Friday, July 29, 2011

I Hear the Savior Speak

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I Hear the Savior Speak  
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio and an Anonymous Friend

Philippians 4:6
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything 

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

I asked a dear friend if she would share a devotional and she did, but requested that it be posted anonymously. I have a handful of friends that deal with the results of brain injures and I know how they struggle and have good and bad days. My thoughts and prayers go out to each of them. You may not be dealing with a brain injury today but what ever it is that weighs on your heart remember Philippians 4:6. God hears the cry of your heart and He is working often in ways we don’t see or even begin to understand. What follows was written by my friend. It moved me to tears - I know it will touch your heart as well.

Visiting My Daughter After Her Brain Injury
 
I sit alone downstairs, my heart heavy with loss.
The pain of rejection finally finds release in tears.
I had so wanted quality mother-daughter time
But it isn’t happening, and there are only two days left
before I leave for home.

We live so far apart,
but even in the same house, the distance is still there.
Her energy is low, her concentration slight,
and if I ask a question or want to share a poem
she’ll cut me off with, “Mom --- now isn’t a good time.
Maybe later.” 
But later rarely comes.

Then through my grief I hear the Savior speak --
“Be patient, child --- she’s doing the best she can.
Keep loving, serving, comforting.
And let me clasp you to my heart
and give you double measure ---
Enough for you, and for her besides.”

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Be with this friend and her daughter and bring your comfort and your healing. You know the things that each one reading today is struggling with. Renew our hope and faith to believe that you are able even when the circumstances we face seem dark and hopeless. You are the light in our darkness, you are the God who parted the red sea and sets the captives free. Jesus you walked on water and rose from the dead,  you keep your promises. Today we choose to love you and trust you in the middle of our present trials and to be anxious for nothing. Come heal and restore and hold us close while we wait for your answer to our prayers.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You Are Still Holy

You Are Still Holy
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

I've been thinking it would be nice to share some of the songs 
that deeply touch my life. I've done a very simple video cover 
recording of You Are Still Holy 
by Rita Springer of Mercy Vineyard. 
I hope you will enjoy it along with today's devotional. 
Blessings, Margot



"Holy, You are still holy 
Even when the darkness surrounds my life
Sovereign, You are still sovereign 

Even when confusion has blinded my eyes

Lord, I don’t deserve Your kind affection
When my unbelief has kept me from Your touch
I want my life to be a pure reflection Of Your love

And so I come into Your chamber 

And I dance at Your feet, Lord
You are my Saviour And I’m at Your mercy
All that has been in my life Up ‘til now, 

belongs to You - You are still holy

Holy, You are still holy 

Even though I don’t understand Your ways
Sovereign, You will be sovereign 

Even when my circumstances don’t change

Lord, I don’t deserve your tender patience 

When my unbelief has kept me from Your truth
I want my life to be a sweet devotion To You"


I awoke this morning with the words of this song running through my mind. We’ve sung it in church in recent weeks.  The line that seems to linger in my head, that I have found running through my mind off and on is the line that says “All that has been in my life up ‘til now, belongs to you”
It has taken it days to surface to my attention. I know there are things that I want to hold on to. Things that I would like retain control and call the shots as to the when and how. Lord help me to release those things into your care. You are my Saviour and I am at Your mercy.

When I went looking for the lyrics to this song this morning I found that it had a 2nd verse. You are still Holy, even when I don’t understand your ways. Even when my circumstances don’t change.
Who am I to say what God is working in me in this season with my present circumstances. I am learning to be thankful for the difficulties, and the delays, they are tools in His hand that shape me.
So I am pondering this song and letting it speak deeply to me.  Yesterday as I was praying the Lord said “ There is yet much in you that needs healed”  I find myself thankful that God can find a use for broken vessels.  That he so tenderly picks up the broken pieces to repair and restore our lives. I am endeavoring to be open and transparent in these devotionals. I don’t generally put in the details of my own circumstances because you have your own details that go with your own life. I also admit that I am not at a place yet to be able to share my details. People look at me and think I am so strong - I suppose in some ways I am but I have to agree with the Lord. There is yet much in me that needs healed and He is still sovereign and He is still Holy.  I suppose it is a process and a journey of dying to myself and learning to be patient to trust and wait for His perfect plan. I’ve included a video I recorded of this song, I hope it will bless you.

Prayer:
 
Dear Lord,
Thank you that all that has been in my life up til now - belongs to you. Thank you that you know how to heal and that I don’t need to sit here and try to stitch up my own wounds. I surrender myself to your tender care. I know even when what you are doing is painful that you love me and are working for my good.

The Song You Are Still Holy is by Rita Springer of Mercy / Vineyard

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Days That I Struggle

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On Days That I Struggle
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalms 55:6-8
 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
   I would fly away and be at rest—
7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert. ~ Selah
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”


There are days when my struggles seem to rage and roar around me like a great storm. I find comfort that David, who penned many of the Psalms had days when he struggled too. I may wish like David that I could fly away and be at rest.  I might like to flee my circumstances. Wish that I could hurry far from the tempest and storm.  Most of the time flying away is not an option and I’m stuck in the midst of my storm so I wanted to share some of the things I do to get through a stormy day.

