Friday, February 29, 2008

Lessons from Exodus V

Lessons from Exodus V

Exodus 14:11-12: Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness."

As we draw our week to a close, let us consider yet another observation from the exodus of the people of Israel. Why are we so quick to return to our sin, our own Egypt where bondage has the upper hand? What does our own exodus look like? Does it parallel that of Israel? Do we race headlong towards freedom with our arms outstretched like a child running to her daddy, until we hit the wall of suffering? It is bound to come. The reason we are in bondage in the first place is because when suffering came into our life we choose the path of the least pain (though it may have still been exceedingly painful) rather than the path of faith and truth. Every time the opportunity arose to choose between the two, we choose the path of least pain which resulted in tighter, suffocating bondage.

Why do we return to our 'addictions', our besetting sins? To avoid the painful death of self. The death that comes when we choose God's way over our own. We must die to ourselves, our choices, our agendas, our wants, our way. This dying results in suffering. Dying to self is painful because, in the flesh, we want self to live. We must consistently accept the pain that goes along with the dying if we are ever going to experience genuine, lasting freedom.

So what do we do? It is by His grace and His strength that we can ever know freedom. It will not be by sheer determination on our part that we will know victory rather it will be by faith.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK, Biblical Counselor, Conference and retreat speaker, Victory Call editor, wife, mother, grandmother, and nut and not necessarily in that order.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lessons from Exodus IV

Lessons from Exodus IV

This week we are looking at some observations from Exodus about why people return to bondage or patterns of sin. As we consider Israel's exodus from Egypt, I believe we can glean some insight about this very common human tendency.

Exodus 14: 10-11 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Then they said to Moses, "Because there are no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?

Why does going back to Egypt sound like a better option that moving forward to freedom?

Bondage, by its very nature, does not release us easily. Freedom is already ours through the finished work on the cross of Christ. Yet, for many of us the experience of freedom remains elusive.

The journey from bondage to freedom will bring us to a crisis of faith. Our backs will be up against our own Red Sea.

We remain in bondage by the lies and errors we continue to believe. Those lies and errors in our thinking will be challenged by the truth as we earnestly pursue freedom. Before we can experience the winds of change, we will need to decide which we will believe, the lies (that feel so true) or God's truth. When we choose to take God at his word and believe Him, we will begin to feel the gentle breeze of freedom blow through the recesses of our hearts and minds.

When we face that crisis of faith, we must choose between believing what feels true and what is true. Fear and unbelief will tempt us to believe what feels true and strengthen the hold of bondage in our hearts. Choosing to believe God in spite of our feelings will grow our faith and loosen the grip of bondage in our lives and we will take a definitive step towards experiencing freedom.

When you come to a crisis of faith, choose faith.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK, Biblical Counselor, Conference and retreat speaker, Victory Call editor, wife, mother, grandmother, and nut and not necessarily in that order.

Lessons from Exodus III

Lessons from Exodus III

Pain and suffering have a way of making us self-focused or at least strongly tempted to have tunnel-vision. It seems that when we are hurting, we have a difficult time thinking beyond the 4 walls of our own pain. Everything is filtered through our personal grid of self.
I remember a dozen or so years ago when I was going through a season of anxiety and depression, I was at a Labor Day picnic with our Sunday school class. There was much activity going on around me, kids playing, horseback rides, games, food, friends chatting, and lots of laughter, but honestly very little of it penetrated my raw emotions of sadness and desperation. I was standing having a conversation with one of my friends and I literally had to keep reminding myself to listen, focus on her words, look her in the eye, and smile. What was normally so natural for me had required conscious effort. I was more consumed with my own hurt heart and pain so there was little time or energy left for others.
Suffering tends to limit our perspective to how something will relate to us personally. We fail to see the big picture; we fail to see beyond ourselves which further intensifies our suffering.
When suffering becomes all about us, only about us, we experience hopelessness and will be prone to return to our own personal Egypt. However, when we purposefully seek a grander perspective, God's perspective, suddenly our suffering has purpose and meaning. No, our suffering doesn't disappear but it eases our pain to know God is at work even in the midst of and through our suffering.

