Friday, June 18, 2010

Making Decisions by Hearing God

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God speaks to his children in many varied ways. God has said that his ways are not our ways. If left to our reasoning, we will fail to fully walk in the full counsel of God, which leads to poor decisions.

Thus, our goal is to avoid being deceived and to develop a listening ear that hears the voice of God with confidence. Our goal is to have such intimacy with God that we can walk in the full blessing of our decisions and to be assured they are not based on our own reasoning alone. This does not mean that we do not use the intellectual and logical skills that He has equipped us with.

A.W. Tozer said that the man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ can't make a wrong choice - any choice will be the right one. J. Oswald Sanders explains his method of receiving guidance from God for decisions; "I try to gather all the information and all the facts that are involved in a decision, and then weigh them up and pray over them in the Lord's presence, and trust the Holy Spirit to sway my mind in the direction of God's will. And God generally guides by presenting reasons to my mind for acting in a certain way."

The apostle Paul said, "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). God has equipped us with everything we need to make good decisions. Hearing His voice is the first step toward making right choices in life.

Do you have a decision to make? Submit that decision to the Lord, ask God for clarity. Ask Him to make the desires of your heart the same desires that He has for you in this matter. Await His perfect timing on the matter. Then you can be assured of making the right decisions.

I love these verses

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Dear Lord, today I eagerly ask You to give our loved ones knowledge, understanding, discernment, and the perseverance needed to follow it. Help them to trust in You even through the waiting. Help them to hear Your voice whispering nearby. Allow them to feel Your very presence and see Your purpose in the midst of their circumstances. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Make a list of verses on wisdom and take notes on what you find.

Where do you find godly wisdom for your life?

How might my life look different if I followed godly wisdom?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 2:2-3, "Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding." (NIV)

Deuteronomy 4:29, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." (NIV)

2 Chronicles 15:12, "They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul." (NIV)

Make These the "Good Old Days"

When Donald Trump writes a book, it becomes an instant best seller sought after by businessmen and women from around the world, and all of those wanting insight and desiring the riches of an established billionaire.

We have an even greater source of wisdom, God, through the words of King Solomon (thought to have been the author of Ecclesiastes). He was very much like the Donald Trump of 900 B.C. He had everything a man could desire at his finger tips—money, power, women and wisdom, yet he warns us not to be consumed with yesterday.

Don't long for the 'good old days,' for you don't know whether they were any better than today (Ecclesiastes 7:10).

Why not? For many of us, those days were great. They were filled with memorable moments and people who we sorely miss. Why wouldn't we want those days back again?

I had a conversation about this subject with a pastor who I used to serve under regarding the days we spent together in youth ministry. We talked about how great it would be to get our team back together, how much fun we would have, and all of the things we can do together "for God." At the end of our conversation, we sadly, but gratefully, concluded we can (and are) probably doing more for his kingdom apart from each other than we can together. It wouldn't be the same anyway—a different church, different kids and a different time and place.

Solomon confirmed our thoughts on the latter part of the passage. We don't know if the past would be any better than today, so why wish for something that can never be or for something we cannot determine?

For some, today can't be any worse than yesterday, the thought of the past often surfaces pain, broken promises, sadness and regret. Many don't long for the good old days, but are rather troubled by them and continue to "relive" them through the scars and baggage they carried away from them. Some live preoccupied with too many "what ifs," "if only," and "I should haves."

What if I went to college, if only I had the guts to approach that person, what if I took that job and moved, I should have bought or sold that stock, what if...?

There's nothing wrong with thinking about the past, but there is a huge difference between "reminiscing" over (and learning from) and "longing" for (or letting it consume you).

When we long for or allow something from our past to take over our thinking, we get stuck in it, maybe not physically, but internally and emotionally. Our life begins to revolve around something that had happened or something that was missed out upon.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past (Isaiah 43:18).

Many years ago, I was presented with a question, "If your life was a cruise ship, which direction would your deck chair face?" It seemed like an innocent and simple enough question off hand, but your response can say a lot about you and where you are.

Would you place your chair in the bow (front) watching for what's coming ahead with the breeze in your face, would it be on the side of the ship watching the world go by, or would you sit in the stern (back) more protected from the elements watching the ship's wake?

At different times in our lives we may visit all three locations, but each of us has a tendency to "live" in one part more than the other.

If we choose the bow, we look to guide the direction we want to go and take a proactive role in our future. We can see trouble coming in order to ward off potential danger. We face the wind and the spray of the bow crashing through the water, but we also live with our eyes on the horizon ahead able to deal with life as it comes.

If we faced our chair on the side, we would watch other ships go by without any real sense of where we were heading. We have a beautiful view, and that's exactly what it would be, a "view." We would be a spectator on the ship of life.

Finally, there are those who feel the most comfortable sitting on the stern of the ship where we are sheltered from the conditions; however we only see the places we have been. We have no indication or clue as to where we are going or any danger that lurks ahead. We take life for what is handed to us, mostly going along for the ride.

In the1997 movie, Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Jack Dawson, takes his love interest, Rose DeWitt Bukater to the front of the ship. He leans forward off the bow proclaiming, "I am king of the world," and he encourages her to experience what it is like to let go of her appropriateness and inhibitions she grew up with and lives.

That is the imagery I have of someone who has left his past behind, living life with an eye to the future and facing today with anticipation and excitement. Understandably, it is only a movie, but it helps us to visualize and contrast his character with an image of a person sitting on a deck chair in the stern with a blanket over himself going along for a ride.

If you look and long for the good old days or think about what wrongs the past has dealt you, consider how it adversely affects you each day. You are not able to see, experience or enjoy today completely because you are living partially in yesterdays. Solomon was alluding to this when he said, "Don't long for the good old days."

The Lord wants all of us to approach him each and every day with a clean and open heart, not with ghosts, regrets or hardships from the past or harboring ill feelings toward others who have done us wrong.

Matthew encourages us to work through any problems we may have with another person before we approach him.

If you are offering your gift in front of the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

If you are held captive by or haunted from experiences or people from the past, get help with them, and do it soon. Yesterday is gone. Why live your life thinking, worrying about or carrying "stuff" around from days gone by?

Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Life is hard enough when we are committed to today, don't live in or allow yesterday to rob you of the present or damage your future.

Are You Horizontal or Vertical?

June 16

"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight" (Isaiah 5:21)

Many of us have been trained to make decisions and respond to problems in a horizontal way instead of vertical. Operating from a horizontal basis means we try to fix the problem through our own self-efforts by bringing greater pressure upon it through our reasoning or our natural skills. Operating from a vertical position means we are seeking God for the answer and waiting for him to impact the problem. Perhaps it is a spouse who fails to put their clothes away, or a boss who is overly critical, or an employee that you clash with. When we operate horizontally we attempt to shame or coerce the other to change their ways.

God knows the solution to the problem before it ever exists. Our responsibility is to ask God for help to solve the problem and to rely on Him for the outcome. The minute we take on the responsibility, God quietly stands by to let us experience failure until we decide to seek Him for the answer.

One of the best examples of the contrast between a vertical and horizontal dimension in scripture is that of King Saul and David (see 1 Samuel 25). King Saul thought the way to preserve his kingdom was to kill David. While in pursuit of him there were several occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but David chose to wait upon God's timing and await his own deliverance because he understood authority. David had such respect for those who had been put in authority by God over him that he would not take matters into his own hands.

Saul represents the exact opposite of this principle. He thought David was the problem and sought to get rid of him through force. As a result, he lost his kingdom because he chose to rule horizontally instead of vertically under God's rule in his life.

No matter what problem you face today, stay vertical with God.

Our Bodies, God's Temple

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)

It was an odd conversation, I must admit.

As I was driving my sixteen year-old daughter to church, she expressed she was hungry. Pulling up to the drive through window, she ordered a Double Baconator Combo - you know, the hamburger with two thick patties, six strips of bacon, cheese and toppings, plus a large fry and drink.

I gently warned her that unhealthy eating habits would eventually catch up to her. Then the conversation took an interesting twist.

I had recently been studying the book of Leviticus, which focuses on the building of God's temple by the Israelites after they had left Egypt, and apparently I had "temple on the brain" syndrome.

I explained to my daughter that she needed to remember that her body was God's temple; therefore, she should take care of it, and part of taking care of our bodies, is eating healthy. She replied by saying (with her teenage facial expression of utter confusion), "Are you trying to tell me that eating this hamburger is a sin?!"

This comical conversation went on for several minutes while I attempted to convince her of the importance of treating her body as God's temple, and she held her ground that eating a hamburger was not a sin.

You see, after reading countless details about the tabernacle (the tent-version of the temple), I had a newfound appreciation for its sacredness. I felt encouraged knowing that the Lord actually resided in the Temple. I admired the hours of work devoted to building the Tabernacle, and the many rules and requirements that God set forth regarding honoring and caring for it.

