Monthly Archives: April 2015

Don’t Forget What Jesus Did For You

 

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Spontaneous Love

From: Utmost.org

Love is not premeditated– it is spontaneous; that is, it bursts forth in extraordinary ways. There is nothing of precise certainty in Paul’s description of love. We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying, “Now I will never think any evil thoughts, and I will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe.” No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity. We don’t deliberately set the statements of Jesus before us as our standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it. And when we look back, we are amazed at how unconcerned we have been over our emotions, which is the very evidence that real spontaneous love was there. The nature of everything involved in the life of God in us is only discerned when we have been through it and it is in our past.

The fountains from which love flows are in God, not in us. It is absurd to think that the love of God is naturally in our hearts, as a result of our own nature. His love is there only because it “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5).

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we really don’t love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us. The life of God exhibits itself in this spontaneous way because the fountains of His love are in the Holy Spirit.

 

Don’t Forget

From: Getmorestrength.org

“Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 6:12

We all have little slips in our memory once in a while, right? I love the story about the guy who decided to do something about his increasing forgetfulness. This poor chap decided to attend a seminar on how to increase his ability to remember things. And, to his great delight, the seminar worked! A few weeks later he sat in his living room, chatting with a friend about his newly improved recall ability.

“You won’t believe it,” he gushed, “This memory seminar really has helped me remember things better. I have a whole new lease on life!”

“That’s great,” his friend replied. “How does it work?”

“Well, you simply think of a common object that helps you build a link to whatever you need to remember. If you can remember the common object, then you’ll remember the other object.”

“Wow!” said his friend. “You know, to be honest, my memory’s slipping a little. What’s the name of the seminar? I think I might sign up for it.”

“Okay,” the guy replied. “Let’s see, think of a flower with red petals . . . long stem . . .  thorns . . .  rose.” Then he yelled to his wife in the next room, “Hey, Rose, what was the name of that seminar I went to?”

In Deuteronomy 6:12, Moses is talking to the Israelites about the danger of memory loss when it comes to forgetting God. God’s people were standing on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to enter a land with great cities they did not build, houses full of good things they did not fill, and vast and lush vineyards they didn’t plant. And, as good as the prospect of all this prosperity was, there was a danger lurking under the blessing. Moses knew that in good times it’s easy to forget God. The people were in danger of forgetting that it was God who had given them this land flowing with milk and honey; forgetting that it was God who went before them in each battle; forgetting, in fact, that it was only through God’s gracious choice of them as His people that they were enjoying the blessings of their new home and country. And, when we forget God, we become unthankful, proud, and self-sufficient—the kinds of things that are offensive to the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

So the solution for Israel—and for that matter, for us—is keeping God in mind! The book of Deuteronomy is actually a memory seminar about God’s goodness to His people. Moses reminds the Israelites of the law that was given on Mount Sinai. He tracks the Israelites back over the ways God miraculously provided for them—battles won, food given, shoes that didn’t wear out—the list of God’s providing work is long.

So, here’s the lesson. Beware! When God is abundantly good to us we are in great danger. We are in danger because in good times it’s easy to forget God. It’s easy to be so consumed with the gifts that we forget the Giver! And if we do that, we end up worshiping the blessings and not the One who in His amazing grace has blessed us.

The benefit of keeping God in mind is that it keeps our hearts grateful, appropriately humble, and delighted in our God for His goodness to us. Believe me, delighting in Him beats being consumed by the stuff that He has given us.

Memory lapses in our daily routines may be normal for us. But remembering God’s goodness in our lives is something we can’t afford to forget!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Take some time to write out what God has done for you. Let it be an exercise in remembering His goodness and grace in your life!
  • While we can rejoice in the fact that God forgives and forgets the sins that we confess before Him, it’s sometimes helpful for us to remember just how much He has forgiven us. We are, as Paul said, examples of God’s “unlimited patience” (1 Timothy 1:16).
  • How does remembering what God has done for you personally affect the way that you will live your life today?

 

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

April 30

Joshua 22:7b-8 (NIV) 7b When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, 8saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth–with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing–and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies.”

The tribes of Gad, Rueben, and half of Manasseh had done their duty. They stayed the extra 5 plus years fighting along side their brothers to secure a place for them. Because of their integrity in keeping their word they were rewarded with their portion of the spoil from the enemies. They were not going back empty handed.

