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TOPIC: Devotion

Devotion 4 months 1 week ago #269

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March 27, 2017
It’s Not How You Start. It’s How You Finish
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV).

Friend to Friend

I sat by her bed. Her hand swollen full unmoving. Feet that danced just a few weeks ago now stilled. Arms that lifted just a short time ago now limp. Words that spilled easily just a moment ago now halted. How could life seep away so quickly, right before my eyes?

Mom was ready. But I wasn’t. Mom called to tell me she was going to the emergency room. She had abdominal pain and couldn’t stop throwing up. I had just been at her house four days before, and this was something new. “She has an ileus,” the doctor explained. “Part of her intestines have stopped working. But her heart isn’t strong enough to survive surgery. If her intestines don’t start working on their own, she will die.”

Four weeks into the sitting and waiting, it looked like Mom was going to get to go Home. Not to her little brick house in the colonial neighborhood the one with cedar shingles, cobblestone street, and white picket fence where she had lived for more than 25 years, but her home in a celestial neighborhood with familiar faces, golden streets, and the presence of God. Mom was ready. She had been planning the party for quite sometime. I gently held her fluid filled hand. Sky blue eyes looked off into the distance. Her mind replaying bits and pieces of life. “Mom, whatcha thinking about?” I asked.

“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” she whispered.

“Who told you that?” I asked with a knowing smile.

“You did,” she replied.

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you more,” she countered.

Mom had regrets. We all do if we’re honest. But she finished well. She had made sure that her grandkids, extended family, and I knew we were loved. She had made preparations of her passing as easy as possible for me, the lone child responsible for all the details. She loved Jesus and was thrilled to get to see Him face to face. The last week of her life, I was having a bit of a crying spell. Mom had requested the doctors remove all the machines, all the tubes, all the medications. “Comfort care.” That’s what they called it. “Well Mom, it looks like you’re going to get to see Jesus before I do.”

And in a quick wit that served her well to the end, she teased with a twinkle in her eye, “Are you jealous?”

And to be honest I was. We never know when our last day on this earth will be. But here’s what we do know we have a choice right now, today, to finish well. Your new start to the finish could begin today. Regardless of your past mistakes and missteps, weakness and failures regardless of how you started this race, you can decide to begin your finish well.
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Devotion 4 months 1 week ago #270

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www.ibelieve.com/devotionals/girlfriends...d-march-24-2017.html

March 24, 2017
An Uncommon Calling
Michele Cushatt

Today’s Truth

“As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Mark 1:16–17).

Friend to Friend

I imagine it was an ordinary day, not all that different from most of our days. Up before dawn. Stumble around getting dressed in the dark. Make a beeline for the programmable coffee pot. Stop. Let’s just take a moment to thank the Lord in heaven for programmable coffee pots. Yes, and amen. So maybe Simon Peter didn’t have a programmable coffee pot. But he must’ve grabbed something to eat and drink before he headed out the door for another long day of fishing. That was his occupation. No college degree required. It was hard, smelly work. But it paid the bills. And one can’t be choosy when it comes to paying the bills. I can’t help but wonder if Simon ever dreamed of doing something more noble, more, how shall I say?, aromatic. But fishing was his calling. Then an ordinary day turned extraordinary with the visit of a rabbi. 'Come, follow me,' the Rabbi said.

No introductions or small talk, at least none Mark recorded. Instead, a radical invitation. To leave one calling for another. To abandon fish for people. The Bible says Simon packed up and followed Jesus “at once” (v. 18). No hesitation or second thoughts. But I imagine his lack of doubts in that moment were multiplied in countless moments yet to come. Like when the religious leaders of the day mocked Jesus’ unlikely choice of disciples. When naysayers questioned the sanity of a fisherman who claimed that Jesus was God. I know what it’s like to have someone question my calling. The man who questioned my speaking ability or the woman who criticized my writing. Not to mention the children who gripe and whine nearly every day about what I don’t do to their complete satisfaction. It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of hurtful words. I may act tough, but the truth is criticism usually stirs up questions and self-doubts about my calling. And yet the calling wasn’t mine. Just as Jesus stood on a beach and spoke to a fisherman, Jesus stands in front of us and speaks the same words: Come, follow me.

