December 11, 2017

Motivated By The Light

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And the judgment is based on this fact:
God’s Light came into the world,
but people loved the darkness more than the light,
for their actions were evil.
All who do evil hate the light and refused to go near it
for fear their sins will be exposed.
But those who do what is right come to the light
so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

John 3:19-21

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When you decide to do good or right what dictates your decision?

  • Does knowing that you are doing good motivate you?
  • Does not wanting to do wrong motivate you?
  • Are you motivated by the benefit you may receive?

Why do we do good/right?  John 3:19 says that “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”  This makes me question how, even now today, people still reject God’s light.  When it’s all said and done, it’s much more easier to do wrong than good.  It’s much more easier to be selfish than selfless.  It’s easier to be thoughtless than it is to be thoughtful.  (Given this might not apply to everyone because being nice does seem to come easily to some.)

The next part says that “all who do evil hate the light and refused to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.”  Many people who do wrong feel that they can’t come to God because somehow they feel exposed. God shows us the Truth.  That doesn’t mean He shares our truth with others.  God may push us to share, but we still choose.

The last part states, “…those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  We are examples of what can happen when we bring our “junk” to God.  We show the world that it’s worth it.  We lead by example. Does God need us to do this?  No.  But others do, because we are humans and the “proof is in the pudding.”  It’s easier to believe something we can see.  Thank God that He cares enough to give us visible things to help us.

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Lord, thank You for the Light that You sent.  It shines light on all that we are.  Without the Light we wouldn’t even have the chance to come out of our darkness. Help us to continually strive to walk in and toward the light.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Shining Into the Darkness

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Because of God’s tender mercy,
the Morning Light from Heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

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Luke 1:78-79 resonates loudly with me.  The part about “…to give light to those who sit in darkness…and to guide us to the path of peace,” hits home.  It reminds me to be so thankful for what God has done for me.

Without His “tender mercy” I don’t know where I would be.  Would my suicidal thoughts have gotten the best of me?  There are so many people that I would not have gotten to meet.  How different would their lives be? And my family’s?

Without Christ and the Holy Spirit I would be lost and possibly not alive, but thank God that He does not let leave us in darkness.  God never intended for us to dwell in darkness.  Any situation that is dark or detrimental to one’s mental or emotional well-being, or anything that is just dark—is not of God.  Jesus came so that we could have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

God may find us in the darkness—we may find our way there or life may just be plain mean to us—but God never wants us to stay there. God sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to die for you and I.  He loves us this much!  And if He loves us this much, what makes you think that He doesn’t love us enough to want us to live in His light?  Don’t dwell in darkness unnecessarily.  God has made a way in, so that we can find a way out.

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Lord, thank You for the lighted path that you have provided and thank You for never wanting us to dwell in darkness.  Help me to never forget that when I can’t find my way, and it seems You are not near, that You ARE always near.  Always.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Thankful For the Blessing

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Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need,
and thank Him for all He has done.
Philippians 4:6

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You know those ever familiar verses in the Bible?  …This is one of them. It’s one of those verses that we can hear so many times that we just say it, read it and hear it, but it doesn’t really resonate in our hearts or minds.  It’s easy to do this with the familiar.  This is one of the reasons why I like to switch up between reading the New Testament and the Old Testament.  Another word for familiar can be mundane—just normal, something you expect, nothing special.

We have to be careful with these types of attitudes when it comes to the Word and when it comes to God.  You remember that car that you prayed and prayed for, and finally God blessed you just in time with the car you needed.  You know the one that you now complain about having to change the tires, change the oil, get a tune up on, and fill with gas; right?  It can be easy to forget that what you were given was first a large desire and then a blessing. Philippians 4:6 says, “…thank Him for all He has done.”  So, we are to tell God what we need (or want) and then we are to thank Him for what He has already done. I feel that we are told to do this, because it is to help us remember that God is faithful and has shown us that He is faithful, but to also keep us grateful for all the Lord has helped us with and provided for us, AND it’s to help us keep a thankful heart.  Our mindset is just so different when we are focused on being thankful.  The Lord knows the human mind oh-so-very-well.  He is just amazing!!!

When’s the last time you thanked God
for a blessing He brought you?

What If…

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Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalms 136:1-3

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Being thankful is something that should be done on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis.  I had heard of people who kept gratitude journals or thanksgiving diaries.  For a complete month, I wrote down what I was thankful for, even on the bad days when I felt like nothing was going my way.  When I started, I was certain it was going to be impossible to write down thirty things.

I’ll admit, I did struggle on some days because I was being stubborn. This was during a time when I was having real issues not being focused on what was wrong in my life. You see, if all you focus on are the things that are wrong…then it sure will be hard to see what is right and good.

Psalm 136:1-3 says to, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.”  When my brother and I were younger we used to do “what if” scenarios all the time.  Remembering that made me think…

  • What if God’s love did not endure forever?
  • What if God was not the only True God?
  • What if God’s love were not faithful?

Could you even begin to fathom what our lives would be like if God was not the way He is?  I think that if God were different, life would be a lot harder, and potentially unbearable.

