Food for thought…God uses your trials

Praising God in the storm

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30

Sometimes we are going through a fiery trial or one of life’s crazy storms and we cant see the woods beyond the trees. We can’t imagine why we would be going through such a trial, and we cant see any good in it.  We’ve all been there.  Usually I start kicking and screaming and asking God why I am going through something like this.  I want to know the reason behind it.  Don’t you? A lot of times we cant see beyond the curve in the road, we cant see where its going or why, but God can and he is in complete control.

Sometimes our trials are used not only in our lives but in the lives of others.  You see, you are God’s representative in this world.  People will form their opinions about God based on what they see IN YOU! Most of the time they watch how you react to a hard situation, how you react to a trial.  They don’t really care how you react when its smooth sailing and or when they can see the blessings in your life.  No, they don’t care about that.  They care how you react when hard things come your way, and they will form their opinions about Christianity based on that.

Take Pauls life for example….In the book of Acts, Paul and Silas get thrown into prison for preaching the gospel.  Imagine your life right now, getting thrown into prison for preaching….what would you do? I’ll tell you what I would do…I’d be begging them to LET ME OUT!!! I’d be contacting everyone I know and complaining about my hardship, and I’d be kicking and fighting to get out. (realistically that is probably what I would be doing, I hate to admit it, but it’s true.) What did Paul do? Acts 16:25 tells us that at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.  What? They just got thrown into prison, and they are singing to the Lord? Why? Because they trusted that this trial was God’s will for them at the time, and so they praised Him in the storm.

Then there is a great earthquake and the doors of the prison were opened.  The Philippian jailer woke and saw the doors open and supposing the prisoners fled, he drew his sword to kill himself.  Paul tells him that they are all still there.  Then we see the jailer say “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The jailer and all his household then get saved.

You see, God knows what He is doing.  He used the trial in Paul’s life to lead someone to Him.  This jailer saw Paul’s reactions in this trial that he was in, he saw that God was real in Paul’s life, and he wanted what Paul had.

Maybe the trial that you are in today is to lead someone else to Jesus.  You may be the only representation of Jesus that they will have.  I pray we can all represent Him faithfully, not only in the peaceful times, but in the storms as well.

Food for thought….YOU follow ME.

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John 21:21…

John was following behind, and Peter turned and looked at him and then said to Jesus “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus responded by saying “If I will that he remains till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

So often we need to hear that don’t we? We need to hear Him say “what is that to you? YOU FOLLOW ME”  We like to poke our noses in other peoples affairs and we like to have an opinion about their affairs.   Needless to say, Peter must have forgotten his own faults from a few days prior when he denied Jesus.  Here is my point…..why do we look at other peoples faults, get involved with things in their lives that are not our business, have opinions about things that we ought not to have….yet we forget about our own faults, shortcomings, and failures?

Let’s all admit it, there are times that you want to remind the Lord of what someone has done to betray you, what someone is doing that is not right. It’s easy to point those things out in others, its easy to have an opinion of what others should be doing, but that causes us to take our eyes off of our King.

Jesus bids Peter to follow Him.  That should be our hearts desire, to follow our Shepherd. With all zeal, humility, love, and meekness.  What is God calling you to? That needs to be what you focus on.  Let’s purpose to focus on our callings as mothers, wives, and daughters of the Most High.

 

 

 

Food for thought…Are you willing to swim upstream?

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Before I begin, I want to start out by saying that today’s devotional is not meant to be condemning but rather to challenge you as God challenged me.  So before anyone hits the comment button out of anger, maybe God is not convicting you of this as He is me, so in that case, then disregard this devotional 🙂

“Yes, all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”            2 Timothy 3:12.

I read that scripture in Timothy and I thought to myself I am not suffering any persecution.  Why? I mean, I don’t specifically desire to be persecuted, but why am I not suffering persecution if it says ALL who desire to live godly will suffer persecution?

Then I read this scripture “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Then I again wondered….I don’t feel hated either.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” 1 Peter 2:11

A sojourner by definition is someone that is in a temporary place.  An exile is someone who is separated from his or her homeland.  We are to be sojourners here, living in the world but separate from the world and living as though it is not our homeland (because it’s not).  We are passing through so the question I asked myself is this…..If I am not being persecuted in here, and I don’t feel hated here, is it perhaps because I am fitting in too much here?  Is it perhaps because I have become a salt that has lost it’s flavor? “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Maybe this is not the case, but it did cause me to stop and refocus that maybe it could be the case.