The calling has nothing to do with our qualifications. Jesus didn’t choose me because I was polished and professional. He chose me because He wanted to. And He’s done the same for you. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Those are Peter’s words, spoken years after Jesus called him out of a boat and into discipleship. Follow Jesus he did. He may have had moments of doubt, but they were soon overshadowed by the confidence that comes when you know your calling is from God. A chosen people. A called people. Peter. And you and me. Criticism and questions are part of the path. But if we keep our eyes focused on the one who leads the way, the voices of naysayers will fade away.
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Devotion 4 months 1 week ago #273

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March 23, 2017
Celebrate Your Weaknesses!
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me’ (2 Corinthians 12:9,NIV).

Friend to Friend

For many years, I did everything I possibly could to hide or erase any weakness in my life. When that didn’t work, I simply pretended that those weak areas didn’t exist. Why?

Because if I was weak, how could Jesus love me?

How could anyone love me?

How could I love myself?

When our son, Jered, began to walk, I immediately noticed that his feet turned inward. Our pediatrician recommended a specialist who examined Jered thoroughly, then ordered several x-rays. The more he examined Jered, the more concerned we became. When the specialist finally called us in for a consultation, we braced ourselves for bad news just in case. The doctor’s stoic face revealed nothing, but his diagnosis was a gift. “There is nothing wrong with Jered’s feet,” he said. “They are simply the feet of a natural athlete and were designed to give him great balance.”

What we feared as a weakness, an obstacle to overcome, was really a great strength and part of the Master’s plan for Jered who graduated from college with the help of a football and academic scholarship. The same is true in our lives as children of God. God created us according to His plan, in love and with purpose weaknesses and all. We tend to view our weaknesses as liabilities. However, since our worth does not depend upon us in any way, we must be honest about our weaknesses, knowing they do not diminish our value in the heart and mind of God. In fact, our weaknesses can become the areas through which God does His greatest work. Instead, we try to ignore weaknesses, hoping no one will notice. We live in denial, assigning blame to others when we fail. Eventually, we attempt to bury our weaknesses only to find them resurrecting themselves when we least expect it. A powerful life embraces pain, brokenness and weakness, and understands that perfection is for Heaven, not Earth. The words of Paul are profound, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27, NIV).

When we are honest about our weaknesses, we are conceding the fact that only God can accomplish anything good in or through us. God’s power is instantly recognizable in obvious weakness. God has always allowed man’s weakness to validate the immeasurable need of His redemption and His sufficiency in our lives. He can and will use us if we allow Him to do so not despite our weaknesses but through our weaknesses. We are not the message just the messenger. Our weaknesses are not excuses to escape God’s plan. They are divinely appointed opportunities for that plan to work. More important than where you have been or even where you are, is where you are headed. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. That won’t happen this side of Heaven. Don’t wait until you think you are good enough. You never will be. Step up to the plate and be the imperfect you; allowing God’s perfection to shine through each and every weakness. Do not listen to the doubts and lies of Satan. His goal is to render you helpless and defeated, no longer a threat to him or his kingdom. I recently told a friend, “I want to get to the place in my walk with God, that when my feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, ‘Oh, no! She’s awake!’”

I know I have a long way to go, but join me in the choice to embrace weakness and pain, allowing God’s strength and restoration to shine through each broken place.
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Devotion 3 months 1 week ago #274

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April 5, 2017
Celebrate the Broken
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17, NIV).

Friend to Friend

He was a friend a pastor visiting my husband and me for a few days. He had come for help and advice because his wife was broken a statement that made me just a tad bit angry for some reason. I didn’t really know why it made me angry, but it did. “John, what did you mean when you said your wife is broken?” I asked.

His eyes filled with tears as he explained, “She has been diagnosed with clinical depression. Mary, you have never met her, but she is the strongest woman I have ever known. She is talented, godly, and beautiful. But six months ago, she broke. It’s like she shattered into a million pieces and we don’t know how to put them back together. I can’t help her. And it is killing me!”