Those that stayed behind to watch out for their territory and protect the women and children were to receive their share of the spoils of war. They hadn’t risked their lives to capture it, but they did the job assigned to them. I imagine the soldiers returned to homes that were in better condition than before because of those who stayed behind.

Not everyone is called to go out on the field and win the masses. We are all called to be a witness. We are all called to be servants. Some are called to stay by the stuff and keep the home fires burning. Will they receive any less than those who risked their lives for the sake of the Gospel? Not if that was their calling. If they were obedient to God where they were, they will share in the spoils of war. They will receive their portion. It is not the role you fill but your faithfulness in doing what you are called to do. Remember, Christ says, “Well done good and FAITHFUL servant.

Consider: Do I recognize the victory belongs to all God’s faithful servants?

Evening

April 30

Luke 2:48-49, 52 (NIV) 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

We have very few accounts of Jesus’ life from birth to thirty years of age. These verses at the end of Luke are all we have to go on. In the tradition of that day, a man was a disciple under a master until the age of thirty, then he was ready to be an instructor. Jesus needed to grow and learn just as you and I do. The author of Hebrews tells us that He learned obedience through the things He suffered. The last verse of today’s text tells us He grew in wisdom. The humanity of Jesus experienced learning and growing as we do.

When the family went to one of the religious feasts in Jerusalem, the Feast of Passover, Jesus was around the age when a young Jewish male was considered as one of the men. This year, since He was no longer considered a child, He began to ask the religious leaders questions and answer theirs. Verse 47 tells us that they were amazed at His understanding of the Scriptures. Jesus’ mind was fully yielded to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. They probably wondered under which Rabbi Jesus was being taught. Rabbi means teacher. Jesus was listening to The Rabbi, the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ parents were headed back to Nazareth and thought Jesus was playing with relatives. After awhile, they grew concerned and headed back to Jerusalem. Mary probably knew right where to look, in the Temple. He had “wasted” their valuable time and worried them. Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus knew His unique call and mission even from that early age.

Jesus went home with His parents and submitted Himself to them as an obedient child until His ministry began. His life, which overflowed with love, joy, peace and patience, gained favor with God and men. He patiently learned and awaited the call for His mission to begin. If you are in a learning period, don’t be overly concerned about lack of ministry. The present time may be for learning and growing.

Prayer: Lord, help me to grow in wisdom and learn through the things I suffer.

 

The Real Battle (Ephesians 6:12)

It’s hard to believe your struggles aren’t against flesh and blood when your two year old is screaming and you can’t get them to stop. When your teenager is belligerent and you’re getting nowhere. That’s not your real battle.

Although these are obvious flesh and blood issues we tackle, the point of Ephesians 6:12 is that it’s the inner fight against the evil of darkness that’s causing all these struggles. Don’t diminish this. Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. But don’t overdramatize it either.

More importantly, find a balance in recognizing where evil comes from and how it’s affecting your family. Pray for God’s protection over your family. Remember, the power of Christ is far greater than the power of Satan. That battle has already been won. Christ defeated the grave and evil has lost. Claim that promise over your family and seek to honor God in all you do as a parent. God will provide, bless, protect and defend you as you seek him.

Parenting Principle

Know that Satan is your real enemy, not your children.

Points to Ponder

  • How much time do you spend fighting flesh and blood?
  • How could you get a better understanding of who the real enemy is in your house?
  • How are you seeking God to grow in victories?

Taken from Once a Day Nurturing Great Kids

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

Be Gracious Like Jesus

 

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Gracious Uncertainty

From: Utmost.org

Our natural inclination is to be so precise– trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next– that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God– it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “…unless you…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “…believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in– but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

 

APRIL 29, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

How to Sleep Worry Free
AMY CARROLL

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Luke 18:16 (NIV)

A friend looked deep into my eyes and asked, “What do you miss about being a child?”

In the middle of playing a silly game of questions with a group, the room faded away and memories of my childhood popped into my mind like bubbles surfacing from deep waters.

Playing with my brother in our treehouse.

Fun Fridays with my favorite teacher at school.

Riding my banana-seat bike down the street with friends.

Most precious … moments snuggled between my parents while our family read together at night.

Although it sounds idyllic, it wasn’t perfect. Just like I’m an imperfect parent, my parents weren’t perfect either. But as a child I felt loved, encouraged and most importantly, safe and carefree. As I longed for the feeling of safety that blanketed my childhood, I looked at my friend and answered, “I miss having no worries.”