  • What if God decided to be more like a dictator than a loving Father?
  • What if God did not care for our well-being, and we were just puppets?
  • What if we didn’t have freewill!?!??!

We can only imagine what our lives would be like if God were different.  So, I’m thankful that He is the way that He is and that He allows me to have freewill.

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Lord, thank You for being who You are—loving, caring, kind, compassionate, forgiving, faithful, trustworthy, honest, helpful, strong, Almighty, and just plain awesome!  Amen.

Be Thankful

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And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.
For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.
And always be thankful.
Let the message about Christ in all its richness, fill your lives.
Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives.
Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
And whatever you do or say, do it as representative of Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:15-17

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When I first read this passage, verse 15 stuck out to me, “…and let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”  The part that I got stuck on was “…and always be thankful.”  I know it’s cliché to say that you should always be thankful—but you should.  It’s so easy to say that you have nothing to be thankful for when you aren’t focused on the bigger picture.

When you focus on what you don’t have it’s easy to forget what you already do have.  For instance, perhaps you want a new car, but you just can’t afford it.  Yes, it would be helpful, but you can still be thankful for what you do already have.

  • Do you have a ride to work? Be thankful.
  • Do you have a vehicle that just needs some fixing up? Be thankful for that.
  • Do you have working legs that can get you to work? Be thankful for that.

Maybe your circumstances might not be exactly the way that you want them to be right now, but at least you do have.  And that is something to be thankful for.

When you can’t find anything at all to be thankful for, the very basic thing to be thankful for is mere life.  Of course, you could say that you would be better off dead…but at this point it’s time to realize that you are having a pity party and it’s time to leave this event.

Being thankful is something that is so simple to do, but it also so simple to not do. It is a choice that we have to make.  We can decide to focus on what we do have or what we don’t have.  When we choose to focus on what we do have we are generally going to find ourselves in a happier disposition than if we focused on the negative.  So be thankful.

Without God’s Love

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Every day throughout November, we’ll bring you a  devotional focused on giving thanks, gratitude, or giving of ourselves. We welcome you to check in each day and give thanks along with us!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Let all Israel repeat: “His faithful love endures forever.”
Psalm 118: 1-2

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Without God’s love we would be some very sad people.  Without the love of God, Jesus would not have been sent for us.  Without Jesus we would all be bound by the law.  Bound by the law we’d be doomed to live far more strict lives or suffer the consequences.  Without Jesus we would be stuck trying to be”good enough.” Thank God that is not the case!

I believe that without Jesus regret, guilt, hurt, sickness, pain, and every other type of ailment available would just be able to run rampant among us and we would not have any release.  This is, of course, my opinion.  The way that life is for us now, God can fix anything if we allow Him to.  We can go directly to Him ourselves.  It’s so much more intimate.  I couldn’t image having to go to another human to confess my sins, concerns, shortcomings, or worries to God for me.  I’d like to think that if I had to I would…but how comfortable it is to just be able to sit, stand, walk, drive, play, clean, or anything, and have a direct line to the Lord.  Even as I sit to type this devotional, I pray that the message He would have me present is expressed in the words that I write.

Psalm 118:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever.” How thankful I am that His faithful love which endures forever is shown very clearly in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  I feel we should consider how life would be without Jesus Christ versus how it is with Him.  As we do, we can become even more appreciative, grateful, and thankful for the Gift given to us.

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Lord, help us to be forever remember to be thankful for your love that endures forever. Amen.

There Is Refuge in God’s Word

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As for God, His way is perfect:
The Lord’s Word is flawless;
He shields all who take refuge in Him.
Psalm 18:30

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I was once told (or maybe I heard, or read it, somewhere) that God’s rules are not to deprive us of things, but are to keep us from the potential hurt we could cause.  For instance,

Don’t use foul or abusive language.
Let everything you say be good and helpful,
so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Ephesians 4:29

God has instructed us to not use foul or abusive language because He knows the damage it can do.  Words are very powerful.  They are enough to scar a person for life.  And once they are out, there is no taking them back.  Apologizes can be said, but the memory of your words will be there.

I know our verse (Psalm 18:30) is most likely referring to physical refuge—as in keeping you safe from bodily harm.  But when I read it the first refuge I thought of was emotional refuge.  Life can be rough and it has this way of wearing you down if you let it.  God’s Word does have a way of warning us about certain situations. However, whether we listen, or not, is up to us.  I think Proverbs is a really great book that lets us know “If this…then that”.  We can find refuge in the Lord’s words by avoiding these situations.

Here are a few examples from Proverbs 10 and 11:

  • 10:2 – Tainted wealth has no lasting value, but right living can save your life.
  • Verse 4 – Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich.
  • Verse 10 – People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.
  • 11:2 – Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
  • Verse 17 – Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.
  • Verse 24 – Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.
  • Verse 28 – Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.

These are just a few words of wisdom that God has placed into His flawless Word.  And the Bible is full of them.  God tells us what our attitudes should be like at work and how we should behave towards other believers and how we should treat our enemies…and on and on and on. We have been given a handbook for life. I know people say life doesn’t come with a handbook, but the Bible sure seems like one to me! And, even if you can’t find the answer there, prayer can guide you.

