Seven Days to a Deeper Faith, Day 5: A Closer Kingdom

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” “Matthew 16:19

When I became a Christian, all the instruction I remember receiving about the Kingdom was to protect myself from the corruption of the world, to avoid spending too much time with “sinners,” and to hold on until Jesus came back. Christianity was presented to me more as a waiting game than it was something I could thrive in. Getting to heaven simply meant avoiding hell.

Yet, somewhere deep down, I knew there should be more to life as a Christian than signing up for an eternal fire insurance policy. And there is. In fact, I think it’s those who live like today has no eternal significance who are most confused, empty, and frustrated with their faith.

The fullness of the kingdom goes beyond a one-day-yet-to-come dream; it’s also a glimpse into what God has in mind for today. It’s a kingdom yet to arrive, but also a kingdom now. Today, we find ourselves in an age of grace beyond the cross but prior to Christ’s second return. How we choose to live in this in-between says a lot about what we believe regarding the kingdom.

Today matters. Your life, your successes, your pain, and your growth this side of eternity are not in vain. When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross, he meant it. All that was necessary to usher in the kingdom has already taken place. Now we must respond. We must be ready to live out this reality “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Any moment we choose God’s way over our way the kingdom breaks through. Any way Jesus rules our day, the kingdom is at hand. Any moment we choose to pray about a decision, to surrender to His will, to open the Bible for insight or wisdom, or to extend mercy or grace, the kingdom breaks through.

I find this shift in thinking to be so hopeful. God is always working in the now and the future, and we can choose to engage with his movement at any time. It’s possible today, and it’s possible tomorrow.

Take Action:

Do your best to capture your thoughts today as you make decisions. Think about whether you’re choosing your way or God’s way. Do your best to choose His Kingdom over yours. Maybe the age-old question, “What would Jesus do?” would be a good starting point. How would Jesus treat that person at the cash register? How would Jesus talk to the waitress when she messed up your order? How would Jesus respond to someone asking him for forgiveness when they’ve harmed you? When we put it that way, it seems kind of obvious doesn’t it?

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Don’t Let the Devil Win

SHARON JAYNES

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

It was a beautiful, crisp February morning when my new fiancé Steve and I traveled from our college town to his family’s home to announce our engagement. The night before, God had decorated His creation with a dusting of snow. All of nature looked as if it were dressed for a wedding.

After the grand announcement and a warm meal, we headed back to school. The day had warmed and melted most of the snow, but nightfall brought freezing temperatures and slick roads. As we neared our school, we began descending a hill and encountered a patch of ice. The tires hit the slick surface, and the car spun out of control.

“Steve! We’re headed straight for that car,” I cried out, as a set of oncoming headlights shone through the windshield.

Seeing there was nothing he could do, Steve took his hands off the steering wheel and cried out, “Oh, God! Save us!”

One second we were headed directly toward an oncoming car. The next, we were sitting off the side of the road in a ditch, facing the opposite direction — with our bodies pinned safely back against our seats.

“How did we miss that car?” I asked. “Where did it go?”

Shaken, Steve replied, “There’s only one answer to those questions: God.”

God. He is our Protector in times of trouble (Psalm 18:3), our Shield in times of danger (Proverbs 30:5) and our Fortress in times of attack (Psalm 91:1-2). Not only that, God promises to “command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11, NIV).

God protects us not only in the physical realm that we can see, but also in the spiritual realm against forces we can’t see. The Bible says, For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).

A spiritual battle rages around our relationships as the devil attempts to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10) He would like nothing better than to destroy marriages — what God has established as an earthly reflection of Christ’s love for the Church. The devil sets traps of danger and destruction in the path of God’s people in hopes of catching us unaware and ill-prepared. Be ready. Don’t let him win.

Only God can fully protect our marriage and our spouse. And He invites us to participate in unleashing His power through prayer. Through prayer, the enemy’s plans are intercepted; the principalities and authorities are defeated.

