Sunday Devotional ~ Go and Sin No More

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

When we have forgiveness of our sins, Jesus tells us to sin no more. We are to live a life that is free from sin, but it is not free from temptation. Each day of our lives we struggle against the temptation to be complacent, the temptation to be comfortable, and the temptation to be unsatisfied. But in all of these things, there is a simple cure.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)

We are double-minded when we put the temptations of our own comfort before or equal to that which God asks us to do. If we'd rather relax with Netflix after working a long hard day instead of spending time in meditation with God, we're looking for our own comfort instead of furthering God's kingdom in a way we know we're supposed to do. The only thing that keeps us from our sins is to draw nearer to God through prayer, studying His word, and worship.

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:12)

The east and the west never touch each other. They never see each other. God not only removed us from our past transgressions, but also our present and future ones. He wants us to draw near to Him because the closer we are to God, the further we are from our sin. Conversely, the closer we are to our sin, the further we will feel we are from God as well.

Today my prayer is that we will draw near to God in every way. That we will worship even when we're tired... that we will step forward in faith even when we're complacent right where we are... that we will allow God to be our satisfaction when we feel unsatisfied. Lord help us to draw near to you today!

Sunday Devotional - Dealing with Discontentment

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, 
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
(Philippians 4:12)

Most of us know what it's like to be in need. But have we ever known what it's like to have plenty? We rarely have enough money, enough food, enough love in our lives to be satisfied and content. We're always striving, looking for the next big break, the next thing that will thrill us, the next meal. Being content is understanding when we've had enough.

“The leech has two daughters.
    ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.
“There are three things that are never satisfied,
    four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
    land, which is never satisfied with water,
    and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’
(Proverbs 30:15-16)

There are places in our lives where we feel we can never get enough. Whether we have addiction to approval, food, Netflix programs, attention, sports... the list could go on. But once we have finished with one thing, we're looking for the next, even when we really don't need it. We rarely know when to be satisfied.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
 Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:1-5)

The only one who can satisfy us and truly show us contentment is God. He is the one who satisfies our desires--not food, other people, Netflix, or money. Nothing satisfies us except Him. So when we're feeling like we can't get enough, when we feel like we need something more in order to be happy, it's time for us to turn to God in prayer and praise Him for fulfilling our every need. When we feel a need in our heart for something more, He is the one who can fill it.

Today my prayer is that we will turn to the Lord when we feel empty. Let us not turn anything else into an idol by looking for it to satisfy us. Instead, let us turn to the one who provides true contentment.

Sunday Devotional - What are you a slave to?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

In Exodus chapter 1, we find that God delivered the Israelites from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. Generation after generation of slavery. So much so that the people who God delivered through Moses knew nothing about being free--slavery was all that they had ever known. They had no choice but to jump when their taskmaster said to. They couldn't say, "no." It wasn't an option.

When God sent the plagues to Egypt and Pharaoh finally let them go, they had a hard time adjusting to this new life of freedom. They still felt they needed someone to tell them what to do. They needed to be busy. They had no idea what to do with all this free time. Their minds were still fixed on being slaves.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath
 to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son
 or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, 
nor any foreigner residing in your towns. (Exodus 20:9-10)

God wanted the people to remember Him. To not just sit around and do nothing on the Sabbath day, but to spend the time with Him, in worship, prayer, and studying His word. 

While we work we might "forget" about Him, momentarily. If we get too busy, we might go hours without remembering. This is slavery. Without being plugged-in and in-tune to our God, we're doing things by our own strength instead of His, and our batteries will soon run dry.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried 
and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. 
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. 
(Luke 10: 41-42)

What are we enslaved to? What keeps us from listening to and taking in the Lord? Are we busy serving the church and missing out on the relationship we need to have with Jesus? Are we busy chauffeuring our kids around from event to event? Too busy checking emails and social media? What are we enslaved to?

Today my prayer is that we take the time to think about what seemingly innocuous things we're giving our time to. With God's help, we can decide if we should cut back, and think about giving more of our time to sitting at the feet of Jesus. Let us remember why we are free.

Sunday Devotional ~ Do we have to suffer?

