The Bible talks a lot about being blessed, about having the favor of God. Sometimes, though, we get the order of events wrong. We might start by saying,  “God, please bless me today.” Then we score Him. Bad day? God gets a 2. Great day? God gets a 10.   For a Christ-follower, it’s really not supposed to work that way. Our devotions, which include reading His Word and praying, are not a religious activity; it signifies our personal relationship with God. The purpose of our devotional time is to adjust us to God, not to adjust God to us.   When we adjust ourselves to God, we become tuned into what He’s doing around us and are more apt to join Him. Sometimes, however, we’re not sure what He’s doing around us. Take comfort in the fact that the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every believer, is giving us those nudges of what God is doing and what He wants to do through you.   After you sense what God wants you to do, then you have to decide if you want to participate. The author of  Experiencing God  calls that a crisis of belief. It might not feel like a crisis, but it is the first turning point to being able to experience Him.   For example, you see the Scripture in Romans 12:9 that says, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them,” yet you have been struggling to love someone who’s pretty unlovable. At that moment, you know God wants you to reach out to that person – not to confront them but to love them in some kind word or deed.  Deciding to have an uplifting connection with someone who is difficult is called a crisis of belief. That is your turning point. And when you do reach out, you know that His kingdom will be better because you chose to glorify Him. Whether or not you feel blessed by that experience, you know that you have made Christ look good to the world. He gives you a 10.   “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” Romans 12:9   Today, ask God to help you adjust when you sense the leading of the Holy Spirit.            

The Bible talks a lot about being blessed, about having the favor of God. Sometimes, though, we get the order of events wrong. We might start by saying,  “God, please bless me today.” Then we score Him. Bad day? God gets a 2. Great day? God gets a 10...

      Every one of us has planned something that didn’t turn out quite like we planned. Maybe it was a conversation over lunch or dinner with a friend. Maybe it was something bigger, like a career, a relationship, or a marriage…but whatever it was, you look back and see that somehow you missed it. Maybe you realize the way you chose might not have been the best way.  That’s why it is so important to know God’s plans for you. If your plan is not God’s purpose for you, nothing is going to turn out right. And the only way to know God’s purpose and way for you is to have a relationship with Him – the kind of relationship you have with a close friend, a family member or your spouse. The kind of relationship in which you can hardly let a day go by without having a conversation with your loved one.   To have a conversation with anyone, we listen, and we talk. With God, it’s the same - listening to Him (reading the Bible) and talking to Him (praying).  Daily. The more you’re with Him, the better you know Him, and the better you know Him, the more you’re convinced of His love for you. The more you’re convinced of His love, the better you listen.  The truth is that there is not another person on earth who loves you like God, and there is not a person on earth who has a better plan for you than God. When you make your own plans without listening to God, you probably have learned the hard way that His way would have been best. But just because you may have missed it in the past, doesn’t mean you need to miss the next opportunity. The beautiful thing about your relationship with God is that He is compassionate and always wants to give you a new start.    With God’s help, your failures do not determine your future. What determines your future is how well you’re tuned into God’s voice and listening to what He says to you.   You’ll find the more time you spend with God, the more confident you become of hearing His plan for you. The more you hear Him, the more confident you will become that His thoughts are not your thoughts, and His ways are not your ways.    “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8   Today, tell God you want His way in your life and that you are listening.

Every one of us has planned something that didn’t turn out quite like we planned. Maybe it was a conversation over lunch or dinner with a friend. Maybe it was something bigger, like a career, a relationship, or a marriage…but whatever it was, you look back and see that somehow you missed it...

