Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Think Out Side Of The Box

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio



Ephesians 2:10
"For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
 which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

I suppose for anyone who knows me - it is probably obvious that I see the creativity of God written everywhere. I see it in the faces of people, in sunsets, in the blanket of snow that lays out sided. In the amazing flight of a humming bird. I believe that woven in to each of us is the power to create. It may not be artistic work, or grand musical pieces but we have the power in us to create daily what our life will be like. There may be circumstances that are out of our control but God gives each of us choices with in our circumstances to figure out how we will go through them. 

Deuteronomy 1:21
 See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

There are things that you know that God has given you to do. Some are things that you have a natural tallent or aptitude for, others are thing you discovered you enjoyed doing and you have developed those skills. Some things may be gifts that God has given you.

 1 Peter 4:10-11
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

I found out at a very young age that I enjoyed everything to do with being creative. I have spent my life making time to do the things that I love to do.  I found this quote on Pinterest yesterday.


I have to give it a hardy amen! Yep I believe it is true. I can choose who I will spend time with. I can surround my self with people who are inspiring or I can spend my time with couch potatoes, or I can spend my time with the grumpy and negitive folks. Jim Rohn said: ” we become the combined average of the FIVE people we associate most with” Yikes who are you hanging out with. Hopefully Jesus makes your list.   Heres another similar quote "The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. ~Malcolm Gladwell

In thinking outside of my own box - I am mindful of the people around me and their influence. I try to surround myself with people who are problem solvers, over comers, those who care for others, thankful people. You might want to take a look at the folks in your life and decide who are your positive people, the one's who inspire and encourage you.  Make more time for them and less for the energy vampire folks. The ones who suck the life right out of you with their negativity. 

So hears my outside of the box part of this discussion. What about you - who would have to put you on their list and are you effecting their life in a positive life giving way.  How can you change to become a life giving person?

I like this blessing from Day 17 of Blessing Your Spirit by Sylvia Gunter and Arthur Burk
 " I bless you, ________, with being a leader in your community of faith so that other people spontaneously come to you when they have needs. I bless you to be a wise life-giver, not an enabler who inappropriately meets needs that people should take care of for themselves." 

I have had to learn when it is my place to pray and encourage and when it is something that I am to do something about. I have to believe that people are capable of solving the problems in their own life with God's help. Sadly many are lazy and are looking for others to give them a free ride. They want someone else to tell them what do do when they should be seeking God for them self and taking steps of faith to change.  Change takes courage and faith. It takes making adjustments along the way. It takes trying something and failing repeatedly till you get it right. Think out side the box and give yourself permission to try, to experiment. If it does not work consider it part of the learning process and adjust and try again.

Prayer:
Lord I pray that you help us to make sure you are on our "five" list. That we would make time in our life for you. I pray that you help us to become a life giving not a life sucking person. I pray that you put in us the courage and faith to try and to be over comers as we look at the trials that we face during the course of daily life. I pray that you would surround us with life giving people who inspire and encourage us to be all that you have called us to be. That your hand would be upon us and that we would grow in wisdom, favor and stature and be a blessing in our world and bring glory to your name.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Settle down and just try.

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
The road to Georgia O'Keefe land - Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

 1 Peter 2:9-11
 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Here you are another day, in another week and I wonder do you see yourself as part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people belong to God? Are you declaring the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light?  It is sometimes a difficult transition from identifying with who we once were to who we are in Jesus. Sometimes our life is still weighed down by baggage from the past. We have allowed the past to define us as broken, as failures, sinners, un worthy, un accepted, lost causes with little or no hope of real change. We love Jesus but we trudge through our lives with heavy weights and chains about our feet. You drag through each day trying to be a better person, trying to do enough good to our weigh the sins you feel powerless to over come.
How do we get from here - to there when there is a huge canyon bigger than the Grand canyon between who we are now and who it is God calls us to become in Him.

The artist Georgia O Keeffe who was famous for painting of flowers and New Mexico has two quotes that inspire me. She said in talking of Cerro Pedernal, a mountain depicted in may of her paintings. 
“It’s my private mountain,” O’Keeffe had said. “God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.”  Her ashes were scattered on the mountain when she died.

She also said "One day seven years ago I found myself saying to myself - I can't live where I want to - I can't go where I want to go - I can't do what I want to - I can't even say what I want to... I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to. (Georgia O'Keeffe)

There are things in our life that we do have in our control even when life does not seem to be going how we might think it should. You have control of your attitude. You have control of at least some of your time. You can be depressed, bitter, angry, and filled with negativity or you can choose to turn to God in thankfulness, trust, hope and faith.  Georgia O Keeffe got a hold of something that many people miss. She made a choice to do something she loved, she decided to paint as she wanted to.  If we paint the world around us in prayer and mix it with time in his presence we become more and more like him. Our lives begin to reflect him. Perhaps it is God who is painting on the canvas of our lives and the more we center our lives in him the more our lives reflect his glory and his love even when the colors being used seem to be dark and foreboding.  He desires to be with you and walk with you even when the way before you seems dark and you feel that you have lost your way. Call to Him - he will answer.

