Over the next several devotionals, I want to focus your attention on something that affects every Christian at one time or another: Losing our spiritual edge. God wants us to stay spiritually sharp. Consider Ecclesiastes 10:10,If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success. God is using this analogy to illustrate a very important truth: If you lose your edge spiritually, you lose your effectiveness as well. Maybe you feel that way today. Though you are exerting strenuous effort, you are making little progress in your spiritual life. God wants you to go forward. He wants you to progress and not become stagnant in your spiritual life. I have a friend whose father was a logger many years ago. It was a time when they cut all the timber by hand with just an ax. One day his father shared about the way he would operate. After he chopped down a tree, he would sit on the stump of the tree he had just chopped down, take out a file he kept on his belt, and he would sharpen the edge of the ax. He would sit there until the ax was very sharp again, then he would go after the next tree. Each time he chopped down a tree he would do exactly the same thing. But he said most of the other guys didt do that. They just wanted to keep going, never stopping to sharpen their axes. Without fail, he said, he always got more done than they did, and he used a lot less effort. They had to exercise more strength, yet they got less done. Over the next several days, we will look at what it takes to regain that spiritual edge.
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Hanging above the door in our house, my mother's favorite plaque constantly reminded us, "Prayer changes things." From an early age, I witnessed this powerful truth through her example. She'd tell me about some difficulties she was facing and then have me pray about them with her. And later, she'd always be sure to give God the glory when sharing the awesome news that He had answered those prayers.
Indeed, this is our confidence: Anything we pray for that aligns with the Father's plan will be granted. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we'll come to understand His will and how to pray for it.
Remember, prayer doesn't change God's mind, but it does transform the believer's heart. Some requests are granted immediately, simply because we asked with the realization that our Father loves to give us good gifts. Other requests may require time or certain divine preparations before they can be given. We, meanwhile, must simply be diligent to persevere in prayer.
Whatever the Lord's response or timing, we trust that He has only the very best in store for His children. That means we might not receive exactly what we're asking for, but something even better. Such is God's great pleasure, for He alone perfectly knows each heart's desire and wishes to fulfill it.
Our most powerful tool for shaping the world and lives around us is always available. Prayer lets us witness God's hand in any situation. And as we give attention, time, and perseverance to conversation with Him, we find no limit to what He can achieve in people's hearts and circumstances.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org. PITN: The Grape Harvest
Got camping plans for the three-day weekend? (Or any weekend, for that matter.) Stock up that cooler with a few staples like granola, pizza dough, and make-ahead desserts and your camping menu just got way more delicious. Just don't blame us if you attract the bears.
Today’s Truth “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing” (Psalm 39:6 NLT). Friend to Friend Most of us come to Christ with a certain“inloveness”—a stirring of emotion mixed with an inexplicable knowing that we’ve discovered our reason for being. But some years into our spiritual journey, the wonder that swelled during the early years ebbs into routine religion laced with busyness. And we secretly question the point of it all. There has to be more than this,we muse. There has to be something more. What am I missing? What’s wrong with me? I’m doing all the right things, but God seems so far away. I’m trying as hard as I can, but it never seems to be enough. What does God really want from me anyway? For decades, as I have had the privilege of ministering to women, I have heard the same heart-cry from those who desire to have a deep, intimate, exuberant relationship with Christ but don’t know how to find it. Here’s part of one email:
Here’s the crux of my problem. After I gave my life to Christ, I joined a church and began reading the Bible daily. Yet, I never experienced that overwhelming feeling of change that so many others experience. In my quiet times, when I seek to know Him better and wait quietly for answers, I do not get the nudges that others talk about. I know that some people hit rock bottom and then experience a dramatic life change accompanied by an emotional high. I sometimes wonder if I will have to experience some great trial in order to have the wonderful feelings of a true relationship with Christ.
