Life Church of the Nazarene
Love. Grow. Serve.

Lenten Devotionals

Through Fri, 4/19/2019

Monday, March 11 ~ Separation from God

“Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.” -- Romans 3:23-24 (The Message)

There are plenty of things in life that we really want to stay connected to, but for many reasons we become separated from them.  There are simple annoyances like being separated from your car keys or losing your phone.  Then there are the tougher alienations like being separated from people who are important to you; a falling out with a close friend or becoming estranged from your spouse.  These separations are horrible, but the most devastating alienation we face is being away from God.

Sin divides us from God and His wishes for us, and our wrongdoing will ultimately separate us eternally from Him.  Our vice also pushes away the very people we were created to be near and bless every day.  Our sin and selfishness plague the people around us instead of blessing them, causing separation, angst and heartbreak.

Separation from God is our default setting in that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).  Out of sheer generosity, God made a way for us to be reconciled.  That Way is Jesus Christ. 

God has wanted to reconcile with us all along.  He did not want to be away from us, so He made a way for us to be reunified with Him.  We are helpless on our own to get back to a good relationship with God.  How helpless?  Our car keys have a better chance of finding us on their own than we have of finding our way back to God without His help!

TAKE ACTION:  Jesus Christ is the Way.  Accept Him- be reconciled to God through Him and follow Him all the way to everlasting life.

PRAYER: “Lord, thank you for your love and your desire to bring me back to you.”

 [BT]

 

Tuesday, March 12 ~ Separation from Family

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Heb. 10: 24-25

There is nothing like the family getting together with all the hugs, smiles, laughing, encouraging, playing, catching up on each other’s lives, and eating the family favorites.  Yet distance, mistreatment, choosing not to forgive, business, or sickness can cause family members to stay apart. Separation from family can be used to fester the wounds or refresh our love for one another.

 If we choose to disobey God the curse is not only on us, but our family.  Exodus 20:5-6 (NIV) says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

 We can be like the Prodigal Son who comes to his senses and thus returns to his father with repentance, or we can be like the father who is ready to forgive and express unconditional love to both the once lost son and the now jealous son.

 May this time of Lent be a time of spiritual growth within your family in both forgiving and encouraging. Psalm 103:17 (NIV) says, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.”

TAKE ACTION:  Make sure your sins are confessed, forgiven by God and man, so your family influence is a blessing. PRAYER:  Praise God for your family members by name and ask for God’s blessing in their lives. Thank God that you can pass on a blessing through your obedience to God.

[RG]

Wednesday, March 13 ~ Separation from Christian Friends

Acts 8:26 says, “An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get ready and go south.”  Verse 27 says, “So Philip got ready and went.” 

Some people at the beginning of a new year choose a word that they feel God has put on their heart that is an area where they should be concentrating.  If I chose a word, it would be obedience- instant and coplete obedience to the Holy Spirit. 

Because of Philip’s obedience he was directed to the Ethiopian who was reading Scripture but without understanding.  God used Philip to bring the Good News to this man, a man who was a stranger.

In the 9th chapter of Acts, we read of Saul’s encounter with Jesus and his conversion on the road to Damascus.  Jesus told Saul to get up and go into the city to a house on Straight Street.  The Lord also spoke to Ananias and told him to go to a house on Straight Street.  Ananias had heard about Saul and all the terrible things he had done so he was reluctant, but, according to verse 17, he went.  He was obedient. Both Philip and Ananias took the time, they were obedient, and made a new friend. 

Many of us are praying for family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends.  One of my prayers is that a Christian would come alongside and befriend my loved one.  I also realize that God might have someone He wants ME to befriend and walk through life with.  I do not want the sin of disobedience to hinder any friendship, new or old.  TAKE

ACTION:  Is there a Christian friend from whom you are separated?  Close that gap today with a note or phone call.

PRAYER: May I take the time to notice those around me and to be obedient; instant and complete obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

 [NM]

 

Thursday, March 14 ~ Separation from Those Unlike Us

 “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” -1 Peter 3:8

We all know that person - you know, the one who seems to be perfect at everything.  It’s the mom that’s always put together, whose child never has messy pigtails and knows every answer in Sunday School.  Maybe it’s the dad who makes great money but still attends every one of his kids’ sporting events.  Or perhaps it’s that person at work that never struggles.  It’s easy to look at them and think “I’m not like them” and keep our distance.  In fact, it can be easier to support, encourage and lift up those who are less fortunate than it is those who are just… ...different.  Maybe we’re intimidated by our own shortcomings.  Maybe we think they don’t need prayer, strengthening or friendship.

We know that’s sin, right?  That attitude of separation or distance that we create with people unlike us is sin.  Romans 15:7 says “Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God”.  That “one another” doesn’t just mean people of different nationality, socioeconomic status or political viewpoint.  (Though those are all included in God’s command to love one another.)  It means the people in our little world, who are different from us.  God is glorified when we appreciate who they are and show them His love.

1 Peter tells us to be sympathetic, compassionate, humble and like-minded.  Like-minded doesn’t mean we agree on everything; just that we agree on loving Christ.  In fact, when we open up to those, we perceive to be different or intimidating, we might find that we’re more “like-minded” that we initially thought. Everybody has struggles; nobody is perfect as we endeavor to follow Christ. True fellowship and friendship happen when we open our hearts to those around us - and THAT brings God glory.

Take Action: Look at the people in your circle of life.  Who have you kept at arm’s-length because they aren’t like you?  Be intentional about inviting them and including them in your life and church family.

