Friday, September 16, 2011

Me of Little Faith

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." - Mark 11:24 (NIV)

When Jesus speaks the words, "You of little faith", which He does many times in the Gospels, He's talking directly to me. My faith is so small. I am easily discouraged. I don't feel I'm worthy to ask for certain things, especially when it's for myself. I don't turn first to prayer when I should. I fret and I worry and I fear. I allow doubts and Satan to run rampant through my thoughts: "Why should God answer this prayer? Who am I to think I'm important enough? He knows my sins, He'll NEVER answer this?" and so on. Oh, me of little faith!!

Prayer and faith; faith and prayer. They go hand in hand. If you have faith, you're going to pray. If you pray, you're going to have faith. The hard part for me is having true, honest and complete faith - the believe that you have received it part. In Matthew 21:21-22 (NIV), Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to this fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Jesus doesn't lie; God doesn't lie. If He said it, it's true. It's a promise. So why do I doubt? Jesus also tells me if I "have faith as small as a mustard seed....Nothing will be impossible." (Matthew 17:20 NIV). Small as a mustard seed!! That's a minute amount of faith. Oh, me of little faith!!

I want faith that can move mountains. I want faith that believes I have received. I want faith to know that I am truly loved by God and am worthy of His blessings. I want faith that God knows, sees and hears me.  I want faith that waits patiently on God's timing and not my own. I want faith that gives Him control of my life. I want faith that never wavers. I want faith that never doubts. I want faith that shows the world that Jesus is the Lord of my life. So, I will continue to pray, I will continue to study His Word, I will continue to consciously look for His blessings and miracles, I will continue to surround myself with other people who love Him....and eventually there will be no more me of little faith.

"Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step." - Joni Eareckson Tada

Dear Lord, forgive me for having so little faith. Grant me the faith to believe completely in You. Continue to show me through Your Word, through prayer, through time spent with other Christians, through Your miracles and blessings, just how much You love me. I believe I have received. In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Am I Worthy of the Lord?

"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." - Colossians 1:10 (NIV)

Each morning, before I start my Bible study, I read the John Wesley self-evaluation test that I have posted in the right hand column of this blog. I take the time to reflect on each question. About 2/3 of the way down is the question, "Did I disobey God in anything yesterday?". I can NEVER answer that question with a "No". I disobey Him daily. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, but in some way, shape or form, every day, I am disobedient to God.

It's something I struggle with. Paul says here in Colossians to live my life so that I am worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way. My struggle is that I know I am not and never will be perfect, at least not in this life. So how can I be worthy of the Lord? How can I please Him? What can I, a sinner, do, to live up to Paul's instruction? I know, no matter how hard I try, I will never be fully obedient to God.

Funny thing, God knows it, too. He gave me freewill. He allows me to make my own choices. So, I can choose to be obedient to Him...or not. I can choose to follow the commandments He gives me in His Word...or not. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV). Paul also gave me a couple of other things that are pleasing to God: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. These are not hard commandments to follow, yet I know there are times during the day when I choose to go my own way and disobey.

I have been and continue to be on the receiving end of God's blessings. When I seek Him, when I obey Him, when I trust Him....oh, the blessings He heaps on me! I have also been and continue to be on the receiving end of His discipline. Through my decisions to disobey, to take control, to seek my own counsel instead of His, I bring suffering to myself and my family. All God asks of me is to have faith. To trust Him with all areas of my life. To seek His will in all my decisions. To make the right choices. And, in His infinite wisdom, because He knows I am a sinner, He sent Jesus to intercede with Him on my behalf. When I disobey, and I will, I only need to repent, truly repent, and ask for forgiveness and it will be granted. Clean slate, do over, fresh start -- a new day to make the right choices. So, as I ponder the "Did I disobey God in anything yesterday?" question, and think about the choices I made the day before, I become more aware of the things I do that are displeasing to God. Then I can choose, this day, to make a different decision in how I think, act or speak. I can choose to be worthy of my Lord.

"Although God causes all things to work together for good for His children, He still holds us accountable for our behavior." - Kay Arthur

Awesome God, I want to be obedient to You. I want to follow Your commandments. I want to live a life that is worthy of You, that is pleasing to You. Forgive me when I stumble, Lord, as I often do. May I make choices in my behavior that are consistent with my belief in You and in Your Son. May I continue to grow in my knowledge and trust of You. I ask You this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Growing Through Discipline

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Discipline - no one likes it but we all need it. I tend to equate it with punishment but they are two different things. Punishment is being made to suffer for our mistakes. Discipline is being made to learn from our mistakes. Punishment comes from anger. Discipline comes from love. And, before you think this insight is coming from me, let me just say that this verse was part of the message presented at church about 3 weeks ago. It was definitely eye-opening to me because, as I wrote at the beginning, discipline and punishment were one and the same to me. I know better now.

