I NEED A FRESH START

By Lara Casey
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

As a personal trainer years ago, January was always an exciting month.

People packed the gym, energy soared and hope flowed like water. This was a fresh new start. Great things were ahead!

Then, come February 1 … you know where this is going. I’ve been right there too, making progress on some goals then weeks later, getting bogged down by inner shame: I failed. I can’t do this. I am not enough. I messed up — all hope is lost!

There is nothing magical about January 1st and no matter what you’ve done or not done, great things are ahead with God. The best is yet to come. Every day we are given the opportunity to be made new in Christ, not by our might but by our surrender. As Paul reveals in our key verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I need that truth written on a Post-it Note and plastered to my forehead every day.

As a toddler mama, wife, business owner and friend, I mess up a lot. We need new starts around here like we need daily food and clean diapers. I try to control just about everything: nap times, schedules and my to-do lists. When things begin getting out of control and I feel Madame Overwhelmed creeping up behind me, I think back to a cold day one November when things started to change.

I was so afraid to let go. I was afraid of more pain. I was afraid my life would never be the same.

But I soon realized that the tighter I held the reins of control, the more intense the pain became. The day my daughter Grace was born, I learned a life-altering truth: my need for control was holding life back.

Perhaps your roadblocks aren’t roadblocks at all, but rather new beginnings in disguise. Perhaps your missteps are actually opportunities for growth, greater closeness with God or a nudge to take a leap of faith.

In order for a seed to sprout, the outer casing first has to fall away, or surrender, in order for new life to come. The same is true with our lives. We must let go a little — or sometimes a lot — for our new start to be revealed. As Paul says in Philippians 3:13b-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

My middle school English teacher had the words “This too shall pass” permanently painted on her classroom bulletin board. (And am I grateful that the awkward days of perming my already-curly hair did pass!) While those words on the chalkboard didn’t originate from the Bible, they do reveal some truth.

This life and everything in it will pass away, but God’s love never changes. Our new start can’t be found in more money, more business, more fun, more stuff or more visits to the gym. Our new start is found only in Him.

Lord, I have found myself overwhelmed at times, trying to do it all. I am so grateful You’re in control so I don’t have to be! Thank You for Your radical grace that makes all things new. Help me see my failures and mistakes as You see them: opportunities to draw closer to You. Help me find my worth and identity only in You, not in my accomplishments and not in my missteps. I love You Lord. I want to be closer to You, always sure of the fresh start I have been given because of Your sacrifice! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

OVERLOOKING AN OFFENSE

By Wendy Blight

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11 (NIV 1984)

What did she mean by that? Why does she always hurt my feelings? Why does she treat me that way? I didn’t realize these words played through my head on a continual basis until my daughter pointed it out.

She ended many of our conversations with, “Why do you get your feelings hurt so easily?” Or, “Mom, you’re so sensitive.”

At first, her words angered me. But over time, I began to hear what she was saying.

For years, I allowed people’s words to hurt my feelings. In turn, I harbored anger for those words. The anger took root. Satan fed the words to me over and over again. I re-played them in my mind. Each time the anger grew deeper roots.

Listening to a sermon in church, I would think, “I wish ______ was here. She really needs to hear this!” Of course, the sermon by-passed my heart all together.

Without realizing it, the words of others consumed my thoughts and focus and stole my time. About this time, God called me to teach a Bible study on the book of Proverbs. I spent days and weeks absorbed in this amazing book of wisdom.

One afternoon, this verse leapt off the page and into my heart, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). I had a choice. Up until then, I heard people’s words, jumped to a conclusion and chose to be offended.

But through His Word, God gently corrected me. I sensed Him saying that I can choose to look past people’s words and not receive them with an offended heart. I discovered that I needed to LISTEN objectively and ask: What is driving their words? Do they have a valid point? Do they have a deep hurt? Or do they need something I am not giving?

The responsibility was on me to stop the words from taking root in my heart. When I accepted this, my attitude changed. Yes, it took time, and I am a work in progress. But now when someone speaks a hurtful word, I check it before letting it take residence in my mind. I hear the words, recognize my issue, and speak Truth over my heart. I literally say, “It is to my glory to not receive this as an offense.”

Everyone wins because I don’t ruin the rest of the day by pouting, making it all about me, or soaking in self-pity. Each time I make this choice, I sense God is pleased as I honor Him by choosing NOT to be offended.

Heavenly Father, thank You that I am created in Your image. Thank You that I find my identity in You. Thank You that it is only Your Word and Your opinion that matter. Lord, give me Your ears to hear. Help me not to be easily offended and easily angered. Help me lay down any offenses to which I am currently holding. Let me live in the freedom of Your love and forgiveness. Help me live not in my flesh, but supernaturally in the fullness and freshness of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

A SERVANT


By Margaret D. Mitchell

“The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served…”  -Genesis 39:2

One day, as I cleaned out a writing desk, I came across some lovely stationery from a few hotels I had stayed at while working as a flight attendant years ago. One in particular stood out: The New York Palace.

