By: Jennifer Pepper
Today we want to set a precedence for the future. The Israelites followed ancient customs by setting up standing stones as a reminder of God’s covenant and supernatural acts on their behalf. These stones served as visible reminders of what the Lord had done in their lives, and allowed the stories to be passed down among the generations.
There are several examples of this practice in scripture. Jacob set up stone pillars at Bethel in order to remember his powerful dream, in which God reaffirmed his covenant with him (Genesis 28:18-21, 35:14-15).
Moses built twelve standing stones at the foot of Mount Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments and other laws (Exodus 24:2-4).
The Israelites erected standing stones to remember their miraculous crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:2-3, 8-9).
In my own life, there are figurative standing stones of remembrance. These are the stories I tell of times when the Lord provided for me and my husband. They remind me that the Lord is faithful, and encourage others that they can trust Him.
Today, take time to find your quiet place, and write down your own standing stones. Write out what the Lord has shown you through this week’s devotions. Write out how the Lord has been working in your life, and keep a record of how He is challenging you. Let this become a habit for you and your family. In this way you will be able to go back and see proof of His movement and faithfulness for years to come
By: Josh Pepper
For years, I made the mistake of looking for God in all the wrong places. On this journey to seek His direction for our lives, it is extremely easy to fall into the temptation to think that every little thing that comes along our path, every opportunity, every Bible verse, every message is something God is speaking to us in that moment. And, to be clear, He is more than capable of doing just that!
However, more than likely, God’s voice of influence in our lives is much simpler and much quieter. I love stories of people becoming radically saved by a message on the television or a song on the radio, but God doesn’t always operate that way. In fact, most of the time, we can miss what He is saying entirely because of the distractions around us. This is why we spent two days taking inventory of the things that can cause us to miss what God is calling us to be.
When I think about how God speaks to us, I am reminded of the story of Elijah the Prophet in 1 Kings 19. God told Elijah that He was going to show Himself to the prophet.
“And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
The Lord was in the gentle whisper.
When you listen for the voice of God in your life, are you listening for the storm of activity or the still small voice hidden in a gentle whisper? It is so important that we weed out the distractions that can so easily drown out the voice of God speaking into our lives.
As you listen for God today, set aside some time to find a quiet place, settle yourself through the reading of God’s Word and prayer. Then, ask for the Lord to speak, and prepare yourself to hear Him whispering to you.
By: Josh Pepper
Yesterday, we took a personal inventory of the external distractions that are pulling our focus away from hearing the Lord in our lives. Now, we shift our focus internally. While the world is full of distractions and voices pulling us one way or another, the biggest distractions in our life are primarily internal.
Pete Scazzero, a Pastor and Author living in New York calls these internal distractions The Shadow. “Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.”
The shadow may erupt in various forms. Sometimes it reveals itself in sinful behaviors, such as perfectionism, outbursts of anger, jealousy, resentment, lust, greed, or bitterness. Or it may reveal itself more subtly through a need to rescue others and be liked by people, a need to be noticed, an inability to stop working, a tendency toward isolation, or rigidity. Aspects of the shadow may be sinful, but they may also simply be weaknesses or wounds. They tend to appear in the ways we try to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or exposed. This means that the shadow is not simply another word for sin. If that makes you think the shadow is hard to pin down, you’re right.
Just thinking about confronting my shadow scares the living daylights out of me. Why? Because my shadow is made primarily of experience in my past that make me who I am today. My past has driven me to be a people pleaser. The enemy has allowed hurtful things people have said to me to shape how I function today.
All of us have internal forces and motives the the enemy uses to distract and harm us. He knows that the best way to keep us from accomplishing all that God has for us, is for us to sabotage ourselves with doubt, fear, frustration, and uncertainty.
Even the Apostle Paul struggled with his shadow. Just look at this passage in Romans:
"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"~ Romans 7:19-24 (NIV)
When I read these verses, I see a man wrestling with his shadow!
Today, pray that God would allow you to see this internal struggle for what it is, and that He would begin to reveal to you areas of your shadow that are keeping you from seeing His plan for your life clearly.
Scazzero concludes by saying, “Each time you make a choice to face rather than ignore your shadow, you follow Jesus to the cross. It is often an experience of nakedness, vulnerability, pain, loneliness, fear, and darkness that whispers ‘this will only lead to despair and death.’ The most important task during such times is just to wait on the Love of the Father as Jesus did while hanging on the cross. Remain. Endure. Abide. Like Jesus.
