It’s Time For A Change

  • Jeremiah 29:11

    11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • Joshua 1:9

    9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11

    11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
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Time For A Change

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. —Luke 7:39

A friend once told me, “In my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of things change, and I’ve been against them all!” Perhaps he overstated the point, but many of us would agree that we don’t like change—especially if it involves altering our habits and attitudes.

That’s one reason Jesus was so unpopular among the Pharisees. He challenged their long-established system of good works and self-righteous living. Consider the incident when the town “sinner” entered the home of the town “saint” in Luke 7:36-50. Simon the Pharisee wasn’t impressed with the woman’s lavish display of affection for Jesus. Reading Simon’s self-righteous thoughts, Jesus immediately challenged his flawed perception of his own goodness by telling the story of two debtors—one who owed much to his master and one who owed less. “Which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked (Luke 7:42). Obviously, the one who had been forgiven more. Speaking to Simon’s I-feel-pretty-good-about-myself attitude, Jesus said, “to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47).

The challenge is clear. Lulled into thinking how good we are, our love for Jesus wanes because we have forgotten that we too are among the ones “forgiven much.” And when that happens, ready or not, it’s time for a change!

Forgive us, Lord, for failures past,
Then help us start anew
With strength and courage to obey
And closely follow You. —Sper

When God starts changing things, He usually begins with changing us.

Nicole J Phillips March 27, 2017
Fight About It Tomorrow
NICOLE J PHILLIPS, COMPEL Member

“When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace.” Mark 11:15-16 (NLT)

I was 41 years old and fighting with my dad like I was 14.

My father wasn’t feeling well and (in my opinion) was a little crabby. I was sore and tired from a 10-hour car ride with three children, so I suppose it’s possible I was a little crabby, too.

We were in the kitchen having breakfast and looking through vacation photos when he started complaining about how he hates looking at photos on phones. “Why can’t people just print off pictures like they used to?”

I reminded him we still live in a world of color printers: “If you want, I’d be happy to make real, live copies for you to hold in your hands.”

Now, that would have been fine. I could’ve stopped there. But no. Since my mouth was already open, I decided to carry on and tell him how terribly negative I thought he’d been for the past week. “Why are you so focused on the bad things, Dad? It’s exhausting. How about trying to comment on the good for a change?”

I continued, and so did my dad. The decibel level got so loud that my husband walked into the room. After about five minutes, I “won.” He apologized and said he would try to be more positive.

But I didn’t win. Because two days later, my dad had a major stroke. He spent a week lying in a hospital bed, then months in a nursing home, unable to move one side of his body or name most of the people who walked into the room.

The guilt was overwhelming. Why didn’t I lead with kindness?

I took my grief to God and opened to a Bible passage I had never noticed before. I realized God was about to teach me through this trial.

Mark 11:11 says, “So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left …” (NLT)

Four verses later, otherwise known as the next morning, the story continues: “When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the table of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace” (Mark 11:15-16).

Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t unleash his fury the first time he saw the Temple. He scoped out the situation, slept on it and then went in the next day with the roundhouse kick.

Raising our voices isn’t out of line. The problem is often our timing. We need to take time to search for the right words so the wrong words — in the wrong decibel — don’t sneak up on us. I don’t know about you, but my relationships would be a whole lot sweeter if I would assess each situation and take the time to decide if it’s worth fighting about. If it is, it’ll still be there tomorrow.

God is good at teaching — and redeeming. My dad is once again well enough to share a meal, breathe words of wisdom into his daughter’s sometimes chaotic life, and even look at photos on a cellphone. Although he still prefers the printed version, we sure don’t fight about it anymore.

Heavenly Father, we are in awe of the way You can take every trial and turn it into a teaching opportunity. Lord, give us the wisdom to hold our words until we are certain we are in the center of Your will. Thank You for Your forgiveness when we fail or fall short. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Image Management

From: Our Daily Bread

Image Management

You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you. Isaiah 43:4

To celebrate Winston Churchill’s eightieth birthday, the British parliament commissioned artist Graham Sutherland to paint a portrait of the celebrated statesman. “How are you going to paint me?” Churchill reportedly asked the artist: “As a cherub, or the Bulldog?” Churchill liked these two popular perceptions of him. Sutherland, however, said he would paint what he saw.

Churchill was not happy with the results. Sutherland’s portrait had Churchill slumped in a chair wearing his trademark scowl—true to reality, but hardly flattering. After its official unveiling, Churchill hid the painting in his cellar. It was later secretly destroyed.

Like Churchill, most of us have an image of ourselves we want others to have of us also—whether of success, godliness, beauty, or strength. We can go to great lengths to conceal our “ugly” sides. Perhaps deep down we fear we won’t be loved if the real us is known.

When the Israelites were taken captive by Babylon, they were seen at their worst. Because of their sins, God allowed their enemies to conquer them. But He told them not to fear. He knew them by name, and He was with them in every humiliating trial (Isa. 43:1–2). They were secure in His hands (v. 13) and “precious” to Him (v. 4). Despite their ugliness, God loved them.

We will find ourselves less motivated to seek the approval of others when such a truth truly sinks in. God knows the real us and still loves us immeasurably (Eph. 3:18).

God’s deep love means we can be real with others.

 

“Brutiful”

From: Our Daily Journey

“Brutiful”

Read:

Hosea 1:2–2:1
In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—“My people.” And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—“The ones I love” (Hosea 2:1).

During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.

The people of Israel experienced a chilling darkness in their relationship with God due to the deadly spiritual disease of idolatry (Hosea 1:2). The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wayward wife provided a real-life portrait of his nation’s rebellion against their Lord. When Gomer, the prophet’s wife, had three children, God told Hosea to name them Jezreel (“for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel”), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”) (Hosea 1:4,6,9). Not exactly a happy trio of names!

But happiness was on the horizon, for God said, “What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land” (Hosea 1:11). Not only was Jezreel’s name redeemed, but God transformed the other two children’s names too: Ammi (“my people”) and Ruhamah (“the ones I love”).

God alone has the power and grace to allow us to experience beauty even when things are brutal. He alone allows us to see light and life as it peeks through the darkness. Seek Him and His “brutiful,” transforming ways even in the midst of your most difficult days.

Renew Personal Purity

 Renew your personal purity just as these things are pure.

 

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God    Psalm 51:10
9   Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

10   Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11   Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.…

 

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

From: Utmost.org

Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

Purity is not innocence— it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. Our life with God may be right and our inner purity unblemished, yet occasionally our outer life may become spotted and stained. God intentionally does not protect us from this possibility, because this is the way we recognize the necessity of maintaining our spiritual vision through personal purity. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything else aside until we make it right. Remember that spiritual vision depends on our character— it is “the pure in heart” who “see God.”

