Denise’s 28-Day Journey *NEW*
Denise’s 28-day email devotional will encourage and strengthen you! Subscribe using the form below. Read previous devotionals here.
Articles from the Blog
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. — 1 Thessalonians 2:4Have you ever wondered, God, how long am I going to have to wait for that promotion I deserve? Is there a reason that the promotion I want keeps getting delayed? What is happening in my life, Lord? We always seems concerned about making things happen faster, but God doesn’t work in the same time frame we do. There are some things that are more important to God than giving us a promotion when we want it or making sure we get a pay raise when we think we deserve it. Now, God does reward us for our faithfulness, but sometimes He takes a little longer than we might like to promote us in order to make sure we’re really ready for that next big assignment. It’s hard on the flesh while we wait, yet it is actually the mercy of God at work. You see, during that time of waiting, the imperfections that would have ruined us are exposed so God can remove them. Then He can move us up into the new position with no concern that a hidden flaw will cause us to fall flat on our faces. We know from Acts 9:20-25 that when Paul first became a Christian, he tried to barge right into a public ministry. But he wasn’t ready for that yet and therefore created some problems and a lack of peace in the Early Church. Although saved and called, he simply wasn’t ready to be promoted into such a visible position of leadership. It was going to take some time for God to prepare Paul for the kind of ministry and anointing he was going to carry in his life. Paul referred to this process when he wrote to the Thessalonians. He said, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). This verse is packed full of insight regarding Paul’s own experience of being prepared, tested, and finally promoted into his own public ministry. Notice first that Paul says, “But as we were allowed of God.…” The word “allowed” is the Greek word dokimadzo, a word that means to test; to examine; to inspect; to scrutinize; to determine the quality or sincerity of a thing. Because the object scrutinized has passed the test, it can now be viewed as genuine and sincere. This word dokimadzo was also used to illustrate the test used to determine real and counterfeit coinage. After a scrutinizing test was performed, the bona fide coinage would stand up to the test and the counterfeit would fail. The strictness conveyed by the word dokimadzo is evident by an early use of this word to picture the refining of metal by fire to remove its impurities. First, the metal was placed in a fire that burned at a certain degree of heat; then it was placed in a fire burning at an even higher degree; and finally, it was placed in a blazing fire that burned at the highest degree of all. Three such tests were needed in order to remove from the metal all the unseen impurities that were hidden from the naked eye. From the viewpoint of the naked eye, the metal probably looked strong and ready to be used even prior to those tests. But unseen defects were resident in the metal that would have shown up later as a break, a fracture, or some kind of malfunction. Before a person could be assured that the metal was free of defects and thus ready to be used, these three purifying tests at three different degrees of blazing hot fire were required. The fire was hot and the process was lengthy, but the tests were necessary in order to achieve the desired result.
Because Paul uses the word dokimadzo, he testifies to us:
“It was a lengthy process and I went through a lot of refining fires to get to this place, but finally I passed the test and God saw that I was genuinely ready.…”So don’t be discouraged if it takes time for your dream to become a reality in your life! God never gets in a hurry, because godly character is more important to Him than gifts, talents, or temporary success in the eyes of other people. He wants to use you, but He also wants you to be ready to be used! Right now you may need some time to prepare, change, and grow. That way when God finally promotes you, you’ll have what you need both naturally and spiritually to STAY established in that God-ordained position as you fulfill your assignment with excellence.
My Prayer for TodayLord, thank You for considering my character so carefully. I know that You want to change me and conform me into the image of Jesus more than anything else. I often feel rushed to get things moving, but I know that You are looking to see if I have the character I need so I can successfully do what You’ve called me to do. I yield my heart to You and ask You to do Your work inside me. Change me so You can use me as You wish!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI declare by faith that I am being changed so God can use me to the degree He desires! Yes, I have areas in my life that need to be transformed, but because I renew my mind with the Word of God and spend time in prayer, God is free to work on me and get me ready for the big job He has designed for my life. I know that as I stay open and willing to change, my character WILL be transformed into the image of Jesus so I can complete my task successfully and to the glory of God!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you think you’re ready for a big new promotion? 2. If it seems like your promotion has gotten delayed again and again, do you have any idea why this might be happening? 3. Are there any areas of weakness in your life that could hinder you once you step into a more visible and demanding role? What are those areas you need to work on?
