Distractions: The Enemy's Toys

I have found it takes more effort to make sure I have my time with Jesus. Distractions seem endless.

I don't have a busy  life with a work schedule,  or children to care for like many of you. I have a home to manage, a husband to keep happy and a mini farm for pleasure which requires the responsibilities of caring for animals. It is a joy, not work.

However, I want more than anything, to keep the Lord first in my life in all I do. But there seems to be those days that every time I am giving my devotional time to God... "things" crop up.

Unexpected visitors, text messages that could come at any other time of the day. A phone call which isn't important. The long list of "to-dos" for the day. Before I know it, the day is almost to its end, and I have only managed light conversation with the Lord, instead of the deeperror times where all is quiet and I  become aware of His presence.

A time that is sacred, set apart for only Him and one through which I am renewed, regenerated, and reaffirmed that "All is well with my soul". A time where I  am caught up in the beauty of His presence and He speaks to me of all that is on my heart. Appealing time I  feel enveloped in Him, and never want to  leave that place.

As I take notice of the things which distract, I quickly assimilate them to gnats at a picnic. Nothing big, but just enough to take your mind off of the joyful time at hand. I then realise it is my old nemesis, the "mini-god" of this world using his pitiful annoyances to steal my time with God.

His objective? Create enough subtle distractions so I can't start my time with the Lord, because he knows as I don't fill myself with God and the things of God,  which keep my spirit fed and my soul at rest, I become vulnerable to him. Susceptible to his attempts to steal all that God wants to give.

So, now, the phone is off. A sign on my bedroom door which reads "Prayer in Progress ", and as for the unexpected visitors... they are learning to call in advance.

No day can be its best without the Creator of it orchestrating first.

Don't let the enemy play with his toys on God's time... which is all the time

Submitted by: Kristal Dollar

Https://kristal-dollar.squarespace.com

Finding Perfect Peace In A Perfect Storm

His marriage was going through a massive storm. Financially, well, let’s just say he was living by faith. Did I mention that he had just buried a teenage daughter? But every time I met him, he was smiling from ear to ear.
I was confused. I knew what he was going through. He wasn’t supposed to be smiling. If anything, he had the right to be bitter at the world. He was entitled, dare I say, to be angry at God. But he wasn’t. And that’s what  baffled me.
 

The Secret to Perfect Peace

I just had to ask. And so I did. I wanted to know his secret, the secret to perfect peace in the midst of such turmoil.
His answer?

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

I was still  perplexed. So he explained it to me as a father teaches a child the basic elements of life.

#1 Have a Steadfast Mind
 

Perfect peace comes from a steadfast mind. A mind that is always focused on the ultimate and not the immediate. A mind that is concerned about the eternal outcome and not the temporary distractions.

A steadfast mind is focused on the immutable word of God.
A steadfast mind understands that the storm is around me, not in me. Therefore my peace remains intact.
That all sounded good but I couldn’t understand how one develops that steadfast mind. He took me to step 2.
 

#2 Have Unshakable Trust in God

A steadfast mind comes from trusting in God. That trust is developed through an intimate relationship with Him. This is the crux of the matter; a relationship with God.
It is impossible not to trust God if you know Him. No matter how fierce the storm may be, it’s always comforting to know that your life is in the hands of He who is greater than any  tornado. That is why Jesus could sleep despite the  tempest that was ravaging the boat.
Trust in God is  centred on love. Not our love for Him, but His love for us. If He could love you so much as to protect you by giving up His Son, surely He can’t allow a storm to destroy you.
 

Perfect Peace Is A Reality

It is very possible to have perfect peace in a storm. No matter how fierce the  blizzard may be, have a stead fast mind. God WILL see you through. A mind and unshakeable trust will anchor your peace.
I learnt a lot from that conversation that day. I  learnt to have perfect peace in the midst of storms. It is my prayer that you too will find the peace many of us have found in Jesus. That peace is real. You too can enjoy it.
Prayer

Father in Heaven, thank you for the peace that you have made available to me through Jesus. Help me to have a steadfast mind. Help me to have unshakeable trust in you.
In Jesus Name I pray.

 

Kato Nkhoma is a seasoned teacher of the word with exceptional biblical insight. He has been pastoring full-time for over a decade and is a husband to one wife, Alakanani, and father to two wonderful children.

Kato is currently serving as a missionary in the northern part of Botswana. He has authored 2 books on Amazon and also dabbles in freelance writing.

amazon.com/author/katonkhoma
@katonkhoma
faithcontentwriter.com

Little Leaks Can Become Big Problems

About a month ago I had to do a job on my house that was no fun.

I had to re-shingle my roof. And when I say I had to do it, it means that I was the one who physically re-shingled the roof. I did not pay someone else to do it for me, though I wish I could have done that.


Inside the house we had several locations that were leaking some in the ceiling. One spot was so bad that if it rained very much at all, there was a steady stream of water dropping down. This had been occurring for nearly a year. Some of the 'small' leaks had been occurring for over a year, and for the most part were just ignored. My wife and I talked with several companies that does roofing and each cost way more than we could even think about paying any time soon. The cost of doing it myself was about one-fourth of the cost of the lowest charging company. Definitely worth doing it myself.


I was a little nervous about doing the job myself.

The roof has several sun lights, bathroom vents, a heater vent, fireplace vent, and attic vents. That is a lot of things to work around, even though the roof is not steep at all and easy to work on.
Along with that, I have done re-shingling only two or three times in the past and those times were under the supervision of someone who was experienced, and the most recent time was about 15 years ago.
After praying a lot about it, I felt that I needed to do it myself and trust God to guide my hands in the job. Looking at the job, it originally looked like a two-day job. In the end it took two days of sunup to sundown work, plus several six to eight-hour days of work to complete the job.
I was blessed one day with about fifteen college students being there to help out. Each day I had several of my own boys and one of my girls helping out. I also had a few days of some of their friends helping out.

As we began to pull up the shingles, which should not have been difficult, we started to have problems.

The shingles were stapled down, so much harder to pull up, and then we had to go through and pull all of the staples up. A very slow painful process.
Underneath of the shingles that were pulled up, we started to have to remove may different pieces of the decking that were rotted out, several of which a worker stepped on and it broke.
With a lot of back-breaking work, the job was finished. The roof is now re-shingled and is in good repair. There are no more leaks, and we have had some very severe rains to prove that.
Now why do I tell you all of this story? What is the purpose of this posting?
Glad you asked!


Looking back over time that we have lived in this house, we have seen signs of leaks for several years. There were little wet spots in several locations whenever it rained extremely hard. Since it did not leak every time it rained, or at least did not appear to leak, the leak was ignored. I did take note of it, and knew it would be a problem some day, but did not do anything about it, just left it.

One thing to note was just because I did not see the sign of leaks when it was a light rain, did not mean it was not leaking.

It was just that the attic area was not wet enough to let it seep through to the ceiling and be shown. The attic area was still getting wet and causing damage.
The damage being done was slow, but steady. Little by little the decking was being rotted away until it would fall apart and be worthless.
How does this apply to life?
Again, glad you asked!

If I would have taken time to find the leak on the roof and make the minor repairs, the major repairing of the entire roof may not have been needed.

It was in ignoring the small problems that the major problem came up. In life, there can be small problems that creep into our lives. Little things that come up and begin to create damage in our lives. Paul tells us to not give the devil a foothold. Although this is talking about holding onto anger, it can be in many other areas in our lives.
Allowing yourself to have a little taste of sinful pleasure can lead to a greater following of that sin. Each time you tell a lie, it becomes easier to tell another one. Each time you look at something you should not look at it, it becomes easier to look at it again. Each time you say something you should not, it becomes easier to say it again.


All of these things may not look that bad in the moment of here and now, but they will cause problems later in life.

Letting little sins in your life, will make room for larger, more open sinning. In the end it will pull you away from God further and further. There can come a point when you will no longer hear from God. When that happens, you begin to no longer live for God. The 'little' problem has become a major problem. As in the case of my roof, the small leak eventually caused major damage.
Starting today, be willing to throw off the sin that can entangle you. Embrace Jesus and His ways of living. If there is any 'small' leak in your life of sin, get it taken care of immediately. Do not allow it to build up in your life and cause major destruction and destroy you.
Jesus is here today to forgive you of your sins. The Holy Spirit is here today to guide you and give you strength to turn away from all sin. They will make the needed minor repairs now if you let them.

Submitted by: Tom Arn

Tom is happily married to his wife for nearly 25 years and has been blessed with eight wonderful children. He has been writing a daily devotional blog that goes systematically through the entire Bible for several years. His desire is for you to know Jesus and His Word more.

www.insightsfromtom.com

Faith, Love & Celibacy

We all want that special person, the person God has made just for us!

We also want to be prosperous and live our best lives being successful in every area! We want it all! In order to have all we desire in life we must live in a way that leads us to all God has for us.

