WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the tag “Christian Devotions”

God Is In The Details

 

*7

God wants a relationship with His adopted children, but why? He doesn’t need us.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,                                              The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,                                                        What is man that You are mindful of him,                                                                             And the son of man that You visit him”  Psalm 8:3-4 (NKJV)

The answer is LOVE. Even though God did not need man He chose to create us anyway. And because of His abundant love and creativity, He uniquely designed every one of us. Our physical attributes were given much attention, including distinct fingerprints and an individual genetic makeup. Blue eyes, brown eyes, big nose or small, we were created in the exact image God desired, and we are all beautiful in His sight. Dare we criticize the Potter of imagined flaws when He sees them as unique and perfect in detail?

We were created with a purpose, so while God knit us together in our mother’s womb, He created our personality and gave us spiritual gifts. These were provided so that we could accomplish tasks that would fulfill His perfect will for us and glorify His name.

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”      Psalm 139:13 (NIV)

But God is not only concerned with OUR physical features. EVERYTHING in this universe shouts out, “GOD IS IN THE DETAILS!” All of creation has been given His attention. Consider the stars and heavenly bodies. The orbits these celestial bodies travel are all perfectly aligned! Trees, flowers, and crops have specific seasons of growth, fruit and harvest. All the creativity that went into designing the animals of earth hint of God’s humor and sense of fun (Consider the elephant and the armadillo). God’s appreciation for beauty is evident when we observe the many colorful birds and flowers of this world.

“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.”  Psalm 147:4-5 (NKJV)

If God is involved in the feather design of an exotic bird and the minute patterns displayed on orchids, can we question whether God is involved in the details of our life? 

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”  Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV)

God sees all and knows all things. From heaven, He looks down upon mankind and watches all who live on earth. He is not surprised by the right turn we make, even though it should have been a left. He knows how to direct us back to the path leading to glory.

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; From His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.”  Psalm 33:13-15 (NKJV)

Consider King David. He was a man after God’s own heart, but he was also flawed. David fell into sin with Bathsheba. God was aware of the details that led up to the death of Bathsheba’s husband, so He sent Nathaniel to King David. Through this prophet, God exposed David’s sin and revealed the consequences he would have to endure.

“So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.’ Then Nathan departed to his house.”  2 Samuel 12:13-15 (NKJV)

When we suffer a loss or walk through adversity, God is with us. He sees each detail of our trial and provides the necessary help we need to carry on. When we are weak, HE is our strength. When we need wisdom, all we have to do is ask without doubting, and it will be provided. How could God provide the necessary wisdom for our unique situation if He was not aware of the details surrounding our circumstances?

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”  James 1:5-6 (NKJV)

When we have a need, the Lord knows of it before we do! His provisions are always sufficient, but they are not always abundant or given in the manner we imagined. He knows the details that need to fall into place down the road, and we only see the present and a few steps ahead. Things might appear to be hopeless, but God works things out so that He gets the credit and is glorified. 

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”  Matthew 6:8 (NKJV)

Corrie ten Boom wrote a poem about a tapestry God weaves of our life. There are dark and golden threads and the pattern is detailed and beautiful. But her words remind us that the underside of the weaving is all we witness, which means it will appear chaotic and unattractive. The beauty of the canvas God designed will become apparent only after we pass from this world. Only then will we understand why the dark threads were added and see the beauty they added to our tapestry. God is an artist and makes everything beautiful in His time. He is involved in every detail. He is aware of what we face each day.

“Life is but a Weaving” (the Tapestry Poem)

“My life is but a weaving                                                                                                                           Between my God and me.                                                                                                                                   I cannot choose the colors                                                                                                                             He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;                                                                                                                     And I in foolish pride                                                                                                                                Forget He sees the upper                                                                                                                                  And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent                                                                                                                               And the shuttles cease to fly                                                                                                                         Will God unroll the canvas                                                                                                                               And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful                                                                                                                       In the weaver’s skillful hand                                                                                                                            As the threads of gold and silver                                                                                                                   In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;                                                                                                                 Nothing this truth can dim.                                                                                                                            He gives the very best to those                                                                                                                  Who leave the choice to Him.”

