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Monday, May 30, 2011

Sweet Surrender

"Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?"
{Matthew 9:5} 

There are days, and we all have them, when we just can't seem to get anything right. Yes, even I fall down and make mistakes. I sin, you sin. We all sin. It is an inherited condition we cannot escape. The sin-nature of our humanity cannot be avoided.


The thing about sin which is often easy to forget, is that its outward evidence (our behavior) is proof of a deeper, inner problem. It is easy to get caught up in frustration that we cannot seem to get free of a behavior; even more frustrating when we cannot seem to ascertain what issue of the heart is causing the behavior in the first place. 


Delving further into the depth of 'why' we do what we do (or don't want to do) is a daunting task. Those unknown depths can be dark and scary. However, it is gravely important that we move beyond the surface of our behavior and begin dealing with those heart-issues therein. Why? We can pick the fruit off the tree all day long, but until we deal with the issue at the root, we can expect to continue dealing with the same ol' fruit.


There are all kinds of causes as to why we may struggle with certain sins more than others. Your entanglements may be different than mine, but we all have those 'certain' sins that we seem to get caught up in more than others. If we were honest enough with each other, I think we'd all admit that there are days when we're ready to just give up and throw in the towel... days when we're at our wit's end in daily struggles against that ol' schemer who suckers us in (yet again) to that sin that so easily entangles us. Have you ever been there? I know you know what I'm talking about... those days when all the right buttons have been pushed, when you just can't seem to get the upper hand, when you have slipped and fallen more times than you care to count... days when you find it difficult to stand firm where you are, let alone try to keep moving forward...


It's days like these that we need Jesus the most, but oftentimes we find it difficult to even seek Him out. Perhaps we are paralyzed with fear or condemnation, or have succumbed to the shame of our seemingly helpless condition. Our unending struggle has moved us beyond aggravation and frustration to becoming just plain tired and weary. We find it difficult to find the words to pray or even find the strength to fight the battle any longer.


On these days, when we are worn and weak, it is crucial that we remember to get ourselves to a place where we can hear the words of Jesus. Read your bible, have a time of worship, listen to a preaching podcast, go to church, get around other strong believers who will lift you up and not put you down, seek prayer... etc. 


Jesus is never at a loss for words and always knows how to speak directly to those needs we cannot even begin to articulate. His word speaks to those deep and dark scary things in our hearts that are hidden from us but are plain in his sight. His word penetrates our hearts and has the power to get to the point much faster and better than we can. God knows us better than we think we know ourselves and He provides us with great comfort and rest as we put our faith in His word.


He alone knows exactly what will be fitting for us to hear in that (sometimes scary) moment when we surrender our weakness and inabilities to His power, authority, and ability. He knows whether we need to hear the sweet comfort of His words reminding us, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or whether it will suffice for Him to say with great encouragement and confidence, "Get up and walk." What is He saying to you in your areas of greatest struggle when you surrender? Whatever it is, be confident that you can take Him at His word.




Have you noticed something in particular you seem to be easily enticed and entangled by? Do you have a negative behavior you struggle with on a regular basis?


Have you ever allowed your struggles with sin to paralyze you with fear, shame, or condemnation that have kept you from Jesus instead of drawing you to Him? Have you ever felt so weakened or tired from the battle that you could hardly pray?


What area of weakness do you need Jesus to speak to? Be honest and talk to Him about it. Use your bible concordance, or use a website like BibleGateway to look up verses related to those areas and begin letting Him transform you with His word from the inside out. Meditate on and memorize those scriptures and use them often to pray for yourself.




For Further Reading: Matthew 9:1-8 , Luke 6:44-46 , Proverbs 24:16 , Psalm 37:23-24, Psalm 119:27-29, Isaiah 40:28-31, Romans 8:26-28, Hebrews 4:12-13

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vitality of Vision

"Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]--blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he."
 {Proverbs 29:18 AMP}

Having a hard time maintaining focus or lacking energy? Struggling with a lack of fulfillment or sense of worth? Spinning your wheels but not getting anywhere any time soon? Feeling like you've lost your mind? Well, perhaps you have...

...or perhaps you've just started losing your vision.

Vision is important. The bible says that without it, "people perish." Ever feel like you are dying on the inside? Or put another way, ever feel lethargic or apathetic towards life? 

Vision is a vital sign indicative of life. It brings with it an energy and exuberance that fuel us from the inside out. It is a driving force and fervor that propels us into our God-given destinies.