Being an adult is fraught with pits of peril — financial shortfalls, job instability, parenting challenges, marriage conflict and the general stress of being responsible for yourself and others. For me, childhood was free of all those things. But that day, as I faced my friend’s question, adulthood felt like a heavy weight.

The next day as I sat in the quiet of early morning, God whispered a single word into my heart … trust. He gently showed me the weight of adulthood I had shouldered. He nudged me to consider the hours I’d spent awake staring into the dark ruminating, with no resolution. He refreshed the sense of deep longing I’d felt the day before when I’d expressed my desire for childhood. The good old days of no worries.

And He called me back.

Trust is the mark of a child. Of course I had little girl concerns when I was young, but why didn’t I feel the weight of worry? It was because I trusted my parents. They took the weight of responsibility to shelter me — allowing me to feel safe and worry-free.

Although not all parents do this well, protecting our children from adult problems is still part of a parent’s job description.

The funny thing is my trust was partially based on illusion. As parents, my husband and I have tried to do exactly what my parents did for me. We don’t tell our kids about adult problems because we don’t want them to worry about things they can’t fix.

It’s not that we don’t have problems or that we’re completely in control. The truth is, we’re not in control. But there’s good news for those who are faking control while lying awake at night and for those who have never felt safe.

God is a Father who is entirely trustworthy because He is truly in control.

As God’s children, we have a heavenly Father who is worthy of trust. All our obsessive worry over our responsibilities and concerns doesn’t change a thing, so let’s resolve to try something different. Let’s give up our illusion of control and rest peacefully like children in Jesus’ unfailing care.

Now, instead of letting worry consume my nighttime thoughts, I’m learning to pray childlike prayers. I lay in the dark handing over my worries one by one to my faithful Father instead of grasping them in my powerless hands. I’m still in the process of training myself to trust, but I’m sleeping well at night while the One who never slumbers carries it all.

 

Elias Was Human Like Us

From: Streams in the Desert

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are (James 5:17).

Thank God for that! He got under a juniper tree, as you and I have often done; he complained and murmured, as we have often done; was unbelieving, as we have often been. But that was not the case when he really got into touch with God. Though “a man subject to like passions as we are,” “he prayed praying.”  It is sublime in the original–not “earnestly,” but “he prayed in prayer.” He kept on praying. What is the lesson here? You must keep praying.

Come up on the top of Carmel, and see that remarkable parable of Faith and Sight. It was not the descent of the fire that now was necessary, but the descent of the flood; and the man that can command the fire can command the flood by the same means and methods. We are told that he bowed himself to the ground with his face between his knees; that is, shutting out all sights and sounds. He was putting himself in a position where, beneath his mantle, he could neither see nor hear what was going forward.

He said to his servant, “Go and take an observation.” He went and came back, and said–how sublimely brief! one  word–“Nothing!”

What do we do under such circumstances?

We say, “It is just as I expected!” and we give up praying. Did Elijah? No, he said, “Go again.” His servant again came back and said, “Nothing!” “Go again.” “Nothing!”

By and by he came back, and said, “There is a little cloud like a man’s hand.” A man’s hand had been raised in supplication, and presently down came the rain; and Ahab had not time to get back to the gate of Samaria with all his fast steeds. This is a parable of Faith and Sight–faith shutting itself up with God; sight taking observations and seeing nothing; faith going right on, and “praying in prayer,” with utterly hopeless reports from sight.

Do you know how to pray that way, how to pray prevailingly? Let sight give as discouraging reports as it may, but pay no attention to these. The living God is still in the heavens and even to delay is part of His goodness.
Arthur T. Pierson

Each of three boys gave a definition of faith which is an illustration of the tenacity of faith. The first boy said, “It is taking hold of Christ”; the second, “Keeping hold”; and the third, “Not letting go.”

 

Morning

From: Charles Spurgeon, Biblegateway.com

“Thou art my hope in the day of evil.”
Jeremiah 17:17

The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God’s Word, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;” and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be “As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer’s sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the “green pastures” by the side of the “still waters,” but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, “Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen.” Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Evening

