Archive: April, 2010

Is He Your Refuge? by Heidi Avery

Question for your week: Is He Your Refuge?

Verse of your week: “Taste and see the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

Application for your week: The word refuge means to trust, to put hope in, to make a refuge. A refuge is a place of safety, protection from danger. When I was a kid my grandparents would drive from Iowa to Texas to visit us in the summer. We anticipated their visit and couldn’t wait for them to arrive. When it was time for them to go home my mom would pack us up and we’d go back to Iowa with them and our parents would come to get us weeks later. We did this nearly every summer and it was something we all looked forward to. I don’t remember a lot of things from my childhood, but I do remember that I loved my grandparents. My grandmother would rock me in her beautiful, creaking, wooden rocking chair and I always felt so completely embraced and safe. I would sit in my grandfather’s lap and watch him draw funny pictures and we’d just laugh. I even remember the musty smell of their old basement with the rickety stairs. I loved that smell and the sound of those stairs when we walked down them. Their home was a safe haven for me. It was easy to put my trust in them, they spent time with me, and they loved me. I tasted their love for me and I saw their protection over me and I gladly took refuge in them.

Sadly, one year while we were visiting our grandparents our home in Texas burned down. Our parents drove out to get us as usual, but we came home to nothing. The circumstances surrounding our house burning down led to a court case and no insurance money. My father made the decision to put us in two travel trailers right on the property of our burned home. We literally opened our doors to the black burnt smelling structure that still contained all of our precious possessions. That home was once a refuge for me too. Those trailers were not. My parents shared a trailer and my sister and I shared a separate one. It didn’t feel safe and I was always scared when they locked us in at night. It wasn’t camping and it wasn’t fun. This was a difficult time for us all and I remember very little of our time there.

Our summer visits from my grandparents happened less and less and our trips back home with them eventually ended too. My grandfather died years later and though my grandmother still lives I’ve only seen her a handful of times over the years. Before my house burned down I thought we had everything a little girl could ever want, after I knew we had nothing. It’s like that, when we make our refuge a thing that surely will pass away, isn’t it?

Houses burn, people die, families break up, life happens and whenever we make our refuge a thing of this world it’s only a matter of time before it’s gone. It’s easy though, people make us “feel” loved, homes make us “feel” protected, jobs make us “feel” secure and because they are here and at our fingertips we make them our refuge. God graciously reminds us though “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our Lord stands forever” Isaiah 40:8

We are also clearly warned, something that becomes our refuge also easily because our idol. We must be cautious and heed the wise words of Isaiah 57:13 “When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.”

Where is your refuge? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Is HE your refuge? In just the Psalms alone the bible tells us 52 times that the Lord is our refuge. That’s something He must have really wanted us to get, don’t you think?

When I was a kid I thought I had everything, and then the wind carried them off in a mere breath and I had nothing. When I met God I discovered that with Him I have everything and I know nothing will separate me from the Love of my Jesus (Romans 8:29). I have tasted and seen and He is good, He IS my refuge.

Challenge for your week: Remember your fist love, dwell there. Take an inventory of your life, pray and ask God to reveal any idols that you have taken as your refuge. Remember what 1 John 1:1-2 says “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was the Father and has appeared to us.” You have tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good; make Him your only refuge!

A deeper look for your week: Spend some time reading through the Psalms, find the one that speaks to your heart and the circumstances you’re in right now. Memorize it and make God your refuge. If you’re so inspired, go even further and write your own Psalm to the Lord. Are you lonely? Cry out for His presence! Are you scared, in trouble? Cry out for His protection! Maybe everything’s fine and you’re happy, then lift His name in praise and express your love for Him! Whatever it is, wherever you’re at He wants to be your refuge, trust Him now.

"Are You Effective or Just a Waste of Space," By Kelli Zaniel

Question for the week: Am I effective or just a waste of space?
Verses of the week: Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it but was always disappointed. Finally he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It is just taking up space in the garden.’ The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
Application for your week: Do you remember that old hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace?” It’s an oldie but a goody. As I sit and think about singing that song repetitiously as a child, it challenges me as an adult. Am I turning away from my earthly possessions and turning toward Jesus? Is all that “stuff” growing dim [unimportant] when I think of my Jesus and how He loves me; How He paused for me when He saved me?

Just sit and think of God for a minute. He created the heavens, the earth, our milky-way galaxy and millions of other galaxies in our solar system. Not only did he create them, but He created them in 6 days! How does our home, our car or even our family even compare to that? When I think of those things, it reminds me of how big He is and how small and insignificant I really am. We place way too much significance on ourselves. As a society, we “worship” the creation instead of the creator.

