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Archive for the ‘Devotion’ Category

Jesus Controls My Chaos

Editor’s Note:  Even as Jesus is able to set the boundaries of the Earth’s seas and control their fury, He is able to wisely and compassionately set limits on and control the chaos, destruction, and fury of life’s storms that affect each one of us.

Jesus Stills the Storm

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

“The men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (v. 27).  – Matthew 8:23–27

Having explained the cost of discipleship to two would-be followers, Jesus and His disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23). Little do the disciples know that this journey will give their teacher an opportunity to show forth His identity in a way they have not yet seen.

Because of its geographical location, violent squalls frequently occur on the open water of the Sea of Galilee, especially in the period between May and October. Seasoned fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John (4:18–22) are certainly familiar with such storms, and so their fear, evident in Matthew 8:24–27, shows that the turbulence in which they find themselves is unusually fierce.

However, despite the storm’s ferocity, Jesus is able to sleep peacefully as the boat traverses the waves. This indicates His great trust in God and comfort in His faithful obedience because the Old Testament understands sound sleep to be a gift from God to His holy people (Lev. 26:6).

Christ’s ability to sleep in the storm is more remarkable when we consider that the boat in which His company is traveling is the customary fishing boat of His day, just big enough to accommodate the small group of men and a large catch of fish. The sailors are completely exposed to the elements. Jesus is not worried like the others even though He feels the storm’s effects no less than they do.

Yet Jesus’ command of the storm tells us about much more than His great faith.

In the biblical worldview, the sea and the storm are associated with chaos and destruction (Ps. 69:1–2). Only God can control the sea, and in fact, He sets its boundary and stills its fury (Job 38:8–11). That Jesus is able to silence the storm and still the waves indicates that He possesses an authority equal to the Creator’s (Matt. 8:26–27). The disciples marvel at this miracle because it is evidence that their beloved rabbi is more than just a teacher; He is in fact God Almighty.

John Chrysostom writes that “[Jesus’] sleeping showed he was a man. His calming of the seas declared him God” (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 28.1).

We put our lives in Jesus’ hands based on the evidence of His power. Today’s passage shows us that we can trust Him because He has authority over all nature and is worthy of our faith since He is the incarnate God over all creation. We follow the Creator of all things, not merely a good man. Take time today to review biblical teaching on the divinity of Christ (for example, John 1:1–18) so that you may be confident that your trust in Him will never be in vain.

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

MY HEART CHRIST’S HOME

SOURCE:    Robert Boyd Munger-1954-InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, we find these words:  “That [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.”

Without question one of the most remarkable Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ Himself through the presence of the Holy Spirit will actually enter a heart, settle down and be at home there.  Christ will make the human heart His abode.  Our Lord said to His disciples, “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).  It was difficult for them to understand what He was saying.  How was it possible for Him to make His abode with them in this sense?

It is interesting that our Lord used the same word here that He gave them in the first part of the fourteenth chapter of John:  “I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, ye may be also.”  Our Lord was promising His disciples that, just as He was going to heaven to prepare a place for them and would welcome them one day, now it would be possible for them to prepare a place for Him in their hearts and He would come and make His abode with them.

They could not understand this.  How could it be?

Then came Pentecost.  The Spirit of the living Christ was given to the church and they understood.  God did not dwell in Herod’s temple in Jerusalem!  God did not dwell in a temple made with hands; but now, through the miracle of the out-poured Spirit, God would dwell in human hearts.  The body of the believer would be the temple of the living God and the human heart would be the home of Jesus Christ.

It is difficult for me to think of a higher privilege than to make for Christ a home in my heart, to welcome, to serve, to please, to fellowship with Him there.  One evening that I shall never forget, I invited Him into my heart.  What an entrance He made!  It was not a spectacular, emotional thing, but very real. It was at the very center of my life.  He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light.  He built a fire in the cold hearth and banished the chill.  He started music where there had been stillness and He filled the emptiness with His own loving, wonderful fellowship.  I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will—not into eternity!

This, of course, is the first step in making the heart Christ’s home.  He has said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).  If you are interested in making your life an abode of the living God, let me encourage you to invite Christ into your heart and He will surely come.

After Christ entered my heart and in the joy of that new-found relationship, I said to Him, “Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours.  I want to have You settle down here and be perfectly at home.  Everything I have belongs to You.  Let me show You around and introduce You to the various features of the home that You may be more comfortable and that we may have fuller fellowship together.”  He was very glad to come, of course, and happier still to be given a place in the heart.

The Library

The first room was the study—the library.  Let us call it the study of the mind.  Now in my home this room of the mind is a very small room with very thick walls.  But it is an important room.  In a sense, it is the control room of the house.  He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the wall.  As I followed His gaze, I became uncomfortable.  Strangely enough, I had not felt badly about this before, but now that He was there looking at these things I was embarrassed.  There were some books there that His eyes were too pure to behold.  There was a lot of trash and literature on the table that a Christian had no business reading and as for the pictures on the wall—the imaginations and thoughts of my mind—these were shameful.

I turned to Him and said, “Master, I know that this room needs a radical alteration.  Will You help me make it what it ought to be—to bring every thought into captivity to You?”

“Surely,” He said.  “Gladly will I help you.  That is one reason I am here.  First of all, take all the things that you are reading and seeing which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out!  Now put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible.  Fill the library with Scriptures and meditate on them day and night.  As for the pictures on the wall, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but here is an aid.”  He gave me a full-sized portrait of Himself.  “Hang this centrally,” He said, “on the wall of the mind.”  I did and I have discovered through the years that when my thoughts are centered upon Christ Himself, His purity and power cause impure imaginations to retreat.  So He has helped me to bring my thoughts into captivity.

May I suggest to you if you have difficulty with this little room of the mind, that you bring Christ in there.  Pack it full with the Word of God, mediate upon it and keep before it ever the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus.

The Dining Room

From the study we went into the dining room, the room of appetites and desires.  Now this was a very large room, I spent a good deal of time in the dining room and much effort in satisfying my wants.  I said to Him, “This is a very commodious room and I am quite sure You will be pleased with what we serve here.”

He seated Himself at the table with me and asked, “What is on the menu for dinner?”

“Well, “ I said, “my favorite dishes: old bones, corn husks, sour cabbage, leeks, onions and garlic right out of Egypt.?”  These were the things I liked—worldly fare.  I suppose there was nothing radically wrong in any particular item, but it was not the food that should satisfy the life of a real Christian.  When the food was placed before Him, He said nothing about it.  However, I observed that He did not eat it, and I said to Him, somewhat disturbed, “Savior, You don’t care for the food that is placed before You?  What is the trouble?”

He answered, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.  My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me.”  He looked at me again and said, “If you want food that really satisfies you, seek the will of the Father, not your own pleasures, not your own desires, not your own satisfaction.  Seek to please Me, and that food will satisfy you.”  And there about the table He gave me a taste of doing God’s will.  What a flavor!  There is no food like it in all the world.  It alone satisfies.  Everything else is dissatisfying in the end!!

Now if Christ is in your heart, and I trust He is, what kind of food are you serving Him and what kind of food are you eating yourself?  Are you living for the lust of the flesh and the pride of life—selfishly?  Or are you choosing God’s will for your meat and drink?

The Drawing Room

We walked next into the drawing room.  This room was rather intimate and comfortable.  I liked it.  It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase, sofa, and a quiet atmosphere.

He also seemed pleased with it.  He said, “This is indeed a delightful room.  Let us come here often.  It is secluded and quiet, and we can have fellowship together.”

Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled.  I could not think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes apart with Christ in intimate comradeship.

He promised, “I will be here every morning early.  Meet with Me here and we will start the day together.”  So, morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the drawing room and He would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase.  He would open it and then we would read together.  He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truths.   He would make my heart warm as He revealed His love and His grace toward me.  They were wonderful hours together.  In fact, we called the drawing room the “withdrawing room.”   It was a period when we had our quiet time together.

But, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened.  Why, I don’t know, but I thought I was just too busy to spend time with Christ.  This was not intentional, you understand; it just happened that way.  Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss a day now and then.  It was examinations time at the university.  Then it was some other urgent emergency.  I would miss it two days in a row and often more.

I remember one morning when I was in a hurry, rushing down the steps, eager to be on my way.

As I passed the drawing room, the door was ajar.  Looking in I saw a fire in the fireplace and the Lord sitting there.  Suddenly in dismay, I thought to myself, “He was my guest.  I had invited Him into my heart!  He had come as Lord of my home. And yet here I am neglecting Him.”  I turned and went in.  With downcast glance I said, “Blessed Master, forgive me.  Have You been here all these mornings?”

“Yes,” He said, “I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you.”  Then I was even more ashamed.  He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness.  I asked His forgiveness and He readily forgave me, and He does when we are truly penitent.

He said, “The trouble with you is this:  You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to Me also.  Remember, I love you.  I have redeemed you at a great cost.  I desire your fellowship.  Now,” He said, “do not neglect this hour if only for My sake.  Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!”