      God Provides  Most of us have been through a tough situation and needed God to show up. And that’s how Abraham must have felt when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Remember Isaac? Isaac was the son God promised to Abraham when Abraham was 100 years old.   And God was faithful and gave baby Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. But then, a few years later, He told Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son.  Talk about a tough situation. Think how Abraham’s stomach churned when he and Isaac were climbing the mountain to make the sacrifice, and Isaac said, “Father?”  Abraham answered, “Yes, my son?”  Isaac said, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?  Can you imagine the thoughts running through Abraham’s head as he went forward in obedience? But he said to Isaac, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”   Abraham knew that God had instructed him to sacrifice Isaac, but time and time again, he had also seen God provide when he thought there was no way. After all, who has a son at the age of 100 unless God has provided?   As Abraham lifted his knife to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and a substitute for the offering, a ram, appeared in the thicket. At that moment, Abraham really believed what he said he believed – that God would provide a substitute for his son.  He named the place of that sacrifice “The Lord Will Provide.”  Why did God put Abraham and Isaac through that near-death experience?  Was God watching to see if Abraham would trip and fall and in the end, be disobedient? No. God used that experience to deepen Abraham’s capacity to obey in order to develop His character.  Like Abraham, God meets us where we are to show us who He is. Time and time again, experiences are shown in the Bible to reveal God’s character to develop ours, so that He can use us for Kingdom purposes.   God provides for you in just the way you need. Do you need peace? Ask Him. Do you need a shelter in the storm? Ask Him. Do you need a spring of living water to rush through your heart? Ask Him. He is faithful, and He is your Provider.    “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means ‘the Lord will provide’). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’“ Genesis 22:14   Today, ask God to provide for you in a miraculous way.

Most of us have been through a tough situation and needed God to show up. And that’s how Abraham must have felt when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Remember Isaac? Isaac was the son God promised to Abraham when Abraham was 100 years old...

      Living Out Our Faith  We like the idea that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is simple. Knowing that your eternity was secured when Jesus died on the cross and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us is a feeling like no other.  Then as we grow in our relationship with God, we realize He wants to use us every day to show Him to others who don’t know Him yet.   That’s called the process of living out our faith, and we do that by being tuned in to what He’s doing around you – listening when He gives you an assignment and then obeying.  It seems like a pretty easy process, and it is… if you agree that your plans might be interrupted. In fact, when you accepted Jesus as Lord, you gave Him the right to interrupt your life any time He wants. Henry Blackaby in the study,  Experiencing God , says when you accepted Jesus Christ you “gave Him the right to help Himself to your life.”  That sounds extreme. And it is. But there is no more important work than God’s work, and when you take the step of listening and obeying, there is nothing more exciting.   Maybe you’ve been at The Springs when we dispatched people to grocery stores to buy food for those who can’t afford it. Maybe you took a couple backpacks for the kids in Haiti so that for the first time they could experience Christmas as we do. Maybe you’re a leader in  Springsville , our children’s ministry, or  Encounter , our student ministry. Maybe you have ministered to the sick or those in crisis.   And because you gave God the right to interrupt your life and your schedule, you have gotten a ringside seat to see the life-change only He can bring. You have actually brought the message of Christ to the world.    “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” Philippians 2:12-13   Pray you will be ready when God interrupts your life with opportunities.

We like the idea that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is simple. Knowing that your eternity was secured when Jesus died on the cross and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us is a feeling like no other...

      The "L" Word  There’s an old song sung by Rod Stewart called, “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.” Of course, it’s talking about love in a romantic sense, but it also rings true for our relationship with God.  In the study, Experiencing God, the author points out what he calls the “Seven Realities of Experiencing God.” The first reality is that God is always at work around us. Many people don’t recognize that He is working - doing a million things at once, but He is.   The second reality of experiencing God is that He pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Think about that. The God of the universe loves you and wants you to love Him back! But love is a funny word in our culture. We love a sports team, we love a food, and we love Netflix. But when it comes to God, we are much more reserved about that using the “L” word.   And while we know He loves us, after all, most of us can recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” But it seems difficult to say that to Him. Sure, there are worship songs in which we declare we love Him, but to just say, “God, I love you,” seems a little awkward.   In fact, if someone asked you to describe your relationship to God, would you say, “I just love Him!”  Yet Jesus said that’s the greatest commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. For some of us, the best thing we could do is to look up toward the heavens and say out loud, “I love you, Father God.” That’s a pretty great way to start the day.   “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38   Pray and tell God you love Him.

There’s an old song sung by Kenny Rogers (remember him?) called, “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.” Of course, it’s talking about love in a romantic sense, but it also rings true for our relationship with God...