With that, he began to weep. Dan and I tried our best to encourage him. We prayed with him. We shared Scripture with him. We promised to continue to pray for him and his wife. But it didn’t seem like enough. You see I am a fixer. If something is broken, I fix it. How hard is that?

I had lived my life on the premise that if I was in some kind of pit, I built a bridge and got over it. Simple. It had been working fairly well so far. I don’t like broken things. Broken is frustrating. Fixed is good. Right?

That is the way the human mind works which is so often polar opposite to the way God’s mind works. God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, and His thoughts are absolutely so much higher than ours. And I am so glad! I really do not want a God I can explain or fully understand. I desperately need a God who is supernatural and my God is! It was only a matter of months until I found myself at the bottom of that same dark pit of clinical depression. I, too, was broken. And for the first time in my life, I could not fix it. Not alone. It took an army of family, friends, and doctors all used by God to bring His healing in His time. And that is when I discovered an amazing truth that has changed the way I do everything life, ministry absolutely everything! God loves broken. Boom! There it is! I know! It sounds backwards doesn’t it?

But the fact is that His light shines best through the broken places in our lives. While we frantically try to fill those broken places with something anything He asks us to stop, be still, rest in Him, and let Him fill each wounded, broken place in our lives with His healing grace and love and forgiveness. When we do, He makes us stronger than we ever thought we could be. And where is our greatest source of strength?

Yep! You got it in those broken places. And that is not all. It is from those broken places that He allows us to impact the lives of others who are broken. M.R. DeHann says it beautifully: "God used two broken stones tablets to cause the Israelites to repent of their disobedience. God used broken earthen vessels to give the impression of an enormous army accompanying Gideon. God used a broken heart to return King David to Himself. 
 God used a broken roof to provide access for a cripple to be lowered by four faithful friends into the healing presence of Jesus. God used broken loaves to feed five thousand and then some. God used broken fishing nest to challenge the disciple to depend on him rather than their own efforts for their needs. 
 God used a broken ship to steer Paul to the island of Malta to reveal the gospel to the natives there. 
 God used a broken body, pierced for our sins, to provide salvation for all humankind."

Today, embrace the pain in your life. Celebrate the broken places. Surrender them to your God and let Him heal them for your good and His glory.
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Devotion 3 months 6 days ago #276

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April 6, 2017
Let Go of The Old You, Take Hold of the New
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Friend to Friend

Do you remember the day you came to saving faith?