God makes us pure by an act of His sovereign grace, but we still have something that we must carefully watch. It is through our bodily life coming in contact with other people and other points of view that we tend to become tarnished. Not only must our “inner sanctuary” be kept right with God, but also the “outer courts” must be brought into perfect harmony with the purity God gives us through His grace. Our spiritual vision and understanding is immediately blurred when our “outer court” is stained. If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become unacceptable for us.

A practical help in keeping your personal purity unblemished in your relations with other people is to begin to see them as God does. Say to yourself, “That man or that woman is perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend or that relative is perfect in Christ Jesus!”

 

Price Tags

From: Get More Strength

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” Philippians 3:8

You may have heard the story about the pranksters who broke into a hardware store. Strangely enough, they didn’t steal a thing. Yet what they did created chaos of epic proportions—they switched all the price tags!

The store owner was unaware of anything amiss until the first customer stepped to the cash register with a hammer that rang up at $199.95. Naturally, the customer’s jaw dropped. “What’s that thing made of?” he demanded. “Platinum?”

On further inspection, employees noticed that a big screen TV in the appliance section was selling for $14.95. The goods were all the same, resting on the same shelves as the night before, but the assigned values were hopelessly jumbled.

I can’t help but think that Satan likes to pull the same stunt with us. Unaware of his stealth work, we go through life with mixed-up price tags on our accomplishments and accolades. We assign the wrong value to who we are and what we have—not to mention the lack of value we assign to God who unequivocally deserves the highest value.

Paul had the price tags right when he wrote to the Philippian believers: “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. . . . I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him” (Philippians 3:7-8, The Message).

There’s Paul at the cash register, looking at all the price tags attached to his experiences, achievements, and treasures. He’s got a red pen in his hand, and all those things that used to be so valuable, so precious, so terribly important to him have been slashed down to zero. In fact, Paul’s loading them up in boxes, headed for the dumpster out back.

I find it interesting that this same Paul who once assigned no value to Jesus at all—and in fact hated Him—now can’t even put a price on the privilege of experiencing Him. After his unforgettable personal encounter with the living Christ (Acts 9), Paul’s whole world was reordered, and he never looked back. The value of his relationship with Jesus became “priceless.” What’s more, he lived like he really meant it.

And for us, it’s more than just giving mental or verbal assent to the “surpassing value” of knowing Jesus. Many of us have been doing that for a long time—and then we go on to live like He is eighth or ninth on the list. Unfortunately in this glitz-and-glamour world, we are far too prone to place great value on all that is temporal and seductive. And believe me, we pay a high price for that. It means that we miss out on the most valuable asset of all—the joy of a deep, abiding relationship with the only One who can meet all of our needs and fill us with His joy. His invitation still stands: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Find time for Him and make His will and His ways your greatest treasure! For what you value will capture your heart (Matthew 6:21)!

 

The First Day—Again

From: Our Daily journey

The First Day—Again

Read:

John 20:1-10
Early on the first day of the week (John 20:1 NIV).

Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.

And now imagine yourself, years later, stooped and grayed, carrying the weight of many decades on your shoulders, the weight of so many losses and disappointments. Your eyes, once young and bright, are now milky and dim. You’ve forgotten the old fire, the old hope.

Then someone begins to read from John’s gospel. You hear again about another garden, where friends buried Jesus after His violent crucifixion (John 19:41-42). Then you hear familiar words: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . . Goose bumps surface—even on such wrinkled, leathery skin. You feel you’ve returned to childhood wonder.

Is something magnificent about to happen again? Is God on the move? Is God’s kingdom expanding? You lean in. You’re not missing this story. You’ll soon hear of Jesus’ resurrection. Energy surges again. The old hope and the old stories erupt with vigor and fresh possibility. God is doing something new, again.

The Middle

 

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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(The middle is a tough place to be).

The Middle

From: Get More Strength.org

 1 Thessalonians 5:23

I am a passionate fan of Oreo cookies. The mere thought of a tall, ice-cold glass of milk and a huge stack of Oreos is enough to induce some major hunger pangs. And I refuse to pay attention to the fine print on the back of the Oreo package that delineates the calories and fat content. When it comes to Oreos, I’m ready to throw all caution to the wind!

Which reminds me of their ad campaign that addressed that classic Oreo-eating technique in which you pull the chocolate cookie halves apart to get to the creamy frosting in the center. The ad gave this stern reproof to Oreo eaters everywhere: “Don’t fiddle with the middle!”

I’m sure the people at the Oreo factory would be pleased to know that their advice still sticks in my mind. But it’s not about their cookies. Let me explain.

All of us are aware that getting cleaned up for Jesus is an important thing. But most of the time we think about cleaning up all the visible stuff. You know, the stuff on the outside. We try to behave so that others will see that we are “good Christians.” It’s important to us that people in our small groups know that we are having our devotions. We volunteer in the church world, we make sure to put something in the offering plate as it goes by, and we have learned to say all the nice words and do all the right things at all the right times.

And while I’m not “out” on any of that, I do have a problem if your Christianity is only about the externals. Jesus stung some of the best-acting, spiritually spit-polished people of His day with the charge that they were like whitewashed tombs—all cleaned up on the outside but carrying the stench of death within (Matthew 23:27). To Jews who believed that death and defilement were the same thing, this was a serious charge.

It’s scary to think that the better you get on the outside, the worse you might become on the inside. Behaving really well can easily make you proud of yourself, and we all know what God thinks about pride in our hearts: He resists it (1 Peter 5:5), and, in fact, a proud look makes the list of the seven things that are an abomination to Him (Proverbs 6:16-19). Being really good can make a “finger-pointer” out of you real fast. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to carry attitudes in our hearts that stink while we carry our Bible into church. So let’s not forget that while man might applaud us for what’s on the outside, God still looks at the heart! He knows all about that well-protected sin, that self-sufficient attitude, and those resentments we nurse. Like oranges that have been out of the fridge too long, you get no credit for looking good in the fruit bowl if there’s something rotten on the inside.

This is what I like about Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He reminds us that it is God’s plan to sanctify us through and through. In other words, God wants to fiddle with your middle! As Paul says in our text, authentic Christianity is about renewing our spirit, our soul, and then our body from the inside out. It’s not a facelift—it’s a heart transplant!

“Don’t fiddle with the middle” may be good advice for Oreo eaters, but it’s a terrible thing to say to God!

 

Not the One

From: Our Daily Bread

Not the One
 
 

Do as you promised, so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. 1 Chronicles 17:23–24

David had drawn up the plans. He designed the furniture. He collected the materials. He made all the arrangements (see 1 Chron. 28:11–19). But the first temple built in Jerusalem is known as Solomon’s Temple, not David’s.

