Friday, January 29, 2010

Like the Snow and Rain

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Isaiah 55:11, "It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it." (NLT)

In the past week alone we've experienced some pretty varied weather. From below freezing temperatures and wind-blown snow to a balmy 50 degrees and thunderstorms strong enough to knock out power for hours, we've seen the gamut.

In Isaiah 55:10, the verse immediately preceding this week's verse, the Lord says, "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." He then goes on to explain that His Word works the same way.

But sometimes the snow can throw up a caution flag and cause us to seek a different route. Or maybe give up and stay out of the rat-race altogether. Does the Word ever do that to you?

Sometimes the rain is so fierce and unrelenting that it breaks weak objects and seeps through the tiniest of holes and crevices. Does the Word ever do that to you?

Yes? But then sometimes--those blessed other times--the snow, so pure and white, falls gently and peacefully, insulating the earth and quieting the noise in a peaceful, cottony silence. Does the Word ever do that to you?

And sometimes the rain is steady and soft, offering blessed refreshment and cleansing to a parched and dusty land. Does the Word ever do that to you?

The Word IS like the snow and rain. And no matter what the conditions are when it comes, we can always rest assured that God promises it will accomplish all He wants it to each and every time He sends it out.

Father, reading Your Word, speaking Your Word, hiding Your Word in our hearts--all of these are ways Your seed is planted. In us, through us, may Your will be done through the beautiful mystery and power of Your Word as You send it out.

Application: To fully rejoice in the power of God's Word, continue reading in Isaiah 55. Read verses 12 and 13 to see the awesome promises resulting from the sending forth of the Word. Claim them in Jesus' Name.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 55:11, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."(NKJV)
James 1:18, "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."(NASB)

Friday, January 22, 2010

No More Bickering

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: 1 Peter 4:8,"Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins." (NLT)

Bickering. And more bickering. Most of the time my three kiddos get along pretty well. They invent games together, ask for permission before entering each others’ bedrooms, and share their things. But lately—I don’t know if it’s winter and cabin fever, or what—the bickering has escalated.

And consequently, so has my temper a few times.

It drives me absolutely nuts to hear the smart-aleck jabs, one-upmanship comparisons, and outright put-downs. My children are supposed to love one another and live in harmony. Right?

Maybe I need to lay down some new rules.

During the latest bickering session when I was just about ready to start pulling out hair (I won't say whether it was mine or theirs!) I was made vividly aware of the fact that my Heavenly Father knew exactly how I felt!

It struck me that in the Old Testament--under the law--God's anger burned against Israel when they were unfaithful to Him. Consequently, under the new covenant, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Also under the law, God was appalled at how his children were treating each other. But now, under grace, the second greatest commandment is to love others as ourselves.

Not necessarily "new" rules, as the original ten commandments still apply, but more of a shift in perspective. Instead of volumes of "do this; don't do that" we are now told to love above all else. Why?

Because love covers a multitude of sins.

I know my kids love each other deep down, but showing it at all times is a constant battle of the flesh. It is for most of us. But every little victorious showing of love covers a sin we might otherwise have committed.

That's why oftentimes when the kids have been ugly to each other, Shane and I will have them lock eyes, apologize, and hug. The actions of love--even if they don't feel it right away--will usually result in the feeling later. And oh yeah, lots of giggles.

As God's children, we have to stop the bickering, the one-upmanship comparisons, and the put-downs. By loving instead, we're covering a multitude of sins. Thank you, Jesus, for doing it first.

Lord, when we feel like complaining and arguing, when we want to take sides and tear others down, fill us with your love instead. Help us to show it and eventually feel it. Use it to cover sins, Jesus, in Your Name.

Develop a plan for the next time (and you know it's coming!) you're around or being pulled into an argument. How can you show love to diffuse sin?

Power Verses:
Phillipians 3:15-16, "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained."(NIV)
Phillipians 2:14-15, "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."(NIV)

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Year's Improvements

by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 3:11-12, “But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction. It's the child he loves that God corrects; a father's delight is behind all this.” (MSG)

On New Year’s Day, I was at my parents' house eating our January 1st meal of ham and beans. While we ate, we had the usual discussion of our New Year’s resolutions. I started to think about all the things in the past I had once wished for. You know, the resolutions that at one point in time most of us women have made:

I pledge to lose 10 pounds this year… I would like to work out more… I am going to spend more time with my children on a daily basis… I am going to do less rushing, and more chilling… I am going to help the environment and recycle more… I am going to stop spending money on credit cards… I am going to make new friends, and be nicer to the IGA employee checking me out when I am in a hurry.

Any of these sounds familiar? Well, as we were all jokingly telling of our New Year’s resolutions, my dad mentioned that he no longer was calling them resolutions. Rather, he was going to refer to his as “New Year’s improvements.”

What an idea!

I sat on that for a couple of days and have agreed to make some improvements of my own. See, all of my other New Year’s resolutions started with “I,” so I want to first off, give up the “I” and see what God has in store for me. The second improvement is to stop thinking in such a worldly way when it comes to making these improvements.

