Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Devotional: Not Judge Nor Jury

Have you ever heard the expression, "All that glitters is not gold"? When it comes to our reflection, that is very much true. No, I'm not talking about the reflection we see in the mirror every morning. I'm talking about the reflection of our actions. Who we are and what we believe may be completely misconstrued by our actions. However, our actions do not always reflect our relationship with the Lord.

This is a very common occurrence and has been since the beginning of time... we reach out in love to those who don't know the Lord or who have just come to know the Lord. They stumble, but we are still there to encourage them and support them. Then, when someone we know that has been in a relationship with the Lord for years stumbles, we look at them and say, "How could they do that? I thought they were a Christian!" What's worse is our reasoning behind our assessment: They should have known better. It is easier, unfortunately having done it myself, to say this because those who follow God are, in the eyes of society, held to a higher standard. So when someone makes a mistake or does something that others question, our integrity and our relationship with God is scrutinized. For example, and this seems to be a popular one that many Christians and football fans talk about: Tim Tebow and Camilla Belle. I can honestly say that I don't know where Camilla Belle stands as far as a relationship with God goes, and some of her movies raise red flags. So based on these things, and having no real knowledge of the true Camilla Belle, it is understandable that people would question a romantic relationship between Tim and Camilla. Yet, when people talk about their relationship, they don't point a finger of judgement at Camilla. They point it at Tim. That is where our fault lies. We look at people and make judgements and assumptions based on another's actions. Here is a way of looking at it though: the bible is full of people who, during their time, were questionable. Rahab was a prostitute, yet she believed in God and helped the two spies that came to her house. David is another good example. David lusted after Bathsheba. He wanted her so bad that he sent her husband off to the frontlines of battle so he would be killed. David then claimed her as his own. You will still find though that in later scriptures (Acts 13:22) that God refers to David as "A man after my own heart." Though David messed up, he still served the Lord with every ounce of his being. Peter, the apostle, denied Jesus three times before Jesus was crucified, yet even after his denial, he served the Lord and taught His ways until his death.

When I was young, I used to read the Berenstain Bears books all the time.In one of the books that I read, Sister Bear was helping Mama Bear peal apples. In one of the baskets, Sister Bear found a really bumpy, deformed apple and wanted to throw it away because she thought it was bad. When Mama Bear cut open the apple, there was nothing wrong with it. It just looked bad. Then Sister Bear found a regular apple, and when Mama Bear cut it open, it was filled with worms. Matthew 7:16 & 20 says, By their fruit you will recognize them... Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them. Not every piece of fruit is going to be the perfect color, shape or size, but it can still be good fruit. The same goes for people. Not every person that follows the Lord is going to be perfect, but we must understand that even though we can't achieve perfection, it doesn't mean that our heart is not for and with the Lord. Matthew 7:3-6 says: "Why do you look at the  speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and oay no attention the the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." So next time, when we see something questionable or wrong, let's not judge but extend grace. Romans3:22-24... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Most Sought After God

When you watch a movie nowadays, even the sci-fi and action movies have romantic elements in them. You will always find a good portion of women gushing over a romantic chick flick. And in most of these movies, the man pursues the woman as if his life depends on it. For example, what woman wouldn't want a man to walk through her front door and say "You complete me" just like Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire? It was this simple but beautiful statement that held so much meaning! It says "please love me, my  heart can't survive if you leave" or "please don't throw away everything we have together!" This is exactly how God sees us! We may not see it or know it, but God NEEDS us!

When you read the story of Adam and Eve in the bible, it talks about them walking in the garden with God. What not many people realize is that God didn't create us to so he could watch us destroy ourselves. God created us because he wanted someone to love and someone who would love him in return. This brings to mind the quote from a movie: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." When God created Adam and Eve, he had that special relationship that he longed for that was perfect and unblemished. That is also why God created Eve for Adam. Because in the same way that God was lonely, he knew it would benefit Adam to have that special someone in his life.

Now, this part of every relationship is inevitable. We messed up! We fought God. This is where the need for God to be pursued came into play. God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. When you think about it and read between the lines, this is what God was saying: "Please, for the sake of our relationship, don't take of something that will part me from you! I want you too much!" When you read the bible, there are many scriptures that refer to God's need for us to love him. Matthew 22:37-38 says, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment." In Jeremiah 29:13 it says: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Just as so many of us desire relationships that are strong and true, God desires the same with us! I recently read in a really good book that a woman's strong desire for meaningful relationships are a testament to the desire and love that God has for us since we are created in the image of God. We always see God as a ruler and King and Father. It isn't common for people to see God as vulnerable, desperate, or in need. In this fallen world where every day brings hardship, we are a selfish people who understand that we need God. However, do we ever stop to think that God needs us just as much as we need him? Another of the commandments says that we shall have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). I know that part of this is because he is the one true God. It's not just that though. God is jealous of anyone or anything that comes between Him and us! Any and every human knows what jealousy is! When you were young, it was jealousy over someone having a better toy than you. When you reached teenage years, it was jealousy over who was more popular that you. But I am a firm believer that there is no stronger jealousy than that of someone who is jealous of love. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it talks about faith, hope, and love. But it makes it clear that the greatest is love. So when God sees that something or someone else is capturing our full attention, he gets jealous because he wants us to love him above all else. In 1 John 4:19 it says, We love because he first loved us. God is our first love. Imagine...if we hadn't fallen into sin, our only purpose would be loving God. We would still live in perfect harmony with God. God would have no reason to be jealous of us because we never would have known what idols were, or what it even meant to be jealous because God's love is perfect.

So if man is made in God's image and God stated that it is not good for man to be alone, what else is there to conclude that God doesn't want to be alone either. A perfect example to use in this case is Martha and Mary. God told Martha that Mary had the right idea. Mary was spending time with God. While I'm sure Martha's intentions were honorable, God was not concerned with place settings at the dining table or what type of meal he was going to eat. he simply wanted to spend time with them.

So here's your mission: The next you go to your "prayer closet" and are just spending time with God, take some time to just "listen." Ask him if there is anything that he might like to share with you. Understand that love is not a one-sided thing. God needs us to love him just as much as we need him to love us.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Revelation/Teaching: You're Part of Me

I was listening to a song by Barlow Girl called Never Alone. I was listening to it one day  because I was sort of feeling alone and was confused about a few things. This particular song always brings comfort to me when I feel that way. As I was listening to the song, one line really stuck out to me. It said: " We cannot separate. You're part of me." That day when I heard that line, God gave me an amazing revelation and another perspective on Him always being with us.

I watched an amazing video on YouTube by Kat Kerr called Revealing Heaven. In one segment of the video, Kat explains what the scripture, Psalm 138:13, is actually talking about. It says, For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb. Kat stated that when God knit us together in our mother's womb, what was actually taking place was God attaching a piece of his spirit to us so we could live. The very first account of something like this happening is with Adam. Genesis 2:7 says: The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. The only difference in this case is that he was created as a man rather than starting off as a baby.

Now let's take this a step further and dig deeper. In the very first account of man being made, God said, "Let us make man in our image..." So He did. Genesis 1:27 says, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him. If you think about what is actually being said there, you understand that God isn't necessarily talking about physical image. There are so many names and descriptions of God in the Bible, but one scripture sums it up. In 1 John 4:16 it says that God is love. So if we were made in God's image, he gave us the capacity to be as much like him as "humanly" possible. Since God is love and we are created in the image of God, then we are created in the image of love.

Taking this even another step further... I want you to look at the scientific birthing process and apply a spiritual sense to it. When a baby is being formed in the womb, it is being formed from the DNA of the father and the mother. It is, however, the DNA of the father that determines the gender of the child. Since the fall of man, we are born into sin. So look at the father as God and the mother as sin. We are created in God's image so we take on his "DNA" which is love and the spiritual gifts he gives us. However, since we are born into sin and can't be perfect, we take on the "DNA" of sin. In science though, the male determines the child's gender. In this case, God determined that we would be set free of sin.

One last step... Regardless of whether a person walks with God or not, people are still made in God's image, so they still take on his "DNA." For example: a person's conscience. Even if a person doesn't walk with God, they are still capable of making good decisions. Let's say a person is caught in a situation of doing something wrong and they feel bad about it, so they decide to make things right. That's a sign of God in that person because God wants all people to do what's right. The same goes if a person wants to lend a helping hand by donating time to a charitable organization or buying a meal for a homeless person. God sent his son Jesus into the world to help the people in need.

Overall, God is always going to be with us and a part of us. So the next time you feel alone or you have questions for God about your position in life, just remember this line: "We cannot separate. You're part of me." In this case, literally! :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Devotional: There Can Be Miracles- Part 2 of 2 of the "Miracles" Devotionals

Think back to the time before Jesus dies on the cross... Moses was able to perform signs and wonders with his staff because of God, Samson was given superhuman strength, Elijah was able to part the Jordan with his cloak, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all walked right out of a fiery furnace without being burned... Now think back to the time after Jesus ascended to heaven... Peter healed a cripple at the gate called Beautiful, Paul raised a young man named Eutychus from the dead...

I recently watched a movie called Joshua, and in the movie, Joshua healed a blind woman. When priest, Father Tordone, heard of this, he called Joshua a false prophet. What amazes me is that people nowadays believe that if a miracle is performed, it's wrong, or that it's not of God. Some people believe that miracles, signs and wonders, and gifts don't exist anymore. The question is: If God gave men and women the ability to perform miracles or give them gifts before and after the time of Jesus being here, why would people think it no longer applies to the current generations? The truth is that it does still apply! Mark 16:15-18 says, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” To each it may be different, but God gave no statute of limitations on how long these abilities would last. 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 says, Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. See, when man was created, he was given dominion over the earth, and God being a gentleman would not take back a gift despite our fall into sin. Matthew 16:19 says, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Because man was given dominion over the earth, we are still able to bind and loose what is all ready bound and loosed in heaven. For example, there is no death in heaven, therefore we can speak life over people. There is no sickness in heaven therefore we can speak healing over people. There is no worry or sadness in heaven therefore we can speak peace over people which God promises to give his people... Psalm 85:8 says, I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people...

Miracles are still part of our lives today and will continue to be even in the last days. Acts 2:17-18 says, “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. Sometimes all it takes is prayer and a little faith! Matthew 17:20... He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Devotional: Walking Resurrection/Part 1 of 2 of Miracle Devotionals

Without God's awesome download, never would I have understood this! This is so awesome!

