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Daily Devotional: On Whom Do Rely During The Storms of Your Life?

For today’s lesson, let me take you back to your childhood. No, I am not hypnotizing you. Just remember back to when you were a 5 year old. It’s a dark, eerie night. The wind is blowing and making mysterious noises outside your window. Booming thunder! Bright flashes of lightning! Scary thunderstorms frighten little kids because they know they have no power over these powerful and highly stimulating storms.

When the parents come down the hall, one of two things happens. If the child has been obedient, respectful, and submissive to her parents’ authority and power over her, she’ll be confident that her parents have the power and authority to protect her from the storm. Her parents’ words and actions will soothe her and she’ll feel comforted and safe in their arms.

On the other hand, if the child has disrespected, rebelled against, and overthrown the parents‘ power and authority, and the kid is the one calling the shots regarding privileges and discipline, then she won’t be  confident in her parents’ abilities to protect her from the storm. Even though the parents come through the door to save her, she’ll still be scared and anxious. The child will think, I can’t stop the storm and I have the most power. You certainly can’t overpower the storm, so go back and bring someone more powerful who can protect me from this storm.

In Mark 4, the disciples (some of them experienced fisherman) and Jesus were hanging out in a boat at sea. A powerful storm hit, so powerful that even these experienced fisherman were frightened for their lives. They woke up Jesus and accused Him of not caring whether or not they died. Jesus exerted His power and authority over everything … and calmed the storm.

The disciples had put their confidence in themselves and their own knowledge, not in Jesus and His character, skills, teachings, and promises. They ranked their own power above that of Jesus! What would you have done?

Think about the storms in your life. Do you really trust God’s power? Are you respectful, obedient, and submissive to His authority in all areas of your life? If so, your confidence will come from and be in Him and in what He brings to the table. You will have bold confidence, assurance, hope, and peace in the storms of your life. Don’t wait for the storms to begin trusting Him … not because He won’t help you. He will help. The problem is, you won’t believe it because you have been ignoring Him in non-stormy times, overthrowing Him just like the rebellious 5 year old we talked about, putting trust and confidence only in yourself. It’s a pretty limited pool of power, compared to God’s.

Today, examine the source of your confidence even in the little events of daily life. Is it from elements that are about you … or from Him? Begin to trust Him in all things. Get your confidence from Him. Then it will be easy and natural to trust Him during life’s stormy times and your ability to navigate life’s storms will truly be miraculous. Your source of power is your decision, so choose well.

Father, I come to rest in Your loving presence. I know this day and the days before me will bring difficulties. It is my human way to think my way through these trials on my own. Please remind me that You are with me … that I am not alone in the midst of this storm. I pray that You will send your peace, the peace that passes all understanding to all those praying and growing with the Stepping Stones Devotionals. My Lord, strengthen all of us and prepare us for this day … transform our fears and anxieties into confident trust in you, our Lord and God. I pray this in the name my source of confidence, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
… and he rose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea; “Peace, be still” and the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:2-4

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

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Daily Devotional: “I Saved a Seat For You!”

When I was growing up my family moved around a lot, and I was rather quiet and shy. In the middle of my junior year in high school, we moved from NY to NJ. I was a pretty good athlete and a bunch of people in my new school had met me at baseball practice during one weekend. But on that first day of school, going through the lunch line, I wondered how embarrassed I would feel if I didn‘t see any of the people I met at baseball practice. Like a miracle, I heard 2 girls, I had never met, Debbie Lupinski and Jill Kuhfuss, call out. “Hey Karl, we saved a seat for you.” Wow, that meant so much. They were angels to me really; they were cute, too. That was so kind, and it impacted me so much that I still remember it to this day.

Just think about the warm feeling you get when a person tells you he will save a place for you in line … at the theatre … a ballgame … or at an important table. It sends a clear message that someone cares about you and your heart. Even more, he is willing to expend energy and even make a sacrifice to show his feeling for you by taking action. Yes, taking action. Really walking the walk.