I want to give you a practical example of how you might turn your attitude to one of thankfulness.  This Saturday my kids and I spent many hours doing long needed cleaning projects around the house. We've been busy and while we often tidy up the place we rarely get to the deeper cleaning projects.  So we cleaned the fridg, and the stove and gave the bathrooms more than the once over. We cleaned the window sills that tend to grow mold because of our nearness to a wet land.  I told them when we started that as they were cleaning they needed to remember to be thankful that they had a house to clean.  We were all tired when we finished but our cleaning time was not marred by grumpy attitudes. Nor did I have to nag at them to help. They have seen first hand the lives of many of our homeless friends and it was not difficult for them to be thankful to have a house to have to clean even if it meant giving up part of their Saturday to do the cleaning.

So today is before you. What will you make of it, how will you spend it. What little choices can you make to begin to do more of what you love to do. How can you take some little step of faith into God's greater purpose of being who He is calling you to be. Can you begin to see yourself as called, chosen, a royal holy priesthood belonging to God. Proclaiming to those still trapped in darkness how he has brought you up out of it. You may still be a work in progress, we all are. How can you by the choice and things with in your control make your world a better more positive hope filled place?

Prayer
Dear Lord, Help us each to be released from finding our identity in the past but to begin to find it in the truth of your word. Your word says we are accepted, we are chose, we are desired and wanted. Your word calls us a royal priesthood. Your word says if we will abide in you and you abide in us that we will bear much fruit. Make our live fruitful. You say that it is you who causes us to will and do your good pleasure. Make us hungry for your word and your presence. Transform us by the power of your love. Help us find those things that you have designed us to do and to be and to rejoice in knowing and loving you. Help us to identify and define our selves in the light of your word and in the glory of your smile. May we please you in this day.

I love this quote from this video of Georgia O Keeffe sharing about painting in the land she loved.
"I thought someone could tell me how to paint a landscape, but I never found that person. I had to settle down and just try." Georgia O Keeffe   Perhaps it is time to settle down and just try and to quit looking for someone else to tell you how to paint your life. Only Jesus can truly help you figure that out. (If you are reading by e-mail click the post title to go to the Mosaic Devotional site to see the video if it does not come through.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Promise of Unfading, Fruitful Lives.

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Its Saturday - I don't have to write today and I won't post this till sometime next week. I'm soaking in the beautiful music on the Healing Refuge, and reading my bible. What I was drawn to today was how as those made righteous through Jesus, we are eligible to receive the promises to the righteous. One of those promises is that of unfading life. I don't believe this to mean that the bodies of those who believe will not grow old. Even while in those aging bodies our spirits are alive and vital and fruitful. In some ways that vitality of mind and spirit also has the effect of causing the body to age in a graceful and stately or beautiful way.  I have been walking with the Lord for 30 years and at age 50 my eyes don't see quite as well as they once did. My hair is turning grey. In my work with the homeless I am confronted with people who have not spent the last 30 years of their life in the presence of the Lord. You can see the effects of pain, brokenness, their lives are weathered and beaten down. Some times they try to tell me how old they are and they think that I must be much younger than them. Only to find out when we compair ages that we are the same age or they are much younger than me. Granted lives led in service to ones addictions there is paid a heavy toll on ones physical health.   

My life is certainly that of a Polly Anna compared to most of these folks. While my life has not been totally free from the effects of sin - I have, because of my relationship with Jesus been able to not fall into many of the traps and deceptions of sin and I do see these promises of an unfading life for the righteous in effect in my own life. I truly love the courts of the Lord, his presence is my favorite place and I delight in His word. Not because I am such a great person. It is He who works in me to will and do His good pleasure (Phillipians2:13) I can truly say "but for the grace of God go I." 


Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

 If you have ever visited a nursing home - you can look around and often see the marked difference in those who know the Lord and those who do not. Those who know him, may have aged but they have a look of peace that is so contrasted in the faces of many of the others who have lived lives far from the presence of the Lord.  Their faces show the weathered lines of bitterness, anger, pain and torment. Perhaps you can chalk it up to a strong gene pool or a life of ease and say that some people just don't show their age. I'm not here to do a scientific study or to say that in turning to the Lord late in your life that the effects of an earlier life will be completely erased. He does begin a transforming work, and he does forgive you and accept you as you are. The following are some of the verses about this unfading life promise that I was looking at today. 


Psalm 1:3 (NIV1984)

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
   which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
   Whatever he does prospers. 
Benefit of this Promise: fruitful, unfading life, whatever you do prospers.
Recepant of this Promises: To those who love the Word and do not look to the wicked.
Condition of this Promise: It is for the Righteous (vs 6)

Psalm 92:12-15 (NIV1984)

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
   they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the LORD,
   they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
   they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The LORD is upright;
   he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
 
Benefit of this Promise: fruitfulness and unfading life.  
Recepant of this Promises: The righteous
Condition of this Promise:  Must be righteous (we are only righteous through Jesus)

Jeremiah 17:8 (NIV1984)

8 He will be like a tree planted by the water
   that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
   its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.” 
Benefit of this Promise: fruitfulness and unfading life even in times of drought.
Recepant of this Promises: The ones who trust in the Lord. Who put thier confidence in Him.
Condition of this Promise:  Trusting and putting your confidence in the Lord. 

Hosea 14:8 (NIV1984)

8 O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
   I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a green pine tree;
   your fruitfulness comes from me.”  
The Lord is like a green pine tree and your fruitfulness comes from him. The more we spend our lives in his presence and abide in him the more our lives will become fruitful. 

