Devotionals
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September 18, 2017, 5:00 AM

How do you let your circumstances dictate your faith and perspective of God?


Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13

 

A routine doctor checkup leads to a grim prognosis.  A once happy marriage crumbles beyond the point of repair. A lost daughter continues to disengage and spiral out of control. A rejection letter from the college of your dreams arrives in the mailbox.  A terrible storm wrecks havoc on your home. A call into your boss’s office leads to a pink slip. A pile of unpaid bills clutters your desk. A wedding invite from a friend reminds you of the unanswered prayers for a spouse. A person’s hurtful words or actions hurt you and led you to shame. These are just a few of life’s interruptions. Maybe your painful experience isn’t on the list above.

 

But, each one of us will encounter a time when our once perfect world shatters and we’re left picking up the jagged pieces. This is one of the few certainties that come with living in the brokenness of humanity. And when life’s interruptions do make an appearance on our doorstep, what comes flooding into our hearts? Pain. Hurt. Disappointment. Grief. Discomfort. Sadness. Sorrow. Confusion. Agony. We wonder if God is there. And if God is a reality, does He even care about what is taking place in our lives?  But, the more challenging questions we wrestle with are these: “Okay, so let’s say God exists, and even cares, then why doesn’t He do anything to change it? Why doesn’t He rescue me from my pit? Why doesn’t He fight on my behalf? If He is all powerful, why doesn’t He display His power and fix my situation?”

 

In the midst of the pain, it is a challenge to feel His presence. Confusion overcomes clarity and comfort. When you hurt, you question if healing is possible. Sorrow overpowers sanity. Sometimes the pain makes us forget about the unshakable truths regarding the character and heart of God. Instead we let our circumstances dictate our beliefs. Exodus 34:6 says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God.” Compassion is at the center of who God is. We forget that at one time God was a man who walked this earth. Jesus experienced the same hurt, pain, ridicule and suffering we do. It isn’t just lip service to say that God knows exactly how we feel. Everywhere He went people were clamoring for His attention.

 

What was Jesus’ response to the brokenness of humanity? Compassion. In Matthew 9, Jesus is healing the sick and the hurting. For a moment He pauses and gazes at the crowd and compassion overtakes Him. Jesus sees they are harassed and helpless. Doesn’t that also describe how many of us feel in the midst of life’s many interruptions? Isn’t that how we feel when we encounter the reality that no matter how much we fight to control our circumstances it is a losing battle? God isn’t unaffected by our pain. When we suffer, He not only notices, but also has compassion. He feels our pain at His core. Isaiah 49:13 reassures us that God comforts us in our pain. It is these truths we must rely on when we are hurting, lost and in pain. You are not alone. God is present in our pain. How do you let your circumstances dictate your faith and perspective of God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, in the midst of suffering, I often question whether You care. Lord when I’m confused and hurt, it feels like I’m trying to walk through the darkness alone. Jesus remind me that You have not left me. Instead You are right by my side. Knowing You are concerned with my desperation makes the dark times less gray. Thank you that Your presence provides me comfort. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 17, 2017, 5:00 AM

Who are you struggling to forgive?


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

 

It amazes me how inserting a simple word into a sentence can drastically alter its impact. Oh, how we wish the author, the Apostle Paul, put an out clause when it comes to our anger. If we were the writer of this passage, we’d rewrite it completely. Our version would read something like this: “Get rid of some of the bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander. Love those who are lovable, but cling to the malice you have for those that caused you pain. Be kind and compassionate to those who deserve it, forgiving others on your own terms, because, after all, the forgiveness Christ extended to you was less than those individuals who caused you scars.”

 

Unfortunately, God didn’t give us a red pen to make corrections. Instead, Paul charges us to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger. There are no exceptions, fine print or loopholes. Every single emotion that divides and damages our relationships we are told to tackle head on. The Greek term Paul uses for ‘get rid of’ can be translated to mean to ‘remove, separate yourself from.’ In this passage, Paul draws a line in the sand when it comes to those emotions that destroy relationships. He is speaking of those places and situations that have remained off limits for far too long.  Now, I know what you are thinking, because I’m wondering the same thing. Is this charge by Paul even possible? Can you truly get rid of all anger? And even if it is truly possible, shouldn’t there be some exceptions to the rule?