I sat for a moment and reflected…I recalled the lovely light blue French furniture with silver and gold trim that looked and felt more like palace furniture than any other place I had stayed. I thought of the juxtaposition of a servant staying at a palace.

That was me… a servant. That was Jesus. That was Joseph.

And Joseph stayed at a palace.

God blesses people in the most extraordinary ways, caring for our safety, ordering our steps along our journeys of destiny, giving us glimpses of our future, helping us to hold onto hope.

And Joseph waited and served privately before becoming a public servant. He was made in charge of all of Egypt (Gen. 41:43-44). He was in authority. He was personally appointed, and he ruled. Suddenly, after taking orders, he was giving them (Gen. 41:40).

God has greater things ahead for His beloved. He cultivates our heart along the way. Are you willing to submit your whole heart to God so He can get you to your palace by His grace? Are you in position for His promotion? I am convicted daily.

Do you see opposition as God’s opportunity for you? When others forget about you—even after you help them—do you remind yourself of God’s sovereignty in your situation? Do you wait expectantly, knowing that God has His best at heart for you? Do you consistently operate in the gifts God gave you along the way?

Joseph’s journey to the palace was one of God’s grace and Joseph’s obedience to God’s precepts. Joseph was highly favored.

Genesis 39:21 tells us: “But The Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love. And The Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.”

God’s grace is such that, even when mankind isn’t kind to us, He is faithful to restore us. Even when we do the right thing, and we get slammed, God will lift us. Even when we have no family nearby to support us, God is with us. Even when we tire of the prison, God will purpose us. And when we are disappointed, God will awaken to us to depend upon Him alone. When life feels unfair, God will lead us to shine.

Will you choose God’s ways? Will you keep your integrity? Will you choose faithover fear, even in the face of authority? Will you respect authority as you serve?

I believe that God’s hand was upon Joseph even before his birth and that since Joseph was close to his father, Jacob, serving authority with respect was normal for Joseph from a young age. So when God opened the door for Joseph to serve Pharaoh, Joseph was in his zone. He was ready, and he stepped forward in God’s wisdom, void of bitterness in his heart.

God could trust Joseph with authority, and He blessed his heart of wholeness, even beyond Pharaoh’s promotion for him. God reunited Joseph with his beloved father.

At the palace, God…

· Facilitated a family reunion.

· Presented Joseph as a steadfast leader.

· Cleansed a family.

· Fed a family.

· Restored the heart of a family.

· Restored peace among a family.

· And made servants of slaves…who then became a great nation (Gen. 44:9, 46:3).

The palace was a grace place of transformation. Are you ready to serve God no matter what?

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

ST. PATRICK’S REAL LEGACY

By Rick Boxx
For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. – Acts 17:23

According to Wikipedia, St. Patrick’s Day originally celebrated the priest who returned to Ireland in 432 AD to bring Christianity to his homeland. Ireland had been a polytheistic culture.

One way Patrick introduced them to Christ was by using the 3 leaved shamrock to describe the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. He made a difference by communicating in cultural and relevant ways.

In Acts 17:23 Paul did likewise. We read, “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.Now what you worship as something unknownI am going to proclaim to you.”

If you desire to impact those in your workplace, consider using illustrations and examples relevant to your culture and workplace.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

THE NEED OF PERFECT SOLITUDE

By Charles Cowman

He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when evening was come, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23).

The man Christ Jesus felt the need of perfect solitude–Himself alone, entirely by Himself, alone with Himself. We know how much intercourse with men draws us away from ourselves and exhausts our powers. The man Christ Jesus knew this, too, and felt the need of being by Himself again, of gathering all His powers, of realizing fully His high destiny, His human weakness, His entire dependence on the Father.

How much more does the child of God need this–himself alone with spiritual realities, himself alone with God the Father. If ever there were one who could dispense with special seasons for solitude and fellowship, it was our Lord. But He could not do His work or maintain His fellowship in full power, without His quiet time. Would God that every servant of His understood and practiced this blessed art, and that the Church knew how to train its children into some sense of this high and holy privilege, that every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed himself alone with God.

Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself, and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!–Andrew Murray

Lamertine speaks in one of his books of a secluded walk in his garden where his mother always spent a certain hour of the day, upon which nobody ever dreamed for a moment of intruding. It was the holy garden of the Lord to her.

Poor souls that have no such Beulah land! Seek thy private chamber, Jesus says. It is in the solitude that we catch the mystic notes that issue from the soul of things.

A MEDITATION

My soul, practice being alone with Christ! It is written that when they were alone He expounded all things to His disciples. Do not wonder at the saying; it is true to thine experience. If thou wouldst understand thyself send the multitude away. Let them go out one by one till thou art left alone with Jesus… Has thou ever pictured thyself the one remaining creature in the earth, the one remaining creature in all the starry worlds?

In such a universe thine every thought would be “God and I! God and I!” And yet He is as near to thee as that – as near as if in the boundless spaces there throbbed no heart but His and thine.

Practice that solitude, O my soul! Practice the expulsion of the crowd! Practice the stillness of thine own heart! Practice the solemn refrain “God and I! God and I!” Let none interpose between thee and thy wrestling angel! Thou shalt be both condemned and pardoned when thou shalt meet Jesus alone!–George Matheson

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

SAYING GOODBYE TO SOMETHING YOU LOVE

By Glynnis Whitwer

And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” 1 Chronicles 29:19 (NIV)

Cheri handed my crying baby to me, his little eyes swollen, his sobs subsiding into gulping sighs. Within seconds, Robbie calmed as I nuzzled him and kissed his sweet face.

I hugged my friend and thanked her for trying again to watch Robbie while I went back to work part-time. Again, my son refused a bottle and cried constantly. We both knew this wasn’t going to work.

Forcing a smile, I turned quickly so she wouldn’t see my tears. By the time I got to the car, I could hold them back no longer. Securing my son, I slipped in the driver’s seat, put my head on the steering wheel and wept.

He was my third child, so I thought I had the mommy-thing figured out. Only Robbie didn’t have the same personality or needs of his older brothers. They’d taken bottles easily. But this child had a unique bond with me.

Not only that, but we couldn’t just sit together; I had to be walking and rocking him. If that boy was awake, he needed to touch me and be moving, or the crying began.

My older sons, ages 2 and 4, weren’t the quiet type either. Other children kept occupied with a bag of toys, crayons or paper. Not mine.

My life changed dramatically with the birth of my third son. As a result, I made the difficult decision to quit many things I enjoyed: my part-time job, leading children’s ministry and teaching Bible study to name a few. Most days I just felt sad as the world seemed to pass me by.

A highlight was picking up a dozen donuts and a Diet Coke and heading to Cheri’s house. She was the only friend who could tolerate my three rowdy children. And she also understood that Diet Coke offsets the calories in the donuts. The perfect friend!

I loved those little boys immensely. And not a day passed that I didn’t thank God for them. But I grieved what I’d left behind, and that grieving affected my enjoyment of the present.

I missed having position and authority at work. I longed for the sense of completion. Sadly, I thought my “ministry” was outside my home, and wondered when God would use me again.

Thankfully God intervened in a dramatic way, and I came to understand and appreciate the calling and cost of motherhood. God changed my heart and priorities, and the rewards have far outweighed the sacrifices. But it was still hard.

Recently, God brought those difficult years to mind as I read 1 Chronicles 28 and 29.

These chapters record King David passing his crown and assignment to build God’s temple to his son, Solomon. In this decision, David gave up his position, authority, respect and purpose.

Did David mope and moan? Did he grab donuts and diet soda with a friend? No, the Bible tells us David “praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly” (1 Chronicles 29:10).

What follows is one of the most beautiful, humble prayers in the Bible. David’s gracious actions and adoration for God inspired and moved hearts in the Jewish people.

After praying, Scripture tells us David invited the people to praise God: “So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the LORD and the king” (1 Chronicles 29:20).

What a vivid contrast between my response and King David’s when each of us gave up something we loved. David didn’t grip the past tightly; he opened his hands and heart to embrace what God was doing in the present.

I can’t go back to those early years, but with God’s help and David’s example, I can change how I respond in the future.

David had cultivated a life of praise, so when faced with loss, that habit elevated his response. David’s trust in God was so great that he joyfully supported others who would build the temple he longed to build.

As I’ve addressed this personally, I’ve discovered praising God is at the center of contentment. As we praise Him, we find the assurance that He’s got things covered … even babies who cry inconsolably and our longing for significance.

It’s there, in knowing God sees us and hasn’t forgotten us, we find peace.

And it’s there, in every walking-rocking-sleepless night, we find purpose.

My season of life is different now, but I’m still faced with saying “goodbye” to things I love. That “little” boy moves away to college next month, and I’m praying for an attitude like King David’s — full of praise, grace and generosity of heart.

Heavenly Father, thank You for seeing me right where I am today. You see what I’ve given up, and what I long for. Help me have an attitude like David’s to impact others for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV)

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC

THE POTTER

By Rebecca Barlow Jordan

We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. -Isaiah 64:8

FROM THE FATHER’S HEART
My child, did you know I designed the shape of your life? The clay doesn’t ask the potter, “Why did you make me this way?” You may think your flaws and mistakes disqualify you for usefulness, but I control the potter’s wheel. I have chosen you for My glory. Remember, broken vessels often reflect My beauty and light the most.

A GRATEFUL RESPONSE
With firm but gentle hands You take this lump of clay—my life—and form it into a vessel of beauty and honor. When I refuse to lie still in Your skilled hands, You patiently remake me from the marred, broken pieces. Thank You for creating me in Your image, Lord.

SIMPLE TRUTH
If we are not content with who we are, then we are not content with who God is.

Devotional forwarded to you by:

UP CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

NCCP Ecumenical Ministry – Church of the Risen Lord

University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus, QC