First Place

April 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Cheri Cowell –

Now why didn’t I think of that is the question we ask ourselves when we see one of those new inventions that seems so logical it should have been thought of before. We know when we see them the person who patented them will be financially set for life, and we wonder why we didn’t think of it first. I’m talking about things like Velcro, Wet Wipes, and Post-It Notes (how did we ever get along without these things?). Secretly, we go even further by asking God if we will ever get there first. Will we ever be the one with the winning ticket, the big idea, or the first place prize? This yearning to be number one has been placed in us by our heavenly Father, not so we can achieve it here on earth, but so it will point us toward God. In Him we are never last. In Him all of us can have first place.

In Deuteronomy Moses outlines for the Israelites the decision they must make when they enter Canaan: to either fully obey God’s laws and be blessed, or live outside of His laws and be cursed. Verses 1-14 describe a blessed life. Bottom line—when we obey God’s teachings we will be first among many in God’s eyes.

PRAYER: Thank You, God, for Your promise to provide me wealth when I obey Your teachings. I claim Your promises today for prosperity in all the ways You have ordained for me from the beginning of time. Help me to be more faithful in following Your commands, and thank You for giving me first place in Your heart as I make You first place in mine.

“The Lord will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops. The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them. If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom” (Deuteronomy 28:11-13 NLT).

Today’s devotion is by Cheri Cowell, who writes and speaks on topics of Christian discipleship. In addition to her books and articles, you can learn about her speaking ministry and sign up to receive her daily devotional at www.CheriCowell.com/.

 

Swimming Upstream

April 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By James H. Pence –

As I consider my Christian walk, I often feel like a salmon swimming upstream.

Most of us have seen videos of this amazing phenomenon of nature. These fish not only swim against raging currents and rapids, but often have to jump up small waterfalls, all to fulfill their final task in life—spawning and creating a new generation. It is an all-out effort in pursuit of a virtually impossible goal, and it takes every ounce of strength these fish have. And when their task is complete, they die.

It is a nearly perfect picture of the Christian life.

The Christian life is all about pursuing a goal. You can describe the goal in different terms: heaven, glory, holiness, righteousness, etc. As Paul described it in Romans, God’s goal is for us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). He puts it in more practical terms in his letter to the Ephesians: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4 NIV).

God’s goal—and our goal—is to become like Jesus Christ. The problem is, everything in our world runs counter to that goal.

To pursue Christlikeness while living in this world is like swimming upstream against roaring rapids, jumping over waterfalls, and fighting a constant, unending battle against a current that would inevitably take us in the opposite direction. What is worse, not only do we have to struggle against the current of the world; we also have to resist our natural inclination toward sin. At least salmon don’t have a sin nature to contend with.

Yes, this is a nearly perfect picture of the Christian life. Except that we have something the salmon don’t have. They must pursue and reach their goal, driven only by instinct and gritty determination. We have One who lives in us and empowers us daily, and He has promised to complete the work He began in us.

I often find myself discouraged in my daily battle against my own sin, against my own tendency to allow the stream to carry me away from God. But God has begun a good work in me through His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has promised to carry it on to completion.

AUTHOR QUOTE: I will finally reach the goal of Christlikeness, not because of my own will and gritty determination, but because of His faithfulness.

“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” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

Today’s devotion is by James H. Pence. James is an author, speaker, singer, and gospel chalk artist, but prefers to be known as a storyteller. To learn more about James and how he draws the stories of your heart, visit his website at: www.jamespence.com.

STOP the Merry-Go-Round

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Cheri Cowell –

Do you ever find you’re talking to yourself? The saying goes, that it’s okay as long as you don’t answer. Well, I think you should answer, and sometimes with a big and resounding STOP! I’m sure you are familiar with the times when that negative voice within just won’t shut up. It seems you’re on a merry-go-round of negative thoughts and don’t know how to get off. The thoughts just keep coming and you are becoming more and more discouraged and despondent. This is when you need to not just talk to yourself, but instead shout, “STOP, I’m getting off this thing.” That will break the cycle, but then you need to follow with steps in a new direction. If you don’t, you’ll end up back on that thing. Begin talking to yourself and take your mind to a new place. Sounds like pop-psychology and not sound biblical counsel?

King David was battling the feelings of depression when he wrote these words. He fought those feelings by reminding himself to be hopeful. David knew God was faithful and He was bigger than any problem David faced. Yet, those overwhelming feelings of depression and discouragement still enveloped him. David fought back by talking to himself. He told himself to look up; though things were bad he had reason to hold onto hope. He told himself to hold onto that hope by looking expectantly for God to do something, and to praise Him while he was waiting. Doesn’t sound like pop-psychology to me, does it to you?

