by Dottie Ryan

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:4-6).

He is our First Love!  He must be our First Love.  Is He yours?

If we have let other people, places, or things take a seat in front of the Lord, it is necessary to return to Him who first loved us so that we could love Him.  He will not share His place in our hearts.  He must be our all in all.  He must be,  if we are going to walk forward in love for Him and those around us.  We are all on assignment from the “Captain of the Lord of Hosts.” Our life is not our own if we belong to the Lord. Yet, as this week’s study showed us, no one is able to love God without God’s help and His grace.  We just can not muster this up. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:5). And further commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  Yet we can’t do this without the Lord.  The love of God is from God.  He is the maker of our hearts.  We have nothing to give that has not come from Him.  Isn’t that just like a loving God?  He basically says, “You must love me and you must love your neighbor.  O, and by the way, you can’t do that on your own. So let me give you the love you will need to allow you to love me back and love your neighbor.”  He provides what He requires!  O, Amazing Grace! O, what a Savior!

This week’s study has us “Going Up the Mountain” to spend time alone with God Most High.  It asks us to think about the reasons we find ourselves either unwilling or unable to do this.  I have my own list of reasons (excuses) for which I must admit and confess and repent from.  I am certain that if you are finding difficulty in praying and spending time with your Lord, you have your own list.  I hear a still small voice, even as I type this, saying: Conviction, not condemnation. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).  But grace does not give us license to be comfortable or exercise freedom to the extent that these would keep us away from relationship with God and through that, Him equipping us to go out and complete the assignments He has for us.  As Paul would say, “May it never be!” (cf. Rom. 6:2, NASB).

We, as Laurie points out in Day 3, need to get away from “the earthly” on a daily basis in order to live with “the heavenly” in view.  We need to go up to the mountain top…in the midst of the trials — with eternal purposes in mind at every moment — and pray.  Be deliberate in doing this — in praying for others — in finding Scriptures to pray over the people in our lives: our family, spouse, children, friends, co-workers- – ourselves.  Everyone needs the gospel. Do we really know this?  You see, prayer and the gospel go hand in hand.  Prayer lays the groundwork for the gospel (Eph. 6:18-20).  Without the gospel — without Jesus — death and separation are permanent — eternal.  O God, give us eyes to see.  Help us persevere in prayer — in relationship with you so that your will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.

by Dottie Ryan

We are now more than half-way through our Fearless Study. And I wonder if we are able to say that we have stepped forward in faith? Even one step on the water?

We learned that we have been deliberately sent into the storm by a Sovereign God — who is a good God.  I’ll bet that most of us have witnessed “the wind and the waves” as they have tossed our boat back and forth — beating against our lives through our circumstances.  Feeling fear, and possibly abandonment, we have probably honestly had to ask, “Lord, Are You in the Storm?” And if we are real honest, we have come face-to-face with our inability to calm our own storms or even take that step of faith out on to the water, without our focus being totally on Him — on Jesus, the only One who can rescue — the only One who can “keep [us] from falling” (Jude 1:24, NIV). In that, I pray we have all been able to acknowledge and confess, “O Lord, I Am Weak.”  What a blessed triumphant victory if we have come to that place in our walk with the Lord these past four weeks because, it is all about Him — His Power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor.12:9).

We need you, Lord.  We can not do this on our own.  We are weak. Necessarily so. Thus we “boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us]” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Did you get that?  Do we really get this?  His grace is sufficient for us.  His power (to transform lives including our own) is made manifest by us being weak — being insufficient — relying fully on Him for everything.  And here’s what really excites me about this. Since it is all about Him, as we boast about our inabilities He is glorified, and in our “letting everyone know just how weak we are without Him,” His power rests upon us.  Now, we can go about doing the business of the Father.

Do we dare?

I am praying that we will all come to that place of ‘knowing’ who we are — and who He is!  That we will step out a little further on the water this week, laying aside our reasons for not spending time with Him.  Being willing to be uncomfortable, to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). . . realizing the storms will come and that they will be fierce at times. But also knowing that we are never alone.

Faith, not fear.  Focused on Him — “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). And resting in His ability. Not ours.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek…” (Matthew 5:3-5). Blessed are we who understand that we “have nothing to bring to the Lord but our sins and our human frailty” — for ours is the Kingdom of Heaven — for we shall be comforted — we shall inherit the earth.  All because of what God did for us through the finished work of Christ. So when we cry out to Him for mercy, confess and agree with Him concerning our sins, and repent, we know He hears our cry!  We know He does.  He’s our Father.  And He extends his scepter to us and tells us to boldly “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). And He has never let us down.  He never will.  He is faithful.  And He saves us to the uttermost.

by Susan Sampson

Calling any other weak moms…

I think one of the biggest things I am learning through this study is how truly weak I really am.  That wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to learn.  That wasn’t my goal when I started the study.  I wanted to learn to be a better mom.  A godly mom.  Could it be that weakness is the pathway to godliness?

I’ve been praying for quite some time now asking the Lord to deliver me from my pride, to give me a humble heart.  But really what I want is to be painlessly transformed in my sleep overnight into the perfect super mom and wife.  I don’t want the pain of seeing my sin and weakness.

Yet I thank the Lord for His lovingkindness, knowing exactly what I need.  I thank Him for how I am starting to see that I am completely weak.  Because before this I could manage in my own strength.  Not great, but pretty good. Good enough.  Now I am starting to see what is actually true for all of us.  We are utterly dependent on His grace every moment of every day.

There is no good deed I perform that is not tainted in some way by sin.  There is no good in me apart from Jesus Christ.  My flesh is all sin.  He alone is good.  He alone is righteous.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).  

Throughout this study at different times I have been tempted to despair in thinking, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m not a good enough mom,” or, “I’m not as good a mom as her.”  But I can see the wrong thinking here.  The lie.  This thought presumes there was some good in me to begin with.

There is an eternal difference between being a sinner and not being good enough.  A sinner has hope in Christ.  The latter’s hope is in self getting better and that is not the gospel.

“For if because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). 

We have all we need in Christ.  Because of Him, we have been declared righteous.  Declared holy.  Declared forgiven.  Declared free.  Adopted and made a co-heir with Christ.  Beloved.  Not just good enough — made perfect in the eyes of God by the precious blood of the King of kings!

In view of this free gift of righteousness, and abundance of grace, let us not grow weary in doing good and run the remainder of this study with endurance.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus who is both the Author of our faith and the Perfector of our faith.  May Christ alone be glorified in our weakness.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Rejoicing in His promise today, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matthew. 12:20).