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And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

David was just a simple shepherd boy given a huge opportunity by God. Being a shepherd was a lonely existence in which you would sometimes spend months alone in the hills with just a bunch of sheep, facing the elements, attack by wildlife and tending to a bunch of animals prone to wander off.

All that changed when David was thrust into the political spotlight as a result of God’s choice for him to be king. He must have felt every emotion imaginable during this time of his life. Loneliness and fear may have gripped him from time to time in the hill country. But he learned during that time to trust God for safety, wisdom and provision.

He no doubt was overwhelmed when the Prophet, Samuel, anointed him and informed him and his family that David would be the next King of Israel. The excitement of the possibilities no doubt grew when he was invited into the palace to live with King Saul. Here he learned the political ins and outs of ruling a country.

He learned to be patient during the confusing times when the king tried to kill him during Saul’s frequent fits of rage and anger. Where was God’s promise? Why did he bring me here only to face more danger? David knew how to fight lions and bears, not kings.

There must have been times he was ready to give up on God’s promise. To return to the hills and tend sheep as his family had done for years. But something kept him going. One of those things was a friendship with Saul’s own son, Jonathan. Time after time Jonathan intervened on David’s behalf, risking his own life so that David would be safe.

Jonathan had nothing to gain and everything to lose being David’s friend. David was the one person who stood before him and the throne. He was well aware of the fact that in order for David to be King he would have to die. Yet he encouraged David to be strong and encouraged his faith by telling him to stay strong.

In each of our lives we encounter hardships and trials. These are painful life experiences that seem to want to sap the energy and strength from our very lives. During these times we need to seek out good, Godly friendships. We need people who we can rely on to encourage us during the down times, be honest with us when we need to hear honesty and listen to us when we just need to vent.

Surround yourselves with sincere, Jesus following friends who lift you up and spur you on to greatness. Godly friends are those who selflessly encourage us to rely on God and pursue the very best for our lives.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the examples you give us in the Bible of true friends such as Jonathan and David. Lead me into circles of your followers who will listen to my dreams, be patient with my struggles and lead me into a closer relationship with you so that I can attain all you want me to be. Amen.

LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. Psalms 10:17

The townspeople called her ‘Old Mary’. It was a term of affection for the frail old woman that lived in a small log cabin near the center of the little town where she was born and lived her entire life. Mary never got married. She spent her entire life working and helping to take care of her aging parents. After they died, “There just wasn’t time for that foolishness”, she told a neighbor lady in a rare ‘over the fence’ conversation.

Mary kept to herself. She was a very private person. She never drove a car but would be seen walking the three blocks to the grocery store every other day for a few meager supplies. As she got older her walks became slower, and less frequent. A few of the woman from the local church finally got her to accept an occasional ride to the store or church and in the cold winter months she’d even let them pick up a few things for her. Her home was rundown and her poverty was evident. Still it was with great reluctance that she accepted an occasional hand out.

One winter morning a neighbor made a call to Mary, who hadn’t been seen for several days. Upon entering the small home Mary was found sitting in her favorite chair with her Bible open on her lap, but Mary wasn’t really there. She had died a day earlier, just as she had lived: Alone.

The ladies from the church began the task of cleaning up the small cottage. A distant nephew was notified of Mary’s passing, but never responded to the calls.

Tucked beneath the soft mattress in Mary’s bedroom workers found nearly a half million dollars in cash and stocks! Mary had died in poverty as a very wealthy woman!

We have everything we need in Christ to accomplish the things God has in store for us. But like Mary, we sometimes tuck those gifts and opportunities for success under our mattress until, ‘things get better’, ‘the kids are out of school’, ‘we get out of debt’ or any other number of reasons.

Pursue the things God has for you now! Let His power work through you where you are.  We have a loving, compassionate Father that hears our hopes and wants to accomplish great things in our lives.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you for your great love and forgiveness. Thank you that you not only see my need, but want to give me my dreams as well. Help me to grow in you, to be in unity with you and empowered by your Holy Spirit to rise above my helplessness into your power. Amen

 That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.” Judges 6:25-26

 Gideon was chosen by God to do mighty things for the people of Israel. God’s people were under constant attack from enemies that surrounded them. From time to time He chose common, ordinary, unsuspecting people to do courageous, heroic, acts of deliverance for his people. Often these people were not only unsuspecting but somewhat unwilling to do the task prepared for them.

Perhaps no one was more hesitant than Gideon. When he received God’s word that he was the new go-to guy for Israel’s deliverance he balked at the idea. He wasn’t strong enough, powerful enough or wise enough to be a hero. Besides, from Gideon’s perspective, his family tree was a mess. The backyard at home was strewn idols and altars to false gods.

God saw things differently that Gideon. Gideon measured the possibility of success according to his strength. God measured success by God’s ability and willingness to use Gideon for the purposes He had ordained. God did not wait for Gideon to become a spiritual role model. He didn’t choose him because of his standing among his people. God told him to simply “go in the strength you have”. He refused to let Gideon’s heritage be an excuse for God’s ability to use him in a mighty way. Gideon went on to lead the people of Israel to great victories over their enemies.