What I came to understand is that God doesn't punish us for our sins, our mistakes. He punished Jesus for those. Jesus took on our sin even though He was sinless. He was beaten, He was bloodied, He was stripped, He was despised, He was spit on. He was perfect yet took on my imperfection. He committed no crime but was punished for mine. God turned His back on His Beloved Son instead of turning His back on me. That's punishment.

I also came to understand that God does, however, discipline us. His discipline is an expression of His love for us. For those of us with children...think about that. We discipline our kids to teach them right from wrong, to correct their mistakes, to show them how to act, to build their character, - and we do it out of love. You might be wondering what God's discipline might look like in our lives. Troubles, adversity, trials - that's what it looks like. Sometimes God places them in our lives and sometimes He just uses what Satan has already placed there. But, either way, he wants us to learn from them. His discipline is about maturing us. It's about building our character for Him. Those are the benefits of being disciplined. If we aren't learning the lessons He's teaching, He may allow our difficulties to linger, He may not answer our prayers, He may withhold His blessings. He may use another Christian, our conscience or the Bible to speak to us. Those are the consequences of refusing His discipline. He won't force us to learn our lessons. He still leaves that choice up to us. But, if we refuse to be corrected, to be trained, God says we're stupid. WHAT?!! STUPID?!! WHERE DOES HE SAY THAT?!! "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." (Proverbs 12:1 NIV).  Right there, that's where He says it. My devotional has this to say: The trouble with trouble isn't just the trouble it causes; it's also the trouble we cause ourselves if we ignore the things that trouble has to teach. Just a nicer way of saying we're stupid if we refuse to learn from God's discipline.

My stupidity definitely lies in my reaction to His discipline. First I'm resistant to it and resentful of it. Then I resign myself to it. And finally, FINALLY, I realize that it was exactly what I needed. If I would only skip the resistance, resentfulness and resignation and go directly to the realization...what would my life look like? I'd still need discipline...I am a sinner after all. But I'd sure learn my lesson sooner, I'd mature quicker, my character would grow faster, my troubles wouldn't hang around as long. I have been praying about and working on seeing God's love for me during this time of discipline in my life. I am in the realization stage but it's taken me awhile to get here. Growing through discipline - not fun, but worth it!!

"When faced with adversity the Christian [person] comforts [themself] with the knowledge that all of life's events are in the hands of God." - Vonette Bright

Heavenly Father, I don't like to be disciplined but I know I need it to grow in my faith and my walk with You. Open my eyes to the lessons I need to learn. Help me to skip the resistance, resentfulness and resignation and go directly to the realization of what my discipline is about. Help me to feel Your Presence and Your love through my adversities. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life to the Full

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10 (NIV)

Life to the full - what does that mean? Could it mean money to do and buy anything your heart desires? Could it mean traveling all over the world and experiencing different cultures? Could it mean a huge home, fancy cars and clothes, friends constantly visiting? Could it mean having a huge loving family and spending time enjoying each other's company? Could it mean being able to help others whenever the need arises? It could, and does, mean one or all of these things for a lot of people and a whole lot more.

However, when Jesus talks about life to the full in this verse, He's not talking about any of the above. He's not talking about a life full of worldly things. He's talking about the life He provided for all of us by coming to earth. Life to the full is a gift from Jesus. We can't find it in money, or travel, or family, or friends or things. We can't buy it, bargain for it, trade for it or steal it. No matter how hard we try. All we have to do is accept it. Life to the full is experiencing the love, spiritual abundance and eternal life that Jesus gave His life for.

Jesus is the Giver of life to the full. When we accept Him, He will fill us with His abundance. Through Him we can have unimaginably full lives, no matter where we live, who we know or what we earn. Can you imagine always being at peace, always having joy deep down in your soul, being filled with love for everyone, having the courage and strength to face down every challenge, being filled with wisdom to always make the right decisions, being so full of grace, mercy and forgiveness that it doesn't matter what anyone says or does to you? To be so compassionate, empathetic, understanding and kind that it's returned to you a hundred times over? To have the discipline, self-control and confidence to do anything? No? I can hardly imagine it either but I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said he came, "that they may have life, and have it to the full.".

I can choose each day whether I want a full life in God or a full life in the world. Life in full with God is eternal, everlasting; it will never be taken away. Life in full in the world is fleeting, temporary; it can disappear in an instant. The world is the thief; Jesus is life to the full. I choose to accept the life that Jesus offers.