In the New Testament, we are reminded many times about how we are now God's dwelling place. We no longer have to worship, pray or converse with God in a specific place, because He lives within us.

At first glance, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 implies an overwhelming responsibility to understand that we truly are God's temple, that we are the only ones who can take care of it, and that He has commanded us to do so. But thank goodness, caring for a temple is not nearly as hard as it was for the Israelites. Let's look at how we can care for God's temple today:

- The original temple had walls made of cloth. Their purpose was to protect the holy contents that were inside. In the same way, we also have to protect the contents of our temple, which is the Holy Spirit living within us.
- A lot of cleaning took place in the temple continually. We can keep our temples clean through purity of heart and mind.
- The temple was built for worshipping. God calls us into worship every day, inviting us to spend time with Him and in His Word.
- The Lord spoke in the temple and His voice was heard. The Lord is still speaking to us, in our hearts, and being able to hear His voice requires an intimate relationship with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:20b, says we are to honor God with our body. Does that mean never eating another hamburger or doughnut? Of course not! God does not command us to have perfectly sleek figures, or infallible eating habits. Nor is He is concerned with what we wear, what color our hair is, or how many wrinkles we have.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

God cares about our hearts, His Temple. We are called to care for His Temple daily, through healthy eating, yes, but most importantly through purity of heart, mind and soul.

Dear Lord, prompt me to never forget that I am Your temple, Your holy dwelling place. Help me to honor You in all that I do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps:
Consider any changes you could make in your life to better care for God's temple.

Do I treat my body as the residence of God?

Am I committed to living a life of purity of heart and mind?

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (NIV)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jacob's Defining Moment

Jacob's Defining Moment By Os Hillman
June 9

"So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, 'It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared'" (Gen 32:30).

Every believer in Jesus Christ must have a defining moment in their lives. Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau in the desert after years of separation. The last time he saw him was when he manipulated the birthright from him years ago. He assumes Esau is going to try to kill him. He sends gifts ahead as a peace offering. And he spends a restless night in prayer asking God to spare his and his family's life. Jacob has lived a life of control and manipulation. Yet, there is something in Jacob God finds worthy of redemption. He has a heart that genuinely wants to serve and be used of God. But God must do something in him to chisel away the bad traits in his life.

He sends an angel in the form of a man to wrestle away the striving in Jacob. The only way to remove the striving in Jacob is to injure his physical abilities. "When the angel saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man'" (Gen 32:25-26). Jacob's natural abilities were so great that God literally had to make Jacob a weaker man physically in order for God's power to be manifested in his life.

When this happened a turning point took place in Jacob. A new nature was birthed in him that required a total trust in God. His name was changed in recognition of this defining moment. "Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome'" (Gen 32:28).

My friend Bob Mumford once said, "Beware of any Christian leader who does not walk with a limp." If a leader has not wrestled with God over their natural abilities and come to a place of total dependence on God, that leader will live a life of striving and manipulation.

Let go and let God do the work needed in you. When this happens even your enemies will be a peace with you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Responses to Adversity

June 8

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior" (Hab. 3:17-18).

When we experience adversity, we generally respond in one of three ways: (1) we become angry; (2) we try to gut it out; or (3) we accept it with joy.


When adversity comes our way, we say, "Why me, Lord?" We become bitter and resentful and blame God and others for our problems. We view ourselves as victims and demand that God answer our accusing questions: "Why don't You love me, Lord? We feel entitled to life, health, wealth, and happiness.

Gutting It Out

Another way we respond to adversity is by adopting a stoic attitude, repressing our emotions. We lie to ourselves and say, "I'm gutting it out. I'm demonstrating endurance." In reality, we are merely isolating ourselves with a shell of false bravado. We don't meditate on God's love, we don't pray, we don't believe God really has anything good planned for us. We simply tell ourselves, "This will soon be over. I'm a survivor." We never receive what God has planned for us if we stay here.

Acceptance with Joy

This is the response God seeks from us. When adversity comes, we rest in His love and trust that He knows best. We realize that nothing can happen to us without His permission. If there is pain in our lives, we know it's because God deems it necessary for our growth or wishes to use our pain to minister to others.

God revealed to the prophet Habakkuk that Israel was soon to be invaded by the Babylonians. Habakkuk knew that Israel was about to suffer intense adversity as part of God's loving discipline of His people. Habakkuk faced the looming national tragedy with an attitude of acceptance with joy.

