Essential Connection Magazine


Tried by Fire

Friday July 14

 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith--more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. - I Peter 1:6-7

Youíre stuck in the middle of a difficult situation. No matter how long and hard you think about it, you canít come up with a solution. It seems thereís no answer. If Christians are the ones with all the joy, how come you feel so lousy? Whatever happened to the song you learned back in preschool choir, ďIíve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,Ē?

One of the most challenging things about suffering as a Christian is dispelling the idea that because youíve accepted Christ, everything in life is going to be easy, that all your problems will be fixed automatically. That simply isnít true. Being a Christian is about having depth and wisdom. Itís about seeing your present struggles as they really are instead of just skimming the surface.

††††††††††† Think about the balance of pain and joy in the earthly life of your Lord. To live under His leadership is to be swallowed up into a similar existence, one with eternal rewards. Thereís no such thing as tried and true faith without trials, and with trials comes suffering. Your faith is so important to God that He tests it and purifies it so that it becomes strong and unquestionably real.

Pray: Ask God to help you see how He is strengthening your faith and enriching your relationship with Him by allowing suffering to be a part of your life.

Digging Deeper: Read about the experiences of other Christians like you who endured suffering and received eternal rewards. Look for a biography of faithful figures in history like Jim Elliott, Martin Luther or Corrie Ten Boom.

Real Choices: When you face obstacles to your faith today, concentrate on Godís presence in the situation. Thank Him for the opportunity to trust Him more deeply.


Travel Guide

Saturday July 15

The Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to lead them on their way during the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel day or night. - Exodus 13:21

If you saw a free standing column of smoke ahead of you each day and a vertical line of fire ahead of you each night, there would be no question about which direction you should go. The Israelitesí journey away from captivity and into freedom and a new identity is one we all long to travel. Most of us are looking for freedom from powers that hold us back and a definite sense of who we are as Godís children.

God put in place obvious directional signs for the Israelitesí journey that they absolutely couldnít miss. What has He done to light the path for your journey? Heís given you His Word. Heís given you the freedom to choose to spend time in prayer. Heís given you Jesus and a command to be still long enough to know Heís in charge. Itís amazing how much a few minutes in the presence of God can clear the way and shed light on your path.

Pray: Thank God for the freedom to spend time reading His Word and praying for His guidance.

Digging Deeper:

Study the book of Exodus for insights into Godís deliverance of His people from captivity.


Fight for Your Life

Sunday July 16

The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet. - Exodus 14:14


††††††††††† The Israelites were in a seriously dangerous situation, or so they thought. Their first reaction was to scream at Moses for getting them into this mess. The bolder they became in their insults, the more out of proportion their problem grew. The more we talk about our problems and delve into placing blame where we imagine blame is due, the farther away from Godís plan we travel. He has promised to deliver us, and He will do it. We just have to calm down and make room for the miracles.

Prayer: Pray that God will help you exercise self-control and exhibit trust in His power when you find yourself in a dangerous, frightening situation.

Digging Deeper: Practice being quiet in Godís presence. Read a passage of Scripture about Godís power and then meditate on it for a few minutes before moving on in your Bible study.


Clearing a Path

Monday July 17

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea [back] with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters [like] a wall to them on their right and their left. - Exodus 14:21-22

††††††††††† When God purposely led the Israelites to a place where it seemed they were trapped, they panicked. They were hemmed in on every side with absolutely no way of escape, and they could see the Egyptian chariots coming toward them. Have you ever been in a situation like that? We are driven to despair when something happens over which we have no control. No matter how long and hard we look for a way out, we remain trapped. Even if we had the means to fix the situation, we canít think of what we would do. The odds are stacked against us, and the obstacles are insurmountable.

††††††††††† Generally, when caught in an impossible dilemma, most people do exactly what the Israelites did Ė they throw up their hands in despair. But in the life of a Christian, that isnít how we should handle problems. We should look squarely at Heaven and brace ourselves for the miracle God has already planned for our delivery. He is faithful, and when times are hard, He promises to be our Protector and Defender. Do you believe God is capable of parting the Red Sea in your life? Do you believe He will give you a way to escape when the world around you says thereís no way out? If your answer is yes, your faith is your victory.

Digging Deeper: Study the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, and note Jesusí ability to perform miracles.

Real Choices: What is your biggest problem in life right now? List the difficulties that make it seem unsolvable. Then copy Exodus 14:21-22 and praise God for the miracle He has in store for you.

