Take Courage

TODAY’S VERSE
“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’”
Matthew 14:27 (NIV)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
Have you ever been afraid? I mean afraid for your life? Is so, you know how Jesus’ disciples felt. Jesus sent them on ahead in the boat while He went to the mountain to pray. Now even though many of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they had a healthy respect for the “Abyss”. There were many legends about the Abyss or “the deep” as it was referred to. It was where sea creatures lived, where ships were crushed by waves, where ghosts terrorized those foolish enough to be caught in a storm. Many went into the deep part of the sea never to return. This was different than fishing along the shore. So the disciples were in the middle of the sea when the storm came. Matthew writes, “the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” Finally, at three in the morning, as they were rowing and not getting anywhere, Jesus came walking to them on the water. At first this only added to their fear. They thought it was a ghost. But then Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Peter wanted to test whether it was Jesus or not so he jumped out of the boat. At first, Peter stayed on top of the water with Jesus, but then he started to look at the waves around him and began to sink. Jesus ended up saving him and as they both got into the boat, the wind and waves immediately calmed down. What an incredible lesson. Today, if the storms of this life start to rock your boat, if terror attacks your heart, if all seems lost, hear Christ’s words, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, I thank You that when the storms of this life are terrorizing me and I begin to fear, You come and seek me. You are the one who comes to me and says, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” How marvelous Your grace is toward me. How wonderful is Your love.
AMEN

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Dead To Sin’s Power

TODAY’S VERSE
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”
Romans 6:6-7 (NLT)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
It is hard to believe you are winning a war if you are in the trenches getting fired upon. You army could be winning on all the other beach heads, but your own particular battle stands in the way of believing that you are a winner. How many times has it happened? Out in the remote posts where the word had not reached the soldiers that the war was over, battles still went on. How many lost their lives after the war had already been won? It is this way in living out our faith. Paul comes along and writes that our sinful selves have been put to death with Christ. Why? So sin might lose its power in our lives. Yet, we act as if that applies to everyone else but us. The battle is over but the news hasn’t reached us yet. When we became a Christian, we were emancipated from being a slave to sin. We were set free from the power of sin. Do we sin? Yes. But do we have to be under its control? No. We have been set free. Can you imagine a prisoner of war on that Island we talked about earlier? They were no longer a prisoner of war, but they did not know it. When they finally found out, do you think they went back to their cells to live? No, they marched out of the camp a free person. Do you think they went back to the field to break rocks all day? No, they were now free to go their own way. So what is stopping you from living free from the sin that is holding you down? What is keeping you from living your freedom in Christ? Hear the good news, “Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me to really understand the freedom You have given me in Christ. Help me understand what it really means to be free from the power of sin. Help me today live in this new awareness, that my old sinful self is Crucified with Christ.
AMEN

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Be Still Before Him

TODAY’S VERSE
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”
Psalms 37:7 (NIV)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
No matter how we read this verse it is still hard to do. We can interpret it to mean, “Wait during difficult times, be patient, wait on God to act on your behalf.” Each of us know how hard that can be. We are so use to instant gratification. We want everything right now. We don’t want to “wait on the Lord”. We don’t know how to be still during a time of difficulty. We must be busy trying to “fix” things. Even our prayers become a “tool” to use, rather than a relationship. Instead, God desires that we come to Him like a loving and wise Father. Our relationship with Him matters more than our circumstances. That is why, even in prison, Paul could write, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. “ Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) But even more difficult than waiting on God during difficult times in life is the second way we can consider, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” We could interpret this verse as an instruction to meditate in His presence. To stop everything and spend quiet time before Him. This is more difficult than it seems. It does not matter if you have read the Bible for four weeks or four decades, you may know all about God and still not experience Him. Your knowledge may be in your head and never made it into your heart. You will never truly know what it means to love God without spending meditative time in His presence. That is like saying you love your spouse and have never spent any time together. God is interested in us knowing Him through Scriptures, but He also desires a relationship that only comes through quiet “waiting” in His presence. Today, determine to know Him better. Choose some time where you can spend twenty minutes of solitude with Him. Don’t let another day, week, month or year go by and not treasure God in your heart through time spent still before Him.
 
TODAY’S PRAYER

Father, I know that one of the purposes You have for me in this life is to know You. Help me carve out the time it takes to be “still” before You. Help me learn to embrace Your presence and enjoy union with You in quiet times together. I ask this in Jesus’ Name.
AMEN

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Don’t Be An Imposter

TODAY’S VERSE
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
Luke 10:328-42 (NIV)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
It is so easy to be busy about “God’s work” that we forget who we are working for. Question, what do you think God is more interested in, us or the work we do for Him? We have to be so careful. It is not wrong to be busy when you need to be. There are seasons of hard work. But why are you doing it? To earn God’s love? To keep up appearances? Because of what others might think if we don’t work at the church all the time? There is a phrase going around churches. It is, “There are no perfect people here.” And even though I was one of the ones who championed that at the church I attend, I still look for my “mask” before I turn off the car and go into the church. It is so hard. Our imposter is alive and well. Brennan Manning writes about our imposter in “Abba’s Child”. “Imposters are preoccupied with acceptance and approval. Because of their suffocating need to please others, they cannot say no with the same confidence with which they say yes. And so they overextend themselves in people, projects, and causes, motivated not by personal commitment but by the fear of not living up to other’s expectations.  – Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us. The impostor’s life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of elation and depression.” Mary chose to worship Christ. And though Martha’s hard work and devotion is commendable, this particular time she was filled with worries and cares. This time, Jesus had to remind Martha that what Mary had chosen, that is to focus on the love that Christ has for us, is really the only thing Martha had to really do. If she did that, everything else would fall in place. Might we focus today on the love Christ has for us. Today, might we have a heart of worship and adoration for our Father as we go about our many activities.  

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me serve You. But please, help me serve You with a sincere heart. Forgive me for the many times I have been an imposter, just acting a part so I could win approval. Help me understand Your love for me in such a way that I would be a Martha with Mary’s insight. Help me serve with a heart of worship.
AMEN

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Denial

TODAY’S VERSE
“Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ – “Peter swore, ‘A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!’ And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And he went away, weeping bitterly.”
Matthew 26:33-34, 75 (NLT)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
How hard it must have been for Peter to face the fact that he had denied Christ. It was obvious that he did not want to. He was sincere when he assured Jesus that he would not desert Him in His time of need. He loved Christ, but like so many of us, good intentions were not good enough. He did deny Christ. But I must be honest, I too have denied. I have denied Christ in my selfishness. I have denied Him in my lack of faith. I have denied Him in my lack of witness. I have denied Him in my lack of giving. Perhaps this is why Paul encourages us to grow in Christ. To participate in a process of growth so we learn from the past. This is what Christ allowed Peter to do. He did not chide Peter. He did not excommunicate him or shun him. Rather, He made it a goal to see Peter after His resurrection and specifically re-engage him into ministry. He cooked a breakfast and took Peter aside. He did not ask Peter three times if he denied him. He did not say, “Why not tell us all, Peter, how you claimed you would never deny me and then three times in one night you told people you did not even know me.” Instead, Jesus asked Peter three times, perhaps once for each time he denied, “Peter do you love me?” When Peter was convinced, Jesus sent him out to “feed my sheep.” Today, don’t let the guilt of past denials stop you from re-engaging with Jesus. Confess your sin and accept His forgiveness. He loves you and is waiting for you to serve Him again.

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, I confess that I often deny You. I deny You in my talk, in my behavior, in my thought life. I ask Your forgiveness. Cleanse me and help me to live for You in a way that is pleasing to You.
AMEN

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Go And Do The Same

TODAY’S VERSE
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. – Now go and do the same.”
Luke 10:33-34, 37 (NLT)

TODAY’S THOUGHT
Sometimes we make Christianity way too complicated. Jesus illustrated the essence of following Him through this simple story. He told of a Jewish man who was robbed, beaten and left by the side of the road. Now Jesus was not impressed with the Jewish leadership of the day. He did not care for their portrayal of Holiness. Neither did He like their lack of love for those around them. He used this story to challenge their mentality. In the story Jesus  the first person to come upon the wounded person was a priest. I am sure to everyone’s shock, Jesus said that the priest walked by the wounded man, leaving him there to die. Perhaps filled with spiritual pride, the Priest felt the man was “unclean” and therefore unworthy of help. Next, Jesus said that a Levite walked by the hurting man. Perhaps a reason he walked by the dying man was to stay ceremonial “clean.” He could not defile himself with the bleeding man so he too passed him by. Finally, an enemy of the Jews, a Samaritan, stopped and showed compassion on the hurting and wounded Jew. The point Jesus was trying to illustrate was, “How did following God get so far from what God intended? How did we lose the very heart of God?” If we are to follow Jesus, then we must love those in need that we come in contact with. James writes it this way in James 1:27, “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must take care for orphans and widows in their trouble.” Today, as you walk on your own path to wherever you are going, what will you do for those in need? Let us think of the “good Samaritan” and hear Jesus say, “Go and do the same!”.
 
TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me remember the story of the good Samaritan so when I see someone in need today, I will go and do whatever I can to help.
AMEN

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Don’t Condemn Yourself

Don’t Condemn Yourself

TODAY’S VERSE
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1 (NLT)

“Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I.’” (NLT)
John 8:10-11 

TODAY’S THOUGHT
I love the account of Jesus listening to the men who wanted to stone a woman to death, whom they said committed adultery. Jesus instructed them, “the one without any sin should throw the first stone.” One by one each man left until only the woman and Jesus remained. Jesus asked, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” The woman stood there, no doubt astonished and said, “No Lord.” Then Jesus said those words of freedom, “Neither do I.” Paul brings the point home after explaining our human condition of doing things that we don’t want to and not doing those that we should. He shouts the victory cry, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Hallelujah! That should be enough to set anyone free. Or at least you would think so. However, it is not always God or others that accuse us. It is not Jesus who is condemning us. It is our inner voice that has picked up the stone. It is the internal dialog of guilt, shame, remorse, worthlessness that is pelting us, leaving us bloody and beaten. You see, we can be free from the condemnation of those around us. We can believe, in our mind, that Jesus has forgiven us, but if we do not deal with the inner conflict, the lifelong attitudes of low self worth, we are not free from the pain of condemnation. We must take an inventory and one by one take all our internal accusers and watch them leave. Each one, unqualified to condemn us, until there are none left and then Jesus can say to us, “Where are your accusers?” And we can lift our heart in deep gratitude and say, “There are none!”

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, I thank You that You have forgiven me for my sins. However, there are voices inside my heart that constantly condemn me. They use shame, guilt, and legalism to tie me up and keep me from experiencing the freedom You have given me. Today, help me renounce those inner voices and celebrate your forgiveness. Help me live in the reality of Your love.
AMEN

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What Is Your Dream?

TODAY’S VERSE
“For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’
Jeremiah 29:11

TODAY’S THOUGHT
Often we are asked, “What is your dream for your life?” It is a legitimate question. We should have a dream. We should have a God- sized vision of our reason for being here. But have you ever considered that God Himself has a dream for your life? We see this in today’s passage. Jeremiah says, “For I know the plans I have for you, ‘declares the LORD.” In the book “TrueFaced” the authors write, “Ever since we were children we have had dreams and hopes of destiny. Some of these dreams are our own, but others came from the very heart of God – God dreams that you would discover your destiny and walk into the reasons He placed you on this earth.” Jeremiah finishes today’ passage writing about the plans God has for us. He writes, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Now many people take this to mean God desires us to have the American dream of wealth and success. After all, what else does prosper mean? But perhaps “prosper” is not about our accumulation of wealth but the results of what we do with our life. The authors of TrueFaced write, “God’s dreams for you are ultimately not really about you. Oh, don’t misunderstand. They’ll bring you some of the best days of your life; you will be fulfilled beyond any imaginable expectations. But God’s dreams take form only when they are about others, for the benefit of others. Loving them. Guiding them. Serving them. Influencing them. Filling their heads with dreams and hope. There are no other types of God dreams. Nothing less or else will compel, attract, or seem worthy of this God heart within you.” In this respect I pray that God would prosper you to prosper others. I pray that He will give you both a hope and a future so you can give the same to others. 

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me see the dream You have for my life. Help me dream the same. Take my life. Use it for your glory. Might I prosper in helping others. Might the hope and future You give me be what I in turn give to others. In Jesus’ name.
AMEN

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Enlighten My Heart

TODAY’S VERSE
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Psalms 95:7-8

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Ephesians 1:18-19

TODAY’S THOUGHT
I have always loved poetry. I love words put together on a page with hidden meaning, a puzzle waiting to be solved, pregnant with truth and wisdom. My father has always loved “The Road Less Taken” by Robert Frost. Growing up, he would quote the ending. I have it memorized. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” How true that phrase is. We have choices. And there is no greater choice than the one you make regarding your heart. God desires us to follow Him and yet He will not force us. We have a choice. Which road will we take? Will we listen to bitterness, jealously, self pity and other negative emotions? Will we turn our back on His love and allow our heart to become hard? Or will we open our heart to hear what He has to say? Paul knew how serious our heart was so he prayed for the Ephesians. He prayed that their hearts would be enlightened toward the things of God. Have you ever sought God’s enlightenment? Have you asked Him for wisdom that you might understand the depths of His love for you? Do you ask Him to show you the purpose He has for your life? Do you ask Him to teach you about His great power He has for you to live by? You have a choice with your heart. Will you let it harden or will you let God breathe His heavenly life into it?

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, take my heart and breath Your life into it. I don’t want a hard heart. I want a heart that is enlightened by Your Holy Spirit. One that is led day by day, living by faith, trusting in Your love and power.
AMEN

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Our Real Self

TODAY’S VERSE
“For to me, to live is Christ”
Philippians 1:21 

TODAY’S THOUGHT
Paul had found the secret to real living. He found his true authentic self when he found his life in Christ. It is not that he “lost” himself but that his true purpose and meaning for existence was “found” when he considered them in relationship to his Christian experience. There was no dichotomy in his life. There wasn’t a “church” personality on Sunday and a different one at work on Monday. Rather there was integration between his faith and his life. Dr. David Benner in his book “The Gift of Being Yourself” writes about our identity found in Christ. He writes, “With a little reflection, most of us can become aware of the masks that we first adopted as strategies to avoid feelings of vulnerability but that have become parts of our social self. Tragically, we settle easily for pretense, and truly authentic self often seems illusory. There is, however, a way of being for each of us that is as natural and deeply congruent as the life of the tulip. Beneath the roles and masks lies a possibility of a self that is as unique as a snowflake. It is an originality that has existed since God first loved us into existence. Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity. It and it alone provides an identity that is eternal.” What about you? Have you dedicated your life to Christ in such a way that you have found your true authentic self? Can you say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ”? If not, why not surrender your heart to Him today? Ask Him to reveal to you, your true self in Christ.

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, I admit, I have built my life the way I have seen fit. I have ignored the restlessness deep in my heart that cries out for You. Today, I choose to make You ruler of my life. Father, please help meI want to say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ.”
AMEN

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