I take time to worship - I go some place where I can turn up some worship music and I lift my praises, worship and thanks to the Lord. I set aside my concerns and honor the Lord. Later I lift my prayers before the Lord then I listen to hear if He will speak to me in my heart or through His word. I often journal those thoughts. Then I go on to do the things that I can or have to do.

I will often have a verse that I am standing on written on a 3x5 card and sitting on my desk. I may carry around a penny to remind me “In God We Trust” or I keep a look-out for pennies during my day.  Sometimes I carry in my pocket colored stones that represent the people I am praying for. 
I look for reasons to be thankful, sometimes it someone’s flower garden that I am passing or a sunset, or a thought of a friend.

I look for ways to encourage others - I try to minister out of my own struggle and I have found that often I am encouraged by encouraging others. Today I posted the following on my facebook page “Psalm 31:24 Be Brave, Be Strong, Don’t Give up. Expect God To Get Here Soon. - In the NIV it says Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord.” Just a reminder to myself today.” I had a number of folks comment thanking me.  I posted later in the day “I’m glad God is able - even on days when things that concern us seem to weigh heavily on our hearts. I bind fear, and discouragement and pray for His provision for all the things that concern us. Take heart all you who hope in the Lord.”
I thought about sharing all my concerns but I decided that it really was not necessary - God knew and I knew He was working. In spite of feeling kind of down all day, I reminded myself that what I believe is not based upon how I am feeling. Some days I struggle to get my feelings to turn but I stand on the truth. God has not forgotten me, He has heard the cry of my heart, He does love me no matter of how I might feel.  One friend respond to my post saying “ You put your faith so easily into words, it shines through.” To which I responded “Glad my faith shines through on a day that I have struggled. Have had a number of things that have weighed heavily on my heart today. God’s answers often come like the ram in the thicket did for Abraham. (Genesis 22) You can tell from verse 8 that Abraham trusted that God would provide long before the answer came. He was obedient to God’s plan. We have to keep moving forward by faith and in obedience on the course set before us and not be like the deer in the headlights of an on coming car - frozen by worry, fear and doubt. - I should just go write tomorrows devotional.”  Which I have now completed - I hope it will help you on days that you struggle.
Prayer: 
Dear Lord,
Thank you for understanding and showing me your compassion and mercy on days when I struggle. Thank you for standing with me in the storm - In You I may bend but I won’t break. You know how much I can handle and it is often far more than I think. Thank you for stretching me and allowing circumstances that cause me to press into you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Only Thing That Counts

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The Only Thing That Counts  
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Galatians 4:6b (NIV)
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”


In context this verse is in a discussion about circumcision. There were people in the early church who wanted to incorporate the Jewish law and the practice of circumcision into the lives of Christians. Paul is quite clear that in Christ circumcision has no value. What counts is faith expressing itself through love. So lets take a moment to look at where and how faith is expressing itself through love in our own lives.
If that’s what counts - how are we doing?

It is easy to think that by some religious act or sacrifice we can make ourself worthy of God’s acceptance. If we could just be good enough or Holy enough God would add some points in our favor. Because we are not as bad as that guy, so maybe we have a chance. I am happy to say it just does not work like that. We are never good enough. We might as well try and swim across the ocean.  Some might get farther than others but no one will make it on their own strength or efforts.

This section is pretty clear that religious acts like circumcision are not what makes you right, or worthy. If I believe that God has accepted me, because of what Jesus has done then my faith should begin to express itself in love for the one who has accepted me. No longer is the barriers of shame and guilt there to block my access to be with the one who loves and accepts me. No longer are the barriers of pride and self-sufficiency blocking the way to the one who loves me with out condition. He loves it when we realize how much we need Him. He calls us to come to him not based upon our own worthiness but by the way made by Jesus Christ.

Faith expressing itself through love shows up in many areas. For example if I really believe prayer makes a difference - I will pray. By faith I will express my love for others by praying and believing that prayer for them somehow makes a difference. If I have faith to believe that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purposes. I will express my faith through patience and trust that good is working even when circumstances may shout loudly that God has forgotten. If I really believe that He loves me as broken and sinful as I am by faith I will begin to express my love for him in thankfulness and in finding time to be with Him and know Him more.
We have to stop trying to gain Gods favor by our efforts or our good behavior and accept that he already loves us what He is looking for from us is faith that what Jesus did is enough and that we express that faith in how we love God and love others. As we spend time with Him his love fills us more and more and that love flows through out life into the lives of others. We are his hands and feet.
The only Bible that most people will ever read - just might be you.

Things to Ponder:
So how are you doing with faith expressing itself through love?
Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me accept what Jesus has done for me and to realize that there is nothing I can do to earn your favor, acceptance or approval. Help me to express my faith through love today.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Keep Traveling Steadily

Keep Traveling Steadily
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalms 37:34, Living Bible
“Don’t be impatient for the LORD to act!  

Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and 
in due season he will honor you with every blessing.”

Don’t be impatient for the LORD to act! There have been plenty of times where my impatience got the best of me and I have taken things in to my own hands, thinking I some how knew better than God. Those times generally ended in a mess or in consequences that I later regretted. There are often reasons why God makes us wait. Our motives may not be right, we may need to learn to trust him, other people or circumstances may not be in position yet. I think sometimes God uses that time to see if we really do want the thing we hope or desire. Will we hold on to hope or give way to depression and despair.

There are hopes and dreams that we should pursue but don’t out of fear and indecision, I’m not talking about those. We need to take faith and act on those - take the next step of faith and move forward. There is a balance in deciding if we are waiting because of fear and indecision or because God has really said for us to wait.  When God says to wait it requires faith, patience, humility and courage. One has to believe that God is working while we are attending to the other things that he has given us to do.   We have to learn to be in step with the Holy Spirit.  Its like crossing a busy street with a child. We wait for the light to change and then we cross. To go before the light changes puts us and others in danger.  To wait does not mean that I give up or stop believing that I will get to the other side of the street. A stop light in my path does not tell me to turn back or change directions.  It just means stop and wait till it is time to cross. It is in seasons of waiting that we have to look with eyes of faith rather than manipulative hands.  I don’t think when God calls us to wait that it means we just sit and do nothing, on the contrary there is usually plenty of things we can and should be doing. Sometimes our focus is on the future when it needs to be in the here and now.  I think sometimes God is waiting on us to trust him, to accept his timing and his plan.  Sometimes He waits for us to take a step of faith and then another,  rather than being consumed with doubt, unbelief, worry and fear. We need to determine if it is a matter of being impatient for God to act or if it is a matter of your own doubt and fear that causing God to wait for us to act.

Are you traveling steadily along the path God has laid out for you or are you stuck and wallowing in a mud pit of sin or worry and doubt that you need to climb out of and get back to traveling steadily.
In due season he will honor you with every blessing. In the Bible we read the stories of the trials of faith that others faced. We know the endings to those stories, but we don’t know the ending of our own story. There is a good kind of structural tension created when we look at where we are now and where we want to be objectively. That tension helps move us towards the desired end. I know my story like yours has it difficult days and there will be things I don’t do very well. I hope however that the over arching theme of my life will be that I followed Jesus  and that we walked together through both trials and blessings. That I pressed in to him and pressed on to over come the obstacles that I faced in my day to day journey with Him. I hope that will be true of you as well.
Prayer: 
Dear Lord, Help me to not be impatient. Help me to see where I need to wait and trust and where I need to act and take steps of faith. Help me to travel steadily along the path you have laid out for me and to enjoy the blessings and special graces that you offer me in this day.  I choose to walk in faith, trust, humility and courage, rather than in worry, doubt, unbelief and fear.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pure Joy

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Pure Joy     
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Joy is generally not the first thing one thinks about when thinking about or experiencing trials. I suppose if we look at things in light of asking why me and while serving cake at our pitty party there may not seem to be any reason for joy. The problem is we are asking the wrong question. The question is not why me? The question needs to be Lord, what are you doing through this?
The verse above tells us that trials test our faith. Do we really believe God will help us?  If so we will keep our focus on him in expectancy that what he is doing is for our growth and for our good. Quite often we get to a trial and we find out that we are busy trying to fan the flames of faith but find we have not put more than twigs on the fire. We can’t just look to God when things are hard. We have to be building that relationship on a daily basis. Everyday, I need to be in His presence, every day I need to develop an on going conversation with him as I go through the day. Every day I need to be in his Word, every day I need to be believing and trusting and watching in wonder at the works of His hand. If I am when I get to times of trials there will be logs in my fire and I will burn brightly for Jesus.

Those trials that we face produce perseverance or patience. Thats the stick to it resolve, the I know, that I know, that I know that Jesus loves me and has a plan that is good. It moves me from a shallow faith of lip service to one of maturity and depth in which my life speaks and confirms that no matter what God is with me, No matter what is way is good, no matter what I know He loves me. No matter what I will stand for Him.

Things to Ponder:
If you are currently going through a trial - what is it showing you about your level of faith?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, I ask you to help me in this trial I presently face. I can see that I have not built up much of a reserve. Help me to use this expereince and remeber how you have helped me to be a log for a future fire of faith when I walk through other trials. In my life. Help me remember in this one your word, your ways, your love and how you have helped me in the past. Help me to ask with joy, what you are doing rather than the whiny why me? of my pitty party. Help me to seek you all the time not just when things are rough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Self-sufficiency

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Self-sufficiency 

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Matthew 7:7-8”
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives;
he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, 
the door will be opened.

How often do I forget to ask, or I am to busy to seek, or I am perhaps to proud to knock.
It is easy to think I can just handle things on my own. I may even be doing a decent job of managing the circumstances of life at this time. How often do I miss the ways God desires to help me. My self sufficiency can stand in the way of God’s help and blessing in my life.

