Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Having Now Faith

By Joel Osteen

So often we have faith for the future. We believe one day God is going to do something great. One day we'll get a good break. One day we'll start to feel better. One day we'll see a problem turn around. While it's good to have faith for the future and believe that God is going to take care of us, sometimes we can become so future minded that we lose sight of the fact that God wants to do something great in our life today. Today, God wants to show you His favor. Today, God wants to amaze you with His goodness. He is called "The Great I Am," not "The Great I Was" or "The Great I Will Be." God is always in the present. God wants to do something great in your life now. Release your faith today. God has now blessings for those that will dare to have a now faith.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Freedom From Competition

by Joel Osteen

God wants you to live in freedom from competition with others. It's easy to go through life competing with everyone around us. When we see someone that's more talented, more beautiful, or has more gifts, instead of running our own race and being comfortable with who we are, so often we feel inferior and think, we've got to catch up to them.We begin to compete and compare. But this is a never-ending cycle; there will always be someone ahead of us that is more of this or that. Learn to be the best? that you can be and celebrate who God has made you to be. Learn not to be jealous of others; instead, celebrate what is going on in their life. If you desire to fulfill your God-given destiny and reach your full potential, learn to stay focused on who God has called you to be. As you do, you'll not only enjoy your life more, but you'll become all that He's created you to be because you're focused on your own race.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grace for Every Season of Life

Devotions by Joel Osteen

God's grace is sufficient for every season of your life. His grace is not only there to save us; it's an enabling power that helps us accomplish what we normally could not do on our own. That means that no matter what you're facing or what lies in front of you, His grace will always be more than enough. Because of His grace, you don't have to live worried, wondering how you are going to make it. His grace is sufficient for your every need. When you're tempted to look ahead into tomorrow's worries, you can rest in God's grace knowing that He has fresh grace accompanying you each day to help you accomplish what's in front of you. God already has set into motion everything you need - not just to endure or barely make it. No, God's grace is a supernatural force breathing in your direction, causing you to rise above any situation. His wisdom, strength and favor are there. Now all you have to do is receive His grace today. And because of His great grace, you can live each day in victory.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Faith is a decision.

It is a decision to live your life in such a way as to find meaning in it beyond the material things that the world says you must possess.

It is a decision to believe that there is more to life than meets the eye, and that life extends even beyond death.

It is a decision to be able to have a rock to hold on to even when all around you is chaos, even when people declare in the streets that all is hopeless, and that all is lost.
Faith is a decision to live a beautiful life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

God Can Speak to Us Even in Our Doubts

By Joel Osteen

God is with us through our times of faith and our times of doubt. You may have questions, and there may be things you don't understand that cause you to wonder where God is. But God is there. He is not a fair-weathered God; there for us when we're perfect and gone when we have questions. He is there when we don't understand, when we go through a loss. God is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. That means when you hurt, God hurts. When you're disappointed, God feels your pain. When you're discouraged, God know what it's like. In those times that we don't understand and feel alone and abandoned, God is not far away. He has a way of showing up and doing amazing things. The God we serve doesn't just show up in our times of faith, He even shows up in our times of doubt.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Listen To God's voice today

But Now is the Time

Never forget the warning, "Today if you hear God's voice speaking to you, do not harden your hearts against Him, as the people of Israel did when they rebelled against Him in the desert." –Hebrews 3:15

Have you ever taken God for granted? It really isn't that hard to do. You get caught up in the busyness of life these days and, first thing you know, you miss church one Sunday "just to rest," and then next Sunday the lawn needs mowing because it rained all week…and on and on it goes.

Take for example the story of a family who admitted that they had "put God on the back burner" …until tragedy struck.

It came "out of the blue," so to speak, as most tragedies do. The husband suffered a cardiac arrest on a parking lot. Paramedics worked with him and brought him back to life, but they said he would have brain damage.The family rallied around God in their time of crisis, and today this man's brain is not damaged. In fact, he's perfectly well. He's in church every week and faithfully serves God.

Sometimes we think we don't need God right now. We think we can wait until later in life. But you never know how long "later" will be or how much time you have.

Don't wait until tragedy strikes. Serve Jesus now and for the rest of your life" then if tragedy comes, you'll be ready for it. Meditate on and speak God's Word every day, and act on what God tells you to do as you listen to His voice.

Father, I confess that Jesus is Lord of my life. I refuse thoughts that tempt me to harden my heart against You. I won"t wait until tragedy strikes to seek You, and I will never take You for granted. I will obey You when You speak to me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God send His Word, and I was healed

When I was fighting cancer, I knew how important it was to know the Word and to act on it for health and healing. Had it not been for the Word of God–knowing that God's Word works, that God would never lie and that He keeps His promises–I would not be alive today. God sent His Word, and I was healed.

But when our daughter, Lisa, was born with a condition similar to cerebral palsy and brain damage, my husband and I knew very little about healing. John was the pastor of a traditional church that didn't teach about healing. Lack of knowledge could have destroyed us (See Hosea 4:6), but somehow we knew that God's Word was true.

We started by reading in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John about the miraculous healings Jesus performed. Then we read Hebrews 13:8, where it says Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We prayed and asked God to touch and heal our baby girl. Jesus did just that. He sent His Word and healed Lisa. She is a perfectly normal adult now–strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. My family has reaped the benefits of learning that God desires for everybody to be well. And HE sent His Word to make sure we would know it.

He is no respecter of persons. He'll do the same for you.

Thank You, Lord, for sending Your Word to heal us. You never change–Your Word always brings healing. I'm glad my family and I are delivered from the destructions the enemy has planned for us. I believe that You heal and deliver us daily.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Power of Forgiveness

I would like to share an incredible story of the power of forgiveness with you. And the best part is, this same power is available to all of us today, the "mighty power that raised Christ from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19-20, TLB). This power is yours because Jesus Christ arose from the tomb on that first Easter morning!

Nothing is more amazing or significant than the power displayed at the Resurrection. This is what separates our faith from any other on earth. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins on the cross. He lived a perfect and sinless life and gave it as a sacrifice for your sins and mine. And when all hope seemed to be gone He miraculously came to life again. What this means is:

When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior we are completely forgiven … for anything … for everything … forever!

The story begins with a boy when he was only 14 years old. His father was abusive and eventually the relationship erupted into a terrible fight. When it was all over the dad kicked his son out of the house.
We are completely forgiven ... forever!

That night all alone, this young boy was devastated, discouraged – his life seemed shattered. He had no place to go, and he finally decided that life just wasn't worth living. So, having lost all hope and having no one to turn to, he went to a big bridge and prepared to jump.

But just as he was about to jump, he heard a voice that said to him, "Don't do it! I'll be your father. I'll be your protector. I will guide you throughout life." All of a sudden, he sensed warmth all over his body, from his head to his feet. And he felt a love that he had never experienced before. What he was feeling was the unconditional love and acceptance of God. It was the love that the Bible promises: "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close" (Psalm 27:10, NLT).

From that moment on, this teenager who suffered so much rejection, hurt and pain made a decision that would change the course of his life.

He decided that he wasn't going to hold a grudge against his father. He wasn't going to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in his heart. Although he did not see his dad, he forgave him and let all the pain and hurt of his past go, and as he moved forward in hope and forgiveness, God began to supernaturally restore him.

Today, some 22 years later, this young man is a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was in the pulpit one Sunday when out of nowhere, his father walked into the auditorium. The young man hadn't seen his dad since that night when he was kicked out of his home. But at the end of that service, during the altar call, his dad came down with big tears running down his face. He not only asked his son to forgive him, but he asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life.

There must have been a lot of rejoicing in heaven that day, because the Bible says, "Heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety–nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away!" (Luke 15:7, NLT).

So I have good news for you today. No matter where you are in life, what problems you may struggle with, no matter what you have done in the past, or what someone else has done to you, Jesus is able to wipe the slate clean. You can experience that same power of the Resurrection. The power to be forgiven and to forgive. Jesus is alive – and He wants to live in and through you today – that is what Easter is all about.
Jesus is able to wipe the slate clean.

You may be in a relationship that has been dead for years, like this young man I told you about. You may be feeling the pain of negative words spoken over your life, or maybe you've spoken to someone else and you wish you could take back. Maybe there are things in your past that you think can't be forgiven. Or maybe you feel guilt for some past failure or resentment and unforgiveness toward someone who has wronged you.

Whatever your need may be, let God meet it! Allow the power of His forgiveness to sweep across your heart and life and make everything new.

I want to help you rediscover that power in a new, fresh way – so you can experience hope, peace, joy and victory in every area of your life.