“The Lord taketh pleasure in his people.”
Psalm 149:4

How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of his people’s interests which he does not consider, and there is nothing which concerns their welfare which is not important to him. Not merely does he think of you, believer, as an immortal being, but as a mortal being too. Do not deny it or doubt it: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” It were a sad thing for us if this mantle of love did not cover all our concerns, for what mischief might be wrought to us in that part of our business which did not come under our gracious Lord’s inspection! Believer, rest assured that the heart of Jesus cares about your meaner affairs. The breadth of his tender love is such that you may resort to him in all matters; for in all your afflictions he is afflicted, and like as a father pitieth his children, so doth he pity you. The meanest interests of all his saints are all borne upon the broad bosom of the Son of God. Oh, what a heart is his, that doth not merely comprehend the persons of his people, but comprehends also the diverse and innumerable concerns of all those persons! Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ? Think of what his love has brought thee–justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life! The riches of his goodness are unsearchable; thou shalt never be able to tell them out or even conceive them. Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ! Shall such a love as this have half our hearts? Shall it have a cold love in return? Shall Jesus’ marvellous lovingkindness and tender care meet with but faint response and tardy acknowledgment? O my soul, tune thy harp to a glad song of thanksgiving! Go to thy rest rejoicing, for thou art no desolate wanderer, but a beloved child, watched over, cared for, supplied, and defended by thy Lord.

Jesus’ Love Is Our Great Reward

 

I Corinthians 9: 24-25

24  Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

 25  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.…

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II Timothy 4: 6-8

6   For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.                                                                   7   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

8   in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

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What You Will Get

From: Utmost.org

This is the firm and immovable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him– “I will give your life to you….” What more does a man want than his life? It is the essential thing. “…your life…as a prize…” means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life and nothing can harm it. So many of us are caught up in exhibiting things for others to see, not showing off property and possessions, but our blessings. All these things that we so proudly show have to go. But there is something greater that can never go– the life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Are you prepared to let God take you into total oneness with Himself, paying no more attention to what you call the great things of life? Are you prepared to surrender totally and let go? The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, “Well, what about this?” Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, “What about this?” you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God. But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do. Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you totally abandon yourself to God, He immediately says to you, “I will give your life to you as a prize….” The reason people are tired of life is that God has not given them anything— they have not been given their life “as a prize.” The way to get out of that condition is to abandon yourself to God. And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth. God will have you absolutely, without any limitations, and He will have given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience in your life or your refusal to be simple enough.

 

APRIL 28, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

The Big Things are in the Small Things
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31 (NIV)

I looked out my kitchen window and noticed a little bird had just landed on our bird feeder.

To be honest, I barely noticed the little creature. It wasn’t a bird to notice really. Grayish brown, small, unremarkable. It perched on the edge of the empty soda bottle bird feeder for just a moment before flying away.

Feeling guilty for the lack of birdseed, I called for the nearest of my three boys. Thankfully, my middle son was in earshot. He had never filled the feeder before on his own, so I sized him up to see if he was now tall enough to reach it since it hung from a ceiling hook on the front porch. Then, I sent him outside with a stool and instructions to grab the feeder and bring it inside.

Not long after, he reentered the kitchen. I helped him unscrew the top, place a funnel inside the opening, and pour some birdseed inside. My 9-year-old went back outside, and after three or four reaches, he hung the feeder back up.

He beamed with pride. He had fed the birds, and they would live another day because his provision had saved the day. His small action resulted in a big difference for the birds that visit our home.

The big things are in the small things.

That same morning, just a little while later, I sat at the kitchen table with my sons to have devotions before starting our school day.

And what was our Bible lesson about?

You guessed it.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matthew 10:29, NIV).

We opened our family devotional and read how God takes care of His children. We were reminded that there is no need to worry because the same God who cares for the birds of the air, cares deeply for His own, knows of our needs, and makes it His business to meet them.

As I reveled in a parenting moment where God had provided such a perfect illustration for our morning Bible time, my mother’s glory was abruptly cut short when my 6-year-old chimed in.

“So Mom, does that mean God is going to give me an iPod?”

What in the WORLD?

I felt laughter and tears bubbling up at the same time.

How did he miss the whole point?!?!

He was so consumed with his perception of a “big thing” that he missed the point entirely.

My friend, how do you and I miss the point?

At times, I am consumed with my needs, or better yet, my wants. I waste worry on fears that will never happen or give too much attention to desires that are not designed to satisfy. Thoughts of what I hope for sometimes consume me, and I miss the point — the beauty of a God who faithfully and fully meets every single one of my needs.

And that, dear one, is the point.

The big thing is that God consistently and lovingly meets us in the small things. While we might be tempted to focus on the things we want, it is so important to intentionally focus on how good He already is. His seemingly small actions of providing for us on a daily basis with clothes, food and shelter are, in truth, very big. Why? Because His “small” actions make a big difference for us, and the ones who live within our homes.