You see dear sister, our time is shorter than most of us think.  You and I are the LIGHT OF THE WORLD.  Do you feel like you are the light of the world, are you living like you are the light of the world?  I want to be so separate from the world that people recognize a difference in me.  A difference in how I act, how I talk, how I dress, and the character that I display.

Sometimes we get so busy in our lives that we forget our purpose here.  It is to glorify God in all that we do and to share His love with a lost and dying world.  In order to do that, we need to be willing to swim upstream.  The wages of swimming upstream is persecution.  So ask yourself this, if you aren’t being persecuted, is it because your just floating around, keeping your head above water? I want to be ZEALOUS, making a difference, and not fitting in with the world!!

Think about this quote today “When you cross the finish line into heaven, you should be worn out from the battle” We should be tired from the battle that we were in here, fighting and swimming upstream to represent Jesus in all that we do.

 

 

Food For Thought…Your Heart’s Desire

Our Sisters over at Girldefined.com wrote this awesome devotional.  Head over to their site and check it out, you’ll love it!!

How to Find Happiness When Your Heart’s Desire is Unfulfilled

By: Bethany Baird

“Rachel was a real knockout. Rachel undoubtedly knew that when it came to feminine charms, she had her sister Leah beat hands down. She must have relished the favor that was hers. She was so beautiful that when Jacob first laid eyes on her, he knew she was the one for him.

In their first meeting she captured his heart, and he served her father fourteen years for her.

In fact, he loved her so much that the years he spent working to secure her for himself ‘seemed to him but a few days’ (Gen. 29:20). That’s real devotion!

With a beginning like this, you would think that the rest of Rachel’s life would have been a bed of roses. She was beautiful, and she had her husband’s love… what else could she possibly want?” -Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart

Rachel told God that she could not be happy unless she had children.

It didn’t matter that she was gorgeous and had her husband’s love, she wanted children. Eventually God gave her a child and you know what happened? It wasn’t enough. She wanted another child!

One child wasn’t enough to satisfy her.

God did give Rachel another child, but sadly, she ended up dying as she gave birth to that baby. The very thing Rachel thought she couldn’t live without ended up being the very thing that killed her.

This story made a huge impact on the way I view the “must haves” in life. Am I like Rachel? Are there certain things in my life that I feel like I “must have” in order to be happy?

What about you? How many of you have ever said something like this to God:

“If I only had ___________, then I’d be happy.”

I have believed that lie many times myself! Sometimes I catch myself saying things like,

“If only I were married, then I’d be happy.”

“If only I had a nicer car, then I’d be happy.”

“If only I could buy more clothes, then I’d be happy.”

I’ve come to realize that when I say those sentences, in essence, I’m telling God that He is not enough for me, and I need something else besides Him in order to be happy. When I say those “if only” words, I am choosing to focus on what I don’t have rather than choosing to gratefully praise God for what He has already given to me.

A desire to please God says, “God, I will choose to serve you and praise you whether or not my circumstances ever change.”

When I choose to live by my desire to please myself I will always encounter disappointment, difficulty, depression and just plain unhappiness. I will be focused on what I think will make me happy rather than being focused on believing God will provide what He knows is best for me.

When I choose to say words of gratitude like, “God, I will praise you in my singleness and serve you every day whether or not I ever get married.” “God, thank you for providing me with a car that works. You are so good to me.” “God, thank you for all the fun cute clothes I have.” I find that I have gladness, hope, rest, peace and joy.

By changing my thoughts and words, I change my heart attitude.

“What do you notice about the man who trusts in something other than God? He’s never satisfied.” -Elyse Fitzpatrick

In every situation in life we can either choose to please ourselves or we can choose to please God.

“You can either whine or you can worship; but you can’t do both at the same time.” -Nancy Leigh Demoss

We have to make a choice to praise God in every situation in life. Our happiness is not dependent on our circumstances.

Think of some of the greatest missionaries and heroes of the faith. Corrie Ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada. Each one of these women has experienced hard circumstances in their lives.

Each of them has chosen to praise God and serve him in their circumstances without expectation of them changing.

That is exactly is what you and I need to do every single day.