For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. (Psalm 66:10)

Life is pain and suffering. Each one of us has trials we must go through in order to make it from birth to death. No one's life is easy, even if it may seem so. Our response to the trials we go through are what make us stronger or bring us down further. God refines us through our trials so we can learn to rely upon Him for our strength and ability.

 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, 
as though some strange thing happened to you; (1Peter 4:12)

Being a child of God doesn't keep you from the trials of life, it just gives you Jesus to rely upon to help you through each of the struggles. We must trust Him and rely upon Him to make it through each episode of life. By doing this we learn not to have faith in our own strength and abilities. The harder the trial, the sooner we learn to lean on Jesus.

For by You I can run against a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall. (2 Samuel 22:30)

Without the wall in front of us, we would not know we can leap over it by God's help. Without the troop standing against us, we would not know we could run against it with God's strength. God sets trials before us so we can learn how great and awesome He is. 

Whatever trial we're going through today, let us remember Who is there to help us get through it. Let us not ask why we're in a trial. Let us not wish the trial would go away. Instead, let us face the trial head on, knowing that on the other side of it, we will be closer to God and allowing Him to manifest Himself to us, in us and through us.

Sunday Devotional ~ Choking the Word of God

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or 
‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 
For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows 
that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God 
and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
(Matthew 6:31-33)

Life happens. We wake up and we're immediately assaulted by responsibilities, choices, and the demands of others on our time, energy, and resources. It's not impossible to go through a whole day without talking to our spouse, much less spending a moment in prayer. That is unless we make time. 

Every relationship needs to be fed with time. We have to spend time with the word and with God in order to grow spiritually. But if we allow the responsibilities we have overcome us, they will push God out.

Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, 
and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, 
and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

Notice what Jesus says chokes the word in us. Not Satan. No, it's the cares of this world. 

If we're chasing after what might make us happy, that is the deceitfulness of riches. There are many ways to be rich... rich in love, rich in family, rich in health. And if we're chasing after any of those things to be happy instead of trusting in God and seeking His kingdom first, we are choking the word in our lives.

Today I pray we will see what we are choking our spiritual lives with, and make a change. Small changes add up to big ones over time. Lord, please help us to carve out more of our day to be with you. Help us to care more about chasing you than chasing happiness, because you have promised that all these things would be added to us, if we put you ahead of them.

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Sunday Devotional ~ Patience with Endurance

For you have need of endurance, 
so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
(Hebrews 10:36-38)

We are like a bow in God's hands. He pulls on us and sets His eyes on a target we cannot see. Our job is to remain strong while He stretches us and strains us. He pulls us taut, farther than we believe we can go, and our job is to trust Him, allow ourselves to be stretched to the point He sees fit. If we refuse to bend, He will not reach the target. If we break in His hands by giving up, we are as useless as a broken bow, suitable for the trash.

Endurance is what makes the difference.

Can we endure it when God is stretching us and making us into an instrument He can use to attain His goals?

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:5)

We can only endure if we trust God. We need to remember He only has our best interest at heart. We must remember we were created for His glory and not protect ourselves or any possession or relationship we have over what He has prepared for us.

It is our endurance which makes it possible for God to use us to hit targets He has prepared us for. Even when the stretching and straining hurt, we have to remember the pain is temporary. Growing pains are temporary. And that is what He is having us do if we endure and trust Him: GROW.

Sunday Devotional ~ Waiting with Patience

By your patient endurance, you will gain your souls. (Luke 21:19)

Sometimes we can mistake patience with indifference. While we wait, we do our best not to think about what we are waiting for. We do other things and allow distractions to help us get by while we wait, but God wants a different kind of patience.

Imagine a rock being buffeted by the waves. It withstands everything that is thrown against it. Our patience is supposed to be something more similar to this image. While we wait, Satan throws doubts up against us. 

Do you really believe God's coming?
Did He really promise you the thing?
Are you sure you shouldn't do something yourself?
Maybe you're wasting your time?