If Habakkuk could be joyful in the face of a national calamity, then we can rejoice in the Lord no matter what comes our way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Promises of Problems

Today's Truth
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Genesis 50:20

Friend To Friend
If you are like me, you prefer days when the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and not a cloud in sight. Problems tend to irritate me because they make me realize just how frail I am as a human. But I have come to realize that every problem points to a promise.

Promise of direction
God uses problems to show us the way. We would walk through the wrong door if He didn't close it. Years ago, I dated a young man I thought I would marry. We had it all worked out. He was a preacher and I played the piano and sang. What could be more perfect? I began to pray, "Lord, if he is not the one, just close the door!" The very next conversation I had with this young man ended our relationship and resulted in my taking a church staff position that led me to Dan Southerland. I look back and thank God for that closed door.

"Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." Proverbs 20:30

Promise of correction
God uses problems to correct us. I have come to realize that some lessons can only be learned in the darkness, through pain and failure. When our daughter was a toddler, she was fascinated with electrical outlets. Nothing we said or did seemed to deter her … until the day she stuck a safety pin in the outlet. "Ouch!" she cried, holding up her little red finger for me to kiss. She never played with an outlet again.

"It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws." Psalm 119:71-72

Promise of protection
A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it keeps you from being hurt by something more serious. It was so hard for me to take our children to the doctor to get immunization shots. I would take a healthy child into the doctor's office and come out with a little one who was fussy, sore and running a low grade temperature. Our pediatrician finally said, "Mary, just think of it like this. You are allowing your babies to experience a little hurt in order to prevent them from experiencing a bigger hurt. A tetanus shot is nothing compared to tetanus itself.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Genesis 50:20

Promise of perfection
Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. I recently spoke for a women's conference that used the theme of "Problems into Pearls." Strands of pearls were everywhere - the center of each table, on the podium from which I spoke, draped across tables - and many of the ladies wore pearls that day. When the worship leader welcomed me, she said, "We have to get you some pearls!" Digging in her purse, she produced the most beautiful pearl necklace and placed it around my neck. As the day went on, I spoke several times, counseled and prayed with numerous women and tried to meet as many women as possible. When everyone had left, the woman came to retrieve her pearl necklace. I was embarrassed. I had worked up quite a sweat with all of that hugging, laughing, talking. She brushed my apology aside and said, "Sweat is good for pearls. It helps them keep their luster."

"We can rejoice when we run into problems ... they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady." Romans 5:3-4

God is at work in and around you. You may not see His hand, hear His voice or even understand His process, but you can rest assured that you can trust His heart. Remember, every problem points to a promise.

Let's Pray
Father, thank You for each problem that points me to You. Help me to see trials as handles for Your promises and tools for growth in my life. I choose to accept the lessons You want to teach me in the dark times and celebrate their truth in the light. Give me the strength and power to trust You completely.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
- What problem are you facing right now? Put it into words and record it in your journal.
- Pray, surrendering that problem to God and ask Him for the promise it holds.
- What good can come out of the problem you are facing?
- What scripture promise do you claim because of this problem?
- Write that promise on a 3 x 5 card and tuck it in your purse. When the going gets tough, pull out that card and read the verse aloud as a statement of your faith in your Problem-Solving God!

More From The Girls
If I had to choose between problems and peace, I know what I would naturally choose. Don't you? But God's ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts and His purpose more complete than our plans. Trust Him, today, my friend. He is Lord of the mountain, Shepherd of the valley and He loves you! Need help avoiding that pit? Check out Mary's CD, How to Avoid the Pits and sign up for her weekly online bible study, Light for the Journey.


"Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope."
Psalm 119:49 (NIV)

I recall the moments of despair. I couldn't see my way out. Three small children were depending on me and that thought was overwhelming. I would cry in the middle of my mobile home floor, feeling desperately lonely. I wondered if I would have food to feed them or a way to keep them warm.

Child support was $142 a month, but I rarely received it. I worked a full time job, took in laundry, and worked as a waitress during holidays. When all three kids would get sick at the same time, my life felt like a nightmare. The thought of driving off a cliff entered my mind more than once, but I couldn't bear to think what that would do to my kids for the rest of their lives.

I wanted someone (I would have settled for ANYONE at times) to just even pretend to care about me. Would rescue ever come?

Then one day I made the decision to look for the good. My baby went to the potty (hey, that was a big deal). My oldest waved from the school bus. My son poured on a heart-melting smile. Choosing to laugh more than cry and finding the fun in each day was often like seeking buried treasure. But most days the good was there; it just wasn't as noticeable as the bad. Focusing on those moments felt like breath in my lungs.

