Are You There, God?

In a time of economic downturn even believers can become fearful, as many struggle financially and some have even lost their jobs.  In 28 years of marriage, Matt and I have received many blessings and victories.  Yet, we’ve also experienced countless trials and tough times.  It is during the tough times, when our faith has been tested, that we have seen God come through in amazing ways so that we could take none of the credit and all the glory belonged to Him.

When we face hard times, there is always a “pressing through” that is painful and discouraging to walk.  In the midst of it, it’s hard to see God at work.  We are so quick to fall into doubt and fear, asking, “Where is God in all of this?”

If you are in a difficult place and need a miracle from God, I want to encourage you to not lose heart.  This is JUST the place where the door is wide open for you to see Him come through for you in a mighty way.  There have been many times when I have said to God, “You sure must think I can handle a lot,” when I was sure it was more than I could bear.  Yet, with His help, I made it through to the other side.

In tough times, we face two choices:  be angry at God, OR, draw closer to God.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  Jesus is the one who makes intercession for us, that is, He acts on our behalf before His Father, the Lord God Almighty.  Jesus acts on our behalf when we draw near to Him.

I like the saying, “You can become bitter or better.”  The choice is always up to us.  Sometimes, halfway through a trial, our frame of mind will change from one state to the other.  It is of course best to work on “becoming better” rather than allowing ourselves to become bitter.  Yet, if you find yourself becoming bitter, there is hope in Christ.  It takes repentance, admitting that we have been wrong, and then choosing to turn in a new direction with God’s help.

James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  Often in times of trial, I have had to take time to repent to God for my bad attitude, or for doubting Him instead of trusting Him.  He is always faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.  It takes recognizing that we are weak and He is all-powerful, but it also takes seeing that He loves us, even when we don’t endure a trial with perfect behavior.  He isn’t trying to punish us.  I have seen for myself that if I will submit my attitude to God, He will turn my outlook around and I will find it easier to endure a trial.  Eventually, with His help, I will begin to see a way out of the struggle.

In Psalm 31:1-4, King David gives us a wonderful example to follow:  “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!  For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”

If we think God is punishing us, or He has something against us, this false belief will prevent us from turning to Him.  We will be too afraid to draw close to Him.  I find that these false thoughts also stir up confusion.  You wonder, “Is God done being mad?  Is the punishment enough now?  I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me, have I learned what I’m supposed to learn?”  The Psalms and other books of the Bible contain many examples of times when someone experienced such troubled thoughts, and they ring true for those who are going through a time of difficulty.  Psalm 107:6 tells us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.”  (Read the entire 42nd Psalm)

So often, we try to figure out everything before the trial ends.  Yet typically, it is not until we are past the trial that we are able to see a purpose, or to understand that we have learned something of value. We see so much more clearly afterward.  During a trial, we can see only part of the situation.  Our vision is limited.  God may speak to us during our struggle, but He usually only gives us a part of what we want to see and know.  I believe this is because He wants us to keep looking to Him, trusting in His guidance and not in our own limited abilities.

I want to encourage you to look for the little things, the small morsels of understanding as you walk in the midst of your struggle.  God is actively moving and speaking and revealing Himself all along.  We just have to let our eyes see and our minds understand the little miracles He sends our way.  I encourage you to journal everything, with dates, so you can keep track of the praises along the way.  After the trial, when you read back through your journal, you will see God in every step of your journey.

There have been many times when I have been struggling and not able to see a way out, when a good friend would send me a “word from the Lord” that was just in time and so uplifting for me.  First Corinthians 14:1 teaches us, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”  I have often held on to that special word to carry me through very dark times.  Eventually, I would see God’s word fulfilled, but during the trial, my faith would be increased as I held on to the hope of victory before it came.

Jesus promised us that we WILL have trials and tribulations, but HE has overcome the world (John 16:33).   HE has given us HIS overcoming power!  In NO WAY does God mean for us to be defeated!  Satan and his demons long to steal, kill and destroy, to defeat us every chance they can.  We must recognize that there are forces of darkness fighting against us.  We are in a spiritual battle.  So know this: that God intends for you and me to be victorious overcomers so we can help others to also be victorious.

The Apostle Paul writes, “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Yes, while going through a difficult trial it can seem as though the Lord is far away, that the difficulty has somehow separated us from God.  But His word says nothing can separate us from His love.  He IS love and He is always with us no matter what we may be facing.

