One Body, One Temple

 

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Last week we witnessed Jesus’ zealous guardianship of His Father’s house. At the core of Jesus’ outburst ran His desire to see the temple become a “house of prayer” (Mark 11:17). Now that Jesus has completed His work on the cross and conquered the grave, God’s residence on earth has changed. He no longer dwells behind curtains or walls of stone. He lives within the hearts of His people.

Consider Paul’s depiction of the current church found in Ephesians 2:20-22. He describes membership into God’s household,

“. . . built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

When we contemplate the house of God, we often think of the many churches dotting the landscape of our cities and towns. In our mind’s eye, God’s house can take many shapes and forms, ranging from pristine, white buildings whose tall steeples sparkle in the sunlight to small meeting rooms in schools, theaters or restaurants that house a gathering of believers.

The truth is, God’s Word teaches that there is only one church. It finds its foundations in Jesus Christ, and is made up of those who have put their faith in Him. That church is described above in Ephesians 2:20-22. Jesus Himself was the first stone laid by God to set the foundation, and only in Him will the building join together and rise to become a holy temple. Do you see where you fit into the picture?

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

You, dear one, have become a part of the temple that houses the living God. So is every other person who has placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Although God views each one of us as uniquely special, only in unity is God’s house made complete. Notice from our text in Ephesians that the building will rise to become God’s holy temple as it is joined together in Him (verse 21).

We will miss the glory of God’s house if we don’t gaze upon it as He does: one beautiful, glorious whole. And that whole, as Jesus taught in Mark 11:17, will be called a house of prayer.

Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 6:9,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. . .’”

The very first word Jesus uttered in prayer as He taught His disciples to pray was “our”. Think about that for a minute. The entire Lord’s Prayer, our model given by Jesus Himself to teach us how to petition God for His aid, is spoken in the first person plural. Our Father… Give us today our daily bread. . . Forgive us our debts . . . lead us not into temptation . . . deliver us from the evil one.”

What a wonderful place for us to start as we ask God to teach us to pray. Jesus demonstrates through His words the posture we must have before God in prayer. We must share His zeal for His house, and pray with a heart of unity for His body.

Yes, God desires that we bring our personal petitions before Him, but He delights in answering the prayers of those who approach Him with a humble heart. As we become intercessors who seek to align our prayers with His perfect purpose, He begins to circumcise our hearts so that we take on the characteristics of His own. As we do, we unite our hearts with others who also seek His Kingdom, and our prayers echoing around the world will rise as a fragrant offering before the throne.

Only God's own Spirit can produce that kind of unity, and in the presence of His Spirit, we discover His power!

A House of Prayer

 

“. . . for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7

What comes to mind when you think of God’s house? As you allow your mind to conjure images of His church, what is it that you see?

God said that His house would be called a house of prayer. I don’t know about you, but when I think of church, prayer isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind. Worship springs to the top of the list, followed by preaching. Prayer is certainly up there, but I don’t think of it as the focal point. Often prayer is even used as the transition to move the service along. Was that God’s intention for His house of prayer?

Rarely in Scripture do we witness Jesus displaying qualities that contrast His gentle humility, but one particular instance displays another very important aspect of His character. This scene is described in all four gospels; John alone reveals the disciples’ revelation in response to what they saw, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17).

How did Jesus express this zeal?

 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:

“‘My house will be called 
   a house of prayer for all nations’?

But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Mark 11:15-17

Jesus is zealous for His Father’s house. His zeal so consumed Him, that He overturned the tables and benches of those displaying their wares in the temple. As He did, He reminded them of what God’s house was designed to be: a house of prayer.

Beloved, what does Jesus see when He enters the doors of our churches? Are we using the areas within the walls of God’s house as a showplace for our talents? Do we offer gifted oratory and entertaining music, hoping to catch the attention of those passing by?

Or, would Jesus’ Spirit rejoice over the prayer taking place among the people, a fragrant offering rising to the throne room of the Lord our God?

“.  . . the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8

Jesus said His house would be called a house of prayer. People would refer to it that way; prayer is what His house would be known for. Dear one, the glory of the church will only be revealed as God’s people learn to pray. Would you join me before the throne to petition the re-establishment of the house of prayer?

We will spend the next several weeks asking our Lord Jesus the same request uttered centuries ago by the lips of one of His first disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). As we deepen our understanding of prayer’s role within the church and in the life of the believer, may the gates of heaven open in response to the rise of the house of prayer.

“Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him . . .”

2 Chronicles 2:4

I am who I am

 

“. . . I AM WHO I AM . . .

“. . . This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:14,15

Have you experienced I AM? Have you encountered the God who IS?

One of my favorite biblical stories of the revelation of I AM is found in John 18:3-6. On the night that Jesus was arrested, Judas led a group of soldiers to find Jesus in an olive grove.

So Judas came into the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it that you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Picture the scene. An angry mob comes to arrest Jesus carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Against Jesus’ small group of twelve men, they clearly had the upper hand. Yet the moment Jesus identifies Himself, proclaiming, “I AM he,” instead of advancing on Him, they drew back and collapsed.

Can you imagine the fear and confusion that must have gripped them? Jesus pronounced Himself by the name their God was to be known by for generations, and as they heard Him utter the words, they involuntarily fell to the ground!

I can relate to their compulsory response. I have a similar experience every time I encounter I AM. It occurs each time God speaks His will to me and I follow Him in faith—full of doubt in myself, yet choosing to trust the God who IS. And He reminds me, “Your story is not about who you are; it has EVERYTHING to do with who I AM.”

Several years ago, I began to awaken early each morning with a sermon forming in my mind about Hagar and Ishmael, a mother and son whose story is found in the Old Testament. I saw myself standing at the pulpit in my church, and God began to lay out this teaching in my mind. I didn’t say anything to anyone and didn’t write anything down. I just kept waking up with this message building in my head, point by point.

I knew God had called me to teach, but I’d only ever taught women and never such a large group—and my pastors do quite well at giving the sermons! I waited on God to reveal Himself.

One morning I received a phone call from the head of our women’s ministry. She said our senior pastor had contacted her regarding Mother’s Day Sunday. The Lord had lain on his heart to have a woman give the message that Sunday morning, something they had never done before. As they were talking, their thoughts went immediately to me.

I hung up the phone and collapsed to my knees, sobbing in my bedroom. My God had been faithfully giving me the message I was to share before I was ever asked! I guess He wanted me to know it was Him so I would have no excuse to back out—unless I wanted to choose direct defiance to His will. A few months later, I gave that message in all 3 services in my church, reaching over 1000 people that day.

I returned home that Sunday afternoon after pouring out the message God had given me and retreated to my room. I found myself right back where I began with Him—on my knees, weeping, overwhelmed by how He had revealed Himself and gotten me through. In the years that have followed, as I have trusted Him to be who He IS, we’ve met there many times. He has proven to me over and over,

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Beloved, I AM has a plan for you. If you will trust Him to be who He IS, you will see Him reveal Himself gloriously in your life. And as He does, you will likely fall to your knees in worship. Relish the moment, dear one. You’re in good company.

My Righteous One Will Live By Faith

 

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe.”  –St Augustine

I spent a good bit of my life misunderstanding faith. Instead of exercising it and living my life by it, I thought of faith more like a noun—something we hold in our hearts. If we simply possess enough of it, God will act on our behalf, right?

Then I found myself discouraged because I didn’t see God move. It left me wondering about my own condition. Did I not have enough faith?

Perhaps you’ve been there, wondering why others can share powerful testimonies of how God showed up in their need, but you’re left doubting yourself and the God you claim to trust because your circumstances haven’t changed.

Dear one, if that’s you, perhaps you’ve missed the beautiful foundation through which true faith must flow: relationship.

Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Look at the actions describing one who pleases God with faith. Not only must we believe He exists, but we must “come to Him” in that belief. True faith can only be exercised by one who comes near to God. And that approach isn’t simply uttering a casual prayer when the need arises. The verse is clear that God rewards those who “earnestly seek Him.”

Consider Romans 10:17:

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

Dear one, faith is birthed in us when we hear a message through the Word of Christ. Perhaps our faith is failing us because we haven’t drawn near to Christ to hear what He is saying. Maybe we’ve told God what we think we need–even believing He can provide it–but we haven’t drawn near to Christ to listen for what He knows we need. Beloved, faith comes from hearing.

In John 10:3-4, Jesus describes the true nature of faith.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

We express faith as we trust and follow. In order to follow, we must quiet ourselves and draw near to the One who speaks. Maybe we don’t see God moving on our behalf because we haven’t bothered to quiet ourselves to hear Him speaking (Psalm 46:10). We haven’t given Him the opportunity to reveal His thoughts on the matter. Instead of following behind, we’ve wandered toward what we think we need.

