Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Most of my life I have struggled with feelings of being “ordinary.” When I was in school I was always a “C” average student, except for a few classes that were of high interest to me. I never seemed to be really good at anything. This has bothered me for years. It’s not that I haven’t tried to be good at anything. I have. But there was always someone better or faster than me. I was just average.
Unfortunately, these feelings have followed me into adulthood. I seem to compare myself to others and never felt I measured up to everyone else. One time I was at a women’s Christmas party and everyone was talking about their degrees, and all the exotic places they have visited. Once again I was reminded that I was ordinary. Since that party, God has taken me on a journey to teach me that being ordinary is ok.
God led me to Scriptures that talked about how He has a plan and purpose for my life. This plan was custom made just for me. He has promised that when I look for Him, I will find Him. So, I kept looking.
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 NIV).
I began praying about these feelings of inadequacy and then I started studying the lives of people from the Bible. I saw many examples of how God used unlikely “heros,” ordinary people, to do extraordinary things. Think of how He used Moses, who had basically no self-confidence when it came to speaking, to repeatedly confront a powerful king and to deliver an entire nation from slavery. Moses did not feel adequate for this job and he questioned what the Lord instructed him to do.
But Moses said to the LORD, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" (Exodus 6:12 NIV).
David was an ordinary shepherd boy when God anointed him to be a future king. Jeremiah, who became God’s mouthpiece to Israel, stated that he was only a child (Jeremiah 1:6). Ester was an ordinary Jewish girl, who later became queen and God used her to save a human race. And we can’t forget to mention the disciples of Christ. Most of them were ordinary fishermen with little or no education.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it (Acts 4:13-16 NIV)
The Scriptures are full of ordinary people doing amazing things for God. They didn’t ask to be used by God in these certain ways, God chose the way He wanted to use them. I believe all Christians have a desire to be used by God in some significant way. There is no greater joy than realizing God has used me in a certain situation, or as an encouragement to someone else. God rarely uses picture-perfect people. He uses imperfect people.
Through this journey I’ve come to accept that God has a plan and a purpose especially for me. Although I don’t have my name in lights or have accomplished the things the world says is important, God still uses this ordinary woman to do extraordinary things.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV).
Lord, I thank you that you take the ordinary people in this world to do extraordinary things. I don't want to live a mediocre Christian life. I want the abundant life that Jesus talked about (John 10:10). I want to fulfill the purpose for which I was created. I love You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
May 1, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Have you ever been impacted by the life and conduct of a mature Christian? Living according to the Bible does not go unnoticed. When we see someone following the example of Christ, it makes a lasting impression on us. As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be more like Jesus.
Recently, as I was pondering the many godly examples I have seen in my life, I couldn't help but think about my brother, Dennis. Although he was five years older than me, we had a close relationship. When he became a Christian as a teenager I quickly took notice of the changes in him. My most vivid memory was his hunger for God's Word and the habit he developed of waking up before sunrise to read it. Although I didn't understand these changes, I observed his faithfulness day after day.
Years later, as a young adult, I went to work at an insurance company and suddenly found myself surrounded by committed Christians. Gradually, I became best friends with a young woman, Lisa. Lisa modeled a godly life and talked to me about God. She devoted hours of her time explaining the Christian faith to me in a way that was clear to understand. One night we were sitting in her car and she read me Bible verses and told me how much God loved me. I thought intently about what she said. The next morning I called her to tell her I invited Jesus into my life to be my Savior. She was very pleased to hear it.
Beginning this new life of faith was exciting, but also complex. I was seriously involved in a relationship with my boyfriend (now husband). There was a lot of compromising at that time in my life and not a lot of spiritual growth. I soon found myself pregnant and frightened. Feelings of shame and failure were overwhelming. Even though I had support and love from my family, I was heartbroken because I knew I had disappointed God and everyone I loved.