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them." Then Moses and Aaron did so; just as the LORD commanded them, so they did. Exodus 7:3-6

Now the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." Exodus 10:1-2

Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD." And they did so...And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." Exodus 14:4, 17-18

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD... that you may tell in the hearing of you son and your son's son the mighty things I have done in Egypt... that you may know that I am the LORD...I will gain honor over Pharaoh.

So how's your picture? Are you limited by your own perspective or are you asking God to expand your perspective so that you can see and experience Him at work, in and through you, in the midst of suffering?

May God show Himself mighty in your life today so you get a taste of the bigger picture.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK, Biblical Counselor, Conference and retreat speaker, Victory Call editor, wife, mother, grandmother, and nut and not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lessons From Exodux II

Lessons from Exodus II

This week we are looking at some observations from Exodus about why people return to bondage or patterns of sin. As we consider Israel's exodus from Egypt, I believe we can glean some insight about this very common human tendency.

Exodus 5:22-23: So Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all."

Exodus13:17-18: Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt." So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.

What can we learn from these two passages? Sometimes God's ways do not make sense to us. When God doesn't deliver us the way we expect, we assume He's not delivering us at all.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time and listened to the testimonies of others, you know that God isn't a cookie cutter God. Each of us has had a unique encounter with Him. How God chooses to set us free is entirely up to Him and His ways are as vast and varied as his people.

When God doesn't do things the way we expect, or His ways don't make sense to us, we tend to give up and go back to Egypt. If God isn't doing things the way you expect, don't assume He's not doing it at all. Stand back and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.

God is up to much more than just our deliverance, although He is surely in the business of delivering people from bondage and setting them. He is also zealous for us to know the Deliverer.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK, Biblical Counselor, Conference and retreat speaker, Victory Call editor, wife, mother, grandmother, and nut, not necessarily in that order.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lessons from Exodus 1

Lessons from Exodus I

Recently, I was asked to speak for a Friday night Recovery group on the topic, "Why do men and women go back to their addictions?" As I was considering a Biblical perspective, it occurred to me that the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt provided some insight to answer that question. This week we are going to look at a few observations I gleaned from a quick look at the exodus. Before you discount this weeks Victory Call's because you don't struggle with addiction, I believe the principles I will share apply to all of us in our particular bent towards sin, strongholds and personal bondage. Remember, the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians for many years before God used Moses to lead them out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. For our purposes, Egypt will symbolize bondage and the Promised Land will represent freedom.

What can we glean from Exodus?'

Things may get worse before they get better.

Exodus 5: 6-12: So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, "You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words." And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, "Thus says Pharaoh: 'I will not give you straw. Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced.'" So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.

Just because we have made a decision to get out of bondage, to turn over a new leaf and change, doesn't mean things will instantly improve. Even on the path from bondage to freedom, things may get worse before they get better. Our fleshly tendency is to give up and loose hope.

Never, never, never loose hope. Don't assume that since it is difficult or getting worse that God is not in it. He continues to work on your behalf to bring you to the freedom He accomplished for you at the cross.

John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK, Biblical Counselor, Conference and retreat speaker, Victory Call editor, wife, mother, grandmother, and nut, not necessarily in that order.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maturity

Max Lucado tells of the little boy who fell out of bed. When his Mom asked him what happened, he answered, "I don't know. I guess I stayed too close to where I got in."(Grace For The Moment, Max Lucado) That story certainly has a spiritual application. How close are you to the young Christian you were when you first received Christ? Are you reading God's Word? Has your prayer life grown? Have you matured as a Christian?