Sometimes we get the idea that God is to busy and we don’t want to bother him with the little stuff. As if we have some limit or quota on prayer that must be saved for the really important things. Our God desires a relationship and that relationship includes the little and the big stuff.
There are days when I say – Lord I am not doing well today. I really need your help –I’m in way over my head. Maybe that’s you today. Just talk to your heavenly Father. He stands waiting to help you through. My self sufficiency is not the only issue, sometimes God wants me to seek him. Often He speaks to me in dreams that are like a puzzle of symbols that I have to work out. What are the treasures in his Word that I miss by being too busy. Sometimes it is pride or perhaps shame that keeps us from knocking at His door.

He calls us but he does not chase us. We do need to ask, seek and knock.  Here is the really good part “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds and to him who knocks the door will be opened.”  When we search to find him in His word or spend time in prayer it is not a waste of time. He is good to fulfill his promises.

Things to Ponder:
Do you need a clearer invitation? What are you waiting for? ____________
Am I being self sufficient when I should lean on the Lord? ____________
Does pride or shame keep me from knocking at the Lords door? _________________________
What things could you use Gods help with today? ____________________________________
Prayer:
Dear Lord, You say to ask and you will give to me. Hear the prayer of my heart and meet this need or desire in my life. If it is somehow not your will change my heart and help me to let go of this thing I am asking for.  I am seeking you Lord and I know you promise I will find you.
Help me to not let shame, guilt or pride keep me from knocking at your door.
Open to me the door into your presence I long to sit at your feet and to be near you today.
Have I told you how much I love you - Thank you for loving me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Great Love of God

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The Great 
Love of God
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio






John 15:2
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

I try to be led by the Holy Spirit when I am writing and I try to communicate the Father’s heart of love for you dear reader. That if he in his great wisdom could come up with a way to fix the brokenness caused by Adam and Eve in the garden, He can set right the things in your life as well. He drove them out of the garden not because he was mad but because he loved them and wanted to protect them from eating of the tree of life. If they had done that they would have been lost forever. God in his mercy sent them out from the Garden and then began to work a plan in which justice could be satisfied and the broken people he loved could be redeemed. Justice and mercy are both satisfied by Jesus being willing to go to the cross. No one took his life he laid it down and made a way that we could be right with God.

To try and get to God on your own strength is like trying to swim from Alaska to Hawaii. There is no one who is good enough. Jesus has made a way but He won’t force us to choose it.  Did you know there was only one rule in the Garden and that rule existed so love could exist. God from the very beginning gave us a choice to love him by doing things his way.  It is His great love and kindness that leads us to repentance.  He does not ask of us more than, that out of thankfulness we would give Him our life and allow Him to guide and direct it and allow Him to sit on the throne of our heart.

I’m not sure why I am sharing the very basics of faith with you. Maybe you have believed but have looked at God from the wrong angle and see him as one who stands and shakes his finger of wrath at you, ready to squash you like a bug for the things you have messed up.
We all mess up but I believe He stands there with arms of love and tears in his eyes saying “look I have a better way, won’t you let me help you, won’t you let me heal you, let me remove these filthy rags and wash you. Let me set things right for you.”

Things to Ponder:
How do you see God? Full of Love or full of Wrath?
Ask the Lord to help you see His great love beyond what you have experienced to date.

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me to not resist you. Although you must prune what is dead or damaged in my life. I trust that you will also coat those places with your healing ointment.  Cause there to soon be new and healthy growth coming forth in my life. I know that it is your love that wields the knife that prunes away the dead and damaged parts not your wrath. I choose to trust you and to allow you to prune my life.
Thank you for loving me in this way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Life and Energy

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 New Life and Energy   
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Jeremiah 31:25 (CEV)
Those who feel tired and worn
out will find new life and energy,
26 and when they sleep,
they will wake up refreshed.


It seemed like I was sick most of this past winter. Three to four trips into the doctor that helped a little but the thing lingered on. I finally heard one of the doctors say - “try to get more rest. Go to bed an hour earlier. Try to take a nap during the day. See if you can cut back on some of the things you are involved in”. It was very hard for me. I was tired enough of not feeling well that I decided to try what had been suggested. It was hard for me to pull back and be intentionally not busy. So I rested and spent more quiet time with the Lord and it worked. I like this verse because I was not sleeping well at night and I would wake up tired to start my day tired.  I know what tired and worn out feels like and it seemed like there was no end in sight. Maybe you are feeling tired and a worn out too. The promise of waking refreshed in this verse gave me hope - it should give you hope as well.   

Psalms 62:5-8 says  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; 
my hope comes from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; 
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God 
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; 
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.  Selah
While I was sick I was spending time with the Lord in the mornings and I think that helped me to have the energy to keep going but I needed to find a balance that allowed me to get well not just keep going.

I knew I was in trouble because I was not getting well. I knew I needed to make some changes.  I needed to re prioritize and decide what things I could take a step back from. I had to stop taking on new things and cut out some of what I was doing. I tried not to just fill my resting time with mindless entertainment but rather to spend it doing things that would feed my spirit. Things like listening to music that was up-lifting and reading books that would strengthen me. I spent more time in the Word and more time writing.

We can be so busy that we push aside those things that help re-charge our batteries. Also during that time the Lord helped me to work through some painful things from the past that had been very suppressed. I think in slowing down, God was able to get my attention and help me deal with the past as well as help me set some boundaries in my life. He helped me to remember that it is not because I am busy serving him that I am loved and valuable to him. I am his and he loves me just as much when I am resting.