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. — Romans 8:26To whom do you go for help when you feel trapped, cornered, or pinned against the wall because of a situation you’ve fallen into? In moments like that, do you feel overwhelmed with a sense of desperation, or do you know where to turn for help? I want to speak to you about the supernatural intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit. But today I’m not talking about prayer when I use the phrase “intercessory ministry.” I am talking about a very special, unique work of the Holy Spirit that is available to help you every day — especially in times when you’re feeling backed into a corner by situations in life. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” I would like to draw your attention to the word “intercession” in the middle of this verse. It is the Greek word huperentugchano, an old word that does not appear to exist outside early Christian literature. It is the picture of one who comes upon someone who has fallen into some kind of quandary. Upon discovering the trapped person’s dilemma, he swiftly swings into action to rescue and deliver the one who is in trouble. Therefore, the word huperentugchano conveys the idea of a rescue operation. Paul uses this word here to tell us about a special work of divine intercession — a special ministry performed by the Holy Spirit Himself when He sees that you are at a loss for words or that you are trapped in a situation and don’t know how to get out. Suddenly and supernaturally, the Holy Spirit falls into that place with you. Now you are no longer facing the challenge by yourself, for the Holy Spirit has stepped into your dilemma and is initiating a rescue plan to get you out of that mess! The Holy Spirit feels everything you feel. He understands the complete inadequacy you are experiencing. He knows about every battle you are facing. He willingly joins you in your circumstances, sharing your emotions and frustrations. Then He begins to put a supernatural plan of rescue into operation to get you out of your mess!
The middle phrase of Romans 8:26 conveys this idea:
“…The Spirit Himself falls into our difficulty with us, initiating a supernatural rescue operation to get us out of the mess we’ve fallen into.…”So the next time you get into trouble, there’s no need for you to sweat it out by yourself. The Holy Spirit is standing by, just waiting for you to ask for His assistance. Helping you is a part of His ministry, so never hesitate to say, “Holy Spirit, help me!” This is what the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit is all about! What challenges are you facing today? What problems seem bigger than your ability to handle by yourself?
Come to grips with your need for supernatural assistance, and open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s help today. As you do, you will liberate Him to release His mighty power in you. An answer to every problem is just around the corner as you allow the Holy Spirit to work His supernatural ministry of intercession in your life!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I thank You that the Holy Spirit joins me in the challenges I am facing in my life today. You sent Him to be my Helper, my Guide, my Teacher, and my Intercessor — the One who meets my problems head-on and helps me to overcome them! Rather than try to work out those problems by myself, I open my heart today for the Holy Spirit to join me as my divine Partner so I can be more than a conqueror in every situation!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that the Holy Spirit is my leading Partner in this life. When I need help, He is right by my side, ready to help me and to pull me through each challenge that I face. I know His voice; I partner with Him; and as a result, I enjoy continuous victory in my life.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Can you think of a time when you have experienced the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit? 2. What immediate change occurred when you sensed the Holy Spirit join you in that situation? 3. Do you need the Holy Spirit’s supernatural assistance with any challenges that you’re facing right now? Why don’t you write down those areas and talk to the Lord about them today?
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. — 2 Timothy 2:5It is a fact that hardships nearly always reveal the real level of a person’s commitment to Jesus Christ. When everything is going well and there are no challenges, it’s easy to serve God. But when things get tough and people are faced with hard decisions, this is the golden moment when the real level of their commitment is revealed — when they have to decide, Will I remain faithful in the hard times? You can be certain that if a flaw exists in their commitment to Jesus, difficult episodes in life will bring that defect to the surface. In the former Soviet Union, I know many people who paid a very high price for their faith in Jesus Christ. The rulers of that past time sent many believers to prison; deported others to slave labor camps; and incarcerated still others in psychiatric hospitals, where they were treated as mental patients because they believed in God. The Soviet leadership found all sorts of ways to disdain, humiliate, and mock Christians for being different. It was therefore a very serious matter to believe in Jesus Christ, requiring a life commitment. This is really true about all levels of life. For instance, you may say that you are committed to your spouse, a friend, to your employer, or even to your church. But what if problems emerge in those relationships that make you feel uncomfortable? What if being faithful requires you to stick with someone who is suddenly unpopular? Will you remain faithful to that relationship if problems arise in it? Will you stick to your commitment and keep your word — or will you tuck your tail and run from the stress, tossing the