Devotions
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July 13, 2017, 5:00 AM

Where is worry choking out the fruitful work of God in your life?



That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41

 

In the midst of our uncertainty we often second guess and doubt that God has our best interest at heart. Just like the disciples caught in the storm, we picture an indifferent God. We reason He has little concern for the circumstances we are facing. Worry forces us to drift towards questioning God and wondering if He cares. Worry produces uncertainty in a mind that has no better alternative. It takes root in faulty thinking. If we allow our minds to focus on the world, we will look around, and fear will take over.  Worry will take root, and faith will lose out.

 

When we are afraid, we accuse God of being indifferent: Can’t you see what is happening?  Do you not care?  This is what is happening to the disciples in today’s reading.  Looking around, they are afraid.  Their circumstances were stealing their peace and their faith. They start to freak out. Worry took root, and fear took over.  Yet, there is a truth that they are about to encounter.  Take a moment and reread the passage again slowly. Get a picture of this scene in your minds.  Jesus gets up startled from being awaken but even more so by their question. “Do I care?  You are wondering if I care?”

 

He pauses to calm the storm before He addresses them. “Hold on one second; let me get these gale force winds to chill and the raging sea to quiet down so we can talk.”  His question cuts to their heart. “Why are you afraid?  Do you have no faith?”  Do you notice the connection between fear and the absence of faith? Jesus reminds us that if He is with us who can be against us.  He invites us to trust that our lives are valuable and lie beyond our circumstances.  Worrying chokes out the fruitful work of God in our lives. Our need to control our circumstances prevents us from letting go of our worries and concerns. Worrying highlights one’s perspective by revealing his or her picture of God.

 

When our concerns convert over to worry, we develop a perspective that causes one to function as though God does not exist. Worry, concern, anxiety, fright, and panic are all different levels of fear, and they all wreak havoc on our walk. The Bible says that God didn’t give us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).  The challenge before each one of us is how we will respond to a situation we have no control over and no knowledge of the end result. Worrying sheds light on how we define and deal with uncertainty. God has promised us that He will be with us. This is the truth we must lean on when everything in us wants to freak out. Where is worry choking out the fruitful work of God in your life? In what situations are you holding on to your worry?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, forgive me for accusing You of not caring.  Lord help me to not use my circumstances to justify my responses and let worry rushes in.  Jesus teach me to fix my mind on You and trust that Your peace will guard my heart and mind.  Help me to recognize that this is for the sake of Your glory and not my own.  In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




July 12, 2017, 5:00 AM

What do your fears say about your view of God? 



So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

What do your fears say about your view of God?  In the midst of our anxiety or when we are facing uncertainty, this question rarely, if ever, gets answered. We’re too busy looking for ways to gain back control, experience sanity, or hide our struggles from God and others. Fear can cripple our faith and destroy our connections with those around us. We get to choose between trusting God with our fears or having our lives ruined by them.

 

Even though fear is an emotion we experience before something occurs, our anxiety and despair can get its fuel from our past experiences.  They create an emotional imprint that guides our future reactions, when we encounter similar situations. If we paused and took a moment to examine our hearts, we’d come to the realization that living in fear is living as if God doesn’t exist. We might know in our mind that God is our protector, but we fail to believe it in our heart. Instead, we fall for the lie from the enemy that God has forsaken us, having left us to figure it out on our own. Or simply, that He doesn’t care about us at all.  When we choose fear, we make a decision that we are safer, relying on our own understanding and abilities, than trusting God.

 

Yet, the idea that God would abandon us in our greatest time of need is completely contrary to God’s heart and nature. Throughout Scripture, we see God tell individuals who are gripped by fear to not be afraid. Why? Because He is with them. Because He loves them. Because He views them as valuable. No matter what we might be facing, we can have complete confidence that the God of the universe is by our side. Overcoming our fears and healing our fear based wounds requires that we honestly interrogate the depths of our faith.  God is the conqueror of every fear we have.  We must keep this truth in front of us because a life of faith requires us to face uncertainty, troubling situations, and difficulty.

 

After all, without fear, there is no courage and not much faith. The trying times present us with an opportunity to walk in what we believe about God. By displaying courage, we are acknowledging our reliance on Him. What are the small fears that keep you from stepping into God’s purpose for your life?  And I’ll ask it again, what do your fears say about your view of God?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, when fear makes an appearance in my heart, give me the courage to address it. Lord remind me that I am loved, cared for and valued by You and that no matter where my feet may take me, You are right by my side. Jesus I shall not fear because You are with me, help me to walk in this assurance. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




July 11, 2017, 5:00 AM

What’s the next step in God’s vision for you?



Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, 
but happy is he who keeps the law. PROVERBS 29:18

You’ll never make a sacrifice for the Kingdom of God when your greatest concern is your own needs and well-being. We often speak about faith, but deep down inside we crave certainty. Rather than yearning for certainty, we must pursue clarity. Clarity is knowing what you should do. God’s desire for us is to build bigger faith. Sadly, what we often want is less risk. When God gives us the ‘WHAT’ and ‘WHY,’ we find ourselves continually asking ‘HOW?’ Our mind begins to race over what the future holds and the thousand decisions and outcomes that might follow down the line.  It takes us down a path where we second-guess everything and live our lives based off of our circumstances and feelings.

 

This must change and it begins by crafting a vision for your future. In order to decide, you must know the person God wants you to become. Your decisions move you either towards or away from that picture. Fear and insecurity often threaten our willingness to trust that we can become that person. We drift towards settling for immediate gratification simply because we can’t see any farther down the road. This is a vision problem.  The opposite of vision is not being blind, but rather being scattered. In other words, if you don’t have a vision for the person you want to become, you’ll be all over the map when it comes to your decision-making ability. Vision frees us from regret. Psalm 119:105 says God’s word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.