You know, the truth that Christ wants my fellowship, that He loves me, wants me to be with Him, wants to be with me and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact.  Don’t let Christ wait alone in the drawing room of your heart, but every day find some time when, with the Word of God and in prayer, you may fellowship with Him.

The Workshop

Before long He asked, “Do you have a workshop in your home?”  Down in the basement of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it.  Once in a while I would go down and fuss around with a few little gadgets, but I wasn’t producing anything substantial or worthwhile.

I led Him down there.

He looked over the workbench and what little talents and skills I had.  He said, “This is quite well furnished.  What are you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?”  He looked at one or two of the little toys that I had thrown together on the bench and He held one up to me.  “Are these little toys all that you are producing in your Christian life?”

“Well” I said, “Lord,  that is the best I can do.  I know it isn’t much and I really want to do more, but after all, I have no skill or strength.”

“Would you like to do better?” He asked.  “Certainly,” I replied.

“All  right.  Let Me have your hands.  Now relax in Me and let My Spirit work through you.  I know you are unskilled and clumsy and awkward, but the Spirit is the Master-worker and if He controls your hands and your heart He will work through you.”  And so, stepping around behind me and putting His great strong hands over mine, controlling the tools with His skillful fingers, He began to work through me.

There’s much more that I must still learn and I am very far from satisfied with the product that is being turned out, but I do know that whatever has been produced for God has been through His strong hand and through the power of His Spirit in me.

Do not become discouraged because you cannot do much for God. Your ability is not the fundamental condition.  It is He who is controlling your fingers and upon whom you are relying.  Give your talents and gifts to God and He will do things with them that will surprise you.

The Rumpus Room

I remember the time He inquired about the playroom.  I was hoping He would not ask me about that.  There were certain associations and friendships, activities and amusements that I wanted to keep for myself.  I did not think Christ would enjoy them or approve of them, so I evaded the question.

But there came an evening when I was leaving to join some companions—I was in college at the time—and as I was about to cross the threshold, He stopped me with a glance.  “Are you going out?”  I answered, “Yes.”  “Good,” He said, “I would like to go with you.”

“Oh,” I replied rather awkwardly.  I don’t think, Lord, that You would really want to go with us.  Let’s go out tomorrow night.  Tomorrow night we will go to prayer meeting, but tonight I have another appointment.”

He said, “That’s all right.  Only I thought when I came into your home we were going to do everything together.  We were going to be partners.  I want you to know that I am willing to go with you.”

“Well,” I said, “we will go some place together tomorrow night.”

But that evening I spent some miserable hours. I felt wretched.  What kind of a friend was I to Christ, when I was deliberately leaving Him out of my associations, doing things and going places that I knew very well He would not enjoy?  When I returned that evening, there was a light in His room and I went up to talk it over with Him.  I said, “Lord, I have learned my lesson.  I cannot have a good time without You.  We will do everything together from now on.”

Then we went down into the rumpus room of the house and He transformed it.  He brought into life real joy, real happiness, real satisfaction, real friendship.  Laughter and music have been ringing in the house ever since.

The Hall Closet

There is just one more matter that I might share with you.  One day I found Him waiting for me at the door.  There was an arresting look in His eye.  He said to me as I entered, “There is a peculiar odor in the house.  There is something dead around here. It’s upstairs.  I think it is in the hall closet.”  As soon as He said the words, I knew what He was talking about.  Yes, there was a small hall closet up there on the landing, just a few feet square, and in that closet behind lock and key I had one or two little personal things that I did not want Christ to see.  I knew they were dead and rotting things.  And yet I loved them, and I wanted them so for myself that I was afraid to admit that they were there.  I went up the stairs with Him and as we mounted, the odor became stronger and stronger.  He pointed at the door and said, “It’s in there!  Some dead thing!”

I was angry.  That’s the only way I can put it.  I had given Him access to the library, the dining room, the drawing room, the work shop, the rumpus room, and now He was asking me about a little two-by-four closet.  I said inwardly, “This is too much.  I am not going to give Him the key.”

“Well,” He said, reading my thoughts, “If you think I am going to stay up here on the second floor with this odor, you are mistaken.  I will take My bed out on the back porch.  I’m certainly not going to put up with that.”  And I saw Him start down the stairs.

When you have come to know and love Christ, the worst think that can happen is to sense His fellowship retreating from you.  I had to surrender.  “I’ll give you the key,” I said sadly, “but You’ll have to open the closet.  You’ll have to clean it out.  I haven’t the strength to do it.”

“I know,” He said, “I know you haven’t.  Just give Me the key.  Just authorize Me to take care of that closet and I will.”  So, with trembling fingers I passed the key over to Him.  He took it from my hand, walked over to the door, opened it, entered it, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting there and threw it away.  Then He cleansed the closet, painted it, fixed it up, doing is all in a moment’s time.  Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!.

Transferring The Title

Then a thought came to me.  I said to myself, “I have been trying to keep this heart of mine clear for Christ.  I start on one room and no sooner have I cleaned that than another room is dirty.  I begin on the second room and the first room becomes dusty again.  I am so tired and weary trying to maintain a clean heart and an obedient life.  I just am not up to it!”  So I ventured a question:  “Lord, is there any chance that You would take over the responsibility of the whole house and operate it for me and with me just as You did that closet?  Would you take the responsibility to keep my heart what it ought to be and my life where it ought to be?”

I could see his face light up as He replied, “Certainly, that is what I came to do.  You cannot be a victorious Christian in your own strength.  That is impossible. Let Me do it through you and for you.  That is the way.  But,” He added slowly, “I am not owner of this house.  I am just a guest.  I have no authority to proceed since the property is not Mine.”

I saw it in a minute and dropping to my knees, I said, “Lord, You have been a guest, and I have been the host.  From now on I am going to be the servant.  You are going to be the Lord.”  Running as fast as I could to the strong box, I took out the title deed to the house describing its assets and liabilities, its situation and condition.  Then returning to Him, I eagerly signed it over to belong to Him alone for time and eternity.  “Here it is, all that I am and have forever.  Now You run the house.  I’ll just remain with You as houseboy and friend.”

He took my life that day and I can give you my word, there is no better way to live the Christian life.   He knows how to keep it in shape and deep peace settles down on the soul.  May Christ settle down and be at home in your heart as Lord of all.

“He lives to heal the broken-hearted”

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“Our Lord Jesus Christ never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His heart is still as compassionate as when He was upon earth.

His sympathy with sufferers is still as strong. Let us bear this in mind, and take comfort in it. There is no friend or comforter who can be compared to Christ.

In all our days of darkness, which must needs be many, let us first turn for consolation to Jesus the Son of God. He will never fail us, never disappoint us, never refuse to take interest in our sorrows.

He lives, who made the widow’s heart sing for joy in the gate of Nain.

He lives, to receive all laboring and heavy-laden ones, if they will only come to Him by faith.

He lives, to heal the broken-hearted, and be a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

And He lives to do greater things than these one day.

He lives to come again to His people, that they may weep no more at all, and that all tears may be wiped from their eyes.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 209-210. Ryle is commenting on Luke 7:11-17.

Why You Give in to Sexual Sin

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:8, 12)

Why isn’t he [David]  crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? In this psalm of confession and repentance after essentially raping Bathsheba, you would expect David to ask for something like that.

The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease.

People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.

David knew this about himself.

It’s true about us too.

David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually — joy in God.

This is profound wisdom for us.

God, You Are Soooo Stubborn!

SOURCE: James MacDonald

GOD’S RELENTLESS LOVE

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

—Psalm 23:6

Are you experiencing a season of defeat and discouragement?

At times like these, God can seem far off and distant from your life. But if you are one of His children—if you have turned from your sin and embraced Christ by faith as the only basis for your forgiveness—you have this Psalm 23 promise in your pocket:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Look at the two key words in this phrase.

Goodness means bounty or blessing. Mercy can also be translated loving-kindnessfavor, or steadfast love. It comes from the Hebrew word hesed, used 246 times in the Old Testament. Half of those occurrences are found in the Book of Psalms.  Hesed was David’s favorite word to describe the attitude of God toward His children.

In Psalm 33:5, David observed, “The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” In Psalm 86:13, “For great is your steadfast love toward me.” In Psalm 98:3, “He (the Lord) has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness.”

The loving-kindness of God—His goodness and mercy—is eternal. It’s persistent. It’s a stubborn love God has for His children. He won’t turn His back on us. And He won’t give up on us or let us go.

God’s hesed love brings Jonah to mind.

Jonah could run, but he couldn’t hide or get away from God. The Lord used a storm to get Jonah’s attention and a very large fish to transport Jonah back to the shore where he had made his wrong turn. Even the hardship of Jonah’s experience was God’s loving-kindness. He could have wiped out the wayward prophet in a heartbeat. But, determined to show His loving-kindness to the huge city of Nineveh through Jonah, God kept him alive.

Likewise, God is relentless in His pursuit of you.

No matter what choice you make or where you go, He will come after you. God has a plan for your life, and He will go to great lengths to complete the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

If you have become a follower of Jesus Christ, God is all over you and your situation. He is pursuing you—relentlessly.

That’s the meaning of the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.”

It also means your very best days are ahead. As a child of God, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done—your greatest days of usefulness and service to His kingdom can be in the future, followed always by His goodness and mercy!

Holiness or Hardness Toward God?

SOURCE: Oswald Chambers

He . . . wondered that there was no intercessor . . .

Isaiah 59:16

The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer.

It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. But Isaiah implied in this verse that God is amazed at such thoughts about prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other.

Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”?

This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work-work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

God’s Working It All Out………

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  The below commentary by D.A. Carson reminds us of the mysterious, but always sovereign ways of God.  It is helpful to be reminded of this as we experience life in a world that seems chaotically out-of-control in just about every aspect.  Carson also reminds us how the Bible so honestly portrays the truthful condition of God’s people as well as humankind — family dysfunction (see first paragraph) is nothing new.  It has been with us from the very beginning, and we all are still dealing with it. 

Praise God for His patient sovereignty as He works all out according to His will……

The Providence of God

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson  

Genesis 27 is in many ways a pathetic, grubby account. Earlier Esau had despised his birthright (25:34); now Jacob swindles him out of it. In this Jacob is guided by his mother Rebekah, who thus shows favoritism among her children and disloyalty to her husband. Esau throws a tantrum and takes no responsibility for his actions at all. Indeed, he nurses his bitterness and plots the assassination of his brother. The family that constitutes the promised line is not doing very well.

Yet those who read the passage in the flow of the entire book remember that God himself had told Rebekah, before the twin brothers were born, that the older would serve the younger (25:23). Perhaps that is one of the reasons why she acted as she did: apparently she felt that God needed a little help in keeping his prediction, even immoral help. Yet behind these grubby and evil actions God is mysteriously working out his purposes to bring the promised line to the end he has determined. Certainly God could have arranged to have Jacob born first, if that was the man he wanted to carry on the line. Instead, Esau is born first, but Jacob is chosen, as if to say that the line is important, but God’s sovereign, intervening choosing is more important than mere human seniority, than mere primogeniture.

In Matthew 26, the authorities hatch a nasty plot to corrupt justice and sort out a political problem; Judas, one of Jesus’ intimates, sells his master; Jesus is in agony in Gethsemane; he is arrested and betrayed by a kiss; the Sanhedrin condemns and brutalizes its prisoner; Peter disowns Jesus. Yet who can doubt, in the flow of the book, that God remains in sovereign control to bring about the desired end? Jesus will give his life “as a ransom for many” (20:28), and all the failures, pain, and sin in this chapter issue in redemption.

The book of Esther does not even use the word God, but here too, even Haman’s gross government-sanctioned genocide is heading toward God’s salvation. And Paul (Acts 26) apparently would have been acquitted if he had not appealed to Caesar — yet that very appeal brings him in the end to declare the Gospel at the heart of the Empire.

Providence is mysterious. It must never be used to justify wrong actions or to mitigate sin: Isaac and his family are more than a little sleazy, Judas is a deceitful wretch, Haman is vile, and the Roman court trying Paul is more than a little corrupt. Yet God sovereignly rules, behind the scenes, bringing glory out of gore and honor out of shame.

Worry brings about a lot (except a solution).

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Living Free

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Worry.

Probably one of the most common traps we fall into. And one of the most useless and damaging. Worry has never solved a problem. But it has caused stress, ulcers, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, and much more.

[S]cripture tells us to replace worry with prayer. Instead of worrying, we are to tell God our needs, remember all he has done for us in the past, and thank him for his faithfulness. As we remember that faithfulness, our faith will grow to trust him now. Then we can experience peace so great that it is beyond our understanding!

And as we live in Christ Jesus and walk in obedience to him, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Instead of worrying, we will be enveloped in his peace.

Are you worried about something? Finances … your job … a failing relationship … a rebellious child … health problems. The list of things we can worry about seems endless, but the answer is always the same.

Talk to God about the problem. Remember his faithfulness in the past. Spend time thinking about all he has done for you. Make a list! Then thank him … and determine to trust him in your current situation. Circumstances may have changed – but he hasn’t.

Father, I have been so worried about this situation. I see no solution… no way out. But I realize that I don’t have to see the answer. I need to trust you to work this out in your way and in your time. Thank you for your faithfulness and all you have done for me in the past. Help me to trust you now and to experience your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Knowing God My Father: Applying the Names of God to My Personal Life
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Hanging Out With God Right Now

Source:  Jan Johnson

This Present Moment

Today – even this moment – may be the day “the Lord has made” (Ps 118:24), but a lot of us are living elsewhere. 

Jesus, who knew the psalms well, may have been thinking of that phrase when he said:  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”  He seemed to know that we are tempted not to live in this present moment but in the future because he concluded with, “Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt 6:34,The Message).

Instead of living in this present moment, we inhabit:

  • The Future – tasks I need to do, whom I need to talk to, that difficult appointment tomorrow, expectations about events and people and wondering if these expectations will be met.
  • The Past – what was said to me that was hurtful or compliments that made me feel really good (sometimes too self-focused), words or actions or even purchases or decisions I could regret,  who or what disappointed me.
  • Fantasy – what I would like to say to someone but never will, what I’d like to see happen but there’s no concrete evidence that it will ever happen.

Living in these other moments do not help me abide in Christ. To find contentment in the present moment is to hang out with God right now, relish and adore the companion of my soul and not sweat the rest.  It’s to turn each of those future/past/fantasy thoughts into a prayer for someone. 

Living in the present moment is such a practical, down-to-earth, every day way to practice the presence of God. In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray says that “the little word now is one of the deepest secrets of the life of faith…” Someone responded to Andrew by saying, “Whatever the surrounding circumstances might be, all I have to do is hold still, and rest and realize ‘Jesus saves me now,’ and for that moment I have what I need.” “Saves ” comes from sozo meaning healing, deliverance, wholeness.  You and I are invited into healing and wholeness in this moment.

Even more practically, God’s will for me in the present moment is to:

    • rejoice always
    • pray without ceasing
    • give thanks in all circumstances

(for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thess 5:16-18).

When I do these things in this present moment, the rest of God’s will isn’t quite so fuzzy. 

Maybe this “present moment” secret is why the command, “Behold!”, occurs so often in the Christmas text.  As Mary was told “Behold!” by the angel, she knew to stop, pause, slow down and look!  Look deeply and listen deeply!  Living in this present moment may have kept her from worrying about the future (I will always be shunned for becoming pregnant without being married) or glorying in the past (I must have done some cool things to be chosen for this!)  She got the idea, and answered the angel:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 2:31, 36, 38, KJV).

So all day long I can ask, What would it look like to love God in this present moment? What would it look like to love the person in front of me in this present moment?  Living this way is so much easier, so much more joyful.

Each moment is a gift of God to be with God.

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Jan Johnson is a writer, speaker and spiritual director in southern California

Forgiveness Requires That We Face The Truth

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/ Lighthouse Network

Facing the Truth

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth:  the truth that it was necessary for Christ to die to pay the price tag for our sins; the truth of our own sinful behavior and desperate need; the truth that if we are ever to be free, we must receive Christ’s forgiveness; the truth that we need to extend the powerful gift of grace to others and forgive those who have hurt us.

In order to experience true freedom in Christ, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But when we confess our sin to Him, God treats us much better than we deserve. And because of Christ Jesus, He freely accepts us back and sets us free from the grip of sin. How can we do less? Are we more powerful than God? Do we have a higher standard than God? Are we more upset about sin than God is?

We have both the reason and responsibility to forgive others because we are forgiven by the Lord. Forgiveness is a choice we make. When we forgive, it shows that we understand who we are, who God is, and what He really did for us on the cross.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. With Him as our model and source of power, and having accepted His forgiveness, we can then forgive others. We can actually enjoy the freedom and blessing God has for us by forgiving them and freeing ourselves from the power they had over us before we extended forgiveness.

Our goal should be to glorify God, not to glorify ourselves. But glorifying ourselves is actually what we do when we prioritize our pride, hurt, bitterness, revenge, spite, and other feelings above God. Shift your focus to His love and power. It will be the best lenses you can wear.

Today, identify a relationship in which you need to reach out and forgive. If you are struggling to forgive that person, ask Jesus to help You. Then look at whether you really understand and have accepted who you are, the sins you have committed, what you did to deserve God’s forgiveness, and whether you realize the unfair pain and sacrifice Jesus endured for you. Hopefully, the gift of forgiveness you received will help empower you to offer the same forgiveness to others. Life is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. I know I didn’t deserve Your forgiveness of me. Help me understand why I should offer forgiveness readily to others. Help me to face the truth. Thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One to who paid for all my sins, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

Take Time To Listen

SOURCE:  Living Free/A Passionate Pursuit of God: Drawing Nearer to Him by Dr. Mike Chapman.

