Cancer #5: The Absent Blog

I admit it, I have been quite negligent in writing on my blog page. It has been 4 months since the last one.
That negligence has been a blog in itself. It makes a statement about what my life has become. The neglect is an inner reflection. A person with cancer has much emotion, much to say. So where is the blog? Where is the expression of my soul? It is in the quietness of my heart. Now it’s time to break the quietness.
These silent 4 months have been extremely busy:
 We moved our treatment from Dallas to Amarillo;
 The chemo formula we are using has been totally changed;
 My weight has stabilized and I have actually regained about 5 pounds back.
But my life has settled into a sameness of a daily routine. That routine is worth riches.
The schedule of my life is controlled by the chemo treatments. Each chemo monopolizes almost a full day, with a couple of days for recovery. That consumes 3 of every four weeks each month.
I constantly have to focus on my weight. I had lost 40 pounds and have regained 5. So every day my major goal is to consume enough calories that I will gain something back. I write it all in a journal – what I have eaten and the calories that adds. Nutritional drinks get a high priority. But it’s routine, it’s every day.
I have an exercise routine. I try to walk 2 miles each day, but cold weather makes that tough. So I settle for a shorter distance on the treadmill, although that’s not so much fun. So I walk as a routine, and there again is the sameness. I also lift weights on our “bow flex” most days. Just 50 pounds, but that adds a little muscle to the arms. That’s good, there’s not much else on my arms.
I read. Magazines, books, my Bible, the internet, Facebook. I’m not able to answer every Facebook message. But I read them all, and that is a part of my routine. When I read I often drop off to sleep, so it’s a constant battle to focus. Sometimes I read standing up. It’s the routine also.
So nothing dramatic happens. I exist and I continue to exist so that is good. Many don’t continue to exist.
The great truth of routine is that we are still in the battle, we fight on, and we aren’t beaten yet. As long as we are still fighting, there is still hope, and every day of victory convinces us that we will have further days to fight. Maybe one day the battle will be over and I will still be standing. That’s worth living the routine. The routine is a part of the victory.
In life that’s true for all of us.

Cancer #4: Why?

I held a party the other morning. A select group of guests were there. I invited loneliness and anger, and they were glad to join me. Despair and pouting also dropped by, along with a surprise visit from childishness. Slipping in the back door was Satan, and I didn’t turn him away either. I brought out the refreshments: a huge plate of self-pity. My guests and I were ravenous; we didn’t leave even a crumb!

That party was a great success, but in the end I felt even emptier than before. The more I took of the self-pity the sadder my emotions became.

When you have cancer you will be tempted to host the self-pity party. But it doesn’t deliver. It doesn’t relieve the sadness or lift the curtain of despair. So I have made a decision that I will not feel sorry for myself. Instead, I will stand on the goodness of the Rock of Jesus Christ!

And help comes from the Bible. There are many stories in the Word that suggest reasons that a trial such as cancer might be sent our way.

In John 9 is the story of a man born blind. The foolish apostles assumed it was sin – on his part or his parents – that caused the blindness. Jesus assured the apostles it was totally different; the man’s blindness was to bring glory to God. When Jesus cured the man there were those who were able to recognize it as a miraculous work of Jesus. He was praised! Maybe my cancer came because God intends to heal it and many will give praise to God for the healing. No room for self-pity there.

Another story is that of David whose family was devastated as punishment for David’s adultery and murder. Often we wonder if sin is the reason for our trials, but if so you’ll never have to guess. God made it clear to David that sin was the cause. I’ve relived the years of my life and reviewed many actions. Even though I see actions that should have been different, I do not hear God telling that this cancer is a punishment for sin. That is not the why.

Job is a great example of suffering. His friends also assumed sin was the reason, but Job knew better. He knew there had to be a bigger reason behind his pains. And indeed there was. It was a challenge from Satan to God; Job would turn from the Lord in his trials, Satan insisted. But when God allowed the test Job stood firm in his faith! Perhaps the why in my case – or yours – is that our faithfulness to God is being tested. Maybe like Job, once we’ve passed the test the trial will simply end. I could accept that!

