Read: Jeremiah 29:11-13
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
As I was diving into the Word during my morning quiet time with God, the ‘beep’ sound signaled a text had just came in . Then a ‘ding’ alerted me of a new email. Then a vibration sound to remind me of an appointment later on in the day. As much as I tried to keep focused on connecting with God, my mind began to drift to the unread messages on my phone: I wonder if it’s something important…don’t forget to send that email later…I should call so and so to see if…
That’s when the small still voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted me, “Turn it off.” Without a moment’s hesitation, I obeyed. I turned the darn thing off and haven’t brought it into another quiet time since. I was suddenly so convicted by my behavior. How would you feel if you were spending quality one-on-one time with a close friend and just as you were about to say something really near and dear to your heart, the person interrupted you with phone calls, texts, and emails? Can you think of anything more rude?
This is the age we are living in. The beeps, bells and whistles of our nifty gadgets have made a home in our daily conversations and we don’t think anything of it. But God does. No matter how modern and digital our world gets, He is still yearning for our undivided attention. We don’t want to be one of those unfortunate ones who Jesus looks at and says, “I never knew you.”
Bringing our gadget habits and addictions into our spiritual lives can take a toll on our spiritual health if we are not careful. And what’s worse is that it’s downright offensive to our Lord. So let’s check our phones at the door before entering God’s throne room of grace this week and give Him nothing less than the undivided, uninterrupted attention He deserves.
Dear Lord, forgive me for putting other things before You. Forgive me for going through the motions of religious activity and failing to give You my full attention. Show me where I have picked up bad habits that are offensive to You. Help me change Lord, I want less distraction and more of You. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: Out of 24 hours in a day, how much time do you spend one-on-one, alone and quiet with the Lord? Make a commitment to spend time with Him each day, and make sure you give him the undivided attention He deserves!
HAPPY 4TH of July to my American friends both near and far! I hope you are enjoying this day with friends, family, fun and fireworks. May God bless you and the USA on this patriotic summer holiday and beyond!
I’m sticking to the normal ‘Did You Know’ devotional post today and will be blogging about red, white and blue on Wednesday…stay tuned!
DID YOU KNOW? God Wants You to Soar
Read: Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 23:1-3
“Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Do you ever feel so tired, you don’t know if you can make it through another day? Do you ever feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you ever long for the days when you were a kid and never seemed to tire?
If so, welcome to planet earth. Tiredness is a part of life. It is a sign of our humanity. But we need to learn to discern when to let God and others carry some of the load. Sometimes we need to have the courage to say, “I am feeling weak today Lord, will you carry me through this day?” When we turn to our Lord during times of feeling tired or weary, He says He will renew our strength. It’s a promise!
Next time you feel so exhausted you could literally collapse, close your eyes and imagine God swooping you off the ground and soaring on His wings of grace, like an eagle. See yourself flying through the air, light as a feather and free as a bird. He is taking you higher and higher into His heavenly realm to renew your strength and to reshape your perspective from this birds-eye view. When He sets you back down, you will run and not grow weary. You will walk and not grow faint!
Dear Lord, thank you that you are there to give me Your strength when I am weary and weak. Lord, sometimes I feel so tired from all that life demands of me. Help me to turn to You, allowing you to carry me on Your wings like an eagle. Take me to a high place so I can breathe some fresh new air. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: Evaluate your exhaustion level. Are you doing too much or are you just needing some rest and renewal? Let it be a week of soaring on His wings as He turns your weakness into strength.
Read Psalm 4
“In peace I will lay down and sleep, for you alone Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
The seat belt sign had just been turned off and people jumped out of their seats to get their baggage down from the overhead bins. People are always anxious to get off as fast as they can–myself included.
As I was embroiled in the hustle and bustle of eager travelers, I glanced over and saw a baby fast asleep on what must have been his father’s shoulders. The baby’s mouth was slightly open with a bit of drool oozing out of the corners. The baby looked so peaceful and comfortable, safe and secure in the loving arms of his parent, completely oblivious to what was going on around him.
