Friday, February 27, 2009

Caution: Slow Fade

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: James 1:15, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (NIV)

There are times when I wish that my highway of life was marked by God with big, bold road signs that provided clear direction. Stop! There's nothing good down that road. No Exit; if you enter here, you'll never get out. Merge; this is a movement I'm orchestrating and you need to be a part of it. Go! My Power will be fueling you and there's nothing to fear! Yield, someone else needs to go before you, Kath.

If God did use big, bright roadsigns (and He does sometimes, I think), I wonder how many times a day I would see a caution sign. Caution: this seems harmless but it could lead you little by little, further and further away from Me and all that I have for you.

And if I did see caution signs, I wonder how many times I would disregard them. As I cruise up to the intersection of a choice (which way do I turn?), would I heed the caution sign and intentionally choose the best road? Or would I think, "Hey, caution noted, but I can handle this. It's nothing, really."

It's at that crossroads where a slow fade might begin if the caution sign is ignored.

Casting Crowns' song "Slow Fade" has been getting a lot of air play lately and it was also on the soundtrack for the movie Fireproof. The video (below) focuses on unfaithfulness to a spouse, but when I think of myself as a part of the bride of Christ, it's easy to see parallels with my own unfaithfulness to my Bridegroom.

"Be careful little eyes what you see." But I really love seeing who bombed and who shined on the red carpet and I can't help it if most of the celebrities aren't dressing with modesty in mind.

"Be careful little lips what you say." But I was FURIOUS when I let that little curse word slip out and I didn't even realize I was doing it. And when I snap or speak harshly to my family it's because I'm so tired. And that dishonorable piece of gossip? It was a prayer request, really.

See how a slow fade begins with one teeny-tiny choice? Caution signs should be popping up everywhere. I mean, when we think about our aspirations, how many of us say, "I want to be an impatient, grumpy mom and really perfect the art of nagging my husband." Or "Man, sign me up to be liar--that's where it's at!"

None of us, of course. But that slow fade--those little tiny moment-by-moment choices--can send us speeding in a wrong direction before we know it. Heed the caution signs; avoid the traps. With God's help, we can even approach the bright red stop sign smiling because we know His Power will help us bring that slow fade to a screeching halt if we ask Him.

Father, help us to not only recognize the caution signs you place in our lives, but to obey them. Thank You for the various ways You direct us and for Your leading of the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth. Increase our discernment and soften our hearts to obey so that we won't slow fade into so much less than You want us to be.

Application: Watch the "Slow Fade" video by Casting Crowns. Although it focuses on unfaithfulness in a marriage, identify areas of your life where "a price will be paid when you give yourself away..." Repent, giving those areas up to God and asking His mighty power in your life to stay faithful to Him in every little choice. Ask for help recognizing and heeding the caution signs He shows you.

Power Verses:
Romans 6:16, "Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living." (NLT)
Romans 8:6, "So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace."(NLT)

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Power of Prayer

by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: James 5:15-17, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."(NIV)

A little over one year ago after I got the devastating news of my uncle’s rare cancer, I did what most people do – I tried to find out as much as I could about his condition. One thing I learned was that in all cases like his, life after contraction is short and there hadn't yet been a documented remission for his type of cancer. It was so rare and so tough to beat, that a treatment hadn’t been found sufficient enough to destroy the cancer.

After receiving the news, I asked my Sunday school group to pray for my uncle. Each week, I would bring up his name. My daughters started praying for him during their bedtime prayers, and lifting him up at the dinner table. My mama’s prayer group started praying for him. Prayers were prayed for healing. Cards were sent for encouragement. Gifts were sent to pass the time. Food was sent for long days at the doctor’s office. But most importantly, week after week, for one year, my uncle’s name was lifted up to our Lord to HEAL HIM.

Yesterday, I received the news of healing. My uncle’s cancer is in remission! This happens often in the world of cancer, I know…but not with my uncle’s type of cancer. Remember, only a year before there was no known remission for it! But, all those prayers led him to the newest treatment still being tested at a university hospital just hours from his house. He was treated for six weeks, day in and day out. He was lifted up in prayer from friends and family and my church family for every day of those six weeks.

My uncle doesn’t have a church family. Thankfully, we became his church. We became his prayer warriors. We fought for him to survive through prayer. We believed in the power of prayer and in the strength of our Lord to heal.

My uncle is still sick. He cannot feel his hands and feet. He is still on drugs to fight his pain. His cancer has left him looking older and thinner. Bones in his body are destroyed. But, what he wanted to do was watch his oldest grandson graduate high school this May. He wanted to see his other grandchildren play ball this summer. He wanted one more Christmas to tell those close to him that he loves them. He wanted to come and visit my mom once more, and see her newly remodeled home. And because of the power of prayer, all of these desires will be met.

Dear Lord, forgive me for not fully believing some days in your power to heal. Help me to remember that you are the God of all living things, the creator of life, our shield, our protection, and our hope. Thank you for listening to each and every prayer sent up to You. Let each and every one of my friends, church family, and family know how grateful I am to them for praying for Uncle Curt.

1) Do you believe in the power of prayer? Scripture invites us to pray regarding every situation of our life, big or small.
2) If you don’t feel satisfied in your prayer life, use the bible to pray. Many psalms can be used in any situation you face in life.
3) Grab a friend or two to pray. Scripture reminds us that where two or more are gathered, our Lord will be there.

