Fresh energy to God

Have you ever heard the adage, “The early bird finds the worm?”

Mark 1:35 says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

We should change the adage to say, “The early bird finds God.”

Mark suggests a model that we must apply to our lives. The Son of God knows we must give God our first and best.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,  for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  – Lamentation 3:22-23.

Jesus prays in the morning, very early in the morning, because His spirit is still fresh and unencumbered by the activities and problems of the day. After a night of rest, He is rejuvenated and wants to give God His best self. While the others are back at the house snoring away, Jesus is meeting with God. Mark also tells us that Jesus found a solitary place, a place away from the morning news, cell phone, radio, and computer. He found a place where He could devote His fresh energy to God.

While scripture tells us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,”  (Thessalonians 5:16-18), Mark describes the importance of time alone, away from life’s distractions, fresh and new, before the day burdens us with problems.

Make a committment to start your day with God. Give Him your first attention. It can be hard for parents of little ones, I know and remember well; but, make a schedule with your spouse. If you are a single mom or dad, try to find uninterrupted time before the kids wake-up. With a little creativity, you can prioritize God in the proper place and watch how much your life changes because of it.  Somehow, isolate yourself; get alone with God; allow Him to access you life.

Does God use you?

In the past week I’ve heard various conversations. A staff member at the church I am privileged to serve stopped when he saw one of his neighbors struggling to load her car with some heavy bags. He pulled over just in front of her house, “Can I help?” Her gratitude was quickly evident when she replied, “God sure sent you. I was just asking Him, ‘How God will I get these bags of dog food into my car to carry to the shelter’ and you appeared.”

After careful evaluation, he contemplated the events that led to his coming home in the middle of the day. That morning, he had left some important papers on the kitchen counter. He’d planned to pick them up around 10:00 but a friend called and delayed him leaving. Perfect timing to help his neighbor.

A lady in our church commented to me as she was leaving the service Wednesday night, “God really helped me out. My car was in the shop and I wanted to come to church. Out of the blue, one of your church members called me about an unrelated issue. She mentioned church tonight and I told her I wanted to go but my car was messed up. Within 30 minutes she picked me up.”

A friend of mine’s dog was missing. His children were heartbroken. A neighbor took a different running path – one he’d never been on before – and found the dog in a ditch with a broken leg.

Story after story about a God who cares about the intricate day-to-day details of our lives; but, in every incident, He uses you or me to benefit someone else. The question then is, are you allowing God to use you? Are you in tuned to His voice and direction?

Titus 3:1, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

God protects His own

There was a famine in the land, and Abram (Abraham) goes to Egypt to live there. As he is entering Egypt, he speaks to Sarai (Sarah) and says to her, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” Genesis 12:11-13. 

When Abram and Sarai enter Egypt, Sarai is taken into the palace of Pharaoh. Because she is the sister of Abram, he is treated well. He is given sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. He is treated well because of Sarai. The Lord inflicts serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife. The Pharaoh summons Abram and asks him why he told him Sarai was his sister. He tells Abram to take Sarai and go. He also instructs his men not to harm them.

Even when we act foolishly, God protects His own. Abram made a fear-based decision, not a faith based decision. Sometimes we do too. There are times in life when we do not believe God has it covered. We create situations that are far worse than what we initially feared all because we do not wait. Sarai was forced into a concubine situation in Pharaoh’s palace; but, God came after her. He had a plan for Sarai. She was the future mother of Israel.

I do not know what you are facing today; but I do know Who has gone before you. Make decisions today based on the promises of God. He will never forsake you. He is your help in times of need. He wants an abundant life for you. He intends to accomplish great things through the trials of your life; but you have to wait on Him. Faith-based decisions – not fear-based decisions.

Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength,an ever-present help in trouble.”

Faith is a risk

Matthew 14:27-29, “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ 28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ 29 ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”

This scripture comes from the story so many of you know. To summarize, Jesus has just performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish near the Sea of Galilee. He sends the disciples ahead of him by boat so He can have time alone to pray. A gigantic storm comes up and the disciples are in the boat, fighting for their lives against the waves and the wind and the rain. Jesus walks out on the water toward them and they think He is a ghost! He calls out to them not to be afraid, “It is I.” Peter realizes the miracle. He sees Jesus walking on the water and he calls out to Him, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Faith is a risk. We want to pretend it’s easy; but, we live in a world that tells us, “seeing is believing.” Jesus tells us differently, “Believing is seeing.” Faith takes courage. It is about stepping out when we have no idea of  the outcome. Some of us want to stay in the boat; even when Jesus is telling us to come, we are just fine in the boat – no thank you – but not Peter.

Jesus says to Peter, “Come.”

Peter steps out on the water. The winds are howling and blowing all around him. The rain is barreling down and the waves are rocking his body. He is in the middle of the storm. And when he notices that he is out of the boat, in the middle of the ocean, in a huge storm, he takes his eyes off His Master and looks at the wind.

This morning I’m writing a devotion, not about the 11 disciples that stayed in the boat. I’m writing a devotion about the 1 who got out of the boat.

As he begins to sink he cries out to the Lord and Jesus reaches His arm out and saves him. Understand, Peter didn’t just jump out of the boat, he asked Jesus. Jesus told him to “Come on!”

My question to you this morning is how many of you are sitting in your boats asking, “God, should I do this? Should I?” And God is saying, “Come on! Come on, Peter!”

I love that Peter was willing to do what no one else was willing to do. Yes, he sank; but he learned. He learned about keeping his eyes on God. He learned that faith is about concentration. The storms will always be around us. Our eyes have to stay fixed on Jesus. Peter became a bold and strong deliverer of the Word of God.

Matthew 14:31, “‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Peter may have had little faith but far greater to have little faith than none.