If you are feeling tired and worn out maybe its time to rest in him and allow him to help you with some of the things you have been avoiding dealing with by being too busy. Learning to rest in Him is a wonderful thing and I can’t say I’m an expert at this point but I have seen the benefits of resting and I now have new life and energy.
Things to Ponder:
What things am I doing that perhaps don’t really need to be done?
Where can I make more time to be resting before the Lord?

What are some of the things that feed my spirit?
Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me to enter into your rest. Help me to re-priortize my life in a way that is pleasing to you. Help me fill up on things that will truly strengthen and refresh me. Thank you for the promise of Jeremiah 31:25 fill me with new life and energy and let me wake refreshed and hungry for your presence.





Monday, July 18, 2011

Gentleness

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Gentleness  
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Philippians 4:5
Let your gentleness be evident to all. 
The Lord is near.

Gentleness is one of the Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galations five. It is something that must grow in our life. It is not automatically in our life just because we are a believer. All of the fruit listed there have to be exercised and cultivated by faith and practice in order to grow and be evident in our life.
In Colossians 3:12 it is one of the things as God’s chosen people we are to clothe ourselves. Which tells me we have a choice to put it on or not. In 1 Peter 3:4 Women are instructed to be more concerned with their inner beauty. It says “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in Gods sight.” And not to let you guys off the hook. Paul appeals to the people he is writing in 2 Corinthians 10:1 by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Here in the selected verse above we are to let our gentleness be evident to all. In the list of fruit of the Spirit I think gentleness gets over shadowed by patience and some of the others. I admit its not one that I consciously think about very often. Gentleness comes from knowing the power in which you walk as a believer. It is not the position of door mat to be walked on. It is power under control. It is demonstrated in not being to good or to high and mighty to do a humble task.

I read somewhere that In the mind of Aristotle gentleness was half way between excessive anger and indifference. I know for some the struggle is to take off anger and choose to put on gentleness. I think for me it is more a battle with indifference which I have too often wrapped myself to avoid being hurt. Wherever you happen to be on that scale of extremes it is pretty clear from this and others that when we have a choice we should pick gentleness. According to 1 Peter 3:4 It is of great worth to God.

Gentleness reminds me of the Lion Aslan in the stories by C.S. Lewis. He was powerful and wild yet he was gentle and in control of his mighty power. Back again to 2 Corinthians 10: 4 we are told, “The weapons we fight with are not of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. Perhaps gentleness in the hand of a warrior is what stays his sword and allows for mercy. In our own case we deserve death and punishment for our sins. It is Christ who stands up for us and takes that which we deserve.  He gives those who choose to accept his great gift, in the place of wrath and judgement, he gives us gentleness, and kindness that lead us to repentance and so much more.

Things to Ponder:
What will you clothe yourself in today? Anger, Gentleness or Indifference?

What are some ways you can express gentleness in your daily life?
Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Everyday I am faced with choices of what I will allow to grow in my life. Today I choose gentleness over anger or indifference. Please help me and give me opportunities that allow this fruit to grow and become more evident in my life.  You, who are all powerful treat me with gentleness daily. I want to be more like you as I walk in your power, strenght and authoirty. Help me to exercise gentleness.
By faith I now put on the garment of gentleness.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Cedar, the Lily and the Olive

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The Cedar, the Lily 
and the Olive
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio




 Hosea 14:5-6 (NIV1984)
 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. 
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.


I found myself considering the similarities of the lily, the cedar and the olive tree. Why are these specific plants mentioned in conjunction with God being like dew?  How is God like dew?
It seems to me like a passage that is rich if one bothers to take time to consider and reflect upon it.
Dew forms in the evening and early morning when the temperature cools to the dew point. It comes so gently that it does not even damage the delicate strands of a spiders web. When God becomes to us like dew He comes rests upon us. I have found in my own life that it is in the early morning or late evening that the pace of life slows down and I am able settle and abide with the Lord. Like the dew He comes and waters my life. He covers us with His cleansing and healing presence. He provides nourishment we need to grow.  Its a work of His Spirit and presence that produces roots and shoots in our lives.

The Cedar: Cedars that get sufficient water grow rapidly and can reach 120 feet tall.  Historically the demand for cedar wood and cedar oil was so great the Cedar forests of Lebanon were used up. The cones of the cedar take three years to mature. The wood contains so much oil and was used over oak and other woods because it burned better. The wood is fragrant and resist decay and insects so it has a preserving quality.  It often is considered a symbol of eternal life. It is a symbol of restoration, strength and permanence. The smell of opening a cedar trunk sticks with you it is a fragrance that is not forgotten.

The Lily: The Lily is tall and stately in its beauty. Is often used to symbolize the purity Christ. I am always struck by the fragrance of the lilies at Easter time. Brides would often adorn their heads with lilies as a symbol of purity and innocence. It is often used as a fragrance in essential oils. 

