Category : Devotion of the Week
Category : Devotion of the Week
Today’s guest blogger is Karol Ladd. Karol is known as “The Positive Lady” and is the author of over 35 books. A portion of this blog is an excerpt from her newest book Becoming a Woman of the Word (Harvest House Publishers). For more info on Karol and her books go to www.PositiveLifePrinciple.
When my kids were young, I tried to make dinner time around the table a priority, and it wasn’t easy. Between soccer practice and gymnastics and homework, it was hard to bring everyone together at the table. Yet, recent studies reveal that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has a positive effect on a child’s development. A consistent family dinner time has been linked to lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, and eating disorders, and an increased chance of graduating from high school. Time around the table together not only provides an opportunity for conversation, but it also bolsters a sense of security and togetherness. Studies also show that children who eat dinner with their family are more likely to understand, acknowledge, and follow the boundaries and expectations set by their parents.
Now if we can see the benefits of time around the dinner table together as a family, how much more is our life enriched as we sit at the table of our Heavenly Father? Dining with Him and enjoying the rich nourishment from His word will not only give us a sense of security and togetherness, but will also make us more aware of His direction and desires for our lives. Spending time with our Father develops a deeper and richer relationship with Him and helps us in relating to others as well. Whether we are talking about family dinners or focused time with our heavenly Father, it begins with a decision, recognizing that this time is important enough in my life that I will be intentional about making it happen.
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to try to work things out myself and blow through my day in my own strength. Been there? It’s interesting that Jesus addressed this very tendency in the book of Revelation. He said He would rather us be hot or cold than to be “lukewarm.” And then he added the antidote to spiritually lukewarm-ness, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). It’s not just an antidote; it’s an invitation. God wants us to fellowship with Him, to dine with Him and commune with Him. Our part is to listen to His voice, open the door, and spend time with Him. This is how we guard against being lukewarm, and are empowered to live a vibrant and meaningful life.
As we abide with Him, we find strength and guidance. We experience a peace that passes all understanding as we give our cares and worries to Him. We gain a new perspective on life as we thank Him and praise Him for all He has done and will do and is doing in our lives. God has wired us in such a way that we find our soul’s refreshment from our fellowship with Him. As a father has compassion on His children, so our Father has compassion on us. He welcomes us into His loving embrace each day. How can we not accept the invitation to sit at the table with Him?
“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” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
I have a tendency to push for what I believe in. Years ago, when I was doing some investigative reporting, I learned a banking empire was conducting illegal practices, so I did not rest until I exposed the truth to the public. I lived and breathed this bank, and was not always well received when I showed up on its doorstep. As a result of numerous media reports like mine, the bank eventually failed.
However, since then, as a follower of Christ, I’ve learned we don’t have to strive to follow Jesus. If we trust him with our lives, he will open the doors we are to walk through. He will provide the opportunities. He will give us favor when we are where he wants us.
When Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim his message, he told them not to push if they were not wanted. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14).
When Paul came face to face with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, what did Jesus tell him in Aramaic? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). According to author and pastor Chuck Swindoll, “Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.”
Jesus may have been after Paul for years, as Paul pushed in the wrong direction, but he didn’t listen.
Do you have a tendency to insist on your own way, or do you let the Holy Spirit lead you?
Sure, you can have a plan, but give the plan over to God. Ask him to fine-tune it. Be willing to throw it out, if it’s not what he desires for you. Always rest your life in the Lord’s hands. Proverbs 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”
We have to learn to quit kicking against the goads because we only cause ourselves pain and disappointment.
So do I still push? Yes, to a point. But when I realize there is an impasse, I know that it must not be the Lord’s will, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. After making my case to no avail, I shake the dust off my feet and move a different direction.
What about you? Have you learned to let go of your agenda so that God can have his way in your life? Will you attempt to pry open the sealed door, or walk through the open door where he is waiting to lead you?