When we purchased our first motor home, the purchasing process took so long that we ended up having to drive the new rig home in the dark. All of the way home, I kept saying to Glen, "Hug the center; hug the center!"
As Christians, we need to grow to the point that we aren't living on the edge; we need to hug the center so that we aren't staying too close to where we got in.

"So let us go on to grown-up teaching. Let us not go back over the beginning lessons we learned about Christ" (Hebrews 6:1 The Message).

Marilyn W. Heavilin is an author/speaker and serves at America's KESWICK each summer as a counselor-in-residence.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Close Encounters Part 2

Close Encounters Part 2

It's so easy to allow a disappointment take away our joy, our hope or even our thankfulness. Because I was filled with God's joy, I assumed, I expected, He would pave my way. I was trying to figure out His plan or even conjure up a "plan" for God! But God had a better plan in mind than I could dream up!
Psalm 28:7
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song."
Driving down the highway I once again asked God to bless the $240 I had to purchase a Christmas tree and decorations for the Colony of Mercy. I drove to the next Christmas store, parked and went inside. After I spoke with the gentleman behind the counter and explained who I was, what I was looking for, who it was for (and of course that I only had $240 to spend), he called over a salesman whose mane was Bert. I know that God paved the way for me to have Bert help me find the tree I was looking for. What a blessing he was! I thanked him again and again. We picked out a 7 1/2' pre-lit tree, 15-20 boxes of glass ornaments, a cross tree topper, 10-15 single "manly" ornaments, an LED lit and decorated wall wreath! The grand total? $205!!! I just couldn't believe how God was blessing me through Bert. I was able to share the ministry of the Colony of Mercy with Bert along with my personal testimony when he helped me pile all the decorations into my car. With the money I had left, I was able to purchase plastic bins to store it all in. As I added up the total I couldn't believe it....$240.16!!! I wish you could see the beautiful tree ornaments and wreath God had planned for me. I hate to wait until next year to set it all up!
We serve such an awesome God! He hears all our prayers and even cares about things like Christmas decorations to brighten the Library of the Colony of Mercy. Just one of the many ways Gods says "I love you"...to me as I chose not to allow my joy to fade...to the men in the Colony, He says "I love you" by providing a beautiful Christmas tree to give them joy and brighten their holidays with hope. God's love and provision goes beyond our dreams.

Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)
"God can do anything, you know-far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."

Mary Ann serves at the Colony of Mercy as Intake Manager and also serves at the Women's Ministry Center as a counselor and instructor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Close Encounters Part 1

Close Encounters Part 1

We don't have to wait until we go through trials to have a "close encounter" with God like Job did. In fact, it's wiser to seek to have many, many encounters with God before trials come. Seek God's face just because you want to not because you have to! I can't think of a better reason to seek God's presence than to just enjoy His company and to know Him more intimately...and that is what God wants too...to enjoy an intimate relationship with us.
I recently had a wonderful close encounter with God and I have to tell you, it was a glorious day! And I hunger for more of them. The morning of January 4th I had an awesome quiet time with the Lord. In Higher Ground (Bible study/support group) we had begun a new study by Steve McVey, "The Godward Gaze." It stressed the importance of taking time to gaze into the face of God to draw closer to Him. That was what I sought to do that morning. In my prayer time I asked the Lord to take my busy day and sift it. I wanted to be on God's schedule not mine. I also asked God for two other things: to fill me with His joy and to abundantly bless one of the tasks on my to-do list.
Two hundred and forty dollars had been donated for updating the Colony of Mercy's Christmas decorations. It wasn't a great deal of money to purchase a tree and all the decorations for it...but I knew that God was able to take $240 and bless it exceedingly and abundantly above all I could imagine.

Jesus said in John 14:13-14 "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."

