Overcome Fear by Trusting God

fear 1

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

In many ways, faith is the key to the Christian life.  Everything we receive from God we receive by faith.  He is the One helping, providing, encouraging, promising, and loving us.  And we know that God values our faith in Him.  Our faith is the basis of everything and it starts with our belief in God.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Then 1 Peter 1:7 adds that the “genuineness of your faith is more valuable than gold.”  Clearly, faith is immensely important.  Whatever hinders faith must be dealt with.  Fear hinders faith, perhaps more than anything else.

Alexander Maclaren once said, “Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles.  If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation.  He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.”

As human beings, we desire to be in control.  The problem is, we’re clearly not.  Bad things happen to us and to people we know.  The world can seem out of control.  While it’s certainly fallen, and bad things do happen, it’s not out of control.  Our Father is in charge, despite all appearances to the contrary.  He can be trusted, though that’s not a guarantee against all pain.  God uses our suffering to make us more like Christ.

We exercise faith when we choose to take God at His Word and to believe in His promises.  Today’s passage, found in Isaiah 41 assures us that we don’t need to be afraid, because the Lord is with us and He will strengthen us.  We can trust that He won’t let us go.  Trusting in God’s promises helps us to overcome fear.

So as we are thinking about this idea, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What fears do you tend to struggle with?
  2. Can you recall times when God helped you overcome your fears?

I would encourage each of you to trust in God.  If you can find it within yourself to do that, God will replace your fears with a strong faith.  A faith that will transform your life.

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God Redeems Our Suffering

redemption

2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (NIV)

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

 

Hebrews 11 (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 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.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 

God isn’t in the business of bringing unlimited wealth, prosperity, and happiness to our earthly lives.  God’s in the business of transforming His children, whom He freed from sin’s shackles, into Christ’s likeness.  The Lord doesn’t promise His followers a walk down “easy street.”  He beckons us to shoulder our crosses along the narrow path.  The Father’s pruning hand is an expression of His love, as He prepares us to pursue His purposes for our lives.

The great author C.S. Lewis once said, “We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved; we are rebels who must lay down our arms.”

In the two passages, we see examples of the many hardships that God’s people had to endure throughout the Bible.  Paul, who sis more to advance the church more than any other person who lived, had to suffer so much suffering during his time on earth.  In Hebrews 11, we see a systematic account of all of the great people from the Old Testament and the suffering they endured.  Please reread these two above passages and ask yourselves the following two questions:

  1. What did the people listed in Hebrews 11 have in common with one another?
  2. What are some way the Lord can use suffering redemptively in our own lives.

As believers, we’ve experienced God’s grace, blessing, and redemption in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we won’t also experience trouble, hardship, pain, and suffering.  Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:38, “Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High?”

Biblical history is filled with examples of God-fearing servants who faced adversity.  Noah faced a worldwide flood; Abraham faced an uprooting, a long wait, and an unthinkable command; Joseph faced betrayal, slavery, and false accusations; Ester face the threat of death; Job faced terrible loss; and Paul faced beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, and imprisonment.  Yet they all remained faithful, trusting in God’s perfect will and timing.

The Lord can redeem suffering for kingdom purposes.

 

Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

God does not enjoy the fact that we experience suffering here on earth.  But, sometimes we need to experience some suffering to get to the place that God needs us to be at.  In other words, we can’t fully become the person God has designed us to be without us having to experience valleys.  It is during these tough times that we are forced to rely on God and seek His help.  When we do that, God can fix us from the inside out.  If we never come to Him, we will never experience those changes inside of us.

The best part of it all is knowing that through God’s promise and the suffering that Jesus experienced on our behalf, when our pilgrimage as his followers through this troubled world ends, God will usher us into an eternal realm free from pain.  There is no pain and suffering found in heaven and that is what all believers have to look forward to.  What a glorious day that will be indeed.

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Walk in the Light

walk

John 8:12 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The word light is a metaphor that occurs more than 20 times in the first 12 chapters of John’s Gospel.  Jesus wasn’t saying that he was holding the light or that He had the light or that He’s the way to the light.  Instead, He unequivocally stated, “I am the Light.”  In doing so, He was claiming to be deity.  Rabbis used “light” as a name for Messiah.  When Jesus said He was the Light, He was saying that He is God and, therefore, He is the source of life.  The sun is necessary for sustaining life, but the One who created the sun and the universe is the source of all life.

C.S. Lewis once said, ”I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Everything comes from God and is therefore filtered through God.  If a person does not believe that, then they are in denial.

Darkness is often a metaphor for sin, spiritual blindness, and death.  Light and darkness cannot coexist.  When you turn on a light in a darkened room, immediately the darkness vanishes.  Christ is the Light who dispels spiritual darkness.

