Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Intimate Relationship

It is late and I know I should be going to sleep but something has been on my heart today that I feel I must share. This morning I saw a video of Sis. Vicki Gonzalez from Chicago speaking about prayer. It was only a seven minute video but I was so convicted that I couldn't finish it. I was convicted and ashamed of my selfishness. She was speaking about prayer and how God longs to commune with us but we tend to only go to Him when we have a problem or we need Him to fix something. He fixes our situations and answers our prayers all the while longing to have a true deep relationship with us.

Today as I thought about the few minutes that I listened to, I thought about how I try to talk with my mother, my children and several other loved ones on a regular basis. When we talk, it isn't about us needing something from the other, though sometimes that is the case. It is just about having that relationship with them. It is about sharing how it is going, telling of our plans and dreams. It is about asking how they are doing and really want to know. It is about the love we have for each other. I thought about how God does so much for us, yes, he helps us financially and/or physically but He does so much more that we do not even recognize.Every day He keeps the sun and moon perfectly balanced. Every dayy He waters the earth, causes plants to grow, and animals to multiply. He does all of these things for us but yet we only go to Him when our lights are about to be shut off and we have no money or we got a negative report from the doctor. Every day God is faithful in providing us with what we need but we still get busy with our own life (which He also provided) and happiness that we forget to build our relationship with Him.

My heart is just broken because I know that I have been guilty of this very thing. When life is tough, because of relationships, finances, health, etc., I am very strong in prayer, faith and reliance on God. When things are easy and God has blessed me with abundance, I get busy living and fail to truly grow my relationship with Him. I must keep my First Love fresh and new so that our relationship is always a joy for both me and God.

My belief is that God takes joy in being in an intimate relationship with us, let us take joy in the same thing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Restored: Forgiveness

So you have wandered away from the safety of God's arms. You didn't mean to wander but you got busy, distracted or perhaps you just wanted to have a little fun. Now you look back and your soul craves the security and safety of dwelling in the palm of the hand of Jesus. As you stand there looking back desiring that which you gave up, intentionally or unintentionally, fear swamps you as the magnitude of your choice fills your mind. "How did I get here? It was good back there. I was happy. Sure I had problems, disagreements and struggles sometimes but I have problems, disagreements and struggles here too and I am not in the safe place of the will of God." Thoughts of regret and failure fill you and you become resigned to the life that you have chosen. You think, "how can I go back? I have wandered too far and made some incredibly harmful decisions. No one will have me now, I have burnt bridges and there is no way for me to return."

"For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee." Psalm 86:5

"To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him:" Daniel 9:9

It does not matter how far you have wandered. It does not matter what you have done. It does not even matter why you have left the hand of God. All that matter is that you turn back to Him with your whole heart and humble yourself and repent. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9 Truly that is all that it takes to get back into the safety and security of the hand of God. Our Father is standing, with stretched out hands willing you to return. He longs to wrap you once again in His arms and let you know that He loves you and has great plans for you. He wants you to know that He would go to the cross a thousand times if that is what it took to get you back in His arms where you belong. Sure there will be scars from your time that you wandered away. Of course, there will be a price to pay but when God fills you to over-flowing with His Spirit, no price is too great. When you return to Him, He truly does make all things new. He can restore marriages, relationships, ministries and honor; whatever it takes to make all things new. "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful." Revelations 21:5

Come Home and all will be forgiven. Jesus loves you and will restore all that has been lost.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Restored: Vision

"Where there is no vision, the people perish:" Proverbs 29:18a

Have you gotten to the place that you hear so many voices and see so much that your hope has been depleted? You do not even know what you should hope for? You know what you desire to hope for but now you are wondering if it is God's will at all an perhaps your hope is misplaced. Do you find yourself wandering away in the spirit because your hope is not fixed and you seem to be unable to focus it?

Take a few minutes to settle back in your chair, close your eyes, and think of what God has already done for you. Has He redeemed you already? Has He helped you meet financial obligations? Has He healed you or a loved one already? There are many things that God has done for you and your family already, take a few minutes to take inventory of that faithfulness of God. Now take a few minutes to think about those things that He has promised you? Has He promised you restoration? Has He promised you salvation? Has He promised you joy? Has He promised you healing? Let the voices, faith and vision of His promises be louder and more vivid than the voices of defeat the the enemy throws at you. Tune into the vision of His promises, write them down and read them when the way seems dark. As the contrariness of reality seems to get louder, take time to refocus on the hope and the promises that God has given to you and the promises that He has already fulfilled.

