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A Lamp For My feet – W220 – Courage: God Covers You with His Strength

Courage: God Covers You with His Strength
by Jon Walker

“Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land – against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.” (Jeremiah 1:18 NIV)

Read the following as a prayer today.

In faith, I know this to be true:
By God’s hand, I am “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land” (Jeremiah 1:18 NIV), and I am enabled to fear no one but God.

I will not fear, for I know God is with me. When I face fear, he whispers in my ear, “Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

He says, “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” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

When standing before fear, I can boldly say, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one that condemns? Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:33-35, 37).

I know my God goes before me and comes behind me (Psalm 139:5). He is “my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalms 61:3).

And, because of this, I stand convinced that, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

This devotional (c) Copyright 2012 Jon Walker. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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A Lamp For My Feet – W219 – Jesus Says Seize the Moment

Jesus Says Seize the Moment
by Rick Warren

“Jesus said, ‘No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.'” (Luke 9:62 MSG)

In Mark 10, a huge crowd was following Jesus as he left Jericho. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road as Jesus was going by. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

When Bartimaeus got up that morning, he had no idea that Jesus Christ was going to be passing by him that day. He thought it was just another ordinary day: same place, same cry for help, same miserable, lonely, pitiful lifestyle. He had no time to prepare for Jesus; it was just an opportunity that was dropped in his lap. He had to seize the moment.

He said, “I’m not going to miss this one. I’m going to take advantage. Jesus is coming by my place right now. I’m not going to delay. I’m not going to procrastinate. I’m going to do this now.” That’s the first key to a fresh start in your life: Whatever you’re going to do, do it now. Don’t say, “Next year I’m going to make a fresh start. Next month I’m going to make a fresh start. Tomorrow I’m going to make a fresh start.” It’s now or never. Seize the moment!

Every day, there are opportunities all around you for a fresh start, but you don’t take advantage of them. Why? One word: procrastination.

Procrastination is a strange phenomenon. We think it will make our lives easier; we think it will make our lives more present when actually it just creates more stress. The truth is, you already know the right things to do and the benefits of doing the right things in life. So why don’t you do them?

The Bible warns us over and over about presuming upon tomorrow. I’m not guaranteed a tomorrow, and neither are you. Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 MSG).

You have no guarantee that you will live tomorrow. Whatever you’re going to do, you better do it now.
Talk About It
o    In what area of or situation in your life do you need to stop procrastinating?
o    If you knew tomorrow wouldn’t come, what would you want to accomplish today?

Choose Faith Over Fear

“Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!'” (Mark 10:48 GN)

If you’re going to make a fresh start with faith in your life, you have to face your fears. Don’t let them control you! Fear has an incredible ability to paralyze our potential, to keep us from launching out, to keep us from having faith in our lives.

When we choose fear over faith, it makes us skeptical – we’re afraid of trying anything new when we’re afraid. It makes us selfish – we’re afraid to commit to God and to others. It makes us short sighted – we focus on the past and not on the future.

Bartimaeus faced a fear that is familiar to many of us – the fear of rejection. He knew that to shout out at Jesus in that crowd wasn’t the right thing to do. He knew that people would look down on him for it, but he was desperate. And he knew that Jesus Christ was the only one who could help him.

And look what happened: When he shouted out to Jesus, everyone around him told him, “Don’t do that. Be quiet. Don’t make a scene. Surely Jesus Christ isn’t interested in you. He has more important things to do.”

The devil whispers things like that to a lot of us. When that opportunity for faith comes into our heart, thoughts like “God surely wouldn’t be interested in you” or “Don’t make a scene” or “What would people think of you?” keep us from having faith. When you see an opportunity to change, there are all kinds of shouts from inside and around you that tell you not to rock the boat.

But God is asking you to do something greater than you’ve ever done before: He’s asking you to depend on him completely. Don’t you think that’s going to feel a little bit scary? Of course it is. And when God asks something of us, you and I have a choice. Are you going to fall back on your fear and stay the way that you are? Or are you going to tame your fear and step forward in faith?

Talk About It
o    Whose disapproval do you fear the most?
o    Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that” (MSG). Pray that God would help you receive his protection from what other people think by trusting in him.

A Secret Faith is a Shallow Faith

“Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man answered, ‘Teacher, I want to see.'” (Mark 10:51 NCV)

Go public with your goals in life! Announce your intention, the change you want to make in your life, what you’re asking God to do. Clarify what you really want, and then state it publicly. You need to tell everybody, because a secret faith is a shallow faith.

Mark 10:51 says, “Jesus asked him [Bartimaeus] ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man answered, ‘Teacher, I want to see'” (NCV).