― Corrie ten Boom

“Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely.”  Psalm 139:4 (NIV)

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.

And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”  Psalm 139:15-16 (NKJV)

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:7 (NIV)

Giving God Thanks

*9

As a matter of fact, God isn’t asking you to be thankful. He’s asking you to give thanks. There’s a big difference. One response involves emotions, the other your choices, your decisions about a situation, your intent, your step of faith.”  ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

God wants us to give Him THANKS, which is often expressed through worship and praise. It is a decision and choice. Some will ask, “Why give thanks to God?” There are many reasons to give our heavenly Father thanks, but the biggest reason is for eternal life and the forgiveness of our sins. Sin leads to death and through the blood of Jesus Christ we have the promise of everlasting life.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 (NKJV)

When we acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, His death and resurrection and repent of our sins, we become His adopted children. We are the daughters and sons of a King, true royalty. What an honor and blessing!

As co-heirs with Jesus Christ, we will be partakers of a glorious heavenly inheritance. This inheritance will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4). It is incorruptible and undefiled.

“And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”  Hebrews 9:15 (NKJV)

“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love”  Colossians 1:12-13 (NKJV)

But our inheritance has a condition, one that is often overlooked or ignored. Let us consider the words found in Romans 8:17….

“And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”  Romans 8:17 (NKJV)

Many of us focus only on the encouraging words found in this verse, overlooking the clearly stated condition, “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

We must suffer WITH Christ, therein we shall thus be glorified together.

“Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”  1 Peter 4:13 (NKJV)

But WHY must we suffer? Why is this life so difficult and filled with pain and loss? Remember, man is born sinful, so God uses adversity to transform us into the very image of His son, Jesus. Philippians 3:10 further states that through suffering we come to know our Lord more intimately, and God longs to have a personal and intimate relationship with all of His children. He longs for our fellowship.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10 (NKJV)

Sadly, many Christians who have been tested with trials and adversity give up on God. They question HIS faithfulness and forget that it is THEIR OWN faithfulness to the Redeemer that must remain true. God desires a steadfast spirit. The Father is always faithful and always present, according to the Bible.

These believers, who fall off the path of righteousness, have lost sight of God’s position (Creator) and forget their own position (The created). They doubt His plan and question His love.  They rely on their own understanding and forget that His ways are so much higher than their own ways. God sees the end of our journey while all we see is the next step ahead.

We are called to persevere for a reason. This life is hard, although we are given many blessings along the way. The Bible warns us that we will be tested, but we must trust God and persevere. God has lovingly equipped us for every struggle in life. When we are weak, God will be our strength. Furthermore, we have spiritual gifts that include the armor of Christ. The shield of faith is often dropped in battle and accounts for the many who walk away from God.

“If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us”                       2 Timothy 2:12 (NKJV)

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 1:21 (NKJV)

Through prayer, we have communion with Christ. Conversations with anyone will bring about a bond. With prayer, our bond with Christ is strengthened, even when circumstances confuse us to no end. So, back to giving God thanks.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

In all circumstances, we are to thank God for His wonderful gift of love; Saving Grace. However, the enemy wants to change our perspective of God from Loving Father to that of a harsh and unkind Master. He wants to rob God of the glory and praise He deserves.

The Deceiver hits below the belt. He takes advantage of every opportunity, including personal moments of weakness. Hoping to fill our heads with doubt, he will use lies and half truths to cause us to question the purpose for our suffering. The thing is, we do not have to understand everything that happens to us. We just need to trust that God wants the very best for us. Trust! We must trust the love and faithfulness of our Creator. This is the test adversity is all about. With the Word stored in our heart, we can protect ourselves with our spiritual shield of faith and attack the enemy with our spiritual sword. And as we resist this foe while calling upon the name of Jesus, he MUST flee.