Letting the “things of earth” alter our mind and cloud our judgment is a recipe for a barren tree or a tree without any fruit. The more we allow what the world is offering into our lives, the further we will move from the living water and the less we will be fertilized or spiritually fed. Jesus will no longer play the starring role in our lives, he will disappear behind the scenes. The more of the world I breathe in the less of Jesus I am breathing out. At that point my actions are not reflective of Jesus. Have you ever felt that way?
Just like a pear tree produces pears; an avocado tree produces avocados; or a peach tree produces peaches, God called each of us to produce a specific type of fruit. We all offer something special and unique to Jesus who can then turn us into an effective instrument He can use. Just like the frustrated man who planted the fig tree, don’t you think Jesus also becomes frustrated when He sees us sitting comfortably and casually in the shade just taking up space? We probably take on the appearance of a measly ole non-effective shrub that has no sense of urgency about producing any fruit at all. I am sure Jesus gets fed up every time he sees this useless, lifeless, stick-like tree that practically breaks every time the wind picks up.

The Bible is very clear about those people who are ineffective and barren. “Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9).

How do we make sure we are producing spiritual fruit? How do we make sure we are effective? God doesn’t want us to be insecure about this (see 1 John 5:13). He gives us the ingredients in 2 Peter 1:5-10, for a fruitful life. We are to make every effort to supplement our faith with “moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patient endurance, godliness and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” The more you grow like this “the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus knows we will mess up, fall apart and not come through for Him sometimes. That is why we must diligently seek His guidance and pursue hard after Him daily. Jesus cannot be an afterthought. He cannot be an infrequent visitor in our lives. We cannot afford to just know about Him, we need to truly know Him personally and intimately, for this is eternal life.
Challenge for your week: Make the choice this week to make every effort to be the woman God called you to be. Do not be casual about it. Be intentional about producing these qualities. Maybe make a personal journal and jot down evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in your life right now. The Holy Spirit’s activity in us makes us a slave to righteousness. He gives us the desire to pursue a life of godliness. This is the only way to produce and grow fruit that is tasteful and vibrant.
If you already see these qualities in your life, are they increasing? We should see moral excellence (purity in actions and thoughts), knowledge of the Word (what kind of effort are we making in pursuing knowledge of God), self-control (everything in moderation in things we desire), steadfast or patience (we don’t persevere until there is pressure on us) and tender affection for one another increasing daily. The more we adopt these qualities as a part of our daily lives the more effective we will become. The Bible says that those who fail to develop these qualities are blind “forgetting that they had been cleansed of their old sins” (1 Peter 1:9). We can never forget what Jesus did on the cross for us.

Looking ahead in your week
: Do you believe that God’s divine nature has given you everything you need for life and godliness (see 1 Peter 1:3)? Ask yourself the following questions, “Am I effective or just taking up space in the garden?” “Am I allowing the Spirit to overtake me?” “Am I seeking the kingdom first or am I seeking me first?” Dare to ask God this week to interrupt your comfortable life, turn up the pressure and put you to the test.
Memorization Verse for the Week: 1 Peter 1:8 “You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy.”

"Balance Beam"

Who Am I Working For? By Heidi Avery

Question of the week: Who Am I Working For?

Verse of the week: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

Application for your week: Sometimes the jobs we have in life can really consume us. I get caught up in the day to day stuff and before I know it I am not just caught up in it I’m suddenly buried under it. I don’t know what that looks like for you, but for me it means the kids have gotten the best of me, my husband is stressed and working late, school isn’t going well, the house is a disaster and literally I’m buried under loads of dirty, filthy laundry and it just stinks. I find myself deep in the pit, whatever fruits of the Spirit I had have gone rotten and my sour attitude proves it all. When I get like this the overwhelming, oversensitive feelings of my flesh scream out… “I don’t have to live like this!” and Satan chimes in… “You can’t handle this, why don’t you just quit?” That’s when I have a choice to make. Do I listen to the lies or search for the truth? I mean it is true, I don’t have to live like that and I can’t handle it all, but I do surrender, do I just quit?

The answer is no, there is no quitting, but it is time for some new perspective. A moment to think and consider who it is I’m working for anyway. My flesh wants to nurture itself; it encourages me to be selfish. Satan wants me to work for him; he encourages me to crumble in my weakness, to surrender in defeat. Jesus wants me to “follow him”, to deny myself, take up my cross and just follow him wherever I am going and whatever I am doing. Who am I working for? A deeper question… who do I love? If I love Jesus with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength then the answer of who I am working for is clear in the way I go about doing whatever work I have.

What does that look like? Paul endured persecution, prison, trials beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, yet he worked at it with all of his heart, serving the Lord. His focus was on the Kingdom. Paul was in chains for Christ (Phil. 1:13) yet because it was for Christ He rejoiced (Phil. 1:18). It really is a focus problem. The object of our focus reveals the truth about who we really love and who we really are working for. The truth is “if” we were working as if working for the Lord then there would be no frustration, just joy… we would also rejoice. Just like Paul, our tough days would be a sacrifice well worth any pain and turmoil they had to offer. Working for Jesus is freedom from any job that threatens to consume us. It’s a higher purpose; it’s His purpose… about Him and not us. When we’re focused on our discomfort and our displeasure the focus is on us. When we look at the tough days and trials with Jesus in mind they don’t really look that bad and He motivates us to push on and respond appropriately.

Lysa Terkeurst says “We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our responses.” That’s so true and that is where the fruit of the Spirit comes in and we can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit unless whatever we’re doing we’re working at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord. Our circumstance can consume us and create within us habits that prove only that we love ourselves more than we love God. We need to instead put off our selves and allow the Spirit to create within us a pattern for holiness, undeniable proof that we love God and that it is the Lord we are working for.

Challenge for your week: Let’s ask ourselves the question… “Who am I really working for?” Let’s find and accept a fresh perspective and get the focus off of us and on the Lord. Let’s separate our feelings from the facts. Sometimes work is hard, sometimes life wears us down, but the truth is we have a Savior who gave His life for us and who is preparing a place for us. This world isn’t where it’s at. Though it’s temporary our time here is serious and not only does how we handle it matter greatly to the Kingdom, it is a direct reflection of our hearts and our love for Jesus.

A deeper look in your week: Paul said, for him… “to live is Christ and to die is gain” Do you feel that way? What changes can you make this week that would reflect that you do feel the same way Paul did? Read 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10 Consider your weaknesses a gift, something to boast about as Paul does. Remember that God’s grace is indeed sufficient for you and that His power is made perfect because of those weaknesses. Whatever your difficult days look like at home or at work remember when you are weak, then you are strong!

"I Am Jesus’ #1 Fan," By Kelli Zaniel

Question for the week: Am I Jesus’ #1 Fan?
Verses of the week: “Not everyone who calls out to me ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in Heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me you who break God’s laws’ (Matt. 7:21-23).
Application for your week: Imagine you have died and are now departing from this earth. Next, imagine your arrival at terminal 2B destination heaven. You finally arrive and quickly step up to the gate. Soon you notice no one is there to meet you. The highly anticipated meeting with the Creator of the Universe is about to take place. As Jesus approaches, you notice He has a puzzled look on His face. Just about the time you leap into His arms, He extends His hand pushing you away and says, “I never knew you.”

This passage found in Matthew chapter 7 convicts me and should convict you too. I can’t imagine anything worse for the believer who expects to hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (see Matt. 25:21) but instead hears, “Get away from Me, I never knew you.” The Bible teaches that the way to enter God’s Kingdom is through the narrow gate. The narrow gate is very difficult and only a few find it (see Matt. 7:13-14). The highway to hell is broad and “its gate is wide and many people choose that way.” The wide gate is very beautiful and attractive. Its advertisements lure you in as they promote self indulgence and immediate satisfaction. Do you believe you are different from those entering through the wide gate? If your answer is “yes,” would people around you agree? Can you think of anything in your life right now that you wouldn’t want anyone else to know? Very few find the narrow gate. Do you believe that you are one of the very few who has found it?

Are you so obsessed with Jesus that He could say you are His #1 fan? When I think back over my life I never really “got it.” Yes, I gave my life to Christ when I was young but I never truly understood the “relationship” part. I was in the game but was only sort of cheering. I wasn’t hootin’ and hollerin’ for Jesus but I wasn’t denying Him either. I was somewhere in the middle.

God does not want us to sit in the stadium and blend into the crowd. He wants us to stand out. He wants to hear us cheering above all the other “fans.” He wants us to be the obnoxious fan that you wish would just sit down because they are blocking your view and spilling their coke on everyone. He wants us to be willing to risk everything, willing to be faithful under extreme pressure and willing to obey not matter what the cost. Someone who is cheering so loudly and boldly for Him that the world would say is a little obnoxious. The question I ask myself is, “would other people think that I am obnoxiously in love with my Savior?” I hope so because I believe that leads us down the narrow path, the only path worth traveling, don’t you?

Is Jesus just your pinch hitter or your most valuable player? Do you think Jesus is a mere interruption in the midst of your busy life or are you asking Jesus to interrupt your busy life so you will become closer to Him?

Challenge for your week: I had a boyfriend who once said, “I love you but sometimes I just want to do my own thing.” I challenge you to allow your actions to be reflective of what you say to God in private. If you say you love Him, are you “doing your own thing” or are you doing your thing with Jesus? Are you thinking, breathing, eating, sleeping Jesus? If not, that is my challenge for us this week. When I step into terminal 2B destination heaven, I want Jesus to not only recognize me but welcome me as a “citizen in the city of my God” (see Rev. 3:12)!

Looking ahead in your week: Do you think you are getting enough Jesus in your life? I don’t think we should ever be satisfied where our relationship with Jesus is concerned. There is always room for more of Him in our lives. There is always room to know Him more, serve Him more and love Him more.