Tag Archive: spirituality


July 29, 2013
Taming the Tongue
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Friend to Friend

It had been one of “those” mornings and I was behind schedule in preparing to teach the women’s Tuesday morning Bible study at our church. I am fairly certain I did not exude peace and joy as I rushed around – as my Mama would say – like a chicken with its head cut off. The auditorium was set up correctly. The soundman had my power point ready to go and was waiting to do a sound check. The coffee pot was plugged in and doing its thing. Smiling ladies gathered to greet the Bible study members as they arrived. I paused and breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like everything was ready – everything except my heart.

I knew I needed to spend some time alone with God before standing to teach His Word, so I found a quiet room where I could escape for a few minutes of solitude. As I began to pray, the door flew open and crashed against the wall behind it as the husband of one of our group leaders burst into the room. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not happy and that whatever was wrong was definitely my fault. In a very loud and very angry voice, the man began to explain the problem, ending his tirade with the question, “And just what are you going to do about it?”

Sidebar: Guess what lesson I was teaching that particular morning. Remember, God definitely has a sense of humor. The lesson title was “How to Tame Your Tongue.”

I knew what I wanted to say to the man. I also knew God didn’t want me to say it. In a rare moment of wisdom, I faced my accuser with a smile and whispered, “I’ll tell you exactly what I am going to do. I am going to do whatever it takes to make you happy.”

I was completely unprepared for the man’s reaction. His mouth fell open, his eyes widened in surprise – no, make that shock – and he stumbled backwards as if I had hit him. The silence was deafening. We stared at each other for what seemed like an hour before he finally whispered back, “Thank you!” Without another word, the man turned and literally ran out of the room. The most amazing part of this story is that from that day on, he has been one of my strongest encouragers.

The Bible works, girlfriend! When God says that a gentle answer “deflects” anger, He really means it. In this verse, “deflect” means “to change course” or “to force the alteration of plans.” When anger is met with love, it is forced to change its destructive course. The plans of the enemy are altered when they are forced to comply with God’s truth. A sweet response yanks the fuse right out of an emotional time bomb that is set and ready to explode. We need to choose our responses instead of allowing our reactions to dictate the words we speak.

Godly responses begin in the mind. I believe that our thought life is the front line of battle for the control of our entire life. Psalm 34:13 warns, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” The word “keep” indicates action on our part. We decide. We choose what is allowed to take up room in our minds. It is literally the idea of a guard standing at the gate of the city, stationed there to keep watch. He is there by invitation only. If we want to live right and speak right – we must think right.

Godly responses come from the heart. If there is something wrong with our words, then there is something wrong with our heart. The truth of Proverbs 16:23 is profound in its simplicity, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth.”

A judge utters a few words and a guilty man is taken to death row.

A friend speaks a word of encouragement and a desperate heart finds hope.

A mother lashes out with angry words and the light in her child’s eyes is gone.

A wife offers a word of forgiveness and a marriage is restored.

A gossip makes a phone call and a reputation is destroyed.

A teenager says “no” and changes the course of her life.

Words are powerful. Words can destroy or build. We need to make the choice today – to respond in the right way to those angry words that are surely headed our way tomorrow.

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July 15, 2013
Ask and You Will Receive
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I have always loved giving gifts to my children – all kinds of gifts including hugs, kisses, time, and love – as well as material things like toys, books, and clothes. When the kids were young we didn’t have much money, so the gifts were small, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. I often scrimped and saved in order to buy a certain item for a birthday or for Christmas, and loved every minute of it.

Dan and I now have five grandchildren and I am in so much trouble! I want to give them everything! I know I need to give them the important things such as love, time and training in the ways of God, but I find myself in the same situation I was in when our son and daughter were babies – little money but a big desire to give.

I once took our daughter-in-law shopping for Jaydan and Lelia, our five-year-old twins. I had a list of items I wanted to purchase but was disappointed when I found only half of the items on the list. However, it was getting late, and the babies began to “tell” us that they were ready for dinner and bedtime. We checked out, loaded the babies into the car, and headed home.