Every morning we wake up. We do whatever needs to be done throughout the day. We lie down, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning doing it all over again. During our days and nights, we hear people talk of miracles, and they wish there were more of them. What we don't realize is that we are walking miracles! Everyday is a miracle and I will tell you why!

Nowadays, many Christians believe that miracles are a thing of the past, that once the apostles passed away the gifts that God gave left with them. For those who don't believe in miracles, may I say that you are a walking contradiction! :) 1 Corinthians 15:12-17 says, But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he has been raised from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins... So, if what this scripture says is true, they by all accounts I am a dead woman! 1 Corinthians 15:32 says, ...If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." In Romans 6:23 it states that "the wages of sin is death..." So every time I sin, I sentence myself to death. Now for the amazing part! When Jesus died on the cross, he died to resurrect us! He gave his life to save ours! When we sin, without hesitation or second thought, our lives are given back to us and we are resurrected! We live again! Romans 8:11 says, And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. What else is there to conclude but that we walk in resurrection power? Miracles still exist, which each one of us are evidence of. If we are resurrected from the dead every time we sin, imagine what other miracles can STILL happen through God today? 1 Corinthians 15:55... "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Part 2 of the "Miracles" devotional will be posted tomorrow! God bless!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Devotional: Ability, Thy Name is Jesus Christ

I am human. What I am NOT is perfect. I have struggles with (insert issue here). But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul had struggles with feeling unworthy because of his past persecution of the church of God. Paul was one of the most influential apostles, yet was humble. Almost too humble. Many of us have struggles and, whether they be big or small, they effect how we as Christians walk the walk. My own personal struggle is the feeling of inadequacy, dumbing myself down and believing that I am not smart enough to share God's word. However, what many of us fail to realize is that it's not our own personal abilities that get us through. We are human and therefore are unable to share the message of God on our own due to living in sin. Paul talks about working harder than all his fellow apostles to share the message with others, yet he acknowledges that without God's grace and kindness, his hard work would have been fruitless. All this is not to say though that anyone is worthless. It's just saying to look at yourself through God's perspective and understand his work in you.

Now here comes the tricky part...finding balance. Romans 1:16 says, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes... How do you get past your "shame" and share the word of God? Paul knew that regardless of his past, he was a new man in God, and sharing the word of God was too important to let shame or insecurities get in the way. He was making a bold statement that though he may be ashamed of his past, he's not ashamed of the word of God! So the answer is this: when you feel shame or feel those insecurities creep in, focus on God! It's says in the word, "I am the way, the truth, and the light." It also says in the book of Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan for us that will benefit us and not harm us. When you just focus on God and follow after him, you worry less about your own struggles. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Remember these two verses as well... 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefor I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. Also, Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. Keep sharing the word of God no matter what lies the devil tries to throw your way! I guarantee you won't regret it! 2 Timothy 4:17... The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Devotional: It's Only Natural

Have you ever heard the expression, "Take time to stop and smell the roses?" There is a lot of wisdom in that expression, particularly since it pertains to taking time to notice the things around you. Romans 1:20 says, For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly see, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. When God made the world, he put every ounce of love into it. When you put love and care into the things you make, it shows. This is what God did with the world! He made His love and power so clear in his creations that no one could doubt there being a higher power. Psalm 104:1-30 says, Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. He makes springs pour out water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate- bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. the trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has it home in the pine trees. the high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. your bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. the sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. there is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number- living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.

Now what does this have to do with "smelling the roses?" One, when we get caught up in the business of our won lives, it gets harder and harder to see God in the things around us. This is one of the reasons why God wants us to be, what is referred to in Romans 12, living sacrifices. When we give up the things that seem more important to us, it makes it easier to see what has been right in front of us all along. Two, when we take time to appreciate the works of God, it gives us a more positive outlook on life. The most important example being with people. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus... We are God's masterpiece, the crown jewels of all his creations. Somehow though, it's easier to see God's love in a rainbow or the stars rather than a person, particularly if this person isn't easy to get along with. So, when you take time to see the beauty of God in people, no matter how bad they may seem.

Now I know that the beginning scripture, Romans 1:20, is talking about God making himself so known through his creations, that no one could say that they don't know who God is. However, if we ourselves could just take the time to see and appreciate God and his love around us, it would help us to learn to look deeper in people. By learning to seek out God's love in a person, and trying to see why God made that person that way, you become that beautiful creation to that other person. They see God in you, and it could help turn that person around for the better. So take time to see God in not only the things around you, but also in others. It will bring you closer to God and also help you be a light to others. Psalm 8:3-5... When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower that the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Devotional: King of Hearts

If you have ever played Texas Hold'Em, you know what happens: You put in your ante. Then opening bets are made. The first three cards go down, then more bets are made. Another card, more bets. Final card, final bets. Once the final bets are made, the cards are flipped to see who won. There are times when you get a good hand, but 75 percent of the time, it's all about bluffing. You could bet 500 dollars and only have an ace in your hand. You could bet 50 dollars and have a straight. The point is that your bet doesn't always reflect what cards you have. It works the same way with us. Sometimes our words or actions don't reflect our thoughts or what's in our hearts. John 2:25 says, He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. When I am honest with God about whatever I am thinking or feeling at any point in time, it's easier to see him as a "friend" rather than God and King. In the midst of our feelings or emotions, we forget that God knows our hearts and what we are thinking, and often times we don't just talk to him about it for several reasons. One, we think he might not approve. Two, we lack faith or hope. Three, sometimes we just don't think he's listening. There could be other reasons as well. The point is that God loves you and he's not just the ruler of the heavens and the earth. He is your ultimate best friend! Plus, he all ready knows what's going on inside of you, and also, it's nice just to have someone to talk to! Just be honest with Him, otherwise it's like trying to beat Him at Texas Hold'Em, and you will always lose for two reasons: He is both the dealer and a player in the game, and he always has a Royal Flush! Lol :) Psalm 139:7-10... Where can I got from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. James 4:8... Come near to God and he will come near to you...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Devotional: One Step At A Time

Picture this: You see a dad with his little child. That child is holding the dad's fingers very tightly. They are crossing through a parking lot. They come to a place where they need to stop. So the dad says to his child, "Okay, lets stop." They wait for the car to pass. "Okay, lets go again."  A car comes whipping around the corner so the dad says, "Whoa! Wait!" So the child quickly stops... If only we trusted God that way; the same way the little child daddy. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own will that we try to move too fast or out of God's will. God just wants us to trust that he will take care of everything. For example: In Genesis 12:1, the Lord called Abraham to get up and leave his country, but did not tell him where to go. However, Abraham didn't doubt him. Even though he had no idea where he was moving to, he trusted that he would be taken care of. Another example is with Moses. It has been said that before God would part the Red Sea, Moses had to step out into the water in faith that the sea would split.

We believe that God can do anything, but we do doubt that from time to time. in our disbelief, we tend to cry out, "Not my will, but your will be done." While some people do truly mean this, some have said this out of doubt that they will receive their heart's desires. Rather than having faith, we throw faith to the wind, and we end up doing nothing about it. James 2:17 says: In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. God does not want us to do nothing! Sometimes we can't see where God wants us to go or what he wants us to do, but he still wants us to take action and take that next step, trusting that he will take care of us. Hebrews 11:1 says: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I think Jeremy Camp said it very well: "I will walk by faith even when I cannot see because this broken road prepares you will for me." Matthew 17:20, "....I tell you the truth, if you have as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Devotional: Hopeless, Hopeful

The Story of Lazarus...John 11:17-44: On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had all ready been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brotherWhen Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"  "Yes, Lord," She told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her were also weeping, he was deeply moved in the spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said. "But Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people stand here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of lined, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 

When Mary and Martha went to Jesus about Lazarus, they had hope that he would be well again. However, when Jesus was not there, Lazarus died. Immediately Mary and Martha had lost all hope and became angry at Jesus. "If only..." is a common thing to say when hope is frail. People often forget that when God places a desire in our hearts, he intends to fulfill it. We, however, being human, tend to lose hope when a small bump in the road comes along. "If only I were prettier, he would like me..." "If only I had more money, I could travel to many nations and share God's word..."  When in these questions God could be saying, "I have someone just for you," or "Just give it some time, and you will be a great missionary." There are times when things seem hopeless, but God doesn't want us to give up, because with God all things are possible. Mary and Martha thought all hope was gone when Lazarus died. Jesus did restore a new faith and hope when he brought Lazarus back to life. Hebrews 6:17-19 says: Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure... We have secure hope in God when we trust him to give us the desires of our hearts rather than trusting in ourselves. If you truly believe that anything is possible with God, then trust him to do what is right for you and don't give up hope. Romans 15:13, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust him, so that you may overflow with the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Devotional: My Past Has Passed

Have you ever thought that your past makes you unworthy to be loved? So many people have thought that because of sins they committed in the past, that they are not worthy to be loved by God or anyone. Well that is a big fat lie!!! When God sent his son into the world, it wasn't with the intention to condemn everyone. John 3:17 says: For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. We are human and are bound to sin, but when Jesus was crucified, all our sins were washed away. Psalm 130:3-4 says: If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared. Our worth is not based on how good we are. God knows our worth, and we are very valuable to him. Matthew 10:29-31 says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will or your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." God loves us no matter what we do. His love for us is perfect. 1 John 4:18 says; There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 Corinthians 13 talks all about love and one specific thing it says is that "love keeps no record of wrongs." When you accepted Christ in life, you became a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! Even as a new creation, we have flaws, but this should not upset you! 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." God has a plan and purpose for you, and can use your flaws and weaknesses to complete the good work in you. So keep moving forward and know that God loves you NO MATTER WHAT! Philippians 3:13-14 says:...Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Most people don't realize that God has his hand on them, even when they don't walk in him. Saul of Tarsus is a good example. Saul was a murderer, a man who was a killer of Christians, yet God saw him COMPLETELY WORTHY of being his instrument. Acts 9:10-15 says: In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called  to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judus on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come a place his hands on him to restore his sight." "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all you call on your name." But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." God gave Saul a new name, Paul, and god used him in a mighty way! Even in sin, God can use us! Ephesians 2:4-5 says: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin- it is by grace you have been saved. When Christ was crucified, our sins were cast from east to west. Psalm 103:12 says:...As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. If God can forgive our sins, and give us perfect love, then would you not forgive yourself? NO ONE is or will be so far in sin that you will be considered unworthy. receive God's forgiveness, and when you have, forgive yourself! If you, a NEW CREATION in Christ, can look on others who have sinned and love them, do you not love yourself enough to forgive yourself? Walk in the knowledge that if God loves you enough to forgive you, then you should love yourself enough to forgive yourself. Philippians 4:7...And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 1:18...I pray also that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Devotional: Piece of Steel or Peace Be Still?

