Be Salty, for God's Sake

Mark 9:49-50 (The Passion Translation) “Salt is excellent for seasoning. But if salt becomes tasteless, how can its flavor ever be restored? Your lives, like salt, are to season and preserve. So don’t lose your flavor, and preserve the peace in your union with one another.”

As salt is an essential substance to the existence of mankind, thus, we are instructed as Christians to be a necessary and indispensable part of the world around us by being “salty.” Everyone likes salty foods, like popcorn, Mexican food, cheese, butter, pasta, and eggs. But these have all had salt added. What would they taste like without the salt to season and bring out the flavor? They would be bland or maybe all flavors would mix together without anything outstanding about them. Some salt is a good thing.

However, there is a sense of balance needed to bring all the spices together for the ultimate flavor experience. Too much or too little can negate the whole purpose of the seasoning. The one characteristic of salt that can be agreed on by all people is that it is used to improve the eating experience. When you try to eat a food without enough salt, it makes you start looking around for the nearest salt shaker, right?

But then again, have you ever tried to eat something with too much salt? Wow! The biggest problem is that there is no easy way to dilute it. The salt has lost it flavor and has overwhelmed the food and makes you want to just throw it away.

So, the question we need to answer is, how can we bring salt to the world around us to be an influence for God yet keep from being a crushing force that turns them away from Him? It seems that, just as the amount of salt added to our food is an individually acquired taste, so we must hear from God how to influence our world for His Kingdom. We need to take a look around us – at the people and affairs that we choose to enter into association with or withhold ourselves from.

First of all, do we ask God about them? Next, we must hear what He has to say. His heart is for them just as it is for us, which sounds like a win-win situation. We must go to take God’s love to the lost ‘in their world’. As representatives of Jesus, we can assist those who don’t know Him to improve their lives just as salt improves food. We can’t give them so little that they start looking around for more, nor do we bombast them with “do’s” and “don’ts” that overwhelm the love we’re attempting to bring. We simply take the love of God to the lost because we are obedient, which makes us “salty”.

Prayer: “Jesus, help me see the people around me that you want to touch with my life and your love. Give me insight how I can do that so your amazing love is foremost and is accepted. Make it all about you and not me. I want others to know you as I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

  • Devotional by Kay Cook

A Fathers Love

Matthew 3:17, Matthew 22:37-40, John 3:16, Titus 3:4-7

Abba loves you! Abba God Loves YOU!! Father God, the same Dad who spoke audibly when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist “Then suddenly the voice of the Father shouted from the sky, saying, “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.”” Matthew‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭TPT‬‬

This same Father loves you, and me, and all of the world!!

In fact he loves us so much that the very purpose for His son Jesus coming to earth was solely that WE might have the believe in him and then live in His eternal love, John 3:16 TPT

I know, I know, it’s crazy right, or I mean at least it seems that way, I mean come on, we all know the verse and we all know he loves us, right?! After 42 years on this earth I finally asked myself the question, “If God loves me so much that he sent his Son to earth to die for ME, His Son who he loves more than anything, to show me how much he loves me (who has mostly made a debacle of my 42 years of life) then what have i been missing?”

Then it hit me, like a huge box of chocolates.....”ohhhh I am forgetting to actually RECEIVE His love!!!”

I mean it was like a bomb exploded in my heart ( a good bomb though, like maybe a bath bomb or something?! 🤣) when I realized that. I had been pushing his love away, and I discovered that it was because I didn’t feel I deserved it, I didn’t love myself, i didn’t think i could even be loved by people (my wife and kids included) so how could he love me, a man who has done so many terribly things, who has fallen short so many times, who continuously makes a mess of things - enter Titus 3:4-7

I was totally enlightened to Gods love and grace eternal and no matter what i/we do He will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS love us with no strings attached!! We owe him nothing for that, it’s of his huge heart and amazing patience and incredible mercy and phenomenal grace that He will love us perfectly and unconditionally!! In fact he says there are only two things he would desire of us in return, by our own free will, that we first love Him, then that we love those around us as we love ourselves, Matthew‬ ‭22:37-40‬ ‭TPT‬‬.