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NKJV)

There is power in the name of Jesus. This is certainly something to give thanks for!

“Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name.” 1 Chronicles 1:29 (NKJV)

Joy, an emotion, will fill our hearts when we consider the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. But it is when we choose to thank God, especially during our darkest times, that we offer up true worship. God commands us to give Him thanks at ALL times, through  ALL circumstances in life. Within this perimeter, we will find seasons of sorrow and death, illness, weariness, and loss. To believe in His love for us, is to believe He is worthy of thanks at all times. Don’t let your emotions, or circumstances affect your attitude of thanks. Give God thanks for each new day and for the glorious gift of eternal life.

“And in that day you will say, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name.

Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.’ Praise the Lord in song, for He has done excellent things; Let this be known throughout the earth.” Isaiah 12:4-5 (NAS)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1 (NIV)

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”  Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV)

The Highway of Holiness

*Highway

“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.” ~ John Wesley

Many of us are praying for a revival: A revival that restores our faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World. We ask that revival once again comes, sweeping over our land like a wildfire out of control. A spiritual wildfire that would bring many prodigals home and open the eyes of the lost.

However, it is not enough to merely understand we have been saved and redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ. We lack passion. It is the reverent fear of God and an indescribable thanks for His eternal love that is absent in so many of us today. Humility has not brought us to our knees, prostrate with gratitude and submissive in our absolute repentance.

Are we merely speaking empty words of godly sorrow, without the earnestness and sincerity of heart our Lord so desperately desires? Every move to remove God from our government and ignore His truth is breaking His heart and causing Him anger.  For we are turning away from the One who has blessed and protected our nation. He will not have it! We will see the consequences of our sin and rebellion… unless we turn from our wicked ways and repent.

“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point,  you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”        2 Corinthians 7:11 (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 4:7 (NKJV) says, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”

We are called to be holy, for He who has called us is Holy. This means our conduct. We are to take the life of Christ as our example, and the wisdom found within His Living Word and apply it to our lives. Our family, friends, neighbors and even strangers should know we are Christians by our actions and lifestyle. They should see our love and willingness to serve. We are not to compromise Biblical truths for the sake of avoiding adversity or hurting the feelings of those who have been deceived. We are to witness and share the truth, but always with gentleness and respect. America does not want to offend anyone, although offending God does not seem to matter as of late.

“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)

If there was a revival of holiness in our day, what would it look like?

Chastity would be practiced and honored. Integrity would be valued and honest words would once again serve to instruct and advise. Love would rule our hearts and compassion would cause us to intercede throughout the day. Our personal relationship with Jesus would grow in intimacy and our ability to hear the Holy Spirit would be fine tuned. With our closer walk with God, our faith would grow and our trust in God’s provision and grace would carry us past times of persecution and suffering. Our actions and decisions would not be based on fear, for nothing is impossible for God. He is ALMIGHTY.

We would live among the dirt of this ailing nation, but remain pure and clean in His sight. Our light would be evident to the lost and they would be drawn to us. Some drawn for a desire to be more like us… others are drawn with evil intents and a desire to put out our light.

However, hope is eternal and living a life of holiness promises great reward.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”    Philippians 2:14-16a (NIV)

How do we live out our faith with a “No Compromise” attitude? Is it even possible to live a life of holiness in a world so bent on hate and debauchery? Yes. Yes it is, with the help of Christ. Will it take personal sacrifice and be the cause of conflict. Most likely. However, we are not called to be man pleasers. We are called to serve and honor God. We have one judge and that Judge is God alone. We should consider our ways daily and determine if they please or grieve the Lord.

The heavenly Father gave us free will. He also gave us an instruction manual… The Bible. We must read it daily (even memorize it) so that we know what God says about certain behaviors/actions. What God expects from His children and what He finds as abominations are also written in scripture. Just as God tested Abraham, Moses, and Mary, He will test our faith as well.