When Jodi leaned over to kiss my cheek and thank me for the gifts, I looked at her and said, “You are so welcome, honey, but it’s not enough!” Jodi chuckled, but I was serious! “No, you don’t understand,” I continued.  “We have to go shopping again because I haven’t given the babies enough and my heart is not excited enough yet!” I know. I am totally ruined, but I am going to try very hard not to ruin Jaydan and Lelia. (The projected success rate does not look good right now, but I promise to work on it.)

On the way home, I began to analyze my words and my heart. I fully realize that material things won’t satisfy the deepest needs of our grandchildren. I am also committed to investing time in their lives to help them find Jesus Christ and discover His plan for their lives. Honestly, I don’t really know how to explain what I feel for our grandchildren, but it is sort of like watching my heart walk around on the outside of my body. I know I can love them in so many ways…and I do…and I will…but I always want to give them more.

Our Father has the same heart – a giving heart – when it comes to giving His children good things. The problem is that we don’t really believe that truth. We tend to measure His love and benevolent heart of giving by how much we have done or accomplished, or even by what we haven’t done and promise not to do.

We are missing the truth that God’s love simply cannot be measured. God doesn’t love us because we are so lovable. God loves us because He is love.

One of the most tragic results of our unbelief is an ineffective prayer life. We pray, not really believing that God wants to or really will answer those prayers. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 7:7-11.

Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”

Jesus is teaching about prayer and about the very nature of God. He relates it to something we all can understand, the child-parent relationship. The son has been out in the fields working all day long and by the time he comes home, he is starving. His family is seated at the dinner table as dishes of steaming, delicious food are being passed around. I can almost see that tired and hungry boy’s eyes zeroing in on the food, salivating in anticipation of the meal before him. Then imagine that the father, seeing the hunger of his child, picks up a rock, tosses it to his son and says, “Here! Eat this!” Jesus is driving home the truth that good fathers want to give their kids good gifts. Now if this is true of earthly parents (and grandparents), imagine what our Heavenly Parent wants to give us – if only we would ask.

No one’s voice sounds sweeter to God than your voice, girlfriend. Nothing in the universe could keep Him from giving you His full attention when you pray. In fact, He longs to hear your prayer. In Psalm 34:8, the psalmist invites us to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” In this verse, “Lord” means “Jehovah, Abba Father.” In other words, your Abba Father, Dearest Daddy, is inviting you to come to Him in childlike faith, with a hungry heart so He can fill it with the gifts of peace, contentment and a satisfied spirit.

Don’t think you have to figure out a way to steal a blessing from God. Don’t believe you have to trick Him into giving up what He would rather keep for Himself. It is God’s very nature to give to His children. He has made all of His resources available to you. Do not doubt for a moment that He is a giving God with a heart that longs to bless, to encourage, to empower and to love you. God is not only able to answer your prayer, but God wants to answer your prayer. Ask and you will receive.

December 20, 2012
Long Walk Part of Gift
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NIV).

Friend to Friend
An African boy listened carefully as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas day. “The gift is an expression of our joy over the birth of Jesus and our friendship for each other,” she said.

When Christmas day came, the boy brought to the teacher a seashell of lustrous beauty. “Where did you ever find such a beautiful shell?” the teacher asked as she gently fingered the gift.

The youth told her that there was only one spot where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was left speechless.

“Why…why, it’s gorgeous…wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”

His eyes brightening, the boy answered, “Long walk part of gift.”

I just love that story. During this holiday season, I watch as people scurry about swiping those plastic cards through the credit card machines faster than a speeding bullet. And yet, God has already shown us that the most precious gifts cannot be bought or sold. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

The magi also knew about the joy of giving. While they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child, they also gave another gift…a long walk. We don’t know how far the magi traveled, but we do know that it was a distance that took months, perhaps years. Their long walk was part of the gift.

I wonder how far we are willing to go to worship Jesus…to bring our gifts to him. I wonder how far out of the way we will go to praise him. Do we only give to Him when it is convenient or easy? Or do we give what He wants most – a portion of ourselves, our very lives.

I think the little African boy had the right idea. The real gift wasn’t the shell; it was the sacrifice he had to make to give it.

Let’s Pray
Dear God, thank You for the gift You gave us through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray that I will keep gift-giving in perspective this holiday season and give gifts from the heart rather than the pocketbook.  Help me to see that a “long walk,” or a portion of myself, is the greatest gift of all.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

I Will Wait 4U2!

I Will Wait Too

What was I thinking when I stepped from under the covering of His will;

Seeking my own self will under the guise of keeping it real?

Woman after woman, I went through all the while looking for you,

But each encounter left me empty and dead because my life lacked truth.

One woman had your eyes, yet, your transformational power she lacked;

One had your curvaceous hips, but she fell short of your intellect.

There was the one out west, that presented the silhouette of a woman of God,

But she wasn’t you either, her heart not hidden in Christ and purity not kept before the Lord.

Finally the storm shook the core of my being and shifting my paradigm,

I now see through a different lens that you will come to me in God’s time.

So, I will wait for you too!

I will no longer be willing to settle for any impersonator, real shallow but pretending to be greater.

No, I will not receive Delilah as my truth, I will wait on God to deliver me Ruth,

I will wait on you because you will cover my vulnerability with a gentle strength;

I will now recognize you although the shadows have you hid, because a closer look will reveal that you bear my missing rib.

That symbol of my vulnerability that only that one whose heart is hidden in Christ has the power to seal.

You know my weaknesses, but instead of exploiting them, you come along and affirm my identity.

It’s the Christ in you that allows you to see through my weakness and acknowledge my ability.

You understand that even a strong man grows weary in the battle,

So you come and settle my spirit when I become frustrated and embattled.

For me, you are the symbol of God’s truth, this is why I will wait for you too.

This heart I have to cover is for you and you alone,

Trusting it to someone else was foolish; no wonder my house was never a home!

I will wait on you, because you will expect me to caress your soul before I ever touch your body, knowing that something unique is being cultivated.

You will not want a moment of selfish pleasure to rob of us of the forever that God has created.

Before time began, God loved me, and he proved it best at Calvary, but to solidify the point he designed you for just for me.

A beautiful expression of love divine, intertwined in your smile and inextricably bound to your gait. No wonder my heart now demands that I wait.

No, I will no longer be impressed by poor impressions of you, with no depth and no follow through,

I will not be pulled in by the cunning and subtle misrepresentations of truth.

I will wait for you too!

I will wait for the one that has the virtue of Ruth and the wisdom of Naomi, A woman whose heart searches my very being and understands me because she was designed by God to know me.

I will wait for that woman that has the insight of Rehab and the honor of Hanah, the boldness of Deborah and the patience of Sarah.

I will wait for the one who has the regal presence of Esther, designed to be the king’s queen and equipped to be all that the king needs.

I will wait for that one that has the generous spirit of Abigail, the praying spirit of Priscilla and the audacity of Jael.

Yes my queen, I will wait for you too. I will wait to honor you and all that you are. I will wait to cover you in mind, in spirit, and heart.

My heart senses your presence nearby, our spirits being drawn together by the one on high.

If you are not here by tomorrow or even next week, do not become frenetic or unglued, you see my love, no hurry, I will wait for you too!

~ Dr. Rick Wallace

Lord Heal

Lord, there is someone hurting today. Someone has been left to bear a most pressing burden on their own; lift that burden and give them rest. Someone has been seized by the unbearable pain of abandonment; hold them in your arms and caress away the hurt. Someone is perplexed by the enigmatic conundrums that seem to plague their lives; simply this moment so that they can exhale.

Lord, somebody is at the point of giving up, shine a light into their darkness so that they may see that they are standing on the edge of a breakthrough. Lord someone has been convinced that their life is not worth living, reveal the cross so they will see that you thought so much of their life that you gave yours to save it. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace

Taking a Leap of Faith
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
“I can do everything through him (Jesus) who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

Friend to Friend
Several years ago, on a trip to Kauai, my husband and our friends, Larry and Cynthia Price, decided to go on a zip line through the jungle. After being jostled and tossed like ragdolls in the back of a retired army jeep, we finally made it to the top of the mountain from which we were going to zip down—risking life and limb I might add.

I hopped out of the jeep and eyed the cable suspended high above the valley below. After watching Cynthia fly through the trees, I climbed up onto a wooden platform and surrendered to Jack, a jovial, burly Hawaiian, who strapped me into a harness and placed a helmet on my head. With a simple click of a metal buckle, he attached my harnessed body onto a seemingly flimsy steel cable. As I stood on the edge of the platform eyeing the disappearing earth below my feet, I had a choice. I could say, “no thanks” and ask to be released from the cable, or I could jump.

I chose to jump. My body flew over the treetops and the stunningly beautiful gorge. I was Tarzan’s Jane and this was my jungle. Airborne. Exhilarating. Risky.

Jacob was with us that day. He was a stranger among our little band of adventurers. Jacob was alone. No friends. No spouse. No family.

“Jacob, what brings you up to this mountain today?” I asked.

“I’m afraid of heights,” he answered.

I then noticed the thin line of perspiration beading over his upper lip. The slight tremble in his voice. The mechanical one-foot-in-front-of-the-other halted gait up the hill.

“You’re afraid of heights?” I asked. “Then why are you here?”

“I’m going to conquer it today,” he determinedly answered.

I was struck. We were here to have fun. He was here for a totally different reason. When Jacob stood on that platform, I prayed for my new friend. For Jacob this was not just a joy ride…or just maybe it was.

I’m not saying that God told Jacob to go to the top of a mountain, attach his body to a flimsy cable, and fly over the gorge at the risk of life and limb. But I am saying that obedience often requires a leap of faith. Too often we say yes to God, but live the no because of fear. We stand at the precipice of belief and a decision has to be made. Am I going to trust God or not? Am I going to attach my heart to the cable of His love and take a leap of faith, or am I going to freeze in fear because I don’t trust that He has my best interest in mind? Am I going to settle for safety and miss the thrill of seeing God work through me?

As we live and move and have our being in Jesus, God will take us to some amazing places. And there will always be a choice. Will we jump headlong into the adventurous journey of His perfect plan, or will we hang back for lack of faith? Jacob stood on the platform, took a deep breath, and jumped. He flew over the treetops, careened over the river, and landed safely on the other side of his greatest fear.

We clapped and cheered. Jacob took a bow. God smiled.

In Him we live and move and have our being…and sometimes we soar.

Let’s Pray
Lord, sometimes I’m just flat out afraid. Afraid I’ll fail. Afraid I’ll be rejected. Afraid I won’t be good enough. Lord, forgive me for all those “I’s.” Forgive me for focusing on my weaknesses rather than Your strength. Today, I’m believing that I can do all things that You call me to do because I know that You will give me the strength I need.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

November 9, 2012
It’s Time to Do Something!
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another – (1 John 4:11, NIV).

Friend to Friend
I could not tear my eyes away from the television screen as the 33 miners began to emerge from the depths of what could have been their mass grave. The men had been trapped for more than two months in the collapsed Chilean copper mines nearly half a mile underground. Everything I have read or heard about the tragedy is extraordinary.

The miners survived the early days by rationing food and working together as a team. Each man was assigned a job, one of which was to maintain peace and harmony until they were rescued. The selfless mining supervisor who insisted on being the last to leave his underground prison showed the world what it really means to put others first. I was amazed at the selflessness of the rescue worker who became the initial guinea pig for the rescue capsule and then chose to stay behind – alone – while the world celebrated above.

I wonder how long it will take us to forget. How long will we remember that the world came together to save a group of strangers? Will the powerful lessons of their rescue make any difference in the way we treat each other?

We all know what it is like to be trapped in a pit of some kind. It is probably not a collapsed mine, but pits are all basically the same.

Our world has collapsed under the weight of fear and pain.
No one seems to care. In fact, a lot of people have written us off as a lost cause.
People are too busy to recognize or understand our hopelessness.
Darkness prevails and rescue seems impossible.
We are wounded, sick and tired.
Civil war rages in our soul as we struggle to obey God instead of giving in to sin.

