June 3, 2013
Take today’s next step: Rest in God.
“If you set your heart aright and stretch out your hands to [God], If you put sin out of your hand and far away from you and let not evil dwell in your tents; Then can you lift up your face to Him without stain [of sin, and unashamed]; yes, you shall be steadfast and secure; you shall not fear. For you shall forget your misery; you shall remember it as waters that pass away. And [your] life shall be clearer than the noonday and rise above it; though there be darkness, it shall be as the morning. And you shall be secure and feel confident because there is hope; yes, you shall search about you, and you shall take your rest in safety. You shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid; yes, many shall sue for your favor.” (Job 11:13-19, Amplified Bible)
Can I get a break? I need a holiday, a vacation, an escape. Any of those would do; I’m not really picky. I’d even settle for just being able to put my head in the sand and let the world go by for a few days!
My life is just so crammed with stuff that continually requires my attention: there are the children who need help with their homework and have to be driven to soccer practice, picked up from gymnastics, dropped off at friends, and taken to the doctor! There is the job that never seems to be left at work; it sneaks into my car and forcefully makes its way into my home. Then there is the house: the never-ending mounds of laundry, dirty bathrooms, stacks of unwashed dishes, and weeds in the flower beds that threaten to take over even the hardiest plants. There are friends and relatives and neighbors who want my attention; the number of people in need goes on and on, and the list continues to grow.
Could I just scream, pull out my hair, and find the nearest closet in which to hide for awhile?
And then there is God. He is constantly at work, poking, prodding, re-shaping, and changing my life. Sometimes, I’m content to let Him do His work in me; however, after awhile, it gets a little laborious. I’m tired of being thrown out of my comfort zone! I feel like a cancer patient who is constantly jabbed with needles, poked in places that I don’t want to be prodded, and examined to the infinite degree. It gets to the point where I just want a break for a time – a sabbatical from God, if you will. Could I just stay where I am for awhile and not change?
I think summer is the perfect time to take a break from God. My Bible studies are finished; the children are out of school; and, my formal schedule is tossed out the window. I will be free! It’s not like it will last forever; I’ll just vacation for the summer and, then, when school starts up in the Fall, I will be ready for God to begin His work in me again.
I hear Him whisper, “My child, you will never just stay where you are; you are either moving toward Me or away from Me.”
Then I remember a verse from Proverbs 24 that says, “A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, with poverty as your permanent houseguest!” (vv. 33-34, The Message)
Do I really want that? Do I truly desire spiritual poverty as my permanent houseguest? I can already see myself bankrupt, sitting in a pool of self-pity and despair. I’ve been there before, and I know I don’t want to experience it again. What was I thinking? How foolish I have been!
Holy Lord, please forgive me. I’ve been a fool, but what grace You have extended to me in spite of myself! Teach me to love You with my entire heart, mind, soul, and strength. Let me never, ever take a holiday from You! I pray these things in Your mighty and precious name, Christ Jesus, Amen.
Questions: Have you ever felt you wanted or needed a vacation from God? How can we learn to rest in Jesus, rather than seeking time-out away from Him?
In the city of Jerusalem, we are given the incredible opportunity to retrace the footsteps of Christ. It is certainly a blessing to be able to visit places He has walked, dined, and lived in. Being in Israel is a poignant reminder of Christ’s life, His death and His resurrection. The city of Jerusalem, where tourists and historical sites abound, helps believers to consider the events in Scripture and how they may apply to our daily lives.
We can learn about the life of Jesus through a multitude of ways. Whether it is through Scripture or through holy places like Jerusalem, we are given a unique opportunity to get to know our God.
Question: What are some ways that you can help make Scripture come to life?
June 1, 2013
Take today’s next step: Invite the Holy Spirit to work in your life today.
“If the Son gives you freedom, you are free!” (John 8:36, CEV)
During winter months, my motivation waivers when the alarm clock screams MORNING and the view behind the blinds say it’s still the middle of the night. I don’t think I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but the sun certainly does affect me in positive ways.