Now think about what God’s Word says. Like the prodigal son, we all have taken our inheritances and gone our own ways … following our me-centered desires. We say no to our Father’s plan … pushing away His protection for our self-destructive follies and pursuits. But the prodigal’s father saved a seat at the table for his son, accepted his son’s repentance regardless of the sins committed, took that son home, gave him a feast, and celebrated his return.

Our Father will do even more … think not just about the seat, but about the whole the kingdom He is holding for you. Think about His promise to bring you back from captivity. He sacrificed His only Son to secure a place at the ultimate banquet table for you. Think about His promise to give you hope and a future … the awesome gift of enjoying eternity … in His glorious kingdom. God saved your life and He is saving a place for you at His glorious table. Accept His invitation. It’s free to you and it lasts FOREVER!

Today, listen to the amazing invitation God extends to you everyday. It should warm your heart, bring peace to your emotional turmoil, and excite your mind. Just as you feel loved when others go out of their way to give you something grand, you should feel and know the Father’s love every minute of this day. Let this assurance and gift form the lenses you use, especially when storms strike. It’s your decision to accept His invitation, so choose well.

Father God, I believe that You have thoughts of peace and not of evil for me. I believe You have plans for me and a special future; You have given me hope. I know that when I call upon You and pray to You, You listen. I know that when I search for You, I find You, for You are always there for me. I know that You, and only You, have the power to bring me out of captivity. I thank You, my Father in heaven, for Your love and Your plans and for saving a place in line for me. I thank You for Jesus, my Savior, for without You, I am nothing, just lost and alone. I pray this in the name of the one who took my place on the cross so I can have a place at God’s banquet table, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity… Jeremiah 29:11

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ‘But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

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Daily Devotional: Freedom: Are You Really Free?

Even though I’m an adult, I love fireworks. Even small ones fascinate me. A few years ago I had an opportunity to see fireworks at our nation’s capital. I always wanted to see them there, as it seems the most fitting place for fireworks and all they represent to me: rocket’s red glare … bombs bursting in air … freedom, mystery, drama, wonder, and celebration … letting my mind swim back through the years to the courageous days of our forefathers. Lights, colors and sounds on the outside; all the feelings and goose bumps on the inside. It’s a really cool experience.

All over America today, we celebrate our country’s birthday and commemorate winning our freedom from England. Freedom is a wonderful feeling … a state (like Maine or Virginia) of mind, and a privilege. I have taught overseas in Kenya after the bombing of the U.S. embassy, in Uganda while civil war and the Lord’s Resistance Army was active, and in Iraq during our war there in 2007. Until I visited and lived with people in these oppressed areas, I really didn’t understand the magnitude and insidious ramifications of persecution and the powerful meaning of freedom.

But unfortunately, I have some bad news. The sobering reality is we aren’t really free. It’s just a trick. We will always be serving a master. One choice is God – whose orders, commands, wishes, desires, authority, agenda, policies, and rules are perfect. God is the real, loving King of the Kingdom we call the universe. There is no other ruler who will serve you more and do anything to help you rise in the kingdom. The other option is Satan, leader of the rebel party. He’s trying to overthrow God’s benevolent all-caring regime, feeding your fleshly agenda, and giving you what you demand. But he’s harmful. He wants to buy your allegiance. He vies for your loyalty by tricking you into believing you don’t need God. He wants you to believe his destructive ways and me-centered intentions are actually in your best interest. Satan gives you the illusion that you can rule yourself … that you don’t have or need a master.

Now for the good news! You are free in the most important aspect: you are free to choose which master we will follow and obey. And with freedom comes grave responsibility. You see, if you aren’t actively choosing God to be your master, moment by moment, your passive, natural inclination is to reject God, letting your flesh rule your mind and decisions, in effect voting Satan and his policies into office. Since Satan lets us do the “pleasurable” activities we crave now, we so easily buy into his election platform and party line.

Today, enjoy the festivities celebrating our country’s freedom. Mourn with those who lost someone fighting to maintain our free status. But above all else, now and every moment, honor those who died for your freedom of choice, especially Christ, by exercising your freedom to choose your master. Your daily growth and fulfillment, and your eternal destiny depend on it. Only one master genuinely cares for you, is willing to die for you (and He actually did). This master wants to share His wonderful royal palace forever and invites you to inherit eternal riches beyond your most fantastic imaginings! My life changed when I chose Jesus to be not just my Savior, but also the Lord of my life. The Master you pick is the most important life-altering decision you make everyday, so choose well.

