Better Than Normal by YouVersion

Quote

We struggle trying to be normal when being normal means reinforcing the things of this world and not striving to be more like Christ. We should strive to be better than normal. Our mission is to become more like Christ and not of this world.

~ Lisa Blair

Better Than Normal is a YouVersion@Bible.com 7-Day Devotional. I am sharing Day 5. It is a great thought to begin our week.

What is normal?

Normal means conforming to a standard, type, or regular pattern. The term normal usually refers to something that’s typical or natural and something that most people do, and abnormal appears to be the opposite. With that in mind, we’ll define normal in the following way: behavior that is typical, expected, and adjusts to a standard that society has put in place.

But with the amount of people who live on planet earth, is it even possible to say something is normal? What may be normal in one culture may not make any sense in another.

At times, our idea of normal gets hijacked, which causes us to panic and not know how to respond. “When will things go back to normal?” is a question we ask when things stop feeling normal or when we’re in a challenging season where the end date seems unattainable. But eventually, we get our feet steady and we say something like, “Well, I guess this is our new normal.” 

What’s so appealing about normal after all? Well, we usually know what to expect, and we find comfort in it even if it’s not good or healthy. But, comfort doesn’t always equate to health. So, what if we chose to look for a life that is beyond that concept of normality? What if we pursued a life that is better than normal?

As followers of Jesus, we’re called to live differently. The world tells us to follow our hearts, but we know that our hearts can be deceitful. The world says to have the perfect body, but we know that godliness should be our goal. The world tells us to put ourselves first, but we know that living a life where we give to others is more rewarding and kind.

In this Plan, we’ll look at some of the ways that normal just doesn’t cut it. Instead, we’ll learn how to change the way we live and leave the status quo behind for a better than normal life.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/rom.12.2.niv

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/1co.10.13.niv

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:16-22‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/gal.5.16-22.niv

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/php.4.6-8.niv

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/jas.4.7.niv

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬
https://www.bible.com/111/1jn.1.9.niv

I Can Do All Things Through CHRIST Who Strengthens Me

Quote

Do not allow your mind to reduce the strength of the Word of God.

~ Lisa Blair

This scripture, Philippians 4:13, keeps surfacing in my mind. Life at the moment is going well, and then Holy Spirit told me, this is not an emergency verse. It is how I want you to live every day. 

I think we often view scripture as a way of life, but often do not apply the wisdom to our everyday lives. We classify scriptures by type and apply them to certain situations. Gods plan does not categorize the Word. His Word is living and applies to a multitude of situations and circumstances we encounter, including the best of days.

The truth is, He strengthens us every minute, hour, and day of our lives. It is through this strength that He connects with us and leads us down the path of holiness.

Life is our time to learn, discover, and recover from things known and not known. When we rest in His strength, we are resting in His peace, His will, His Word, and His Way. 

Do You Light the Way?

Quote

When you enter a room, are you the light Christ expects others to see?

~ Lisa Blair

Posted on  by Lisa Blair

When you enter a room, are you the light Christ expects others to see?

LAB PHOTOS

We are summoned to be the Lord’s ambassadors, to share the Word, educate non-believers, and love everyone as Christ loves us. This is not an easy task if you fall subject to gossip, anger, spite, and jealousy. 

The good works that we do in spirit and truth are not our own good works, for of ourselves we can do nothing that is worthy of God’s praise. The good work that we do is the new-life of Christ within us, that is working through us. It is the new, born-again life of Christ that we received when we were born from above, that carries out any good works that we do, so that others may see our good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven.” 
(Let your light shine. Matt 5:16 @ daily verse.knowing-Jesus.com)

Good works are the attributes we display moment-by-moment, day-by-day. They are the essence of who we are in Christ. These traits harken back to the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-25‬ ‭NLT

Do you reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control throughout the day with everyone you come into contact with? Do you segregate who you will apply the Fruit with? For example, do you apply the Fruit with only family and friends, do you extend it to co-workers and others? Do you exclude people walking past you on the street, or people who are different than you culturally, racially or ethnically? Is it okay to display the traits to some and stereotypical hatred to the poor, beggars, nonbelievers, the elderly?