I try to start each day with quiet time, scripture reading and prayer. I try to have a God-focused day. Is something wrong with me? Do other women feel this emptiness too? Should I be feeling something more? What more should I be doing? I know Christ loves me, but something is missing and I don’t even know what it is. What should I do?
—Stephanie (Not her real name. Used by permission.)
Perhaps you can relate. You long to feel close to God but sense there’s just something lacking, that you’ve missed the mysterious formula to make it happen. I call this a “glory ache” —a persistent longing to experience God’s presence on a daily basis. Perhaps like most women, you’ve tried desperately to balance the montage of mundane demands and somehow slip God into the white spaces that are few and far between. You long to spend time in the sacred with God, but find the desire crowded out by the responsibilities of the secular—the daily demands—that lay claim to your attention. You yearn to experience God’s presence, but feel far away from Him as you reach to click off the bedside lamp and collapse exhausted once again. Maybe tomorrow, you sigh. The travesty is that we allow the busyness of life to crowd out the Source of life. As the Psalmist wrote, “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing” (Psalm 39:6 NLT). Ann Voskamp echoes that lament: “In a world addicted to speed, I blur the moments into one unholy smear.” And in that unholy smear, that blur of the world passing quickly by, we know something’s not quite right. So we strike out to make it all better. And most of us are quick to think ‘something more’ means ‘doing more.’ We ramp it up and gun the engines—sign up for a new committee, volunteer for a new cause, bake one more casserole to feed the sick. We attempt to silence the hunger pains of the heart by feeding it the bread and water of duty. And at the end of the day, while we might feel a self-induced sense of well-being, the hollowness in our soul that can only be satisfied with God echoes with the grumblings of hunger still. We long for a sense of closeness with God, but we have a hard time putting our finger on exactly what that closeness would look like. It’s just something more. Something different. A flavor we have yet to taste. A country we have yet to visit. A sunset we have yet to experience. A lover we have yet to embrace. There has to be something more, we cry! And we are quite right. We are craving the closeness that comes with an intimate relationship with Jesus. So we try so harder. We go to Bible studies, attend church, say our prayers, and read our devotions. Check, check, check. And yet, we constantly feel that we are somehow letting God down. With the last amen of the day, we sigh, What more does God want from me? And here’s the thing. We’re asking the wrong question. It is not what God wants from you. It is what God wants for you. Abundant life (John 10:10). Constant communion with Him. Intimate union with Him. He’s inviting you into intimate union. Right now. Right where you are. Perhaps you need to stop trying to get what you already have and simply grab hold. Let’s Pray Dear Lord, soothe my glory ache with Your presence. Help me to stay in constant communion and union with You. Forgive me when I think the glory ache can be satisfied by anything or anyone besides You, and wander off to other lovers. You, Lord, are my stream of Living Water to quench every thirst. Now It’s Your Turn What or who have you turned to to satisfy that ache for something more in your life? Food? People? Money? Ministry? Do you tend to ask God what He wants from you or for you? How would you describe the abundant life Jesus talked about in John 1010? Click over to my blog page, look for this devo/blog entry, and share your comments. More from the Girlfriends Do you long to feel close to God but sense there’s something missing? That you’ve missed that mysterious formula to make it happen? Do have a glory ache – a persistent longing to experience God’s presence and working in your life, but not quite sure how to make it happen? If so, my new book, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More, is just for you. Join me and discover how to erase the lines between the secular and the sacred and experience a deeper more intimate relationship with God than ever before. While you’re there, you can download a free chapter or watch a video book trailer.
