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Tuesday
Aug132013

The Importance of Forgiveness and Prayer

Renee Fisher, who started out as a voice for 20-somethings, now writes material that can move all of the Body of Christ to action. The following is an excerpt from her new book on forgiveness - UPGRADE material for not only our emotions, but also our walk with God.

"Prayer must accompany forgiveness," Johnson said. "Have you ever felt like Jesus can't hear you, and for whatever reason the crowds of this life try to choke you and keep you from crying out?"

Ummm, yes. Been there, Renee.

She continues ...

In these times, remember this:

Anguish leads to a powerful prayer life.

Don’t let Satan make you believe otherwise. When Jesus finally heard the blind man he stopped. Yes, that’s right. He looked right into his eyes - which could not yet see - and asked the man, “What do you want me to do for you?”

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.

When he came near, Jesus asked him,  “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:35, 40-43).

What a powerful question. Thankfully this man didn’t hesitate. Instead of telling Jesus his sob story or trying to explain the reasons why he was blind, he simply asked.

You can do that too.

You can just ask.

We have that ability through the power of prayer.

In One Year Alone with God, Ava Pennington writes, “Intercessory prayer causes us to look beyond our interests as we become aware of the needs and burdens of others. . . Intercessory prayer is critical if we are having difficulty forgiving someone else. It is almost impossible to stay angry with a person when we ask God to help us see them through His perspective, and pray for Him to bless them abundantly!”

We might think prayer helps change God or speed up the process of healing, but in fact, it changes you!

Just like the blind man, we need more than just physical healing. We need to see God and experience His forgiveness!

Have you ever experienced the presence of God through the power of prayer as you ask Him to help you forgive? Why or why not?

(Adapted from Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, © 2013 Harvest House Publishers.)

Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of four books including Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. Learn more about Renee at DevotionalDiva.com and ForgivingMe.com

 

Wednesday
Aug072013

See the 'Wows' of This Day

How many "Wow" moments have you seen or experienced already today?

Each of us chooses our perspective on life. We choose our overall worldview, certainly; but also, we choose how we will live based on our worldview.

Long ago, as a homeschool mom, I asked my boys to finish this statement: "Life is a _____." One son had two answers. "Life is a party," he said. "Life is an adventure!" This really didn't surprise me. Those answers reflected his fun, go-getter approach to practically everything.

My other son analyzed the question - so typical of him. He then responded, "Life is a struggle." I felt like I had a little budding philosopher on my hands. But at the time, this son was struggling with some life issues. It took some effort to get him to alter his approach and declare, "Life is a challenge." With his competitive nature, that was a more positive view.

I needed a viewpoint adjustment recently. I was growing weary with some daily concerns, bogged down in the mundane and having a hard time seeing any vision for change. Then a caring Sister-Girlfriend asked,

"Where did you see God's hand today?"

It was a simple question, but oh my, God's Spirit used her question to prick my conscience. I get so self-focused. It's hard to see God's hand when I'm only looking at my own. It's hard to understand God's heart, His thoughts, when I'm constantly turning inward.

I need more upward glances throughout my day. You likely do too.

That day, as I paused to think about the situations troubling me, I did indeed sense the presence of God; and that makes all the difference.

I saw that He was with me in a moment of temptation, giving me grace to do right. He was just as surely with me when I blew it - offering mercy and forgiveness. He was with me when physical pain made me grumpy, showing me how to suffer well (or at least, better). God was with me in moments of frustration, teaching me to believe He is in control; and in a situation I deemed hopeless, encouraging me to trust Him completely.

The more I considered my day, the more I realized I was never alone for one minute - and I saw so many "wows" of God's presence active in my life, the beauty of His provision and the constancy of His care.

We get so caught up in our stuff, don't we? Maybe this is why God calls us to daily, consistent communion with Him. I visited the chair in the photo (above) today in a time of quiet reflection. My Father God wants to "WOW" me with Himself.

How has God "wowed" you with His presence? Take a moment to thank Him.

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of UpgradeWithDawn.com. Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God.

 

Thursday
Aug012013

Seeking More 'Seeking God' Upgrades

There’s seeking God, and then there’s Seeking God! Maybe you know what I mean.

If you ask the average Christian, “Are you seeking God?” you’ll likely get a “yes.” Most of us think we’re seeking God when we attend church, read our Bibles, pray and pursue spiritual disciplines. And we likely are.

But then there are times when we get more desperate, more passionate, more focused. These are like Seeking God “Upgrades” in our lives!

  • Maybe circumstances (pain, fear, confusion, a tough decision, a loss) drive us to seek Him.
  • Perhaps we arrived at a special retreat or a solitary location—a blessed place without distractions—and we have the time and opportunity to seek Him more earnestly.
  • Or maybe we suddenly, in the midst of self-seeking, feel the urgency to seek, find and know God more.