God is not waiting for you to become a better person before He forgives you. Jesus paid the price on the cross for all our sins – "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us," the Bible says in Romans 5:8. He did it simply because He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.

And the result of this astounding, unconditional love and total forgiveness is that we no longer have to live under the condemnation and guilt of sin. We can live the abundant life that Jesus talked about – a life full of hope, a life of purpose, a life of unlimited potential.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

You are the friend of God

By Israel Houghton

Believe It, Proclaim, Sing It

In this age where relationships are as disposable as razors and fast–food containers, and friendships are about as fair–weather as Seattle, here's something to consider with your fries and your latte: You are a friend of God.

Try it. Say it a few times: "I am a friend of God." Say it a few more times. Anything happen?

Most of us have grown up with a thought of what God looks like. To me, He always resembled a sterner version of Santa Claus. You know–without the "Ho ho ho." I envisioned Him carrying some kind of oversized baseball bat for kids like me who tended toward mischief, and at any time I could be whacked upside the head and disqualified from ever being pleasing to Him. Then again, I was the only black kid in a white family, in a Hispanic church, so, naturally, my life wasn't exactly normal.
Believe It

The songs of the church tend to shape our theology as well. "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was one that always got me thinking, I've got friends, but if the only way I can prove that we're friends is if they crucify me, then forget it!

Most times we draw on eternal truth with a flimsy, earthly example and miss the moment. Please don't miss this one.

You did not sneak into this earth, or accidentally show up in life to see if things might possibly work out for you. Psalm 139 states that God knew your substance before He ever formed you–your personality, your style, you! And you are fearfully and wonderfully made–meticulously crafted with detailed care. One biblical writer says, "For [God] created everything, and it is for [His] pleasure that they exist and were created."
Proclaim It

God takes great delight when we understand why we are here: for relationship, companionship and certainly friendship with Him. "Greater love has no one than this," Jesus once said, "that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command."
Sing It

So it's one thing to drop Jesus' name when it's convenient and say He's a friend, and another thing altogether when He drops your name and says, "You are My friend."

Well, whom did He die for? Not just the clergy or the popular or the good–looking or the elite. No, He died for every living, breathing soul on the planet. That includes wonderful you!

So in this age of disposable relationships, take solitude in this phrase as you say it and sing it: "I am a friend of God. He calls me friend."

Israel Houghton is an internationally recognized worship leader, recording artist, songwriter, and producer. He has been in full time worship ministry since 1989. He, His wife Meleasa, and his two children, Mariah Engelique, and Israel Duncan II reside in Austin, TX.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Servants do every task with equal dedication

Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. Luke 16:10 (NLT)

"You will never arrive at the state in life where you’re too important to help with menial tasks. God will never exempt you from the mundane."

Whatever they do, servants “do it with all their heart” (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

The size of the task is irrelevant. The only issue is, does it need to be done?

You will never arrive at the state in life where you’re too important to help with menial tasks. God will never exempt you from the mundane. It’s a vital part of your character curriculum. The Bible says, “If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody” (Galatians 6:3 NLT).

It is in these small services that we grow like Christ.

Jesus specialized in menial tasks that everyone else tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath him, because he came to serve. It wasn’t in spite of his greatness that he did these things, but because of it, and he expects us to follow his example (John 13:15).

Small tasks often show a big heart. Your servant’s heart is revealed in little acts that others don’t think of doing, as when Paul gathered brushwood for a fire to warm everyone after a shipwreck (Acts 28:3).

He was just as exhausted as everyone else, but he did what everyone needed. No task is beneath you when you have a servant’s heart.

themselves in
small tasks.

Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks. The little things in life determine the big things. Don’t look for great tasks to do for God. Just do the not-so-great stuff, and God will assign you whatever he wants you to do.
There will always be more people willing to do “great” things for God than there are people willing to do the little things. The race to be a leader is crowded, but the field is wide open for those willing to be servants.

The Blessing of Thorns

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren't enough, her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose annual holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come.

What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. "She has no idea what I'm feeling," thought Sandra with a shudder.

"Thanksgiving? Thankful for what?" she wondered aloud. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear- ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

"Good afternoon, can I help you?"

The shop clerk's approach startled her.

"I....I need an arrangement, "stammered Sandra. "For Thanksgiving?

Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving Special?" asked the shop clerk.

"I'm convinced that flowers tell stories," she continued.

"Are you looking for something that conveys 'gratitude' this Thanksgiving?