John 15

The Vine and the Branches
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.    5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


John 3:14-15 (NIV1984)

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  
15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Benefit of this Promise: eternal life. 
Recepant of this Promises: everyone who believes
Condition of this Promise: Belief in the Son of Man


There are lots of wonderful promises in the bible and most people do not even realized what is available to them. Most must be mined, through digging into our relationship with Jesus though worship, the word, and prayer. Even once a treasure is found it must be used to see its effect upon your life. My pastor shared a wonderful illustration about one of his forefathers who had the chance to buy and island in the Pacific North West for seventy five dollars, back in the day. He owned a gold mine but did not have the money to take part in that land opportunity.  He shared how even with spiritual things opportunities arise and because we have not worked the gold mine of all we have in Jesus we can lack the faith or the means to take part in that opportunity. What opportunities might you be missing now or in the future because you have not put God first and spent yourself to know and grow in him?
Prayer
Dear Lord, 
Thank you that it is in you that we are righteous. Thank you that you have begun a transforming work in the lives of those who look to you and trust you. Thank you that you renew our strength and desire for us to live fruitful lives.  I pray that you will help each of us trust you increasingly. That our lives would be marked by your presence. That your love would so saturate our lives. That you would keep us fresh and green and fruitful as these verses promise. We stand upon these promises to live fruitful and lives that are un-fading. Lives in which our hope in you lifts us up to soar on eagles wings and to run our race before you with out fainting. Lives that are ready to step through the doors of kingdom opportunity that are open to us at this time and in the future.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vindication

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Psalm 135:14
14 For the LORD will vindicate his people
   and have compassion on his servants.
Jeremiah 11
 18 Because the LORD revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying,
   “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
   let us cut him off from the land of the living,
   that his name be remembered no more.”
20 But, O LORD Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
   for to you I have committed my cause. 


 I sat here this morning trying to figure out what to write. I sat here and was completely inspiration-less - I had a few ideas but nothing was really grabbing me.   It was suggested that I write about dealing with men and how duct tape is a powerful tool. (I am the only woman in a household of men and boys.) I suspect I probably do have a bit of insight in that department.  There was however a conversation with my husband regarding a situation he was dealing with at work. He felt the other party needed to apologize. It made me think about how is a believer we are to respond when others accuse us of something they did not say or do. I guess I have pretty strong opinions on this subject. I think Jesus should be our example.  It is perhaps a good topic to look at as we move closer to Easter and remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Are there things that he did that we might learn from and apply to our own lives.

Luke 238 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

Jesus was silent. He did not try to explain or vindicate himself while the chief priests and teachers of the law were vehemently accusing him. 
 
 Acts 8:32 b “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

There have been a couple of times that I can remember when I have been publicly accused, it was very painful to feel so completely miss understood. To think that someone would publicly try to shame or correct me. In those instances I looked to Jesus to be my example. Rather than running around trying to explain myself or sending out e-mails to set the record strait. I talked it over with my pastor at the time and his advise was to be silent and allow Jesus to vindicate me, which was the same conclusion I had come to on my own. So in both of those cases I followed the example of Jesus and was silent. I spent my time praying and working through forgiving those who had wronged me. Where I was guilty of some points I repented. What God did was pretty amazing. The people in one case who had received the slanderous e-mails, knew me and my character they rose up and vindicated me. They spoke up on my behalf and went about setting the person strait. While that experience was extremely painful it was also a great blessing because we often do not realize the effect our lives and influence has had on other people. It was amazing to me because it was not just a couple of people but many who were moved enough to speak up on my behalf. Others were silent but I know they prayed. In the other incident I really had made a poor decision but even in that people stood up for me and stood by me. I think it is because I have sown seeds of standing by others and accepting and loving them in their brokenness and through the consequences that I was shown great amounts of grace. I am always reminded that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. God in that case did help me to see what I had justified in my mind and to realize I had handled that situation in a way that was less than his standard of how I as a mature believer should have behaved.  


I have learned to be open an honest before the Lord in what I have tried to do right and in the places where I know I have made poor choices. He has been very gracious and patient to help me work through those areas of weakness in my own life. We all have things that push old buttons and cause us to try and fill a need in our life in a way that is not the Lords best. We have all been guilty of taking matters into our own hands when we should have given the situation to the Lord and allowed him to work on our behalf.  I have learned to be silent when accused and to allow the Lord to vindicate me. So my challenge to you is to take your case to the Lord - don't try to champion your own defense before those who accuse you or those who have heard the accusations against you. Take it to Jesus.


I think in those cases there is also an opportunity to identify and better understand how Jesus must have felt to have the very people he had come to help vehemently accusing him. Though those times I gained a greater understanding of the sufferings of Jesus.

Prayer
Dear Jesus,
In every situation there are things that we could have do or have done better. Help us to see where we have fallen short and to repent and to do what we can to make things right. Help us also to forgive. You have forgiven us of so much and as your followers we should become quick to forgive and to extend grace to others. Lord for those who need to be vindicated, I pray you will help them to trust you and to be silent and allow you to be their shield and their defender.  You are able to manage even the darkest most painful situations if we will turn to you.
 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weeds or Wheat?

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Click this link to see this card and others by Margot
The Parable of the Weeds
Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
 
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
The Parable of the Weeds Explained
 36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
   40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.


In the church now and through out history there have been those who claim to be Christian and those who truly believe and follow Christ.  Which is why it is important that true believes know what the Bible actually says.  There are those who take the word and twist it to their own advantage and power.  The verses above state that an enemy sowed weeds into the field of the world. The good seed are those who truly believe and follow Jesus and the bad have some other agenda. It is at times hard to tell the real from the pretenders.  

