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At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

- 1 Kings 3:5-9

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Ask Yourself:

What new thing is God wanting to do in my life?

How can I look at things differently to see (perceive) the newness he wants to bring?

What truth (or scripture) can I declare today to help my heart trust him for something new?

Pray:

Dear God, Thank you that you never leave us where we are. Thank you for the promise of something new. Help me to fix my eyes forward in anticipation of all that is to come. Show me what new things you are wanting to do in and through me this year. Holy Spirit help me to see things differently, through your eternal lens. More powerful than any goal I could aspire to on my own is my willingness to join in the new work you are doing. Thank you for your steady guidance and constant love. Amen.

This song has had a deep impact on me this past year in seeking God for his will and his ways. I pray it would help you see the power that comes with listening for only his voice.

Spirit of the living God we only want to hear your voice, we’re hanging on every word. . . When you speak, when you move, when you do what only you can do it changes us, it changes what we see and what we seek.  


This is an edited excerpt of what first appeared here and has been shared with the author's permission.

Jessica Wolstenholm is co-founder of Grace for Moms. After 15 years in the music and publishing industries, Jessica came home to be with her two small children. Although the transition from the corporate world to the playground has been an adjustment, she is learning every day to access the grace available to us through Christ as she navigates the full time job of motherhood. She is the co-author of The Pregnancy Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey to Motherhood and The Baby Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey Through Baby’s First Year. Jessica lives in Nolensville, TN with her husband, Dave and two miracle babies, Hope (6) and Joshua (3).

More of Jessica Wolstenholm: www.graceformoms.com

It’s All About Knowing and Being Known -  

This devotional was written by Leslie Snyder

 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’ did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” —Matthew 7:21-23

 

Hank worked for months on Mr. Smith’s candidacy by passing out flyers, buttons, stickers and yard signs. He called potential voters asking for their support and poured much of his own money into the election. After months of Hank’s tireless work, Election Day arrived and Mr. Smith won. A celebration party was held and to Hank’s delight, Mr. Smith was mingling with his supporters. Hank walked up to congratulate Mr. Smith, shook his hand, spoke of what a remarkable campaign it had been and what a privilege it had been to serve. But, Mr. Smith returned Hank’s enthusiasm with a blank stare and the words, “Do I know you?” It’s a great question that relates to today’s Scripture passage.

 

Of all the teachings of Jesus, I find that I have wrestled with this one quite often. In fact, before I took the time to examine this passage, it seemed something like a cruel joke, as if Jesus opted for the “bait and switch” approach to ministry. But, with more study, I discovered the secret is found in the word “know.  The original Greek word in today’s Scripture passage is the word ginosko, which frequently indicates relationship between the person “knowing” and the object that is “known.”* In other words, when applied to the story above, Mr. Smith never knew Hank, and didn’t know what Hank was doing for him because there was no relationship, no friendship between Mr. Smith and Hank.

 

Applying this understanding, the biblical warning is clear. Jesus wants to know us, to have a relationship with us. He is not interested in all that we are doing for Him unless we first know Him and are known by Him. Make this your goal today.

 

GOING DEEPER:

Have you “missed the boat,” getting caught up in the “doing” for God, while neglecting the “knowing”? Take time today to restore the relationship Christ desires with you.

 

FURTHER READING:

Micah 6:8; Hebrews 3:14; 1 John 2:19

 

*Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.  W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, & William White, Jr.  Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

In Good Company -  

 

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. —Isaiah 53:3 (NLT)

 

Have you ever noticed how rejection is such a consistent part of life?

 

Having been a youth pastor for more than two decades, I know a lot about this. Rejection and youth ministry are synonymous. Teenagers can be incredibly blunt. Many don’t fully realize that adults have feelings. They tell you exactly what they think and often don’t pull any punches when it comes to tact. For years, I regularly heard statements like these:

 

“My mom said she likes your new haircut. But I think it looks stupid.”

 

• “I brought my friend to hear you speak last week. You weren’t very good.”

 

• “I used to think you were kind of an attractive sort of dad-type…until last week’s waterslide trip, when I saw you in your bathing suit.”

 

And so it went.

 

Apart from my experiences working with teenagers, I’ve battled for years with feelings of low self-worth and fear of rejection. I think a lot of us do, whether we admit it or not. Battling rejection is a constant struggle in life.

 

Maybe right now you’re feeling rejected. You put your time, talent, or treasure forward and it wasn’t received the way you had hoped. Maybe you’re angry at the person who rejected you—and fearful that someone else will do it again. Maybe you’re annoyed that your efforts weren’t received like they should have been. Maybe you’re simply sad—sad for the way things could have been. If only you hadn’t been rejected…

 

One of the saddest things about living with rejection is that often we develop a skewed understanding about God. We start to think that He’s always sitting on our shoulders, ready and eager to bust our chops for any infraction of the rules. We forget that He loves us and that His love is abundant and complete.

 

I’m telling you that God isn’t about rejection, regardless of your performance or lack of it. He loves the whole world—that’s why He sent His only Son, Jesus. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16). He doesn’t care if you have a big nose or can’t play baseball or failed your geometry test or want to talk more than your husband wants to listen. His arms are always open wide.

 

And one of the amazing things about Jesus is that He understands what it feels like to be rejected. Though he was perfect, He was still despised and rejected. If you’ve been rejected, know that you are in good company. You’re not alone. Jesus knows exactly what you’re going through.

 

Experiencing rejection in this life is inevitable. The pain of rejection is real. But, so is the unlimited love and comfort of Jesus. Don’t wallow in the mud of rejection. Run to Jesus. He’s waiting with open arms.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. When you experience rejection, would you characterize your typical response as healthy or unhealthy? Why?

 

2. How can knowing that Jesus understands the pain of rejection make it easier to turn to Him for comfort?

 

FURTHER READING:

John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Matthew 11:28-30

DOUG FIELDS is the senior director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University and the co-founder of Downloadyouthministry.com. Doug has been a youth and teaching pastor at Mariners Church and Saddleback Church for 30 years and has authored more than fifty books. He is a passionate speaker reaching thousands of leaders, teenagers, and parents every year. Doug resides with his wife and three children in Southern California. 

More of Doug Fields: www.homeword.com

Grace has had to navigate some difficult friendship issues this year. She was so befuddled! Her heart just couldn’t comprehend why friends would act so cruelly. Why weren’t they all just playing together having fun?!

This issue gave us opportunities for good, hard conversations about friendship. In those conversations we focused on the ultimate True Friend: Jesus. In the midst of it all Grace came to me one day and said: “You know how you write “Life with Grace?” Well, I wrote something. It’s called “Life with Mom.”

(Names have been left out for privacy and because this story is about one name: JESUS!)

Life with Mom:

One day I was talking with my friend…. When all of a sudden [another friend] started “The Friendship Show” and asked [my first friend]: “[So and so], why did Grace say mean things about you behind your back?”

I said: “I did not say mean things behind your back!”

[My first friend] said: “Let her talk first.” So she started to talk about it and then [my first friend] said: “I’m not going to be your friend because you said mean things behind my back.”

My heart was struck with sadness. I talked to my mom about this after school. She said it would be okay if you stay away from them. I felt so mad, but mom said to not return evil for evil, but return good to evil. I felt much more better, but I still have trouble with them now. Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself and to treat people good even if they are mean back.

Thank you for listening to “Life with Mom.”

I was astonished at what Grace wrote. It revealed an understanding of what’s perhaps one of Jesus’ hardest teachings:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? (Matthew 5:38-39, 43-47)

Many people have trouble with this part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Even seasoned Christians struggle with it. I’ve heard from the mouths of believers and non-believers alike: “If someone slaps me- I’m not turning the other cheek! You slap me, I slap you!”

I think we misunderstand Jesus’ teaching here. We assume when he instructs us to “turn the other cheek” that he means we ought to be passive and just let whoever hit us do it again. Yet, God’s word does not say to be passive- but active!

Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Why is this so hard to put in action? The truth is that we don’t trust God’s justice so we pursue our own, and revenge is sweet! Until it comes around with us on the receiving end. And we blow back… and blow back again. We don’t reap justice here but anger, with relationships whirling and overcome by evil. But God says: Overcome evil with good! Jesus says: Respond with something utterly different. Be willing to respond in this radically different way even if you know you will be slapped again. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…. (1 Peter 3:9; my emphasis)

Think of it this way: Imagine what you expect (when you are in a good relationship with someone) and you approach that one you love offering your cheek. You don’t expect a slap on the face, but a tender kiss. When Jesus tells us to “turn the other cheek” to those who have wronged us, he does not necessarily intend for us to be passive door mats but active agents of LOVE. He means our response to someone who wronged us ought to be so radical, so gentle, so active with love, like offering your cheek to be kissed rather than struck.

Well, you ask: What if I do this radical active love offering my cheek and they DO “hit” me again?  How many times are we supposed to forgive and take it?

Interestingly, Jesus was asked this same question:

Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered him, “I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Commentators say that Jesus was illustrating that there was no end to how many times we should forgive others. Some say the number 70 X 7 equals an amazing 490 times- too many to say he was putting a real limit on forgiveness. Other commentators say Jesus was not speaking of multiplying 70 X 7, but meant something more like: 70 to the 7th power: which is a number that is truly incomprehensible! Now, please do not think that I by any means would suggest you stay in a situation or relationship where you are being physically or mentally abused to your peril. I would suggest, however that in every situation, even in cases of extreme abuse, we are called still called to forgive and love.

So many of us cringe at these teachings. It goes against every fiber of our being. This is not the way of the world! Who can do this? Who in their right mind would live like this?

I know the answer:

Jesus.

What I love about Jesus is that he’s not just some “great teacher.” He doesn’t spout and pontificate about how we “ought” to live. Every word he uttered he lived out. He didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. He walked it up the hill to Calvary bearing the weight of the cross on which he would be hung. Jesus willingly died on that cross for my sin and yours. Every wrong thing we do is a blow at God- a slap in His face. Jesus took every one of those blows from me and from you. And what was his response?

He turned the other cheek.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2: 23-25)

Jesus did something actively and utterly different. He turned the other cheek in LOVE. He loves you. He wants you to see how he was willing to be destroyed for you and me – pummeled by our sin so that we could be forgiven by God, reconciled, brought back home: Returned to Him.

Question: Have you been wronged? Of course you have. How have you handled it?

Remember Jesus. He didn’t just teach “turn the other cheek.” He is the one true friend who lived it out. He turned the other cheek and we did strike it again… and again. He knew we would, and he offered his life anyway. This is what God did for me and you. His active love saved us from being overcome by evil. Jesus repaid our evil with blessings: Salvation! Forgiveness! Eternal life! Son-ship! Infinite Worth! Unconditional Love! Blessing after blessing. I don’t know about you, but that truth tenderizes the hard, tough places of my rebellious soul. It moves me to say “No!” to my heart of revenge and “Yes!” to the heart of Jesus- even if it means getting slapped.

Why?

Because when Jesus asks you and I to turn the other cheek, he is not asking us to do anything that he was not willing to do. What he did changed the world. Be the utterly different active agent of LOVE he calls you to be. Do not return evil for evil, but return good to evil. Offer your cheek.


This originally appeared here and is shared with the author's permission.

Monica is her husband’s adoring wife, her little girl’s “Mama,” a crazy dog lover, and everyday falling more deeply in love with the Lord! In September of 2008 the Gills were blessed with a fifth tiny addition to the family (this time a baby instead of a puppy!) Grace is an ever-present wonder and a constant source of joy. Monica has been an active Bible teacher, writer and speaker for women's ministry and youth for twenty years. She loves to combat every challenge of life with this truth: Jesus is the answer! Jesus is always the answer!

 You can find Monica at www.lifewithgrace.net or contact her at monica@lifewithgrace.net

More of Monica Gill: www.lifewithgrace.net

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