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I LIFT UP MY SOULDEVOTIONS TO START YOUR DAY WITH GOD
By CHARLES F. STANLEY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Charles F. Stanley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJANUARY 1
Wake Up to a new Day with the Lord
Scripture Reading: Psalm 143:8-12 Key Verse: Psalm 143:8
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.
What is it you crave first thing in the morning? Does a steamy, fresh-brewed cup of coffee or tea catch your attention? Does your morning seem incomplete without your usual cereal or plate of eggs? Do you feel as if you can't make it out the front door without reading the morning paper or watching one of the cheerful morning shows?
In Psalm 143:8, David wrote, "Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul" (NASB). David saw the necessity of seeking God to direct his steps. He looked to God for guidance for the needs of each day.
A sign of spiritual growth is longing to be with the Lord in a time of Bible study and prayer each day. Whether in the morning or at night, is there a time in your day when you spend time with the Savior? Is it a time that you guard jealously?
Henry Ward Beecher said, "The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day."
Nothing, not even coffee, will begin your day like time alone with God. Seek Him so that you may grow closer to Him. Go into His presence so that you may sing for joy and be glad all your days (Ps. 90:14). When you make plans to meet God, He will place an intimate joy within your heart. Then you will learn to hunger for His Word.
Father, give me a hunger for Your Word. Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning. I lift up my soul to You.
(Pathways to His Presence)
The Goodness of God
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:18-23 Key Verse: Psalm 86:5
You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
Concerning the goodness of God, Henry Thiessen explains, "In the larger sense of the term, the goodness of God includes all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage; that is, it includes such qualities as God's holiness, righteousness, and truth, as well as His love, benevolence, mercy, and grace."
The rich young ruler called Jesus "Good Teacher," but the Lord was quick to reply, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone" (Luke 18:19 NASB). Faithfully, Jesus was doing exactly what the Father had sent Him to do: point men and women to their heavenly Father. He also was involved in training people to seek God not out of fear, but out of a desire to know and experience His goodness and mercy.
In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer concludes, "Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart."
Often we seek Him because we have heard that He is "good." But we stop at this point and miss learning about the deeper goodness of God. Make sure that as you discover more about God's goodness, you also take time to grow in your devotion to Him.
Lord, let me grow in my devotion toward You. I wait each day for a divine encounter with You.
(Seeking His Face)
The Call of faith
Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-9 Key Verse: Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Suppose you plan a wonderful surprise vacation for your family or friends. The big day finally comes. The car is loaded, everyone has taken care of all those last-minute details, and your tank is full of gas. Everyone piles in the car and fastens seat belts in anticipation of the trip.
Finally someone asks the fateful question, "Hey, where are we going?" And you say with great authority, "Well, I don't know exactly." After the bewildered looks and cries of dismay, probably the only one left in the car with you is the dog, and he isn't looking too certain either. People simply don't make big trips without knowing where they're going-unless God asks them to. And that is precisely what God asked of Abram and his family: "Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great" (Gen. 12:1-2 NASB).
God gave Abram some very important information, but He did not hand him a road map. Why? He wanted Abram and Sarai to trust Him for the journey. Abram did not know where they were headed, but he knew their future was blessed, more than he could conceive.
Are you letting God take you in His direction, or are you still insisting on a travel plan?
Lord, take me in Your direction. Help me learn to walk by faith. I know my future will be blessed, more than I can imagine. No travel plan is necessary for my journey-I need only You as my Guide.
(On Holy Ground)
Satisfying Your Heart
Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-17 Key Verse: Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Wasn't life simpler when you could plunk down a quarter and get a steamy cup of java? Now, to buy coffee, you must make a hundred different decisions. Would you like a latte, cappuccino, espresso, macchiato, or frappuccino? Flavored with mocha, caramel, vanilla, amaretto, or hazelnut? Would you like it caffeinated or decaf? Tall or grande? The options are endless and create a sense of satisfying whatever your heart desires. It is natural for situations to go from simplicity to chaos when the heart is involved.
However, Scripture has an indictment for the heart, as Jeremiah 17:9 reveals: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
Sometimes the reason circumstances become more complicated is because the simplest answers are challenging to the heart. Even though you really do know what to do, the decision would take a great deal of courage and commitment. As you wait to find a solution that caters to the whims of your heart, answers become increasingly difficult to find.
The only answer is for God to direct you. As Colossians 3:15 teaches, "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." Is it Christ who rules your heart and directs your path? His is the greatest satisfaction your heart will ever know.
Lord, my heart wanders as it wills. I give it to You, so that You may guide it around the pitfalls of its own longings.
(Pathways to His Presence)
Scripture Reading: Luke 19:12-27 Key Verse: Luke 19:17
He said to him, "Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities."
An essential ingredient for success in the personal or corporate realm is productivity. Businesses must be profitable if they expect to survive. Employees must work hard and wisely if they are to progress.
Although the believer's identity and security in Christ should never be confused with his performance (the Father unconditionally loves and accepts him), God expects him to be productive in the use of his natural talents and spiritual gifts. This is clear in the parable of the talents, where the industrious servant is rewarded and the indolent worker is reprimanded for his lack of initiative and effort.
The fear of failure is perhaps the greatest obstacle for many Christians. We flunk a course, flub an assignment, disappoint a boss, and decide we must not be made of the right stuff. What heresy! Failure is never final in God's eyes. Look at David, Moses, Mark, and others who blew it but still found great favor with God. All God desires is that you learn from your mistakes and trust Him to help you.
A productive, satisfying life can be your experience. There will be unexpected lapses and momentary pauses as you seek to maximize your talents, but in the end, you will hear God say, "Well done, my good servant" (Luke 19:17 NIV). This is reward enough.
Father, I praise You that failure is never final in Your eyes. Remove my fear of failure and replace it with divine confidence. Help me learn from my mistakes.
(On Holy Ground)
The Life of God
Scripture Reading: John 11:1-45 Key Verse: John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Think about your best friend for a moment. Try to remember your very first meeting. What if your best friend had handed you a long list of dos and don'ts, telling you any violation would lessen his care for you? Obviously your relationship would never have progressed. Who would want such a friend?
Yet many Christians act as if this is their view of Jesus. But He did not hand you a list of conditions when you accepted Him. What He gave you was His life.
In the New Testament, there are several Greek words for life. Bios (origin of biology), generally translated, means "lifestyle." Another Greek word for life is zoe, which means "life as God has it."
In John 10:10, Jesus said, "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (NASB). In John 11:25, He stated, "I am the resurrection and the life" (NASB). In both cases, Jesus used the word zoe. How awesome to hear from our Lord Himself that the "life as God has it" is within us, a magnificent gift of His unconditional love.
Since you have this life, His life, you already have the very best. He dwells within you to encourage and empower you. As long as you are within God's will, sustaining energy will flow through you from His eternal wellspring. Within His will, you'll never tire of living for Jesus.
Father, help me walk in Your will so that sustaining energy from Your eternal wellspring will flow through me.
(Seeking His Face)
Your Best Friend
Scripture Reading: John 15:12-17 Key Verse: Proverbs 18:24
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Do you remember having a best friend as a child? This person went everywhere with you, from recess in the schoolyard to adventures around the neighborhood. You had small fights and squabbles occasionally, but you stuck by each other when difficulties came along.
As an adult, you may have a friend like this today, but you are certainly aware that such friends are rare indeed. The blessing of a friend who understands your deepest thoughts and needs and loves you through the hard times is a gift from the Lord. It is important to recognize, however, that the best friend in the entire world can still let you down at times. It is not a cliché to state that Jesus is your only true Friend.
Joseph Scriven, an Irishman born in 1819, discovered this truth in a powerful way. The night before he was to be married, his beloved fiancée drowned. Grieving deeply, Scriven decided to move to Canada and begin a new life, dedicated entirely to letting the Lord use him in others' lives. Out of this experience and several others, he penned the words to the favorite hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
Can you imagine writing this poetry after going through such pain? Scriven saw the Lord's faithfulness. He knew firsthand that when all earthly supports and emotional props disappear, Jesus is there to love and comfort eternally.
Jesus, You are the best Friend I will ever have. Thank You for Your faithfulness and this wonderful relationship we share.
(Into His Presence)
Encouraging Sagging Saints
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 16:10-21 Key Verse: Hebrews 6:10
God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Stephanas. Fortunatus. Achaicus. Aquila. Priscilla. Although names not on the tip of your tongue, these people were instrumental in the formation of the early New Testament church. Paul mentioned their indispensable labor in his parting instructions to the church at Corinth. Without defining their specific contributions, he remarked that their ministries refreshed and revitalized believers, including himself.
The local church today frequently errs in the notion that its pastor and staff members are the sole nucleus for the work of the gospel. They have vital functions, but the saints themselves share and participate in the growth of Christ's body.
Your name may not be on the bulletin. You may not be a deacon or elder. But you have been equipped with spiritual gifts to strengthen the saints. A note with a brief word of encouragement, a phone call to someone in your Sunday school class, lunch with a discouraged parent, a small gift to someone in need-these are discreet but practical and encouraging ways to lift the spirits of sagging saints.
Ask God to show you how you might refresh fellow workers. Let Him lead you in appropriate ways to demonstrate His gentle love: "God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints" (Heb. 6:10 NASB).
Dear God, teach me to be an encourager and a source of hope to others. Show me how to refresh my fellow workers, demonstrating Your love in appropriate and practical ways.
(On Holy Ground)
God's Plan for Your Future
Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:11-14 Key Verse: Jeremiah 29:11
"I know the thoughts that I think toward you," says the Lord, "thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Are you aware that God knows exactly where you are and what you are doing right now? What about tomorrow, or the next day, or the next? God is just as aware of what you will be doing at 10:42 a.m. on any random morning five years from now as He is mindful of what you are doing now.
Contrary to secular thought, we are not bouncing around haphazardly through time and space. The same God who created the universe and everything in it also has a specific plan for every single person on earth. Because He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, He alone knows the ultimate outcome of each decision we make. Therefore, only God can be trusted to guide our daily steps as we seek to follow Him.
The Lord revealed through Jeremiah, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you ... thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11). These two things-hope and the expectation of a bright future-are in short supply these days. However, we have the assurance of almighty God that He already has a plan to provide us with both.
In Christ, the hope for our eternal future is secure. However, God is still intimately interested in your day-to-day living as well. Invite Him into your decisions; only He knows how to get you where He wants to take you.
Father, I am so thankful that You are interested in my day-to-day living. I invite You to guide me in every decision and get me where You want to take me.
(Pathways to His Presence)
Excerpted from I LIFT UP MY SOUL by CHARLES F. STANLEY Copyright © 2010 by Charles F. Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
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