Many in this world say they are seeking God or some form of spirituality, but they are not seeking the God revealed in the Bible (Romans 3:11; John 17:3).

Once we have sought the God of the Bible to save us—and the writers at Girlfriends in God describe that seeking well—we will have many periods in our walk with God where we’re drawn back to Him in a closer, deeper way. God Himself calls us to seek Him (Psalm 27:8).

In the Old Testament, we see God calling to His people through the prophets and other godly people (see 1 Chronicles 22:19a; 28:9b; 2 Chronicles 15:2-4; Job 8:5; Isaiah 55:6-7; Amos 5:4-6a; Zephaniah 2:3). Over and over again, the Children of Israel heard these words: “Seek me and live.” … “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” … “If you seek Him, He will be found by you.” … “Set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.”

To seek the Lord means to seek His presence.

The Jews called it seeking God’s “face,” which makes sense—to be before God’s face would indicate being in His presence.

I used to wonder about God’s presence. Aren’t we always there?

He’s omnipresent, so yes, God is always present with us. He manifests His power and provision in our lives. He’s always near to love, guide and help us. He is faithful to His children “to the end of the age,” the Bible tells us (Matthew 28:20).

But in another sense, we’re exhorted to “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”(Psalm 105:4)

Do you know why we get that instruction? There are times when we drift away from the Lord. We are not conscious of His faithful presence. We forget how wonderful He is, the beauty of His grace, His purpose in sending Jesus, His work in our lives.

So God’s call to us is to seek Him continually. We set our mind and heart toward Him (1 Chronicles 22:19). In the New Testament, we’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Our whole focus, our attention and heart, are set on seeing and knowing God.  

Two of my favorite verses are Colossians 3:1-2: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Our thoughts center around God Himself and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), not just the splendors of heaven and glories of eternity.

Seeking God is a choice.

We have to recognize when we have wandered off or coasted spiritually and  been too busy for God; and we consciously choose to return and seek Him. He may seem hidden from us, so we seek Him as the treasure He is. We pay the price, take the effort. We "come away to a quiet place" and rest with Him (Mark 6:31a). We ask God to reveal Himself in the Word and manifest His glory in His creation and through the godly lives of others in the family of God.

Seeking Him implies there are hindrances and obstacles in the way. I’ve found that media, social media and the entertainment industry are three ways the enemy tries to dull my desire to seek God; but other things—even good, necessary things—can draw me away from seeking God when He calls. Certainly my own pride gets in the way, and I am not alone (Psalm 10:4). If I’m going to boast in anything, let it be that have sought God and know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Seeking God includes crying out to Him, even pleading for mercy (Isaiah 55:6; Job 8:5) as we draw near, recognizing His holiness.

God’s faithful promise to us is satisfaction for our seeking: “If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Though we may find many other things in the seeking, the greatest reward will be God Himself—His sweet presence (Hebrews 11:6).

"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!" (Psalm 105:3)

Do you have special resources to help you seek God in a deeper way? Two resources from Revive Our Hearts  I recommend are The Quiet Place by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and the Bible Study, Seeking Him, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom.

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of UpgradeWithDawn.com and also blogs at LOLwithGod.com. Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. She lives in San Diego with her husband Bob and a rascally maltipoo named Roscoe.

 

Tuesday
Jul302013

When the Ache Won't Go Away

With the wisdom of a story-telling sage, Cynthia Ruchti leads women to the Source of grace and hope:

“Like an abscessed tooth, the memory of Darren’s betrayal kept Marika from chewing on that side of life,” Ruchti said. “The pain throbbed through her entire being. She thought she was doing fine until she’d chomp down on something hard—like her daughter’s fatherless recital—and restart the cycle of pain.”

Her words are more than one woman’s story. It’s a lesson to help us UPGRADE our attitudes as we deal with life’s hurts.

Ruchti continues ...

I pray you don’t identify with Marika’s stabbing distress. But I know better than to assume you don’t. Or that you don’t care about someone walking her path.

We’ve heard the stories too often—the husband who walks away from his family, who chooses to ignore his responsibilities and his marriage vows in favor of the adventure of someone who comes packaged with no responsibilities but a good time, someone who treats him like a pubescent boy rather than the man he’s supposed to be.

He gets a condo in the city. The Marikas in the story are stuck with an impossible mortgage, the full weight of raising their children, an awkward or no social life, leaky gutters, a mini-van with an ailing transmission, and an abscess-like sense of rejection.

Or the situation is flipped, an all-too frequent occurrence. She and her girlfriend decide to leave their husbands and kids and share a condo in the city, a place that allows them a freedom that comes at the cost of their marriages and their children’s happiness.