For God had said, “You are not the one” (1 Chron. 17:4). God had chosen David’s son Solomon to build the temple. David’s response to this denial was exemplary. He focused on what God would do, instead of what he himself could not do (vv. 16–25). He maintained a thankful spirit. He did everything he could and rallied capable men to assist Solomon in building the temple (see 1 Chron. 22).

Bible commentator J. G. McConville wrote: “Often we may have to accept that the work which we would dearly like to perform in terms of Christian service is not that for which we are best equipped, and not that to which God has in fact called us. It may be, like David’s, a preparatory work, leading to something more obviously grand.”

David sought God’s glory, not his own. He faithfully did all he could for God’s temple, laying a solid foundation for the one who would come after him to complete the work. May we, likewise, accept the tasks God has chosen for us to do and serve Him with a thankful heart! Our loving God is doing something “more obviously grand.”

Father, we want our hopes and dreams and our hearts to align with Yours. Teach us to praise You when we are tempted to doubt Your goodness.

God may conceal the purpose of His ways, but His ways are not without purpose.

 

Clueless at the Light

From: Our Daily Journey

Clueless at the Light

Read:

Proverbs 22:17-25
Don’t . . . associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them (Proverbs 22:24-25).

Ahead of me, two rows of cars waited for the traffic light to turn from red to green. Beside us, in the turn lane, a third line of vehicles awaited a green arrow so they could turn left.

The turn-lane arrow turned green. Our light remained red. But both vehicles in front of me (the two cars not in the turn lane) proceeded as if the green arrow applied to them! The horn-honking from opposing traffic was, shall we say, emphatic. Both drivers had been influenced by the driver in the turn lane—and each other—without a clue that their light was still red.

Whether intentional or otherwise, we do influence each other. And how easily we’re swayed when uncertain of the truth!

Among the “thirty sayings” he left for his son, King Solomon said this about influence: “Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart” (Proverbs 22:17-18). Then he noted the importance of choosing good friends. “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).

It’s important to be discerning when choosing friends. At times, however, even trusted friends will display negative behaviors. So whose lead should we follow? Well, it’s hard to go wrong when we keep our eyes on the One who is the Truth. As the apostle Paul said, “Imitate me just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

The more we follow leaders with integrity, heed wise counsel, and surround ourselves with friends who truly care about us, the less likely we’ll be swayed by a complaining coworker, popular opinion, or our own doubtful heart. Jesus can shape and lead us through others who are close to Him.

 

 

We Will See Him

Heavenly Faces

Genesis 32:30

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Red Faces

Jeremiah 6:15

“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.

Shining Faces

Numbers 6:25

The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;

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His Wonderful Faces

From: Our Daily Bread

His Wonderful Face

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  1 Chronicles 16:11

My four-year-old son is full of questions, and chatters constantly. I love talking with him, but he’s developed an unfortunate habit of talking to me even when his back is turned. I often find myself saying, “I can’t hear you—please look at me when you’re talking.”

Sometimes I think God wants to say the same thing to us—not because He can’t hear us, but because we can tend to talk to Him without really “looking” at Him. We pray, but we remain caught up in our own questions and focused on ourselves, forgetting the character of the One we’re praying to. Like my son, we ask questions without paying attention to the person we’re talking to.

Many of our concerns are best addressed by reminding ourselves of who God is and what He has done. By simply refocusing, we find comfort in what we know of His character: that He is loving, forgiving, sovereign, graceful.

The psalmist believed we ought to seek God’s face continually (Ps. 105:4). When David appointed leaders for worship and prayer, he encouraged the people to praise God’s character and tell stories of His past faithfulness (1 Chron. 16:8–27).

When we turn our eyes toward the beautiful face of God, we can find strength and comfort that sustain us even in the midst of unanswered questions.

Lord, let the light of Your face shine upon us.

Seeking the face of God can strengthen our faith.

 

Glynnis Whitwer March 24, 2017
I Want to Be Right!
GLYNNIS WHITWER

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17 (NIV)

My desire to be right is strong. Something in me always wants to prove my point, not make mistakes or let others see my weaknesses.

For years I gave into that prompting. But rather than making me look good, it had the opposite effect. It resulted in too many last words, over-quick responses and a guarded heart. It affected my relationships, because while it looked like righteousness to me, it appeared as judgement to others, unloving and self-centered.

Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to be right. Last year, I attended a conference where a speaker described three markers in our lives that guide our decisions: We want to look good, feel good and be right.

This was confirmed a few weeks ago when I fell down while leaving church. I was talking with my husband, looking up at him, when my foot hit a raised crack in the sidewalk. I had no chance to catch myself and went down hard … knees, arm, then face. The walkway was crowded and lots of people stopped to help.

Thankfully I was more embarrassed than hurt. My husband helped me up, apologizing for not catching me, and we left to join our kids for lunch. Other than a slightly red cheek, no one could tell I was hurt. But at lunch, I told my kids about the fall, and one of my son made a comment that confirmed this innate desire to look good.

He didn’t ask how I felt, or if I was in pain, he asked, “Did anybody see you?”

I had to laugh, because that was exactly what embarrassed me: Other people witnessed my fall.

Years ago I wouldn’t have laughed. My pride would have been so bruised, I probably would have ruined the lunch. But I knew my son cared about me, and his question was an honest one. It’s what we all think when we goof. Who saw it?

The Lord has done an amazing work in my life. He’s revealed my desire to always be right is based in pride, and that pride always sets itself up against others — first God, then those around me. It’s been a complicated process to uncover pride, but with God’s help, I’m learning to identify it and confess it quickly.

I’ve learned the hard way; God hates pride. Jesus’ harshest words were for those religious leaders who always wanted to be right and appear right. He knew their hearts were in the wrong place, and He called them out.

Jesus didn’t scold those whose weaknesses were evident. He didn’t shame the prostitute or the beggar. He didn’t publicly correct those struggling with sin. Instead, He welcomed them to come to Him and receive mercy and forgiveness. Jesus always led with love.

This longing to be right surely was put there by God. Except we were meant to desire being right with God more than man. Even then we mess it up by trying to do follow every rule, and make sure others do too. That’s not the kind of “right” God wants.

Jesus introduced the kind of rightness God wants and it is through faith, not works. As our key verse says, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).

Faith must come first if we are ever to be free of this unhealthy need to be right. When we stop striving to control every circumstance, and simply trust God as the Provider for all our needs, it becomes less about us, and more about others. Then we can love generously as Jesus did.

Whew! What a relief that is. It’s exhausting always needing to be right. And while there is a place to do things correctly (as in editing, which is my job) I can separate that kind of right, from the pride-tinged “right” and choose to live by faith in Jesus.