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” Joshua 3:9 NLT

Communication is a vital key to every relationship.

And so it is with our relationship with Christ. Intimacy with God is not possible without communication.

When we pray, we talk to God.

When we listen, God can talk to us.

Unfortunately, most of us spend all our prayer time talking to him, never taking time to listen.

God speaks to us in various ways:

Through the teaching of the Bible. Through Scripture “explosions.” (This is when a verse literally jumps off the page and speaks to us.) He speaks through a “still, small voice” in our hearts and minds. And sometimes he speaks though other people or through circumstances—in these cases, the message will usually be a confirmation of something he has already told us.

Consider this … 
How do we know when we are hearing from God, not the enemy or even our own imagination? First, God comes openly with peace, never causing fear, anxiety or guilt. Second, his message will always line up with Scripture and will build faith. And third, his message will result in more love and more power in our lives—not in confusion.

God loves you and wants to communicate with you.  Learn to listen!

Prayer
Lord, teach me to hear your voice. Help me to talk less and listen more when I pray. Help me to hear clearly from you as I read the Bible. And throughout each day, help me to be more open to hearing you speak to me no matter what else I’m doing or where I am. Teach me to listen. In Jesus’ name …

The Stages of Life-Controlling Problems (1)

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:  (1) experimentation, (2) social use or practice, (3) daily preoccupation, and (4) practicing just to feel normal.

Experimentation: We learn that the substance or behavior makes us feel good. We don’t notice serious negative consequences. Return to normal feelings soon follows isolated indulgences.

Social phase: We practice the behavior regularly but set limits for ourselves about when, where, or how we do it. The rules make us feel safe and appropriate, but we are trusting in the behavior or substance for our needs, not in God. Normal feelings are punctuated with more frequent uses, and we seek friends who also indulge.

Consider this … 
During the experimentation stage, we will usually rationalize our behavior. We might give excuses like peer pressure, thrill-seeking, curiosity, or a need to relax. As we enter the social phase, we may tell ourselves we want to be with new friends who don’t judge our actions. Or we need something to do on weekends or just want to have fun.

But all the time we are falling into “The Trap.” Today’s scripture refers to “strongholds of human reasoning” and “false arguments.” It also says to use God’s weapons, not our own, to overcome. When we feel ourselves being entrapped, we must make a choice. The only way we can be free is to recognize our need for God and to ask for his help.

Prayer

Lord, I’ve been making excuses for what I am doing, but deep down I know it’s wrong. Please forgive me. I need your help. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

We Are All ADDICTS !

SOURCE: Taken from an article at Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

We are all addicts.

Every one of us is addicted to comfort.

We all struggle to deal with discomfort, especially emotional or psychological pain. Even though we say “no pain, no gain”, it’s amazing how quickly we run from discomfort and pain, or need to quickly soothe it. You see, we are all born separated from God … and that is the ultimate pain. A temporary separation on the cross is what prompted even Jesus to ask God to have this “cup” pass from Him.

As kids, we develop strategies to deal with pain. Unfortunately, we aren’t mature and our “teachers” aren’t perfect. So developing coping mechanisms for physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual pain is random, faulty, and very short-sighted … not very effective for the long haul.

Our solutions are usually flesh-driven options, knee-jerk reactions, or immediate relievers. These “solutions” are the Addiction Objects … things we go to and rely on in a repetitive way to fill needs instead of looking to God for His answers. Now God could directly soothe us or He might choose to provide appropriate objects to fill our needs. But each time we need to look to Him first, not the object.

Addiction objects can be drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. But they can also be anger (or any emotion), work, productivity, security, our intellect, kids, money, spending, “martyr complex”, exercise, our looks/physique, sports, TV, hobbies, fighting, control, a relationship, sex, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If it is something that comforts you or relieves some negative feeling, Satan will use it as an addiction object. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.

One of the great lies that Satan perpetrates on us is that addiction objects offer self-protection. The truth is they are really self-destructive. Just look at Solomon’s experiences in Ecclesiastes, as he pursues everything under the sun for comfort, while leaving out God. He becomes overwhelmed, lost, and depressed, hen finally declares all objects to be vanity or meaningless when God is not pursued first.

When you are uneasy, lonely, stressed, etc, what do you go to first? Bingo! You found your addiction object. Next time, try to look to God first and see what He prescribes for your pain. He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and is always available for drop-ins.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, for many years I struggled with the pain of needing to be needed, accepted, valued. I turned to my addictions for comfort, but they caused more pain. You have freed me from my bondage to all addictions, but I still struggle with a need for control. Help me tolerate discomfort, because your grace is sufficient. Help me to grow the Mind of Christ and to look to You as my ultimate Lighthouse of refuge and sanctuary. In Christ’s freeing name.    AMEN!

The Truth

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1-3

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

 1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8,10,13

Am I In Danger of Having Idols In My Life?

SOURCE:  Taken from a devotion by Living Free Ministry

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5 NIV

Thoughts for Today
When we think of idols, we most likely picture a statue or altar of some kind. Most of us probably would never think of bowing down to such a false god. However, we could be in danger of bowing down to a more subtle idol.

An idol is anything we look to for solutions only God can provide.

When we look to anyone or anything other than Christ as our primary source of meaning, self-worth, comfort, or fulfillment, we are in danger of having an idol in our lives.

Consider this … 
The three main categories of idols are substances, behaviors, and relationships.

The most obvious substances are alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs, but even food can become an abused substance.

Behaviors include things like gambling and pornography. Even innocent behaviors like shopping, television viewing, and work can become idols when we place too much importance on them.

Relationship problems are often entangled with substance and behavior problems and can enslave us when we try to control others or live to please others.

When we choose to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for help only God can provide, we have chosen to follow an idol. Such a choice will prevent us from serving and loving God freely.

Are you looking to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions only God can provide?

Prayer
Father, help me remember that Christ is my primary source of meaning, self-worth, comfort, and fulfillment. I know that any other source can become an idol if I place it above you. Please show me if I have done that. Please forgive me, and help me put you first in every area of my life. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

Are We Not Clay In His Hands?

SOURCE:  John Owen as posted on The Essential Owen

This, I say, is the first thing that we are to humble ourselves unto. Let us lay our mouths in the dust, and ourselves on the ground, and say,

“It is the Lord; I will be silent, because he hath done it. He is of one mind, and who can turn him? He doth whatever he pleaseth. Am not I in his hand as clay in the hand of the potter? May he not make what kind of vessel he pleases? When I was not, he brought me out of nothing by his word. What I am, or have, is merely of his pleasure. Oh, let my heart and thoughts be full of deep subjection to his supreme dominion and uncontrollable sovereignty over me!”

~John Owen

——————————————————————————

From a sermon entitled Of Walking Humbly With Godvolume 9 of Works, page 116-7.  John Owen (1616 – 1683) was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.

Oppressed and Burdened — Ready to Give Up and Sink?

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow as posted by Deejay O’Flaherty 

Come All Ye Burdened Ones

Come, oppressed and burdened believer, ready to give up all and sink!

Behold Jesus, the Almighty God, omnipotent to transfer your burden to Himself, and give you rest!

It is well that you are sensible of the pressure — that you feel your weakness and insufficiency — and that you are brought to the end of all your own power. Now turn to your Almighty Friend, who is the Creator of the ends of the earth — the everlasting God, who does not faint, neither is weary.

Oh, what strength there is in Jesus for the weak, and faint, and drooping of His flock!

You are ready to succumb to your foes, and you think the battle of faith is lost. Cheer up! Jesus, your Savior, friend, and brother — is the Almighty God, and will perfect His strength in your weakness.

The battle is not yours, but His!

Jesus . . .
sustains our infirmities,
bears our burdens,
supplies our needs, and
encircles us with the shield of His Almightiness!

What a Divine spring of consolation and strength to the tired and afflicted saint, is the Almightiness of Jesus.

Your sorrow is too deep — your affliction too heavy — your difficulty too great for any mere human to resolve.  It distances in its intensity and magnitude, the sympathy and the power of man.

Come, you who are tempest-tossed and not comforted. Come, you whose spirit is wounded, whose heart is broken, whose mind is bowed down to the dust. Hide for a little while within Christ’s sheltering Almightiness! Jesus is equal to your condition.

His strength is almighty!
His love is almighty!
His grace is almighty!
His sympathy is almighty!
His arm is almighty!
His resources are infinite, fathomless, measureless!

And all this Almightiness is on your side, and will bring you through the fire and through the water.

Almighty to rescue — He is also your Brother and Friend to sympathize. And while His Divine arm encircles, upholds, and keeps you — His human soul, touched with the feeling of your infirmities, yearns over you with all the deep intensity of its compassionate tenderness!

“Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!”

Song of Songs 5:16

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Octavius Winslow (1808 – 1878), also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion”, stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America.