His way brings joy. His path provides peace. In God’s plan we find rest. (LBW)
The elderly woman approached me using her walker. She was smiling, and I could feel a peace within her, even before she spoke. She said, “Your father was my doctor.” Because it was an unexpected encounter, my eyes welled up and I said, “Really? What was he like?” She replied, “He was very handsome and nice,” then she encouraged me saying, “And he would be very proud of you.”
The woman’s words were a gift to me, and what I needed. It had been a busy ministry week out of town, and now I was about to speak to a large women’s group. I needed energy, a boost, and God provided a special blessing about my father, who I never knew, because he died before I was born. It was the fuel I needed.
When we are closely connected to the Lord, he will help us through any situation. Psalm 18:28-29 says, “You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”
At this point in my life, scaling a wall seems impossible to me, but what seems impossible is never impossible with God. God can get us over what appears to be a wall too high to scale!
What is the wall you face right now?
Our country is currently in the midst of an Ebola crisis. As cases of the life-threatening disease continue to surface, our natural instinct is fear. But we have to remember that even if the worst happened, and we contracted the disease, it is more important to be closely knit with God. We need to be fortified in advance, in his Word and in prayer, so with him we can scale a wall to healing.
Proverbs 18:14 says, “The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
It’s a crushed spirit we need to fear, not disease.
Do you have a crushed spirit? What are you doing to heal?
As we head into uncertain times, there may be many walls to scale, but we cannot do that without the Lord’s helping hand. We need to remember that with him closely guiding us, we don’t have to worry about the obstacles ahead.
No obstacle is too large.
No problem is too great.
No wall is too tall.
For those who love the Lord.
Jacqueline Hooks is our guest blogger today. This is what she says about herself and her ministry: “I am an everyday ordinary gal who started following Jesus less than a decade ago, and has fallen madly in love with the Carpenter King who saved my life and my marriage. My husband and I are raising “four holy moly messes” (Jake 10, Jude 9, Grace 7 and Joshua 1). I am technically a stay at home mom, but I rarely find myself at home, and the soap opera and bon bon life hasn’t found its way into my living room just yet. I do occasionally allow for a small celebration when all the laundry is clean AND folded at the SAME TIME on the SAME DAY…and that is typically twice a decade.
In 2012, God called me to begin Pruning Hooks Ministry. Pruning Hooks is a grass roots group of “Everyday ordinary women serving Jesus allowing their everyday ordinary lives to become extraordinary”. It is a ministry founded on the principal that Jesus wants your daily life, and following Him is a lifestyle of loving and serving and walking with Jesus…no event needed…just a Savior and our hands and feet. Jesus has called us to serve lunch and breakfast five days a week to Generation One Academy, provide monthly meals to residents of medical housing, love on teen moms in our area, help and encourage single moms and meet the needs of anyone God places in our path. Pruning Hooks gathers each month to listen to an ordinary woman share her Jesus Story which always encourages and reminds us how our amazing God works inside the every day. Because He wants our everyday …plain and simple.
And I write. Writing has been the tool Jesus gave me from the very beginning of my life to navigate every treacherous road I have walked. There are boxes of poetry notebooks and short stories stashed somewhere in my mom’s attic to prove it. My hope is that my words inspire and encourage you to see Jesus in your everyday too. He is right here waiting for each of us, in the daily mess, hoping we see He wants so much more from us and for us than we could ever imagine. I pray my writing will lead you to Him.”
Visit Jacqueline’s website at: http://www.pruninghooks.com or like her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pruning-Hooks-Ministries/173578226122133
If you asked me in 2nd Grade what I wanted to be when I grew up,
I would have told you two things:
Teacher or Writer.
This year I became a Writer.
This past year, in a million crazy ways, Jesus challenged me to begin to tell people I am a writer. I have written that word, “writer” on all sorts of forms this past year at doctor’s offices or my kids’ school or on a million surveys. It was weird at first and felt like a big lie, but as time has gone on it has gotten easier to put it as my “occupation. It still makes me smile and it still catches me off guard…but I don’t erase it three times or mark it out anymore.
I am a writer. It is what Jesus has called me to do. I write about Him in my everyday life. I write about my faith. I write about my family. I write because He tells me to put words on paper and share them with whoever is out there in need of them. It is, in short, the scariest thing I have ever done. But I am a writer. And so, as a writer, I write. And this year I wrote a book. A book about my life. A book about my life and Jesus and how BIG He really is…And this book has sat for the last couple of months with a publishing house….isn’t that super exciting??? Yep. Until you get the email letting you know there isn’t going to be an offer. And then the excitement just turns to embarrassment.
And I am driving to my 20 year high school reunion…
With four kids and a great husband jammed in a minivan…
And a list 20 years long of all the amazing things that have happened…
And then the other list…
The list of amazing things that ALMOST happened.
And almost, y’all, really is as good as nothing. And almost feels worse than lying. Almost feels like don’t even mention it in the first place. And why did I have to put myself out there for an Almost. There is no Almost ribbon. There is no Almost reward. Almost feels horrible. And this is why Hope is so hard. And this is why it is easier to never try. Almost feels like a death sentence to all of your dreams. People can act all they want like getting to Almost is huge, but y’all, Almost really feels like nothing to me today. Almost just feels like the last thing I want to talk about. Can we just pretend that this Almost never happened at all???
There is a man in the Bible, in the Book of John, named, Nicodemus. He is a Pharisee. He is educated. He is part of the top tier of the Jewish leaders. He is questioning everything. He goes and speaks to Jesus at night and listens to Jesus tell him he must be reborn. He stands up for Jesus later in the book of John. Not an open, I-am-a-bold-follower-of-Jesus-so-back-off, type of stand up for Him, but Nicodemus deflects some anger from the Pharisees off of Jesus. And somewhere between the meeting at night, and the moment of “Hey, don’t be so angry at Jesus,” Nicodemus becomes a bold follower of Christ. He goes all in. He lets his guard completely down and knows there will be consequences for his actions. And he accepts those consequences and wrestles them out and says YES to this following Jesus thing. And he is in. And he is a follower. And he is taking chances. With everything. He is making the gamble of a lifetime. And it is all good. And it will be ok. And if I make this crazy leap of faith, then it all works out, because you wouldn’t tell me to do something that didn’t have a fairy tale ending. Neatly wrapped in a bow. The 30 minute sitcom solution. All my dreams come true. Fingers crossed. Wearing my, “I hope so”, on my shoulder.
And then Jesus was crucified.
He was hung on a cross, y’all, like a common criminal.
He was beaten and bloody and looked nothing like a king.
And He died, y’all.
Hope became an Almost that day.
As Jesus hung on a cross, a Pharisee became a Follower. Nicodemus had no idea what God held in His mighty plan three days later. Nicodemus did not know the stone would be rolled away, and Jesus would conquer death and the grave. Nicodemus did not know on the day his Jesus died that Jesus would save the world and become the King of Kings. He simply knew this amazing man, like no other, who spoke of things he had never heard, and offered more Hope than he could ever imagine…died. And up until that point in history when someone was nailed to a tree, and hung there to die, they just did. Nicodemus took all his Hope with him to the cross that day…and for all he knew, his Hope had just become an Almost nailed to a tree. Nicodemus laid down all the power and praise and pride that came with being a Pharisee, and grabbed hold of The Carpenter King.
Nicodemus the Pharisee took the lifeless body of Jesus in his arms.
Nicodemus the Pharisee prepared his Jesus for burial.
He anointed a common carpenter with oils fit for a King, y’all.
This was huge. This was jumping off the cliff.
This was taking your Almost in your hands and seeing Hope instead.