Dear King of Kings, Thanks for being a king who gave it all for the lowliest serf in Your kingdom, me. Help me choose You. Help me to be a faithful ambassador for You in this fallen world, so others will see You in me. Thanks for the blessings I have in the U.S.A. including the freedom to worship you. I pray your protection and comfort for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are being harmed because of their commitment to You. Give me a humble spirit to yield to Your rule every minute, because You provide all I need far better than any other master can. I pray in the name of the one who died for my freedom, Jesus Christ – and all God’s children say, AMEN!

The Truth
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. Ephesians 6:9

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 1 Kings 22:19

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:9-10

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Daily Devotional: Can You Write A Better Instruction Manual Than God?

God created you, your mind, and your free will. Like any good “manufacturer,” He included an instruction manual describing how use His creation properly to get the most out of it. The Holy Bible is His instruction manual. And wow! It is so powerful and life changing. Read the story below and see how one sentence of scripture can teach so much.

There was a group of women in a Bible study about the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter 3, they came across verse 3, which says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week she called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process itself.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest, so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot – then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered “yes,” he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined? He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s the easy part–when I see my image reflected in it.”

What can we take away from this beautiful story?

  1. Our Lord wants the impurities out of our body, soul (mind), and spirit. “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”
  2. Our Lord is with us every minute of every day as we go through the process of refinement and purification. “…he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire”
  3. Our Lord knows how much we can take, and his timing is perfect because it is his timing “For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.” Our Lord will never give us more burdens than we can manage as long as we are living according to his word.
  4. Our Lord truly wants to see us grow to be like Him. “Oh, that’s the easy part–when I see my image reflected in it.”

How do we handle the purifying process that seems painful and overwhelming at times? We apply His instructions from the great instruction manual our manufacturer gave us. Instead of doing life your way, or managing the stressors your way, switch over to God’s way. He knows exactly how to view, process, and handle the adversities of life.

Today, when you feel under pressure, stop and remind yourself of the silversmith and the silver. Identify whose instruction book you are using to handle that pressure-filled (purifying) situation God brought into your life. The outcome of the situation … and whether you achieve peace and joy … will be determined by the instruction manual you choose, so choose well. WITHIN REACH and Edging Forward are specifically designed to help you use God’s instruction manual. These resources are what turned my life around and they can have a powerful impact in yours as well.

Dear Father God, I thank You for the wisdom and guidance that comes from You Holy Word. I thank You for the depth of meaning held within each word. I pray that You will fill me with Your Spirit so that I may see more clearly the messages You want me to take away from your Word. I pray that You will help me absorb and extract the full message from Your Word and share it with others so that they too can experience Your glory and wisdom. I pray this in the name of the Living Word, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” Malachi 3:3

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

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Daily Devotional: Let the Holy Spirit be Your Director

In my work as a psychiatrist, the most common reason people come into my office is experiencing feelings of pain. Another variant is having feelings and emotions that are out of control, leading to poor decisions or actions, which hurt them or the people around them. The most damaging situations occur when emotions become the decision-making system, leading to very destructive or even life-interfering behaviors.

Now, I am not saying our “negative” emotions are always bad. Our negative emotions have a life-saving role and are a great warning system that God gifted to us. But that important life changing insight is a discussion for a different devotional (see May 8, 2012).

When you make a decision to spend time with Your Lord, His thoughts will literally begin to form your mind. But you see, God made our minds powerfully complex. We can have many thoughts at the same time. These thoughts compete to form the lenses our minds use to view life’s situations. A big stumbling block for us is the difficulty of dealing with our emotions. Even though our positive feelings can sometimes get us into trouble, a bigger problem for us is handling real or anticipated emotional discomfort and pain.