Paul tells his story of trials in 2 Corinthians 12. He had a “thorn in the flesh” and prayed time and again for it to be healed. God said no, He wouldn’t remove the thorn, but He would supply strength as needed to endure. When Paul became the weakest, God’s strength would flow through him, and that would also keep Paul close to the Lord. Keeping me close to God, that may be the why of my trial. How could I feel self-pity over that?

So the Word gives possible “whys” that our trials may come. Among those,
• To bring glory to God,
• To punish sin,
• To show our spiritual steadfastness,
• To keep us close to God, drawing on His strength.

There’s another possibility. When two of the apostles were beaten for preaching in the name of Christ, they actually rejoiced. Acts 5:41 tells us that they knew God would only bring that suffering because He saw them as worthy enough to suffer for Christ. To the apostles, the suffering was a compliment from the God of heaven! So maybe that’s one of my “whys.” Perhaps God has brought this because He needed someone who would stand strong for Him. So I will stand. I will strive to bring honor to Him in this sickness.  How awesome to be counted worthy!

Cancer #3: Family, Friends….and others

Cancer is a community experience. No one should ever face this enemy alone. The best doctors and latest medical treatments cannot take the place of a person you love standing beside you.

When I was told I had a spot on my pancreas I immediately agreed to be hospitalized and the process of testing and treatment to begin. The first day I was given morphine to acclimate me to the world of opiate pain-killers. Never having received these meds before meant that for a few days things would be quite interesting. My family says I was crazy. Like when I called the doctor a country bumpkin, or how about when asked when the gynecologist was going to be coming in.

How could I ever have survived that week without family and friends!?

I was able to join a clinical trial through Baylor University Hospital in Dallas. The pancreatic cancer doctors have developed a plan to develop a vaccine for patients that should be quite powerful against the cancer. Joining this trial gave me the opportunity to have a greater chance to heal, and the things learned by the doctors could help other patients in the future. Many of my white blood cells were “harvested,” and technicians enhanced and empowered these cells. Then they injected them back into my body. But this means my medical treatments are in Dallas, and we have to travel there for tests, chemo and evaluations.

On each trip to Dallas someone from my family has accompanied me. From among our kids or kids-in-law some have spent up to 4 days at a time in Dallas during my treatment. My amazing wife Linda has been at my side the whole time, always faithful, always sacrificial, always eager to give a hug or a kiss.

And my family has done even more:
 They’ve prepared meals that my diseased body can handle.
 They’ve encouraged me on to keep eating and regain my lost weight.
 They’ve prayed with me when I was hurting in body or spirit.
 They’ve watched movies with me to help pass the time.
 One of them bought a paint-by-number set to distract me from my pain.
 They’ve dropped by many times to see how I’m doing.
 They’ve told me they love me and given a warm sense of security and worth.

When it comes to friends I’m almost at a loss for words. The people of Family Life Church – and hundreds of others in the greater Amarillo area – have showered me with love. They have prayed with me at restaurants on chance encounters, they have collected cards of encouragement – hundreds of them, they have made appearances in our lives after years of no contact and assured me of their love and prayers. At our church the members have expressed intense acceptance after weeks of my being away. I found that hugs could be too painful, so they are generous with their “air hugs.” And the pastors of Family Life have covered many of my normal tasks with glad hearts and supportive love. In spite of my sickness our church is growing and many are coming to Christ. Love is in action in the lives of my friends.

And then there are the others…
• The man at the clothing store who went for a glass of water when he saw that I was hurting.
• The lady at Home Depot who simply asked if I were okay.
• The receptionist at the hotel in Dallas who went for a bag of ice to help me through a pain attack.
• The waiter at El Chico’s who responded to my request for a bag of ice by bringing me 10 lbs of ice to soothe my hurt!
• The man at Baylor’s cancer center who sat and talked for 30 minutes expressing his understanding, then adding my name to his church prayer list.