Are you waiting for God?

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 NIV

I know what some of you are thinking, and quite frankly, I understand…

Sometimes I get tired of waiting as well…

You’ve been waiting so long already…

When is your turn?

Sometimes I find myself in another one of these trying times, when it seems I can’t win for losing…I have my daily pity party…curse the day I was born…and wish the world would let me off the rotation for a while.

Maybe it’s not always that bad, but to be honest, sometimes I get impatient waiting for God to act!

Several times throughout the Psalms, the psalmist cries out “Come quickly, Lord!” I can identify with the writer.

I want God to act on my timing. Sometimes…just to be honest…I can’t understand why God hasn’t responded to my pleas for help! NOW always seems like a good time to me!

Now, please, don’t leave me out on an island alone… surely you’ve been there too! We have a hard time waiting for God to work His perfect will! It’s just hard to see how the present situation could ever turn out perfectly.

Then I remember that God is longing to be gracious to me, that His ways are not my ways, that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, that His plans for me are just and righteous. I recall that He loved me and planned victory for me before there was time, and that He sees tomorrow, before it is yesterday…or even today. He is God. He does not deal in issues of time. His ways are in elements of eternity. His view is from above; He sees the beginning and the end.

I know He has my best at heart. I am strengthened for another day. I can go on because I’m reminded of His love!

I will wait for the Lord!

Will you?

God’s Word: The Best Prop in Hard Times

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Joseph Stowell

WORD POWER

“I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.” Psalm 119:107

It was a beautiful day except for the fact that after a sizzling front nine, my golf game had tanked big time. I felt embarrassed in front of the two other guys I was playing with and really disappointed in myself. Why I tortured myself with golf and call it a game I’ll never know! But like a sports masochist, I keep going back for more pain.

As I was stuffing my clubs into the back of my car, trying to put on a good face, I was struck with the fact that I had just spent the afternoon with two guys who have problems that make my lame golf game look like a cakewalk.

Both of them have trouble on the home front, the kind of trouble that hurts the worst. Robert’s wife has been running him through the wringer of an excruciating divorce. It is something that he does not want and has tried for two agonizing years to turn around. She wants nothing to do with him or reconciliation.

My other golf buddy (the one who beat me mercilessly on the back nine) has been living for years with a situation at home that none of us would ever dream of enduring. His wife struggles with severe emotional imbalance and, though at one time was a follower of Christ, now wants nothing to do with Jesus or her husband. She still lives with her husband, so you can imagine what it means to walk into the house after a tough day at work to face a whole new set of challenges at home. He goes to church alone. He sleeps alone.

As I closed the back of my Tahoe, I noticed that my golf buddies were talking to each other in upbeat tones. What caught my attention is that they were talking about passages of Scripture that they had shared with each other the week before.

As they quoted portions of the passages to each other, the power of the content was compelling: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure” (Psalm 16:8-9). “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).

It was clear to see that they were lifting each other up with the power of God’s Word. Their enthusiasm for the support and joy they were experiencing in God and His Word proved that in times of trouble the Word of God is a source of comfort that infuses unusual strength into situations that put Word-less people into the dumpster.

I have to admit that I have never thought of using God’s Word to prop me up when my golf game goes south. But I was reminded afresh that there is unusual power in the Word of God to give us an edge during times of trouble.

So, when life hits the wall—go to the Word. And don’t isolate yourself!

God loves us and gave us His Word to take us all the way through!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Flip through the book of Psalms until you find a passage that speaks to your heart. Memorize the key lines and meditate on them throughout your day.
  • Pray the passage back to God in personal terms.
  • Keep looking. The Psalms are a therapeutic gold mine!

Broken Relationships

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry 

“Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV

Thoughts for Today
If you are divorced or have recently experienced a broken engagement or separation, you probably are having painful feelings of rejection. The sense of loss felt in these situations can be overwhelming. You thought you were secure and now you suddenly find yourself on your own. You might even have children to care for and inadequate resources of time and money.

Even though you have been rejected by someone very close to you, your attitude toward that rejection is your choice. You may choose to allow the pain of rejection to dominate and define the rest of your life, causing bitterness, depression and self-pity. Or you may choose to forgive the one who has hurt you, to accept your singleness—at least until God leads you in a different direction—and to move on with your life … making the most of each day.

Consider this … 
Even with positive choices, the pain won’t immediately disappear—but it will begin to heal. The time and money challenges will still be there, but you will be able to start dealing with them.

We live in a society of “quick fixes,” but recovering from this kind of hurt is a process. Learn to take one step at a time, trusting God to strengthen you and allowing him to love you.

Prayer
Father, help me to forgive. You have forgiven me of so much, even though I didn’t deserve it. Help me to forgive and to begin rebuilding my life. I know I can only do that with your strength, your love and your guidance. Thank you for freely giving me all this and more. In Jesus’ name …

Diagnosis: Worry; Cure: Perspective

SOURCE:  Taken from – Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry Network

A pretty interesting book was written about ten years ago titled The Knowing-Doing Gap. It highlighted an everyday phenomenon we see all around us and even in our own lives. The bottom line is, in general, we all know what we should and should not do, but there is a huge gap between knowing it and actually doing it. We shouldn’t smoke…but we do. We shouldn’t overeat…but we do. We shouldn’t worry…but we do.

At Lighthouse Network, we call this our Intellectual Creed vs. our Behavioral Creed. Our Intellectual Creed is what we know we should do, or more exactly, what we know the Bible teaches us to do. Our Behavioral Creed is what we actually do in a given situation.

Maturity, growth, and transformation are measured by how much our Behavioral Creed becomes more and more like our Intellectual Creed.

Our Intellectual Creed: we shouldn’t worry, no matter what the adversity because God is sovereign and in control of all things.

Our Behavioral Creed: we end up worrying about events or the opinions of others, or many other things that are out of our control. But they aren’t out of God’s control. Worrying really interferes with everything in our life from our relationship with God, our interactions with our self and others, and even injures our brain chemistry. In fact, for many, trying not to worry is like trying not to think about something; the more we try, the more anxious we become. So, we even begin to worry about worrying. Trying to fight this battle alone gets to be so counterproductive.

Perspective…how we view ourselves, God, and the circumstances He allows in our lives…is the key to good decision-making. Decision-making is knowing what the right thing to do is, then actually doing it. Will you have God’s perspective or your own? Big difference. Sometimes it is hard to have God’s perspective, but the more time you spend with Him, getting to know Him, the clearer His perspective becomes to you. Stop focusing on worry and put your energy into communicating with God. This strategy will help you achieve freedom from all sorts of negative behavior, including worrying. The idea is simple: replace hurtful, self-defeating tendencies with something wonderfully positive – communicating with your Creator and Savior.

Today, don’t just talk to God…listen to Him as well. He speaks to you through His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, through other believers, and constantly through the circumstances He allows in your life. As you give yourself over more and more to communicating with Him, you will find your worry-time evaporates and the knowing-doing gap closes. Your Behavioral Creed will match your Intellectual Creed.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I come to You in prayer with a thankful and penitent heart. I confess that I struggle to find the time to communicate with You…yet I seem to always find the time to worry about so many things that are out of my control. I have battled this worry-beast for years and have made little progress. Help me, Father, to focus more on You and less on worrying. Help me both speak and listen to You. I pray in the name of the One whose Intellectual Creed was His Behavioral Creed, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

Luke 12:25-26

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5

(God’s) Productive Pain

SOURCE:  Joseph Stowell/Strength For The Journey

“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’ll never forget when our youngest child Matthew fell and broke his wrist. It was grotesque! His arm took a sharp left turn at his wrist and then turned again to resume its normal journey to his hand.

We rushed him to the hospital where the doctor began to set his wrist. I watched as the physician pulled and twisted Matthew’s arm. I wanted to jump up and pull him away from my son! But I simply sat and watched, knowing that the agony was necessary to make Matt whole again.

If we trust earthly doctors to do that for our children, how much more we should be willing to trust God, the Great Physician, to reset our broken lives “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). One of God’s purposes in pain is to brand the image of Jesus in our hearts. Can we weep with those who weep? God may need to stain our cheeks with our own tears so that we can genuinely empathize with others as Jesus did. Are we self-sufficient? God may need to strip away our security to conform us to the God-sufficiency that Christ displayed. Are we faithless? It may require a tragedy to teach us to trust the Father as Jesus did.

Next time you feel broken, don’t panic—praise Him! God is at work!

Life’s fractures can be mended
By faith in Christ the Lord—
At first the pain but then the gain
And usefulness restored. —Hess

God’s purpose in pain is to brand His image in our hearts.

The Foundation of Unwavering Faith

 SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministry

Hebrews 13:1-8

When life’s storms arise, what is your typical response? Some people find themselves easily blown off course. Others become fragmented in their thinking, as doubt and fear plague their minds. They begin to wonder whether the Lord actually cares for them. But Scripture tells us unequivocally that He does.

