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Devotional

I celebrated my 44th birthday recently. I use birthdays as a time for reflection with prayer and fasting. I like to look back and see where I am from the last birthday. My goal is to always be further along from the past year. Sometimes I have done more and sometimes I have not.

 

Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride (Ecclesiastes 7:8, NLT). 

 

I celebrated my 44th birthday recently. I use birthdays as a time for reflection with prayer and fasting. I like to look back and see where I am from the last birthday. My goal is to always be further along from the past year. Sometimes I have done more and sometimes I have not.  

If I set goals that I have not accomplished I try to figure out why and how to move forward. After doing this for this birthday I was a little disappointed at my progress or the lack thereof.  

After praying to God to show me myself I found the scripture above, finishing is better than starting and that's when it hit me.  

I have done a whole lot of starting and not much finishing again. I saw myself in Ecclesiastes 7 as Solomon pairs certain concepts together: Finishing and starting and patience and pride have much in common.  

Maybe this is because he discovered that the patience necessary to finish a job well reveals more character than the prideful way required to get started.  

Our society is rushed. We want everything now. We are easily distracted. I have been easily distracted.  

This mentality can lead to a great loss of time. We are finding it hard to stay the course. We get bored, continuously longing for something new.  

Even back in Solomon's time people struggled with patience and character to finish as well.  

So what do we lack? Patience. Patience is really a virtue that can push you further. It can lead us to the finish line and in finishing well we can make God proud and then we can be proud of our ourselves.  

But this is not an easy concept for everyone. Some of us need help with patience. I know that there is a bit of a negative vibe about praying for patience. We fear that God is going to allow something terrible to happen to teach us patience. But do not stress this.  

If you lack patience to finish as I seem to, trust God and pray for help to finish well.  

 

Prayer 

Father, the finish line seems so far away. I am tempted to give up or even worse start over again and again but never finishing anything. Help me to finish whatever you have placed before me to do. Give me the patience that I need. Help me to care more about your pride in me than my own. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Devotional


We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.  

( 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, NLT) 

 

Paul does not give specific details about what he went through in Asia, although his accounts of all three missionary journeys record many difficult trials to be faced. He stated that they were crushed and overwhelmed beyond their ability to endure. 

He also writes that as they felt they were going to die they realized that they could do nothing to help themselves-they simply had to rely on God.  

Maybe we don't get to the point of fearing death but we often depend on our own skills and abilities when life seems easy and only turn to God when we feel unable to help ourselves. Haven't you been there? Worn out to the point of exhaustion, running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to control or fix everything.  

We get spoiled with the easy stuff, addicted to solving our own problems and then the hard stuff comes and it hits us that we are not sufficient apart from the Lord. 

Some of us keep banging our heads against invisible walls.  

But its in realizing our own powerlessness without him and our need for his constant help in our lives, that we come to depend on him more and more.  

In my own struggle with letting go of my need to control things (and it's still a struggle sometimes) I am realizing that it is true that nothing is wasted. He allows things to happen as they do for a reason.  

Sometimes I have to force myself to be still and ask the question, "Lord, what are you trying to tell me through this adverse situation? The basis of all the answers are that I need Him. I am not enough by myself and neither are you. 

God is our source of power, and we receive his help by keeping in touch with him. With this attitude of dependence, problems will drive us to God rather than away from him. Whether you feel like you are at the end of your rope or things are better than they have ever been learn to rely on God daily in all that you do.  

You won't make it very long or far without Him.   

 

Question:  

Do you find yourself getting stuck in relying on yourself instead of God? If not how do you remind yourself to keep an attitude of dependence on Him?  

 

Prayer 

Father, we are nothing without you? Keep us reminded through your Holy Spirit to rely on you in sunshine and rain. We don't want to wait until we are at the end of our rope to call on you. You are always faithful.

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Bible Study

Esther 

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16). 

Think of the most beautiful woman's face you have ever seen. Queen Esther looked like that. She easily could have been self-absorbed, pursuing all the benefits of a stunning appearance. But her loveliness would have faded with time, at best forgotten.  

It is Esther's inner beauty that has been immortalized in Scripture and in the history of her people. Because Esther was beautiful inside and out.  

It was a Cinderella story. Esther, orphaned at a young age, had been taken by her cousin, Mordecai.  They were Jews, alien exiles, a distrusted minority in the hands of fierce captors.  