 

Just like you, I have a few stories I can rattle off about past hurts and letdowns. I can point to wounds and scars that still sting to this day. And, chances are good, if you listened to my tale and I listened to yours, we’d feel completely justified in our anger and bitter responses to situations we had no control over. We’d pat each other on the back and say, “you are right, you are owed something.” Very few of us possess the strength and courage to instead challenge our perspective and suggest forgiving those who have caused us pain. And, we would never dare suggest that we are viewing life as a victim.  But, the reality is that’s exactly what I’m doing.  When I take on the victim role, I lead the conversation with justifications and excuses. My story becomes my crutch that prevents me from truly walking in freedom. It’s what I use to rationalize and excuse not only my behavior, but my heart set as well.

 

Since I can explain everything away, I don’t need to change or take responsibility for my response, or lack thereof. I can just sit back and continue to stew over my rage. The only action that is required on my part is making sure the other person pays for the deeds done against me. I think by playing the victim I’m punishing the other individual when in actuality, I’m the one trapped in my own prison. The key to unlocking my cell is visible and at my disposal. But, when I look at the word inscribed on it I cringe. It’s the last thing I want to do. Every part of me resists this response. I don’t want to submit to God’s authority in this area. Yet, the key sits there every moment of every day. Forgiveness is the key to letting go of my anger. It’s the only cure for the freedom I so desperately desire. My story may explain my behavior, but it never excuses my actions.

 

I’ve got to write a better story. One where my story collides with God’s forgiveness and it shapes my response to the world. I don’t want to tell a story of a victim who is trapped in their past. There is nothing courageous about that tale. True courage is found in my ability to forgive. By giving God access to your heart, He can form and shape your heart and lead you to the path of forgiveness. Who are you struggling to forgive? How is this influencing your anger and your approach to this relationship?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, may I not use my past to justify my anger. Lord may I not attempt to justify my behavior or excuse my bitterness. Jesus remind me of the forgiveness You’ve extended to me and give me the courage to write a different story founded on forgiveness. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 16, 2017, 5:00 AM

What would life be like if you were free of this bondage?


But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. ROMANS 5:8

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one. EZEKIEL 36:26

 

Just the other day I was sharing my story with addiction with someone struggling with the same.  When they responded they were in awe of two things: the depths to which I spiraled during my addiction, and how God pursued me despite my rebellion. “I couldn’t change my past, but God had a plan to save me from it,” I told them. That is the Gospel, right there! For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. We’ve all messed up, some in shockingly obvious ways and others in hidden ways.

 

My own journey with addiction took the form of alcoholism which no one really knew about. I was enslaved to it, it consumed all my thoughts, kept me from being truly known, and smothered me in guilt and shame.  Amazingly, Jesus came to my rescue while I had stony heart, used His name in vain, and scoffed at His church.  Despite all that Jesus came and resurrected me from the spiritual death of alcoholism, and now I have all of eternity to praise His name for it.

 

Christ wants to unshackle each of us from whatever bondage we’re in. The Gospel is the power of God to change our identity from death to life. It’s the only power that can truly set us free.  Is there anything in your life that’s making you feel trapped? Have you ever asked Jesus to deliver you from it? What would life be like if you were free of this bondage?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, the enemy tells us we’re unworthy of Your love because of what we’ve done in public or in secret. Lord he also whispers that we should handle our sin by ourselves. But Jesus You proved Satan wrong on both counts!  You died and rose again so that we can have new life.  Please remind me every day that no addiction or life-dominating sin can enslave me when I turn it over to You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.                         




September 15, 2017, 5:00 AM

Do you need to ask God to open your eyes to areas where you are struggling to exhibit stability, gratitude, and generosity?