"And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Habakkuk 2:2-3

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Restored: Relationship

This past Saturday I took my daughter to Chicago to spend the day. We seldom get to do anything together so it was a wonderful day. We did shopping at IKEA and as we headed down the escalator to leave I realized that I no longer had my phone. We stared at each other in horror. Rather I stared at her in horror, paralyzed by the thoughts of the cost, inconvenience and, most traumatic, the loss of phone numbers, apps, pictures, text messages and history. Long story short... my phone is gone. Whether it was misplaced, dropped or stolen, I do not know but it is gone. So now I have to go through the ordeal of getting it replaced - which due to my particular situation is not easy, convenient or comfortable (that is another devotional for another day). Hopefully sometime this week I will have a brand-new phone.

There are times when we become spiritually lost. We do not intentionally become lost but we get distracted by the cares and burdens of life or the blessings that come our way. Perhaps we become so busy that we are not prayed up and we don't get in God's Word as much as we used to so we become spiritually weak and unable to withstand the temptations that come our way.  We do love God and our desire is to serve Him but when we see how far we unintentionally strayed we become spiritually paralyzed and don't know what to do first. Then our pride kicks in and we start to justify our choices and decisions; all the while straying further and further from that which we know is right. Before long our pride has grown so big that we no longer see that we are lost and in need of a Savior. If we are not careful our pride can become so large that only God can humble us. Humbling ourselves is not easy, convenient and certainly not comfortable but it is through that humbleness that our relationship with God is made new. As we recognize that we have strayed and draw close to our Savior, he will welcome us and draw close to us. 

"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." James 4:6-8

Friday, October 9, 2015

Restored: First Love

"Every good gift and every perfect figt is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variablness, neither shadow of turning." James 1:17

I firmly believe that anything good is from God. Love comes from God. Faith comes from God. Hope comes from God. Anything that is pure, good, perfect and holy definitely comes from our Heavenly Father. "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." I John 4:8 "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Romans 15:13

Sometimes we know we should feel a certain way but, regardless of the reason, we just don't. We know we should be forgiving but sometimes we aren't. We know we should love God's Word but sometimes we find it boring and a bit tedious. We know we should have faith but sometimes we don't. We try to love The Word and read it but it become so difficult to understand that we just give up. We say that we forgive and we don't bring it up but it is always right there under the surface creating a bit of bitterness and mistrust. Because we mentally know how a Christian should act, we can act the part and say the right words but our heart isn't really in it. Prayer is another area that we know we should be doing and faithful at but it is easier to talk to a human than it is God. We do talk to him, especially when we are in trouble, but we just don't have the time for exclusive one-on-one with Jesus on a daily basis.  He understands that we are really busy and don't have time - at least that is what we tell ourselves. Mentally we know we are not right and not living the way that God has called us to live but it is just easier to talk to and love those things that you can see and hear. Perhaps we feel a bit guilty that we don't love God quite as much as we love our children or our programs or our ministries but what can we do about it?

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" Matthew 7:7-11

I submit to you that all you have to do is ask God to put a love in your heart for Him and His Word. He wants us to ask him to pour forgiveness into our hearts. God desires that we ask him to fill us with His faith, His hope and His love. He is not going to ask us to do anything that He has not provided all that we need to be successful. In Deuteronomy 6:5 it says, "And thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." If God is commanding us to love Him, He will give us the love we need to do that - Just Ask. There are some things that we just can't manufacture on our own, when that is the case, just ask the creator of all things to create in your heart a First Love experience with Him.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Restored: Strength

There are times that you feel battered by life. Just when you start to get up a wave surges forward and knocks you down again. Time after time you try to rise only to have yet another wave hit you, seeming bigger and with more force than the last. As you struggle, the pain, weariness and hopelessness comes to the forefront and causes you to want to say, "I give up. The waves are too hard and I can't seem to rise out of this, I might as well quit trying." Have you been there? Are you there now? It is difficult to fight back the waves of hopelessness causing you to wonder where God is in the midst of your trouble.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23

Restore in this particular instance means to refresh. Refresh, according to Merriam-Webster, means "to restore strength and to revive." When we accept our Lord Jesus Christ as our shepherd, not only does he provide for us but he  refreshes our strength. When we are too weak to even stand, God said that His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Life can come at you with such force that your strength and faith is drained, just lean into the Lord and allow Him to restore you. Restoration of all that was taken from you during this battle is available, all you have to do is ask Him. He is right here waiting to refresh your soul and give you a new season of strength.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Restored: Value

I recently listened to a sermon preached by Rev. Devin Akers. He had titled it the Profitable Prodigal. In the sermon he gave an illustration. He held up an $100 bill and asked what the value was and the response was obviously it is worth $100. He put it in his left hand and asked what the value was and it was still worth $100. Regardless of where he held the $100, the value did not change. Even if he lost the money, the value was consistent the only thing different was his ability to make use of its value. To me that was quite a revelation. He went on to say that many times when we see someone walk away from God, or even when we turn away, we feel that the value of that person is lost also.What kind of value would a person that has once known God but has turned way? The value of that soul is still there the only thing different is the ability to use the value.