But Esther grew in grace and beauty, encouraged by Mordecai to see her worth in God's eyes.  

When King Xerxes decided to find a new queen to replace the headstrong Vashti, many young women were brought to his harem to be groomed for the position-including Esther. When she appeared before Xerxes, "the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women....So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti" (Est 2:17). 

Then came the dreadful news from Mordecai to Esther. It seemed almost beyond belief. All the Jews in Persia were to be exterminated by edict of the king. Esther was the queen, but what could she do? King Xerxes had absolute power over his people; they existed -or died -at his word. Even the queen.  

Mordecai's wisdom and his love for Esther could not be denied, but the stakes were extremely high. "Go to the king on behalf of  my people. The king does not even know that I am a Jew." Esther's mind must  have searched for an easier solution. But Mordecai's counsel pierced her heart. "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Est 4:14).  

With unestimable courage Esther seized her destiny.  

Esther's beautiful face and form alone could not have kept Xerxes hand. But her courage and wisdom won his compassion, and he granted her request.  

Esther's true beauty had prepared her to be an instrument in God's hand for saving the Jews in a time of great peril.  

Every woman is beautiful. She may not have the classic features of America's top model but she has a unique, God-given beauty and strength.  

There will be times in your life that you will need to exercise character and courage, like Esther did.  

Don't settle for beauty that fades but instead ask the Lord for inner beauty, the "forever" beauty by which we will be known in heaven.  

 

Reflection 

How do you encourage character, courage and inner beauty in your everyday life?  

 

(Partially adapted from Women of Faith Study Bible, NIV, 2001)

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Bible Study

Then the Lord turned to him and said, " Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites, I am sending you!" (Judges 6:14, NLT)

Most of us want to know God's plan for our lives, but we're not always sure how to find it. One common misunderstanding is the idea that God's guidance will come to us out of the blue, that it has nothing to do with what we're doing now.  

But if we're always looking around for God's next assignment, we run the risk of ruining whatever we're working on right now.  

Fortunately, the Bible points to a kind of guidance that does not put our current projects in jeopardy. In the Bible's description of how God guided many people, we can see that often God's call came while people were completely immersed in the challenge of the moment.  A good example of this kind of guidance is seen in Gideon's life.  

Gideon had a limited vision, but he was committed to it. His challenge was to obtain food for his family even though hostile invaders were making the growing, gathering, and preparation of the food almost impossible.  

Gideon was resourceful. He put a winepress to double duty by turning into a sunken threshing floor. It lacked  ventilation to blow the chaff away, but at least it was hidden from the Midianites. Gideon was working in his threshing floor when God sent him a messenger with a challenge.  

Gideon was surprised by what God told him to do. He did not want to jump into a task for which he was ill prepared. The angel had to overcome three objections before Gideon was convinced : (1) Gideon 's feelings of responsibility for his family's welfare. (2) his doubts about the call itself, and (3) his feelings of inadequacy for the job.  

Once Gideon was convinced, however, he obeyed with zest, resourcefulness, and speed. He dedicated those personality traits to God, with whom he was now personally acquainted.  

Gideon had his weak moments and failures. but he was still God's servant. If you can easily relate to Gideon's weakness, can you also see yourself being willing to serve? Remember Gideon as a man who obeyed God by giving his attention to the task at hand. Then give your full attention to believing God will prepare you for tomorrow when it comes.  

Strengths and Accomplishments 

Israel's fifth judge. A military strategists who was an expert at surprise. 

A member of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. 

Defeated the Midianite army.  

 Was offered a hereditary kingship by the men of Israel. 

Though slow to be convinced, acted on his convictions. 

Weaknesses and mistakes 

Feared that his own limitations would prevent God from working through him. 

Collected Midianite gold and made a symbol that became an evil object of worship. 

Through a concubine, fathered a son who would bring great grief and tragedy to both Gideon's family and the nation of Israel.  

Failed to establish the nation in God's ways; after he died they all went back to idol worship.  

Lessons from Gideon's life 

 God calls in the middle of our present obedience. As we are faithful, he gives us more responsibility. 

God expands and uses the abilities he has already given us.  

God uses us in spite of our limitations and failures. 

Even those who make great spiritual progress can easily fall into sin if they don't consistently follow God. 

(Adapted from Life Application Study Bible, (2007) NLT)  

 

What does Gideon's life say to you concerning what God has been calling you to do for Him?