How many of you are still sitting in your boat, watching Peter? It’s time to take that step out on the water despite the storm; despite the wind; despite the waves. It’s time to concentrate on the One who has called you.

On a final note, I’ve heard so many sermons and read many commentaries on how, why, when, and where Peter stepped out on the water. I’ve listen to people criticize and applaud him; but I’ve never heard the story of why John or Matthew or Andrew or James stayed in the boat.

It’s time to get out of your boat!

Choose your chains

I am a slave, and I thank God that I am. I am serving the Lord Jesus Christ in chains. He owns me. He paid full price for me.

Satan portrays Christianity as a prison. It constantly amazes me how evil can corrupt the great gifts God made for us. He wants us to believe that we are not free to do what we want to do; to live abundantly; to have joy! We are stifled by rules and regulations meant to prevent us from having fun. Our Bible, Satan professes, is judgmental and excludes those who choose a different way of living. Are you listening to him or God?

Freedom comes when we submit to Christ. Freedom comes when He becomes our Master. Doing it “our way” always leads to bondage.

There are 3 rules about freedom I’d like to share with you:

1. Freedom without limits will always go bad.

When I was a kid, my neighbor’s horse got loose from the field, ran straight to the barn, climbed into the feed room, and started eating. By the time my neighbor found old Clyde, he’d eaten 2 bags of sweet feed and was starting on the next. Within an hour, Clyde was in bad shape. The vet was called and after several attempts to drain his stomach, he had to be put down. Freedom for that old Dapple Gray horse didn’t turn out so well.

2. Freedom costs a price.

Ask any man or woman who has served our country. Ask any of their family members. The cost of freedom is high. Some of our military men and women have lost their lives fighting for America; some have lost time away from their children, their wife or husband; some have lost an arm or leg. When Jesus Christ went to the cross, he suffered tremendously; but it was for us – for our freedom.

3. Freedom is found when you chain yourself to Christ.

Romans 6:15-18, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

The choice is yours. You will choose your chains.  Either way you are a slave to someone – sin or righteousness. One master leads to destruction and an eternal life of torment. The other Master, my Master, leads to grace and an eternal life in Heaven.

God’s way works! Try it.  It is not simply pie in the sky.  It is a life that leads to blessing in the here and now.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23.

The Know – How

Isaiah 50:4, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary…”

Christ came to be a voice to the weary. He came to teach the ways of His Father. He came that we might have life. And when He left, He told us He was sending a helper, the Holy Spirit, to live within us (John 14:16).

Do you experience the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to deal with that difficult person at work; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the foreclosure; the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to handle the sickness;  the ‘KNOW HOW’ to handle the troubled teenager;  the KNOW-HOW to say what needs to be said? If you have a relationship with Christ and have welcomed the Holy Spirit into your life, you have access to it. In fact, it is in you. God has given us a well-instructed tongue so we can speak to the weary in spirit, witness to the non believer, and encourage the broken. When we face hard-times, feel depressed, and all around us seems chaotic, God has given us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ to make it through.

Isaiah 50:4, “…He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed (taught).”

Have you ever thought, “God awakened me!”? It has happened to me numerous times, where I felt with certainty God awakened me for a particular reason.  In fact, this morning at 5 am it happened.  I should have been exhausted but was wide awake an hour early for no reason…or perhaps for a reason.  Whether it was to pray for someone, read a Scripture, listen to His Voice, prepare for a situation I will face, or simply to rest in His presence, I knew He was there…and speaking.  Isaiah is telling us, God wakes us up every morning to instruct us of our day -to tell us how to deal with this or that.

How many of us miss that? He is giving us the ‘KNOW-HOW’ so we can come against any obstacle in our path. How many of us jump out of bed and start running full bore never preparing for our day? How many of us miss out on our instructions and walk blindly through the day? The old adage is “around like a chicken with its head cut-off.” Perhaps that describes how we jump into our day when we could have learned from God what was coming and how to deal with it.

If you want the ‘KNOW-HOW,’ make God your first uninterrupted appointment every morning. If it means less sleep, so be it. Don’t miss out on God’s instruction to you. It is His promise to us when we listen to Him. As the great reformer Martin Luther put, “I have too much to do today not to pray.”

A merry heart

Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” 

When I was a boy, I often went visiting with my mom and dad to see people in the church my dad served. It was usually those in the hospital or nursing home. Sometimes it was new people who had just moved into the community. My mom usually brought them some home-baked goodies, and we’d sit and chat for a while. There was this one particular lady who I loved to visit. She didn’t have a lot of money. My understanding was she’d had a pretty tough life. Her husband had left her with 5 children to raise on her own. She’d lost 3 of her children to tragic deaths. The bank had foreclosed on her home, and she now lived in government housing. Whenever we came to visit, she always had a pot of beans on the stove and her beans were some of the best I’d ever had. Ms. Lily planted vegetables in flower beds outside her back door. She’d say to me, “Boy, (she couldn’t remember my name) go fetch your mama a few tomatoes outside my door!”

Ms. Lily was without a doubt one of the happiest people I’d ever met. Her fingers were crooked from arthritis but she knitted and played the piano. I loved singing hymns with Ms. Lily. She knew I had a quick mind for memorization and so she’d challenge me to see which one of us knew the most verses of a hymn. Despite all the tragedy in her life, Ms. Lily’s heart was good because she kept it joyful. The day she died, I learned of all the wonderful things she had done for people in our community. Story after story of how she loved and helped people.

One lady said at her funeral that Ms. Lily always told her, “God is the only medicine any of us need.”

Today, approach life with a cheerful heart and a positive attitude. Tell God, “I’m going to praise You! I’m not going to fear what is ahead of me because I know You are already in it. My heart and mind will have an attitude of love and praise and acceptance. My bones are never going to dry up!”


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