I was so filled with joy I don't think my feet touched the ground! I believed God would bless my way. I walked into the first Christmas store with a smile and the joy of the Lord in my heart. The management there wasn't helpful and totally unfriendly. All my joy and all my smiles just couldn't seem to break through. If the Lord had not been with me, I would have probably given her an attitude back and stormed out of the store. But that's kind of hard to do when you're filled with His joy.
I thanked the manager and with a smile told her because of her poor attitude and lack of helpfulness I couldn't purchase the tree I had picked out and left the store. My heart began to thump and for a minute my joy began to slip away. I sat down in my car and prayed "Lord I pray that this wouldn't steal my joy. Fill me to overflowing, bless my path and may You be glorified."

1 Thessalonians 5:15-17 "Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other and everyone else. Be joyful always, pray continually."

I was filled to overflowing and began to sing in my car, "the joy of the Lord is my strength" and headed down the road. I realized this had been a test. Would I allow someone to steal my joy or would I just trust God no matter what? I chose to trust God.

Mary Ann Kiernan serves as Intake Manager and Women's ministry at America's KESWICK.

Monday, February 18, 2008

WHY?

Why?

The number one question of my 3 year old grandson Elijah is "Why?" It's been a while since my sons were at that age and I had forgotten the challenge it is to answer the inquisitive minds of toddlers! I do my best to answer his questions but interestingly, no matter what answer I give, there is always another "why?" to follow. Then I'll just answer "Well, Elijah I just don't know," which is always followed by a "Why?" He is just not satisfied with my answers!
I can't help but think that as adults, we're no different than children who ask why. After 20 years of marriage a husband announces he's walking out on his wife and family. Why? A best friend betrays a confidence and hurts you deeply. Why? Lab tests reveal a serious illness. Why? Children you have loved and raised in a Christian home choose to live a sinful lifestyle. Why?
As a counselor I hear that question asked often. It seems as if "the answer" is the only thing that will give satisfaction, peace or understanding to the hurt, pain or suffering they are going through. The truth is there is never really an answer that will satisfy the "why" itch because just like Elijah, there is always another why to follow.
Job, a righteous man, lost everything - family, wealth, respect and then even his health. Job asked the question "why" over 19 times! Job was ready to state his case before God! He wanted answers!

Job 23:3-5 "If only I knew where to find him [God]; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me..."

Job did get his audience before God but he didn't get answers to all his "why" questions. Instead Job had a personal encounter with God that would make the answers to his questions seem so unimportant.
Job 42:3-5 "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you."
Only God knows the answers to our "why" questions and almost all the time, He just isn't willing to share that information. If each one of us would seek Him in the midst of our suffering and have a personal encounter with God...then the drive to know why would melt away. The truth is...all we go through is for our good and Gods glory, to refine us as gold.
Perhaps you've only heard about God with your ears...seek a personal encounter with Him and you will never be the same and the "why's"...well they just won't matter much because you have had a personal encounter with God.

MaryAnn Kiernan serves at America's KESWICK part-time at the Colony of Mercy overseeing intakes and part-time counseling in the women's ministry.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Christian Standards and Standards of Christians


Christian standards and standards of Christians

I recently heard a speaker state: "The less you know Scripture, the more you will be dominated by your culture."

The Psalmist states: "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11)

Years ago I heard an evangelist say, "We need to know the difference between Christian standards and standards of Christians."

How do we learn to know the difference between Christian standards and standards of Christians? We get to know God's word. Christian standards are in Scripture and they don't change! Standards of Christians can change from church to church, from state to state, from home to home, and with every whim of our culture.

If we aren't steeped in God's word, we can be swept away and led into wrong beliefs and tactics by our culture.

Our culture says "It's all about me!" God's word says, "It's all about God." "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee." (Isaiah 26:3)

Our culture says "We must accept all religions and offer social diversity."
God's word says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No man comes unto the Father but by Me." (John 14:6)

Many of you are new Christians and are not deeply familiar with Scripture, but you are still faced daily with being dominated by your culture. Buy a paper back, inexpensive Topical Bible. Every topic that is addressed in Scripture is listed in alphabetical order, along with the references. When you have a question, look up the subject in your Topical Bible. Make sure your decisions are based on Scripture. Let's join together to break cultural domination on our spiritual life.