I found myself longing to be that baby, even for a moment. Then I heard the Spirit whisper, “You are that baby and I am Your father holding you in My arms.” God was reminding me that no matter grown up or mature I was expected to act in the world, I would never cease to be His child, held and rocked to sleep in His arms. He is waiting to pick you up too and rock you to sleep in His peaceful arms today–will you let Him?
Dear Lord, thank You for the sweet reminder that I am never too old to be cuddled and rocked by You. Help me to discover the safe haven that Your loving presence brings. Continue to find new ways to remind me of Your sweet and tender love and help me to receive it as easily as a baby would. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure:How do you relate to God as Father? Ask Him to remove any barriers that keep you from enjoying His love with a childlike innocence.
Millions of people around the world celebrated the resurrection of Christ over the weekend. For many though, the joyful celebration ended after the sermon and life will continue on as normal this week.
But as my pastor says, we are ‘Easter people’. Easter people continue to live out the Easter message, even when the Easter bunny has come and gone, the Easter egg hunts are over and done with and the Easter baskets are found and emptied of their bright yellow peeps. Easter people not only know what the Jesus story says, but they know what it means. Christ was resurrected from the dead so we can have eternal life with God AND resurrection life here on earth.
I love how the Apostle Paul describes this so-called resurrection life:
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us an unbelievable inheritance!” (Romans 8:17, Message)
How awesome is that? Adventurously expectant…touching God’s Spirit…confirming who we are…filled with hope, joy and blessing! Who wouldn’t want to live the resurrection life?
The challenge for many is not wanting resurrection life, but how to live it out. How do we practice this resurrection life?
Living the resurrection life is quite simple really. Romans 8:17 tells us it is a gift we receive from God, so we must simply make the choice to receive it. In order to receive it, we must believe it. Too often we get hung up on whether it’s true or not true, or on little details like whether Jesus literally rose from the dead in bodily form or not. It’s not that we shouldn’t ever contemplate these things, but we should never let them distract us from the Truth. The Bible says if we believe in what Jesus did on the cross, we will be ‘raised up’ (John 6:40) to live out the adventurously expectant Christian life through the empowerment of His Spirit.
Choosing to believe is the first step towards living the resurrection life. Here are four other practical steps we can take to make room for Jesus’ resurrection life to manifest fully in our lives:
1. Surrender. We’ve got to surrender our own ways and take up His. This is a conscious decision. Will we continue to go on living according to our own will, or will we allow Him and His Word to direct our path? Matthew 16:25 says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” It is only when we surrender control of our lives and give Him the reigns, that we experience the true fulfillment and satisfaction we long for. This is when His resurrection life can make a home in our hearts, flourishing and bearing fruit in all areas of our lives.
2. Seek. If after attending church on Easter Sunday and you felt no connection, conviction or meaning whatsoever, there is only one thing to do: seek His face! Scripture tells us that he who seeks WILL find (see Matthew 7:8). It is a promise! When I re-committed my life to Christ nearly 5 years ago, there was a lot I didn’t understand about God and why He had to send His son Jesus to die for our sins. So I made it my personal mission to seek out answers. I studied the Bible, read books, asked questions and prayed to God for understanding. The more I sought Him out, the more He revealed Himself to me. Try it… He never breaks a promise!
3. Serve. Part of living the resurrection life is to rely on His empowerment to serve others. Jesus himself said that we would do even greater works than He did because we would have the Holy Spirit living in us (John 14:12). If we have been saved, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. It is also important to ask God for the supernatural filling of His Holy Spirit, so that we can most effectively serve the needs of others around us through His power and not our own. God gives each of His children special and specific gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12) through His Holy Spirit, which enable us to complete the works He calls us to do. If you don’t know what your gifts are, pray and ask Him to show you. There are also tests you can take online to help you discover your unique spiritual gifts. Don’t delay!
4. Sow. Scripture tells us when we live to please the Spirit, we will reap life from the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). This means when we sow or invest our time and efforts into things of spiritual value, like loving, forgiving and serving others, spending time studying the Word, praying, and taking good care of our physical bodies, which are temples for the Holy Spirit, this will result in God’s life and character growing inside of us. This makes for a Christian life that is not dead or boring, but vibrant and alive in Him!