These are dark times and the days ahead will prove to be even darker. Find encouragement in the community and Body of Christ.  There is a comfort to be found with like-minded believers. Surround yourself with brothers and sisters who will hold you accountable and lift you up in prayer. We need each other to maintain our calling to be holy. Blessings to you as you continue to travel the highway of holiness.

“Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself and by whose side would you sit? Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes are not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy, if you had not been holy on earth?” ~ J.C. Ryle“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.” ~ John Wesley

 

Walk As Children Of Light

*Walk As Children of Light

Loving fathers teach and discipline their children. They offer wisdom, knowledge and their devoted attention. Fathers help to “shed light” on troublesome or difficult situations. God does this for us as well. He teaches and disciplines with a pure love, and yes, adversity is one of His most effective tools in our education. Affliction causes us to look up and increases our dependence upon God, rather than self. When circumstances appear impossible, faith reminds us that apparent impossibilities are wondrous opportunities for God to move.

During times of adversity, life may appear very dark and overwhelming. Hopelessness can grab hold of our heartstrings and lead us down paths of self-pity. “How could the Savior send such trouble my way? What did I do to deserve such hardship?” The Word tells us that God does not willingly afflict His children. He sends or permits only that which accomplishes His good will and purpose. Perfect love is always included in His equations.

“For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” Lamentations 3:33 (NIV)

Thankfully, there is always a light of promise and hope at the end of every trial. This light is Christ Jesus. By it we are propelled forward in our race, even through the darkest and most painful of sufferings.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:115 (NKJV)

JESUS is the living Word of God, the light that enlightens every man with spiritual truth. Those who perceive the true Light and choose to follow the source will never walk in spiritual darkness. Natural darkness is the absence of light and spiritual darkness is the absence of Jesus, the light of the world.

With earthly bodies reborn and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a supernatural “light” living within us. Our God given light is not seen with human eyes but is still perceived and very apparent to others, when we remember to “shine it all around.” D.L. Moody speaks of our witness and compares it to a lighthouse. A LIFESTYLE witness should be obvious to others without our having to set off cannons.

We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.”    ~ D. L. Moody

Having been called to walk as “Children of Light,” seeking out all goodness, righteousness, and truth should therefore be our aim. Is it not wise to make a daily goal where we seek out what is acceptable to the Lord and then follow through with prayer and service?

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10 (NKJV)

Sharing His love with others while living through personal times of adversity will not only point the lost to Christ, it will cause us to discover beautiful blessings found only in the fellowship of His suffering. Our capacity to love and forgive will increase, compassion and mercy will grow, and grace will abound. As our love for Jesus grows, so will our light within.

May the light of Christ Jesus shine ever more brightly within all of us, drawing the hungry, weary, thirsty, and lost to truth and eternal salvation.

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NKJV)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:4 (NKJV)

“Soon we shall be up there with Christ. God did not mean us to be happy without Him; but God would first have us to be witnesses for Him down here, to hold out as much light as we can.”      G.V. Wigram

“Christ cannot light a single spark in the heart of an individual, without that little tiny spark being for God. He gives the light, and has ordained that every ray of it is to reflect something for God.” G.V. Wigram

God Prunes-And Not Just In The Spring!

*Prune

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” 15:2

I view my past illness, a brain tumor that caused nearly a decade of clinical depression and near death, as an answered prayer. In days gone by, I often petitioned God to remove me from the public school system. But my prayers were never prayers of true faith. No, they were prayers of desperation and hopelessness. I never quit my job to pursue a different career because finances were always priority. I didn’t believe God would provide for my family in the same manner I was able to provide as a teacher. Relying on myself was easier than trusting God, especially when it came down to future finances. This is where my thinking fell short. Scripture says God will provide for our NEEDS…. Not for every want and desire, comfort or luxury.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Accustomed to a certain life style, I had no desire to pursue another profession that offered less pay. After 25 years of saving, I had finally purchased my dream home. The thought of selling it in order to pursue a different career was not part of my reality. I wanted out of teaching, but only on my terms. I was not willing to make adjustments or sacrifices. Money was an idol of false security.