Marilyn Heavilin is a speaker and author, and serves at America's KESWICK as counselor-in-residence during our summer conferences. Her book, ROSES IN DECEMBER is available in the Keswick Book and Gift Shop

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Your Divine Valentine

Your Divine Valentine

Today is Valentine's Day and for some that is just another reminder that you are alone. Perhaps you have been alone every Valentine's Day or your Valentine is no longer a part of your life either through death or divorce or for some other painful reason. Perhaps this Valentine's Day you are looking forward to being with your new or not-so-new Valentine. Regardless of what situation you are in today-YOU HAVE A VALENTINE - A DIVINE VALENTINE.

Before you scoff at the thought, let me assure you, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, He is your Heavenly Husband and if you allow Him He will be the best Valentine. Embracing your Divine Valentine in no way negates or minimizes your past or present valentine.
Jesus is alive and active in the life of His bride. He delights in giving good gifts.
You may be thinking, 'that's all well and good, but I need someone with skin on'. Beware! As long as you believe that, you will never allow Jesus to be enough.
Jesus desires to fulfill the deepest longings of your heart, no matter where you find yourself today. He completely satisfies (You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works.. Psalm 145:16-17)
He delights in you (As for the saints who are on the earth, "They are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight." Psalm 16:3). He is Mr. Right(eous)(" For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright." Psalm 11:7). You are His bride ("I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD." Hosea 2:19-20) and He desires fellowship with you ("God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."1 Corinthians 1:9). He so desires relationship with you that He went to the cross to die to gain your release from sin and death and to gain your freedom ("But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life." Romans 6:22; "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" John 8:36).
Oh, sister, go to Him today and tarry with Him until you experience His fullness, His love, His delight in you.
Treasure your Divine Valentine.

Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK and is available to speak for your Ladies' events. Contact her through Ruth Schmidt at rschmidt@americaskeswick.org. or 732-350-1187 ext. 21

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ouch! That Hurt

Ouch! That Hurt!

I'm not sure it gets any easier. I've been at America's Keswick for over 8 years and when word gets back to me of someone's displeasure with me, I get a knot in my stomach. I want to go "straighten that person out". Sometimes it is the result of a misunderstanding, like the time I was called a liar. A particular individual was involved and with the help of his counselor, we were able to confront him and clear it up. Other times tidbits are running through the rumor mill and I have no venue to address the issue. I don't think any of us like to hear negative things said about us, true or not. I know I don't. But as usual, the word of God sheds light in my heart to give me a more accurate perspective.

Ecclesiastes 7: 21-22, "Also do not take to heart everything people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others."

When I stop to consider this Scripture I realize that, though I do not like it when others say negative things about me, far too many times I have been the one saying the negative things causing hurt to the other person. Why am I surprised when it happens to me?

I just love God's word, even when it hurts.