relationship to the wind? You see, hard times really do reveal the truth about who people are! Doesn’t it make you grateful for the people who have stayed with you through the high moments and low moments, through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad times? Friends like these are very rare, so make sure you never take them for granted. They have proven the sincerity of their commitment to you by sticking with you through it all. In Second Timothy, many people were defecting from the faith because hard times had come. Staying faithful to Jesus meant they might face persecution, beatings, imprisonment, or even death. Before the persecution commenced, the church at Ephesus was growing rapidly. But now it was declining as the newly arrived adversities exposed the genuine level of people’s faith. In the midst of these trying times, Paul wrote to Timothy about the attitude that is essential to survive difficult times. Although Paul was making a statement, he was also asking a very pointed question. He said, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” The word “strive” is the Greek word athlesis, which always describes athletic activities or sporting events. It also notably depicted professional athletes. As time passed, it expressed the idea of any event in life that demands one’s labor or sweat and tears. It indicated exertion, effort, and commitment. It could refer to either physical exertion or mental exertion. Just as in our world today, there were both amateur and professional athletes at the time Paul wrote this letter. If someone was an amateur, he wasn’t a serious contender and would not participate in the harshest competitions. However, if he was a professional athlete, he was so committed that he was ready to compete, no matter how intense the opposition or how difficult the circumstances. This is the idea Paul is conveying when he used the word athlesis in this verse. Paul was in essence asking:
- Are you an amateur who serves the Lord just for fun?
- Have you committed yourself to go all the way to the end, regardless of the fight that ensues?
- Are you serving the Lord only because it’s popular and enjoyable for the moment?
- Are you a professional that is willing to pay any price, undergo any kind of hardship, bear up under any pressure, and endure it all until you come out the winner?
- Are you really committed?
- Who stayed faithful to their friends, even through hard times?
- Who kept their commitment to their spouse, even though their marriage was hurting?
- Who remained faithful to their pastor in spite of the hard times in the church?
- Who stuck by their principles and refused to bend to the pressures that came to break them?
My Prayer for TodayLord, I want You to see me as a professional! Therefore, I choose to put away amateurish Christian attitudes and behaviors! For me to be all You want me to be, I understand that it’s going to require more of me. Right now I am making up my mind to move to a higher level of commitment with God, to give Him all that I have, and to never stop until the job is done and the assignment is complete! Help me move into the “professional league” as a believer and to leave the life of the amateur behind forever!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am a serious contender for doing the will of God! In spite of what the devil and life may try to throw at me, I will walk away as the winner. I will survive hard times and thus prove the sincerity of my faith. Mine isn’t a flawed faith that tucks its tail and runs. I am the kind of Christian who sticks it out to the end!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Does your level of commitment reveal that you are an amateur or a professional Christian? 2. Do you face hardships bravely, or do you tuck your tail and run when things get tough? 3. What would other people say about your level of commitment? Why not ask a few friends to tell you what they think, giving them the right to be totally honest with you?
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. — 1 Corinthians 9:24The main goal of all believers should be to find God’s plan for their lives and then to go after it with all their might and strength. But most Christians have never even awakened to the fact that God has a special race for them to run! This is why Paul asked the Corinthians, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but only one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Paul teaches us here that we are in a “race.” The word “race” is the Greek word stadion, which later became our word stadium. However, it first described a race course that was 600 feet in length or one-eighth of a Roman mile — the exact length that was used in the Olympics of the ancient world and in the Isthmian Games that were held near the city of Corinth. Because Paul was highly educated, he knew precisely what he was doing when he used a word that described the Olympic race course of his day. As noted above, eventually the word stadion became the word for a stadium, a place where athletic competitions were held. Since this is the picture Paul has in his mind as he uses the word “race,” let’s stop to consider the Olympic competitions and competitors of that time. The winners of the Olympic competitions were rewarded both materially and with great honor; however, if you study the Olympic champions in the ancient world, you will see that the primary emphasis of reward was not on material wealth, but on the distinguished honor bestowed on the winners. These people were only able to achieve victory in the Olympic games by being disciplined, balanced, and committed to excellence; for these qualities, they were held in high regard. They became revered as heroes, gods, or icons in their society. Respect, honor, notoriety, and fame became their lifelong reward. In addition to these ideas, it is also important to note that the word “race,” from the Greek word stadion, depicted