Some of the cancer challenge is mine alone. No one else can feel the hurt, experience the chemo, or struggle to eat. But much of the challenge is easier because others are traveling the journey with me. God is with me. Others are with me. I give praise that I am not alone.

Cancer #2: Who have I become?

Change is awesome! The whole concept of spiritual growth is based on the benefits of change.  When our attitudes and habits change we become better people.  But some changes are traumatic, and such it is with cancer. Sometimes you wonder if you are still yourself.

Take food and eating for instance. I love food. I love Mexican food, oriental food, hamburgers, pickles. I love it all! But right now I don’t care if I never eat again. You can have my chips and salsa. Yuck! Chinese food? Forget it! Burgers? Smurgers! I’m not hungry. Now for some people this would be exciting; the long-sought weight loss is about to happen! And the pounds do come off, about 3 a week in my case. All that’s great until one morning your spouse says, “You look anorexic.” You look in the mirror and exclaim, “Where did I go!?” So then you tighten the belt, and you dig through the closet for those pants from 20 years ago that you out-grew, and you start disguising yourself and your figure to give the illusion you’re still the person you used to be. But you’re not that person, and cancer brings the grief of a lost self-image.

Then there’s pain. Someone told me that cancer is a pain-free sickness. Well someone needs to tell that to my little ol’ pancreas. I hurt, sometimes slightly, sometimes the elephant-sitting-on- you, truck-ran-over-me kind of pain. It hits you without warning, a deep-burning in the abdomen after meals or pain from sensitive skin as the sheet rubs your back in the middle of the night.

There are other things that affect our self-identity:
 Lack of energy to work;
 Sleepiness all day;
 Being barred from driving (because of morphine);

But enough negatives! This is not a time for lemons; it’s time for lemonade! It’s not a time for touchbacks, it’s time for touchdowns!

1. God must think I am one tough guy! The Word says He will never give us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). When the early apostles suffered they counted it an honor; they saw it as a compliment from God that He let them suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).

2. God is building me to be even stronger. You know the passage: the testing of our faith results in greater patience (James 1:5). Talk about self-image! God chose me because I can handle cancer and He intends to grow me even more! I rejoice in that!

Our society often stigmatizes cancer. It’s the bad disease, a ticket to heaven or hell. But many other diseases of our day are just as dangerous or even more so. New innovations in treatment and healing have raised survival rates exponentially. Having cancer doesn’t change me, nor does it for others I love who have cancer. It’s a sickness. We get it, we treat it, we move on with life. That’s my faith and that’s God’s faithfulness. I can live with that identity all day long!

Cancer #1: The Shock of the Doctor’s Words

“…and there is a spot in the middle of the pancreas.”

Spoken so casually, clearly to keep me from being alarmed. Just a spot. Could be an inflammation, maybe something benign. Don’t give it much thought.

But I knew. It was cancer. You could be certain of that from their facial expressions. “Not something I wanted to hear,” I told the doctor and nurse.

“We understand,” they reply, with heads hanging low. No encouragement now. No false implications. You have pancreatic cancer, one of the hardest kinds to fight. You very well may die.

So did you ever wonder how someone feels when they hear those words? Let me share how they affected me.

My first response was numbness. It almost seemed natural, like, “you have a cavity” at the dentist’s office, when you discuss the need routinely: “may need a crown; maybe a root canal won’t be necessary; be sure to set an appointment time for follow-up.” And so there were routine matters to discuss: choosing an oncologist; checking into the hospital for a series of tests, might be in for a week; deciding the best approach to conquering this new, cursed enemy.

Along with the numbness there came in my mind an early list of people who will have to be notified: Have to let the family know, also church staff and other leaders, the Life Group, brothers, in-laws, neighbors, the tanning salon and pharmacy and coin shop where I buy an ounce of silver every week and dentist office where a crown is waiting and the chiropractor and the real estate agent who was looking for us another house and a thousand spiritual brothers and sisters who will learn that their pastor won’t be around for a while and that they will need to raise an army of prayers warriors. These all will be numb also.