Today’s passage provides the foundation for security during difficult times. In verse 8, we are assured that Jesus never changes. His being, works, and words remain the same forever. To understand the importance of this constancy, imagine a friend who has seemed loyal but without warning gossips or betrays you in some other way. Such unreliable devotion and violation of trust cause painful wounds.

All people will at some time, in some way disappoint us. The Lord is the only one who loves us perfectly and consistently. So take heart: God never changes. Regardless of what we’re facing today, our heavenly Father is still the One whose hand poured blessings upon us in happy times. And He is the One who strengthens, guides, and upholds us during difficult days. Each passage in the Bible reveals another facet of His flawless character, and we can know that we’re loved with the same devotion that Christ displayed by dying for us at Calvary.

Think about life’s peaks and valleys. When situations bring happiness, how do you picture God? As difficulties arise, does your view change? Thankfully, in the ebb and flow of circumstances, we can hold fast to Jesus as our anchor. Cling to our unchanging, eternal, loving Lord at all times.

Seasons Of Ups And Downs

SOURCE:  Dennis Fisher/Our Daily Bread

Most of us would agree that life has its ups and downs.

Wise King Solomon believed this and reflected on our responses to fluctuating circumstances. In Ecclesiastes, he wrote: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:1-4).

Solomon’s father, David, was called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14Acts 13:22). Yet David’s life illustrates how life is filled with seasons of ups and downs. David wept over his and Bathsheba’s first child who was fatally ill (2 Sam. 12:22). Yet he also wrote songs of praise and joyous laughter (Ps. 126:1-3). With the death of his rebellious son Absalom, David experienced a time of deep mourning (2 Sam. 18:33). And when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David, in spiritual ecstasy, danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:12-15).

We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we portray the Christian life as peaceful and happy all the time.

Instead, the Bible portrays the believer’s life as consisting of seasons of ups and downs. In what season are you? Whether a time of joy or sadness, each season should motivate us to seek the Lord and trust Him.

Dear Lord, help us to turn to You not only in sadness
but also in joy. We know You give us both good times
and bad to draw us to You and help us grow.
May we learn to trust You in all seasons of life. Amen.

Every season needs faith to get us through it.

When life isn’t the way it is supposed to be…BOUNCE BACK!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” -General George S. Patton

“bounce /bouns/ verb – to cause to bound and rebound — to spring back in a lively manner…”

To “bounce” means the ability to fight through an issue, to be resilient, to be able to stabilize after adversity. To recover — and to thrive.

In 2009 Rick Hoyt completed the Boston Marathon. This race was officially his 1000th race. Since 1977, Rick has competed in marathons, duathlons, and triathlons (6 of them being Ironman competitions). In 1992 Rick “ran” 3,735 miles in 45 days. Coast-to-coast.

Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. He would never walk or communicate as we do. He would never be “normal”. His life would be lived in a wheelchair.

In 1977, through the use of a special computer, Rick “told” his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Not being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. “Team Hoyt” rose up from seemingly insurmountable odds and adversity. That’s “Bounce”!

When life simply isn’t fair. Filled with sickness… debt… or abandonment…

When the walls are pressing in… and you don’t even know your own name.

When you feel like you can’t breathe — or see. And there is absolutely nothing you can do.

When life isn’t the way it is supposed to be…

CONSIDER THIS:

  1. He understands. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “…we do not have a high priest (Jesus the Son of God) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses(frailty — feebleness — sickness — infirmities — troubles), but one who in every respect has been tempted (the trying and testing of our faith, virtue and character)as we are …” (4:14 ESV) He’s been there. He goes before you… and with you!
  2. He will strengthen you“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace… will Himself restoreconfirmstrengthen, and establish you.” (1Peter 5:10 ESV)

Bounce back!

Put the devil on notice in your life… It’s time to get your dreams back… Get your family back… Get your marriage back… Get your anointing back… Get your strength back… Get your step back… Get your confidence back… Get your fight back!

Claim the life changing principle in Genesis 50:20. What satan, or even other people in your life, meant for evil, God can turn it for your good.

“You are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

Bounce back! It just might turn your life around.

Drifting Away [From God]

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Genesis 3:1

SOURCE:  Strength For The Journey/RBC

On a recent vacation, Tom was casually bobbing around on a raft just offshore. He closed his eyes, basking in the warm sun. Before he realized it, he had drifted too far from shore. He hopped off the raft to get back to the security of the sand, but the water was now over his head. He didn’t know how to swim.

The drift of our lives away from God is just as subtle. And just as dangerous. We drift one thought at a time, one small choice at a time, and often one damaging doubt at a time. In fact, our adversary is delighted to help our rafts drift from the protection and presence of God by casting doubt on God’s goodness to us. If you sense that your life has been set adrift—that God is not as close and precious as He used to be—then you may have just been in the riptide of an old trick of the enemy of your soul. The same trick he used to sever Eve’s heart from the joy of her relationship with her Creator.

Satan’s opening volley was not a blistering attack on God; it was a simply a question that he wanted Eve to think about. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). Actually, God had said that she could eat of every tree but one. But Satan twisted the facts to suit his purposes and to lead Eve’s mind to the conclusion that God was not the generous God she had known Him to be, but rather a stingy, restrictive, joy killer. Once she had let her heart drift to the wrong conclusion, it was easy for her to believe Satan’s lie that God just wanted to keep her from being as knowledgeable as He is and that the threat of them dying was just God’s way of scaring them into compliance with His stingy ways.

Satan still sets us adrift by planting doubt about God’s Word and spinning the facts to his own evil advantage.

Once we begin to suspect God instead of trusting Him, we inevitably drift away from Him. So, beware! Your life is full of scenarios where Satan can put his deceitful twist on your experiences. He is the spin-doctor of hell, and as Jesus said, “When [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

With that in mind, keep a lookout for some of Satan’s favorite spins:

  • Lie #1: God is to blame for the evil that Satan has inflicted on our lives.
  • Lie #2: God has not rewarded me for being good. I’ve been used, not blessed!
  • Lie #3: God’s rules are restrictive and oppressive. He just wants to take the fun out of my life.
  • Lie #4: God is good to others but not to me. He must not love me!

And there are many other lies, all custom-made for your head and heart. If you believe them, you have begun to drift away from the safe shores of God’s love and protecting provision. You’ll soon discover that you are adrift in the middle of nowhere, bobbing dangerously over your head. And count on it, as Eve was soon to learn, Satan won’t stay around to make you happy and fulfilled. He’ll be slithering off to more interesting company, leaving you in the deep waters of shame and regret.

Releasing the Holy Spirit’s Power

Editor’s Note:  Attachment to anything that turns into a life-controlling problem (or addiction) and becomes idolized brings slavery and not the freedom God intended for us to be able to freely love Him.  It is through the lifelong practice of surrendering to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that we find the grace and ability to be liberated from addiction — any controlling thought, attitude, behavior, relationship contrary to God’s will for us to become like Christ.  

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit indwells believers at salvation, which means His power is available from that moment (Eph. 1:13). God created a simple way for us to access that strength every single day.

First, we must accept the truth that within ourselves, we are powerless to live out God’s will. No matter how capable we may be, our own strength and wisdom are insufficient. Sometimes Christians get proud over the good they have done or the number of years they’ve been saved. Imagine how much more we could serve the Lord if we would humbly get out of God’s way and let Him work through us.

Second, we surrender our entire life to the guidance and governing of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we choose to conduct our spiritual walk—as well as our vocation, finances, family, and relationships—as God desires. His Spirit is not going to release supernatural power into a life that is continuing in rebellion.

Third, we exercise faith, which means demonstrating belief and trust in the Lord. Faith is the “switch” that releases the Spirit’s power. It’s like saying, “I believe You’ve got a plan, God, so I’m going to trust You to give me what I need in order to do Your will.” Then He will move heaven and earth to provide for your need, whatever it may be.

Merely memorizing and reviewing the steps isn’t enough. Instead, commit to these principles as a way of life. Get used to thinking, I can’t but God can— I’ll submit to His will because His plans are for my good and His glory. That’s the kind of life that surges with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Handling My Mistakes

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article at  Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Since every [one of us] makes mistakes regularly, the categories [in which we can find ourselves] are:

1. Make a mistake, get down on yourself, follow it up with another mistake, don’t learn from either mistake, continue in a minimal growth process imposing a glass ceiling on your potential;

2. Make a mistake, follow it with corrective or atoning action, then learn from your mistake to improve and grow yourself and your skills, and achieve your maximal God-given potential.

Even the most mature Christian’s faith falters at times … we all make mistakes. But this must not be thought of as failure. None of us are perfect … we don’t have the total functioning mind of Christ now.  We will be fully sanctified when we are with Him in heaven. Until then, we will stumble at times … not always believing and acting on the truths we intellectually know are true.

