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Monday, March 1, 2021

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.” Jonah 2:9-10 (ESV)

Every now and then, my iPhone apps start glitching. This is a clear sign that my phone needs an upgrade. Only after I upgrade my phone, things start working correctly. Most of the time, my upgrades happen at midnight, when I am in deep sleep. I think the engineers chose midnight because most people are not using their phones at the time. Everything stands still and the deep work can take place. 

Jonah needed an upgrade because of disobedience. If you have been following our 40-day journey, you remember that on day 9, we read Psalm 50.

God has kept that Psalm in my mind and heart so I began to dig deep. I learned that Jonah, in the belly of the big fish, prays to the Lord. He uses his own words at first. Then, he uses the words of the psalmist in chapter 50 and he prays: “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” 

Then, and only then, the Lord spoke to the fish who immediately vomited Jonah in dry land. 

God can’t use folk who are disobedient. He can’t use folk who are complainers. His word is clear in Psalm 50: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High.” 

Jonah was a prophet. What God says, prophets do. We, as servants of God, have the same mission. What He says in His Word, we must do. Jonah decided to disobey. There are consequences to that choice. The sea and the sailors felt the consequences to the point they threw Jonah into the sea. There was calm for them but Jonah’s journey continued. 

The psalmist advises us: 

and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Calling Jonah did. God answered Jonah. God is faithful to His word and saved Jonah. The salvation was not for Jonah's comfort. It was to glorify God and for the benefit of 120,000 souls and their animals. 

The same principle applies to us today. We need an upgrade. God can only do His work if we obey Him. 

This no-complaint challenge is a call to obedience. It is a declaration that we are not our own. We were bought with a price. As children of God, we are called to be thankful. 

We can’t conjure up true thanksgiving unless the Lord changes our heart. He wants the content of our heart to be fully His. It was easy for Jonah to hide his disobedience to those sailors. It is easy for you and I to hide the bitterness and unforgiveness we carry. Until the Lord calls you out for who you really are: His beloved daughter in need of His intervention. 

Here’s the good news: a big fish is not going to swallow you. But God can put you in a container until you cry out to Him for help. He will keep you there until you give Him what He requires: complete obedience to the word He has spoken to you already. 

You have one choice today: obey your God.

Prayer: I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. Forgive me for my sin of (tell God what that is). I repent and I am in your capable hands so You can change me. With the voice of thanksgiving, I will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Comparison

Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2


Distance running has taught me a lot about endurance. You have to show up for the training. You need to follow a training plan. When you do both things, you develop the endurance you need to run 42 kilometers or 26.2 miles.


The best runners work on their mindset. A negative mindset can stop a runner from giving its maximum performance. Comparison is something that hinders a runner from running their best race. Every time I compared myself to someone else, I was unable to run well. 


I personally believe that there is a connection between comparison and complaints. Comparison is a weight that easily ensnares us. When we compare our lifestyle, personalities, spouses, kids’ accomplishments or whatever we choose, we always lose. Comparison leads us to look negatively at the blessings God gave us. 


Before you compare yourself, think about this:


“Success is not what you have done compared to what others have done. Success is what you have done compared to what you were supposed to do.” Tony Evans 


So ask yourself: what was I supposed to do? Here is another question: what did God graciously place in my hands? How can I not only be a good steward but improve these blessings He has given me? 


Your mindset will shift from being trapped in comparison to being set up for true success. 


Today I want to encourage you to embrace the race that is set before you without comparing yourself to others. Jesus is the only perfection you need to focus on, everything else is pure illusion.


Let us all run our race together looking to Jesus. Let’s show up for the training. This means today, you will present yourself to Coach Jesus. Let’s follow His training plan found in the Bible. 

There's joy set before us. It's difficult to see it if comparison is restraining your vision and complaints are filling your lips. 


Action Points:

• Ask yourself: what's the point of comparing myself with ________________? Has it brought me more condemnation than joy?

• Look to Jesus. Can you feel the peace, grace and love He has to offer?

• Think about how much better life is without Comparison. Make a point to live that way today.


Prayer: Jesus, today I ask forgiveness for comparing myself to others. Forgive me of the envy and complaint it produces. Free to run this race of life looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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The end of the day

Saturday, February 27, 2021

 “The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart. Obey me, and I, your God, will show my power to save.” Psalm 50:23 (CEV)


I don’t know what it is about the end of the day. My guards are down. I’m tired. I just complain about whatever is in my heart. My husband, who is a Godly man, encourages me to be thankful. He says God wants to change me and I need to accept God’s ways. I go to sleep and I start over the next morning. 


I grabbed a cup of coffee and opened one of my old Bibles. I felt like God was speaking directly to me. He said: 


“I am God Most High! The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful and to keep your word. Pray to me in time of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me. The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart. Obey me, and I, your God, will show my power to save.” Psalm 50:14, 15, 23 (CEV)


I was in awe. God saw the content of my heart. He was not pleased. God also knew that I was offering the wrong sacrifice to Him. In my mind, spending a day not complaining was good enough. He knew that my heart was filled with bitterness.


He said, “The only sacrifice I want is for you to be thankful and to keep your word.” 


My word a couple of months ago was that I would fast on Wednesdays from sun up to sundown. The first Wednesday went well. The following Wednesday, I ended the fast earlier because I “needed energy.” 


Liar. I told God I would do something and then modified the plan. God said, “keep your word.” So I repented. The following Wednesday, with God’s help, I kept my word. 


During these 40 days, as I read the Bible and pray, God has been very clear about what He expects from me. He wants obedience. He wants me to be thankful. Not verbally but from the depths of my heart. 


If I make a promise, God wants me to keep it. How much more clear does He have to be than this: “The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart. Obey me....”


