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Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.


-Revelation 20:11

Why do I need so much encouragement to become the Christian I aspire to be?

This question plagues me often. It seems like I can never do enough to keep myself on track with Bible study, prayer, Christian alms-giving and service; I’m easily distracted from my lofty goals by the minutiae of everyday life. Then, when I read a particularly inspiring book about faith or hear the story of someone’s amazingly committed and fruitful discipleship, I feel even more of a failure as a Christian! Why can’t I just ‘get’ there?

Maybe, as I’ve recently grown to appreciate, my short-comings as a Christian aren’t so much a failure, as a thorn to remind me that ‘Christian’ isn’t the name of an accomplishment. It’s the name of the Way to God. That means it’s a day-in, day-out, walk; a continual appraisal and revision of priorities; an ongoing developmental journey deeper into the reality of what it means to follow Jesus Christ in the world today. And perhaps most notably, it’s not a Way that’s intended to be walked alone. Christ gives us companions to share the journey, and one of the most important duties of companions is to offer encouragement. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing,” reads 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Did you catch the second part of that verse? We’re SUPPOSED to be encouraging each other, which means that Christ knew that his people would often fall short and feel inadequate to walking the Christian journey. After reading that, I feel better already! From now on, I’m happily taking all the encouragement I can get, and I’m praising God for giving me books to read, companions for sharing, audios for listening, videos to watch, and stories to hear. Needing Christian encouragement isn’t a failing – it’s a gift!

Jan Dunlap is the author of the new suspense novel Heaven’s Gate: Archangels Book I, the bestselling memoir Saved by Gracie: How a Rough-and-tumble Rescue Dog Dragged Me Back to Health, Happiness and God (Authentic Publishing) and the acclaimed Birder Murder Mystery series (North Star Press, Inc.). She holds MA degrees in Theology and English Studies and lives in the Hill Country of Texas where she spends every clear night marveling at the stars and the brilliance of God’s creation. She is a frequent contributor to FaithHappenings.com and welcomes visitors at www.jandunlap.com and on Facebook at her two author pages BirderMurderMama and Archangels.

More of Jan Dunlap: http://www.jandunlap.com/

A DESERT ROSE - 

In Lessons on Living

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God. - Isaiah 35:1-2

Boulder Dam was built in order to bring water to areas that had been desert. During the building of this dam, several workmen lost their lives. After its completion, a plaque was placed on the dam with the names of those who had been killed, with the following inscription: "These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as the rose."

God revealed to Isaiah that Israel also would one day be restored. The land that had been devastated and destroyed until it was nothing more than a desert would be revived and become a place of beauty and fruitfulness.

To a certain degree, this prophecy has been realized. With the aid of technology and significant irrigation, Israel has restored many areas of the land to fruitfulness. Ultimately, however, Isaiah's prophecy will find fulfillment during the millennial reign of the Messiah. Then, not only will the nations beat their spears into pruning hooks (2:4) and the lion eat straw like the ox (11:7), but Israel will become an agricultural paradise. God promised it, so you can believe it.

Yet in a spiritual sense, this fulfillment can take place now. If your life has been a spiritual desert, Jesus can make it blossom. When you receive Him as your Savior, you become spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1). With the cultivation of the Holy Spirit, you will produce spiritual fruit a hundred times over (Matt. 13:23). Don't put that day off to some future time; do it now. Your life can blossom in the grace and mercy of God.

A surrendered heart is always a fruitful field.


- See more at: http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/a-desert-rose#sthash.zll2bs3M.dpuf

Dr. Woodrow Kroll served as President and Senior Bible Teacher at Back to the Bible from 1990-2013. Author of more than 50 books, Dr. Kroll's passion is to increase Bible literacy in America by engaging people in the Bible and connecting them with the Author. His clear, incisive teaching of the Word keeps him in demand as a speaker all over the world. - See more at: http://www.backtothebible.org/authors/woodrow-kroll#sthash.7Yrcap6W.dpuf

More of Dr. Woodrow Kroll: http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions

Lessons We Learn About Acceptance -

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. —Romans 5:8

 

The desire to be accepted by others is a common, if not universal one. Do you know anyone who doesn’t seek to be accepted? I don’t think I do. Growing up, I felt that I had to perform in order to be accepted. When I was good at something it seemed that others would pay attention; that they would like and accept me. Experience quickly taught me that good performance equaled acceptance while poor performance often meant some kind of rejection. So, driven by the desire to be accepted, I worked to achieve. Still, I was nagged by the suspicion that whatever I did would not be enough.