"God is the giver, and we are the receivers. And His richest gifts are bestowed not upon those who do the greatest things, but upon those who accept His abundance and His grace." - Barbara Whitall Smith

Precious Jesus, I accept Your gifts. I want a life to the full with You. Nothing You offer me is temporary, Lord. Whatever today brings, I have the opportunity to live it with abundance. Thank You. Let me lean on You as I experience this life You've given to me. In Your name, Amen.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let's Take a Walk

"Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways." - Psalm 128:1 (NIV)

When was the last time you took a walk with someone you love? Not for exercise, or sightseeing, or because you had to be somewhere but just a nice, leisurely stroll and a good talk? Hand in hand or arm in arm, sharing your hopes and dreams, worry and fears? Today? Yesterday? A week ago? Months ago? Never? What about Jesus? When was the last time you took a long walk and had a long talk with Him?

Jesus took a long walk for us, carrying His cross up to Calvary. He did that because He loves us. He did that to take the place of all the rituals of the Old Testament. He became the sacrifice for our sins. He shed His blood to cleanse us. He became our bridge to God. In return, He wants us to walk with Him. Follow in His footsteps. Live as He lived. Trust Him. Talk to Him. Share with Him. He wants to hear about our hopes, dreams, and wishes. He wants to take on our fears, worries and sorrows. He wants to walk hand in hand with us. To celebrate our joys, lift us up when we fall, protect us when we're afraid. He's just waiting for us to ask Him to take a walk.

The path for my walk with Him isn't the same as the path for His walk with you. He has different plans for each of us. But, no matter how different our paths may be, the directions for walking them are clearly spelled out in the Bible. When we walk in the light - follow Jesus. When we walk through darkness - follow Jesus. When something crosses  our path that scares us - follow Jesus. When we walk through confusion - follow Jesus. When we get tired - follow Jesus. Through it all - follow Jesus. Walk with Him and talk with Him and you'll never lose your way.

"I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light." - Anonymous

Dear Lord, walk with me today. Keep me from straying from Your ways. Hold my hand as I face the challenges that cross my path. Protect me when I'm afraid, strengthen me when I'm weak and comfort me when I fall. Rejoice with me in the good times. Let me hear You as I know You hear me. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Claim the Victory

"For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." - 1 John 5:4 (NIV)

"Oh, victory in Jesus, My Savior forever. He sought me and He bought me, with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood." I love the words to this hymn. There IS victory in Jesus. By believing in Him and accepting Him into my heart as my Lord and Savior, being born-again into His kingdom, I will overcome the world. What a comfort that is - to know that no matter what adversity I face in this world, I can overcome it by having faith in my Lord. And that, when I die or meet Jesus in the Rapture, the world will never bother me again.

It's so easy to focus on our troubles, isn't it? They're here and now. We are facing them and they scare us. God, Jesus, Heaven and the rewards we have waiting for us....they seem so far into the future, don't they? It's hard to focus on what God wants for us, to have the patience to wait for His timing and His plan for our lives, to claim the victory over the devil and the world. But that's exactly what we He intends for us to do.

Have faith, believe, trust, be thankful, have patience...these topics seem to be the focus of every Bible passage God is leading me to of late. He knows how weak my faith really is. He strengthens my faith through His Word, each and every day. He wants me to claim the victory that is rightfully mine as a child of God. The victory that He provided for me by the shedding of the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. What is holding me back from that victory? Fear? Pride? Selfishness? Disbelief? Anger? Impatience? All of the above? More? What is holding you back?

I need to claim the victory over my troubles. I want to claim the victory over them. God loves me. He proved that by sending His only Beloved Son to die for me. Jesus loves me. He proved that by taking on the burden of my sin, suffering anguish and pain, and dying on the cross so that I wouldn't have to spend eternity in hell. Then VICTORY!! - He rose on the third day, overcoming death, overcoming sin, overcoming Satan, overcoming the world!! My troubles are nothing compared to what God can do.

I AM CLAIMING THE VICTORY TODAY! I will rely on His strength, His courage, His love and His promises. There is nothing this world can throw in my path that God cannot overcome. I believe and I will receive...victory is mine!

"If you think you can win, you can. Faith is necessary to victory." - William Hazlitt

Precious Jesus, I claim the victory today! No matter what disappointments, trials, troubles or sorrows cross my path, I know You can overcome them. The world and it's hardships are nothing compared to You. I place my trust in Your promises, Your timing and Your plan for me. In Your name I claim the victory, Amen.