In your prayer time today start with a simple time of letting Abba Father know that you love him. Connect with Heavenly Papa then ask Abba Daddy to shower you with His love. Then simply sit, receive, revel, enjoy, bask, soak up His love!!

Then.........pour it out to those around you, and start over!!

I LOVE all of you so much (even if we haven’t met 😜) you are my brothers and sisters and mamas and papas in Him!!

  • Today’s devotional by Nate Techanchuk

Press On!

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14)

Recently Lindsay and I had the glorious opportunity to camp in the wilderness at Yosemite National Park. We packed for our trip assuming we would camp in a normal camp ground, but believe it or not, the campground for which we planned was still closed due to snow… in June! The unexpected complication became the most incredible gift as we then sought a wilderness permit and fulfilled a bucket list dream we both shared. The only problem was we would then be hiking over a mile of strenuous elevation to a remote campsite in the wilderness when we had only suitcases- no backpacks at all! By the grace of God alone we managed the exhausting hike with all our necessary belongings and spent the next three nights filled with the wonder of our Creator- it was worth it all!

Sometimes our prayer lives are much like our trip to Yosemite. We feel so prepared knowing the strategy to get the victory in our situation, and then everything changes; we have no control over the circumstances. We feel blindsided, but our Father Who reigns in total control most assuredly has a better plan. We have to press on! Our Father is calling us deeper into Him than we ever dreamed. His voice continues to call us higher even when the trail of believing prayer appears out of our league! We come totally vulnerable and seemingly a target for anything to take us out, but our obedience to press on assures His nearness. The goal of time spent in our Father’s presence coming in the name of Jesus, our risen Lord is to draw near to Him and align ourselves with His heart’s desire. It is there we become like Him! Though every lie attempting to cloud your mind and every circumstance screaming something contrary to God’s promise relentlessly persists, PRESS ON! The beauty at the top is worth it all, and the smile of your Father is the heavenly prize you will live in.

Prayer: Father, what an incredible adventure you have invited us into in this life of prayer. May we remember your faithfulness, soaking in the exhilaration of the views of hope and promise that You allow us to see amidst the twists, turns and inclines. May we, by your grace overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of reaching the top, and may we especially lean into your grace in our moments of weakness, knowing it is there most of all that we find Your strength to live in victory!

  • Devotional by Gina Reed

That thing.......

Genesis 22:16-18 (NIV)

16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,18 and through your offspring[a] all nations on earth will be blessed,[b] because you have obeyed me.”

The Bible is the most ancient yet most relevant work we could ever imagine. When in Genesis Abraham is charged with giving God the thing that is dearest to his heart...and forced upon a precipice of the most massive trust fall a human could ever take.....we see that we too are faced with this daily. We live from our hearts...and the things that we long for...that have pained us...the things that have taught us to fear. God knows and doesn’t condemn this. All he asks is that we continually give them over to him.....haha not so easy! But with MASSIVE consequence.

By Abraham's example....the father of the nations.....and by Father God's example we live. To pick up our cross daily means to daily die. But with full belief that in our dying we LIVE. Fill in these blanks with the thing you think you will lose if you take this faith leap... ‘Abraham gives up his..... (that thing you cannot bear to surrender) at Gods call, and with this disappear all his hopes for .......(fill in the blank with what you could potentially lose).’

Now proclaim to that very thing that '(That thing)......will be returned to you a thousand times over.' .......what is your loss?.....what is your pain?.....give it to Him.....he will raise it up and give it back to you a thousand times over again and again.

Prayer: I pray today God gives you the grace to surrender that thing that is nearest to your heart...and know that the Father...He cares more for it...and that in His hands is a much safer place for it to be. I bless your heart process and for you to experience the freedom of giving your ALL to Him. He has plans to multiply your dreams.