Beloved, Jesus releases His power wherever He is. If you want to see Him move in your circumstances, you must draw near to Him with an open, listening heart. As He faithfully whispers His will into your life, you must trust Him through your obedience. Your faith—initiated as you heard from Him (Romans 10:17) and completed as you followed His instruction to you (James 2:22)—will open the door to the release of His grace.

You will see Him move. Perhaps not the way you first thought He would, but you will see Him nonetheless.  And you will discover with a thankful, joyous heart, that Jesus is, indeed, faithful. His love is better than life.

A Living Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

If you tune your ear to the conversations taking place in our homes and across our media outlets, you will often hear discussion of a growing darkness penetrating our land. Where we once reveled in the freedom of careless complacency, our security now appears threatened on every side.

Hatred grows. Jobs are no longer secure. Our nation’s financial status, once a source of comforting stability for many, now teeters precariously on the brink of collapse. Relationships blow about in the wind, and depravity increases with rapid growth, steadily lowering the bar at which we set our standards. What used to shock us has now become commonplace. Christians look at the times we’re in and fearfully fret over the coming of the end of days as if we have no hope.  

Dear one, consider God’s words from Romans 5:5.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Hope in the Lord will never disappoint us. We have allowed our enemy to rob us of hope by letting him center our minds on what he would have us see. Yet that’s only one part of a much grander picture.

Yes, Scripture teaches of terrible times as we creep nearer and nearer to the end of days. But amid the growing darkness, a light will also dawn. The bride of Christ will emerge, radiant in her beauty, flowing with Christ’s love, and empowered to overcome the evil that threatens us.

The power to dispel the darkness rests within the hearts of God’s people. He has given us His Spirit. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 teaches, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”

That one is the Holy Spirit, gifted to Christ’s followers the moment we believe in Him. And He comes with the full arsenal of God’s power.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

We, the army of the Lord, are meant to be a witness to the world that displays God’s power and reveals His character. We are the light in the darkness.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Dear one, it’s time to let the light shine.

Awake, awake, O Zion,
   clothe yourself with strength.
Put on your garments of splendor,
   O Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
   will not enter you again.
 Shake off your dust;
   rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
   O captive Daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52:1-2

We must awaken to our holy calling. We must stand in the power of the Almighty and loose the chains of sin that have kept us bound and quenched God’s power within us. We must turn back to Jesus, bending our hearts and our knees to His perfect will and allow Him to reveal Himself in us.

Beloved, revival starts in you and me.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Let’s arise and become what God created us to be. I’ll meet you on my knees.

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Reflect the Light of the Son

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

I have just enjoyed the tremendous blessing of spending the last five days in the country of Costa Rica. Each evening the sun would bid its farewell amidst a glorious display of pink, yellow and orange, the colors of the fiery sky reflecting on the dancing waters of the Pacific Ocean before disappearing into darkness beyond the horizon. It’s the kind of beauty that takes your breath away.

As I witnessed creation reflecting the splendor and glory of its Creator, I couldn’t help but think about the glory that will be revealed when God unveils the new heaven and the new earth. One day, we will see creation as God intended it to be, free from the dark curse of sin. Instead of the shadow, we will finally see the true, an array of color and beauty that we can’t even begin to imagine. And we will no longer need the sun to cast its light and warmth because the Son Himself will be with us.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

The beauty of Costa Rica’s landscape was matched by the beauty of its people. Wherever we went, they greeted us with warm smiles, doing their best to assure us that it was their great pleasure to serve. Their humility opened my heart toward them, and I found myself drawn to their warmth. They seemed to represent a beautiful expression of Philippians 2:4-7:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .

The thought left me wondering. Are people drawn to us as believers? Is humility the essence that marks our lives? Do those who come in contact with us get the feeling that it’s our great pleasure to serve them? If the Spirit of Jesus Christ resides within us, that's exactly what those who come in contact with us should experience.  

1 John 4:16-17 teaches, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.”

Are you like Him, dear one? Will you be able to stand confidently on the day of judgment knowing that you have allowed God to impart His character to you through His Son? Are people drawn to His humble warmth expressing itself in you?

You will often hear this phrase erupting from the lips of the Costa Rican people:  Pura Vida! They speak it in greeting to one another, as an expression of joy, or simply in answer to the question, “How are you?” Its meaning literally translates to “pure life.”

Perhaps we need to adopt their mantra as the foundational anchor for our own lives.

Until Jesus returns in glory to usher in the new heaven and new earth, freeing us once and for all from the very presence of sin and restoring all things to its original perfection, we are His vessels of glory. We are the light given to penetrate the growing darkness. We are His expression of love to draw the lost to Himself. We are divine righteousness in a world of depravity. If we truly desire for Christ to be seen in us, we must choose holiness. We must allow Him to sanctify us and bestow upon us His righteousness.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:      “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

May your life become a beautiful expression of the character of your Savior, and may all who cross your path be drawn to the warmth of His humility and love flowing through you.

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Nourish Your Soul

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

I must begin today in worship of my Lord and King! He is the Beginning, the End, the First and the Last. He is Faithful and True. He is Redeemer, Savior, and Friend. He is so much more than we could ever grasp or imagine. He is love, and He desires to pour into me and into you. Will you allow Him to?

I have just returned from teaching at the first ever “Women of Purpose” conference in St. Pete Beach, FL. I found myself so blessed by the worship and the messages from each of the other speakers; I was truly ushered into the presence of the King! I come away with a sense of excitement and expectation as I commit to allow God to lead me to fulfill His purpose for me, and I want to share that joy and hope with all who will receive it. I want you to know the all-surpassing joy that can only come from doing what you were created to do.

I praise God for each one of you who answered God’s invitation to join us last weekend. I see your beautiful faces filled with emotion—expressing smiles and tears, sadness and hope, darkness and understanding. We basked in the Son this weekend, didn’t we? We abandoned the dark chains of deception and stepped boldly into the warm radiance of Christ’s light. I’m so proud of you! It is my great joy and privilege to have walked beside you for a few steps of your journey with Jesus. Now, dear one, you must keep walking.

I once read an article in which Beth Moore described taking her first trip to Africa to help feed the hungry. The group she traveled with warned her in advance that the people were so starved they would likely begin to eat the grain itself rather than plant it for a long term harvest. Their immediate need was so desperate, they would consume their fill without considering the need to sow the seed so it could continue to sustain them; they would eventually find themselves right back in their same desperate need.

Scripture compares the Word of God to seed scattered by our Heavenly Father (Luke 8:11). He sends it forth seeking to fill us with it, to nourish and sustain us so we don’t return to the place of desperation. But we often approach the seed He scatters like those starving souls in Africa. We flock to our churches, Bible studies, and conferences so starved and desperate for nourishment from God’s Word that we immediately begin to devour it. We take it in, taste the beauty of its refreshment, and come away full! But we often forget the most important part. The seeds of Truth God has given us aren’t meant to merely be devoured. They need to be sown.

Scripture teaches an important truth in James 1:22,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

If we don’t commit to actively trust God through our obedience, we will soon return to the same emptiness that sapped us of our joy and strength in the first place. Dear one, we come away from an encounter with God feeling empowered, refreshed, and full! But if that’s where it ends and we just return to life as if nothing had changed, nothing will. We must choose to live differently, to daily partake of His Word so He can fill us with strength and sustaining life. And as He meets us in the stillness, revealing Himself and illuminating our path, we must follow where He leads.

God’s grace is released into our lives when we trust Him through our obedience. As you faithfully sow into your life that which He has spoken, the floodgates of heaven will open, unleashing the blessings ordained for you at the creation of the world. You will begin to taste and experience heaven while still abiding on this earth. And you will wonder how you could’ve survived so long without feasting on the bread of life.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4

Feast on His Word, dear one. Allow Him to nourish your soul, strengthen your spirit, and empower you to become all you were meant to be. And as you follow, you will discover what it means to truly live.

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Not For You

I'm excited to introduce you to Susan Stilwell, a free-lance writer who loves the Lord and serves Him through her gift of teaching. I asked her to share a word with us this week. I pray you'll be encouraged by the truths she shares and will accept her challenge to pray. Be blessed, dear one.

 

 

"Not For You"

by Susan Stilwell

One of my favorite televisions shows was Seinfeld, and an episode I particularly enjoyed was “Soup Nazi.” If every rule wasn’t immediately obeyed, the chef barked, “No soup for YOU!”

We good-naturedly growl that at my house, but I’ve noticed a similar sounding voice that occasionally echoes in my head, “Not for you!” Sometimes it barks, but more often it murmurs, especially after a mountain top experience.

Inspired and refreshed, I come away feeling as though I can conquer the world. The seeds planted on the mountain take root and become little sprouts of inspiration. I dream of the changes I’ll make and the things I’ll accomplish. But then, reality sets in.

  • Job and family issues are still there.
  • Grouchy people still irritate me.
  • Bad habits still rear their ugly heads.

My little seedlings struggle under the demands of everyday life. If I’m not careful, my enthusiasm and hope can be smothered by a voice of discouragement and doubt.

“See?” The voice whispers, “Nothing has really changed. That message wasn’t for you.”

This weekend, hundreds of women will gather at the Strive 4 Greatness Women of Purpose conference in St Petersburg, FL. They will praise and worship our Lord, and hear testimonies of the mighty work He’s done in the lives of other women. Many have prayed in anticipation of this event, asking God to prepare hearts to receive His truth.

We trust the Holy Spirit to plant seeds in the hearts of those who desperately long for freedom, peace and purpose. After the conference, many will come away encouraged, refreshed, and inspired to surrender to Him and live with passion. Tending their own seedlings of inspiration, they’ll return home, ready to conquer their worlds.

Reality will set in. Distracted by ringing telephones, looming deadlines, and exasperating people, many will struggle. They will hear a voice whisper lies like:

  • “That message was really for those other women.”
  • “Your situation is totally different.”
  • “You should’ve seen some change by now. But, see? It wasn’t for you.”

It’s critical that we pray for the time following the conference. I’m asking the Lord to guard all the seedlings from the event, so that the Word may dwell richly within each woman (Col 3:16). I pray those seedlings grow, and that each woman’s life is transformed. May their minds be renewed (Romans 12:2) as they silence any lies with Truth:

  • I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
  • I know He works all things for my good because I love Him and He has a purpose for my life (Romans 8:28).
  • I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. He has taken all the old things (habits, thinking, desires) and is making them new (2 Cor 5:17).

We know the enemy of our souls is the father of those lies (John 8:44). He comes against us to kill, steal and destroy any seedling of hope we have in Christ Jesus (John 10:10). So anytime the voice of doubt and discouragement starts, speak God’s Truth aloud and remember –

The message WAS and IS for you. Believe and press on!

“…They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”   ~Isaiah 61:3b (NIV)

 

Visit Susan's blog at www.susanstilwell.com.

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She Stands Alone

 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 (NIV, 1984)

Can you sense the Spirit of God moving, dear one? My soul has come alive with expectant anticipation! He summons His body to rise, to awaken from our complacent slumber and stand for the glory of His great Name. Our Lord desires to be witnessed throughout the earth, and He chooses to reveal Himself through you. Will you accept His invitation? Will you yield your heart to become one of His chosen?

Last week, I read this devotion by Glynnis Whitwer, and I felt compelled to share it with you today. Her words stirred my heart; I pray they will stir yours as well.

 

 

  "She Stands Alone"

Glynnis Whitwer

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

         

I wiped beads of sweat from my forehead as I pushed the shopping cart towards my car. Unloading my groceries as fast as I could, I hopped in my car, hoping for quick relief. But the triple digit temperatures had seeped inside. Blasting the air conditioning, I pulled out of the parking lot on to a back street. That’s when I saw her. Standing alone.

A petite figure stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick building. A black covering draped her head, leading to a black dress, black hose and sturdy black shoes. Though she faced the building, I could see she held a Bible. Her head bent over the cradled book as she stood in the sweltering heat. Alone.

It took but a moment to pass her, but the image of her standing alone branded into my brain. Oh, I’ve seen people standing alone in front of buildings. But this wasn’t just any building. This wasn’t a bank or a restaurant. There was no bus stop in front. The women entering this building were broken, and weren’t going in for healing.

And on that hot summer afternoon one woman stood alone praying for them and the children they carried.

She stood alone for what she believed God told her to do that day. In the heat. Facing discomfort, odd looks and probably some derisive comments. Some might say her sacrifice made no difference. We’ll never know.

We’ll never know whose plans were changed by her prayers, by her willingness to stand alone.

Moments before I saw her, all I thought about was getting out of the heat. But her conviction challenged me to ask: For what cause am I willing to stand alone?

The sight of her touched me deeply because I know the exhaustion of battle fatigue. I’ve sat in frustration rather than standing firm. I know what weary feels like when it seems my efforts aren’t making a significant difference. I’ve felt cornered rather than like a conqueror.

Some days, I’m tired of standing for what I believe in. I think others would stand taller, or with less exhaustion. They’d deal with discouragement better than me. They’d show mercy where I show frustration. Maybe someone else could … maybe they should … take over for me.

That’s when the image of this humble woman comes to mind. And the Lord says to me:

You just think she’s standing alone. She’s not. I’m right next to her. And I’ll be right next to you. Keep standing.

So I breathe in and breathe out. I picture the precious sister standing in front of the building. Only this time, she’s not alone. In my mind I see Jesus standing beside her.

And on my own street, in my own life, in my own home, facing my own calling, wondering if I’m making any difference, I determine to stand another day. For a cause I believe in … for the cause of Christ … wherever He calls me to stand.

Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that when I think I’m standing alone, I’m not. Thank You for being my hope in difficult times, and holding me up when I want to sit this one out. Help me to remember You are a very present help in times of trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

This devotion is reprinted with permission of the author, Glynnis Whitwer.  To learn more, visit www.GlynnisWhitwer.com or www.Proverbs31.org.

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More than a Conqueror

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV (1984)

In two and a half weeks I will have the remarkable privilege of sharing Jesus Christ with hundreds of women at the new “Women of Purpose” conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. It astounds me to think of the plan God has chosen for my life. One particular verse comes to mind as I consider my story. Romans 4:17 celebrates “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Recently, Karen Hickam, the founder of Strive for Greatness who is hosting the conference, challenged each of the speakers participating in the event to consider the raw, painful moments of their journey. I prayerfully asked the Lord to take me back to some of my own struggles and allow me to feel them again. I asked Him to help me describe them in a way that others might feel them too and relate to my experience. Here’s where the Lord led me.

  • I sat under the shelter of my covered porch watching the rain wash over the earth around me and wondered briefly if God had opened the skies to match my tears. Thunder shook the sky, literally rattling the chair beneath me. I felt each crack shudder through me, every pounding blow echoing the ache in my own fragile heart. Doesn’t obedience bring protection and blessing, Lord? Could I have been wrong about Your will for me?

 

  • I swallowed hard, attempting to quiet the churning in my stomach by sheer will. It would be easier if I could just retch. Maybe then, it would at least be over. But it wasn’t over. It hadn’t been for . . . How many days, Lord? When will it end? . . . I can’t do this anymore . . . I’m not strong enough . . . forgive me . . .

 

  • Reeling from the sting of betrayal, I sobbed until my face hurt. Darkness hovered about me, undaunted by the break of day. Life had turned upside down. Everything would be different now, the comforting familiarity of my routine stripped away from me by one who claimed to love me. How could this happen, Lord? Of all people to do this to me . . . how could it be her?

 

Tears flowed freely as my fingers moved across the keyboard, the vivid memory of my darkness flooding back in poignant waves. This time, however, my tears did not find their source in anguish. They fell in worship of the One in whom I overcame.

My story isn’t marked by perfection, success and glory. Far more consistently, my story revolves around the breaking of my heart. But you see, my heart was bound in chains that needed breaking, and Jesus loved me enough to allow the pain so He could set me free.

Dear one, in your moments of greatest darkness, Jesus has not abandoned you. He is there with you, holding you, even when you can’t feel Him. Very often, what keeps you from recognizing His presence in your difficulty is the very chain in you He seeks to break.

In those moments of weakness, temptation comes. The enemy hisses in your ear that Jesus doesn’t love you . . . that He doesn’t even exist. He will do everything He can to convince you to turn back and abandon God’s plan for you. After all, just look at you; God has obviously already abandoned you.

His lies, dear one, come at you in those moments with such ferocity out of his own desperate fear. The enemy knows what lies on the other side of your victory: your freedom. As you press on, take hold of Jesus by faith, and allow Him to show you your way out (1 Cor 10:13), the enemy’s grip on your heart is broken. The oppressive chain that once bound you to him—your fear, your pride, your need for significance—falls idly to the earth with a thud. And you, dear one, will discover with elation that you are free—free to experience the all-surpassing joy of Christ’s fullness dwelling within you unfettered by the enemy’s chains. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5).

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
   we were like men who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
   our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
   “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
   and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126:1-3

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