As you wait, anchor yourself in the truth that God’s love and grace are true and that resurrection is a certainty. You will become more compassionate, more vulnerable, more broken, and more loving. Each time you pass through a season of facing your shadow you will be transformed even more into the image of Jesus.”
If you want to read more from Peter Scazzero, follow this link to his book "The Emotionally Healthy Leader."
By: Josh & Jennifer Pepper
All of us are influenced by outside elements of our daily life. In preparation for writing this devotion, a quick personal inventory of my external influences revealed a large number of people in my life, social media, news outlets, television shows, and even plain old busyness.
Now, not all of these elements are bad, but left unchecked, the dangers of outside influences on our lives can grow into distraction. Distraction, at least the dangerous kind I’m referring to, is shifting our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. Our fundamental and most dangerous problem in distraction is in being distracted from God — our tendency to shift our attention orientation from the greatest Object in existence to countless lesser ones. The Bible calls this idolatry.
In the search for the Lord’s vision and direction for our lives, the first step was saturating ourselves in His Word and in Prayer. Seeking the Lord and His guidance in a consistent and passion-filled way.
Now, it is time to ask the question, “What is keeping me from hearing Him?”
Our reading today is the Parable of the Sower in Luke Chapter 8.
Pastor Rick Warren says "You can’t hear God when your mind is crowded with thoughts, worries, fears, and plans, or if you always have the radio or TV on... If you are always on the go and you can’t hear God, you are facing the barrier of busyness. Often we confuse busyness with productivity and they aren’t the same thing. If you keep going, going, going but you aren’t spiritually growing, growing, growing, you are busy, not productive."
While the list of distractions any one of us could face in a week is indeed vast, the challenge before you today is take a personal inventory of the external distractions that make up your specific "barrier of busyness." Is social media taking up too much of your time? Do you spend more time in front of a television than you should? Are there people in your life that distract you from Godliness?
As you begin to explore these external distractions in your life, begin with prayer that God would give you Grace to confront these distractions and the strength to reprioritize where He leads. Next, write down all of the external influences that could be distracting you from God’s call on your life. Examine your list with an open mind, and ask the Lord to show you areas to pull back on. Ask for His priorities to become your priorities.
For more on this topic from Pastor Rick, read his full blog post about Luke 8 by clicking here.
By: Josh Pepper
Today is all about Prayer. As we begin to saturate ourselves with God’s Word, we must prepare our hearts and minds for Him to speak. Timothy Keller, a Pastor in New York says of prayer: “To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.”
Are you wholly dependent on God? The easy answer is yes, but is it true of your entire life? I know that for myself, it is a daily struggle with my flesh to depend on the Lord.
In the journey to find God’s vision and direction for our lives, we must be wholly dependent on God. In John 8, Jesus Himself said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Outside of Christ is death. But the light of life is Christ at work in our lives and giving us our sense of purpose and direction.
As we venture further into the mystery of God’s purpose for our lives, prayer is the foundational way in which we align ourselves with the Lord. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6
Prayer strips away anxiety, focuses our hearts on Christ, and calls to our minds the countless displays of God’s faithfulness we have experienced in our lives.
Take time today during your time in God’s Word to settle your heart and mind on Christ through prayer. Read Matthew Chapter 6 and see what Jesus had to say about prayer. Ask for His guidance and direction in your life and trust in His faithfulness.
Timothy Keller's book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
By: Josh & Jennifer Pepper
To venture into God’s plan for our lives can be a very scary journey. It is full of uncertainty and change. But, it is also the most exciting and rewarding pursuit we have in this life.
As we begin this week of study together, we start at a well known and familiar place for many. Nevertheless, the importance of beginning the journey of God’s plan for our lives can only start in one place: His Word.
The writer of Hebrews says God’s Word “is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Psalmist says “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
These two passages show us that God’s Word is as active now as it was in the days of old. It offers light to our path in a dark and uncertain world and helps us to determine the direction He plans on taking our lives. We must begin by saturating ourselves in God’s written Word to us.
For the remainder of the week, the challenge is for you to set aside one half hour of each day to fix your thoughts on God’s Word. Ask God to guide you to the place in His Word from which He wishes to speak to you, and daily, meditate on His Word. Today, read Proverbs chapter 3 and meditate on Solomon’s words of wisdom about seeking the Lord. Make this time sacred. Choose a time when you aren’t likely to be disrupted. Place yourself somewhere quiet and comfortable. You might want to turn on some worship or classical music. Use this devotional and your Bible to make this time worthwhile.