuable. It needs to be protected at all times. Have you had any struggles with who people said you were or weren’t?
  • Have you ever experienced lost hope, lack of purpose, or loss of earthly direction?

Legacy Lifter:

When you turn your life toward God’s purpose, your dreams, goals, and desires come alive. You begin to see how important you are in God’s eyes.

May 13, 2017/4-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 3: Purity

When I was a kid, I told many lies because I wanted to be somebody—somebody I wasn’t. When I was small, I was scrawny and was often beat upon. I was taken advantage of. Anybody who has had those experiences knows they play in your head. They make you angry and they cause you a lot of angst in social situations. I handled the angst by lying.

People lie because they want something they don’t have or to avoid something that is painful. I wanted to be stronger than I was and I wanted to avoid the pain of being weak and inferior to those around me, so I lied. One of the reasons people lie is because it works—at least for the moment. Just like a house of cards, lies will stand up for a while and look good, but as soon as that first gust of wind hits, they topple. That was my pattern early on—build a house of lies and hope I wasn’t around when it crumbled.

Remember, our legacy is our pattern. If our lifestyle is a mess, then our legacy—what we leave for the people who follow us—will be too. We will wake up one day to see our kids repeating or “improving” on our sins, making them worse than ever. In effect, we teach our kids how to sin. As legacy-minded men however, we need to see our own purity as a priority so we can help our kids avoid sin by leaving them a legacy of pure living. This includes matters of integrity and sexual purity.

God desires us to raise us up to his level by giving us his standard for our life.

Think About It

  • Purity is God’s “moving in” system; he moves his furniture in and he moves your things out. What items is God changing on the inside of you?
  • You no doubt have experienced purity changes within you; how has your family, marriage, and kids reacted to it?
  • Sometimes we can wrestle with our desires vs. Gods desires within us. What struggles have you had?

Legacy Lifter:

God’s desire is to continue to make you, mold you, and disciple you to be more like Jesus. The more we yield to the Holy Spirit, the greater the changes.

May 12,2017/3-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 2: Persona

Persona is our default way of interacting with the world around us. But, oftentimes our default persona is most clearly revealed in times of crisis.

Who are you in those moments? Do you default to anger or confusion, drinking or drugs, pornography or illicit sex? The truth is that without an established character, a good attitude, and a strong inner circle, the survival instinct will kick in and you may find yourself doing stupid things to cope with the pain. If you have the right inner circle and a strong personality, you will default to good character and a positive attitude, dust yourself off, and modify your game plan.

Tragedy and crisis hit all men. Your persona will either rise up to keep you going or crumble under the pressure. The fact is that you will get hit, but the question is, what is your plan when you do? When you squeeze an orange, tomato juice does not come out—only orange juice. It’s much the same with all of us—when we are squeezed, the real us comes out.

When Christ walked into your life, his DNA began connecting to your DNA. His life is now growing ever stronger within you. This growth means that you and those around you should notice change in your life. Change that is moving to Christ and away from the old you.

Think About It:

  • How has your persona changed since you started a relationship with Christ?
  • Can you sense areas that may not have changed yet, but you can tell Jesus is hard at work on them? What are some of those areas?
  • If Christ lives within you, what are practical ways you can become more like him?
  • What are ways you can allow his graces (compassion, favor, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, and love) to shine through you?
  • What people have noticed about (or been affected by) your persona since you met Jesus?

Legacy Lifter:

The kingdom of darkness is not afraid of Jesus in you, its afraid of Jesus coming out of you!

May 11, 2017/2-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

Pillar 1: Prayer

Legacy-minded men don’t stay stuck in discouragement; they turn their problems into prayers and watch God turn their situation around. Yes, prayer is work. One reason men avoid it is because they perceive prayer as passive. But, when men deliberately engage in times of prayer, they find out that it’s hard work, and many of them give up.

Becoming a man of prayer will not happen by accident. It takes training. Just like an athlete working on a physical challenge, prayer is a spiritual challenge that takes much effort. Even though it is hard, it is well worth it. The recipe for spiritual victory always includes prayer.

As men, we face a constant flow of demands, problems, and crisis situations. We have a choice to make—we can tackle these problems in our own strength, or we can pray for God’s help. Just like a runner eating plates of pasta before the marathon, prayer is our fuel to keep going.

By establishing the pillar of prayer, you can bring God into every situation you pray about. On your own, you are limited. Prayer invites God’s constant presence and infinite power to bear on your problems. It is also a key part of building the other pillars of your legacy.

God created us for his pleasure; he desires a best friend relationship with you. Your time with him brings pieces, parts, ideas and opportunities to be successful in life.

Think About It:

  • What pleasure does God get from us praying?
  • What practical ways can we make in our hectic, 24/7 lives, to be with Him?
  • What rewards come from prayer?
  • Prayer is more than one person talking. What other piece(s) can be a part of prayer?
  • You make the time for things you have placed as a priority. Prayer is on your list, but what priority have you made it?
  • Why do we say “prayer changes things?”

Legacy Lifter:

If prayer is both parties talking, it would be a great idea to bring a pad and paper with you when you pray. God loves downloading through thoughts, images and scripture that will lift you, inspire you, and answer you.

May 10, 2017/1-9

TRANSFORMED: 7 PILLARS OF A LEGACY

The Foundation

We’ve all seen the aftermath of earthquakes and the damage that was caused by them. Some buildings crumble while others are left standing. The reason some stand is because their foundation was strong enough to bear the stress of the earthquake. All the buildings were put to the test, but only those with the strongest foundations stood.

In a similar way, all men face stress in their lives. Some men are able to go through it, still standing when it is all done, while others crumble and fall. Standing up to stress means staying faithful to your spouse, being disciplined to go to work each day, working hard, and maintaining a moral and spiritual focus. Crumbling means you take the easy way out, giving up on your marriage, getting drunk or high, or even immersing yourself in pornography to hide from the stress. At some point in our lives, we will all face trials and storms, but my question is, “Will what you are building stand, or will it be washed away by the pressures of life?” The bottom line is what do you believe? And more importantly why?

A Legacy Minded Man, a man of God, is ruled by the book, the bible, the very Word of God! If the Bible is not his game plan for life then he will fail. The gospel of Matthew speaks specifically about just that in chapter 7:24-27 but raises the question as to whether we have built our house on the sand or the rock.

Think About It:

Have you ever taken the time to think about what you believe? I mean what you really believe. What can you do today to get closer to God and find out what He has for you? Don’t delay. After all its good for the soul!

May 9, 2017/21-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

So Long

In this closing section, Paul says farewell to specific individuals in Rome, mentioning his desire to see them on his way to Spain. He concludes with a final benediction of praise, ascribing all glory to “the only wise God” (16:27).

As you will hear, our last song ends with a benediction of our own. Now that you have learned about the beauties of the gospel as articulated in the Book of Romans, of salvation through faith in Christ and the riches of eternal life, we charge you to proclaim it to others, thus fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord. May your devotion to Christ result in the sharing of His glorious gospel.

For more information about Psallos and the Romans Project, visit our website.

May 8, 2017/20-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

Lay Down Your Life

In light of all that Paul has written in the previous chapters, he now urges his readers to live their lives in love and obedience, which is their spiritual act of worship. This section encompasses the application portion of the letter: if it is true that God is this great and has done all these marvelous things for His people, then believers ought to respond in obedience, by offering their lives as living sacrifices to God. Do you perceive your own life as a living sacrifice to God?

May 7, 2017/19-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

O the Depth

How do you respond to almost 11 chapters of rich theology? With doxology!

After a long discourse on God and salvation, this doxology of praise overflows from within Paul. God’s nature and actions, specifically those pertaining to the redemption of mankind, are beyond comprehension. Even if we do not understand the mind and actions of God (and we never fully will), we can trust Him and recognize that “from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things…to Him be the glory forever and ever.”

May 6, 2017/18-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

No Shame

The previous day’s devotion showed, in a sense, the narrowness of God’s mercy: in His sovereign decree, he chooses to save a portion of humanity; in today’s passage, Paul emphasizes the wideness of God’s mercy: from all nations, races, and social classes is the Lord bringing people into this remnant, not just Jews but also Gentiles. If God’s people can be illustrated as a tree, then Israel has served as the root. Paul says that God is grafting Gentiles into this tree of salvation, as a wild olive shoot is joined together with a thriving tree. Jews and Gentiles have been brought together into one people of God.

So has the Word of God failed? No, it has not failed. God’s promises to Israel were true, and we can trust that His promises to us are true as well.

May 5, 2017/17-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

What Shall We Say, Pt. 3

Paul now anticipates two possible questions that people may have when confronted with the sovereignty of God in salvation. The first is whether or not there is injustice on God’s part if He chooses one person over another. Paul answers, “By no means!” Borrowing from God’s words to Moses in Ex. 33:19 (“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I’ll have compassion on whomever I choose” [v.15]) and using Pharaoh as an example, he states that “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” [v. 16].

The second question is this: if man cannot resist the will of God, why does God still find fault with man? This question is met with both a stern reminder by Paul that the creation should not ask the Creator “Why have you made me this way?” and a patient explanation that the Potter has the right to shape and mold the clay into whatever vessels He sees fit. We are simply called to trust the sovereign wisdom of our Maker and King.

May 4, 2017/16-21

ROMANS: A 21-DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

The Story of Israel and Her Sovereign

In order to show that “the word of God has not failed” (v. 6), Paul explains that there are two different categories of “Israel”: those who are merely descendants of Abraham (ethnic Israel) and those who, like Abraham, are children of the promise (true Israel). To put it another way, there is a physical Israel and there is a spiritual Israel, and understanding the difference between the two is key to understanding how God has faithfully fulfilled His Old Covenant promises.

Also of importance in this discussion is the basis of God’s choosing of one person over the other. Paul references God’s election of Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau to show that it is not based on factors such as works or lineage, but on “Him who calls” (v. 11).

May 3, 2017/15-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

Lamentation

After the magnificent climax at the end of chapter 8, in which Paul declares that nothing can separate believers from the love of God, he suddenly shifts his focus to the people of Israel. Paul expresses heartbrokenness over the spiritual state of Israel, his kinsmen (remember that Paul is himself a Jew), because they rejected and crucified the Messiah whom God promised would be their Savior. It might seem that God’s promises to Israel, then, have failed. And if God’s promises to Israel have failed, how can we believers trust that His promises to us (like those in chapter 8) will come true?

Paul devotes the next couple of chapters to explaining that God’s word has not failed.

May 2, 2017/14-21

ROMANS: A 21-DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

Catch-Up Day

Today is a catch-up day! If you are behind, take this opportunity to finish reading previous passages before we move on to chapter 9.

Also, spend some time reading through the two paragraphs below, which give a concise overview of chapters 9-16. Again, the bracketed numbers correspond to days in this three-week devotional.

[15] My heart breaks for Israel, my kinsmen, for they have rejected their Messiah. [16] “Does this, then, mean that if God is not saving Israel, though He promised them salvation, that He will not fulfill His promises to save the Church?” By no means. First you must understand that there is a difference between ethnic Israel (Abraham’s children of the flesh) and true Israel (Abraham’s children of the promise). God will save all of true Israel, that is, His elect. [17] “Is God unjust if he saves some and not all?” By no means. God, who is sovereign, may save whomever He chooses, [18] and He chooses to save people from all over the world – all who call upon His name, which includes a remnant of ethnic Israel. [19] This act of salvation is incomprehensibly amazing! Great is the Lord and worthy is He of all glory and praise!

[20] Therefore, in light of these truths about God and salvation, lay down your life as a living sacrifice to Him, obeying Him in all things by loving Him and loving others. [21] So long and farewell to you, the church at Rome. May our Lord bless you.

May 1, 2017/13-21

ROMANS : A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

A Sure Hope, Pt. 2

God’s saving love for His people cannot be thwarted by anything – either physical or spiritual. As Paul sweetly hummed in chapter 5 (“A Sure Hope, Pt. 1) and now brings to full voice in chapter 8, if you are in Christ, then there is nothing that can ever separate you from the love of God. “We have a sure hope!”

April 30, 2017/12-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

Glory to Come

“If we suffer with Christ,” yesterday’s song concluded, “will we also be glorified?” The answer is yes; in fact, Paul actually renders this statement as an affirmation in 8:17. Today’s passage explains why believers have hope in suffering, for while the world is certainly full of suffering and pain, God will one day completely redeem all of creation, including believers. In vv. 28-30, Paul reminds his audience that the Lord works all things for the good of those who love Him, tethering this comforting truth to growth in Christ-likeness and God’s progressive work of salvation (called the “Golden Chain of Salvation”): foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. You who are declared righteous by faith in Christ, know that it was the Lord who began your salvation from eternity past and that He will finish it. There is glory to come, so suffer well.

April 29, 2017/11-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL.

The Spirit of Life

Paul joyously exclaims that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus” (v. 1). What a wonderful truth for believers! If you have received his grace through faith, then you stand before God not only blameless and forgiven but also righteous, having received the righteousness of the Son of God. The apostle describes the Holy Spirit’s work in our sanctification as giving us power over sin, death, and slavery to the flesh.

April 28, 2017/10-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

What Shall We Say, Pt. 2

Even though believers in Christ, like Paul himself, have been delivered from sin, there is a remaining presence of sin that wages war within us, causing us sometimes to do the things that we do not want to do and preventing us from doing the things that we do want to do. This is not the fault of the Law but of sin. Dear believer, do you ever experience this? Do not be disheartened, for God will gradually deliver you from this struggle throughout your life (a process called sanctification) until you are one day glorified in both soul and body, when the Lord takes you home and when Jesus returns.