Lord God, I thank You so much for Your faithfulness in the small things. Please forgive me for being ungrateful and forgetting to show gratitude for Your goodness to me. You are constant in Your loving care. While I sometimes feel my life is “grayish brown, small and unremarkable,” thank You for today’s reminder that I matter, that You see me, and that You make it Your business to meet my needs. Help me not to “miss the point” but to live with an intentional heart of thanksgiving. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Israelites Cried To The Lord

Streams in the Desert

When the Israelites cried out for help to the Lord, he raised up a deliverer for the Israelites who rescued them. His name was Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Lord’s spirit empowered him and he led Israel. When he went to do battle, the Lord handed over to him King Cushan-Rishathaim of Aram and he overpowered him (Judg 3:9-10)
God is preparing His heroes; and when opportunity comes, He can fit them into their place in a moment, and the world will wonder where they came from.
Let the Holy Ghost prepare you, dear friend, by the discipline of life; and when the last finishing touch has been given to the marble, it will be easy for God to put it on the pedestal, and fit it into its niche.
There is a day coming when, like Othniel, we, too, shall judge the nations, and rule and reign with Christ on the millennial earth. But ere that glorious day can be we must let God prepare us, as He did Othniel at Kirjath-sepher, amid the trials of our present life, and the little victories, the significance of which, perhaps, we little dream. At least, let us be sure of this, and if the Holy Ghost has an Othniel ready, the Lord of Heaven and earth has a throne prepared for him.
—A. B. Simpson
“Human strength and human greatness
Spring not from life’s sunny side,
Heroes must be more than driftwood 
Floating on a waveless tide.”
“Every highway of human life dips in the dale now and then. Every man must go through the tunnel of tribulation before he can travel on the elevated road of triumph.”

 

 

April 28

Joshua 14:13-14 (NIV) 13Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.

Caleb reminisced about spying out the Promised Land some 45 years earlier with Joshua. He reminded Joshua about how faithful he was to report that they could take the land because he had godly convictions. Then he reminded Joshua about the promise Moses had made to him. He could have whatever land he walked on. Caleb picked the Hebron area. There were still fortified cities with giants in them, but Caleb knew the LORD was with him. He felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40.

Joshua blessed Caleb and honored Moses promise, because Caleb wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. It sounds like Caleb was going to take the area with his own clan, without the assistance of the other tribes. What a guy! 85 and he’s ready to take on giants and start a new homestead.

What was Caleb’s secret? He wholeheartedly followed the God of Israel. He stuck with his convictions in spite of what the majority said. He did not fear but recognized the hand of God was with him, no rationalization, no justification, just convictions backed up by action.

Do you have a spirit like Caleb’s? Why not? He wasn’t born with it. It was instilled in him, because he was willing.

Meditation: The LORD rewards those who follow Him with their whole heart.

Evening

April 28

Luke 2:29-32 (NIV) 29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

When God delivered Israel from the last plague on Egypt, He spared the firstborn through the blood of the lambs on the doorposts. From that time forward, God claimed the rights to every firstborn male. The parents had to buy back the child with an offering. Mary and Joseph had gone to the temple to give this offering. When they arrived, a man named Simeon greeted them. He was not like the ritualistic religious leaders of his day. He communed with the Holy Spirit. It was revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Anointed One that would save his people.

When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon knew in his spirit that this baby was the One. He uttered the prophecy in our passage for today. He had seen the One, and now he was ready to die. He saw the salvation that God prepared right before everyone’s eyes. This is the One that would fulfill the prophecies of being a light to the nations of the world, and the glory of God’s people, Israel.

What a special person this man was. Only one other person had the insight in the Temple that day. His whole life was waiting for the arrival of God’s salvation, Jesus. Just to see that He had come was enough for him. It should be enough for us too. Just to know that God has provided a way, that He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, should be enough to satisfy us. Simeon’s whole being longed for the moment of His coming.

Consider: Today we are to long, with the same intensity, for His return. Come quickly Lord Jesus! Is that your heart’s cry?

Do You Need To Slow Down?

 

 

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Bull’s-eye

From: Getmorestrength.org

“…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” Colossians 2:3

Here’s some bad news: left to ourselves, we’re not very good shots when it comes to living. We are, at the core, sinful, which explains why we lead such “ready-fire-aim” kind of lives. We are a lot like the village idiot who prided himself on being a great shot. After he shot his arrow at the side of the barn, he would then paint a bull’s-eye target around the arrow, painting the arrow into the center of the bull’s-eye.

