Monday, January 30, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Our Father
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (MARK 7:7) "This, then, is how you should pray." (MATTHEW 6:9)
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:9-13
Jesus taught His own prayer to His disciples. An example of how we also should pray, it is a perfect prayer. Often I have repeated its words without thinking about the power behind them. In the countless ways that we can come to the Lord in prayer, many people like to begin with the confession of sins. When I start thinking about my sins, however, I quickly become distracted. Rather than dwelling on the Lord, I think all about myself.
Beginning the way Jesus began helps me focus on Him. "Our Father;" this first phrase emphasizes our relationship with God. He is our Father, and we are His children, the sons and daughters of the Living God. Jesus is God's Son, which means He is our brother. We have an intimate relationship with the almighty God of the universe. Knowing that ought to encourage us when we are discouraged and show us how precious we are when we feel worthless. God is always with us when we feel abandoned, and His love for us abounds even when we feel unlovable.
Insight: Because of Jesus' sacrifice we are members of God's family, if we believe Him. Remember to thank Him for that in your prayers.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Abba, an Intimate Name for God
Abba, an Intimate Name for God
"'Abba, Father' he said, 'everything is possible
for you.'" (MARK 14:36) "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'" (GALATIANS 4:6)
Scripture Focus: Galatians 4:4-7
We have two children, one son-in-law, one granddaughter. In some families I would be called Father, Grandfather, or even Sir. But everyone in our family lovingly calls me Dad. They know how much I cares for them. When any of them needs me, they know they can depend on Dad. He is always available to help.
In the Bible, Abba is the informal name for Father. It means the same as Papa. This was the name Jesus used in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane several hours before He was crucified.
Today's reading reveals the intimate relationship we have with our heavenly Father. We do not have to plead to an aloof, uncaring God. He is never too busy or too preoccupied with "running the world" to notice us and hear us when we pray. Believers have the extraordinary privilege of a close personal relationship with the Mighty God of the universe. He welcomes our requests. We can always depend on our Abba, our Papa.
Insight: As believers we are privileged to have the same personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, our Abba, as Jesus does.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Date: January 24, 2012 10:22 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Source of Joy
The Source of Joy
"I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." (JOHN 17:13) Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (NEHEMIAH 8:10)
Scripture Focus: John 17:6-26
When I broke my back, I learned joy is not something we switch on like a light. Depression and pain drained me physically, emotionally and spiritually. But beyond the pain, the Lord's joy made me strong enough to face that overwhelming situation. I wasn't happy that I became disabled. But, because God was with me, I knew I would survive and know joy again.
Most people think joy is brought on by pleasant circumstances. True joy does not depend on good things happening. If this were so, Jesus would not have experienced it as He faced the cruelty of His death on the cross. Jesus said that in this world believers would experience heart-rending trials, situations that looked impossible to handle. Do those sound like reasons to be joyful?
His joy implanted deep in us remains in spite of the fiercest storms and most fiery trials we face. The joy of the Lord is our strength because He gave up all the joys of heaven so that we might experience true joy and one day be with Him.
Insight: Joy is one of the gifts the Lord offers us. His true joy makes us strong. We need to accept his gift today.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Jesus Prays for Us
Jesus Prays for Us
"I pray also for those who will believe 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." (JOHN 17:20, 23)
Scripture Focus: John 17:6-26
Even though Jesus prayed this prayer thousands of years ago for believers, His prayer is for you and me, also. The heading in my Bible says, "Jesus Prays for Future Believers." In vs. 21 Jesus asks the Father "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I in you." God desires unity and harmony among all believers. Unity in us proves to the world that God is real.
Jesus reveals God the Father to believers. In His prayer, He commits Himself to continue teaching us about God. This is a life-long process. He also prays that we realize that the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus. How breathtaking the thought!
We may forget this when we fail, when we are discouraged, when we question God's love for us. When I, broke my back, I said to God, "This doesn't feel like love." But God's love for us is not based on warm, fuzzy feelings. Even when our dreams are destroyed, we need to remember His infinite love for us never fails, and we can rest solidly in that.