the huge arena where athletic competitions were held. Paul uses this word to tell us that when we enter the race of faith, it puts us in the center of the arena. People see us as we walk by faith. They know of our struggles, and they watch as spectators to see if we will win our battles. We must always keep in mind, therefore, that we’re not running a private race of faith, but a race that has influence on many people’s lives. Hence, Paul urges us to run our race in a way that encourages the bystanders who are watching from the sidelines to jump into the race themselves and pursue their destiny in God! By using these ideas, Paul was communicating to the Corinthians (and to us) that we need to see ourselves as spiritual Olympic competitors! This life we lead is no game; it is the most serious competition we will ever face in this world. The rewards of a life well lived are enormous. Not only will God materially reward us as we are faithful to His call, but He also reserves eternal rewards of honor and glory for those of us who run our race well in this life (Romans 2:10). It is interesting that Paul says, “…They which run in a race run all….” Notice particularly the emphasis “run all.” It means every believer is in some kind of race. A believer may not have awakened to the race he is in yet, or perhaps the race hasn’t yet been revealed to him. Nevertheless, the fact remains that God has a specific plan for every individual. Our task is to find the divine plan for our lives; to get in shape so we can start running our race; and then to run like mad so we can finish in first place! That’s why Paul exhorted us, “…Run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24). You see, runners have one thought foremost in their minds — the finish line! With this analogy in mind, Paul tells you to run your spiritual race with all your might, keeping your focus on the goal — the divine call on your life as God has revealed it to you. You may ask, “How long am I supposed to keep running and trying to reach my God-given goals?” The answer is until you “obtain” what God called you to do! The word “obtain” is the Greek word katalambano, which is a compound of two words, kata and lambano. The word kata describes something that is coming downward, and the word lambano means to take or to seize something. When compounded together into one word, katalambano means to grab hold of, to seize, to wrestle, to pull down, and to finally make a desired object your very own. This is the picture of someone who finally sees what he wants — and instead of letting that goal he desires slip away, he pounces on it, seizing it and latching hold of it with all his might! Paul uses this word katalambano to depict the attitude of a runner who is running with all his energy, straining forward as he keeps his focus fixed on the finish line. At last the runner reaches the goal, and the prize is now his! He gave that race all he had to give, and it paid off! Had he approached the race with a casual, lazy attitude, the prize would have gone to another. But because he ran to obtain that prize, in the end that’s exactly what he did! There is no doubt that you have a divine purpose for your life, something God has called you to do. God has marvelous ideas and plans for your life! The question is this: Do you want to fulfill His plans for you? If your answer is truly yes, then set your heart on your goal. Don’t be half-hearted, mealy-mouthed, touchy, or easily discouraged. It’s time for you to develop some resolve! Do you see yourself as someone who is running the spiritual Olympic event of his or her life? Or are you simply “jogging for Jesus”? If you’re serious about fulfilling God’s plan for your life, it’s time to shift into high gear and to start putting all your spiritual, mental, and physical energies into getting the job done. You have to remove all distractions and commit yourself to a life of discipline, balance, and devotion.
Your attitude must be, “I’m going to run this race, and I’m going to WIN it! I’m not going to live my whole life missing out on what God has for me! No matter what inconvenience I endure, what price I have to pay, or what adjustments I have to make, I am going to faithfully run my race so that one day I can obtain the prize — the fulfillment of God’s call on my life!”
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to set my eyes on the finish line and never lose my focus until I know that I’ve accomplished the task You have given me to do. I know it’s going to take all my spiritual, mental, and physical energies to get this job done. So I am turning to You now, Holy Spirit, and I’m asking You to empower me and to help me make it all the way to the completion of the dream You have given to me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I declare that I have a divine purpose in life! I am not half-hearted, mealy-mouthed, touchy, or easily discouraged. I am like a runner who is seriously running a race. Because I’m serious about achieving God’s plan for my life, I am shifting into high gear and putting all my spiritual, mental, and physical energies into getting the job done.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you know what race you are supposed to be running in your life? 2. Are you running that race with 100 percent of your effort, or are you just half-heartedly jogging along in your life? 3. For you to achieve what God has told you to do, what changes of attitude and behavior do you need to make in your life? Write these changes down so you can pray about them!
As I write to you this month, Denise and I are preparing to return home to Moscow from the United States — and what a fruitful time it has been as we’ve traveled and ministered, visited with many of our partners in our various meetings, reacquainted ourselves with old friends, and spent precious time with family members in this part of the world whom we dearly miss when we’re away.