But the bull’s-eye of life is not an I-want-my-life-to-be-like-this-thank-you barn-side painting. The bull’s-eye for life as it’s meant to be is already painted by the good and righteous ways of God. And since we are not inherently righteous, but rather fallen and frail, missing the target is a regular event.

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, the character named Cassius gets it right when he explains:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Most of us excuse our miscues, or mistakes, by assigning them to fate and random bumps from the circumstances of life: “It’s not our fault. We’re victims. It’s in our stars.” But God’s take on our lives is that the fault does lie in us! Not that we are underlings as Cassius points out, but that we are born sinful, fallen, frail, and broken. By our very nature we’re wrong-headed. I have come to realize that my first instincts in a given situation are probably wrong. Granted, they don’t seem wrong. It seems right to get even; to stash away as much money as I can; to make sure that I am recognized and affirmed; to seek pleasure for myself; to live life to the full on my own terms; to do everything to dodge suffering and then resent it when suffering does invade my life; to try to be as strong as I can, because only the strong survive; and to yell at people who yell at me. But here is the warning: God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12)! And we are reminded in Isaiah that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

So let’s fess up! We need help. Because we are bent in the wrong direction, we are in desperate need of God’s wisdom to live right-headedly. And, where is that wisdom found?

In Jesus!

Paul makes this clear when he writes that he desires that our hearts be encouraged so that we “may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that [we] may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Jesus knows the way. He has the wisdom to see life the way it should be lived. But beware! His wisdom will not seem right to you. He says to turn the other cheek, to die so that you can live, to give that you might gain, to forgive the same offense 490 times, to love your enemy, and to find meaning and productivity in suffering. Sound upside down to you? Sure it does. But it sounds that way, not because Jesus is upside down, but because we are.

The bull’s-eye of life is Jesus! Seek His wisdom and turn your “ready-fire-aim” life into blue- ribbon target shooting!

 

APRIL 27, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down 
WENDY POPE

“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:3 (NASB)

During my son’s basketball practice, I made my grocery list, returned text messages, checked work emails, read an online devotion and scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of my frenzy, a photo of my friend’s vacation stopped me in my tracks. I could almost feel the warm sun and hear the clear water lapping the shore.

My shoulders relaxed and my mind rested for just a moment before the referee blew the whistle, and I was off again. Though tired, after the practice I headed to the grocery store, post office and garage for an oil change. I tucked the picture of the beach in the back of my mind and reminded myself that I needed to take a Sabbath — a full day of rest.

Does taking one whole day off sound foreign to you? I struggle with it, too. That’s because we have lost the rhythm of life, which includes a day of rest. As a result, we are tired, overworked, disorganized, confused and sleep-deprived.

What has happened to the Sabbath? Where did the ideals of a day of rest go?

With bills to pay, broken things to fix, kids to care for and work deadlines to meet, it’s difficult to give ourselves permission to slow down. Celebrating the work we’ve done seems like a waste of time. But God said to rest and celebrate. He even modeled it for us.

We are given an example of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3: “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The word “blessed” means praise, salute, kneel or bless oneself. The Lord gave Himself permission to rest and to celebrate the work He had done on the other six days of the week.

Pausing once a week helps to clear our hearts and minds. This “white space” enables us to focus on praising and worshipping the Lord. We find room to rejoice in the work He has enabled us to complete, which balances discouragement over unfinished jobs. It aligns our perspective with what is important and reminds us that these tasks will still be there when we return to work.

Make plans to schedule a Sabbath rest for yourself. Mark your calendar now and set that day aside for praise and worship, prayer and Scripture reading, naps and knitting (or whatever is restful for you). Most importantly, set your Sabbath state of mind on the Lord and honor Him with a day of rest and celebration.