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Bible Study

God uses everyday people like you and me for his work. When I realized this I was amazed and liberated. What is required?- belief in Him and a willingness to follow His directions.
See I use to look at other people and think that they were Christian superheroes and I thought that I had to wait to receive these superpowers.

God uses everyday people like you and me for his work. When I realized this I was amazed and liberated. What is required?- belief in Him and a willingness to follow His directions.  

See I use to look at other people and think that they were Christian superheroes and I thought that I had to wait to receive these superpowers. 

 I even thought that maybe it was only meant for a select few and maybe I was one of the ones that could never be used. As I prayed and read the Bible the Lord showed me that he has already placed everything I need inside of me. He has specific tasks that only I can do.  

He can also use you. He has put gifts inside of you to share with the world and these are gifts and talents that only you can do.  

You don't have to be rich or a rocket scientist but if you were that would be okay too.  You  just have to be willing and seek Him for what He wants you to do.  

Spend some time getting to know God and yourself and you will find that there are certain things that you do that is a part of your design. This will give you a clue of what you can give to the world.  

God calls all sorts of people from various backgrounds to be a blessing to the world.  

Here are some examples from the Bible:  

Jacob, known as a deceiver-was called to father the Israelite nation.  Genesis 27-28 

Joseph, A Slave-Saved his family.  Genesis 39 

Moses, Shepherd in exile (and murderer) -lead Israel out of bondage, to the Promised Land. Exodus 3 

Gideon, A farmer-Delivered Israel from Midian. Judges 6:11-14 

Jephthah, Son of a prostitute-Delivered Israel from the Ammonites. Judges 11 

Hannah, a homemaker-the mother of Samuel. 1 Samuel 1 

David, A shepherd boy and last-born of the family-Israel's greatest king. 1 Samuel 16 

Ezra, A scribe-called to lead the return to Judah and to write some of the Bible. Ezra, Nehemiah 

Esther, A slave girl- saved her people from massacre. Esther 

Mary, A peasant girl - called to be the mother of Christ. Luke 1: 27-38 

Matthew, A tax collector- called to be an apostle and Gospel writer. Matthew 9:9 

Luke, A Greek physician- a companion of Paul and a Gospel writer. Colossians 4:14 

Peter, A fisherman- chosen to be an apostle, a leader of the early church, and a writer of two New Testament letters.  

There are many more examples but you see my point. The Lord did not let the past of these individuals stop Him from using them.   

Be the person that seeks God for your purpose and find out how you can be used or if you are already walking in your calling be the person that tells someone that God can use them.   

In what ways do you feel the Lord wants to use you? Leave a comment or share on Facebook or Twitter.

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Bible Study

I love what Joseph did in each hard situation that he faced. His positive response transformed each setback into a step forward. He didn't spend much time asking why. His approach was "What shall I do now?"

 

"So Pharaoh asked his officials, " Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?" (Genesis 41:38, NLT) 

Joseph's story is a familiar one. As a young child, Joseph was a bragger. His natural self-assurance-increased by being Jacob's favorite son and by knowing God's will for his life-was unbearable to his ten older brothers, who eventually plotted against him.  

But this self-assurance, molded by pain and combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prosper where most would have failed.  God gave him favor and he won the hearts of everyone he came in contact with-Potipher, the prison warden, other prisoners, the pharaoh, and, after many years, even those ten brothers.  

Maybe you can identify with one or more of these hardships Joseph experienced: He was betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to sexual temptation, and punished for doing the right thing; he endured a long imprisonment and was forgotten by those he helped.  

But the thing that stands out to me in his story is his wait. According to some sources Joseph was around 17 when he was first taken to Egypt and it wasn't until he was 30 that he was placed in charge. He knew God's  plan for his life but he had to hang in there until he saw it come to pass. I'm sure things weren't happening as fast as he would have wanted them to.  

He could have been bitter. He could have given up. He could have used what he had gone through as an excuse for bad behavior but he maintained his integrity through it all.  

When you meet a person like Joseph you can't help but to ask, How were you able to maintain your integrity all of that time and through all of that adversity. I'm sure his answer would be that he had a strong trust in God and His promises. 

When you read Joseph's story it is easy to see that the Lord was in the background working things out for his good. The Lord was teaching Joseph humbleness, patience and increasing his faith.  