Everyone’s life is different, we walk different paths to get to where we are supposed to be in our journeys. We learn lessons, we gain wisdom, we figure out what we truly want out of life, well most of us. There may be some people in the midst of figuring things out, where they are supposed to be, what they want to do and in what direction their life is headed. God is there is to lead and guide us along the way even when we choose a path that may not be good for us. When we look to Him He helps us to make good choices leading us to the life He designed just for us! When looking to God for guidance we must first have Faith!

Faith comes from God, this is not something we have to come up with ourselves.

God gives us Faith to help us believe what we cannot see. My faith started off very small, I had plans, things I wanted to do and most of the time I believed I could. Along the way a lot of my plans were not working out the way I planned so I made new plans. All along I was doing what I wanted and including God in some parts but not fully. Because of my plans I made a lot of mistakes, hooked up with some people who I probably shouldn’t have been hanging out with and learned some lessons the hard way. But even after all of that I had Faith that life had to be better, I knew there was more to life than what I had experienced. At this point I looked to God to include Him fully in every area of my life and not just some parts! I figured out after being hurt many times by so called friends, boyfriends and even family that I wanted to live the life God talked about in the Bible. The life He said He has already given us!

Seeming that I was at a turning point, holding on to past hurts and experiences God first taught me how to forgive. I am not just talking about saying “Sorry” or accepting someone’s apoli-lie! I mean really forgiving someone just like God forgives us! He wipes the slate clean, let’s go of the wrong we have done once we come to Him asking for forgiveness. This was a hard one for me, I am a strong believer in Karma and although I am not revengeful I couldn’t wait for those whom I felt had wronged me to “Get Theirs!” God showed me that forgiveness was not for the people who hurt me or treated me unfairly, it was for me! I was the one holding on to hurt and bad experiences. In order to live out the better life I had in mind, the life God designed just for me I had to forgive and let go!

Although I had learned to forgive, I closed myself off to people and my heart was hardened. God knew in order to live life His Way, Not My Way, His Way, I needed an open heart!

This is when God showed me what true Love is! The God kind of love is unlike any other Love I have ever thought I experienced in my life! It is everything you would look to a significant other for, a family member for or a friend for but end up disappointed time and time again. God’s love is enormous and unending! I now look at God’s love as a very special gift! God showed me before I experienced His love I never really knew what Love was and is! I am still overwhelmed when I think of how much God Loves me! He has proven His Love for me over and over again! Because of the Love God has shown me my heart changed and I now am able to receive things from Him that someone with a hardened heart would not be able to!  Love is an action and God taught me that!

Being guided by God through this transition I remember what it is was like to live my way and the difference of the life God was showing me He had for me! I remembered, starting in middle school when I was criticized for my looks and how that had somehow carried into my adulthood. I would be easily offended if someone said something about my size, my dark skin or worst of all the label “The Big Girl Who Can Dance” UGGGGHH!! I may not have said anything at the moment because at this point I was trying to change my flesh along with how God changed my heart but those things upset me.  God showed me my true self! Who I really am! Beautiful, Confident, Bold, Smart & Talented! If anyone said something different than what God said then I knew they were liars! Now I get compliments on the very things I was criticized for! I have even had encounters with jealousy because others wanted to look the same as I do! Who Knew!?! With this change in my heart, my characteristics and my life as a whole came self Love! I got to know the woman God created me to be and boy do I love her!!!

Once I got to know and really Love myself I begin to realize my worth and how much I had short changed myself over the years.

Dating & Relationships, I was always in one or doing the other but I would always end up alone. So after I had been hurt for the last time by someone who claimed they loved me, I decided to be Celibate! Woooooh Chill, Chill, that’s not a curse word, lol, maybe foreign but if you don’t know what that is Google it. I decided me giving my body to someone that I would not wind up with in the end was pointless. I was tired of getting hurt and being lied to just so someone else could get what they wanted! What about me? I want things too! I want a husband, my life partner, the man God made just for me! And in order to get to Him I have to be ready in all areas of my life! I have to be myself, knowing who I am and what Love really is! I cannot be caught up with another man  who is not my husband just to pass time and then as a result miss my husband! It has now been 5 years, yup that’s right 5 years and I must say I am on the right track! I do not regret for one second getting in partnership with God. He has and continues to increase my life in ways that I never imagined! He has and continues to protect my heart, so I do not fear being hurt! He has put me right where I am supposed to be at this appointed time! The people who are in my life are there for a reason!

No matter what the normal thing to do is, remember there is always something better! If it is within God’s plan then it is possible! Everything I have and am working for are coming to past! My hard times are minuscule and my success is great! God knows what He is doing! I trust Him to continue to help me along this wonderful journey! Stay Tuned! This is only the beginning!

XOXO
JB

Submitted by: Jessica Blount

31 years old single woman of God,Originally from Louisiana now located in Texas began blogging in 2014. Sharing my spiritual journey and life experiences, hoping to encourage others and help them see what living for God is! Promoting positivity and doing my best to be a good example in the earth! :)  http://faithtodivinelife.com

It's Going to Be OK

If I could tell you just one thing and have you really believe me, it would be this: “It’s going to be OK.”

 

Imagine what that would mean for your fears, your busyness, your perfectionism, your grief, your depression, and your anger. Imagine what it would mean in your daily life if you knew at the center of your being, in your very bones, that no matter what happened or what circumstances appeared to indicate, that things would really, truly be all right.

We know that kind of comfort sometimes as little children.

The first shock of our own red blood issuing from a brand new hole can be tamed by a parent’s calm reassurance that it’s going to be OK. Mom can mend the rip in your favorite shirt. Jimmy will get over the measles. Dorothy really will get back to Kansas. It’ll be OK. But somewhere before adolescence we learn that it isn’t always so. We learn that if we don’t fix it ourselves, it might not get fixed at all. The “C” stays on your report card. The broken window earns you a spanking. Your parents never do get back together. We learn that we live in a fallen world which can’t always be pounded into submission with a little more elbow grease and imagination. But we keep trying. Hence the fears, the busyness, the perfectionism, the grief, the depression, the anger.

Good news, friends. It’s going to be OK. It really is.

If you believe that God has spoken in the Bible, then you must believe this truth. Whatever has happened, whatever might happen, it all comes right in the end. It doesn’t matter whether you can see the solution for your particular tragedy; there is one, and your Father has it all in hand. A hundred years from now, you will see it, too, and you will laugh at your attempts to fix what God had already promised to redeem. Cry your tears and mop up the blood, but then crawl into your Father’s lap and know His gracious promise: it’s going to be OK. Our God ensures the end from the beginning, and because He does, we can live a life of confident hope. It’s going to be all right. It really is. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32-33) Encouraging Reading: Romans 8 Psalm 33 Psalm 139: 1-16 Rev. 21:1-5

Submitted by: Louise Holzhauer

Louise Holzhauer, M.A., LMHC, LMFT, is an experienced counselor, wife, mother and cancer survivor whose own story propelled her into counseling later in life. She is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary with Master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Counseling, she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Florida and is qualified to supervise interns in both fields. She currently works with two churches in the Orlando area and enjoys teaching women’s Bible studies, leading small groups, reading and babysitting her granddaughters. She blogs at dearchristiancounselor.com, and you can reach her at LHolzhauer@orangewood.org.

dearchristiancounselor.com

True Beauty

All beauty is only reflection.”  I read that today in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and it struck me as an incredibly profound but rarely verbalized truth.  Our culture worships beauty – never more so than now.  And whatever we were born lacking, we can purchase on a payment plan.  We can change shape, size, eye color and hair color.  We can dewrinkle, fluff up, pouf out, and pay to look like we kissed the back end of every bee in a hive.

This kind of beauty – the kind that comes from a bottle or a syringe or a surgery – is it true beauty?  What about the beauty of a not-so-perfect looking, exhausted mother, tenderly caring for her special needs child day after day?

What about the beauty of utterly impoverished folk in a Third World country, walking mile after mile with no shoes to gather with other villagers and worship in grateful adoration?

What about the beauty of those who suffer for righteousness, whose stories and tears we will never know this side of Heaven?

These, I propose, are the faces of true beauty.  And if “all beauty is only reflection”, as the moon is but a reflection of the glory of the sun, then of WHAT is it a reflection?  Or perhaps, of whom?

I believe the answer lies in a seemingly paradoxical ancient writing by the prophet Isaiah.  He writes prophetically of the coming Christ, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Is. 53:2)

Isaiah had not yet seen this God Man who, pierced and beaten, staggered under the weight of the sins of the whole world.  Under the weight of MY sin.  He hadn’t seen the weary trudging of dusty miles, the nights of no roof overhead, the aching loneliness.  He wasn’t there when this Man of no physical beauty gave life and dignity back to the woman with the issue of blood.  He didn’t get to watch as, with love in His eyes, He reached out and touched the shunned and miserable leper and made him whole.  Isaiah wasn’t there when the muscled back was laid open by a cat-o’-nine tails, only to then have a crude, heavy wooden cross placed on it.  The bleeding brow, the agony of slow suffocation…here, my friends, is beauty.  He endured that for you.  He endured that for me.  Oh, how beautiful He is!  Had Isaiah been granted just a glimpse, surely he would have asked how we could see anything BUT beauty in this consummate love and self-sacrifice.

Here is the beauty from which all other true beauty radiates.  And no matter what our past or our physical appearance, “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

So there you have it.  As you reflect the Beautiful One, you are beautiful.  True beauty – beauty of spirit that far outlasts fleeting physical perfection.

Beautiful friend, go do some reflecting today.  The world needs to see you shine.

Written by:  Christine Sakwitz
Christine is the author of The Beautiful Journey blog, women's Bible study writer and teacher, and homeschooling mom of two critter-loving children.  She has been happily married for 23 years and is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to live full, joyful, high-impact lives.

She would love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter (Live_Fully_Now), or via email at chris@thebeautifuljourney.com.

Searching for Significance

Wycliffe Bible Translators has released a new free, 7-day devotional, "Searching for Significance", and it is available to download here!

We’re all searching for something in life. Whether you want to call it significance, purpose, meaning or something else, there is an innate desire in each of us for our life to matter — to have significance and purpose.

We want to explore that desire with you from a biblical perspective and dive into God’s view of your worth. That’s why we created a seven-day devotional, “Searching for Significance.” Each day we’ll explore a different part of God’s perfect plan for your life, and how he ultimately wants you to find purpose and significance through bringing him glory.

Download the devotional here.

Written by: Annie Monson

Wycliffe Bible Translators is the largest scripture translation organization in the world, with a widespread mission network internationally and in the United States. They endeavor to have begun a translation of the Bible into every language by 2025 while fostering Christian community, providing educational material and fellowship resources.

Living Hope

The definition of hope interests me. It isn’t an expectation of something random to happen. It’s not a blind belief. It’s not even about a doubtful this-or-that outcome. Hope is an expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired! [1] Hope is looking forward to something we desire and long for, something good and believing that it will happen, despite how the current situation might look like.

What is our hope anyway?


Our hope is in God who will raise us from the dead. Our hope is in the life eternal. (Titus 1:2) Resurrection power might seem ridiculous to the world, it did in Paul’s time and sadly true even now.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Acts 26:6-8


Many people think heaven and hell are just fictional places. Because in order to be there we must be resurrected, just and unjust alike. (Acts 24:15) A judgement awaits us. Maybe they are too scared to face it, that they deny the reality of life after death.

God has a name called “Hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8) and “God of Hope” (Romans 15:13). How wonderful that His children can call Him by the name of Hope. He is our hope.

How did we obtain this hope?


Christian hope is a life knowing God and His faithfulness. Because we too were before “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) If we didn’t know God and what He is capable of doing, how He has been faithful in fulfilling His promises since the beginning, we too would be hopeless. God cannot lie and so His promise of eternal life will also come to fruition. (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) We obtained our hope when we put our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the key to our hope. Because Christ is our forerunner we look up to Him, filled with hope, that God who raised Him from the dead will fulfill the same promise in our lives.

What does hope look like?


Hope is looking forward to something in the future. So how does it pan out in this earthly life? Hope is worked out in our lives by patience, perseverance and remaining faithful to what we believe. Life is so full of challenges, miseries, trials and heartaches. But we press on, hoping that one day we will go to a place where there is no more tears! When sinful thoughts entice us and cause us to stumble, we look at Hope and we say no to sin. Because this sinful pleasure is temporary, our hope is eternal.

…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4


Hope is endurance (Rom 15:4), hope is continuing in the faith (Col 1:23), hope is patience (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Wow, the riches of His grace and the Hope of eternal life blows my mind. And the word of God that brings it all to us, incredible! Let’s remember these three elements as often as we can in a spirit of thankfulness.

Written by: Alice William

I enjoy learning from God’s word, it amazes me, the wisdom and treasures of God and the way He reveals them to me day after day in a profound manner. In this space I share with you what I’ve learnt through my time with the Word. I earnestly believe that learning alone isn’t sufficient but walking in the word is crucial in a believer’s life. As much as I desire to walk in the word, it’s not always easy. My hope is to encourage you, my dear friend, in your walk with God with words that He has used to strengthen my own walk with Him.  http://walkinginword.com

Being Grateful

I work as a substitute teacher in a local public school. It is a very rewarding job to work with the students, however, when there is no school I have no job. This creates a great concern to be living without a paycheck and having a large family.

In the past, I have been able to secure short-term temporary jobs for the break time. This last break, however, I was unable to get one for the entire break. My wife and I did a lot of praying about it and were still very concerned, ok, very worried about it. In spite of what we saw, God had a different plan for us.

During the break I did get to work for a couple of days for someone for a little pay that did help a lot, but not enough. It also was hard to not be able to do any big family trip during this time, at least that is what we thought would happen.

On the Wednesday right after Christmas, my oldest daughter (an adult who lives with us), had won a pack of four tickets to a Six Flags park in Arlington, Texas. On Thursday, she was then given a four pack of tickets to the San Antonio Zoo.

Since I have a very large family, eight children, we had chosen to split up to use all the tickets we were given. My daughter brought herself and three other siblings with her to the Six Flags Park on that Friday. While she went north, my wife and I brought the three youngest to the zoo.

Both of these trips were a blessing to everyone that was able to go to the place they went. The older ones did not want to go to a zoo, and the younger would not have been able to do much at the park.

As my wife and I left for the zoo, we planned to be back home about 7pm. It was a three-hour drive to the zoo and we planned to leave the zoo when it closed at four.

The younger children had a great time at the zoo seeing all the different animals.

We left as planned to go home. We expected to be home several hours before my daughter and other children would get home.

As we were driving home, we got to about 30 miles from home, when the traffic came to a dead halt. There had been a major accident up ahead. I had decided to sit and wait for the road to open up, since it would have been about a 40 mile turn around to go a different direction around the accident.

As we sat there waiting, we did not know how long it would take. Time kept passing and nothing seemed to be happening. After about 30 minutes of sitting, we saw a helicopter come in and land. It was a medical emergency helicopter. At that point we knew that whatever happened, it had to have been very bad.

It was getting very frustrating to be sitting there, so close to home and, yet, not be able to get home. In just the time we had been sitting there, we could have been home already. The children were starting to get very hungry and tired of sitting.

While waiting there, we saw several people come running up from behind our vehicle to where the accident was. A few moments later, several men and ladies came back wailing very loudly. They stopped just near our vehicle and were holding each other crying.

My wife's and my heart went out to those people. We did not know what happened, but knew it had to have been bad. (The news the following day, stated that it had been a head on collision of two vehicles, and two others were also hit. One person was killed, and all the rest were hospitalized, several were children. Several were in severe critical condition.)

It was at that point, when we saw the people crying, that we started to be grateful for our own lives and protection. We ended up sitting at that one spot for about 1 1/2 hours. When we did get home, we were home only about 40 minutes or so before my daughter got home.

As difficult as it was to sit there, being very tired and hungry from a long day on the road, it was better than what the other people were going through. Several were in the hospital and one never made it home. Families were destroyed. Loved ones were lost. Lives were changed, and not for what seemed the better.

Instead of complaining about having to sit there, we prayed for those people. We prayed God's touch in their lives. And we gave God praise for taking care of us and allowing us to make it back home safely. If we had been just a few seconds faster on that road, we could have been the ones in that accident.

In our lives, there a times that things will occur that will be a major inconvenience or disruption in our lives. In those times we need to look at how the lives of others are going. We need to be grateful for what God has given us, instead of complaining or worrying about what we cannot have or what we are going through. Things can always be better or they can be worse.

During that Christmas break, I was able to spend a lot of time with my family, since I could not work anywhere else. Along with that, money came in from different sources that totaled up to almost exactly what I would have made at my normal job. God had a plan that was to support us and meet all of our needs. We were blessed in many more ways than having a temporary job would have been.

Give God praise today for what He has blessed you with. Be grateful for what God has given you or spared you from.

 

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom has been happily married for nearly 25 years and is blessed with eight wonderful children. Over the years he has learned many things from many different experiences with  God. He desires to share some those experiences and things he has learned with you. His prayer is that you may know God more and be more like Jesus everyday. You may see his daily devotional blog at http://www.insightsfromtom.com

Give or Take

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 

(Philippians 4:6 NIV)

This is a time of year when many of us take time to thank God for the blessings we have been given in our lives: family, relationships, our "stuff," and even our circumstances.  We also give thanks to God for being loving, caring, and for giving us a way to Him through Jesus.  These prayers of thanksgiving are important.  We also sometimes have prayers of request from God, or petitions.