 

The One Who Lives

From: Streams in the Desert

And the one who lives! I was dead, but look, now I am alive – forever and ever – and I hold the keys of death and of Hades! (Rev 1:18)
Flower! Easter lilies! Speak to me this morning the same dear old lesson of immortality which you have been speaking to so many sorrowing souls.
Wise old Book! let me read again in your pages of firm assurance that to die is gain.
Poets! recite to me your verses which repeat in every line the Gospel of eternal life.
Singers! break forth once more into songs of joy; let me hear again the well-known resurrection psalms.
Tree and blossom and bird and sea and sky and wind whisper it, sound it afresh, warble it, echo it, let it throb and pulsate through every atom and particle; let the air be filled with it.
Let it be told and retold and still retold until hope rises to conviction, and conviction to certitude of knowledge; until we, like Paul, even though going to our death, go with triumphant mien, with assured faith, and with serene and shining face.
O sad-faced mourners, who each day are wending
Through churchyard paths of cypress and of yew,
Leave for today the low graves you are tending,
And lift your eyes to God’s eternal blue!
It is no time for bitterness or sadness;
Twine Easter lilies, not pale asphodels;
Let your souls thrill to the caress of gladness,
And answer the sweet chime of Easter bells.
If Christ were still within the grave’s low prison,
A captive of the enemy we dread;
If from that moldering cell He had not risen,
Who then could chide the gloomy tears you shed?
If Christ were dead there would be need to sorrow,
But He has risen and vanquished death for aye;
Hush, then your sighs, if only till the morrow,
At Easter give your grief a holiday.
—May Riley Smith
A well-known minister was in his study writing an Easter sermon when the thought gripped him that his Lord was living. He jumped up excitedly and paced the floor repeating to himself, “Why Christ is alive, His ashes are warm, He is not the great ’I was,’ He is the great ’I am.’” He is not only a fact, but a living fact. Glorious truth of Easter Day!
We believe that out of every grave there blooms an Easter lily, and in every tomb there sits an angel. We believe in a risen Lord. Turn not your faces to the past that we may worship only at His grave, but above and within that we may worship the Christ that lives. And because He lives, we shall live also.
—Abbott

 

The Lord’s care of His people

‘He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.’ Zechariah 2:8

Suggested Further Reading: Ecclesiastes 8:10–14

I am not one of those who look upon everything that happens in this world as being a judgment from God. If a boat goes down to the bottom of the sea on a Sunday, I do not look upon that as a judgment on those who are in it, any more than if it had gone to the bottom on a Monday; and though many good people get frightened when they hear one affirm this doctrine, yet I cannot help their frights, but like my Master I must tell them that they who perish so are not sinners above all the sinners that be in Jerusalem. I looked the other day at Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and I saw there an illustration of that deeply-rooted mistake of Christian people, concerning God’s always punishing men’s sins in this life. Foxe draws a picture of a Popish priest who is insulting the faith, speaking lightly of the blood of Jesus, and exalting Mary, and he drops down dead in the pulpit; and Foxe holds him up as a picture of a great sinner who dropped down dead for speaking lightly of Jesus, and the good man affirms the wicked priest’s death to be a judgment from heaven. Well, perhaps Foxe is correct, but still I do not see the connection between his dropping down dead and the language he employed, for many a preacher who has been exalting Christ has fallen down dead in the pulpit; and happy was it for such a man that he was engaged in minding his charge at the time. The fact is, providence smites good men and bad men too; and when the storm rages, and the hurricane howls through the forest, not only are the brambles and briars shaken and uprooted, but goodly oaks crack and break too. We are not to look for God’s judgments, except in special cases, in this life. This judgment is in the world to come.

For meditation: Beware of jumping to false conclusions. The apostle Paul was the frequent victim not only of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23–25), but also of natural accidents (2 Corinthians 11:25–27). The latter were not inconsistent with him being in the centre of God’s will (Acts 27:21–26).

Sermon no. 452
27 April (1862)

Keep Climbing In Your Faith

 

Song: Higher Ground

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Refrain

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Refrain

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Refrain

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

Refrain

From: Hymntime.com

Words, Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922), Music, Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932)

 

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The Supreme Climb

From: Utmost.org

A person’s character determines how he interprets God’s will (see Psalm 18:25-26). Abraham interpreted God’s command to mean that he had to kill his son, and he could only leave this traditional belief behind through the pain of a tremendous ordeal. God could purify his faith in no other way. If we obey what God says according to our sincere belief, God will break us from those traditional beliefs that misrepresent Him. There are many such beliefs which must be removed– for example, that God removes a child because his mother loves him too much. That is the devil’s lie and a travesty on the true nature of God! If the devil can hinder us from taking the supreme climb and getting rid of our wrong traditional beliefs about God, he will do so. But if we will stay true to God, God will take us through an ordeal that will serve to bring us into a better knowledge of Himself.