Power Verses:
Luke 6:19,
"And the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all." (NIV)
Nehemiah 1:10, "Well, there they are—your servants, your people whom you so powerfully and impressively redeemed. O Master, listen to me, listen to your servant's prayer—and yes, to all your servants who delight in honoring you—and make me successful today so that I get what I want from the king." (The Message)
1 Kings 8:28, "Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today." (NLT)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A New Day

by Stephanie Niebarger

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 43: 18-19, “Do not remember things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now.” (NLB)

I read the above scripture in my daily devotion a few weeks ago and it reminded me that each day is a new day to make a fresh start. Forget about what mistake you made and go forward. One of my favorite Reba McEntire songs is “Walk On.” The chorus goes: “Walk on. Nothing ever stays wrong that long. Walk toward the light, ‘til you find the sun (or Son – my translation) and you’ll be better off in the long run.” In other words, if we endure while walking through a rough patch, we'll actually come out better on the other side. But the thing about a fresh start is, you have to let go of the past.

Joyce Meyer puts it this way: “Don’t waste your future being condemned about your past. Sooner or later, we must come to the place where we stop feeling bitter, resentful, and sorry for ourselves. There must come a time when we stop living in the past and asking why. Instead, we must learn to let God turn our scars into stars.” Our negative history, if we let God shift our perspective, can possibly begin to be viewed as positive because it's shaped us into who we now are or can be in God.

Think about a precious stone or diamond--it doesn't get that way by any easy means. It is first placed under intense heat and then chiseled away to the beautiful stone that may be on your finger right now! Do you feel like you've been through the fire, chiseled like a stone? Don't give up. God is forming you into something beautiful like a diamond.

A friend sent me one of those “forwarded emails” with this analogy: Take a cup of water and hold it out straight in front of you. Initially you hardly noticed the weight of it. But after a while, it gets heavier and heavier until you can’t hold it anymore. That’s the same as any past mistakes or failures you may be carrying around with you. Let them go. They are holding you back from being the person God intended for you to be. Treat each day as a new day. Let go of past mistakes and go forward knowing that God is there with you to help you along the way. And you can bet He's polishing you to sparkle and shine for Him.

Father thank you for seeing us through some of our most difficult times. Please Dear Father, help us to let go of the past and focus more on the future that You have for us.

Is there something in your past that you are hanging on to? Past resentment, guilt, anger? Let it go. If there is someone you need to forgive, do it. Ask Jesus to help you get past all the baggage you are carrying around with you. Don’t waste your future being condemned about your past!

Power Verses:
Revelation 21:5, "Then the one sitting on the throne said: 'I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted.'"(CEV)
Philippians 4:13, "Christ gives me the strength to face anything."(CEV)
1 Corinthians 1:9, "God, who started you in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that." (MSG)

Friday, February 6, 2009

What Do You Call God?

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 9:6, “He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.”

There are many different names for God: Father, Lord, Abba, God, Prince of Peace... I read a book last year where one of the main characters had such a closeness and fondness for God that she called Him "Papa."

I was thinking this past week that where I am in my relationship with God sometimes determines how I refer to Him or what I call Him. When I first came to FCC, I believed in God, but didn’t really know Him the way I do now. I guess you could say that even though I was a Believer we didn’t have a personal relationship.

I’ve had a 'different' kind of relationship with my own dad. So calling God “Father” was way out of my comfort zone. Let alone Abba Father! Calling the Creator of The Universe “Daddy”?! No, that wasn’t for me. I’ll just stick with ‘God’ for now. “God, help me to know You” was probably prayed more often than any other prayer.

Lately, I’m blessed to say, that I have been referring to my God as Father! I’ve come a long way from bolting out of the sanctuary in tears every time we started to sing “Abba Father” to actually calling upon Him in this way--as a parental guide, someone who loves me unconditionally, the way I am, but also loves me so much that He will not leave me this way.

Do you call out Jesus? Our Savior, intercessor… If we are God’s children and Jesus is His son, then He must also be our brother, our friend. Someone to lean on and talk to. Someone who will intercede with Dad on our behalf! Someone who has “our back”.

This next one is a little tougher for me. What about Lord? I say it. But do I mean it? If I call God ‘Lord’ then I might have to give up some things.... control, worry, guilt, money, friends, habits… When I cry out, Lord, help me to __________ (fill in the blank) do I really want the Lord of The Universe to be Lord of my life?!

No matter what you call God and where you are in your relationship with Him, remember that He will always meet you wherever you are and be whatever you need Him to be.

Father, God, Jesus, Daddy, Papa, Lord…. Help me to know that You are All. Healer, counselor, Lover of my Soul, The Beginning and The End and everything in the middle! You are all these things and more to me. I am nothing without You in my life. Help me to give it all up to You no matter how I refer to You. You know my name; be Lord of my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Ask Him to meet you where you are and grow you from there. Ask Him to be what you need, whether it be a friend, father-figure, inteceeding spirit or The Lord of your life. Strive to be work in progress. Never stop growing and maturing in Him and let Him be ALL to you.

Power Verses:
Psalm 135:1-3, “Hallelujah! Praise the name of God, praise the works of God. All you priests on duty in God’s temple, serving in the sacred halls of our God, shout 'Hallelujah!' because God’s so good, sing anthems to his beautiful name.” (MSG)
Romans 9: 26-29, “If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered and the sum labeled 'chosen of God,' they’d be numbers still, not names; Salvation comes by personal selection. God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.” (MSG)
Proverbs 18:24, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother." (NIV)
Genesis 16:13 "She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, 'You’re the God who sees me! Yes! He saw me and then I saw Him!'” (MSG)