“What must I have for life to be meaningful or happy? If I answer that question with anything other than God Himself, then that’s what functions as a God for me.” -Elyse Fitzpatrick

I have to make the daily (sometimes hourly!) choice to surrender my plans and desires to God. I have to choose to say,

“God, I will trust in you and serve you today. I will praise you and I will choose to be satisfied in you alone. I don’t need to be married to be happy. I don’t need better or nicer things to be happy. I don’t need a bigger ministry to be happy. If I am not satisfied in my current circumstances, then I won’t be satisfied in my future circumstances.”

Take a minute to be really honest with yourself.

Look at the blank line below and fill it in.

If I only had _________, then I’d be happy.

How can you change your heart and attitude?

I challenge you to make the hard decision to turn your whining into worship. To start placing your entire trust and hope in Christ alone.

Put it into action today.

How can you thank God for your circumstances right now?

What hard situations can you praise God for today?

Food For Thought…Holding On

The Gaither Vocal Band sings a song called “Give it away” and I love that song! It says: “If you want more happy than your heart can hold, if you want to stand taller if the truth were told take whatever you have and give it away. If you want less lonely and a lot ore fun and deep satisfaction when the day is done then take whatever you have and give it away.” There is such a truth to this premise. Holding tightly onto things only make the loss more bitter.

Corrie Ten Boom wisely said “I’ve held many things in my hands and I’ve lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands,that, I still possess.” In this lies the truth of our life. Never hold something so tight that God must break you to remove it. He will give you a choice and you, in your wanton desires, may choose to keep dear that which will kill you. A hand that is left open before God may have things taken but it will also receive such blessings and joy!

John 16:23-24 “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

Written By:Courtney Gilkinson

Food For Thought…Purpose

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Psalm 138:8

I am a news reader, watcher, listener! I read the news everyday, sometimes I read it more than once a day.  I like to know whats going on in the world.  I am sure that most of you have knowledge of the events that are taking place in Baltimore right now.

In case you are living in a cave (which might actually be a good thing), let me fill you in.  Not long ago, a black man named Freddie Gray was arrested by police, and taken into custody.  During the time that he was in police custody, his spinal cord was severed and he died.  There are two sides to this story, as there is two sides to every story.  So I am not going to get into telling you what I think happened to Freddie Gray, it is irrelevant to my point here.  Since his death, protesting has begun in Baltimore. Actually, I am not going to call it a protest again, because I think that it is no longer, nor was it ever really,  a protest.  It is a riot.  A full blown, looting, vicious riot. 

You can google the word Baltimore and watch video after video of men as they burn buildings, throw cinder blocks at firetrucks as firemen are rushing to save lives and put out fires.  You can watch them break into stores, steal whatever they want, destroy the property of people who have worked their entire lives for it.  You can watch police get taunted, spit upon, hit, pushed, and many other callous things as they try to protect the city.  When I first watched these videos, I got angry.  Angry that people have no shame or remorse.  Now, dont get me wrong here….I dont believe that Freddie Gray deserved to die and who knows if his death was accidental.  But I do believe that these riots are absolutely out of hand.  Later I watched a video that my sweet friend Judi sent of a man named Clayton Jennings.  He went to the streets in Baltimore and preached the gospel and prayed with people, my heart began to soften. 

Most of the people involved in these riots are men, who have no jobs, no family values, no hope.  These riots are an excuse for them to steal, destroy and take out aggression. Why? Because they have no purpose in life.  They are merely existing.  They have no hope, no real love, and no peace.  

Apart from Jesus, life will always be hopeless and empty.  You have a purpose given to you by the One who created you.  Until you surrender to Him, and walk in His callings, you will never find purpose.  You will never find hope, you will never find the “change” that you are desperately chasing after.  My heart goes out to the people who are looting, and rioting.  Soon, they will stand before the Creator of the universe.  Unless their lives are surrendered to Him, they will stand before Him, guilty. 

Ladies, I pray that we would seek Him.  I pray that His plans and purposes in our lives would be revealed.  I pray that we would walk in the the hope of heaven.  And I pray that we would be burdened for those who are lost, those who are without purpose.  Let’s all pray today for the people of Baltimore, I pray that the change they are so desperately seeking would come from Jesus changing their lives.

Food For Thought…Giving It All

“There’s a voice that cries out in the darkness searching for a heart that would love Him. Searching for one who would give Him their all, give it all, He wants it all.” I saw a short clip to a song entitled “He wants it all” and I had to listen to the whole song. So many times we feel like God will not love us or be able to get beyond our past. Yet the truth is He can get beyond our past.