Even in Pauls day there were those who wanted to add to what it meant to be a believer in Christ. They at that time wanted to impose the Jewish practice of circumcision.  

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

It is true that there are those who can quote scripture and some who take it out of context and promote a gospel of hatred in the name of Love. The crusades are certainly a stain on church history. 


Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

 Jesus himself says he did not come to condem the world. It is already in the process of dying. He came to offer the way to be reconciled to God.  Just prior to going to the cross. He gathers his followers to pray. He cries out to God in Matthew 26:39  "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

There was not another way to reconcile the dying world to God except that sinless Jesus go to the cross and take the punishment that we deserved.  Our access to that pardon is only through accepting that Jesus is God and that he has paid the price to redeem us.  The thief on the cross next to Jesus did absolutely nothing except to recognize who Jesus was and believe in him. Jesus himself tells him today you will be with me in Paradice.  He was not baptized, he had done nothing to atone for the sins of his life, he had done no good deeds to tip the scales of justice in his favor. He did not walk forward in a church service. He did not pray the sinners prayer. He did not get filled with the Holy Spirit. He did not live a holy or righteous life. He was a sinful man who recognized Jesus as God and accepted and believed in Him.

How do you know who the true believers are?
It is not how much of the bible you can spout but do you know Jesus, are you spending time with Him in His word and in prayer. Spending time not out of religious duty but out of love. When we are in love we just can't get enough of that person. The more time you spend with someone the more you become like them. Our lives as believers should be modeled after the one we believe in and follow.

Jesus did not come seeking power. He held no religious office. He spent time setting people free from sin and sickness. He spent his time modeling the values of the Kingdom.  He modeled humility and service, he modeled prayer, and obedience to God. He had compassion on the poor and the oppressed.
He came to reconcile a dying people to a just and holy God who loves them.

He publicly reads Isaiah 61 in Luke 4
   18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

He says to His followers at the last supper in John 13  33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

How has Jesus loved us? He accepts us where we are. Just like he accepted the thief on the cross. He begins a transforming work in our lives in which we become more and more like Him. He sends us the Holy Spirit to lead us in to all truth. He helps us to overcome sin in our lives and to become free of the chains that have held us captive to the power of death.  Our lives should be marked by His love, we should like him care for the poor and the oppressed. We should like Jesus be humble and serve others. Not grasp for power, fame and prominence.  He forces no one to follow him. He never gave anyone a convert or die message. The truth is we are dying already he came to give us the way to be reconciled to God and to have a new life in Him. 

There are plenty of other verses that could be covered. No matter where you are at in your journey to know and follow Jesus, realize that he is not waiting for you to clean yourself up. He waits only for you to accept him as God and to believe that he has the provided the way that justice is fulfilled in that he took upon himself the punishment that you deserved. 

This should produce thankfulness in your life not religion. 

Some of the things that should be growing in your life according to Galatians 5
 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Even as believers we often fall very short and thankfully there is grace .
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 
 
I am reminded that Jesus is love. It is the love of God that sent the son into the world. It is the love of Jesus that sends us the Holy Spirit.  Our lives should be marked by love. Love of God, love of others.

1 Corinthians 13 1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails.
 
Prayer: 
Lord search our heart, open our eyes to see the things in our lives that need to be transformed more into your likeness. Help us to know you more. Help us to be living Bibles - often the only ones many will read. How do our lives reflect your likeness. Help us to repent and help us to forgive help us to do your will.

 
 




 
 

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pressing On to Gain the Prize

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Philippians 2:12
[ Pressing on Toward the Goal ] Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Its been about 4 years ago that I was at a big Christian women's conference. I was new to the area and didn't know many people. I was kind of fearful about having to drive in the city to get there. Some one at my church had given me the tickets that were certainly more than I could have afforded at the time. I remember sitting alone among a sea of people and feeling out of place.  I did my best to listen and I was trying to hear what God was saying in and through the experience.  There was one point that I know I heard God clearly speak to me that I needed to take piano lessons from a particular woman at church. That was the main message that I took home from that event. I followed through and started taking piano lessons. I never imagined it would be so difficult an instrument to master. I guess I kind of hoped that God would zap me with some special giftedness and before I knew it I would be playing inspiring music.

Piano has been good for me on a number of levels. I tend to be very scattered and overly creative. Piano requires a much more linear thought process. It requires tremendous focus which is another area that I struggle. It has kept me connected to a wonderful friend and prayer warrior.  It has spilled from me to my kids who now take lessons as well. We all struggle through trying to be faithful to practice, and the nerves of playing for recital. Its been an amazing addition to my life.

Often the things that God calls us to do take way longer to accomplish that we ever imagined starting out. My goal on piano is to be able to write, arrange and play the music I hear in my head.
I am beginning to be able to do that but is still very difficult and takes lots of work.  I was pretty excited that I have been able to take the song I wrote recently called  Wash Over Me  - which is posted in the "My Music Room" page if you missed that post. I was able to arrange a version of it for piano. I made a video to send to my first piano teacher and dear friend from about 30 years ago. It took me at least 13 tries to get the video I did send. It still has mistakes and I still can't sing and play it at the same time.  It is at best a work in progress - like our verse today say - I keep pressing towards the goal.

