Friday, July 31, 2009

Conversation With God

by Karen Keim

“Lord, I am really hurting right now. I can’t quit crying. That person once again spoke to me and treated me in a manner that I don’t deserve.”

“I know how you feel, Karen. I didn’t deserve the treatment I received so long ago. And you know what else? Not that I want to hurt you more, but I don’t deserve the way YOU treat me sometimes either.”

“I know, Lord, and I’m sorry, but can we deal with that later? Right now can we just talk about me? I mean, how much more can I take? How much more SHOULD I take? I have a notion to just e-mail them and give them a piece of my mind!”

“You know, if you really consider yourself religious and don’t keep a tight rein on your tongue, you deceive yourself and your religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)

“So I’m just supposed to sit back and continue to take this treatment at their will?!? Psshh!”

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:29b)

“But who do they think they are?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Karen. Who do YOU think YOU are? You’re a sinner saved by my grace. You were once lost, too, you know.” (Ephesians 2:5)

“All right, all right. But, Lord, you know my friend and I have even been praying for them, even going so far as to literally hold in our hands things that belong to them and praying that they would soften their heart, that they would in some way come to accept You. Boy, that’s sure done a lot of good!”

“You don’t think so? Sounds to me like you’ve gotten the attention of satan! Sounds to me like he is on the prowl, like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Are you going to let him get you?” (I Peter 5:14)

“Great! So now what am I supposed to do? I can’t fight SATAN!”

“Resist him. Stand firm in your faith. Be self-controlled and alert.” (1 Peter 5:8)

“I can’t, Lord! Don’t you hear me crying? All I want is to give them a piece of my mind!”

“Don’t you trust me? Don’t you think I can handle this one for you? Don’t take revenge. If there is revenge to be taken, I will take care of it.” (Romans 12:19)

“Well, okay. But I’m just not going to talk to them! If they’re going to treat me like that, I’ll just treat them the same way!”

“Would that really make you feel any better? How about just forgetting about it and turning the other cheek?” (Matthew 5:39)

“Oh, for goodness sakes! I suppose the next thing you’re going to tell me is I should overcome their evil by doing good to them, so it’s kind of like heaping burning coals on their head!” (Romans 12:21)

“You got it! I love you, Karen! Isn’t that enough?”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heart Cry

by Marsha Loftis

This Week's Verse: Psalm 5:1-3, "Listen, God! Please, pay attention! Can you make sense of these ramblings, my groans and cries? King-God, I need your help." (MSG)

I saw the words "heart cry" as I tried to catch up on my daily readings from Tim. He was describing David crying out to God.

I was immediately taken back to a time where I didn't know what to pray, how to pray, or what to hope for or dream of. A time where I was completely at His mercy, where I should be more often, but this particular time I was really lost. I could not form words or thoughts. I could only fall on my face and weep. Jesus knew what I was doing. I was praying. I was communicating with Him in a cry directly from my heart.

At times when you are so lost, so weary, so confused, so .... whatever! Know with every thing in you that Jesus understands. He cares about the smallest detail of our lives. He cares enough to number the hairs on our head. He collects our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is there for the little things, the big things, and every THING in between! His love is unimaginable. He knows all. He knows when we cry, when we sigh, and when we are too weary to try.

Thankfully, Jesus cares enough to be my intercessor and go to God on my behalf and interpret my 'heart cry'.

Lord, search my heart. Know that I long to be at Your mercy in all my 'things'. Thank you for sending your Son so that we may have a personal relationship with You, allowing your Holy Spirit to dwell in us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Have you ever been unable to 'talk' to God? Every moan, groan, or sigh can be a prayer. Whether that prayer is out loud, silent or in the form of a heart cry. Each time you communicate with God you are releasing His power here on earth. Wait, watch, and be exalted!

Power Verses:
Lamentations 2:18 "Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion. Let the tears roll like a river, day and night, and keep at it—no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing!"(MSG)
Romans 8:26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."(NIV)
1 Peter 5:6 "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."(NKJV)
Matthew 11:28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace."(MSG)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Room to Grow

by Karen Keim

This Week's Verse: Song of Solomon 6:11, "I went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley, to see if the vines had budded or the pomegranates were in bloom." (NIV)

A little over a year ago, a friend sent me a beautiful planter. The pot that held the plants was about six inches by six inches, and it had four different plants in it, each just the right size to make a very nice arrangement. As time went on, of course, the plants began crowding one another as they grew in that small pot. They began looking weak and pitiful. More than once I would think to myself, “I’ve GOT to repot those poor plants.” In fact, my husband suggested that I would be doing those shabby-looking things a favor if I just threw the whole pot away!

Well, here came spring. I was cleaning out my potting shed and came across some pots that were just the right size to repot each of those four malnourished plants. And that I did! I planted each in its own pot, using fresh potting soil, adding a little bit of fertilizer, and put them on my front porch where they get just the right amount of sunlight. Oh my, what BEAUTIFUL plants they’ve each individually become! As I was admiring them just this morning, I couldn’t believe how they had grown and improved in such a short time.