      If you’ve ever had a teenager, you know what it’s like when you tell them the right way to do something, only to realize later they obviously disagreed with your wise counsel and did it another way. For example, you tell your kid over and over they better study for a test, but based on the low grade you find out about later, they clearly did not listen to your advice.   Wonder if that’s how God ever feels about us? He tells us the way to go about something, but based on our actions, we have told Him we disagree because we want to do it our way. In the study,  Experiencing God , that’s called “God’s plans versus our plans.” That is the human condition – doing it our way instead of God’s way.  Think, for instance, about the people of Israel as Moses was leading them into the Promised Land. Moses so badly wanted to get them there, but that three-month journey turned into forty years because they didn’t want to make the trip God’s way.   First, God gave them His choice for their leader, Moses, but they complained about him, then they continued to grumble about everything else – the journey, the food, the water, other leadership, and their fellow travelers. Collectively, they even told Moses and God that they didn’t believe God could help them conquer those already living in the land of Canaan – this from people who had seen God part the Red Sea!  Sadly, we are the same much of the time.  For example, He tells us over and over in the Scriptures to read His Word and pray regularly in order to get to know Him in a personal way so that He can use us in mighty ways. Yet, we find it difficult to fit that in – maybe because a project at work demands you get to the office early, maybe because the kids have too many activities that day, maybe because you’re not a morning person, you’re not a night person, maybe because your friend wants to meet for coffee, maybe you’re too tired – regardless of the excuses, we are telling God that His plan for us to spend daily time with Him is not the best way to have a real relationship with Him.  Our days would be better and our life journey so much easier if we could just live our lives according to God’s plan.    “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8   Today, ask God to help you be obedient to Him.

If you’ve ever had a teenager, you know what it’s like when you tell them the right way to do something, only to realize later they obviously disagreed with your wise counsel and did it another way...

      Back in Bible times, nations went to war basing their ability to win on the number of chariots and horses they possessed. David and his little nation of Israel were usually outmanned and under-equipped so it was interesting that every time they were invaded by another nation, they usually won.   That fact was never lost on David, which is why he wrote in Psalm 20, verse 7,  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”    Imagine one of our modern day political leaders saying, “Some trust in artillery and some in missiles, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!”   In your daily world, your “chariots and horses” are those things in your life that are not powered by God. Maybe you want to accomplish something and have all the weapons - the best strategies, good connections and plenty of financial resources, yet you can’t figure out why “it’s” not working, and you surely don’t feel like you’re winning.  It is only living by God’s plans, not your own, that will guarantee the win for you. Maybe you’re not sure of God’s plans for you, whether it’s just for today or for the long term. Not to oversimplify, but what God wants for you as a Christ-follower is to put your confidence and trust in Him. Spend daily time in His Word and build your relationship, and then with spiritual eyes, you will be able to see God working all around you. Just as the study,  Experiencing God , says that being able to see Him working is much more important than telling God what you want to do for Him.  As you watch Him work and adjust your life to what He’s doing, your battles will be fought in the name of the Lord your God, and your wins will increase exponentially. And when that happens, you will see that God can do more through you in six months than you could have done on your own in sixty years!   “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7  (For more on the battle from which theologians think Psalm 20 was based, read 2 Samuel, chapter 10.)   Today, ask God to guide your plans according to what He’s doing around you. 

Back in Bible times, nations went to war basing their ability to win on the number of chariots and horses they possessed. David and his little nation of Israel were usually outmanned and under-equipped so it was interesting that every time they were invaded by another nation, they usually won...

      Self-centered or God-centered Living  Have you ever felt slighted or a bit overlooked? Maybe you were passed over for a job promotion, not invited to a meeting, or left out of a get-together with friends? Since we live in a social media-blast culture of updates and people’s best-case scenarios, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re NOT doing.   There’s a guarantee that you never have to feel that way again – it’s called God-centered living. In the study,  Experiencing God , the author points out the differences in self-centered living and God-centered living. When we live a self-centered life, we are totally about ourselves – we receive affirmation from self, depend on our own abilities, and look at our circumstances from a purely human perspective.   However, when our focus is on God, then our confidence, our circumstances and lifestyle reflect Him and His purpose for our lives. In fact, to live focused on self is a distortion to God’s plan, which is why the more self-centered we are, the more unsettling it feels.   It’s not about what we want to do; it’s about what God wants to do through us. If you look at people like Abraham and Noah, they lived God-centered lives. They didn’t tell God what they dreamed of doing for Him – they lived God-centered lives and then obeyed when God told them what He was about to do. After all, the book of Genesis is not a record about Abraham or Noah’s walk with God; it’s a record of God accomplishing His purposes through them.  The successful pattern shown through people’s lives in Scripture is to submit ourselves to God, center our lives around Him, and then wait for Him to show us what He’s about to do through us.    “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9   Today, pray that God will help you focus on God-centered living.