"Well peace is always still around me cause I keeps me what they call a 'piece of steel'. Long as you got a piece of steel, you gonna have peace. Load your steel. Thank ya Jesus!" - Madea, Diary of A Mad Black Woman

As much as I love Madea because she can make anyone laugh, she doesn't always have the best ideas (lol). This quote was in reference to forgiving others that hurt you. Sometimes life hands you some trials with others, and so many things can happen when someone hurts you. However, the bible talks about forgiveness quite a bit. Romans 12:19-21 says, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." So the first piece of advice that the bible gives is to let God handle it. God can deal with people far better than any of us can. This scripture is also in reference to your attitude. Sometimes when people hurt us, it is hard to just let it go. In fact, forgiveness can be a process. Forgiveness is a choice, not something you base on emotions. You can't base your forgiveness for someone on how you feel, because if so, you might not ever forgive someone. However, when you do something good for someone who hurts you, it can often lead to having the right feelings. So instead of lashing out at someone who hurts you, treat them with love and compassion. It will not only help the person that hurt you, but it will help you as well. Plus, it is also an effective tool in teaching yourself forgiveness. When you choose not to forgive someone, you are teaching yourself to be hardhearted. When you choose to forgive, you are making it easier to learn how to forgive, and it may come easier to you the next time someone hurts you. If you learn nothing else from it, just remember that when you don't forgive someone, they take power over you. When you do forgive someone, you take back that power. No one should have the power to effect your emotions. Though it happens a lot, you can still take back the power through forgiveness.

Now, forgiveness is not something that we keep a checklist for. If you keep a checklist, have you really forgiven someone? Matthew 18:21-22 says: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you not seven times, but seventy-seven times." When Jesus said this, he did not mean literally ONLY seventy-seven times. When he said this, he meant for no one to set a limit on how much you can forgive someone. This scripture goes hand in hand with this scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5, "...it keeps no record of wrongs." Now, "it" refers to love. Love and forgiveness go hand in hand with each other. Without love, how can you forgive someone? So when someone hurts you, forgive them and move on. Don't keep track of how many times a person hurts you, because if you do, can you really call that forgiveness?

If you ever find yourself in a conflict over forgiving someone, pray about it. The heart is deceitful and cannot always be trusted, as talked about in Jeremiah 17:9. So this is where this particular scripture comes in... Mark 4:39 says, "Peace! Be Still!" When you read this particular phrase in the bible, it was referring to Jesus calming the storm when the disciples were out on the water. However, it can be used in the case of your heart. If you find that there is turmoil in your heart over what someone did to hurt you, simply say to your heart, Peace! Be Still! If it can work for calming the wind and waves, surely it can work for calming the storm in your heart.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Devotional: All For One and One For All

What's in a name? A rose called by any other name would smell as sweet... That which we call a rose still blossoms and blooms the same way even if it were called something else. This same thing could apply to the body of Christ. For many many years, there have been many thing that "supposedly" differentiates members of the body from other members. For example, some believe it is wrong to eat meat. Some believe the Sabbath is on Sunday, and others on Saturday. Some have home churches, and some have a large church building. Some believe in speaking in tongues, and others don't. It is things like this that create dividing walls. People get so focused on the "little details" that it's easy to seclude yourself from the rest of the body. While there will always be division for one reason or another, it's always important to extend the hand of acceptance to those whose beliefs may slightly differ from yours. John 10:16 says, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd." Though we may not all be in the same sheep pen, we all have the same shepherd. I have used this next scripture in a previous devotional, but it can be applied here as well. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, it talks about spiritual gifts and different parts of the body. The key lesson in this chapter is that as a body, we all have different gifts and make up different parts of the body, but nevertheless, we are one. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." Here is a good example of what I am talking about. Matthew 15:21-28 says: "Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.' Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.' The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said. He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour." Though this woman was not one of the lost sheep of Israel, she believed in Jesus and had faith, so he helped her.

Before Jesus was arrested, he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all believers. In praying for all believers, his desire was for us to be unified. John 17:20-23 says, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May the also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be on as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." Though none of us are perfect, let's tear down the dividing wall of seclusion and be the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:1-6, "As a prison for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Monday, April 2, 2012

Devotional: What Time Is It?

