Listen!

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Listen, listen closely – can you hear Him calling your name in the slight breeze of the trees? Maybe as you are standing on the beach – do you hear His voice reaching out to you across the roar of the waves? Perhaps you are sitting on the porch in the cool of the evening, listen to the crickets and frogs – is He using them to teach you to slow down and listen to the wonder of the sounds around you.

Perhaps you are in a storm, can you see the power of His majesty as the sky lights up around you. As the ground shimmies and shakes with the passing thunder, can you feel the earth quake at His might? Or on a cold winter’s night as the snow lies in a thick sparkling blanket of white, do you remember the thrill of His forgiveness when you first asked Him to come and make you whole. Or perhaps, as you watch the flames of a fire, do you seek Him to stir your spirit even more with the fire of the Spirit?

Look at the mixed colors of red, orange, yellows and purples as the sun peeps up above the horizon, waking you anew. Can you hear their delight soaring through the air singing “This is the day my Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. Or maybe it’s the vast variety of birds singing their songs of praise. The feathers each species is as different and unique as the songs they sing to their Creator. The cardinal rejoices with notes that the blue-jay doesn’t know, while the sparrow and hawk rejoice with their own notes of praise.

Or maybe you hear the voice of the Lord when you hear the songs of whales, or the howl of the wolves. Did you smile as you watched the dolphins leaping from the water only to splash back into the deep blue sea? Or perhaps, as you stand on the banks of the stream you see the little turtles warming themselves in the light of His love shining on them. It might be the joy of watching the squirrels in the trees jumping from branch to branch in their joy of the Master. Or the butterflies as they flit from daisies to roses and back again, delighting in the variety their Maker made for them. Listen to the buzzing of the bees as they rush to and fro looking for the nectar to make their golden honey.

Maybe your heart is stirred as you touch the tiny fingers of a newborn child or grandchild. Overwhelmed by the emotion, there are no words to convene the intense emotion that threatens to spill out of the corner of your eyes. It might be the sight of a loved one that’s been on a journey for a while, and suddenly they are standing before you with arms stretched wide. Thankfulness fills that void for has been since the day they left.

But more than any of all these things is when you know that you know that you know the Lord is ministering to your heart. It might be in song, the Word or through the words of a friend. It might be the quietness of the night as you sit and just seek His face. It might be as you read a particular verse or your favorite Biblical event that brings a new touch of hope.

The Lord is working in the hearts of His people. He is stirring hearts with hope and a deeper desire to move closer to Him. There is a freshness of the Spirit that is blowing on the embers of our hearts and increasing the fires of revival. He is ministering to His people and showing them the depths of His love. Yes, stand up and listen for that still small voice. Sit down and make the determination that today you are going to press in more than ever. Listen; listen for His voice in the wonders of the world around you. Listen for the sound of His heart calling you. “Come away, My beloved, Come away with Me!”

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The Journey

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Forward, backward, left, right, up and down – each one a different direction and takes a different effort during a walk. If you could see a map that charted your journey as a Christian, what would it look like? Most like to think that our path is on the straight and narrow. But in many cases, we zig and zag, we move forward, sometimes backward or even travel in circles. Think about all the different terrain that we see in pictures or in our travels. Each one presents various difficulties and hardships but if the traveler is prepared, the journey might be hard but possible.

The children of Israel began the journey toward freedom and yet they soon found themselves in struggling to walk in the shifting sands of the desert. Imagine fighting against the sand with every step hour after hour. There were mounds, and dunes to overcome. Their battle should have taken days but their disobedience forced this walk for forty long years, until only two remained.

Others begin their trip going in circle repeatedly around that same mountain. The Lord keeps telling them to lay something down and they ignore His voice. So the journey begins. Lap one, two, three on and on until one day it dawns on them, “This journey is going nowhere!” Slowly, the realization becomes clear “If I want more from the Lord, I have to learn obedience.

Then there are the valleys, raging oceans, vast forests, and frozen tundra. Each one is unique and each one presents their own set of problems. When we travel through the valley, it is often at the low times in our life, when we are facing hardships never encounter before. Then other times, we find we are trapped in a small rowboat without any oars, motors. We are at the mercy of the waves, and they are the size of a huge tsunami. There is no land or other boats in sight. We are desperately in trouble.

Other times, we lose our way in the forest. We can’t see the forest for the trees. The trees are endless in every direction. Which way do you turn, now? Wait, did I turn and then when you turn you have no idea which direction you were facing before. On the frozen tundra, it’s cold and wet. The Lord seems so distant and far away. We feel the cold all the way down to our bones.

