Flirting with Doubt

Have you ever pleaded with God over and over again to answer your prayer?  Or felt such desperation in your soul, that you prayed all night long begging God to hear your prayer?  But deep down, did you really expect God to hear you?

In my reading of Acts, I came upon a very familiar story.  Peter is captured by Herod’s henchmen and thrown in jail.  James, John’s brother was killed just days before his capture and the people are thrilled!  Herod, seeking continued approval had turned his attention towards Peter and now Peter was sitting in jail surrounded by sixteen soldiers, all appointed to guard one unarmed man.

It’s the middle of the night and Peter is awakened by a brilliant light filling his jail cell.  He sees an angel but he’s really not sure if he is awake or dreaming.  He follows the angel past guard after guard, gate after gate and soon finds himself alone and very much awake standing in an alley outside the prison gates.

Meanwhile, the believers all gathered at Mary’s house to pray and intercede for Peter.  To say that they were concerned for Peter’s welfare would be stating it mildly.  They were terrified at what Herod might do to Peter, their pastor and friend.  He had just executed another member of their community and they were sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to Peter.  They knew how heavily surrounded he was and in their heart of hearts they secretly wondered if God would hear their prayers.  Look what happens next . . .

While they were praying earnestly for Peter, Mary’s servant girl interrupted them to tell them that Peter was at the door knocking. Look at what happens next . . . “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept knocking and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.Acts 12.15-16

As I read this passage, I couldn’t help but cringe inside at all the times I’ve prayed, never really expecting God to hear my prayer.  Because, deep down in my heart of hearts maybe I thought it was too impossible.   Or maybe, I questioned whether it really was God’s will or not or maybe I just simply did not believe that my prayers would really make a difference.  Whatever the reason at the root is DOUBT.  Doubt that God is who He says He is.  Doubt that God hears my prayers.  Doubt that He is great enough for my problems.

Doubt, doubt, doubt.

James 1.5-7 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you MUST believe and NOT DOUBT, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

The more I read the words of Jesus and his followers, the more apparent it is that following Him is an ALL or NOTHING venture.  Having one foot in the world and one foot in heaven just doesn’t work.  Opening the door to doubt, even just a little crack, will leave us unstable and easily swayed.

Lord, teach me to have a faith that doesn’t flirt with doubt.  I want all that you have for me.  Teach me what it looks like to walk the road of faith.  Open my heart to see You for who You really are so that I might know You better and trust You more.  Amen

By Kristi Huseby

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Immeasurably More

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Thought

Of all the names for God in the Bible, this is my favorite: “Him who is Able to Do Immeasurably More.” Our God is the same God who parted the Red Sea and fed 5,000 on a green hillside with only a couple of sardine sandwiches. He longs to do more than we can ask or imagine! Unfortunately most of us haven’t really given him much of a challenge with our wimpy dreams and shallow prayers. Let’s dream big dreams for God. Then hang on for the ride that is more than we can even imagine!

Prayer

Almighty and Awesome God, do in our day what you did in past days. Give us faith to believe and then amaze us at how shortsighted our faith really was. Give us vision to see your plan and believe you long to do greater things. We ask this, not for ourselves or our reputation, but for your glory and the salvation of our world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

By Phil Ware
From: http://www.heartlight.org
- used by permission

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Derailed

TrainConsider my affliction and my travail; and forgive all my sins.Psalm 25:18

Consider – David isn’t like me.  At least he’s not like me in his wholehearted cry to the Lord.  We may share other things.  His faults maybe my faults, but God Himself recognized that David continued in faithful direction even if he was derailed once in a while.  I am more like the description of the spiritually impoverished man in Abraham Heschel’s words, “We do not refuse to pray.  We merely feel that our tongue is tied, our mind inert, our inner vision dim, when we are about to enter the door that leads to prayer.  We do not refuse to pray; we abstain from it.  We ring the hollow bell of selfishness, rather than absorb the stillness that surrounds the world,”[1]

I want to pray.  I want to listen to the voice of my God.  I desperately need His comforting reassurance, the symphony of His care.  At times my concerns for those I love overcome my trepidation, my unworthiness, and I stammer affirmation of His sovereignty.  I know He cares.  I know He even cares about me, but I feel His silence as if a vise closed around my body.  Why?  God has not abandoned me.  I have failed Him.  When I am derailed by circumstance, emotion or temptation, I miss the mark of His blessing.  I find myself on a spur, switched to another direction.  I cease to pray because I know that I am not on the main line and I don’t know what to do about it.  How often I need to remember Brother Lawrence’s straightforward approach to sin.  Repent, accept the unwavering grace of the Lord, trust His word of faithful comfort, and get back on the track.