My theme song was Carole King's "Beautiful" that says, "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face." Gray had dominated my days for far too long, the sun needed to shine in my life again.

I remember purposely watching other moms who had happy kids to see what they were doing right. And those who seemed to have peace, even in the middle of their meltdowns particularly intrigued me. What did they have that my ‘pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' mentality wasn't fulfilling?

Jesus. They simply had found the Prince of Peace who sends the Counselor into your heart when you accept Him. Watching those examples made me hunger for that relationship in my own life.

Now, as I look back, I see the string of choices, the dots that all connected. They all brought me to this very day. This day when I am sitting at my breakfast table, peering at the stars glistening in the sky, writing this note to you, my friend. The note says, "You can do this. We can't possibly see the road ahead or try to understand where it is going, but I guarantee you the Creator of the universe is connecting your dots."

Dear Lord, I need your help to make it through today. I need to notice the good. Don't let me forget You've brought me through every struggle I've ever faced. Remind me to share that good news with others who need to hear it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 31:8, "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (NIV)

Genesis 21:16a-17, 19, "And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water." (NIV)

What memories allow me to see God's divine hand in my life?

How do I share that hope with others?

Who may be watching me, hoping to find lasting Hope?

Controlling a Complaining Spirit

"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD,
and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp." Numbers 11:11 (NIV)

As we were getting ready to leave for vacation, one of my children asked for a new video game to play on the drive. Knowing all of our available funds were ear-marked for the trip, I told my child "no" and explained in a compassionate and clear reason why I would not be spending money on a video game prior to a vacation. I explained how much fun we would have and how much this fun would cost. Which, as I was sure he understood, did not leave money for buying video games.

At what I thought was a perfectly logical explanation, that same child, who should have been agreeing with me and trying to find ways to help make this wonderful vacation happen, actually got annoyed. With me. He said, with a very frustrated voice, that he never got anything he wanted. Accompanied with a heavy dramatic sigh, crossed arms and pout.

The tone of his voice, his negative words, and his dramatic body language, raised my eyebrows (I would have only raised one if I could). My back straightened and one hand rose to my hip. "Really?" I said in a low and deceptively calm voice. "You never get anything you want? On the day before we are leaving for an amazing trip that your father and I have worked hard to give you, you can actually say that you have nothing you want?"

Can I just tell you that an ungrateful spirit really is really hard for me to deal with? Especially when I know what is in store.

Sometimes I wonder if that must be how God feels when I grumble about what I don't get. Like when I went through infertility for three years before getting pregnant … three times … then adopting. In hindsight, God was really giving me three more years of wearing a size ten and a brain that could finish a complete thought. At that time, all I saw was emptiness.

The truth is, my child was just demonstrating a human reaction to being told "no" or "not now" by someone who knows what the future holds. Sometimes God withholds a "yes" knowing we need to be prepared to receive His goodness in His time. Other times, when we've been told "no" due to our own bad choices or those of others, God withholds a "yes" to teach us something. Or it's a permanent "no" to protect us. Whichever way, God is always working things together for the good of those who love Him.

I don't think my son ever fully understood why I said "no" to the video game. But over time, as he grew and matured, he learned to trust me more, and believe that I really loved him in spite of saying "no." Even as adults, we have trouble understanding God's ways. Sometimes we may never understand. When that happens, I choose to do a few things that help me mature as a believer. Maybe they will help you too:

1) I choose to not complain to others about God.
2) I am honest with God about how I feel, but I don't accuse Him of evil or being out to hurt me.
3) I choose to trust Him. When the doubts start to surface, I choose again to trust Him again.
4) I sing His praises. It reminds me of God's true character, which is always good.

Hearing "no" is never easy. However, as children of a loving Heavenly Father, we can learn over time to trust that He really does have something planned that we are going to love more than what we want right now. When we trust God is working behind the scenes for us, we can control a complaining spirit that threatens to steal our joy. And restore our faith in God's goodness.

Dear Lord, I know I'm often like a child when I get told "no." Help me to understand in my head and in my heart, that You truly love me, and that You are planning something good. Forgive me when I doubt you and voice those doubts in a complaining way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

What does complaining to others reveal about your character at that moment?

What are some things you can do to stop the complaining cycle and start being more positive?

Power Verses:
Psalm 142:2, "I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble." (NIV)

Philippians 2:14-15, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." (NIV)

Washing Toilets

..."those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled' (Dan 5:19).

Paul desired a career in the building industry. Early in his career, he was working with a large ministry to help direct several of their construction projects.

