School Starts

30 08 2010

Much to my kids’ dismay (and my delight), school has started. Our house is once again filled with homework, backpacks, practices, brown-bag lunches, and sleepy eyes looking for the bus.

As my children go back into the classroom, I pray for more than their safety, their teachers, and what they will learn. I pray that they will see God around every corner. I long for them to be aware of His presence, to rely on His power, and embed themselves fully in His holiness. I want them to live out 2 Corinthians 2:14 – that as they walk through the hallways, classrooms, locker rooms, and cafeterias of their schools, they will spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. I pray that they will carry Christ with them wherever they go, and that their lives will be so permeated with Him that they can’t help but leave behind the sweet scent of His presence.

In praying for my children, I realize that I need to pray about my own influence. I won’t walk through a school today, but I will move down the aisles of a grocery store, go to the post office, step into my workplace, and walk through my neighborhood. What will I leave behind?

My Jesus Resolution today is to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere I go. I want to be so filled with Jesus that I smell like Him. I will pray today that I will be so transparent that when others see me, they only see Jesus.





Giants

27 08 2010

Sometimes it is just overwhelming. Deadlines loom, problems stack up, discouragement grows, and exhaustion sets in. The days crawl by as the battle drags on and on. It seems like the enemy gains strength while you just get tired. The shadows get bigger. The struggle seems more menacing. The answers seem farther away than ever. Giants come in all shapes and sizes. Some show up as family struggles, money concerns, health problems, or work issues. Others poke at our hearts through temptation, worry, frustration, or stress. Everybody’s giant is different, but remarkably similar. Big and scary, our giants intimidate us, isolate us, and make us feel helpless.

But this is where the light of God shines brightest. He tells us in 2 Chronicles 32:7b-8, “Do not be afraid or discouraged…for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.”

The giant may loom large, but we are never alone. The giant may snarl and snap, but we can stand secure in the arms of our God. The giant may cast a very long shadow, but our God is bigger and stronger. There is a greater power with us. God isn’t a neutral spectator waiting to see which side might have the advantage. He wades into our hearts, sweeps us into His arms, and promises to fight our battles. He is better than Prince Charming, a knight in shining armor, and the good guy in the white hat all rolled into one. God stands on our side. He is for us. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Tell that to your giant.

My Jesus Resolution today is to compare the size of my giant with the size of my God. I am not going to let discouragement, frustration, and fear pull my eyes away from the Lord. I am going to hide in His shadow, rely on His love, and keep reminding myself that God is bigger.





Is That God?

25 08 2010

Did you do dot-to-dots when you were a kid? You know, the pictures that sprang to life as you moved your pencil around the page connecting the numbered dots. If you tried to jump ahead or skip a number, the picture became distorted. Follow the pattern, and the whole picture takes shape before your eyes.

Looking for God in our days is a little like connecting the dots. We have to pay attention to the little movements that create His big picture. It takes practice to see the links between prayers and answers, needs and provision, delight and His presence. So often, I move through my day and miss it. I ask God to move, but don’t keep my eyes open. I pour out requests and then fail to see the answers He provides. But the more I pay attention, the more interconnected the pieces of my day become.

It turns out that God shapes each day as an adventure in finding Him. He marks His presence all throughout our days, hoping that we will notice. He pours blessing after blessing into our minutes, each one a call to our hearts. He wants us to move through the sequence of our days filled with anticipation at seeing what picture He is shaping in our lives.

There is no magic formula for learning to connect the dots. It just takes practice. Throughout the day, stop and ask yourself, “Is that God?” If it is good and true, opens your eyes to His presence, and is consistent with God’s character and His Word, then mark it down as a God “dot” in your day. At the end of the day, connect the dots. I guarantee that every day the picture that comes to life will be a picture of Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask more often, “Is that God?” I want to pay attention to His movement, be aware of His presence, and have open eyes to see where He intersects my day. I don’t want to jump ahead of God. Too often I try to skip numbers in a hurry to be done with the picture. Today I am going to let God walk me dot-by-dot through the image He is impressing on my heart. I am going to connect the dots so I can see Jesus.





Knowing Him

23 08 2010

I have been reading through the prophets. It is difficult to listen to the voices of God’s men plead, argue, chastise, and weep at the hard hearts of God’s people. The pages are filled with sobering descriptions of how sin breaks the heart of God, the judgments that will fall heavily on the land, and the lengths God will go to reclaim the love of His children.

Amidst all the dire warnings and calls to repentance, there are an amazing number of promises. One particular promise has become my prayer. Jeremiah 24:7a says, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.”  Isn’t that stunning? I want that. I want a heart that knows the Lord – a heart that seeks His face, longs for His presence, and delights in the adventure of learning more about Him.

Having a heart that knows God will require some major renovation at the very core of who I am. Selfishness and pride must be cleared away. My focus has to be redirected. My desire for control and self-sufficiency will need to be stripped away. The grace of Jesus will have to reach in deeply and touch all of the sticky, grimy, slippery places and shape a new heart – a heart that knows Him.

It is a little scary to ask God for transformation. It means opening my life to His power, His direction, and His holiness. But the alternative is written all over the pages of the prophets. What they teach me is that a heart that knows Him is worth the surrender, because knowing Him is pure joy.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray that God will give me a heart that knows Him. I want to open up my life to the transformation He has in mind for me. I want my deepest desire to be to know Him. I want my focus to be set on seeking His face. In order for God’s promise to be a reality in my life, I will need to put all my desires, the entirety of my focus, and the rhythm of my days in His hands and ask Him to shape them according to His good purpose for me. God always keeps His promises. The question today is whether I will open up my heart enough for them to take deep root in me.