But our goal is to withstand it.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2:3)

God wants to remember His salvation is coming. He is coming. Though it feels to us like He tarries, He is coming at just the right time. It is only through our patient endurance, sitting like a rock buffeted by the onslaught of doubts and the desire to save ourselves, that we can overcome. It's only by perseverance we can receive His salvation at the right time.

Whatever we're waiting for today, let us stand like rocks against the things which make us doubt or want to help God along. The only "help" God needs is for us to wait, with patience, endurance, perseverance, and steadfastness. It is my prayer today that we wait. 

Sunday Devotional - Stay Devoted

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 
(Romans 8:37)

You are already a winner. Even before the battle has begun, God has called how the ending is going to turn out. Our lives are a constant war between what we know we should do and what our flesh wants to do. We battle between what will feel good now, and what is the right thing for later.

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:10)

If we trust the living God, and believe what He says, then we know our labor is not in vain. We can have faith in the fact He has seen the end and has faith in us. When we rely upon God we can be conquerors with Him. But first we have to make up our minds and believe in Him. If we fix our minds on the main goal, and not waver back and forth, we will show true determination and devotion.

It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, 
And afterward to reconsider his vows.
(Psalm 20:25)

Once we set our minds on our goal, let it stay set. Devotion is about making up our minds. It's about not changing later and not reconsidering our rash decisions. Once we know we're called to be holy and determine to renew our minds by taking on the mind of Christ, must stay the course and remember that our win has already been decided--if we don't waver.

Whatever it is we're struggling with today, we must remember that this battle with the flesh is only temporary. To win it, we have to determine to turn to God and rely upon His strength every time we waver. If we start to reconsider if the boundaries we've set for ourselves are a good idea, let us take this question to God, and really pray on it. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He doesn't wish for us to set unnecessary burdens upon ourselves, but He also wants us to keep making the decisions which bring us closer to Him and the victory He has in store for us.

Sunday Devotional ~ It's Okay to ask God to Hurry

And let us not grow weary while doing good, 
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  
(Galatians 6:9)

God has His own timing, called "due season." In this day and age, we're always in a hurry, but God never is. However there's a major benefit in asking God to hurry, even while we wait. Asking God to hurry keeps our prayers honest. 

It may seem like it takes greater faith to say, "God, take your time," but the psalmists often asked God to hurry:

But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! 
You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.
(Psalm 70:5)

Be pleased, O Lᴏʀᴅ, to deliver me! O Lᴏʀᴅ, make haste to help me! 
(Psalm 40:13)

O Lᴏʀᴅ, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! 
(Psalm 141:1)

God wants our prayers to be fervent. Fervent means passionate, heartfelt, and honest. He doesn't want us to pretend to not be in a hurry when we are. Asking God to hurry means that we understand who is in control of all timing. He is. It gets our minds straight so we expect God to answer, know He's going to answer, and ask Him to please not delay.

If we're honest in our prayers, we'll feel the longing in our hearts and we'll be stirred to pray even more persistently. When we believe God will answer quickly if we ask Him to, He will honor it.

 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 
(Luke 11:8)

Asking God to hurry makes our prayers persistent, expectant, fervent, and honest. This is exactly the kind of prayer God tells us He wants from us. If you've been waiting a long time for something, maybe it's time to start asking God to hurry?

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Sunday Devotional: Complaining Under Pressure

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. (Hebrews 12:5-8)

God has big plans for us. But to fulfill those plans, we have to lean into the correction He gives us. His plans are for our success and for us to become a better, greater, bigger person than we are now. But if we don't understand that His correction is for our best interest, we might grow to despise it.

Oh Lord, why can't we be like everyone else?

Is that what we really want? Often when we are in the midst of our change, we groan, complain, and wish we were like everyone else. But do we really? If we've known the love and forgiveness God provides, we don't want to live without it. But this love and forgiveness also comes with correction. We are not undisciplined children. Instead, God wants us to grow up to proper adulthood, and not be wild.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
(1 Peter 5: 10)

As we grow, there are growing pains. But they are always temporary, for our benefit, and to make us stronger in Christ. So let us not be weak in our weariness and complain how we want to be like other people. Instead, let us determine to endure and remember there's a purpose in our pain.