 

Unfortunately, I also learned this same lesson in church and in a variety of ways. For example, as a kid, I was part of our church’s Scripture memory program. Every week, we learned a new Scripture verse and on Sunday morning we would recite the verse for a listener. If we learned the verse, we’d get a gold star in our Scripture memory booklet. Another star was added next to our name on the bulletin board for everyone to see! Of course, most of us forgot the verses within a few days, but that wasn’t the point! Getting your gold star and more gold stars than the other kids was point! I actually remember being happy when one of my friends was absent because it meant I could get ahead in the race for most gold stars!

 

The lesson was unintentionally taught, but so much of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus became reduced to performance. I learned lessons like Jesus loves good people; people who follow all of the rules; people who get more gold stars than anyone else. This has been a hard lesson to unlearn.

 

Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned more and more about the real Jesus. While obedience to Christ is important, I’ve learned that Jesus’ love for me and His acceptance of me does not depend on whether I’m always obedient. I’ve found Jesus is far more loving and accepting than I had ever imagined. I am convinced that His love for us never fades nor falters. He accepts us without conditions of performance. He always treats us the same way. Yes, He loves us on our best day. And, He loves us just as much on our worst day. The ultimate proof of his acceptance was his willingness to die for us – “while we were still sinners”.

 

Today, if you feel like much of your acceptance in life is based on performance, take a few moments to be comforted by the truth that there is One whose love is not based on what you do or don’t do. Jesus loves you for who you are at this very moment. This is perhaps one of life’s most important lessons to learn!

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Does knowing Jesus’ love and acceptance isn’t based on performance cause you to want to be more or less obedient in following Him? Why?

 

2. In what areas of life (or to which people in your life) do you give or withhold acceptance based on performance? What can you do to change?

 

FURTHER READING:

Romans 8:31-39; John 8:1-11; Matthew 9:9-13; 11:28-30

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

Perfectionism is Overrated!

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?

Hi, my name is Sandy, and I’m a closet perfectionist. And I know that perfectionism is overrated!

No one would know my secret if they looked at my house, my hair, or my clothes, but somewhere down deep there is a desire for perfection. My heart races and my nerves shake when things are not in order. I used to tell my children I could not make them lunch until the counter was clear and everything was in its place. Considering the fact that this rarely happened, it is a miracle that my children have not starved.

This uncomfortable trait has hounded me my whole life. I just never fully understood it until I became a mother. The demands became greater. My house became messier. My mind and body became overworked. And peace fled the scene. After all, if you can’t rest until everything is perfect, then rest will rarely be yours to enjoy.

Thankfully, I can say that God has been working on me in this area. He gave me five children to stretch my limits and help me see that perfection here on earth is a myth. I have learned to turn a blind eye to unmade beds and piles of laundry. I have gone to bed with dishes in the sink. I have snuggled with my children when the “to do” list was longer than the toilet paper unrolled on the bathroom floor. But there is one area where the struggle persisted.

In my heart, I not only longed for perfection I wanted to be perfection. I deeply desired to do everything right so my children would follow God, be loving to each other, and be kind to others. I wanted to get it perfect so they would get it perfect.

The popular slogans for success, “Strive for excellence” and “Give life 110%” became my unspoken mantras for motherhood. I would give this huge responsibility of raising children all I had. I would have devotions every day. I would pray with each child every night! I would model what a perfect follower of Christ should be.

It wasn’t very long before I realized this was impossible. Perfectionism is overrated! How can you give 110% when you only started with 100%, and after the overflowing toilet, the runaway dog, and the all-out sibling war there is only 17% left?

After some frustrating failures and deep soul searching, God finally helped me to see the problem. I was relying on my own strength and wisdom. My motivation was commendable, but my expectations were wrong. I was not perfect and neither were my children.

He was doing a work in my life making me more like Him, but I wasn’t there yet. And the truth is, I will never be perfect this side of heaven. He was the One who would use my feeble attempts to shape my children into who He wanted them to be. It wasn’t up to me. It was all up to Him.

I have come a long way since my children were little, but I have to admit that I still fall into the perfectionism trap. When I do, I remind myself that the Lord’s expectations of me are much lighter than my expectations of myself. He does not require me to have the house spotless all the time. He does not require me always to feel energetic and playful. He does not require me to be everything to everyone. All He expects of me as a person and a mother is to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. Even in these things I need His help. I am powerless to do them in my own strength, but He gladly gives me His power as I rely on Him.

I cannot keep my children from arguing, but I can be just in my dealings with them by seeking the truth and relying on God’s wisdom to handle the situation appropriately. I can model repentance when I blow it and show mercy when others ask forgiveness. Most of all, I can love the Lord my God will all my heart and soul and mind and walk humbly with Him on a daily basis. These are the things that will make the biggest difference in the lives of our children.

None of us will ever be perfect on earth. So before your 110% dwindles down to 15% or less, consider what God requires of you – to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him.

After all, perfection is overrated!


This post first appeared here and is shared with permission.

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