Insight: This amazing truth is beyond our ability to comprehend. God loves you and me as much as he loves Jesus!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ The Time Had Come
The Time Had Come
"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.'" (JOHN 17:1)
Scripture Focus: John 17:1-5
For about three years Jesus healed the sick and lame, performed miracles, and taught people about God and His Kingdom. His life's actions and words demonstrated to the world what the Father is like. The cross always before Him, He knew he would die for us before the world was even created. He came to save us all by giving His perfect life for our sin-tainted lives. The gospel writers reveal many of Jesus' thoughts as He walked through life with the cross looming in His future. Each time someone tried to kill Him, He said that His time had not come yet. His work was not yet completed.
But in due time the hour had come to complete His mission. Jesus' death is God's provision that enables us to have everlasting life. His time had come to save the world, to free us from the bonds of sin and death. This was the reason He was born; this was the reason He died and came back to life. He suffered our punishment - our hell - when the sins every person in the past, present and future were rolled onto Him.
Insight: When we open our lives to Jesus, we will never experience God's wrath. is there any way we can refuse god's life-giving gift?
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ The Glorifying Life
The Glorifying Life
"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (JOHN 17:4)
Scripture Focus: John 17:1-5
Jesus fulfilled every prophecy about Him made in the Old Testament of the Bible. Everything Jesus accomplished glorified God His Father. We bring glory to God when we do His will. Though we aren't perfect, the will of God should be the driving force in our lives.
We are not here by accident. God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He knows the plans He has for us, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." In a world filled with people wandering aimlessly, believers are focused because of their faith in God. His will gives meaning and direction to our lives.
Believers know the answers to difficult questions people ask:
Who am I and where did I come from? Why am I here and where am I going? I am a child created by the loving, living God, made to glorify and enjoy Him, walking each day on the Heavenly Highway that leads me home.
Insight: When we choose to follow God's plans for us, we bring glory to Him. doing His will gives us rewarding, purpose-filled, focused lives.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ An Unfailing Faith
An Unfailing Faith
"'Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.'" (LUKE 22:31-32)
Scripture Focus: Luke 22:31-34; 54-62
Imagine having Jesus Christ tell you personally, as He told Peter, that He's praying your faith would not fail! All the trials, temptations, and heartaches in our lives would not seem so intimidating. In fact, we do not have to imagine that; Jesus is praying for us.
Peter feared what others thought of him and consequently renounced Jesus three times (vs. 54-62). But God had implanted faith deep in Peter's heart. Peter repented, just as Jesus said he would, and became a great leader of believers, encouraging and strengthening Christians through the ages, even us today.
I've known many people who identify with Peter and have given in to the fear of man. Myself included, we have denied Jesus by our words or actions. Yet we remember that faith in Jesus is infused into our hearts, into every part of us, once we believe in Him. Jesus does not favor one person over another. What He prayed for Peter, He is praying for us right now. This reality has comforted and strengthened me again and again.
Insight: Right now Jesus is praying for you and me, praying that our faith will not fail. He is the source of our faith.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Repentant Prayers
"Then Job replied to the Lord, 'I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent.'" (JOB 42:2, 5-6)
Scripture Focus: Job 42
It was the Lord who allowed His faithful servant Job to be ravaged by hardship, yet we find Job repenting in the end.
Job's friends and wife were no help to him as his life fell apart. They suggested it must have been his sinfulness bringing on the apparent punishment. They encouraged Job to curse God altogether. Through many chapters' worth of contemplating, he tries to make sense of his tragedies. At last, he realizes that though trials yet to come may bring even worse pain, his Redeemer lives (19:25). While illness, the deaths of his children, and great financial losses plague him, he confidently proclaims that His Lord will stand in the end, even if he himself does not. Job repents because his questioning and challenging the Lord were wrong. His repentant prayer is heard just as surely as his despairing cries.
Likewise for you and me. The Lord is grieved by sin. But that grief didn't go unanswered. Just as He restored Job to twice the riches in the end, so He has restored us, with exponentially great riches in Christ.
Insight: When a friend's advice is not pointing you to the Lord and his grace, go find your gracious redeemer through prayer and the word.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Nehemiah's Arrow Prayer
Nehemiah's Arrow Prayer
"’I was very much afraid’ The king said to me, 'What is it you want?' Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king." (NEHEMIAH 2:2B, 4-5A)
Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 2:1-9
Nehemiah was cup bearer to Artaxerxes, King of Persia. The king could execute anyone who displeased him. Even showing negative emotions in his presence was dangerous. But Nehemiah was downhearted, and it showed. When he approached Artaxerxes, he risked his life. "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart," Artaxerxes said (vs. 2).