Sunday Devotional: Waiting Instead of Chasing

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:32-33)

Are you tired?

Have you been chasing your dream, your want, your need so hard and for so long, that you can hardly remember not chasing it?

God wants us to wait for Him to give us what we need. If we're striving too hard to grasp for what we want or know we should have, we'll often make it our first focus. Instead of seeking God's kingdom first, we are working hard at getting what it is that we think we want. But God wants to provide for our every need, and He wants us to stop chasing after it for ourselves.

Trying harder doesn't work.

Worrying more doesn't work.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 
(Phil 4:12-13)

When we are striving and trying harder, we are not content. Instead we are working too hard on our own for things we believe will make our life better. But God wants us to rely upon Him in every situation and to be content. The only way that this can happen is when we realize that we can only achieve our dream by leaning on God and waiting for Him to act. Seeking His kingdom--seeking Him--is what we are called to do.

Whatever you are trying to succeed at today, my prayer is that you will remind yourself to wait upon God and ask Him for the strength that you need to be content while you wait.

Sunday Devotional - Expecting the Lord

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
(Psalm 40:1-2)

In this verse of Psalm 40, the translation "wait patiently" is actually the Hebrew word, qwh. In other passages of the Bible (like Isaiah 64:3) it's translated as "expect."

This can bring in a whole new meaning for us. We're expecting Him. Expecting is very different in my mind from waiting patiently. Waiting patiently conjures up images of sitting in a waiting room. Not doing anything while we wait for the Lord. Twiddling thumbs. Playing games on our phones. Definitely not doing anything productive while we wait in case we miss it when our name gets called.

Expecting is a whole different thing.

If we're expecting God to come, we don't just think God might be coming. We KNOW He's coming. When we know that someone is coming, we wait for them differently. Some of us will watch the clock or look out the window, knowing our guest will be arriving at any time. This is so very different than sitting around, not knowing when our name might get called...or if it will be called at all.

When we're expecting company, we prepare for the arrival. If we're waiting on God, should we not prepare for His arrival, too? Reading His word prepares us, heart and soul, for receiving God's will when it comes to us. The better prepared we are, the less likely we are to miss it when God calls our name, too.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
(Psalm 130:5-6)

When children are waiting for Christmas (or their birthday) they count down the days. As the day draws near, hardly a minute goes by without them thinking about it, talking about it, and getting excited about it. It's so close they can almost feel it! Their whole being waits expectantly. Likewise, when a mother's due date draws near, she is more and more ready for the birth of her little one in much the same way.

If you've received a word from God and are waiting for its fulfillment, take a look at how you're handling the wait today. Are you expectant? Today my hope is that each of us will truly take God at His word, know that He is coming, and prepare for His arrival!

Sunday Devotional: Waiting and Waiting and Waiting upon the Lord

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 

He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(Matthew 25:14-30)

There are times in our Christian walk when we have a vision of what God wants us to do, we know that it's His will, but we are waiting to see the manifestation of this vision in our lives. And waiting... and waiting. But what are we to do while we wait for the Lord?

In the parable of the talents, we see three servants who were given talents by their lord with no instructions on how to use them, no warning on how long the lord would be away, and no command on what the servants should do while he was gone. He didn't tell them this was a test. He didn't tell them there would be rewards or consequences.

Two of the servants used their talents and worked to make their lord more prosperous. And one buried his talent in the ground to protect it and then did his own thing. And when the lord came back, he rewarded the two and punished the one.

If we take this parable as an example of waiting upon the Lord, what should we do while we wait? Sitting around, watching Netflix, and scrolling Facebook don't seem like the best options - those would be akin to what the third servant did. The lord knew that this servant was prone to passivity and laziness, so he only gave him one talent at the start.

What God wants is for us to be growing His kingdom. He wants us to use the talents He's given us to know Him and to make Him known. These are the keys to growing the kingdom.

“This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent” 
(John 17:3).

“But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

So while we're waiting, God wants us to be productive. He wants us to draw closer to Him and get to know Him better through prayer and diligent study of His word. He wants us to rely upon Him while we battle our personal sins and tear down the strongholds that keep us from better, greater fellowship with Him. 

This creates our personal testimony. As we overcome the world and our flesh, we have a reason for our faith. People will see the changes in our lives and the things which set us apart from the rest of the word because of the deliverance to abundant life we have in Jesus. This is how we make Him known. More people are drawn to Christ from one person walking in freedom and fellowship with God than a million tracts. Our testimony and the blood of the Lamb are the two things that help us triumph over Satan:

 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
 (Revelation 12:11a)

So what kind of testimony did the third servant have? Since he buried his talent and spent his days doing as he felt, I doubt he had the kind of testimony that would bring glory to his lord. 

I desire the kind of testimony that brings God glory and greater honor. And I know this can only be done by overcoming the strongholds in my life and by relying completely upon God to tear them down. But it's difficult, it's not easy, and too often, I want a quick fix. Waiting upon the Lord is hard, it's work, and it's not something we can do passively.

So today, my prayer is that we will chose to be productive for the Lord. I pray that we will grow in the Lord and gain a testimony that defeats the devil. I pray that we will get to know Him better and better each day so that it becomes easier to wait for Him because we trust Him to know the timing that is best for us. Oh Lord, let us overcome our passivity and make choices today which will further your kingdom. Amen.

Sunday Devotional: Getting Nowhere


If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

Sometimes it feels like our spiritual life is getting nowhere. We think we're working hard and doing all the right things, but just like the cat on the slide, we're not getting to where we Maybe it's time to take an honest look at ourselves. Are we really doing everything we should be? Are we truly giving 100% of our hearts to God and giving Him the first fruits?

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? 
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; 
it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Able gave God the firstborn of his flock--he gave to God first. But Cain gave "some" of his fruit--was it the best that he had? Likely not. Cain's heart wasn't in the right place, so he wasn't accepted. What Cain then did was minimize his sin. He decided that he'd done everything just as well as Able had, and that God was unfair for not accepting and blessing his sacrifice.

Whoa. That one hits home for me this week. I've been feeling like I'm running on a treadmill and getting nowhere, but is it because I'm not giving God the best of myself, the best of my time, the best of my energy? Sure, I'm giving God "some" of my time, but is it because my heart longs for Him, or is it because it's a chore, duty, or burden? 

If I'm minimizing my sin, then I'll decide that I'm doing what I should do, I'm giving "some", so why aren't I getting the blessing?

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18 emphasis mine)

I want for God to be near to me. I want to have the kind of acceptable life that Able had. I don't want for sin to crouch at my door desiring to have me. I want to rule over my sin instead of it ruling over me. But to do this, I need first to be honest with myself. If I haven't been giving God the best of my life, I need to determine to do it now. I don't ever want my time with Him to be a burden or a chore. I want it to be sweet and something I look forward to. 

That is my prayer for all of us today. Help us oh God, to be honest with ourselves about what we give and about what we do. Help us, Lord, to cry out to you in truth. Draw nearer to us, Jesus, so that we feel the goodness of your presence. With all of our hearts, Amen.

Sunday Devotional - Have I Been Holding Back?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and 
with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37)

God wants it all. He wants 100%. So if I give Him 90% of my heart, it's not enough. If I give Him 95% of my soul, it's not enough. And if I give Him 99% of my mind... it's not enough.

So many times we think we're doing enough because we are doing more than our neighbor. If we compare ourselves to others, it may seem unfair that even though we hold back that 5%, our neighbor doesn't even give 50%, so how does it seem he's more blessed than us? Why is God holding back when we give Him so much?

 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, 
you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, 
which leads to death,
 or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Everything we give into, yield to, or indulge in takes away a little portion of ourselves that God wants. If we give in just a little bit to selfishness, then that part is taken away from God. If we give in just a little bit to lust, soon we find that lust takes over a small part of our lives too. The more things we give our time, energies, and hearts to, the less time, energy, and love we have for God. He wants to give us freedom and life, but we're too busy making ourselves slaves to every little inclination we have. He wants all our hearts, souls, and minds, but are we holding back?

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28)

Absolute surrender is when we leave everything and give up everything for the sake of following God. He doesn't want us to come to Him and hold back something for ourselves. He wants us to give everything to Him, not because He wants us to have less, but because He wants to give us more. He intends to give us greater and better things when we're willing to give up the small things that we cling to now. 

So what am I clinging to? What am I unwilling to give up? Shouldn't I consider that the piece that I'm missing--that's holding me back from the breakthrough I desire most-- is worth giving up anything? Today my prayer is that we realize what we're holding back from God in our lives... our little indulgences... so that we can be willing to lay that small thing down at God's feet to gain bigger and better things.

Sunday Devotional: Am I missing a step?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Step 1 - Faith. When we come to Jesus we start with faith--no matter how small. At first it may be like a mustard seed, but Jesus already promised that we would be able to move mountains with the smallest amount of faith. (Matthew 17:20)

Step 2 - Goodness. In the Bible, God is called good and His word, goodness (Hebrews 6:5). So if we add to faith the goodness of His word, we're working toward the next step.

Step 3 - Knowledge. By reading God's word and praying for Him to help us understand it, we will grow in the knowledge. (Proverbs 3:5)

Step 4 - Self-Control. This one is a hard one for me. Once we have the knowledge of the things we should do or should not do, we suddenly find them impossible to accomplish, just like Paul did in Romans 7. But we need to remember that Jesus promised His yoke is easy and His burden light - because He knows that He will carry the greater burden for us if we remember to turn to Him for help with this self control thing. (Romans 7:25) (Matthew 11:30)

Step 5 - Perseverance. Ugh. We cannot develop perseverance without being tempted, overcoming obstacles, or without pain. Either we learn to persevere by denying the temptation over and over again, or we develop it by keeping the course with obstacles in the way, or we stay faithful no matter what pain or suffering we're going through. (Romans 5:3)

Step 6 - Godliness. When we overcome the steps we've worked on so far, we discover the freedom that Jesus has given us and the hope of a freed, abundant, eternal life... which He'd promised us was not only for Heaven, but here on Earth, too -- no matter what our external circumstances (Titus 1:1-2)

Step 7 - Mutual Affection. Only by encouraging each other and building one-another up can we overcome all the steps that have helped us get this far together. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11)

Step 8 - Love. The final goal is one where we can learn to love the way Jesus did. Love whether the person loves us back or not. Love when the person hates us. Love the most sinful person. Love when there is no gain for ourselves. We can only love this way when we have completed all the other steps and drawn closer to God than we are when we start. We spill over with His love so that it reaches everyone we touch. (1 Corinthians 13)

I am finding myself having to renew my mind each day through steps 1-3 just so I can get some handle on steps 4 and 5. I know that the freedom and godliness that God promises can only come through perseverance. Nothing worth having comes easy. I pray today that you will overcome what you're going through, and that reading this breakdown will give you hope and encouragement to reach the next step, too!

Sunday Devotional: Pushing Past the Hardships

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for
extraordinary destiny.
-C.S. Lewis

We're often told that nothing worth keeping in life comes easy. If we want something, we have to work hard for it. Becoming a marathon runner often means losing your pinkie toenail. Ouch! While staying the course, the runner will feel aches and pains over their whole body, and could quit at any time and stop the pain, but to be a true marathon runner means staying in the race.

That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, 
who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Command and teach these things. 
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, 
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture,
to preaching and to teaching. 
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy 
when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, 
so that everyone may see your progress. 
Watch your life and doctrine closely. 
Persevere in them, because if you do, 
you will save both yourself and your hearers.(1 Timothy 4:10-16)

In order to stay the course, we have to make up our minds and set it. Persevere, watch closely, be diligent, devout ourselves. It's all about keeping our focus on God and the end goal... freedom. If we waver and can't make up our minds, then we'll consider quitting an option. Once quitting is not an option, that's when we'll see the fruits of our labor. 

The last six miles are the hardest in a marathon, when you've already got twenty miles behind you and you only have six left, many people find that's when the doubts come in on whether they can finish it or not. If we quit when we're almost at the end of our goal, we'll have to start over again at mile one next time, and pushing past those last six miles won't be any easier than this time.