People still use the same excuse Gideon used when approaching life. We base our success ratio on the heritage handed down to us from our parents or those in our family tree. We measure our dreams according to ‘the cards we’ve had dealt to us’ without adding the ‘God factor.’ The only ones that should be tied to the family tree are monkeys. They were born there and will spend their entire lives there.

The mistakes, abuse and poverty of our youth should not keep us from living up to the potential we have through Christ. He isn’t interested in our past. He is only interested in how he can use us for his glory in the future. God can use us even if we are unsure, outnumbered or weak. He alone is our strength and our deliverer.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the fact that You can use me no matter how strong or weak I may feel. I thank you for Jesus and His forgiveness. Like Gideon, I have some idols in my yard, things that keep me from pursuing you. Please forgive me for not believing. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to remove those idols so that you can work through me in mighty ways. Amen.

Yes, the Day is coming when people will notice The One Who Made Them, take a long hard look at The Holy of Israel. They’ll lose interest in all the stuff they’ve made—altars and monuments and rituals, their homemade, handmade religion—however impressive it is. Isaiah 17:7-8 (The Message)

Isaiah gives the people of Israel hope for the future. As usual, it seems, God’s people had once more strayed from the relationship they had with God. They had become distracted with making money, building for the future and making life as comfortable as possible.

 God was ‘in their lives’ but He was just a part of many other things going on. He was a safety net. God, or in this case religion had become an activity, not a relationship. They believed that everything would be okay as long as they did all the rituals of ‘church’ and said the right things.

The Israelites hadn’t gotten to that point overnight. It was a slow gradual process like the frog in a boiling pot of water. Put a frog in hot water he jumps immediately to safety. Put him in cool water and turn on the heat he will boil to death as his body adjusts to the heat to a deadly level. When death comes it comes quickly.

Jesus doesn’t ask for 99% of our lives. He wants all of us, 100% or more! When we harbor sin, ignore our spiritual food or make our relationship a ritual, we will lose touch with what the spiritual life, the Christ-life’ is all about. It’s easy to do. We seek after houses and toys and ‘respect’ and power. Even under the name of ministry or serving God. But beware of making our actions and our accomplishments the basis of our spiritual being. Just as with Israel, the walls of our accomplishments can come crashing down.

Sometimes, it takes the destruction of the ‘walls of our accomplishments’ to see Jesus in all His fullness. It’s when we reach bottom that we can renew our life in Him and restore that relationship. Fortunately that is JUST what He wants. Jesus isn’t impressed with the church you attend (or lead) or the number of Bible Studies you attend, or the fact that you’ve read the Bible through every year for 50 years, or that you have remained faithful to your spouse for 75 years, or that you sing worship songs (add your own activities to this list).

These are all things, activities, actions. Some are very valuable. But it’s the heart that matters. It’s about relationship. Jesus spent more time reaching out to those of us that had failed, that struggled with our faith, our family, our kids and our jobs than He did the ‘nice clean religious folks of his day’.

Forget your past. Forget the accomplishments you’ve made for whatever the reason. Where is your heart?

PRAYER:  Dear Jesus. Thank you for the many things you have given me. Thank you for all of my gifts, my talents and my accomplishments. Forgive me for the times when I’ve made those accomplishments into idols that displace the relationship you want with me. Empower me through your Spirit to have a heart that is right with you. Amen

Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:3

The nations of the world were in turmoil. Marriages were free falling along with the moral fiber of society. Religion had become a meaningless set of rules and rituals that no longer seemed relevant to the people. Fear and despair were the most common characteristics of people’s minds.

Thus was the world that the prophet Hosea lived in 8 centuries before Jesus was born, as he attempted to call the people of Israel back to belief in God. His very name meant salvation, or good news and his message was one of hope if people would come back to a right relationship with God. A relationship built on following God’s ways.

The words Hosea was given for the people involved a promise based on action. If the people sought after God and lived in right relationship with Him, He would be as the spring rains which revived the dormant ground, resulting in new beauty and fruitfulness.

The promise is the same today. When we live in relationship with Jesus Christ the mistakes of our past are forgiven. Just as a spring rain freshens the air and brings new life to the soil, Jesus Christ brings new life to our soul. If we seek relationship with Him, He will come to us just as surely as the sun will rise in the morning!

When we say, “I can’t because” we limit the work God can do in our lives. We put Him in a box. Rather that saying ‘I can’t’ to the dreams we have it is better to seek His plan for us. It could very well be the plans He has include your dreams or even better ones! God desires to give you a new beginning. The dreams we have will never take place until we realize that God can make those dreams come true if we seek Him for direction.

As you grow in relationship with Christ He will show you the desires of YOUR heart. But you must act on that revelation. Fulfillment in life begins on the inside and overflows into your actions.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I ask today that you will come into my life anew and afresh like a spring rain. Penetrate the hard soil of my failures so that new life may spring from the soil of my soul. Empower me to walk with you with a clear heart and a clear mind for you. Amen.

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