When the days are shorter, I find myself leaving the office wanting to put on my pajamas and bunny slippers. However, when the sunshine is gracing the morning and its warmth hugs me, it makes me look at my ‘to do list’ with new vigor.
It is the same when we have a relationship with the Son, Jesus Christ. He renews our hearts and gives us new perspective and energy to face the day. Some days are tough to get through. I am forever thankful for my relationship with the Son. From my corner of the world, He has been faithful to shine even when it feels dark. How about yours?
There isn’t much in life that is free. There is usually a catch. Not so with God’s promise. He gave His Son, through death on the cross, as sacrifice for our sins. We have access to eternal life and a relationship with Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The chains of sin are released, and we can see life through His eyes.
Chris Tomlin in his version of “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” pens the words, “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me.”
Scripture expresses the same thing. John 8:36 says, “If the Son gives you freedom, you are free!” We just need to ask and have faith to move ahead. He passionately loves us and wants us to enjoy life to the fullest with Him. That was His plan in the beginning of time and it still is the plan today.
With that promise, we have the Son to greet us each morning to help us with our to-do lists. He doesn’t come and go or hide behind clouds. He is constant. His love is our warmth when the chill of life’s issues has us shivering. We can face today. The God of the universe wants us to live abundantly.
“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 1:14)
So whether the sun is shining today, we always have the Son in our hearts to spur us on to face today. He guarantees that He will be there. As you wake up, ask the Son to give you His energy and strength to help you today.
Jesus the Son, we are forever grateful for what You did for us on the cross. We are asking you to warm our hearts and our spirits to face today. We are so thankful for Your 100% guarantee of Your freedom and presence in this life here on earth. We ask for a renewed touch from You today. We praise You. Amen.
Questions: What are you facing today that needs His touch? Do you understand the freedom of life abundantly with Him?
May 31, 2013
Take the next step: Be bold. Take the 35 Day Challenge and learn how to share your faith with confidence.
“And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.’” (Exodus 3:12)
Have you ever said, “I can’t”? I know I have. I’ve always had a hard time with the words ‘I can’. ‘I can’t’ just rolls off my tongue with no hesitation, but for me to say ‘I can’ takes a confidence in myself that does not come naturally.
Recently, I committed to 40 days of prayer and we were encouraged to fast for the 40 days also. I decided to do the Daniel Fast (a fast that greatly limits food choices). When I discovered that other participants only gave up one item for their fast, I briefly considered withdrawing my commitment. Holding to my original commitment to the Daniel Fast, I knew the ’I can’t’ attitude just would not cut it this time.
I felt that God had called me to experience this 40-day commitment and I plunged in but only in submission to God. The temptations were there: the chocolate cravings, the treats co-workers brought into work to share, and the wonderful aromas of forbidden foods. Knowing that God was with me and that I had made my commitment to Him gave me the strength to see it through to the end. This experience showed me the ‘I can’ that was in me. Actually, I can because He does!
You and I are not the only people who have experienced the ‘I can’t’ attitude. When God called Moses, He told him that he was being sent to bring God’s people out of Egypt. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 3:11) I think this was Moses telling God ‘I can’t’.
We all know the story of Moses. We know he found his ‘I can’ and lead the Israelites out of Egypt but he didn’t do it alone. God lead him. God instructed him. God was with him every step of the way. When we know that God is there when He calls us and never leaves us, it makes it easier for us to throw aside the ‘I can’t’ and move forward with the ‘I can’.
Heavenly Father, empower us with your strength to say in confidence ‘I can’ in order to fulfill your calling on our lives. Amen
Question: Is there anything holding you back from taking the step in confidence to say I can to God’s calling? How can we pray for you?
May 30, 2013
Take today’s next step: We’re looking for prayer mentors.
“And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:15)
My parents used to write notes on the mirror in the bathroom with a bar of soap. Usually it was “I Love You”; sometimes it was a reminder to pack something. I too leave notes on the mirror. Yesterday as I was in the bathroom cleaning up after one of the grandkids took a shower, I noticed an old note on the mirror – one I had long wiped away. But because of the steam, there it was plain as the day I had written it! Although I had forgotten about it, it was still there waiting to be revealed again.