Maybe someone close to you who is enduring a time of great difficulty.  This can be a great opportunity for you to stand with that person, to pray with them and see them through the trial.  We are not meant to live the Christian life alone.  We are to walk together, encouraging one another in our faith.  So let’s not encourage doubt and unbelief when someone is struggling.  Let’s not agree with their negativity or bitterness.  Let’s speak words of life and encouragement.  Let’s speak scriptures that will build up their faith to understand and believe that God IS making a way for them because He loves them and is for them, not against them. More than ever, we need to support and encourage one another.

Let’s Pray:

Father God, I thank you that your word is our guide through every path of life and it especially helps me when I am struggling.  Thank you for your great love and mercy that never fail to comfort me, even when I can’t see what’s ahead.  Help me to trust you in everything and to believe that You are for me and that You are making a way of escape for me.  I can take comfort in knowing that You know all about my struggles and my weaknesses and you WILL see me through to victory.

In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen.

Upon The Wind

The Eagle soars upon the wind,
High with so much ease.
If I could learn the spirit’s wind
I could fly like He.
A river flows with current set,
Over rocks and sand.
If I could learn the Spirit’s flow,
Through anything, I’d stand.
The stars at night, all held in place,
By powers we cannot see,
And every morning the sun will rise,
Ever faithfully!
If I could put my trust in God
As much as earth and sky,
I would never fail to see
His Spirit soaring high!
His hand of grace, His heart of love,
His ever present care,
I would live each moment through,
Knowing that He’s there.
But I failed today and yesterday,
And the day before.
I failed to trust Him with my all,
The doubt has come once more!
When my life’s in the Father’s hand
Why would doubt prevail?
The enemy of heart and soul,
There to make me fail!
But I turn my eyes once again
To see and to believe,
That God is really big enough
And my heart CAN receive…
His grace, His love, His present care
That He has here for me.
Could it be that I must choose
To trust when I can’t see?
And place my hand upon faith’s door,
And live a life that’s free!

Jesus Changed Everything

The book of Romans, written by the Apostle Paul, is full of profound instruction for the believer. Yet, for a new believer, the lessons in Romans can be some what difficult to understand. A Bible Study on the entire book is well worth the time and effort, and I highly recommend it. In this devotional, I will be using several scriptures from Romans, but this is in no way an exhaustive study. Hopefully it will enlighten you and inspire you to do further study in Romans.

In the Old Testament, God seems to enforce a strict standard on His people. Why was God so rigid about His commandments, and why did He become so upset when His people disobeyed Him? He even allowed His people to suffer in punishment and slavery.

One way to understand the Bible is as an ongoing story, beginning with God’s creation of the universe and humankind. As the story unfolds, we see humanity’s rebellion against God and God’s ongoing call for humankind to return to Him. Ultimately, the story leads to the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who came to show us the true character of God, and to die on our behalf as the atoning sacrifice for our sins that would once and for all provide a means for us to be restored to a right relationship with God.

Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Why were we in need of Grace?

The first word I’ve underlined is peace. Genesis chapter 3 gives the account of the first sin by Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God, they realized they were naked. They became afraid and hid from God. So sin, the disobedience of God, entered the world through one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve. Through their sin, Adam and Eve lost their peace with God, and instead of peace, they experienced fear. Sin separates us from God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18)

The second word I underlined is faith. Adam and Eve turned their faith from God’s words to Satan’s words. Either God’s words are true or they are not. The Bible tells us this about God’s word: “God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ) As much as Adam and Eve walked with God, they still did not have a right understanding of God’s nature, and they allowed Satan to convince them that if they ate from the forbidden tree, they would become like God, “knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Adam and Eve were in need of grace. After Adam and Eve sinned, God required the blood sacrifice of animals as an atonement for the sins of mankind. Genesis 4:1-7 tells the story of Cain and Abel, in which Abel brought an animal sacrifice to the Lord. Clearly, by this time, God had given some instruction about blood sacrifices. Through the atoning sacrifice of blood, God, in His grace, forgave sins. (Leviticus 17:11)

Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, mankind continued to choose pride and sin instead of God and his righteousness. By the time of Noah, mankind had become so corrupt that God decided He must destroy all of humanity except for Noah and his family, who were righteous. Later, the tower of Babel would symbolize the continued rebellion of humans against God in their attempt to ascend to heaven. God saw that He had to do something about the pride and corruption, so He confused their languages, making it impossible for them to complete the tower and resulting in the scattering of the people to other places.

As humanity continued to rebel against God, He gave the Law, to show His standard of living and to illustrate how far short mankind had fallen. Yet, even then, in pride and rebellion, people continued to live according to their own fleshly desires instead of by God’s standards.

Yet, if God is perfect, why is there sin? God created mankind in love, in His own image. (Genesis 1:26) As part of His design, he gave us the ability to choose to love Him or to not love Him. Why would He do that? Think about it. If we had no choice but to love God, of what value would our love be to Him? We would be no different than a computer programmed to say “I love you.” God wants us to truly love Him and serve Him because it is our choice, not because we are robots that must automatically do His will.