Pray: Praise God for being capable of solving unsolvable problems.


Time to Celebrate

Tuesday July 18

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said:

I will sing to the Lord,
for He is highly exalted;
He has thrown the horse
and its rider into the sea.

Exodus 15:1

Whether you are currently experiencing pain and difficulty or not, the truth is that God is consistently in control of your life. He is no more present and powerful today than He was yesterday or will be tomorrow. One of the best ways to keep life in the right perspective is to deliberately, energetically, and sincerely praise God out loud for His power.

Going to a worship service where you have the opportunity to sing praises is most meaningful after you have seen Godís miraculous participation in your life. When you have obeyed as the Israelites did and quieted your spirit so that you could focus on what God was doing, the elation that results bubbles to the surface in a fountain of adoration for your God. He isnít a historical figure recorded in an ancient manuscript. He isnít a series of religious formalities that have little to do with actual life circumstances. He is your God, totally aware of and involved in your circumstances, and worthy of your individual, heartfelt, enthusiastic expression of praise.

Digging Deeper: Listen to a praise and worship CD that puts Scripture to music. Use the music to help you memorize Scripture and stay focused on His power and majesty.

Real Choices: Tell someone about how God has been faithful and delivered you from your enemies. Talk about Him out loud so that a friend might be encouraged and God might be exalted.

Prayer: Read Exodus 15:1-14 aloud during your time alone with God today. Concentrate on the words and praise Him for continuing to work miracles in todayís world.


World Famous

Wednesday July 19

Yes, Lord, we wait for You
in the path of Your judgments.
Our desire is for Your name and renown.

- Isaiah 26:8

Have you ever noticed that the groups who invent original styles eventually end up looking exactly alike? Thatís why the term ďalternativeĒ no longer adequately describes the hairstyle, clothing and jewelry choices it used to. When a large group of people are dressed similarly, the fashion has become just another prevalent style choice.

So if you canít rely on style to be your artistic outlet or your expression of individuality, how can you set yourself apart? While everyone else is looking for personal recognition, you will stand out because your number one concern is that God receives the attention and credit He deserves. You are constantly looking out for the good of His holy name. Everything you do and say in your own life is intended to bring Him glory, and you forget about yourself.

Itís tempting to dress and act in ways that scream, ďLook at me! Pay attention to me!Ē but if your actions and words scream, ďLook at God! Pay attention to God!Ē you will be like a beacon for the weary and a banner for the victorious. People will see maturity and depth of character that sets you apart from the crowd. Someone who knows who they are in Christ and who knows who it is they worship stand out in this dark world as a message of hope and victory.

Digging Deeper: Read the book of Isaiah and focus on the prophetís devotion and patience as he anticipated Godís judgments.

Real Choices: Join a group of devoted Christians who can keep you from becoming distracted from your desire to make the name of God known in the world.

Prayer: Pray that God will help you remember on a daily basis that you have one aim, to exalt and proclaim the name of God.


Super Grip

Thursday July 20

My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. - John 10:29

Do you believe that Jesus is at work in your life just like He was at work in the lives of the New Testament people with whom He walked and talked thousands of years ago? When the Pharisees asked Him if He was the Messiah, He said His works proved that He was, and that His sheep believe in Him and understand that His works prove His ability to give them eternal life. Can you identify Jesusí works in your life today? Have you spent time listening to His voice, and do you recognize it when you hear it? The simple illustration of Jesus as a Shepherd and of us as His vulnerable yet protected little sheep is direct and plain. All we have to do is believe in Him, and nothing the world throws at us will tear us out of His hand.

When He starts talking about us, Jesus seems to take on a defensive tone of voice. He warns that nothing can snatch us away. That means other forces fight for us, and our salvation is not a casual state of being. Think about what it looks like when someone snatches an object. Itís malicious, intentional and devious. Jesus is making us aware that we are valued property, and that He will protect us from anyone who tries to tear us away from Him.

††††††††††† What joy and peace and freedom to know that Jesus has His arms around us! We donít have to look any further. No boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend can add to the absolute satisfaction that comes from resting securely in the loving, firm grip of our Savior.

Digging Deeper: Read the story of the life of Jesus as if it were directed to you personally.

Real Choices: Record ways Jesus has been at work in your life this week. Describe the ways He has been the Lord of your circumstances by making His presence known through works.

Pray: Pray that you will be aware of Jesusí presence and that you will recognize His work in your life.