Prayer: God, forgive me for overlooking people who appear different from me.  Show me those people in my life that I need to accept and share your love with.      [MM]

Friday, March 15 ~ Separation from Forgiveness

“For the wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord” -
Romans 6:23

I couldn’t believe what I saw. In a grocery parking lot, I saw a car drive into my friend’s car because she wasn’t parked straight, thereby creating a tight squeeze for the other car. The man who hit her demolished her front end and proceeded to spout some pretty colorful language at her.

The officer on the scene didn’t issues a ticket. I was ready to add my two cents.  My friend put her hand on my arm, turned to the man and said, “I’m sorry – I didn’t mean to hurt you, please forgive me”.  She put her hand out and he slapped it away and drove off.  Then she said, “Would you mind praying with me for that poor man?”  I stared in disbelief. She said, “I don’t want to hold on to anger, God wouldn’t like it”.  I rolled my eyes and held her hand as SHE prayed.   

Sometime later I learned that the officer was a friend of my daughter and he attended my daughter’s surprise birthday party.  At the party, and just as my anger welled up inside me prompting me to tell him off, I heard my friend’s voice, “God wouldn’t like it”. And I knew He didn’t. At that moment, Hebrews 12:1 came to mind: “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”.  At that moment God also brought to my mind that I was distant. I had given the devil a foothold…

Sin is the only thing that separates us from God and His forgiveness.  
·Forgive and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37B)
·In your anger, do not sin; ... and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27)
…Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… (1Peter 2:11)
·Jesus replied, “very truly I tell you, everyone who sins are a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
God made a way for us to conquer sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.

TAKE ACTION: Get serious about talking with God. He loves you. Ask Him to help you set your mind on things above, not on earthly things

PRAYER: Father, set my mind on Your priorities, not on earthly things.  You have called me; You are faithful; and I believe with all my heart and soul that You will do it!    Amen. 

 [TW]

Monday, March 18 ~ When There Isn’t Enough Time

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. -Matt 11:29 MSG

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time?

My alarm rings in the morning, and I often lie in bed thinking about all of the “stuff” that I have to get done that day.  Lunches to pack, kids to transport, work obligations: parent emails, lesson plans, papers to grade, meetings to attend.  After work, there are more meetings or swim lessons or gymnastics, grow group, dinner, helping with homework, dishes, laundry, messages to prepare, people to catch up with.  Bedtime comes too quickly. 

Many of us feel like we don’t have enough time, as if we’re jugglers in a circus trying to keep all the balls in the air.  The Bible is clear that each day is a gift and we are to be faithful stewards of our time.  Annie Dillard writes “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

The reality is that we all have the same amount of time; there are 168 hours in a week.  The same amount of time that Jesus had; yet, He never seemed rushed.  Matthew 11:29 Jesus says “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it.” (MSG) Jesus is the perfect example of living in the moment; doing exactly what God wanted him to do each day.

When I say I don’t have enough time, I’m essentially saying that God is insufficient.  The truth is that I have “just enough” time to do exactly what God wants me to do.  At the end of my life, it won’t matter how clean my house was, how fast my kids swam or how wrinkly my clothes were.  What will matter is that I’m loving my Savior every moment, and challenging others to do the same.

TAKE ACTION: When you’re feeling busy or overwhelmed, look to God to identify the things that matter, moment by moment.

PRAYER: God, please draw my attention to you. When I’m feeling like I don’t have enough time, remind me that You are sufficient to do the things You want me to do.

[MM]

Tuesday, March 19 ~ When You Think Time Is Passing You By

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. 
Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  -
1 Peter 3: 9

The world is moving so fast it’s hard to keep up. We are constantly thinking ahead just to stay in the moment. I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I think about the future. And the closer it gets, the more daunting it becomes. Sometimes I wake at night and think, “this is it, this IS my future, and it’s not what I pictured”. Regrets set in, hopelessness even, because it’s too late to change.

Satan loves those kinds of nights. He is relentless in his whisperings, “It’s too late, it’s too late, it’s too late…”; until we start believing it. We wake up at night filled with despair at the passing of time. It numbs our senses, it robs us of joy, it makes us slumber through the now in exchange for the worry of what’s ahead, or what’s not ahead. But don’t despair dear Christian,

Romans 13:11 says, “and do this, understanding the present time; the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” 

For those of us who put our hope in Jesus Christ, we don’t have to worry about what we have missed, the mistakes we’ve made, how old we are, how tired we are, or what lies ahead.  Our lives are in the hands of God and His timing is all that matters. Even if we have missed past opportunities – I am reminded of the wise words of C.S. Lewis: “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind”. 

TAKE ACTION: Pay close attention to the details of your present moments.  Process and reflect on those moments. One day at a time. Change up your routine, do something new, pray about your day before your feet hit the floor. It’s not too late.

PRAYER:  Father, bless my life and ministry this day. Open my eyes to the beauty of the present.  And when night comes, grant me rest and peace.  Amen.

[TW]

Wednesday, March 20 ~ When You Can’t See the Finish Line

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -James 1:2-4

It seems life today is all about finishing strong. I saw a vitamin commercial the other day that claimed to give the aged consumer so much energy that she danced around the entire neighborhood, looking forward to the next task. We see these popular quotes on social media, commercials, signs…everywhere;

“If you don’t step forward you will always be in the same place”;

Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward”;

“Slow and steady wins the race”

Move forward, keep going, don’t stop, go, go, go! I wonder where most people think they are going. I know where I’m going, and yet I still sometimes say, “not today”. Sometimes I forget where I’m headed, and I feel like I am running toward oblivion. Sometimes, I have run so fast and so hard and so far, ahead, that I am too tired to go on. I lose sight of where I’m going and why. I lose sight of Jesus. It is in times like those that I just can’t see the finish line.