Feeling lonely, rejected, unimportant, out of control, incompetent, hopeless, helpless, or overwhelmed can direct your thought world in a negative direction. The desire to avoid these feelings really drives many inadequate and self-destructive knee jerk decisions, ones we wish we could take back. Unfortunately, these decisions often evolve into patterns or habits we eventually want to change. But we feel we have no control and can’t stop them because we believe these actions soothe our uncomfortable feelings.

Thankfully, God gave us the Holy Spirit to Direct our psychological development – to help us become more Christ-like. Godly decision-making keeps the Holy Spirit on the throne of our heart. (See Spiritual Basics on the right and then click Confession). When we do not make Godly decisions, we need to confess the wrong decisions, make things right with God, and get the Holy Spirit back on the throne. As you attempt to spend time with God in prayer, scripture reading, or meditation, turn this process over to the Holy Spirit … letting His Spirit be the Director of your thinking and psychological development process.

Today, track your feelings, especially what you feel when people say something to you or an unexpected situation occurs. What is your first feeling? If that feeling is uncomfortable, examine your first response. Also, practice confession today. Unfortunately, we all have daily sinful decisions (internal thoughts or external behaviors) that require confession to restore the Holy Spirit to the throne. You will be amazed at the path your life takes when you promote the right director to guide and manage your thoughts and mind. Your director … the Holy Spirit, Satan, or your flesh … is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father of Truth, There are so many things that influence my mind and thoughts. I thank You for Your Spirit who brings order to my mind and infuses it with life and peace. I desire to think Your thoughts, my Holy One. I know that without the Holy Spirit directing my thought processes, my mind scrambles and searches to avoid discomfort and pain, and to get quick-fix relief and satisfaction. I know that the Evil One, the father of lies, tries to worm his way into my mind in the name of distraction and satisfaction. I thank You, Lord, for all your goodness and blessings, and I continue to pray for Your protection. I pray this in the name of My Comforter, Jesus; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace Romans 8:6

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

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Daily Devotional: What’s Your Morning Pick-Me-Up?

Each morning is a powerful gift that holds unlimited opportunities for each of us. A new day dawning … a fresh start … a chance to wipe the slate clean … a day that God and you can co-author.

Are you a morning person or a night owl? How well do you take advantage of the second chance each new day offers? On the flip side, how often do you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? I myself love to stay up late. I hate getting “cheated” by missing out on something or losing my relaxation time. But the latest my body allows me to sleep in is 6:30 a.m. My fresh start is a bit fuzzy ‘til I shake out the cobwebs. But after shave and shower I’m fully awake, ready to spend time with the Lord and get a clear view of what He has planned for that day.

Even those with the deepest faith occasionally awaken in a foggy, frazzled state of mind. On the most demanding and trying days, they may even wake in a state of unbelief. You see, our natural state is to get caught up in the minutiae of life and the stressors of the preceding days, losing sight of God’s big picture and plan. Starting the day with these tangled thoughts and a mindset of subtle distortion will lead to a day of struggle and poor decisions.

The foundation of good decision-making is being able to see the situation clearly … with eyes that see the truth. That is how the truth sets you free. The trophy is your soul. Satan and God are fighting it out on the ultimate battlefield, your mind. Satan, the Great Deceiver, has only one weapon – deception. He is always trying to distort your lenses so you can’t see God’s truth.

Your challenge and responsibility is to untangle your thoughts each morning so that your mind is aligned with the truth of God’s Word. You might think you don’t have time. That’s exactly what I used to think. But after wasting much of my day with tangled thinking, I realized I must spend time with God untangling my thoughts and priorities at the start of the day. It saves me so much time, not to mention all the energy I waste on heartache and frustration.

