Saturday, April 30, 2011

Memory Verse #9

Ephesians 3:18-19

"And may you have the power to understand as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

My new memory verse!  I thought this verse fit in very well with my study on the Armor of God because according to these verses, we need to experience Christ's love for us in order to be made complete in the fullness of life and the power that comes from God.  Over the last few weeks, I have been experiencing a new awakening of Christ's love for me and I have experienced a change in my prayer life as a result.  I do not believe this fresh pouring of God's love has come by chance, I believe it is because I prayed it into my life.  I was noticing that I had allowed all the distractions in my life to bog down my spiritual walk and I prayed that I would have a renewed passion.  God didn't just answer my prayer to renew my passion, He woke me up!

If you do not or have never experienced an overwhelming sense of God's love for you, ask God to reveal His love to you in a new way.  Pray for an understanding of how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is for you.  Pray these verses into your lives; praying scripture is so powerful!  "Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Be Still

Exodus 14

God wants us to know and understand that through Him we can be strong.  In fact, there are times that God has us fight the battle with Him, and there are times when God fights the battle for us.  When we read through the history of the Israelites, we see that God often had very untraditional battle plans and I think that God still moves His hand in untraditional ways.  When you think about it, if He used traditional methods, we would just think that we took care of things on our own; however, His unusual methods make us look on in amazement and realize that it could have only been God.  Today, I am looking at the Israelites final break from the Egyptians; please turn to Exodus 14.

Has God ever brought you to a place where you know that you were following His lead, but things still were not coming together completely?  That is never an easy place to be and sometimes it can be terribly stressful.  The Israelites were in a position where they had no doubt that God led them out of Egypt because they were following the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire through the wilderness.  Even after all that God had done, they still found themselves thinking that perhaps God had brought them this far only to let them be defeated.  I have been there - I may not have voiced it in the same way, but my attitude has been very similar.  I have found myself thinking, "I know without a doubt that God led me here, so why am I having to deal with this?"  Perhaps it is at those very moments when we feel that way that we should instead be asking how God is going to part the sea.

When we know that there is no way we can fight the battle on our own, we need to be turning to God and asking for divine intervention.  Never think that God has led you this far only to let you fail.  Please look at what Moses says to the Israelites in verses 13-14.  Stand firm and be still.  Moses told the Israelites that God was going to bring deliverance to them.  "The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again."  Wow!  Standing firm isn't just believing in God's unfailing love; it is also trusting in His unfailing love.  We can be still in our faith in Him.  Please look up Psalm 46:9-11.  Be still and know that He is God.  There is no enemy greater than Him.

Are you standing firm in your trust and faith in God?  Can you be still?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Strength Through Love

1 Peter 5:8-9

This week, I am starting to study the Armor of God and focusing specifically on a few words that caught my attention:  be strong and stand firm.  The last few days I looked at how our strength comes from God and that we become strong when we believe God.  The command to be strong isn't the first time we read it in the Bible and I looked at when God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous.  Today, I want to look at the phrase, "stand firm," because I feel it is a key phrase.  Please look up 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Do you notice any similarities to Ephesians 6:10-18?  Once again the phrases, "be strong," and "stand firm," are in these verses.  When I hear the words, "stand firm," I picture someone who has firmly planted their feet spread apart on the ground.  I picture the defensive line on a football team getting ready for the football to snap so they can make their move.  They have to be firmly planted where they are in order to utilize all their strength.  Ephesians 3:14-17 gives another picture of being planted, please read it.  We are told in these verses that our strength comes from God; however, we are also given a wonderful picture of not just planting our feet, but growing deep roots.  Our roots should be growing down in God's love.

Do you believe and understand how much God loves you?  I know that we cannot fully comprehend, but we can at least get an idea of His amazing love.  Please look at Ephesians 3:18-19.  Until you begin to experience God's love for you, you have untapped power.  Our strength and power through God is unleashed when we begin to grow roots down into His love and begin to experience and believe His love.  If you have not had a fresh awakening of God's love for you, pray Ephesians 3:14-19 over your life.  God wants you to experience His love for you; after all, He sent Christ to earth out of His extravagant love for us all!

Do you believe God's love for you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Strong Through Belief

Joshua 1

I have been reading the book, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard, where he writes about confirming what we believe God is telling us with the Bible.  We ask if what we believe God is telling us matches up with what the Bible says.  Dallas Willard also writes that God may use another person to confirm what He has already told us by having that person tell it to us as well.  I want to continue looking at Joshua, a warrior that God established to lead His people into the Promised Land.  Yesterday, I looked at how Joshua was told by God to be "strong and courageous," as God gave him instructions on how to lead the Israelites.  Please read Joshua 1.

"Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power,"  Ephesians 6:10.  We are told that God wants us to be strong as well; however, our strength does not come from ourselves; it comes from God.  God is the source of all good things including strength.  Yesterday, I looked at how meditating and learning scripture was one way that we became strong in God; in a sense it is a spiritual weight lifting.  Today I want to consider how believing God is with us and believing what He says can make us strong.  Consider how in the first half of Joshua 1, God is speaking with Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous three times.  Notice the last sentence that some of the tribes spoke to Joshua in verse 18.  The Israelites told Joshua to be strong and courageous!