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Galations 6:1

Restore in that verse means to thoroughly repair. How does one go about thoroughly repairing the soul of another person? We aren't God, we cannot do any miracles on our own power. It is through prayer, fervent prayer and fasting that we can restore such a one that has fallen away. Isaiah 58:12 says, speaking of fasting, "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." When we offer the sacrifice of our time and energy into fasting and prayer, we can change the lives of a prodigal and the lives of their children and grandchildren. When we consider the value of the successive generations of a restored prodigal, it is immeasurable to the kingdom of God.

Do you know of a prodigal? Are you a prodigal? There is still value in that precious soul. Regardless of where sin has taken you, there is still value in your life. Just because someone has allowed sin to take them as far from God as is possible, do not write their value off. There isn't a sin too big for my Jesus to forgive and restore life. There isn't a life so torn apart that Jesus didn't die on a tree to redeem. I implore you to pray and fast for the prodigals in your harvest field. In doing so, you will be a restorer of paths to dwell in.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

His Word, His Will, His Way

" For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

This is one of my many favorite scriptures. It does indeed give hope of a bright future of being in the center of God's will. Being in God's will and following His plan for my life is my hearts desire. Sometimes His will is not always comfortable or easy but it is the place that I want to be... even when my heart of flesh is wanting comfort and ease.  I have found that through prayer, devotional time and the studying of God's Word, I am able to hear and understand His Will. Even when God speaks a Word to my heart, it will always be backed up by His written Word.

Though our hearts desire God's will and we start following it, there are times when God says, "hold on, we are going to do this MY way." Doing God's will in God's way can be one of the most difficult things. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 There are paths that God knows we must walk if we are going to live and thrive in His will. There are trials, pains and heartaches that must be endured and learned from for us to live fully in the calling that God has given us. Even when we do not understand how His Way is going to put us in His Will, we must trust Him. Trust God to know how to make a plan and execute it perfectly.

My desire is to know His Word, follow His Will and walk in His Way.

This is the conclusion of our His Word series. Starting on Monday we will be starting a new series on Restoration.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

His Word, His Time

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Through this life we go through many seasons. Seasons of joy. Seasons of pain. Seasons of strength and seasons of weakness. During each season of our life it is a time of learning and growth, not just mentally and physically but especially spiritually. During the season of joy, did you learn to keep God first rather than His blessings? During the season of pain, did you learn to thank Him for the lesson and praise Him for His keeping power? During the season of strength, did you learn to help others up who are weak and struggling? During your season of weakness, did you learn to trust God's strength? Whatever season you are in right now, are you learning the lesson that God is desiring you to learn so that you will be prepared for the next season? 

Perhaps, like me, you are ready for this season of hard-work and change to end and the next joyful season to begin. But did I really learn this time what I was supposed to learn or will I have to go through this season yet again because I refused to be taught? Did I learn the difference in a time to speak and a time to keep silent? Did I learn the difference in a time to break down and a time to build up? Did I truly learn to allow God to work through me in His time and in His way? Though I am ready for this season to end and am anticipating the next season, I am so blessed that God loved me enough to give me of His time to bring about the changes He has made and helped me make in my life. The time that God spends molding me and making me into the woman that He needs me to be is more precious than silver or gold. God shows me every day just how much He loves me by spending time with me and holding my hand through each season of life. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

His Word, My Lover

"I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another , and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works." Psalm 145:1-5

When I think of the Creator of the world and how this huge planet is merely his footstool, I am in awe of His greatness. His power and glory is more wonderful than words can describe. I think how big God is when I read the Bible and know of His mighty acts, the Exodus of His People from Egypt, Jonah in the belly of the fish, creation, the walls of Jericho and so many others. I praise Him and am in wonder knowing that with only His Word did all things come to be. But when I think of how this great big, powerful, mighty God cares about me, my heart thrills. Jesus cares enough about me to guide me each and every day to be the best person that I can be. Jesus loves me so intimately that he knows my hearts desires and thoughts. God loves me enough to be my lover, my therapist, my confidant and my very best friend. He listens to my cry and my laughter. He brings me the gift of joy and peace. Each day he guides me into His paths and I have learned that absolutely nothing is too small for God to care about. There are days when I am so tired that I do not want to get out of bed but he encourages me and reminds me of His goals for my life. When we are in communion and I am following hard after Him is when His love consumes me. His love and blessings overtakes me (Deut. 28:2). As I love Him, so He loves me and is found of me when I seek Him (Proverbs 8:17). His love for me covers all my sins (Proverbs 10:12). Jesus, my God and Savior, is truly the lover of my soul.

"The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have love thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Jeremiah 31:3