Face-To-Face With Myself

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 16, 2016

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 8:1-10

sin recovery planWe are focusing on sin recovery principle number four of 12: “We are submitting to an honest self-inventory as the Holy Spirit makes us more aware.”

Today’s Scripture reading is one of the most favorable pictures of how one would ideally respond when faced with the reality of God’s Word.

There are times in our lives that we will necessarily come face-to-face with the errors of our ways. As we have said in recent devotional thoughts, we are confronted with an accurate reflection of our characters as with a mirror and have a decision to make. Will we close our eyes and pretend the mirror is not there, walking away to our demise? Will we see the flaws in our reflections and thank God for His revelation and willingness to transform us into the image of His dear Son?

Those in attendance at the special assembly cited in our theme verses received a collective revelation through the reading and public interpretation of the Word of God. With open arms, they accepted the law’s teachings and mourned as they recognized how short of God’s ideal they had fallen. And the governor, resident priest and scribe, and Levites encouraged those repentant souls not to mourn or weep anymore. They were to see their experience as joyful because their hearts were convicted to do God’s will. This is the best position one can occupy. When we hear God’s desires for us and realize how short we have fallen of them, as long as we are submissive to the changes God would love to make in our lives, the joy of the Lord will be our strength. There is joy in heaven over anyone who repents.

So why not take a page of the people’s book from this story? Why not daily cultivate a receptive spirit to God’s Word and interpretation? Why not turn your weeping into joy as you accept His power to transform you. If you are submissive to God’s will in your life, rejoice! If you choose to turn away from your sins so you can serve God in whatever way He directs, celebrate! For salvation has come to your house.




When Jesus Prays

Day 1

Read Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 5:16.
Have you ever been so disturbed or drained by problems that you needed a break? If so, how did you deal with it? How did Jesus respond to such chaos? In the verses listed above, we note that Jesus spent time by Himself, on a mountain, at the seaside, or in a garden to restore His soul. He understood the importance of letting God lead Him to green pastures, places where He could be nourished.

Day 2

In Matthew 14:23-34 after Jesus finished praying, He saved Peter from drowning, and taught every one of His disciples about faith. In Mark 1:35-45 after Jesus finished praying, He preached the gospel, cast out demons, and healed a man of leprosy.

In Mark 6:46-56 the Bible says that after Jesus prayed, He crossed the lake, and people ran throughout that whole region, carrying the sick on mats to wherever they heard He was. They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

I’m sure that during those solitary times Jesus laid His entire heart before the Father in prayer, and because of this, God strengthened Him. I am sure He prayed for the people He would minister to, and for His disciples’ faith. It becomes evident that had Jesus not taken the time to get away and spend time in prayer, His ministry would have looked much different.

Day 3

As Jesus entered Bethany all eyes were fixed on Him. Honestly, it was because He was the only one who was capable of preventing the tragedy. Lazarus, His friend, died, and Jesus did not intervene. When He did arrive, His prayer started off oddly. He thanked God for hearing Him, but failed to mention Lazarus or His family members. The purpose of His prayer was to thank God for the death of Lazarus because it was an opportunity for the family to come to understand Him more clearly.

Take a moment to examine your own situation that is way beyond your control. Is it possible that Jesus is now offering a prayer of thanks for this seemingly impossible situation in order that He may receive the glory for what He will or will not do? Find a song that is custom made for your testimony that can be credited only to God doing something amazing for you.

Day 4

Read John 11.

In Mary’s mind death was the end. Her understanding of what happens when people die and her understanding of the resurrection at the end of the world was so strong that she probably had not considered asking Jesus to raise Lazarus. With a limited understanding of God, our faith limits the extent of our prayer. This, however, does not limit our God. Do not be dismayed. God has your best interest at heart even when your best interest is indiscernible to you.

Day 5

Read John 17.

The final prayers of Jesus are astounding. Though He was soon to be crucified, He prayed for those whom God had given Him. Understand that we are special to Jesus. And though we do not know how to pray or for what to pray, our Brother prays with pinpoint accuracy. If we were aware of the many unforeseen blessings, we would never cease praising Him. Post something simple for which you are thankful.

Day 6

Read John 17.

We gather from the other Gospels that while Jesus prayed, His disciples did not. They were fast asleep and unaware of the danger to come in just a few hours. By the time we realize it is time to pray, it is often too late to prevent an unavoidable pain. Have you ever taken a second to think that maybe things were not as bad as they could have been because Jesus prayed for us before we drove into that storm with blinders on? The next time you find yourself caught off guard by Satan, take a moment and thank Jesus for praying the right prayer on your behalf.

Day 7

Read Luke 22:31, 32.

Tension in the room was so thick that I imagine you could see it in the clenched fist of Peter. You could feel it blowing out of the flared nostrils of Judas. You could sense it in the shifty eyes of James. Jesus knew to pray for His disciples because of His foresight, and He was also keenly aware that Satan had demanded to test them. The Greek word for “you” in verse 31 indicates a plural, so He was not speaking just about Peter, but about all of them. He did not beg for him to overcome temptation; instead, He begged for Peter’s faith not to fail.

WARNING: this may cause you to shout hallelujah repeatedly. Sometimes God allows you to fall prey to temptation because His chief concern is your faith, not your record.

Day 8 Read Luke 22:31.

I invite you to Google a song by Laura Story entitled “Blessings,” and let us know what that song brings to your mind about the prayer that Jesus prayed.

Day 9

Read Luke 22:32.

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus Himself is praying? Do you believe that He prays for you? What does that mean? Go to http://crazylove book.com/videos.html and watch the video entitled The Awe Factor of God and let us know how this affects your thinking about the reality that Jesus prays for you.

We have already noted the significance of that for which Jesus did not pray. But look at what He did pray for—faith. Why is it so important to Him? In your personal walk with God and in your reading of His Holy Word, have you found any texts or experienced something that shows why faith is so important to God? We would love to know what God has shown you about faith.

Day 10

In His prayer Jesus implicitly revealed that there is a difference between following Him and being “converted.” Is it possible that our prayers, like those of Jesus in this passage, could focus on the faith of people, rather than their convenience, comfort, or conversion? Many people can testify to the fact that their conversion followed a supposed downfall. Will you prayerfully consider sharing with us a time that you “fell” and actually found yourself closer to God afterward?

 




When God Gives In

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.”. . . “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:4, 5, 20).

It just came to a breaking point, and the manna wasn’t doing it anymore. The newly emancipated and powerfully delivered Jewish nation had a taste for meat, but had none. Even though they had subsisted on the meager meals of slaves, they were accustomed to a certain diet. Here now, the wilderness was hot and dusty. Melons would have been refreshing, and the garlic and leeks would have seasoned the food the way they liked it. The requests were not unreasonable, but they came with so much whining that Moses almost had a nervous breakdown.

God heard them. He answered them. His mighty wind sent quail up from the sea, where they hovered over at approximately three and a half feet. The Israelites spent the day “catching” the birds, and collected tons of them to eat and dry for later. Their prayers—their whining—had been answered.

But while they were yet eating, the quail brought a plague on them—God had warned Moses that they would eat until satisfied. Actually, His promise was that they would eat so much of it that it would come from their noses. Everything you could want, your every craving satisfied. Apparently, it wasn’t such a good thing. An interesting case study in the spiritual science of the mind under the duress of temptation—the mind loses rationality and ultimately rejects God.

Never mind the fact that manna, created in heaven and delivered fresh, sparkled in the sun after the dewdrops evaporated. You can’t get more of a direct blessing than that. And that is exactly what Jesus prayed for when He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Never mind the fact that manna was rich, nutritious, and suited for the needs of the people. After all, the people were apparently hardy enough to wander, fight off enemies, and carry on their divinely appointed tasks. Were they not? Never mind the fact that manna was apparently versatile enough to bake, fry, and boil. Apparently, they could make it what they wanted it to be. Could they not? Yeah, but “all we get is manna, manna, manna,” they cried (Numbers 11:6, Message).*

So much worse than that, the mind in want, in varying degrees, rejects God. How the words “in Egypt” must have stung God’s ears. You mean in Egypt where you were a slave? In Egypt where you were oppressed? In Egypt where you were in tatters? In Egypt where you worked your fingers raw? He finally moved heaven and earth, after 400 years of slavery, to bring them out of Egypt. His timing, His miracles, His glory calculated to inspire the heart. Yet they wailed: “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”

An analysis of recent polling regarding “America’s favorite sins” is insightful (see “The Anatomy of Temptation,” page 10). Half of the participants in the study conducted by the Barna Group did not know why they give in to their temptations. Some respondents acted on their whims because they wanted to, or enjoyed it, or to feel less pain, or get away from “real life.”