Lord, thank You for removing the expectations that I need to be right. Help me lead with love in every situation and put others before my need to look good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Hurry Up and Wait

From: Get more Strength.org

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” Proverbs 14:29

One of my all-time favorite school teacher stories is about a kindergarten teacher who at the end of an exasperating day had to put boots on all 31 of her students before she sent them out in the snow. As she struggled to lace up the last boot on the foot of the 31st student, the child looked at her and said, “These aren’t my boots.” Thinking that she would have to go back and re-boot the whole class, she furiously ripped off the boots only to hear the kindergartener say, “They’re my sister’s boots, but my mom let me wear them today.”

Does life ever try your patience? Of course it does. There is just something about being born on this planet that makes us vulnerable to snap, often destructive, responses to life’s inevitable stress.

What is it that pushes you to the edge? Is it that guy who keeps cutting you off in heavy traffic or your daughter who keeps snapping her bubble gum every 10 seconds? It’s different for all of us, but we’ve all experienced that temptation to explode when somebody or something stomps on our frayed nerves.

I hate to up the pressure, but it’s in moments of near-nuclear explosions that we find out how closely we’re walking with the Lord. Galatians 5:22 says, “And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience.” When life takes us to the edge, it’s easy to tell if we are being controlled by the Holy Spirit, or whether our old nature is going to step up to manage the situation.

Being patient doesn’t mean that we morph into milk-toast people for Jesus, with no fire in our belly. But the kind of patience that the Spirit wishes to produce does bring restraint to our anger. Anger always clouds good judgment while patience helps us stand back and evaluate the tension in a constructive way. As our text says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

Patience says “no” to our “gut reaction” to do the first thing that comes to mind. When your gut reaction is: “I’m quitting this job right now!” patience says, “Why don’t you give it a few days and pray about it. Think about how this will affect your future and your family.” Patience gives you the space you need to make better decisions. An impulsive “I’m heading to the dealership right now to buy that new car!” may need patience to slow you down long enough to ask yourself, “What’s wrong with the car I have? Is there anything better that God would want me to do with the money?”

And, patience may just get your anxious little self out of the way so that God can accomplish what He has in mind through the trial that has you so frazzled. The psalmist helps us when he says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14 NASB).

And Isaiah assures us that “those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB).

So all together now: Let’s take a deep breath, step back, and patiently wait for Him to manage your response. No wonder patience is called a virtue!

Jesus Is Building His Church

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
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Gate Crashers

From: Get More Strength.org

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18

Several years ago, the Pentagon built warships designed to fight terrorism. This class of battleship could carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Interestingly, one of the fleet, the USS New York, was built with 24 tons of scrap metal from the wreckage of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Talk about turning the tables on terrorism–the fallout of one of the most horrific acts of terrorism was used for fighting against evil!

But it’s no better than the idea that our God had when He took us, scraped and trashed by the terrorism of sin, and processed us through a redemptive meltdown to re-tool us for war against the terror of hell. As Paul said, we are a new creation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), having been delivered from the grip of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13)!  Why the meltdown and re-creation? To equip us to aggressively go against the forces of darkness in our world. To crash the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)!

I remember my wrongheaded thinking about this verse. When Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His church, I always pictured His words as a statement about how safe we are from the power of hell. It probably was a mindset leftover from the fortress mentality of my early days in church. Back then we spent a lot of time talking about how hellish our world was and encouraged each other to hunker down ’til Jesus comes. But Jesus never intended that we would hunker down. Christ’s words mean that we are to pummel the gates of hell by aggressively taking its territory with the superior power of acts of righteousness.

In a world where we have forgotten how to treat each other, we crash the gates of division and alienation with acts of kindness and the healing power of forgiveness. We cleanse the toxic dumps of prideful acts and self-serving agendas with the power of humility and servanthood. Into a world run by the hellish treachery of genocide, oppression, and greed, we are to become advocates for the abused and the poor. In the face of prejudice and injustice, the church is to rise up with open arms to all people regardless, and seek to bring justice to bear on behalf of the marginalized and maligned. And, for those captives still chained in sin, we storm the gates to set the captives free with the power of the gospel!

Amazing, isn’t it?! Taken from the scrap pile of hell, we former captives have been melted down and recreated in the likeness of Jesus, who as our champion leads the charge and guarantees the victory!

While the Pentagon is building new warships, Jesus is busy building His church. And while I don’t know if we can win the war on terror, I do know this—if we will follow our leader, hell doesn’t stand a chance!

Cradled in Comfort

From: Our Daily Bread

Cradled in Comfort

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13

My friend entrusted me with the privilege of holding her precious, four-day-old daughter. Not long after I took the baby into my arms, she started to fuss. I hugged her closer, my cheek pressed against her head, and began to sway and hum in a gentle rhythm to soothe her. Despite these earnest attempts, and my decade and a half of parenting experience, I couldn’t pacify her. She became increasingly upset until I placed her back into the crook of her mother’s eager arm. Peace washed over her almost instantaneously; her cries subsided and her newborn frame relaxed into the safety she already trusted. My friend knew precisely how to hold and pat her daughter to alleviate her distress.

God extends comfort to His children like a mother: tender, trustworthy, and diligent in her efforts to calm her child. When we are weary or upset, He carries us affectionately in His arms. As our Father and Creator, He knows us intimately. He “will keep in perfect peace all who trust in [him], all whose thoughts are fixed on [him]” (Isa. 26:3 nlt).

When the troubles of this world weigh heavy on our hearts, we can find comfort in the knowledge that He protects and fights for us, His children, as a loving parent.

Lord, help me to look to You for my comfort in times of distress.

For help in finding God’s comfort, read The Lord Is My Shepherd: Rest and Renewal from Psalm 23 at discoveryseries.org/hp952.

God’s comfort soothes us perfectly.

 

Everyone Has a Story

From: Our Daily Journey

Everyone Has a Story

Read:

Philippians 2:1-18
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too (Philippians 2:4).

The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.

If this had been a typical session, we would have left as we came in—as strangers. But because the speaker asked us to share something personal, we made an immediate and intense connection.

I left the session wondering what other stories are out there. Most people are struggling with something significant while also rejoicing about something else. Everyone needs prayer—either to celebrate God’s goodness or to seek God’s grace. It isn’t wise for us to walk up to strangers and demand that they open up, but we can be aware that each person has unexpressed yearnings. May we learn how to “share [these] burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

One way to prepare to share others’ burdens is to humbly put them first, reflecting Jesus’ humility. Rather than trying to impress others with our own stories or witty comments, may we ask questions and then really listen to what they have to say (Philippians 2:3; James 1:19). If they’re hesitant to share, may we remain “patient with everyone,” permitting each to open up at their own pace (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

As we actively seek to hear the stories of others, we can grow to truly love and care for them—relying on God to help us imitate His ways.

Be An Example Of God’s Grace

1 Peter 4:10

10    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful
stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

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R.G. LeTourneau and his family are committed Christians. His many works include philanthropies to many struggling institutions and Churches. He has given us a good example of how to live a fruitful Christian life.

 

A Tongue That Moves Dirt

From: Get More Strength.org

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving equipment company, often told this story: “We used to have a scraper known as the Model G. Somebody asked one of our salesmen what the ‘G’ stood for. The salesman promptly replied, ‘Well, I guess the G stands for gossip, because like gossip, this machine moves a lot of dirt, and moves it fast!’”

Have you ever had “the dirt” on someone? Through some turn of events, maybe you know of another person’s misfortune or mistake, and the news is burning a hole in your tongue. Is it okay to tell others? Is it okay to tell someone so that both of you can pray more intelligently about it? Or is telling it to anyone just plain old gossip?

Gossip is defined as idle chatter that can injure another’s integrity and reputation. This category of verbal sin does not always have malicious intent, but it’s always damaging. Closely linked with gossip is the idea of whispering. One of the Hebrew words for gossip means “whispering that is damaging.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for gossip is pronounced beginning with the sound “p-s-s-s,” which is often how gossip is communicated. Gossip can be true information but is always information that is not in the best interests of those who it is about or those who are hearing it.

So, why is it so tempting to look both ways, and then whisper juicy tidbits into the ear of the person next to us? Perhaps it’s because gossip is a way of promoting ourselves. Having the latest news means that we are on the inside track—that we have “the scoop.” It has been said that if a person known as a gossip doesn’t know about it, it’s not worth knowing—which isn’t a compliment! Gossip makes us the center of attention; all ears are tuned in to our frequency. Having and spreading information about others gives us a sort of power—or at least the illusion of it. In the spirit of self-promotion, gossip neutralizes our failures by making sure that others know the failures of someone else. To put it bluntly, we like to gossip because it makes us feel good. But then, a lot of sins make us feel good. Like poisoned sugar, gossip seems sweet but is deadly.

The problem with gossip is that it often backfires. Proverbs 11:13 says: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” If you like to gossip, you probably have friends or acquaintances who wonder if they can trust you with confidential information. Or, you can understand why they might think: If they are telling me about that, who are they talking to about me? It’s no wonder that Proverbs tells us that a gossiper separates the best of friends (Proverbs 16:28).

We should also note with concern that gossips are listed among the defiled people who are “God-haters” (Romans 1:28-30). That’s a serious charge!

It may be true, it may be hot, and it may be interesting, but if it’s not constructive and helpful, it’s gossip. And it’s a problem! If you have to tell someone, take it to the Lord in prayer. Everyone else is out of bounds.

Gateway of Hope

From: Our Daily Journey

Gateway of Hope

Read:

Hosea 2:11-15
I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope (Hosea 2:15).

You have to stick with that movie, even when it gets rough.” My friend pulled The Shawshank Redemption from the DVD player as he spoke. “The rough stuff is what makes the ending so hopeful.”

In a similar way, the stoning of Achan and his family has always been a troubling story for me—part of the “rough stuff” of the Bible. During the destruction of Jericho, Achan stole treasures that belonged to God. After his sin was discovered, he and his family were taken to the Valley of Achor and stoned to death (Joshua 7:16-26).

The name Achor means “trouble.” Yet Hosea records for us that God didn’t want the story to end there. Years after Achan’s death, God announced that He would redeem the site of the man’s betrayal. “I will return her vineyards to [Israel] and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity” (Hosea 2:15).

God has the power to transform. A site of betrayal became a door to hope and future restoration. A place of judgment becomes a place of growing vineyards. Years later Jesus proclaimed to His followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus is our hope—the way of growth and transformation.

Only God is capable of bringing hope out of betrayal. Only God can take the site of an execution and transform it to a place of grace. May He forgive us of our betrayals, and may we turn to Him today for transformation of the “rough stuff” in our lives.

 

 

Heather Avis March 22, 2017
Finding Beauty in the Mess
HEATHER AVIS

From: Crosswalk.com

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness …” Isaiah 61:3a (TLB)

“Heather, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but it seems as though you will not be able to have children naturally.”

My doctor’s words pierced my already wounded heart and quickly made their way through my body threatening to consume me. He continued to explain how the previous tests and procedures had led him to this conclusion, but I’d already heard all I needed to hear … I wanted to get out of there. The next thing I remember was walking through the sea of pregnant women in the waiting area and rushing for the door.

Once my feet hit the sidewalk, I gasped for air, crying hysterically. I made my way to my car, the world before me a hopeless blur. When I arrived home I collapsed on my bed, desperate for God, but too broken to pray.

Three years on this painful path of infertility lead me to a seemingly hopeless place. I was certain there was only one way for me to become a mother. With the confirmation of my broken womb, I mourned the loss of my fertility and watched my dreams burn up around me until all that remained was a pile of ashes … it was my worst-case scenario.

But here’s the thing about our worst-case scenarios: They are powerless against an all-powerful God.

Ten years have passed since that dark day.

This morning, like most mornings, the pitter-patter of tiny feet making their way across the hardwood floors woke me. I sat up in bed and was promptly tackled by my curly haired, sparkly girl: “Good morning mommy!”

Before I could respond, two more sets of happy eyes and wiggly limbs climbed onto my bed, forcing me to lie back down for morning snuggles.

You see, I thought there was only one way for me to become a mom. But in the ashes of my pain and desperation, small bright green buds began sprouting up all around me. As God set me on a path toward adoption, I soon found strength in place of my fear.

Over the years, as I brought not one, not two, but three children home to be mine, the gladness of motherhood overshadows the mourning of infertility. And on days like today, as I lie in the very bed where I once wept out of desperation, I am overwhelmed with peace.

The truth is: This one beautiful life we get to live is messy. So often we trip over our hopes and desires, only to fall into the messes we’ve been avoiding all along. What I’m discovering is when we fall into the very mess we hoped to avoid, we often find God’s goodness there.

My three children may not have my eyes, but they do have my heart and call me Mom. And they have shown me that my finite plans will always be overshowed by an infinite God.

Maybe today you find yourself sitting in a pile of ashes, feeling desperate. While our hopes and desires and plans for our lives are finite, an infinite God Who loves us can take our messiest messes and make something beautiful.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the hope I have knowing You take my messy life and make it beautiful. Give me the patience I need to wait on You and eyes to see the masterpiece taking shape. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Understanding The Cost Of Salvation

 

John 19:18

There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.

