The WAR within me

Facing a trial in our lives can make us feel like someone has waged an all-out war against us. Nothing seems to go our way. We can’t even see a light at the end of the tunnel. It can be sickness, it can be marital problems, it can be financial crisis; it truly can be anything or everything at the same time! This isn’t necessarily good news (or new news), but there IS good news for us as believers.

We don’t have to look far to see that we aren’t the only followers of God who have encountered some extreme battles against our faith in Him. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, the Jewish people faced exile and captivity. It must have seemed as though it would never end, but the prophet Isaiah had words of comfort for them.

He told them that their “warfare was over” and to remember that the One who “created all the stars” gives “power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” He encouraged a people who were faced with bondage and slavery that their God hadn’t misplaced a single star, and He wasn’t about to forget them either.

Just imagine that. Your warfare is OVER. Does it feel that way? Probably not. You probably have reminders of your battles every single day, but Isaiah wrote those words to a nation that was facing a Babylonian conquest which would end in their exile, and before it even began God was declaring through His prophet that it was already over!

Isn’t it amazing to think that our Creator has seen our end from the beginning? He knew what we would face and feel before we were ever born, and yet still He tells us that the victory is won in Christ Jesus! It’s this truth that we hold to. This is the “confident trust in the Lord” that Hebrews 10 tells us not to throw away, that we can patiently endure the storm KNOWING God has already secured the outcome. The fight is fixed! And YOU are the winner.

In Romans 15:13, Paul gives us this prayer he prayed for the church in Rome, and it’s a prayer I pray for you now. No matter WHAT you are facing, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Remember that weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning! Lift up your eyes and see, the sun is rising!

THERE IS GOOD IN YOU

THOUGHT:
When anybody first gives their life back to God it is normal to be overwhelmed with a sense of remorse for all the sinfulness in our lives. That’s called conviction. We are guilt stricken because we are guilty. We realize, maybe for the first time, that we have offended a holy God.

It’s not that you have never done anything good. It just means that your good doing cannot save you. We have all done plenty of good and plenty of bad. But salvation is not based on the merit of our activity. We are saved by God’s grace and we receive His free gift of life.

Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done. It’s all God. Everything we have is because of Jesus. This motivates us to do more good. We do good because God has made us good. We live a good life because God is a good God, and our good works bring pleasure to Him.

We were actually created to do good works. It’s God’s plan that our whole life would change and start to reflect His good character. That we would live lives that serve others and help others.
You have natural desires inside you to help people and to love them. It’s not too difficult for any of us to be moved with compassion for someone. All of us see situations and want to help make them better. That’s normal – because there is good in you.

The more we spend time with God and talk to Him about what is happening around us, the more we will start to see a natural desire to do good. It’s in you to do good. It’s part of being human – to love and to serve and make this place a better place for all.

TIME TO THINK:
What good activity do you find easy to do?
What good do you need extra effort to do?

PRAYER:
Father, thank you that You are a good, good Father. You have created me for good works. You want me to live a life that reflects Your goodness. Help me change from some of the bad things that are in my life. Help me to walk this new life by the power of Your Spirit, in Jesus Name. Amen.

YOU’VE BEEN CHANGING YOUR WHOLE LIFE

THOUGHT:
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the change that is necessary to become like God. It seems like such a long road home. But I want to help you see something – you’ve been changing your whole life.

You might say, yeah that’s the problem. I have been slowly getting worse my whole life. Well, that may be true in some areas? But, you have been making progress in other areas.

It’s so easy to think negatively about progress and growth. This is largely why we could be adverse to change. But there are many things that have already changed. Let’s start with the basics. Are you still crawling, or have you changed? Are you still eating baby food, or have you changed? Are you still in baby clothes, or have you changed? If you’re reading this devotional by yourself, you’ve most definitely changed!

Whilst you may not be all you need to be, thank God you’re not what you used to be. If you’re less bad, less negative, less selfish, or less anything – you’ve changed.

I know you have a long way to go, we all do. But you’ve been changing your whole life. So, keep changing. Become all God has destined you to be!

TIME TO THINK:
What would others say are the biggest or most obvious changes in my life? (Maybe ask people)
Knowing I have been changing my whole life, how does that inspire me to change today?

PRAYER:
God, You have been with me my whole life. Even when I was far away from You, You were near to me. Calling me and drawing me to Yourself. You have been watching me change, for better and worse, and You know I can keep changing. I want to change and become more like You.
Amen.

WE HAVE ALL CHANGED

THOUGHT:
Some of us are really hard on ourselves. We have high expectations. This can lead to great disappointment. The greater the gap between expectation and reality, the greater the disappointment of failure.

A high self-critical nature can lead to a high expectation of others, and this nearly always leads to being disappointed in people. Whilst we don’t want to make excuses for people’s bad attitudes and disgusting behavior, we do need to realize that we have all changed. We are now in a fallen world that is so broken, most of us don’t even realize we are marching to the same beat as everyone else.

Our reading today shows that all humans are like sheep, and we just wander off with everyone else. There are not many Christian communities that are all wandering toward God together. Most of us live in a society and feel like we are swimming upstream, against the tide that pulls us down.

This is why church community is so important. Gathering together regularly in church settings helps you not wander off with the rest of society. It’s ok to follow godly people toward God. One day (if you’re not already) you will be leading people to God.

TIME TO THINK:
Are my expectations of others too high?
Am I leading people to God, or am I still following?

PRAYER:
Father, it must break Your heart that we have all wandered at some point in our lives. Thank you for being so patient with us. Thank you for waiting for us to come back to You. Help me to not get stuck in the flow of the culture around me. Help me to swim against the tide and toward You.

