Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Week Eight - Apprehended

I have never been arrested. I've had a few traffic tickets, but thankfully, I have never been sought and apprehended by the law. However, I have been apprehended by Christ, which is beautiful. 

The other day, God challenged me with the word apprehend during my prayer walk. Here are some of my thoughts.

Philippians 3:12-14 reads, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

When the Bible says apprehend, it isn't the idea of being captured by the law; it means to lay hold of, obtain, understand, or comprehend. It's fun to reread those verses and switch apprehend for these various meanings. When you do that, the definition becomes more apparent. By the way, the word attain is the same basic word as apprehend, so you could change out that one, too.

When I meditate on these verses, I understand that Paul knew whose he was, where he came from, and where he was going. With focus, he humbly set his heart toward knowing more of Christ. That challenged me!

I began thinking: I was apprehended, by today's definition, when Christ captured my heart. However, according to the Bible's definition, there should also be an ongoing desire for apprehension. The love of Christ constrains me; holds me fast. Like the side of apprehending which means to lay hold of, I am captured and held by His love. Not only that but I long for more of that love and to know Him more fully.

Phil 4:6-7 reads, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." 

Do you see the idea of apprehending here? It is understanding that we seek. It alludes to us, passes all understanding, yet draws us in. It is the resting of our souls into the knowledge of God that brings us peace in all situations. It keeps our mind, meaning it guards and watches over us. And there again is the idea of apprehended. Apprehended by Christ, guarded, protected, watched over.

Look at one more passage with me. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

When we apply the definition of apprehend to this verse, the word we want to consider is comprehend. It is virtually the exact word as apprehend, meaning to lay hold of, understand, and make one's own. When we allow the Word of God and the love of Christ to lay hold of our lives, our eyes are opened to the vastness of His love and the power of His Word. We are captured by His beauty and in awe of the pearl of great price given for us and to us, making us His own.

Let me challenge you to allow your thoughts to be apprehended (captured) by this beauty. Meditate on what it means to be apprehended by Christ and lay hold of the truths given to you. You will be left in awe of whose you are, how far He has brought you, and where He will take you as you seek to apprehend (understand) His love.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Week Seven - Trust Your Heart

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Trust your heart" is a phrase we often hear and read on social media. We may even accept it as truth, but you might be surprised that God's Word does not advocate it. 

Proverbs 28:26 reads, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."

When we say we trust in our heart, we say we have confidence in ourselves, feel secure, and have our hopes set there.

Really? Think about your heart for a moment. Your heart is the seat of your emotions. Are they consistent? Have you ever been deceived or let down by them? Where might it lead you if you followed your heart in every circumstance?

The verse is also referring to your heart as your mind. Do you always understand the situations you face? Do you always have the answers? Hardly.

With this short consideration, I think we'd agree that our emotions and thoughts are unreliable guides for life. So, to trust our hearts is unwise.

What is wise? To walk with skill and confidence in God and His Word is much safer and more reliable than our emotions and ideas.

And what is the promise of the Proverbs 28:26? "He shall be delivered."

When we say we trust our hearts, we expect our hearts to deliver us from our problems, which is a misplaced expectation. Our hearts cannot deliver us. Most usually, they lead us into misunderstanding and emotional upset. 

However, God repeatedly tells us to trust Him. He is our deliverer, shield, and protector, guiding us into truth and delivering us from evil through the work of the Spirit and His Word.

When someone says, "Trust your heart," I hear warning signals because my Bible tells me my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. I know it to be self-focused and rarely spiritually guided.

So, I repeat a different truth. Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

Where do you place your trust?

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Week Six - Positive Reinforcement

What makes you happy and lifts your spirits? This can be different for each of us. I am lifted by times with friends and a delicious iced coffee. Tom has been taking me to a little coffee shop called Skooters with a fantastic caramel iced coffee. It just makes me smile with every sip.

Another thing that makes me laugh is the game show The Price is Right. I have fun guessing the prices and enjoy watching the competitors' reactions. I've always loved game shows and playing board games.

Some people get positive reinforcement from food. Some gain strength from hugs, music, or family. I know others who need shopping therapy. They enjoy the search, the scents, and the bargains. For others, just knowing they did a good job or learned a skill to meet a goal is their happy place. While others enjoy puzzles, sports, or even a good walk.

Whatever you use to regain a positive outlook, lift your spirits, or make you happy, I hope you recognize that they are temporary. I should only drink one iced coffee. A steady diet of them, and they would lose their attraction. The same goes for almost anything we enjoy. All things are to be enjoyed in moderation, right?

How quickly something we enjoy today can be spoiled by overuse. But I have found this same principle does not apply to the Lord. Why? Because He is always fresh and new. His mercies are renewed every morning. He is the everlasting spring of refreshment and positive reinforcement. 

The positivity of the Lord is directed to us with patient perseverance. His thoughts toward us are more than the number of the sand and always for our good. We are loved with an everlasting love that always outlasts my iced coffee.

Dear friend, if you want something to lift your spirits, don't settle for a cup of coffee or a temporary fix. Bring yourself to the everlasting well of life where you will never thirst again. Let your heavenly Father be your eternal source of positive reinforcement.


ADVERT: If you are seeking encouragement, please check out my devotional books at www.gailgritts.com


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Week Five - Monday Mornings

Mondays with My Old Pastor by Jose Navajo is a fantastic book about every minister's struggle. I read it several years ago and heartily recommend it. It is the type of book every person in ministry should read and any person looking to understand the pressure on a pastor and learn more about the spiritual life. I came across some quotes I copied out, and they blessed my heart again. Today, I'd like to share some of them with you.

Speaking of prayer, the author writes, "Although I fall down undone at times, I always get up renewed, transformed, victorious . . . and most of all renewed . . . It's on our knees before Him where we find balance."

This has been my experience of prayer as well. Sometimes, I come entirely broken, disheartened, and confused. But the Lord meets me there and revives my spirit. How about you?

Then he says, "I kept on cooking for God, but I had kicked God out of the kitchen." I've done that, too; I've gotten so busy working in ministry that I forgot God. Suddenly, I would notice I was doing things in my own strength. I'd kicked God out. How about you?

Consider this one. "When the axe gets dull, we will have to spend double the energy to obtain half the results." Oh, my! I've been a dull axe. I've found myself expending double the energy and seeing less happen. Have you? It forces me to stop my whirling and return to my spiritual center. No amount of my effort accomplishes more than my faith in God's ability.

Let me quickly list a few more short quotes.

"Serve as you pray and pray as you serve."

"God loves fellowship more than work."

"Don't work for God; work with God."

"Do not make changes in times of storm."

And I could continue on with the wealth of wisdom held in just this one book. If you are in ministry and struggling, get yourself a copy and enjoy the beauty of the story. If you are looking to grow in your spiritual life, glean from the experience speaking and see if God doesn't use this book to encourage your heart.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Week Four - Needing Directions

Before the days of the GPS, there was the MAP which sometimes became an object of contention as we travelled America on deputation. I prefer a straight route, and I'm not afraid to take a shortcut. But my husband prefers main roads, even if it takes a few minutes longer. Needless to say, we had several heated discussions about which direction we should take, and sometimes we got utterly lost.

Now that the GPS directs our path, we have fewer discussions but sometimes still wind up on a crazy route. Anyway, this idea of direction is often a part of Scripture. Let's look at some things God says about direction.

We are to direct our prayers to Him each morning.

     "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up" (Psalm 5:3).

He directs our path.

      "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6).

He directs our hearts. 

       "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ" (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

He directs our steps. 

      "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

I don't know about you, but I need directions. I feel more confident when I see where I am going and what I am supposed to be doing. As I take time each day to commit my day to the Lord through prayer, I invariably find He directs my day. It might not be the path I had in mind, but it is the path God designed. And as I remember that He directs through love, I find my heart more willing to be patient and trusting. I might have my own idea of what the day should bring, but when I allow the Lord to direct my steps, He has a fantastic way of making the day more than I could have imagined.

So, if you need direction, ponder these few verses and ask the Lord to do the directing. He's much more trustworthy than a GPS or MAP!




Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Week Three - Open Reward

We have sat for hours at football games, wrestling tournaments, and archery competitions, with track season still ahead of us. As our grandchildren succeed in their sports, we see the other side: the dedication and discipline it takes to make it to state competitions and be noticed by college scouts. No young person enters the winner's circle without the private discipline of self-sacrifice and hard work. 
       Christian, if we expect to receive reward, there must also be the unseen discipline of self-sacrifice, not working for our salvation but because of our salvation. The Lord's promise is for those who serve in secret.
       Jesus teaches us, "That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. . . But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . .That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18).
       We are to do three things secretly: give, pray, and fast. And the promise is of open reward. Matthew Henry writes, "The reward will be open; they have it honorably." Honorably, because they have used discipline and followed the commands of God. Just as the athlete disciplines his body and follows the coach's instruction to a successful outcome, we, too, may be assured of open reward as we do the same.
       And what does an open reward look like? Psalm 23:5 gives us a hint. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." God's favor is a reward. He displays it before our enemies by blessing our lives. Open reward is seeing our prayers answered. Tangible or visible blessings upon our ministry, work, family, or business may also be considered reward. God knows how to reward us; when He does, we recognize it and give Him thanks and praise.
       The reward can seem far away when we are in the secret place. But just as the athlete trains secretly, we must remember God's promise and remain faithful, consistent, and believing. 
       Two verses come to my mind. "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10). God sees your secret life. He has not and will not forget you.
       And, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:35 36). The perseverance of the saints has great recompense of reward. Recompense means payment of something due. 
       God will keep His promise of reward to those who follow His commands about their secret life. Never doubt it, Christian. There is a reward for the children of God both here and in eternity.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Week Two - Wide Open

The Lord has given me a rather unusual word for 2024, open. Last year's word was adjust, and we experienced a lot of changes in ministry and housing. God was faithful to help me adjust my attitude and expectations, so I'm sure adjust was the right word for 2023. But, open?

My initial thought was to be open to whatever the Lord has for 2024. And I pray that is my continual attitude. But as I look through Scripture, I see even more.

Deuteronomy 28:12, "The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure . . . to bless all the work of thine hand."  What a precious promise. It was given to Israel as a part of God's blessing connected with their obedience. 

"O, Lord, may I be obedient and see your goodness and blessing upon my work for You through 2024. Open to me your good treasure."

Psalm 51:15, "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise." 

Psalm 119:18, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."

Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry."

These are lovely prayers and promises, but the one the Lord keeps reinterating to my heart of Psalm 81:10, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."

It's a funny little verse, but so full of promise. If we will but open up, God will fill us with everything we need. If we open our lives, He will direct us. If we open our hearts, He will give us strength. If we open our minds, He will reveal His wisdom. 

Open

So the question is, Am I going to be open with the Lord in 2024 or preoccupied with my own plans, controlling and demanding, or closed to His will?

It doesn't take much to meditate on what life might bring if I closed my heart and life to the Lord. But if I open myself, the promises abound, and the impossible becomes possible. The negative is flooded out by the positive expectation of God's hand and activity.

As Pastor Mark Formby said, "God is always doing great things, we just have to recognize it and allow it into our lives."

I want to be open and allow God to do great things, don't you? It's going to be exciting and interesting to see how He fills 2024.