When I pray for my husband, I pray Scripture over him from head to toe. As I pray for his back, I pray for his protection in the physical and spiritual realm with the assurance that no weapon formed against him will succeed. (Isaiah 54:17) Today, I invite you to join me in praying for your husband. If you’re single, pray for the important men in your life.

Dear Lord, just as the prophet Elisha was confident that the warring angels surrounding him were greater than the enemy who sought to do him harm, I pray my husband will be confident that Your power surrounding him is greater than anyone or anything that might seek to do him harm. Even though he may not see Your mighty host, reassure him he’s under Your protective care. Hem him in — as you go behind and before him. Rescue him from danger, and protect him from harm. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 139:5, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” (ESV)

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” (ESV)

 


www.Proverbs31.org

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God is With You Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name (Isaiah 45:3).

Friend to Friend
Children are wonderfully different.

When our son Jered was nine months old, he began to pull up on every piece of furniture he could find. For weeks, he maneuvered his way around our home until the day he took his first step … alone. It was a step of inches, but we celebrated as if he had run a marathon.

Our daughter Danna had a different plan. She never pulled up on a piece of furniture and never took “a” step. When she was ten months old, Danna stood up, looked around, and trotted across the room. Jered and Danna both walk extremely well today as young adults, but they both began with tiny steps … and in their own way.

Nobody gets depressed overnight, and nobody overcomes depression overnight. The journey out of the pit is a process of steps uniquely planned by your Father.

First, we must wait. The psalmist simply says, “I waited.” Waiting is not passive. Waiting is a time of preparation, a time of rest and healing.

Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

This verse says our Father has gone before us and, in every dark moment or painful circumstance, has buried a treasure or stored a secret. Some things cannot be learned in the light. They are reserved for the darkness. The pit of depression has become a hedge of protection in my life, a warning light that something is wrong or out of balance. To wait means to accept the pit, knowing it is for our good.

Second, we must be real. Pride often prevents us from admitting we are struggling. Emotional health begins at the point of emotional integrity. When clinical depression first overwhelmed my life, my husband was the pastor of a large, fast-growing church. We could choose to be transparent and real, or we could sweep my struggle under the rug. We decided that to be right, we had to be real. We shared my battle with the staff, the deacons, and then with the entire church. Yes, we took a risk, but we learned an important lesson. A shared load is a lighter load because we were created to need each other.

Third, we must be still.So much about God can never be known on the run. We can get so wrapped up in everyday life that we fail to be wrapped up in Him. The busier we are, the more stillness and rest we need. During those two years in the pit, I not only gave up every role of leadership, I could not even attend church at times because of panic attacks. The Father taught me an important truth. He is more concerned with who I am than what I do. He loves it when I am still … sitting at His feet.

Fourth, we must cry out for help. People struggling with depression often look for help in the wrong places. The first place we should look is God. He stands waiting to hear our voice; and when we cry out to Him, He comes running – through His Word, through prayer, and through His people.

God also works through doctors and counselors. Depression is often rooted in a physical problem that requires medication. The medicine does not eliminate the depression, but it does level the playing field so that whatever is triggering the depression can be addressed. Christian counselors are a gift from God. He knew we would need them. God also works through friends and family members to encourage and help us. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be too proud to accept it.

Finally, we must be patient. It took me many years to hit rock bottom, and it took me two years to climb out of that pit. I still battle depression. I have asked God to deliver me, but He has said “no.” Depression keeps me broken. Anything that makes me cry out to God can be counted as a blessing. When we come to the end of ourselves, God begins.

I don’t know if you are in a pit and need help, or if someone you love is in that pit and needs help. One thing I do know is that the purpose of the pit is to purify and then to restore.

Don’t quit!
Don’t give up!
God is with you.

Let’s Pray
Father, my heart is filled with chaos and confusion. I feel as if I am drowning in my circumstances. I need the strength and peace that only You can give. Right now, I choose to rest in You, trusting You to bring me out of the darkness.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Read Philippians 4:7 (NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Make a list of the dark places in your life today. Surrender each one to God. Ask Him to bring light into your heart and mind and help you walk in His peace today. When the waves of darkness come, remember each one now belongs to your Father.

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God bless you,

Later,

Pat.