God obviously knew that Joshua would need the encouragement to be strong because He spoke it again to Joshua through the Israelites.  I wonder what Joshua must have been thinking after hearing God tell him to be strong three times and then he heard the Israelites tell him the same message.  I don't know about you, but I have definitely had times where God needed to hit me over the head with what He was telling me.  The reasons for that could vary from me being a little slow on the take or to me having difficulty believing and accepting what He is telling me.  I do think my weaknesses are more pronounced when I am struggling to believe what God is telling me.  It is the moment that I choose to believe and accept what God is saying that I become stronger in my difficulties.  God will often use many methods to get His message to me - He will speak to my heart, He will use the Bible, and He will often speak the message to me through friends.  I will say this:  when God repeats the message to you and even uses a couple different sources, it would be wise to listen because God wants you to hear the message!  When we listen and believe, we become strong.

Has God been telling you something lately?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 1:1-9

When there is a change in personnel at work, things can get awkward.  Perhaps you were in a situation where your direct supervisor left, and you were then put in charge.  This could be daunting, especially if you felt like your boss was doing a great job and no one could possibly fill their shoes.  Whatever the reason, your supervisor's boss felt that you would be able to step in and do the job but it still can be intimidating to be in that position.  Joshua found himself in a very similar situation.  Moses had been leading the Israelites out of Egypt and in the desert for 40 years.  He had a close and personal relationship with God and was a strong, yet humble leader.  Moses died and God told Joshua that he would now be leading the Israelites.  Please read Joshua 1:1-9.

As I am looking at the Armor of God, the first verse in that section is Ephesians 6:10 which says, "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."  The words "be strong and courageous" are mentioned three times within a few verses in Joshua 1:1-9 when God was giving leadership instructions to Joshua.  Joshua was given a huge task - to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, where they were going to have to win some victories.  God promised them the land; however, He knew that Joshua was going to need encouragement because the battles were going to seem overwhelming at times.  I also noticed that God gave Joshua some clear instructions on how he was to live and lead God's people.

God explained to Joshua that he was to follow the law and instructions that Moses left him and to not deviate from them even just a little.  God promised Joshua that his success would come from his knowledge of the Law and obedience; Joshua was to meditate on the law day and night so he could be sure to walk in full obedience.  I have been on a journey this year to make scripture memorization a priority in my faith walk and I have already seen the difference it has made for me.  I think it is safe to say that God has used every single verse I have memorized to make changes in my life both big and small.  Having the Word of God in my heart is changing my heart.  I have even found that taking the time to meditate on those verses has made them more a part of who I am.  I am recognizing more of God's strength in me because of his Word doing its marvelous work in me.  Knowing and meditating on scripture is how we stay strong; it is our spiritual weight lifting.  We will not understand God's power unless we meditate on the scriptures He gave to us.

Are you reading the Bible everyday?  Would you be willing to start memorizing scripture as part of your spiritual fitness plan?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-18

As I was finishing up studying about fasting and looking at Christ's last week before He died, I was finding some similar themes in both my studying and in my day to day life.  When I started taking a look at the recurring themes, I felt like it was time to study the Armor of God.  When we come to a place that we realize that our only road to salvation is through Jesus and we begin to follow Him, we find ourselves facing opposition.  It is because of this opposition we face that we need to be ready and God does provide instructions on how He wants to prepare us.  Paul wrote to all believers the importance of putting on our spiritual armor so that we will be ready.  Please look up Ephesians 6:10-18.

An event that is currently upsetting the Near East is the political shake-up that is happening in Libya.  Many of Libya's citizens are not happy with their current government.  After some demonstrations, a rebellion has started that the rest of the world is watching.  It is too soon at this point to be able to predict an outcome; however, it has been interesting to listen to the change that is being reported on the news.  When the war first started, the reporters noted that the rebellion army would retreat when they were fired at by the government run army.  Reporters have recently been noticing a change in the way the rebellion army is reacting; they are standing their ground and fighting back.  One of my memory verses for this year is 1 Corinthians 15:58 which says, "Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  Stand firm.  That two word phrase is a powerful phrase that I have come across in my study lately and when we are facing strong opposition it is not easy to stand firm.

This week, I want to look at examples of when God has commanded His believers to stand firm and the encouragement we can receive through those examples.  God has not thrown us in a battle by ourselves; God is with us.  Ephesians 6:10 says, "...Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."  It is not our own power that we rely on, it is God's.  But, it is also important to remember that we first need to trust God and stand firm.

Are you ready to stand firm?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Victory!

Luke 24:1-4

Praise God we have a Savior who willingly went to the cross so that we could live.  We have a Savior, who even as He neared His last breath, continued to love the people He was in contact with.  We have a Savior who suffered at the hands of humans - the very reason He came to earth.  We have a Savior who loves.  We have a Savior who conquered death and has the victory eternal!  This not just a physical death that He conquered, Christ's resurrection has victory over any death - including emotional and spiritual.  We celebrate not only His love He poured out on all of us the day He died; we celebrate the amazing power and victory He has over death!  Please turn to Luke 24:1-4.

"Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?  He isn't here! He is risen from the dead!" Luke 24:5b-6a.  I grew up in church, so I have heard this story countless times growing up in Sunday School, in church, and in musicals/dramas.  Yet this story still continues to make my heart leap at the amazing victory Christ has over death.  Please look up what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.  The victory Christ has over death has also been given to us!  Ephesians 2:4-5 (NLT) says, "But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's grace that you have been saved)."  We have all sinned and were dying a spiritual death, but God made a way to conquer that death and give us new life.  To obtain God's grace, we believe.  John 3:16-17 says, "For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him."  If this message is new to you and you want the life and victory that is promised to you, please look to the right side of this page and scroll down until you see the heading "Want to know more about God's love for you?"  There is a prayer you can pray and if you click "yes" it will take you to a sight that will help you find a church near you.

God loves you so much that He made a way for you to live.  As we believe in Him, He changes our hearts and gives us new desires that honor Him.  As our faith grows, we see ourselves living out our faith and reaching out to others.  We live in a hurting and dying world and God wants us to be His light and share His victory with others.  Be encouraged in the victory you have; 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sacrifice

John 19

Imagine a man who wanted nothing but to love on each and every person and had never committed a sin.  Imagine him spending His last hours with His closest friends and then praying for Himself, His friends, and everyone who was going to believe.  Imagine Him being betrayed by one who was close to Him and being led to a trial that was nothing but a lie.  Imagine the Jewish leaders involving the secular rulers because they didn't have the authority to kill Him themselves.  At any point in this scenario, Christ could have given it all up and demand that they all free Him.  He didn't.  Even though none of what was happening to Him was fair, He chose to go through it all because of His amazing love for all of us.  Please turn to John 19.

Pilate knew that there was nothing that Jesus was guilty of other than to ruffle the feathers of the religious leaders; however, he was also afraid of the crowd.  His fear of the crowd overruled his ability to administer true justice; however, this was all part of God's plan.  Jesus told Pilate in verse 11, "...You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above."  In order to give us a chance to have eternal life, Christ allowed Himself to be crucified.  Here is what Christ said about those who believe in John 10:28-30, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”  


You are a part of that plan; Christ loves you.  Jesus was perfect - without sin, yet He paid the punishment for all our sins.  His sacrifice is the ultimate gift of love expressed to each of us.  He did not die because He wanted to make a point; He died so you and I wouldn't have to suffer an eternal death.  There is so much more to the story of His amazing love and victory and I am going to write one more post for the week to tell the rest.  I hope you join me tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Extravagant Love

Luke 22:14-46

In America, the senior prom is a rite of passage for many teenagers.  It symbolizes that they are about to leave school and move into adulthood.  The prom is a formal dinner and dance where boys dress up in tuxedos and girls wear formal gowns.  For the girls, much preparation goes into this night.  The teenage girl may spend hours at a salon getting her nails and hair done and then more time at home getting her make-up perfect.  The boys make preparations for their dates by renting a limo and buying flowers or corsages.  Most of the girls await this evening with growing anticipation and have the perfect evening already mapped out in their minds.  Jesus awaits time with us with anticipation as well.  Today I am reading about the Passover meal that is often called, "The Last Supper," and once again examine Christ's unending love for us.  Please look up Luke 22:14-46.

I think that the time that Jesus spends with His disciples during the Passover meal is beautiful.  Look at verse 15, "Jesus said, 'I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.'"  Jesus was eager to be with them one last time before He would be arrested.  Do you believe that Jesus still is eager to spend time with you?  When you read all of Luke, you see a story where God is yearning for us to have a right relationship with Him.  Jesus is the epitome of God's love spoken to us.  Once again in verses 31-32 we see where Jesus was praying for Peter (Simon) that he would repent after denying Christ and would strengthen the disciples.  Christ loved them enough to pray for them; to read more of this meal and time Jesus spent in prayer, please read John chapters 13-17.  Jesus prayed for us as well.  Please turn to John 17:20-25 and see how Christ prayed for you and me.  Meditate on the fact that Christ prayed for you thousands of years before you were born.

There is one last thing I want to look at before finishing this post.  John 17:23 says, "...May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and you love them as much as you love me."  Do you realize that God loves you that much?  God loves you so much that He sacrificed His beloved Son, Jesus, so that you can live.  This isn't just theology, this is life!

How do you feel knowing that Christ was praying for you so long ago?  Do you believe that God loves you desperately?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Betrayal

Luke 22:1-13

I love God!  I love that He sent Jesus down to earth as an expression and outpouring of His love.  I love that Jesus, when facing death, continued to reach out to those who would listen to Him.  The verses I am looking at for the next few days tells the incredible story of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection so we could have a relationship with God.  I just ask that as you read through this section of scripture that you pray that God would give you fresh insight into His love for you.  I don't know how many services you may be attending during this week, but don't let the routine and busyness destroy your knowledge of the immeasurable gift you have been given.  If you do not know Christ, I ask that you read and think on the incredible love story of a God who came to earth to draw people to Him.  He doesn't want to control you, He loves you.  Please read Luke 22:1-13.