Oh beloved, our prayers are like writing on the mirror. We give it to God. We talk with Him often about the need, the want, and the heart’s cry. We ponder and we wait. We go about our daily lives and carry on. We might even forget about it. But the Lord never forgets.
One day, just like the message in the steam-covered mirror, God’s answer will come. He will reveal His character, His will and His way. It’s not for us to know why delays happen. We know, by the word He has spoken that He is always with us. He always hears us, and always takes care of all that matters to us. Go ahead and talk to Him about your life and don’t leave anything out. You do not know when His answer of love will be revealed, but you can always trust that He loves you and has your absolute best in mind. He’s no ordinary confidant; He’s our beloved Savior!
“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.” (Psalm 65:5, ESV)
Father, Thank you that You hear us. When we’re waiting and Satan tries to whisper lies to us suggesting that You have forgotten us or have stopped loving us, help us to be quick to run to You and quick to stomp on those lies with Your truth. Thank you that in You we are more than conquerors. Forgive us for the times we have doubted You and bring us into even closer communion with You today we pray. Amen
Questions: Think back to a time when God had you waiting. Were there specific verses that helped? What did you learn during that time?
May 29, 2013
Take today’s next step: Stretch your faith – take the 35 Day Challenge.
“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)
I should have known better than to call our few days away at my brother-in-law’s cabin a “mini-vacation.” Our family vacations seem to be a magnet for catastrophe….
We were unloading the car outside of State College, PA, when we realized my suitcase was still at home. All I had with me was a book bag with my Bible, journal, and reading material. Other than that I didn’t even have a hairbrush. Or my laptop.
My thoughts were frozen in “what do we do now?” mode, even as my spirit whispered make the best of it. My husband offered to drive the 2 ½ hours back home to retrieve the suitcase, and although I was touched by his sensitivity, somehow that didn’t seem right. But the options were limited: either I could let frustration immobilize me, or I could allow my expectations to bend.
Little by little, my inflexibility started to give, and ideas began to surface. My flash drive (which I had inadvertently dropped into my bag) would work on Chip’s Netbook so I could still complete some work. A quick run into town would provide the necessities. (I even found a sundress on sale for $6.00!) I could make-do for the rest.
As we ate Chinese take-out later that night on the front porch, I was struck with how God had not only turned the circumstances around, but how he had so meticulously adjusted my wineskin. He had stretched my capacity for “being content” and deepened my trust in his faithfulness to “work all things together for good.”
I realize this experience hardly qualifies as “enduring hardship.” But I believe it is in the small setbacks where we learn to align ourselves increasingly with God’s character. In these small moments we choose either to shut down or grasp the opportunity to be enlarged.
In one of Paul’s last recorded messages, he wrote that he was “being poured out like a drink offering”. (2 Timothy 4:6) When I reach that time in life where I am “poured out” I hope the choices I’ve made will be evident. I pray that my life’s challenges would have caused my wineskin to have been expanded, not shrunk.
Father, help us remain flexible. Increase our capacity for pouring out to so many who need a touch of your love. Help us to be quick to let go of our expectations and to take hold of what You have for us. Amen
Questions: What are the consequences of refusing to stretch? How do you respond to change? What would you like your response to be?
May 28, 2013
Take today’s next step: Be firmly rooted in Christ. Join The Life today!
“Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. (S)He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, emphasis mine)
What an incredible picture the words of this scripture paint! A tree with strong roots drawing water; always green; always fruit bearing even in times of drought! Not fearing when heat comes but confident and fruitful, GREEN, even when the norm around us is “stressed out”, “overwhelmed” or just “too busy”.
There is a sequence here on how to live GREEN.
- Have your confidence in the LORD!
When we keep our eyes focused on who our God is and on all His name declares, our confidence in Him soars. We find peace and joy – even when the land around us is drying up!