 
1 Corinthians 2:2

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

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Do you fully understand the cost of your salvation?

 

Identified or Simply Interested?

From:Utmost.org

Identified or Simply Interested?

The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.

“…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

 

Philip Flunked

From: Our Daily Journey

Philip Flunked

Read:

John 6:1-15
[Jesus] was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do (John 6:6).

In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.

Jesus had something similar in mind when He tested Philip. Jesus asked him where they could buy enough bread to feed the thousands of hungry people who had followed them (John 6:5). Would Philip simply focus on the bare facts of the situation, or apply all that he knew about Jesus?

Unfortunately, Philip flunked the test.

He tallied up the money the disciples could earn and then compared it to the estimated grocery bill for the food that would nourish the crowd. His calculations led him to believe that the situation was hopeless (John 6:7).

Jesus knew that Philip would “fail” the test by overlooking His miracle-working power. He knew the disciple would miss an obvious hint: The crowd was there because they’d seen the miracles Jesus had performed (John 6:2). Still, the Lord supernaturally multiplied the food in a little boy’s lunch until it was enough to feed everyone present (John 6:12).

Could it be that some problems we face are designed to test our faith? God already knows the results we’ll achieve, but He wants us to grow in our faith by relying on what we know about Him—not simply focusing on our circumstances. God is able to “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s the right answer for any test!

 

T. Suzanne Eller March 21, 2017
Crying Over Answered Prayers
SUZIE ELLER

From: Crosswalk.com

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’” Exodus 14:15 (NIV)

I pulled out an old prayer journal and there it was, written in my handwriting. It was a prayer request I had prayed for years.

The words blurred as I traced them, tears falling.

The answer to this prayer was in the process of unfolding. Good news, right? Except, five minutes earlier, I was worrying because it felt so big. That morning I questioned my husband like a lead investigator:

Are you sure we can do this?

Are we making the right decision?

I peppered him with questions, trying to iron out every single detail even though we were in the beginning stages. In the night, when I should have been sleeping, I crunched numbers in my head.

It was exhausting.

Seeing my prayer request in the journal reminded me I had asked God for this very thing, and He was graciously opening the door. Rather than rejoicing, I was fretting.

In today’s passage, Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt after centuries of slavery. They were at the mercy of their captors and worked endless hours making bricks from straw. Generations had prayed for freedom, and the answer had come! Thousands left Egypt and headed for the Promised Land. Not too far into their journey, Pharaoh sent his men after them and the Israelites panicked.

They started to complain. They cried out to Moses.

“They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:11)

They were so focused on the obstacles, that they forgot how many times they’d asked God to release them from slavery. And now — on the brink of stepping out of Egypt completely free for the first time in generations — they complained. After listening to their murmuring, Moses petitioned God on their behalf.

God responded instantly: “Tell the Israelites to move on” (Exodus 14:15b).

As I traced the faded prayer request with my fingers, I admit I was so fixated on the obstacles that I was a little stuck.

Keep moving, Suzie.

Rarely does answered prayer mean it’s smooth sailing all the way.

We pray for that prodigal child to come home, and they do. Yet there’s work to be done in the relationship.

We pray for God to help us achieve a dream. He does, and it’s more difficult than we imagined.

We pray for a promotion, and there’s a learning curve.

Move on. Keep going.

He answered our prayers, and He’ll be with us every step of the way. We can get caught up in the challenges, or celebrate where God is taking us.

I pulled out that old journal and wrote a date beside my prayer request — along with the word “answered.”

Then I listed the hurdles God had demolished in this answered prayer. As I read them, my attitude completely shifted. The obstacles were there, yes, but so was God.

I closed my journal and lifted my hands to thank Him. It was time to stop crying over answered prayers, rejoice and move on.

Heavenly Father, I have been so focused on the obstacles that I lost sight of what You did for me. Thank You for answering my prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Man’s Greatest Honor; To Be God’s Friend

God Takes Up Enoch      Genesis  5:24   (Read about this great man)
23    So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
25    Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech.
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Friendship with God

From: Utmost.org

Friendship with God

The Delights of His Friendship. Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.

The Difficulties of His Friendship. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, “Well, I don’t know, maybe this is not God’s will,” then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22). Think of the last thing you prayed about— were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God? “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

 

Running and Rest

From: Our Daily Bread

Running and Rest
 
 

[Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

The headline caught my eye: “Rest Days Important for Runners.” In Tommy Manning’s article, the former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team emphasized a principle that dedicated athletes sometimes ignore—the body needs time to rest and rebuild after exercise. “Physiologically, the adaptations that occur as a result of training only happen during rest,” Manning wrote. “This means rest is as important as workouts.”

The same is true in our walk of faith and service. Regular times of rest are essential to avoid burnout and discouragement. Jesus sought spiritual balance during His life on Earth, even in the face of great demands. When His disciples returned from a strenuous time of teaching and healing others, “He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:31). But a large crowd followed them, so Jesus taught them and fed them with only five loaves and two fish (vv. 32–44). When everyone was gone, Jesus “went up on a mountainside to pray” (v. 46).

If our lives are defined by work, then what we do becomes less and less effective. Jesus invites us to regularly join Him in a quiet place to pray and get some rest.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example of prayer alone with Your Father. Give us wisdom and determination to make rest a priority as we follow You.

In our life of faith and service, rest is as important as work.

 

Arlene Pellicane March 20, 2017
No Longer Shy
ARLENE PELLICANE

From: Crosswalk.com

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (NIV)

I was reserved as a child. When my parents started attending a church, I didn’t want to be separated from them, so I refused to go with the other elementary school kids. I enjoyed my comfort zone, just a few feet away from my parents. As an only child, I was accustomed to a predictable life, free from siblings. I was afraid of being in unfamiliar territory.

What if I couldn’t find anyone to sit next to me in kid’s church?

What if I had a question, but I didn’t know who to ask?

After many months of comfortably sitting next to my parents in the main service, my mother decided to give me a little pep talk.

“You are going to try the children’s program soon,” she said. “When you go into the room, look for the other kids who are by themselves. Show interest and ask questions about what they like. If you care for others, you won’t be lonely yourself.”

That conversation with my mom helped me reframe my young fears. At first it was hard to overcome my nervousness to talk to other children I didn’t know. But over time, I learned to say hi to any girls who were sitting alone. My fear of being separated from my parents turned into an interest in others (with a little prodding from my mom). I became more comfortable — and now almost 40 years later, I still follow my mom’s advice when I’m in a room filled with people I don’t know.

Look for the lonely.

For many of us, it’s easy to walk into a crowded room and either stick with the people we know or hide in a corner with a phone. Yet in today’s key verse, we’re instructed to consider others, even if it costs us something. When you’re shy, it’s difficult to make that first move toward a stranger. But as God’s children, we are called to reach out to others, which is an act of service to the Lord.

This idea of reaching out to others isn’t just for children’s church, work parties or networking events. It’s the way a Christian ought to behave: looking outwardly, looking for the lonely, looking for ways to bless others.

In this context of being affectionate to each other in brotherly love, the Apostle Paul writes we are to be diligent and fervent (Romans 12:11). Not lagging in diligence means not being lazy when serving the Lord. To be fervent in spirit means to glow with enthusiasm for God. Romans 12:13 says we are to contribute to the needs of the saints and to be given to hospitality. Our hearts, homes and pocketbooks should be open, generously and joyfully creating opportunities to reach out to those in need.

In our brief key verse, the phrase “one another” is mentioned twice, denoting just how important loving others is to God. We are to be devoted to one another and to honor one another. Verse 16 continues this theme; we are to live in harmony with one another.

Herein lies the cure for loneliness and shyness.

Be “one another” minded toward your brothers and sisters in Christ. Look for the lonely. When you look outwardly to serve others, putting the spotlight on your family, friends, neighbors, pastors or co-workers, you won’t be lonely very often. Shyness melts away when God’s people make a heart-to-heart connection.

Although I’m an only child, I do have many brothers and sisters … in Christ. You are not alone, my friend. You are part of God’s beautiful, loving family.

Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me first, which gives me the ability to love others. Help me notice those around me who need a special touch from You. Use me to befriend the friendless. May I overcome any inhibitions to become the caring person You want me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Jesus Sets The Prisoner Free

The Rejection at Nazareth      Luke 4: 18
17    the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written:
19    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”…
Did you know that Jesus was arrested, imprisoned, and executed not for His sin but for ours?   Through his death and resurrection we can be redeemed by faith.
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Trapped in Sin

From: Our Daily Journey

Trapped in Sin

Read:

Romans 3:9-31
Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins (Romans 3:24).

A police officer rescued a deer whose head had become lodged within a discarded light globe. The officer’s first attempt to pull the plastic object off the frightened animal’s head failed, although it came free during a second try. Officials estimate that the animal had been caught with the globe on its head for at least one full day!

Similar to the deer’s helpless predicament, Paul says that we are poor, sinful, lost creatures, incapable of getting ourselves out of our own dilemma. He notes that our hearts are trapped in sin—all of us are born under sin’s power and “fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:9,23).

In Romans 3:10-18, the apostle quotes from six Old Testament passages revealing that we’re born alienated from God, don’t naturally seek Him, have turned away from Him, and don’t have a true view of His greatness. Without God, we’re utterly helpless and can’t rescue ourselves.

But in view of humanity’s helplessness, God stepped in and provided a perfect rescue by His grace through our faith in Jesus His Son (Romans 3:24). Jesus alone provided the perfect sacrifice God required, and His death for us on the cross satisfied the demands of sin—freeing us from the grip of sin and making a restored relationship with God possible (Romans 3:25).

You and I no longer need to remain trapped in sin. God saw our hopeless condition and extended grace, love, and mercy in order to restore us to Himself. We’re rescued and “made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes” (Romans 3:21-22).

Are you trapped by your sin? Receive God’s gift of salvation today through faith in Jesus!

Jell-O Knees

From: Get More Strength.org

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

Somewhere in the distance I heard a siren. Buildings loomed on either side of us and my pulse quickened each time we passed an unlit alley. I was a boy at the time and my family was attending a night service at a church located in one of the sketchier parts of New York City. We all know that as children certain places and situations seem scarier than they might be for adults—so I felt a bit shaky—you know, like my knees were made of Jell-O. And, I wasn’t looking forward to going back to the car later that night.

After the church service, the pastor asked two of his deacons to escort us back to our car. These were two seriously big dudes. I felt no fear with a “church bouncer” on either side of us. I was sure they were larger and more intimidating than anything or anyone we would encounter.

Fear is a funny thing. It enlarges whatever we’re afraid of and shrinks our view of God. As Christians, we need to reclaim our view of God’s greatness by focusing on His presence, power, and protection when we are afraid.

I don’t know about you, but my fear tends to wither away when I remember that God is present everywhere, all the time. He has no boundaries. He is in New York City, east Mongolia, and the south of France, all at the same time! It’s clear that David had a great grasp of this reality when he said: “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8). In the rest of that psalm, David affirms that whether it’s dark or light, morning or evening, or whether you are sleeping or awake, God is present.

It gets even better. Not only is God everywhere, but He is also all-powerful. He has unlimited power, and He delights in sharing it with you and me. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can access God’s power when you pray and ask Him to act on your behalf. You also draw on His power when you open the Word of God and discover how much He loves and cares for you, and how anxious He is to protect and help you. And you draw on the power when you allow the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, words, and actions. In 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV, we read, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power.” Rest assured, God’s power can disarm any intimidating influence in your environment!

The combination of God’s presence and power make Him the greatest protector of all time. He alone has the power to keep you safe wherever you go, and He promises to never leave us or forsake us. If you’re walking in the light of that promise, you have the right to say, with confidence: “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

As a kid on that dark street in New York City, I was imagining all sorts of things that man could do to me. But when those two guys walked us back to our car, all fear was gone! They weren’t God, but I’ve often thought that they did what God does for me every day of my life no matter where I am. Keeping God’s enduring presence, infinite power, and supernatural protection in mind will take the Jell-O right out of your knees—every time!

 

Abraham’s Life of Faith

From: Utmost.org

Abraham’s Life of Faith

In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26.

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason— a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.

The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagles’ wings, but is a life of day-in and day-out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (see Isaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test. Abraham is not a type or an example of the holiness of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith— a faith, tested and true, built on the true God. “Abraham believed God…” (Romans 4:3).

 

A Small Fire

From: Our Daily Bread

A Small Fire
Read: James 3:3–12 | Bible in a Year: Joshua 1–3; Mark 16

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

It was a Sunday night in September and most people were sleeping when a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. Soon the flames spread from house to house and London was engulfed in the Great Fire of 1666. Over 70,000 people were left homeless by the blaze that leveled four-fifths of the city. So much destruction from such a small fire!

The Bible warns us of another small but destructive fire. James was concerned about lives and relationships, not buildings, when he wrote, “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark” (James 3:5).

But our words can also be constructive. Proverbs 16:24 reminds us, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” The apostle Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). As salt flavors our food, grace flavors our words for building up others.

Through the help of the Holy Spirit our words can encourage people who are hurting, who want to grow in their faith, or who need to come to the Savior. Our words can put out fires instead of starting them.

Lord, I can always use help with the way I talk. For this day, help me to speak words of hope and encouragement to build up others.

