Arise and Walk

Posted July 31st, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

—Matthew 9:2

The Gospel of Mark gives us the account of a group of men who wanted to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. Jesus was teaching in a home, and the men could not get in because of the huge crowd. So they climbed up on top of the house and dug through the roof to lower their friend inside (see Mark 2:1–5).

When Jesus saw the faith of these men, he looked at their paralyzed friend and said, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Jesus was saying, “You no longer have to be afraid of the penalty for your sin. Your past is behind you. I am giving you another chance in life.”

Jesus then told him to get up, pick up his bed, and go to his house (Matthew 9:6). This man had a choice. He could have stayed on his sickbed forever. He could have said, “I can’t,” or “I won’t.” He had a choice, and he decided to respond.

There are people today who don’t want to change. They don’t want to leave their lifestyle or turn from the choices they have made. They will not take hold of God’s promises and provision and power.

If you want to change, if you want to break free from a vice that has you in its grip, a lifestyle you are trapped in, or an addiction that you can’t seem to shake, then Christ has a word of encouragement to you: “Get up and walk. You can do it. Be of good cheer, and arise.”

by Pastor Greg Laurie

‘I Thirst’

Posted July 28th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“Please give me a drink.” (John 4:7)

We worship a God who became a vulnerable human being. Superman took kryptonite. Samson let his hair be cut. Jack Frost relinquished his wintry powers to become the town tailor. Jesus got thirsty. It’s a story that is played out not only in history, but in fantasy, legend, and mythology – someone with supernatural powers gives up those powers to become human and it is always done for one reason: love. That was God’s reason. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)

And yet Jesus did more than just come to die. He also came to live as a human being. And that’s how it came to be that the God who made the heavens and the earth, including the clouds that bring water to a thirsty land, wound up at the well of Jacob asking a Samaritan woman for a drink. She had something he needed. He gave her worth by asking her for it. Due to tradition and culture, he should have had nothing to do with this woman. As it turned out, he ended up revealing to her his identity as the Messiah –something he did not do that directly to anyone for the rest of his ministry on earth.

Love always makes you vulnerable. There’s no way you can love and not expose yourself in some way or give something up. Love and need go together. God’s love compelled him to do what he did because that very love created in him a need for us. By creating us he also created in himself a place for us, and that need was reflected many times through the life of Christ.

Jesus Christ didn’t die for us because it made for good theology, he died for us because he loved us, lost us to sin, and gave himself up to buy us back. By doing this, he had to become vulnerable to the very system he created, that we might see how true love behaves. There is a death in love, and that death is the death of self. Jesus died to love us; we die as well in order to love and serve others. And part of that is in being vulnerable.

Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone is ask for help. Jesus asked the woman for a drink and three years later, he was asking for the same thing from the cross –symbolic of the vulnerability he placed himself into for the whole human race. Being vulnerable to those you love is a big part of love itself.

By John Fischer

Life is a Test

Posted July 27th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”
(1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

It’s been a tough week.

Saturday, our goat Jimmy escaped from his barn and ate one of my favorite bushes.

Sunday, our dog Larry chewed up the cover to one of our Little House in the Prairie DVD collections. Little green bits of season three lay scattered like confetti all over the carpet. All the scotch tape in my junk drawer couldn’t reconstruct the faces of those Ingalls.

And then came Monday morning. Someone left our cat Lucy inside all night. When I emerged from the bedroom she gave me a guilty, I’ve-got-to-get-out-of-here look and swiped a claw across the front door. I lectured her briefly about not sleeping in the house and let her go.

Ten minutes later, while I was busy making breakfast, my husband asked, “What happened to your book?” I walked into the living room and saw him holding my copy of The Purpose-Driven Life. A friend had given me the beautiful, leather-bound copy, and I’d worked hard to keep it pristine. There wasn’t so much as a coffee stain, greasy fingerprint or chocolate smudge on the cover of that book. But now it was covered with cat scratches. And if you squinted just right – with one eye closed just a bit more than the other – those scratches spelled out the words “neener, neener”

“Oh, that is just IT!” All my frustration exploded. “Bushes and DVD covers and books … will it never end? Can nothing we own stay nice? Must everything be destroyed?”

But it’s a funny thing. Right in the middle of my tirade – while I was running my hands over the ruined cover and wondering how to retaliate against my cat – I remembered a single line from chapter five of the very book I was holding: “Life is a test.”

It struck me as so ironic that I had to laugh. Life is a test. God allows altered plans and disappointments and ruined possessions because he wants to see how we’re going to react. He wants to stretch our character and get our attention.

I had a clawed-up book and a chewed-up DVD cover and a naked-branched bush – but I still had my salvation. I still had Jesus. Nothing of true value had been lost.

I failed three tests this week, but in the end I think I won. Because somewhere in the middle of it all, God grabbed my heart again and re-focused my perspective.

Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on our chickens today. It’s probably their turn.

Point to ponder: God allows disappointments to stretch us.