For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:9-12

 

Everybody prays when they are freaking out, in a difficult situation or dealing with a tragedy. We naturally lift up our concerns during those times when we face weakness head on. Unfortunately, if one were to look at the prayers of most Christians during these moments, they would see something surprising. We tend to think that God should strengthen us so we get what we want. God give me the strength to control my kids, my husband, my finances, etc. God let this situation pass so I can get back to my normal routine. We want God’s power in our life so we can control the situations we don’t think God is doing a good enough job controlling. We ask God to change our circumstances rather than transform and shape our heart.

 

Stability, gratitude, and generosity are markers of spiritual maturity. God never promises for a believer’s life to be easy and free of troubles. The purpose of a walk with God is not status quo. Stability shouldn’t be mistaken for predictability, the absence of difficulty or a life void of weakness. Rather, we can witness if stability is taking root in our character by judging how we react, or in some cases overreact, to the circumstances around us. Do we rely on God’s grace when our strength isn’t enough? Stability measures the way we walk by faith and not by sight. The emotions we feel towards the circumstances we face are very important. They can serve as markers towards our growth.


This in no way undermines the legitimate emotions of worry, grief, anger or disappointment, but instead, it helps us measure the condition of our hearts in response to the circumstances that often damage it. We think self-control happens as a result of sheer will power and is not a fruit of the Spirit. But, today’s Scripture reminds us that sober mindedness and self-control are needed for our prayers. There needs to be a level of endurance in the situations we face. Controlling yourself is critical for surrendering yourself. Do you need to ask God to open your eyes to areas where you are struggling to exhibit stability, gratitude, and generosity?

This is my Prayer: Father God, I want my life to be marked by stability, gratitude, and generosity. Lord please do the work on my heart in order to get me there. Jesus help me to realize I sometimes cannot control my circumstances, but I can take ownership in regards to my response to those circumstances. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




September 14, 2017, 5:00 AM

Forgiveness is releasing our fate and the fate of others to a power higher than ourselves.


But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21

 

Before Joseph asked this question of his brothers, “Am I in the place of God?”, a long history preceded.  His brothers, jealous of him since the time of his birth, sold him into slavery and left him for dead.  Before eventually rising to power in Pharaoh’s court, Joseph endured long imprisonment and was even punished for doing the right thing.  His story, filled with suspenseful twists and turns, is one wrought with hardship and suffering. If anyone deserved to withhold forgiveness, it would have been him.  Instead, when finally coming face to face with his betrayers, his own brothers, Joseph understood his place.  He understood that he was not God.  Now that he was in power, he could have treated his brothers harshly.  He could have taken vengeance into his own hands.  Yet instead, Joseph left room for God to work asking,  “For am I in God’s place?”

 

This simple question reveals a lot about how God desires us to see forgiveness. A healthy view of forgiveness can dramatically shift the course of our lives.  Rather than being weighed down by anguish and bitterness, we can choose to live a different way. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of our faith.   The entire life of Jesus assumes that God does, in fact, hold the guilty accountable.  This is both scary and a little satisfying, depending on whether or not you see yourself as the offender or the offended.  When I am the offended I easily forget that I too have been an offender. The truth is that all of us are both.  To give forgiveness, we must first truly receive it. Ultimately, forgiveness is releasing our fate and the fate of others to a power higher than ourselves. This does not absolve responsibility but leaves justice and consequence in its proper place – with God. Imagine Joseph’s story with a different ending. 

 

Instead of forgiving his brothers and releasing their fate to God, imagine that he decided to pay back evil for evil.  The temporary satisfaction Joseph may have felt in “paying back” his brothers would have paled in comparison to experiencing the power of God and His capacity to bring good from evil.  Because of God’s work through Joseph, many Israelites survived a famine. We have not been deserted.  Like Joseph, we can trust Him enough to forgive. Is there someone you need to forgive today? Often the most difficult person to forgive is ourselves.  If we deny ourselves this grace by continuing to live under a heavy weight, we deny God’s work for us on the cross.  Do you need forgiveness?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, thank you for freeing me from the bitterness of vengeance and vindication.  Lord thank you for Your grace. Jesus help me to live in a posture of forgiveness and humility.  In Your name Jesus.  Amen


Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57   Entries 66-70 of 283