Referring to fractured families like Marika’s, a quote from Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices says,

“The spittle of parental hostility always lands on the children. A feud between Mom and Dad is as hard to breathe through as secondhand smoke.”

As a gossamer, balm-laced overlay to that picture, though, is this unshakable truth that cuts through the pain:

God doesn’t just care; He understands.

We lean on His power, His ability to hold us, His tenacious love for us, no matter which part of the abscess equation is ours. But this too is true—His understanding has no limit.

His love is limitless. His forgiveness is limitless. His compassion knows no bounds. His mercy is limitless. We cling to those promises. But here’s a holding-on place for trying times that gets less attention than others. The Bible assures us there is no limit to His understanding (Psalm 147:5).

He understands how deeply betrayal cuts. He understands our insomnia, our frustration, our weariness, our battle to keep from letting bitterness dictate our reactions. He understands it all.

          He doesn’t just know. He understands.

          He doesn’t just see. He sees why.

          He doesn’t just react. He creates.

          He doesn’t just care. He shows it.

          He doesn’t just love us through it. He gets it.

He understands exactly how fast our world is spinning and how close it’s tiptoeing to the edge.

He understands how ragged and worn we sometimes feel.

          He understands it all. All.

Fill your lungs with that bracing breath of life today. No matter what we face, Someone understands.

Now, there’s something to hold onto while we wait for the pain to subside!

When has God’s understanding encouraged you to hang on and persevere?

Cynthia Ruchti is the author of Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices, a book that takes a look at the realities of the consequences we face because of another’s wrong, hurtful, misguided, or sinful decisions. Filled with stories of those who responded admirably and with uncommon grace, the book also addresses those of us who walk beside people caught in the aftermath of someone else’s bad decision. You can connect with Cynthia on her website or Facebook Reader Page to find out more about this book and others she’s written.

Thursday
Jul252013

Hurry to Pause

I first met Debbie Harris in a revival ministry, and clearly, she still loves to see women come alive with God’s Word. She shares three ways to slow down and find strength in the Lord.

“It is true I spend more time “doing my day” than “reflecting on my day,” Harris said. "Hurrying seems to come naturally.”

She continues …

I have certain tasks to perform, deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, a job to do, a meeting to make, kids to care for, friends to respond to, food to prepare, clothes to wash, a ministry to maintain and the list goes on.

A scripture that motivates me is Isaiah 30:15b: “… In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”

“Quiet” does not happen on its own in this busy loud world. Quiet only happens when I intentionally step out of the fast lane with the express purpose of pausing life.

Pause to PRAY

I have learned at square “52” on my journey that it is unwise to get out of bed without pausing to pray, and perhaps that is why I list it first!

Prayer is how I start and end my day and what I find myself doing all day! Jesus is the only One who is available to me 24/7. He never tells me He is too busy, and I don’t have to make an appointment in advance; He is always there and with the promise He will never leave! We do life together, and since learning how interested He is in my life, we are the very best of friends! 

Pause to PONDER.  

The best thing to ponder is God’s Word. I have a verse journal, as my Christmas gift to Jesus this year, with the goal of 365 verses washing over me—collecting one per day.

Dr. David Jeremiah says,

“We don’t need the Bible in our hands; we need the Bible in our hearts!”

My purpose as I ponder each verse is that it comes off the shelf, embeds itself in my heart, and comes out in my behavior for my good and God’s glory.

Pause to PEN.

I love to journal. I learn things about myself, God and life that I don’t seem to catch any other way. I often don’t know what I am going to write when I grab my journal, but it is always a reflective time. I write verses God has pointed out so I can find them again, make lists of things I am praying for, write where I have already been and where I plan to go, collect quotes and write or copy poems.

I ask God for certain things—and put a box by them so I can return later to check them off—or write things God is nudging me to do. And I praise God for all that He is and does in this life on my way to Him. My favorite part is harvesting the journal. I am always amazed as I look back and trace God’s hand in my life through the pages of my own journal!

Oswald Chambers wrote, “I am here not to realize myself, but to know Jesus.” I want to know Jesus through the Word better than I know anything else. Pausing throughout my day will push me toward that goal.

God help me to “hurry to pause.”

How do you pause in your day to step out of the fast lane and seek God?

Debbie Harris is married to the Men’s Pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in southern California. She and Ben have six children and three grandchildren. She loves God, family, women and the Word.  Debbie assists her husband in various ministries, disciples women, and will begin her seventh year teaching a Precept class this fall. She prays for women to come who “don’t want to be in a Bible study” and women who “don’t know they want to be in a Bible study,” and she has found the thrill of mining diligently through the Word contagious!