One of the first thoughts I had was that I would have to be strong. Whether I felt it or not I had to display strength to encourage my wife and reassure my friends and to let them all know that I counted this as in God’s hands and He would come through in the end. And after all, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is no way that you can lose.

Those were thoughts I had. No despair, just matter of fact thoughts. The really painful thoughts would come later. But there were also the thoughts I didn’t have. For example, people have teased me that I will lose my hair. It never crossed my mind. When you look good either way, what’s to worry? I’ll just buy a Dallas Cowboys cap and will make it fine.

Another thing, I never wondered, “Why me?” I guess my thought was, “Why not me?” I certainly prefer that it be me than one of my kids, or – Lord forbid – one of my grandchildren. The real question is not why, but how – how will I respond to this challenge.

Being aware that you have cancer is a shock. Life changes. But a diagnosis doesn’t change who you are. It makes you better. It makes you stronger.

It’s a wild ride!

“Bring back the Love” Devotional #40, May 10, 2015

By Robbie Ashlock

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  -Matthew 5:3-12

The Beatitudes, as they are called, are a beautiful picture of salvation and God’s love for us.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is only when we realize our spiritual poverty that we see our need for a Savior. Before we can ever receive salvation, through faith, we must recognize our sin. We must realize that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We need a Savior. We need Jesus “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23. Realize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”-Romans 6:23. Blessed are the sinners who realize their unconditional need for a Savior; because, through Christ they find salvation and everlasting life.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Once we realize that we are a sinner in need of a Savior something powerful takes place in our hearts. We recognize our need for repentance. “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” –Psalm 38:18. True repentance is a realization of the depth and offense of our sin against the holiness of God, and in that moment of realization there is a change of heart and mind resulting in a change of action. This is why David was a man after God’s own heart. He knew the depth of his sins and he mourned over the pain that He had inflicted on the heart of God. Repent of your sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9. Blessed are those who with a repentant heart turn to Jesus Christ; because, when we confess our sins God forgives us our sins and our sorrow is turned into joy. Now that’s comforting.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Once repentance takes place in our lives we begin to follow His ways. Another word for meek is obedience, and when we humble ourselves before the will of God He will direct our paths. We trust in His way. We don’t lean on our own understanding, but trust God to supply all of our needs. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 we don’t just listen to Him, but we do what He says. Blessed are those who trust God enough to follow His ways, humbling themselves; because, He will meet all there needs according to His riches in glory.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The more we lay our lives at the feet of Jesus and humbly follow in His ways the more we will be filled with His righteousness. The more time that we spend with our Savior the more we fall in love with Him and His goodness. Self-righteousness leads only to death, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ has won victory over sin and the grave. When we empty ourselves of our self, then we may be filled with the righteousness of God. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for His righteousness above all else, for they will be filled with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” After we have gone through the emptying process and are filled with God’s love. We begin to see through His eyes changing how we see others. This builds a heart of mercy into our lives. God’s love and grace free us, so that we no longer feel the need to be judgmental or critical. The more the righteousness of Christ fills our lives; the more merciful we will be. The more we are filled with our own self-righteousness, the harsher and more critical we will be. Blessed are those who realize and accept the mercy of Christ, for they will experience a life of mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” God’s mercy leads us to purity. There is a difference between having a clean heart and a pure heart. All of us who have embraced the Lord have clean hearts, but a pure heart is one not distracted by the things of the world. “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth, and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” –James 1:21. Blessed are those who intentionally live a pure and holy life, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” A pure heart is a heart that is living at peace with Christ Jesus. Once we experience the love and peace of Christ we can’t help share that peace with others. We are the peacemakers. The best way to bring peace into a person’s life is by introducing him/her to the Prince of Peace-Jesus Christ. Blessed are those who are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. Those who love Christ share Christ with others.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Hebrews 12:1-3 says it best, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Keep the Son in your eyes!