Seeking God? Click here to find out more about how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"But the whole assembly talked about stoning them." Numbers 14:10a
Have you ever had to stand up against the majority for a cause that wasn't popular? God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and promised He would lead them into a land of milk and honey. The process of moving out of Egypt was difficult. They could no longer do things the old way, for the old ways didn't work in the desert. God provided for them during this journey. But there came a point in which the people forgot what God had said. Their discomfort changed their belief about God. Whenever God is slow to answer our prayers, what we believe about God is revealed. Do we change our plans and move in a different direction when pressure mounts? Or do we continue on the path God has directed for us? Four men believed what God said and were willing to stand; however, the crowd wanted to stone them. Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them." But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites (Numbers 14:5-10). Notice Joshua and Caleb's response to the situation. They had spied the land. They believed God. They challenged the crowd. They seemed to know that if the Lord was not pleased with them they would not enter into the Promised Land. Those who grumbled did not enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb and a new generation saw the fulfillment of God's promise. Has God called you to stand for a cause bigger than yourself? You will have opposition to His call; sometimes it even comes from those in your own camp. But if God has called you, then you can be sure He will make a way. He has already opened the way before you. But you must walk in faith, joined with Him to take the land. "...Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
God, please build your nature in me, so that I will love other people the way you want me to. Prepare me so that I respond in righteousness when attacks come from those who would mistreat me or act under an unholy power. Help me to be a vessel of honor to you and a light in the darkness. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for being you.
No more reading your grocery list multiple times while shopping. This list is divided in the same way a grocery store is. So, when you're in the dairy section of the market, just read the dairy section of the list and you'll get everything you need, without having to read your list over and over to make sure a dairy item isn't buried on the list after pet food.
Monday through Sunday, we’ll help you organize and plan your dinners with an easy-to-make menu planner for your fridge or bulletin board. To make cooking simple, assemble your planner using our free downloadable designs, and switch it up each week to keep the entire household looking forward to the next seven days of delicious meals.
The magnitude of Christ Jesus is something we desperately need to understand better.
We need it because seeing him for all that he is will ultimately be the only way we can overcome our temptations to idolatry. In Desiring God, John Piper writes, “I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than…to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.” And nothing can give us that “superior satisfaction in God” better than a clearer focus on Jesus and his greatness. When we are captured and captivated by who Jesus is, we’ll be empowered and equipped to resist the constant temptations to settle for anything less.
And let me emphasize here that this more intense gaze at Christ is not just some intellectual effort but a matter of the heart’s fascination, something thrilling and glad. Ultimately, it takes this kind of joy to defeat idolatry and sin. As the eighteenth-century Puritan Matthew Henry wrote, “The joy of the lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”
The Colossians passage where the magnitude of Christ comes through most powerfully is in verses 15-20 in chapter 1. Scholars say these lines may well have been originally a hymn to Christ. Paul breaks out here in songful praise, showing just how immense Jesus is, how mighty to save. One commentator observes that Paul seems to be in a state of controlled ecstasy here, awestruck by our Savior’s vastness.
Even in a passage so brief, notice how often Paul keeps bringing up the allness, the everythingness that’s connected with Jesus Christ:
He is…the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created…all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together… . He is the beginning…that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things. (Col. 1:15-20)
Paul is making giant declarations about the unqualified totality of Christ’s preeminence. He wants his readers to be swept away by the sheer size of Christ, to savor his infinite supremacy and beauty and brilliance and power and trustworthiness.
The fact is, Jesus owns the concept of “everything.” Paul wants us to be radically impressed by all that Jesus is –and to sense the truth that anything else in our lives must seem remarkably minor by comparison. God wants us to be awestruck by Christ’s greatness, then strangely liberated by a fresh realization of our own smallness.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
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“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence.” - 1 Corinthians 1:27-29
What wisdom is there in dying on a cross? The Greeks couldn’t understand it, and yet that is the wisdom of God.
God is so wise that the person with the highest IQ cannot figure Him out. If you could come to God with your intellect, then God is not fair because all of the smart people would have a head start and the rest of us would be left standing in the shadows. Your spirituality would be based upon your intellect.
I’m so glad that God has “hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25).
It’s not that God is so high that few can figure Him out; it is that God has placed Himself at such a level that few of us will get down low enough to see God revealing Himself to us.