As a Christian, when I am too weary to move forward, I need to stop, go back even. As far back as the day that the Heir to the throne of God was announced:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” -Luke 1:30-33

“His Kingdom will never end”. A great reminder. He is waiting for me, in the place that He has ready for me, my personal finish line. He came here to help me to “Be still and know that I am God” -Psalm 46:10. He knew this world would speed up and out of control. But speed is not his command or His desire.  Perseverance, trust, and taking one day at time, with Him by my side, that’s what brings my destiny into view.

TAKE ACTION: Slow down. Smell those roses. Appreciate His creation. Love Him by making time for Him. And love others as He commanded.

PRAYER:  God, when I am too tired and the finish line seems too far to reach and out of view, clear my eyes, strengthen my body, increase my faith and help me to trust You in my running and my slowing down.  [TW]      

Thursday, March 21 ~ When Worry Robs You

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:27

My friends and I were huge fans of Tarzan and his abilities while growing up.  We searched for and found a massive tree half way up a small, steep hill that had a wild grapevine hanging from its lowest branch from which to swing and yodel, loudly.

We cut the vine at the base of the tree and three of us took our turns.  Swoosh!  We swung down the hill past a fence at the bottom, rocketing all the way to the other side where we hovered for a split second, thirty feet off the ground, and then returned.  One of our buddies hesitated; “What if the vine breaks?”  The rest of us were swinging, and he finally joined in and took his place among the ape-men having the time of their lives.

Just as we began talking about going home, I suggested that two of us ought to try to swing at the same time.  I found a volunteer who was more intelligent than me.  We both grabbed the vine and FLEW. Wow, what a ride!  That is, until we reached the bottom where the fence was.  My smarter friend had grabbed the vine on the high side.  I had gone low.  I lifted my feet, but the barbed wire fence caught my ankle.   I did a swift flip that put me flat on my back, gasping for air.

 The trip to the ER was familiar; painful antiseptic wash, butterfly stitches, tetanus shot.

I learned some early lessons that day.  1.) A person should have at least some concern about danger, if they want to live.  2.) If you worry too much, you will never have fun.

Somewhere between those two is a life that is livable.  We all worry, but we were not designed by God to live a life of worry.  Long-term physical and mental problems stem from worrying, and God cares enough to help us live in a better, more satisfying way.  Jesus came to set us free.  He took up the subject of the problem of worrying in His Sermon on the Mount; “...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”   --Matthew 6:34

TAKE ACTION:  Is there a worry in your life that paralyzes you?  Is there something looming in your future that steals your joy today?  Be careful today and let tomorrow worry about itself.  Put away the “What if’s” and concentrate on today.

PRAYER: “Lord help me be cautious enough to be safe, daring enough to succeed at doing your will, and help me to worry less today.”   [BT]

Friday, March 22 ~ When Hope Is Elusive

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” -Proverbs 13:12

Hope fulfilled is a thrilling experience. Hope misplaced can be a devastation. How many have placed their hopes in the $5,000 per-week for life that has been promised by PCH? They are expecting that this will put them on Easy Street for the rest of their lives. However, for the one winner, there are thousands disappointed. How many will spend hundreds of dollars for a chance on the lottery when the winner will win multi-millions of dollars? However, once again the millions are disappointed when the winner is announced, and it is not them.

How many will jump on the band-wagon of the next presidential candidate, thinking that maybe this time we’ll see a change, only to find out when he is elected that it is the same old political games or worse? How many have invested large sums in the next housing project, or newest technology, or - - - - - only in the end to find that the project or whatever was not worthy of their investment. How many have put their trust and hope in a very dear friend, entrusting them with their deepest concerns only to find their trust misplaced by a real lack of understanding or concern? How many marriages start out with all the hopes and dreams of a lifetime of happiness only to wind up with misunderstanding, separation and divorce.

Hope placed on things and people can be very elusive. Where can one find something solid in which to place one's hope? All of the above posit happiness in this world, but we as Christians are really not citizens of this world, but of a heavenly world. Our happiness is found not in earthly things, but in a relationship with the eternal and the answer is found in the Holy Scriptures.

“God has chosen to make known - - - this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:2

“We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” Heb, 6:19 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Heb. 11:1 Paul summed up the essence of life when he declared, “And now these three remain: faith hope, love.” I Cor. 13:13

The Solid Rock: My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

TAKE ACTION: Reassess the basis of your hope. Is your real trust in things that perish or is it in those that are eternal?

PRAYER: Help us, Lord, to really trust you for all our todays as well as all our tomorrows that our hope may really be in You.

[WM]

Monday, March 25 ~ How Long, Lord?

“O Lord, how long will it be?” -Psalm 90:13

God always keeps His promises, but sometimes His schedule does not match with ours. In Psalm 90:4 we find “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by “.  As a youth, David was anointed to be the next king. However, Saul continued to be king for another ten to fifteen years until David was 30 years old. After David's success in killing Goliath, and subsequent victories in battle, Saul became jealous as he heard the people proclaiming, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Running and fighting, David escaped all of Saul's efforts to kill him, but in return spared Saul's life twice when he had the opportunity to kill him because he did not want to touch the Lord's anointed. How many times do you think that David asked the Lord,” How long will it be?”

You and I do not have the same problems David had, but God has made some promises to us. One to consider is, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) We are all burdened with many concerns that could cause us to ask, “How long will it be?” We figure, we worry, we fret, we re-figure, we scheme to find release from these burdens. Jesus said simply, “Come to me”. Our sense of independence asserts itself when our reaction should be to go to the Lord with our concerns.