When Christ was nailed to the Cross, He took on our sin nature. Our passions and desires were nailed and crucified with Him. As Christians, we are now living by, for, and of the Spirit who dwells in us. Logically speaking, we should follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

I ask you, “does your light show through you, or are you veiled/cloaked/bound in your sinful nature”?

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Are you willing to live the sort of life that will deny you the Kingdom of God? This brings me back to yesterday’s post, The Lost Year. The world is changing and God is calling us to step out of our comfort zone, analyze who we are, and identify our sins towards others that allow us to set others apart as less equal, less desirable, and less worthy? Do you judge who is worthy to be counted as a brother or sister? Does your sin nature govern your life?

These questions are food for thought. I believe we all struggle to overcome our sin nature. It is the constant battleground we live on until Christ returns. Are you willing to deny your sin nature and be the light, or when Christ does return will He plainly say, 

“I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!” Matthew 7:23, NIV

If you plan to become a prayer warrior or want to strengthen how you pray, following is a prayer I am attaching from Prayers That Avail Much, by Germaine Copeland to assist you in establishing prayer time. They just published the 40th Anniversary Copy. This and He Whispers My Name by Cherie Hill are great books to add to your Christian Book library.

One Suggestion – do not allow this opportunity to slip away. God knew we would enter this time, and I am certain His hope is that you will take advantage of it and spend more time with Him strengthening your relationship with Him. Only God knows our beginning and ending and everything in between. Jeremiah 33:3 NLT declares, ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do no know about things to come.

Sources: daily verse.knowing-Jesus.com; biblegateway.com; Prayers That Avail Much. Germaine Copeland; He Whispers My Name. Trusting God’s Love. Cherie Hill.

Images: LAB PHOTOS

Freed to Love (Post, Desiring God)

Quote

One of the most jarring sentences in the Bible goes like this: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). It jars us because Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); and he taught that one of the ways to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and bless those who persecute us is to give freely of our possessions (Luke 6:27–30). But here Paul says you can give everything away and even lay down your life and yet not be acting in love. You can make the final sacrifice and be lost for ever.

A Biblical Critique on All Our Activism 

This means that right wing and left wing Christian political activity must be exposed to a radical biblical critique. On the right we are summoned to work for the rights of unborn humans, a strong defense, nuclear superiority, prayer in public schools, the support of Israel, family values, balanced budgets, etc. On the left we are summoned to work for a more just distribution of the world’s goods, nuclear disarmament, the end of interventionist politics in El Salvador and Nicaragua, ERA, programs to combat poverty and unemployment, etc. The Christian right and the Christian left are summoning us to action—and rightly so! If there is one thing Jesus cannot be accused of, it is indifference to the needs of people.

But there is a radical biblical critique which Christians on the right and Christians on the left must never forget: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Or to put it very bluntly: you can go to hell fighting for poverty programs and you can go to hell fighting for a prayer amendment, because love can never be defined simply as mere deeds; it always involves the condition of the heart of the doer. If we want to bring the message of the Bible to bear on the problems of the world around us, we need to realize that the Bible is much more radical than the agenda of either the right or the left. It says to both, “Though you give your body to be burned in the service of your agenda and have not love, you gain nothing.” Love can never be equated with anyone’s agenda because no agenda is love unless it comes from a certain kind of heart. We might be impressed with a person who gives a million dollars to build a hospital in Bangladesh, but God looks on the heart and queries the hidden motives of the soul. Christianity is not primarily an agenda for political activity; it is primarily a power that radically changes the human heart.

The Command to Love and the Nature of Faith 

Last week we saw in Galatians 5:6 that the heart which is acceptable to God is not one which depends on its works—whether right wing circumcision or left wing uncircumcision—but rather one which trusts so fully in God’s grace that the result is a life of love. Love is an essential part of the process of salvation. It is not optional whether you love one another. No one can say, “I am saved by faith regardless of whether I love people or not.” For the only faith which saves is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). Saving faith always gives rise to love and love gives evidence of genuine faith.