"Not exactly!" Sandra blurted out. "In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. " Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, "I have the perfect arrangement for you."

Then the door's small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, "Hi Barbara...let me get your order." She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses.

Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped...there were no flowers.

"Want this in a box?" asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer's response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers!?! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed. "Yes, please," Barbara replied with an appreciative smile.

"You'd think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn't be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again," she said as she gently tapped her chest.

"Uhh," stammered Sandra, "that lady just left with, uhh... she just left with no flowers!"

"Right...I cut off the flowers. That's the Special... I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.

"Oh, come on, you can't tell me someone is willing to pay for that?" exclaimed Sandra.

"Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today," explained the clerk. "She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery."

"That same year I had lost my husband, "continued the clerk," and for the first time in my life, I had to spend the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.

"So what did you do?" asked Sandra. "I learned to be thankful for thorns," answered the clerk quietly. "I've always thanked God for good things in life and never thought to ask Him why those good things happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important.

I always enjoyed the 'flowers' of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God's comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we're afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.

"Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. "I guess the truth is I don't want comfort.

I've lost a baby and I'm angry with God."

Just then someone else walked in the shop.

"Hey, Phil!" shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

"My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving arrangement ....twelve thorny, long-stemmed stems!" laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

"Those are for your wife?" asked Sandra incredulously. "Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?

"No...I'm glad you asked," Phil replied. "Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord's grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem.

He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from "thorny" times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific "problem" and give thanks to Him for what that problem taught us."

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, "I highly recommend the Special!"

"I don't know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life." Sandra said to the clerk. "It's all too... fresh."

"Well," the clerk replied carefully, "my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God's providential care more during trouble than at any other time.

Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don't resent the thorns."

Tears rolled down Sandra's cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. "I'll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please," she managed to choke out.

"I hoped you would," said the clerk gently. "I'll have them ready in a minute."

"Thank you. What do I owe you?" asked Sandra.

"Nothing." said the clerk.

"Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year's arrangement is always on me. "The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra.

"I'll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you'd like to read it first."

It read:

"Dear God, I have never thanked you for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain.

Show me that, through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look much more brilliant."

Author Unknown

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What do we want most in this life?

We want to have a sturdy house to live in
We want to be able to have all the food we need
We want the works of our hands to last
never to be forgotten
never to rot and fade away

We want to be with the people we love
We want never to hurt them
and never to be misunderstood
We want as much time with them as we possibly could
We want them never to be away
nor to say goodbye
never to grow old
never to be apart.

Now which of these longings could we fulfill
by our own hands?
Which of these could be granted us
in our short journey here on earth?

Only JESUS has the power
only heaven has the answer
to take away our anxieties and fears
and to wipe away our every tear.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When You Feel Like An Outcast

There are times when you feel like you’re an outcast.

You may feel you’re not wearing the right clothes,

you’re not speaking the way other people speak,

or people just don’t treat you

the way they treat other people, who are part of their crowd.

Times like that, remember that your worth

could never be measured

by the measure used by such people.

Times like that, remember who you really are-

someone who is cherished,

someone truly special,

someone so loved,

that none could ever take away your JOY.

And this is your joy-

that God loves you so much

He willingly gave His own life for you.
You are never an outcast,
you are set apart.
You are never an outsider,
you were chosen even before you were born.

You are God’s beloved child,

and none could snatch you away from His hand!

Good Story : What Happened?

The other day I saw a father, mother and two sons on the line in front of me at Dunkin Donuts. It was obvious that they had just come from a soccer game. The two young boys were dressed in thin shorts and tee shirts, while their parents were dressed warmly in jeans and thick jackets. The two boys never stopped shivering the entire five minutes we were in line together.

What is going on in society when we are making our kids play sports, in every kind of foul weather, including rain, snow and icy winds just for the pleasure of watching them participate in some kind of sport? It seems that we are living vicariously through our kids no matter what the cost is to them or us. Whatever happened to calling off a game because it is too cold or too wet?

When did we start playing sports on Mother's Day? I always remember being home with my mother and our family on mom's special day. We would all be huddled around my mother, making sure that she enjoyed her "well deserved" day of rest.

When did we start having our children play sports on Thanksgiving? This warm, wonderful day of giving and thanks used to be a special day to share with family and friends. We would spend the entire day eating, relaxing and enjoying the ones we loved. We would never have wasted a precious minute worrying about dragging our kids away from their warm houses to play a game (in the cold) three towns away.