God’s Word is a refuge.
It helps to keep us safe, so I say it’s worth getting very familiar with.

Understanding God’s Ways

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Every word of God proves true.
He is a shield to all who come to Him for protection.
Proverbs 30:5  NLT

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I have a friend who, if she reads something in the Bible, then she believes it is true.  No questions asked…it’s just true.  If God says that it can happen, it’s true.  She’s not a “who, what, when, where, why, and how” type of person;  she’s an “Okay, I trust You, God, and I know that if Your word says that this is so, then it is so.”  I envy her ability to be like this.  I wish that I didn’t have so many questions, and I wish I didn’t need to know exactly how things were going to work.  I like to reason my way through things logically.  However, the things of God are not always going to be able to reasoned through logically.  Instead, like Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God proves true…”.  We have to simply trust and believe that God is going to do as He says He will.

If I had been born in Biblical times, I can only imagine what my story would look like in the Bible.  (Yes, I would have story in the Bible. It might be only those little blurs, but I would be mentioned.)  Let’s take a look at some stories in the Bible in which the people had faith in God’s word, simply because He said it….

Noah

So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth! Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior.”
Genesis 6:13-14

Noah’s reply?

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.
verse 22

WHAT?!  No questions?  None?  Not a single one?  Now THIS is the type of faith my friend has.

 

Joshua

But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors.  You and your fighting men show march around the town once a day for six days…  On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priest blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
Joshua 6: 2-5

And what was Joshua’s response?

So Joshua called together the priests…then he gave orders to the people….
verse 6

Seriously, though? Marching around a city and shouting is supposed to bring down some walls? How unreasonable and illogical does that sound? It makes absolutely no sense! But, it happened though.

Mary

Now this lady—Mary—she is my kind of girl.  We need to ask some questions!

Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
Luke 1:34

You see when Gabriel came to tell her that she had found favor with God and would be conceiving a child, she had questions. This just didn’t make sense to her…just HOW could she have a baby and yet still be a virgin.  IMPOSSIBLE!  Gabriel explained,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you…
verse 35

After she received her answers, Mary replied,  “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true…” (verse 38).  Now, THIS is me.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking questions.

Wanting to understand is not a bad thing.
However, it should never get in the way of following God.

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Lord, help us to stay focused on You.  May we not be afraid to ask questions and seek understanding.  But may we also not let it hinder us from proceeding in our relationship with You.  Amen.

Faithful Promises

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Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.
Your faithfulness extends to every generation,
as enduring as the earth You created.
Psalms 119:89-90

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The thing I love about God’s Word is that no matter how I am feeling, no matter what is going on around me, no matter what other people say, and no matter what my mind or eyes see God’s promises take rank over all of it.

God’s promise is always true. Sometimes it is hard to see this, but it is true. You know, when bad things happen God does not cause them.  He is a good God, therefore, He is incapable of doing wrong or bad.  He can only do good. It is hard for us to understand because we, as humans, can do both. However, God is not like us in this aspect.  He can only do good.

Let me say it again, He can ONLY do good.

God’s word says that He has come to give us life and that He has come to give us that life abundantly (John 10:10).  Here are a few of my favorite promises:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary
and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart
and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28-29

And this same God who takes care of me
will supply all your needs from His glorious riches,
which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world can’t give.
So don’t be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27

Knowing God’s promises isn’t enough…we have to believe them no matter what.

Hebrews 10: 23 (my favorite verse) says,
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”

Change

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Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends You,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalms 139:23-24 NLT

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Do you believe that’s a person can change?  I do…I believe that a person can change, if they want to change.  We cannot change people, people have to want to change on their own or the change won’t stick.  I’m talking about true change not “appearances” of change.  Can people change on their own?  I do believe that even this is possible.  However, I also believe that the easiest change you will ever experience is with the help of God.  And by easy I mean that the tools are readily available if you will accept them.

First, and foremost, a person needs to acknowledge that there is a need to change.  As you can see in Psalms 139:23-24, he asked for the Lord to change him—to make him better.  Confession time: when I first came to Christ, my biggest concern was that if I let Him “change me that I would no longer be “me“. Through prayer and constantly going to God about my concern, He pointed out that He was not changing me, but was making me into the person I was intended to be before life happened.  The “me” that I came to Him as was not the “me” He had envisioned me to be. The more I explored Scripture, the more I was able to accept this.

God says, “Bring all who claim Me as their God, for I have made them for My glory. It was I Who created them” (Isaiah 43:7 NLT).  He made us for His glory.  Does He find glory in the fact that I isolate myself or that I am mean to others?  Well, no.  So, then this is not how He created me to be.  How we are is not the same as how we were created to be.

Things happen in life that influence us—in positive and negative ways.  God happens to make us right.

…this means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17

New life is what we are promised.  But you know we have to choose to live in this new life.  God can show us a better way to do anything; whether it is managing money, or loving your family and friends, or loving the people of the world, or interacting with other believers, or how to be a better mother… boss… worker… or anything!  God knows the very best way to do it!  And, if we ask, He will show us.

The key is that you have to want it.  So, what do you want?