If we worry that we can't do this, we need to see things God's way. We need to remember that we're already a winner. When trouble comes our way, we have to remember that God sees how this ends, and we've already won.

But thanks be to God, 
who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession 
and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

He always leads us in triumph... always. 

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you 
will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philipians 1:6)

Even if we keep messing things up, He won't give up on us. He picked us because He saw us as winners, so expect Him to keep at us until we become exactly what He knows we can be... victorious. More than conquerors.

We've got this.

He believes in us.

Our turn to believe in Him and push past whatever hardships are standing in our way and keep striving until we reach the finish line.

New Release and Giveaway!

Hi Everybody!

My latest devotional, Living a Life You Love, released March 1 on Kindle (in the Kindle Unlimited program temporarily). The cover is by the lovely Marisa-Rose Shor of Cover Me Darling, and the formatting for the paperback was done by the ever awesome Marcy Rachel Designs.

I just got back the proof copies and they are FABULOUS.

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Sunday Devotional Blog: But I want it now!

Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act!
 Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season 
he will honor you with every blessing, 
and you will see the wicked destroyed.
(Psalm 37:34 TLB)

I'm broken.

At 42 years old, I feel like I've been broken for so long that I'm beyond repair. But God promises me that there is nothing about me that He cannot change.

and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- 
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, 
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
 instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3 NIV)

Although there are times when He heals things miraculously and instantly, most of the time, He does not. Sometimes, we have to reap what we sow. Sometimes, we have to feel the pain of the sin that caused us to get into the predicament we're in and then rely completely on His strength and His timing to help us out of it. 

I cannot rush a broken bone's healing any more than I can rush this process of healing for myself.

Impatience is too much like unbelief. If we feel ourselves loathing God's timing, we start to doubt that He really has what is best for us in His mind. We start do doubt that He cares. And if He doesn't care, than why should we? Satan feeds us this line of lies because he wants for us to GIVE UP. It's too difficult, too painful to endure. Satan wants us to choose the easy way now because he knows that things will get harder for us in the future if we do.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood
 in your fighting against sin (Hebrews 12:4 NAS)

Sure, the struggle is hard. The fight is real. When we're battling against our demons, we feel the pain and suffering that comes with it, but we do not bleed. We do not die physically. The battle we are engaging in is not against flesh and blood. 

"Truly, truly, I say to you, 
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, 
it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24 ESV)

And we are called to die to the flesh in order to live. Those people who have overcome their sins and been healed are much more alive than this broken version of me. There are so many things that my sin has robbed from me. If we take an honest look at whether our sins and addictions are worth the cost, I think we can wholeheartedly say that it is worth the little bit of suffering now for the joy we receive later.

Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b NIV)

The night can seem like such a long time that we begin to wonder if the morning will ever come. But we need to remember that we're not alone in the night - we have a guide. He has better night vision than we do, and is guiding us along this tough trial. He won't let us stumble and hurt ourselves worse. We only need to hold His hand. Also we need to keep believing, keep the faith, and keep watching while we wait for the signs that the morning is coming. Listen for the birds that start singing before dawn. Watch for the first vestiges of light that prove the morning is on the way. We'll see God even more clearly in the morning than we do in the night right now. He's promised that the morning will come, we just need to trust Him and believe it.

Luck of the Irish $250 Giveaway

Luck of the Irish $250 Giveaway
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Fat Free Faith

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How many times will we need rescue?

 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, 
and he will deliver us again. 
On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us 
(2 Corinthians 1:10)

We need constant care. Some people have a view of God as being like a clock-maker. He built the clock, set the time, and then let it loose. The world is on its own and whatever happens, happens, without God caring about it. But quite the opposite is true.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Luke 12:7)

He knows the number of hairs on our heads. Brush our hair and lose a few strands, and He still knows the number. Grow extra, and it makes no difference. He's so very vigilant when it comes to loving us that He cares about the number of hairs that are on our heads right now.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

His love doesn't change. We cannot tire Him out. His patience is long-suffering and He already knows our every fault, our every need. No matter how many times we need deliverance from temptation, He's there. No matter how many times we need help, He's ready to help. 