On Monday, I looked at how Jesus angered the religious leaders and they began to think about how they could have Him murdered.  Today, verses 1 and 2 reiterate the fact that they want Jesus killed but they were afraid of how the people would react.  They found an ally with Judas, on of Jesus' 12 disciples.  Judas was about to commit a betrayal that will be talked about until the end of this world.  I have been betrayed by a friend; however, I do not think that it was a planned betrayal.  I think that my friend was reacting in the moment and wasn't thinking about the consequences.  Judas was planning out his betrayal, and looking for the right opportunity.  Please notice the timing of this; it is the beginning of Passover.  Passover is when the Jewish people celebrate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the angel of death passed over them.  The disciples where making preparations to celebrate Passover, and Judas was planning a to deliver Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders.

Jesus knew all this was taking place; however, He continued on with His plans to celebrate the Passover meal with His closest friends.  Jesus knew that He would be betrayed in a matter of hours, yet He desired to be with the disciples during this time.  Jesus longed to pour His love out to others during His last hours and He longs to pour His love out on you right now.  Don't miss this opportunity to reflect on the amazing love God has for us!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Expectations

Luke 20:1-19

Have you ever had to do something and known that it would not turn out good for you?  This may have been something that you had no choice over or you just knew that was the right thing to do, but you were also going to suffer the consequences of your actions.  Jesus knew that when He went into Jerusalem that he would soon suffer; however, His love for us was so overwhelming that He went on and taught in the Temple.  In order to set the stage for today, yesterday I looked at how the Pharisees were beginning to plot how to murder Jesus because they were upset with what He was teaching.  Please look up Luke 20:1-19.

The Pharisees were testing Jesus by asking where He received His authority to teach the things He was teaching.  Seeing where their hearts were, Jesus didn't answer their question but told a parable instead.  In the parable, Jesus told of a farmer who rented out his field to other farmers and sent servants to collect what was due.  Three times in a row, the renters beat up the servants.  The land owner finally sent his "cherished" son to collect what was due.  The renters saw him and killed him.  Jesus then explained that the renters' punishment would be death and the land owner would rent to new tenants.  In this parable, God is the land owner, Jesus is the son, and the Pharisees were the renters.  God sent His son to bring life and He was rejected by the religious leaders and murdered.  God now offers His plan of salvation for anyone who will listen and obey.

Jesus wasn't the savior that everyone was expecting.  He caused some to stumble when He didn't appear the way some thought He should appear.  We all have an opportunity to believe in the beautiful gift of life that God has extended to us.  We need to believe who Jesus is.  Jesus was not a prophet or a good man; Jesus is God and our Savior.

What expectations are you stumbling on?

Monday, April 18, 2011

He Cries For Us

Luke 19:28-48

Today has been a day where I have felt God's love throughout the day.  It has been an overwhelming feeling knowing that God loves us so much that He made a plan so we could be with Him.  Ephesians 2:4-5 says, "But because of His great love for us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even though we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."  This week, I am looking at the days before Christ's sacrifice for us and because of the timing of Easter, I will plan on writing a post on Saturday as well.  I am looking at the plan of mercy and grace that God ordained for each one of us.  I would like to start at Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, which is celebrated on the Christian calendar as Palm Sunday.  Please look at Luke 19:28-48.

Jesus had an entry into Jerusalem unlike any other.  He came in riding a young donkey that had never been ridden and people greeted Him and called Him their king.  The part of the story that often doesn't get a lot of focus on Palm Sunday is verses 41-44, where Jesus cries for Jerusalem.  He cries because He knows that the religious leaders are losing their opportunity to salvation.  It just touches me to know that our loving savior loves everyone so much that He cries for those who do not listen to His call.  He reaches out to everyone on earth and calls each of us to come to Him, but not everyone listens.  Oh, how it breaks His heart!  Remember the verses in Ephesians 2:4-5 where we read about God's incredible love for us.  He doesn't want to see anyone die a spiritual death.  He loves us all.

We also see that Jesus didn't waste an opportunity to continue telling people the truth of God's love.  After Jesus cleared the Temple, we read in verse 47 that, "He taught daily in the Temple..."  This did not make the religious leaders happy, in fact, they were angered enough that they began making plans on how to kill Him.  They were at a loss because, "all the people hung on every word He said."  The story continues with their plotting for killing Jesus but Jesus was also going to continue reaching out to people.

This brings so many thoughts to my head.  Do I cry for those who do not know the amazing love our Father has for us?  Do I hang on every word that Jesus has said in the Bible?  How about you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Wineskins

Luke 5:33-37

As I am coming to the close of a five week journey into learning more about fasting, I am feeling so blessed at how God continues to be fresh every day.  I have been on a journey with God all my life, and after 40 years I feel like I have only scratched the surface in my understanding of who God is.  This study has truly been eye-opening to me not only about fasts, but also about some of the things that are important to God.  I would like to look at Luke 5:33-37 for the last day of this adventure.

Jesus is asked why His disciples never fasted but the Pharisee's and John the Baptist's disciples fasted often.  Jesus' response was very interesting and I am still trying to wrap my mind around it.  His immediate reaction makes sense to me when He talked about the fact that a bridegroom would never make his friends fast while they were together.  Jesus was pointing out that He was only here for a short time and this was not the time for fasting.  The disciples would have plenty of time to fast when He was gone.