Verse: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NIV)

What will you do about it: When disappointments come today – and they will – see them as an opportunity to let go of this world and focus on heaven. Learn to say, “Oh, well.”

Prayer: Ask God to teach you to stop clutching your agenda, your plans and your possessions.

By Shannon Woodward

You are Not an Accident

Posted July 26th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” (Eph. 1:4a, Msg)

Your birth was no mistake or mishap. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it. He expected you – and he designed you with a purpose in mind.

God’s motive for creating you was his love. The Bible says, “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.”

Dr. Michael Denton, senior research fellow in human molecular genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has concluded, “All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition … that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation in this central fact.”

The Bible said the same thing thousands of years earlier: “God formed the earth … He did not create it to be empty but formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18, GWT)

Why did God bother to go to all the trouble of creating a universe for us?

Because he is a God of love.

This kind of love is difficult to fathom, but it’s fundamentally reliable.

You were created as a special object of God’s love! God made you so he could love you. This is a truth to build your life on.

Point to ponder: The universe was not complete, in God’s eyes, until he had filled it with people to love. He planned from the beginning of time to make you!

Verse: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you have set in place – what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?” (Psalm 8:3-4, NLT)

What will you do about it: Take a look at the night sky and remind yourself that you are more important to God than all the stars combined. Let that motivate you to worship him.

Prayer: Thank God for planning your life and for loving you so much.

By Rick Warren

When the Spirit of Truth Comes

Posted July 25th, 2007 by Kent and filed in devotional

But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16: 13-14 NIV)

My God, today I look deep within, seeking to understand the mysteries of my faith. Your Word is true and deep – yet my meager understanding only grasps bits and pieces. Your Holy Spirit is my hope for unlocking what I cannot discern with my own human understanding – and I cry out for your help! As I cry, I hear your call to rest in your peace!

Thank you, Lord, that your love is so great for those who have yet to find you – and that even though there is a great unrest afoot, you are at work causing “all things to work together for good.” What an awesome God we serve!

I am praying for all of my brothers and sisters, Lord, that they will stand their ground. For those you have called as your leaders, now is the time to dig their feet in and stand on your truths and on your power to accomplish all things according to your will. I hear you remind me that you will keep us safe and strong. You have always had your eyes on us from the moment of our birth. We have never been alone, even when we felt alone.

May your angels of protection follow my brothers and sisters all around the world, into every country and village. May the presence of our Lord and Savior be apparent to all with eyes to see and ears to hear, and may every stronghold within the sound of our prayers be brought down as many new brothers and sisters are brought safely into the family of God.

I know you do not expect perfection. I know you use struggles to grow and refine us. I also know we are not to fear struggles – and we are to anticipate your greatness and your victories, no matter what circumstances we face. Draw us all to yourself so we can see you as you are, which in itself will wipe away the fears.

I humble myself before you, my God, knowing you are who you say you are. It is a sobering and exhilarating experience to look to you as you are. I do not understand it all, but my faith is not blind. You are revealing yourself to all of us in these days – if we will just look in Your direction.

I cry out to your Holy Spirit, needing your help! I cannot continue on as you have called me without a deeper, more intimate walk with you. My human side can only understand and comprehend so much, but my spiritual being is built to last forever – and can absorb all the Holy Spirit has to share.

Even though, with each passing day, the challenges seem to get a little harder, my peace seems to increase. I appear to have less and less “head knowledge” ruling my life, and more and more spiritual learnings that are absorbing into my inner being. Only your Holy Spirit can accomplish such a thing!

I also know that, left to my own devices, I would easily fall victim to the fears and struggles of this world. That is why my dependence on your Holy Spirit is so vital. Without the presence of your Holy Spirit guiding and directing me, I would have been sidelined years ago. Yet, here I sit, beaten up and bruised, yes, but even more determined to fight the fight of faith.

I cry out today for a deeper faith – a stronger trust – and greater dependence on the Holy Spirit and your Word. I cannot live in this world any longer without your wisdom. Spiritually, I am so very hungry, and I know the people you have placed me with are the same. To say we need a fresh new wind of your Spirit is to put it very mildly.

For myself, I cannot take one more step unless you shine your light on it. In these days especially, I need your wisdom and discernment. I have many decisions to make, so I humble myself under your sovereign hand and ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light on my path so I do not misstep. Help me my God – I am in desperate need!

So what?

•God is mighty, all powerful, loving and compassionate – and God is spirit. You were created to have fellowship with him. Because of this, you have a deep inner need for a intimate, personal spiritual relationship with your Creator.

•It truly is possible to walk closely with God every single day of your life. You can learn to listen and hear his “still, small voice,” and as you do your confidence will grow and your hope will increase. As you surrender to his lordship, he will increase your understanding of his truths, and over time you will gain his wisdom and his discernment.

•Being able to see with the eyes of God’s heart changes everything. It makes all thing possible and allows you to be a living, breathing witness of a truth that will set this world free from fear and struggle.

•Ask yourself what is stopping you from reaching out to him in “spirit and in truth?”

By Carolyn Baker