Shielded Through Suffering

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans‬ ‭8:31‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ 
IMG_1452This is one of those verses that can be very confusing when you read it “out of context.” At first glance it sounds as if this is a guarantee against defeat. 

Jesus said the world would hate us, because it hated Him. I have seen more animosity toward Christianity in the last ten years than my entire lifetime. While this may be a new concern in America, Christians around the world have suffered persecution for centuries. 

When we read this verse in context we find that this chapter speaks to the glory in suffering. We aren’t promised to be shielded from suffering, but rather through suffering. In comparison to the reward of eternity with the Lord our suffering seems trivial. In fact, suffering strengthens and purifies us. Psalms describes it as being refined by fire. 

We see in Roman 8 that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ, and even in death we are more than conquerors.

My take on this verse is this: If God be for me who cares who is against me! My life is His. I live for an audience of ONE. God alone is my judge, and Jesus is interceding FOR me.

PRAYER:
Lord, I am so thankful that nothing can separate me from Your love. I am thankful for the promise of Your continual presence. Knowing You will never leave me or forsake me gives me the courage to face this life. Thank You Lord for suffering in my place. You left the comfort of Heaven to purchase my redemption.

When life gets tough, remind me it’s temporary. Help me to be spiritually minded, which brings life and peace. Help me to have an attitude like Paul who considered suffering as unworthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us.

Jesus, thank You that You are interceding on my behalf before God. I know You will work all things together for my good. Thank You for making me a conqueror!

Thankful Everyday

“I will give thanks and praise the LORD, with all my heart; I will tell aloud all Your wonders and marvelous deeds.” PSALM‬ ‭9:1‬ ‭AMP‬‬

IMG_1447Tomorrow is “Thankgiving” here in the USA. It’s the one day a year set aside for Americans to reflect on the goodness of God.

As I read Psalm 9:1, I am reminded that everyday is Thanksgiving. One day a year would never be enough to acknowledge Him.

As you gather around the table tomorrow take a moment and share one thing God did in your life this year that was the undeniable work of His hands.

What does it look like to give thanks and praise God – “with ALL my heart?”

  • Do I thank Him as fervently as I petition Him?
  • Do I consider the need to acknowledge Him in the things I take for granted … waking up each day, my health, my friends/family, my finances? 
  • Do I only reserve my praise for the WOW moments when He does something EXTRAordinary?

God deserves my praise for every breath. When I focus on His love, mercy and goodness my perspective changes. The glass becomes full and overflowing rather than ‘half empty’.

I have a roof over my head, a car to drive, food, clothes, my health, friends and family who love me and bring joy to my life. I have a church family who inspire and motivate me to be all God has called me to be. I have abundance beyond my needs. I AM TRULY BLESSED!  

Brag on God!  Something else stood out in this verse. David not only recognized the need to praise the Lord and walk in a heart of gratitude, but to tell others about the things God had done in his life. How can we NOT talk about the wonders and marvelous deeds of our God? People need HOPE. They need LOVE. They need GRACE. We have the ANSWER! He’s too good to keep to ourselves.

  • He’s ALIVE! Because He lives I can face my tomorrows. The grave couldn’t hold Him and it won’t hold me.
  • He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) He doesn’t change. I can trust Him. I can rely on Him. 
  • He did not come to condemn, but to save. (John 3:17) He delights in mercy. He is moved with compassion. 

PRAY:
Lord, I thank You and praise You because You alone are worthy of my praise. When I keep my eyes on You the trials of this life grow dim in comparison to Your glory and majesty. In Your presence there is fullness of JOY and the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Lord, I pray that the light of Your glory will shine through me as a beacon drawing others to You. Give me the opportunity to share Your goodness with others. Let my life and my words be a witness. 

Thank You for loving me. Thank You for giving Your life for my sins and taking my place on the cross. Thank You for the hope of eternal life with You. Worthy is the Lamb! I long for the day I will join the hosts of Heaven in Your presence and cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…who was, as is and is to come.”

How’s Your Thought Life?

At some point we’ve all had someone ask us, “What are you thinking about?” I for one am thankful people cannot read my mind. While I’d love to be able to say my thoughts are always pure and reflective of Christ, the truth is a war is often going waging within me.  

You know what I mean, right? How many times have you held internal conversations with yourself? How many tongue lashings have you rehearsed in your mind? 

What’s in my heart comes out in my thoughts. While people may not be able to read my thoughts, God can. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 51:10:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 

IMG_1438When my heart is clean, my words and thoughts will be clean. When my thoughts are unclean and do not line up with the “new” creation God has birthed in me I have a choice. I can choose to “capture” my thoughts or I can allow them to capture me. But how do we capture our thoughts? 

We must start by being attentive to our thought life. People often argue, “I can’t help how I feel,” which usually translates into, “I can’t control what I am thinking.” But we can! Start thinking about what you think about. When a troubling thought comes into your mind, ask yourself: (1) Where is this thought coming come? (2) Is this thought pleasing to God? (3) Is this thought healthy for my spiritual well being?

Replace Your Thoughts When you are having thoughts that you know are not from God, are not pleasing to Him or healthy for you replace them with what God says in His Word. Psalm 119:11 portrays the importance of meditating on the Word. “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” This requires research. You know the areas you struggle with in your thought life. If you struggle with fear, find and memorize scriptures that combat fear. If you struggle with anger, find and memorize scriptures on overcoming anger. Whatever the issue, God’s Word IS the answer.  

Journal If you really want to see the progression of learning to take your thoughts captive, journal. (1) Write down the thought you need to replace. (2) Write out the scriptures that address the issue. (3) Write out a prayer for God to cleanse your heart and renew your mind.  

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” That includes changing our thought life.  

Pray: Father, I thank You that when I am weak, You are strong! Help me in my weakness Lord. Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, quicken my spirit when my thoughts get off track. Guide me back to the path of purity. I commit to hid Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Help me to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. AMEN

 

 

 

 

Teach Me

 

IMG_1425I can’t imagine life without the Word of God. I’ve seen videos of people, in nations where the Bible is forbidden, literally weeping and kissing the Word when they receive a written copy. 

It made me stop and think how different my life would be if the Bible was illegal here in America. Would I have enough of the Word within me to sustain me? Would you? 

God’s Word is living and active, and as Psalm 119:93 points out … it gives us new life when we follow it’s teachings. The Word of God has the power to transform us, from the inside out.  

Do you rely on someone else to “teach” you God’s Word? Don’t get me wrong, God has blessed us with some amazing teachers in our time. I am very thankful for their wisdom and the time they have invested to research the Word and feed my spirit. Yet, how many of these teachings do we apply to our lives? If all we do is hear the Word without putting what we learn into practice, we remain spiritual bottle fed babies. God wants to feed you meat!

If Bible Study is something you find boring or confusing I’d like to make a few suggestions:

(1) Take notes during church: Through the week, go back and review those notes. Look up the scripture references used during the sermon. Read them in the context they were written. (Another words, read several verses before and after.) Invest in a good commentary or use one of my favorites (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) which is free on: https://www.biblegateway.com. 

(2) Study scripture: 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) admonishes us: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  There is a big difference between reading and studying. Apply the practice of asking: who, what, where, when, how and why, to fully understand what the writer of the passage is trying to convey. 

(3) Memorize scripture: Many of the scriptures I hold dear today are verses I memorized as a teen. Whatever the battle, God brings them to remembrance when I need them. Memorization is how we “hide” God’s Word in our hearts.

(4) Pray scripture: God promises in Isaiah 55:11 that His Word will not return void. There is power in praying the Word over our situations. If you are facing a struggle, do a “Bible word search” regarding your issue, and write out a prayer using those verses.

(5) Join a study group: Get involved with a Bible study group. Not only will you learn from each other, you will build lasting relationships with like minded believers, who will become a source of strength in your life.  