Not only does the light dispel the darkness, but it also lights our path.  Jesus is essential to our spiritual life.  As rain and sun are critical to earthly crops, we need Christ to nourish and help us grow in our spiritual walk.  He alone possesses the map to life.

To be a follower of Christ is to give our body, soul, and mind in obedience to Him.  As we walk in the Light, He delivers us from darkness and guides us on the path towards pursuing His purposes.

 

Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

The question I want us to ask ourselves today is:

How can I be more intentional about walking in Jesus’ light in my daily life?

When you figure out what you can do, the next step is to implement them into your daily life.  Make it a daily rhythm in your life to spend time with God.  Be intentional about living your life in a manner that reflects Jesus.  Doing this will change your life forever.

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The Most Amazing Book Ever Written

bible 3

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NIV)

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

The Bible is the most amazing Book ever written.

You may not agree with that statement, but before you choose to disagree, let’s look further into why I feel confident making a statement like that.

God used human beings to record His thoughts and words into writing so that others could know Him.  We learn this in 2 Peter:

2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The One who spoke the universe into existence still speaks just as powerfully through the pages of the Bible that you can so easily hold in your hands today.

At the moment a person steps over the faith line (chooses to give their life to Jesus), believers receive the Holy Spirit and the lines of communication with God are established.  Then, whenever the Scriptures are read, children of God can hear His voice and the Spirit enables them to understand and put into practice what they have read.

The Bible is not just a good book with comforting verses.  It is effective in teaching us how we should live our lives and accomplishes the purpose for which God sends it to each of us.  We learn this in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV)

10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Scripture is active and alive and “performs its work in those who believe.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV)

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

The Word of God has the power to change our lives if will believe Him and do what He says.

God uses Scripture to transform us from the inside out.  His Word has the quality of a sword that cuts through our hearts and judges thoughts and intentions, delivering light to the darkness that so often resides deep in our souls.  This Book tells us not only who God is, but also who we are.

Sometimes life’s concerns can deafen our “spiritual ears.”  Before reading Scripture, it is important to ask God to help you hear and understand what he’s saying.  As you believe and obey, your spiritual hearing will become more acute and your time in the Word will be a more intimate conversation with God.

Today I would like to challenge us all to try to carve out a small part of our day to spend reading this great Book.  In addition, try to find at least one thing from what you read each day to work on in your own life.  This practice will transform our lives a little bit each day.  Over a lifetime, the transformation will be so immense, we will find that we are completely different and so much better.

Now tell me another book you can think of that will do that?  It really is the most amazing Book ever written!

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Which Type of Listener Are You?

listening

Acts 17:10-12 (NIV)

10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

 

In order for the Holy Spirit to be unimpeded in its work, we must make every effort to hear what God is trying to tell us when He speaks.  It is possible, for example, to “listen to every word of a sermon, while actually not hearing a word of it. Sadly, there are some vacant attendees like this in churches each and every week.  Their bodies may be in the pew, but their minds are obviously somewhere else.  There are two types of listeners in practically every church in the world.  There are passive listeners and aggressive listeners.  You most-likely know them better as active listeners, but for the purpose of this blog, I am going to call them aggressive listeners.

A passive listener is one who’s present at services, maybe even every week, but just sits in their seat and lets their mind wander during the service, especially during the sermon.  They sit there and watch other people, noticing how they dress and act, socializes with friends, and makes lunch plans in their head.  They don’t go to church to hear from the Lord.  They show up out of habit, or because they or worried about what other people think about them, or because the simple act of going makes them feel better about themselves.

An aggressive listener, on the other hand, walks into the sanctuary excited about what the Lord is going to say.  This Christian has a Bible with them ready to read along, a notebook, and a pen in hand, ready to capture the meat of the message.  They scribble down as much as they can, trying not to miss a single point of the sermon.  Throughout the message, they ask themselves, How does this apply to my life?

I have been both types of listeners in my life.  Up until about 7 years ago, I was a passive listener.  I went to church, but because I was more worried what people would say if I didn’t go.  I was certainly not listening for God to speak to me.  I was going for all the wrong reasons.

Shortly after stepping over the faith line in early 2009, I discovered the art of taking notes during sermons and how, by writing things down, I got a lot more out of the sermon.  It also helped me remember what was said.  I could refer back to my notes throughout the week and I was getting so much more out of what I was hearing.  It has also helped me grow so much closer to God in the process.  Over the past 7 years, I have amassed a pretty large collection of binders and journals filled with notes from various sermons I have heard both in person and online.  It is one of my most valued possessions.  I refer back to them often.

God communicates in many different ways, and when He speaks, we should always listen actively, even aggressively.  If you find your mind wandering during worship, perhaps the problem is that you are approaching God in a passive manor.  Ask God to refocus your thoughts, and decide to be a better listener from now on.

I would also challenge you to consider getting a journal or notebook and use it for jotting down notes whenever you attend church.  The act of writing it down will help you to focus on what is being said and it will help you remember it later on.  It has made a huge difference for me and I think it could for you too.  Try it for the next three months and see if it makes a difference for you.

Be warned though, that if you start doing this, you will probably never go back.  That’s Ok, I’m sure God will appreciate it.

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The Bread of Life That Satisfies Our Spiritual Hunger

bread

John 6:22-58 (NIV)

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.24  Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Sonand believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Manand drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 

This passage, found in John 6, occurred right after Jesus had fed 5,000 people out of a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish and everyone had their fill of food that Jesus provided them.  This passage is the follow-up conversation Jesus has with these people who He had fed.

Four different times in this passage, from Joh 6, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life (vv 35, 41, 48, 51).  In Jesus’ day, bread was considered the most important part of the meal.

In today’s culture, when we visit a restaurant, we generally focus on the entrée while the basket of bread is considered secondary.  In Jesus’ day, meat was more like a side dish; bread represented the major part of the meal.  Also in Jesus’ day, nearly everyone had access to bread.  Poor people used barley to make bread while the wealthy used wheat, but almost everyone had the means to make or buy bread.

When Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, He was saying that He was the staple needed by everyone.  He was the most important part of life.  Jesus was saying that He was the food that never perishes and the bread that never grows stale.  Just as food is vital to survival, Jesus is essential to salvation.  The wonder of bread is not its nutritional value, but its universality.  The wonder of Jesus is that He is the only true, universal provision for the spiritual needs of every person.  Jesus is the Bread of Life, our ultimate satisfaction.

Ravi Zacharias once said, “With all our ingesting and consumption, our hungers are still many and our fulfillments are few.”  We are a society that consumes like no other in history, yet at the same time, we seem to be less fulfilled than any other generation in society.  Maybe we are focusing on the wrong kind of food.

Loaves and fishes can meet our body’s need for physical nourishment, but we have a spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by growing in a right relationship with Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.

Today, we need to ask ourselves one very important question:

How does Jesus satisfy your spiritual hunger?

If you find this question difficult to answer, then maybe you should examine your life to see what role Jesus plays in your life.  If Jesus plays a very small part in your everyday life, then you are going to be going through your days with a hunger that no trip to any fast food joint will be able to fill.  Fill yourself with a relationship with Jesus and you will find that you are fuller than you have ever known.

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Making Time for God

time for God

Mark 1:35 (NIV)

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

 

Godly people make a habit of spending time with God.

David said he cried out to God “morning, noon, and night,” as we see in Psalms 55:

 

Psalm 55:17 (NIV)

17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.

 

Daniel prayed three times a day according to the book of Daniel:

 

Daniel 6:10 (NIV)

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

 

Jesus, Himself, made a regular habit of getting up early to be alone with God.  A quick study of solid, influential Christian leaders reveals a common denominator among them of spending time with God daily in prayer and reading His Word.

We were created to have a relationship with God.  We can’t be healthy, growing Christians without spending consistent, focused time with Him.  That relationship grows stronger and closer through reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Stephen Olford, who was a 20th century Christian leader and who Billy Graham said had the most influence on his own ministry once said, “I want to hear the voice of God before I hear anyone else’s in the morning and His voice is the last voice I want to hear at night.”  I think if that was true for all of us, there would be a great sense of comfort from that.

As we practice a daily devotional time, we’ll discover some amazing benefits.  We’ll experience God’s joy.  The most joyful Christians are those who meet one-on-one with God each day.  We’ll rest in God’s strength, and our spiritual batteries will be charged.  We’ll discover the peace of God that comes from having peace with God.  Spending time with God helps us to relinquish our worries and concerns to His control.  Spending time with God helps us to conquer sin in our lives.  As we abide in Him each day, we learn to trust Him more and to align our prayers with His will.  As we become more like Christ, our words and actions will reflect His love and draw others to Him.

In my own life, I have seen tremendous growth in my relationship with God by having the discipline to spend time with him each day.  I live my life with a greater peace and confidence than I had ever known before and I know that is coming from His influence.  I am able to love others in a way I could not have done in the past before having that relationship with God.

I have two questions I want to ask you:

Why did Jesus need to spend time alone with God?

What do you need to do in order to consistently spend a daily devotional time with God?

I would like to challenge each of us to take some time each day to spend with God.  It doesn’t have to be a long amount of time, but try to get time in each and every day.  If you can do that, it will transform your life.  I promise.

Lord, help us to make spending time with You each day a priority in our lives.  Amen.

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