Friday, June 24, 2011

I CAN Drive 55!

By Denise Reed

This Week’s Verse: Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

Devotion: Confession: I used to speed. When I was younger and less responsible I wanted to get places as quick as I could. My motto was, “Move over and let me drive!” When I became more responsible, hauling around two children, I changed my ways, or so I thought. One day, as I’m driving along with the kids the back, singing along with the Christian radio station on, I look down and see that I am driving a nice 60mph in a 55mph zone. Perfect! Then God and I had this conversation:

God: “Driving over the speed limit is breaking the law, and breaking the law is a sin."

Me: “But God, cops won’t pull anyone over for going just 5mph over the limit. So if they don’t pull me over for it, it’s OK, right? Everybody does it."

God: “But what does the speed limit sign say? It doesn’t say 60pmh. You are breaking the law! You are sinning without remorse. Sin leads to death!"

And then God gave me this thought: Say I am driving just a meager 5mph over the limit and get into a fatal accident. Will I be rejected from Heaven because I was sinning without any remorse or thought of repentance? Wow! I decided I am not going to be denied those pearly gates for something so small.

As I continued to think about this new revelation over the next few weeks, God revealed something else to me. By speeding every time I got behind the wheel, I had been living a lifestyle of sin. Lifestyle of sin!? Isn’t that term just used for serial murderers, alcoholics, rapists, the sexually immoral and all those other people? Yes! But I was acting no better than any of them! This second revelation has opened my eyes to all people who are living a lifestyle of sin and the fact that it’s not my job to judge them. My sin is not better than theirs, nor does it receive a lesser degree of punishment.

So now as I drive along with my cruise control set at 55mph (thank you Lord for cruise control), it feels liberating to know that I am not breaking the law. My heart no longer skips a beat when I see a police car. The title of this devotion is not a misquoted lyric of Sammy Hagar’s, because now, I really CAN drive 55!

Lord, thank you for giving me this revelation of my lifestyle of sin. Please continue to show me my sin that put up a wall between my heart and You. Amen.

Application: Are you living a lifestyle of sin? Is there a guilty pleasure you let yourself indulge in just every once in a while? These both put up a wall between you and God. Repent from your ways. Ask Him to reveal to you these areas of your heart.

Power Verses: Psalm 139:23, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thought." (NIV)

1 John 1:19, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

Hebrews 10:26-27, "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." (NIV)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Armor of God

By Bethany Lashbrook

Today's Verse: 1Corinithians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I was listening to the radio on my way to work, when I heard a song that said something like this: "but the devil was sitting on my shoulder." I immediately thought of that cartoon image -you know, the one where an angel is on one shoulder and Satan with his pitchfork is on the other. Typically, in cartoons, this is when Tom would decide to go ahead and chase Jerry. Or Wyley Coyote would try to eat the Roadrunner one more time!

Once a temptation enters our head, it seems to stick. Actually, it's hard to think of anything else. But the bible reminds us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, NIV)

Typically, at the end of these cartoons, Tom and Wyley Coyote would fall flat on their faces and hold up a sign that proclaimed "help"! And typically, this is what happens when we fall into temptation. Even if things seem to be going okay at first, it usually doesn't last. We must cling to the word daily so we are reminded of the power the Lord gives us to deny such temptations in our lives.

Ephesians 6:14-17 reminds us: "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (NIV)

We can be armed and ready for hardships in our lives, for temptations, and also for joyful times. In all times we can pick up this armor and fight against Satan and his whisperings in our ear and tempting lies he lays on our shoulders.

Dear Lord, thank you for placing the holy spirit in our lives so we are equipped with you on a daily basis. Help us, as we get dressed in the morning, to also place on our full armor of you - so we are prepared daily to walk with you. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: Are you struggling with a temptation right now? Join me this week and as you are getting ready in the morning, try repeating this scripture - out loud - and let's clothe ourselves with the armor of God this week!

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)

Romans 16:20, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." (NIV)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Strength From Worship

By Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Psalm 92:1- 2, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night.” (NKJV)

Praise is something God calls us to do. Ever wonder why? Psalm 9:10 says, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” I love worship time. Whether at church or in my car, I enjoy spending time praising God. However, I’ve never given much thought about what I get out of it. I do it because I enjoy it and it makes me feel closer to my Heavenly Father. This past week, God taught me an important lesson.