Question: Why in the world did Jesus ask this? He walks over to a blind beggar who’s sitting on the ground by the road and asks, “What would you like me to do for you?” Didn’t he already know what the guy needed? Couldn’t he read his mind? Didn’t he know what the guy’s problem was? Absolutely. So why in the world would Jesus look at him and say, “What do you want me to do for you?”

He was doing it for Bartimaeus’ benefit. By asking that question, he allowed Bartimaeus to publicly announce his faith. Bartimaeus said, “I want you to heal me!” You don’t ask a guy to heal you unless you believe and have faith that he can do it. He’s saying that he believed Jesus was who he said he was, that Jesus had the power to change him, and that Jesus would do just that. It was a statement of faith.

Here’s the amazing thing. Jesus asks you the very same question right now: “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks it every day, every morning. If Jesus Christ were to come to you right now and ask that question, how would you answer? God wants to use you. He wants to bless you. He wants to do incredible things in your life. But you have to ask in faith.
Did you know that every time you set a goal, it is actually a statement of faith? There is one qualifier: When you set a goal and say, “I’m going to do ‘this’ with my life,” you need to add the phrase, “if it is God’s will,” because you don’t know the future.

You should also announce your goal publicly. The more people who know, the more support, encouragement, prayer, and accountability you’ll have. If you want to make a major change in your life and you keep it to yourself, that’s a sign of a pretty shallow faith.

Talk About It
The first way God wants you to announce your faith is to be baptized. Baptism is a public announcement of your faith in Jesus Christ and a symbol of a new life in Christ. What steps do you need to take to be obedient to Christ in baptism?
What goals are you going to set today that are a step of faith? In what way will you announce them publicly?

What Mistakes, Regrets Do You Need to Hand Over to God?

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight …” (Mark 10:52a NASB)
First, you seize the moment and recognize when God gives you an opportunity. Second, you move against your fears. Third, you announce your faith and the changes you want to make in your life. Then, you receive God’s grace.

Mark 10:52 says, “Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight …” (NASB) Bartimaeus seized the opportunity to cry out to Jesus when the Son of God walked by his mat. He publicly expressed his belief in who Jesus was and what he could do for him. Then, he accepted the grace of God that allowed him to see again.

Some of you are like the blind beggar, Bartimaeus – you’re carrying major conflict, disappointment, or grief on your shoulders. You’re lonely and feel that happiness has passed you by. You’re in a lot of pain.

Jesus Christ wants to give you a fresh start! You can’t earn it or work for it. You certainly don’t deserve it. You don’t buy it. You don’t do a bunch of religious rituals. You just receive the free gift of God’s grace and the ability to make a fresh start – regardless of your past or what you’ve done or the things you’ve brought on yourself.

Some of you say, “I’d like to change. I’d like a fresh start. I’d like to be different, but I just can’t.” And you’re right! You can’t change. If you could, you would have already done it. You need a power greater than yourself to make the changes that really make a difference in your life. You need God’s power: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

Have you tried asking God for help? Have you tried receiving God’s grace and letting him give you power that you don’t have on your own?

Bartimaeus was blind, but he had enough vision to see that Jesus Christ could help him out. He had enough vision to see that he needed grace. Do you? Do you realize how much grace you need in life, or do you just think you can go through life on your own?

Grace isn’t just for salvation; it’s for the daily mistakes of life. If you don’t have grace in your life, then you’re going to be filled with regret. When you’re filled with regret, you get stuck in the past. And if you’re stuck in the past, you can’t make a fresh start.

I don’t know what regrets you’re carrying, but I do know that the grace and forgiveness of God is available, and you can begin a fresh start. If you will seize this moment, if you will move against your fears, if you will announce in faith, “I need you, God,” then God’s grace will be available to you so that you can accomplish things beyond your imagination.

Talk About It
Sometimes you may think it’s easier to do something yourself than ask for help. What effect does this have on your physical and emotional health?

What mistakes or regrets do you need to hand over to God today?

Faith is More Than Believing: Take the Next Step

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.” (Mark 10:52 NASB)
I don’t know what step you need to take next, but I do know that you need to take it. For some of you, the next step is to accept Jesus Christ into your life. For others, it may be to be baptized. Maybe you need to join a church, get into a small group, tithe, find a ministry, go on a mission trip, or invite a friend to church. I don’t know what your next step is, but I do know this: You have one. God will never be finished taking you deeper in faith. There is always a next step.

If you don’t take the next step, you’re going to get stuck in a rut – and the only difference between a grave and a rut is the length. If you don’t move forward in faith, you will die. Your heart will grow cold, and you will feel more distant from God. He isn’t going to help you with step three, four, and five until you take step one. If you’re asking God to help you with something, he’s asking you, “Why haven’t you done what I’ve already told you to do?” You may have “been aiming to” do something. Stop aiming and pull the trigger.

Before Bartimaeus met Jesus, he was sitting beside the road. After he received his sight from the Lord, he “began following Jesus on the road” (Mark 10:52b NASB). Which of those two phrases describes your life: sitting beside the road or following Jesus on the road? Which of those two lifestyles do you think is more fulfilling? Which do you think has more joy, more meaning, and more satisfaction? Which one do you want to represent your life?

There’s only one way to follow Jesus on the road: Take the next step.

Faith is more than believing. Faith is more than thinking, talking, or having convictions about Jesus. Faith is action. It is movement; it is activity. Faith is something you do. In fact, the Bible says in James 2:14, “If people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing” (NCV).

Where do you get the faith to begin a fresh start? There’s only one source: Jesus Christ.

“Everything that we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30 MSG). Bartimaeus had no idea that Jesus Christ was going to pass his way that day. To him, it was just another day. But God gave him an unexpected opportunity that offered him a fresh start. God is giving you the same opportunity. Don’t blow it. Take your next step of faith before the opportunity passes you by.

Talk About It
o    What are you waiting on in order to take the next step of faith in your life? What’s your excuse for procrastinating?
o    What “next step” will you take today to move forward in faith?

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life.” His book, “The Purpose Driven Church,” was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

This devotional (c)2012 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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A Lamp For My Feet – W224 – Live Relaxed in God’s Grace

Live Relaxed in God’s Grace
by Rick Warren
“As a father is kind to his children, so the Lord is kind to those who honor him. He knows what we are made of; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14 GN)

God understands you completely. He’s fully aware of your humanity. He knows your faults, fears, failures, and frustrations. He doesn’t expect you to be Superman or Superwoman.

If you’re a parent, do you love your children at every stage of their development, or are you waiting until they’re mature to love them?

The point is, God loves you at every stage of your development, so you don’t have to have unresolved guilt and unrealistic expectations. Listen:

  •     There is nothing you will ever do that will make God love you more than he does right now.
  •     There is nothing you will ever do that will make God love you less than he does right now.

    God’s love is unconditional. It’s not based on what you do or don’t do.
    I like to think of it like this: I have three kids. All of them had to learn to walk, and all three of them went through the same process: They’d take a step; they’d stumble. They’d get up, take two steps, then stumble. They’d get up and take a couple steps and fall again.

    As their father, what was my reaction? Did I scold them? “What are you doing stumbling? You’re a Warren. Warrens don’t stumble! You can do better than that.” Of course not! How silly! But a lot of us think that’s how God treats us. We think that every time we stumble, God says, “Get up! What are you doing, you dummy?”

    The Bible teaches us that, “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 TEV). What does that mean? Let’s say I take a card and write every single thing I’ve ever done wrong on it — all my sins, faults, mistakes, all the skeletons in my closet, all the shameful acts and thoughts and memories and temptations. Then I put the card in a book and close it. You can’t see the card anymore; you can only see the book. That’s the way God sees us when Jesus is in our lives. He no longer sees our sin; he sees Jesus at work in our lives.

    When you come to Christ and say, “God, here’s my life. Everything I’ve ever done wrong, every time I’ve ever made a mistake, all those stupid things I’ve done. I want to put my life in Jesus Christ,” Jesus wraps you with his love. God looks at Jesus and sees that Jesus is perfect; he doesn’t see your sin. That’s what it means to relax in God’s grace.

    Talk About It

  •     If God doesn’t see your sin anymore, what do you need to let go of so that you are also not focused on your sin?
  •     What more could you do for God if you were able to relax in his grace?

    Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life.” His book, “The Purpose Driven Church,” was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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A Lamp For My Feet – W218 – Have You Lost Your Focus?

Have You Lost Your Focus?
‘…He prayed that he might die’ 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV

Sometimes after ‘giving it your all’, you can end up totally drained. Look at Elijah. God used him on Mt. Carmel to call down fire from Heaven on the prophets of Baal. Yet he fell apart under Jezebel’s threats. Fleeing for his life, he ‘…sat down under a broom tree… and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life…”‘ The moment his focus changed from God to the enemy, he became overwhelmed. So God spoke to him again. This time it wasn’t in a spectacular display. Instead, He spoke in a ‘…still small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12 NKJV), drawing him aside to rest and spend time with God. The next time the nation saw Elijah he was spiritually on top again.

So answer this: has your focus shifted from God to all the ‘stuff you have to do’? If so, you need time out, time alone with God. When He calls you aside to rest, do it! Vic Pentz says, ‘Nothing fails quite so totally, as success without God.’ The two-fold danger in the aftermath of any success is: First, spending too much time listening to the accolades of others.

Secondly, presuming you have what it takes to succeed on your own. As a result you disconnect from God, who is the source of your strength. David said, ‘…The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1). Fearlessness is foolishness, unless it’s based on faith in God. And one more thought: God sent Elisha to assist Elijah, and He can send the right person to help you too. He knows what to do to get you moving again.

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A Lamp For My Feet – W217 – Seek Reconciliation

Seek Reconciliation

‘…Go and be reconciled’ Matthew 5:24 NIV

Sometimes the only way to get over your hurt feelings is to seek reconciliation. And if you are willing, God will help you do it. Dinah Craik wrote: ‘Oh…the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.’

A college professor who was teaching on the high cost of unforgiveness asked each of her students to bring a sack of potatoes to class. For each person they refused to forgive, they had to select a potato and write the date on it beside that person’s name. Then for a month, without fail, they had to carry that sack of potatoes with them everywhere they went. After lugging those sacks around for a while each student began to recognise how much weight they were carrying; the amount of energy it took to focus on their bag; and that they had to be careful not to leave it in the wrong place. Eventually, as the potatoes began to rot and stink, they realised that getting rid of them was the only smart thing to do.

Jesus said, ‘…If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not…’ (John 20:23 NIV) What happens to them? Good question! How would you like God to forgive you in the same way you forgive others? If that thought makes you uncomfortable, do something about it!

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Don’t Drown Out Jesus This Christmas

Don’t Drown Out Jesus This Christmas

by Rick Warren

“Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42 NLT)

 

You and I love to overcrowd our lives. We overbook, overspend, overestimate, and we often walk around tired all the time. As a result, God’s truth often doesn’t get the chance to blossom in our lives.

 

Too often God teaches you a kernel of truth — maybe through your morning Bible study or a Sunday sermon — and you think you need to do something about it, but almost immediately it’s crowded out of your life and forgotten.

 

The truth isn’t crowded out of your life because of evil. Often, good things in our lives crowd out the truth that God wants to plant in us. To fulfill God’s destiny for your life, you likely don’t have to do more; you have to do less.

 

Take Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha for example. One day they invited Jesus over for dinner. Mary spent her evening listening to Jesus. Martha, on the other hand, was busy being a hostess and worrying about the hors d’oeuvres and whether everything was in its place.

 

Martha got upset that she had to do all the work while her sister got to sit with Jesus. That’s when Jesus said to her: “Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41b-42 NLT).

 

When your life is over, only one thing will really matter: Did you get to know the Son of God? The extra Christmas presents you were able to buy because of your long hours at the office won’t matter. All the time you spent preparing the perfect holiday meal won’t matter either. But whether you spent your time getting to know Jesus will matter for ages and ages to come.

 

So enjoy the Christmas season. Wrap the presents. Prepare your home in a festive way. Make memories with your family. But don’t let this Christmas pass without spending some time at Jesus’ feet. Long after everything else fades from this Christmas, worshiping Jesus is all that will truly last.

 

Talk It Over

What are some areas of your life you’ve let compete with your relationship with God?

Why do you think we often drift away from Mary’s devotion and toward Martha’s over-insistence on inconsequential activity?

How can you build time into your Christmas schedule to spend with Jesus?

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A Lamp For My feet – W216 – An invitation from a reasonable God

An invitation from a reasonable God
Xanthe Galanis

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.”  Isaiah 1:18

The more I read the Bible and study God’s Word, the more I find that the Lord is constantly calling and inviting mankind to come to him, despite our hypocrisy and disobedience! And of all the wonderful things that God is, he is reasonable.

If the first part of Isaiah 1 sounded like a prosecutor stating his case, this part sounds more like a lawyer negotiating an out-of-court settlement. This is not a call to trial or a call to judgment. It’s a call to Israel to open their hearts and listen. God is calling a meeting with Israel, not to establish guilt, but to arrange pardon. He isn’t asking for compensation or for retribution for their past, he’s simply asking them to obey.

God desires to reason with his people. More than that, God desires to restore his people and to give them the best. He does not simply command Israel or demand that they obey him, he leaves the decision with them. And today, he leaves the same decision with you.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your forgiveness and grace, even though I don’t deserve it. Thank You for reasoning with me, forgiving me and restoring me. Amen

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