How would the king respond to his request to return to his homeland? He had fasted and prayed before approaching the king. Now Nehemiah prayed for guidance before answering. With mingled fear and faith, he sought God's direction in a short "arrow prayer."
My faith falters at times as did Nehemiah's. Emotions, problems, or pain keep me from realizing God is always ready to hear and answer even my short "arrow prayers." Sometimes I am at a loss for words. But the Holy Spirit guides (see Romans 8:26), and God's own Son, Jesus, intercedes. Our Savior loves us and hears our every cry.
Insight: We don't need to be free from fear and strong in faith for our loving God to hear us and answer even our "arrow prayers".
Topic: +DEV+ A King's Humble Prayer
A King's Humble Prayer
“King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? You know your servant.’” (2 SAMUEL 7:18, 20)
Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 7:8-29
"You know what I'm really like," David confided to the Lord. His family members were humble people, not wealthy, not royalty. David, the youngest of eight sons, previously had the lowly job of caring for sheep. Even his father didn't consider him king material (see 1 Samuel 16:6-13). God knew all this yet chose David to be King of Israel. God said, "I have found David a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22).
God knew what he was like. He knew all about David's flaws. At times, his faith wavered just as ours does. He experienced depression, discouragement, fear, anger, envy. Many of the psalms David wrote reveal these emotions. He made mistakes. He sometimes disobeyed God. He had an affair with another man's wife and attempted to cover it up through murder. Would God ever forgive him?
When confronted, David didn't make excuses. He humbly asked God to forgive him. God does not excuse our sin either, but because of Jesus' sacrifice, we are forgiven.
Insight: God knows what we are really like. as we seek to serve Him may we, like David, be people after His own heart.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Joshua Meets His Commander
Joshua Meets His Commander
“’As commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.' Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, 'What message does my Lord have for his servant?'" (JOSHUA 5:14)
Scripture Focus: Joshua 1:1-9, 5:13-6:16
Joshua faced a daunting battle with the wall around Jericho being 25 feet high and 20 feet thick. He stood looking at the fortress, perhaps strategizing what he would do first. Suddenly, a Man with a drawn sword in His hand stood in front of him. Joshua found himself face to face with the Commander in Chief, ruler of the universe and heavenly armies as well as of Israel. He fell to the ground in awe. This prefigured Christ gave Joshua the strategy and fought with him all the way to victory.
This is what our Lord does for us even today, when we face conflicts and feel as if the wall we must get through is as impenetrable as Jericho's wall. We have Jesus, the Commander in Chief, standing beside us, drawn sword in His hands. He will fight every battle we will face today and tomorrow. Though we feel afraid and powerless, we can fall on our faces in reverence for the Mighty One who will lead us on to victory, if not in this world, then surely in the next.
Insight: We overcome and triumph in conflicts because Jesus and the whole army of Heaven are on our side, fighting for us and with us.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Prayer Where and When?
Prayer Where and When?
"From inside the fish Jonah prayed 'In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.'" (JONAH 2:1-2)
Scripture Focus: Jonah 1:1, 3:3
Is there a proper place to pray? You'd be hard pressed to make a case for that since God's people prayed everywhere from inside of caves to out in the desert to inside of a fish. No ornate church of any kind is required. It seems that a good time for Jonah to talk to God would have been when God commissioned him to preach to a Gentile city and Jonah was unwilling to go. If he had, he might not have ended up in a fish's stomach, praying desperately. But even from within his unwelcomed host, Jonah sought the Lord through prayer.
"I have been banished from your sight," Jonah said (2:4). He was wrong. God knew exactly where Jonah was. He always knows precisely where we are, no matter how lost we may be. When we feel billions of miles away from Him, suffocating in darkness, He hears our prayers.
We see God's grace toward His disobedient child, Jonah, as He gave him a second chance. God's grace is ours, even when we try to run from His will. His grace and kindness lead us to repentance.
Insight: No matter what our circumstances, the proper place to pray is anywhere we are. the proper time to pray is now.