Perhaps Joseph had to serve before he could lead.  

God was preparing him for the great task that was ahead. The Lord does not see time the way that we do and in that we have to wait for his promises sometimes. But if we do so with integrity we will receive our reward.  

We will become an example to those around us as our testimonies  encourage others to stay in the race.  

I love what Joseph did in each hard situation that he faced. His positive response transformed each setback into a step forward. He didn't spend much time asking why. His approach was "What shall I do now?"  

Those who met Joseph were aware that wherever he went and whatever he did, God was with him and whatever you face God is with you. 

  

Joseph's Strengths and Accomplishments 

Rose in power from slave to ruler of Egypt.  

Was known for his personal integrity.  

Was a man of spiritual sensitivity. 

Prepared a nation to survive a famine.  

 

Weaknesses and Mistakes 

His youthful pride caused friction with his brothers. 

 

Lessons from his life 

What matters is not so much the events or circumstances of life, but our response to them.  

With God's help, any situation can be used for good, even when other's intend it for evil.

 

 What promise are you waiting for from God? Let's share, encourage and pray for one another. We can connect here in comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

 

(Partially adapted from The Life Application Study Bible, NLT, 2007)

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Devotional

Love is a universal word. Everyone has their own unique way of showing love. We even have our own unique way of wanting to receive love. But how we give and receive love may not necessarily line up with how God defines love.

Love is a universal word. Everyone has their own unique way of showing love. We even have our own unique way of wanting to receive love. But how we give and receive love may not necessarily line up with how God defines love. 

God is love so there is no one better to teach us.  

Times are changing and unfortunately love can be harder to recognize in our world. I know I have been off a time or two myself. 

Genuine love can be tough. It's easier to take on the ways of the world and just cut people off especially if they mistreat us and then we could concentrate our efforts on loving people that are just like us or people that have something to offer us. But thank God Christian love does not work like that.  

Christians love because Christ first loved us. We love because it draws people to us so that we can direct them to Christ, the lover of our souls.   

We love because people are created in the image of Christ and they are our brothers and sisters.  

Love is very important to the Lord. He spends a lot of time teaching about it. The Bible gives us clear characteristics of what love is and what love is not. We can refer to the Word of God and pray for guidance when love is not clear.  

I believe at some point we have all asked ourselves the question, "Is this Love?' 

 

Love suffers long and is kind. 

Love does not envy. 

Love does not parade itself. 

Love is not puffed up. 

Love does not behave rudely. 

Love does not seek its own. 

Love is not provoked. 

Love thinks not evil.  

Love does not rejoice in iniquity. 

Love does rejoice in the truth. 

Love bears all things.  

Love believes all things.  

Love hopes all things.  

Love endures all things.  

Love never fails.  

                                                                             ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) 

 

Love is fervent in spirit and service, strong and intense. 

Love is joyful, patient, prayerful, generous, and hospitable. 

Love blesses persecutors, refusing revenge.  

Love is compassionate and humble.  

Love is peaceable.  

Love overcomes and destroys evil.  

Love hates and abhors what is evil.  

                                                                             (Romans 12: 9-10, 11-21) 

 

(Partially adapted from The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling, Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Ron Hawkins, 2009)

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Bible Study

Easter reminds me of growing up in Florence, South Carolina. Easter was a big thing for us as children. Do you remember the feeling of getting those beautiful, spring colored dresses every year? Guys have to remember sitting in the barbershop all day waiting for a turn for a haircut. Boys wore sharp suits for Easter that sometimes included ties which as I recall most boys hated to wear.

Easter reminds me of growing up in Florence, South Carolina.  Easter was a big thing for us as children. Do you remember the feeling of getting those beautiful, spring colored dresses every year? Some of us got our hair done at salons which was only for special occasions. The rest of us went to a girlfriend or a family member My favorite style was candy girls.  

Guys have to remember sitting in the barbershop all day waiting for a turn for a haircut. Boys wore sharp suits for Easter that sometimes included ties which as I recall most boys hated to wear.   

We also had to prepare to get up in front of everyone at church to say our Easter speeches. My favorite one was, "I just came to say Happy Easter Day." It's obvious that it was my favorite because it was short. I was nervous every year getting up in front of everyone.  

Today many people seem to get the same feeling around Easter time. You see people shopping for spring colored dresses and suits. The hair salons and barber shops are full and parents are now running around to purchase these same things for their own children.  

