Weekly Devotional – Surrendering Our Will

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This is a depiction of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

It’s a picture of complete surrender.

The surrendering of our will to our heavenly Father’s can be agonizing at times. That’s what I love about this image. Jesus didn’t make it look easy. In fact, Scripture tells us He experienced such anguish in the garden, such overwhelming sorrow, that His sweat became like drops of blood.

Jesus threw Himself before God and prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from me” (Mark 14:36a). Of course, the cup He was referring to was the cross. Immense suffering lay ahead of Jesus—He would be arrested, beaten, mocked, rejected, and eventually nailed to a cross like a common criminal. He pleaded with His Father, the sovereign ruler of the universe, to remove the cup from Him. God could do it. Nothing is impossible for Him.

But He didn’t.

Isn’t this the same frustration we face? We know that in an instant God can give us exactly what we want. He can make the sickness go away. He can give us the child we desire. He can fix our marriage. He can end our singleness. He can save our family member. He can restore our broken relationships. Nothing is impossible for Him.

But He doesn’t always give us what we want.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus’ prayer didn’t end with His asking God to take the cup from Him. It ended with complete surrender to the will of a good Father: “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36b). Jesus went to the cross because He knew His suffering had great purpose—namely, life for us—and He trusted the Father to fulfill that purpose.

So what do we do when God doesn’t give us what we want? We do what Jesus did. We surrender our will to the will of our all-knowing, loving, gracious Father—who withholds no good thing from us—and rest in the knowledge that out of our dying to self will come life and life more abundantly.

Emily Ellis is publishing team leader, Adult Ministry Magazines and Devotionals. Originally posted on LifeWay’s LifeLines blog.

Merry Christmas!

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source: pinterest

We hear it every year, see the nativity plays, add the star to the top of our Christmas trees. Most of us could probably recite Luke 2 in our sleep.

Mary and Joseph. The census. No room at the inn. Shepherds and angels. Jesus, wrapped in cloth and laid in the manger.

The Christmas story can become so familiar that it can lose its meaning to us. Especially surrounded by the busyness of the holidays, filled with long lists of to-dos, events, church services, family and traveling. Our focus shifts from the birth of the Lord to getting everything done on time.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas, try to find some time in the chaos to spend with Jesus. Alone, with your family or friends, at church, wherever you are, stop and take a moment to reflect on the best gift God could ever give us, the gift of His son, Jesus.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! - Luke 2:14 (HCSB) 

WORDsearch wishes you a merry Christmas celebrating the birth of our Lord!

-Katie Cornett

 

Guest Blog – I Am God’s Fruit Basket

avatarHave you ever lived a life so filled with pain and despair you begin to wonder why God would allow you to survive a lifetime of suffering? What did you do to deserve this pain? As Job cried out, “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20) For me the irony dug deep as a man with bipolar disorder, over the years I began to feel the pull into ministry. It seemed ridiculous at first; that I, a man with so many issues, should become a shepherd of Christ. The words of James in particular become a stinging conviction; “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6-8)

I have often felt so blown around by the winds of my own mental instability that I’m simply incapable of connecting with God. So many times have I said, “”I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 10:1) How can one ever find meaning in all this mess?

Peter wrote to the church, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:1-2) To those that serve he said, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Whatever strength I have within me always feels insufficient for God’s service, but Peter here reveals the secret; “he should do it with the strength God provides.” God provides the strength to accomplish all things. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 is not merely a nice saying, it’s a spiritual truth.

One of those things God provided me was June Hunt’s Biblical Counseling Keys through WORDsearch. It’s a large index of articles that lead you through various hardships people go through in life, from Abortion to Worry. It can be a quick read that not only provides an accurate background into these conditions, but an excellent point for point analysis with scriptural support. It has been especially encouraging to me, as I find quite a few of these issues covered are ones that I struggle with.

It has helped form my identity as God’s fruit basket; afflictions can often become blessings. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) In the end this counsel has helped me come to terms with these afflictions and how they will complete my ministry. As James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

Michael Wright is a recent Magna Cum Laude graduate of Liberty University and longtime WORDsearch user. He currently serves in the Celebrate Recovery ministry in Spokane, WA. His blog can be found at www.thedubshack.net.

Weekly Devotional – Distractions

955816e6fc5223bd7dbde2b34ff22333For many of us, our loved ones are starting school again soon. This can be a hard time of trying to get back in the swing of things, and we can find ourselves getting distracted by the many tasks before us. We are back to traffic, schedules, soccer practice, Sunday school, Bible studies, homework…while trying to make sure we get enough sleep, good food and quality time.

All of this, plus all the distractions that come from our smartphones and other technology, can really pull us away from God. Sometimes a week will go by and we won’t have spent any time in His Word. We can miss a red flag from a friend in need because we are too busy checking our email while trying to write good discussion questions for our Bible study. We usually end up with no energy, or the excuse of “I’ll just do it tomorrow.”

But remember that even Jesus was tested by distractions–and by the master of temptations.

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.2 After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. 3 Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 But He answered, “It is written:

Man must not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.”

5 Then the Devil took Him to the holy city,had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

He will give His angels orders concerning you,
and they will support you with their hands
so that you will not strike
your foot against a stone.”

7 Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”

8 Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”

10 Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written:

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only Him.”

11 Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.” -Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was able to resist the temptations by knowing the Word and staying focused on the Father. Hebrews 4:15-16 “…we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  With the start of this school year, let’s remember to make the Word our home and keep our eyes fixed on the one seated on the throne of grace.

What helps you stay focused?

-Katie Cornett

Weekly Devotional – Teachable People

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A rebuke cuts into a perceptive person more than a hundred lashes into a fool.—Proverbs 17:10

Allow me to paraphrase the above verse: You can get more through to a wise person with one gentle conversation than you can to a fool by whacking him over the head a hundred times.

Some people won’t listen no matter what. You can tell him the same thing over and over again, but you’ll get the same response every time. Not so with those whose hearts are being trained by wisdom! If you get in tune with God and his will for your life, you will reap the rewards of being teachable. How do you know when you’re being teachable? Here are five good clues:

1. You know you’re teachable when people give you input. When you’re not teachable, people don’t generally risk telling you stuff. Why should they? Imagine their conversations: “I’m not gonna tell him; you tell him. The last time I tried to tell him, Chernobyl! Meltdown for miles!” If you react abrasively any time someone instructs or corrects you, don’t expect to get any input from others. You’ll know you’re teachable when people tell you things you need to hear. Roll out the red carpet to welcome a good word.

2. You know you’re teachable when you see measurable growth and character development. When good changes start happening in your life, you know you’re doing something valuable with the information you’re getting. You know you’re teachable when others’ advice produces tangible results in you.

3. You know you’re teachable when you don’t have to answer back to your critic with a defense. More often than I ever wanted to be, I find myself in situations where I’m giving people input. I don’t love it. It’s never easy. But I love it when the person who needs to hear a difficult thing about himself or about his situation is open-hearted and just listens. He doesn’t have to say, “Now, hold it, you just hang on there a second. You don’t understand…” I really dread those conversations. But people who are receptive to God’s transforming truth are the ones who flourish in life.

4. You know you’re teachable when you don’t have to return the favor. The classic symptom of an unteachable spirit is after listening to someone’s honest, loving counsel, you say, “Fine. Now, let me tell you something.”

You’ve got an unteachable person on your hands when he can’t humbly receive your words and say, “Thank you for telling me.”

5. You know you’re teachable when over time you hear something different for a change. If people have been telling you the same stuff for years but still see the need to remind you about it again, you’re not teachable. You should be over that by now and on to the next lesson.

Wisdom is not something we know; it’s something we do. Only when we allow God to give us teachable hearts will he show us what we need to know in order to help us change what we do. The biggest fool of all is the person who knows from God what to do and who won’t do it. That person is not teachable.

Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will learn more. Proverbs 9:9

Wisdom Talking

How have you experienced one (or more) of these test statements in the last few weeks? If you read this and didn’t once ask yourself, “Am I like that?” you may be in trouble. Take this list of five questions before the Lord and say, “Lord, show me—teach me.” Teachability means you’re open to changing what he reveals to you.

Excerpted from Ancient Wisdom: The Book of Proverbs with Devotions for Today by James MacDonald.

Reflections on the Austin Training Conference

For a lot of the staff here at WORDsearch, myself included, the days we circle on the calendar and really look forward to are the ones in which we get to host a training conference.  Over the past couple years, the majority of our conferences have been held at the beautiful LifeWay facilities in downtown Nashville.  However, last week, we enjoyed holding one here in the northwest side of Austin.

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 Around 60 people joined us for the three-day event, and the four different trainers definitely kept everyone busy and filled with a bunch of new knowledge.  While one of the purposes of the conference is to learn more about how to study God’s Word better through our software, the reason I personally look forward to these conferences so much is due to the fellowship.

On a daily basis here at the WORDsearch office, I get to interact with our customers through phone calls and e-mails.  But it’s always so inspiring to meet our incredible users face-to-face and hearing about the ministry that they serve.  Like any company does, we also occasionally have struggles and difficult times.  For us, that statement rings true for the months of June and July as we went through some growing pains with technology.  But to finish out the month of July with this conference, my faith in our mission here at WORDsearch has never been stronger.   Our mission is to “serve those who preach and teach to change lives.”  To meet the users of our software in person and to hear about what they are doing to change lives is incredibly inspiring.

I’m so blessed to just be in the presence of the fine men and women who attend our conferences, and I get so excited to think about each of them as they take the tools that were learned at the conference and apply them to work towards the expansion of God’s Kingdom.  I pray often for our customers, because I appreciate that they are following God’s calling so faithfully and admirably.

One final note on this past week’s conference.  To me, one of the most special times of the conference is the concluding prayer of each day.  Joining in a giant circle and having people from all over the world praying for each other is something that’s very special and heart-warming.

If you ever get the chance to attend one of our future conferences, I highly recommend it.  I say this with extreme confidence – - you will leave the event feeling strong in your abilities to use our program at its optimal ability, but you will also leave feeling uplifted by your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Looking ahead, we will be in the Dallas area (Plano, TX) on August 27-28,  and also in Nashville on October 1-3.

To everyone who was at the Austin conference, as well as to everyone who reads this… God bless each and every one of you.  My goal here at WORDsearch is that one customer at a time, I will do my part to help provide you the tools to learn more about how Jesus died for us and how everlasting life awaits us beyond these earthly times.  To be a part of this is extremely special, so thank you to everyone who work so hard to fulfill God’s plan for your life.  You are all heroes in my book.

To see pictures from this event, please go to this link.

Austin Bush – WORDsearch Bible – Sales & Support Manager