The hymn-writer expressed it this way:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed in Thee.”

When the shadows come and darkness falls, He giveth inward peace.

In the promise of the Holy One: “My peace I give to thee.”

Tho' the storms of life in fury rage, Thy Refuge sure is He.

O He is the only perfect Resting Place! He giveth perfect peace.              

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

TAKE ACTION: Come to Jesus with your cares before fretting or worrying, knowing that in His time He will give peace.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for knowing our needs before we come to you but wanting us to put our trust in you by coming and asking.

[WM]

Tuesday, March 26 ~ How Much Do I Have to Give?

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. -Romans 12:1

As believers, we want to give to God.  We understand that giving is more than just a few dollars in the offering plate.  But most of us ask “how much?”  How much of my money should I give?  How much of my time and energy? What about my talents?  Our society tells us that we need to have balance in our lives.  The flaw with that mentality is that our lives are… well, ours.

The problem of sin began when Adam and Eve decided that their lives were their own and they would do with it as they pleased.  They entered into sin and their self-centered way of thinking has plagued every generation since and separated us from God.  It is from this life of sin that God has purchased us.  Colossians 1:13 says “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  God sent his own Son to purchase us from death.  He bought us back and restored our relationship with Him.  We belong to him; our lives aren’t ours; they are His.

After spending chapters outlining Christ’s’ sacrifice, Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.”  God redeemed us to worship Him.  All the time; not just on Sunday mornings, not just with a few hours a week that we set-aside to give to Him - but with all of our lives.  “God-time” can’t be just another box in our schedule.  We give with our economy, our jobs, our parenting, our relationships.  God wants to write “redeemed” on every hour, every dollar and every decision.  Instead of asking “How much do I have to give?” let’s ask “how does God want me to use His time, His money, and His resources?”

TAKE ACTION: What areas of your life are you holding back from God.  How can you give that in worship to Him?

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for the sacrifice of your Son Jesus.  May I live my life as a sacrifice - holy and pleasing to you.

[MM]

Wednesday, March 27 ~ When People Let You Down

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  -2 Corinthians 4:7-9

I was with about 50 inmates at the county jail one night, and one of the guys sheepishly walked up to me and introduced me to another inmate; “Pastor Bob, this is my dad.”  The young man’s father was having difficulty making eye contact with me.  He was obviously ashamed that his behavior had been taken up by his son.  I soon learned that the young man’s grandfather had also been a regular resident there at the jail, and even his mother, on occasion.

My first thought was, “How sad.”  But the plotline of this family’s story was taking a slow turn for the better.  The young man accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, and he began to study scripture and pray and talk and ask questions.  He found the One True Friend he needed to change him and help him into a better life.  His relationship with Jesus transformed every relationship he had with his friends (he had to distance himself from some), his family, and even his father.  Confession and forgiveness became the healing salve his family was desperate for.

We are all broken people in need of God’s help to put us back together.  Jesus Christ can redeem us and heal us.  Only then can we become the kind of friend to others that God needs us to be- the kind of friend that friends are desperate to have.  We become instruments of His grace in our relationships;

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  --Proverbs 17:17

Jesus walking with us day in and day out heals us and shows us who we need to be;

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  --Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)

TAKE ACTION:  Find someone in your life who needs to know that you are there for them, and that you will continue to be there for them.  Tell them you stand with them and ask God to help you be a faithful friend.

PRAYER: “Lord heal me of the hurt that people have caused by letting me down, and help me be a kind, steady, faithful friend to others today.”

[BT]

Thursday, March 28 ~ Same Old Problems

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.”   
-Isaiah 40:31

I’m reminded of the story in 1 Samuel of Saul’s relentless pursuit of David.  David ran for years, often hiding in caves. Over and over David pleaded with God to deliver him from Saul’s wrath – years! David often cried out in honesty to God, not understanding his plight, but trusting God’s plan.  He says in Psalm 143:1,4 “Listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. My spirit grows faint within me, my heart within me is dismayed”.

God hears our cry.  He helps us to “run and not grow weary”. 

That was a difficult time in my life. Same problems, different day. But I put my faith in God even though I felt weak and unworthy – and tired, so tired. I cried out to Him daily. I felt like a true whiner. But God didn’t see me that way. He not only delivered me but reminded me that this life is temporal and that I am “running the race” toward my permanent and glorious home. He also answered my cries far beyond what I could imagine. God says in Luke 21:19 “stand firm and you will win life”. He’s not just talking about this earthly life, but the life to come. The one He promises us. This life is a temporal one. When it gets too hard, be reminded of the glory that lies ahead and know that God is with you every step of the way.

TAKE ACTION:  Hope in the Lord in times of trouble. Even though this life is temporary, our strength is found in Him. Don’t give up the race. Seek refuge with your heavenly Father. He hears you. He loves you. He will deliver you.

PRAYER: Father, when I am weary, grant me strength for each day.  Help me to stand firm and come to my relief.  And may your will be done in me today, and every day.  Amen.     

[TW]

Friday, March 29 ~ Exasperated Children

Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Eph. 6:4

Enrage, infuriate, madden, frustrate are synonyms of exasperate. To know the reason a parent expects a certain action of obedience will often change exasperation to understanding and cooperation.  Knowing how to do right and why it should be done helps stir right living.  Setting the example of doing what is right certainly lends to admiration rather than disgruntlement.  Both suppressing evil and elevating good require balance of condemnation of the wrong and commendation of the right. "A torn jacket is soon mended; but hard words bruise the heart of a child." --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Rejoice as you spend daily time with God. It allows us to relax in knowing God has it all under control.  His ways and timing are perfect. He helps us to reflect on the influence of our words and attitudes to become better in treatment of others that will encourage and challenge rather than exasperate. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (KJV)

Adam and Eve were exasperated because of their wrongdoing and loss of paradise. They realized God’s condemnation yet there was hope and unconditional love.