For me, the quick way to break down how to live a blessed life:
Realize that you are a sinner.
Repent of your sins.
Humble yourself before the Lord.
Hunger and Thirst for Christ’s righteousness.
Live a life of mercy.
Allow God to purify your heart.
Share Christ with others.
Keep the Son in your eyes!

“Bring back the Love” Devotional #39, May 9, 2015

By Robbie Ashlock

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” -2 Corinthians 3:2-3

We are a love letter. Written by the very hand of our Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” –Jeremiah 1:5. Our lives are the evidence of His love and grace. We may not always see it or understand it, but everything that you and I go through is a message of love written by God: His grace and mercy show up in the midst of every hardship. His strength and peace are at the heart of every struggle. Painstakingly shaped and crafted by the Master Builder. Every joy, every beautiful moment, is a majestic sonnet of love composed for His glory.
Our lives are the evidence of His love. Not written in a book, but written in our hearts. And in the hearts of those we come in contact with. We are more than simply the hands and feet of God. We are His love story written for His glory, but the story doesn’t end there.
The world needs to hear our story. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” –Matthew 28:18-20
God not only saved us through the precious blood of Jesus Christ writing an indescribable story for our lives. He has also commissioned us to write that story into the hearts and lives of others. We are to go into the entire world sharing our story of what God has done, and what He longs to do in their lives. Through the story of our lives we keep Jesus in front of them; that they might see and know that He is God.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” -Ephesians 5:1-2. It is said that, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, but God does not simply want our flattery. He desires for us to resemble Him. We are His reflection. We are the image of the Living God. We are imitators of Christ not just for our own sake, but also for the sake of the world. We are a proclamation of His glory. We live to point others to Jesus Christ. We fix our eyes on Him and run after Him will all that we have. We exist to know Him, and to make Him known.
As a living letter our lives are to reflect Jesus Christ, and to do this we must live with intentionality. We must be deliberate and full of purpose. Our thoughts, our beliefs, our desires, our hopes and actions must consistently move us in the same direction. They must move us to the foot of the cross where mercy began to write the greatest story ever told. What is God writing into your life and into the lives of those around you? May it be one of the most beautiful stories ever told. Live with intention.

“Bring back the Love” Devotional #38, May 8, 2015

By Robbie Ashlock

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Exodus 3:5

Over the years, I have seen a lot of talented and amazing people fall away because their emotions and not the Word of God dictated their walk. They would make decisions based more on what they were feeling at the time; instead of, what God had laid out before them in Scripture. They listened more to the emotional whisperings of those around them.
Our emotions are always changing. They go up and down spiraling out of control. Anything can potentially set off a fury of emotions: work, school, traffic, pizza, or relationships. Even our church families can send us through a wide range of emotions. God wants us to be stable and solid. He wants us to walk by faith and not by feelings. We were created to live a life of self-control and peace.
Moses was a man who had let his emotions get the better of him, and look where he ended up. Moses had spent the last 40 years in the wilderness, because he couldn’t control his emotions. When he lived in Egypt, while out for a walk one day, Moses saw an Israelite slave being beaten by his Egyptian master. In a flash of emotion, Moses struck and killed the Egyptian. Moses then had to flee for his life to the land of Midian. Moses takes up residence there in Midian, but he never forgets about his people who are in bondage in the nation of Egypt. Can you imagine the amount of emotional scars and wounding that must have taken place in the heart of Moses?
Unknown to Moses, God had a plan to free His chosen people. It was a plan that included Moses. One day while out with his flock, Moses gets an unexpected visit. God decided to make His presence known to Moses in an unusual way. The place was simple, but the presence of God made it holy. The bush wasn’t much to look at, but the presence of God set it on fire. Moses was a runaway murderer and an emotional wreck, but the presence of God would make him one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth.
Moses didn’t know it, but God had chosen him to lead the nation of Israel out of bondage. Moses tried to argue the calling away, but God wouldn’t allow it. Moses was a nervous wreck who couldn’t even speak with out stammering, but God would give Him the words. God knew that Moses loved His people, even if he had failed them in the past. That he was the right man for the job; he just needed to get his emotions in check.
It was an intimate moment with God that began to heal the emotional scars in Moses’ heart. Once Moses encountered the true presence of God everything changed. Moses was being made new. God had always had His hand on Moses doing amazing things in and through his life. Now it was time to move.
Love is more than an emotion. It is a choice. Not dictated by circumstances. We have a choice each and every day to wake up and choose to walk in love. Everything changes in the presence of Jesus. The place where Moses found God wasn’t holy or special for any other reason than the fact that God showed up. It was His presence the made it holy. It was His presence that changed Moses. And it is His presence that can change you, but you must check your emotions and be available.
Joseph Campbell writes, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” The call of God is always personal and relational. After he experienced intimacy with God Moses was replenished and equipped to out to serve the Lord. Our life and ministry are to flow out of intimacy, not emotion. Mission comes from relationship. Whatever is keeping you from God has emotional implications. But through time spent with Him, in intimacy, you can begin to know and love the heart of God. And when you realize that not only can He heal you, but also that He longs to heal you. That’s when the miracles begin. What emotional scars or wounds are standing between you and God? Let Him in. Let Him love you.