Only 1 percent of Americans of any age are able to articulate that giving in to temptation might be caused by sin. Most Americans think of temptation more as a steady stream of highs and lows that must be navigated.

(“New Research Explores the Changing Shape of Temptation,” www.barna. org/culture-articles/597-new-years-resolutions-tempta tions-and-americas-favorite-sins?q=favorite+sins).

Is that it? Is that all there is to it? That so few selfdescribed Christians even think their tendencies come from sin signals a lapse in understanding of who we are, the mark of sin on our psyches, and the gravity of even simple choices. Was your temptation just a low point in your experience? Was it really just about a taste for something, an inconsequential, but irrepressible urge? Or was it something more? Could it be your mind unconsciously rejecting the only Deliverer you will ever have for the things to which you are now accustomed?

 




Mental Illness in the Family

A few months ago my husband of 10 years had a mental breakdown and attempted to commit suicide. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. i always expected marriage to be challenging and was prepared to deal with that, but nothing prepared me to deal with a spouse with mental illness. i’m struggling with whether or not to leave him. i want my kids and me to be safe. What should i do? While you are the only person who can ultimately decide how to handle your present situation, we hope the following information will guide you in making the decision that is best for you and your family.

 

Mental illness can be a devastating stressor for any marriage or family. For too long, mental illness has been the “silent” illness in faith communities, and especially in the African-American community. Unfortunately, this silence has caused many to go undiagnosed and untreated, and has left family members unprepared to deal with a very real, and sometimes destructive, illness.

When a family member is diagnosed with a lifelong, lifethreatening illness, it can scare a spouse away or leave parents and other family members in distress. According to an article in the November 2003 Psychology Today, “Managing Bipolar Disorder,” in marriages in which a person has bipolar disorder it is estimated that 90 percent of these marriages end in divorce. Studies suggest that nearly half of the people living with bipolar disorder attempt killing themselves. The unpredictability and instability of volatile emotions of someone with mental illness can lead to insecurity and fragility in the marriage and the family.

In spite of daunting statistics, many marriages and families have survived living with a spouse or family member with mental illness. Recently it has become far too common for people to say of someone who is behaving strangely, “Oh, that person is bipolar.” Most people would not easily recognize signs of mental illness, and just because someone is a little moody may not necessarily mean they are bipolar. What is important is to identify if a spouse, child, or other loved one behaves in erratic and unpredictable ways that create a lot of tension and instability in the family. When you identify such disruptions, getting help from a professional counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist is critical.

Early intervention and proper diagnosis and treatment are important first steps in managing mental illness. As a supporting spouse or caregiver, educate yourself as much as possible on the person’s illness. Spouses and families must also develop coping strategies and safety plans for the person with the illness and the rest of the family. For someone who has attempted suicide and survived, it may take weeks, and maybe even months, before medication and therapy reduces their suicidal feelings. Empathy, kindness, and support from loved ones are a valuable part of their treatment. Of course, this may be extremely difficult for loved ones who are confused, frightened, and angry themselves. Learning to cope with both the behavior of the mentally ill person and one’s own reactions to that behavior often requires counseling for a spouse and the rest of the family as well.

One huge advantage for the Christian who is living with a mentally ill relative is faith in God. Recent studies have affirmed that a person’s faith plays an important role in helping such an individual cope with challenges in his or her life—including helping family members cope with the stress of caring for a mentally ill relative (Rammohan, 2008). However, this faith has to be intrinsic, rather than extrinsic (Pargament, 2001), meaning, the person must truly believe what he or she claims to believe in. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

We hope our response will help you and others in similar circumstances. Beyond that, always remember the promise of God in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”