It seems that we are now so preoccupied with driving our kids from one place to another, that we have lost sight of what is really important.

When did the family start playing second fiddle to sports? I can still remember spending the entire summer playing with my friends, and maybe if I was lucky, going to the shore with my parents for a day.

These days, kids are already playing school sports in July. Summer (when I was a kid) was always a time for kids to be kids and for parents to enjoy them as such. School was from September to May and summer was for kids and families to relax and get to know each other again.

Parents and kids today are spending every free hour away from school and work running from one sports practice to another. What every happened to families spending dinner-time together? I have seen frozen,tired, kids playing sports, sometimes in the dark, with sprained wrists, cuts and bruises, while parents cheer them on from the warmth of a bleacher blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.

Whatever happened to hugging your kids and telling them that it's alright just to be a kid and that they don't have to prove their worth on a sports field? Sports are great, but they can't rule our lives and influence our decisions.

Families need to spend more quality time together at home and less time competing with the neighbors. If our neighbor's kids play three sports, our kids need to play four? If our neighbor takes an expensive vacation why do we have to do them one better? Competition and stress are slowly draining the magic out of our families.

We need to hold our kids more. We need to turn off the TV and take out the board games. We need to interact with our kids on a more personal level. We need to talk to them more and even occasionally read to them. Let's start spending more time with our families and less time driving to malls and endless game practices.

When did iPods replace a good book? Let's start to de-electrify and simplify ours lives. Lets put down the cell phones and start talking to our families and friends face-to-face.

Less can be better and a lot more fun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Be confident in God's Word

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13 (NASB)

"Thank God you don't have to work your way to heaven; if that were the case, none of us would make it."

The things written in God's Word are written so that you may know absolutely, for sure, for certain and with confidence that when you die you are going to heaven.

That doesn't mean you won't make mistakes. That doesn't mean you won't go through trials. That doesn't mean you won't disappoint people and they won't disappoint you. That doesn't mean you won't sin.

The point is - you don't have to be perfect to get to heaven, but you DO have to put your faith in Christ. Thank God you don't have to work your way to heaven; if that were the case, none of us would make it.

Jesus said, "I am the way ... . No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, NIV) Put your faith in him, not in your efforts, and you can know for sure that heaven is your destination.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Seeking a feeling is not worship

I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. Job 23:7-10 (NLT)

"The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God. They look for a feeling, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshiped. Wrong!"

Yesterday we saw that David frequently complained of God's apparent absence; but, the truth is, God hadn't really left David, just as God will never leave you. He has promised repeatedly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Yet God has not promised "you will always feel my presence." In fact, God admits that sometimes he hides his face from us. (Isaiah 45:15)

There are times when he appears to be MIA, missing-in-action, in your life.

Floyd McClung describes it: "You wake up one morning and all your spiritual feelings are gone. You pray, but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil, but it doesn't change anything. You go through spiritual exercises ... you have your friends pray for you ... you confess every sin you can imagine, then go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast ... still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom might last. Days? Weeks? Months? Will it ever end?... it feels as if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. In utter desperation, you cry out, 'What's the matter with me?'" (Floyd McClung, Finding Friendship with God; Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 1992; 186)

The truth is, there's nothing wrong with you! This is a normal part of the testing and maturing of your friendship with God. Every Christian goes through it at least once, and usually several times. It is painful and disconcerting, but it is absolutely vital for the development of your faith.

Knowing this gave Job hope when he could not feel God's presence in his life. He said, "I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent." (Job 23:7-10, NLT)

When God seems distant, you may feel that he is angry with you or is disciplining you for some sin. In fact, sin does disconnect us from intimate fellowship with God. We grieve God's Spirit and quench our fellowship with him by disobedience, conflict with others, busyness, friendship with the world, and other sins. (see Psalm 51; Ephesians 4:29-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Jeremiah 2:32; 1 Corinthians 8:12; James 4:4)

But often this feeling of abandonment or estrangement from God has nothing to do with sin. It is a test of faith—one we all must face: Will you continue to love, trust, obey, and worship God, even when you have no sense of his presence or visible evidence of his work in your life?

The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God. They look for a feeling, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshiped. Wrong! In fact, God often removes our feelings so we won't depend on them. Seeking a feeling, even the feeling of closeness to Christ, is not worship.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quiet Time: Keep your plan simple

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

"Remember that your goal here is not to gain information, but to feed on the Word and get to know Christ better. "

(This devotional is adapted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods.)

To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need a plan or some kind of general outline to follow. But keep your plan simple.

Here's one plan --

1. Wait on God (Relax) -- Be still for a minute; don't come running into God's presence and start talking immediately. Follow God's admonition: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10; see also Isaiah 30:15; 40:31). Be quiet for a short while to put yourself into a reverent mood.

2. Pray briefly (Request) -- This is not your prayer time, but a short opening prayer to ask God to cleanse your heart and guide you into the time together. Two good passages of Scripture to memorize are:

* "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24; see also 1 John 1:9).
* "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law [the Word]" (Psalm 119:18; see also John 16:13).

You need to be in tune with the Author before you can understand his Book!

3. Read Scripture (Read) -- This is where your conversation with God begins. He speaks to you through his Word, and you speak with him in prayer. Read your Bible ...

* Slowly. Don't be in a hurry; don't try to read too large an amount; don't race through it.

* Repeatedly. Read a passage over and over until you start to picture it in your mind. The reason more people don't get more out of their Bible reading is that they do not read the Scriptures repeatedly.

* Without stopping. Don't stop in the middle of a sentence to go off on a tangent and do a doctrinal study. Just read that section for the pure joy of it, allowing God to speak to you. Remember that your goal here is not to gain information, but to feed on the Word and get to know Christ better.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Power of Prayer

A man's daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.

"I guess you were expecting me," he said.

"No, who are you?" said the father.

"I'm the new minister at your church," he replied. "When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."

"Oh yeah, the chair," said the bedridden man. "Would you mind closing the door?"

Puzzled, the minister shut the door. "I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter," said the man. "But all of my life, I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head."

"I abandoned any attempt at prayer," the old man continued, "until one day about four years ago, my best friend said to me, 'Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, "I'll be with you always." Then just speak to him in the same way you're doing with me right now."

So, I tried it and I'veliked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm."

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her Dad had died that afternoon.

"Did he die in peace?" he asked.

"Yes, when I left the house about two o' clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that."

From 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 -- "So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. We live by faith, not by sight."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Daily Bread: Right action, wrong attitude

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

"Come with the purpose of doing anything and everything that God wants you to do."

(This devotional is adapted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods.)

In God's eyes, why you do something is far more important than what you do.

On one occasion God told Samuel, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). It is quite possible to do the right thing but with the wrong attitude.

This was Amaziah's problem, for "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly" (2 Chronicles 25:2).

When you come to meet with God in a quiet time, come with --

* Expectancy - Come before God with anticipation and eagerness. Expect to have a good time of fellowship with him and receive a blessing from your time together. That was what David expected: "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you" (Psalm 63:1).

* Reverence - Don't rush into God's presence, but prepare your heart by being still before him and letting the quietness clear away the thoughts of the world. Listen to the prophet Habakkuk: "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him" (Habakkuk 2:20; see also Psalm 89:7).

* Alertness - Get wide-awake first. Remember that you are meeting with the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Redeemer of men. Be thoroughly rested and alert. The best preparation for a quiet time in the morning begins the night before. Get to bed early so you will be in good shape to meet God in the morning; he deserves your full attention.

* Willingness to obey - This attitude is crucial: you don't come to your quiet time to choose what you will do or not do, but with the purpose of doing anything and everything that God wants you to do. Jesus said, "If anyone chooses to do God's will he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17). So come to God having already chosen to do his will no matter what.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The day when you want to quit from everything

The day when you want to quit from everything...

One day I decided to quit...I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality... I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God. "God", I said. "Can you give me one good reason not to quit?" His answer surprised me...

"Look around", He said. "Do you see the fern and the bamboo?"
"Yes", I replied.
"When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo. In the second year the Fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo."

He said."In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. In year four, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. I would not quit." He said.
"Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.
Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant...But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle." He said to me.
"Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots?"
"I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you."
"Don't compare yourself to others." He said. "The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful."
"Your time will come", God said to me. "You will rise high"
"How high should I rise?" I asked.
"How high will the bamboo rise?" He asked in return.
"As high as it can?" I questioned

Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to pray effectively

Please remember what you told your servant Moses: "If you sin, I will scatter you among the nations." Nehemiah 1:8 (NLT)

"If you want specific answers to prayer, then make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they're answered? "

Here are four secrets to answered prayer from the life of Nehemiah:

1. Base your request on God's character. Pray like you know God will answer you: "I'm expecting you to answer this prayer because of who you are. You are a faithful God. You are a great God. You are a loving God. You are a wonderful God. You can handle this problem, God!"

2. Confess the sins of which you're aware. After Nehemiah bases his prayer on who God is, he confesses his sins. He says, "We've sinned." He says "I confess . . . myself . . . my father's house . . . we have acted wickedly . . . we have not obeyed." It wasn't Nehemiah's fault that Israel went into captivity. He wasn't even born when it happened and he was most likely born in captivity. Yet, he's including himself in the national sins. He says, "I've been a part of the problem."

3. Claim the promises of God. Nehemiah prays to the Lord, saying, "I want you to remember what you told your servant Moses." Can you imagine saying "remember" to God? Nehemiah reminds God of a promise he made to the nation of Israel. In effect, he prays, "God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you'd give it back to us."

Does God have to be reminded? No. Does he forget what he's promised? No. Then why do we do this? Because it helps us remember what God has promised.
4. Be very specific in what you ask for. If you want specific answers to prayer, then make specific requests. If your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they're answered?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Where to have your quiet time

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. Luke 22:39 (NIV)

(This devotional is adapted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods.)

The location where you have your quiet time is important. The Bible indicates that Abraham had a regular place where he met with God (Genesis 19:27).

Jesus had a custom of praying in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him" (Luke 22:39).

Your place ought to be a secluded place. This is a place where you can be alone, where it's quiet, and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. This may take some ingenuity, but it is necessary. It ought to be a place -

* where you can pray aloud without disturbing others;
* where you have good lighting for reading (a desk, perhaps);
* where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your quiet time in bed. That's too comfortable!)

Your place ought to be a special place. Wherever you decide to meet with the Lord, make it a special place for you and him. As the days go by, that place will come to mean a lot to you because of the wonderful times you have there with Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Community is God's answer to defeat

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.Philippians 2:4 (NIV)

"You need a community of people who are saying to you: 'We'll be with you when you're going through the tough times. We're not going to let you get discouraged or depressed.'"

Each one of us needs other people to watch out for us - to defend us, protect us, and help us stay on track. In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us that we should look out for each other's interests, not just our own.What a counterculture verse! In America today, it's all about me - my needs, my interests, my wants, and my ambitions. But Paul teaches us to look out for others too.

Did you know you have an enemy far more destructive than any terrorists? You have a personal enemy who wants to defeat you. His name is Satan. He wants to bring problems into your life, to ruin your relationships, and to hurt you as badly as he can.

Why does he want to hurt you? Because he wants to hurt God, but he can't - so he goes after God's children. On your own, you will never win against Satan. But when you have other people to watch out for you and help you, you can be victorious.

Here's good advice from Ecclesiastes 4:12: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves" (NIV).

Does anyone have your back? Is anyone defending you - watching out for your spiritual welfare? You need a community of people who are saying to you: "We'll be with you when you're going through the tough times. We're not going to let you get discouraged or depressed."

Community is God's answer to defeat. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him" (NIV).

Remember: You can try, but you can't live life well on your own. We all need other people - to walk with us, to work with us, and to watch out for us.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Faith, not feelings, pleases God

Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:20-21 (NIV)

"God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is too profound to be measured by mere emotion."

When you are a baby Christian, God gives you a lot of confirming emotions and often answers the most immature, self-centered prayers—so you'll know he exists. But as you grow in faith, he will wean you of these dependencies.

God's omnipresence and the manifestation of his presence are two different things. One is a fact; the other is often a feeling. God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is too profound to be measured by mere emotion.

Yes, he wants you to sense his presence, but he's more concerned that you trust him than that you feel him. Faith, not feelings, pleases God.

The situations that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found. This happened to Job. On a single day he lost everything—his family, his business, his health, and everything he owned. Most discouraging—for thirty-seven chapters, God said nothing!

How do you praise God when you don't understand what's happening in your life and God is silent? How do you stay connected in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they're full of tears? You do what Job did: "Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:20-21, NIV)

Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to God. Unload every emotion that you're feeling. Job did this when he said, "I can't be quiet! I'm angry and bitter. I have to speak!" (Job 7:11, TEV)

He cried out when God seemed distant: "Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house." (Job 29:4, NIV)
God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let God solve it

But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you! 2 Chronicles 20:17 (NLT)

"You can relax in faith, trusting that God is able to run things without your help."