Perhaps you’re still considering a relationship with Iesus. Perhaps you can’t even remember a time when you didn’t know Him. For me, it was on a summer night when I was fourteen years old. When I think about how God brought me out of a home filled with alcohol, rage, and hostility into this wonderful relationship with Jesus, I’m amazed. The sheer wonder of it stokes my passion for Jesus and gratitude to God every time I tell it. But here’s what you need to know. Just because I became a Christian when I was fourteen, does not mean that my feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy went away the girl who had a filter of worthlessness over her mind and heart. When I made the decision to believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, those feelings did not dissolve like springtime snow. As a matter of fact I didn’t even know those chains were there. I simply knew that something wasn’t quite right. I was held hostage by my self-perceived deficiencies and didn’t even know it. After the initial excitement of making a commitment to Christ settled down a bit, I actually felt a little worse about myself. (I’m being honest. I always will.) Now I added a new “I’m not good enough” to the list of my inadequacies. I’m not a good enough Christian, I decided. I can’t memorize Scripture like other people or pray like other Christians. I keep struggling with the same old insecurities. I know God loves me, but I don’t think He likes me very much. Why should He? I don’t like me much either. The problem was, as the song says, I was stuck on a feelin’. I walked through life prodded by my emotions rather than led by the Truth. Through the years, I learned to compensate for my insecurities and self-perceived inadequacies. However, if you had seen me as a teenager my achievements and accomplishments you would have never known that I felt that way about myself. Even though I had the borders of the puzzle in place with the promise of heaven, I felt like I was missing key pieces to complete the picture. From the time I was fourteen until I was in my early thirties, I always felt like there was something wrong with me spiritually. I had an uneasiness like I had walked into a movie twenty minutes late, trying to figure out what was going on. I wondered why I struggled to live the victorious Christian life. By my mid thirties, I had a wonderful husband, an amazing son, and a happy home life. I attended Bible studies and even taught a few. But in my heart, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I wonder if you’ve ever felt that way. Simply put, I was stuck. I was stuck in my spiritual growth and the harder I spun my wheels, the deeper they sank in the muck and mire of the land of in-between saved from slavery of Egypt but never quite making it to the Promised Land. And then God brought another woman into my life to shimmy the plank of truth under my tires and help me get on my way. God wants to show you truths about your true identity, His timeless sufficiency, and your pre-ordained destiny that flesh and blood cannot reveal. He sits by the well waiting for you to show up to dip down deep and pour out the affirmation you’re thirsting for affirmations that call you to let go of the hindrances that hold you hostage, take hold of the promises that set you free, and live bold with that faith you’ve always longed for. He’s looking for men and women who are not only willing but hungrily yearning to step outside of the quiet, settled, predictable faith and into the boldly believing, courageously confident, and miraculously powerful adventurous faith. Those who will take hold of what they’ve already got of what Jesus has already taken hold of for them. One thing that you have is a new identity in Christ. You are a saint. You are chosen. You are dearly loved. You are holy. You are reconciled through Christ’s life. You are justified by Christ’s blood. You are free from condemnation through Christ’s death. You have the mind of Christ. You can do all things through Christ. Today, take hold of these truths and allow God to transform your mind. You are not meant to simply hang on by the skin of your teeth until Jesus comes or calls you home. You are meant to let go of the past, move forward in the present, and live bold!
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Devotion 3 months 6 days ago #277

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April 7, 2017
Hot or Cold
Arlene Pellicane

Today’s Truth

So, because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Revelation 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I have a habit with my coffee that some of you will relate to. Others may be tempted to think less of me, but I will just have to risk that for the sake of this devotion. I am a coffee re-heater. I take my morning cup of coffee and I nurse that same cup for hours. I take a few nice hot sips and set my mug down. Several minutes later, my coffee is lukewarm. It’s no longer good. I head to the microwave to make it hot again. I take a few sips and repeat this process a few more times throughout the morning. Coffee’s good either hot or cold. There is no in-between. The example of lukewarm coffee can remind us of the importance of having a hot faith. You’re either an all in Jesus follower or you’re not. Listen to the words written to the church of Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, “Because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

This example of lukewarm liquid would make a lot of sense to the Laodiceans. One of the city’s problems was a poor water supply, which made them very vulnerable to attack. If an enemy surrounded the city, they could easily cut off the water supply. The main supply came on a six-mile aqueduct from the hot springs of Hierapolis. By the time it flowed into Laodicea, it was lukewarm and uninviting. Just like drinking lukewarm water is terribly unpleasant, so is being a lukewarm believer. This is a picture of apathy, indifference, or compromise. Being spiritually lukewarm is like being hot enough to make it to church most Sundays but cold enough to play down Christianity when it’s not convenient or profitable to you. When you try to serve both God and world, you end up being rejected by both. The hot Christian is zealous for God, wanting to have an on-fire love for Him. This person is blessed. But why would God prefer someone to be cold than lukewarm as it says in verse 15 “I wish you were either one or the other”?

If someone is cold towards Christ, he or she may hit rock bottom and discover the need for Jesus. When we are away from God, that emptiness can drive us back to Him. But when we have just enough of Jesus to think everything is okay, yet we’re embracing much of the world, we are growing lukewarm and that’s a dangerous place to be. I was in a café recently and the coffee served was lukewarm. I try to be a flexible person, but I figured I paid for that cup of coffee and I wanted it hot. I ended up using the microwave, not the classiest experience but at least my coffee was hot. You know Jesus has paid the highest price for us. We don’t want to give Him a lukewarm life. May we burn brightly for Him, constantly stoking the fire of our faith to guard ourselves against lukewarm living.
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