The Olive:  It’s fruit is delicate and bruises easily and must be picked by hand if one wants superior oil. In addition to just eating the fruit a rich oil can be produced. It takes 10 pounds of olives to make 4 cups of olive oil. The olives must be crushed to release the oil. Psalm 52:8; and Jeremiah says, “The Lord called thy name a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit”

All three of these plants are fragrant and oily. The Lord comes and cleanses us and the Holy Spirit Fills us. The symbol often used for the Holy Spirit is oil. I am reminded of Ephesians 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Our lives should also be fragrant and full of the Holy Spirit. Spend some time thinking about these things and how they relate to your walk with the Lord. I've just scratched the surface and I would love to hear your comments of what the Lord shows you in regards to dew, and lilies, olives and cedars.
 
Prayer: 
Dear Lord,
Come rest upon me like the dew. Make me like the lily, the cedar and the olive oily with the presence of the Holy Spirt and the fragrance of my life rise to you as a pleasing offering.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Time For Everything

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A Time for Everything
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:”


A while back my  kids and I participated in the NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month. The prize is bragging rights. Its not about content but about simply writing with abandon. No worries about editing, spelling, or if the content is good or not. So while this devotional was not a novel it is a step of faith and to accomplish it will mean being able to check something off my some day I want to… list.  The goal was to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Guess what I did not make that goal. Life was really busy.
I managed 34827 words total in 30 day.   I was short by 15,173 words.  I did write 50 days of devotionals at that time. Now it is two years later and time to go back and read them and edit and begin to compile them for this devotional. It turns out that only about 20 are long enough for the format I am using here. So I still have a long way to go to get to 365 days.

You will notice that I did not make my goal of 50,000 words. I did not however look at it as a failure because I did make more progress than if I had not tried. I have found in my life that I cycle through things. I may focus on one area for a while and set it aside for another area knowing that I will eventually get back to the things that I have set aside. All in all, progress continues.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. I have noticed however that the choices I make often take me in directions I never imagined.
I have to wonder what transforming work the Lord with do in my life in the course of completing this project. Perhaps if you are now reading this he will do a work in your life over the next year as you read and are encouraged by these posts. I have found that what ever the season the best place to start is at the feet of Jesus. Hang out with him and you begin to become in tune with his heart and his plans.

Things To Ponder:
What is God doing in this time and season of your life?_________________
Is it perhaps time to pick up something that you wanted to accomplish but has gotten set aside?
_____________________________________________________________________________
Prayer:
Dear Lord, Help me to understand what season this is, I sometimes want to work on things at the wrong time. Help me be in step with your plans. Do a transforming work in my life as I encounter you in the posts of this devotional each day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

So that...

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So that...
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 67:1-2
 1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
   and make his face shine on us
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
   your salvation among all nations.


I love the many blessing and apostolic prayers found in the pages of the bible. I like to use them when I pray for people or to end letters that I write. This one I like because, so often we want God to bless what we are doing when really He blesses us to further His kingdom purposes through our lives. He is gracious and blesses and His face shine upon us so that.... His ways are made known on the earth and his salvation reaches the nations. That puts a whole new perspective on the me me me attitude of many of us who what to be blessed by God. While we may enjoy the blessings that we receive we need to be asking how is God wanting to use this blessing to make his ways known on the earth? I don’t think we touch that very often. We want God to bless us to prove that He does indeed love us. If you keep the perspective that His purpose for blessing is so that His ways may be known,  one can start to look at how many of his blessings come in packages that we don’t even acknowledge. For example the peace that I have in a particular trial or season of hardship. Yes the peace directly blesses me but what is it also doing for those who are observing how I go through the difficulty of life as a believer.
His blessing us is not so we can one day say ta-daa I have it all - see now I am blessed. I have a house, a car, a job, a mate, two kids, a dog a cat and a gerbil. We may or may not get blessed with the American dream.  David as a shepherd was blessed by God with the trials of having to deal with lions and bears that came to steal his sheep. God allowed him to practice with lions and bears to prepare him to one day face the biggest badest giant in the land named Goliath. The lions and bears my not have seemed like blessings at the time but they were. God blessed him by preparing him with skills and faith that he would need in the future. God made his ways known through David on the earth when he said in 1 Samuel 17: 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”   Some of the things we are dealing with in our life can’t be reconciled in the light of our current circumstances. They can only be reconciled in the light of what is yet to be. Who are you or I to say what tools or blessings that God is presently using to prepare us for His future purpose.  
Things to Ponder:
Am I allowing my present circumstances to work Gods character into my life? ____________
Is my view of “Blessing” shallow allowing only for things that make me happy or feel good?
Is my view of Blessing - getting my own way rather than that God’s ways may be made known?
Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Help me expand my understanding about the purpose your blessings in my life. Some of the things I am currently facing seem difficult and not very pleasant. Help me to allow them to produce the desired results for your present and future purposes in and through my life. Make your ways known in the earth through the abundance of ways that you choose to pour out your blessing through my life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stop Waiting

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Stop Waiting
A Devotional by Mark Kenney

 Acts 22:16 
And now why are you waiting? 
Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

The older I get the more convinced I become that the devil is masterful at trickery, manipulation and redirection. Pride makes many in the body feel that they are above the devil's reach in these aspects and areas but humility brings us to the mirror and face to face with the knowledge that we could indeed be tricked into believing things that aren't really of God at all.