I then got to thinking how that whole scenario is representative of our own lives. We are like those plants. We are “all bunched up” and bound up by the things of this world. We couldn’t grow (spiritually) if we wanted to! We’ve got so much “stuff” of the world crowding in around us. Mind you, it’s not all bad stuff. All of the plants in that pot were “nice”, “good” plants. But they were “sucking the life” out of one another and causing each of them to be weak. Do you have things, people, activities that are sucking the life out of you?

Let’s do a little repotting of ourselves! Don’t do what I did with those plants and put it off. Let’s get out of that “pot” that’s holding us down. Let’s repot ourselves in a spot that has less of the world in it. How about putting yourself in the fresh soil of God’s Word? Get in it!!! And then “fertilize” with prayer.

You know what? I can just see the beautiful, growing, spiritually-nourished person we can each become by doing just that!

Father, forgive us for allowing the worries of this world to choke the life out of us, as Jesus spoke of in his parable of the seeds (Matt. 13:7). Thank you for the chance to start fresh, leaving behind what stifles our growth.

Identify wordly influences that are leaving you weak and undernourished. What can you do to disentangle yourself from them and start fresh separated from them? Sinking your roots into the Word and getting nourishment from prayer will allow you to blossom.

Power Verses:
Ezekiel 47:12, "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."(NIV)
Job 29:19, "For I am like a tree whose roots reach the water,whose branches are refreshed with the dew."(NLT)

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Great Escape

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 29:6--Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy. (NLT)

Have you ever seen those video clips of illusionists or magicians being contorted into a painful-looking position then tied up, locked up, and submerged into a plexi-glass tub full of water? I’ve held my breath along with them as I anxiously waited for them to break free and emerge gasping but victorious.

Or who can forget poor little Jenny from Forrest Gump? Hiding in the cornfield from her abusive father, she pleaded “Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far. Far far away from here.” Like a magician, she too longed to break free from what bound her and petitioned God to work a miracle to set her free. If you watched the rest of the movie you know that it took lots of years and lots of mistakes before Jenny finally allowed herself to be loved and set free.

God is all about an escape plan. A much-loved quote from Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God’s plans are to prosper us, not to harm us. So it makes sense that if we are in harm’s way, the Lord has already mapped out an escape route. Look at the Israelites (repeatedly!). Look at Daniel in the lions’ den or Jonah in the fish. There’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. There’s Paul and Silas in prison, people imprisoned in deformed or diseased bodies, and people captive to demons. And then there’s Jesus who escaped death so that we can too.

See, God specializes in great escapes. He gives us access to them through righteousness, as indicated in this week's verse. In each of the above examples the escape-ees demonstrated righteous obedience in humility and submission, praising the One who wanted to set them free all along.

He wants to set you free too. While pursuing righteousness anticipate your great escape, bursting forth victorious!

Precious Father, thank you for breaking us out of captivity! Help us to seek you in passionate humility so that our escape brings You glory and our freedom bears fruit.

Captivity cripples activity. God wants you free so He can use you to further His kingdom. What’s got you bound? Pursuing God’s righteousness with your whole heart will open the door to an escape plan that’s already in the works for you.

Power Verses:
I Cor. 10:13
, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”(NASB—emphasis mine)
Psalm 124:7, “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!” (NLT)
Proverbs 12:13, “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.”(NASB)

Friday, July 3, 2009

For Me? Really?!

by Marsha Loftis

This Week’s Verse: Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”(NIV)

Have you ever been so surprised and grateful to receive a gift that you could barely utter those words, “For me?! Really?!” That’s what I feel like most of the time when I read Scripture. MOST of the time… There are those times, however, that my mind and my heart disconnect. I know in my head that what I read is for me, but my heart isn’t always so sure.

It’s hard for me to read in Jeremiah and feel that God is doing all things "to prosper me and not to harm me." He’s not really talking to me. He was talking to Jeremiah.

But then I read a different version of this week’s verse in The Message. Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us.” Hmm…. “Really? For me?”

Yes! You know why?! Because Jeremiah’s God and my God are the same God! He is the same now and forever, and THEN! He hasn’t changed. The world has. I have. You have. Every one of us goes through an innumerable amount of changes in our lifetime, but God doesn’t.

As a matter of fact, Peterson goes on to say, “The Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.” His promise will be fulfilled because God cannot lie. Through scripture, He even tells us that we are to use The Word for hope and encouragement…. And patience.

Lord, help me to not only know in my head, but feel in my heart that your truth and your promises are for me. Help me to be patient while I wait in You. Not on you, Lord. I want to wait where you abide, where you live, in YOU.

Think of all the promises, made to all the people in the Bible. Then try and wrap your mind and heart around the fact that those promises are a gift given to you, through God and His Word. Read some of those promises, and think, “For me?! Really?!” Then listen as your Father tells your heart, “Yes.”

Power Verses
Romans 15:4, “For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope.” (AMP)
Isaiah 59:21, “My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!" (NLT)
Hebrews 6:17, “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.” (NIV)
Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."(NLT)