I want to have a thankful heart. I can’t have one if the only thing I focus on is my behavior. My behavior dictates that I do not complain for 40 days. There’s nothing wrong with that unless my heart is full of unrepented sin.


Friend, God is not interested in your behavior. He is interested in your heart. I want you to think about the content of your heart. Is there sin still residing there? Do you have bitterness hanging out and causing you to feel yucky? Do you hold anger back (no matter how tamed) when you think about complaining? God can fix all of that. How so?


Repent. Go to God with a humble attitude and admit you can’t change on your own. Submit to His word. The answers are all there. Listen to God’s voice. He might require you to go on a fast. He might require you to apologize to someone. Listen to His voice. Obey. Don’t be discouraged about what it takes to walk in obedience. Just do it. 


The end of my days is changing. I’m still tired but that old bitterness is gone, thanks to God’s mercy and forgiveness. 


This 40-day journey hasn’t been pretty. It has required brokenness and humility. I realize that this is the way of holiness. We submit our will to God so His will can be lived out in and through us. 


Prayer: Lord, I admit I haven’t been thankful from my heart. Forgive me, I pray. I want to hear your voice. What do you require of me so I can truly change? I commit to obey you, no matter what you require. Your ways are better than mine. You are good and you want good for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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A simple question

Friday, February 26, 2021

First outing as a mom of 3 in 2012

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 

Exodus 34:5-7 (ESV)


Motherhood taught me many lessons. The main lesson I learned in 2012 was the power of simple questions. I had a newborn, a 1-year-old and a 3-year old. If you don’t know what that means, let me put it like this: I was changing three diapers.

I was also faced with the same challenges I had before. C-section recovery, nursing issues and how to deal with difficult people in my life.

 

In the midst of my reality, I was encouraged to answer a simple question.  What is the Character of God concerning my current situation? 

 

I had to take time to think about the answer. Questions are doorways to solutions. They require time from us. The time we invest in God’s presence, will guarantee a change of perspective. 

 

Moses was facing a big problem when he went up Mount Sinai a second time to meet with God. The people made a golden calf claiming that the idol brought them out of Egypt. Moses gets mad. God gets furious at the people. 

When Moses makes intercession for the people of Israel, something amazing happens. God reveals His Character to Moses. He reveals Himself as the LORD, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is a God who forgives sin and iniquity but by no means He ignores sin.  That’s His Character. 

When humans face problems, they just want them fixed. We treat God the same way. What the simple question I am suggesting does is offer a different way to connect with a good God who wants to reveal Himself to us. 

 

What is the Character of God concerning your current situation? I gained a new perspective and renewed trust when I pushed myself to answer this simple question. I found God to be gentle in leading me as a mother of young children (Is. 40:11). I found God to be a healer. When it came with my problems with dealing with difficult people, I learned that God loves them too. He doesn’t avoid them. 

I found myself repenting. I learned I needed to be more loving and longsuffering as God’s character is so beautifully displayed in the Bible. 

 

Dear friend, have you ever thought about the character of God in your current situation?


I am certain that the challenges that you face are meant to make you grow and mature. True maturity is attached to learning who God is. 


I encourage you to ask: What is the Character of God concerning my current situation? Open your Bible and see what God says about Himself.


Prayer: God, in every season, you are for me. Forgive me for going through life without asking myself how You want me to handle my difficulties. Show me your Character as I go through this day. I ask in faith knowing that You are a God who reveals Himself to us through your precious Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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Put in a good word

Thursday, February 25, 2021

My parents Jose and Sueli. My mother is holding me,
my father is holding my older sister. The year is 1980.

 “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)

My father grew up in a time when words had weight. As a matter of fact, my father’s words were worth people’s livelihood. 

My father always helps others. When he knows someone in our community needs a job, he speaks to someone who can give that person a job. Over the past 50 years, my dad’s words were used to give people great jobs in Brasil. 


My father also uses his words to encourage young people to pursue education. He encouraged people to dream and think about what they can achieve 5 to 10 years from now. He gives special books to people in his audience who would share what their dreams for the future are. My dad is my visual example that words have the power to uplift. 


Your words have that same power. The Bible says so. Today’s scripture speaks about how we can eliminate anxiety from a person’s heart. We can use our words to uplift. 


My favorite words are the ones I find in the Bible. I often share  Bible verses with friends who need encouragement. When I pray with people, use the words of the Bible. God’s word is powerful to encourage us.  


I heard someone say that the most influential person in our lives is ourselves because we are always listening to our own thoughts. 

Every so often I make an experiment with myself. If I have a bad attitude about something (from chores to overcommitments), I trace the source of my thoughts. 

Words are powerful, whether we hear them or speak them to someone else. I see Proverbs 12:25 as a reminder to be encouraging to others constantly. It is true that we never know what people are going through but we are reminded to put in a good word. 

One of the rewards for putting in a good word is found in Proverbs 11:25: you will be refreshed! Remember that you reap the encouragement you sow.

Whether you or someone you encourager is suffering with anxiety, put in a good word. Choose the words of the Bible. Be like my dad: do it intentionally. 

 

Action Items:

• Take time today to trace the thought patterns that led to a bad attitude. Repent and ask God to help you have His heart towards the issue you face.

• Look at the garden of your life and count how many seeds of encouragement you have planted this year. If your count is low, get to planting more!

• Put in a good word. Write them on a card and put them in the mail. Text a Bible verse to a friend. You will be so blessed in your doing. 


Prayer: Jesus, you have words of life. We live in an anxious world and our thoughts are sometimes filled with anxiety. Know our anxious thoughts. Guide us in your everlasting way of peace. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 


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