PRAYER: Thank You for being with me in even the darkest of days. Help me to stop the merry-go-round by clinging to the hope I have in You.

“My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,  “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:3-5 NIV).

Today’s devotion is by Cheri Cowell, who writes and speaks on the deep questions of faith. You can learn about her speaking ministry and sign up to receive her daily devotional at http://www.CheriCowell.com

Praying Privilege

March 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Elaine James –

My friend got the news that every mother dreads from her army son saying “I’m being sent to Afghanistan.”

She was in the middle of enjoying his two-week leave when the phone call came. She knew at the end of the visit he would be stationed overseas but she had tried to put that out of her mind.

She knew full well that this could be over a year assignment. How would they get through this? Crying and panicked she called me and said, “My son is leaving for Afghanistan. Can you pray over him before he leaves?”

I wondered, “If he’s leaving tomorrow, how can we find the time to pray?”

After three attempts to get us together I began to think finding a time was hopeless.

But in the next moment I thought, “The devil must not want these prayers to go forth.”

After three attempts, finally the doorbell rang. I greeted them and got right into praying. I started by praying protection, good health and safe travels for him. When I was done I sensed a whisper from God to tell him this message: “God will reveal Himself in small ways and big ways. Never think of anything as a coincidence.” He thanked me and they left.

As his mom stood in the airport nervous and crying, saying good-bye, a flight attendant came up to her and said, “I will take good care of your boy. I’m putting Him in first class with me.” After she saw the last glimpse of her son, she walked out of the airport and called me, excited. “God revealed Himself to my son by watching over him and putting him in first class!”

I got chills just thinking of how I almost missed the privilege to pray and then I wrote the following list of reasons to pray:

  • Dispel darkness
  • Dismiss the lies
  • Usher God into the center of a controversy
  • Bring me joy
  • Renew my strength
  • Delight my heart
  • Restore hope
  • Bring me back to truth
  • Allow me to feel loved and connected
  • Shine like a star
  • Rest a Sabbath rest
  • Clean my slate
  • Wash me white as snow
  • Lighten my load

When someone asks you to pray, do you realize what a privilege it is?

PRAYER:  Lord, with much prayer in my heart I cry out to You. I wait on You till You stretch out Your hands and Your plans come to pass.

“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!” (Jude 1:20 The Message).

Today’s devotional is by Elaine James, author of the tract JOURNEY, certified personality trainer and graduate of Christian Leaders Authors and Speakers Seminars. She is a prayer ministry counselor, accomplished actress, and certified Christian storyteller. Her dramatic performances have made many aware of their problem with Major Mind Overload, and their need to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. Elaine is a recycler—nothing God teaches her is wasted. www.elainejames.com

Caregiving Lessons

March 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Life Topics

By Carin LeRoy –

As we climbed in the car to drive back to where my mother-in-law lived, she told a story that I’ve heard many times before—how she first met her late husband. I listened, once again, nearly able to repeat the story verbatim. Many times over the last several years, I’ve learned to listen to the same stories and answer the same questions, sometimes only minutes apart. Alzheimer’s disease has robbed her of her short-term memory. When we arrived back at her apartment in the assisted living facility, my husband and I cleaned her room and tidied up her things—something she can no longer do for herself.

According to the National Family Caregiver Association, there are presently over 65 million Americans providing some form of care to someone in their family. If you are not a caregiver now, at some point in your life you may be.

As difficult as it is to be in a caregiver role, I believe there are many things God can teach us as we tend to another’s needs. I know I am learning patience, compassion and a lot about selflessness. It takes patience to hear stories and answer those questions…again. I become more compassionate as I realize she is no longer the independent person she once was. Still, she deserves love, respect and care. As I plan my day I think of how lonely her days are. Selflessness enlightens my heart as I consider how connecting with family will bring her joy. I put my day on hold.

Life isn’t just about us and our needs, but about serving the needs of others—especially those in our own family. If you find yourself in a caregiver role, then use it as a time to serve as Jesus did—a time when you can be a blessing and encouragement to another. I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 14:31 that says, “…whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” If you are struggling as you care for someone today, remember your care and kindness honors God. He also says, “…blessed is he who is kind to the needy,” (Proverbs 14: 21 NIV). Who more should we care for than the needy within our own family?

PRAYER: Lord, keep me mindful that helping others, even those in my own family, honors You. Help me to be a blessing and encouragement to someone today that needs me.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (I John 3:16-18 NIV).

Today’s devotional is by Carin LeRoy, wife to Dale and mother of three grown children and one almost-grown teenager. She has been a missionary with Pioneers since 1982. Her passions are family, missions, piano, and writing to challenge others to live faithful lives for God.

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