As the projects were completed, Paul was asked to stay on for future projects. To keep him busy he was given a number of jobs - one of which was cleaning toilets. He recalls getting down on his knees each day and complaining to the Lord, "Lord, I'm a college graduate!"

Discouraged, Paul told the Lord, "I will not leave here until You promote me. Please give me contentment with my circumstance."

Paul felt totally forgotten by God. A few months later, Paul received a phone call from a man in the Midwest who owned five successful businesses who wanted to interview Paul for a job. This came as a total surprise to Paul. As he drove to the interview, he told the Lord, "I only want your will in my life, nothing else. I am content to remain obscure for the rest of my life if I have You. You must override my lack of experience for me to get this job."

The owner of the company asked Paul a surprising question: "If I asked you to clean a toilet, what would you do?" Paul sat there, stunned. He wanted to burst out laughing. Paul assured him that he would simply pick up a sponge and start cleaning.

Amazingly, Paul was hired even though other candidates were more qualified. After several months of success Paul asked his boss why he hired him. His boss replied, "Paul, I still have a large stack of applications from people who wanted this job. Do you remember the first question I asked you in the interview? I asked each one the same question. You were the only one who said he would clean the toilet. Paul, I am a wealthy man, but I grew up dirt poor. I clean my own toilets at home. I can't have people running my businesses who are too proud to clean a toilet."

Sometimes God places us in situations to see if we will be faithful in those before He is willing to promote us to greater things.

Triumphing Over Giants

Read: 1 Samuel 17:33-50

**1 Samuel 17:45 - David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."

**1 Samuel 17:47 - "All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle in the LORD's and He will give all of you into our hands."

In 1935, the debate team of Wiley College, a small and unranked black school in Texas, unexpectedly defeated the all-white championship team from the University of Southern California. This was a classic case of the unknown triumphing over a national giant.

When ancient Israel was in peril at the hands of the Philistines, there was a boy named David who actually triumphed over a giant (1 Sam. 17). The armies were drawn up on opposite sides of the Valley of Elah. They were probably afraid of one another and decided that the outcome of the battle should be determined by a battle of champions. The Philistines offered Goliath, a giant (about 9’9″), but Israel could not find anyone who was worthy or brave enough to fight. David heard of the dilemma and appealed to Saul to let him fight Goliath (vv.32-37). Saul was reluctant, but he agreed. David, armed with five smooth stones (v.40) and unswerving faith in the Almighty God (v.45), triumphed over the Philistines’ national champion.

We all face giants in our lives—worry, doubt, fear, sin, and guilt. But with limited and unlikely resources and unswerving confidence in our all-powerful God, we too can triumph over them.

Come, Lord, and give me courage—
Thy conquering Spirit give;
Make me an overcomer
In power within me live. —Anon.

God gives us courage to challenge our giants.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence." 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
Do you find yourself doing what you know you should not? Do you find it hard to stop?

Yeah, I know.

I've had several discussions lately with people stuck in patterns of behavior they want to quit. They keep sinning. What's more, they feel completely awful about it. Guilty. Shameful. Some to the point of hating themselves. And yet they feel powerless to stop – powerless to resist.

The Bible says when we return to our vices again and again, we are like dogs returning to our vomit (Proverbs 26:11). Eww, ick!

So why do we do this when according to the Bible, Christ has conquered sin on our behalf so we can overcome its power? If, "by his divine power God has given us everything we need for living a godly life," why does sin have any place in our lives?

The answer is the same reason a dog returns to her vomit. Gross as it is, she gets some degree of satisfaction from it. She likes it. See what I mean:

• Lust – or its fulfillment, sexual indiscretion – feels pleasurable in the moment.
• Overeating—or its biblical term, gluttony – feels comforting in the moment.
• Power – called "lording it over someone" in the Bible – makes you feel significant.
• Lying is convenient at the time.
• Splurging and spending – compared to saving or giving -- feels fun and rewarding.
• Stomping and yelling feels cathartic and justifiable.

This list could go on ad nauseam. Sin has power because we enjoy it. It promises something we want - pleasure, escape, wealth, power, attention. Sure it always has consequences we don't want, but in many cases those don't over power its feel-good moments or perceived benefits.

In short, sin has power because we love it.

What can help us overcome the sins that we have love-hate relationships with? A surpassing love. A greater love that carries with it no hate, no guilt, and no shame. A love that actually delivers the many benefits it promises. A love that is full of beautiful grace and soul-deep compassion.

A love more attractive and more powerful than the allure of sin.

It is the love of God displayed in Christ.