Topic: +DEV+ Seeing the Invisible
Seeing the Invisible
"[Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible." (HEBREWS 11:26, 27)
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 11:1-40
Prayer, like faith, involves being certain of what we do not see. Many people in the Bible actually had conversations with God (A few even were in His very presence!). Hebrews 11 speaks of several who had faith in and prayed to their infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God.
Look at Moses. Though reluctant to be God's mouthpiece and often weak in his shortcomings, Moses obeyed God and became His friend. Moses even stood in the presence of his invisible God while pagans nearby worshiped idols they could see and had made with their own hands.
Man has always had a deep need to see and believe. Thomas needed evidence before he would believe that Jesus was the risen Lord. Yet Paul reminds us that we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen because it is eternal (see 2 Corinthians 4:18). Like Moses and many who have gone before us, we pray to a God we cannot see with our eyes. But He answers our prayers often in very tangible and visible ways that we see through eyes of faith.
Insight: By faith, we see God through His Word, by His working in our lives, in the lives of others and by answered prayers.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Sarah's Lie
"'Why did Sarah laugh and say, Will I really have a child, now that I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord?' Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, 'I did not laugh.' But he said, 'Yes, you did laugh.'" (GENESIS 18:13-15)
Scripture Focus: Genesis 18:9-15
God told Abraham, age 100 and Sarah, age 90, they would have a child, though they felt too old to fulfill God's promise. The thought of having a son seemed ridiculously impossible to Sarah. She laughed to herself.
Well, of course God knew she'd laughed because He knows our thoughts even before they reach our lips. When God confronted her, she lied. What would I have said to Sarah? Probably, "Shame on you for lying! Now there will be no son for you!" But God didn't scold her. He gently exposed the truth. "I know you did laugh." Even to His dishonest, intrusting people, His promises never fail and His compassion never ends.
I've heard people say, "I can't pray about that subject. I just can't talk to God about it." Since God knows everything about us, it's illogical to think anything could be kept from Him. He sees the hidden places of our souls. Can we hide anything from Him? He knows all our thoughts, including the "top-secret" things buried deep in our hearts. And He loves us still!
Insight: God is the same today. He whispers, “I know everything about you, my child - the good and the bad. I love you unconditionally."
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ God Does What is Right
God Does What is Right
"Far be it from you to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (GENESIS 18:25)
Scripture Focus: Genesis 18:1, 16-33
People today ask questions similar to Abraham's. "Is it fair of God to condemn people who don't trust in Jesus even though they are decent people? What happens to people who have never heard about Jesus?" We know from Scripture that the Creator of all people from every nation on earth will judge each individual fairly.
God reveals Himself to everyone throughout all of time and in all places. Those in crowded metropolitan cities, rural towns or isolated bush areas can know Him (see Romans 1:17-21). He gives people many opportunities to yield their lives to Him, and some actually do. Those who harden their hearts won't have any defense. God will not treat those who believe and those who reject Him the same way.
But praise God that our heavenly Father, whose justice and goodness are complete, has already accepted the payment for all sin through the perfect life and death of His own Son. While He demands payment for sin because He is just, He also has paid our debt in full because He is good.
Insight: No matter what happens in our lives, we can trust that the Judge of the universe, our loving God, will always do what is right.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Praying for Boldness
Praying for Boldness
"Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. After they prayed they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (ACTS 4:29, 31)
Scripture Focus: Acts 4:1-31
I invited my friend to church, praying my pastor or someone else would lead him to salvation through Jesus. Church didn't seem to do much for him. The next time we talked he said, "I know I need Jesus in my life. I should have accepted Him last Sunday."
At first I was too timid to say anything, afraid of rejection. I prayed, "Lord, overcome my fears. Give me courage to speak boldly." Then I told him to ask Jesus to come into his life right then. He prayed, "Jesus, forgive my sins. Please do come into my life. I open my heart to you. Thank You for dying on the cross for me and forgiving all my sins. Help me to follow Your plan for my life."
We often lack the courage to tell people about Jesus. We fear rejection and ridicule. Or we're afraid we won't say the right thing and goof it all up. We may not have all the answers to the questions they might ask. We need to pray the same prayer the early believers did and be assured that our confidence in who Jesus is and what He has done in our lives will spur us on.