I believe waiting is one of these areas the devil has exploited.  Many Christians have embraced this idea of "waiting on the Lord" as a reason or excuse to not make personal decisions. In fact, when God is on you, He is on you so you can take action. Faith is action. The anointing of God is not for the goose bumps, it's to empower you do take action!  Yes, there is a place where we as humans truly do not have a leading in a given area but that is not a time to wait, that is a time to seek and actively seek.Then, once you have an answer of how to proceed, stop waiting! Move ahead and do what it is that God has led you to do.

As one example, the biggest single causes of obesity in the world is not over-eating, it's indecision. People will eat something while in their mind they are still considering if they really should eat it or not. Christians use "waiting on the Lord" to mask their personal fear of taking action. This needs to be repented of in those cases and the confidence of God be allowed to replace the fear that once was.

Suggested prayer
 
"Father, I know you love me and are sovereign. I know you love me without condition or reservation. Let that Love so touch my heart right now that I never again hide behind me waiting on you and instead I commit afresh to move in your real time of the right here and the right now. Thank you for loving me even if I am wrong in my attempts to discern your timing. I repent of "waiting" and instead now choose to trust you in me enough to confidently move ahead with what you have for me to do".

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Cry Out To God

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I Cry Out To God
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 57:2 (NIV1984)
 I cry out to God Most High,
   to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.



It is easy to think as Christians that we must do great things for God. We can spend a lot of time striving in our own strength. We get busy serving and doing things for God and we forget to spend time with Him, knowing Him. I lived that way in ministry far too long. I started out right but as the demands of serving and doing took over the time at His feet became less and less.
Eventually you find your self burnt out and wondering why. My relationship with the Lord became a small thread that I was hanging on to for dear life. Rather than a rich abiding relationship from which other things blossomed and grew.

I have learned the hard way that for my life to be fruitful my priority must be to be found daily at the feet of Jesus. We too often think we need to do a lot of stuff to be good enough or worthy enough when all we need to do is be his. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.
The image of an iceberg helps keep things in perspective. Ones visible platform life needs to be the tip of the iceberg. Hidden underneath the water is this massive piece of ice. The bigger the visible tip  the bigger the hidden ice must be to support that tip.

I have through the yeas seen to many well meaning people crash and burn under the demands of ministry. Maybe this does not seem to apply to you directly. You however, have a pastor who needs your prayers to keep that iceberg perspective. It does apply directly to you in regards to bearing fruit. If you don’t abide in Jesus you won’t produce healthy fruit.   

I had to make a commitment to change. I have had to set boundaries, I’ve had to turn of the TV, I try to get up before my family to have time to spend alone with the Lord before my day gets crazy.
I’ve had to make changes because I want to know Him deeply and I want to be fruitful. I want that tip to be big enough for Gods purposes. I take comfort in knowing that it is He who fulfills them in me.

Things to Ponder:
Are you like an iceberg in your hidden life and your visible ministry? _____________________Are you feeling burnt out - Has your time abiding had become less than it once was?_________
Are you hanging by a small thread? ______________ it is never too late to turn things around.
Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Fullfil your purpose for me. Help me to have a heart that wants to spend time with you. A heart that wants to know you more deeply. Help me to arrange my life in such a way that I am better able to spend time with you. Lord I want to be fruitful for my life to touch others. I want your purpose for me.
I allow you to use what ever tools you need to use to shape me into what you want me to be. Please help me where I am weak to be strong in you. Help me to see the value of time in your presence and in your word. Help me love spending time with you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heal our Waywardness

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Heal our Waywardness
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Hosea 14:3-4 (NIV)
3 Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say 

‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made,
   for in you the fatherless find compassion.”
4 “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.



I am working my way through Hosea 14 - It seems rich to me presently. Hosea was a prophet in Israel for 25 years. During that time Israel had 7 kings. Not particularly a stable time. Assyria was a powerful nation that swept through the land and counted their victory by the number of heads they had in their pile at the end of the battle. Oh yeah they raped the women and did unspeakable things to the children. If you did manage to survive their attack you were moved to a new home hundreds of miles away and some other folks they had captured were moved in to your land. 

It seems in Hosea’s day, Israel thought they could depend on the big guys like Assyria and Egypt to help them.  I think anytime we start to believe that we are protected by our alliances and who we know in power, or in our wealth or our insurance we are heading for disappointment.
In this verse Hosea talks of a day when Israel will finally realize she cannot trust in the big guys, like Assyria or her own army of war-horses, or the idols that she made and tried to replace God with. Nothing is going to save her from Gods judgement.