I was recently getting ready to pray and bring my request to God, and I paused to reflect, "Am I a giver or taker?"    Do I come to God to thank Him and spend time with Him, or just when I need something?   In other words, when it comes God, am I primarily a "Giver or Taker?"  I know what God is; He is a giver all the way!

  • Giver of love
  • Giver of life
  • Giver of mercy
  • Giver of grace
  • Giver of peace
  • Giver of blessings

...just to name a few.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

(2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)

Do you like when people only come to you when they want something, but never reach out to you at any other time?  Probably not.  We need to respect God and giveto Him, forHim, and from Him to others.  He wants us to be givers!  He doesn't want this out of "reluctant compulsion," but out of a "cheerful" heart. God knows this will bless our lives and make them more the way He intended.

He wants us to give the things I listed above to others.  He wants us to give control of our life to Him.  He wants us to submit ownership of all of our "stuff" to His control.  He wants us to bring Him praise and thanksgiving, whether we "feel blessed" at the time, or not.  Be a giver.

Written By: Brian Goslee

Brian Goslee is the Founder and Executive Director of Changed Through Faith Ministries, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides resources and faith-infused experiences to help fathers and sons grow closer to God an each other.

For daily devotions and short videos to help grow your faith,click here for our free app.

Visit our website at changedthroughfaith.com for much more!

Be An Encourager

But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring relief. Job 16:5 (NIV)

 

Job's friends were continually pointing out how wrong he must be to be going through the harsh suffering he was dealing with. They had no words of encouragement for him. Job states that he could speak in the same way if the roles were reversed, but that he would not. He would speak words of encouragement and comfort striving to ease their suffering.

The world loves to kick a person when he is down. When a person has fallen a little in some area of his life, the world will point out more wrongs and keep him down. Others will just love to point out where he went wrong to bring him in to the suffering that is happening.

People of the world will treat others this way, because that is what the devil wants to do. He sets out to kill and destroy anyone he can. He wants to destroy any hope or belief that a person has. Destruction of progress in a person's life is important to the devil.

It is easy to do things as the world does. It is easy to point out faults and wrongs in a person, and cut them down while they are down. However, that is not what you as a believer should be doing.

Jesus said that He was sent to proclaim good news. That good news is that God loves the people and wants to save them. Jesus did not come to condemn the people or sit and just point out all of their faults. He built them up with love and compassion.

Every believer should be seeking to build up another person. Building another person is done by encouraging the person, rather than pointing out his faults.

As a believer, you are supposed to be doing things just like Jesus would do them. You are to be His disciple, one who is learning to live just like He lived.

What kind of words are you speaking today?

Are they words like the friends of Job, cutting down, condemning, and destroying?

Or are they words like Jesus, loving, caring, full of compassion and building up?

I pray today that you will know God's love for all people; that you will show compassion for others; that God will strengthen you to encourage others; and that you will show God's comfort to others.

 

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom is a man who has been happily married for over 24 years, and currently has eight wonderful children. He has been in the Army, full time ministry, volunteer ministry and numerous jobs. Tom has been writing a daily devotional blog, along with book reviews on http://www.insightsfromtom.com. God has blessed his life in many ways and he desires to share some of what he has learned with others.

An Open Life

Can anyone bring charges against me? If so, I will be silent and die. Job 13:19

 

The friends of Job were convinced that Job had done something sinful to bring on the troubles that he was going through. In their minds, the only reason God would inflict trouble on a person is because of sin. Job was convinced that he was innocent before God. He challenges anyone to bring a true charge against him. If that could happen, Job would be silent.

Seeing a fault in another person is very easy. The news media loves to look at faults that people have. Only occasionally does the news look at something good in a person.

At the same time, most people do not like to have any of their faults looked at or seen. They do not want to be told about something wrong in their life. Very few are willing to be corrected by another person.

The world likes to keep things in the dark, behind closed doors. Many will claim that those things are personal and of no one else's business. For most people, if those things were known, it would be embarrassing and often harmful to their career or status in the community.

The person who wants to grow will want to know what faults he has. He will desire to be corrected and set on the right path. The true believer in Jesus will strive to live a life that is without fault.

God sees into the hearts and minds of every person. He knows the truth of every action or thought a person has. There is nothing hidden from Him. Man cannot see into the heart as God can, he can only see on the outside.

You must live your life as an open book before men and God. The ultimate life to live is one that is living for God with no faults. God sees into your heart already and sees everything. Men should be able to also look at your life and see nothing but Jesus in you.

Live your life in a way that no one can accuse you of any wrong. Allow yourself to be an open book for anyone to examine. Let them see Jesus in you. If anything else is seen, allow it to be pointed out so that you can change and live for God.

 

I pray today that you will allow God to cleanse you of all sin; that you will be an open witness of Jesus; that the world will only see Jesus in you; and that you will seek to change any wrong in your life.

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom is a happily married husband of 24 years with eight wonderful children. He loves Jesus and talking about Jesus. He shares some of what God has taught him over the years in a daily devotional he writes at http://www.insightsfromtom.com.

After Salvation: Struggles and Fires

Transition

 

after-salvation-struggles-and-fire

We are bathed in awe as we take our first breath. Our ears can hear at last, and our eyes are now open. We emerge into life as showers of joy surround our minds. We can hear the shouts of joy from the angles above as we pick up the scent of heaven.

It seems like nothing can destroy the first weeks of salvation. We feel like our journey is finally over. Pure and innocent, like smoking holy weed.

We soon realize that our problems don’t disappear. The haze fades away, and the liquid glory honey cloud becomes a distant memory amidst the returning train of reality.

A glimpse of heaven

Everyone who ever started something with enthusiasm and great joy knows the sloping feeling of the mundane creeping in again. We get used to new environments, new jobs, and new spouses.

The new and fresh doesn’t stay like that by the definitions of those words. We call it the honeymoon phase. Everything fades away, even the new-found joy of salvation.

It’s almost like God opens up a little window to us; a glimpse of a future yet to come. It is enough for us to experience him and make our first memories. It’s a rock that tells us ‘stuff is real.’

The pain of growing up

When I gave my life to the Lord, many challenges arose. All of a sudden, I couldn’t relate to my buddies anymore.

It was more than just their inability to understand why I wouldn’t drink and smoke anymore. Those are just behaviors one can ignore.

What got us was our sudden disagreement on core issues such as women, sex, love, and purpose. None of those things clash in young men until those values change.

Some reacted with anger and some with indifference but over time I grew apart from most of them. What do you do together if you don’t party and set the world on fire? Not a lot in those wild years.

I had my fallbacks and slips, bitter tears after long nights but my decision for the Lord hunted me when I was alone. I knew one could fall, but we can only walk towards one destiny. The course is set either way.

The doubts and the unknown

Everything I knew and valued started to disappear into obscurity. Friendship became hollow, and the gin and juice I used to love became a mere memory. I started asking myself how I should act as a follower of Christ?

I wanted something real. I experienced radical salvation out of a miserable lifestyle. I wanted to grow in being radical and the cost of giving up my pleasures was a great sacrifice for me. I needed people with a radical love for Christ, yet instead, I found a bunch of sissies playing games.

Most Christians had no idea how to handle a rough diamond. They are used to “perfect” people who hide their problems under the carpet. Keep’ on smiling until you die.

I didn’t know how to smile. So we didn’t get along. I ended up alone and frustrated, doubting my decisions and slipping time and time again.

The cracking of the wall

My defenses started to shake. Rejected by my old brothers and rejected by my new ones. With no place to go, I began to feel like I was doing things wrong.

I started to doubt my actions. I became self-conscious. Hiding my insecurities with pride and swagger didn’t work anymore. But that’s the only way I knew how to deal with my fears.

So I became defensive and moody. A shadow of my former self. No place to go and no place to hide. My anchors got challenged, and I had nothing left. The people who were supposed to catch me were too busy catching Benjamins.

Being reborn was not just a metaphor for me. Like a baby, I had to learn how to walk and talk. Everything was new for me, and it was the beginning of a long and painful process of healing and learning.

I learned that true Christianity is only for real warriors. What is commonly known as the church has nothing to do with faith. Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable; he came to give us salvation. And he was willing to pay the price.

The church today tries to control people into a particular kind of churchgoer. Always nice, always on the surface. Crack a joke, show up on Sunday and put a fish on your car.

That’s not the man I desired to be when I surrendered my life to my God. Jesus wasn’t like that. He whipped the moneychangers, battled the church of his time and didn’t care what anyone thought. A man’s man.

Father and mothers

A standard recommendation after salvation is to find a good church. I agree with that, but the problem is that one doesn’t know what a good church is. How can you, you’ve just been saved.

So how can we avoid the pain and frustrations with others?

I believe in commitments. Giving a commitment to a church is a big deal, something people tend to give to early.

Visiting a church two times doesn’t mean that you now belong to that church. You’re a visitor, checking things out. That’s fine.

Take your time in finding the right place. Check out everything that’s available in your area. Don’t give up looking and don’t settle for an online church. There are great resources out there (like here and here) but there is no replacement for interacting with people and building relationships. Chats can’t emulate that.

You need brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. You need a place where you can open up, and you trust the people around you. You can’t be alone because the devil attacks at night.

 

Once you’ve found a church, then commit. Become a part of it and attend even if you don’t feel like it. Pursue relationships with your local family, stay in the word and love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

Written By: Michael Klim

Michael is no stranger to tears and pain. Growing up in Berlin as the son of refugees, hardening his heart seemed like the only way to survive the jungle.

Yet his God had a different plan. He stole his heart and put him on a journey towards wholeness and completion. He is married to Shalyn and has two gorgeous little girls. They make their homes in a small town in the midwest.

Michael blogs at heartandgrowth.com

Weeds In A Garden

During the spring, I had cleared out all of the weeds in the garden and planted many types of vegetables. For a while I was able to keep most of the weeds out. At one point, some animals got into the garden and ate down some of the plants. Then we had some severe rain storms that destroyed many of the plants. This led to discouragement and caused me to cut back on the work in the garden. Along with that, there was no plants that were producing any vegetables. Why work on keeping the weeds out, if there are really no plants to protect? With that I left the garden alone for the last two months.

Over the last two weeks I had decided to start working in the garden again to get it ready for the fall planting season. Nearly the entire garden was completely covered in weeds, some of which were standing more than two feet tall. It was a nightmare to look at, and very discouraging.

I set out to start clearing the weeds out of the garden. Over several hours of work, over several days, I have cleared more than half of the garden of any weeds, most of which I had pulled by hand. In the process I noticed that my green pepper plants and tomato plants, which I thought had died, were alive and thriving. I already have pulled about 15 nice sized green peppers from the plants, and green tomatoes are already growing, much to my surprise.

As I was pulling weeds, I began to think about the garden, life and what Jesus said about weeds. Life is like a great big garden that God has planted. Jesus said that in the end God will have the angels toss out all the weeds in His garden. These are those who do not believe in Jesus, who are not serving God and producing His fruit. In our lives we are supposed to produce fruit that He desires.

Just like my garden has weeds, so does God's garden. Seeds from weeds in other places have found their way into my garden and taken it over.

The world is hard at work planting seeds of weeds in God's garden. The world does not want God's garden to produce His fruit.

In my life, and everyone else's life, there have been seeds of weeds sown. These are seeds of discouragement, unbelief, fear, hatred, greed, jealousy, and the list goes on. If left alone, these seeds will grow and take over your life, just like those seeds did in my vegetable garden.

To combat these seeds, you need to regularly work at weeding your garden of life. On a daily basis, take a look at your garden and ask God to reveal the weeds in your life.

Go before God, the master gardener, and seek is wisdom and strength to get rid of the weeds in your life. Do not allow the weeds of this world overtake your life and destroy the fruit God has planted in you.

This means it will be work. Sometimes it will be very hard and dirty work to get rid of those weeds, but it will be worth it in the end. The longer the weeds have been allowed to grow and mature and spread, the more work it will take to get them out of your garden. The longer the seeds of sin have been allowed to grow, mature and spread in your life, the more work it will take to get them out of your life.

Start today to weed your garden. Work to produce the fruit God has made you to produce. Be the great garden that God has planned you to be.

 

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom is happily married for 24 years and father to eight wonderful children (from 19 months to 22 years old), whom he homeschools. He has worked as a pastor, children's pastor, in the oil fields, army, many other jobs, and now currently as a substitute teacher in public schools. He has been writing a daily devotional blog Insights From Tom, for nearly three years. God has shown him many things over the years and he wants to share that with everyone he can.

Explain

How will you explain the guilt, The secret eyes behind a secret door The mirror where a stranger always lurks The darkness where a boy is always hiding

How will you explain the need, The tremor in your haunted, lonely heart The terror that at night your mind is fraying The flesh for which your body longs with groaning

How will you explain the drive, To make your life work here and now, forever To grab a piece of heaven in your hand And never have it leave your grasp again To stroke and squeeze, and fiercely consume it And feed the worm that on your soul is feasting

How will you explain the pull, To be in love no matter how destructive To live as if your heart no hurt is bearing To run from home as if no home you needed

How will you explain the passion, Which chains you like a beast at night so black The urge so shameful, like fire that consumes you And shackles you, a slave of secrets dark

How will you explain the shadow, That inside lurks, behind a door that`s bolted Old nameless fear, ancient dread unspoken It terrifies a child in grown man`s body

How will you explain the madness, Voracious crows your sanity devour They take away the last enduring grain And leave you in a room, cold, white and empty There in that silence, sleepless voice resounds Your ravaged mind it fills with utmost horror It whispers that no peace you`ll ever have, No hope and joy will ever spring within you

How will you explain the falsehood, The mask your face so firmly that is gripping The laughter when you feel just bitter tears The silence when you want to scream with terror

How will you explain the shame, That friend unwanted who holds you in the darkness Caressing face so gnarled with searing pain And with a black veil guilty eyes it cloaks ‘I`ll care for you’ with poisoned lips it whispers And so the young tree ever crooked grows

How will you explain the bitter anger, The shame embracing, evil lie believing Your excellent and perfect heart you stomped on Believing that it only death deserved…

How will you explain the sorrow, Your glory and the beauty wasn`t seen An ugly soul you thought your lot in life was A twisted face and blackened heart to bear Received as your fate from cruel gods How will you explain the question, ‘Why was I made thus?’ little boy once asked A question in the withered soul that echoed And no one heard that silent, raspy voice The answer from the unseen lips that slithered ‘That`s who you are,’ the shadow then proclaimed ‘And never in your life will you be loved!’ ‘You are dirty, bad and rotten deep inside,’ ‘And all who know you will forever curse you’

How will you explain the lies, The wicked voice that echoed in your ears Sharp, deadly words right in the heart that stabbed you And doomed you to a life of endless torment

How will you explain the creature dark, The hand unseen, your throat at night that`s gripping The sharp and hungry blade your heart that pierced, Your beauty, hopes and dreams it cut to pieces…

Since you were little is your soul so shattered And you, my child, have not had too much joy Confusion, hatred, bitterness consume you, And shameful pleasure is your only friend But look, your eyes move to the horizon, And take your mind outside the hell within you A world is there, that you my friend will see That needs you, and the glory that`s inside you

A heart that`s darkened, rotting, almost dead, Might not seem much to you or to the others But long before the darkness draped your world That heart was made for paradise and glory

And how will you explain the glory bright, That makes you wish for world that`s somehow better A world without death, pain, and broken hearts Those places from your youth without the sorrows

Why does your heart for such world always yearns Why do you long so for a life that`s better And why does that glory, buried deep inside Death is refusing with a bitter cry?

It is because, child, such good world is true Too good indeed, to not have been existing And there is One who came to look for you Down in the darkness, a Hero came to find you Red blood once flowed, staining the wooden cross A young brave heart that day ceased to beat A sacrifice was offered to Death A price was paid then, a captive was released

That captive is your dear, eternal heart And you, my friend, for freedom have been ransomed Each tear from you, there in the darkness shed Is precious for the One that came to seek you He cares for you, that heart is loved by Him And God forbid that He should ever lose you…

How will you explain the guilt, The secret eyes behind a secret door The mirror where a stranger always lurks The darkness where a boy is always hiding

How will you explain the need, The tremor in your haunted, lonely heart The terror that at night your mind is fraying The flesh for which your body longs with groaning

How will you explain the drive, To make your life work here and now, forever To grab a piece of heaven in your hand And never have it leave your grasp again To stroke and squeeze, and fiercely consume it And feed the worm that on your soul is feasting

How will you explain the pull, To be in love no matter how destructive To live as if your heart no hurt is bearing To run from home as if no home you needed

How will you explain the passion, Which chains you like a beast at night so black The urge so shameful, like fire that consumes you And shackles you, a slave of secrets dark

How will you explain the shadow, That inside lurks, behind a door that`s bolted Old nameless fear, ancient dread unspoken It terrifies a child in grown man`s body

How will you explain the madness, Voracious crows your sanity devour They take away the last enduring grain And leave you in a room, cold, white and empty There in that silence, sleepless voice resounds Your ravaged mind it fills with utmost horror It whispers that no peace you`ll ever have, No hope and joy will ever spring within you

How will you explain the falsehood, The mask your face so firmly that is gripping The laughter when you feel just bitter tears The silence when you want to scream with terror

How will you explain the shame, That friend unwanted who holds you in the darkness Caressing face so gnarled with searing pain And with a black veil guilty eyes it cloaks ‘I`ll care for you’ with poisoned lips it whispers And so the young tree ever crooked grows

How will you explain the bitter anger, The shame embracing, evil lie believing Your excellent and perfect heart you stomped on Believing that it only death deserved…