Also during this trip to the U.S., Denise and I have conducted several interviews for television, radio, and social media. In most of those sessions, I talked about my new book No Room for Compromise, A Light in Darkness, Volume Two and how Jesus’ prophetic message to the church at Pergamum from the book of Revelation is so PERTINENT to the Church today, in this hour.
Denise also recently wrote a book entitled, Who Stole Cinderella? The Art of ‘Happily Ever After‘, and women of all ages are interested in this book! I personally have read it word for word FOUR TIMES, and I can truthfully tell you that reading Who Stole Cinderella? will be a very worthwhile, life-changing experience for anyone! It was an honor for me to write the foreword for this book. In it, I said that Denise’s testimony and her transparency in sharing personal details of her life were almost disarming. And I was right there sharing life with her through it all!
Thank you for letting me talk to you about our trip to the U.S. Now I want to get into the teaching part of this letter and offer you some encouragement as well. But first, I must seriously ask you: Have you ever been through a time when you were tempted to give up on something you were praying about because you hadn’t received the answer you were seeking? Be honest!
We’ve all been through those times when we prayed, believed, and waited — yet the answer seemed like it was never going to come. In such moments, what should we do? Should we throw up our hands in exasperation and walk away from the answer we’re praying for as though it’s never going to manifest? How long should we hang in there and keep believing for that answer to come to pass?
Believers everywhere encounter this type of situation on occasion. They pray, fully believing, yet the answer seems slow in coming. This occurrence is so common that Denise and I receive thousands of letters from television viewers in our part of the world who frequently ask:
- How long should I continue believing God for the answer to my prayer to come to pass?
- Is there anything special I should be doing while I’m waiting for God to answer my prayer?
- What attitude should I maintain while I continue to wait for my answer?
These are good questions to ask. So what should you do if you’ve prayed in faith but haven’t seen the manifestation of your answer as quickly as you wanted to see it?
In Colossians 4:2, the apostle Paul gives very solid advice to you and me when we find ourselves in this kind of circumstance. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He says, “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”
In this verse, Paul explicitly tells us three things:
- How long we should keep praying. (He said, “Continue….”)
- What kind of expectation we must have when we pray. (Paul said we’re to “watch.”)
- What kind of attitude we must maintain while we wait for the answer to come. (We’re to continue in prayer, watching with thanksgiving.)
Paul starts out in Colossians 4:2 by saying, “Continue in prayer…,” so let’s begin this month by looking at the word “continue.”
The word “continue” comes from the Greek word proskartereo, which is a compound of the words pros and kartereo. The word pros means to or toward, and the word kartereo comes from the word karteros, which is the Greek word meaning to be strong; to be stout; to bear up; to have fortitude; or to be steadfast. It gives the idea of something that is strong, robust, tough, solid, or heavy-duty!
But when kartereo is compounded with the word pros, as in Colossians 4:2, the new word depicts a strong, solid, never-give-up type of leaning toward an object. It pictures someone who so fiercely wants something that he is relentlessly leaning forward toward that object — pressing toward it, devoted to the goal of obtaining it, and busily engaged in activities that will bring the object of his desire to him.
The use of this word proskartereo emphatically means that the apostle Paul is urging us:
- To stay forward-directed and focused in prayer.
- To keep pressing into the Spirit.
- To resolutely refuse to give up until we have obtained that for which we are praying.
The use of proskartereo assuredly tells us that there will be times when answers do not come quickly! Hence, we can assume that some answers will come only if we are tenaciously determined to continue in prayer until we receive the answers we seek. God requires us to stay spiritually strong — pushing forward and continually engaging in robust prayer until we see the manifestation of our answers. I don’t know about you — but that really encourages me!
Without a doubt, Paul affirms that we must “continue in prayer” during those times when we don’t get our answers as quickly as we had hoped. Next month, we’re going to look at that word “prayer,” and I think you’ll be surprised at its meaning. God desires intimate, face-to-face contact with you — you will not want to miss next month’s teaching!
A day never passes that I don’t think about and pray for all the friends and partners who stand with us as we seek to fulfill this huge assignment God has given us. I wish I knew how to express more fully how grateful we are that you decided to sign up for my monthly letters and connect a little more closely with us.
Until next month, how can Denise and I and our team be praying for you? We pray for our partners fervently and diligently every day, but it thrills our hearts to hear from you about the specific things that are on your heart. And we love to hear reports of your answers to prayer as well. We are so thankful to be partnering with you!
We love you and thank God for you!
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families