Easter is also one of the busiest days of the year for churches. The pews are full of people that don't normally attend. This is a wonderful blessing. Pastors exclaim from pulpits all over the world that "Jesus has Risen." Many go and enjoy their Easter dinner afterward and wait for the excitement of next year.  

These are all beautiful traditions but before, during and after all of this is done we have to continue to remember something or even better someone.   

We have to remember the Lord.  

This seems obvious but it isn't always. Let's use this time to re-examine our lives. The Lord overcame the grave and He lives. We can overcome those things in our own lives that are dead and divert our attention to the things that add life.   

I pray that Easter and the scriptures below encourage you to make a decision today to do something new for the Lord. He has probably already put it on your heart. Solomon does a beautiful job in these verses of reminding us to remember the Lord before we are too old to give Him our best years.  

 

(Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, NIV). 

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"--  

before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain;  

when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim;  

when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; 

when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.  

Remember him--before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well,  

and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

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Bible Study

We can come to our father and say I don't have it all together Lord but I know that you can help me. You can still heal me. You can still use me. You can add to what little I have.

The father instantly cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief" (Mark 9:24, NLT). 

In this passage a father comes to the disciples of Jesus asking for healing for his demon-possessed son. The disciples could not heal the boy. Why? They had done it before in 6:13. They cast out demons on their mission trip to the villages.  

Maybe the authority was just for that trip. Maybe their faith was faltering.  

Mark's story shows us that the battle with the enemy of our souls is an ongoing struggle. Our power can become depleted when we do not allow the Lord to fill us back up again.  

After the disciples efforts to heal the demon-possessed child failed the man took the boy to Jesus. The New Living Translation records the father saying to Jesus, "have mercy on us and help us if you can" (vs 22b). I love the way Jesus asks, "What do you mean if I can? Anything is possible if a person believes." 

The fathers reply has baffled me for many years. He cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief." 

How is it that the child's father believed but needed help with unbelief? 

The father had been previously disappointed by the disciples attempt to heal his son so much that he even questioned if the Lord could do it.  

Haven't you been there? I have. The circumstances that have surrounded situations that I have found myself in have snatched much of my faith and hope. I have struggled with my faith because of the size of the battle or how close I was to it like if it involved one of my babies.  

I've been left sometimes with barely a mustard seed worth of faith. Just enough maybe to believe one more time.  

But this father gives us the right idea. He confessed to God that he was having trouble believing the way he should. Then he asked the Lord to help him with that unbelief.  

That is so beautiful and powerful.  

I believe the Lord was touched by the father's honesty and vulnerability.  

We can do this same thing you know. We can come to our father and say I don't have it all together Lord but I know that you can help me. You can still heal me. You can still use me. You can add to what little I have.  

Jesus is the ultimate helper and He can help you if you struggle with unbelief.  

Prayer 

Father, we struggle sometimes with our faith. Sometimes we have just been through so much that it can be hard to believe one more time. But now through your Word we know that You are not mad at us if when our faith is weak but more than anything you want us to come to you. Give us the mind and heart to come to you honest and vulnerably asking, "help my unbelief".  

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Bible Study

Last week in our featured book, Live Your Calling, the authors Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck defined Personal Mission Statements. Your personal mission statements, priority goals and action plans build a bridge between the vision of your calling in the future and your reality today.

Last week in our featured book, Live Your Calling, the authors Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck defined Personal Mission Statements.  

Personal Mission Statements 

Mission statements include word pictures,or descriptions of your God-sized visions in your life.  

Mission statements help you get what you really want in life. They are designed to help you think through what you are aiming for in each of your callings.  

Mission statements help you focus your energy.  

Priority Goals  

Identifying your priority goals is the next key step for incorporating your mission  statements into your day-to-day life.  

A goal is a clear, specific objective. Goals personalize and particularize your mission statements. Setting goals is the catalyst for bringing your God-inspired visions to life.  

Action Plans 

Your action plan is a tool for translating your mission statement into priority goals and action steps. 

 

Action Strategies for Living Your Calling 

         1.Develop Personal Mission Statements 

  -Mission Statement for your primary calling. 

  -Mission Statement for your secondary calling.  

         2.Set priority goals. 

         3.Create your action plan. 

 

Your personal mission statements, priority goals and action plans build a bridge between the vision of your calling in the future and your reality today.

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