What God tells Jehoshaphat in this passage, and what he would remind us today, is this: "The battle is not yours; it's mine. You don't have to fight in it."

In other words, it's God's problem. Let him solve it.

The fact is if you are God's child, then your problems are his problems. And he's much better at fighting your battles and solving your problems than you will ever be. Your job is to trust him to work it all out. Perhaps the reason we have so many tired, fatigued, and discouraged Christians is because we think, "It all depends on me."

The day you resign as General Manager of the Universe, you're going to find that it doesn't fall apart. You can relax in faith, trusting that God is able to run things without your help.

Twice in this passage it says, "Don't be afraid," and "Don't be discouraged." When you face a seemingly impossible situation, don't be afraid and don't be discouraged. Has God ever lost a battle? No. He doesn't lose battles.

God tells Jehoshaphat, "Take your positions and stand firm." What does it mean to stand firm? It means to have a mental attitude of quiet confidence.

You stand firm on two things:

* The character of God - He's faithful. He does not bring us this far just to let us down. He doesn't bring you out on a limb and then cut off the limb. Have faith in the nature and character of God.
* The truth of his Word - God's Word is faithful. You can count on the promises found in the Bible.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Meet God at a specific time

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35 (NIV)

"In the Bible many godly men and women rose early to meet with God, including Abraham (Genesis 19:27), Moses (Exodus 34:4), Job (Job 1:5), Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:19), Jacob (Genesis 28:18), David (Psalms 5:3; 57:7,8)."

(This devotional is adapted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods.)

Give God the best part of your day, when you are the freshest and most alert. Don't try to serve God with your leftover time. Remember, too, that your best time may be different from someone else's.

For most of us, however, early in the morning seems to be the best time. It was Jesus' own practice to rise early to pray and meet with the Father: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35).

You might even consider having two quiet times (morning and night). Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to have code letters for his night quiet time: HWLW. Whenever he was with a group of people at night or home with his wife and the conversation seemed to be ending, he would say, "All right, HWLW." HWLW stood for "His Word the Last Word"; and he practiced that through the years as a way of ending a day with one's thoughts fixed on the Lord (from Daws: A Man Who Trusted God by Betty Lee Skinner).

Whatever time you set, be consistent. Schedule it on your calendar; make an appointment with God as you would with anyone else. Make a date with Jesus!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I trust God, but I'm wiped out!

I believed, so I said, 'I am completely ruined!' Psalm 116:10 (NCV)

"Circumstances cannot change the character of God. God's grace is still in full force; he is still for you."

Did you know that admitting your hopelessness to God can be a statement of faith? Trusting God but feeling despair at the same time, David wrote, "I believed, so I said, 'I am completely ruined!'" (Psalm 116:10, NCV)

This sounds like a contradiction: I trust God, but I'm wiped out! David's frankness actually reveals deep faith: First, he believed in God. Second, he believed God would listen to his prayer. Third, he believed God would let him say what he felt and still love him.

Focus on who God is—his unchanging nature. Regardless of circumstances and how you feel, hang on to God's unchanging character. Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: He is good, he loves me, he is with me, he knows what I'm going through, he cares, and he has a good plan for my life. Raymond Edman said, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."

When Job's life fell apart, and God was silent, Job still found reasons to praise God:

* That he is good and loving. (Job 10:12)
* That he is all-powerful. (Job 42:2; 37:5, 23)
* That he notices every detail of my life. (Job 23:10; 31:4)
* That he is in control. (Job 34:13)
* That he has a plan for my life. (Job 23:14)
* That he will save me. (Job 19:25)

Trust God to keep his promises. During times of spiritual dryness you must patiently rely on the promises of God, not your emotions, and realize that he is taking you to a deeper level of maturity. A friendship based on emotion is shallow indeed.

So don't be troubled by trouble. Circumstances cannot change the character of God. God's grace is still in full force; he is still for you, even when you don't feel it. In the absence of confirming circumstances, Job held on to God's Word. He said, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." (Job 23:12, NIV)

This trust in God's Word caused Job to remain faithful even though nothing made sense. His faith was strong in the midst of pain: "God may kill me, but still I will trust him." (Job 13:15, CEV)

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