All of us at one time or another come face-to-face with our past. And it's always an awkward encounter. When our sins catch up with us we can do one of two things: run or wrestle.

Many choose to run. They brush it off with a shrug of rationalization. "I was a victim of circumstances." Or, "It was his fault." Or, "There are many who do worse things." The problem with this escape is that it's no escape at all. It's only a shallow camouflage. No matter how many layers of makeup you put over a black eye, underneath it is still black. And down deep it still hurts.

Jacob finally figured that out. As a result, his example is one worthy of imitation. The best way to deal with our past is to hitch up our pants, roll up our sleeves, and face it head-on. No more buck-passing or scapegoating. No more glossing over or covering up. No more games. We need a confrontation with our Master.

We, too, should cross the creek alone and struggle with God over ourselves. We, too, should stand eyeball to eyeball with him and be reminded that left alone we fail. We, too, should unmask our stained hearts and grimy souls and be honest with the one who knows our most secret sins.

The result could be refreshing. We know it was for Jacob. After his encounter with God, Jacob was a new man. He crossed the river in the dawn of a new day and faced Esau with newfound courage.

Each step he took, however, was a painful one. His stiff hip was a reminder of the lesson he had learned at Jabbok: shady dealings bring pain. Mark it down: play today and tomorrow you'll pay.

And for you who wonder if you've played too long to change, take courage from Jacob's legacy. No man is too bad for God. To transform a riverboat gambler into a man of faith would be no easy task. But for God, it was all in a night's work.

Today's devotional is drawn from Max Lucado's

Copyright 2013 Max Lucado. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

"Abiding"

Written by Margaret D. Mitchell

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me."  -John 15:4

Recently, I had lunch with a dear friend who had been forbearing with a few troubled family members for years. Thankfully, she has come even closer to The Lord within the past year since she lost her husband; and now she’s beginning to see her family circumstances differently.

God is shining His light of revelation and clarity on them as He transforms her heart and renews her mind. My friend has come to realize that God desires that she love them without becoming entangled in their web of bitterness.

God’s secret?

Abiding in His empowering love.

Overcome with joy, my friend has gotten a taste of Christianity’s great adventure. She sees how The Lord is opening new doors for her. And she is beginning to experience His freedom of holy living, coming to know that He can be fully trusted with her difficult family members…as she releases them to Him and as He progresses her forward.

So often, difficult relationships prove to be catalysts that either forge us closer to God or harden our hearts away from Him. And once we get a genuine taste of God’s love for us and His righteous path, we don’t want to turn back.

God simply desires that we abide in Him through our difficulties. And we do this sacrificially as we lay down our ways of battling others and fully submit to His truth and directives. It’s simple, but it doesn’t feel easy because our pride is being broken.

But what other choice do we have?

None that are righteous in God’s eyes.

John 15:9 instructs us: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love."

What a wonderful invitation of holiness and co-labor with Jesus to love like God loves Him and to love like Jesus loves us. This scripture is so revealing of Our Heavenly Father’s heart to love without condition.

And as we see in Jesus’ life, this agape love means to love sacrificially, which of course we cannot do without a close relationship with Our Heavenly Father through Jesus, since He is our source for love.

But what is this supposed to look like in our daily relationships?

It looks like keeping our peace in the face of an attack. It looks like responding from The Holy Spirit, not reacting emotionally to provoking gestures. It means praising God sacrificially often, experiencing His empowering presence, so we are not weak with a deficit. It means being confidently assured that God is faithful to His Word and that He loves us and our difficult relatives enough to get everyone where He desires they be—walking closer with Him.

1 John 4:16 tells us: "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

This wheel within a wheel dynamic is empowering and enables us to effectively handle difficult relationships God’s way—by expressing His kindness in the face of bitterness while continuing to rely on God’s presence and Word for comfort and truth.

God makes it possible for us to love others without getting entangled in enemy snares if we steadfastly remain in Jesus, the vine. When we actively know Him as our refuge, our provider, our source of love, He empowers us with His grace to navigate difficult relationships and not only stay out of strife by His mercy but to also consistently demonstrate God’s heart of love in the process through His grace.

How are your relationships?

Do you choose to love in the face of bitterness and false accusations? Have you taken the issue to God’s throne? Do you walk closely enough with Him to feel His empowering, peaceful presence? Do you trust Him to fight your battles through His strategies?

And if you’ve never walked this closely with God, then simply ask The Holy Spirit to help you. He will.

 

Used with permission.

"Faith Confirmed"

 Then, as he was going down, his servants met him. And they reported to him, saying that his son was alive.
Therefore, he asked them at which hour he had become better. And they said to him, "Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever left him."
Then the father realized that it was at the same hour that Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And both he and his entire household believed. This next sign was the second that Jesus accomplished, after he had arrived in Galilee from Judea. . — John 4:51-54 (CPDV)

Key Thought:

Sometimes we get the special grace of having our faith confirmed through obvious answers to our requests. These blessed moments not only enrich us, but they also give us something to share with our family and our friends. This inspires and strengthens the faith of those who know the story. Who have you shared the story of God's work in your life?

Who in your circle of family and friends needs to know your story?

Today's Prayer:

Thank you, dear Father, for the many ways you have confirmed my faith in you. While I have gone through seasons of doubt and struggle, you have also blessed me with obvious answers to my prayers and your leading in my life has been clear. Bless me as I try to share this story with those who are closest to me. In Jesus' name. Amen.

 
Used with Premission  - Today's Verse are written by Phil Ware.

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager