let your actions all be out of love

In-person, heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection


Scripture Reference


Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25 (NIV 1984)

I checked my email as soon as I woke up. Then I made breakfast and checked it again. Had my devotional time and checked it again. Ran some errands and checked it on my phone. When I got home, I checked it once more.

Now, I admit I have a thing about keeping white space in my inbox, but this was about more than managing emails. I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to pause and ask myself, “Why do you keep checking your email?”

I wasn’t sure if it was God or me answering, but my thoughts intertwined with His Spirit whispered: You keep coming back because your heart longs for connection with a friend.

Yet no matter how many times I checked email, it was never enough to satisfy my craving.

Somewhere in the busyness of life I had let many of my friendships reduce to quick connections via email. My schedule had gotten full with kids, school projects, investing time in my marriage, and work.

I knew something had to give, so I asked God to help me find balance.

God had recently led me to cut back on the amount of time I spent talking on the phone, socializing with neighbors and hanging out with friends. Although I hadn’t completely cut out my friendships, our face-to-face connection time had been reduced to a minimum as I obeyed God’s request.

I realized I had not found a good balance, and let the pendulum swing too far. So I checked email repeatedly, trying to fill a God-created need for relationships with a white screen and black alphabet keys.

My heart was craving more.

That day as I sat in front of my screen for the fifth time, Jesus revealed the source of my incessant email checking and reminded me I am created for real-life connections. I need to fill that lonely place in my heart with friends I can share life with in person.

That day I called one of my best friends. She happened to be available so I turned off my computer and spontaneously met her at a coffee shop.

It was just what I needed: in-person, heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection and conversation.

I know friendships are not easy to build. They take time and most of us don’t have enough of it. But in this age of technology, it’s important to evaluate and balance connections that are screen-to-screen rather than face-to-face.

We need to pull away from our computers, phones and televisions to intentionally carve out time for friends. Times where we can meet in person to share what’s going on in our lives. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us not to give up meeting together to worship and encourage one another. As we see here and throughout the Bible, “meeting together” is important to God.

Jesus needed face-to-face connections, too. He surrounded Himself with intimate friends first His Father, then close friends like John, Peter and James, and then the other disciples.

He also had friends like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. People He spent time with sharing meals and having conversations about spiritual truths that applied to their lives. Through His example we see how important it is to satisfy our craving for connections by spending face-to-face time with friends.

Although social media is great in moderation, computer “connections” can’t substitute real-life relationships. So, who will you connect with face-to-face this week?

Dear Lord, You created me with a need for friends. Yet, I find myself rushing through my days with little time for heart-to-heart connections. Help me to seek You first as my ultimate Friend, and then reach out to others so I can have and be a close friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
Write down the amount of time you are on email, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and text messaging versus the amount of face-to-face time you have with friends. How do the two balance?

Call one or two friends you enjoy being with to encourage them and set up a time to get together.

If you’re not sure who to call, ask God to show you someone you can begin a friendship with. Invite them to join you for lunch or to go for a walk together this week.

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (NIV)

John 15:15b, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

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Surrender To Peace – Knowing The Divine Presence!


“Be still and know that I’m God. I’ll be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10 “BE STILL AND KNOW that I am God.” This is something you must do; you must quiet your heart to know the Divine Presence. Therefore “set the Lord always before you” (Psalm 16:8) and refuse anxious thoughts that weigh in upon you, creating pressure and “dis-ease.” Quieting your heart enables you to hear the holy whisper: “It is I; do not be afraid…” Once the storm of fear dissipates, you can know the truth of God. As the Spirit says, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). Worry is a place of exile and pain. Since God Name means ‘Presence’ and ‘Love’, being anxious is to practice the absence of God’s presence instead of practicing his presence… A divided house cannot stand. Where it is written, “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7), the word translated “anxiety” comes from a verb that meansto divide into pieces.Bring your brokenness to God – including those distractions that make you ambivalent and afraid – to receive God’s healing for your divided heart. Note that the verb “be still” (i.e., rapha) means to “let go,” to stop striving, and tosurrender everythingto the care of God (Rom. 8:28). “Being still” means letting go of your “need” to control the world. Relax your hold and rely on God’s care for your life instead, without “taking thought” for tomorrow and its concerns (Matt. 6:34). The past is gone, after all, and the future is God’s business: all you have is the present moment to call upon our Lord. Be faithful in the present hour, then, asking God for the grace and strength you need to endure yourself and engage the task at hand. In this way you will experience the peace of God “which surpasses all understanding” ( Philippians 4:7). Walking with God isn’t just a matter of “head education,” but also of “heart education,” and these two must always go together as Spirit and Truth (John 4:23). Head education seeks knowledge primarily as a means of defining what you believe; heart education, on the other hand, centers on fear, or rather, on overcoming your fear by trusting in God’s love and healing grace. When you accept that you are accepted despite yourself, you are delivered from the need to defend yourself. You can let go, quit denying who you are, and accept God’s unconditional care for your life – regardless of the state of the world. When your heart learns to “be still,” you can know that the God of Israel reigns over all things!

Everlasting Consolation : Keeping Hope During Exile!


“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God will stand forever.”(Isaiah 40:8). THIS IS A GREAT WORD OF HOPE. Despite experiencing exile and living in oppression, God speaks words of everlasting consolation : Nachamu, nachamu ammi : “Comfort, comfort my people…” (Isa. 40:1). There is a glorious future for you, even if your present circumstances seem overwhelming and your heart’s cry seems unanswered. These were God’s words of encouragement to the Jewish exiles that were carried away into Babylonian captivity. Despite the appearance of ruin, God promised to establish Zion as the praise of the earth. God is the only enduring Reality in a constantly changing world, and He has designed it this way to cause men’s hearts to search for him. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field” – such is the condition of this ephemeral world with its flux and fortunes. The flesh fades because the breath of the LORD blows upon it (Isa. 40:7). God Himself has ordained human life to be a vapor…. Nonetheless we are told not to fear, because there is good news for Zion: the LORD is coming with might to reward those who are waiting for him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather his lambs and carry them close to his heart. As the apostle Peter said, this good news is the eternal life given through the imperishable “seed” – the Word of God that rises forever in Yeshua (1 Pet. 1:23-25).The nations of this world are reckoned as less than nothing; their glory is “tohu” – confusion and unreality – and their princes are regarded as utter vanity. “Scarcely are they planted and have taken root when He blows upon them and they wither to become dust carried off by the storming winds” (Isa. 40:24). The nations of the earth are dried grasses; the kings of the earth are withered flowers. But God is incomparably great and will fulfill his promises to Israel: “The word of our God will stand forever.” He created the heavens and calls each star by name. He is invincible in power and no one can overrule His will. This world is not our home; we are “strangers” here. It is an affliction to wait for the LORD, a sort of “homesickness” of heart… The apostle Paul says our loneliness and alienation prepare for us an “eternal weight of glory” beyond all comparison, because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. “For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). Just as the “two-souled” man is unstable in all his ways, so the process of being “educated for eternity” means learning to focus our heart’s passion and hope on the glory of heaven. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Those who wait for the LORD inwardly groan to be clothed with immortality and eternal life, and their consolation is great indeed. Yeshua is “preparing a place for you,” an everlasting place of refuge whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Faith sees beyond the shadows of this world to behold your true home with your Heavenly Father.

Thirst for life….


Isaiah 55:1 on filling the inner emptiness…. “All who are thirsty, come to the waters.”~ Isaiah 55:1. THE PROPHETIC VOICE IS HEARD: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Spiritually speaking, there are two basic sorts of breaking. One is to be broken by the inevitable sin and ruin of this world, and the other is to have “lev-nishbar,” a broken heart, before the LORD (2 Cor. 7:10). The former comes from the vain attempt to find life in the broken vessels of this world, whereas the latter comes from the realization of an incurable inner emptiness (Matt. 5:4). The soul finds eternal satisfaction desiring God’s righteousness, since God alone provides the vessel of “living water” we need to live (John 4:14; 7:38). We all must drink from God’s fountain of life, lest we suffer spiritual dehydration and death. All who are thirsty, come to the waters… Are you haunted by an inner ache for love, joy, peace, and life? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). Such inner poverty is adisguised grace,and the desire for healing reveals the Spirit’s invitation. Faith begins with the recognition of what wereallywant, since only then will we come to Yeshua for the “bread of life” and “living water.” All we need is found in him, though we must reach out in faith to receive: “For without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). God rewards those who seek him out; he responds to all who hope in his love and salvation. Therefore, as Yeshua said: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7-8). We are not saved by faith in our own faith, but in the Reality and Power of the LORD God who does the miracle of raising the dead to newness of life. Do you have the “gift of holy desperation”? That’s the very special blessing of needing God so viscerally that you otherwise will fall apart or even self-destruct apart from His ongoing intervention in your life… You pray because your very life depends on it; you believe because without God, you would be swallowed up in darkness. The fire on the altar was to be kept burning at all times (Lev. 6:12-13) symbolizing the “inner fire of the heart.” How blessed it is to be full of the fire of this inner need, this relentless groaning, this constant hunger and thirst for God and his righteousness! How fortunate we are to receive daily bread from the hand of our heavenly Father.

THE SPIRIT SPEAKS TO THE HEART OF FAITH!


“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1. THE SPIRIT SPEAKS TO THE HEART of faith: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, and you are mine.” God has personally redeemed you, friend; He calls you by name, and you belong to Him. The Lord loves you with an everlasting love and draws you close (Jer. 31:3). He will never leave nor forsake you, even if you might face waters that seem to overwhelm or fires that seem to devour (Isa. 43:2). The will of your Heavenly Father will never lead you to a place where his love will not there sustain you. Worry is a place of exile and pain. We are commanded,al tirah,”fear not,” because fear was behind the original sin in the garden, just as mistrust lies behind our own hiding and self-imposed exile from God… Since sin expresses a heart of fear (Rom. 14:23), the way of healing is to courageously turn back to God, despite our shameful past. We can trust God’s love for us because of the cross of Yeshua our Lord. If we haven’t received God’s love and acceptance, we are still enslaved to fear and abide in a state of exile. The love of God casts out our fear because it casts out all our sins (1 John 4:18). It is written, “God has not given up the spirit of dear, but of power and of love, and of a “sound mind.””(2 Tim. 1:7 ) . The Greek word for “sound mind” means made “safe” because of the restraining influence of the Spirit of God… If you sense fearful oppression within your heart, turn to the Lord and offer him focused praise. Lift up your soul to him and thank him for your trouble. This has the double benefit of confessing your trust in God’s care, as well as vexing the enemy of your soul. Come boldly to the throne of grace to find your help (Heb. 4:16); cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you (1 Pet. 4:17). The Name of the LORD (Exod.3:14; 34:6-7), means “presence” and “love”. Yeshua said, “I go to prepare a place for you,” which means that his presence and love are waiting for you in whatever lies ahead (Rom. 8:35-39). To worry is to “practice the absence” of God instead of to practice His Presence… Trust the word of the Holy Spirit: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for healing peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).Take comfort that your Heavenly Father sees when the sparrow falls; he arrays the flower in its hidden valley; and he calls each star by name. More importantly, the Lord sees you and understands your struggle with fear… Come to him with your needy heart and trust him to deliver you from the burdens of your soul ( Matt. 11:28).

DEEPER STILL


No matter how deep our darkness … He is deeper still.” ~Corrie ten Boom “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Temptation of Jesus Christ


Temptation

The New Testament tells of Jesus’ temptations to assure and encourage believers to trust in the pattern of faithfulness to God. Though pinkess, Jesus experienced the moral struggle between the desire to do right and the desire to sin. This internal temptation is a basic experience all people encounter. For His mission stood in the place of sinfull people,suffered the onslaught of temptation and triumphed by never giving into sin. The wilderness temptations (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13) highlight Jesus’ rule as the new Adam, and mirror Israel’s 40 years of wildernesss wanderings. Like Adam and Eve, Jesus underwent temptation but where they sinned, Jesus proved faithful. This faithfulness found its culmination in Gethsemane, where Jesus asked three times for another way and on the cross, where He experienced the despair of being forsaken by His Father. Jesus temptation speak to the authenticity of incarnation;only people can experience temptation. The temptation also qualify Him for His role as a priest, since He is able to identify with His people in their temptation and restore them in relationship to God, Hebrew 4:14-16. In addition to completing His work as sinless redeemer, Jesus’ temptation -and His response to them- teach those who follow Him how to overcome temptation in their lives. As jesus demonstrated in the wilderness and Gethsemane, the proper response the temptation is to resist with the help of God. Jesus charged His disciples to pray that they may not enter into temptation , Luke 22:40. God’s word can also be used to counter the kids of temptation. Jesus responded to Satan’s appeals by relying on God’s Word, manifesting the lesson that Israel was supposed to learn in their 40 years of wilderness journeying , Deutronomy 8:2-3. Temptation always presents sin as acceptable and desirable; the antidote is the truth of God’s Word. Christ’s temptations occured for our sake, as part of His work to save His people. The experience of being tempted in “all ways as we are” Hebrews 4:15 reassures believers that Jesus, despite being the eternal God, truly understands the experience of temptation. He endured the strain of temptation from childhood until His final moments on the Cross. Jesus experience the temptation – to retaliate when sinned against, to withdraw and protect Himself, to shrink back from God’s mission, and to avoid suffering. His empathy and willingness to help those undergoing temptation originate in His personal experience of enduring the struggle between desires for right and wrong. Hebrews 4:16 urges Christians to seek Jesus’ help as one who both understands and possesses the ability to provide age to surmount temptation