April 27, 2017/9-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

What Shall We Say, Pt. 1

Paul’s use of the phrase “What shall we say?” throughout this letter is called a rhetorical question. Without expecting a response, he poses this question to his readers in various contexts and then answers it himself, thus allowing him to anticipate and reply to their concerns. Here in chapter 6, the primary concern is whether or not believers should continue sinning so that God’s grace may increase. “By no means!” is Paul’s emphatic response. If you have died with Christ, then you have been raised with Him to newness of life. Relatedly, if you have been freed from slavery to sin, then you should no longer live under its reign and rule. Thanks be to God for his saving work in Jesus!

April 26, 2017/8-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

The Second Adam

All men are born into sin through their federal head, Adam, through whom death and sin came into the world. Those who are born again through Christ, who is the Second Adam, receive new life.

April 25, 2017/7-21

ROMANS:A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

A Sure Hope, Pt. 1

If you have been justified by faith in Christ, then you have peace with God and a sure hope of eternal salvation. For if God faithfully showed his love to you when you were His enemy, you can be certain that His love for you will continue now that you are reconciled to Him.

 

April 24, 2017/6-21
ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

The Story of Abraham

If righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ, then what about people in Old Testament times like Abraham? Did these folks receive righteousness differently since Jesus had not yet been born? Paul shows that even Abraham, who lived hundreds of years before Christ, was justified by faith in Christ, as He looked forward to the day when the Messiah would come and atone for his sins. It was not by works that he was justified, nor was it by circumcision (the sign of the Old Covenant) – it was only through faith.

April 23, 2017/5-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

He Came to Die

Yesterday’s devotion and accompanying song centered around the sinfulness of man and our inexcusable state of condemnation, closing with the question, “How can anyone be made right unless the Lord is on His side and in love He came to die?” Today’s content is the sweet resolution to that question: Christ came to die for His people, offering his life as a propitiation, or a wrath-appeasing sacrifice, for their sins.

Think of it this way, the justice of God requires that someone be punished for your sins. So, Christ died in the place of guilty sinners like yourself, thereby allowing a perfectly just God to freely forgive the sins of those who place faith in Christ. Have you placed faith in Christ and received His righteousness? There is no other hope of salvation.

April 22, 2017/4-21

ROMANS: A 21-DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

No Excuse

Foundational to the gospel is the fact that every human is a sinner and is in need of a Savior. Paul writes that all people know that God exists, even those who have never heard of Jesus or read a Bible, because creation itself testifies that there is a God. You experience the existence of God when you breathe the air or see a sunset.

This knowledge is not enough to save you, only to condemn you, for such knowledge ought to be followed up with perfect obedience. Even the Jews, who were entrusted with the law and promises of God, are without excuse. Indeed, as Paul stresses in chapter 3, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God (vv. 10-11).”

April 21, 2017/3-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

I am Not Ashamed of the Gospel

In these two important verses, which serve as Paul’s thesis – or central idea – for the rest of the letter, the apostle states that he is not ashamed of the gospel. This declaration was perhaps a response to critics in Paul’s day who were saying that the reason he had not proclaimed the gospel in Rome was because he was embarrassed to do so. “Sure, his gospel can hold water in smaller towns like Philippi,” the argument may have gone, “but not in a big city such as Rome.”

But Paul, as he makes clear, was not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God to save everyone who places faith in Jesus Christ, including both Jews and Gentiles (“Gentiles” are non-Jews, sometimes referred to as “Greeks” in this letter). This is the heart of the gospel, and Paul will spend the next 11 chapters unpacking these two verses.

As the musical interlude indicates, his starting point for teaching the gospel is the tension between the righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of man. Tomorrow’s devotion will focus on this topic.

April 20, 2017/2-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

Paul

Romans is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church at Rome. Paul likely composed this letter from Corinth in 57 A.D. while on his third missionary journey. Although Paul, given his Roman citizenship, probably had passed through the city of Rome before, he had never preached the gospel there nor visited this church (15:22). His letter to the Romans, then, is his first interaction with them.

Paul begins his letter by introducing himself. He expresses his eagerness to see them and underscores his mission to proclaim the gospel to all people.

As you read today’s passage, you may find it beneficial to also read the two paragraphs below, which are an overview of chapters 1-8. This will help you understand the big picture of what Paul is trying to communicate in this first major section. The bracketed numbers correspond to days throughout the devotional.

[2] I am Paul, [3] and I am not ashamed of the gospel, which is the good news of salvation through faith in Christ. [4] The gospel teaches that while every human being’s unrighteousness renders him inexcusably condemned before God, [5] the Lord instead punished His righteous Son, Jesus Christ, so that He may freely forgive those who place their faith in Christ. [6] Abraham, who is the father of all who believe, both Jews and Gentiles, exemplifies this working of justification by faith, [7] and if you, like Abraham, have been reckoned righteous by faith, then you have peace with God and a sure hope of eternal life.

[8] Sin entered the world through Adam; forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus – the Second Adam. [9] “Does God’s grace to us lead to greater sin?” By no means. It leads to greater conformity to Christ who has set you free from the bonds of sin. [10] “But if I am free from sin, then why do I continue sinning?” The power of the flesh still remains in part, but God who justified you will sanctify you in Christ until you are glorified. [11] Indeed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s children will be made to live more like their Father. [12] Even in the midst of suffering, you can look ahead to the glory to come, when Christ fully redeems His people. [13] Our hope is truly secure and nothing will separate us from the love of God.

April 19, 2017/1-21

ROMANS: A 21- DAY MUSICAL DEVOTIONAL

What is Romans?

Romans is one of the most important and well-loved books in the Bible. Part of its significance and meaningfulness to the Church lies in the fact that the themes of this letter are the themes of all of Scripture, focused and crystallized in a clear, concise line of reasoning.

To put it simply, Romans is about how a good God saves sinful people like us: how He is able to declare them legally righteous through faith (called “justification”), how He gradually makes them holier throughout their life (called “sanctification”), and how He will one day make them perfect when Christ returns (called “glorification”). It is also about how these redeemed sinners ought to live in response to His saving love. As is the case of all of Scripture, Romans is the very Word of God, breathed out by Him so that we may be properly taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness, competent and equipped for every good work.

For the next three weeks, you will be guided through this letter as you read all sixteen chapters and listen to the music from the Romans album by Psallos. The Romans album is a musical adaptation of the Book of Romans, a proclamation through music and poetry of what the apostle Paul (the author) penned through prose. Each day’s devotion features a lyric video that will allow you to listen to the music, read the words that are sung, and even sing along if you’d like. The hope of this devotional is to help you better understand, both intellectually and emotionally, the thrust of God’s word, to help you feel your thoughts and think your feelings so that spirit and truth worship will take place.

April 18, 2017/7-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Raises Our Bodies

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. —Romans 8:11

God is profoundly concerned with your body. If he weren’t, he would let it rot in the grave and tell you to say good riddance. But he never says that. No, God created you with a body and he created you for his glory.

Therefore he is going to raise and give life to your mortal body through his Spirit no matter how mangled, or deformed, or emaciated, or disease-ridden, and he is going to make it so strong, so healthy, so beautiful, that when I see it, I will say, “You are like the broad blue sky on a bright summer day. You are like the splendor of a million stars against the black night of space. Your radiance is like the sun; yes, in you I see the grandeur of the glory of Jesus Christ who made you, redeemed you, raised you, and glorified you with his glory for ever and ever.”

Where can a person find power to press on in a life of love when there are very few earthly rewards? Where does a husband or wife get the emotional strength to keep on giving when there is no reciprocation? Where does a man or woman who would like to be married get the strength to be content for seventy years of singleness? Where did Jesus get the strength to endure the cross and despise the shame (Hebrews 12:2)?

For the joy set before us at the resurrection we endure everything for Christ. Jesus did not promise that obedience to him would be rewarded by men in this life. Our joy flows from the unshakable hope of Romans 8:11, not from the shifting circumstances of our life. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies.”

If you really believe that God is for you and not against you, and that he will give life to your mortal body through his Spirit who dwells in you, and that whatever good you give up in this life will be repaid one-hundred-fold in the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12-14), and that you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father, then you have an inexhaustible reservoir of strength to keep doing the good God has called you to do whether anyone appreciates it now or not.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-spirit-will-give-life-to-your-mortal-bodies

April 17, 2017/6-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Helps Us Die

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. —1 Peter 4:14

Corrie ten Boom tells how she worried as a girl whether she would be able to stand against the Germans if she was threatened. She felt so weak when she thought about what might happen. Her father, I think it was, gave her a great illustration. He said, “When you are going to take a journey on the train, do I give you your ticket three weeks early or just as you get on the train?” She answered, “As I get on the train.” “So God will give you the special strength you need to be strong in the face of death just when you need it, not before.”

I believe 1 Peter 4:14 promises that in the hour of greatest trial God comes to his children to give them courage and faith which they did not know they were capable of. The Holy Spirit will help you die.

Good tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded by Nero. Paul’s last letter was probably 2 Timothy. His trial had already begun. Picture the old soldier, battle scarred for his Commander, in custody in Rome. He is called before the court. Everyone knows his days are numbered. He’s a marked man. So none of his friends stand by him. He makes his defense. The decision is made to hear him once again—then the end. He goes back to his quarters and writes these words to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:16–17), “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.”

I pray that you will remember these words: The Spirit will help you die. He will stand by you when there is no one else. He will sustain your faith. He will give you glimpses of glory. He will cause you to magnify Christ in your death. Courage which you never thought was possible will be yours. The Spirit of glory and of God will rest upon you and carry you home.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-holy-spirit-will-help-you-die

April 16, 2017/5-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Fills Us with Joy

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. —Ephesians 5:15-18

Why do people turn to alcohol? For a happy hour. We all want to be happy, but there is a problem: “The days are evil” (v. 16).

Where do you turn when the days are evil, when you are frightened or discouraged or depressed or anxious? Paul pleads with us: “Don’t turn to alcohol; turn to the Spirit. Anything of value that alcohol can bring you, God the Holy Spirit can bring more.”

There are people who can’t begin to whistle a happy tune or sing a song at work because they are so tense and anxious about life. But later in the evening at the tavern with a few drinks under their belt they can put their arms around each other and sing and laugh.

All of us long to be carefree, uninhibited, and happy. And the mounting tragedy of our own day, as in Paul’s, is that increasing numbers of people (even Christians) believe that the only way they can find this child-like freedom is by drugging themselves with alcohol. Such behavior dishonors God, and so Paul says: There is a better way to cope with the evil days—be filled with the Spirit, and you will know unmatched joy that sings and makes melody to the Lord.

So, what does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

The Spirit who fills us is the Spirit of joy that ever flows between God the Father and God the Son because of the delight they have in each other. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity and to love God the Father and God the Son with the very love with which they love each other.

The pathway that the Spirit cuts through the jungle of our anxieties into the clearing of joy is the pathway of faith. According to Paul, the way to be filled with the Spirit is by trusting that the God of hope really reigns—that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29)—and that he runs the world for you and for all who trust his word. In believing that, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/be-filled-with-the-spirit

April 15, 2017/4-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Makes Us Secure

In him…you…were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. —Ephesians 1:13-14

God’s great desire for his people is that we feel secure in his love and in his power. Everything else in life may be unstable—our health, our family, our job, our education, our society, our world. At any of these levels you may feel as if you are out on a ledge forty stories up in an unpredictable wind. You feel yourself losing balance and falling, and every brick you grab pulls out of its mortar.

Since God does all things for the praise of his glory, and since believing his Word magnifies that glory, God takes decisive steps to secure for himself the magnification of his glory forever: he seals the believer with the Holy Spirit, and guarantees that we will come to our inheritance praising his glory.

God is so passionately committed to having a people for his own possession who live forever for the praise of his glory that he is not about to let our eternal destiny depend on our native powers of willing or doing. He commissions his Holy Spirit to enter our lives and to make us secure forever.

God sends the Holy Spirit as a preserving seal to lock in our faith, as an authenticating seal to validate our sonship, and as a protecting seal to keep out destructive forces. The point is that God wants us to feel secure and safe in his love and power.

In Ephesians 1:14, God is saying, “My great desire for those who believe in me is that you feel secure in my love. I have chosen you before the foundation of the world. I have predestined you to be my children forever. I have redeemed you by the blood of my Son. And I have put my Spirit in you as a seal and a guarantee. Therefore, you will receive the inheritance and praise the glory of my grace forever and ever.

And I tell you this here in Ephesians 1 because I want you to feel secure in my love and my power. I don’t promise you an easy life. In fact, through many tribulations you must enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22). Let me say it again: I have chosen you. I have predestined you; I have redeemed you; I have sealed you by my Spirit. Your inheritance is sure, because I am passionately committed to magnify the glory of my grace in your salvation.”

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/sealed-by-the-spirit-to-the-day-of-redemption

April 14, 2017/3-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Conquers Fear

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. —Isaiah 44:3

Do you know why it is easier to be nice to people on Friday than it is on Monday? Isn’t it because hope is like a river that flows into us from a bright future, fills up the reservoir of our joy, and then overflows in kindness to others?

On Friday rest and recreation are just around the corner, so close we can taste them. By hope we taste the power of the weekend to come. The little reservoir of our joy begins to fill. And if the weekend looks bright enough, our reservoir of joy will fill to the brim and start to spill over.

This spillover of joy onto other people is called love. So you are always nicer to people when you feel happy about your future. Hope fills you with joy, and joy spills over in smiles and kind words and helpful deeds. It happens before vacations, before birthdays, before Christmas, and for most people on Friday.

When we are drenched with the Spirit, we are drenched with the assurance that Mondays are made in heaven just like Fridays. Whatever seems fearful tomorrow does not need to be fearful if you are filled with the Spirit. Relations at home may be tense, health may be deteriorating, the boss may be planning your dismissal, tomorrow may bring a very threatening confrontation—whatever is making you anxious about tomorrow, open your heart to the outpouring of God’s Spirit; look to his word of promise and he will fill you with hope and conquer your fear.

When the Holy Spirit is poured out, not only are fears removed but longings are satisfied. The soul’s thirst for God is quenched—or at least we taste enough satisfaction in him to know where to spend the rest of our life drinking.

Our future can look bleak for two reasons: one is the prospect that misery is coming; the other is the prospect that happiness is not coming. And isn’t virtually all the work of the human heart exhausted by these two things: fearing future misery and thirsting for future happiness? If so, then Isaiah’s promise is just what we need: when the Spirit is poured out into our heart, fear is taken away and thirst is satisfied. I urge you, therefore, if you long for the touch of the Spirit of God upon your life, give yourself day and night to the reading of the Word.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/a-precious-promise-the-outpouring-of-gods-spirit

April 13, 2017/2-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit Guides Us

Time after time the Scriptures help us make sense out of life’s puzzles: failing marriages, rebellious children, drug addiction, warring nations, the return of leaves in spring, the insatiable longings of our hearts, the fear of death, the coming into being of children, the universality of praise and blame, the prevalence of pride, and the admiration of self-denial.

The Bible confirms its divine origin again and again as it makes sense out of our experience in the real world and points the way to harmony. I hope, therefore, that one of the doctrines which we cherish enough to die for (and live for!) is that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of all Scripture.

O, that we had all day to talk about the wonderful implications of this doctrine! The eternal Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love and delight between the Father and the Son, is the author of Scripture.

  • Therefore, it is true (Psalm 119:142) and altogether reliable (Hebrews 6:18).
  • It is powerful, working its purpose in our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and not returning empty to the One who sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11).
  • It is pure, like silver refined in a furnace seven times (Psalm 12:6).
  • It is sanctifying (John 17:17).
  • It gives life (Psalm 119:37, 50, 93, 107; John 6:63; Matthew 4:4).
  • It makes wise (Psalm 19:7; 119:99–100).
  • It gives joy (Psalm 19:8; 119:16, 92, 111, 143, 174) and promises great reward (Psalm 19:11).
  • It gives strength to the weak (Psalm 119:28) and comfort to the distraught (Psalm 119:76) and guidance to the perplexed (Psalm 119:105) and salvation to the lost (Psalm 119:155; 2 Timothy 3:15).

The wisdom of God in Scripture is inexhaustible. If this doctrine is true, then the implications are so profound and far-reaching that every part of our lives should be affected.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-holy-spirit-author-of-scripture

April 12, 2017/1-7

LIVE BY THE SPIRIT

The Spirit is God’s Delight

The Holy Spirit is God. The person who indwells us, leads us, and purifies us is no one less than God, the Holy Spirit. The simple evidence for this is the frequent designation “Spirit of God.” The Spirit is “of God” not because God created him, but because he shares God’s nature and comes forth eternally from God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10–12).

If the Son of God is equally eternal with the Father, as John 1:1–3 makes clear that he is, then so is the Holy Spirit equally eternal with them both, because, according to Romans 8:9–11, the Spirit of Christ is one and the same with the Spirit of God. If this were not so, we would have to imagine that there was a time when the Son had no Spirit and the Father had no Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is essential to the relationship between the Father and the Son. He is, to use Handley C.G. Moule’s words, “the Result, the Bond, the Vehicle, of their everlasting mutual delight and love” (Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 28).

As far back into eternity as God the Father has loved the Son, there has been an infinite Holy Spirit of love and delight between them, who is himself a divine Person. Therefore, as Jesus prays for the church in John 17:26, he asks his Father for nothing less than the Holy Spirit when he says, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

The most glorious of all truths that we will discover in these 7 devotionals is that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, he comes not merely as the Spirit of the Son, nor merely as the Spirit of the Father, but as the Spirit of infinite love between the Father and the Son, so that we may love the Father with the very love of the Son, and love the Son with the very love of the Father.

Learn more: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-holy-spirit-he-is-god

April 11, 2017/21-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

The Narrow Road

Spiritual growth takes place when we turn from our sins and turn toward the new life God has for us. When we have had enough of going our own way and doing our own thing and have finally asked God to redeem our lives, we begin our journey of faith. But the path Christ calls us to follow is narrow and difficult. Jesus said, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13 – 14).

Peter further pointed out, “You have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do . . . They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Peter 4:3 – 4). People on the “road that leads to destruction” won’t restrict themselves to the moral boundaries God calls us to maintain. However, when we realize the possibilities of the wonderful life here and in eternity that God has called us to, we will eagerly ask him to transform our lives and make us living testimonies to his grace.

April 10, 2017/20-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

From the Past to the Future

Spiritual transformation moves us out of our sinful past and into a better future. As we cooperate with God’s process of redeeming our past, we must honestly evaluate our lives and repent of our sin so that our course will be transformed according to his design.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The path to freedom always leads through the truth, including the truth about our past. Paul examined his past, honestly reviewing his earthly accomplishments, his wrongs, his mistakes, his gains and his losses. It was from this broad perspective that Paul wrote: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

Freedom from the past also involves facing up to the instances when others have harmed us and turning these situations over to God. The apostle Paul once wrote to young Timothy: “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done” (2 Timothy 4:14). Paul readily admitted the truth about someone who had hurt him, but he left the matter in God’s hands.

When we hand over our past to God and ask him to work it out for the best according to his will, we can let go of both the past and the resolution of its problems. Then God can transform us and move us toward a brighter future.

April 9, 2017/19-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Fulfilling Our Mission

A life set free from sin is a beautiful sight. When we turn from our sins and follow God’s plan for us, we testify to the glory of God and give others hope that he can change their lives as well. We may have learned from experience the suffering, affliction and brokenness that come from going our own way. We may also know what it is like to be enslaved to our passions. Yet we also recognize that there is more to life than bondage. There is healing and freedom; there is beauty and joy; there is love and mercy. And we have the wonderful privilege of proclaiming this news to those around us.

Jesus was commissioned with this same task — to bring the Good News to those who are broken. He began his ministry by quoting these verses from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1 – 2).

We were once on our way to destruction too, but God redirected us toward Jesus Christ. When we surrendered our lives to Jesus, we started on the path to heaven. Now we are called to bring this Good News to others, urging them to turn from their own way and follow the Lord.

April 8, 2017/18-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Tearing Down Old Idols

As we allow God to redeem our lives and work everything out for our good (see Romans 8:28), it is important for us to continue to reject the idols we may have once worshiped. Idols are those things that come between us and God. They can be anything — people, money, power, possessions or even our dreams and aspirations. Idols, in whatever form they manifest themselves in our lives, can do us nothing but harm.

King Asa lived at a time when the people of Israel had given themselves over to the worship of idols. They had turned away from God and the way of life they knew to be right. But a messenger of God came and told the king, “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2). When King Asa heard this message, he took courage and destroyed all the idols in the land. He also repaired the altar of the Lord. Asa even removed his mother from her position of power because she had been influential in Israel’s idolatry.

As we continue to grow in our spiritual lives, we will need to crush and burn the “idols” we have served. God calls us to redirect our course to follow him, even if that means we have to go against the crowd and separate ourselves from those who don’t contribute to our spiritual growth. As we seek to turn our lives around, God will empower and encourage us each step of the way.

April 7, 2017/17-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Faith to Build a New Life

Our past sometimes gets in the way of our vision for the future. If we let ourselves dwell on the areas in which we have failed or on the losses and disappointments that have hurt us, we may find it difficult to look forward to the future God has for us.

King David dreamed of building a magnificent temple. In commissioning his son Solomon to do the work, he said, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (1 Chronicles 28:20). Many years later the apostle Paul said, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people . . . built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19 – 21).

Just as David dreamed of building a magnificent temple, we can dare to dream of building a magnificent new life. God has the blueprint already drawn up; all we have to do is follow it by faith. We may be afraid that we will start and fail, but we only need to “be strong and courageous, and do the work.” We don’t need to be frightened by the size of the task, for “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

April 6, 2017/16-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

From Weakness to Strength

Regardless of our humble beginnings, God can lead us to a glorious future if we allow him to transform us according to his perfect plan. We will need both faith and courage to allow him to make the most of our weaknesses, to reconstruct our dearth into strength, to turn our misery into mission.

When we first meet Gideon, he is discouraged; he’s a young man with little self-respect. His clan was the weakest in his whole tribe, and he was the least in his family (see Judges 6:15). We first see him threshing wheat in a winepress, hiding the little food he has from his Midianite oppressors. An angel appeared and called to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). Gideon didn’t look or feel like a mighty hero, but God knew his potential. By the end of the story, Gideon had become the deliverer of his people (Judges 6 – 8). His first step toward success was to see himself as God saw him — as a “mighty warrior.” Then he was able to hope in the possibility of freedom.

No matter how weak or unworthy we may think we are, God is able to transform us into “mighty heroes” of faith. Just as Gideon was changed by trusting God to make him into a powerful man of God, we too will be changed by allowing God’s strength to empower us in our areas of weaknesses.

April 5, 2017/15-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Faith to Enter the Promised Land

Detours and delays, often the results of our fears and unfaithfulness, frequently hinder us in our journey toward spiritual growth. Yet God has promised to bring a joyous outcome to our difficult journey — to lead us from the dry, arid wildernesses of our lives into a fruitful promised land. So why do we allow our doubts and insecurities to slow our spiritual progress?

God led the nation of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, through the wilderness, to the edge of the promised land. But as they stood on the border, looking into the fruitful and prosperous land of Canaan, the Israelites lacked the faith and courage to go in and conquer the land. As a result, they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and only their descendants (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) were allowed to enter the promised land. Just before they entered the land, the Lord told them, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Like the Israelites, we have received promises of blessings from the Lord. The Lord revealed his desires for his people when he asserted, “I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to be courageous. We need to believe the promises God has given us. No matter how long we have been lost in the wilderness and no matter how hopeless the future may yet seem, God can transform our years of wandering into a purposeful journey and lead us into the land he has promised us.

April 4, 2017/14-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Being a Doorway, Not a Doormat

Service grows out of the soil of humility. Too often, however, humility has been misunderstood as a negative character trait. Biblical humility does not consist in thinking less of yourself, but rather in thinking more of God and of others. In other words, humility is not about putting ourselves down; humility involves glorifying God and affirming others.

Jesus Christ is the greatest example of humility. He left his place of honor in heaven in order to become God’s servant on earth. In the process, however, he didn’t tear himself down or deny his value. He lifted others up through his humility and showed them how valuable they were. Jonathan’s attitude toward David also provides a vivid example of humility (see 1 Samuel 23). Jonathan counted David better than himself without thinking less of himself in the process.

With these thoughts in mind, we can see that Biblical humility doesn’t call us to be a doormat. Humility calls us to be a doorway, through which others enter into the presence and the power of God. By focusing on building others up and helping them along the way, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.

April 3, 2017/13-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens

Supporting one another is a vital part of the spiritual discipline of service. We must walk alongside each other on the journey of discipleship, serving others by helping them stay on, or return to, the path of faithfulness. But we also need to serve them by making sure we continue in faithfulness. Self-neglect and irresponsibility impose an unfair burden on our sisters and brothers in Christ, for they are responsible to help us as well.

The body of Christ is not a place of self-sufficiency, but rather a place of interdependency. When we share each other’s troubles and problems, we are fulfilling the law of love. Our burdens should bring us together. As we allow others to help bear our burdens, we find our love and appreciation for them growing. Our weaknesses call forth others’ strengths. As we serve others, we sow the seeds of support that will bear fruit when we most need it.

April 2, 2017/12-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Caring About How We Do What We Do

Relationships form a key element in the discipline of service because actions — even charitable, selfless deeds — can never be a substitute for love. Paul attested that even if he sacrificed his body and yet didn’t love others, he would “gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Since relationships develop along the way in life, we need to be mindful of how we do what we do.

Jesus understood this. When Mary anointed his feet with expensive perfume, Judas protested the seemingly wasteful use of the perfume, arguing that it could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. But Jesus knew Mary’s heart. He praised her for preparing him for burial in this beautiful way (see John 12:1 – 8). Mary’s act was performed out of love for her Lord. Merely giving the money from the perfume to the poor would have been a meaningless act if she had no true concern for them.

Too often we pass right by people in our effort to get things done. Often we are more concerned with producing visible results than with caring for people. But even the most “spiritual” activities are pointless without love.

April 1, 2017/11-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Do What You Love to Show God’s Love

Too often many of us have viewed the spiritual gifts primarily as talents God has given us for our own benefit. When considered in this way, spiritual gifts become “options” or “luxuries” that can be neglected or used according to our own whims instead of expressed through the discipline of service. But the Bible teaches us that God gives us spiritual gifts for the benefit of others and to continue Christ’s work on earth. Paul asserted that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The gifts God has entrusted to us belong to the community of believers.

You can begin to discover your gift by prayerfully considering when you have felt the greatest energy and satisfaction in serving the Lord. Also consider these words from Psalms: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). The good desires we have can be clues to finding our spiritual gifts. Paul lists a variety of spiritual gifts in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

God has woven a unique design into each of our hearts. Our gifts form a part of this fabric. As we do what we love to show others God’s love, we find spiritual fulfillment and renewal.

March 31, 2017/10-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Your Altar Ego

  • Service is a way of saying thanks to God for all that he has done for us. We can never truly pay back the overwhelming love and support our friends and family may have shown us, but we can pass their love on to others. In the same way, we can never repay God for granting us life in Christ and for blessing us, but we can pass his love on to others in practical ways.

One of the greatest barriers to service, however, is pride. Sinful pride causes us to scoff at the thought of putting others first. Pride teaches us to calculate how every action will further our own reputation or advance us toward our goals. Pride carefully keeps records of who is next in line for something good.

Paul’s letter to the Romans leaves no room for pride. Those who understand their unworthiness and sinfulness, as well as the priceless sacrifice of Christ and the new life of faith he gives by grace, will place their ego on the altar. Sinful pride must die when faith comes alive.

Romans 12 illustrates several specific areas in which we can be living sacrifices and serve God in the world. As living sacrifices, we surrender the use of our gifts solely for our own advancement. We seek to bless others instead and sacrifice our time and resources for their benefit. In the process, our lives are shaped into the image of Christ.

March 30, 2017/9-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Full of the Spirit and Wisdom

When we consider acts of service, there are two kinds of people in the world: guests and hosts. The guests are those who expect to be taken care of; the hosts are those who do the caring. The discipline of service builds on the premise that we, as Christ’s followers, are God’s hosts in this world.

Division threatened the early church community because not everyone was being cared for adequately. The apostles’ response was to call forth a group of hosts who could serve the practical needs of the community. These hosts, later called “deacons” (see 1 Timothy 3:8 – 10), did not simply perform menial chores. They were also “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). Whether administering a food program or proclaiming God’s truth, these hosts showed God’s love in practical ways. Two of them, Stephen and Philip, presented powerful testimonies to the living Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 7 – 8.)

No matter what our task, we should seek to be “full of the Spirit and wisdom” as we go about our work. Then others will hear and see the love of Christ in practical ways.

March 29, 2017/8-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Leading Through Serving

When attempting to describe God, human beings have often conjured up an image of a hostile being who must be appeased, a disinterested deity who is uninvolved in our lives, or possibly a magical entity who can be manipulated through superstitious ritual. The Bible, however, reveals the most astonishing truth about God: Though he is the sovereign Creator and worthy of honor, God has come to us in the form of a servant, Jesus Christ. He became a suffering servant for his people (see Isaiah 53).

Immediately after Jesus’ teaching about going to the cross, the disciples began arguing about their place around Jesus’ throne. They wanted the places of honor and prestige. Jesus offered them places of humility and sacrifice.

In Mark 10 Jesus clearly teaches that the way of faith is also the way of service. Like the disciples, too many of us think that leadership equals power and prestige. Jesus teaches us, both by his life and words, that humility and servanthood characterize true leaders in his kingdom. In the eyes of God, greatness is measured not by where we stand but by where we kneel.

March 28, 2017/7-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Praying for Others

There is a blessing that comes from giving (see Acts 20:35). Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of prayer. God renews our spirits as we pray for others. Our love and compassion grow along with our faith when we come before God on behalf of others. As we pray, God often brings to mind specific ideas of ways we can support and help them as well. To paraphrase a great principle of prayer: We can do a great deal for people after we pray for them but little of lasting value until we pray for them.

We can pray specifically for others if we know their needs. But we can also request commonplace things for all people, regardless of whether we know them or not. A good example of a general request is found at the beginning of Paul’s letters, including this letter to the Philippians.

Paul’s letters often begin with a blessing of grace and peace. Grace is the reason for our salvation; peace is the result of it. God’s grace in Jesus Christ brings us new life and peace, both with ourselves and with others. Paul never tired of reminding people of the root and fruit of their faith in Christ.

Paul then gave thanks to God for the Philippian believers. The evidence of changed lives never ceased to stir gratitude and awe in Paul’s heart. He cherished God’s work in and through others. Paul affirmed their partnership in Christ and consistently emphasized mutuality rather than condescension in his relationships.

Paul also expressed his confidence that God would complete the work of spiritual transformation he had begun in the Philippians. This inspiring promise encourages us to press on in our journey of faith as well. Paul exhorted the Philippians to keep their eyes on the goal in spite of the fluctuations and discouragements in their walk with Christ.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians included a blessing for grace and peace and a recognition of thanksgiving and affirmation. These qualities are the essential elements of the great keys to the spiritual life — faith, hope and love. Paul then prayed for additional requests that would aid the spiritual growth of his friends. He prayed that their love would grow within the community. He also prayed for them to grow in knowledge and understanding of Christ. And Paul also prayed that they would behave in a manner that honored God in light of the coming judgment. This is not a fear or guilt tactic. Rather it was Paul’s reminder to live for the ultimate goal of heaven, not the short-term rewards of comfort or pleasure.

Paul had a lot to say to his friends, and he rooted those thoughts in loving prayer. What an ideal way to open people’s hearts to teaching and ministry.

March 27, 2017/6-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Warfare Prayer

Troubles and spiritual battles are a way of life for Jesus’ followers (see John 16:33). Far from excluding us from temptation, spiritual growth often stirs spiritual opposition. When we commit our lives to Christ, we enter the arena of spiritual warfare for our own souls.Paul uses the analogy of armor and warfare to teach us about the essential equipment needed for standing against temptation and spiritual attacks. His words remind us that we are not simply fighting a physical battle but rather a spiritual one. We must rely on God’s power rather than our own to fight these battles. This dependence on God is strengthened through prayer.

As we look at the armor we notice that we first must put on the belt of truth. Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He is constantly trying to deceive and trap us. In contrast, our armor is held together by truth, which comes from the Father of all truth.

Next, we put on the breastplate of God’s righteousness. Though there are many levels of meaning to this phrase, the primary one is that we are not protected by our own righteousness; we need the righteousness of God. Our forgiveness and acceptance through faith in Jesus Christ shields us against Satan’s accusations that we are guilty and unworthy.

We are called to put on the shoes of the gospel of peace. This peace carries us along to spread the Good News to people everywhere.

We are also given the shield of faith to protect us against Satan’s accusations and persecutions. We cling to our hope in Christ and refuse to believe Satan’s lies. Prayer leads us to this faith, keeping our vision clear when circumstances cloud our way.

Paul urges us to put on salvation as our helmet. In addition to protecting the wearer, a helmet identifies a soldier’s allegiance. We belong to the company of Christ. We have been saved from destruction and restored to new life. As our helmet of salvation protects us, we also acknowledge that we belong to the God who has made us whole again.

Finally, we are armed with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The sword is our only offensive weapon. The Holy Spirit communicates God’s message to others, exposing their sin and opening their hearts to God (see Hebrews 4:12 – 13)..

Warfare prayer is a matter of claiming our authority in Christ. Because we are secure in Christ, we are to stand our ground against Satan’s attacks, and we will overcome him (see 1 Corinthians 10:12 – 13; James 4:7).

March 26, 2017/5-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Letting Go and Taking Hold

A common misconception among believers is that if you are truly spiritually oriented, you will not struggle with following God’s will. Jesus’ own actions teach that this belief just isn’t so. Jesus’ final moments before his crucifixion were spent in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane in Aramaic means “oil press.” This garden area on the Mount of Olives was used to press the olives grown on the mountain into olive oil. And this garden was a fitting image for the pressure Jesus underwent as he faced the call to the cross.

In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times. Each prayer was a step toward releasing the things that could hold him back from taking hold of God’s will. The first prayer, an outburst of grief, was the step of realization, of feeling the full impact of his mission. Jesus shuddered in the chill of death’s dark shadow. Prayer was his only refuge. He longed for his companions to comfort and support him, but they slept.

The second prayer was one of release. Jesus was faced with two choices: If he saved his own life, he would lose us because he would not have achieved salvation for us. But if he lost his life, he would save us. Jesus desired to do the will of his Father, so he accepted his calling to die for us. The Father’s will became Jesus’ will.

The third prayer strengthened his resolve. Like the tempering of steel when refined metal is heated a second time to increase its strength or like a soldier getting ready for battle or a patient preparing for a difficult surgery, so Jesus gathered strength from his Father for his upcoming task. Jesus left all his anxiety with him.

What we keep from God also keeps us from God. What we give to God becomes a channel for giving ourselves to God. Prayer enables us to travel the journey from realization to release and from release to resolve. We see this same process at work in the apostle Paul. He also prayed three times for relief from his thorn in the flesh. Each time God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This word enabled Paul to accept his situation and allow the power of Christ in his life to be made clear to all.

The Lord’s Prayer

The few words of the Lord’s Prayer span the spectrum of God’s purpose and concern for humanity. They sweep from the majesty of God in heaven to the earthly details of daily need. Upholding the highest ideals while recognizing the realistic obstacles of human temptation and failure, the Lord’s Prayer searches us, instructs us, inspires us and empowers us.

Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer not only as a specific text to be recited but also as a model for our own prayers. God is not manipulated by rote exercises or mechanical prayers, but the Lord’s Prayer does give us a basic pattern that will deepen and enrich all of our prayers:

“Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Prayer begins with the assurance of our adoption and acceptance as God’s children. The Creator loves us and desires to answer the requests of his children.

“Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). The third commandment speaks against misusing God’s name (see Exodus 20:7). This refers to more than just using his name as an expletive. It includes associating God’s name with anything that demeans, devalues or dishonors him. We sometimes do this not only with our lips but also with our lives.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This is our highest goal, that for which we should pray and strive. God’s agenda must set our agenda.

“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Jesus assures us that if God’s kingdom is our primary concern, he will provide for our needs from day to day (see Matthew 6:33).

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). The grace of God shown to us must show through us to others. If we hold grudges, our hands and hearts are not free to receive God’s mercy.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). God is the great guardian of our lives. He is more powerful that any temptation that can come against us. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear it (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

These few words of the Lord’s Prayer provide us with a comprehensive pattern for prayer that can help us thoughtfully bring our requests before God.

March 25, 2017/4-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

The Lord’s Prayer

The few words of the Lord’s Prayer span the spectrum of God’s purpose and concern for humanity. They sweep from the majesty of God in heaven to the earthly details of daily need. Upholding the highest ideals while recognizing the realistic obstacles of human temptation and failure, the Lord’s Prayer searches us, instructs us, inspires us and empowers us.

Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer not only as a specific text to be recited but also as a model for our own prayers. God is not manipulated by rote exercises or mechanical prayers, but the Lord’s Prayer does give us a basic pattern that will deepen and enrich all of our prayers:

“Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Prayer begins with the assurance of our adoption and acceptance as God’s children. The Creator loves us and desires to answer the requests of his children.

“Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). The third commandment speaks against misusing God’s name (see Exodus 20:7). This refers to more than just using his name as an expletive. It includes associating God’s name with anything that demeans, devalues or dishonors him. We sometimes do this not only with our lips but also with our lives.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This is our highest goal, that for which we should pray and strive. God’s agenda must set our agenda.

“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Jesus assures us that if God’s kingdom is our primary concern, he will provide for our needs from day to day (see Matthew 6:33).

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). The grace of God shown to us must show through us to others. If we hold grudges, our hands and hearts are not free to receive God’s mercy.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). God is the great guardian of our lives. He is more powerful that any temptation that can come against us. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to bear it (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

These few words of the Lord’s Prayer provide us with a comprehensive pattern for prayer that can help us thoughtfully bring our requests before God.

March 24, 2017/3-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Just Between You and God

Did you ever long for someone who would listen as you poured out your heart? For someone who would listen without interrupting, without condemning, without discounting your story? God is such a listener, and prayer gives us this opportunity. In fact, honest prayer is one of the most important means to spiritual renewal and continuing spiritual vitality. One of Jesus’ themes in his Sermon on the Mount was the problem of spiritual pride and competition. He condemned benevolence merely for the sake of impressing others rather than as an expression of faith and love for God.

This attitude is of particular interest in prayer. Who’s our audience? If our focus in prayer is on others who may be listening, we will continually be editing, censoring and measuring our sentences and expressions. We will be more concerned about what others think about our words than about sharing our hearts with God.

Here is Jesus’ invitation: Come as you are! There’s no sense in trying to impress God. While we should always approach God with reverence, we don’t need to censor our feelings or “clean up our act” when we come to him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

This freedom to be honest is especially valuable for our private prayers. Even when we’re alone, we may be more concerned with getting the words right than with simply conversing with God. But God invites us to come just as we are. Many of the psalms express blunt honesty and emotional expressions before God. Some of these hymns make us truly uncomfortable in their candor, anger and vexation. Yet God receives them all. One of the greatest blessings in prayer is the freedom to be totally honest with God.

March 23, 2017/2-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Joining Together With Others in Prayer 

Prayer is sometimes a solitary activity — one individual conversing with God. But there are also times when we need to join with others in prayer. In this passage, even Moses, with all his spiritual depth and power, needed Aaron and Hur to help him as he called upon the Lord to deliver Israel. Aaron was Moses’ right-hand man, the high priest of the Israelites. Hur, however, is not as well known. He may have been the grandfather of Bezalel, one of the chief craftsmen of the tabernacle (see Exodus 31:2; 1 Chronicles 2:19 – 20). Regardless of his identity, it is clear that his assistance was vital to Moses’ intercession for Israel.
  • In this fascinating account, the outcome of the battle is directly linked to prayer. Upraised hands were a common posture for requesting God’s special help (see Psalm 63:4; 1 Timothy 2:8). When Moses’ hands and staff were lifted in prayer, the Israelites gained the advantage. When Moses grew tired and lowered his arms, Israel started losing. Neither the skill of the warriors nor the status and reputation of the supplicants affected Israel’s success. The power of God made the difference.
  • In all of life, the battle is the Lord’s (see 1 Samuel 17:47; Ephesians 6:10 – 18). Wie enter into this battle through prayer. These prayers become prayers of supplication and petition when we pray for our own needs and prayers of intercession when we pray for others.

The point of this passage, however, is not simply the importance of prayer but the significance of joining together with others in prayer. There are times for solitary prayer (see Matthew 6:6) but also times to pray with others. Jesus called us to join together in prayer in Matthew 18:19 – 20. Though the Lord is always with us, his presence is manifest in special ways when we pray with other believers. Prayer with others often fosters additional encouragement, assurance and insight into God’s character. It also provides us with testimonies of God’s faithfulness and keeps us accountable and faithful in our own spiritual walk. We especially need to join in prayer with others when:

*The spiritual conflict is intense. The Amalekites were fierce warriors who pressed Joshua and the Israelites to the limits. They threatened to crush the fledgling nation of Israel. Intense battles require extensive prayer support.

*God’s answers take time in coming. The battle with the Amalekites lasted the entire day. Sometimes the hardest thing about prayer is waiting for a response. The presence of others encourages us to persevere as we wait for God’s answer.

*We sense we have reached our limits. Moses’ spiritual and physical stamina were insufficient for the challenge. Our weakness provides one of the most important links to spiritual power: the community of faith. Our need draws us together.

March 22, 2017/1-21

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL DEVOTIONAL

Exploring God’s Mercy, Learning God’s Heart

Among the many spiritual disciplines, prayer can be one of the most frustrating as well as one of the most rewarding. We know we need to pray, but few of us pray consistently with the depth that prayer deserves. Often we don’t feel like praying, and our thoughts wander. Some of us aren’t even convinced that God wants to listen to us.

Genesis 18 presents an encounter between God and Abraham that gives us many insights into prayer. Some see God and Abraham’s exchange much like marketplace bargaining. But this passage deserves another look. It is more of a dialogue between loving friends who are tackling a mutual concern than a negotiation between opposing parties.

First, this passage shows us that the Lord comes to us (see Genesis 18:1 – 15). Even as the Lord came to Abraham, God has taken the initiative to meet us, to have fellowship with us. This process shows us that prayer centers not on our requests but on our relationship with God. Through Jesus Christ, God has come in the flesh and fulfilled his promises to us (see 2 Corinthians 1:19 – 22). We do not have to coax or cajole God to pay attention to us.

The encounter in Genesis 18 also shows us that the Lord regards us as “friends.” The Lord’s kind and thoughtful interactions with Abraham reveal that he values us and enjoys speaking and listening to us. In Isaiah 41:8 God called Abraham “my friend.” In John 15:15 Jesus said, “I have called you friends.” God reveals his heart to us through his Word, and our friendship with him is experienced and deepened through prayer.

This passage also reveals that the Lord wants to show us his ways. The Lord wanted Abraham and his descendants to sense God’s justice and compassion for humanity, so God carefully investigated the complaint against Sodom and listened to Abraham’s requests for mercy.

Note that Genesis 18 contains the themes of both redemption and judgment. God’s redemption is shown in the three men’s promise that Sarah would have a child. However, “when the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom” with the intention of executing judgment on the city (Genesis 18:16). In this way, a promise was given before judgment was rendered so that Abraham would see God’s mercy as well as his justice. Like Abraham, we must look for both facets of God’s character.

Do you see God as a loving friend or as someone with whom to negotiate? Do you trust him to fulfill his promises or expect him to reject your requests? What is your attitude toward disasters? Abraham viewed bad news as a call to intercessory prayer. Too often we wring our hands in worry when we should fold them in prayerful faith and compassionate intercession.

 March 21, 2017/8-8

BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Keep on Serving Jesus”In life, you aren’t guaranteed that you won’t have problems when you serve Jesus. In fact, Jesus says that following Him and serving Him may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do. Following and obeying Jesus may cost you time, friends, and even popularity. However, following Jesus is the right thing to do because He made you and He knows what is best for your life.

When you commit to follow Jesus, know that it will be difficult. But also know that when you follow Jesus, you will be doing exactly what God wants you to be doing. If you continue to follow Jesus, you will show His love to the world through your obedience, and because you didn’t give up, others will come to know Jesus and choose to follow Him too! Remember: Keep on serving Jesus, even when it’s hard.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about the builder who did not finish and see how God will help you when difficult times come:

Continue reading Luke 14:25-30 to learn more about the builder who did not finish.

March 20,2017/7-8

BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“You Are the Church”Think about all the different kinds of church buildings you have seen in your life. Some are boxy, some have a lot of shapes surrounding them, some are tall, some look fancy, some are in store fronts, some look like a house, and some are actually in a house! Even though church buildings come in all different shapes and sizes, it’s not the building that makes the Church. What makes the Church are the people that meet together and the relationships they share while serving others and worshiping God.

The Bible says that God’s Church is the hope of the world, which means He thinks it is pretty important. If God thinks the Church is important, don’t you think you should too?

This week, talk to your parents about making a commitment as a family to go and meet with the other people who make up the church so that you can serve with them and worship God. When you do, you will be pleasing God and making a difference in the lives of others. Remember: It’s not the building that makes the Church, it’s the people who worship there.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about Jesus building the Church and how you, as the Church, should serve and love others:

Continue reading Matthew 16:13-20 to learn more about Jesus building the Church.

March 19, 2017/6-8

BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“The Importance of Sharing with Others”Think about some things you have that you really like. Now think of someone else who might really like those things as well. Did you know that everything you have comes from God? He was generous in giving you your things, and because of that, you should be generous with others so that they can enjoy your things too.

What are three things you can share with someone else? Maybe it’s a book, a toy, or your favorite food. Once you have thought of these three things, think about who you can share these things with this week. For instance, you might share your book with an elderly friend who doesn’t get out of the house much.

Or you could share your toy with a child whose parent lost his or her job. Or you could share your food with a friend. Remember: God has given you many wonderful things and you should always be willing to share those things with others.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about Elisha and the rich woman from Shunem and see how you should always be willing to share:

Continue reading 2 Kings 4:8-17 to learn more about Elisha and the rich woman from Shunem.

March 18,2017/5-8

BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Keep God Your Priority”What are some things you can take with you places? You can take a picnic blanket to the park, you can take your suitcase to spend the night at your grandparents’ house, and you can take a book to the library. Now think about some things you can’t take with you to different places? You can’t take a car on an airplane, you can’t carry all of your toys to the store, and you can’t carry an elephant on your bike.

Speaking of things you can’t take with you places, did you know you can’t take any physical things with you to Heaven? It’s true! The things of this earth will only last during this lifetime and so you need to be careful to never let those things become more important to you than serving and loving God. In fact, if there is anything you think you can’t live without, that thing is in danger of becoming more important to you than God.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to enjoy the things that you have. However, they should never become more important to you than God. God should always be the most important. Remember: God should always be your highest priority.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about the parable of a man who built extra grain storage and see how you should make God your priority in life instead of money or things:

Continue reading Luke 12:13-31 to learn more about the parable of the man who built more grain storage.

March 17, 2017/4-8

BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Give Your Praise to God, Not Yourself”What are some things that you are good at? It feels good when you do those things, doesn’t it? Did you know that God has given you abilities that only you have and that He wants you to use those abilities to share His love with others? It’s true! However, there is a danger lurking right around the corner when you use those abilities, and that danger is Pride. Pride is when you think, because of the good things you can do, that you are better than you really are or that you are better than others. But whenever Pride comes around, you need to remember that all the abilities you have are given to you by God. If you do, you will remember that He deserves the praise for the good things you can do, not you!

This week, whenever you do something well, stop and take time to praise God for your ability to do it. Remember: If God hadn’t given you the abilities you have, you would never have been able to do the things you can do in the first place.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about the Tower of Babel and how you should praise God instead of yourself:

Continue reading Genesis 11:1-9 to learn more about the Tower of Babel.

March 16, 2017/3-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Never Give up Doing Good”

There are many difficult projects that you encounter each day. You may be asked to do the dishes, to mow the lawn, or to watch your little sister or brother. No matter what you are asked to do, it is important for you not to give up and to complete the good task that has been given to you. If you do, you will be showing perseverance, and through your perseverance other people will see God’s power in you.

Also, it’s important to note that you can help other people to persevere as well. You are often surrounded by people who have difficult tasks of their own. When you see them, you should encourage them to persevere and complete the job. Then, when they finish, congratulate them on a job well done and remind them that they showed God to others by persevering and completing the project. When you persevere, and you help others persevere, you are living the life that God wants you to live. Remember: When you persevere and don’t give up, others will see Jesus in you.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Nehemiah persevered and never gave up doing good when rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem:

Continue reading Nehemiah 1-7 to learn more about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.

March 15, 2017/2-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Obey God Above All Else”

There are many different people in authority over you. People like your mom, dad, pastors, teachers, and coaches. As long as these people are making the right choices, the Bible says that you should listen to them and obey them. But if someone asks you to do something that God would not want you to do, you shouldn’t do it. You should obey God and do what He says, no matter what.

Make an effort to obey God in everything you say and do this week, even when obeying Him is not the easiest thing to do. If you do, God will guide you and lead you where He wants you to go. Remember: Doing what God says and obeying Him is always the right thing to do.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Noah obeyed God above all else when building the Ark:

Continue reading Genesis 6-10 to learn more about Noah building the Ark.

March 14, 2017/1-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“The Importance of Following God’s Plan”

You follow directions every day. It could be the directions for a recipe, instructions for a board game, directions for putting together a toy or model, or even instructions for using the remote control. When you are following directions, you are following a plan.

What would the end result be if you had a plan to follow, but chose not to follow it? The thing you were making wouldn’t work right or taste right or look right. In fact, it would be a big mess.

Just like you should follow the plans for a board game or recipe, you also need to follow the plans that God has for your life. You can learn what those plans are by reading the Bible. But you can’t just read the Bible, you also need to do what it says… you need to follow the Bible’s instructions. Remember: God’s plan is a good plan, but if you don’t follow it, your life will end up a big mess.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Solomon followed God’s plans when building the Temple:

Continue reading 1 Chronicles 28:1-9 and 2 Chronicles 2-4 to learn more about Solomon building the Temple.

March 13, 2017/16-16
ESSENTIAL FORLLIVING

Have a Conversation with Your Creator

It took me a while, but I finally figured out that this marriage thing is about communication. I discovered that on the days that I had deep, soul-communication with my wife Kay — not “Hi. How are you? I love you. See you later” — that’s when our relationship would grow. And on those days when we have little or no communication, our relationship decays. A relationship is never standing still. It’s either growing or decaying.

The same is true with God. On the days when you have deep, significant talks with God, your relationship grows. On the days when you have little or no conversation with God, your relationship decays. It’s that simple.

When you really love somebody, you don’t just want to spend time with him. You want to talk with him. Remember when you first fell in love as a teenager and your parents got upset because you were always on the phone? You talked and talked and talked because you were getting to know that person. Communication is how you get to know others.

What do you talk about if you want to express love to God? Anything that you’d talk to your best friend about: your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your anxieties, the things you’re embarrassed about, the things you’re proud of, the things you’re ashamed of, your goals, your ambitions, your hurts, your cares — every part of your life.

The Bible says in Psalm 116:1-2, “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (NLT, second edition)

If you don’t feel close to God because your Christian life has become routine, dull, joyless, and lifeless, there’s a simple remedy: Start talking to God again.

Prayer is not some duty that you have to do. It’s a privilege that you get to do. You get to talk to the Creator of the universe! He’s waiting on you to have a conversation with him so that your relationship can grow.

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

March 12, 2017/15-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Can You Worship God More Than Just at Church?

You’ve probably noticed that music and love go together, because music comes from the heart. It’s not something you do intellectually. It’s something that comes out of your soul, your emotions.

There are many love songs in the world. In fact there are radio stations that are dedicated entirely to the love song format. But did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other topic in the world? Christianity is a singing faith. Why? Because it’s not about religion. It’s about a love affair. It’s about a relationship with God, who loves you so much that he sent his Son to die for you and who wants you to love him back.

Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing out your thanks to him; sing praises to our God” (TLB). Nothing will make you more aware of God’s love and presence in your life than singing and praise.

You may be thinking, “But you don’t understand. I can’t sing.” The Bible says to make a joyful noise. I know you can do that because probably when you go to a sports game or when somebody’s getting married, you make a joyful noise. So just let it out! You don’t have to hit the right note. You just have to make a joyful noise.

Can you worship God more than just at church? Yes, because worship is simply expressing your love to God. That means you can worship in the shower. You can worship in your backyard mowing the lawn. You can worship washing dishes. You can worship driving to work and making a deal or on the golf course. You can express your love to God anywhere and everywhere. And that means you can sing everywhere.

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

Can You Worship God More Than Just at Church?

You’ve probably noticed that music and love go together, because music comes from the heart. It’s not something you do intellectually. It’s something that comes out of your soul, your emotions.

There are many love songs in the world. In fact there are radio stations that are dedicated entirely to the love song format. But did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other topic in the world? Christianity is a singing faith. Why? Because it’s not about religion. It’s about a love affair. It’s about a relationship with God, who loves you so much that he sent his Son to die for you and who wants you to love him back.

Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing out your thanks to him; sing praises to our God” (TLB). Nothing will make you more aware of God’s love and presence in your life than singing and praise.

You may be thinking, “But you don’t understand. I can’t sing.” The Bible says to make a joyful noise. I know you can do that because probably when you go to a sports game or when somebody’s getting married, you make a joyful noise. So just let it out! You don’t have to hit the right note. You just have to make a joyful noise.

Can you worship God more than just at church? Yes, because worship is simply expressing your love to God. That means you can worship in the shower. You can worship in your backyard mowing the lawn. You can worship washing dishes. You can worship driving to work and making a deal or on the golf course. You can express your love to God anywhere and everywhere. And that means you can sing everywhere.

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

March 11, 2017/14-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Why Do You Think You Don’t Have Time?

This principle of “use it or lose it” is universal. If you don’t exercise, your muscles get smaller. If you don’t invest your money, you’re going to lose it. If you don’t learn to use your mind, it will get duller and duller as you get older. If you have a talent and you refuse to practice, you’ll lose that talent.

The opposite is also true. If you do use it, you get even more of it. So if you use your muscles, they get bigger. If you take a little bit of money and invest it, it gets bigger. It multiplies!

Hebrews 13:21 says, “May the God of peace … equip you with all you need for doing his will” (TLB).

What do you need more of in your life? How about more energy? How about time? How about money? How about talent?

Here’s the secret: Whatever you need more of, take the little you’ve got and start using it to serve other people unselfishly, and God will multiply it. You say, “I don’t have time to serve other people. I don’t have time to minister. I already don’t have time to get all the things done I need to. How could I add anything else?” Why do you think you don’t have time? Because God never meant for you to spend all your time on yourself! Why would God give you more time if you’re just going to spend it on you?

It’s like the principle of tithing, where the first 10 percent of all you make goes back to God. Why? Because when you give that 10 percent back to God, God takes the other 90 percent and makes it stretch further than it would have if you kept 100 percent yourself. That’s true with your time. That’s true with your talent. That’s true with anything in life.

If you don’t use it, you lose it. And the way you get more is by investing what little you’ve got. Watch and see how God will give you everything you need and more for doing his will when you use your time, money, and talent for him.

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

March 10, 2017/13-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Is It Fear That Is Holding You Back?

What keeps you from developing your full potential? Fear. What keeps you from becoming all God wants you to be? Fear. What keeps you from building a legacy that will last into eternity? Fear.

There are three kinds of fear that will keep you from developing your talents and accomplishing your purpose.

1. Self-doubt. It keeps people locked in a prison and unable to develop their potential. This is actually the fear of failure. But failure is not fatal! In fact, the fear of failure is far worse than failure itself. Failure is actually a good thing. Failure is how you learn what doesn’t work. And it’s how you grow into a better parent, partner, and professional.

Don’t let self-doubt keep you down. I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.

2. Self-consciousness. If you worry about what other people think, nothing will ever get done in your life. You just have to do what God tells you to do. That’s all you’re accountable for. You’re not called to be the best in the world. You’re called to be the best that God made you to be.

3. Self-pity. There were two disciples that had spectacular failures. Peter and Judas both denied Jesus in clutch time, but they responded to their failure in very different ways. Judas went out and had a pity party and hung himself. Peter, on the other hand, wept bitterly, grieved about it, repented, asked God to forgive him, picked himself up, and went back to serving God. And 40 days later, Peter spoke to the whole city of Jerusalem on Pentecost, and 3,000 people became believers and the Church was born. Of all the people God could have used to start the church, he used the guy with the biggest failure. That means there’s room for you in the family of God!

Instead of living in fear, believe what God says about you in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

March 9, 2017/12-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Is What You’re Doing the Best Use of Your Life?

If you want to make an impact with your life, you’ve got to do one thing: You’ve got to get control of your time. Your time is your life. If you don’t learn to manage your time, you won’t go very far in life.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise. Live wisely. I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish with your lives. But learn what the Lord wants you to do” (ICB).

We all have the same amount of time every week: 168 hours. It’s what you do with it that counts! You only have a certain number of days you’ve been allotted in this world, and if you blow them, you’ve blown it! If you waste time, you’re wasting your life. If you kill time, you’re committing suicide. Your time is your life. You have to stop and ask, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this the best use of my life?”

You don’t have time for everything. The good news is that God doesn’t expect you to do everything. So don’t feel guilty about it! There are only a few things worth doing in the first place.

Effective people figure out what’s essential in life and what’s trivial, and they spend more time doing the essential things and less time doing the trivial things. You can’t eliminate all the trivia in your life, but you can reduce it. This sounds easy, but frankly it’s often difficult to choose between what’s best for your life and what’s easiest for your life — especially when you’re tired. When you’re tired you don’t want to do the best thing. You want to do what’s easy. That’s why if you’re really going to make something of your life, you have to learn to get some rest. If you’re not rested, you won’t have the mental, emotional, and physical strength to say, “I’m going to do the right thing instead of the easiest thing.”

Don’t waste your life. Don’t settle for second best. Don’t go through life just existing. You were not created to just coast. God made you for a mission and a purpose. That starts by asking the question, “Is what I’m doing the best use of my life?”

Play today’s audio teaching from Pastor Rick >>

March 8, 2017/11-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

How Will Your Decision Affect Others?

One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is forgetting how much our actions influence the people around us. Every day you are tempted to make decisions that may be the best thing for you but could have a devastating effect on the people around you. If you want to make wise decisions, you need to ask, “Will my choice harm other people?”

That’s the opposite of our culture. Our culture teaches us to think only of ourselves. But God expects you to think more of others than you do yourself. In fact, the Bible says that one day you’re going to be judged by God on how your decisions affected other people.

Romans 14:12-13 says, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Try to live in such a way that you will never make your brother stumble by letting him see you doing something that he thinks is wrong” (TLB).

You may not like hearing this, but whether you like it or not, you are being watched — all the time. If you’re a parent, you should be especially aware that little eyes are always watching you. You’ve got to be careful about what you say and do because you’re influencing not just your life but the next generation as well.

Show respect for authority. If a police officer pulls you over for a ticket, even if you think he’s wrong, you treat him with respect.

Don’t call in sick when your family is actually going to the beach for the day.

Don’t bring supplies home that you stole from the office to use for personal benefit.

Don’t brag in front of your kids about all the ways you’re ripping off Uncle Sam in taxes.

Don’t watch the awful stuff that’s on TV and in the movies with your kids. Think about if you should be watching it at all.

Mature people limit their freedom for the benefit of others. Because you’re afraid of what other people think? Of course not. You do it out of love. In situations where there is no clear right or wrong, you have to ask yourself, “How will my decision affect other people?”

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March 7, 2017/10-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Decide What’s Best, Not Just What’s Good

Some things are not necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary. Most of the choices you make in life are not really a matter between good and bad. It’s more a matter of what’s best for you.

The Bible talks about this in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but not everything is constructive” (NIV).

A lot of things are morally neutral. To make a good decision, you need to go to a higher standard and ask, “Will what I’m about to do make me a better person?” That’s called the improvement test.

I remember many years ago when Kay was nursing our baby, who always got hungry about noon, and so she would sit down to feed the baby and turn on the TV. What’s on TV at midday? Soap operas. So she started watching a soap opera as she fed the baby. Evidently soap operas run into each other. One leads right into the next one. Pretty soon she was watching two. After a while, three. And those babies were getting fat!

After a while she said she realized she wasn’t doing this for the babies anymore. She was actually rearranging her schedule to make sure she could see those shows. She’d start thinking, “I’ll do ironing right now” or “I’ll clean up the kitchen,” and she’d make sure she had to be wherever the TV was.

All of a sudden she got connected to the lives of fictional people. She became intimately interested in the lives of people who didn’t even exist! Then one day it hit her like a ton of bricks: “I am wasting my life! This does not make me a better woman or mother or wife. It has no redeeming value. I could be caring about people who do exist.”

Are you more interested in fictional characters on TV than you are in Paul and Peter and the disciples and what God wants to do in your life? Do you invest your time in the shallow lives of people who fill celebrity magazines? Are you glued to ESPN from the moment you get home on Friday until Monday morning?

Are these things evil? No. Are they bad? No. But the question is not, “Is there anything wrong with it?” The question is, “Will it make me more like Jesus?”

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March 6, 2017/9-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

What Happens When You Do What You Know is Wrong?

The Bible says in Proverbs 10:9, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out” (NIV). You will be found out! So when making decisions, you have to have the integrity test.

The test of integrity is that your public life and your private life match — what’s in your heart and what’s in your life are the same thing. You ask yourself the question, “Would I want everyone to know about this decision that I’m making?” The truth is, when it comes to integrity, even if you can fool everyone else, you can’t fool yourself. And if you violate your own conscience, you have to pay for that.

Sometimes we know we’re about to do the wrong thing. We know we shouldn’t do it, but this thought comes to our mind: “I know I’m doing the wrong thing, but I’m going to go ahead and do it because I know God is a forgiving God.”

What kind of fool do you think God is? Do you think you can do something that he says is wrong and you won’t have consequences in your life? That’s the very reason he doesn’t want you to make that decision — because he loves you and not because he wants to keep you from having fun. He knows there are consequences to every decision. He knows every bad decision leaves scars in your life. And he wants better for you.

Does this mean that God does not forgive us for the wrong things we do? Of course he forgives us. He’s a forgiving and gracious God. But that forgiveness does not free us from the pain and the consequences that come from bad decisions. You can be forgiven and still have regrets. You can be forgiven and still face pain. You can be forgiven and still have a broken relationship. You can be forgiven and still lose rewards.

Romans 14:14 says, “If someone believes it is wrong, then he shouldn’t do it because for him it is wrong” (TLB). This verse simply says that when in doubt, don’t. It’s a violation of the integrity test. Whatever is not from faith in our lives is sin.

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March 5, 2017/8-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Good Decisions Always Agree with God’s Word

When you need to make a decision, the first and ideal test is this: “Is my decision in harmony with God’s Word?”

You have to decide what’s going to be your ultimate authority in life. It really boils down to two choices: God’s Word or the world. Are you going to base your decisions on what God says or what other people say?

If you base your life on popular opinion, you’re always going to be out of date, because it changes every day. What was “in” yesterday will not be “in” today and what’s “in” today will not be “in” tomorrow. If you base your life on popular culture, political correctness, or opinion polls, you do not have principles to live by. That’s called a shifting foundation!

On the other hand, if you base your life on God’s Word, the truth never changes. Truth is always true. So if God says something was wrong 10,000 years ago, it was also wrong 500 years ago, it’s wrong today, and it will be wrong 1,000 years from today. I don’t care what opinion polls or political correctness or the media says. If God says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It always has been, and it always will be. If God says it’s right, it will always be right. That is a solid foundation!

God has set up the universe with certain laws— physical, moral, and spiritual. God built the universe around these laws not because he’s capricious but because they’re all for your benefit. When you cooperate with the principles in this universe, you succeed. If you reject, rebel, disobey, and ignore God’s principles, you’re the one who gets hurt. You don’t ever break God’s laws. They break you! If I go up on top of a building and jump off, I don’t break the law of gravity. It breaks me. The same is true with moral laws and spiritual laws. You cannot just thumb your nose at God and get away with it. There’s inevitably a reckoning. Any time you violate God’s principles, you’re asking for trouble.

With all this in mind, you can be confident in your decision. If God says it’s OK, then you do it. If God says “no,” then you don’t do it.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

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March 4, 2017/7-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

To Make a Connection, Make a Commitment

Good relationships don’t happen by accident. They take cultivation, work, and a lot of time. That requires commitment!

I cannot count the number of times that my wife Kay and I have felt like walking out of our marriage, particularly in the early years. There were so many times we thought, “This is not worth it. We’re so different. This marriage could never work.”

But we didn’t walk out. Why? Because we’d made a commitment. We took a vow — “Till death do us part” — not just to each other but also to God. So we said, “We’re going to keep this commitment even if it kills us.” And it nearly did! There have been times in our marriage that the only thing that kept us together was that commitment — not love or interest but simply the commitment we made to God. I am so glad that we did not give up. Today, my wife is my best friend, and I cannot imagine my life without her.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (ESV).

Did you know that your socializing can keep you from having deep relationships? You can be so busy networking, contacting, socializing, and making acquaintances that you never give the time and energy and effort it takes to cultivate the deep, satisfying intimacy of a good friend or a good wife or a good husband.

It’s not wrong to have a lot of acquaintances, but they can keep you so busy that you don’t develop any vital, close relationships. You don’t need a lot of friends to make it in this world, but you do need a few good ones. You need to focus on quality, not quantity. Your acquaintances — your hundreds of Facebook “friends” and Instagram followers — aren’t necessarily going to be there when you need them. But the friends you are truly connected and committed to will.

Every important, close connection begins with a commitment. If you want to get beyond shallow, superficial relationships, you’ve got to be willing to stick with it.

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March 3, 2017/6-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Your Mouth Is a Power Tool. Use It Carefully

God wants us to use our words to build others up. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

Sometimes our words are like a sledgehammer. We swing away without thinking, and all of a sudden we look around, and all we’ve got is a pile of relational rubble. When you thoughtlessly sling your words around and tear people down, your relationships are going to suffer.

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is—our mouth and the words that God has given to us. We say things without thinking. And people remember them. Certain things people said to you in a careless way—even as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working—you still remember today. That’s how powerful words are. So when it comes to your mouth, you’ve got to think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

One time I went into my garage and grabbed a manual for a power saw. As I was reading through the directions, I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us: our mouths. The directions said:

1. Know your power tool. 2. Keep guards in place. 3. Be careful around children. 4. Store idle tools when not in use. 5. Don’t over reach. 6. Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

How can you use your mouth more carefully so you are using it to build relationships and not to tear people down?

1. Stop excusing. Stop saying, “I didn’t really man to say that” or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.” Realize that what you say impacts everybody around you.

2. Talk less. We often get in trouble because we just don’t know when to shut up. If it’s a power tool, you shouldn’t have to use it as much, right?

3. Listen more. If you listen more, you can better understand people’s needs.

4. Start building. Let your first thoughts be, “What does that person need? How can I use a word of encouragement to build him up? What can I say to make a difference in his life?”

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March 2, 2017/5-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Don’t Let Gossip Destroy Your Relationships

We tend to think of gossip as one of those “little” sins. But when God talks about gossip, he puts it on the list with things like sexual immorality and murder. Why? Because it is so destructive to relationships. Gossip can tear apart friendships, families, and churches.

Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution nor a part of the problem. If we’re honest with ourselves, what we’re doing is making ourselves feel a little more important at somebody else’s expense. We’re talking about their hurts and their problems to make us feel like we’re morally superior to them. That’s the danger and the hurt of gossip.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about a family that struggled with gossip. Moses had a sister name Miriam who one day got caught up in gossiping about Moses among the rest of the people. God called Moses and Miriam in and had a little talk. He spoke with Miriam and told her what she’d done wrong and right there on the spot gave her leprosy. You may be thinking, “That sounds terrible, but I’d like that to happen to the person who gossiped about me. Maybe not leprosy—but a really bad stomach flu, so that person knows how much this hurt.”

Do you know what God did next? He invited Moses to pray for Miriam’s healing—the person who gossiped against him.

Some of you have been deeply hurt by gossip and things that have been said around the office or a broken confidence between a friend or family member. Here’s what God has to say to you: “Pray for the person who gossiped against you so that you can be released from the hurt in your life.”

Or maybe you’ve been the one gossiping. This story is in the Old Testament to remind us how serious gossip is and how hurtful it can be to people, whatever side of it you’re on.

When you keep confidences, it enables you to connect to others in productive, healthy, and genuine ways.

Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (NIV).

Are you the kind of person that can keep people’s confidences so they can trust you?

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March 1, 2017/4-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

The World Does Not Revolve Around You

There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” The Bible talks about this as well: “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own” (Philippians 2:4 TEV).

That is such a counter-culture verse. Everything in our culture conditions us to think first of ourselves. We don’t think about other people naturally. That’s something we have to learn to do. We naturally think about our needs, our desires, our goals, and our ambitions. As a result we have millions of people disconnected because they’re only thinking of themselves and not anyone else’s needs.

During about a two-hour period when I was recently watching TV, I saw three commercials with the same by-line: “You deserve it.” “Buy this shampoo! You deserve it.” “Buy this expensive car, because you deserve it!” We are taught that we are the supreme value in life.

Let me teach you two very basic truths about life. First, the world does not revolve around you. You’re very special in God’s eyes, and you were created for a purpose—but the world does not revolve around you. If you want to know how much you’d be missed, stick your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out, and see what kind of hole you leave. It fills back up pretty quick!

The second truth is this: God has promised that when you focus on meeting the needs of other people, he will meet your needs. Why? Because he wants you to learn to be unselfish. He wants you to learn to be loving and generous like him. Part of being considerate of other people’s needs is making allowances for their faults and not expecting them to be perfect (Colossians 3:13). You’re not perfect, so why should you demand it of anybody else?

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love forgets mistakes” (TLB). When you are trying to make a connection with someone, you don’t have to be blind to that person’s faults. You just choose to overlook them. Great friends are good forgetters. They don’t rub it in; they rub it out! They are more concerned with the other person’s needs.

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February 28, 2017/3-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Three Things Fear Does to Relationships

If you want to connect with someone, you’ve got to be willing to take the first step. This often takes courage. Why? Because it’s fear that disconnects human beings. When we’re full of fear and anxiety, we don’t get close to each other. In fact, we back off. We’re afraid of being rejected, manipulated, vulnerable, hurt, used. All of these fears cause us to be disconnected in life.

This fear is as old as mankind. When Adam and Eve sinned and God came looking for Adam, Adam said, “I was afraid, and I hid.” People have been doing that ever since. We’re afraid, so we hide. We hide our true selves. We don’t let people know what we’re really like, because if we do and they don’t like us, we face rejection. And so we pretend.

Fear does three terrible things to relationships:

1. Fear makes us defensive. When people point out weaknesses, we retaliate and defend ourselves.

2. Fear keeps us distant. We don’t let people get close to us. We withdraw. We hide our emotions.

3. Fear makes us demanding. The more insecure we are, the more we try to control things. We try to have the last word in a relationship. We try to dominate.

So where do you get the courage to take the first step to connect with someone and go into a deeper level of intimacy?

You get it from God’s Spirit in your life. The Bible says, “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

How do you know when you’re filled with God’s Spirit? You’re more courageous in your relationships. You love people. You enjoy being with them. You’re not afraid of them, because God’s Spirit is in your life. The Bible says “God is love” and “Love casts out all fear.” The more of God you have in your life, the less fear you’re going to have in your life.

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March 16, 2017/3-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Never Give up Doing Good” There are many difficult projects that you encounter each day. You may be asked to do the dishes, to mow the lawn, or to watch your little sister or brother. No matter what you are asked to do, it is important for you not to give up and to complete the good task that has been given to you. If you do, you will be showing perseverance, and through your perseverance other people will see God’s power in you.

Also, it’s important to note that you can help other people to persevere as well. You are often surrounded by people who have difficult tasks of their own. When you see them, you should encourage them to persevere and complete the job. Then, when they finish, congratulate them on a job well done and remind them that they showed God to others by persevering and completing the project. When you persevere, and you help others persevere, you are living the life that God wants you to live. Remember: When you persevere and don’t give up, others will see Jesus in you.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Nehemiah persevered and never gave up doing good when rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem:

Continue reading Nehemiah 1-7 to learn more about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.

March 15, 2017/2-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“Obey God Above All Else”There are many different people in authority over you. People like your mom, dad, pastors, teachers, and coaches. As long as these people are making the right choices, the Bible says that you should listen to them and obey them. But if someone asks you to do something that God would not want you to do, you shouldn’t do it. You should obey God and do what He says, no matter what.

Make an effort to obey God in everything you say and do this week, even when obeying Him is not the easiest thing to do. If you do, God will guide you and lead you where He wants you to go. Remember: Doing what God says and obeying Him is always the right thing to do.Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Noah obeyed God above all else when building the Ark:Continue reading Genesis 6-10 to learn more about Noah building the Ark.

March 14, 2017/1-8
BUILDING A LIFE THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD

“The Importance of Following God’s Plan”You follow directions every day. It could be the directions for a recipe, instructions for a board game, directions for putting together a toy or model, or even instructions for using the remote control. When you are following directions, you are following a plan.

What would the end result be if you had a plan to follow, but chose not to follow it? The thing you were making wouldn’t work right or taste right or look right. In fact, it would be a big mess.

Just like you should follow the plans for a board game or recipe, you also need to follow the plans that God has for your life. You can learn what those plans are by reading the Bible. But you can’t just read the Bible, you also need to do what it says… you need to follow the Bible’s instructions. Remember: God’s plan is a good plan, but if you don’t follow it, your life will end up a big mess.

Watch this Bible Video to learn about how Solomon followed God’s plans when building the Temple:Continue reading 1 Chronicles 28:1-9 and 2 Chronicles 2-4 to learn more about Solomon building the Temple.

March 13, 2017/16-16
ESSENTIAL FORLLIVING

Have a Conversation with Your Creator It took me a while, but I finally figured out that this marriage thing is about communication. I discovered that on the days that I had deep, soul-communication with my wife Kay — not “Hi. How are you? I love you. See you later” — that’s when our relationship would grow. And on those days when we have little or no communication, our relationship decays. A relationship is never standing still. It’s either growing or decaying.

The same is true with God. On the days when you have deep, significant talks with God, your relationship grows. On the days when you have little or no conversation with God, your relationship decays. It’s that simple.

When you really love somebody, you don’t just want to spend time with him. You want to talk with him. Remember when you first fell in love as a teenager and your parents got upset because you were always on the phone? You talked and talked and talked because you were getting to know that person. Communication is how you get to know others.

What do you talk about if you want to express love to God? Anything that you’d talk to your best friend about: your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your anxieties, the things you’re embarrassed about, the things you’re proud of, the things you’re ashamed of, your goals, your ambitions, your hurts, your cares — every part of your life.

The Bible says in Psalm 116:1-2, “I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (NLT, second edition)

If you don’t feel close to God because your Christian life has become routine, dull, joyless, and lifeless, there’s a simple remedy: Start talking to God again.

Prayer is not some duty that you have to do. It’s a privilege that you get to do. You get to talk to the Creator of the universe! He’s waiting on you to have a conversation with him so that your relationship can grow.

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March 12, 2017/15-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Can You Worship God More Than Just at Church? You’ve probably noticed that music and love go together, because music comes from the heart. It’s not something you do intellectually. It’s something that comes out of your soul, your emotions.

There are many love songs in the world. In fact there are radio stations that are dedicated entirely to the love song format. But did you know that more songs have been written about Jesus Christ than any other topic in the world? Christianity is a singing faith. Why? Because it’s not about religion. It’s about a love affair. It’s about a relationship with God, who loves you so much that he sent his Son to die for you and who wants you to love him back.

Psalm 147:7 says, “Sing out your thanks to him; sing praises to our God” (TLB). Nothing will make you more aware of God’s love and presence in your life than singing and praise.

You may be thinking, “But you don’t understand. I can’t sing.” The Bible says to make a joyful noise. I know you can do that because probably when you go to a sports game or when somebody’s getting married, you make a joyful noise. So just let it out! You don’t have to hit the right note. You just have to make a joyful noise.

Can you worship God more than just at church? Yes, because worship is simply expressing your love to God. That means you can worship in the shower. You can worship in your backyard mowing the lawn. You can worship washing dishes. You can worship driving to work and making a deal or on the golf course. You can express your love to God anywhere and everywhere. And that means you can sing everywhere.

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March 11, 2017/14-16

ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Why Do You Think You Don’t Have Time? This principle of “use it or lose it” is universal. If you don’t exercise, your muscles get smaller. If you don’t invest your money, you’re going to lose it. If you don’t learn to use your mind, it will get duller and duller as you get older. If you have a talent and you refuse to practice, you’ll lose that talent.

The opposite is also true. If you do use it, you get even more of it. So if you use your muscles, they get bigger. If you take a little bit of money and invest it, it gets bigger. It multiplies!

Hebrews 13:21 says, “May the God of peace … equip you with all you need for doing his will” (TLB).

What do you need more of in your life? How about more energy? How about time? How about money? How about talent?

Here’s the secret: Whatever you need more of, take the little you’ve got and start using it to serve other people unselfishly, and God will multiply it. You say, “I don’t have time to serve other people. I don’t have time to minister. I already don’t have time to get all the things done I need to. How could I add anything else?” Why do you think you don’t have time? Because God never meant for you to spend all your time on yourself! Why would God give you more time if you’re just going to spend it on you?

It’s like the principle of tithing, where the first 10 percent of all you make goes back to God. Why? Because when you give that 10 percent back to God, God takes the other 90 percent and makes it stretch further than it would have if you kept 100 percent yourself. That’s true with your time. That’s true with your talent. That’s true with anything in life.

If you don’t use it, you lose it. And the way you get more is by investing what little you’ve got. Watch and see how God will give you everything you need and more for doing his will when you use your time, money, and talent for him.

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March 10, 2017/13-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Is It Fear That Is Holding You Back? What keeps you from developing your full potential? Fear. What keeps you from becoming all God wants you to be? Fear. What keeps you from building a legacy that will last into eternity? Fear.

There are three kinds of fear that will keep you from developing your talents and accomplishing your purpose.

1. Self-doubt. It keeps people locked in a prison and unable to develop their potential. This is actually the fear of failure. But failure is not fatal! In fact, the fear of failure is far worse than failure itself. Failure is actually a good thing. Failure is how you learn what doesn’t work. And it’s how you grow into a better parent, partner, and professional.

Don’t let self-doubt keep you down. I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.

2. Self-consciousness. If you worry about what other people think, nothing will ever get done in your life. You just have to do what God tells you to do. That’s all you’re accountable for. You’re not called to be the best in the world. You’re called to be the best that God made you to be.

3. Self-pity. There were two disciples that had spectacular failures. Peter and Judas both denied Jesus in clutch time, but they responded to their failure in very different ways. Judas went out and had a pity party and hung himself. Peter, on the other hand, wept bitterly, grieved about it, repented, asked God to forgive him, picked himself up, and went back to serving God. And 40 days later, Peter spoke to the whole city of Jerusalem on Pentecost, and 3,000 people became believers and the Church was born. Of all the people God could have used to start the church, he used the guy with the biggest failure. That means there’s room for you in the family of God!

Instead of living in fear, believe what God says about you in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).

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March 9, 2017/12-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Is What You’re Doing the Best Use of Your Life? If you want to make an impact with your life, you’ve got to do one thing: You’ve got to get control of your time. Your time is your life. If you don’t learn to manage your time, you won’t go very far in life.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise. Live wisely. I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish with your lives. But learn what the Lord wants you to do” (ICB).

We all have the same amount of time every week: 168 hours. It’s what you do with it that counts! You only have a certain number of days you’ve been allotted in this world, and if you blow them, you’ve blown it! If you waste time, you’re wasting your life. If you kill time, you’re committing suicide. Your time is your life. You have to stop and ask, “Is this the best use of my time? Is this the best use of my life?”

You don’t have time for everything. The good news is that God doesn’t expect you to do everything. So don’t feel guilty about it! There are only a few things worth doing in the first place.

Effective people figure out what’s essential in life and what’s trivial, and they spend more time doing the essential things and less time doing the trivial things. You can’t eliminate all the trivia in your life, but you can reduce it. This sounds easy, but frankly it’s often difficult to choose between what’s best for your life and what’s easiest for your life — especially when you’re tired. When you’re tired you don’t want to do the best thing. You want to do what’s easy. That’s why if you’re really going to make something of your life, you have to learn to get some rest. If you’re not rested, you won’t have the mental, emotional, and physical strength to say, “I’m going to do the right thing instead of the easiest thing.”

Don’t waste your life. Don’t settle for second best. Don’t go through life just existing. You were not created to just coast. God made you for a mission and a purpose. That starts by asking the question, “Is what I’m doing the best use of my life?”

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March 8, 2017/11-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

How Will Your Decision Affect Others? One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is forgetting how much our actions influence the people around us. Every day you are tempted to make decisions that may be the best thing for you but could have a devastating effect on the people around you. If you want to make wise decisions, you need to ask, “Will my choice harm other people?”

That’s the opposite of our culture. Our culture teaches us to think only of ourselves. But God expects you to think more of others than you do yourself. In fact, the Bible says that one day you’re going to be judged by God on how your decisions affected other people.

Romans 14:12-13 says, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Try to live in such a way that you will never make your brother stumble by letting him see you doing something that he thinks is wrong” (TLB).

You may not like hearing this, but whether you like it or not, you are being watched — all the time. If you’re a parent, you should be especially aware that little eyes are always watching you. You’ve got to be careful about what you say and do because you’re influencing not just your life but the next generation as well.

Show respect for authority. If a police officer pulls you over for a ticket, even if you think he’s wrong, you treat him with respect.

Don’t call in sick when your family is actually going to the beach for the day.

Don’t bring supplies home that you stole from the office to use for personal benefit.

Don’t brag in front of your kids about all the ways you’re ripping off Uncle Sam in taxes.

Don’t watch the awful stuff that’s on TV and in the movies with your kids. Think about if you should be watching it at all.

Mature people limit their freedom for the benefit of others. Because you’re afraid of what other people think? Of course not. You do it out of love. In situations where there is no clear right or wrong, you have to ask yourself, “How will my decision affect other people?”

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March 7, 2017/10-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Decide What’s Best, Not Just What’s Good Some things are not necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary. Most of the choices you make in life are not really a matter between good and bad. It’s more a matter of what’s best for you.

The Bible talks about this in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but not everything is constructive” (NIV).

A lot of things are morally neutral. To make a good decision, you need to go to a higher standard and ask, “Will what I’m about to do make me a better person?” That’s called the improvement test.

I remember many years ago when Kay was nursing our baby, who always got hungry about noon, and so she would sit down to feed the baby and turn on the TV. What’s on TV at midday? Soap operas. So she started watching a soap opera as she fed the baby. Evidently soap operas run into each other. One leads right into the next one. Pretty soon she was watching two. After a while, three. And those babies were getting fat!

After a while she said she realized she wasn’t doing this for the babies anymore. She was actually rearranging her schedule to make sure she could see those shows. She’d start thinking, “I’ll do ironing right now” or “I’ll clean up the kitchen,” and she’d make sure she had to be wherever the TV was.

All of a sudden she got connected to the lives of fictional people. She became intimately interested in the lives of people who didn’t even exist! Then one day it hit her like a ton of bricks: “I am wasting my life! This does not make me a better woman or mother or wife. It has no redeeming value. I could be caring about people who do exist.”

Are you more interested in fictional characters on TV than you are in Paul and Peter and the disciples and what God wants to do in your life? Do you invest your time in the shallow lives of people who fill celebrity magazines? Are you glued to ESPN from the moment you get home on Friday until Monday morning?

Are these things evil? No. Are they bad? No. But the question is not, “Is there anything wrong with it?” The question is, “Will it make me more like Jesus?”

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March 6, 2017/9-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

What Happens When You Do What You Know is Wrong? The Bible says in Proverbs 10:9, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out” (NIV). You will be found out! So when making decisions, you have to have the integrity test.

The test of integrity is that your public life and your private life match — what’s in your heart and what’s in your life are the same thing. You ask yourself the question, “Would I want everyone to know about this decision that I’m making?” The truth is, when it comes to integrity, even if you can fool everyone else, you can’t fool yourself. And if you violate your own conscience, you have to pay for that.

Sometimes we know we’re about to do the wrong thing. We know we shouldn’t do it, but this thought comes to our mind: “I know I’m doing the wrong thing, but I’m going to go ahead and do it because I know God is a forgiving God.”

What kind of fool do you think God is? Do you think you can do something that he says is wrong and you won’t have consequences in your life? That’s the very reason he doesn’t want you to make that decision — because he loves you and not because he wants to keep you from having fun. He knows there are consequences to every decision. He knows every bad decision leaves scars in your life. And he wants better for you.

Does this mean that God does not forgive us for the wrong things we do? Of course he forgives us. He’s a forgiving and gracious God. But that forgiveness does not free us from the pain and the consequences that come from bad decisions. You can be forgiven and still have regrets. You can be forgiven and still face pain. You can be forgiven and still have a broken relationship. You can be forgiven and still lose rewards.

Romans 14:14 says, “If someone believes it is wrong, then he shouldn’t do it because for him it is wrong” (TLB). This verse simply says that when in doubt, don’t. It’s a violation of the integrity test. Whatever is not from faith in our lives is sin.

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March 5, 2017/8-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Good Decisions Always Agree with God’s Word When you need to make a decision, the first and ideal test is this: “Is my decision in harmony with God’s Word?”

You have to decide what’s going to be your ultimate authority in life. It really boils down to two choices: God’s Word or the world. Are you going to base your decisions on what God says or what other people say?

If you base your life on popular opinion, you’re always going to be out of date, because it changes every day. What was “in” yesterday will not be “in” today and what’s “in” today will not be “in” tomorrow. If you base your life on popular culture, political correctness, or opinion polls, you do not have principles to live by. That’s called a shifting foundation!

On the other hand, if you base your life on God’s Word, the truth never changes. Truth is always true. So if God says something was wrong 10,000 years ago, it was also wrong 500 years ago, it’s wrong today, and it will be wrong 1,000 years from today. I don’t care what opinion polls or political correctness or the media says. If God says it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It always has been, and it always will be. If God says it’s right, it will always be right. That is a solid foundation!

God has set up the universe with certain laws— physical, moral, and spiritual. God built the universe around these laws not because he’s capricious but because they’re all for your benefit. When you cooperate with the principles in this universe, you succeed. If you reject, rebel, disobey, and ignore God’s principles, you’re the one who gets hurt. You don’t ever break God’s laws. They break you! If I go up on top of a building and jump off, I don’t break the law of gravity. It breaks me. The same is true with moral laws and spiritual laws. You cannot just thumb your nose at God and get away with it. There’s inevitably a reckoning. Any time you violate God’s principles, you’re asking for trouble.

With all this in mind, you can be confident in your decision. If God says it’s OK, then you do it. If God says “no,” then you don’t do it.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105 NIV).

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March 4, 2017/7-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

To Make a Connection, Make a Commitment Good relationships don’t happen by accident. They take cultivation, work, and a lot of time. That requires commitment!

I cannot count the number of times that my wife Kay and I have felt like walking out of our marriage, particularly in the early years. There were so many times we thought, “This is not worth it. We’re so different. This marriage could never work.”

But we didn’t walk out. Why? Because we’d made a commitment. We took a vow — “Till death do us part” — not just to each other but also to God. So we said, “We’re going to keep this commitment even if it kills us.” And it nearly did! There have been times in our marriage that the only thing that kept us together was that commitment — not love or interest but simply the commitment we made to God. I am so glad that we did not give up. Today, my wife is my best friend, and I cannot imagine my life without her.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (ESV).

Did you know that your socializing can keep you from having deep relationships? You can be so busy networking, contacting, socializing, and making acquaintances that you never give the time and energy and effort it takes to cultivate the deep, satisfying intimacy of a good friend or a good wife or a good husband.

It’s not wrong to have a lot of acquaintances, but they can keep you so busy that you don’t develop any vital, close relationships. You don’t need a lot of friends to make it in this world, but you do need a few good ones. You need to focus on quality, not quantity. Your acquaintances — your hundreds of Facebook “friends” and Instagram followers — aren’t necessarily going to be there when you need them. But the friends you are truly connected and committed to will.

Every important, close connection begins with a commitment. If you want to get beyond shallow, superficial relationships, you’ve got to be willing to stick with it.

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March 3, 2017/6-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Your Mouth Is a Power Tool. Use It Carefully God wants us to use our words to build others up. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (NIV).

Sometimes our words are like a sledgehammer. We swing away without thinking, and all of a sudden we look around, and all we’ve got is a pile of relational rubble. When you thoughtlessly sling your words around and tear people down, your relationships are going to suffer.

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is—our mouth and the words that God has given to us. We say things without thinking. And people remember them. Certain things people said to you in a careless way—even as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working—you still remember today. That’s how powerful words are. So when it comes to your mouth, you’ve got to think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

One time I went into my garage and grabbed a manual for a power saw. As I was reading through the directions, I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us: our mouths. The directions said:

1. Know your power tool. 2. Keep guards in place. 3. Be careful around children. 4. Store idle tools when not in use. 5. Don’t over reach. 6. Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

How can you use your mouth more carefully so you are using it to build relationships and not to tear people down?

1. Stop excusing. Stop saying, “I didn’t really man to say that” or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.” Realize that what you say impacts everybody around you.

2. Talk less. We often get in trouble because we just don’t know when to shut up. If it’s a power tool, you shouldn’t have to use it as much, right?

3. Listen more. If you listen more, you can better understand people’s needs.

4. Start building. Let your first thoughts be, “What does that person need? How can I use a word of encouragement to build him up? What can I say to make a difference in his life?”

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March 2, 2017/5-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Don’t Let Gossip Destroy Your Relationships We tend to think of gossip as one of those “little” sins. But when God talks about gossip, he puts it on the list with things like sexual immorality and murder. Why? Because it is so destructive to relationships. Gossip can tear apart friendships, families, and churches.

Gossip is talking about a situation with somebody who is neither a part of the solution nor a part of the problem. If we’re honest with ourselves, what we’re doing is making ourselves feel a little more important at somebody else’s expense. We’re talking about their hurts and their problems to make us feel like we’re morally superior to them. That’s the danger and the hurt of gossip.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about a family that struggled with gossip. Moses had a sister name Miriam who one day got caught up in gossiping about Moses among the rest of the people. God called Moses and Miriam in and had a little talk. He spoke with Miriam and told her what she’d done wrong and right there on the spot gave her leprosy. You may be thinking, “That sounds terrible, but I’d like that to happen to the person who gossiped about me. Maybe not leprosy—but a really bad stomach flu, so that person knows how much this hurt.”

Do you know what God did next? He invited Moses to pray for Miriam’s healing—the person who gossiped against him.

Some of you have been deeply hurt by gossip and things that have been said around the office or a broken confidence between a friend or family member. Here’s what God has to say to you: “Pray for the person who gossiped against you so that you can be released from the hurt in your life.”

Or maybe you’ve been the one gossiping. This story is in the Old Testament to remind us how serious gossip is and how hurtful it can be to people, whatever side of it you’re on.

When you keep confidences, it enables you to connect to others in productive, healthy, and genuine ways.

Proverbs 11:13 says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret” (NIV).

Are you the kind of person that can keep people’s confidences so they can trust you?

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March 1, 2017/4-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

The World Does Not Revolve Around You There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says, “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” The Bible talks about this as well: “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own” (Philippians 2:4 TEV).

That is such a counter-culture verse. Everything in our culture conditions us to think first of ourselves. We don’t think about other people naturally. That’s something we have to learn to do. We naturally think about our needs, our desires, our goals, and our ambitions. As a result we have millions of people disconnected because they’re only thinking of themselves and not anyone else’s needs.

During about a two-hour period when I was recently watching TV, I saw three commercials with the same by-line: “You deserve it.” “Buy this shampoo! You deserve it.” “Buy this expensive car, because you deserve it!” We are taught that we are the supreme value in life.

Let me teach you two very basic truths about life. First, the world does not revolve around you. You’re very special in God’s eyes, and you were created for a purpose—but the world does not revolve around you. If you want to know how much you’d be missed, stick your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out, and see what kind of hole you leave. It fills back up pretty quick!

The second truth is this: God has promised that when you focus on meeting the needs of other people, he will meet your needs. Why? Because he wants you to learn to be unselfish. He wants you to learn to be loving and generous like him. Part of being considerate of other people’s needs is making allowances for their faults and not expecting them to be perfect (Colossians 3:13). You’re not perfect, so why should you demand it of anybody else?

Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love forgets mistakes” (TLB). When you are trying to make a connection with someone, you don’t have to be blind to that person’s faults. You just choose to overlook them. Great friends are good forgetters. They don’t rub it in; they rub it out! They are more concerned with the other person’s needs.

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February 28, 2017/3-16
ESSENTIAL FOR LIVING

Three Things Fear Does to Relationships If you want to connect with someone, you’ve got to be willing to take the first step. This often takes courage. Why? Because it’s fear that disconnects human beings. When we’re full of fear and anxiety, we don’t get close to each other. In fact, we back off. We’re afraid of being rejected, manipulated, vulnerable, hurt, used. All of these fears cause us to be disconnected in life.

This fear is as old as mankind. When Adam and Eve sinned and God came looking for Adam, Adam said, “I was afraid, and I hid.” People have been doing that ever since. We’re afraid, so we hide. We hide our true selves. We don’t let people know what we’re really like, because if we do and they don’t like us, we face rejection. And so we pretend.

Fear does three terrible things to relationships:

1. Fear makes us defensive. When people point out weaknesses, we retaliate and defend ourselves.

2. Fear keeps us distant. We don’t let people get close to us. We withdraw. We hide our emotions.

3. Fear makes us demanding. The more insecure we are, the more we try to control things. We try to have the last word in a relationship. We try to dominate.

So where do you get the courage to take the first step to connect with someone and go into a deeper level of intimacy?

You get it from God’s Spirit in your life. The Bible says, “For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

How do you know when you’re filled with God’s Spirit? You’re more courageous in your relationships. You love people. You enjoy being with them. You’re not afraid of them, because God’s Spirit is in your life. The Bible says “God is love” and “Love casts out all fear.” The more of God you have in your life, the less fear you’re going to have in your life.

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