Today, if you started off with Stepping Stones or a similar discipline, good for you. But if not, then tomorrow, don’t reach for coffee (the Christian drug of choice), food, or the morning paper to get you going. Cast your eyes clearly on the grace that come to you through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Put on the full armor so that confidence, peace, joy, good decisions, and a desire to excel can replace inadequacy, fear, stress, poor decisions, and fear of failure. Focus your thoughts on Your God, Immanuel – God with you. Set aside time each morning for this vital task. Prepare for battle by putting on the Armor of God. (See Spiritual Basics link on the right).The lenses you put on to start your day is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I know that you want me to live this day cheerfully as one of Your followers. But I often wake wondering if I can make it through this day … wondering if I’ll be able to cope. I realize that this fear is a form of unbelief. Help me with my unbelief today, my Lord. I know that when I begin my day with a muddled mind, I ask myself the wrong question, “Will I be able to cope with the troubles I face today?” With You alongside me, guiding me, strengthening me, encouraging me … I can conquer anything that comes my way … even the troubles I avoid. So today, Father, as I work to untangle my thoughts … I give you thanks for providing Your armor, Your Holy Spirit, and Your son Jesus, to save me in this battle. I will focus my thoughts on who You are: Immanuel – God with me. I pray this in the name of the Ultimate Lens Cleaner, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – Amen!

The Truth
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 1 Peter 1:13-15

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. Psalm 112:7

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Daily Devotional: Self-Confidence Means Failure

This might sound a little cruel, but I find it amusing to watch someone who thinks he knows everything have it all blow up in his face, event though the situation was all planned out – the whole enchilada. Of course, this never happens to me and I’m sure this kind of thing has never happened to you either, right?

We all have experiences when pride and ignorance blend to the point that we think we are actually God. It sounds ludicrous to say it. We act as if we know everything, can foresee the future, and have the power to enact a perfect ending. Seeing it in plain black and white like this makes me ask, “What in the world was I thinking?”

Do you ever forget where you put something? Have you ever made the wrong choice in a situation? Have you been accused by your kids (or parents) of not hearing very well? Have you missed an appointment? Is there even one topic about which you know everything? Do you have trouble predicting the future? Recognizing and accepting the limits of your understanding is a good and necessary step to growth. The more we recognize and accept our limitations, the more our relationship with God grows.

You see, we all have limits. But unfortunately, we don’t recognize where they are. So we live beyond our skills. Seems good, doesn’t it … getting more out of who we are? Unwittingly though, the reality is that we are putting our confidence in and getting our confidence from … ourselves! This means I am relying on me … what I bring to the table … what I can do.

The truth is that our confidence needs to come from God. We need to put our eggs in His basket … who He is … His character … His promises … His instructions in the Bible. The assurance of God’s sovereignty, power, omniscience, reliability, love and sacrifice for us will allow us to grow the mind of Christ successfully and live life abundantly. We need Him continually … beyond our daily bread and blessings. We need Him for the many decisions we must make each day – all ten thousand of them.

Today, identify areas of your life in which you play God. Where are you trying to control everything and rely on your own power and skills – leaving out God? Stop and say a prayer. Recognize your global insufficiency, but also pay attention to your daily limits. Turn to God first and often. Look to God to fill in the areas beyond your limits. Then you will start to gain  confidence from Him and truly rest in Him. We have been designed to need Him moment by moment. Today and every day, the source of your confidence is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, Lately I am becoming more aware of my need for You. I have noticed that many people around me have become increasingly confident, almost cocky about the accuracy of their opinions and decisions. However, I feel just the opposite. I feel like an iceberg: what I understand is above the water. What I don’t understand is below. I come to You, my Father, full of neediness and uncertainty. I am fully aware of Your sufficiency. I trust that You will supply all my needs according to Your riches. I have so many decisions to make and I am doubtful about my ability to make the right ones. I know that each decision moves me closer to or further away from You. Your Word teaches me that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. So, help me pass through the small gate and walk the narrow road that leads to You, my Lord. I pray this in the name of the One who always got it right, Jesus; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

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Daily Devotional: How Do You Clean Your Vacuum?

I once heard a pastor give a sermon in which he related a word picture that is familiar to many of us. He stated that everyone has a hole, an empty space in the heart that only God can completely fill. Only God is a perfect fit for the hole that exists. When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, we invite Him into our heart to fill this hole.

