Friday, November 26, 2010

What’s In A Name?

By Charity Pence

This week’s verse: I Corinthians 13:13, “And now abide faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (KJV)

Devotion: Many people believe God has a plan for them. It should not be surprising then to learn God uses every detail of their lives to fulfill His plan. God certainly has a plan for me. He even had a plan for my name. I have occasionally been asked why my parents named me Charity. When I was a child this question could be answered easily. My dad had an Aunt Hope and an Aunt Faith so my parents decided there should be a Charity, too. No longer is the question answered so simply, though. This is because by being named Charity, I was given more than just a name.

Before explaining, let me ask, what’s in a name? Charity means brotherly love. By studying the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, I see exactly what love is and how love behaves. By studying this verse, I have come to understand that charity is not just my name. Charity is my God given mission. I am to be patient and kind to others at all times. I should not be envious or prideful. By reading this chapter, I am reminded that no matter what I have, even if I have everything but love, I really have nothing and am nothing. This is a lesson I have to study regularly. I frequently get my Bible out and read I Corinthians 13 to remind myself how God intends for me to be. My mission is certainly a work in progress.

Before you get too curious about your own name, let me ask you the real question: What is your mission? Are you living it? Charity is my mission and should be the basis for everything God calls me to do because without love, my works are nothing. I am to exude charity at all times. I Corinthians 13:13 has always been my favorite Bible verse. When I was younger, I liked the verse because my name was in it. Now I Corinthians 13:13 goes straight to the core of who God created me to be.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to display charity at all times, not for my benefit, but for Yours. Forgive me for not always behaving in a way that allows others to see You through me. Help us all to recognize that you have called us to a mission. Show each of us our part so Your mission can be accomplished. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Applications: Even if charity is not your mission, it is important to remember your mission means nothing if you do not show charity to others.

Power Verses:

I Corinthians 13:8, “Charity never faileth.” (KJV)

Hebrews 13: 1, “Let brotherly love continue.” (NIV)

I Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” (NIV)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Call Upon the Name of the Lord

By Brenda Pickering

This Week’s Verse: Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened."

Devotion: When life gets rocky, when you're unsure what the next step should be, or when you feel you have lost your way, where do you turn?

Many times we don't turn to prayer. Instead we turn to our spouse, a friend, a family member or we keep it to ourselves believing we can or should be able to handle it on our own. I know I have. But, in the times that I have turned to God for the answers, things turned out in ways I could never have imagined if I were on my own!

After I had my second child, I knew we were struggling financially already with only two children, and I felt the responsible thing would be to ensure that we would not have any more children to support. So, when our youngest was about 1 month old, I went in to have a tubal ligation. I had this nagging feeling that we were not finished and that I shouldn't have the procedure after all. However, I decided to ask God to make the decision for us. I told God, I will trust You because if you want us to have more children, you can do anything. As we drove to the hospital, I continued my conversation with God. It'd be nice to have a that looks like me, or even one with blond hair, but then, neither my husband nor myself have blond hair, so I would take her either way!

I had the procedure that day, with no regrets, no worries.

I had forgotten all about that prayer until a little over a year later, when I realized I might be pregnant! A test confirmed it, and when I went in for some blood work and they later called me back to ask me to schedule an ultrasound, I was worried. They had mentioned a tubal pregnancy, and they wanted to rule that out. At 10 weeks, we discovered there were two little girls in there! God had answered my prayers two-fold. Our girls are 4 1/2 years old now. One has brown hair, and I think looks a lot like me. The other one has blond hair. God has more than taken care of us since we had our two additions to the family. He has blessed us with a complete family, and since then we have been better off financially than before they were born!

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves when God desires us to ask Him for help? He says if we would only ask, it is ours. James 4:2 states, "You do not have, because you do not ask God."

In Rev. 5:8 it states, "And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God's people." (NLT) The incense that is so fragrant to Christ is our prayer! We are reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala in our life group. On page 82 he writes, "Just imagine, you and I kneel or stand or sit down to pray, really opening our hearts to God and what we say is so precious to Him that He keeps it like a treasure."

Lord, Help us to call upon your name in every situation, good or bad, and throughout our day. Thank you for storing up our prayers like treasures! Amen

Applications: So, when you call upon the Lord, your burdens will be lifted, you are doing what the Lord has asked, and you will be blessed beyond measure! Pray continually!!

Power Verses:

Matthew 6: 9-13, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’" (NIV)

Matthew 8: 19-20, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (NIV)

I Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

James 5:13-15,"Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." (NIV)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Distress: Painful but Good?

By Melissa Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: Psalm 120:1, “I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.” (NIV)

Here are some definitions of distress:

1. Great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble
2. That which causes pain, suffering, trouble, danger
3. A state of extreme necessity or misfortune

Who likes being in distress? Yuk. It is uncomfortable, unpleasant, and generally never a fun place to be. But as ugly as distress feels, can it be a good thing? Yeah, it can. It is good when it turns our hearts back to God.

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says this: "I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I'm glad...not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss".

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

"And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter." (2 Corinthians 7:8-13 MSG)

Are you in a tough place? Do you feel that distressed feeling? Allow that to drive you to God, not away. I'm remembering this for myself today, and also encouraging you. Sometimes it takes seasons of distress for us to really stop and sink deep with God. And out of that distress a deeper relationship with God is created, and in addition to that deeper relationship, we are changed from the inside out. As the scripture states we become more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible, and have more purity of heart. This is good.

Dear Father, thank you for the good times, as well as for the times we are in distress. We know that you will work all things to your glory and in your honor. Thank you for drawing us close to you. Only you know us inside and out. As Thanksgiving approaches, help us to be thankful for all the times in our lives, not just the good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: In your distress, draw near to the Lord Jesus, and even if He doesn't change our circumstances, He changes us, and this is good! When we turn to Him it is all gain, no loss.

Power Verses:

2 Corinthians 12:10, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NLT)

Ephesians 3:13, “So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.” (NLT)

2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (NIV)

Friday, November 5, 2010

With Open Arms

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (NIV)

Devotion: Recently, during our “business with God” time at our church, a song hit home with me. I had a light-bulb moment, as some would call it. My AHA moment was envisioning this: I was running through this gorgeous field of grass (yep, sounds a bit like a movie to me too) and my arms were open. I was running towards God.

It made me think how often that I run towards God in this manner? Do I run towards Him every day? Do I smile at Him? Open my arms to Him? Shouldn’t I always be running towards God with my arms open?

My arms being open states two things: One, I want God to take all that I have, all that I am and rescue me from this world. Two, I love Him and am opening my arms to Him.

Often times I am running, but I don’t know if it’s towards God or away from Him. I also find myself running in front of God, or behind Him. This week, I am going to try to run towards God.

If I don’t practice running towards God in the good times in my life, how will I ever make it during the rough times? Practicing this now means a brighter, more secure future later.

Dear Lord, thank you for helping me seek your will and your guidance in my life. Help these women to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: Have you ever pictured yourself with God? What does your picture look like?

Power Verses:

2 John 1:9 “Anyone who wanders away from his teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and Son” (NLT)

John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.” (NIV)

Isaiah 40:11 “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” (NLT)