  • Devotional by Lindsey Cates

The Effect Jesus has by Spending Time with Him

“The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him.”

In this passage Peter and John were preaching and had just healed a man, which caused the Jewish leaders concern so they began threatening them. The Church began to pray:

“So now, Lord, listen to their threats to harm us. Empower us, as your servants, to speak the word of God freely and courageously. Stretch out your hand of power through us to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of your holy Son, Jesus!” At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness. All the believers were one in mind and heart…and great measures of grace rested upon them all.” Acts 4:13,14,31-33

This is an incredible chapter in which we see the growth of the church exploding to another 5000 believers! The apostles had been preaching and healing people since Pentecost and the kingdom of God was expanding, “by the power of the name of Jesus”. v 10

There is a very noticeable effect on those who “simply spend time with Jesus”. The effect brought astonishment and fear, so much so that the Jewish leaders threatened the apostle’s lives. I love that they are told they would be punished for their bold preaching, so they pray for more boldness!

The disciples who were leaders of this new church had been with Jesus for three years and continued to be close to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit every day.

In His presence, beholding Him in His glory, brings changes in us so that we become like him. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Jesus is holy, pure, righteous, loving, kind, merciful, and faithful. If we want these character qualities, we can grow in them by being with Him.

This is the simplest form of prayer; communing, being in His Presence and taking time to love and worship Him. Our role as “priests”, as Peter designates, makes honoring, worshipping, praying our first priority and the chief responsibility in our lives.

Praying is so much more than talking with the Lord. It includes listening to His heart and desires for us and opening our hearts and expressing our affections to Him. In this position we can hear His voice, which changes us forever. Prayer involves spending time with the Lord, sitting at His feet as Mary did, listening to him.

As we share our hearts He promises to answer us.

He says,

” Because you have delighted in me as my great lover, I will greatly protect you. I will set you in a high place, safe and secure before my face. I will answer your cry for help EVERY TIME WE PRAY and you will find and FEEL MY PRESENCE even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will deliver you and honor you.” Psalm 91: 14,15

The result of being with Jesus is that we carry His peace, confidence, power, and very presence. We walk courageously in signs and wonders and teach the word of God with boldness. We have unity with others who carry His presence and we become more like Him. THESE AE GREAT RESULTS!

The early church sets an example of how we can live, preaching the word boldly, healing individuals, moving in signs and wonders. They did these things because they had been with Jesus.

Being with Jesus changes us, our character, and our behavior.

Do you see the effect Jesus has on those who simply spend time with Him?

Can others see this effect on yourself? Are you spending time with Jesus every day, like Jesus did with His Father?

We can be changed into the likeness of Christ and grow in, “great measures of grace” by spending time with the Lord. As his disciples, this is our goal.

“We are God’s children, we know when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” I John 3;2

Prayer: Lord, we want to be like you so help us to spend time with you every day. We welcome you to come and change us as we dwell in your presence. As we behold you, make us more like you. You are our focus and the object of all of our affections. Lord, give us unrestrained boldness, despite opposition. We love you Lord and we know that intimacy with you in the secret place is our greatest source of life and spiritual growth as well as our highest privilege. May we be ever aware of your presence and its effect on us. Amen

  • Devotional by Lisa Wright

Breath

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

Prayer is the air we breathe. It’s the “I have to do the dishes again, Lord, come. My child is sick, Lord, come, Cancer in a loved one, Lord, come.” Prayer is life. When we call on the name of Jesus, He comes, He moves. We might not see the fruit now but He sees and hears. So let’s pray.

Prayer: Father we thank You for today, we thank You for the mundane, that You meet us in every aspect of our lives. That You’re moving and shaking and making all things new. We pray today that we find You in the little things. Amen

  • Devotional by Anna Ewbank

Thanksgiving & Praise

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. (Psalm 100:4)

Nothing sets the atmosphere for effectual, prevailing prayer like thanksgiving and praise! Thanksgiving and praise are the life-breath of the believer, a constant reminder that all we are and all we have come from His loving heart. As we continue to understand the magnitude of what our Father has done for us and in us through the gift of His Son and the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but live in the river of ever-flowing thanksgiving and praise.