My wrestling match with God was long and intense. It lasted more than a night and it didn’t leave me with a dislocated hip. Instead, I end up with a non-malignant brain tumor. When I refer to this tumor as a blessing sent from God I am sincere. For you see, this illness changed my life. It became the catalyst that reignited my spiritual walk.

Thankfully, God knew the best way to answer my prayer. I believe He led me into teaching and I believe it was also God who placed a desire in my heart to leave teaching. He didn’t let my attachment to worldly possessions interfere with His plan for my life. He designed me with a purpose and there was a “next step” for me in this life. It could only happen by stepping out of the classroom.

And although sin was ruling my heart with fear and covetousness, He graciously pruned away those dead branches for they were hindering my spiritual growth. By cutting out the dead wood, I was able to recognize these sin areas that required further refinement. Every year God must prune these sin areas in my life for they are aggressive in their attempt to grow back, yet never do they bear any fruit.

So, who can understand the mind of God? His ways are so much higher than our own ways. His thoughts are just not our thoughts! Bu sending a serious illness my way, or merely allowing the tumor to grow for ten miserable years, God answered my prayer to move past elementary teaching. It was a part of His sovereign plan for my life, before He knit me together in my mother’s womb.

God was not surprised by my illness but I surely was, for It brought about a lot of change I didn’t expect or desire. Not only did I loose my dream home, but I also left a community I felt comfortable with and never wanted to leave. God was pruning and stretching my faith throughout my journey. He provided the means for a new beginning and moved me to the place He wanted me to grow.

God’s sovereign will is always fulfilled. How He answers our prayers can truly be very surprising and unexpected. And when He decides to prune His children with challenging storms of adversity, we will do well to remember that the pruning of the Lord is an act of love. For God will instruct/discipline those He loves.

Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, a father the son he delights in.”    Proverbs 3:12 (NIV)

James 1:2-4 reminds us that we are to count trials as pure joy, not that the circumstances are the joy, but the outcome they produce is the source of our rejoicing.

God teaches us not only through His Word. He also teaches us through trials that refine us into the image of His son. These times of trouble mature the fruit of the spirit within us so that goodness, kindness, gentleness, peace, love, joy, patience, faithfulness and self-control are more evident in our life. The pruning of the Lord is painful but the fruit it bears is profitable to God, others, and us.

Suffering is a part of the process by which the children of God are made holy. They are chastened to wean them from the world, and make them partakers of God’s holiness. The Captain of their salvation was made “perfect through suffering,” and so are they (Hebrews 2:1012:10). There never was a great saint who had not experienced either great hardships, or great persecutions.

 Let us try to settle this in our hearts also. The children of God all have a cross to bear. A suffering Savior generally has suffering disciples. The Bridegroom was a man of sorrows. Therefore, the Bride must not be a woman of pleasures and unacquainted with grief. Blessed are they that mourn! Let us not murmur at the cross. This also is a sign of sonship.”    ~ J.C. Ryle

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_Dec 2014

Jesus and the Fig Tree

figtree

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.  And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-15 (NKJV)

When He realized it was all leaves and no fruit, was Jesus so terribly disappointed that He vented His anger in emotional vindictiveness? Since we know Jesus is without sin… we must conclude His anger towards this fig tree was righteous.

But what of Mark’s comment, “It was NOT the season for figs.” Wasn’t Jesus then expecting too much from this tree? Was He really expecting it to bear fruit out of season?

Without all the facts, one could easily see Jesus in a negative light, or even as harsh. Should you ever find yourself viewing God with an uncomplimentary and critical attitude, pause and reflect. Consider who He is and who you are and whether you have any right to judge your Creator. Then, humble yourself and consider His character. God is love. He loves ALL of His creation. If not so, why would He care when the tiniest sparrow falls?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29 (NIV)

Fig trees will often produce a small amount of fruit prior to the main crop. This “first fruit” was what our Lord was expecting. Since this fig tree was without ANY fruit, but fully dressed in leaves, He knew it was barren. The tree was not fulfilling its purpose. Thus, Jesus eliminated an unproductive tree from an orchard, not by saw or ax but by faith and His Word.