Diane

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Psalm 37

Psalm 37

For many years I have had my own condensed version of Psalm 37:1-7; 34.
"Fret not' but "Trust"; "Delight" and "Commit"; "Rest" and "Wait" are instructions given to take our attention from things that could daily be very concerning to us if we focus on them. But by following these directives from the Lord our focus is turned away from the things that would cause concern and fretting toward the "new patterns" God wants to develop in us spiritually. Along with the instructions in theses verses, there are also many promises, but if we are just obeying the instructions as a command to get a reward, the focus of our thoughts and actions is not to bring glory to God, but on what we will get out of it. The end result could then be self-centered and discouraging, instead of God-centered and edifying to others as well as ourselves. As God develops these "new patterns" in us, we become more and more who He wants us to "be", and the stress of trying to "do" all the right things fades away.
Recently in America's Keswick's "Real Victory for Real Life", I read a devotional written by Candy Davison, "The Desires of the Heart", based on Psalm 37:4. It gave me new insight to this verse and caused me to think about the words and meaning differently. "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." I questioned, "How do I "delight in the LORD"; what are the ways I can take delight in the LORD?" There are numerous answers-Bible reading and study, memorizing scripture, prayer and praise; grasping His truth; thankfulness for His love and provision, fellowship with Him, enjoying His creation, and so on. But does this mean God is going to give me everything that I want because I have been "doing" all these things faithfully. This is where Candy's devotional gave a new understanding of the word, "give", as she shared her experience of realizing that God truly places in us -"gives" - the desires that are what He wants to bless us through. Philippians 2:13 explains, "...for it is God who works in you to will and act (work, do) according to his good purpose." God will "give" us the desires that He wants to use to bring about blessing and ministry in our lives that will then minister to and bless the lives of others.
Now let's look at Psalm 37:4 again. Where is our focus now if we see this directive as delight or enjoyment, the pleasure of the LORD and His gifts to bring fulfillment and ministry? The desires of our heart are no longer on self, but now on bringing glory to God, trusting Christ, and edifying others. Psalm 37:34a states, "Wait for the LORD and keep his way..."

"...He will give you the desires of your heart."

djm

Monday, February 11, 2008

It Is A Wonderful Life


It is a wonderful life.

My husband, Glen, just finished a live production of "It's A Wonderful Life". Over the month of December, I attended six of the twenty performances.
In case you don't know the story, in a crisis George Bailey began to feel everyone around him would be better off if he had never been born. Have you ever felt that way? I have. There have been times when it seemed that I had messed up so badly and hurt so many people that they and my family would most definitely be better off if I was not on the scene. An "angel" named Clarence decided to let him see what life would be for George's family and friends if George had never been born. He was allowed to see that many would have died, others would have always been alone, others would have been jobless and/or penniless, and many would have felt worthless and discouraged.
I let my imagination run wild and thought what life might be like for others if I hadn't been born. Hmmmm. Obviously my children would not be here, and I would not have learned through our grief experience how to comfort others. Others would not be comforted.
Most of all others would not know about Christ because I wasn't there to tell them. Ahhh, I wouldn't know about Christ. Not only would we miss a lot if we weren't here, but I believe others would miss a lot if we had never been here. In other words, we have an impact on others. Negative or positive is our choice. So God has not made a mistake by allowing us to enter this world. Most definitely not! He knew what He was doing.
John 15: 16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit." God not only chose you and me, but He gave us an assignment. We are to bear fruit by telling others about Jesus and therefore impacting their lives. Are you following His assignment? Thank goodness God never has to say "Oops."

Marilyn Heavilin is a speaker, authors of numerous books including ROSES IN DECEMBER, and serves at America's KESWICK each summer with her husband, Glen, as Counselor-in-Residence.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eternity in Our Hearts

Eternity in our hearts...
Ecclesiastes 3:11 "...He has put eternity in their hearts"

Time seems to be accelerating. The older I get the faster time seems to go. I once was speaking to my dear co-worker and friend John Caruthers who was expressing his frustration at how fast time seemed to be elapsing. I was somewhat naively dismayed that at 82 it hadn't gotten any better, in fact on his report it continues to get worse. Many of us have trouble living by the clock. Others find it difficult to not live by the clock. Our lives are structured by time.
I remember one camping trip my husband and I took agreeing not to take our watches or any clocks with us. I chuckle as I remember that weekend clearly as we spent the weekend trying to guess what time it might be. I didn't know when to start lunch or dinner or even when it was appropriate to go to bed. It just reiterated to me how reliant we are on timepieces.

On the fourth day of creation, God said "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs an seasons, and for days and years; ...Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night." (Genesis 1:14, 16). God created time in the very beginning of creation, not only after the fall of Adam and Eve. When I began this Victory Call, my point was going to be that time was God's creation for man which became necessary AFTER the fall of man, but as I read the Genesis account again I saw this verse that said God designed the lights to be "for signs and seasons, and for days and years." God created time for our benefit, not His.
In spite of time, God has put eternity in our hearts. Our spirits confirm this as each of us has experienced the strain and stress time can put on us. We are created for eternity. We will not be fully at rest until we are there.

Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Different Yet the Same

Different yet the same

The phone rang, and when I answered my daughter said, "She's perfect mom, absolutely perfect". My daughter has just given birth to her second baby girl. Kate continued, "She looks nothing like Lexi, she has head of dark hair and blue eyes." Now, we thought her firstborn was perfect too, but she had lots of hair that stood up like a rooster tail and brown eyes. How could they be so different yet both perfect?

You and I could be as different as night and day, complete opposites in personality, likes and dislikes, enjoy different foods, minister in very diverse ways, be in completely different walks of life, disagree on doctrinal issues and yet still both be in the process of being perfected by the grace of God as He takes each of us further and further in our sanctification, conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ.
Once we experience regeneration, become born-again, get saved (whatever your druthers), we all are on the same path "from glory to glory" yet we may look completely different. Oh, sure there will be similarities, but we are called to unity not uniformity (Beth Moore said that). I want to jump up and say, "Hallelujah!"
I cannot explain it, but somehow we can be different yet all perfected, because by His grace we are conformed into His image. The process will not be complete until we stand in the presence of The Almighty.

2 Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries of America's KESWICK

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lord, Use My Mouth

Lord, use my mouth!
How do you feel when someone says "I love you"? or "You did a great job"? or "I like your hair darker. It makes you look younger"? If you have been practicing what not to say or biting your tongue I want to remind you of all the good we can do with the words that come from our mouths. Today is the part where we practice saying something nice.
For many of us we can remember the hurtful words spoken to us but rarely remember the positive things that were said. All the more reason to practice how we use our words. Words stick. They play over and over again in our minds even if they are false words said out of a dirty heart. As I was shopping the other day I heard how a mother was talking to her child. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Before Christ, I sounded the same way! And even as I have shared I relapse at times too. I just know those words will play over and over again in that little girls mind for years to come, maybe her whole life! Words like stupid, ugly and good-for-nothing tend to follow us wherever we go. Knowing that, don't you want to prevent your words from negatively following others around? We need to practice positive words; using words that build up and not tear down. Proverbs 15:4 says "a wholesome tongue is a tree of life." Don't you want to speak life? Our words should be full of thanksgiving. (Eph 1:15-16). Our words should point others in a good direction (Colossians 3:16). Our words should express hope (1 Thess. 5:11, 14). Our words should bring others together (Colossians 3:13).
Today our challenge is to use words of comfort, healing and love- especially when you would be tempted to do otherwise! Look for someone today who may need a compliment. Find someone who needs hope and encouragement. Answer those harsh words spoken to you with a well spoken word. Lastly, if you have a struggle with a family member or friend may words of peace, reconciliation and restoration be in your heart and on your lips. I am praying for you to have wisdom and courage as God uses your words today!