These are just a few practical things we can do to help us live out to the very fullest, the resurrection life Christ promised us through His finished work on the cross. What will your response to Easter be this year? Will you go on living your normal life, or will you take steps to make His resurrection a reality?
**Ponder this: the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is residing within YOU this moment. What are you going to do about it?
I walked to the front of the room, my heart beating a little faster than normal. Okay, a lot faster–like it was going to beat out of my chest. I usually held back from asking for prayer at these kinds of events. Surely there were people who needed it more than me. But something that day propelled me to the front. I had just made a major decision that would steer my life in an entirely new and unknown direction. I was terrified, confused, and in desperate need of some prayer. Even if it was from a complete stranger.
Finally it was my turn and I stepped forward to receive prayer from a woman who looked kind and caring. Immediately my nerves melted away as I saw the love and compassion of Christ in her bright blue eyes staring directly into mine. I expected her to ask what I needed prayer for. But she didn’t. She just smiled, put her soft hands over mine and began to pray:
“I see you swinging on a trapeze.” She said. “You just let go of the bar…and you are flying through the air…waiting for the next bar to come.”
Admittedly, the imagery seemed a little far-fetched at first, a little ‘out there.’ But never before had a person so accurately described how I felt in that moment: swinging on a trapeze…flying through the air… waiting for the next bar. The words danced around in my head like an elegant ballerina gliding across the stage. I stood there in awe and wonder of how the Holy Spirit was moving through this woman I had never even met.
When she was finished, she opened her eyes and told me to go home and do some research on what trapeze artists do in the ‘hang time’ of going from one bar to the next. Fully aware of how silly and random this whole circus metaphor seemed, I somehow felt moved to follow through. Interestingly enough, what I discovered was that there were three key things that kept trapeze artists from falling flat on their faces:
3. Holding their position.
Wow. Immediately I knew there were some spiritual insights from which to draw here. God seemed to be speaking directly to me through the visual imagery of circus acrobatics. As strange as it may sound, something about it was powerful and it pierced somewhere deep in my heart and soul. It was as if God was saying, “I see you Ali, I know you feel as if you are flying and flailing through the air like an out-of-control acrobat…you are uncertain of what is next and wondering if that next bar will ever come…but I have you right where you are…just stay there and trust Me and know My timing is perfect…the bar will come.”
This may be a Word from the Lord for you too. Maybe you just left a job… made a career change… moved churches… left a ministry position… walked away from a relationship. Whatever it was, you did it because you felt it was what God was calling you to do. And when you finally took the step of faith, when you officially let go of that bar, you found yourself flailing through the air, unsure of exactly where God was leading you. You thought the other bar would be there, visible and ready for a smooth transition to the next thing. But the bar didn’t show up right away. Suddenly you wondered if there even was another bar or if you might have missed it all together. Maybe, you wonder, I should have never left the old bar. At least it was safe. Secure. Comfortable…
If this describes you–in transition–right now, take heed my friend. You are not alone. Embrace the ‘hang time’ and become the master trapeze artist that God is calling you to be. It’s all about trust… it’s all about timing…and it’s all about holding your position until God chooses to reveal that next bar for the taking. But be encouraged, it is this transition time that will lead to transformation.
A friend of mine shared with me a quote she heard from Andy Stanley at the Catalyst Conference a few weeks ago. He said,
“Sometimes we are tempted to stay somewhere because it would be easy. But if we are willing to step out in faith and leave, God can do something He’s been longing to do in our lives.”
God is longing to do something in your life. Something new, something great, something that will lead you to the next phase of your destiny in Him. But He needs you to let go of one bar before you can grab onto the next…
Are you willing?
Food for Thought:
1. Are you doing what you are doing out of comfort or calling?
2. When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something new?
3. Prayerfully ask God what steps of faith you can take to bring about the fullness of His purposes in and through your life.