“Bring back the Love” Devotional #37, April 7, 2015

By Robbie Ashlock

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you mighty warrior.’” –Judges 6:12

We can all agree that there are times that we look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. I am not talking in a physical sense. I am talking about inwardly. We just don’t like who we are, or who we believe ourselves to be. No matter how much success we have; we still struggle. No matter what others tell us; we can still struggle. The way we see ourselves is a fragile thing.
What do you see in your reflection? Brokenness, Hurt, Insecurity, Isolation, Weariness, Deception, Loss, Depression, Guilt, or Addiction
We think no one knows who, or where, we are. We spend so much of our lives wondering if anyone cares about us. We struggle to feel loved. We are isolated and lonely. It’s almost as if we are stranded on a deserted island with no hope of rescue. But God knows right where you are, and He has a plan for your life.
We believe that God has abandoned us. We see only the struggle and pain of our lives. We can’t seem to get past the hurt. We want relief, but our hurt has become the crutch of our souls. We blame God, and we wonder why He won’t do anything to rescue us. But God sees our pain, and He knows our struggle. And He has the solution.
We see our lives as wasting away. We are often crippled by our own self-doubt and unworthiness, but God wants our lives to be so much more. And with His presence they can be. God has chosen you, and He isn’t going to let you fail.
We are often looking for a sign. Almost demanding that God prove Himself true. Why can’t we just listen to God alone? Why can’t we just trust what He is telling us? Why are our struggles, pains and insecurities so much greater than His Word? Why is it so hard to just believe?
God doesn’t make mistakes, and He made us. There are times in our life that we will struggle with who we see ourselves as, or the way others see us. But remember this, “YOU ARE WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE!” We must listen to God alone. And God is saying I love you. I know everything about you, and I still love you. I know what you see in that mirror, and I still want you. As a matter of fact I want more for you than you could possibly hope for or imagine! Now that is some good news. That’s the Gospel!
The Gospel tells us of a Savior who came to seek and to save the lost… the lest… the unwanted… and that’s all of us… So often we are so quick to punish ourselves. We can’t see ourselves under the blessing that Christ has given us. In Christ Jesus we are righteous! Jesus came for those who were completely hopeless without Him, and that’s ALL OF US! We are all, hopelessly lost without Christ. But through Christ Jesus we are no longer hopeless.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17. Realize that you were made for heaven! Take joy in the fact that your whole life is in Him. You are the Glory of God!!! In Him we have all we need. In Him we have nothing left to fear. We will never live a life void of fear, but in Christ we can live a life free from fear. A life that is unashamed of the Gospel. A life that is unashamed of God. A life that is unashamed of our selves. Because whom the Son sets free is free indeed. God chooses the unlikely to do the unimaginable, and no one is a lost cause!!!
Anytime you look at yourself in the mirror, and those same old thoughts come creeping back in: brokenness, hurt, insecurity, isolation, weariness, deception, loss, depression, guilt, and addiction. Remember: THAT’S NOT WHO YOU ARE…THAT’S THE OLD YOU! YOU ARE THE GLORY OF THE LORD! THE LORD IS WITH YOU MIGHTY WARRIOR!