I have a forty mile drive to work each morning. During that time, I listen to a Christian radio station and I usually sing along to the songs that play. On one particular morning last week, though, the station was not coming in. In the past, my first reaction would have been to change the station and listen to something else. But I knew if I did that, I would be missing out on my time with God. Therefore, I shut the radio off and prayed for a while. (Don’t worry, I didn’t close my eyes! ) After I prayed, I sang part of a worship song that came to mind. I repeated the lines a few times and then turned the radio back on. Lo and behold, the station was now coming in! What I didn’t realize was God knew I needed to be built up, to receive strength, for something I was about to be faced with at work.

One of the first things I do when I get to my office is check my email. On this morning, there was a message from one employee regarding another employee whose wife had given birth to a little boy just a few short hours earlier. The little boy was named Cameron James. I’ll tell you why this is significant. My husband and I have always wanted children. We’ve had the names picked out for almost eight years, but we have yet to be blessed with kids. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis and God knows that. He knows the desires of my heart and the heartbreak I have felt. So real is my desire for children that I can easily imagine them running around my house. And one of those little boys is a Cameron James, or CJ for short. I do not begrudge others their kids, I am not jealous of others who have been so blessed. But it is often difficult for me to see parents interacting with their children without feeling sad. That being the case, I am certain I would have broken down at work if I had not spent that extra time with God while driving. Thankfully, my Heavenly Father knew what I would need and strengthened me so that when I received the email, instead of asking why someone else had a little Cameron James when I did not, I was able to send a congratulatory response and let the employee know he and his wife had picked a great name. And then I went on with my day. God never ceases to amaze me!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for knowing my heart. Thank You for strengthening me and preparing me for the difficult times I am faced with. I pray that we all will allow Your peace to settle around our broken hearts. You are the great healer, Lord, and in You I will continue to put my trust. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Applications: When singing worship songs, do you truly worship our Lord? Use your time with our Heavenly Father to rest in His presence and allow Him to prepare you for whatever challenge you may be facing.

Power Verses:
Hebrews 13:5
, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (NKJV)
Psalm 55:17, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” (KJV)
Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” (KJV)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Precious Prayers

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Revelation 5:8, "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."(NIV, emphasis mine)

I was reading in Revelation 4 about the infinite praise taking place in heaven. It blew me away on several levels that this praise was, is, and is to come. It's going on right now. When we offer our own praises, we're simply joining a chorus already in progress around the throne of God.

And then something else struck me. Each of the 24 elders sitting around the throne is holding a golden bowl of incense. What's the incense? Our prayers! A scent pleasing to the Lord!

If you've ever felt "disconnected" in your prayer life, there might be an issue God wants you to address. Maybe you have some unrepented sin. Maybe you need to humble yourself. Maybe you just flat out aren't praying the things God would have you pray. But if you've given everything to the Lord in repentance and humility and are praying His will and still wonder if it's making a difference, know this: Your prayers are precious in heaven.

Consider the following scene: Up to this point in Revelation we see the beings, the creatures, the surroundings in heaven and there is quite a commotion. The praises are constantly being sung, the elders are falling prostrate before the throne, and the scroll is being revealed. And then suddenly, it all stops!

"When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets. Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God’s people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God’s holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out" (Rev. 8:1-4, NLT).

The trumpets were present, but silent. The heavenly hosts were watching in anticipation, but uncharacterically quiet. I don't know if it's possible to hear footsteps in heaven (you know, with the clouds for a floor and all!) but I imagine the angel carrying the incense burner echoing them as he makes his way to the alter. All of heaven stops and holds its breath in anticiption.

The continual praise of the Lord stops for one thing--the prayers of the righteous. That'show important your prayers are to God.

God, in this season of celebrating how precious You are to us, thank you for the reminder of how precious we are to You. Thank You for holding our communication with You in such high regard that You quiet all of heaven for it to be offered up to You.

Read Revelation 4, 7, & 8:1-5 from a few different translations and really soak in the vivid scene. Notice that John writes about his vision in past tense (because he's telling about a vision he had seen) but presents some elements in the present tense to convey that these events are occuring in the present. Praise and thank God as you visualize that at that very minute, heaven's stopping to hear your heartfelt prayer offering.

Power Verses:
2 Chronicles 6:39, "then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you."(NIV)
Daniel 10:12, "Then he said, 'Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer'."(NLT)