For four months I struggled with this, not knowing how to talk to God about it. Talking one night with my sister-in-law, Nancy, I mentioned to her how I was feeling. Lovingly, she told me how God still loved me and will forgive me. She tenderly held my hand and prayed for me. Her kindness was an encouragement to me and I was actually able to look forward to my future.
God uses the examples of others to shape and mold us into the people He wants us to be. I have learned a lot from others. My brother's example of spending time in God's Word has taught me how to developed this same discipline in my own life. My friend's kindness in answering all my questions about Christianity has taught me how to share my faith with a patient, loving attitude. Praying for the encouragement of others is a regular part of my life today because my sister-in-law cared enough to pray with me when I was hurting.
Living according to the Bible and following godly examples can make our lives shine in a dark world (Matthew 5:13-14). When we put into practice what we learn people will notice and it will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way (Titus 2:10).
Lord, thank you for your Word that shows me how to live like Jesus. Thank you for the godly examples of mature Christians in my life. Help me to put into practice those things you teach me. I pray that I would be a godly example to those around me and that they would be drawn to You. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 20, 2008
At first glance, this Scripture seems unrealistic. How do we pray without ceasing? Assuredly, this verse is not telling us to stay on our knees all day long. So, how is this possible?
Some people believe prayer is very complicated, but it's simply talking with God. Prayer is often expressed with words, but it doesn't always have to be. It can come from the longings of our hearts.
Have you ever been sitting by a warm, cozy fire with someone you love? During these times, conversation can be happening without uttering a word. When you are with someone you love, you may not need words to have real communication. Similarly, prayer can work the same way. By having a close relationship with God we become increasingly aware that He is speaking to us. When our hearts are clean before Him it keeps the lines of communication open and His voice is amplified in our lives. However, when our hearts are unclean our ability to hear God is restrained. A clean heart brings intimacy with God and is a vital part of our prayer life. Prayer is more than an activity, it is a relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Developing intimacy with God is possible by His Spirit and by His Word. Jesus said in John 15:7 that we should remain in Him and His words remain in us. Remaining in His Word means more than just reading His Word for a few minutes a week, but rather by absorbing ourselves in it. We should have the attitude that Jeremiah had, "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight..." (Jeremiah 15:16). His Word is where we find nourishment for our souls. Meditating on His Word begins to renew our minds and puts our focus on Him. God's Word reshapes our lives until we discover we have the closeness with Him that we desire.
Another reason unceasing prayer is possible is because the Holy Spirit took up residence in us when we put our faith in Christ (Romans 8:9, 11, 15). The Bible says the Holy Spirit is always interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27). Since He is living in us we are always praying, at some level, even though we may be unaware of it. This quote sums it up beautifully:
"When the Spirit has come to reside in someone, that person cannot stop praying; for the Spirit prays without ceasing in him. No matter if he is asleep or awake, prayer is going on in his heart all the time. He may be eating or drinking, he may be resting or working -- the incense of prayer will ascend spontaneously from his heart. The slightest stirring of his heart is like a voice which sings in silence and in secret to the Invisible." --Isaac the Syrian
Although our minds cannot comprehend this fully, we can trust that God is hearing the cries of our hearts. It's important to have those times away from distractions so that we can pour out our hearts to God, but we can also be communicating with Him all day long, even after we rise up from our knees.
Lord, thank You for the gift of prayer. Thank You that you want us to communicate with You all day, everyday. Thank You for the Holy Spirit that lives in me to intercede. Help me to have a pure heart so that I can have intimacy with You and that I can hear Your voice clearly. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 19, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Have you ever wondered if God speaks to people today? Have you ever asked how you can know when He is speaking? God speaks to individuals in unique ways and He does this in any way He pleases. He speaks to reveal Himself and to teach us His ways.
As Believers, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. We cannot understand spiritual truth unless the Spirit reveals it to us (John 14:17). I have discovered that the majority of time the Spirit speaks to us through God's Word. Have you ever been reading the Bible when suddenly a verse jumps off the page at you, even though you have read that verse many times before? This is God speaking to you through His Word. There is nothing more exciting than realizing that the God of the universe is speaking directly to you!