And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord” Nehemiah 10:35 (NKJV)

Mark 11:12-15 is a wonderful analogy and a good reminder for all believers. We were made for a specific purpose, predestined by God to fulfill His will. We were knit together by a loving Father who gave us every gift, trait, and skill necessary to fulfill and carry out the plan and purpose He designed us to fulfill.

We should be productive instruments for the glory of God. During our many seasons of life, we will sow seeds, water and care for them, harvest a crop of righteousness (that is only because we are one with the Lord Jesus Christ) and praise God for the gift of service.

“What makes the Dead Sea dead? Because it is all the time receiving, never giving out anything. Why is it that many Christians are cold? Because they are all the time receiving, never giving out anything.”   ~D.L. Moody

Have you any first fruit to offer the Lord today? Or, are you hiding behind a façade of greenery with little service or fruit to speak of? The fig tree was fully dressed in leaves of green but not productive. Be careful that you are walking the Christian walk and not just hiding behind some showy leaves. Our Master expects produce and will cut away dead branches and then prune the healthy ones to increase the harvest for His kingdom.

READ THE SCRIPTURES AND QUOTE BELOW, THEN CONSIDER THE FIG TREE. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO YOUR WALK WITH CHRIST JESUS?

As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.”                                      2 Chronicles 31:5 (NKJV)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:6 (NKJV)

“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His Presence.” ~ A.W. Tozer

The Peace Of Christ

*7

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Saints who trust God with total abandon experience the reality of supernatural rest, a byproduct of the peace of Christ. It does not matter if their day is filled with routines or unexpected adversity. Said believers maintain a steadfast gaze on their Creator, circumstances are not their focus.

Thanks to a solidified trust, they understand situations happen for loving and beneficial reasons. They may not understand the WHYS, but they trust in the character of God. Almost in stride they look for the lesson God has provided within their day, always quick to thank Him for the equipping He so graciously provides.

This peace is free to all. Will you claim it now, along with the rest that comes with it? Trust God with your cares!

Father God,                                                                                                                     May the Holy Spirit fill this dear reader with an undeniable outpouring of strength and courage today. It takes courage to trust an unseen God with burdens of fear, grief, and an unknown future. Help them to lay each care aside and trust You with each one. Grant them a blessed rest and supernatural peace today and may it carry them through the night and into their slumber. Amen.

“God holds my today and my tomorrow in the palm of His hands. I know I am secure no matter what comes against me.”  ~ Unknown

Jesus Is The Lion Of Judah

*Lion

“If you…come to Christ, He will appear as a Lion, in His glorious power and dominion, to defend you. All those excellencies of His, in which He appears as a lion, shall be yours, and shall be employed for you in your defense, for your safety, and to promote your glory; He will be as a lion to fight against your enemies. He that touches you, or offends you, will provoke His wrath, as He that stirs up a lion. Unless your enemies can conquer this Lion, they shall not be able to destroy or hurt you. Unless they are stronger than He, they shall not be able to hinder your happiness.” ~ Jonathan Edwards

“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?”  Genesis 49:8-9 (NKJV)

We have a mighty and powerful Savior. His name is Jesus but He is also known as, “The Lion of Judah.” This name originates back to the book of Genesis. The patriarch, Jacob (“Israel”) gave this symbol to his tribe upon blessing his son Judah in Genesis 49:9. Jesus is a descendant of King David, who was from the Tribe of Judah.

Lions are powerful animals with mighty roars, sharp claws, and terrifying teeth. Fearlessly, they chase and devour their prey. Their very presence intimidates and rouses fear. Lions have the respect of all animals.