Today’s text picks up the theme of love from 5:6 and presses it home with a command in verse 13: “Through love be servants of one another.” Someone may ask, “Why should Paul command us to love if love is an inevitable result of faith (5:6), indeed, a fruit of God’s Spirit (5:22)?” The answer is that even though God is sovereign over his people and it is his Spirit that produces the fruit of love, nevertheless, God’s means of doing his work includes human exhortation. There is no contradiction between saying God brings about love in our hearts and saying that one of the ways he does it is to remind us of love’s importance with commands. But the fact that Paul has waited five chapters before he commands us to do anything, but trust God, warns us not to take this command as a “work of law” to be performed in our own strength to win God’s favor. Paul’s attack on works of the law has not been an attack on commands but on the teaching that we should try to fulfill commands in our own strength to earn God’s blessing. Commands are good and should be seen as a summons to have the obedience which faith produces. The command to love in Galatians 5:13 is a command to have the kind of free and confident heart that by its very nature has to love.

And I have found in my own experience that the Holy Spirit uses scriptural commands and especially the theological arguments for those commands to change my heart. And that is my aim as we look at 5:13–15. I pray that God will apply his Word to your mind and heart in such a way that love comes much more naturally and freely than it has before.

The logic of Galatians 5:13–15 is simple. First, Paul restates the foundation of the Christian life: “You were called to freedom, brethren.” Then, based on that divine call, he gives a twofold command. Negatively: “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” Positively: “Through love be servants of one another.” Then to support this twofold command he gives a positive and a negative incentive to love. Positively: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And negatively: “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” The main point of the text is, “through love be servants of one another.” If you do this, you fulfill the whole law; if you don’t, you destroy yourselves.

Loving Service and True Freedom 

Let’s focus first on the positive command in verse 13: “Through love be servants of one another.” Listen to what happens when you put this command together with the first part of the verse: “You were called to freedom . . . Through love serve one another.” You were called to freedom from servitude; now in love submit to servitude! Here’s the question we should ask: Why is love which serves the needs of others the only way Christian freedom can express itself? Why are the call to freedom and the call to love synonymous? When Paul says, “Don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” he means that if you try, you lose your freedom. As verse 1 says, you “submit again to a yoke of slavery.” The works of the flesh and the fruit of love are not two different optional ways to live in freedom. When you live according to the flesh, you are in slavery. But when you serve each other in love, you are in freedom. Why?

Because love is motivated by the joy of sharing our fullness, but the works of the flesh are motivated by the desire to fill our emptiness. The meaning of “flesh” in the book of Galatians is not the physical part of man, but man’s ego which feels a deep emptiness and uses the means within its own power to fill that emptiness. If it is religious, it may use law; if it is irreligious, it may use booze. But one thing is sure: the flesh is not free. It is enslaved to one futile desire after another in its effort to fill an emptiness which only Christ can fill. So when Paul says in verse 13, “Don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,” he means, don’t surrender the freedom that you have in the all-satisfying Christ to return to the unsatisfying desires for mere physical pleasures or self-exaltation.

So works of the flesh are motivated by a desire to fill our emptiness. But love is very different—it is motivated by the joy of sharing out fullness. “Love does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we love, we are not enslaved to use things or people to fill our emptiness. Love is the overflow of our fullness. Therefore, love is the only behavior that we can do in freedom. When God frees us from guilt and fear and greed and fills us with his all-satisfying presence, the only motive left is the joy of sharing our fullness. When God fills the emptiness of our heart with forgiveness and help and guidance and hope, he frees us from the bondage to accumulate things and manipulate people. People who devote large hunks of their life to surrounding themselves with the comforts of this world testify that God has not filled the void of their heart to overflowing. When God is our portion and we are truly free, then we will serve one another through love. Freedom flows forth in love just as surely as a bubbling spring flows forth in a mountain stream. But the flesh is like a vacuum cleaner: it sucks and sucks and just the moment it starts to feel full, somebody throws the bag in the garbage. The book of Galatians is written to show us how to become a mountain spring that serves the valley with the water of love.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself 

There is no more fulfilling way to live than to draw daily on God’s all-satisfying grace and let it flow through us to meet the needs of others. Verses 14 and 15 give us a positive and a negative incentive to live like this. First, verse 14: Live like this, “for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” In spite of all the negative things that Paul has said about “works of the law,” it is not a matter of indifference whether Christians fulfill the law in their behavior. The good news is that love, which is an overflow of God’s grace, is what fulfills the law. All God was after in the law was people who are so satisfied by his grace that their lives are a spill-spout of love.