Another version of the bible says,

"If people can't see what God is doing,
   they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
   they are most blessed. "
 {Proverbs 29:18 MESSAGE}
 Something inside of us wants to be able to see... not only to be able to see, but to be able to see clearly. If this wasn't the case, optometrists would have been put out of practice long ago. I believe our spiritual eyes desire to see just as clearly as our natural eyes... although sometimes it can be more difficult to diagnose a spiritual-sight-deficiency. 

It's clear to see why we want to see clearly, in both the natural and the spiritual senses: if we can't see clearly, we deal with a lot of problems. When living with visual challenges, life is lived with much more strained effort and difficulty. Identifying and safely navigating around obstacles is just plain challenging. Naturally, when you can't see where you're going, you'll inevitably stumble and fall... or at the very least, bump into a few unsuspecting people and/or objects.

Other difficulties stemming from a sight deficiency include not being able to read, being unable to properly distinguish or identify people, being unable to find things, etc. And, perhaps the most painful disability related to a lack of vision, is just plain not being able to observe or witness the joys and beauty of life. 

Vision is essential to living a fully blessed life. Not the vision itself but, as the Message translation reminds us, the attending to what God reveals is what allows us to live a most blessed life.

This week, take some time to examine your vision. Do you like what you see? If not, ask God for healing; to restore your sight so that you can begin to make an intentional effort in attending to what He reveals to you. 

May you have a most blessed Monday and week ahead!


Do you feel connected to your sense of vision?
Have you asked God for vision for today? For this year? For your life?
How do you identify a lack of vision?
What can you do to make sure you maintain clear vision?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Confident Trust














"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It doesn't fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." 
{Jeremiah 17:7-8}


Trust does not fret or falter- trust is rooted in faith. When we trust God in the dark soils of adversity that surround us, our faith germinates and takes root. It grows as it strains and reaches toward the Source of Life, storing up the life-sustaining nourishment provided. Faith is content with the ample nourishment available for times of growth as well as with the sufficient sustenance supplied for times of survival. 


Faith thrives, regardless of the season, because no matter how much it taps into the rich reserves of the Lord's goodness, faithfulness, and lovingkindness it never exhausts them. 


Complete trust in God leaves no room for fear because it fears God more than any other facet of life. This trust must be firmly rooted in the identity and sovereignty of God. When we develop a a deep inner root of confidence in the character of our God, we begin to fear external circumstances and the tough seasons of life less and less. As our trust in God is further developed and shaped over time, it accomplishes a quiet, steadfast confidence in us that cannot be disturbed by the changing of seasons. We will find ourselves being supported and sustained by this inner confidence from the inside out. 


Consider the proven character of Who you are trusting: your Creator, Savior, Father, Friend...


a God who created you with a specific and unique plan and purpose in mind... 
a God who loves you so much He died for you... 
a God who lovingly and compassionately guides you as a Good Shepherd...
a God who safely holds all of your secrets and who loves you nonetheless... 


Take time to tap into the Lord and develop that trust. When you know more about Who it is you're trusting, you'll find that trust comes much easier. Who you trust, without fail, in the One who never fails and you'll find yourself blessed by the fruit of your faith.




Do you trust God?
When do you find it easiest to trust Him? When do you find it more difficult to trust Him?
How has your trust (or lack of trust) in God shaped your faith over time?
In what (new) ways can you begin to express your trust and confidence in the character of God? 

Monday, May 2, 2011

HELP!

"I lift my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will never slumber..."  
{Psalm 121:1-3}

Sometimes we need the reminder that we do need help sometimes.

In our relationship with the Lord, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of surrender to the sufficiency of His strength as well as a declaration of our dependency on Him.

Other times, we need the reminder that God does want to help us.

He doesn't despise our asking for help... on the contrary- He delights in it! He is overjoyed to supply us with strength in every moment of surrender and takes great pride and pleasure in amply supplying our needs out of the abundance of His storehouses- both heavenly and earthly.

This week, do yourself a favor: don't forget to ask for help! 

When we shift our focus and secure our trust completely in our unchanging, competent, and capable God who keeps us in His watchful care, it does much good for our heart and mind. Not only does it put our worries and fears to rest, but our bodies can rest at ease as well knowing that we are safe in His sufficiency and that He'll never fall asleep on the job.

In what areas do you struggle to ask for help?
Do you have more trouble with asking for help or in receiving it?
What do you need help with right now... are your needs spiritual or physical?
Do you trust God to meet those needs?