The beauty of thanksgiving and praise is that it takes the focus off of us and our needs, and puts it on the One who is worthy of all, the One “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine....” (Ephesians 3:20) In the light of His power and glory, we see our Father as the ultimate answer to every need and question – “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) So, thank Him and praise Him… ”For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

Prayer: Father, open my eyes to see you as you truly are – a loving Daddy who delights in filling my life with every good thing. Help me to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness you are. May every breath I take be filled with thanksgiving and praise for who you are and all that you’ve done for me. In the precious Name of your Son, Jesus. Amen!

  • Devotional by Lindsay Reed

In the Face of Fear

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This verse in 2 Timothy leads us in how to combat fear.

Power, yes! Love, yes!

But let’s be honest, self-discipline being the combatant of fear was not on the list. How many times have you stood face to face with fear and simply fought back with only the power and/or love part of that equation?

Prayer as a first move rather than a last resort as a form of self-discipline.

It could be some time away with the Lord, offering up a prayer in your personal prayer language or even a journal entry. There are moments that the only prayer coming off your lips is the name of Jesus. The point is that prayer can, and often does, look different every day and in every situation.

Don’t miss out because it doesn’t look like you think it should. You have the tools to fight fear in faith just by showing up and doing the wise and healthy things you know to do. The other option is to ignore the simple choices of self-discipline that have been placed before you and keep you cowering in fear.

When spiritual self-disciplines are a regular part of your day, fear doesn’t stand a chance!

Prayer: Lord I want you to be the first place I turn, especially in moments of fear when everything feels clouded and hazy. Send your Holy Spirit to prompt me. Give me the faith to reach out and the words to say. That as I continue to act in faith, may the power, love and self-discipline increase and the fear decrease. In Jesus Name, amen!

  • Devotional by Kristi Ruckel

Make Your Requests Known

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. — Psalm 5:3

Each morning, I like to start my day by going on a prayer walk with the Lord. Conversation with God is the foundation to setting up the day for success. Many mornings, I find that I end up talking to God about all the things that I have to do, all the concerns I have, all my worries. Sometimes this can feel like a prayer life failure. Shouldn’t I have more to say than just my requests or complaints? 

But God want’s us to communicate our thoughts, worries, cares, concerns, and requests! He wants to hear your heart! He cares about the details. He wants to know what’s going on inside of you: your hopes, your dreams, your desires. And he wants to respond! 

There is a give and take to the relationship of walking with God. Psalm 5 describes morning prayer as a conversation between us and God. We speak and then listen. We pray and then wait. We begin our day in conversation with God. We lay it all down before Him and then wait for him to respond. 

As you pray this morning, make your requests known to Him. Then take some time and wait for Him to respond. 

Prayer: Father, help me to hear your voice this morning. I have so many things on my mind. Some days things seem like they just keep piling up and I can’t handle them on my own. These are the areas I need you to move on my behalf today _________________________ I trust you. Come and have your way in my life. Amen.

  • Devotional by Alex Priore

When we pray, He answers

Jeremiah 33:3 (MSG) ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’

Jeremiah 33:10–11 (ESV):. . . there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord: “ ‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!’

The Lord is in the revelation business. When we pray He answers. When we can’t figure out what is next, pray. His answer is marvelous and wonderful. God’s promise of revelation to Jeremiah was in the midst of uncertain times. Jeremiah was directed to purchase land for the long term in spite of the times because God promised a preferred future. When we pray this month, we concentrate not on the confusion of the present, but the constance of the promise. In the mean time we will pray, forgive, reach out, call out and listen to wondrous things from our Heavenly Father.