In fact, He is the one who made a way that our past wouldn’t have to haunt us. He is the very reason we can have a future. A bright future. A hopeful future. A good ending. The devil knows that when a life and heart fully understands this they are no longer bound to the guilt that he tries to shame us with. The lies, stories and old habits no longer hold us and the devil loses his stronghold over is. God is wanting our whole heart, mind, soul and life. How much have you given Him? Enough? How much is enough exactly? How did you decided that? How about giving all?

Romans 12:1″I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

When I read this verse I get convicted. My ‘reasonable service’,…. Have I given my reasonable service? Have you? Lord,…we fall before you, longing to love you as we should. If we’ve held back from you would you show us the areas we are still holding onto? I pray we open our hands and give you all today.

Written By: Courtney Gilkinson

Food for thought…The apple of His eye

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I shared this scripture at a women’s retreat one time, and it still encourages me when I read it.

Deuteronomy 32:10-

“He found him in a desert land
And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness;
He encircled him, He instructed him,
He kept him as the apple of His eye.”

When I read this scripture, I am reminded that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and are redeemed by his death on the cross, we are HIS.  We wander, we fail, we falter yet in His great grace He beckons us to come back.  I sometimes feel like I am in the wastelands, and the wilderness.  Do you know what the wastelands are in our lives? The wastelands, the desert, the howling wilderness is OUR WILL.   We wander into them unknowingly sometimes, other times we knowingly wander into them,  but our merciful Father finds us.  He encircles us, and instructs us, and He keeps us as the apple of His eye.

Do you know what it means to be the apples of one’s eye? It means “to be cherished above anything else”.  Did you hear that? We wander, and we stray, yet He finds us, He instructs us, and He cherishes us above anything else.  If that doesn’t amaze you, then go make another cup of coffee and wake up, then come back and read.

His grace in our lives amazes me, even when we leave Him, He never leaves us. Even when we are unfaithful,  He remains faithful to us.  Even when we don’t love Him, His love never changes toward us.  Even when we stray, He finds us and keeps us as the apple of His eye.

Here is the great thing about grace….it doesn’t matter where you have been in your walk with God, it doesn’t matter how far you have strayed, IT MATTERS WHERE YOU FINISH.  Maybe you are in the wastelands today, maybe you are walking in your own will.  He hasn’t left, and He hasn’t stopped calling you back.  Remember the story of the prodigal son, his father never forgot about him.  God has not forgotten about you. He cherishes you above anything else, and you sweet friend can finish well.  His grace….it changes everything.

 

Food For Thought…Are Your Eyes Veiled?

From the moment that we surrender our lives to Jesus, and we receive His gift of salvation, He calls us to something higher than we know.  He calls us to righteousness.  He calls us to live a life that is separate from the world, sanctified. 

As I was reading about Sodom and Gomorrah, I thought about Lot and his family. The name Lot means “man with a veil over his eyes.”  You see, when Lot separated from Abraham, Lot looked out and saw this beautiful land that he wanted.  Looking through the eyes of his flesh, he saw what he wanted and he pursued it.  Then we read that God gives Abraham the land that He chose for him, and He blessed him.  Do you see the difference here? Lot chose for himself, God chose for Abraham.  

So Lot then pitched his tent in the plains, facing Sodom. You see, Lot’s downfall was not quick.  Our enemy doesnt usually cause us to quickly jump into destruction, but rather he temps us slowly. Before we move on, let me ask you this…..What direction is your tent facing?

Now remember these couple points as we continue…..1) Lot was a saved man, a righteous man. 2) Lot started out dwelling in the plains outside of Sodom.

We know from Genesis 13:13–“The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” Notice it says EXCEEDINGLY.  So we are talking about very evil people.  But as I read on, I read about the invasion and war that broke out in Sodom, and this is what really caught my eye “They also took Lot, Abraham’s brothers son, who dwelt in Sodom.” Genesis 14:12  Wow, so Lot no longer pitched his tent facing this wicked city, he became a part of this wicked city.  Now keep reading…..In Chapter 19, it says when two angels came to Sodom, they found Lot sitting at the gate of the city.  This means that Lot was a leader in the city.  The leaders sat at the gates.  Ok, so we see a righteous man who starts out facing his tent toward evil, then we see him residing in evil, then we see him as a leader of the evil city.  