The Spirit of FREEDOM

THOUGHT:
Every child grows up with rules but these are not intended to cause restriction. We are meant to learn the appropriate way to live and respond to others around us. The more we automatically live by these boundaries, the more freedom we experience. We usually only feel the restrictions with the boundaries we don’t want to keep.

God gives all of us boundaries so that we can experience true freedom in our lives. The more we love Him, the more these boundaries are automatic for us. We only feel the restriction of the boundaries we want to break. A rebellious community is not a free community. They are bound by their wickedness.

The Holy Spirit wishes to lead us in a loving relationship with God the Father. He wants to write the law of God on our hearts (conscience) so we have a willingness to live a life that pleases God.

When we love God from the heart we don’t need a rule book for life, because we automatically live the rule book of life.

In the early stages of Christianity there is a strange tension going on. We experience an incredible friendship with a loving God but also feel the need to change some of our behavior. It’s easy to focus on the things we should say no to instead of focusing on saying yes to what the Spirit of God is desiring of us.

I am most free when I am most like God.

TIME TO THINK:
Am I more focused on what I need to change or on friendship with God?

PRAYER:
Father, thank you for saving me and wanting relationship with me. Help me to focus more on my relationship with You than on all the things I need to change. Lead me by Your Spirit into all the changes You have for me. Amen.

DO I NEED A VEIL?

THOUGHT:
The most interesting part about the story of the veil yesterday is not that Moses had to wear one because the people were afraid. What is most interesting is that, the glowing slowly disappeared after many days but Moses kept wearing a veil anyway. So, now the glow has gone but the people think it’s still there.

You may have found (like I did) that the beginning of your friendship with God, He is so close and you are very aware of His presence. After a while, you sometimes don’t feel as close to God. This is where we start the journey of faith – trusting God is present even if we don’t feel His presence.

Whenever we pretend to feel God’s presence it is like wearing a veil – a veil that is not needed. We are best just being honest and saying, I know God is real and He is with me even if I don’t feel it today. Julia and I have been married for 24 years, and there are days we don’t feel as in love like other days. But I still love her very much.

In fact, the moment I am honest with my feelings, even my lack of feelings, that’s the moment everything seems to change. The veil is removed again and there I am, face to face, spending time in the presence of the one I love.

TIME TO THINK:
When was the last time I didn’t feel God’s presence?
What changes can I make to lose the veil?

PRAYER:
Father, thank you for your unconditional love. You loved me when I was still far from You. Why would I think that Your love would run out now, now that I am pursuing You. Forgive me for pretending to be close to You when I actually feel so far away. Help me to understand how close You are even when I don’t feel anything. Amen.

WHY WEAR A VEIL?

THOUGHT:
Moses went up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments from God and when he came down his face was glowing because he had been in the presence of God. The whole community were afraid to come near Moses because his face was glowing, so he put a veil over his face to hide the glowing, then the people were comfortable to come close.

There is something wonderful and powerful about a person who spends time in the presence of God. They don’t even need to tell us they spend time with God. We are all able to see it. People change in God’s presence. You cannot hang out with God and stay the same.
Moses needed a veil because the people were afraid to come close. Moses could not help anybody if he could not get close to them.

When I first became a Christian, I think my zeal and passion may have been a little too strong for some people. I needed help turning down my dial. After all, what point is there in having a public passion that scares all my family and friends away? I need to maintain a strong private passion but develop a balanced public passion so people can get close.

TIME TO THINK:
Is my passion driving people away?
How can I stay privately passionate but change my public passion so people can see my friendship with God?

PRAYER:
Father, I long to be in your presence but I don’t want my passion for You to somehow make other people not want to come near me. Lord, please help me to live with a spiritual strength that makes others more interested in You. Amen.

Gentleness

SHOWING GENTLENESS

TALKING TO GOD
Thank God for the people in your life who show you gentleness. Ask God to help you find ways to show His gentleness to others.

DIVING IN
Gently tap objects as you walk through your house. You can tap a window, a hardwood floor, a countertop, a glass vase or the front door. Discuss why you need to be gentle when you tap items around the house. Concentrate on how fragile items can break and hard items can hurt your hands.

GOING DEEPER
Sometimes your actions are what you use to “tap” the people around us. It’s important to remember that you can hurt others with your behavior, just as you can be hurt by what others do. Because you are fragile, God wants you to be gentle with others. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” Your actions are evidence of your gentleness, and when you make an effort to be gentle with others, you show God’s character to the world.

TALKING TO EACH OTHER
– What is one thing you do that shows gentleness to others?
– How difficult or easy is it to show gentleness to others?
– How have others modeled gentleness to you?
– What can you do this week to show gentleness to someone?

What will it take?

Will you do whatever it takes?

Leadership requires strength, dedication and sacrifice. Moses quickly saw that he played a key role in the battle that required he hold his hands in the air. You should try it and see how many hours you can do it without growing weary. Well, Moses was weary as well, but the cost was too great to give in to fatigue, so Aaron and Hur stepped up to do whatever it took to keep Moses’ arms upraised.

When you see your supervisor or church leader growing weary, do you quickly move to their side to help them or do you stand back and complain about their inability to do a good job? Though it may not be apparent, your action or inaction may be key to the success or failure of the endeavor.

Some things to ponderナ?

1. Will you humble yourself to stand beside a leader to help them when they become weary?

2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to help them?

HELP???

Who needs help?

King David understood the importance of helping others. In this case, he wanted to help a member of the former king’s family if any were left alive.

How about you? Do you know of anyone who could use your long-term help? Maybe an elderly person could use your help with chores around the house or yard work. You may know of a teacher who could use your help in the classroom. Look around. You will find them.

Some things to ponderナ?

1. Do you shy away from helping people who are handicapped, chronically ill or elderly? Why?

2. Will you commit to begin helping someone whom you know so their load will be lightened?