Set Free

19 08 2010

You are deeply loved. God’s passion for you spills over into every part of your day. The blessings you enjoy are evidence of His care. His power raises the sun, paints the flowers, and puts sparkle into the stars – just for you. He has seen you at your best, and at your worst. He loves you. He knows what you look like in the morning. He sees you doing laundry, cooking dinner, driving your car, and checking your mail. He loves you through all of it. He sees the deep wounds sin leaves on your heart. He aches as He watches the chains of slavery wrap tighter around your soul. He still loves you. He loves you when walk away from Him. He loves you when you run toward His open arms.

He loves you so much. The cross stands as proof of His love. He saw your chains, checked His heart, and made His way toward your Egypt. He fought the dragon, endured the thorns, and spent three nights in a tomb in order to set you free. He loves you. He has been pursuing you your entire life. He calls you name. He holds out His hand. He brushes your cheek with the wind. His dream, His purpose, and His plan all center on bringing you home. He loves you, and He longs to see you free indeed.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”   – John 8:36

This is the life He created you to share with Him. This is the intense desire of His heart. You are the reason He made the journey, endured the thorns, and fought the dragon. Being free indeed means saying “Yes” to Jesus. Every minute. Every day. For the rest of your life.

My Jesus Resolution today is to say “yes” to the set free life Jesus has in mind for me. Being free indeed is, in its essence, the freedom to choose Jesus. Every day you get to choose who you are going to follow. Every day you get to pick where to set your focus. Every day you get to decide which vision you are going to let define your life. Being free indeed is the every day choice to see Jesus, follow Jesus, imitate Jesus, love Jesus, praise Jesus, bow before Jesus, surrender to Jesus, listen to Jesus, be transformed by Jesus, and walk like Jesus.

Note – Today’s thoughts come from my new book Set Free that was released this week. Walking with the Israelites as they are released from Egyptian captivity gives us an amazing picture of how God wants to set us free through the cross today. Click on the WOW Books page on my website – www.casandramartin.com – for more information.





Praying the Headlines

18 08 2010

It was a picture of a good deed that caught my eye. College students were handing out water to people displaced and devastated by floods. I love to see goodness highlighted in our world. Glimpses of God in the newspaper.

My heart began to break as I scanned the news stores that filled the space on either side of the picture. On the left was an article about clearing the legal pathway for same-sex unions. On the right was a story about the ease with which a new abortion pill passed through the hands of regulators on its way to market. By the bottom of the page, I was on my knees.

How do you read the newspaper, watch the six-o’clock news, or process the current event updates on the internet? This is a lesson God has been teaching my heart. Too often, we read the news and feel helpless. Movers and shakers in other places are making decisions that will ultimately touch the core of who we are as a nation and we can’t do anything about it. Sometimes, we see a story, feel sympathy, shrug our shoulders, and move on. Other times, we turn it all off, pretending that what we don’t know doesn’t affect us.

God wants us to see the news through His eyes. Psalm 119:136 says, “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.” Every headline is an opportunity to invite God into the situation. We may not be able to go to Washington, the state capitol, or city hall, but God is already there. We can ask that His power, presence, and purpose shape people’s thinking, motives, and actions. We can jumpstart the repentance and confession our society so desperately needs by looking in the mirror. We can marvel at God’s patience and mercy as He provides more time for hearts to come to know Jesus as Lord.

My Jesus Resolution today is to see the headlines as an invitation from God to bring the events of the world to Him. I am going to pray the headlines – use them as stepping stones into prayer. I am going to ask God to bring the full weight of His kingdom to bear on our society, beginning with my heart. The news isn’t scary. A world that doesn’t know God is scary. But even in a society that doesn’t acknowledge Him or bow before Him, He is at work. I am going to look at the stories in the newspaper today as clues from God about what is touching His heart, and let those headlines guide my heart deeper into His presence.





I Shall Not Be Moved

16 08 2010

I have a song playing in my head today. The words written by Edward H. Boatner proclaim, “Glory hallelujah, I shall not be moved; Anchored in Jehovah, I shall not be moved; Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters, I shall not be moved.”

It is an interesting song. Usually, we talk about walking with God, being open to His work in our lives, and aware of His movement. This song plants our feet at the foot of the cross, declaring that we will not move from its shadow.

Our world is trying to lure us away from the cross. Subtly at times, by millimeters or inches, we hear enticements to depend on our own righteousness, create our own joy, and find our own answers. Sometimes the invitation is a siren call, drowning out the still, small voice that invites us into His presence.

Every day there is a time and place to sing “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Maybe it is when we are faced with temptation, weary and tired from the burdens of the day, or faced with a choice between surrender and self-satisfaction. Each time we take a stand, wrap our arms around the cross, and declare that we will not be moved, our roots sink a little deeper into the rich soil of His love.

My Jesus Resolution today is to sing “I Shall Not Be Moved” out loud. While I want to move closer to Christlikeness, move further into His heart, and move more confidently in His will, I don’t ever want to move outside of His presence. I don’t want to take one step out of the shadow of His love and purpose for me. “I Shall Not Be Moved” is an anthem that declares that no matter the intensity of the storm, the darkness of the night, or the strength of the hardship, I am going to plant my heart at the foot of the cross. Want to sing with me?