Have you ever felt slighted or a bit overlooked? Maybe you were passed over for a job promotion, not invited to a meeting, or left out of a get-together with friends? Since we live in a social media-blast culture of updates and people’s best-case scenarios, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re NOT doing.

      What can one ordinary person do?  Have you ever had this nagging thought that while you think it’s great God used people throughout the Bible, He could never use you in the same way? Do you ever doubt God could use you for something extraordinary? In the study,  Experiencing God , the author uses Moses as a focal point – not because Moses was extraordinary, but because he was extremely ordinary with many of the same doubts and insecurities we have. Yet God saved a whole nation through him.  When God told Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses said things like:   Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? (Exodus 3:11)  Who am I to lead the people out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)  What if the people of Israel won’t believe me or listen to me? (Exodus 4:1)  What if they say You never appeared to me? (Exodus 4:1)  O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now. I get tongue-tied. (Exodus 4:10)  Lord, please send anyone else! (Exodus 4:13)   Sound familiar? Of course! Most of us don’t even feel adequate, much less extraordinary. But Moses did something God is asking each of us to do – to listen and to trust Him, then to make the necessary adjustments in our thinking so that we can show God we believe He is who He says He is. Even if we drag our feet like Moses did, God never gives up on us doing the very thing that only we can do.  When James talks about Elijah in James 5:17-18, he could have easily been talking about any of us:  “ Elijah was a man just like us . He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”   Elijah was an ordinary man with everyday weaknesses, but just like Moses and others in the Bible, their relationships with God made them extraordinary. And He offers the same thing to us – all it takes is having a relationship with Him and one step of obedience after another.  Ask God to help you believe that He can take your ordinary life and make it extraordinary.

Have you ever had this nagging thought that while you think it’s great God used people throughout the Bible, He could never use you in the same way? Do you ever doubt God could use you for something extraordinary?

       HEARING   GOD   Do you ever ask yourself, “How do I actually hear God?” When you hear that we’re supposed to hear God and do His will, you’re not alone in wondering how it’s possible. Some Christ-followers never advance or mature in their relationship with God because the task of hearing Him seems too daunting. Yet one of the premises interwoven throughout the study,  Experiencing God , and even found on the inside back cover of the book, is that there are seven realities to hearing and responding to God’s initiative in your life. What was true for Moses, Joshua, Peter, Paul and others in the Bible is the same for you. In fact, just like those guys, we are here on earth as believers to bear fruit for the kingdom of God.  But if the truth were told, many of us would say we’re not even sure we’ve ever heard God speak. After all, how do we even hear a cosmic voice? If we go to the scriptures, we realize it is possible to understand how to hear Him. We then see all God has done in order to have a relationship with us, which includes hearing His voice!  In the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets, visions, angels and other ways. In the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, God spoke through Jesus. After Jesus was crucified, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every single believer. Jesus was very clear about the Holy Spirit’s role in each of our lives as Christ-followers.  The Holy Spirit lives in us, teaches us, reminds us of all God has taught us through His Word, gives us peace of mind and heart (John 14:16-17, 26-27), and even takes our prayers and makes them make sense to God (Romans 8:26)!  The bottom line is without a relationship with Jesus and being connected to Him, there is no supernatural power of God in our lives. The opposite is also true: if we are connected to Jesus then we can hear Him, do all He designed for us and that nothing is impossible with God!   John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”   Today, pray that God makes His voice clear to you through the Holy Spirit. Pray that God reveals his supernatural plan in a way that changes how you listen to His promptings today.

Do you ever ask yourself, “How do I actually hear God?” When you hear that we’re supposed to hear God and do His will, you’re not alone in wondering how it’s possible...