What will our words be like today?

Are We Small Yet?

13   Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
15   And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…
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Are We Small Yet?

From: Get More Strength

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” Philippians 2:3 NASB

Kids are great! Things that we take for granted are occasions for awe and wonder for them. And their perspectives are often convictingly right on.

Take, for instance, the little girl who loved watching the planes that took off from a nearby airport as she played in her backyard. From her point of view, planes literally got smaller and smaller the farther they flew away. Which explains the strange thing she said to her dad after he decided to take her on a business trip. Soon after taking off, she turned to her dad and said, “Daddy, are we small yet?”

That’s a really important—and challenging—question to ask ourselves. There is something about us that doesn’t like feeling small. It starts early. Any kid worth his salt will gladly throw up his arms and do the “so big!” routine when you ask him, “How big are you?” We may stop throwing up our arms, but we never really grow out of wanting to be “so big” in other people’s eyes. It’s amazing how quickly life gets to be all about who’s got the nicest house, the best job, the coolest car, the highest degree, the biggest diamond, or the best office on the executive floor. We are quick to defend ourselves to keep ourselves looking good. We like to draw attention to our accomplishments and turn conversations to focus on us, and we find ourselves a little put out when we are not noticed or invited to hang out with the “in” crowd.

For most of us, life is about anything but making ourselves small. We are the tall “I” in the middle of our universe.

And that’s a problem.

In Philippians 2:3-11, Paul tells us that we need to stop living to advance ourselves and our own interests and instead start considering others as more important than ourselves. In fact, he says that we should do nothing from “empty conceit”—which literally means the puffing up of our nothingness. I love the graphic picture in that thought. No matter how big you puff up a zero, it’s still a zero!

And then he points us to Jesus who didn’t consider his “big” standing in heaven a thing to hang on to, but rather He humbled himself to care for our interests by becoming obedient to death on the cross. Think of that! Jesus thought of us and our needs as being more important than His own! He made himself small that we by His abundant mercy might become big in the riches of His grace.

Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus!

Are you small yet?

 

From: Streams in the Desert

He answered nothing (Mark 15:3).

There is no spectacle in all the Bible so sublime as the silent Savior answering not a word to the men who were maligning Him, and whom He could have laid prostrate at His feet by one look of Divine power, or one word of fiery rebuke. But He let them say and do their worst, and He stood in THE POWER OF STILLNESS–God’s holy silent Lamb.

There is a stillness that lets God work for us, and holds our peace; the stillness that ceases from its contriving and its self-vindication, and its expedients of wisdom and forethought, and lets God provide and answer the cruel blow, in His own unfailing, faithful love.

How often we lose God’s interposition by taking up our own cause, and striking for our defense. God give to us this silent power, this conquered spirit! And after the heat and strife of earth are over, men will remember us as we remember the morning dew, the gentle light and sunshine, the evening breeze, the Lamb of Calvary, and the gentle, holy heavenly Dove.
–A. B. Simpson

The day when Jesus stood alone
And felt the hearts of men like stone,
And knew He came but to atone
That day “He held His peace.”
They witnessed falsely to His word,
They bound Him with a cruel cord,
And mockingly proclaimed Him Lord;
“But Jesus held His peace.”
They spat upon Him in the face,
They dragged Him on from place to place,
They heaped upon Him all disgrace;
“But Jesus held His peace.”
My friend, have you for far much less,
With rage, which you called righteousness,
Resented slights with great distress?

Your Saviour “held His peace.”
–L. S. P.

I remember once hearing Bishop Whipple, of Minnesota, so well known as “The Apostle of the Indians,” utter these beautiful words: “For thirty years I have tried to see the face of Christ in those with whom I differed.”

When this spirit actuates us we shall be preserved at once from a narrow bigotry and an easy-going tolerance, from passionate vindictiveness and everything that would mar or injure our testimony for Him who came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
–W. H. Griffith Thomas

 

Something’s Wrong

From: Our Daily Breadd

Something's Wrong

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

The morning after our son, Allen, was born, the doctor sat down in a chair near the foot of my bed and said, “Something’s wrong.” Our son, so perfect on the outside, had a life-threatening birth defect and needed to be flown to a hospital 700 miles away for immediate surgery.

When the doctor tells you something is wrong with your child, your life changes. Fear of what lies ahead can crush your spirit and you stumble along, desperate for a God who will strengthen you so you can support your child.

Would a loving God allow this? you wonder. Does He care about my child? Is He there? These and other thoughts shook my faith that morning.

Then my husband, Hiram, arrived and heard the news. After the doctor left, Hiram said, “Jolene, let’s pray.” I nodded and he took my hand. “Thank You, Father, for giving Allen to us. He’s Yours, God, not ours. You loved him before we knew him, and he belongs to You. Be with him when we can’t. Amen.”

Hiram has always been a man of few words. He struggles to speak his thoughts and often doesn’t try, knowing that I have enough words to fill any silence. But on a day when my heart was broken, my spirit crushed, and my faith gone, God gave Hiram strength to speak the words I couldn’t say. And clinging to my husband’s hand, in deep silence and through many tears, I sensed that God was very near.

How has God used people to strengthen you when your spirit was crushed? Share your story at Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

The best kind of friend is a praying friend.

 

Will I Bring Myself Up to This Level?

From: Utmost.org

Will I Bring Myself Up to This Level?

“Therefore, having these promises….” I claim God’s promises for my life and look to their fulfillment, and rightly so, but that shows only the human perspective on them. God’s perspective is that through His promises I will come to recognize His claim of ownership on me. For example, do I realize that my “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” or am I condoning some habit in my body which clearly could not withstand the light of God on it? (1 Corinthians 6:19). God formed His Son in me through sanctification, setting me apart from sin and making me holy in His sight (see Galatians 4:19). But I must begin to transform my natural life into spiritual life by obedience to Him. God instructs us even in the smallest details of life. And when He brings you conviction of sin, do not “confer with flesh and blood,” but cleanse yourself from it at once (Galatians 1:16). Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

I must cleanse myself from all filthiness in my flesh and my spirit until both are in harmony with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I mentally rebellious and defiant? Am I allowing the mind of Christ to be formed in me? (see Philippians 2:5). Christ never spoke of His right to Himself, but always maintained an inner vigilance to submit His spirit continually to His Father. I also have the responsibility to keep my spirit in agreement with His Spirit. And when I do, Jesus gradually lifts me up to the level where He lived— a level of perfect submission to His Father’s will— where I pay no attention to anything else. Am I perfecting this kind of holiness in the fear of God? Is God having His way with me, and are people beginning to see God in my life more and more?

Be serious in your commitment to God and gladly leave everything else alone. Literally put God first in your life.