Yet, as we grow in the Lord, we learn that He will supply all we need in this new landscape we are walking in. He knows where you are right now. He knows exactly where you are on this journey through life. He even knows the next leg of your journey. As you walk the path He lays before you, I pray His desire for your life will be made clear. I pray that as you press in to all the Lord has for you, that you will hear clearly.

His path will be made clear. When you walk focused on the Lord, He will lead you into His paths of righteousness. They might not be easy, and at times they will seem impossible but He will make a pathway. Trust Him and allow Him to lead you one. Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Yes, at the end of your journey – you will be perfected and made into His image. Perfected, whole and holy before the living God. See More

Secrets

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“I hate this! I absolutely hate doing this! I hate having to deal with it day in and day out. I hate being in this position. And more than anything, I hate what this is doing to me and mine.” Have you been in this type of situation? Maybe it a vicious cycle that you just can’t stop. You promise yourself that you will never do ‘it’ again. Then before you realize it, the pull of ‘it’ is so strong that you fall into the same situation again. Self-hatred becomes even stronger and the cycle begins again.

Or perhaps, it is the situation where you are in life. You struggle to know which way to turn, what you need to be doing, and yet nothing makes any sense. The daily fight to overcome the feelings of inadequacies is at times overwhelming. But how do you overcome! What do you need to do? Where is your life heading? It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities that seem endless and without hope.

Abigail struggled to live with a man whose very name meant “foolish”. Nabal was known to be a vile man, cruel and churlish. He was the type of man few people wanted to be around. Yet, poor Abigail was forced to live with his cruelty day after day. Would her entire life be like this? How long would this continue? She had no idea, but even in spite of her husband’s cruelty, this beautiful woman made a choice. She would be the complete opposite of her husband. She would be just as gentle, loving and caring as her husband was cruel, churlish and evil. She would be prepared for all situations as she possible could. She stood in the gap between David and her people crying out, “Punish me, and not my people. Do not spill innocent blood because of my husband.”

Think about Joseph for a few minutes. Joseph had dreamed fantastic dreams of his brothers and even his father bowing before him. Yet, within just a short time his brothers threaten to kill him. Then the unthinkable happens – he finds himself sold into slavery. It can’t get much worse. Day after day, Joseph strives to do his best. Then because of the lies of a lustful woman, he finds himself thrown into the stinking, filthy prison of Egypt. Years go by and still he sits. Where is the God of his dreams? Are his brothers still angry because of his dreams? Did anyone ever look for him? When will this be over? Even after he was freed from the prison and working in the palace, was his struggle still there? Where were the promises of his future? His heart longed for home, to see his father’s face and feel his father’s arms embrace him once more. Life moved on, but he was forced to stay in and work for Pharaoh’s kingdom. Then the day came when his brothers came before him. Hunger had left its mark on them, and he was the one with the power to deny or bless them. Finally, he saw God’s hand in all of this.

These are just two examples of the Lord’s people being in hard situations and yet the Lord used them right where they were. I wonder how many times they were ready to give up, how many times they wondered if it was worth it. Did they ever sit and cry until there were no more tears? Or did they allow anger to fill their heart at times? Probably, most humans would lose hope at some point in their life.

It is at those times that we need to cry out to the Lord. We need to be honest as we pour out our heart before His throne. Many people are reluctant to tell the Lord what they are feeling. After all He is God, you can’t tell Him you are angry! How do you tell Him your life is in shambles or you hate what is happening around you? In all honesty, how do you not tell Him? But let’s face the facts; He already knows what is hidden deep within your spirit. Anger, rage, pain, agony, defeat, sorrow, grief or hate is just a few of the real emotions that many of us struggle with daily.

No matter what your trial, your hardship or your sorrow is, He is right there with you. Take it all and lay it at His feet. Allow His love to surround you with His peace. Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. We will never find the rest we want desire or need outside of Him.

But there is a God in Heaven

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They say God will never give you more than you can handle, but honestly sometimes you just sit and wonder if that is true. Trouble seems to come with a capital T, storms rage around you and you feel the pain of several knives in your back. It might be with health issues, major financial problems or even marital difficulties. As you sit unable to move forward, backward or even turn to the left or right, you wonder “Why, Lord? Why can’t we seem to catch a break? Everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Where are You? Lord?”