But using our knowledge of science, people, and the way human nature and the flesh work, this hole in your heart, your spirit, actually functions like a compartment with a vacuum in it. By definition, a vacuum is a space with the lowest possible energy (as in spiritually dead at birth). It is also a space of negative pressure. So it has a constant need to be filled. It will quickly and aggressively suck in anything else in the surrounding environment to give it life. Think of a  vacuum cleaner’s indiscriminate sucking.

That vacuum compartment, that “void”, is  meant to be filled with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. But if we don’t fill it with Him, that powerful vacuum has to suck in something else. So it sucks in all the other junk lying around. Once it’s filled with junk, the heart has no room for our Lord and Savior. Having this junk in your core leaves you feeling empty and incomplete, so you continue to pursue other answers. But the quick-fix junk gets sucked into that void in an attempt to relieve your troubling feelings.

Until we fill that core vacuum with Him, and live close to Him, we will continue to feel empty, insecure, inadequate, overwhelmed, and incomplete. SO, the big question we all need to ask ourselves is, ‘What have I allowed into my core to be my “savior” when I’m in a jam? Is it really saving me? Or is it just contributing to my slow demise?”

This false hope, is Satan’s answer for your needs … to be important … loved … in control … secure … appreciated … valued … included … unique … pretty … you fill in the blank. Relying on these impostors to save you will actually cripple you over time. Satan conveniently leaves that fact out of his sales pitch.

Today, do you want to identify what got sucked into your vacuum? Look at your wrong decisions. Examine closely why you made those decisions. That is how you will see what got sucked into the center of your heart … what guides and motivates your decisions. You may say Christ is your motivation. But if you are honest, you’ll be surprised at some of the junk you allow to seep in and exert subtle, yet dramatic influence on your decisions. Dump the junk and intentionally allow God’s truth to fill you up with his loving grace and mercy. Only then will you be complete. Only then will you truly be who He designed you to be. What you let into your vacuum is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I often feel incomplete, as if some very important part of me is missing. When I get this feeling, I often respond in unproductive and even sinful ways: foraging for food, fantasy, entertainment, control, a drink, caffeine, or prideful recognition to soothe my unrest. All the while, You are with me, patiently waiting for me to let You in. I continue on my own way, seeking satisfaction where there is none, becoming increasingly frustrated. This agitated condition makes it seem hard to turn back to You, the only One who can complete me. I cry out to You today. I cry out, “Help me, Jesus!” I pray this in the name of the Ultimate Vacuum Filler, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:7

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:14

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12

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Daily Devotional: You Need Skateboard Camp!

My eleven-year-old daughter, GiGi, is learning to skateboard. She is just starting and her basic techniques and skills are weak, so she keeps falling. Now GiGi is not a touchy feely kid and she is at that stage when it’s awkward for a guy to touch her or to get a kiss from dad. When I went to watch her on the third day of skateboard camp she was allowing the male instructor to hold her hands and guide her down a high ramp. I was so proud of her great progress and her openness to go out of her comfort zone to get better at life.

In spite of her minimal skills, but because of her enthusiasm and motivation to grow, she was open, actually very excited to go to camp and expose her weaknesses to other campers and submit to the instruction of expert camp counselors. By the end of the week, after lots of sweat, bruises, lumps and falls, she was going down high ramps and on the brink of landing the difficult “drop in”!

God’s Word tells us that when we are at our weakest, He is at His strongest. We pray for and expect strength in times of weakness … and if we are truly open to it and looking in the right place, God delivers His healing power.

I remember going through a period of extreme weakness and lame decisions. It didn’t feel good; no one wants to be there. However, that time of weakness was when I was the most open to God’s healing and authority. I was willing to go out of my comfort zone, grab God’s hand, and accept my weakness (but not my behavior) as a gift. It was a great opportunity because it created the need and opportunity to experience the beauty of living in total dependence on God.

What is your area of weakness? What situations give you the most fear or worry? We all blink to protect our eyes from damage or pain, or ease existing pain. Can you identify a blink of yours that is really self-destructive rather than self-protective? We need to be motivated and excited to change. Don’t blink and cover-up. Reach out to God and others for help and guidance. Next comes the most important decision: following His guidance and the Godly guidance of others, like GiGi did.