When we keep our own identity wrapped securely in Him, walking in confidence as a treasured child of God, we can draw on His strength and on His refreshment even when “drought” is all around us.
But when we choose to focus around us at the heat and the shriveling leaves, we become overwhelmed and worn out and we give away our confidence – both in God and in who we are in Him. Out the window goes our joy!
- “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
When we give away our confidence, we give away our joy, and when we give away our joy, we give away our strength!
If your joy has been fading, and you feel purposeless and unproductive take a check on where your eyes have been focusing, on the dryness around you … or on the greatness of God and His strength in you?
Remaining purposeful and productive or “fruitful” comes from the strength of God in us. So pay attention to what is going on inside of you. Because ….
- When you give away your confidence, (in God) you give away your joy.
- When you give away your joy, you give away your strength.
- When you give away your strength you give away your purpose.
When you give these things away what you have left is a life that is dry: disgruntled, discouraged, overwhelmed and unproductive.
Purpose and fruitfulness fade when your confidence in God slips away and when you forget who you are in His strength.
“Always green” is simple. Not easy, but simple.
Keep your eyes focused on God and all that He is and on who you are in Him.
Therein lies your confidence; and in that confidence lies your joy and in that joy lies your strength. In that strength you are able to walk purposefully!
What a beautiful picture of how to stay green and productive in You. Please help me to keep my eyes on the greatness of all You are, and on who I am with Your strength in me. Keep me green, I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Question: What aspects of God’s character give you the most joy and strength?
May 27, 2013
Take today’s next step: If you struggle with guilt, read this.
“But Peter said, ‘Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-61, NLT)
I’m reading a book by Mark Batterson, called Wild Goose Chase. The premise of the book is that often we as believers find ourselves in various cages that hinder us from pursuing the Holy Spirit and his leadings. One of those cages is the Cage of Guilt.
Mark had an interesting take on a very familiar passage of Scripture in Luke 22:60-61 (NLT) But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me. And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”
Mark asked the question, “I wonder if every time Peter heard a rooster crow he was reminded of his greatest failure?” I had never thought of that before and I felt that question resonate deep in my soul. As I contemplated the inner turmoil that Peter must have experienced in those days before He meet up with Jesus and find forgiveness. I couldn’t help but identify with him.
Over the years, I’ve had my own “rooster crows” that remind me of my failure and sin. It doesn’t take much to jog my memory of a time when I let down God or someone else I love. It can be a song, a smell, a conversation, a place that makes my glaring failure rise up to taunt and torment me all over again. I don’t like my “rooster crows” – in fact I avoid them like the plague. Avoidance seems a lot easier than having to relive my guilt and pain.
As Mark Batterson raised his microscope to Peter’s failure he pointed out something that took me completely by surprise.
“At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, ‘Fellows, have you caught any fish?’” (John 21:4 NLT) This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Peter has given up and gone back to his old way of living but Jesus, his Redeemer and Friend, hasn’t given up on Peter.
Notice when Jesus goes to Peter? Yep you got it, at dawn. When do roosters crow the most?
“When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them – fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. (John 21:7-9 NLT)
Jesus meets Peter when the roosters are in full swing, by a charcoal fire reminiscent of another fire where Peter betrayed his Friend. This wasn’t a haphazard appointment – Jesus came at deliberate time for a specific purpose.
In the next few verses we see Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves Him. What is Jesus doing here? (Even Peter is wondering why Jesus has to ask so many times.) There is purpose in what Jesus is doing; Peter denied Jesus three times and Jesus asks Peter the same question three times.
Jesus is reconditioning Peter, so that the next time he hears a crow of a rooster or finds himself standing by a fire; he will be reminded, not of his failure but of Jesus’ forgiveness.
Jesus is recommissioning Peter. He wants Peter to remember the love He has for him and to know that the MISSION that Peter had once been given hasn’t changed.
What Peter doesn’t know is that Jesus plans to send him on the biggest wild goose chase of his life! But Peter is ready; he is stronger and braver than he’s ever been before because he knows how hard he can fall. The world will never be the same.
