Archives for posts with tag: Ryan Bell

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Day 21—We made it. Wow! What a journey this past three weeks has been. In the beginning of the challenge, I told you that one of the primary reasons why I started this challenge was in response to story about a pastor who after a yearlong journey of “living without God” decided that He was now an atheist. I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to see what life looked when we actively pursued God. So what did we learn?

The first thing that we probably discovered was that life is not easy. In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus told His disciples, “’Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul,’” (NIV).

The Message translation puts it this way:

“’Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?’”

The moment that we decided to embark on this challenge, the devil got busy. There were obstacles and roadblocks that attempted to make our journey difficult. However, here is what I learned. Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world, (1 John 4:4). In John 16:33, Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world,” (NLT).

The name of Jesus is greater than any other name in this world, (Philippians 2:9). The name of Jesus is greater than death, Satan, sickness, sadness, fear, debt, worry, loneness, anger, and the list goes on and on.

As I officially close this 21-day challenge, I issue this lifetime challenge. Embrace the verses in Psalm 5:1-3:

O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly, (Psalm 5:1-3, NLT).

Know that God is not deaf to our prayers. Psalm 6:9 says “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer,” (NLT). The verse does not says that God might answer our prayers. It said that He WILL answer our prayers. Today, know that as we wait patiently on God’s answers to manifest, the answer is already waiting in the wings.

Lord, more than 2000 years ago, you sent your one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die for all our transgressions. Lord, we thank you. We thank you for your mercy and your deliverance. On Jesus’ final moments on the cross He spoke the final words that confirmed our destiny on Earth and in Heaven. Jesus’ final words were: It is finished! Lord, thank you that everything that has ever been promised to us has already been delivered since before the beginning of time. Lord, we thank you that IT IS FINISHED!

Guarded Heart

Today’s message is to guard your heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” (NIV). As we step into God’s presence over these next few days, I challenge you to guard your heart. According to dictionary.com, to guard means to keep safe from harm or danger. Therefore, to guard our hearts means to keep it safe from harm or danger.

Why on earth would we need to keep our hearts safe?

The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, (John 10:10). The devil isn’t trying to destroy us per se. He is trying to destroy the thing that God loves most, which is us. To the devil, we are simply a causality of war. Fortunately, we serve a God that so values His creations that He ensures that we are always heavily guarded and heavily protected by the impenetrable forces of heaven’s army. The devil can never launch a secret attack while we are encamped on heaven’s base. The only way that the devil can attack us is by luring us from under God’s artillery.  The only way he can do so is by separating us from the word of God. Now, I feel the need to make this disclaimer. The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). We live in a fallen world, and bad things happen to good people and vice versa. The presence of atrocities in our lives is not always directly correlated with our deeds. I digress.

Again, I ask the question: Why should we guard our hearts? Simple! It’s where God hid His Word, and I could not think of a better hiding place.

33 “’But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,’” (Jeremiah 31:33, NLT).

Think about this. Ephesians 3:17 says, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong,” (NLT). So, if God has written the word on our hearts, and Christ will make a home in our hearts if we let Him, then as long as we let Christ in, the Word is guarded, and it will begin to grow roots into our heart. Unfortunately, the devil is constantly trying to separate us from God by trying to steal and corrupt the Word in our hearts.

Guarding our hearts sometimes means not entertaining “debates” about religion. “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are,” (Proverbs 26:4, NLT). Entertaining misguided religious philosophies could corrupt our thinking, and subsequently derail our relationship with Christ. Before we began our walk with Christ, God met us where we were. Sometimes, we just have to allow God to meet others where they are. We don’t have to convict everyone. The same way God convicted us, He will convict others as well.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend,” (NLT). As we progress towards our God-given destinies, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who bring out the best in us as they challenges us to grow. God has planted His seed in each of our hearts, and we have to be careful how we allow it to be stolen or how we give it away.   If there are relationships that are hindrances to our growth, we might need to sever them to best guard our hearts. “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away,” (Matthew 5:30, NIV). Sometimes, in our misguided attempt to help others, we end up repeating lessons that we should have already received!

Today’s Prayer: Lord, help us to guard our hearts as we focus on you. Soften our hearts so that the seeds that you have planted will always remain on fertile ground! Help us to love you, ourselves and your people as you have commanded. Keep us free from temptation. Help us to forgive other so that you can forgive us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

Did you know that scientific research says that when one sense is lost, the other senses heighten? In fact, some studies of brain imaging have found that people who are blind can locate sounds using both the auditory cortex AND the occipital lobe, the region of the brain that processes visual stimuli.

Let’s conduct our own study.  For the next 30 seconds, close your eyes and concentrate on the world around you. What did you hear? For me, I heard the sultry sound of an alto saxophone as it blared a rhythmic jazz melody.  I also heard something that I hadn’t noticed before–the subtle bass that accompanied the sax. I heard the sounds of footsteps as they move towards and away from me. I noticed voices and laughter from distant conversations. With my eyes closed, I was so much more aware of my world around me.

What about our Christian life? How many of us are missing out on God’s best because our experiences are solely driven by what our eyes perceive? How many times in the natural have our sight deceived us?

This morning, I skimmed through a rather disturbing story on the Internet. It was about a pastor who decided that he would spend 2014 “without God.” After his year long journey, he decided that he was now an atheist.  Now, I don’t know what life experiences drove him to that drastic decision.  My speculation is that at some point, he felt disappointed by God.  Maybe God didn’t come through in the way he thought that he would. If we were truly honest with ourselves, we would admit that many of us have questioned whether a life with Christ is worth the heartache.  Even John the Baptist, who was sent to pave the way for Christ, questioned his authenticity before he was behead. The truth is, we ALL wrestle with unbelief.

After reading the article about the pastor’s year-long quest, I decided to go on a quest of my own, which I hope all of you will join me on. For the next 21 days, I am going to live like I am blind.  Wow! That’s a huge assertion!  What does that mean? For the next 21 days, I will be intentional about hearing what God has said and NOT focusing on what I see.

Remember when Paul and Silas were arrested? They had done nothing wrong.  However, instead of being upset during one of their darkest moments, they decided that they would pray and praise God. When they did, God not only delivered them, he made their enemies their footstools.

Some say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Whether or not 21 days is the magic number is irrelevant.  The point is this: The more we repeat a series of actions, the more those actions become ingrained in our character.  The hope of this challenge is that for the next 21 days, we will focus on JUST God. We will forget about who did what, who did whom and who did squat. For the next 21 days, we will fix our eyes on the sparrow and we will “see” what it looks like to truly walk by faith and not by sight. For the next 21 days, we will make a conscious effort to pray and praise God despite our circumstances. Even if the distance between our current circumstances and God’s promises looks immeasurable to the naked eyes, we WILL press into God. We will glorify Him. We will bless Him.

In His Word, God said that our faith could move mountains.  Could you imagine what the manifestation of our faith in our lives could look like? Well, let’s see! See you tomorrow for day 1.