When God speaks to us through the Bible we need to respond immediately. Our response is crucial. We should never take it lightly or ignore it. When the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us this is an encounter with God. First thing we should do is pray and ask God to make it clear what He wants us to do. We should then take that verse and obey it and continue to pray for clarity.
Here is an example from my own life of the way God used His Word to speak to me. One day I came across a verse that stood out to me. I wrote it down on a 3 x 5 card and posted it on my refrigerator. The verse said, "If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable" (Proverbs 28:9 NIV). At this time I was earnestly trying to develop a better prayer life so when I read that my prayers can be detestable I started asking God to open my eyes to how I was breaking the law.
A few days later I started receiving bounced check statements from our bank. Everyday, for about a week, they were in our mailbox. I didn't understand this until God brought to my memory all the times I was writing checks without knowing our account balance. My husband said to me that week, "Writing checking without money in the bank is breaking the law." Although I already knew that, it wasn't until that moment I realized how careless I was being with our money. God was confirming to me, through my husband's words, how that verse applied to me. It took a while to get our banking situation in order again. Thankfully, there were no serious consequences. This was a lesson I won't forget. I see now how God gave me that verse ahead of time to prepare me for what was about to happen.
It is not enough just to agree with God's Word, we need to respond to it. That's where obedience comes in. I no longer write bad checks and now I'm careful to know how much money I have to spend.
We may need to adjust our lives to what God teaches us or make necessary amends. He doesn't want anything to hinder our relationship with Him. Obeying what God teaches us makes us free to experience a closer walk with Him. After all, isn't that what it's all about?
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Lord, thank You for Your Word and how You speak to me through it. Please give me the desire to respond to anything you want to teach me and to obey what You say. Please continue to speak to me through the Bible. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Did you know that there is a reason for your existence? God knew you before you were even formed into a fetus. He has a specific plan for your life. Your job while you are here on earth is not to choose your destiny but to discover it. Many people search for fulfillment their entire lives and never find it because they fail to discover their purpose. God is the Creator of all things. Your life is not a mere coincidence or a mistake, but a part of His plan; He has a specific assignment for you. Do you know what it is? If not, here are 10 questions to help you discover your true destiny:
1. What is your deepest desire?
Psalm 37:4 says "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." When you decide to serve God, He will actually give you the desire to do what you were created to do. You will know it is a God-given desire because it will line up with His Word.
2. What stirs your passion?
Passion is the zeal, enthusiasm, excitement and intensity you feel about things that are important to you. It will stir you to action. What bothers you the most? God may be calling on you to find a solution to a problem or to be a solution to a problem.
3. What naturally flows out of you?
Have you ever taught someone how to do something that you could do with your eyes closed? It may have seemed simple to you, but complex to them. What is that natural talent or ability you have that others do not?
4. Where do you get real results?
In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus gave us a time guideline for how long it should take to "try something out," such as a job, career, business or ministry. He gave an example of a man who had a fig tree in his vineyard and had been checking for three years to see if it was producing fruit. Then Jesus asked the question, "Why cumbered it the ground?" This was a nice way of asking, "Why is this thing taking up space?" What is taking up space in your life?
5. What is the witness of the Holy Spirit in your spirit?
God will confirm the plan He has for your life. He will sometimes speak through dreams and visions or in a still, small voice. He will make sure He gets the message to you in one way or another. Are you listening? To hear and recognize His voice clearly, you must position yourself by spending time seeking Him, diligently praying and studying His Word.
6. What do mature Christians see in you?
Keep in mind that a "mature Christian" is not just someone who has been saved for a while, but instead is a Believer who consistently makes decisions based on the Word of God. Mature Christians can give you good advice about seeking God's will for your life.
7. What career or ministry do you feel the peace of God about pursuing?
Philippians 4:6-7 says to pray with thanksgiving and let your request be known to God, and He will bring you peace about the things that concern you. Let the peace of God in your spirit man guide you and confirm His will for your life.