The Bible is our instruction manual. Once you begin to see the difference it makes in your walk with God, you will develop a love for it. No other book compares to the life-changing Word of God. My prayer for you today is that God will make the pages of His Word come alive in you. 

 

 

The Power of Confession

IMG_1422Since Jesus is my ‘High Priest’ I never really thought about the need to confess my sins to others, except in cases where I wronged someone.

Confession takes humility and trust. Do you have people of integrity in your life you can trust enough to bare your soul? My Pastor often talks about the need to have 4 or more Christian friends in your life. 

If you’ve ever had a confidence betrayed, trust may not come easy for you. I understand. God does too. He doesn’t ask us to confess our sins to each other to shame us. So why does He advise us to do this? For our healing. When we confess our sins to Jesus we are forgiven. Our confession to others has nothing to do with forgiveness, unless of course we are asking someone to forgive us for a sin against them. I remember many times as a teen going to my Dad to tell him I had disobeyed him. It wasn’t because I was afraid he would find out; it was because the guilt I felt was worse than my fear of punishment.

Guilt and shame are a heavy burden to bare alone. God knows how therapeutic it is to share our faults with one another, in an environment of trust. I wonder how many therapists would still be in business if we took James 5:16 to heart. (Not that there is anything wrong with seeing a therapist.)

This scripture also confirms the power of agreement in prayer. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” -Matthew 18:18-20 (NKJV) If you are struggling with a particular sin you just can’t seem to overcome, it may be time to call in reinforcements. You do not have to suffer alone. 

Another benefit of confession is accountability. When we share our sins with others we make ourselves accountable to them. We are not only asking for prayer support, but in essence we are giving them permission to follow up with us, to make sure we are walking in victory. 

Additionally, God wants to use your story to impact others. Revelation 12:11 tells us, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the Word of their testimony.” Your story is powerful! If you allow shame to keep you silent you miss the opportunity to help others. I know from experience the joy of seeing someone moved by the transparency of sharing my testimony. Others need hope that they too can overcome.  

In closing, the power of confession brings healing, deliverance, accountability and influence. Find a trustworthy brother or sister in Christ and begin to build the kind of relationship that fosters authenticity. And remember, to have a friend, you have to be a friend. 

 

 

 

 

 

His Plans Stand Firm

IMG_1421Do you know God’s not shocked or shaken by anything you say or do? He saw every thought and action, before you ever took a breath. (Psalm 139:16, Isaiah 66:18, Hebrews 4:2) Unlike humanity, God isn’t constrained by time. Given this knowledge the Bible also tells us Jesus was slain before the foundation of the World. (Revelation 13:8) It’s mind boggling, right? He KNEW we would be evil, yet He not only created us but provided our redemption. 

Have you ever seen a movie based on a book you’ve read? I generally find the movie disappointing. I can’t ‘read’ the thoughts of actors on film, the way they are generally revealed in writing. God doesn’t have that dilemma. When He sees our life He sees past, present and future; He knows our intent and motives. Still, He assures us, His plans stand firm forever, His intentions can never be shaken. (Psalm 33:11)

I admit, this has often puzzled me. People often ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” If He knows someone is going to commit an atrocity, why allow them to be born in the first place? Just because God knows something, doesn’t mean He approves of it. As parents, we know before our children are born that they will do things we do not approve of. No matter how wonderful our parenting skills are, we know they will choose to be disobedient at times. Does this knowledge keep us from having children? Of course not. Love drives us to endure the hardships of parenting.

The better question might be, “Why does God allow good things to happen?” Knowing that the heart of mankind … all of mankind … is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), He still chooses to bless us with life.

This life is simply the womb of eternity.

A few years ago God gave me a nugget of truth I cherish. This life is simply the womb of eternity. It is not an end but a beginning. God endures the hardship of parenting creation in order to spend eternity with those who choose Him.  His plans do not change. He created you with eternity in mind. His intentions are not shaken by your sin. He waits patiently for you to repent, in order for your fellowship with Him to be restored. God chose you, because He knew you would respond. 

 

 

Generational Blessings


I find it very comforting to know that God is faithful to His covenant to multiple generations. 
We often hear about generational curses, but what about generational blessings? IMG_1420

Honestly, I don’t know much about the spiritual condition of my ancestors, beyond my grandparents, but I know I have battled some serious strongholds in my life that I believe were generational curses. Thankfully, my parents and grandparents began a new legacy for our family, one of God’s favor and blessing. One, I hope to pass on to my son and future generations.

Deuteronomy 7:9 brought me great comfort this morning. I have been struggling with depression and negativity the past few days. I’d love to be one of those people who have a natural bend toward positivity and joy, but in all honesty, I am not. I still have a lot of work to do in the “battlefield of the mind.”

It’s times like this I have to make a desision. Am I going to believe my thoughts and negative emotions, or am I going to believe God? It’s a no-brainer. God’s Word IS faithful and true. It is the ultimate measure of truth.

Have you ever dug into God’s Word to discover the promises of a covenant relationship with Him? Trust me … we (and our descendants) get the better end of this deal! Whatever situation you are facing, God’s Word offers a promise and a solution. Not only has He given us eternal life, we have the promise of His constant presence in this life. (Hebrews 13:5)  We have His promise of healing, (Isaiah 53:5) of protection, (Psalm 9:9) of provision, (Luke 12:22-31) of unending, unmerited love, (Jeremiah 31:3) etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on, but that would require a book, rather than a devotional blog. But, I challenge YOU to continue. What blessing of God are you thankful for today? Share the scripture that backs it up in the comments.

PRAY: Father, thank You for Your Faithfulness! Thank You that I am blessed because of the covenant You had with my ancestors, and my descendants will be blessed by Your covenant with me for a thousand generations. I release generational blessings over my family blood line, and I break generational curses. I boldly declare, “As for me and my house, we SHALL serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Father, when I am weak, You are strong. Remind me when I have my eyes on my circumstances to change my focus to Your Word. 

 

Determine My Steps

IMG_1418Have you ever been lost? I mean, REALLY lost? It’s a terrifying feeling. You would think with the technology we have today, this wouldn’t be an issue. I have found myself in this predicament twice in my life. Somehow my GPS was as clueless as I was.  

The Bible talks a lot about direction. I challenge you today; do a Biblical word search on the following words: path, road, direction and lead.  

When we get in our cars we have a destination in mind and a planned path to get there. Are we as strategic with our life? Do we really believe God has a specific plan for our lives? If so, it would stand to reason that we need a spiritual GPS to guide us. We have one … The Holy Spirit!

IMG_1419Do you seek God’s direction in your decisions? Don’t leave life to chance. It’s too important. Ask God to lead, guide and direct you, daily. Seek His will before making any major decisions. The more intimate our relationship with God becomes, the easier it is to hear His voice. This doesn’t mean we always get it right. And that’s okay. God is capable of rerouting us. 

The Word say, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction.” (Matthew 7:13) Nothing is more frustrating than ending up at a dead end or getting stuck in a roundabout. It reminds me of those wind up toys for kids. Once they run into a wall they continue to hit it over and over again until they finally unwind.

Let’s seek to get it right the first time.

PRAY: Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness. Show me the right path Lord, and point out the road You have chosen for me. Lead, guide and direct my steps. Redirect me when I get off track. Give me wisdom and discernment. Protect me from deception. Father, I thank You that I do not have to travel this journey alone. You are with me! Your attention to detail is beyond comprehension. I trust You, Lord. Determine my steps. 

 

 

 

 

Anointed

YOU are anointed. It’s true! God wants to use you. His Spirit is upon you to continue the ministry of Jesus, one person at a time. IMG_1405

We live in a very “me” centered culture. Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve others. Your salvation isn’t just about you. It’s also about the lives God wants to touch through you.