There is a lot of confusion today about the self-love referred to in this verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The most common error is to assume that this is a command to love yourself and that self-love means self-esteem. Both of these assumptions are wrong. Paul and Moses (Leviticus 19:18) and Jesus (Luke 10:27assume that all people love themselves; they don’t command it: “You shall love your neighbor as you (already) love yourself.” And the self-love they assume is not self-esteem but self-interest: all people want to be happy, even if they often don’t know what will really make them happy. We can know this is how Paul understands this verse because of how he applies it in Ephesians 5:2829. “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church.” In other words, self-love means the strong interest you have in your own health and safety and happiness.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is not a command to love yourself. It is a command to take your natural, already existing love of self and make it the measuring rod of your love for others. There is not a harder command in the Bible than this one. It means: Want to feed the hungry as much as you want to feed yourself when you get hungry. It means: Want to find your neighbor a job as much as you are glad you have a job. Want to help your fellow student get A’s as much as you want to get A’s. Want to help the person stalled on the freeway as much as you are glad you are not stalled on the freeway. Want to give the poor softball player a chance to play as much as you want to play the whole game. Want to share Christ with your neighbor as much as you are glad you know Christ yourself. 

Use all the creativity and energy and perseverance to do good things for others that you use in doing good things for yourself. Care about what happens to others as much as you care about what happens to yourself. Can you imagine what the church would be like if we were all like that: looking at the person to the right and to the left and feeling the same longing for their happiness that we feel for our own. Not only would the law be fulfilled, this place would be iridescent with joy, and the glory of God would be unmistakably present in our midst. And people would be converted! Let’s be like that in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Tragic Alternative to Love 

For if we don’t, verse 15 gives the tragic alternative: “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” A church of people who do not serve each other in love will destroy itself. God has been good to Bethlehem to pour out a spirit of love upon this people for 112 years. And my prayer is that we abound more and more in love for one another and for all men (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

And remember, we can only love if we are free. That is, love is motivated by the joy of sharing our fullness, not by the desire to fill our emptiness. Is it a coincidence that verse 15 describes what wild animals do when they are starving, not when they are filled (empty instead of content)? “If you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” When you are not filled with God, it is sweet to eat your enemy.

But, brothers and sisters, God has called us to the freedom of fullness which overflows in love, not to the slavery of emptiness which bites and devours and is never satisfied. In Jesus Christ, God offers us forgiveness, daily help and guidance, and hope for the greatest future imaginable. And it is all free, purchased by the death of Jesus, received by faith alone. The secret of love is freedom, and the secret of freedom is utter confidence in the love of God.

Which gives us the clue (returning to our starting point) why a person can give away all his goods and deliver his body to be burned and yet not have love. Such a person may not be acting in freedom. He may not be motivated by the joy of sharing a God-given fullness, but only by a deep longing to fill his emptiness. In that case, he is not acting in love and God is not honored as the all-satisfying source of fulfillment.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.

Pray Through The Dark Times

Quote

Faith overcomes doubt, fear, hurt, desperation, and darkness.

~ Lisa Blair

When we pray we are expressing faith in action. COVID has brought a new level of fear, depression, anger, and bewilderment. Our first response is often, “what do I do now”? The answer is – pray. Prayer is essential in times like these, it is also important to ask others to pray on your behalf. When we ask others, we are asking for intercessory prayer which is much more powerful.

INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Intercessory prayer can bombard the airways in a way an individual has difficulty doing. Why is intercessory prayer better or stronger, because there are many people praying on your behalf for the same thing. Prayers go up to God through the airways. As we know, Satan owns the airways and works diligently to slow down our prayers and once they break through, to stop their delivery to the concerned party. Perhaps you recall in Daniel 10:13, Daniel prayed to God for His people, Gabriel was sent by God but he was hindered for 21 days by one of Satan’s demon princes. Michael the archangel intervened opening the airways so Gabriel could activate God’s blessing. Intercessory prayer is driven by fervent prayer, meaning non-stop prayer. It is during this time that we pray on behalf of another as a group, for a person, a place (neighborhood, city, state, nation or the world), or situation. James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him”. We are all the church and I would say, we become the spiritual elders as we mature in the word. Throughout the Bible intercessory prayer has covered those in authority (1 Timothy 2:2); ministers (Philippians 1:19); Jerusalem (Psalm 122:16); friends (Job 42:8); fellow countrymen (Romans 10:1); the sick (James 5:14); enemies (Jeremiah 29:7); and all men (Timothy 2:1). To quote Gotquestions.org. What is intercessory prayer? “God call all Christians to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests.”

Williamson County Cowboy Church


EXAMPLES OF ACTIVATING PRAYER

I have two examples of how a cry out for prayer has helped two families in the last three weeks and overcame what could have been the darkest moments of one’s life.

The first is a case of a person whose grandson died unexpectedly, what do I mean by unexpectedly? He was young, in good health and God saw fit to take him home in his mid -30’s. His grandparents were devastated by the news and his grandmother went into a deep depression. As she was falling deeper and deeper into depression, she contacted her prayer group and asked for prayer to strengthen her and return her to the light. She continued to spiral, but during that time the group made intercession through intercessory prayer, praying and sending up cries for her recovery. We prayed for approximately one week and our sister in Christ contacted us sharing that our prayers were answered and she came out of the depression almost as quickly as she entered it. She also shared that our prayers not only provided the strength to continue on, but also to help her overcome her grief.

The second case is that of a member of our group whose grandson, age 3, fell in a swimming pool and was not breathing when he was found. He was rushed to the hospital were the doctors said there was little hope that he would survive, he was unconscious and they placed him on a ventilator. His grandmother asked us to pray for her grandson and we did for days, never ceasing. Today she reported that he is still in a coma, but is taking breaths on his own and the breathing tube has been changed to allow him to take more breaths. Recently he had an MRI to determine the extent of damage to his brain. We are waiting for their report and pray that God will continue to answer our prayers. God is restoring his lungs and we pay he will restore his brain to full capacity. Our God is an awesome God.

FAITH IN ACTION

St.Pauls Lutheran Church

Faith in action means that we do not let the things of this earth destroy us. We may be experiencing situations that seem hopeless, but they are only helpless for non-believers. Those who are believer’s and have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have access to the Lord.

This does not mean that our prayers are always answered as we see fit, only the Lord knows what we need to mature as Christians. What it does mean is that through faith, not doubt, we are praying for an outcome that resolves the circumstance or situation we are praying to relieve.

WHEN WE PRAY

When we pray, we pray in faith that God will answer our prayers. We expect nothing less. There is no doubt or fear. We are standing fast on God’s word, Ephesians 5:13 NIV “…and after you have done everything, stand“. This means that after you have prayed for what may seem impossible, pray and stand, do not let the evil one pollute your mind with doubt. Reject it on its face and say, “I stand on the word of God and the prayers we sent up will be answered, depart from me Satan in the name of Jesus.” And, continue to stand until you see or hear of the answer you have been praying for. Sometimes, the answer may not be the one expected, but our Lord will never forsake us or leave us, you can stand on that.

Prayers of the Righteous, Youtube

IN CLOSING

We can pray individually, with others, in groups, via text chat, email, on Zoom, Google Meet, submitting your prayers to prayer groups. There are no limits on How people pray. Technology has increased our outreach for prayer. It has created new avenues to invite others to act in intercessory prayer.

A FEW ONLINE PRAYER GROUPS

Prayer Wall. College Park Church. Yourchurch.com

The Upper Room Prayer Ministry. prayer-center.upperroom.org