“Bring back the Love” Devotional #36, April 6, 2015

By Robbie Ashlock

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other!”   Revelation 3:15

Complacency is a slow and silent killer of passion. It never strikes quickly. Never draws attention to itself, but overtime it destroys all that we have built. Overtime, if left unattended every fire goes out. We must keep the fire of our passion for God burning in our hearts. Complacency can snuff out any passion. “We’ve become so comfortable at functioning without God that we don’t notice when He’s around or not. We look like everything is okay on the outside, but inside we’re empty. There’s too much distance between us and God.” -Eric Mason
We must be diligent in our fight against complacency. We must fight to stay close to the heart of God. We must give proper attention to protecting our hearts. We must never let the fire go out. Passion must be nurtured and fed. It must be cultivated. If we don’t do these things then we will surely drift away.
Complacency is a slow fade. I can begin anywhere, such as in a drop in church or small group attendance. It’s not a dramatic renouncement of all our core values or faith in God. Instead, it starts with a comfortable acceptance of less. We aren’t as moved or challenged by the truth of God as we once were. We don’t feel the need to fellowship with other believers. We don’t take an active role in serving or blessing others as we once did. We sit around and wait to be fed. Our excitement level slowly decreases. We don’t listen to His still small voice on a consistent basis, and we begin to neglect our time in the Word. Maybe we are tired. Perhaps life has gotten busy and our time with Him has gotten pushed down the list of priorities. For me it’s often a matter of laziness, “I just don’t wanna.” Regardless the reason, we all have a tendency to drift away from Jesus. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life. This world will do it’s best to pull us away from our Savior. We must do our best to remain in Him.
“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” -Leviticus 6:13. What are you doing to keep the fire burning in your heart? How are you fanning the flames that God once ignited in your soul? If the enemy of passion is complacency; then the answer to complacency is discipline.
We must be disciplined in our relationship with God. Revelation 3:19-20 says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
God doesn’t rebuke or discipline us without good reason. He is working for something better in each of our lives. He wants the best for us. We don’t rebuke or discipline our children just for the fun of it. We are trying to grow and teach them. In most instances, we are trying to protect them. It’s the same way with God. We are the children of the Living God there will be times when we need to be rebuked and disciplined for our own safety and wellbeing.
We have to be okay with God moving in our lives, though. We can’t fight or rebel against it. We have to accept that God is working something wonderful into our lives. The verse says, “be earnest and repent.” Earnest means that we move with a serious intention. We intentionally trust His discipline. We intentionally place other things to the side; that we might focus more completely on Christ. It’s the same thing with repentance. We realize the wrong that we are doing and we turn from it.
Jesus wants us to know that He is here for us. He longs to build a deeper and stronger relationship with us, but every relationship is a two-way street. He is right here knocking, but we have to listen for His voice and open the door. When that happens He promises to come in and fan into flame that which has grown cold.
Has the passion of your heart grown cold? Has complacency slowly drained the life out of your relationship with God that once burned brightly? If it has, you need to know that you are not alone. Complacency can strike the heart of even the strongest follower of Christ. Know that there is still hope for you. It all starts with a single step, an intentional change of heart where we pursue God with all we have.
“Lord, please reveal to us the ways that we have failed You. Father, forgive us for where we have allowed our hearts to grow cold and disconnected. We know that our head and heart are prone to wander, so God, here and now, rein us in. Take control of our hearts and lead us to repentance. Lord, we want to burn for You. We want the passion of our love for You to be evident in all we say and do. Holy Spirit, do what You must to align our heart, soul and mind with Yours. Give us the strength to begin again, and to walk in Your ways. Lord, have Your way in us. We are Yours. Father, we don’t want there to be any distance between You and us. We want to remain in You.”