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Christian Lifestyle, Devotionals, Faith

Devotional 8: Has Your Love Grown Cold?

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold... Matthew 24:12

This was the scripture that led the discussion at a recent midweek service. It was a topic that immediately struck a cord because I had been thinking about disobedience and sin — the things that can separate us from God.

The scriptures and questions that followed probed my heart, and I’m sure others in the room.

They were the kind of questions that I think were meant to make you stop and think about whether you were in right standing with the Lord.

The pastor comfortingly urged us to explore the questions, honestly and with intentionality.

You see, what keeps us in communion with God is our heart. We can be doing and saying all the “right” things, the religious things, but if our heart’s not really focused on the Lord and His will for our lives, then it’s all just facade.

A heart for God follows the pattern of 2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

Indeed, there is an urgency to get right with God. You’re alarmed by unrighteous behavior. And you’re concerned that a misalignment with God leads to disconnection with Him.

For this reason, I want to share my notes with you from that night, in hopes that you, too, will allow your heart to be pierced.

Thanks for stopping by, dear friend. It’s time to reclaim your First Love.

Let’s explore…

  1. If the Bible did a quick body scan of your thoughts and heart, would it register as ‘devoted’?
  2. When was the last time you had a deep dive in God’s word, the Holy Bible?
  3. When we read the Bible does it ‘read’ you back? The Word of God should be a mirror. James 1 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror.” In other words, are you letting the Bible change you, or are you walking away having no sense of your condition before God? Just like a woman checks her appearance before walking out the door, so should the Bible govern your attitudes and behaviors at all times and help you “course correct” before you get off track.
  4. Are you reading the Bible simply for information — or transformation?
  5. Don’t violate the boundaries that God has set for your protection, or you will succumb to evil desires. You will eventually lose your identity in Christ and start to reflect the world.
  6. Love grows cold when there is an increase in obscenity, debauchery, perversion, laziness, selfishness, pride, and disobedience to God’s Word.
  7. When there is an increase of man there is an decrease of God. In other words, if you’re constantly putting your needs and desires before God’s expect a lesser degree of holy living and God’s blessings to follow.
  8. When your spirituality is compromised, one’s love for God grows cold.
  9. Even as a self-proclaimed Christian/disciple of Christ, you can be physically present in church even though your heart has departed from God a while ago. Is your heart still aligned with pursuing righteousness?
  10. Is Satan ‘doing’ you in? Sin can make you feel weighed down, “spiritually fat,” and out of shape. According to John 10:10, the enemy’s only intent is on stealing, killing and destroying you. However, the good news is that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is here to give you life in abundance!
  11. Are you obedient?
  12. Do you weigh your life on a righteous scale? Or do you weigh your life on a worldly scale?
  13. Are you spiritually able to keep in step with the Holy Spirit? Or are you falling behind? What’s holding you back?
  14. What are some habits of Godly living? Daily time with God, meditation on the scriptures, exhibiting fruits of the Spirit, sharing your faith, etc.
  15. Is your spiritual life a bestseller?
  16. Do you add light or darkness in your relationships? Is your inner spirit dead or alive?

I certainly hope you have found these questions and insights into God’s word heart-probing and that they help you reach higher spiritual ground!

Any questions or insight on staying close to God despite the increased wickedness in the world? Weigh in in the comments section below. Remember this: There is always hope in Jesus Christ! So please don’t despair. Blessing to you, my friend!

Bible Scriptures, Christian Lifestyle, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Devotional 4: Waiting on the Lord

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

When you’re waiting for God to answer your prayers, do you doubt or have faith?

Three years ago, I sat on a friend’s living room sofa on the verge of tears.

I felt stuck. I wanted out.

More specifically, I was growing weary of living in a two-bedroom, one bath house in a rough part of the city.

I wanted something better for our young family. But “better” was taking too long to get here.

My dear friend listened as I lamented. She offered some encouragement.

While it didn’t make things better right away, the talk did help me gain some perspective. And it gave me a chance to off-load some things that were weighing on my heart.

The epiphany: My lack of faith

It was around that time that I realized I was failing to trust in the Lord.

It had been 7 years since we moved into that house, when we thought we’d only be there for two.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost my faith.

I started wondering if God didn’t want our family to move.

Is there something in my character that God wants to prune?, I thought.

Perhaps there’s someone here that he wants me to reach on His behalf, my mind wandered.

Or could it be that we’re just not ‘ready’ for that kind of blessing and responsibility? I asked quietly.

Over the next several months, I prayed. Studied the scriptures. And asked the Lord to show me where I was falling short.

He did, in fact, reveal some things that was darkening my heart and chipping away at my faith.

Once corrected, I saw the darkness lift.

My faith was restored.

Suddenly, I started to dream again.

Taking steps to receive the blessing.

With the Lord’s help, our family took steps that put us in a position to buy a new home.

But of all the things we did in preparation for the next stage, the most critical step was the clarifying moment when I repented of unbelief.

The writer of the book of Hebrews declared that:

“[W]ithout 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.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In reading the gospels, it was evident that people lacking faith displeased Jesus, and dare I say, even disgusted him?

See Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31 and Luke 12:28.

Therefore, dear friends, I pray that wherever you are in life, whatever struggle you currently face, that you have faith in the midst of the difficulty.

James 1:6 NIV puts it plainly:

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.

I don’t share this story to claim that simply repenting can lead to material blessings. That would be misguided and unspiritual. I share this story to show that there is often a direct relation between our circumstance and our faith and obedience to God.

So, what happened in the end?

How does my story end, you ask?

Well, I’m sitting here in a new home that is more spacious and, for the most part, considerably safer. And I praise God for revealing my shortcoming and allowing a chance to change courses.

It only took about two years from the day I sat on my friend’s couch for God to deliver an outcome I had once thought was so far out of reach.

Lessons learned?

Wait “expectantly” for the Lord, as Psalm 5:3 suggests. Trust that He hears your prayers and wants to refine you, and not necessarily to withhold from you. Don’t doubt.

I wonder what God will do in your life two years from now? Where in your life do you need to replace doubt with faith?

Christian Life, Faith, Inspiration

Devotional 1: Fixer Upper

Several months ago, we moved into a new home.

The new home is definitely an upgrade from the two-bedroom, one bath, 800-square foot abode that we owned and resided for 8 years prior.

The new neighborhood is much quieter and safer, too.

But if I’m being honest. The new house is a bit of a fixer-upper, too. And it is not the kind of fixer-upper you’re going to see transformed in a 20-minute segment like that on Joanna and Chip’s HGTV hit show, Fixer Upper.

It’s the kind of house that you know is a bit of a fixer upper when you buy it, but vow to turn it into something beautiful later on. Much later on. Not in, like, two weeks. We’re talking over the course of two years (at least). Because let’s face it, renovations cost money and, like the old saying goes: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

To commence our renovation journey (remember, we’re in it for the long haul), I did several inexpensive DIY projects myself.

I stripped off the dingy, dirty carpet on the stairs. I pried out thousands of tiny, blood-thirsty carpet nails over the course of 8 months.

I sanded the stairs lightly, and then patched a number of holes and gaps with a white putty substance that dries and is paintable in minutes. Lastly, I slathered the stairs with three coats of white paint.

The tile floor was grungy, but in good shape. So I spent a number of days pouring caustic cleaner on it and letting it sit. When it started to bubble and fizz, I knew the dirt was loosening, and I’d scrub the grout lines and wipe away the grime.

I tell ya, those fumes nearly killed me, but I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed until the grout lines started to reveal their original hue.

In the kitchen, I painted the ceiling and walls, as well as put a fresh coat of paint on the surface of the cabinets. Endured more cleaning. And I installed a faux backsplash. (Please try not to judge me for my sink full of dirty dishes.)

In my haste to see the transformation come quickly, I ripped up the laminate wood floors in the dining room, hoping to find original hardwood floors underneath.

To my dismay, what appeared were run-of-the-mill subfloors. I had already discarded the laminate floor slabs, and so we are currently making do with our subfloors.

We’ll eventually purchase new hardwood floors and we plan to invest in a new dining table, but because moving is costly we are trying to be wise with our expenditures, not moving too hastily to buy a new ‘this’ and a new ‘that.’

As I’m making improvements around my new house, I can’t help but wonder if God sees me the same way — that I’m a little bit of a fixer upper, too, that needs some tender-loving care.

In fact, I really don’t need to wonder. Because I’m pretty certain He does. Psalm 139: 13 says that God “created my inmost being” and that He “knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Yes, my sisters, he is restoring me and making me whole once more. That which sin made dirty and unrecognizable from its original conception, He is making clean again.

I was 19 years old when God called me into this life called discipleship.

And since then, through character-building life events, He has chipped away at the faulty exterior and built in me a new way of thinking and patterns of righteous behavior.

With His skilled hand in my life, the good Lord continues to make me over, transforming my proverbial interior and exterior construction into, one glorious day, a sight to behold.

And just like my own home renovation project, this fixer upper called Emily, is still a work in progress.

How is the Lord still working on you?

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NIV

Prayer

Lord almighty, you are a righteous God who sees me in all of my mess and, yet, extends your hand to me with loving grace. I praise you for first creating me, and then making me whole and clean again through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. May I always answer your call to be made new from the inside-out, all the days of my life. Amen.