Today, trust God to grow and comfort you in your weak areas before you reflexively do something harmful. Examine areas of struggle or wrong decisions you make. These are prime areas in which God’s strength can shine. Will you humble yourself and admit that self-instruction isn’t enough? Practice self-control today when you are uncomfortable. Think before you react. GiGi is doing more tricks and rarely falls. She really enjoys ‘boarding and loves her counselor. You, too, can experience success in your weak area with your perfect Counselor, God. WITHIN REACH helps you identify why you follow your own instruction instead of God’s. Whether you humble yourself to God or others is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I am learning to recognize my weaknesses. Acknowledging and accepting them keeps me looking to You. You are my strength. As I witness Your presence within those around me, I am learning that abundant life is more than just wealth. Abundant life is living in continual dependence on You. Instead of trying to fit my day into a preconceived idea of what it should be, I am learning to relax and to be constantly on the lookout for what You are doing within me and those around me. This approach frees me to enjoy You and to find out what plan You have for me today. This works so much better than trying to make everything work according to my own plan. I pray this in the name of my Rock and Counselor, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
I can do everything through him who gives me strength … And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:13 and 19

And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” 2 Chronicles 14:11

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Daily Devotional: God: Great Physician, You: the Nurse Assistant

We all are injured, defective, and hurt in multiple ways. None of us is perfect in even one area of our composition. Don’t we all need some form of healing? How healthy is your Mind? Your Body (including your brain chemistry)? Your Spirit? God’s word tells us that He will restore our health and heal our wounds. The scripture tells us this eternal healing does not come to us because of what we “do”. Rather it comes to us free of charge, in perfect abundance, through  faith in Jesus Christ. We just need to accept it.

On the flip side, our temporal healing, the healing for the time period represented by the dash on our tombstone … 1963 – 20__ starts when we receive Christ’s death for our sins. The Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us. Then we are responsible for using and directing our ongoing sanctification or healing process. God doesn’t want to wait until eternity to heal us, He wants to give us a glimpse of this healing while we are still here on Earth. You see, this is the abundant living Jesus spoke about. God really wants to show the world His power while simultaneously blessing us with the fulfillment and peace that comes from living according to God’s instructions.

Intentional decisions are what we control and need to master: not to conform but to be transformed; to strip off the old self and put on the new; to act boldly based on our faith in God’s character, promises, and teachings in the Bible. This most important Spiritual Discipline of Decision-Making is powerful. But rarely does anyone teach about it with concrete depth.

To become good at sports, music, academics, or art … daily practice of specific fundamentals is essential. So too, putting on the Armor of God, praying and confessing regularly, and being in the Bible … God’s instruction manual … are the basis of our spiritual training. For training to work, we need intentionality, self-assessment, perseverance, and strategy to get to ultimate goal … the Mind of Christ for full relationship with God. It takes discipline to a Spiritual Discipline!

Today, ask yourself … What is my strategy? What is my commitment to this strategy? How well do I exercise my free will? Is it consistent with God’s instruction? Pursuing these answers will determine whether your dash will be filled with healing and peace, or injury and pain. Edging Forward: Mastering the Art of Godly Decision-Making is designed to help you apply Biblical truths to overcome Satan’s attacks and lead that abundant life. Decision making with intentionality and stewardship versus randomly winging it is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I know that I cannot earn my way to salvation. But by receiving You, I have become Your child. I believe Your word. I pray with humble confidence that You restore me to full spiritual, mental and physical health. Show me what I need to do to receive full healing in this lifetime, the renewing of my mind spiritually and psychologically, even my physiological brain chemistry. Help me to understand what Your Holy Spirit is trying to show me and tell me so I can grow and glorify You. I pray today that You protect and lift the burdens of the entire Stepping Stones community according to Your will. If it is not Your will, then show them more clearly how to access Your peace and comfort during their struggles today. You know our every need, Lord. Let the assurance of Your presence fill us with joy and peace … regardless of our circumstances and our daily trials. I pray this in the name of the Great Physician, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth
For I will restore health unto you and I will heal you of thy wounds saith the Lord. Jer. 30:17

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Titus 3:5-6

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:1,8-13

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