Because y’all, God doesn’t leave us with Almost. God looked down at Nicodemus giving up everything he had ever worked for, stepping out on this crazy faith, taking the body of what was thought to be a liar, anointing his precious Jesus with oil, changing the course of his life forever because Jesus wanted his Almost to be so much more than Almost. He wants our Almost to be the day our lives change. The day we gave it all up for Him, and still found Hope to walk on. He wants us to look in the face of disbelief and disillusion and dissolved dreams, and see Hope. He wants us to stand firm in all He promised us, and keep walking toward Him one Hope filled step at a time. Even when all we are left holding is Almost.
When we almost stayed together…almost had the baby…almost made it work…almost graduated…almost moved on…almost got the promotion…almost made the cut…almost caught a break…almost kept the house…almost found the one…almost saved the day…almost received the letter…almost got the deal…And there is just no deal. And it may never come. But for every Almost you are left holding there is this crazy blank slate of Hope. Because in all the empty Almost, there is room for Jesus to work.
We are Jesus people.
We know Jesus power.
We have seen lives change when the tomb is empty.
We have seen lives change when Hope hangs on a cross.
We know Hope that cannot be stopped.
Because Jesus Can’t Be Stopped, Y’all.
Jesus Can’t Be Stopped.
So, I am sitting here with an almost published book, y’all. I am sitting here on my big red chair again, writing, because He keeps telling me to write, and there is so much Hope in this writing. We all are here, standing next to Nicodemus at the foot of the cross, wondering what happens next…if anything happens at all…do we just keep staring at all the things that Almost happened? Or do we get up and praise Jesus and tell Him again we know He is King? Do we only see the things that Almost happened? Or do we look at the place where we laid it all down, and know our Jesus has the power to resurrect any Almost He has called us to? And there is this Hope y’all. There is this exciting Hope. Filled with miracles and promises and you-have-no-idea-what-Jesus-is-up-to-but-He-is-always-up-to-something-good. So, dig in. So, stand firm. So, look at all it has cost you, and I know it has cost you a lot, and breathe in deep the Hope of what is to come. Because our empty hands are filled with His nail scarred Hope.
“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:21)
I make my home in the south for a reason. I am cold natured, and would rather live in temps in the 90’s than in the teens. This week I ‘m on a ministry trip in San Antonio and staying with a friend who graciously opens up her home to us every time we come to town. What a gift! But she likes to keep her house cold. I am currently nestled under the covers, not even wanting to venture downstairs for a cup of coffee. When I abide under the toasty blanket, I’m warm. Outside I’m cold. Simple logic.
As I spent time in 1 John this morning, I came across a similar concept and realized it’s the cure for sin.
“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning” (1John 3:5-6).
Until I saw this verse, I’d always believed, even as Christians, we still had sinful natures, which is true, but I also believed we occasionally slipped up, also true. What I didn’t know is if we abide in Jesus and stay closely covered by him, we will not sin at all, because when we live and breathe in him, sin cannot coexist. It’s the cure for sin!
Staying under our Jesus blanket wipes out the Top 15 list of sins listed in Galatians 5: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy; drunkenness, and orgies.
Then, instead of dead sinful fruit, remaining under his covering results in the fruits of the spirit that are alive: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Abiding in Jesus equates to sinlessness.
Not abiding in Jesus opens us up to sin.
So what does it look like to abide, or to stay under our Jesus blanket?
We have to spend time in his Word daily. I have found when I hurry my quiet time in the morning, I am more exposed to the world and don’t have the complete covering I need.
We must pray without ceasing. Prayer is simply talking to God, so when we converse with God throughout the day, it’s more difficult to fall into bad behavior.
We have to listen for the Holy Spirit’s direction. When I am tuned into the gentle whisper of God, he will warn me when I am headed in a wrong direction, or thinking something inappropriate.
Give your life daily to him. Ask God to take over your agenda and to create in you a clean heart and a right spirit.
It’s about time to leave my warm blanket because I have to get ready, but we never have to leave the covering of Jesus. Abiding in him is the only way we can overcome the temptations of this world, so reach out for the blanket of Jesus. He is the only cure for sin.