Peter’s faith faltered when he was walking on water, even in the presence of the Lord. When your faith does falter, do as Peter did, reach for Your Lord’s hand. Peter was able to use that situation as an opportunity to draw closer to God … to use God’s lenses to examine his heart … to see where he mistakenly placed his trust instead of in God’s teachings, promises, and character.

So too, when you put your faith or confidence in something other than God … like others’ opinions or approval … your finances or possessions … skills or intellect … looks or status … you will falter. Confess your sin … that in that moment you are worshipping another false god.

Today, receive God’s forgiveness and instruction. Examine how life would be if you put your confidence and faith in God instead of yourself or the things of this world. Growth, peace, and awesome worship of God will be your reward when you seize this opportunity instead of wallowing in shame, self-pity, and wasting God’s power to transform your life. When your faith falters, don’t follow it up with another mistake. Instead, confess your mistake and learn why your faith was in yourself or this world.  Your choice, so why choose to struggle if you don’t have to?

Prayer

Father God, my Lord, when my faith falters, remind me that I have not totally failed. When Peter’s faith faltered, he reached out to You, Lord, the only One who could save him. When I am afraid, I look to You, my Savior. I take Your hand as You reach out to save me. Thank You, Jesus. Help me remember each second that You are the only one who can really help. I pray that You touch me with Your healing power. Help me, Lord, to maintain my faith when situations are difficult. Help me keep my eyes on Your healing power rather than on my inadequacies or Satan’s masquerading idols. I pray this in the name of my safety net when I stumble, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,”why did you doubt”

Matthew 14:30-31

 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Do I Say to Jesus: “Yes— But…!”

Lord, I will follow You, but . . . —Luke 9:61

Source:  Oswald Chambers

Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do?

Will you hold back?

If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender.

Yet we tend to say, “Yes, but— suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about . . . ?” Or we say, “Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn’t go against my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.”

Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark.

In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God. Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.

God, first — EVERYTHING ELSE, second

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you —Matthew 6:33

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

When we look at these words of Jesus, we immediately find them to be the most revolutionary that human ears have ever heard. “. . . seek first the kingdom of God . . . .”

Even the most spiritually-minded of us argue the exact opposite, saying, “But I must live; Imust make a certain amount of money; I must be clothed; I must be fed.” The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God but how we are going to take care of ourselves to live. Jesus reversed the order by telling us to get the right relationship with God first, maintaining it as the primary concern of our lives, and never to place our concern on taking care of the other things of life.

“. . . do not worry about your life. . .” (Matthew 6:25).

Our Lord pointed out that from His standpoint it is absolutely unreasonable for us to be anxious, worrying about how we will live. Jesus did not say that the person who takes no thought for anything in his life is blessed— no, that person is a fool. But Jesus did teach that His disciple must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life, and to be cautiously carefree about everything else in comparison to that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Don’t make food and drink the controlling factor of your life, but be focused absolutely on God.” Some people are careless about what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they wear, having no business looking the way they do; they are careless with their earthly matters, and God holds them responsible.

Jesus is saying that the greatest concern of life is to place our relationship with God first, and everything else second.

It is one of the most difficult, yet critical, disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into absolute harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

Everyday IDOLS: Have One? You Bet!!

What competes with God for your affections?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Stacey Padrick

Riiinnngggg !!!

The doorbell outside the lobby of my apartment building alerted me to an unexpected visitor. I suspected it might be the man I had been admiring for some time. But my immediate thought was, Whoever it is, I can’t answer it! My apartment and I were both a mess, and I was not prepared for a Saturday morning visitor.

After much deliberation, I finally pushed the buzzer to allow him into the building. But by then he had already gone. I felt awful about not answering the door. As I expressed my regret to the Lord, I sensed that something more significant than a mere lack of hospitality had motivated my actions.

“Why was I so reluctant to welcome him in, Lord?” I questioned. Having recently studied the topic of idolatry, the answer hit me hard: I had made my image into an idol. What people thought of me had become too important. Though I could have given 100 softer-sounding explanations, I knew that only this one revealed the root of my response.

“Idolatry? That sounds a little extreme,” one might argue. “Isn’t idolatry about pagans in the Old Testament bowing down before gold or wooden images? We don’t prostrate ourselves before statues; what does idolatry have to do with us today?”

To answer these questions, we must look at the essence of idol worship: the spiritual posture of a worshiper’s heart. When we do so, we will discover that everyday idols are still a strong temptation for believers.

God’s View of Idolatry

In the Old Testament, people looked to idols for provision, meaning, significance, and identity. Worshipers bent their knees in submission and devotion to the idols they believed could save them. When the unfaithful Israelites turned to idolatry, God asked, “But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble; for according to the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah” (Jer. 2:28, NASB). But God made it clear that only He could save them. “You were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me” (Hos. 13:4, NASB). His people were to worship Him alone.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol. . . . You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.

Ex. 20:2–5, NASB

So abhorrent was idolatry in His sight, God commanded the Israelites not to leave even a remnant of the pagan peoples they conquered:

Tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars . . . and burn their graven images with fire. . . . And you shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

Dt. 7:5, 16, NASB

Yet despite these clear commands, book after book in the Old Testament drips with the tears of those who strayed to follow false gods. When the Israelites failed to destroy the pagan altars as God instructed, the idols of those nations ensnared their hearts. Though the prophets entreated God’s people to repent many times, Israel continued to live in rebellion. In righteous wrath, God ultimately responded by destroying Jerusalem with plagues, famine, war, and captivity (Ezekiel 6–11). Clearly, God took His people’s infidelity very seriously, and His response was severe.

Promises, Promises

“But that was in the Old Testament. Do we need to be concerned about idolatry today?” some might ask. We, too, fall prey to serving other gods by sacrificing the best of our time, energy, and attention to them instead of the Lord. Idolatry today takes many forms, from careers, entertainment, technology, and relationships to physiques, fashion, stock portfolios, and cars.

Though the shapes of contemporary idols may differ from those in the Old Testament, the temptation of idolatry—looking to something other than God for what only He can provide—remains strong. In the New Testament, Paul admonishes, “My beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14, NASB). No matter what the century, idolatry threatens to ensnare God’s people.

But we must go further than simply identifying the typical idols in our culture. For the sin of idolatry does not lie primarily in the object we worship, but in the act of worshiping anything other than God. The root of idolatry lies within us, for we set up idols in our hearts (Ezk. 14:3).

God created us with hearts that long to worship. Ever since the fall, Satan has corrupted our passion to worship the Creator and redirected our hearts toward created things. The problem, then, is not that our hearts are prone to worship, but that they are prone to wander. “Thus says the Lord to this people, ‘Even so they have loved to wander'” (Jer. 14:10, NASB).

When we allow anything apart from God to rule us, compel us, or control us, we have created an idol.

For example, does God want us to love our family and children? Yes! But when we allow these God-given gifts to define our worth and value, we make them into idols. Martin Luther pointed out, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God.” We worship idols when we look to something other than God to fulfill our deepest needs, satisfy our longings, give us hope, or define our identity.

Many idols are not inherently “bad.” Money, for example, is not a bad thing; the love of money is (1 Tim. 6:10). God’s blessings—love, family, hard work, exercise, food, sex, ministry—become idols when we begin to set our hearts on them above God. John Calvin observed, “The evil in our desires typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.”

Idols promise everything we desire: love, acceptance, worth, happiness. But they deliver bondage. Glistening like a spider’s web, idols intrigue and lure us but ultimately ensnare our hearts and lives. The lie of the idol hisses: “You cannot be truly fulfilled or have significance unless you have _____.” We begin thinking, Unless that person esteems me, I am of little worth. Unless I am married, I cannot be fulfilled. Unless I graduate with honors, I’m not valuable. Unless I have a date to the prom, I am a nobody. Unless I work at a well-known company . . . Unless my children excel at school … Unless I am financially successful. . . . But these idols can never deliver us or save us; God alone claims that privilege, and He asks us to set our hearts upon Him, not the things of this world (Col. 3:1–3, 1 Jn. 2:15–17).

Destroying the Destroyers

Our enemy diligently seeks to keep us enslaved to idols. Satan will whisper that our idols are harmless and insignificant, certainly not worth the effort it takes to destroy them. But when God’s people did not totally destroy their idols and those of their captives, idolatry plagued the Israelites for generations. When we allow anything to usurp God’s place in our hearts, we estrange ourselves from Him (Ezk. 14:5).

God wants to set us free from enslavement to false gods. Following are some ways we can begin to unshackle ourselves from the idols in our lives.

Unveil them. As we have already begun doing, we must detect and expose the idols in our lives. Prayerfully consider the following list of questions. They are designed to help you unmask any idols in your heart.

  • What preoccupies or rules my heart? Thoughts? Time?
  • What compels me? Controls me? Drives me? Motivates me?
  • To what does my heart cling?
  • What competes for my time with God?
  • What gives me a sense of worth? What defines my identity before others?
  • What do I crave?
  • If everything else were taken away, what is one thing I could not bear to live without?
  • Am I looking to something or someone to provide what only God can?
  • What do family or close friends think may be idols in my life? (Often others can see more clearly what we are too close to see.)

Remember, idols are not necessarily “bad” things. We can make idols of good, even “spiritual,” things. The Israelites worshiped foreign gods not only on pagan altars but even on altars within God’s own temple (Ezk. 8:16). Similarly, we may also erect false gods on altars within our churches and ministries. Consider the following potential idols:

  • Our strengths. Our culture and pride tempt us to rely upon our own strength, yet God calls us to depend wholly upon His strength.
  • Our gifts. We are often prone to rely more upon our God-given gifts than upon God’s Spirit to empower our ministry.
  • Our ministry. No matter how worthy our ministry, if we make it our central focus, we’ve created an idol.
  • Our productivity. We look to our achievements and accomplishments to validate our worth before God and others.

Repent of them. “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Repent and turn away from your idols'” (Ezk. 14:6, NASB). Isaiah instructs us in what to do with our idols: “Throw them away like a menstrual cloth!” (Is. 30:22). For some, that might mean throwing away (or at least fasting from) the things that hold sway in our hearts: TV, a leadership responsibility, a form of entertainment, a material item, coffee, a relationship. For others it may mean limiting the amount of time, money, thinking, or energy expended on potential idols. Dedicate the time previously devoted to an idol (such as working overtime, watching sports, surfing the net, serving on a church committee) to the Lord. Sit at His feet and delight in Him.

Again, none of these pursuits is necessarily wrong, but if we find ourselves serving them with the best or the bulk of our time, energy, and devotion, we may be worshiping them as idols.

Return to unadulterated fellowship with God. “Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hos. 14:1, NASB). God is jealous for our hearts and devotion. Just as a husband would grieve if his wife desired another man, so God grieves when we turn to false gods and become enamored with them: “How I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes, which played the harlot after their idols” (Ezk. 6:9, NASB).

Yet, knowing our waywardness, God reaches out to restore our fellowship with Him.

“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the Lord. “I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious. . . . I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God. . . . Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.”

Jer. 3:12–13, 22, NASB

And again in Hosea, He promises, “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4, NASB). In His ultimate act of love, God took the initiative to reconcile us through Christ while we were yet sinners (Ro. 5:8).

Vigilantly guard against new idols. Just when we think we have forever banished false gods, idols in new clothing will arise to tempt us. John, like Paul, warned his readers, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21, NASB). When we move to a new place, develop a new relationship, or enter into any new circumstance, dazzling idols lure us to worship them.

For example, when I moved to England to pursue graduate work, an air of intellectualism pervaded the university. I found myself prone to overly esteem well-known scholars in my field and to base my self-worth upon my academic performance.

More recently, I moved to San Francisco, a very image- and fashion-conscious city. Here I must guard my heart against allowing my appearance to become a god that I serve with my time, money, and energy. I must also be careful not to trust in my appearance to establish my sense of worth as a person.

At Rest in God

On any given day, our hearts are prone to wander. We must continually ask ourselves, “Who or what is ruling my thoughts and behavior: the Lord or an idol?” Idolatry drives us to seek life from false gods; they are never capable of providing it. As we devote ourselves to knowing God more intimately, we will be less likely to buy into the lies of false gods when they promise what only He can deliver.

We are a worshiping people, created to freely worship and serve God. He abhors idolatry because He knows that when we serve anything else, it will enslave and ultimately destroy us. Only worshiping Him will satisfy our soul’s deepest hunger for the food we’ve been craving in idols. Only in worshiping God, and God alone, can our hearts finally rest.

Perseverance: Simply Holding On OR Vigorous Confidence?

Editor’s Note:  When we must persevere, do we just endure until a circumstance is over?  Or, do we participate in a growing, dynamic, intimate experience with God as He tests and gives evidence of our maturing capacity to trust His goodness, love, and sovereignty over our lives?  Hopefully, more of the latter becomes the goal.

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

Because you have kept My command to persevere . . . —Revelation 3:10

Perseverance means more than endurance— more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life— throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.

God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet— places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You . . .” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance— a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.

God Made Stars – But, Can He Handle My Problems?

SOURCE: Taken from Our Daily Bread

For all of us who, like Job, have suffered through tragedy and then dared to aim our questions at God, chapter 38 of Job’s book should give us plenty to think about.

Imagine what it must have felt like for the great man of the East when “out of the whirlwind” he heard God say, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (vv.1-3). Gulp!

Job must have felt as puny as an ant. As God unveiled His questions in the verses that follow, what He said was as unexpected as it was powerful. He didn’t really answer Job’s “why” questions. Instead, God seemed to be telling him to notice the power and might with which He created this world and to observe His ability to control every element of it.

Isn’t that reason enough to trust God? Job should have been asking himself.

As one example of His awesome power, God pointed to the sky and told Job to observe two of His awe-inspiring creations: Pleiades and Orion (v.31). Highlighting His grandeur and man’s relative insignificance, God mentioned two constellations that demonstrate power beyond our understanding.

This is Someone we can trust.

If He has the stars in His hands, surely He can take care of us as well.

Creator of the universe
Who reigns in awesome majesty:
How can it be You love and care
For such a one as me? —Sper

He who holds the stars in space holds His people in His hands.

Turn to Jesus … what does that mean?

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

How refreshing is this fact … Jesus never changes! When you climbed out of bed this morning, regardless of how you might have felt, or the subtle changes you went through, He had not changed during the night. He is trustworthy and consistent.

             Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

No matter what your situation, you can turn to Jesus. Turn to Jesus … what does that mean? Obviously not just a physical turning, but something more practical and powerful. Turning our back on the world’s values, ways of measuring success, influences, and decision-making strategies. Turning away from the desires of our flesh.

What choices are you facing? We all make one very key decision in every circumstance we face that determines the outcome of that particular situation … the choice of the lenses I will use to view, experience, and assess this particular event God has allowed to come into my life. Turning toward, understanding, grabbing hold of, and using God’s instruction, forgiveness, grace, promises, and character to form the lenses I use to view each situation God brings my way. This is what I mean by turning toward Jesus. Following Jesus … choosing His way and His lenses, not yours … choosing to receive His love … choosing to trust Him.

If you use His lenses, of course you will still have problems and challenges. Remember the trials Jesus endured? But each one of these opportunities (yes, I called them opportunities) will be easier to navigate in a way that grows you psychologically and spiritually, because it won’t be you who is responding to the adversity. It will be Jesus who lives in you, who will be responding. You will be perceiving and responding in a Christ-like way, having the Mind of Christ.

Today, choose to trust Jesus and do things His way. God has room to work in your life. He will help you move on past the hurt, pain, or failures of the past. He will give you hope for the future. Use lenses based on who He is and what He teaches. Don’t use those distorted lenses with all the muck we’ve accumulated from this world.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I do want to trust You … not just verbalize it, but actually do it in every circumstance. I know You love me and that Your plan for me is the best plan. Please keep me on track … show me the next step … and the next one after that. I know turning to You isn’t physical, it is all mental. Help me turn it all over to You and allow Your perspective to be my lenses. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who I choose to follow, Jesus Christ – AMEN!

The Truth

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!

Proverbs 3:5-7

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

I Am As Sick As My Secrets – Search Me, Lord

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“What a man is before God, that he is and nothing more.” -St. Francis of Assisi

Delilah said to him, “How can you say you ‘I love you’ when your heart is not with me?… So Sampson told her all that was in his heart… when Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lord of the Philistines… and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair… she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Sampson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had abandoned him. (Judges 16)

Sampson. Powerful and strong. It is interesting that his strength was not really in his hair. His strength was in his heart. He was a Nazirite. The Hebrew word nazir means consecrated or separated. And it was by choice. His mother Manoah had dedicated him to this Nazirite vow before his birth. However, Hebrew law required that when he was old enough to understand, he recommit his life… permanently… to this vow. His heart belonged solely to his God. Until he gave it up to Delilah.

In a similar story, Amaziah served as king in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 25:2 records this indictment, “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.” Again, the original Hebrew language gives incredible insight into this verse. The word perfect (shalem), denotes complete… full… finished. Most of Amaziah’s heart was God’s. But he had saved out a little portion for himself. In the end, he was defeated and captured by Joash.

Could it be that many of the struggles in our Christian walk can be traced back to the same issue that Sampson and Amaziah had? A heart that is not “perfect” toward God. Those tiny areas that we hang onto for ourselves. The hidden parts. It has been said, “You’re only as sick as your secrets”. Perhaps that is why the Psalmist David pleaded “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Psalm 139:23-24 (KJV) Again in Psalm 19:12 “… cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (KJV)

The “grace” piece in all of this, is that God will do just that. He will show you the fragment of your heart that is not His. His Light will shine in the dark places of your heart to reveal the “secret place”. The sin that we cover, He will uncover — the sin that we uncover, He will cover. Surrender your whole heart to Him. Without a doubt, it will turn your life around.

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