Prayer: Father, as we consider our future direction, grant us the spirit of wisdom and revelation. When You have spoken to us give us the courage to act. Help us to reach the lost, strengthen families, transform our community, and promote the unity of the churches in Hampton Roads. We want to hasten the coming of Jesus by our actions. We long for You to manifest Your presence and display Your glory. Thank you for the promise of the coming of Christ. AMEN

  • Devotional by Steve Ruckel

Join Him in the Places He's Already Working

Prayer is many things – a conversation, a means of petition, spiritual warfare, to name a few. One of the most powerful benefits of prayer is the way it brings the heart, mind, and spirit into alignment with God’s vision. I cannot count the times I have poured my heart out to the Father, speaking to Him with great need or frustration, only to have Him gently but radically redirect my gaze. When I yearn for a specific outcome in a given situation, I find myself urging God to see things my way or just assuming that God “agrees” with me. He always listens to me, but when I’ve finished making my case, He almost always then quietly invites me to trust, release, and open my heart to something new: “See my child where I am at work? Join me in prayer HERE, work THIS ground with me.” Sometimes what He directs me to consider seems wholly unrelated to my original concern, but He always shifts my internal gears to greater power, peace and intimacy with Himself. 

Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson express this beautifully in their book Prayer: Forty Days of Practice with the following prayer and visual. 

Screen Shot 2019-07-11 at 10.17.49 AM.png


Prayer: Father thank You for the gift of prayer, that You are a God who listens and loves. Thank You for Your invitation to see what You see, to work alongside You in this world. May our hearts be tender and responsive to Your direction, please show us where You’re working and how we may join you there. Set us free from our limited vision and release us into the expansive wisdom of Your Spirit. 

  • Devotional by Anna Smith

The Problem with Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7 (6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

My favorite book, when I was a little girl, was a Sesame Street book entitled I can do it Myself. The characters tell about activities they’ve learned how to do on their own - like cleaning up and getting dressed. Over the years I’ve embodied much of that message, learning how to do things on my own, for myself, without asking or needing help. And that’s where I discovered the problem with prayer.

The problem with prayer is this: me. I fail to recognize that the God who created the universe wants to commune with me and wants to speak to me through His Holy Spirit. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. . . the great I AM . . .isn’t surprised by what I say nor does he tire of my incessant questions, and He’s not disappointed in my shortcomings either. Yet I fail to bring Him my burdens - and I know I’m not alone in this. You do it, too.

Our God is faithful, patient, kind. He is the same faithful God who kept allowing Abraham’s “but if there are only 50 [45, 30, 20, 10] faithful in Sodom, will you not destroy it?” (Genesis 18:24) He didn’t yell at Abraham for his questions, and He won’t yell at us either. He wants us to draw near to Him (James 4:8a)! That verse even goes on to say, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The “wavering in mind” (that of a double-minded person) can only be countered by setting our hearts and minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). By setting our hearts and minds on things above, we take ourselves out of the equation. We focus our hearts and minds back to our faithful God who never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4) and who is over all and in all (Ephesians 4:6).

I can’t do it myself, and neither can you. But God can! And when we come to Him in prayer, He’ll give us His peace which will guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Prayer: Father, thank you for loving us enough to hear our questions and concerns. Thank you for hearing us. Calm our anxious thoughts, Lord; please give us your peace that surpasses our own understanding. Thank you for guarding our hearts and minds when we submit our prayers and petitions to you. Help us not to have wavering minds but to focus on your goodness and faithfulness. We ask for renewed minds and a desire to commune with you throughout the day. We can't do it on our own, God. We need You! Thank you, Father. Amen.

  • Devotional by Bonnie Sanford

Sweet, Solid Home

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” - Matthew 7:24-27

A home is only as safe, valuable, and comforting as its foundation. Just like a marriage, a friendship, a job, or a dream. A foundation is the core, the center, the real stuff that you have to trust and lean on when the winds and rains of life hit.