I would like to trust Him more, love Him more, seek Him more, adore Him more, and show Him to others more often. I could always read more about Him, tell others about Him, help others through Him and live more like Him. I can always forgive more, love my neighbors more, care more, and show more fruits of the Spirit. These are all huge improvements that I would love to make in my life this year.

Even though I will keep fresh in my head those ten pounds that I have pledged to lose again this year, I will remind myself of the real improvements needed in my life!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for so clearly opening my eyes to the real improvements needed in my life. There is nothing more in this life that we should want than to please you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Application: Have you made any New Year’s improvements this year? Would you like to ask God to show you areas of improvement in your life? Prayerfully consider asking God for the complete truth of how He would like you to be in 2010.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:23-24,
“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (NLT)
Colossians 1:10, “… that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (NKJV)
Matthew 6:25 & 27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.” (NIV)

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Know the Man

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: 2 Corinthians 5:16, "So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!" (NLT)

A friend of mine had a conversation with a young man who recently gave his life to the Lord. Her eyes sparkled as she told me about his transformation and involvement in church activities.

Apparently, he watches The Passion of the Christ from time to time. My friend told him that she doesn't want to see it again because of the brutality and blood. Then the young man said something like this: "Yeah, the first time I watched it was with my parents and they just wept. I didn't get why at the time--I mean it was definitely brutal--but I didn't understand why they were so moved. But now when I watch it, I know why: I know the man now."

I know the man now.

What powerful words. I love the "now" part, as in that was then; this is now. He once was lost, but now he's found. Things are different now that he knows Christ personally.

Isn't it wonderful to see our own then and now's? To look back and see where you were when Jesus first caught your heart and compare it to where you are now in your relationship with him? Have certain viewpoints about this man, this Jesus, changed because He's personally shown you aspects of Himself through your adventure together?

There was a time when we just didn't get it, but now--well, now, we know the man. And that makes all the difference.

Father, we praise you for the relationship you make possible through Jesus. He's the way to You, He's the truth, and He's the life. Thank you for drawing us to You through him and that we can say with confidence that we know the Man now.

Think of all of the ways that Jesus has made Himself known to you. In what ways can you pursue knowing Him more? If you don't know the man and want to, click here.

Power Verses:
2 Peter 1:8, "The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."(NLT)
John 17:3, "And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth" (NLT).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Amazing Grace

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Weeks' Verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you.”(NIV)

For the past couple of weeks, the word “Grace” has reverberated over and over in a variety of ways. I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the real meaning of the word so I decided to look up what grace means in the dictionary. I found one common definition: the unmerited (undeserved) and freely given, infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to man by God.

Lately I have come to understand grace a little differently. [Disclaimer: I am not an expert on this topic. Just as I am not an expert on any of the devotions I have written. I mostly write these for myself!]

I was watching a Charles Stanley program one day and he spoke of how grace “sustains” us through the difficulties of life. God did not promise we would just roll through life without any issues. In fact, He specifically told us we would have them. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

So often when we go through painful circumstances in life, we often ask God to take away our pain. Paul asked God three times to take away his pain, but we see God’s response in this week’s verse: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” God’s not always going to take away the pain; instead He gives us the grace to go through it.

Grace sustains us so we can keep on going, even when we don’t see the circumstances change. I’ve come to realize that even though I don’t always “see” anything happening in a particular situation, I know God is working “behind the scenes.” When we go through hard times and don’t see anything happening, it’s natural to wonder if God really cares. Satan wants us to doubt God and take matters into our own hands or just give up completely. I know. I’ve fallen into this trap many, many times.

In James 5:10-11, we see the example of Job and how he persevered: “My friends, follow the example of the prophets who spoke for the Lord. They were patient, even when they had to suffer. In fact, we praise the ones who endured the most. You remember how patient Job was and how the Lord finally helped him. The Lord did this because he is so merciful and kind.”

On Charles Stanley’s website (here), he lists seven ways of how grace works:

*Grace releases supernatural strength to keep going in the midst of pain, suffering, and loss. The Holy Spirit helps us face adversity.
*Grace ignites determination to keep going.
*Grace reminds us that God is always with us.
*Grace points us toward the Father’s goal in allowing trials. We can be content knowing we are in the center of His will.
*Grace reminds us that God uses trials to strengthen our faith and deepen intimacy with Him.
*Grace assures us that the Lord sets limitations on what can happen to His children.
*Grace gives us faith to believe God will transform tough times into something good.

Next time you feel like giving up and throwing in the towel or you don't see how things could possibly work out, remind yourself of God's grace and how He is always with you. Just remember, Satan fights us the hardest when he knows God has something great planned for our lives!

Gracious Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love. Thank You for Your grace. Helps us to stay more focused on You and Your love for us when we are going through difficulties. Sometimes it’s hard to feel Your presence, but please remind us that You are there and Your grace is sufficient for us.

As we approach another New Year and make resolutions, why not make this year your resolution to grow closer to God and allow His grace to wash over and transform you. Listen to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace: My Chains are Gone” by clicking here.

Power Verses:
2 Peter 1:2-3
“May God bless you with his special favor and wonderful peace as you come to know Jesus, our God and Lord, better and better. As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!” (NLT)
Romans 8:28, "We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love Him." (NCV)
Hebrews 4:16, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it."(NLT)