Recently, a friend made the comment that with all the trials she was enduring that it made her realize even more her need for the Lord. Another friend, in the midst of a horrible problem within her family, is ready to turn her back on all her knows. And the list could go on and go. Even when you talk to friends and family, you realize the desperate situations many are enduring. Children are running from the Lord and making horrible choices. Others are watching a loved one being slowly destroyed by drugs or booze. There are those who struggle with chronic health issues and don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

In the midst of many events in Scripture, we see God’s people with their backs against the wall. Think about the children of Israel as they fled the Egyptian army approaching from the rear. Then there’s David, as he ran with his own king threatening to end his life. Maybe it’s Hannah enduring years of emotional abuse at the hand of her husband’s second wife and her children. Mary Magdalene suffered with demonic possession. John the Beloved exiled on the Isle of Patmos. Jeremiah, Isaiah and many of the other prophets who lived with ridicule and hatred of the very people they were called to minister to.

I thought about all the struggles four young Hebrew boys endured so long ago. Their land was invaded and they watched loved ones die, their land and homes destroy. Then because of their looks and intelligence they are chosen to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. Heartbroken, they were forced to march to a land far away leaving all they had ever known behind. Think of all their backward glances hoping to see just one more glimpse of the land they loved.

For a season things seemed to improve. They found favor with the men overseeing them and the Lord gave them much wisdom and insight. Then suddenly hardship comes upon them one more time. Their refusal to bow before the image of Nebuchadnezzar brings a swift sentence of death. Not just any death but death in a fiery furnace, and just for them – the king orders it extra hot. The heat was so intense that it kills the men carrying the three bound Jewish boy. Okay, it can’t get much worse than that.

But I read a phrase this morning that stirred up hope afresh – “But there is a God in heaven!” Daniel had heard from the God of heaven and received the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s forgotten dream. But the God in heaven saved the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. But the God in heaven parted the Red Sea before the vast host of Israel. But there is a God in heaven that opened the womb of the barren Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth.

But there is a God in heaven that keeps His promises even in the midst of your heartache and hardships. He promises to be with you when it feels like you are going to sink in the waters of despair. He promises to be with you when the raging rivers are threatening to overcome you. And like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, when the fires of hell are erupting all around you, He will walk with you in the midst of it and when you come out on the other side you will not even smell like smoke. Yes, we are all facing hardships in one form or another but we can focus on that one phrase. “There is a God in heaven who loves me and promises to always be with me. Yes, there is a God in heaven and He knows all about me.”

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.

Into the Eye of the Storm

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We stood in the hall at the specialty hospital watching the mother and daughter walking at the other end into a different wing. Both of us had a child in the spinal unit with severe spinal injuries. The mother standing next to me sighed heavily and stated, “You know, as bad as we have it, my heart aches for Sue. I know Thomas will be okay, our life will be different but he is going to live. But Sue lives with every minute of every day waiting for her child to die.” Both of us stood there grieving for our own child facing the difference one accident can make in a lifetime. But as difficult as our situation was- Sue’s daughter was terminal with spina-befida and in the last stages before her death.

Yet, as the old saying goes “You can always find someone else in a worse situation than you.” It might be the neighbor down the street living with the death sentence of cancer. Or maybe, it’s the homeless man sitting in a wheelchair at the corner holding up a sign begging for help. His need is real as you see the bandaged stump where his leg once hung. Or perhaps, it’s the addict wasting away, unable to break the hold that one little pill holds over her life. She was once a beautiful girl partying and having fun. Then her ‘friend’ tells her to “Try this, you will forget all your troubles.” She swiftly finds out her trouble has only begun.

Too often, we get so focused on our life and issues and fail to see those around us that are indeed in a worse situation. We all have problems and hardships but if we take our eyes off of self surely we will see someone that is suffering in some way worse than we are. But the key is “to take our eyes off of our self.” In all honesty, often it feels it we are in a tornado or the wall of a hurricane. But you know what – that is a trick of the enemy of our soul. If we are focused on self then we fail to see others and their need. And that is exactly what the devil wants to happen.

Have you been in the eye of the storm? Look out past the wall at the people you come into contact with. Ask the Lord to minister to you how to minister to them. It might be as simple as handing a bag with a hot meal to the man on the corner. Or perhaps, you could slip a ten into a card and mail it to a widow struggling to make ends meet. Could you pray with the family sitting in the hospice waiting room? Maybe it’s fixing a plate to carry to the shut-n down the street. Will it be easy to take that first step? NO! But as you do, you will find each time a little easier.

I think of the sacrifice the Lord made that day on the cross. This was God’s own Son and at any point, Jesus could have called down angels from heaven to come and rescue Him. Yet, He saw you and me and the desperate need we had for salvation. He saw our hardships; our pain and our sorrow. Then He reached out and met that need. He made a way in our storm for us to come into a place of peace. Can you ease the pain of someone around for just a bit? Can you be His hands and feet? The only Jesus many people will ever see will be the Jesus in us. Shine His light and reach out into the storm of another hurting soul and let them feel a little hope for today, and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

But Where Do I Fit?

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“I just don’t know anymore. I don’t know what I am suppose to do. Is this is where I belong? I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere!” The struggle is real for too many people. Their love for the Lord is real and they want to be exactly where to Lord wants them, and yet there is a nagging question, “Where do I belong? Is this the place the Lord wants me to be? Or maybe it is time to move on.” And truthfully too many carry the weight of this longing deep within and only let a few close friends know it? There is a fear that if anyone else finds out the truth of their heart that they will be ridiculed.

There is a desire to be used by the Lord and yet there is not an opening in their fellowship. The desire is to touch hearts and make a difference in the light of eternity for someone somewhere is real. But, how? Where? Who will help them reach their potential in the Lord? Too often, the people around them are in the same situation and fail to see the struggle of their neighboring brother or sister in the Lord.

When a heart struggles with these questions, it is not an easy place to be. Their cries seem to bounce off the ceiling into outer space, never heard of again and definitely not answered. Some days, there seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel, but the next day it feels like a cave-in has taken place. Once more the struggle is real – “Where do I belong?”

For someone struggling with these thoughts, honestly there are no easy answers. There is no one, two, three steps that will ease your journey. The only One who has the answers you need is the Lord. He knows everything about you; He knows your beginning and your end. Every ounce of talent and ability has come from His hand. Your ability to do this or that comes from His throne into your life. And it was not a mistake to give it to you.

One of my favorite people in Scripture is Dorcas, also called Tabitha. Her ministry in life was not standing in a pulpit preaching and proclaiming the “Good News”. She lived a simple life and yet she used her talent to touch the hearts of many around her. This woman had a God-given ability to sew garments. Big or small, adults or infants, man or woman didn’t matter. If there was a need, she did her best to take care of it. Think of the countless hours she sat stitching her next project. Was her time spent at a loom or with a needle or thread in her hand? How she accomplished this feat would not be easy. She had no fabric store to run into, or sewing machine to turn on. Every stitch on every garment was hand sewn.

Long before David was king of Israel, he was a writer of praise songs. We see them every day in our Bible. Susanna and Joanna were blessed by the Lord with the funds to supply the needs of Jesus and His disciples with their daily needs. Miriam led praise with the women of the camp. Think about all the individuals that worked on the Tabernacle. Exodus 31:6 …and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you. These people were gifted in their ability to make the sacred items needed for the Tabernacle.

But, each one of us needs to face the truth – no two people are ever going to do the same task the same exact way. Why, because we are each one unique. God created us as individuals, not clones. Think about it this way. Cardinals sing is different than blue jays, who are different than sparrow, who are different than orioles. Even tigers are unique. Their facial markings are like fingerprints – each one is unique and different than any other tiger. You are the same – the Lord made you unique and different.

The feeling that you are missing the mark and not where the Lord wants you is real and the struggle is hard. But it is time to lay your feelings aside and start pressing in even more. Time is short and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Step out in faith and begin pressing in with the talents you have. Seek out the Lord; ask Him to open up the doors to your path. Pray and ask the Lord to reveal His desire for your life. Who, what, when, where and how do you proceed. He will make your path clear. See More

Giving Him Your All

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What is your prayer life like? I asked for a specific reason, to make you stop and think. Actually, a song on the radio made me think about the same thing this morning. I don’t remember the exact words but it was basically – “I want to come to You before I ask of You!” Wow! “I want to come to You and just spend time with You, Lord without asking anything from You.”

How different would our walk be if our approach to the Lord was like this? Would we fail and fall less? Probably so, our mind would be set upon the Lord and His desires and not our own self-ambitions. Or perhaps, we would develop His eyes and look at events and people around us in a different light. Would we have more faith in what He is doing? Too often we question what He does or allows in our life because we are not in-tune with Him.

Many people have developed the mentality that He is their own personal bank or Sugar Daddy who just waits for their next request. When those requests aren’t answered the feeling is “God has failed to provide wants.” True is, God promises to provide for our NEEDS. He promises to bless us but we have to meet His conditions first. Obedience to Him, and His ways is the path that leads to His blessings. Too often, we think we can live any old way we want and He is going to sit idly back, smile at our choices and do nothing.

But think about it for minute. IF the Lord is coming for a bride without spot and blemish, how does your life and mine fit into that picture? Is your part in the Body of Christ spotless? Are you walking a life with the Lord that brings glory to His name? Is your testimony one that shines light in the darkness of the world around you? Are you different than you were a year ago or even six months ago?

Too often, we fail daily. And daily we should be repenting and allowing the Spirit of the Lord to minister to you. Daily we should be seeking Him. Oh, not seeking Him for things! But truly seeking Him – seeking His face, rejoicing in who He is, for all He has poured over our heart, and especially for His salvation, His everlasting love, forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life.

Even in the Lord’s Prayer, think about the first few lines. “Our Father!” Relationship with our Father is first and foremost the most important relationship we will ever have. Just two little words but they reveal a heart set on the Lord. You are claiming a kinship with the Creator of all. “Our Father, which art in heaven,” this second part reveals His place in the universe. Heaven is the place of His throne where the angels gather and worship Him. “Hallowed be Thy name.” Yes, He is holy, righteous, and worthy of all our praise.

The next little section reveals our heart’s desire in our relationship with the Lord. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!” Do you want your way or His way? Are you willing to lay aside self and search after His desires for your life? Notice that the time spent with the Lord up to this point is still all about Him. This is a true heartfelt relationship with the Lord.

Why? Because if we are spending time with Him, just Him, then a peace comes of knowing that He will handle everything else in our life. We don’t have to beg, or try to convince Him our way is better. We will trust in the Lord in a way we never have before. Our desire will be to closer than ever with our Father. Draw close to the Lord today. Lay everything else aside and just seek Him and give thanks for all He has done for you already. He is worthy – He is worthy of your all.

Oh the Pain in My Back

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Everybody wants to be loved by someone. Most people want to know that they matter to someone and they would be missed if they were gone. There are only a few people who want to sit alone and be left alone. And truthfully, these last individuals probably isolate themselves for one simple reason – past hurts. Someone somewhere has caused intense pain to their spirit. Often it might be a lost love. They might have been in love with someone and the person turned away. Out of fear, they have shut their heart down unable to allow another person to even get close again. There are many reasons a person backs into a corner unable to become close to someone else. Backstabbers, betrayals, manipulators all cause pain to others and unfortunately many of them are intentional.

How? How can they be intentional? Some light is shed on the situation in James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. There are two parts of this verse. First is jealousy is one of the most destructive forces in the world. One person wants what someone else has and they are willing to do almost anything to achieve their goal. It doesn’t matter if they have to lie, cheat or steal to achieve their way. It doesn’t matter who gets hurts in the process. The only thing that matters is they get what they want. Unfortunately, the thrill of victory never last for long. Soon they see something else and the hurt is on again.

Self-seeking is the second part of that verse. It’s all about “Me, me, me, me, me, no one and nothing is as important as what I want, need or set my heart on!” Nothing else matters except I get my way. I want what I want and no one and nothing will stand in my way. This individual will knock down, backstab, claw and crawl over anyone standing in their way. We see this in the world daily, often in our places of employment, school and sadly, even in our churches.

Many reading this devotional will immediately think of an incident that took place in their church. How many people were affected by this? It’s not just the two people involved, but often the entire assembly ends up taking sides. And just like the end of James 3:16 says confusion and evil follows. As the division continues, pain and confusion increases. Some people hear one side of the story and then some hear the other side. Soon everyone is taking sides and the church splits.

A wise pastor shared many years ago that there are two sides to every story and you will find the truth somewhere in the middle. That is still true today. Every party will have their version of the truth, their side. This is nothing new. It has been this way since the beginning of time. Lot and Abraham’s men argued over the grazing lands and Lot chose the best part for himself. David had a harem and could choose any woman he wanted there, but he saw Bathsheba bathing. He let his desire for another man’s wife overcame common sense, and then adultery and murder were soon to follow. Judas’ love of money sealed his doom, as he placed more importance on those thirty pieces of silver than the life of Jesus.

As Christians, when we allow envy, strife, and jealousy to remain in our life, we bring harm to the body of Christ. We hurt our brothers and sisters in the Lord and in some cases, if the wound is severe enough – some individuals will walk away from the church and never darken the doorway again. Today, if you have been hurt by another, please lay it down at the foot of the cross. Realize that we all make mistakes and we all fail, including you. There is not a single man, woman or child who is perfect, except for One – Jesus.

Jesus will never turn His back on you. His love is eternal. His love is true and faithful. Have you been hurt – then lay it down at His feet. Have you been betrayed – He understands exactly what you are feeling. Allow His love to sweep over you and bring joy to your heart once more. It’s not too late – in fact it is never too late. As long as there is breathe there is hope. There is hope of a fresh start and a new beginning. Yes lay down the hurts and leave them there – get up and start on a fresh path in the Lord. He is waiting even now to show you all His love and compassion.