I grew up in Eastern NC and a downside to that part of the state is hurricane season. I remember growing up I knew of these hurricanes well. I remember looking out the windows and seeing the whipping rains and stirring winds, and being completely awed by them, but never afraid of the storms, not even once. My sweet dad would always say, “There is no need to worry, our house is strong and on a hill. The water can’t hurt us.”

Our house is strong and on a hill.

The water can’t hurt us.

Those kind and comforting words put my childlike mind at ease instantaneously. I never doubted that my dad was right and we were safe. I knew we were safe because our foundation was secure. It was unfaltering. My parents built their home and fully trusted it, and as a child, I clung to their trust and made it my own.

When I read this passage in Matthew, it brings me back to being a little girl resting easy in the security of my father and our home. I long for my life to be built with the same security as my childhood home. When I face hopelessness, let my solid home provide a room full of hope. When hit with sorrow, let me walk into my room of boundless joy. When overwhelmed with weariness, let me step into a room of rest and peace. Let us seek to build our lives on the solid foundation of truth.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we fix our eyes, minds, and hearts on you right now. We want to build our lives with and for you. You are the center and core of who we are and want to be. Thank you for being the solid rock upon which we can stand and believe. Holy Spirit, we invite you into every room in this home we are building, this life we are curating. Be our foundation. Be our heartbeat. Be our first and last, and in between. We trust in you, no matter what storms we face. This home and life are built on you and you alone. With joy and hope we pray, Amen.

  • Devotional by Annaliese Thornton

Peace, Confidence, and Strength

Scriptures:

Ephesians 5:15-16  (ESV)

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Colossians 3:17  (ESV)

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Romans 8:26  (ESV)

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

1 Corinthians 12:11  (ESV)

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

In the hectic pace of life in the 21st century, we can easily become overwhelmed, confused, short-tempered, and worldly. Here is a simple prayer that is meant to bring us back to a place of peace, confidence, and strength.

Prayer: “Lord, I have so much to do, and it is all important. People are depending on me, and so I am relying on You. Help me to not get lost in the dizzying details and frantic pace. Give me wisdom to set priorities, a peacefulness to calm my cohorts, and strength to compensate for my weaknesses. Lord, Help me manage time and resources, so that I can be a good steward. Guide my steps and keep me safe from the cares of this world.” Amen.

  • Devotional by Steve Ruckel

With Eyes of Faith I See

2 Kings 6:15-16 (NIV) “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

I’ve always wanted to be a seer, one who sees what is really going on in the spiritual realm. So far, God hasn’t allowed that to happen. I read both of Blake Healey’s books about his life as a seer and was enthralled with what he did with this gift. Some of my problem may be that my gifts of mercy and exorcism are not compatible with being a seer. Therefore, I walk out my life with faith according to Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

One instance that really helped my faith happened when I read the 2 Kings verse. I received a picture to illustrate it more intimately for me. The song Michael W. Smith sings about being surrounded by the enemy came to mind and God showed me just how He surrounds us. It was an image of God’s presence being laid upon me – kind of like being immersed into paint or covered by a sheet of laminating plastic. It was upon me, touching, being formed by every part of my physical frame, including my hair. There was nothing that could get between God and me. Yes, there may be forces and struggles that are around me on every side but God is still between me and them. The things that want to harm me must go through God first!

How much more do we need to know? We can learn day-by-day or even minute-by-minute about God’s character, but we understand by faith that His presence is always with us. God tells us throughout Scripture that he will never leave us. We have to take that by faith – He said it as a promise that He cannot turn away from. I don’t always see it because my eyes are looking for Him through a different filter, but I can know by faith that He is always there.

“It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you!”

Prayer: “Lord, help me to understand more deeply how you are always with me no matter how my circumstances may try to convince me otherwise. You have promised it is so and I believe it--again for the now and future of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

When I am weak, then I am strong

1 Corinthians 4:6-7 (ESV) “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

Have you ever wanted to mow your neighbor’s lawn, just for fun? Probably not. Why? Because it’s not yours. It doesn't belong to you. You didn’t pay for it, so you're not responsible for it.