Yet, throughout time, humans have abused their freedom to choose, following their own selfish and prideful path, at risk of destroying themselves through sin, and incurring God’s righteous anger.

But though the Old Testament years passed, God’s story was not over. The birth of Jesus Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament, ushered in a new era, the new era of grace covered in the New Testament. Mankind had forgotten the true nature of God and had earned God’s judgment. They had forgotten that God is love. The New Testament reveals that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to show mankind the true loving nature of God the Father, to point out the many ways humanity had fallen short of God’s righteousness. God did not choose to turn His back on mankind, but instead made a way for them to come back to Him.

To satisfy God’s requirement of a blood sacrifice for sin, Jesus offered up Himself to die on a cross, not just as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, but as the LAST blood sacrifice God would ever require for our sins, once and for all. God accepted the blood of Jesus for all the sins of mankind for all time. And by God’s grace, He offers forgiveness of our sins if we will simply confess our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. By faith in the covering atonement of the blood of Jesus, we are justified in God’s sight. That is, even though we have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), God declares us righteous in His sight! (Romans 4:1-8)

Jesus changed everything! When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we accept what Jesus has done for us and we have a “new nature” in Him. We are given His authority over Satan and demons, we are given His robe of righteousness and we are given power over sickness. God sees us through the interceding person of JESUS, His Son! In the Old Testament covenant, God required the shed blood of animals for the forgiveness of sin. But now we have the PERFECT sacrifice through our Lord Jesus. His sacrifice was enough. God showed His incredible love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For in while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:9-10) Jesus has given us a means for a new relationship with God. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, He has accepted God’s righteous wrath that we deserved. The debt has been paid. This is GOOD NEWS.

The Apostle Paul explains it so well in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. . . .” Verse 17 sums it up: “Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

When we come to God and accept His Son, we are brought to a newness of life. Our old self has been crucified with Him so we can no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6-7) This doesn’t mean that we never sin, but we have an awareness of sin and the evil fruit of it, and we have Christ’s power in us to overcome sin. Our desires change from wanting to sin to wanting to be righteous like Christ. And the glorious truth of all of this is that God’s gift of eternal life is His FREE gift to us. It is up to us to receive it. Romans 6:23 explains it so well: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” HALLELUJAH!

I have found that many Christians think God is angry with them, that all He sees are their faults and failures. They see God as an angry Judge who is terrifying to approach. They can’t feel “good enough” to approach Him. That was how they felt in the Old Testament, and rightly so. None of us are good enough to approach God. But Jesus has changed everything! God loves you and He wants to extend His blessings toward you. If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and repented of your sins, God has promised to forgive you! Accept His free gift right now today. Accept Him as the loving Father that He is and know that your sins are forgiven because of Jesus.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I know I’ve done wrong. I am a sinner needing your grace. Thank you that you made a way for me through your Son dying on the cross, shedding His precious blood and defeating death so that I can have life and be free from the slavery of sin. I accept your forgiveness now and I thank you for your love for me and I receive your blessings now. In the holy name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

The Salvation Poem

Jesus, you died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for you

Devotional by Sherry & Matt McPherson and Don Boyer

Declaration of a World Changer

Today,
I will live honorably through my thoughts, actions
and speech. I choose to be full of faith;
I will not only be a hearer,
but a doer of the Word of God.
I will serve before I demand, I will love and not
hate, and I will give before I take.
Today
I choose to make a difference in this world and to be
a part of something bigger than myself.
I choose to dedicate my life to prayer and ask
God for his miraculous power and the courage
to do the impossible.
I will make Godly relationships a priority in my life
As I esteem others higher than myself
Today,
I will live my life in such a way that
I will change the world.

Adapted from – Teen Mania Ministries

In Forgiveness I Am Free

In the silence of forgiveness
I am free
Free to love, free to laugh,
Free to have joy and enjoy the presence of God
once again.
A heart that was held captive
is now set free like a bird out of a cage,
Free to soar upon the wind of the Spirit.
Then you know forgiveness
has truly come.
A body wreaked with pain
and endless suffering,
Could it be the bonds of unforgiveness
and wrath, vengeance or malice?
Truly a light comes forth
When all is taken off,
The bitterness, the anger, the holding
of the injustice.
Oh the light is SO much better
than the heavy weight of such clothing.
I’ve taken it off, all of it off.
No more to bear its weight.
I have forgiven, I am free.
Though more has come my way,
Ah, and I knew it would come,
But I forgive quickly, more quickly this time.
For I will never forget
the bondage of unforgiveness.
I now go in the way of the Father,
I go in the way of love.
Love keeps no record of wrong.
This love that I can’t create on my own,
I yield, I breathe in and now I belong.
I have forgiven, I am free.