We can make a big mess of things and trust in the wrong things to save us in our time of trouble.
I am blessed by the line that says “In you the fatherless find compassion” With out God we are all fatherless, its not like you have to be an orphan for this verse to apply to you.  In verse 4. It does not talk about Israel getting her act together but rather it says that God will heal her waywardness. 
There are things we just seem powerless to change about ourselves we may want to and we may even try hard to do it in our own strength. God is always waiting for us to realize that our best efforts are just not going to be enough. He waits for us to realize we need him, we need him to heal our waywardness. We need him to love us freely. Yes we deserve his anger but he has turned it away from us and when he looks at us he sees Jesus.  Lest you think ahhh, but that just old testament. I think Jesus spells out his purpose quite well in Luke 4:18 as He quotes Isaiah 61  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.
Things to Ponder:
What are my areas of waywardness ?___________
What am I looking to fix that waywardness other than God?_______
Prayer:
Dear Lord, Help me to see the things I am trusting in other than you. Come and heal my waywardness - I need your love and compassion today and every day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bless Me Lord and I will bless others

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Bless me Lord and I will bless others.
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Numbers 6:26
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”


I love it when my pastor or any speaker gives a benediction or speaks a blessing over a group of people. I know most people hardly notice it and probably don’t realize what is happening in that moment. For many people it is just part of the form of the service. Its just how we end things.
I challenge you to see it as much more than a poetic ending.

For me the benediction is a gift of a blessing being spoken over my life. Words are powerful. God spoke and created all that is. We read in Proverbs 18:21a that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The benediction is a time where life is being spoken over us.

It reminds me that my God loves to bless me. I stand and I always raise my hands to receive the gift of that moment in time. I need the Lord to turn His face to me, I need peace. This is one of many wonderful blessings one can receive.  My challenge to you is to really receive the blessing spoken over you in such moments. So often we leave the gifts God has for us sitting on the shelf not realizing that a gift was even given.  It is like the woman who reached out to touch the hem of the Lords garment and received her healing.  Reach out and receive the blessing and watch and see what God does with it during the week.  A week filled with peace is an awesome thing.   There are days when peace seems very far away. If you are at that place of needing a blessing start with this one. Lord turn your face upon me, I need your peace. Help me in this moment to receive the blessing you have for me. You know the things that I will need to bring you glory in the up coming hours and days. Fill me up, let your peace over flow from my life on to the folks around me.  Bless me Lord and I will bless others.

Things to Ponder:
Have you experienced the peace of God? Are you walking in that peace now?______
Clearly God gives us peace  - are you willing to receive the gift or will you continue in the old familiar patterns of worry and doubt?______________________________________
Are you speaking life or death in to your circumstances and over the people in your life?
_____________________________________________________________________________
Prayer:
Dear Lord, Turn your face towards me and give me your peace. Help me realize the power of the words spoken over and into my life. Help me to be one who blesses and brings peace with the words of my mouth into the lives of others. Let your thoughts flow from my tongue

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Fruit of Our Lips

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The Fruit of Our Lips
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Hosea 14:1-2
Return, Israel, to the LORD your God.
   Your sins have been your downfall!
2 Take words with you and return to the LORD.
Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously,
   that we may offer the fruit of our lips.

I think it is interesting that what is desired is words. “Take words with you and return to the LORD”
Honest words. Words of repentance. It even tells you what words “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously,” I don’t know about you by my walk before the Lord is less than perfect. My heart can be wild and out of control at times. I can chase after things that I think will filll my perceived lacks. Only to find that I have chased the wind. “Your sins have been your downfall” Admittedly they have been, but what does God want us to do about it. Does He want us to get all pious and religious? Does He want us to make great sacrifices.? Does he want us to get this kind of an attitude? Lord if you get me out of this one I will do _______ for you.  Does He want us to languish away in guilt, shame, depression and self pity? The answer to all of these is NO! This verse says what He wants is words. I don’t think they even need to be eloquent words. They need to be honest words, heart felt words. Words that acknowledge that you have sinned. That you don’t know how to fix the mess, that you are broken, that you are struggling, “Receive us graciously”,  When we turn to Him we don’t get what we deserve. We deserve His wrath, judgement, punishment for our sins. What we get is compassion, mercy, forgiveness and healing. None of which do we deserve. None of which can we ever be good enough to earn. Our best efforts fall horribly short. So what can be done? Your situation seems hopeless. Why would God want a mess like you? He wants to receive you. He created you, sure there are things that could be improved and be better. He accepts you where you are today - filthy dirty, broken, sinful. Don’t try to clean your self up just bring your honest words and be open to share your heart with Him.  He desires to heal and set you free that you can with your words - tell others, be thankful and celebrate and share what has been done for you. He desires the fruit of your lips. What comes out of your mouth is an offering of thankfulness to Him for doing what you could not ever do yourself. He waits patinetly for us to figure out that we are powerless to fix our selves. He waits for us to come.
Things to Ponder:
What sins have been your downfall? _______________________________________________
What “words’ will you take to the Lord? ____________________________________________
How has He received you graciously before?_________________________________________
What is the “fruit of your lips’?___________________________________________________
Prayer:
Dear Lord, Give us the courage to admit our brokenness, failure and our sins. The courage to come to you with honest words, to be open before you. Receive us graciously with compassion, mercy, cleansing, forgiveness and healing.  Give us hearts of gratitude and let that thankfulness  spill out of our hearts and lips like sweet fruit. Help us to return now to you with our words.