This devotional is rather short this time but the message is quite simple. Do you ever wonder about why you are in a certain place in your life? I know on many occasions I have wondered why I am where I am. The answer is simple. God wants us to complete this good work in us, and in order to do that, he places us where he wants us to be. Whether it be for a long time or a short time, God has a season for everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and I time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for peace and a time for war." God takes us through certain seasons and times in our lives to get us to where he wants us to be. So just trust in him...that he will take care of you no matter what season you are in!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Devotional: Never Judge A Book By It's Cover

I was in my room last night and I was thinking about a conversation I had with some of my friends on Sunday about true beauty when it hit me: if we try to adapt our physical appearance to what the world considers true beauty, none of us would live up to expectations. It actually made me mad. I realized that for so long, I was trying to physically be what the world wanted me to be, and I was always getting down on myself because I wasn't adding up. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 says, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we don not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." If you look at this verse in the sense of how we view our outward appearance, it makes a lot of sense. I don't think I know one person that is truly satisfied with every part of their appearance. The word does say though that this will not always be what we look like. Our bodies are just temporary. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us." If you think about how clay jars are made, it's quite unique. Each work, once the design is finished, must be placed in a kiln. A kiln is a heating source, and you must heat the kiln to 1,300 degrees Celsius. With this type of heat, you never know how your creation may turn out. If you use yourself if relation to this type of heat, it makes sense. Our physical appearance is affected by the heat of the world, both physically and emotionally. None of us are going to look perfect when we come out of the kiln. However, God never intended us to be obsessed with our physical appearance. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." While God doesn't want us to completely let our physical appearance go, he doesn't want that to be the center or our focus. Psalm 139:13-14 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." So next time you're getting ready to go somewhere and you are in panic over how you look, just remember that you are beautiful because God made you beautifully. Don't worry so much about your appearance :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Devotional: "Marco?"........................"Polo!"

Has it ever felt to you like God is far away? You call out for him, but it seems like there's no answer? You pray for things, but never see any results of those prayers? Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Now if you highlight those words "do not see", there lies the problem with our faith. We often expect to "see" things happen in our faith, and yet that isn't always how it works. When we don't see what's going on, our faith tends to lack. Here is a good way to look at it though. Mark 4:26-27 says, "He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seen on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.' " Though we may not see every stage of a plant's growth, that doesn't mean it doesn't grow. When we pray, even though we don't see how God works in answering our prayers, that doesn't mean he's not answering them.

I know many of you have heard the expression "childlike faith". There is a reason why it's called childlike faith. My dad was once giving a teaching on faith and asked one of the younger boys in church to come up front. When the boy came up front, my dad asked him, "Do you lay awake at night worrying about what you will eat the next day?" The boy looked confused. "No," he said. So my dad asked, "Do you worry about how you are going to pay the bills?" Then the boy replied, "My mom and dad take care of that." Boy, wouldn't it be great to have that kind of faith? To wake up each morning knowing that someone else has everything covered? The reason why it's called childlike faith is because it's innocent and trusting and hasn't been tainted. 1 Peter 1:5 says, "...who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." God will help shield your faith through any difficult circumstance, big or small. Though most of us may not have that childlike faith, God will protect what faith we have.

God never promises that there won't be hard times. In fact, God sometimes allows us to go through hard times to make us stronger. James 1:3-4 says, "...because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Whether our faith is being tested, or the Devil is trying to make us miserable, God promises to be there through ALL of it. God says in his word, "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) So hold onto God. He will be with you whenever you need him. Faith is a part of everyday life and will be put into action in many different scenarios, and God promises to be there through every one of them. Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for God who promised it faithful."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Devotional: Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

If you are anything like me, you have questioned what your spiritual gifts are, or what each gift is for that matter. I know that I have special gifts, but I always thought that when it came to spiritual gifts, I didn't have what it takes to truly do any good. I was reading my bible last night, praying about what I should do for my next devotional. I had some ideas, but none of them really seemed to pan out. For some reason I kept hitting a wall. So I gave it over to God and that's when he gave me this scripture. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not the eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact Gad has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given great honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those peaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all teachers? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts." This scripture clearly told me that though I may not have the same gifts as others, my gifts are valuable to the body of Christ. This applies to you as well. If you wonder what your gifts are, then pray about it and God will show you. Don't ever think though that your gifts are not of value, because your gift matter just as much as anyone else's. Romans 12:6 says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us..." Not everyone has the same gifts and God did this for a reason. He has a plan for each person on how they can be used in the body of Christ. Jeremiah 29:11, "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." So don't feel down! Know that you are special, and you have a purpose! God will use your gifts to do wonderful things!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Devotional: Where Is The Love?

I was thinking of a story the other day that just broke my heart :( It was almost a year ago...I was on YouTube watching a Christian skit that was about judging other people and the effects it can have. This one younger girl had left some crude comments about how God hates gay people and how they are going to hell. I was so bummed out that someone truly believed that. In an effort to share a little love to those who may be judged like that, I left a post on Facebook about how God really feels about his children despite their sins. Well, a friend of mine had started asking me questions about homosexual people; asking me if it was some kind of disease, or if they were really born that way. I honestly didn't know how to answer that question without opening up a can of worms. She then told me about how there was a man that worked with her that was gay. She said that her coworkers and herself didn't like that fact, so they did what they could to run him off and make sure he quit. I heard this and I wanted to cry. I know that homosexuality isn't the only case where people are unfairly judged. There are people out there that are considered "untouchable" by others and it shows a true lack of compassion in the world. In Matthew 25:40 it says, "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!' " I didn't even know about this particular bible verse until I was in my first year of high school. I was in a Christian bible study that was held during lunch time for those of us who wanted a little bit of God in our lives during the day. The teacher had several boards put up in front of the room. He asked us to draw pictures of someone that we really didn't like. As soon as we finished drawing them, he pinned them to the boards and told us that we could throw darts at those pictures to release a bit of our anger. As soon as the darts were gone, he took down our pictures, and right behind it was a picture of Jesus. I was like a boot to the head- a major realization that everyone is God's children, and when we hurt one of God's children we do the same to him and Jesus. Luke 6:31-34 says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those that do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be repaid in full." God wants us to show love to others that are considered unlovable or untouchable to the rest of the world. So this week, consider reaching out in love to someone who may be wrongfully judged by others. It may make a big difference in their life!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Devotional: Religion vs. Relationship