So even if we're disappointed with ourselves for our failures today, we do not need to hide ourselves from God. He already knows, He still loves us, and He's waiting for us to ask for His help.

Sunday Devotional - Dealing with Discontentment

One of the hardest things to deal with as a child of God is when we're disappointed with the One who provides all things. Sometimes we think that we deserve more than we have, better than we have, or something faster than we're getting. It's easy to see other people gaining what we want and then feeling like it's unfair that God's holding back His blessing from us. Especially when we've been good.

Like a child throwing a tantrum, we want to rail at God for being unjust.

Satan moves in like a lion waiting to devour right about now, too - he's there to provide all the coaxing that we need to feed our feeling of dissatisfaction.

  • Everyone else has more, even though they aren't even believers.
  • You've worked so hard this week, you deserve that reward - but God didn't care to give it to you.
  • Why should you bother fighting temptation when it makes no difference?
  • Why should you have to keep waiting for what you want?
  • God obviously doesn't care.
  • He doesn't really love you.

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
(Psalm 145:15-16)

God has not changed who He is. He does love us and He does care. He is the provider of all good things - but in the proper time. His time. Our every desire will be satisfied by His hand. Just because He provides differently from what we expect, or at a different time than we hope, doesn't mean He won't provide. 

When feeling discontented, the first thing we need to do is tell God how we feel. If we're mad, tell Him. If we're sad, tell Him that, too. The Psalms are full of discontented voices asking God to hurry up. Once we've emptied out our feelings, we then need to denounce the lies and remember the truth of God's word. His promises are real and meant for us. We need to remember everything He has provided for us already, then thank Him and praise Him. Lastly, we need to wait upon Him. Wait for the contentment, or the blessing. If we know we are going to receive His promise, but haven't yet, we need to wait for it in great expectation. It's coming, even if it's not on our timetable. 

I've had a great bout with discontentment this week. I felt as though I'd been battling hard, fighting to gain ground, but when I checked to see how much ground I'd gained, I'd actually lost some. I was heartbroken, cried, and spent a few hours having a temper-tantrum of sorts. Then God reminded me of His provision. He reminded me that it's about the relationship I'm developing with Him, not about the outside sources or rewards. 

Jesus is the only source of true joy and satisfaction. He is my reward. 

Yes. I had a child-like tantrum and afterward, I felt a great deal of guilt. But God gave me a good hug and reminded me that I'm already acceptable to Him. If you're feeling discontented like I was, I pray that this short message and testimony will find you where you are and help you remember where you're reward is, too. May God bless you on your continuing journey with Him.

Sunday Devotional: Victory Cannot Depend on our Circumstances

When the road is smooth and dry, it's easy to go along in any vehicle. But if it's a dirt road, and the rain has been coming down, it will soon be mud, and not any vehicle will do. If the way is uphill, a car with a bad engine will struggle, while it's just fine on the downhill slopes.

When life throws us a curve ball, do we continue to walk in victory, or do we hang our heads in defeat? 

When we struggle with addiction, it's when we hit these lows in life that it becomes hard to coast along. The only way we can continue to live in victory over our struggle is to rely upon God. He is the miracle worker. He thrives in doing more than we can do, and loves His children enough to want to help us overcome in times of need. Instead of sinking into the pit, we can be delivered to a firm place to stand.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2)

Only be preparing ourselves for times of trouble by leaning on God in all circumstances can we learn to have victory no matter what our life throws at us. It starts with a simple choice. First, we have to rely upon the truth, and point out the lies. Satan loves to convince us that our circumstances dictate who we are and how we behave. But God wants us to know that peace is possible even in the storm. 

Next run to the Lord in prayer. Tell Him your problems and lay them at His feet. Leave those worries and problems there, and don't pick them back up once you get up off your knees again. 

Then lean upon God and determine not to allow the problems of this moment steal your peace or joy. By relying on the strength of God, we will be fine on the uphill slopes, and the mud will not keep us from moving forward. He is able to deliver us and give us peace in any situation. My prayer for you today is that you put these three simple steps into practice no matter what circumstance you're going through today.