8. What thoughts, visions or dreams are impossible to put out of your mind?
God speaks to us in various ways. He will give you thoughts, visions and dreams, but your job is to recognize when it is God's message and when it is not. You will know God has given you a dream, vision or concept when you have spent time seeking Him. He will confirm it through His Word, as well as through people who may speak into your life about the situation. In addition you will see situations and circumstances line up to make your dream or vision come to pass.
9. What goal or ambition can you dedicate yourself to 100 percent, for the rest of your life?
Is there something you can do for hours and really enjoy? What career or job could you do for the rest of your life? When you discover your purpose, it will incorporate all of your gifts, talents and strengths, and you will have a passion for it that enables you to do it even when you are tired.
10. What do people volunteer to help you accomplish?
When you find what you were created to do, God will send people, opportunities and resources to help you along the way. Is there something you do that people want to support? When you get into that place, you will find total fulfillment. Don't waste another moment trying to find satisfaction in all the wrong places; find God's true purpose for your life today!
Rev. James C. Matthews
April 12, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
One Sunday afternoon, while my family and I were getting ready to sit down for dinner, I heard my husband yell, "Call 911, call 911!" Since my husband rarely raises his voice, we all ran to see what was wrong. He was looking out our front door watching two men fist fight across the street. One man was on top of the other hitting him in the face. It was a bloody sight. We thought he was going to kill him.
I called 911 and told them what was going on and asked them to quickly send the police. Our whole house was in chaos and emotions were high! The 911 lady I was speaking to must have thought I was frantic. However, she remained calm.
The men stopped fighting after they saw they had an audience. The police finally came and we shut our door. The drama appeared to be over outside, but the drama inside our home was continuing. "I want out of this neighborhood!", I said. I let everyone know I wasn't happy about this situation. Grown men fighting in front of our house made us all upset and angry. "Yeah, let's move!" was the responses of my kids and husband.
My husband, son and daughter went to the store to buy a newspaper so that we could find houses for sale in our area. I went to the computer and was looking at real estate over the Internet. The next morning, my kids and I went driving around searching for our new home. We were serious about moving!
After returning from our house hunting trip, we sat down to have our devotional time. The devotion was talking about how our homes belong to God and He wants us to pray for our neighbors. My daughter and I could not believe what we were reading. It spoke to both of us about how our neighbors need our prayers.
The next morning I was going to the weekly women's Bible study at our church. As the speaker was speaking I realized God was using her, as He often does, to show me what's in my heart. She first started talking about how the word "fear not" are mentioned in the Bible 365 times. One for each day of the year. God must be serious about it if He mentions it that many times. Fear is our natural response to danger. It can become a spiritual sickness and cripple us if we hold on to it. We become afraid when we think of things that might happen someday. Fear is contagious. This is true because I saw it come to life in my children after they saw I was afraid.
Fear doesn't go away by itself, we need to take it to God. He was telling me to be a confident and courageous woman. He wanted me to stop running from my fear and run to Him. Running to God means I am putting my trust in Him. He has taught me that courage is the decision we make not to run when fear comes. I needed to have my focus on Him and not the fear I was feeling.
As I pondered these things, I decided that I would not run, but I would pray for my neighbors instead. I told my husband and children everything the Lord taught me that morning. They were amazed as to how clearly God speaks to us. Yes, we may move one day, but it won't be because of fear, it will be because the Lord is moving us.
I wanted to start praying for my neighbors right away, but since I don't know that many of them it made it hard to know exactly how to pray. I began by thanking God for our neighborhood and asking God for the opportunity to meet my neighbors. I also started praying the five blessing prayer plan that I found at the end of our devotional. You choose five neighbors and pray a blessing for them for five minutes a day. You pray it each day for five weeks. In this prayer plan, each area of blessing begins with a letter from the word "bless":
B (body) - blessing on a neighbor's physical body, including health, strength, protection and safety.