TAKE ACTION:  Whoever you have authority over, show them a Christ-like example.  Be clear on why your expectations are required and be both wise in condemning and quick to commend. May your words, attitudes, and actions be pleasing to God.

PRAYER:  Ask God if there is any part of your life you need to improve and ask Him to help you make those improvements.  Ask God to help you live an exemplary life that is full of affirmation and encouragement.

[RG]

Monday, April 1 ~ Praying with Anticipation

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming
at an hour you do not expect. -
Luke 12:40

 When you greet a friend, you anticipate a response. The closeness of your relationship determines the response. Similarly, we anticipate a response from God when we pray. Fortunately for us whatever we anticipate from him falls far short of what he can do. During Lent we are reminded of all that God has done and will do.

 ·He made and sustains all creation. (Genesis 1:1-31, John 1:1-5, Hebrews 11:3)
·He sent his son, Jesus, to forgive our sins. (John 3:16, Eph. 4:32, I John 1:9)
·He performed miracles. (Matthew 8:13 Luke 7:11-17, Acts 9:36-42)
·He gives new life for those who believe in him. (John 11:25, Romans 8:11
·He promised to return to make all things new. (I Corinthians 15:52, Luke 12:40)

Because Jesus forgives, we can be certain that no matter how feeble our prayer or how badly we've messed up our life, he still loves us, and will bring about life changes - changes that enable us to walk from darkness into his light. We can anticipate with confidence that upon his return he will make all things new. He will release those who love him from the bonds of sin to share in his glorious new creation forever.

How should we live while anticipating his return? In Isaiah we are told to wait patiently. While we wait, we are to walk in truth, endure even in the midst of suffering, and share the living hope of his salvation with others. Let's pray and live with joyful anticipation of his return. It could be today.

TAKE ACTION: Build a closer relationship with God by accepting his gift of new life through Jesus and share it with others through loving service.

PRAYER: Father, I pray that you will help me to be motivated by the sure knowledge that Jesus will return again; cause me to live a pure life of holiness and anticipate your coming. I pray that I will live this week as if I know for sure that you are coming by next weekend. Let me be a witness to your saving grace in the lives of those who are not ready for your return. (prayer is from www.moodymedia.org/blog/2013/01)

 [SR]

 

Tuesday, April 2 ~ Anticipating Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. -1 John 3:1

We can anticipate God’s unconditional love always! We are His children with all the benefits and rights of sonship.  1 John 4:11-12 says, Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Whether your love language is gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, or physical touch, you anticipate both giving love and receiving love. To know the love of God brings great anticipation. As the father of the prodigal son never stopped loving, so our God continues to love us.

The hymn, “The Love of God” expresses well God’s love. (by Frederick M. Lehman, 1868-1953)

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.”

TAKE ACTION:  Think of ways you can share God’s great love today with great anticipation of good consequences.

PRAYER:  Ask God to help you show love to the lovely and unlovely and to concentrate on His love that shall endure forever.

 [RG]

Wednesday, April 3 ~ Anticipating Joy and Peace

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. -Isaiah 9:2 (NLT)

The days are shortest in winter. We know this because it gets dark earlier.  But wait, we still have 24 hours in a day, right? We still determine what we fill our days with, whether the sky is light or dark, do we not?  It’s the same with time. It seems to pass quickly when our lives are full of light and life and drag when we walk through dark times and deep waters. Our brains are wired to react to the light, or to the darkness. Perspective.

Maybe that’s why so many people today are depressed, confused and anxious. The world has become a dark place; impossible to escape really. Just scroll through Facebook, watch the news, watch the people, and listen to their words. Sadness, anger, immorality and hopelessness abound.

But there is good news!  In Jesus Christ, we can be re-wired. We are given a promise through the prophet Isaiah: “…for those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”  God extends that promise in Isaiah 60:19-20:

“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.”

Anticipating what Christ has in store for us is directly related to hope. With hope, darkness dissipates. With hope, our joy is restored. With hope we have peace.

TAKE ACTION:  Make time for Jesus Christ in your life. He is the light that vanquishes the darkness. He came to earth, He ascended into Heaven, and He is coming again.  Anticipate His arrival.  Allow Him and Him alone to restore your joy and give you peace.

PRAYER:  May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

-Romans 15:13

 [TW]

Thursday, April 4 ~ Anticipating with Patience and Kindness

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:6-7

“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow, I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”

Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.

Like George Mueller, we can anticipate with patience and kindness the provision, mercy, grace, wisdom, and power of God in our daily lives. “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.”

TAKE ACTION:  Take your concerns to God knowing he wants to hear them and answer them in His almighty way.  Remember to thank Him for what He has done.

PRAYER:  Ask God to help you to not worry, but instead to pray about everything and rejoice over what He has done.

[RG]

Friday, April 5 ~ Anticipating Jesus’ Return

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust in me.