How will you explain the sorrow, Your glory and the beauty wasn`t seen An ugly soul you thought your lot in life was A twisted face and blackened heart to bear Received as your fate from cruel gods How will you explain the question, ‘Why was I made thus?’ little boy once asked A question in the withered soul that echoed And no one heard that silent, raspy voice The answer from the unseen lips that slithered ‘That`s who you are,’ the shadow then proclaimed ‘And never in your life will you be loved!’ ‘You are dirty, bad and rotten deep inside,’ ‘And all who know you will forever curse you’

How will you explain the lies, The wicked voice that echoed in your ears Sharp, deadly words right in the heart that stabbed you And doomed you to a life of endless torment

How will you explain the creature dark, The hand unseen, your throat at night that`s gripping The sharp and hungry blade your heart that pierced, Your beauty, hopes and dreams it cut to pieces…

Since you were little is your soul so shattered And you, my child, have not had too much joy Confusion, hatred, bitterness consume you, And shameful pleasure is your only friend But look, your eyes move to the horizon, And take your mind outside the hell within you A world is there, that you my friend will see That needs you, and the glory that`s inside you

A heart that's darkened, rotting, almost dead, Might not seem much to you or to the others But long before the darkness draped your world That heart was made for paradise and glory

And how will you explain the glory bright, That makes you wish for world that`s somehow better A world without death, pain, and broken hearts Those places from your youth without the sorrows

Why does your heart for such world always yearns Why do you long so for a life that's better And why does that glory, buried deep inside Death is refusing with a bitter cry?

It is because, child, such good world is true Too good indeed, to not have been existing And there is One who came to look for you Down in the darkness, a Hero came to find you Red blood once flowed, staining the wooden cross A young brave heart that day ceased to beat A sacrifice was offered to Death A price was paid then, a captive was released

That captive is your dear, eternal heart And you, my friend, for freedom have been ransomed Each tear from you, there in the darkness shed Is precious for the One that came to seek you He cares for you, that heart is loved by Him And God forbid that He should ever lose you…

Written By: George Stoimenov

Not long ago Isought life whenever I thought life was to be found - like all others, I too have a hungry heart. But there was only despair and darkness. Sad is the life without hope, but even that sadness is only felt by those who know their hunger. It was in Africa, where He chose to finally meet me, after years of torment. I wept as received the only embrace which I truly needed. The years that followed brought strife, tears, and pain, but that was needed, much needed, if my heart was to be restored. He gave me a sword, a new name, and brought my old, old desires back from the world of the dead. How could they be dead, child? They were in the heart of the infinite God. Yes, we must become like children, for it is children that we are...

Old, long-buried hopes arose within me as the quest advanced. In His love, He restored, and is still restoring my heart which, as any other heart in this wonderful and terrible world, had been hidden in darkness and despair.

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness...

You can find me on the web at https://storytellingandmore.wordpress.com/

What's in a Shadow (Pt. 2)

“How sweetly you bring light. You’re the ray of the sun and I’m the shade of a shadow”  – Shade of a Shadow by Teitur

 

From mythology to astrology and folklore to Psychology shadows inspire a variety of symbolisms. Because a shadow is associated with darkness it often represents something evil. However, since a shadow cannot exist without light it can also represent something good. The most encouraging symbolic meaning attributed to a shadow can be found in Scriptures where it is associated with God’s protection. Consider these verses and how they can remind you that God is your protector.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. – Psalm 91:1. To dwell in God’s shelter is to be in his presence continuously. It is to acknowledge that He is Omnipresent and therefore, intentionally include him in both your public and private life. If you allow God to be a part of your daily thoughts, plans and actions you will experience peace in every situation, especially when your heart grows weary.

Priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. – Psalm 36:7. No amount of money, good deeds, or sacrifice could ever pay for God’s love. You will never understand how much He really loves you, but you can get a glimpse of the immensity of that love at Calvary’s cross. Becuase of this great love you can confidently run to him and find protection in times of trouble.

Because you are my help,I sing in the shadow of your wings. -Psalm 63:7. Not only can you find rest and safety under the shadow of our God, but you can also find joy. His hand is always stretched out to guide you and sustain you. This is more than enough reason to sing shouts of victory and praise unto Him no matter the circumstances that surround you.  

Prayer: Oh Most High God, you are my shelter, my protector, and my ever present help in times of need. In you I find rest. In you I am safe. In you I have joy. I surrender all that I am to you and take comfort in knowing that you will guide me, strengthen me and protect me no matter what I go through. In Jesus’ name I pray amen.

 

Written By: Joe Rodriguez

I love lighthouses.For years, I have been fascinated by their architectural design, but mostly by their purpose. Lighthouse Devotions is intended to reflect the peace, the strength, and the hope I experience in the presence of lighthouses. But these inspirations would be meaningless if they did not bring glory, honor and praise to One who is the true beacon of light to the world, my savior Jesus Christ.

Hope after the fall

Read: Genesis 3:1-24

 

God gives us incredibly specific instructions as to what we should and should not do. With Adam and Eve, he walked with them in the Garden, and spoke with them in an audible voice. They knew him in a way we are unable to experience, yet still they fell to disobedience.

The devil is crafty in his ways. He is well studied, with an ability to pose temptation to us in a way that causes us to step back against our better judgement and question God’s word. I imagine us to stand before our temptation much the same as Eve stood before the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we gaze at the object or idea and the longer we stand there, the more we realize the fruit, or the temptation, is good, pleasing to the eye, and desirable thus giving us justification to give in to disobedience.

As we stand there gazing, our thoughts wander and we begin to think, ‘This drug isn’t going to kill us.’ ‘This financial decision isn’t going to break us.’ ‘This innocent text isn’t going to hurt anything.’ ‘This relationship makes me happy nothing bad can come of that.’

We stand there making up in our mind and listening to the whispers of the devil, forgetting what the word of God has taught us- forgetting to seek God, not even trying to gain his thoughts on the matter.

In a moment of weakness we give in, and at that point become just like Adam and Eve. We realize, no, we didn’t die from consuming the fruit and giving into temptation, but as time goes on realize that the financial decision that didn’t immediately break you has caused so much stress on your marriage that your seeking divorce, or you find that no, the drug didn’t kill you- yet – but it has you crippled and craving to feed your addiction by any and all means.

No, the initial text didn’t cause harm, but it made it easier for the second and third, and now you’re involved in adultery and have no idea how to stop it all, not to mention the pain you have caused to those you love. Don’t forget the relationship that makes you happy, the one that certainly nothing bad could come from, well – that one, the one you were warned against, now, you have found yourself completely isolated, doing things you never would have thought acceptable before, you’ve lost your friends, and are living a life of loneliness far from God.

Much like Adam and Eve, no, the initial bite of the fruit didn’t pose any consequences; it must have tasted good for Eve to share it with her husband, it’s much the same with us, we don’t feel the initial consequences of giving into our temptation, it may even feel good to do so BUT we do eventually experience the ripple effect of it all, the far reaching implications that just like Adam and Eve, we can’t hide from them.

Yet how incredible is it to realize that we serve a God that is so merciful and gracious! A God that just like he went looking for Adam and Eve in the Garden, he comes looking for us, even after we reject him, he still seeks us. Not only did he seek them, but he gave Adam and Eve hope, when he told the serpent,

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15

In these words, he promised this was not the end of the battle, their offspring would cause harm to the enemy. As if that isn’t enough, acknowledging the realization of their nakedness, he provided clothes to cover them. How incredible to think…they knowingly disregarded his word, and we do the same, yet he still chooses to seek us, bring us hope, and provide our needs. What a gracious God we serve.

The financially broke, the addicted, the adulterer, the abused, the liar, the misguided, the depressed, whatever imperfection you have (we all have at least one)- every single one of us – he seeks, gives hope, and provides for.

1 Peter 2:24

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

1 John 1:7

And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Remember these powerful words today, where ever you are, whatever you’re experiencing. He loves you. He wants you. His grace is enough. You just have to…Choose Him.

Written By: JD Hartz

I am a sinner saved by grace…A lover of Jesus Christ.

I am filled with His Spirit and washed in His blood.

I am a prodigal returned home to my Father. Once lost and unworthy of His love, He pursued me, had mercy on me, and captivated my heart. His mercy gave me a second chance. It presented me an opportunity, an opportunity to choose Him. Every day we are presented with a choice. This is me choosing Him…

You can find me on the web at https://choosehimblog.wordpress.com/

How Prayer Can Be Like Eating Healthy

Prayer is a tough subject for most people. As I was thinking about how to approach this topic, it dawned on me that prayer is like eating healthy. 1) We know prayer is important, 2) it is beneficial for us. 2) We have a strong desire to do it, yet 3) We often struggle to have a consistent, vibrant prayer life.