Everyone isn’t called to a full-time “career” in ministry, but we are all called to minister. When I was younger I thought this meant going out and preaching to anyone who would listen. Don’t get me wrong, there is a need for evangelism, but people are more likely to listen when you are serving them. Before you try to feed them spiritually, feed their need. Today’s verse gives us four areas of service: 

  1. Proclaim good news to the poor: If you are poor, the good news of salvation is a wonderful message, but it doesn’t fill your belly or put clothes on your kids. People need to know that God isn’t just concerned with the hereafter, He cares about the situation you are in right now! He knew you before you were born, and will know you long after your life on earth is over. We can’t feed/clothe everyone but we can feed/clothe someone. God wants to bless you by allowing you to be a blessing to others. Jesus said whatever we do for others, we do for him. (Matthew 25:40) If you look into the eyes of a hurting man/woman and see Jesus it will change how you view them. His anointing will overwhelm you with compassion and love. 
  2. Proclaim liberty to the captives: I have been blessed to be part of a jail ministry for a couple of years now. While I love the work we are doing, we are very limited. We are not allowed to give the inmates any handouts, books, etc. We are not allowed to have one on one ministry with them, or develop personal relationships with them. This is for our protection, but heartbreaking none the less. We get one hour a month to speak life and truth into them. They are hungry for so much more! They desperately need discipleship, to prepare them for life outside of prison. If God lays it on your heart, contact a local prison chaplain and ask if there is a way for you to write or have one on one visits with an inmate. However, I STRONGLY encourage you to stay away from any misperceptions of a romantic interest. Also, remember, there are many people who are held captive without the constraints of four walls. People can be held prisoner to addiction, abuse, etc. Pray for God to open doors for you mentor those needing intervention. 
  3. Recovery of sight to the blind: Jesus still heals. I believe this with all my heart. He heals physically, emotionally, financially and most important spiritually. Everywhere Jesus went He healed people. Are you sharing this good news with others? There are two kinds of blindness. There is physically blindness, and there is spiritual blindness. My prayer is that God will use us in the recovery of sight for both. 
  4. Liberty to the oppressed: Oppression can be physical or emotional. For example, human trafficking is a real issue that few people want to see or acknowledge. People are still enslaved, even in America. Educate yourself on the civil issues in your area, and get involved in relief efforts. From an emotional standpoint, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders are rampant in our culture. People often neglect to seek help due to the stigma attached to mental illness or the cost of care. When you see someone struggling emotionally, step in. Do some research and become familiar with the resources available to them. Minister to them on a spiritual level. LOVE them where they are and be an encouragement to them. 

““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NLT‬‬

YOU are anointed. It’s true!

 

 

Never Empty

IMG_1408I needed this scripture today. It’s been a rough week. Unfortunately, I tend to worry, which I KNOW is pointless, sinful and completely unnecessary, because God ALWAYS comes through for me.

God gave me a huge blessing last week; which Satan immediately tried to snatch. Without going into detail I’ll just say, my income shrunk by 25% this week.

My typical response would be panic. BUT GOD … keeps reminding me, He is my provider. Take a deep breath and relax! Then this verse just “happened” to show up in my devotion yesterday. Right.on.time.

The great thing about the story behind this verse is the prophet gave this promise to a widow who shared what she believed to be her last meal with him. She was so poor she expected her and her son to starve to death! Yet, she gave. You can’t outgive God. 

I’ve heard that one of the worst things people can do in a recession is to stop spending. Why? It grinds the economic wheels to a halt. I’m not advocating that you go out and blow your savings here, but don’t let fear keep you from being a blessing to others. Many times our blessing comes through blessing others.

Do you feel like you are running on empty today? Do you wonder how you are going to pay your bills this month? If so, I pray today’s verse will bless and encourage you. May your flour and oil never run out.

As you enjoy a warm meal this week, remember those in your city who have nothing. Perhaps your leftovers could be the blessing someone else is praying for.  There is always someone who has it worse. Sometimes it takes seeing the lack others face to help us realize how truly blessed we are.