I truly believe that every day is filled with divine appointments – opportunities to rescue people who are trapped in some kind of pit. We miss the emptiness reflected in the eyes of the sales clerk or we simply choose to ignore the homeless man begging for money so he can buy food. After all, we are in a hurry and have more important things to do. The sales clerk would probably be embarrassed if I said anything and that homeless man would probably just use the money I gave him for drugs or alcohol.

The ringing phone is someone in need, but we don’t care enough to answer. Our neighbor does not know God, but her life is a mess and we really don’t want to get involved. Instead of taking action and doing what we know God wants us to do, we decide it is enough to pray for that neighbor and leave the messy part of God’s work to someone else.

I am so guilty of walking away from someone in need instead of running to their rescue. I am in pain, too, and my pain is more important than theirs. I may not actually say those words, but I don’t have to. My actions are blatant illustrations of my own egotism and self-absorption.

I do not want to be like the priest who nonchalantly strolled by the wounded and bleeding man lying on the road. I want to be like the Good Samaritan who stopped and saved the wounded man’s life. I want to be “God with skin on.”

A tired father came home from work, grabbed his newspaper, and settled into his favorite chair with a sigh of relief. All he wanted was a little peace and quiet. All that his young son wanted was his daddy. The little boy raced into the room and asked, “Dad, can I get you something to drink?” The man lowered his newspaper, smiled and replied, “No, thanks. I’m not thirsty. I just want to read the paper.” He then raised his newspaper and resumed reading. The little boy thought for a moment and then said a little louder, “Dad, can I get you something to eat?” The slightly exasperated father lowered his paper and said, “No, Son. I just want to read the paper!” As the father resumed his reading, the little boy tried again. “Dad, can I get you … “, but before the little boy could finish his question, the now irritated father lowered his paper and demanded, “What is it that you want, Son?” The little boy sighed and gazed into his father’s eyes as he explained, “I don’t want anything, Dad. I just love you so much that I have to do something about it.”

One day, just as rescue workers descended into that Chilean mine, Jesus Christ will descend into this broken world and rescue us from the pit of human frailty. Until then, let’s be His hands and feet. Let’s love Him so much that we just have to do something about it.

Let’s Pray
Father, I come to You today with a heart of praise for the way You meet every need in my life and for how You constantly rescue me from the darkness. I want Your heart, Lord. I want to be Your hands and feet to the people You place in my path. Give me eyes to see their need and the courage to do something about it. Please guard my heart against pride and selfishness. I want to please and honor You alone. In Jesus’s

 

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November 6, 2012
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
I [Jesus] came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows),” (John 10:10 Amplified Bible).

Friend to Friend
C.S. Lewis says that most Christians lack “merriment.”  I like that word. “Merriment.” Just moving the words across my lips is fun. And I think Lewis is right. We lack merriment and we don’t expect it. Many Christians look like they’ve been weaned on a dill pickle. My goodness, if there is anyone who should exude merriment, it is a person who knows Jesus as Savior and Lord. We, above all people, have something to be merry about!

What God desires, not from you but for you, is life to the full (John 10:10). There’s nothing ho-hum about that. I read Jesus’ words in John 10:10 and I am famished for glory moments of life to the full. I want to see God, to experience His presence as I live and move and have my being in Him.

John wrote, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). He didn’t simply use the word given, but lavished. Webster defines lavish this way: “given or provided with great generosity and abundance, to bestow with large generosity, profusion, a downpour.” Ponder those words separately.

Lavished.
Provided with great generosity.
Abundance.
Bestow with large generosity.
Profusion.
Downpour.

Do these words reflect your expectations in your relationship with Jesus? C.S. Lewis said it well:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”(C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperCollins, 1949,1976,revised 1980), 26.)

The first statement in the Shorter Catechism of Westminster Confession of 1646  states that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Enjoy Him! To enjoy God is to glorify Him. Just as He takes delight in you, He longs for you to take delight in Him. You simply can’t separate the two.

Are you enjoying God? As you live and move and have your being in Him, is there a smile on your face and a skip in your step? Do you expect the rich adventurous faith-filled life that you read about in the Bible? Do you expect to experience God’s glory today? If not, perhaps you need to raise your expectations of what your relationship with Jesus can be.

Once we’ve tasted the sweetness of His fruit, to settle for anything less than the bountiful orchard of His blessings will always disappoint. Oh yes, there are heavy-laden branches filled with low hanging fruit just waiting to be picked. If only we would reach up high enough, raise our expectations, and pluck them from the tree.

Let’s Pray
Jesus, forgive me for acting like I’m doing You a favor for following You. I know that you came to give me life to the full. Help me to stop walking around like I have life to the half-full. Today, I’m going to laugh, to smile, to enjoy being in Your presence. I am going to keep my eyes open for moments of sudden glory as You make Your presence known to me!
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

November 5, 2012
Be My Portion, Part 2
Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him” – (Lamentations 3:24, ESV).

Friend to Friend
I sometimes run to God as if He’s a celestial Wal-Mart purposed to satisfy my every want. Change my family. Fix my job problem, God. Do it my way! Instead of leaning in to hear the whispered will of the Lord, I selfishly shout my will, my desires and my demands. Lord, give me relief from life-pressures instead of giving me strength to endure them. When I’m desperate to fill my mega-sized heart-cart with things that I want, I rob myself of what really matters: the pursuit of God and the blessings found in Him alone.

The truth is that even those of us who are Jesus-girls, you know… good Christian women who strive each day to live for Christ… continually sin and wallow in the shallow, unsatisfying waters of discontentment. We tell God what we’d like Him to do for us so we can be happy and then expect Him to intervene in ways that suit us. We blur the lines between our wants and our needs – between our plans and God’s plans.

In part one of this devotion, we were reminded to rest in God. We looked at His care of the sparrows, considered that God loves us even more than he does the birds of the air, and were challenged not to worry. Today, we focus on prioritizing God above all else. Matthew 6:33 instructs us to seek God first: to look to Him as our Ultimate. Our Portion. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

David modeled this beautifully when he called out to God in the midst of trouble and recognized Him as being enough. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5). In Psalm 119, the psalmist recognizes God as his portion and takes the moment of surrender a step further by tethering his satisfaction with obedience. You are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have soughtyour face with all my heart; be gracious to meaccording to your promise (Psalm 119:57-58).

Life is unpredictable. There will always be days that we want to yell, C’mon, God! Throw me a bone here! I could use a little help, please! It is not a bad thing to call to God in the midst of our struggles. In fact, we should! We must! The big game changer, however, is not God’s presents – but His presence. Refuge from our circumstances and contentment in the midst of them is found in the center of our surrender.

So what’s the connection point between our longings and His provision? Perhaps the better question is not what but who? The late pastor and theologian Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “It is not ‘The Lord is partly my portion,’ nor ‘The Lord is in my portion’; but He Himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance. Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is my portion. Not His grace merely, nor His love, nor His covenant, but Yahweh himself.”[i]

Once again, Spurgeon hits the nail on the head. We are distracted cravers when we expect our people, places and things to fill our hearts as only God can. God loves us so much. Why do we forget this all the time? His plan is perfect and we can trust Him. He knows our needs and desires. When we seek Him as the answer instead of for the answer, God enables us to rest in confidence that He’s working on our behalf and in our best interest, to bring glory to Himself through our lives.

Set your list of wants aside today and seek God. Go before Him with a heart of worship and adoration. Get lost in His presence. Remember His mercy. Relish His grace. Love Him. Seek Him. Choose Him as your Portion.

Let’s Pray
Dear Lord, Please be my Portion. Forgive me for the times when I seek Your blessings before I seek Your heart. You are all I need. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

November 1, 2012
Raising Your Expectations
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” (John 10:10 NIV).

Friend to Friend
When I was in my early twenties, I did not have great expectations for what my marriage would be like, if I ever walked the aisle at all. My parents had a tumultuous relationship from my earliest remembrance. Cycles of heated arguments and physical violence followed by silence and passive aggression were as predictable as the seasons. The atmosphere in our home was tense. It was as if I lived on an earthquake fault line, never knowing when the “big one” was going to hit. There were many “big ones.”

I became a Christian when I was fourteen and resolved that if I ever got married, it would be to a man who loved Jesus with all his heart. Through the years, I dated many Christian young men. In my young mind, most of them were not very much fun.

So I had a conversation with God that went something like this: “OK God, if I ever get married, it will be to a Christian man. I’m committed to that. I won’t give a guy a second glance unless he is a man who loves You with all his heart. It is not enough for him to say that he is a Christian. I want to see it in the way he lives his life, the way he uses his words, and the way he relates to other people. I’m going to pay attention to what he laughs at, what he watches on television, and how he handles anger. I know what I’m asking here. I know what I’m getting into. I realize that I most likely won’t feel very passionate about this guy. I know that my life will probably be rather dull, boring, and lackluster. But that’s OK. I’m holding out for a Christian man, no matter how humdrum and ho-hum he may be. If I like him pretty well, that’s enough for me.”

Oh my goodness! Talk about low expectations! I’m sure God got a big kick out of my request.

Here’s what happened several years after that “prayer.”  When I was twenty-two, I returned to college to further my education. A young man from my hometown had a Bible study at his apartment and invited me to attend.  When I walked in, I saw a young dental student sitting cross-legged on the floor and leaning up against the wall. His dark chocolate eyes looked up at me as he said, “Hi.” I melted in a puddle.

After a few weeks, Steve finally asked me out on a date. But the venue of our rendezvous confirmed what I had expected all along.

“There is a missionary from Jackson, Mississippi speaking over at Murphy Hall,” he explained. “I’d like to go hear him. Would you like to go with me?”

Well that certainly lined up with my expectations! Steve was handsome; no doubt about that. He was a Christian, that was for sure. But going to hear a missionary on our first date? He was going to be boring after all. But hey, what did I expect? (Now remember, I was young. I love missionaries! I am one! Just keeping it real.)

When he came to pick me up for our date, I wasn’t quite ready. My apartment mate welcomed him and directed him to the sofa to wait. While he perused the scattered magazines on the coffee table, some of my favorite music played on the stereo. In the South, we call it beach music. It’s a type of 60s R&B Motown music.

When I finally emerged from my primping, Steve looked up and asked, “Do you like that kind of music?”

“Sure do,” I replied. (I must say I said it with an attitude of “and you gotta problem with that?”)

“I do too,” Steve said. “I have an entire collection. Do you know how to Shag (a traditional Southern dance similar to a slow version of the Swing)?

I think I heard God laugh.

“I’ve been dancing the Shag since I was in the fifth grade,” I said.

“Let’s see if we do it the same way,” he said as he grabbed my hand.

For twenty minutes, we separated and came together as if we had been dancing together all our lives. He held my hand up and I spun under. He pulled me in and then rolled me out like a scroll. His shuffle kick mirrored my own.

You know what? We did go and hear the missionary on that crisp fall night in 1979. And afterwards, we went to a favorite college hangout on the Campus of UNC the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and danced until the doors closed. We had fun, and we haven’t stopped having fun yet. We have grown in God’s grace, and we’ve graced the dance floor. Steve is the mostfunnest guy I have ever known, and he loves the Lord with all his heart. And to think I actually was ready to settle for a just a nice Christian guy. God exceeded my expectations beyond all I ever could have asked or imagined.

But this isn’t just about my love story with Steve. It is about my love story with Jesus. It is about yours too. And like my silly twenty-something prayer for a mediocre-but-nice husband, I fear we have lowered our expectations in our relationship with God. He longs for an intimacy with us that ushers in a deep abiding joy, but I’m afraid we’ve settled for simply nice.

Are you ready to raise your expectations in your relationship with Jesus? Oh sister, He got so much to show you, to tell you, to share with you. Don’t settle for “just nice.” Jesus is much more exciting than that!

Let’s Pray
Dear Jesus, forgive me for having such low expectations in our relationship. I know that You came to give me abundant life, not a so-so life. Today, I’m raising my expectations of life to line up with Your word. I’m expecting the abundant life that  You came to give!
In Your Name,
Amen

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