The next section confused me a little because I wasn't sure how this came from the question of fasting.  As I did a little digging I learned that wineskins were made of goatskin.  The goatskin, when new, was pliable and able to stretch; however, the older the skin was, the more brittle it became.  New wine expands as it ages, so it would not work to put new wine in an old skin because it would burst.    When we become so set in our ways, we become like that rigid wineskin.  The message of Christ, being fresh and new, will not fit in the old wineskin.  We need to be careful not to become so set in our ways and traditions that we forget who Christ is in our lives.  We need to keep our hearts pliable so that His ways will always fit.  Since we don't have Jesus with us in human form now, fasting is a wonderful way to keep our hearts pliable.  If we ask God for deeper understanding and we spend the time with Him (which fasting has a way of pointing out the time we need with God), we will stay fresh in our faith.

Psalm 51:10 says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."  God can renew that steadfast spirit in our hearts.  Our hearts can be like new wineskins no matter how old we are. Praise God!


Thank you for joining me on this journey and next week I plan to look at some of Christ's last days before His death and resurrection.


Is your heart like new wineskin?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Seen To the Unseen

Matthew 6:16-18

A few days ago, a friend told me something that his father used to say, "Reputation is what you do when others are watching.  Character is what you do when no one is watching."  I really like that quote and it is a good reminder of whether I am doing out of character or reputation.  I remember worrying about my reputation when I was an adolescent; I was always worried about what others were thinking about me.  That caused me to act in a way that wasn't really who I was because I wanted to please other people.  The problem with that way of thinking is the fact that I had it completely mixed up.  I am to be living my life to please my Heavenly Father not humans.  Please look up Matthew 6:16-18.

Over the last five weeks, all of the examples of fasting have been very public or corporate fasts.  Today's scripture is telling us that we are to fast quietly just between ourselves and God.  Obviously there must be a balance somewhere in there.  I think that it is because there is a time for a corporate fast and a time for an individual fast.  When we feel like we need to fast to seek God or that God is leading us to fast, that is a time when it is an intimate and private time with you and God.  Another issue that Jesus was pulling out was the fact that some of the religious leaders didn't just fast, they made a big deal out of it to appear righteous; it became an issue of reputation rather than character.

God is not in the business of developing reputation; He wants to develop character.  Jesus reminds us that when we seek to improve our reputation with humans, that will be all the reward we will receive.  However, when we make our goal to seek God's heart and want to please Him, our reward will come from Him.  Jesus tells us that our Father who is unseen by us sees all that we do.  He sees when our hearts (or character) wants to grow and deepen in our knowledge and understanding of Him.  Ecclesiastes 2:26 tells us what God will do for those who please Him, "To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."  What beautiful treasures God wants to give us!  He promises wisdom, knowledge and happiness.


Are you building reputation or developing character?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Commit To the Lord

Acts 14:21-28

Yesterday, I looked at the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas and how they fasted and were prayed over by their fellow Christians.  Prayer is so important and powerful but there also needs to be a commitment of trust when following God's lead.  The story I am looking at today involves Paul and Barnabas appointing elders in the churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.  Please look up Acts 14:21-18.

Two times in this section of scripture I noticed the word, committed.  As I looked up the definition of the word, commit there was a definition that stuck out at me.  According to dictionary.com, definition 4 is, "to entrust, especially for safekeeping."  I think that is an important part of a calling; the ability to trust God for His protection and guidance.  God has been pointing out to me more and more where I am lacking trust and trying to do things on my own.  The problem is, whenever I find myself doing that, I usually am not fixing the situation; I am usually making it worse.  I need to trust God that He will always guide me in a way that is best.

Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans."  What an amazing promise!  That is one of my memory verses that I picked out for this year, and I had no idea how much it was going to mean to me later.  When I was memorizing that verse, I wasn't thinking about committing  my plans to God meant that I was entrusting them to God.  What a difference it makes to look at that verse and say, "Entrust everything you do to God and He will establish your plans."  I love it!  When we fast and pray, we need to trust God's plan that He shares with us.

Are you entrusting your plans with God?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Prepare To Be Sent

Acts 13:1-3

Shortly after my husband I moved to our current home, I felt God calling me to fast and pray for my family.  I began by fasting for my family and found myself being blessed through the experience.  It was through that fast that I began this blog.  Since we had just moved, I knew very few people and I wanted to have some friends praying for me while I was fasting.  I was reading through the book of Nehemiah during my fast, so I updated my friends back in Michigan on what God was doing in my life by writing this blog.  It became such a beautiful practice in my life that I continued to write this blog even after my fast was over.  God has done a wonderful work in my life because I have found that my Bible study has deepened as a result of writing out my thoughts each day.  I now see that God prepared me for a new journey through that fast and my friends' prayers.  Today I read about some individuals who were fasting and God sent them on a journey; please read Acts 13:1-3.

As I read these few verses, I found myself wondering what they were fasting for.  We are not told any details except that they were fasting and praising God.  Maybe they felt God leading them to fast; maybe they were fasting because of the political environment they were living in (Acts 12).  Whatever the reason may have been, God used that fast to prepare them for their calling.  I think there is something to be said when you fast and come to rely on God more that you feel more prepared when He calls you to do something you have never done before.  Either way, Paul and Barnabas didn't just take off when they were called, they were prayed over by their fellow believers first.

I have a dear friend who I know prays for me often.  I only get to see her a few times a year because of distance; however, we pray for each other's families and continue to pray for each other as we serve God.  I think fasting is a wonderful time to get connected with God on a deeper level and to help prepare us for the next steps ahead, but I also think it is important to have a covering of prayer.  There is so much power in prayer and we would be missing a vital step if we were not spending time in prayer for ourselves and our loved ones.  Life isn't easy and neither is serving God; however, when we have friends backing us in prayer we are better able to face the difficulties.

Do you pray?  Do you have a friend praying for you?  Are you praying for a friend?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Called By God

Matthew 4:1-11

Years ago, I used to think that when someone was "called by God," that meant that they were called into full time ministry or missions.  I no longer think that; in fact I believe the exact opposite.  I believe that each and every believer is called to do God's work.  Our calling is not going to be the same as our friends' calling.  God has something unique set aside for each of us; something that we are each gifted and equipped to do.  For some, that calling may mean that you are set aside for full time ministry; however, for others the calling could be to pray for others.  The possibilities are endless because we are all unique and God puts a calling on each of our lives that fits us perfectly.  This week, I want to look at examples of fasting in preparation to fulfill the calling on our lives.  Please look up Matthew 4:1-11.

I have always found this section of scripture interesting because Jesus is God, so why would He need to prepare for ministry?  Jesus was also human and had to face the same human struggles that you and I face.  He was about to begin fulfilling His calling here on earth and He wanted to prepare His heart for what He was about to do.  We can also read that He was about to enter a time of temptation.  Last week, when I looked at David, I noticed that when he fasted it seemed to set him back into the ministry that God called him into.  Jesus modeled for us that when we are about to embark on a new adventure with God, fasting can help set our hearts and minds on God so we are prepared for whatever comes our way - temptation included.

No matter where we are in our relationship with Christ, we will face opposition from the enemy.  Some of the greatest opposition we will face will be temptation.  Satan can not make us do anything when we have Christ in us; however, he can make things difficult with our weaknesses and tempt us to sin.  Paul wrote in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."  We are going to face temptations and the only way to be ready is to prepare.  Jesus prepared by fasting.  When we are abstaining from things that distract us from God or we are fasting from food we are then given the time to spend with God.  What could possibly be a better preparation for the calling on our lives than spending time with God?


What is your calling?  Do you believe that you are called by God?

Friday, April 8, 2011

God Is Big

2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Just before my husband was called into ministry we began looking for a house to buy.  I was pregnant with our third child in three years and we were living in a small duplex apartment.  We also had come to the conclusion that we were going to need a bigger vehicle because we didn't think we could successfully fit three car seats in the back seat of our car.  We found a modest home that would fit our family; however, we didn't think we could afford the house payments.  Feeling overwhelmed one day, I prayed and cried to God about how I didn't know how we were going to find a home or a larger vehicle.  As I was praying, God spoke to me and told me that before my baby was born, we would have a house and a van.  Within the next week, my husband received a call from a church that we attended when we were first married; they wanted him to apply for an associate pastor position.  He was offered the position and we were offered the church parsonage as part of his payment.  Shortly after the job offer, someone from the church called and asked us if we would like to buy their van for a price that we could afford.  It seemed impossible from my human eyes, but God gave to us what we needed before our baby was born.  God heard me that day, and He already had a plan.  I believe God enjoys amazing us!  The story I am looking at today is an amazing story of God's provision and protection; please look up 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.

As I was doing a little research on fasts, the only fast that God required in the Law was the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27).  All the instances of fasting that I have looked at this week were to seek God for help.  Today, we see how Judah was going to be attacked from several countries and Jehoshaphat called for all of Judah to fast.  He then prayed with the country an amazing prayer to God to ask for help in a situation that seemed impossible.  God told them to stand firm and to march down but they would not have to fight this battle.  That probably didn't make a lot of sense; however, the faith that all of Judah showed in verses 18 and 19 was amazing.  Their response wasn't one of doubt; it was a response of absolute praise.  Even as they prepared to march down, they continued to praise God.  While they were praising, God caused a confusion and each country battled each other and no one was left alive!

I have been struck how that hasn't been my initial response lately when God tells me things are going to be done in a way that doesn't make sense.  I know that my faith is weak at times and I want to fix things on my own in a way that seems to make sense from a human perspective.  But God doesn't want me to look at my battles with human eyes; He wants me to trust Him and watch the amazing work He wants to do.  Just as I have seen earlier in the week, we need to approach God's throne with the confidence that He wants to intervene on our behalf.  When we are fasting, we can face our circumstances with a boldness of knowing that God is so much bigger.

Do you believe God is bigger?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ask For Wisdom

Esther 5:1-7

I'm still thinking about what I was studying yesterday and how incredible it is that we have a King who cares so much that He actually asks us to give Him our worries.  He loves us so much and He is never too busy for us.  We have a King who knows us - He knows our names.  I am so overwhelmed at the idea that my perfect and holy God wants to spend time with me.  Praise God!

Yesterday, I left with Esther asking for all the Jews in Susa (along with herself and attendants) to fast for three days.  I had pointed out how when Mordecai fasted it seemed to set him straight into a plan of action and he sought after Esther.  I feel that the fast did the same for Esther.  Remember how I mentioned that she went into the fast as if she were staring at a blank page not knowing exactly how she was going to execute the plan?  I think her time spent in fasting and prayer before she was about to take a great risk was what gave her wisdom for how to approach the king.  Please turn to Esther 5:1-7.

Esther approached the throne of her heavenly King and was then prepared to approach the throne of the king of Persia.  We can see that God granted her favor with the king and he extended his scepter to her.  Her life was spared for the moment.  But I love what Esther did next; she invited the king and the enemy, Haman to a banquet.  Instead of begging for the Jews in the court, she asked the king to join her for a meal.  I believe that this was wisdom that was given to her to approach the king in such a manner.  She wanted to approach the king in a setting that was intimate rather than public.  She wasn't going to put the king on the spot in his court, she would bring him to a comfortable setting where he was more likely to listen to her.

Remember what we are told in James 1:4-6.  We know that we can ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us.

Have you sought after God's wisdom?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If I Perish

Esther 4

I have been sitting here staring at the computer screen wondering how to start writing.  I can have trouble starting out, but usually it is because there is too much in my head and I'm having trouble clearing it.  Today, it seems as if it was blank.  The funny thing is, I suddenly realized that not knowing how to start fit in with how I wanted to write more on the story found in Esther 4.  Yesterday, I looked at how Mordecai didn't know what to do at first except to fast and mourn and wail loudly.  Please look up Esther 4 and read the entire chapter.

As I was getting ready to dig into Esther 4, I got stuck on verse 2:  "But he only went as far as the king's gate because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it."  That may not sound like a verse full of epiphany; however, I was stuck because it seemed interesting that there was actually a rule that no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed in the king's gate.  It made me think that there must have been times when people who were clothed in sackcloth wanted attention from royalty and a rule was made against it.  When I mentioned it to my husband, he reminded me of the fact that the kings during this period really didn't want to hear (or see) people's problems and made it so that no one with a problem could come in.  In fact, the rule was that you couldn't see the king unless you were summoned or if the king extended the royal scepter.

Knowing that this was how the king operated, Mordecai wailed and mourned in sackcloth just outside the king's gate until he finally got Esther's attention.  Mordecai instructed Esther to go to the king with their plight and Esther explained that she could die if she did.  Mordecai reminded Esther that if she didn't, she would most definitely die.  Finally, Esther conceded and agreed to go before the king.  But she had one instruction first; all the Jews in Susa were to fast for Esther for three days while she and her attendants did the same.  Esther knew that she needed more than just chance to go before the king; she needed God.  Esther would need God to soften the heart of a selfish and self-absorbed king who really didn't want to hear the problems of other people.  And since she didn't know how she would start out on this scary venture; she fasted.

The great thing about our story is that we do have the chance to go before our king.  He isn't prideful and heartless; He wants us to come to Him with our troubles.  He listens and He cares.  In fact, He can turn our ashes into beauty and our mourning into joy, and He can replace our sackcloth into garments of praise (Isaiah 61:3).  Praise God that He cares and hears our cries!  He can give us hope when there is no hope, and He gives wisdom when we are staring at a blank page in our lives.  We all have times when we don't know what we are going to do, but God knows what He can do.  Esther went to the King of Kings to give her wisdom and strength.

Do you go to the King of Kings with your troubles?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Initial Reaction

Esther 4:1-3

Have you ever received news that was either so devastating or overwhelming you didn't know what to do?  I remember receiving the news that a friend's child had passed away in an accident.  I was so overwhelmed by this news that all I could do was cry and pray.  I couldn't sleep for nights because all I could think about was my friend mourning the loss of her sweet daughter.  Those sleepless nights were spent asking God why this had to happen and to pray for my friends to feel God's arms around them.  Today's section of scripture shows how a nation had a similar reaction to terrible news by fasting and mourning.  The story I'm looking at is in the book of Esther, and at this point in the story Haman had just plotted to have all the Jews in the Persian Empire annihilated.  Please read Esther 4:1-3 to see Mordecai's reaction along with the rest of the Jews.

We are told that the Jews were all fasting, weeping, and wailing.  In their culture the term "wailing" was not used lightly.  This was a reaction that made everyone in the area know that you were in distress.  I cannot imagine what kind of a scene this had to be in Susa and throughout the empire.  They were also fasting.  I cannot help but think that during this time of fasting that Mordecai was turning to God for wisdom on how to handle this situation along with prayers for deliverance.  I don't know if the Jews living in Susa were familiar with the book of Psalms, but Psalm 109:20-27 may have been his prayer:
 May this be the LORD’s payment to my accusers,
   to those who speak evil of me.
 But you, Sovereign LORD,
   help me for your name’s sake;
   out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
   and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow;
   I am shaken off like a locust.
My knees give way from fasting;
   my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
   when they see me, they shake their heads.
 Help me, LORD my God;
   save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand,
   that you, LORD, have done it.

Looking at more of Esther chapter 4, tomorrow I want to look at another way the Jews fasted in this situation.  What I do want to consider is that God helped give Mordecai wisdom to go to Esther to plead with her to help her fellow Jews in this situation.  Please look at how Mordecai responded to Esther's concerns and hesitation with the task of approaching the king in Esther 4:12-14.  I think when we approach God in a situation where we have no idea how to respond and seek His wisdom, we will receive wisdom.  Please look at James 1:4-6.  When we seek God, we must believe that He will guide us through our difficult situations in a way that is best for Him.  In fact, Psalm 109:27 sums it up nicely, "Let them know that it is Your hand, that You, LORD, have done it."  Let the world know that God gets all the glory!

Have you sought God for wisdom in your situation?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Heart Work

2 Samuel 12:1-22

I am now in my fourth week of studying about fasting, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface.  The first two weeks led me to look at the fact that unless our hearts are truly seeking what God desires, there is no point in fasting.  God wants us to be serving Him by serving others.  Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  Knowing that we are serving Christ puts our hearts in the right place and He enables us to do what He calls us to do.  My new memory verse is 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 which says, "It is not that we think we are qualified on our own.  Our qualification comes from God.  He has enable us to be ministers of the new covenant."  Last week, I looked at how people sometimes fast to confess their sins either corporately or individually.  Today, I want to look at how sometimes people fast when they are pleading with God.  The story I am looking at today is a bit harsh, but it does give us an example of fasting to plead with God.  Please look up 2 Samuel 12:1-22.


I would like to provide a little history of this story.  David was not keeping himself busy working for God, which allowed him to notice Bathsheba bathing.  He called her to the palace and slept with her and she became pregnant with his child.  David decided that the best way to handle the situation was to have her husband killed in battle.  2 Samuel 12 starts with the prophet Nathan confronting David.  He tells David that his son was going to die.  David's response was to fast and plead before God to stop this from happening.  Picture the king of Israel on the floor of the palace in sackcloth fasting and pleading with God.  After seven days of fasting, the baby died and David ended his fast.


We see in this situation that God had different plans than what David wanted and no matter how desperately he fasted and prayed, God was going to follow through on His plans.  God gives us the opportunity to ask and I believe He enjoys giving; however, there are times when the answer is going to be no.  We may never understand why God didn't change His mind in this case when David was so desperate and had confessed his sin and God changed His mind when He heard the city of Nineveh confess.  But I also believe that David was not praying in vain either.  I can't help but think that the fasting and praying he did set him back on the right course and was turning his attention back to the fact that he was serving God.  Finishing up chapter 12, we see that David went back to work and did his job as the King of Israel.  We may start out fasting in a way to plead with God to intervene; however, I think God does some heart work on us during the process.


Praise God that He always wants to work on our hearts!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Memory Verses

1 Corinthians 15:58

Since it is a Saturday and I usually do not post on the weekends, I just wanted to update you on the progress of my memory verses.  I am doing my memory verses as part of an online community on Beth Moore's blog, which is providing some accountability.  In this community, on the 1st and 15th of each month we pick out a new verse to work on for the next few weeks.  She does not assign a verse, we choose one that God is laying on our hearts.  I just wanted to testify what God has done in me through this exercise.

When I first embarked on this adventure, I was wondering how I would choose a verse each time.  Any time I have done scripture memorization, it has always been verses that were already chosen for me either through a Bible study or some other program.  But what I have been finding over the last three months is that God's timing is amazing and I find that I am picking out the next verse a day or two before we check in.  The last few verses have been used by God to personally speak to me in very meaningful ways.  This time I picked a verse, but then another very timely and meaningful verse came to me.  I've been struggling with my attitude over the last two days and the second verse spoke to my heart, so I wanted to share it with you just in case you've been struggling as well.  It is 1 Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  Hmm...boy did I need to hear that yesterday!


I love that we serve a God who gives us gentle reminders of whose we are.  Even though in a certain situation I was truly feeling like my work was in vain, God was reminding me it wasn't!  What a beautiful word of encouragement!  We are all there sometimes where we can feel like we're running in circles but when we are doing our work with an attitude of doing it for God we are not working in vain.  Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."  We are servants of Christ!  What an honor to be serving the King of Kings!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Confession Of the Sins of a Nation

Nehemiah 1

All this week I have studied examples of how the Israelites (and Assyrians) used fasting to confess their sin before God.  Today I want to look how Nehemiah heard some difficult news about Jerusalem and the exiles who were able to return there.  Please turn to Nehemiah 1.

Nehemiah served as the cup bearer for the king of Persia.  He asked his brother how the state of Jerusalem and the exiles were doing.  He heard that the city was in disarray and that the people were in danger because the walls were broken down.  This brought Nehemiah to a state of mourning, fasting and crying.  When he was done fasting, he prayed to God to give him the king's ear, but he did this after confessing the sins of the Israelites before him.  He reminded God of the promises he spoke about the exiles if they would turn back to Him.  Please look at Isaiah 58:12 and see what God promises when the Israelites would turn back to Him and obey and live the way God called them to live.

Praise God that He gives us promises!  Nehemiah reminded Him that He would turn them into "Repairers of Broken Walls" when they turned to Him.  Nehemiah knew that it would have to start with someone and he felt the burden to get it done.  Reading through the book of Nehemiah, we see that they did indeed rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and they also had a desire to follow the law to please God.  Before Nehemiah even asked God for this favor, he prepared by fasting.  I believe that the act of mourning and fasting helped prepare his heart to confess the sins of the nation.

Have you fasted and prayed for your country?