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be with me where I am.”
-John 14:1-3

This a direct promise Jesus made to his disciples and thus to all who follow Him. There can be no equivocation about it. Jesus said it and it is true. He is coming back for those who are His. This was further declared by the two angels after Jesus' ascension into heaven who said, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

The early disciples thought that the Lord's return was imminent, thus the Thessalonians asked Paul about those who had died before Jesus came back. Paul's answer was, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. - - - - After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever.” I Thess. 14-17

We do not know when He will come again. The early Christians believed that He would come during their life time, so Peter had to admonish them, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief.” II Peter 3:8-10

John Peterson caught this in the chorus of his song Jesus Is Coming Again.

                Coming again, coming again!   May be morning, may be noon,

                Maybe evening and maybe soon!     Coming again, coming again!

                O what a wonderful day it will be - Jesus is coming again!

TAKE ACTION: Keep up to date in your relationship with the Lord so you will be ready should He come today.

PRAYER: Lord, help is to be faithful with those things you have given us to do until you come.

[WM]

Monday, April 8 ~ Having Faith Brings Hope

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

When Isaiah spoke these words, he was speaking to the Israelites in Babylon who were in despair. Isaiah spoke a promise that echoes through the ages and is for all people through Jesus.  God’s promise is this; if we put our faith in God, with God beside us, we will have the hope and ability to meet the challenges of life and, indeed, even to rise above them forever.

A pastor who lost his wife to cancer before she was age 60, spoke his first sermon to his congregation following the funeral by saying, “I will not faint. I will not grow weary. I will not fall back or give up. I will not lose hope. Because God is with me and I with God, I will soar on wings like an eagle.”

“The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

TAKE ACTION:  Remember no matter how things may seem, we are never alone.  We have hope that will help us soar.

PRAYER:  Ask God to help you to put your trust in Him no matter what you are going through.  Ask God to help you to encourage others to do the same.

[RG]

Tuesday, April 9 ~ Confession Is Good for the Soul

“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
-
James 5:16

My sister and I were always the two prime suspects at the scene of any crime in our house.  If a household item was broken or damaged, our parents had to judge in these situations because both my sister and I had a history of destroying things.  Nine times out of ten though, I was the culprit who needed to fess up. Mom and dad would try to pry a confession out of my sister and I, and I would resist. The pressure (and guilt) would eat at me until I finally confessed and faced my punishment.

These situations taught me two things; 1.) I would probably not survive as an only child with no siblings with which to share blame, and 2.) Confession kind of feels good.

Confession has tremendous healing power. The writer of James makes it clear that, as Christians pray for each other, they should also confess their sins to each other.  The author is telling a group of Christians that they should pray for each other when they are physically sick, and right in the middle of these instructions, he adds, “...confess your sins to each other...”

God can heal us when we have a physical problem, and that is precisely why we pray consistently for each other’s ailments.  God is equally able to heal us of sin, and confession is the beginning of the healing process. 

We sin against God, but we also offend others with the same sins.  Confession is the beginning of the healing process for our earthly relationships, and that good feeling awaits us as we confess to each other.

TAKE ACTION:  Is there someone you need to confess your guilt to today?  Talk to them today and admit the wrong you have done.  Bring healing to that relationship!  If you don’t have the courage to do that, then confess your guilt to another Christian and ask them to pray for you to get the courage to make things right.

PRAYER: “God, is there anything I need to confess?  I admit my sins to you, and I ask your forgiveness.  Strengthen me and help me not to give in to the same temptation and lead me to others that I need to apologize to and make amends.”

 [BT]

Wednesday, April 10 ~ Remembering

 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor, nor a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord' because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greater, For I will remember their sins no more.”
-Hebrews 8:10-12

The author of Hebrews quotes verbatim from the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:33-34. In this passage, the author of Hebrews presents Christ as the forever High Priest, fully able to intercede before the throne of God for all mankind. Part of this intercession is that He will remember our sins no more.

Memory is a wonderful aspect of humanity. I can remember things from my childhood, a good while back for me. Our enemy uses it to remind us of things we want to forget. He goes back and one by one brings things up from the past, those sins and mistakes in judgment and failures in choices that we have made. I just went through one of those periods of attack from the enemy. Starting with my teen years, through college, through each of my pastorates and even into retirement when I was supposed to be on top. To be shown how weak I had been is not pleasant, especially exaggerated as they were by the enemy.  It is not pleasant to be confronted with them all again. But thank the Lord I can plead His atoning blood to cover all my past and for Him not to remember them again.

My precious wife could not accept the fact that God could ever forget anything. She would argue that He would not hold anything against those who were forgiven, but for God to forget anything was anathema to her. We had to agree to disagree about this. No one can really know the reality of the eternal One.

My advice to you is that when the enemy does engage your memory to accuse you, remember the time when Christ came into your heart and made a change in you and plead His precious blood to keep you and give you victory.

TAKE ACTION: When the enemy engages your memory to bring you to despair, counter with the memory of the change Christ made in your life and with His promise not to remember your sins again.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for your grace that extends your loving forgiveness to us as we walk with you. May our memories be those you give us of your blessing.

[WM]

Thursday, April 11 ~ Forgiving

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

As C. S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”  We church people talk about forgiveness all the time.  75% of Christians believe that God has forgiven us for our sins.  But only 54% have forgiven others. The truth is that we cannot ignore the commandment of forgiveness and still learn to be Christlike. In order to be the people God called us to be, we must forgive those who have hurt us. But how do we do that?

For some of us, forgiving can be the most difficult thing that we do in our lives.  But it’s that decision to forgive that sets us free from bitterness, anger, self-pity and allows God to heal our deepest wounds.  But notice: forgiveness is a “thing we do,” not a feeling that we have.  It’s not about the person we are forgiving; we choose to forgive whether they ask for it or not.  It’s about us; it’s surrendering those feelings of hostility and pain to God.  It’s releasing the offender from the debt we feel they ‘owe’ us.