David is able to ask God to “consider” his affliction and travail.  This is a noble word from a broken heart.  Ra’ah (to see) is metaphorical for looking into the heart of a matter.  No one hiding from the Lord would ever ask to be considered.  Adam did not want the Lord to consider him.  He wanted to cover his shame (which was not nakedness, by the way) and hide.  I am much more like Adam than David.  But David is a son of Abraham, and so am I.  There is hope for me too.  Even when I hide, God asks, in surprise, why I am not standing by His side.  He expects me to be there.  That is my destiny.  He is always surprised when I do not fulfill the purpose for which I was born.  His surprise is my shame.  I don’t want to be like this – afraid to pray.  I want conversation with Him.  I want to be known, but because I know my own faults and failures so well, I simply can’t imagine that there is a God who could love me in spite of them.  And the cancer in my imagination, that tumor of disbelief, really shouts out how little I actually trust Him.  He promises to forgive me when I come in contrite humiliation.  It is only my distorted sense of rebellion and unworthiness that prevents His promise from affecting my life.  It isn’t that I want to pray but am unable.  It is that I refuse to pray because I am unwilling.  I am unwilling to admit that my failure is not grounds for His rejection, that there is no inverted pride in spiritual distance and that He loves me when I do not love Him or me.

Consider.”  Lord, look at me.  Yes, I know you will often find things I detest, things I do not want to see, things I pretend are not me.  But look anyway.  And peel away the layers of my resistance.  Remove the scales so that what I know may become what I see too.  Let me see me as you see me.  Consider my afflictions.  They start here, in me.

by Skip Moen, D. Phil.

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Hearing from God

Christian DevotionalSpeak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10

The other day I was asked, “How do you hear from God through His word? Although I try to read the Bible, it seems dry and old.”

Let me share what I have learned in this adventure of hearing God through His word.

Pray first. Always invite God to speak to you. “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Engage in what you are reading. What is the story, the picture, the promise, the warning, or the setting that stands out to you? Pause and ponder.

If you are reading Psalm 23 spend some time on, “He makes me lie down in green pastures”. Think about where you might find ” green pastures” today. What might that look like?

Pray again. Allow God’s Spirit to speak to your spirit and personalize His presence and message to you.

Lord, in the maze of my hurried day show me the places of rest that You have prepared for me. Help me see the quiet places you offer to experience Your presence – on my break, as I ride the bus or drive, as I converse. May my spirit be lead by Your Holy Spirit to find the moments of quiet, in the midst of busy, that keep me connected to You. Thank you that You desire to walk closely with me today. May I hear Your voice through Your word as I make time to read and ponder. May Your Spirit speak to my heart as I engage with You as I go. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

By Gail Rodgers

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Beauty Out of Brokenness

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. . .” Philippians 2: 14–16

My neighbor Marie invited me over to see her rock collection. She showed me the smooth, shiny rocks which, for days had been buffeted in her rock-polishing machine. They had been rough when they first went into the machine, but now the rocks were smooth with interesting designs and colors. Marie’s experienced eye could see the potential beauty of those rocks before she polished them.

Then she showed me some other, larger rocks that were dirty and rough. But when she split them with a hammer, many of them contained the most beautiful crystal formations. However, they had to be cleaned and treated to loosen the dirt that had gathered in the crevices. The removal of this silt and dirt allowed the beauty of the crystals to shine forth.

It’s difficult to find rocks that can be polished or that contain crystals and precious gems. One has to have experience and patience to spend hours and days looking for them, identifying them, and then cleaning and polishing them.

In a way, we can compare a rock hound to our Creator, Jesus Christ. He knows exactly what is inside of us. He sees the potential in each of us. In his  book Just Like Jesus, Max Lucado writes, “Jesus loves you just the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way.” Jesus is patient with us and will keep “polishing” us until we shine like stars.

Sometimes we put walls about ourselves. Kind of like turtles, we withdraw into our shells whenever we think we might be in danger. We have been hurt, afraid, or just plain shy, or maybe we have a secret we don’t anyone to know. We are afraid to let some people get past the wall.

Jesus, patiently, with His unfailing love, tells us, “I have come for people to have life and have it until it overflows” (John 10:10). Sometimes when we choose not to believe Him, He will use people (who rub us the wrong way), painful circumstances, death, financial problems, sickness, sorrow, and disappointments to help us yield to His polishing — to take down the wall. When we trust Him and look to Him for strength, wisdom, and direction, He brings out the beauty in each one of us. “They looked to Him and were radiant. . . ”(Psalm 34:5, Amplified)

Lord Jesus, I am so glad You know everything about me and love me anyways. Thank You that You know best how to bring out our inner beauty. Help us to yield to Your “polishing” and trust You in everything. Amen.

Going Deeper

1. Can you think of a person who has been refined into a “shining star” through difficult circumstances?
2. Can you think of a situation that God used to refine you?
3. How did you respond or react at first? Did you recognize God’s hand in what was happening to you? Have you learned to thank

By Katherine Kehler

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