Kathy Withers serves in the Keswick Book and Gift Shop

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lord, Shut My Mouth

Lord, shut my mouth.
I recently dyed my hair from blonde to auburn. As I have seen friends and family the reactions have varied. Some look shocked. Some laughed. Some thought I looked younger-my personal favorite! Some had the wisdom to remember their mommas told them- "If you don't have anything nice to say; don't say anything at all". I have had a few reminders as I watch my heart and my mouth and strive to keep them washed clean. That saying is one of them.
Learning to just keep my mouth shut has been a very challenging exercise! It is a hard choice to choose- not being heard at all or heard saying the wrong thing in the wrong way. Maybe it isn't that we CAN'T say something but that the mature thing would be NOT to say anything. Rather, you and I need to take the time to think about it, rehearse it over in our minds, to search our hearts, to pray hard for godly wisdom. I am usually reactionary so it is hard for me to bite my tongue. But I know no matter how hard it is the best choice is to simply say nothing at all. If I have to say something it should be something like- "Can I get back to you on that?" or "That is something I will have to really pray about before I respond. Can you give me some time before I answer you?" Proverbs 17:28 says "Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace, when he shuts his lips he is considered wise."
Another reminder came through a challenge to pray the Prayer of Jabez. "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, " Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" 1 Chronicles 4:10. Let me paraphrase or personalize- Lord, Keep your hand over my mouth, keep my mouth from evil, that my mouth may not cause pain! That has been a good prayer for me to pray!
Here are few more reminders that have helped me keep my mouth shut!
Proverbs 10:19 "Restraining your lips is wise."
Proverbs 21:23 "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles."
Proverbs 12:18 "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health."
Ephesians 4:31 "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice."
Today would you practice biting your tongue? Trust me, sister, I feel your pain!
Kathy Withers is a great Bible teacher/speaker and serves in the Keswick Book and Gift Shop.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Lord, Wash My Mouth

Lord, wash my mouth!

My bathroom renovation is now complete with the exception of wall d├ęcor. I saw a framed picture a few years ago that would be perfect in my bathroom but I can't find it now. The picture was a black and white still life of a water basin and pitcher in front of a window with flowing sheer panels. A small cut out in the matting read "Wash me and I will be made whiter then snow". Recently, I had words with my daughter and thought of how those words had come out of my mouth. I saw again how I needed to have my mouth washed out. Washed, not from vulgar words, but of hurtful words. Words that cut; words not spoken with love. Words that only revealed my "superior" wisdom and her lack of wisdom. Words that rang with an unspoken "One day I will have told you so". Oh Lord, my mouth needs to be washed!

Such a small muscle but our tongues can be such mighty weapons. Used without thinking. Let loose on unsuspecting people. Aimed often at the ones we love the most. As I think about the words I said, the Lord revealed something even uglier; He showed me my heart from which those words came. If my heart had been right those words never would have left my mouth to cause both of us pain. Fear and anger reigned in my heart rather then peace and trust. Self-righteousness proudly sat in my heart making compassion, mercy and grace unable to dwell there. I needed a big cake of soap and a loving heavenly Father to administer the washing! I have taken the punishment and as you can imagine- it didn't taste good!

Do you know what lurks in your heart? Today would you commit to listen to yourself carefully? What do you hear when you hear yourself talk? Are there a basin and a cake of soap waiting for you?

James 3 tells us what a struggle you and I have with our untamable tongues. Verse 2 says "We stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body." I am far from perfect! How can I become perfect in this area? I am relieved to learn that the word "perfect" means mature. I know I will not attain perfection but I can strive to be mature. Maturity is a process; you and I will stumble. We will need to have our mouths washed many times as we strive to bring maturity to our hearts, minds and mouths! Will we strive to take the necessary steps to a mature heart and mouth?

Kathy Withers serves in the Keswick Book and Gift Shop and is great Bible Teacher and speaker. You can contact her to speak by calling Ruth Schmidt @ rschmidt@americaskeswick.org

Friday, February 01, 2008

Fleeting Fancy

Fleeting Fantasy

"Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death." Proverbs 21:6

Fleeting fantasy-a picture of the deceptiveness of sin. Whether our sin is to gain treasure by lying or gossip, or gluttony or pride or ... you fill in the blank, we sin because we want something apart from God's will. We sin because at that moment we want what we want more than we want what God wants. Regardless of our sin, it provides just a fleeting fantasy of what we thought it would do for us. Because of the hollowness of sin it never satisfies for long, soon leaving us empty-handed.
Sin never delivers.
Sin never satisfies.
Sin never fulfills.
Sin never quenches.

Sin is a fleeting fantasy-fleeting, fleeting, fleeting. Perhaps if we can call this to mind when we are tempted we will be less inclined to fall into temptation.

Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries