Friday, January 30, 2009

The Lifestyle Change

by Debby Craig

This Week’s Verse: 2 Chronicles 16:9a, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”(NIV)

Read the following statements and see if you can guess what specific change is being addressed:

--We have to live it daily or we will fall back into our old ways and habits.

--We have to practice staying focused – but we do!

--We tell all of our loved ones and friends about it, and in a way we are trying to convince them to try it.

--We don't mean to, but we offend some (probably many) with our chatter about it.

--We know it might take months or years to get where we want, but even so we are determined.

Have you guessed? Nowadays we call it our new lifestyle change, not a DIET! Maybe not all of you, but some, have either been the dieter or the dietee (the one listening to the chatter of your loved one or friend about her new “lifestyle change”).

All of the statements above, however, also sound like they could pertain to living for Christ!

There is nothing wrong with dieting and watching what we put into this body of ours. After all, 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own, you were bought with a price; therefore honor God with your body.”(NIV)

And then when that 350 calorie meal leaves me still famished and wanting more food, I remember the diet verse I found: Lamentations 3:24, “ So I say to myself, the Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait on Him!”(NIV)

Oh, that we would have the same excitement, boldness, and lack of fear when it comes to telling others about Jesus as we have when telling about discovering the “right” diet. He is the ultimate and final lifestyle change. He has the power to change the behaviors and habits in our lives that need fixin’ and He does so on a regular basis. If we are having success with our weight loss, are we giving credit to the new “lifestyle change” we discovered? Or are we giving credit to Whom it belongs?

Dear Heavenly Father, we forget you sometimes. We are so sorry for that. Forgive us, Lord. We know that you are proud of us when we are trying to do what is best for your temple (our bodies) but help us remember where we get our strength during those hard times. Put people in our path that need you and give us another chance to be helpful. We pray for the right words, Dear Lord, when it comes to telling our loved ones and friends how you can fix their bodies and self-esteem with just a whisper and a hug.

God directs all our steps and our strength comes from Him. The next time we boast about something good going on in our lives or bodies, let’s remember who has control over it and give Him the credit when someone asks “How are you doing it?”

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 8:8
, “But fortunately God doesn't grade us on our diet. We're neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can't stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.” (MSG)
Psalm 18:1, “I love you, Lord; you are my strength. (NLT)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Die Another Day

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: 2 Corinthians 4:11, "For we who are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." (NASB)

When given the choice between bowing to satan and or having your head chopped off, the answer is an easy one, isn't it? I'd be singing "Pop Goes the Weasel" before they could get the blade ready! Dying that one time for that reason is a 'no brainer'. . .no pun intended.

But what about the times when I make the wrong choice? Making the choice to live for satan in that moment. Isn't that the same thing? Every time I choose to ignore what I know in my heart God wants me to do, I make the same wrong choice.

Why is the decision to lay down my life for my God so simple, but the every day deaths I either choose to endure or choose to ignore are so hard?! Losing my patience, looking down on someone, not helping when I see a need... Ignoring these everyday situations and giving into the flesh kills off a little piece of what God wants me to be. I'm killing myself off anyway, why can't I die to my earthly wants and desires and take that step that will bring me closer to the person God intended?

Every day I choose to die another day. More than that even, every moment I choose to die to myself and what my flesh wants to do and to give God the control over my life. Lordship. Ownership. I am merely a steward for this vessel that He gave me.

Father, I pray that I come to you every time I feel the flesh start to give in. Lend me Your strength to die to my fleshly desires and take one more step toward being the person You want me to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: The next time you feel those fleshy desires, take a moment to pray and decide to offer up the control so you may glorify His name. It will bring you closer to the person who wants to be like Christ. Giving Him control makes you stronger in your walk and gives Him glory!

Power Verses:
Matthew 26:41, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." (NASB)
Romans 6:19, "You can easily recall, can't you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing--not caring about others, not caring about God--the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?" (MSG)
2 Corinthians 4:11, "Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting the best!" (MSG)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Honor Them

by Debby Craig

This Week's Verse: Ephesians 6:2, 3, “Honor your father and mother, that it will go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.” (NIV)

Since I have lost both of my parents, the Holiday season has not been the same for me. I just miss being "somebody's little girl" at Christmas time. During one of our Worship services this Christmas season, I noticed that paper about the poinsettia tree, so I wrote down my mom and dad's names, popped the $20.00 in the envelope, and dropped it in the plate, thinking to myself, “There, that's all you can do, feel better now, Debby.” But the Lord had a different idea than mine for making me “feel better.”

I walked into church that Sunday after Christmas and made my way over to the tower of poinsettias to read the memorial plaque at the base. As I read Mom and Dad's names, I instantly received this little glimpse of heaven. There was our Lord who, maybe for the first time, had called my mom and dad to His side as a couple and said, “Look there – see how she honored you today in My place for everyone to see.”

I loved that moment!! That was the best present ever. He understood my heartache. Did this instant vision come from God? Well, I must say I do have a vivid imagination when it comes to the Lord and heaven and all that, but this time I am giving the Lord all of the credit for surprising me with that little tidbit from Heaven and what followed this event.

I went home feeling different about Christmas for the first time since Dad's death but I kept remembering those words Our Lord spoke, “See how she honored you today.”

But did I honor them when they were here with me or even with my words after their death? Not always. Conviction set in and I started to ask the Lord for forgiveness. I was mad at my mom all of my adult life for something she really couldn’t help and it showed in the way I spoke of her. My words were not honorable and sweet at all.

A little over a year after Mom's death my dad re-married. His new wife was very hard to get to know. Totally opposite of my mom, I thought to myself. Our new step-mom didn't seem to care or want to get to know us at all. Our relationship with Dad was different and strained from that point on. I was angry at both of them for that and it was a "justified" anger since I had a few siblings who agreed with me. My lifelong comments about that whole ordeal were definitely not honoring to my earthly father or my Heavenly Father.

Needless to say, I felt better after asking for His forgiveness and it was so typical of Our Lord to give me that gift and then attach a life lesson at the same time. This particular lesson was a hard one, however, even though my heart usually feels so much better when He has been tugging and yanking on it. Afterwards, I pondered this thought: What would my relationship have been like with mom and dad if I had turned that anger and bitterness over to the Lord a lot sooner?

Dear Heavenly Father, Search me O God, you know my heart: See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Thank you Father for giving me back the sweet memories of my youth.

Anger and bitterness eat away at the person God created us to be. Ask Him to show you if there is a problem in the way you speak or feel about your earthly parents (or anyone for that matter). If we justify our anger or bitterness about our past we are leaving God out of our lives. Without a pure heart we cannot carry out the ministry He has planned for us in a way that honors Him.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:31
, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.” (NIV)
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”(NIV)

Friday, January 9, 2009

White as Snow

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Psalm 51:7, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (NLT)

We’ve had a few lovely snowfalls recently with big flakes gently blowing and then coming to rest. As I appreciate the beauty of each pure white flake, I always wonder if the old saying is true: Each snowflake is uniquely different and no two are the same.

That amazes me. Of all the snowflakes of all times—unfathomable numbers!—no two share the same pattern. It’s like God is saying, “I’m so infinite that I don’t have to duplicate anything. I have endless design patterns even for snowflakes—and especially for my children.”

Consider the life-cycle of a snowflake. It’s formed in heaven with just the right combination of ingredients until it takes its intended perfect shape. It leaves heaven pure and clean and comes to earth—maybe floating effortlessly and tranquilly until it lands softly, or maybe being driven by harsh winds and sleet only to be slammed into something hard. Regardless, in its new world the snowflake is only temporary. It gets soiled and dirty, a little heat changes its shape, and when its time expires it evaporates and goes back to where it originated.

Aren’t children of God a lot like snowflakes? We’re all perfectly but uniquely formed, we travel distinct journeys, and we have varied allotments of time here on earth. But the difference between us and snowflakes is that we decide how dirty and changed we allow ourselves to become in our time here before we too pass into our next phase.

The wonderful thing is that even when we’re soiled, if we melt just enough to soften our crytalized sharpness and come pliable to the throne of Jesus, He restores our purity. Once again, we are white and pure and beautiful—we’re clean and worthy of coming back home to the place we originated.

Father God, every time we see a snowflake remind us of how infinite and personal You are. Thank You for Your mercies that never cease and Your forgiveness that cleanses us each and every time we ask with humble hearts, so that we are (again!) perfect in Your sight.

Okay, Snowflake. What worldly elements have tarnished your beautiful crystalline self? Melt into the presence of Jesus and allow Him to wash you clean. Resolve to spend more time in His word—the ultimate soul cleanser. When He’s forgiven you, rejoice in your restored, unique and pure white beauty so you can shine for Him.

Power Verses:
Job 37:6, “He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.” (NLT)
Isaiah 55:10, “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.” (NLT)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Increase My Faith

by Missy Milbourn

This Week's Verse: Habakkuk 2:4, “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked; but the righteous will live by their faith.”

Increase my faith, Father. I want the faith of Habakkuk who even in having the knowledge of the impending destruction that his people were going to face, he was able to say, “You know what Lord? Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as sure footed as a deer, and bring me safely over the mountains.”

That kind of faith doesn’t come from just knowing about God. That kind of faith comes from knowing God, knowing His character, knowing His nature, knowing that God is love. Having a relationship with Him where you speak one on one. I believe the reason why Habakkuk could have that kind of faith was because he knew and trusted his heavenly Father. He knew that in all of the “destruction” that ultimately what God was doing was calling his people back, turning their hearts back to Him, saving them.

I believe that’s what we see Habakkuk recalling in chapter 3:8 when he says “Was it in anger, Lord, that you struck the rivers and parted the sea? Were you displeased with them? NO, you were sending your chariots of salvation.”

I don’t know what kind of “destruction” you’re currently living through, but I know that there’s a God who loves you. I know that there’s a God who is calling you into a deeper relationship with Himself. And I believe with all my heart, that as you trust in Him, as you surrender to Him, that He, as Habakkuk said, “will make you a sure footed as a deer, and bring you safely over the mountains.”

Father, help me to believe in you and to trust in you even when times get tough. Even when the “real life” picture isn’t how I might want it, help me to trust you to bring me safely over the mountain.

As we start a new year, now is a perfect time to commit to meeting with God daily, to get to know Him better, so that you too can know his character, know his nature, and know his love. One simple way to do that is by signing up for Tim Wood’s Daily Bible Reading. He will lead you on a guided journey through God’s word by sending you, via e-mail, daily Bible readings with commentaries. You can sign up for that by sending Tim an e-mail at

Power Verses:
Romans 1:17, “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “it is through faith that a righteous person has life.”(NLT)
Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”(NIV)
John 14:6, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (NLT)