 

Even though we desire a gigantic spotlight that illuminates the entire way, God may only gives us a flashlight to enable us to see a few feet ahead. We desperately want the end of the path to be clear and in a direction we desire before we even consider moving. What we fail to realize is the purpose of the path is our formation.  Your job is just to take that next step. The proceeding steps along the path are in the future. But, you can never get there if you don’t take that next step which is presented to you today. As we seek His face and meditate on His word, we become more confident in taking each step regardless of the uncertainty we might face.

 

All God is asking is for you to be concerned about the here and now and respond to each moment according to the purpose you were designed for, to display God by having his life and heart fully formed in you. This requires motion and movement. It begins by stewarding each moment and viewing it as an opportunity to work towards expressing God’s love to those around you. What’s the next step in God’s vision for you? 

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, help me to see Your vision for the person I am to become.  Lord I desire that both my words and my actions would bring You glory. Jesus help me to see every decision I face in light of that vision. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.




July 10, 2017, 5:00 AM

What does it mean to live a life without abandon for Christ?



In Him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11

 

We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body, joined together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16

 

Sometimes it seems like the only way to show Christ’s transforming love in our lives is to sell everything we own and move to another country to share the good news of the Gospel. To some this probably doesn’t sound very attractive.  The thought of abandoning everything for Christ is scary to us all.  It doesn’t come natural to me either.  You see I’m a planner, and I can get so caught up in my own headstrong plan that I often have to force myself to stop and back up, and ask myself “what does God desire for me?”  What if God really could come to me in the middle of my perfectly organized life and bring me to my knees for His righteousness?

 

It seems harder to transform my own life, my here and my now, to one that is Christ-centered than traveling thousands of miles to sit with strangers. This is because the life I’ve lived thus far isn’t my ending in God’s story.  I have the freedom through Christ to be transformed.  In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul takes a striking stance that as Christians we are part of God’s plan, and that each of us is predestined to do the work for which Christ leads us. Not because any of us are perfect or Christ-like but because we have so freely received the redemptive power of grace. And once we have received that grace, we become stronger in our faith. Joining together with fellow believers, each person has an assignment from the Lord to share their story of his grace in their lives.

 

God continues to teach me that He has perfectly placed me where He wants me, in this life, and in these situations to be a reflection of Jesus Christ.  He reminds us that our work, as part of the entire body of believers wholly joined together with Christ as our head, is important. He leads us to push outside of what is comfortable, to live a life that is without abandon for God. What does it mean to live a life without abandon for Christ? How do we push ourselves out of our comfortable homes and lifestyles in order to live a daring life, wild and free in sharing God’s message of hope?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, I thank you for choosing me, for giving me grace that I did not deserve.  Lord I pray that I live a life worthy of the mission You have orchestrated for me, right here and now.  Jesus give me the strength to live boldly in Your Word and to serve Your Kingdom humbly. In Your names, Jesus. Amen.




July 9, 2017, 5:00 AM

Is there a person you are walking on eggshells around?



Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

 

It doesn’t matter if someone shares 99 encouragements, it’s the one criticism that occupies our minds. There is something about the negativity that resonates deeply within us. When we are stuck in our insecurities, we resist love. This puts us on the defensive in any conversation where our weaknesses are exposed.  We long for approval and anything that doesn’t validate us is seen as disapproval or the lack of acceptance. This serves as a crushing blow to our relationships and why remembering our identity in Christ is so important. We are able to see that we are more than our mistakes, shortcomings, and blemishes.

 

Yet, our insecurities and inadequacies cannot be excuses for bad behavior. Tiptoeing around each other’s eggshells will never lead to growth and transformation. If we remain silent, we play a part in causing others to remain stuck. Our silence speaks volumes about our love for one another. If we are unwilling to speak into each other’s lives, it says that the other person isn’t worth our effort. When we truly love another person, we are looking out for their good. We are searching for ways that God is working in their life. This goes much deeper than criticizing a behavior. Criticism focuses on cleaning up the current issue at hand so that we can get back to business as usual. On the other hand, a rebuke is more concerned with the person’s heart, not only the behavior.

 

Before this can take place, a common purpose must be found. This comes only through the act of listening. When we listen first, we enable God’s love to fill our hearts and for our mouths to become fountains of life. When we pause and listen, we allow the other person to be heard. This also gives an opportunity to hear God speaking to us.  We must work toward understanding. Without it, communication is impossible. If the person on the other side of the table doesn’t think you understand, your words will fall on deaf ears. They will feel judged and condemned causing their emotions to dictate their behavior. Some will shut down while others may lash out. Emotions will begin to dictate the conversation or lack there of.

 

In the midst of these crucial conversations, we have to understand that we are in it together. We must trust that the other person has our best interest at heart. The goal of correction is restoration. First and foremost, restoration is relational.  When we see the other person in the way God sees them, it changes our approach to the conversation. We desire what’s best for that individual. They matter to Him so they matter to us. We want nothing more than to see God working in their lives and for their full formation to be unhindered. This is the common purpose that should define all of our relationships. It is only when we define the common purpose that we can address the issues at hand and start dealing with the eggshells all around us. Is there a person you are walking on eggshells around?  What would it look like for you to want the best for them? How would having this mindset alter your approach to them?

 

This is my Prayer: Father God, let me see people through Your eyes. Lord allow this grace-filled vision to direct and guide my conversations, and remind me to listen first and seek to understand. Jesus may the words I speak be grounded in love to the point where they gently nudge people in Your direction, where love, mercy, and true change is found. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.


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