Some of my friends and I were discussing religion and why people think it's a bad thing. So many people ask if I am "religious", and yet there are so many sub-text questions that stem from just that one question. There are two parts in answering that question: helping people understand the difference between a religious lifestyle and a relationship with Christ, and how that is reflected.

When non-believers refer to believers as religious, in my experience, they think that we have a "better than thou" attitude, and all we do is live by a set of rules that dictate who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.

People often ask why we believe in God, or why we love him. When I think of how to answer that, I think back to when I accepted Christ in my life. I was only four years old when I lost my dad to cancer. I was always so sad, but my mom always comforted me with a scripture. She would quote the first part of Psalm 68:5 where it says that God would be a father to the fatherless. Being so young, I didn't really understand much about God, but I knew that he loved me enough to be a dad for me. I loved him and still do because he loved and still does love me. It's just like it says in 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." What people don't understand is when you love God, you want to live a better life. You want to serve him, and do your best to please him. However, somewhere along the way, people believed that you had to live by a religious law in order to be loved and accepted by Christ. Some of the earliest examples refer to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were religious teachers who were all about the law rather than living for Christ. It talks about this very thing in Matthew 15:1-9: Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. they worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' " This problem still exists today. People have been taught rules instead of love. Colossians 2:20-23 says: "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!' These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." In these verses, God clearly states that you have freedom from human regulations when you live for Christ. Yet people still believe that you have to abide by certain rules to achieve salvation. The word of God says differently. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast." It is not about works, and this is what Jesus had to say about people who were talking the talk, but not walking the walk...Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.'

If all else fails, just let people know how much God loves them. Let them know that it's not religion that dictates who we are and how we act, but our love of Christ. John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Devotional: To Give or Not To Give

This particular devotional is about giving when God calls us to give. I will start with a story that my mom told me. She worked in a food bank that was run by the church we were attending at the time. During those times, she would come across many different people with many different struggles like addictions to drugs, alcohol, or just a lack of income. One day, God had called her to give some money to a couple who had asked for it. My mom was hesitant because these people did drugs. Because she wasn't sure of what to do, she went to ask the pastor for advice. When she told him of the situation, he told her that we should give when God calls us to give because once that money is in that person's possession, it is no longer in our hands. It is between that person and God. He said that God has a plan for that person that we may not understand, and then he gave an example...: "Say God calls you to give money to a drug addict. That person may be going through such serious withdrawals that even if you tried to tell them about the love of God, they wouldn't listen or care. All they would think about is getting their next fix. But you give them the money anyway. That person then goes out and buys drugs and gets their fix. You see them a short time later and they are calm, collected, and aren't so worried about drugs that you can share the love of God with them. They give their lives to the Lord that day and decide to go to rehab so they can live drug free lives. All of this happened because you gave them the money." This story makes an excellent point. So often we are called to give, but then take it upon ourselves to determine whether a person should receive this gift or not. When a person asks for help, we automatically start asking questions, trying to determine if he or she qualifies to receive any gift. However the bible talks about what to do in situations such as these. In Deuteronomy 15:7-11 it says, "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: 'The seventh year, the year for canceling debts is near.,' so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." The story of the Good Samaritan is a good example of helping someone in need...which goes back to the scripture in Deuteronomy. Luke 10:30-36 says, "...A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he say him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers"? What makes this story so wonderful is that the man gave help freely and without question to the man who was beaten up on the side of the road. He did not stop and say, "Excuse me, but I need to ask you questions before I can help bandage your wounds and make sure you don't die." Harsh example, but true. In the bible it talks about Paul and grace that God gave the Macedonian churches. These people wanted to serve and give to the saints. 2 Corinthians 8:5..."And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." God blessed these people because they gave what they could and did it according to God's will. It starts off in Jeremiah 29:11 by saying, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord... Though we may not understand why God asks us to do or give certain things, he has a plan that will not only benefit us, but the person he has also called us to give to. Matthew 25:35-36 says, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Devotional: Eye of the Tiger's Prey

"It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight. Rising up to the challenge of our rivals..." At least that's what they say in the song. But in some cases we tend to cower in their shadows. Many times, instead of being the tiger, we are the tiger's next victim...We get so scared by the problems that life throws us that we lose our focus on God. Matthew 14:25-33 talks about a similar scenario...: "During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord if it is you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wing, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying. "Truly you are the Son of God." Wow! As bad as this may sound, I don't even know if I would have gotten out of the boat! However, people tend to forget that with God, anything is possible! We, as humans, tend to forget just how powerful God really is. When we doubt God, our focus goes to our problems. We get depressed or angry, and find ourselves in a constant state of panic. Matthew 11:28-30 says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