I don't know why exactly God spoke so clearly to me about taking piano lessons. I do see some of the fruit that it has produced in my life and I am thankful that I have undertaken this journey. I do hope to at some point be able to post things that I have written or arranged for piano and be able to play them with out it being such a struggle. I still have a way to go but I wanted to share my feeble piano attempts with you - mostly to encourage you to keep at the difficult thing that God has called you to accomplish.

Well it is music lesson day and I am off and running. 




Prayer
Dear Lord, There are some thing that you have called or inspired us to do that have turned out to be harder and to take much longer than we ever thought.  Thank you for the character you are building through those things. Help us to grown in obedience, faithfulness and stick to it ness.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

See, I'm doing a new thing

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Isaiah 43:16-21

This is what God says,
   the God who builds a road 
right through the ocean,
   who carves a path 
through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses 
and chariots and armies—
   they lie down 
and then can't get up;
   they're snuffed out 
like so many candles:
"Forget about what's happened;
   don't keep going over 
old history.
Be alert, be present. 
I'm about to do something brand-new.
   It's bursting out! 
Don't you see it?
There it is! 
I'm making a road 
through the desert,
   rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say 
'Thank you!'
   —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided 
water in the desert,
   rivers through 
the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water 
for the people I chose,
   the people I made 
especially for myself,
   a people custom-made 
to praise me. 


Isaiah is speaking to the captive in Babylon. He is reminding them how God took them through the impossible in the past. He reminds them of how God brought them up out of the captivity of Egypt. It is good to look back at what God has done. To remind yourself of his faithfulness, particularly when you find yourself in a place of captivity. In your case you my not be held captive by a foreign nation but there may be addiction, or brokenness, demonic bondage, sickness, depression, guilt, shame. It may look as if things will never change, your situation is hopeless and seemingly impossible.
Our passage today is speaking to a group of people who from every angle were in a impossible bondage with no hope of release. They needed a redeemer. A redeemer according to Wikipedia "The English word redemption means 'repurchase' or 'buy back', and in the Old Testament referred to the ransom of slaves (Exodus 21:8). In the New Testament the redemption word group is used to refer both to deliverance from sin and freedom from captivity."

You may find yourself in a place where you need Jesus to repurchase or buy back or to deliver you from sin and grant you freedom from captivity.  Start by remembering what God has done for you before. If you don't really have a before with God to look back upon then you can look at stories of deliverance in the Bible. It is full of stories of people facing impossible odds but that God stepped in and changed how the story ended.  Your story is not over yet. I talked to a friend who had been estranged from her daughter for a very long time. Nothing she could say or do would change things, so she has prayed and cried out to the Lord. Yesterday she received a call from her daughter and they had a wonderful conversation. God's "suddenly's" dont' usually come suddenly the instant we want them to come but most often after a long time of waiting, trusting, hoping, believing, suddenly things change and what was impossible yesterday is possible today.

I need to keep this one short today so if you take one thing away from this post - don't give up. Remember what God has done to redeem and deliver you from other situations, remember the stories from the bible of others who he delivered. Remember but don't dwell in the past, thinking oh those were the good o'l days when God was with us.  The verse goes on to say. "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I a making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." When God redeems you from something - your new life will not look just like your old life. He is doing a new thing - its time to embrace the changes and to take those steps of faith to move along the path to freedom that God is cutting through the barren desert of the impossible. Look to Him he will lead you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, Help us set aside the comfort of familiarity and the predictable. Help us to look to you to know a way through to freedom from the things that have held us in captivity and in bondage.  Help us to take those steps of faith to begin to make the changes you have already told us we need to make. Help us do more then just give you lip service but help us to begin to take action. Help us to see the new thing you are doing and to trust you to lead us along un familiar and un predictable paths as we find our security in you and not in our circumstances. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dreams That Test and Try You

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Genesis 42:8-9
8 Although Joseph 
recognized his brothers, 
they did not recognize him.  
9Then he remembered his dreams 
about them and said to them, 
“You are spies! 
You have come to see 
where our land is unprotected.” 






I found a little treasure I had not noticed before while reading Genesis 42 this morning. In verse 9 it says Then he remembered his dreams about them...  You may not be familiar with this story it start in Genesis 37. Joseph is the 11th son of Jacob. He is the favored son born late in life to his father. His father had four wives. Rachel was his true love. He is tricked as a young man into marring her older sister.  So he ends up with 2 wives when they are unable to have children they each have him marry their maid servants.
That is another story.  In this story today Joseph is the favored son. He is a young man and is favored above all the other brothers which as you can imagine causes some bitter and jealous feelings among his siblings. He has two dreams as a young man and shares them with the family in the first the brothers are bowing down to him. In the second the whole family is bowing down to him. I have to question his wisdom in sharing those dreams with everyone. His father does not help things by giving Joseph a very ostentatious coat. He is sending a pretty clear signal to the other brothers that this 11th son is the one who will next lead the family.  How do you determine who is the first born in a family of four wives. Is it the first born or the first born of the frist wife, or the first born of the favored wife. You can see how this could be a point of contention in this family. I've written about Joseph and his story in other posts so I will leave you to read it on your own. What I want to look at today is that he did not forget his dreams.

Most dreams fade quickly upon waking. I know most of mine quickly become muddled and fade away. There are some that are very clear and generally contain something for me to puzzel and ponder what God is saying to me. Some I carry for what seems a very long time. In the case of Joseph, I think his dreams tried and tested him all those long years about 17 while he is taken as a slave on the journey to Egypt, sold to Potiphar, then wrongly imprisoned. It is another couple years before he is remembered after interpreting the dreams of the cup barrer and the baker.

There are things that God speaks to us about our calling and destiny. Sometimes they are clues in dreams or visions, or things spoken prophetically over us. Most often those things are tested and circumstances seem to challenge them at every turn. Was God really speaking that to you or was it just your own imaginations. I am sure for years Joseph was tested and tried by his dreams. Would he just cast them off as impossible, crazy, hopeless or would he ponder them in his heart.

So here he is in this verse on the other side of things. He is at the point of the fulfillment of his dreams. Here his brothers are in Egypt. They don't recognize him but he recognizes them. He understands every word they are saying to each other. I am sure he must wonder if they have changed. Were they still the jerks who sold him into bondage. What had the years worked on them?  

Maybe you have carried a dream or a vision and continue to hope towards its fulfillment. I guess today I want to speak hope and faith to you. Your dream may still seem crazy and impossible.  Joseph carried his dreams through years of hardship. He is one of the characters in the bible that I most admire. He took a bad situation and from it gained wisdom, knowledge and skill. He did not just sit and have a pity party at his misfortune. In it he continually was becoming a better person. It says repeated times and the Lord was with him or the Lord's hand was upon him. He did not leave God back in the days of his youth he carried the Lord with him through the years of hardship and into the years of leadership and prominence.

He did not forget his dreams. The day before his brothers showed up was a day like any other. Suddenly after years of waiting his dream becomes fulfilled.  You don't know when a turning point will come. When suddenly the thing that God has shown or spoken to you, that you have carried in faith will come into being.

For me to see this verse about Joseph remembering his dreams is a confirmation to me. He did not cast them aside. He knew all along even in the impossibility of his dismal circumstances that God was able.
What must it have been like for him in that moment to know that indeed he was not just a crazy dreamer. God had spoken, and in His time he had brought the thing to pass.

I love what he says to his brothers when he finally reveals who he is to them in chapter 45:
 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt

Oh for a Joseph perspective to see that it is not the fault of those who have betrayed or harmed us but it was God who had used those circumstances to prepare Joseph to save many lives. 


Prayer:

Dear Lord, I pray that faith and trust would rise up in those who are carrying dreams, visions or words that seem impossible in light of present circumstances. I pray they would allow those things to drive them into your presence. I pray that like Joseph they would make the best of their difficult situations and allow them to prepare them for your greater plans and purposes in their life. I pray when they find themselves on the other side of a long awaited moment, that like Joseph they would not feel a need to get back at those who betrayed or harmed them but they would be able to have a Joseph perspective and see how through it all you brought your plans and purposes to pass and used it in a willing and faithful heart as a preparation for greater service.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Creating Kingdom Culture

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 NIV1984
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed 
to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Definition of AMBASSADOR from Mirriam Webster's on line dictionary.

1
: an official envoy; especially : a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment
2
a : an authorized representative or messenger b : an unofficial representative ambassadors of goodwill

Culture: As defined by Wikapedia:
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group
  
Culture is:  the system of beliefs, disciplines, practices, and how we agree to live together in relationship with one another that characterizes a particular group of people. You can look back in history and see that there were qualities that defined Greek Culture, Roman Culture, Jewish Culture or even our American Culture. The culture that I want to adress today is the culture of the Kingdom of God.  Messiah had long been prophesied and expected to come by the people of Israel. However it is foreign scholars who see the star and know the meaning of it and come from afar to worship the new born king. His birth is attended by shepherds, the rough low life of that time. He is welcomed not even into a inn but is born into a smelly cave barn.  Jesus seems to be a surprise to the very people who he is sent to come to. He finds more faith in a Roman centurion in Luke 7:1-9 than he has found in all of Irsael. He found great faith in a Greek woman from Syrian Phoenicia. He finds faith and belief in the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-26 and in lepers, tax collectors, and out casts. He does not find it in the religious leaders and people of the day. The people who should have known and should have been ready for him to come are against him. At some point he shifts how he is doing things and rather than ushering in his kingdom to a waiting people. He changes and begins to speak in parables. In Matthew 21:43 he says “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

 In Matthew 16 we get to see who it will be given to.
Peter’s Confession of Christ
 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ,  the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,  and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. 

Simon Peter gets it - He understands that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. Because he understands Jesus goes on to say that He is going to build his church upon those who possess this understanding. The keys to the kingdom are passed on from those who should have received Jesus to those who would produce fruit. 


You and I as believers have the task of being kingdom ambassadors according to our verse today. We are tasked with bringing message of reconciliation to people who are still held captive to the kingdom of this fallen world. Matthew 5 Jesus tells us we are to be salt and light.
Salt and Light
    13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.    14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We are to be His light in the darkness of this world helping people see there is a better way. We are to be a preserving agent, we bring flavor, we are to make people thirsty. We should be modeling Kingdom culture in every aspect of our daily lives. Jesus is not supposed to be a Sunday duty, kept in a box. His life, nature and principles should over flow in to every part of our life. We cannot effectively model or be an ambassador for his kingdom if we don't take the time to know Him and endeavor to become more and more like him. 

He wants to set you free from the stuff that continues to hold you captive. He wants you to spend time to know him, to become like him. The he sends you out just like he did his disciples giving them authority to set people free. 1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.  Before you go thinking those guys were some how special and that this does not apply to you I want to remind you of John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  We need to quit being spiritual couch potatoes who sit in church each week soaking up the truths of God having our little worship parties and then doing little or nothing with them outside the four walls of our church. It is time to grow up and get out of spiritual diapers. It is time to become doers of the word not just hearers. It is time to take a good look at the things Jesus was spending his time doing and for the light bulb to go on to the realization that we should be doing what he was doing. Duhhhh he was setting people free, he was reconciling them to the Father, he was modeling kingdom culture. He was training, discipling and equipping them to to go out and do what he was doing. He is calling you and I to more than a life of being entertained by a big flashy show on Sunday and ministering to fat sheep. He is calling us to make a difference in the world that we live in. Start in your home. How can you help your own family to be free and reconciled to God? How can you model kindgom principles in your work place or school?  How can you move from being entertained each Sunday to actually doing something to make a difference.

WAKE UP!!!!! You've been lulled to sleep by the distractions of this fallen world. The enemy has no problem with people who give their lives to Jesus and then do nothing with them. He is quite happy to let you sleep.  Romans 13:12 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

I leave you with Ephesians 5 to ponder.
 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
   “Wake up, O sleeper,
   rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 1920 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 


Prayer
Dear Lord,
I pray that your church would wake up. That we would be about the things that you were doing. Help us to be aware of the multitudes of people in the valley of decision. Help us to get an attitude of leaving no one behind. Help us see the lost, the broken, those held captive and to rise up with faith in you to bring them out of darkness and into your glorious light. Help us each in our own way to take a step of faith today to make a difference. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In The Wake of Destruction

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Joel 2:12-14
“Even now,” declares the LORD,
   “return to me with all your heart,
   with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 
 Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
   for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
   and he relents from sending calamity.
 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
   and leave behind a blessing—



Today I have been reading the book of Joel. In that book the writer describes an invasion of locust on the agricultural community of his day. He say that nothing has ever happened like this before in his life or in the memory of his forefathers.  In one resource that I was reading this morning as I thought about these passages it described it not as a one time event but a cycle over a year or more in length. The locust came in waves they would lay eggs and before long another wave would come. One after another the harvests would ripen and be destroyed. In one passage he speaks to the drunkards and drinkers of wine and tells them to wail because the new wine has been snatched from your lips. In another passage that seems poignant it says "The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods."   In another "How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture, even the flocks of sheep are suffering.  It paints some vivid pictures and brings to mind for me in our times tusnami, hurricanes and earthquakes and the devastation left in their wake. We witness through the window of our tv's the end of life as they knew it for other people. If they survive their life will never be the same as it was. Yes the survivors will pick up the pieces. You hear stories of people who have endured flood or fire and how in the light of those losses they realize the value of the people they love. Those who's loved ones are not lost, rejoice and re-examine their priorities. Home becomes not a place to hang your hat but the people who are dearest to you.

Joel who says of what he writes: "The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel". This is not just some historic account but in and through it God is speaking. In more than one place in the bible locusts are seen as the judgement of God. Ex 10:12; Joel 1:4; Rev 9:3. What do we do with the judgement of God in our 'Jesus is my buddy and pal' kind of mentality of the church of our day. While that familiarity is wonderful and I encourage people to a personal relationship with Jesus. I wonder that we sometimes loose sight of his awesome might and power. My point is that sometimes in that familiarity we forget the wonder and power the holiness of God. Do you tremble in His presence?
Jeremiah 5:12 Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD. "Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.

Who do we blame for devastation?  Is it the judgement of God upon people who's hearts were hard. Is it just the natural effects of how we have cared for the planet that we live or simply part of a natural cycle of earth changes.  We want to draw black and white conclusion and often the lines are fuzzy.
We want to know where was God when this bad thing happened? Who is to blame for this we demand. As if knowing will some how justify or bring back that which was lost.

In this book this devastation is said to be from the Lord upon a people who have repeatedly turned from him. Joel cries out them to not just follow the convention of grieving of that day to rip their garments and go about in rags. He tells them rend your hearts. Does your heart break over the things that breaks the heart of God?  God is not looking for ritualistic outward change from us. He wants our hearts to change. I am convinced that our hearts do not change with out being found in his presence regularly. I don't understand the actions and motivations of a stranger. How can I understand God if I do not spend time with him in the pages of his Word or time with him in Worship or in Prayer.

Some of you are facing devastation of life as you know it. Perhaps its the loss of a loved one, a divorce, mental illness, financial ruin, personal illness, perhaps a fire, or a car wreck or any number of things. In this moment you know that your life as you have known it has changed. 

I do know that we serve a God who is just. He does not just turn his head and ignore sin and its effects. He can't simply excuse some and punish others - to do so would negate justice. Justice must be served and we all have sinned and fallen short of his glory.  It is not only that 'Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so'. He does, in that love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Jesus leaves heaven and comes to earth and takes the place in the judgement that we each deserve. He makes a way that we might return to a right relationship with God. It is through his sacrifice. He forces it on no one, we are at liberty to choose to accept what he has provided or not. It is not that he comes to condem us, we stand condemned already. (John 3:18).  The poison of sin in our lives is working and it is only a matter of time before it finally leads to death. A loving God sends us an antidote. We have to decide if we will use it or not.

I am not here to say if the things you are facing are necessarily Gods judgement. They may simply be the out come of your choices and decisions or the decisions of others. We live in a fallen world and we feel the effects of sin upon it. What you are facing may be a demonic attack. I can't draw that line in the sand for you. I can encourage you to turn to God - hear what He would say to you.  Most often change is brought about in a violent sort of way. In a sense we come to the end of our self sufficiency, when everything we know to do has come up empty - we turn to God in our desperation.
 We have in that moment the opportunity to go down in dispare and accept the verdict or the diagnosis or we can turn to God and receive his instruction.  I have over many years watched how people respond to destruction. They will allow it to propel them further in God as they overcome,  or they will shake their fist and blame God for their troubles and be consumed by them.

How about you will you identify with the verdict before you, that you are done for, your life is over, and hopeless beyond repair? Or will you reach out to God who loves you and who is bigger than all your problems. Will you come to that place of realizing your desperate need for Him in every part of our life. Yes he could perhaps have kept the bad things from happening in the first place but over and over I see him receive glory in taking what is devastated and bringing restoration. It is often a long journey as we learn to see our selves through his eyes and in the light of his purposes.
What does God say about you? What is his verdit? Who's report will you believe?
We can't always say why things happen but we can choose how we will respond.

Today what ever you are facing big or small turn to God and allow him to come in and give you His direction. 

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
You know the circumstances and the things readers are facing today. Life can at times becomes overwhelming and out of control. There are those moments in life when we realize that everything we knew or thought we knew has changed. There is no going back and the choice before us is to go down in defeat or to turn to you in the midst of the crisis. Help us Lord to not just tear our garments in some religious display of piety or false humility but to truly turn to you and accept you as our Lord and Savior who loves us. Help us to realize that if we allow you, you will come in to the middle of what ever we are facing and show us your plan, your purpose and your direction. We invite you Lord to come in to our life and its circumstances. Help us to see where we need to change. Help us to walk out those changes, decision by decision, one step at time. Help us to become not to identify with what we are in this moment but to begin to see all that you would have us to become.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Fork in The Road

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the LORD says: 
“Stand at the crossroads and look; 
ask for the ancient paths, 
ask where the good way is, 
and walk in it, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’






Yesterday opportunity came knocking. I had just accepted a volunteer position at my church and was in the organizational meeting when I received a call from my regular job. It seems they have doubled in business and are needing to restructure. They wanted to offer me a full time supervisors position with a bit of pay raise. I would still do much of the same work that I have been doing but I would become the direct supervisor to a group of people. At that time I said that the job would not work for me with out continuing to be flexible. So my boss had to go back to his meeting with my need for flexibility in my daily schedule. I had to go back to my organizational meeting. It seemed like a no brainer - take the job. I have suddenly come to a fork in the road where a decision to go one directior or another must be made. My spirit was not at peace - thinking about that prospect made me sad not no excited. It is important to listen to your heart - this prospect was troubling my heart beyond the ordinary anxiety one feels about a looming change.  I try to be aware of and sort out what is lack of faith kind of fear vrs. what is a red flag or a check in the spirit this is not for you kind of thing.
I make decisions based upon where the peace of God is found. So I look ahead at the crossroads to try and see which one is the way Jesus would have me go. When I am wearing a decision I will try and look at where I am able to find Gods peace. That does not mean a decision does not require faith and courage.  The other thing I look at is how does this new thing fit into the vision and direction of my life as I understand it.  I am thankful that I have wonderful people around me that will pray with me and help and support me as I encounter big life changing decisions like the one I was presented yesterday.

Later in the day I called back and said I am interested but still have some concerns - the main one being the flexibility. So at that time I got a better idea of the structure they would need for me to have the job. I would need to be able to have six hours of available time between the hours of 7 and 3 my time because they are located in central time and those are the main hours. So I left it with let me go back and look at my schedule and see if I can re-organize it to work in those parameters. So I looked at the things I am doing during that block of time each day. I thought about how I would feel having to give up most of the things that were important to me to do a job that I am good at but don't particularly love doing.  I talked though the things I was struggling with and allowed some of the trusted people in my life to be my sounding boards. Sometimes it is easier to hear yourself as you bounce ideas off of other trusted people.  My pastor at one point said "Margot lets stop and pray and you listen to what Jesus is saying about this." So we prayed and the words in my head was that this would be a straitjacket.  You need to know in turning this position down that my present job will go to the person that they do hire to do the job.  So here is where courage and faith must step in - I have maybe 30 -90 days to replace that income with something else.  While that is kind of scary particularly when seemingly behind door #1 taking the job, lies security and money.  The question for me becomes can I trust God to put together a package that works for me along with the things he has already called and given me to do. The door #1 choice would mean stopping or severely limiting my ability to do those things.  Will I give up walking by faith and having the ability and time to do the things I believe God has called me to do in order to have security and a steady pay check. For me the answer is no.

Some things that have weighed in my decision were that I have been praying for less of this job not more. I have believed that at some point I would step out of it into doing more ministry, coaching, teaching, art. In all those things I have been working to be bringing in a more steady income. At this point to replace the income from my job I need to add each week 10 hours of coaching, music or art students to replace 20 hours of my present job. The prospect of doing that energizes me and excites me. Yes it is a challenge but I believe that God is able to help me find those people for whom my particular skill set will be of value.

Anyway I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to work through these changes.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
I know my readers have their own life decisions to make. I pray that my sharing today will help and encourage them to trust you more in their own choices and decisions. I thank you for the wise and life giving people in my life and I pray that you would raise up wise and life giving people around those reading.