Why then, do we try to take on the full weight of what God has given to us by grace and purchased for us by his Son’s blood? What I have from God has been purchased for me. I didn’t earn a single good thing that God gave me. If that’s the case, then I am not responsible for maintaining any level of righteousness on my own strength.

Isaiah 46:3-4 says,

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

My identity is not my responsibility to maintain or define. It has been created by God and redeemed by the blood of Jesus. God, who created it, will sustain it.

My spiritual vitality is not dependent on my performance. Even disciplines like prayer, worship, and reading Scripture are all simply a means of positioning myself to receive his grace and empowerment -- which has already been purchased for me.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay...”

In Jesus, there’s no pressure for you to be anything other than who you already are -- a new creation. My weakness does not disqualify me. Rather, my weakness perfectly positions me to receive grace -- the only thing that is powerful enough to enable me to walk out the call of God on my life. I don’t have to pretend that I am anything “better” than what I am. I don’t have to put up a facade for others.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Prayer: "Jesus, thank you that you are enough for me. I ask for you to reveal your grace to me in a new and fresh way, and to remove the temptation to measure up in my own strength. I receive your grace and empowerment to walk out Your calling on my life."

  • Devotional by Adam Baldwin

Let Your Roots Run Deep

Mathew 6:1-13 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you needbefore you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

These verses are just a short passage from the sermon on the mount, the best sermon ever taught. In this passage, Jesus is revealing to us how rewarding it is to live for the presence and pleasure of God instead of the praises of man. I love how God is never calling us to do anything that He hasn’t done himself. Jesus taught, healed and prayed in front of so many people, yet you see Him constantly prioritizing getting alone with his father over and over. Our secret life with God is like the root system of our life ... Our roots are how we intake nutrients allowing us to grow and stand tall and firm, yet they are underground and unseen by most. I believe that God is calling us as a body to grow our unseen life with Him, especially in the place of prayer, because He wants to be with us and reward us openly! He wants to fill our branches with fruit, but the only way to bear fruit is to abide in him. In this season of prayer we will be having plenty of context for corporate prayer together, which is incredibly important, but in the midst of this season of praying together let’s remember to get in our rooms.. alone.. and “pray to our Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Activation: Make time today to be alone with God. Unpack your heart and prayers, and ask Him what’s on His heart.

  • Devotional by Ian Thornton

Pray Without Ceasing

“Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

That’s it. Pray without ceasing. I used to struggle with this command all the time! I mean I pray for my meals, usually if I’m not too tired I pray in the morning when I wake up and almost always say my prayers as I drift off to sleep each night. That’s enough right? God knows how busy I am. I want to spend more time in prayer, but life just gets so full. God has grace on me thankfully. But there it is right there: pray without ceasing. Did God just give me an impossible command? There’s got to be a better answer.

There is a better answer. As I’ve learned with so many other things in the kingdom of God by walking through the fires of sanctification (a lot of times whether I want to or not), this short but powerful phrase, is not a command at all but rather an invitation. It takes nothing more than a simple mindset shift to see with my heart what the Father is actually saying instead of what my mind wants to interpret.

It is a glorious invitation into constant and never ceasing communion with him. How do we build a deeper relationship with others? We do it through communication, through union and with time invested. In accepting the invitation, we never have to experience a moment without the Father, we acknowledge that our lives and our thoughts and our minds are not our own and we are ever in union with the trinity and they are at the same time in union with us. Prayer is not an activity that we must do all the time, it is a continuous embrace that we get to enjoy, if we have the courage to receive it.

The mindset shift is indeed simple, but it can also be intimidating. It is easy to view this verse as a command that relies on my strength, my control, and my ability to accomplish. I don’t have to trust anything outside of myself, right? In fact it is another thing altogether. I have to abandon the reliance on myself and my own sense of control. But what is life, what is true relationship without risk and trust? And we know that God is trustworthy and He is good. So the real question is... In the light of His character that’s steadfast and unchanging, will we let ourselves be vulnerable and accept the Lord’s invitation to pray without ceasing?

Prayer: Father I thank you that you’re always with me and you never leave me. Help me have strength and the courage to open myself to your invitation to live in constant union with me. I receive your love and I trust you with all that I am. Help my life to exist in the place of prayer without ceasing.

  • Devotional by George Gilliland

Know God's Way

Proverbs 4:10 “My son, if you will take the time to stop and listen to me and embrace what I say, you will live a long and happy life full of understanding in every way.” (The Passion Translation)

I love to knit! I really enjoy being creative in this way. How about you? How do express your creativity? I had a situation that taught me a spiritual lesson through this hobby.

I saw an ad for yarn on sale and a pattern for the cutest string beach bag. Deciding that I would like to have this bag, I bravely determined to branch out of knitting and crochet this project. How hard could it be?

The project started off great. Along the way, I would hold up my work so as to gauge how straight and long it was. So, by the time I stitched a strip of 30 rows of lace stitches, there should have been only 5 more rows until I finished. I laid it out to see the work overall. Wow! Instead of a rectangle, there was a ragged kind of parallelogram! I almost cried. I didn’t understand how it could have gone so wrong while I was following the directions so closely. The only thing to do was to unravel it, ball the yarn back up and start at the place where the stitches went out of alignment.

I often see spiritual truths in my everyday experiences so, I looked to see what was going on here. It became very apparent and, you might see the analogy yourself.

I saw my project as a Christian’s life that is based on the Bible and Scriptural teaching. Somewhere along the way, maybe early-on, the influence of our society comes to us with a “new” way to think about how we apply the guidelines of the Bible. It’s not so far off that we recognize it as a wrong direction but, it gets a foothold in our thoughts and we carry it out. That’s where we should immediately take it to God for clarification. It’s not a matter of whether it is “right for me” but, what God and the Scripture say about it. Without discernment or correction by the Holy Spirit, we find our lives becoming ragged and out of alignment with the Word.

Can you see anything in your life that needs to be unraveled and reworked into your life’s fabric with the supervision of Holy Spirit? Let’s lay out our lives to allow God, as our Lord and Master, to root out the “wicked way in us” and teach us any new ways of thinking about His Kingdom.

Prayer: “Lord, I want to follow you without the influence of the world in my life. Give me discernment to know what is from you and what I should turn away from. My greatest desire is to live happily with more understanding of you and your ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

  • Devotional by Kay Cook

Intimacy with God

Prayer is the path for nurturing intimacy with God. It is how we successfully express and received love from God. All vertical relationships with persons of the Godhead, when there is any degree of intimacy at all, involve prayer.

Did you know that those who have a strong prayer life experience more intimacy in their human relationships, especially their marriage? When we become practiced in our ability to love God through prayer, we, in turn, grow in our ability to express and receive love from all of our relationships, spiritual and human. Your prayer life directly connects to your human relationships! I used to compartmentalize prayer as only a “spiritual practice”, but I have received the revelation that prayer creates a positive change in all my relationships. Practice intimacy with God and watch all your relationships grow and become more healthy!

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Prayer: Father God, I love You. I am so thankful for the love You show me. I truly want to know you more! I pray that You would increase my capacity to express and receive love in all my relationships, especially with you. Thank you God for the pure love that flows so freely from your heart to me. I choose you Lord. I choose to be vulnerable with you, to process the deepest places in my heart with you. I hold nothing back from you. Help me to live with a heart that is free to be transparent and trusting as I open up my life to you and others. I pray that the fruit of my relationship with you would spread to every relationship in my life. I pray that you would bring healing and life to all that I interact with this week. Amen.

  • Devotional by Pastor Matt Ruckel