In reality, many of us are still babies in Christ. We can only understand certain parts of God's word. When babies feed, they drink milk or eat baby food. They cannot yet digest solid food. Christians are the same in the sense that we cannot always "digest" certain parts of the bible. Now if you look at a toddler, it is hard to keep their attention for more than 5 minutes before they find something else that captures their attention. That is the way it is with Christians too. There is always something in the world that can distract us or get our attention, even if for a brief moment. So in conclusion, we as humans have a small understanding of God's word and therefore can be distracted easily. This is what happened with Peter. He became distracted by the wind and began to sink. What God wants us to do is have faith in him. If the problems, or just things, of this life prove to be distracting, then turn in over to God. On the bright side, Jesus did not let Peter drown. He saved him the same way that God saves us. Isaiah 43:2 says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Devotional: Beautifully Deceptive World

"If only I were famous..." 1 year later, check! "If only I were rich..." 2 days later, check! "If only I had a mansion.." 3 months later, check! "If only I had an awesome car..." 1 day later, check! "If only..." What is it that makes the things of this world attractive? Ecclesiastes 2:3-11 says, "...I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few says of their lives. I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit tress in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing tress. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well- the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun." So often, we are deceived by the beauty and charm these things of the world offer. While the pursuit of these things may be exciting, once you have them, you lose the feeling of excitement and are left with an empty feeling.

"Oh my gosh, I'm fat!" Most models weigh between 105 and 115. "Oh my gosh, I'm flat chested!" If you're a model, it's not a problem. If you're not a model, the desired cup size is a C or D. Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting..." For many generations, beauty is defined only by physical appearance, however, buying beauty doesn't make life any easier or more pleasant.

Many music and movie stars want fame because they think fame and popularity is wonderful. they quickly realize that they can be surrounded by a million adoring fans and still feel all alone. So often, music and movie stars turn to drugs and alcohol, or develop eating disorders because they are trying to live up to or feel they can't live up to the world's expectations. James 4:1-2 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something, but don't get it..." When a person is lying on their death bed, they don't ask for their fancy car, or the trophy they won at the Oscars...They just want some peace and their loved ones by their side. Mark 8:36 says, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" When you live for the world, what are you really living for? 1 John 2:17, "The world and it's desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." Remember this verse anytime your desires for "things" get in the way, when you feel inadequate, or don't feel beautiful... Proverbs 31:30, "...a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Men, remember you are great too! When you put everything that you are in to serving the Lord, you will lack nothing! Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Devotional: Fearful Servant vs. Fearful Servant

This particular devotional is about fear in doing the work that God has for you, and overcoming that fear. When I was at Young Women's Bible Study with the rest of the ladies, we had decided that we should have it every Monday rather then every other Monday. Then the girls decided that we should each trade off on doing devotionals on the days we weren't doing book study. My first reaction was pure panic because not only do I have a fear of speaking on front of people, but I was afraid that they would laugh at me, or that I would make a mess of it and not truly get the message across. So that same night, I went home and prayed that God would help me. I very clearly told him that by myself, I couldn't do this and that he needed to do this for me. A few hours later while I was fixing some food for my dad, I hear this voice say to me, "Danika, who is someone you admire most in the bible?" My first thought was Esther. Then it said again, "Why do you like Esther so much?" I thought it was because she was a brave woman with a wonderful heart for God. Then it was like an instant download. All these scriptures started coming to me.... The first scripture is Esther 4:9-16: Hathach went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, "All the king's officials and the people the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king." When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish...." So imagine being Esther in this situation. God has called her to help save her people, but there is the possibility that she might die in the process. Facing possible death can be a scary thing. In the movie One Night With The King, Esther was getting ready to go before the king, and when the king's servant tried to discourage her, she gave a wonderful example of someone she looked up to, who had the right idea of what to do in her situation. This person was David, which brings us to our next scripture, 1 Samuel 17:29-37: "Now what have I done?" said David. "Can't I even speak?" He then turned away to some else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it struck it and rescued it from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the Lord be with you." So here is David, a boy with no training, no armor, and no weapons, and he has more faith and courage than all of the soldier's in the army of Israel. One of the many fears of people is that they are not good enough to share the word of God and teach others because they aren't pastors or elders of the church, or they have had a bad past. If you look at Davis and Esther, both of them started out small. Esther as just another Jewish girl, and David as just a shepherd boy, but both of them were used by God to achieve great things. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it says: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Now if God gave us the spirit of power, love and self-discipline, he would want us to use that. So often we live in fear of doing the Lord's work whether it be from self-doubt or the doubts and thoughts of the world, that we don't do it. But God challenges us to step outside of what the world has to say. It says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing, and perfect will." If we give in to our fears, aren't we conforming to the ways of the world? If we truly give in to our fears, we become a "fearful servant". This type of servant is one who literally lives in fear of the the world and becomes a slave to it, which turns to anger and resentment. However in Proverbs 9:10 it says: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." So if we fear the Lord (not as in be scared of him, but have a reverent fear), he will give us the wisdom we need to complete the tasks he has given us. In this case you become a "fearful servant". This type of servant is one who loves and fears the Lord and has a love of serving others and pleasing the Lord. Throughout the bible, there are words of comfort from Jesus, but I think this sums it up perfectly: Proverbs 3:5-6 says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."