As I contemplated this new insight into the wisdom and love of Jesus, I was challenged to re-comission the “rooster crows” in my life. Instead of giving them the power to dredge up my past failures, I want to choose to celebrate and praise the God who gives me victory and grace!
Lord, I purpose in my heart that the next time I hear my “rooster crow” and am tempted to wallow in my guilt and shame, that I will lift my head and give You praise, the One who REDEEMED me, RESTORED me and set me FREE. And like Peter, teach me to throw off the weight of my guilt and bask in Your love and forgiveness. Amen.
Questions: Do you have “rooster crows” in your life that you have allowed to flood you with guilt and remorse and convince you that you are a failure? How will you bring your failures to God?
May 26, 2013
Take today’s next step: We are all called to evangelize. Learn more here.
“Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, ‘You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.’” (2 Samuel 5:22-24, NKJV)
As David is taking Israel to war against the Philistines, he specifically asks the Lord about the battle. Do I go? What’s the strategy? What’s the timing? God’s response was very clear and detailed, and as long as David followed instructions, he was assured success.
Clearly receiving an assignment from God is not necessarily permission to get started. God often begins by giving us the big picture, but then wisdom waits on Him for the details of how we are going to get there. Too often we are trying to “figure it all out,” and sure enough we end up messing the whole thing up. We then find ourselves feeling misled by God and offended by those who didn’t support us in the process.
God is always at work behind the scenes preparing circumstances and people to line up with His plans. When we wait upon the Lord our strength is renewed because we are not wasting energy on doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. (Isaiah 40:31) We avoid frustration, weariness, and confusion. When we trust Him for each detail, moving when, where, and how He directs, we will have joy in the journey, and easily experience the success.
“I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.” (Isaiah 45:2, NKJV)
God in Heaven, Teach me to wait on Your timing. In times of stress I pray that I would remember Your deep love for me and the lengths You went to to save me. You did not send Jesus to rescue me only to abandon me now. Help me to keep Your promises close to my heart and in front of my eyes so I am not tempted to doubt You. When Satan whispers lies that You have forgotten about me, help me to be quick to run to You so I can hear the truth. In Your name I pray, Amen
Question: Think of a time when God asked you to wait. What did you learn about God in that season?
May 25, 2013
Take today’s next step: We need more devotional writers. If you write, join us!
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15a)
I came across a billboard the other day that said, “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it isn’t the end.” It takes an element of spiritual audacity to trust God no matter what. Job provides one of the most profound examples of spiritual audacity in the Bible.
He loses everything—family, wealth, reputation, health—and he doesn’t understand why. He’s confused. His concept of God’s righteousness and fairness is tested to the last degree. He didn’t have an assurance as to how his situation would turn out, but there was no way he was going to “curse God and die” as his wife suggested. If he was going to die, he would die hoping and trusting.
When we’re partway through our struggles there’s no clear vantage point to see how God wants to use our crises for higher purposes. But, like Job, it presents the perfect place to strengthen our trust.
It is impossible to develop a greater degree of trust until that trust is put to the test. At the Last Supper when Jesus explained to His disciples that He would be returning to the Father and that they couldn’t follow Him, it must have been the worst news they could imagine. For three years they had traveled with Jesus, ate where He ate, and slept where He slept. They had rejoiced in every miracle and pondered every teaching; they had given up everything to be his disciples. Now they were told to continue the work…without Him.
How did Jesus encourage them to meet this seemingly insurmountable task? He did it with words that continue to be the source of our comfort today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) If you are in a rough place right now where, even though it is hard, you declare, “Jesus I trust you,” be assured that your cry is resounding in the courts of heaven.
Lord Jesus, I pray that You would touch me in any area where I am struggling today with trust. Help me be confident that You are hearing my cry. I know that You are here with me. I trust You. Help me to live in that trust. Amen
Question: Why is trust so difficult? What practical steps does it take to build your trust in God?