A lion, which is mighty among beasts and does not turn away from any.” Proverbs 30:30 (NKJV)

Jesus is even more commanding for He is all-powerful. In His mighty strength, He defends and protects His own. He chases down enemies and intimidates any who dare to challenge the authority of His children. This includes Satan and all the principalities of darkness.

Though we may find ourselves harassed by evil, we can be certain assistance is always nearby. With a single cry for help, Jesus will appear. There is power in His name and we who neglect to use it are fools. Be comforted by the promise that if we resist the devil he must flee (James 4:7).

Many scriptural references to the Lion are about His powerful voice. Could this be so that God’s children will always hear Him calling? Is it also so that His roar will instill fear in the hearts of His enemies? As it is written in Amos 3:8, “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” Then there is also Proverbs 19:12, “The King’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but His favor is like dew on the grass.”

The Lion of Judah does hold His own children accountable and expects them to battle sin. In 2 Kings 17:25 there is a reference to God using lions as agents of divine punishment, and in Hosea 5:14 we read how His just actions are lion-like in nature. He hands out judgment with wisdom and justice.

Finally, Jesus is also mentioned as the Lion of Judah in the fifth chapter of the book of Revelation. In this chapter He is triumphant and victorious over all evil. Upon Him we can place our trust. He is our Protector, Redeemer, and Savoir. He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads and cares about every detail of our lives.

If you are facing persecution, storms, or fearsome struggles please cry out to the Lion of Judah. He is faithful and will never allow anything beyond your ability to bear. Ask Him to protect and defend you, request shelter from your storm. When you are weak He is strong, therein He reveals His power and glory during your times of need. Praise be to Jesus Christ, the mighty and all-powerful Lion of Judah!

(Judah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for praise.)

CONSIDER THESE SCRIPTURES AND QUOTE DURING YOUR PRAYER TIME:

“For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.” Hosea 5:14 (NKJV)

“I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.”  Hosea 13:8 (NKJV)

“And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them.”
2 Kings 17:25 (NKJV)  

“Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Revelations 5:5 (NKJV)

“I am mended by my sickness, enriched by my poverty, and strengthened by my weakness.”
~Abraham Wright (1611-1690)

You will find this devotion in my book Facing Storms: Devotions for Thought And Meditation

http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Storms-Devotions-Thought-Meditation-ebook/dp/B00O1OJS0Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1422768058&sr=8-2&keywords=cheryl+zelenka&pebp=1422768061443&peasin=B00O1OJS0Y

Obedience To God=Results

*Obedience:E. Elliot

This devotion is found in my book FACING TRIALS: THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION. Available on Amazon (eBook is just $2.99)                             http://www.amazon.com/Facing-Trials-Meditation-Cheryl-Zelenka-ebook/dp/B00K7TNT5W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421884466&sr=8-1&keywords=Cheryl+Zelenka&pebp=1421884468539&peasin=B00K7TNT5W

“Rest in this—it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond or what have you.”   — Jim Elliot

You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:14 ESV)

Isn’t it a big weight off your shoulders to know that all God asks of you is obedience? He is the one in control and the one who will get results. All He asks of you is to obey His commandments. He will take care of the rest.

Satan fears the willing servant who prays daily these two simple words: “Use me.” In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul encourages Timothy to present himself to God as one approved, as a worker who has no cause to be ashamed. Paul stresses the importance of rightly handling the Word of Truth. If we are obedient in properly handling the Word of God, then He will do the rest.

A servant and slave must obey his or her master in all things, even if the request does not make sense. It is not a matter of questioning the lord of the house; it is a matter of following through on his instructions.

The Word of God tells us that if we are faithful with the little things entrusted to our care, then He will increase our responsibility and service by placing us as caretakers over much more. God tested the faithfulness, obedience, and love of Abraham and Noah. Why would he not test us in modern times?