How Is Our Worship?

How real is our worship?

Do you sense the presence of God when you worship? Do you only worship at your church on Sundays? The most significant benefit of our worship in a service is connecting with God. Going through the motions and not entering in with our heart will not satisfy. God created us with a need to worship. If our worship isn’t devoted to God, we will allow other things to take the place of His worship. Such as: TV, sports, video games, work… We must not allow the things of this world to replace our worship time with our Lord.

How can we improve our worship?

Life today has so many demands on us. We are going in a fast pace, often in several directions in a given day. When do we have time for God, for studying His word and for personal worship time? Only YOU can slow down your train, only YOU can arrange your day and fit in time for God. After all, it is a matter of spiritual “life or death” for us.

Here are some tips that help me in my personal worship time that you may find helpful for you:

1) Make the choice to get up earlier and spend time with the Lord, read, pray and worship, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

2) Write a scripture down and put it in your pocket or purse and pull it out and read it throughout the day. This is meditating on His word, and be sure to thank Him for speaking to you through His word.

3) Worship and pray in your car on your way to work/school instead of listening to the radio or your favorite music.

4) Think of ALL the things to thank God for. No matter what you are dealing with or going through, you CAN find things to be thankful for and praise God in. Get your mind off of the negative.

As you take time for personal worship, just you and God, you will find your worship time at church becoming more meaningful and you will find yourself entering in to worship in a deeper way. He desires “intimacy” with us and this requires “time alone” with our Creator.

King David was a worshiper. He put worshiping God first. It wasn’t because “it was his thing,” or “he had the gift of worship.” He was reflecting the heart of God. There are so many scriptures in the Psalms, many of them were written by King David that reflect worship and praise to God. Here are a few:

Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord.”

Psalm 138:1-3 says, “I give You thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing Your praise; I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word. On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul You increased.”

Psalm 136:1-2 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Psalm 135:1-3 says, “Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to His name, for it is pleasant!”

Psalm 103:1-5 says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

And then the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

God desires our worship. It’s not like He’s sitting up in heaven saying, “You had better worship Me OR ELSE.” No, the beautiful reality about God desiring our worship is, when we seek Him in worship He responds by pouring His blessings back to us in return. IT’S A WIN-WIN SITUATION!!

Commit to be a “Worshiper” and see what God can do!!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I realize that worshiping you is an important part of my walk with You. Please help me to put You first in my day and to keep Your word before me. Thank you that your word reminds me of my need for You and Your desire to have my worship. Thank you for lovingly drawing me to You and for all of Your benefits. I pray this all in Jesus name, Amen!

Watch Your Words

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

Does what we say have an affect on how our life goes? Do our words have power? Can they make a difference? Proverbs 18:21 says, “…those who love IT…”, meaning we can love “death” or we can love “life,” and what we focus on will be evident in the words we speak. We will “eat their fruit.” Our words have consequences.

When we give our life to Christ, we let go of our old “beliefs” and we take on new ones. We operate under a different set of laws which are called the “laws of the Kingdom of God.” Genesis Chapter 1 tells us that God spoke the unseen into existence by His Word. It is reiterated in Hebrews 11:3: “Through faith we understand the worlds were framed by the “Word of God” so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Many of our most brilliant scientists today struggle to understand this, or reject it as being illogical. It is a law of the Kingdom and can’t be understood with reason, but only by the spirit.

Jesus said something astounding: “I tell you the truth, 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.” (Matthew 17:20) Not only do God’s words accomplish amazing things, but our words spoken with faith have power and can change our world.

Do you believe that the words you speak will have affect on your life? From here on, listen to what you are saying about your circumstances, what you are saying about other people around you. Are you speaking curses or blessings? Are you speaking words of death or words of life?

I believe our negative words attract the enemy and our positive words attract God and His army. God isn’t going to agree with our negative words. Negative words are not “faith words,” and without faith it is impossible to please God. Line yourself up with “God’s words” and watch how your circumstances change. Speaking positive words can and will change our attitude. If we look for the positive we will find it.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, I have fallen short with what I have spoken with my mouth and I have let my words create unnecessary pain. Please forgive me and help me to remain alert to what I allow out of my mouth. Help me to see the seriousness of my words and the importance of lining up with Your words. Awaken my heart and may your Holy Spirit continually remind me to “watch my words.” Help me to please you today with my thoughts and words. I pray this in Jesus name, Amen.

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