L (labor) - blessing on a neighbor's work, income or security, or, if a child, on his or her studies.
E (emotional) - blessings on a neighbor's well being, especially that he or she can trust God, be free from worry and fear, and experience joy, peace and hope.
S (social) - blessings on relationships, such as those between husband and wife, parents and kids.
S (spiritual) - blessings on a neighbor for salvation, faith and grace.
(If you'd like more information on the 5x5x5 plan you can call 1-800-217-5200 to order the Make Your House a Power House booklet, the Five Blessings Brochure, or the Personal Lighthouse Kit, which includes a video.)
(When Families Pray by Cheri Fuller, page 46)
I decided I would start praying for my neighbors the next day. The Lord confirmed to me that this is what He wanted me to do because after I prayed that first morning, I was walking downstairs from my bedroom at 7:30 a.m. and I saw my neighbor, Lynn, at my front door. She had just moved here and it was the first time I met her. She asked if she could use our phone because she locked herself out of her house and she needed to call her daughter at work to come and let her in. I not only got to meet Lynn that day, but also her daughter. I was blown away about this. God had answered my prayer about meeting my neighbors before I even started my day! That encouraged me to continue to pray and then watch to see where God is working in my neighborhood.
I have shared this story with others and now they too are praying for their neighborhoods. God wants us to pray for those around us, especially those who do not know Him yet. How does the Lord want you to pray for your neighbors? Write down their names and begin to pray for them on a regular basis. Not only will your neighbors receive God's blessings, but so will you as you see God answer your prayers!
My house shall be called a house of prayer. Matthew 21:13 (NASB)
Lord, thank You for the privlege of praying for others. Open my eyes to see You at work around me. Give me a burden for those that don't know you and a compassionate heart toward them. Let my home be a house of prayer. Help me not to run when fear grips me, but to run to You with it. Help me to trust in You. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 9, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
From Genesis to Revelation, love is the theme of the Bible. It shows us that God has a high esteem for His children and we should, in turn, have high regard for Him and other people. The Bible is the greatest love story ever written. It was because of God's unconditional love for us that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross (John 3:16, 1 John 4:10).
The Bible says that "God is love." It is the major part of His nature. His love exceeds our understanding (Ephesians 3:19), it is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3), and endures forever (Psalm 106:1).
We were all created with a deep need to be loved and to love others. We can love one another deeply because we have been cleansed from our sins when we accepted Jesus into our lives. We are to see to it that we love each other that way. (1 Peter 1:22). If we know we don't have that kind of love in our hearts for others, we need to ask God to give us that kind of love. Jesus said that it is our love for one another that proves we are His disciples(John 13:34-35).
No other time in the history of Christianity did love characterize the entire church as it did in the first three centuries. And Roman society took notice! Tertullian (an early church father) reported that the Romans would exclaim, "See how they (the Christians) love one another!" The Believers were proving that they were Jesus' disciples by their love for one another.
Not only are we called to love our brothers and sisters, but all people, even our enemies. Jesus said that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When we do this we are acting as true children of God. (Matt:5:44). What good would we be if we did everything right, knew all the right answers, but didn't have love? We would be of no value whatsoever. (1 Cor. 13:1-3). We are nothing without love.
The Bible describes love as:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever... There are three things that will endure - faith, hope and love - and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-13 NLT).
Love will impact our world like nothing else. There is one time in my life, a few years ago, when I witnessed deep love. This love still influences me today. I was staying at my parents home. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the year before. We just found out that my father was dying from a brain tumor. He was at home under hospice care. The nurses checked in on him daily, but it was really my mother who took care of him.
She poured her heart into caring for and loving him. She tried to make him as comfortable as possible during those last days. I remember watching her and noticing the love she displayed. It was so genuine and profound. I've never seen anything like it before. I watched her closely, even though she didn't know I was looking. I never said anything about it to her. I just watched as she gave him his medicine, curled up next to him on his bed, and sat beside him throughout the night tenderly holding his hand and caressing his arm. It was a precious sight. When the Lord took him home I heard my mother say her last goodbyes. This was an experience I will never forget. She showed much love, not necessarily by her words, but by her actions.
Several weeks later, I left to come back to my own home. I thought often about what I witnessed. I know now how a display of love can change people. It changed me. My mother's example has touched my life and God has used it to help me love my husband and children better than I did before.
We may never know how our example can touch someone's life. We are being watched every day by someone. Let's follow the example of the early church and my mother. When people see that we love well, they are drawn closer to the heart of God. The Bible says it is the most excellent way (1 Cor. 13:1) and I believe it!
Lord, thank You for your example of love when You sent Jesus to die for us. That is the ultimate love! Thank you for the examples of others in history and those in our midst today. Help us to love others well. Let our examples speak loud and clear so that hearts will be drawn to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
April 7, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
For many years of my life I never expected to hear God's voice. But as I'm maturing in my faith, I now realize that God is always speaking to His children. He speaks to us through the Bible, prayer, other people, the church and through our circumstances. He sometimes even speaks to us through our dreams.
For seven years my husband, Phil, worked a job that required a lot of traveling. One summer he was working on a project in Ft. Myers, Florida, and his company paid for our family to go there and stay with him. They rented a beautiful condo for us. The view from the condo was of a gorgeous pond with a fountain. At night the pond was lit up and it also had a walking path around the perimeter of it. It was such a blessing to be able to stay in such a lovely place.
One night, while we were there, I had a dream. My mind was troubled by this dream. I couldn't remember the details of the dream, but I knew it had something to do with my daughter and that she was hurt. It was 1:00 am. and I got up and went into the room where my children were sleeping. I prayed for God to protect them. I asked Him to tell me what was wrong. By the time I got back to bed I knew exactly what it was. There was an alligator in that pond and I wasn't suppose to take my children near it.
I didn't say anything to anyone about that dream until two weeks later. One afternoon the kids and I were going to the swimming pool. We normally would walk along the path by the pond to get to the pool because it was a shortcut. After I had the dream I decided we should walk along the road to get to the pool, even though it was a longer distance. My kids never questioned the change in route. Then one day, while going to the pool, my son asked if we could walk along the pond. I told my children that I had a dream that there was an alligator in that pond and to play it safe we should take the road instead.
Later that evening, Phil came home from work. When he first walked in he told us that there was a warning sign posted down by the elevator. It said that there was an alligator in the pond and to keep small children away from it. The kids and I couldn't believe what he just said. They told their dad, "Mom just told us that she had a dream there was an alligator in the pond". I never mentioned that to him before so he was surprised.
According to Arlyn Lawrence in her article "Was That You, Lord?" from the Pray! Magazine (Nov-Dec 2007 issue), she says, "God primarily uses dreams to
- warn us
- give us direction
- encourage or comfort us
- prepare us for something
- give us His perspective on something about which we may have a blind spot
- call us to intercession
- give us specific supernatural insight about how to pray for a person or situation"
She also says, "How can you discern which of your dreams are from God? ...'God dreams' are sharper and more poignant than regular ones. When I've had such dreams, I have the immediate sense that there was more to it... I feel compelled to ask, Was that You, Lord?" (page 48).
I've come to realize that this experience was not spooky. There are many references of God speaking to people through dreams (Genesis 31:11-12, 37:5, Numbers 12:6, 1 Kings 3:5, Matthew 1:20, 2:13). God also said that in the last days He would pour out His Spirit on His people and they would dream and have visions (Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:16-17). He doesn't speak to everyone through dreams, but if He does speak to us we need to be careful to pay attention to Him and respond in faith.
What a wonderful time we had in Florida that summer! My children especially loved the beach and the water. I especially loved the fact that we never saw that alligator!
Lord, I thank you for the special time you gave us that summer. Thank you for how you speak to us and warn us of danger. Help us to always respond when You speak. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 5, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Prayer is mysterious to me. It is deep and powerful. It changes things and it changes me. It is how we connect our hearts to God. It is a gift and a privilege that He has given us. I didn't always feel this way. There was a time when I didn't pray that much. I have grown in this area and have found the value of praying daily.
A few years ago, I started getting radical about my prayer life. I started making it a top priority. Being a reader has helped to change my prayer life. Reading books about prayer is one of my favorite things to do. I have discovered that reading about prayer not only teaches me, but it highly motivates me. I have learned to pour out my heart to the Lord like water (Lam. 2:19). I pray for myself, others and even for people I don't know.
Not only do I pray alone, but I've discovered the power of praying with other women. It wasn't until I started praying in a Moms In Touch group that I truly learned how to pray. Moms In Touch is a group of moms who pray together once a week for an hour for their children and their schools. Being in this group and listening to other women pray has touched my heart in a fresh new way.
It's wonderful if we can pray together in person, but sometimes that is not possible. One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to go through the book, "Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian, with my sister-in-law, Lisa. She lives in Maryland and I live in Texas so it's impossible to pray physically together. We read one chapter of the book throughout the week, then we call each other at our appointed time to discuss it. We then pray for our husbands and children regarding the chapter that we read or about whatever is heavy on our hearts that day.
I couldn't begin to describe the beauty of our prayer time. We learn from each other. We encourage each other and we speak truth into each other's lives. When we are discouraged or disappointed, we are genuine with one another, knowing that our conversations will go no further than the phone. It has been a precious time for us. Our friendship has become sweeter because of our commitment to pray weekly. The most exciting part about praying together is seeing God answer our prayers!
If you are not regularly praying with other women, let me encourage you to start. All you need is one other woman to pray with you. If you don't know of an existing group, consider starting one. If that is not possible, try praying over the phone. You could even meet a friend 15 or 20 minutes before church or right after service to pray. If you work, maybe you could take part of your lunch hour. You may need to be creative to do this, but it will be worth any effort you put into it. You just want to make sure this woman is someone you can trust and who will be confidential. Whatever is prayed about during your prayer time should only stay between the women praying. You should make it a rule not to discuss the prayer requests outside of the group. If you can't think of anyone to pray with, ask God to bring at least one woman to be your prayer partner. I believe He will answer that prayer.
Why Women Should Pray Together:
God's presence will be with you:
"For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." Matthew 18:20 NLT
The burdens that we share become lighter:
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results. James 5:16 NLT
We build each other up when we meet together:
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT
God hears us:
And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we know He is listening when we make our requests, we can be sure that He will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:14-15 NLT
We become more bold in our prayers and we receive help:
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 NLT
We are called to devote our lives to prayer with an alert mind:
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Colossians 4:2 NLT
Lord, thank you that you have given us the gift of prayer! It is amazing to think how the God of the universe wants to spend time with us. Help us to use this gift on a daily basis. We love you. In Jesus' name. Amen.
April 4, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
This verse, Proverbs 17:9, has been a life verse for me. The Lord has given me many opportunities to put this into practice. Let me share my story with you.
My children are involved in a local children's theatre in our town. They love doing plays and participating with this theatre. We have met a lot of families and developed wonderful friendships there.
The times that I've spent at the theatre have been teachable moments for me. I noticed that I was being offended a lot. I started to question if I was just being touchy. I didn't understand what was happening at first, but now I understand that the Lord was teaching me a life lesson.
One day I was helping out behind the scenes and one of the other moms said a very inappropriate comment to me. The day after that I felt another woman was accusing me of something I didn't do. A short time later, a man got irate with me because of a misunderstanding. He showed his anger toward me in front of a room full of people. I was insulted by this. I started noticing a pattern here. I rationalized that there are a lot of people who participate in this theatre and when you have that many people in one place, these things will occur. But as it continued I started to ask the Lord if He was trying to teach me something (I'm not sure why it took me so long to ask).
During this time I came across a book review on John Bevere's book, The Bait of Satan. In this review it said, "One of the most deceptive snares Satan uses to get you out of God's will is offense. Many Christians don't even realize it is happening. Do you?" I immediately knew this was what was happening to me. In his book, John Bevere writes, "Offense is a tool used by the devil to bring people into captivity." (page 7). I believe it. When I look back over my life I can see how that has happened to me multiple times. I have felt captive to my emotions that was related to being offended.
I was determined to do everything possible to see that I responded the way God wanted me to. The next time I went to the theatre, I purposely tried to start up conversations with the women who offended me. I admit that I felt like running in the other direction, but I forced myself to do it. It was just small talk at first. What I discovered was, as time passed on, I actually was able to have longer and pleasant conversations with them. I found out that one of the women was going through a difficult time. That helped me to see things from a different perspective.
The man who was angry with me starting talking very friendly to me one evening. When the conversation was over I was genuinely able to say, "It was so nice talking with you." This was a process and it did not happen overnight, but I believe that if I would have been stubborn with these offenses and refused to press past my feelings, my heart would have grown hard. The Lord wants our hearts soft and teachable.
Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is the man who reverently and worshipfully fears [the Lord] at all times [regardless of circumstances], but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:14 (AMP)
I realize that it is not always easy to overlook people's rudeness and disrespect. There are some offenses that are deep and hurtful. Sometimes the friendship may even have to end. We can't control how other people behave. Some people are just difficult to get along with no matter what you do. All we can do is our part in the situation. We can't change people and we can't change our own hearts, only God can. Let's ask the Lord for help.
Offenses are going to happen, but recognizing that they are the bait of Satan should make us determined not to dwell on things that really aren't that important. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18).
Lord, thank you for loving us and the lessons you teach us. Thank you how practical Your Word is. Help us to not to dwell on offenses any longer. Give us teachable hearts, Lord. Please help us to let things go and live in peace with everyone. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
April 2, 2008
A prayer from Margaret Raj:
"Dear Father in Heaven : It is not possible for me to keep my mouth from speaking
things it should not. I need your power to guard my tongue. Father today, help me to
think before I speak. Help me to feel that nudge of your Holy Spirit and respond before
words rush out of my mouth unbidden. Father, I need you to help me to know what
to say that will be helpful in building my individual family members up rather than saying
words that tear down or hurt. Please make me aware by your divine power, of their needs so I can respond in a way that benefits them. Help me to run to You with the frustrations
and anger and let You de-fuse it and send me back with grace on my lips.
Help me to be bold when issues need addressing but gentle and loving in the
way I address them. Father, You are the only one that can perform this miracle in my life.
I look to you today to set a guard at my heart and my mouth for I do not want to grieve you.
Forgive me for the times I have and walk me so closel today for I need the help of Your
Holy spirit. In Jesus Name.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
When I first became a Christian I used to say things like, "I found God or I found religion." But when I starting reading the Bible I discovered that, according to John 15:16, this is not what actually happens. I didn't choose God, He chose me. It was God who took the initiative in my relationship with Him. I simply responded to His invitation. I could not have come to Jesus unless God Himself first drew me.
Jesus said, "For people can't come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me...Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me." (John 6:44-45 NLT). He also said, "That is what I meant when I said that people can't come to me unless the Father brings them to me." (John 6:65 NLT).
In the Old Testament, God initiated a relationship with each person, allowing them to have a personal experience with Him. In the New Testament, Jesus approached and beckoned the disciples (John 1:35-51). He is still beckoning people today.
God always takes the initiative in our relationship with Him. We wouldn't be Christians today if God had not first reached out to us. God determined to love us. This is so deep and hard to comprehend with our limited minds, but the little that we can grasp should make our hearts full of praise. What an awesome God we serve!
Lord, thank you that you initiated a love relationship with me. Thank you that you love me so much and that you chose me to be your daughter. I am at a loss for words when I think of how deep your love is for me. I want to be a woman who responds to You positively in every area of my life. Please let that be my heart's desire. I love You. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Other verses regarding God's initiative:
March 31, 2008