Forgiveness does not come naturally.  The ‘feeling’ of forgiving someone often comes long after the willful decision is made to forgive.  To forgive does not mean to forget.  It doesn’t mean that the offense didn’t happen - or that it didn’t hurt.  It doesn’t mean that what they did was ok.  It means that we choose to let go of the hurt it caused us.  It doesn’t mean that the offender deserves to be forgiven.  None of us deserve to be forgiven.  But as our Heavenly Father forgives us, we choose to forgive others.  God forgives us because He loves us.  He wants US to forgive… because He loves us.  Taking our hurt and pain to Jesus, instead of holding it against one another, allows us healing and restoration in our lives.  Only then can we become the people the God has created us to be.

TAKE ACTION: Who in your life do you need to forgive.  Make the decision to forgive them and ask God to help you let go of the hurt they have caused.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your Ultimate Act of forgiveness on the Cross.  Point out those who I need to forgive and help me to do so, in your power.

[MM]

Friday, April 12 ~ Worshipping

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God –
this is your true and proper worship. 
-Romans 12:1

I have a routine. Before I leave the house for church, I do a last-minute check at the door. Have you ever done that?  “Bathroom?  Mittens? Hats? Bibles?”

What I really need to check though, is my heart.  In Malachi 3:3 God was serious about preparing hearts for worship: He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.

If we want to live in God’s will each day, we need to be ready.  We need to allow God to purge and purify us! Think of a musical instrument. It gets played on Sunday, then it goes in its case. When it’s taken out to be played again, it must be tuned – it’s been locked up, bumped around, exposed to outside elements. The same is true of our heart. We tune it up on Sunday, then during the week, it gets out of tune by exposure to outside forces. Like an instrument left alone, a heart left alone needs tuning. It’s like the song “Come Thou Fount” which says:  Come thou fount of every blessing…tune my heart to sing thy grace.  

Are you finding fault with the music, preaching, teaching? Check your heart. Worshipping God on Sunday morning with an untuned heart is not worship at all. It’s no more than religious pageantry. It’s external, void and meaningless. If your heart is right with God, external forces won’t matter.  Worship begins long before Sunday morning. We are not perfect, we fault every day. It’s important that we are in constant communion with Him, seeking His will, mercy and grace. We must continuously labor to keep our heart right before God.

Make sure you check it at the door…

TAKE ACTION:  Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer. Worship is more than music. It’s living in a loving relationship with Him every single day.

PRAYER:  God, you are the composer of my life.  I pray that the song of my heart would be filled with joy and that the cadence of my soul be pure and true.

 [TW]

 Monday, April 15 ~ Asking God’s Forgiveness

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9

Sometimes my kids are naughty.  (Really, it’s true.)  Sometimes they lie - usually about silly things like whether or not they’ve brushed their teeth.  Sometimes they take cookies without asking.  Sometimes they are unkind or say hurtful things to their siblings.  Other times, they make mistakes such as leaving their dishes on the table or forgetting their winter boots at school.  Basically, they are normal people.  The thing that boggles my mind is that they often think I don’t know what they did (or didn’t do.)  They think I won’t find out about their boots, or notice the cookie crumbs on their face, or that I won’t smell their stinky morning breath.  Someday they will learn that I’m the mom and moms know everything.

A lot of us tend to be like little kids when it comes to our Heavenly father.  We go about our day and - as normal people - we sin.  We make selfish choices, we treat others poorly, we have an un-Godly attitude.  Yet, we carry on as if nothing is wrong and then ask God to bless us.  Do we really think that God doesn’t know the depths of our hearts or thoughts in our minds?  Of course, He does.  And, of course, He will forgive us.

 God loves us more than we can imagine.  God loves us more than I love my children and that doesn’t seem fathomable to me.  In that love, God wants a relationship with us.  He’s not a celestial vending machine of blessings.  Just as I want my children to come to me with their mistakes and shortcomings, God requires that we confess our sins and ASK for His forgiveness.  Just as I want to teach my kids why we shouldn’t have cookies before dinner or why it’s important to brush our teeth, God wants to work within us and help us grow.  When we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, we are opening communication in a two-way relationship.  God strengthens us, teaches us, empowers us and helps us to become more like His son Jesus.

TAKE ACTION: Be intentional about recognizing your sin and confessing it to God.  Ask for forgiveness and allow God to mold you and shape you into the person He’s created you to be.

PRAYER: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24)

[MM]

Tuesday, April 16 ~ Jesus Is Enough

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” -John 6:68

Peter made this declaration after many who were following Jesus turned back. Jesus asked the disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” The reason many were leaving was because the words Jesus was saying were too hard for them. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35. Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12. He further declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25. Jesus also proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Jesus told the disciples, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63

In a world that is increasingly nonspiritual, it is difficult to maintain a spiritual outlook. As humans, our natural bent is toward the material and secular world. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” John 6:65. God does enable us to overcome the tension between our human tendency toward the world and our spiritual drawing toward Himself so that we have peace with God and with ourselves.

Steven Adams caught this in the following chorus:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace;

                Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is love.

                There is comfort in life's darkest hour,

                There is help and power in the Spirit,

                In the Spirit of the Lord.

In these days of increasing pressure from the secular world, may we find strength and power from our dependence on the Spirit of the Lord.

TAKE ACTION: In the interest of attaining eternal life in Christ, let us allow the Spirit of God to fill our lives to the extent that the spirit of the world will have diminishing power over us.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to open my spirit to receive you in the measure you want to pour your Spirit into me.