If God is testing you through a personal struggle or injustice, be courageous and hold onto His promises. He is the Defender of the weak and tells His children that He will fight for them; you need only be still. That is a commandment, and that requires obedience. He will fight the battle for you and achieve the results He wants and requires.

Remaining still as the spiritual battle rages on around you will not be an easy thing to do, especially if you are a person of action. To be still takes self-control and faith. You are also commanded to pray without ceasing, so as you let God fight the battle before you, pray for grace and mercy. Pray that His will be accomplished and that Enemy attacks be thwarted. He and His angel armies will be shielding you and keeping you safe, as you are tucked safely under His wing.

As you obey His commands with an obedient heart, He will honor you with bigger struggles and tasks that will serve to glorify His holy name.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES AND QUOTE DURING YOUR QUIET TIME

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14 NIV).

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 20:26 ESV).

 “Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the essential characteristic of our lives.”   —Andrew Murray

 The biblical word for obey comes from the Greek hupakou, which means “to listen attentively.” The meaning also implies heeding or conforming to a command or to an authority. Basically, one has no choice in the matter whether or not to obey God’s commandment. It needs to be carried out whether one agrees with the order or not.

Stewart, Ed, ed. Jesus 365: A Devotional. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Bruno, Bonnie. When God Steps In: Stories of Everyday Grace. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 2007.

A Bondservant of Christ Jesus Is Never Complacent

*bondservant

We should all strive to be satisfied and content with the provisions provided by God, but not at the risk of spiritual degeneration. When one becomes too comfortable in life, there is a serious danger of growing complacent. With complacency, self-satisfaction rules the heart. And because of this smug attitude of being pleased with ourselves, we loose interest in growing more like Christ. Thus, we hinder any further transformation God has designed for us.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”                      1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NKJV)

 

Any time “self” enters into an equation, we must pause and consider whether it should be present at all or completely stricken. A bondservant’s focus should always be on his master and his desires. What pleases the master will in turn satisfy and please the bondservant.

Therefore since we are called to be the *bondservants of Christ” (1 Co 7:22), we need not worry about finding our personal joy through selfish acts of pleasure. For if we set our focus on pleasing God, we will experience the inexpressible joy that only comes from serving the One who loves us beyond all comprehension.

To say God will never bless His children with wealth or gifts is wrong. However, we must always remember that nothing we possess is actually ours. EVERYTHING we have…. Finances, family, education, talents, beauty, intelligence…. Comes from God and belongs to God. We do not possess these things because of our own doing for God has given us the ability and grace to obtain them. To say otherwise is to loose sight of God’s dominion and His loving desire to provide and bless.

Furthermore, we ARE TO USE our God given gifts to glorify His name and bless others. We should not hide or bury our talents and then expect interest or growth. If a bondservant had a special musical ability, it would please his master to hear this gift. How would it please the master if his bondservant only sang or played his instrument in solitude and out of earshot?

Woe to the servant who is aware of a gift or talent but refuses to use it, for it was given for a reason and a harvest is expected. We must cultivate that seed God has provided. He expects interest. There is a purpose for the gift(s) you have received.

With a contented heart praise God for the many blessings in your life. Do not compare your riches to that of your neighbor. God has a reason for blessing some with financial wealth and others with less. We may not know the reason but it has nothing to do with God having favorites. He is impartial and loves all His children equally. Be sure to use your gifts and remember, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:8 (NIV)

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REFLECT ON THESE SCRIPTURES AND ASK GOD TO STIR THE GIFTS WITHIN YOU. CONSIDER WHETHER YOU ARE LIVING YOUR LIFE AS A BONDSERVANT FOR CHRIST.

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:26-30 (NKJV)

*A synonym for bondservant is slave.

“The description of a Biblical bondservant of is one who chooses to serve his Master till death. He will forever wear the mark of this Master. He accomplishes all the Master’s will for his life because of a love called “agape”. Exodus 21: 1-6 http://www.christsbondservants.org/Home_Files/Bondservant.html

For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.” 1 Corinthians 7:22 (NKJV)

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