Insight: When we ask God to help us talk to people about Jesus, we receive boldness and blessings. some will even open their hearts to him.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Talking Friend to Friend
Talking Friend to Friend
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (JAMES 5:13, 16B)
Scripture Focus: James 5:13-18
Prayer is praising God for who He is, thanking Him for all He has done for us in the past and for everything He is doing for us today. In prayer we declare our trust for all He will do for us in the future. We pray for others, confess sins, and share our concerns.
We will meet several people from the Bible this month and will "eavesdrop" on their prayers. Most are not the lofty, "churchy" prayers we would expect from some of God's people. They are not elevated or meant to impress. The prayers we find in the Bible come from individuals much like us, ordinary people talking to their extraordinary God. Anyone who knows Him may have a conversation with Him; it doesn't matter what the circumstances. Though we should not approach God without respect, our privilege as believers is to talk to the One who made us, loves us, and has planned our lives.
We also will dwell on some of the prayers of Jesus. They give us more insight to what the Father is like and of the amazing love He has for us.
Insight: We may talk to God as we would talk to our dearest friend, because that is who he is.
Topic: +DEV+ Brokenness to Blessing
Brokenness to Blessing
"Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." (2 CORINTHIANS 4:17-18)
Scripture Focus: 2 Corinthians 6:3-10
Throughout the month we've seen ways that the Lord pours out His grace when hope seems lost. In the face of sickness, financial ruin, disappointment, confusion or fear, we learn there is no trial too difficult for the strong arm of the Lord. Many of you may even feel, as Paul did, that you are hard pressed, persecuted, and struck down (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). The depth of your pain may be impossible for anyone to understand. But the God who made you understands it all.
If He hadn't reached out to us with the loving plan of the Savior, it would, indeed, be hard to know where to go next. But the words of Jesus Himself beckon us - all who are weary and burdened with the cares of the world - to come to Him. Lay your troubles at the feet of the One who bore our every problem and sin at Calvary. He made a way for us to confess with Paul that in having nothing, we possess everything. Giving up His life and holding onto nothing, Jesus holds you today and into eternity. Brokenness turns to blessing!
Insight: "Therefore, we do not lose heart" (2 Corinthians 4:16a) because Jesus takes us through every trial, already knowing them Himself.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ GPS Direction
"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" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Scripture Focus: Proverbs 3:1-8
My friend told me that they had a Global Positioning System gadget in their car set to take them to their destination. A "voice" in the box would tell them exactly what turns to make and when; all they had to do was follow the instructions. They were impressed; even the detours were captured on this thing! But as they came up on a freeway interchange, the GPS told them to go one way that he questioned. By the time he figured out the answer, he had missed the turn and went several miles out of their way before getting back in sync with the "voice."
How often this typifies our walk with God. He knows where we're going and how to get there. We listen for a while, then get sidetracked. We miss His direction, and it costs us...maybe in mileage, but often in stress, frustration, relationship agony, and regret. This beginning of a New Year is a good time to make sure we are coordinated to our heavenly Father (the GPS that stands for "God's Positioning System!), listening more carefully than ever to His voice.
Insight: Be It Resolved To Be Connected To Him, Abiding In The Threshold Of Sensitivity To His Delicate Guidance, Tuned To The Tenderness Of His Heart.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Topic: +DEV+ Resolutions That Matter
Resolutions That Matter
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust'" (Psalm 91:1-2).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 91
Through the years I've attempted to make resolutions for the New Year. Most of them have failed. However, one that has lasted beyond January is my goal to have a closer daily walk with Christ. Year after year this resolution increases in priority.
Jesus has brought us to Himself and invites us to follow Him. Moreover, He calls us to abide in Him. I love how this is described in John 15 where Jesus tells us to remain or abide continually in Him. In abiding I will have an awareness of His presence, knowing He is near. I will have His influence in life issues through prayer and His Word. I will know enjoyment with Him as my Savior and friend. I can be His personal Ambassador in a needy world.
Will I fail to keep this resolution as with all the others that have faded over time? No doubt, I will. But the God who is my refuge and strength will never fail in His great resolve to redeem me from my sin and walk beside me each day of the year.
Insight: Look forward to His joy as we walk the hills and the valleys of the New Year with Him.