[WM]

Wednesday, April 17 ~ Forgive Yourself

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  - Psalm 103:12

Have you ever thought “God can’t forgive someone like me.”?

At first glance, it may seem like an idea that stems from humility, but in actuality it comes from a much darker and more sinful place. At best, it is false humility, which is a spiritual barrier that will hinder your relationship with God. At worst, it is pure idolatry; it is the worship and reverence of the power of sin.

1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  What is the prerequisite for Christ’s forgiveness? It is confession. Therefore, if we confess, He will forgive. In fact, Jesus commands us to forgive and warns of the dangers in failing to be obedient (Matt. 6:14-15).

But must we forgive ourselves? What if I committed a truly devastating sin?

When you refuse to forgive yourself, you are, in truth, nullifying the power of the cross in your own life. In essence, you are saying, “Lord, my sin is more powerful than Your forgiveness.” That is an act of idolatry; some might even say blasphemy.

If we believe the lie that our sins are unforgiveable, or if we deny forgiveness to ourselves, we are setting our sins higher than the cross. May it never be, for in all things we should be like Christ, and if God, our Heavenly Father, will remember our sins no more (Isaiah 43:25), then we too can leave them buried beneath the blood of Jesus Christ.

TAKE ACTION: Confess your sins to God and accept His forgiveness that is found in the blood of Jesus.

PRAYER: Thank God for sending His son to die on the cross for your sins.

[SK]

Thursday, April 18 ~ God’s Love Heals Us

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”  -Isaiah 53:4-5(NASB) 

In her song “Blessings” Christian recording artist Laura Story asked some tough life questions: “But what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through pain? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know that You are near? What if the trials of this life – the rain, the storms, the hardest nights – are Your blessings in disguise?”

We know that life is filled with all sorts of hurts and pain, sickness and sorrow, trials and stress.  Our prayers are often filled with desperate pleas for healing – spiritual, physical, emotional, financial.  Sometimes it seems that God is so far away that He doesn’t hear our prayers.  Perhaps we reach the point where we doubt God’s goodness and His love.  We grow impatient waiting for Him to act upon our petitions and intercessions.

Yet, amid our doubt and anxiety, one fact remains: God desires to heal us. “For I, the LORD am your healer” (Ex.15:26).  His Will is that we live in wholeness – body, soul, and spirit.

 God has made a way for us to experience healing from the inside out.  He sent His Son to be the agent of our healing.  Jesus Christ, our Great Physician, has the power to heal today.  God so loved the world that He sent His own Son, that whosoever believes in Him would be saved, restored, healed, and made whole. Isaiah the prophet foretold the mission of God’s suffering servant (Is. 53: 4-5). He described how Jesus would have to suffer, bleed, and die so that we might experience healing, restoration, and reconciliation with our Maker.  God’s love made that possible.  When we are afflicted with the trials of this life – the rain, the storms, the hardest nights – be assured Jesus is near. He hears us, He loves us, He is willing to heal us.

Today God offers us the chance to be healed.  We can come to Him with the spirit of the psalmist David who said, “O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and You healed me” (Ps. 30:3)

TAKE ACTION:  Jesus Christ is our Healer.  Take time today to cast all your care upon Him.  He does care for you.  He desires that you live in wholeness: in your body, your soul, and your spirit.

PRAYER: Thank God today for His love in providing a pathway to healing.

[AH]

Friday, April 19 ~ Victory Over Temptation

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
—1 Corinthians 10:13

Julie and I boarded a huge plane headed for Chicago as we made our way back to NY a few weeks ago.  As we were walking to our seats, I took note of the exits.  Out of all the info given in the safety briefing, this is the item I pay attention to.  If there is a problem with the plane, I want to know where to go to get away from it (and hopefully we won’t be at 30,000 feet if an exit is necessary!).

Today’s passage contains a crucial principle for every Christian to put into practice; when tempted, look for the escape and take it quickly. God doesn’t say, “When you are tempted, go ahead and sin, and I will forgive you later.” 

Temptation is not sin.  It is the lure that Satan uses to try to hook you and reel you away from God and into sin.  Are you clear on this?  Temptation is not sin and defeat, it is only the invitation to sin and defeat.  We avoid the defeat of sin and the suffering that always accompanies sin if we decline the invitation.  Find the exit God has provided and run.

The reason God wants us to run away from temptation is simple; He loves us. Think about it from God’s perspective. He can help us escape temptation, wrap His arms around us and say, “That was a close one, and good job taking the exit I gave you.  He is willing (and able) to save you from sin, AND He loves you. God would rather heroically help you avoid temptation than put us back together after your life has been filleted by sin. When we avoid temptation, we become stronger and stronger. When we sin, our lives become more broken and weaker.

TAKE ACTION:  There will be temptations today and God is powerful enough to help you avoid every single one.  Take the exit He provides and get stronger and stronger in your faith!

PRAYER: “Lord give me the wisdom to recognize temptations today and give me the strength and courage to decline the invitations.  Forgive me for the sins I have fallen prey to and deliver me from the enemy with your forgiveness and salvation, amen.”

[BT]

Thank you for joining us on this Lenten journey.  We pray that you continue to be encouraged as you move forward in your walk with Jesus Christ. 

Devotional Writers:

RG      -           Pastor Ron Graeflin

AH      -           Andy Hodge

SK       -           Scott Keen

NM      -           Nancy Mack

WM     -           Pastor Walter MacPherson

MM      -           Pastor Michelle Matteson

SR      -           Suzie Rothenberger

BT       -           Pastor Bob Tharp

TW      -           Terri Ward