 

Like eating healthy, we are challenged with many of the same issues. Many aren’t sure what to do. We are not satisfied nor confident about how to do it. Nor do we have a grasp on what to pray for so at the risk of doing it wrong and somehow offending God, we just choose not to engage in the spiritual discipline.

To unpack some of the fear and sense of inadequacy attached to prayer, I will focus the next few Wednesdays on the topic. For the purpose of full disclosure, I am by no means a prayer warrior. So will figure this out together.

Some Keys For A Vibrant Prayer Life From The Apostle Paul And Jesus:

1 . Praying Without Ceasing. “17 pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

This verse has been the source of misunderstanding and confusion. The complexity is found in the translation of “Pray Constantly” The Greek word translated “constantly” really means, “without ceasing;” this is not to be understood, with a continual, like Paul prayed day and night event. Paul is not saying we should be praying 24/7. If you have tried this, you have discovered just how difficult that endeavor is, so the result of that epic failure is to question your spirituality and dedication or love for God. In comparison, prayer becomes like that failed eating healthy attempt broccoli vs. chocolate cake. Since I neglected to make the right choices I just give into temptation, “Bring on the cake.”

Paul in Thessalonians was encouraging his churches to make prayer a part of their personal spiritual discipline (see also, Phil 4:6). He and his coworkers prayed together regularly (2 Thess 1:11; Rom 1:10) and valued the prayers of the church on their behalf.

12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Romans 12:12 (CEV)

Praying with Bold Persistence -Luke 11:9-10 9 And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Lk 11:9-10

The Apostle Luke shares with the world what Jesus taught them about praying with a bold persistence. Jesus uses an illustration of a man coming to a friend for help. At first, the friend says it is late, and the children are in bed. In other words, this is an awful time. Come back at a more acceptable time. Because to go and unbolt the door would awaken the children. However, the friend was bold in his persistence. He would keep asking, keep knocking and keep seeking. The lesson on prayer from our Lord revolves around these three different approaches to prayer.

  • Keep Asking The concept of “Ask” is commonly used for prayer. To best understand this it must explain that in the Greek it is not imperative of command (“You must ask to receive”) but as an imperative of condition (“If you ask, you will indeed receive). The force of this Scripture is not a command of Jesus to pray, but instead and an invitation to prayer.

So God then is not viewed as a genie sitting high on His Throne demanding that you pray to Him to get your every wish granted. Since prayer is an invitation, it does not mean that everything we prayed for will be answered. In that same section of Scripture, Jesus explains, about receiving gifts from the Father. In verse 11-13, “11 “If your child asks you, his father, for a fish, would you give him a snake instead? 12 Or if your child asks you for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Therefore, our Heavenly Father proves to us that he is our Father, and we are, indeed, his precious children by giving to us those things that are beneficial to us.

  • Keep Searching “Searching” is frequently used to describe seeking after/for God

29 You will seek the Lord your God from there, and you will find him[a] if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being. -Deut 4:29

“Seek the Lord when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. Isa 55:6

I like to describe it this way God places a God-size hole in the human soul. That can only be satisfied and filled with the presence of the Almighty. For us to seek God is to desire that spiritual connection with God’s face through prayer.

  • Keep Knocking I have heard this described this way “knocked at the gates of mercy and finding that they were open to us.”

This verse is an example of the divine passive (“it will be given to you” means God will give it to you. In saying “it will be opened to you” means God will open it to you) and of Jesus’ use of exaggeration, make it very clear that not all prayers are answered. Prayers that are answered are those in line with God’s will and would include an implied reference to Jesus prays in the garden before His date with Calvary “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

When children first start to color, they have two problems. First, they might choose colors that are inappropriate. Secondly, once the colors are selected, they have a difficult time keeping the colors within the boundary lines. As they mature and keep on coloring, they learn to keep within the guidelines and to choose the appropriate colors, resulting in a satisfying picture.

As children of our Heavenly Father, our prayer life often resembles a child’s coloring. At first, we don’t know what to pray for nor do our prayers stay within the guidelines of His will. As we mature and continue praying, though, we pray for the right things and stay within His will, resulting in a satisfying prayer life. With consistency and bold persistence, we learn to develop a healthy vibrant prayer life.

Written By: Keith Haney

I am Keith Haney, Husband for 25 years, Father, blogger, hopefully soon a published author and Mission catalyst. All the while serving an Awesome God. You can find me on the web here https://revheadpin.org/

To the Independent Man: You Are Not Christ

I’ve been human long enough to notice that if there’s one characteristic we have that usually creeps in unnoticed, that would be 

independence

 

Nothing’s wrong with the word, really. In a competitive society you’ve always been encouraged to strive, compete, excel, and work, else you’d fall behind the billions who’ve been trying to make through life longer than you’ve been. And that’s true. You don’t sit around waiting for the fish to flip from the water and land on your lap. That does not happen in real life (unless you’re going boating on a river teeming with ADHD fish waiting to be fired up).

Many too often we find ourselves forgetting the essence of the good news we have received about God’s kingdom (we are saved by grace). Even Paul was perplexed with the Galatians who seemed to have forgotten how they were saved, going back to the law to “add justification” through works – and it had only been less than a century since Jesus Christ’s ascension! It’s human nature, isn’t it?

No matter the situation, we are constantly driven by our proud nature to do something about something, make it work, etc. We take things into our own hands. Perhaps you get back at that guy who cut in line. Maybe you do the whole job yourself when your team doesn’t do anything. Maybe you jump on a job offer without waiting for consultation because it might be too late because it’s a crazy world out there. Or, maybe, when you get (or don’t get) caught in sin, you try to patch things up yourself.

But of course, you won’t admit it. You most likely won’t even notice it.

My head says I was saved by grace – by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross – but after deep thought I realized I don’t really practice what I say I knew. When I do a good deed, I feel more saved than I’ve been before. I feel closer to heaven the more I engage in service than when I haven’t. When I fail in the good deeds department or fall into sin, I don’t feel forgiven until I’ve done a greater good – more time in service, extended Bible studies, etc. And when the guilt makes it harder to believe God would not get tired of my apologies, I drift into a stagnant phase – not doing anything about it at all. Have you ever felt the same way?

Self-dependent reader, do not mistake joy in bearing fruits with salvation.

Peter, who was so sure he loved Jesus there was no way he’d deny Him, denied Jesus three times just as predicted! After Christ’s death, he went back to fishing, disheartened and discouraged at his denial and of the death of his Lord. This is normal; you’d probably run into this point a few times in your life. And that is fine. Just because you’re a Christian does not mean you would no longer disappoint God. This is no excuse to cling on to sin, however. In fact, this truth should motor us towards Jesus – in humility. For what are we but believers in our earth suits?

After Christ’s resurrection, He went to the disciples who were fishing all night and when John told Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped (threw himself) into the water. (John 21:7)

Imagine having denied your Lord and Friend three times after you swore you wouldn’t and He shows up in front of you, smiling – resurrected. Every time I read this portion of the passage I start tearing up, thinking how Peter must’ve felt when his Lord comes back after he denies their relationship. How he must have been so excited to fall to Christ’s feet. How he must have felt a little miserable inside, wondering what could happen next.

Peter was a leader, having leader-tendencies – leading, initiating, working with his hands, etc. But there really are things you could not do on your own. Peter’s own grace (or efforts) could not vindicate himself. Neither do yours.

You are not Christ. You could follow the thousands of religious rituals known to mankind and still be lost. Just because you feel better after doing something good does not mean you are forgiven through it. Grace is not earned. Why act like it is? Again, it goes unnoticed most of the time. After all, are not good deeds, well, good?

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:3

“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Galatians 3:5

This strikes me hard and deep because my subconscious gets confused sometimes. Of course I knew good deeds are and should only be consequences of my faith and that’s what I tell people when I share the gospel. But the selfish in me still thinks there’s no such thing as free lunch; hence, it gets a little restless when not driven by effort.

“You mean, we can’t work for grace and mercy? Isn’t it too much to receive? What do we do?”

Isn’t that why we call it grace and mercy? Because no matter how much we try, our efforts could not afford the value of His Grace.But the good thing is this: the God we serve – the Great I AM – is good. He is full of grace and mercy – generous to those who seek His face.

Good deeds, fruits, are good, yes. But remember, independent reader, that they do not cause our righteousness. They are merely responses to it. The quantity of works does not add up to nor take away God’s love or your righteousness. One does not bear fruits apart from Christ.

It is a difficult battle with your sinful nature. It is tempting to think you had a share in this blessed life. It is tempting to think you are favored because you did good or because you spent more time serving or reading the Bible. But remember, independent reader, that there is nothing much better than depending on the Lord. His favors are at His disposal. His gift of salvation is not earned, and our efforts – big or small – could not discount its greatness.

Look to Him, my friend. Yes, look at Jesus. You are only a branch living off the living vine. You are not Christ.

 

Written By: Katherine CodasAine. Hand grasped by the Great I AM, she basks in love and mercy, and grace over grace.

On the trivial side, Aine has a recent weird attachment to green tea, and grainy films. Currently a freelance editor, she also writes regularly at Muted Rhapsodies.

My Season of Loneliness and Isolation

Loneliness is rampant in today’s culture. It’s an epidemic in every part of the world. Everyone has experienced this unpleasant feeling at one time or another. Remember that time on the playground when all the kids were playing and you were sitting on the sidewalk, wanting to join in but was either too shy to approach them or they never made an effort to approach you and invite you to play with them? Or maybe you felt left out in high school because nobody saw you approachable enough because you were labeled awkward, weird, or different from the rest like I was. I was a socially anxious teenager growing up. I couldn’t relate well to most people or keep a conversation going. I grew up in a very sheltered, protective environment which made it difficult for me to connect with others and engage in social activities. As a result, I tried to keep myself under radar as best I could to avoid judgment and ridicule from people, but to my dismay and chagrin, they found out since I didn’t do a stellar job apparently. My senior year, I suppressed my desire for connection and found solace in watching anime, reading books, and playing video games instead. In college, I met some wonderful people who helped me realize the depths of God’s love and saving grace that drew me to Him, but when I was strongly encouraged to join community/church, I declined and went solo in my Christian journey.

I identified myself as a “lone ranger” simply because I felt like I couldn’t be a part of community. I knew the essence community had on believers, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed of my setbacks and worried about the perception of others. There were a few times I actually went, but my anxiety was so overwhelming each time I stopped going. I was still living in the past, succumbed by fear of ridicule, judgment, and rejection back in high school. Isolation felt more comfortable and familiar. However, it isn’t. Studies have indicated that loneliness and isolation attributes to depression, suicide, and a range of physical health issues. Not only that, but isolation makes us more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." The enemy is a coward. He plays dirty and usually targets those who have isolated themselves because they’re weak and defenseless without fellowship. He knows he’s not powerful enough to go after those who are united in fellowship because, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”-Ecclesiastes 4:12. That’s why it’s so important to be rooted in the Body of Christ. And the only way to do that is to surround ourselves with like-minded Christians.

When I was still solo in my Christian walk, not only did I believe I couldn’t belong to community, I also believed this ridiculous lie that I would be fine as long as I read my Bible and prayed. It’s not enough to just read the Bible and pray. They’re both essential, but that’s never an excuse to neglect meeting with our fellow brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 10:24-25) Those who do are in danger of slipping into apostasy. Isolated Christians only care for themselves and pursue their own interests. (Proverbs 18:1) As believers, we play an integral role in exercising our spiritual gifts, fostering growth and development, keeping each other accountable, praying for one another, teaching and edifying all for the sake of building up the church and glorifying God. (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 3:8-11, Ephesians 4:12, Acts 2:44-47, James 5:16, Matthew 18:19-20) For two and a half years, I stumbled blindly into the murky waters of sin which pulled me deeper into apathy, idleness, poor self-control, anger, bitterness, self-pity, a decreased appetite for God’s Word, more selfishness and loneliness that kept getting worse.. If you’re currently there, run, get out of there before it’s too late! There is nothing more terrifying than drowning out the voice of the Holy Spirit with your fleshly desires.

If you’re suffering from loneliness, guess what? You’re not alone! Many people have gone through and are going through it from various contributors such as disease, death of a loved one, divorce from a spouse, a recent breakup, betrayal from a friend, relocation, neglect from childhood, etc. But the main contributor is our fallen state: Separation from God. So often, we try to fill that void by putting so much stock in our relationships with people. If only I had a lot of friends, I’d be satisfied. If I was married, I’d be complete. If I could just get this person to notice me, I would feel important. But in the end, we feel just as empty as we started out. We crave after the things that won’t bring us full satisfaction. Because they were never meant to in the first place.

Society has done a great job in forming idols out of relationships. We feel we have little to no value if we’re single, have just a few friends, or don’t have any right now. We strive persistently for validation, intimacy, and affection only to be met with disappointment, hurt, bitterness, and regret. Sometimes, we feel as if God wants us to be lonely and miserable, like He’s holding out on us. On the contrary, He doesn’t. He understands completely for He said in Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And that’s before the fall! I think part of us longs for affection from people instead of God because of the shame and guilt that has passed down to us and plagued us as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We can’t fathom God’s love towards us so in a sense we distance ourselves from Him. But God’s love for us doesn’t change; never has or will ever change. “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore, I have drawn you with everlasting kindness."-Jeremiah 31:3

Friend, if only you realized the depths of God’s love for you, the painful sacrifice He suffered on the cross, you wouldn’t need to strive or beg for validation from anyone. Your value doesn’t come from the opinions of people. Your worth is not defined by how many likes, followers, and comments you have on social media. Or whether you’re popular, single, married, have children, etc. If you truly want to know where your value comes from, look at the cross Jesus died on for you. He willingly gave Himself up as a price to rescue you and provide access for you to have a rich, personal, deep, satisfying, and intimate relationship with Him. How it grieves our Heavenly Father when we treat the sacrifice He made through His son as if it meant absolutely nothing to us every time we pursue idols. Yet He still continues to lavish His wonderful love, mercy, and grace on us despite. Isn’t God enough for you?

Unfortunately, it’s human nature to go after things we can see and God understands this. But, we must be careful with what we long for most in our hearts. Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us that He is a jealous God, consumed with wanting to be first and foremost in our hearts, and He will not partake in or share His glory with another. He is either our all or nothing. Throughout Scripture, you’ll meet plenty of characters who knew the struggles of being human and their issues with loneliness. Some of the prominent ones are Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, David, Paul, and even Jesus Himself experienced it. But what is the one thing each of them had in common despite their difficulties and hardships? Their wholehearted devotion to God. Study these guys if you haven’t and see what you can learn from them.

Something that is really helpful in dealing with loneliness is investing your time to serve others. Serving people has great benefits. It opens doors to sharing Christ with non believers,(which should be our ultimate goal), it shifts your focus off of yourself and your problems which is a fantastic remedy for self-pity and depression, it helps you identify your spiritual gifts and where you’re most useful in developing them, and it enables you to cultivate potential long lasting friendships.

Regarding friendships, if you want to make friends, you must learn what it means to be a friend. Being a friend is more than texting a Bible verse or writing an encouraging email/letter when they’re down and it’s more than having and sharing common interests with each other. What if the whole purpose of having relationships with others was to live beyond yourself instead of living for yourself? “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13. Jesus is the best definition of a friend. He taught that true friendship is all about sacrificial love for one another. A true friend is someone who loves without gain, is loyal when times are extremely tough, loves you even when you’re at your worst, allows you complete freedom to be yourself and express your feelings and thoughts with them, rebukes you when necessary, and is consistently willing to put your happiness above theirs. It takes time to build friendships and effort to maintain them. Be patient and rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

If you feel like you’re in a perpetual season of loneliness, trust me when I tell you that it’s only temporary. Loneliness is a feeling, and like all feelings they come and go like the fleeting winds. They should never dictate what you know intellectually is true from God’s Word. I know circumstances can make it very difficult to believe, but that shouldn’t stop you from living a life of obedience and commitment to God. There was an Irish missionary named Amy Carmichael. Amy was called by the Lord to South India where she started an orphanage for underprivileged children and rescued young women and girls from prostitution. She served there for 55 years witnessing God’s love to them. Amy lived a life of celibacy and suffered from great pangs of loneliness and desperation, but she accepted that as a cost of obedience for her life. I think for some people, loneliness is a lifetime cross to bear, but to a degree it’s part of the suffering promised to all who follow Jesus on Earth. Regardless of the cost, Amy exemplified such a tremendous love for the Lord and displayed incredible humility and dedication to serve Him that all of us should strive to emulate.

In the midst of loneliness, may we realize that it’s a season filled with an opportunity to grow closer to our Lord and Savior. May we not be deceived by our human emotions and desires as well as the lies of the enemy telling us that God isn’t enough to bring us full satisfaction. May we place our trust in what God says in His Word. If we did this, just think of the many people that would come to know Jesus through our willingness and obedience, not based on how we “feel”, but what we “know.” When we fail, may we rest in the fact that God will always be with us towards the very end. (Matthew 28:20)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."-Romans 8:38-39

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."-Ephesians 3:14-19

Written By: Jennifer Burgin

Jennifer is a twenty something year old imperfect sinner who constantly needs Jesus every minute and hour of the day. She graduated from a community college in General Studies and is considering Social Work at a university in the fall or spring. Her hobbies are watching anime, reading manga and good books, playing basketball, dancing, exercising to K-pop music(or rather any music that has a good beat), finding and listening to good, solid, biblical sermons, discovering new interests, and occasionally stumbling upon a good website or blog to read now and then. You can find her blogging through the Bible at http://myveryownsimpleblog.blogspot.in