When we catch hold of that love - when we read of it regularly, drink it in, pray for it and see it at work in our lives - we cannot help but love Him back with all our heart, soul and mind.

And in that state of all encompassing love, sin pales in comparison. Its power grows feeble.

Immersing ourselves in the everlasting love of God, we become willing and able to walk away from sin.

We can give up that because we have THIS.

Dear Lord, forgive me for the sins I return to. Cleanse me with Your majestic love and grace. Reveal to me the depth of Your love, the extent of Your sacrifice, and the beauty of the mercy You grant me daily. Open my eyes to see Your love afresh and may I be empowered to walk away from sin towards Your heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application Steps: Fill your mind and heart today with the love of God. Read the power verses below, look up others in your Bible, or visit Rachel’s blog.

Reflections: What sin do I return to? What is the benefit I feel this sin provides me?

Power Verses:

Proverbs 8:17, "I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me." (NLT)

Jeremiah 31:3, "Long ago the LORD said to Israel: 'I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.'" (NLT)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How God Uses Pain

"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things" (Isa 45:7)

God will use pain in order to create a love relationship with His creation. This statement may challenge your theology. However, consider that God allowed Jesus to experience incredible pain in order to create an opportunity to have a relationship with His creation. Consider how Jesus created a relationship with Paul. He blinded him and used a crisis in his life in order to bring him into a relationship with him and use him for God's purposes. Consider how God recruited Jonah for the mission He had for him.

This is not God's first choice for His creation. Romans 2:4 reveals that God's preference is to show mercy and kindness: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" The problem is there are few people who respond to the goodness of God. God loves people more than He loves their comfort. He invests a great deal into mankind. He desires relationship with us and will go to great lengths to create such a relationship in order for us to receive the rewards and inheritance He has for us.

I have observed this process in the scriptures in working with people through years of ministry. I have noticed three distinct stages. First, we live based on convenience. Our obedience is largely based on circumstances in our lives. We choose to obey based on the circumstances.

The second stage is the crisis stage. God allows a crisis to come into our lives. We are motivated to obey God in order to get out of the pain of our situation. Many times God allows us to stay in this condition in order to demonstrate His love and faithfulness during our pain. Gradually, we discover something knew about God and often have a personal encounter with Him that changes us. Our very nature is affected by this God-encounter.

This begins to move us into a third phase that is a relationship that is motivated now by love and devotion instead of pain. This is where God desires us to be. Another way of saying this is we are no longer seeking His hand. We are seeking Him. We want to know God personally.

Obedience will not last when the motivation is only the removal of our pain. Obedience only lasts when the motivation is loving devotion. Where are you in your obedience and what is the primary motivation? If it isn't love, why not tell the Lord you love Him today and want to know Him for who He is and not for what He can do for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Heavenly GPS

"After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone." Matthew 14:23 (NLT)

It was a drama-packed day. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, was dead because a drunken king chopped off his head. Jesus tried to get away to deal with the news, but crowds of people called his name.

Heal me! Feed me!

He healed the sick. He fed over 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. These miracles caused the crowd to press in closer, to shout louder and to demand more from Him. It also caused conflict.

He's our new king!
No; he's dangerous; kill him!

Sometimes life gets complex. Many times we just keep on going even though we are pulled between the demands of the people we love - Feed me! Love me! - with those feelings festering just under the surface.

But what happens when you arrive at ground zero emotionally because of loss or pain or fatigue?

What did Jesus do? When His day was finally done, Jesus hiked into the mountains to pray. He needed strength. He needed guidance. He needed to be refreshed spiritually and physically. Jesus settled in to talk to His father.

I'll be honest. When I'm at that place, the temptation is to wrap up in my favorite blanket, turn on a mindless TV show, and veg.

But what waits for me in that alone place with God?

He knows us better than anyone else. He's willing to carry our burdens, soothe our hearts, and that prayer time becomes a shelter, an oasis where we are revived. At that point it's not about the time we spend, or even the words that we say, but what we discover when we settle in.

Prayer becomes our heavenly GPS system.

An earthly GPS system contains atomic clocks that are accurate to a billionth of a second! No matter where you are, it can find your location and give you direction.

Think about this: The God of the Universe is greater than any earthly GPS. God knows where you are, where you are headed emotionally, and how to recalculate so that you can find your way back to sanity, peace, and even to joy.
Dear Jesus, You know what it is to be emotionally and physically spent. You know what it is to hurt, to grieve, to long for quiet and peace and healing. Thank You that You understand how I feel, and that You carry my burden when it's too big for me to carry alone. I adore You. In Your Name, Amen.
Application Steps:

Many of you, like me, probably talk to God throughout the day. But is there a sacred place set aside for you and God?