I often see Christians who compromise in many ways, how they act, where they go, how they talk, how they dress.  Compromise is compromise no matter how large or small it is.  Lots compromise started out small, maybe he had good intentions when he entered into that city, just as we often have good intentions when we take our steps without God’s direction. But we all know how this story ends.  The city is destroyed, and Lot’s wife is also killed by God.  But we dont see an immediate repentance from Lot.  The angels tell Lot to flee into the mountains, but Lot insists that he doesn’t want to go there, rather he wants to go to the city of Zoar.  He is permitted to do so, just as sometimes we are permitted to do what we want.  But see how his story ends….”Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, he and his two daughters, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar.  And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.  You see ladies, God sometimes lets us have the things that we insist we need, or that we insist are good for us, but do you see the destruction that comes from our own will?  Sometimes we can parallel our lives to Lot.  Sometimes we see things in the world that look beautiful to us, things that we desperately want, just as Lot did with Sodom.  Slowly, our enemy gives us an increased hunger for those things, before we know it wee have partaken in things that we ought not.  And you know what the scariest part is? We are blind.  Just as Lots name means ” man with a veil over his eyes”, our eyes become veiled.  We dont see our sin.  I often wondered why Lot never left the city, a city that was so wicked before God, why he never separated himself?  The answer is because his eyes were veiled.  

Ladies, I pray today that God would remove the veils from our eyes.  I pray that He would show us the things in our lives that are not pleasing to Him.  I pray that we would clearly see those things that we are pursuing apart from His will, and I pray that we would be separate from this world.  I want to be willing to go against the flow, to swim upstream, to be someone who is just passing through here.  Not making this my home, or seeking to attain anything here that has no eternal value.  

Food For Thought…..What is faith?

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Faith is trusting God even when the circumstance cant get any worse.  A friend of mine lost her baby when he was only a few days old.  He had a genetic abnormality and passed in to the arms of our Savior after only a short time here on this earth.  Broken, yet strong in faith, I remember seeing her during worship at her son’s funeral, when everyone was sitting, she stood up in the front and raised her hands to praise our Savior.  In the midst of this traumatic trial, she praised God.  That is faith! That is immovable, unshakeable faith.

Other friends of mine felt God calling them to move to North Dakota to start a ministry there, holding on to the promises that God had given them, they packed up their family and moved away from their friends and families that they have known their entire lives, and moved across the country to a place where they didn’t know anyone! Why? Because they had the faith to believe that God’s plans are perfect.  That is faith.

I could go on and on about the people I know who have faith that could move mountains!

Let me give you some examples in the bible of faith.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were determined to worship the one and only God, completely devoted to Him, they wouldn’t fall down and worship the gold image as they were instructed to.  King Nebuchadnezzar (It took me a few times to spell that correctly) was furious and threw them into a fiery furnace.  How did they respond to the King? They said “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand O King.” Did you read that correctly? That is my definition of faith, faith is trusting and believing that GOD IS ABLE, and that GOD WILL. These 3 mighty men believed that God was able, so they didn’t cave when they faced death.  That is faith.

Think about young David.  Goliath came everyday and challenged the army of Israel.  Young David comes to meet his brothers, and David tells Saul that he will fight against the giant Goliath.  When Saul tells David that he cannot fight Goliath because he is a youth, David responds in faith by saying “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, HE WILL deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

Then we see David talk to with Goliath, and he says to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin.  But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day, the LORD WILL deliver you into my hand”

Do you see the similarities here? They had the faith to believe and say “MY GOD WILL”  That is faith. That is unwavering faith.

Here is what the Bible says about men of faith….

“Who through faith they subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight armies, women received their dead raised to life again.”

Think about those things, unbelievable circumstances, unbelievable outcomes, people were healed, protected, brought back to life…how? The Bible tells us, by faith.

Now apply that to your life.  Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the same God that saved those 3 mighty men from the furnace, the same God that raised a woman’s son from the dead, the same God that led Gideon and David into their mighty victories over their enemies.   By faith do you believe God can heal your sick relative, save your unsaved spouse, bring back your prodigal child, provide and meet all your needs? Let me tell you sweet friend, HE CAN…..But do you have the faith to believe it?

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” Hebrews 11:1