Don't set a time limit, or make it a duty.

Settle in with Him. Close the door.

Talk to Him about your day. Praise Him for His great love.

Breathe in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Don't rush it.

Let God do His work inside of You.


Prayer is a spot where we go just as surely as a church sanctuary is a place. When we pray, we are going into a place built from words. Or at least it's a place where words are the parameters, the walls into which we enter.
Power Verse:

Psalm 19:7, "The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple." (NLT)

Psalm 91:1-2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom trust.'" (ESV)

Being Chosen

"'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" At once they left their nets and followed him (Matt 4:19-20)

Do you recall how good it felt when you were chosen to be on a team? It makes one feel special to be preferred over another.

During the time of Jesus rabbis' were well known in their community. Each rabbi had a following of students. Jesus was developing as a "superstar" rabbi. He was unlike the others. He did things differently. He often confronted the accepted thinking of other rabbis and Pharisees. The younger men had great respect for Jesus, the rabbi. To be selected by Jesus would be a great honor because most rabbis would usually select only the cream of the crop in the community as their disciples. By these standards, Peter and the other disciples would not have qualified. But Jesus had a purpose in mind for Peter and the disciples.

God is the one who calls people into relationship with Himself and to their calling in life. It is for His purposes, not ours. Jesus chose each of his disciples from the workplace instead of the rabbinical schools. They did not choose Jesus, Jesus chose them and it was deemed a great honor in their culture to be chosen by such a rabbi (Jn 15:16).

Jesus called you into relationship with Himself because His desire is for you to be a faithful priest in your work life, family, and city. "I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind." (1 Samuel 2:35). He desires that you be a willing participant in his agenda. He has not called you for your purposes, but His.

Sometimes we think it's all about us. It has to be all about Him in order for us to fulfill what is in His heart and mind for His overall plan for His Kingdom. He doesn't need us, but He has chosen to use us.

God has an agenda for planet earth. He has chosen you and me as the primary instrument for accomplishing His plan. Are you willing to be his faithful priest and king to do what is in His heart and mind? Why not say "yes" to His agenda.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deep Things

"He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light" (Job 12:22)

One of the great mysteries of the Kingdom is how God uses the darkest times in our lives to reveal greater depths of understanding of His ways. The only way we can receive these deeper things is to be driven to the depths of darkness. It is here that we discover important truths that He plans to use in our lives and the lives of others.

There is a process God uses to draw us into greater levels of intimacy. The first phase involves a depth of soul experience that causes great pain in our lives. We seek God for deliverance from the incredible emotional pain this causes. Our primary motivation for seeking God is to get out of our pain.

During this time, God meets us in the depths of darkness. We discover that He never left us but is in the midst of the darkness. We develop a new relationship with God. Gradually our motivation turns from removal of pain to love and intimacy with God. This is the place our Heavenly Father desires us to be.

During this season God will make spiritual deposits into your life. Others will be making withdrawals in the future from your life as well. You see, God reveals deep things in darkness that will be revealed in the light.

If you find yourself in great distress, know that God will bring your deep shadows into the light. The key to your deliverance is becoming satisfied in God. He becomes your all. He is your life. You will know your deliverance is near when your circumstances simply don't matter to you anymore.

Love the Lord your God with all your soul and see what things He will show you in the deep things of darkness.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17).

A mulligan is a golf term which allows a player to play a second shot off the first tee if the first shot is poor. It's a second chance to get a fresh start without penalty.

Sometimes in life we need a mulligan - a new start. Christ represents the invitation to throw away our first life and begin anew with Him as a new creation.

The Promised Land represented a new life for the people of Israel who had lived a life of bondage and slavery in Egypt. It is also symbolic of a new life in Christ. It says we are no longer going to be driven by the appetites of our old nature, but Christ now lives in us to live a righteous and holy life. It does not mean we're perfect, we're just forgiven.

The new life in Christ has nothing to do with church attendance or even doing good things. Christ said there will be many people who will claim Him as their Savior but they never really knew Him. In other words, there was no evidence of the living Savior in them. "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt 7:22-23). [THAT IS DEEP]

Jesus invites everyone to partake of the new life He offers. We only must believe, invite him to remove our sins and allow Him to live as Lord through our lives. "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me?" (Rev 3:20).

If you've never had a mulligan in life, now is the time to let Jesus give you a brand new start. Ask Him for that new start today.