The great lesson to be learned from Abraham’s faith in God is that he was prepared to do anything for God. He was there to obey God, no matter what contrary belief of his might be violated by his obedience. Abraham was not devoted to his own convictions or else he would have slain Isaac and said that the voice of the angel was actually the voice of the devil. That is the attitude of a fanatic. If you will remain true to God, God will lead you directly through every barrier and right into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself. But you must always be willing to come to the point of giving up your own convictions and traditional beliefs. Don’t ask God to test you. Never declare as Peter did that you are willing to do anything, even “to go …both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Abraham did not make any such statement— he simply remained true to God, and God purified his faith.

 

More Than That

From: Streams in the Desert

More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8)
Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves. Burning suggests suffering. We shrink from pain.
We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong, and able for active duty, and when the heart and hands are full of kindly service.
When we are called aside and can only suffer; when we are sick; when we are consumed with pain; when all our activities have been dropped, we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything.
But, if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most of our work. We are burning now, and shining because we are burning.
—Evening Thoughts
“The glory of tomorrow is rooted in the drudgery of today.”
Many want the glory without the cross, the shining without the burning, but crucifixion comes before coronation.
Have you heard the tale of the aloe plant,
Away in the sunny clime?
By humble growth of a hundred years
It reaches its blooming time;
And then a wondrous bud at its crown
Breaks into a thousand flowers;
This floral queen, in its blooming seen,
Is the pride of the tropical bowers,
But the plant to the flower is sacrifice,
For it blooms but once, and it dies.
Have you further heard of the aloe plant,
That grows in the sunny clime;
How every one of its thousand flowers,
As they drop in the blooming time,
Is an infant plant that fastens its roots
In the place where it falls on the ground,
And as fast as they drop from the dying stem,
Grow lively and lovely around?
By dying, it liveth a thousand-fold
In the young that spring from the death of the old.
Have you heard the tale of the pelican,
The Arabs’ Gimel el Bahr,
That lives in the African solitudes,
Where the birds that live lonely are?
Have you heard how it loves its tender young,
And cares and toils for their good,
It brings them water from mountain far,
And fishes the seas for their food.
In famine it feeds them—what love can devise!
The blood of its bosom—and, feeding them, dies.
Have you heard this tale—the best of them all—
The tale of the Holy and True,
He dies, but His life, in untold souls
Lives on in the world anew;
His seed prevails, and is filling the earth,
As the stars fill the sky above.
He taught us to yield up the love of life,
For the sake of the life of love.
His death is our life, His loss is our gain;
The joy for the tear, the peace for the pain.
—Selected

 

 

David’s dying prayer

From: Charles Spurgeon

“Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” Psalm 72:19

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8

Is there not one among you that can win a laurel wreath? Have I not one true Christian heart here that is set for work and labour? Have I not one man that will devote himself for God and for his truth? Henry Martyn! Thou art dead; and is thy mantle buried with thee? Brainerd, thou sleepest with thy fathers; and is thy spirit dead too, and shall there never be another Brainerd? Knibb, thou hast ascended to thy God; and is there nowhere another Knibb? Williams, thy martyred blood still crieth from the ground; and is there nowhere another Williams? What! Not among this dense mass of young and burning spirits? Is there not one that can say in his heart, “Here am I, send me”? “This hour, being saved by God’s grace, I give myself up to him, to go wherever he shall be pleased to send me, to testify his gospel in foreign lands”? What! Are there no Pauls now? Have we none who will be apostles for the Lord of hosts? I think I see one who, putting his lips together, makes this silent resolve—“By God’s grace I this day devote myself to him; through trouble and through trial I will be his, if he will help me; for missionary work or for anything else I give up my all to God; and if I may die as Williams did, and wear the blood-red crown of martyrdom, I will be proud; and if I may live to serve my Master, like a Brainerd, and die at last worn out, here I am, do but have me, Master; give me the honour of leading the forlorn hope, of leading the vanguard of Christianity; here I am, send me.”

For meditation: The earth is going to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God (Habakkuk 2:14). Every believer has a contribution to make towards that goal, big or small. Are you playing your part?

Sermon no. 129
26 April (1857)

 

God’s estimate of time

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ 2 Peter 3:8

Suggested Further Reading: Exodus 3:1–15

With God there is neither past, present, nor future. He takes for his name the ‘I AM.’ He does not call himself the ‘I was,’ for then we should conceive that he used to be something which he is not now, that some part of his character had changed, or some attribute ceased from existence; for there is an ominous sound of annihilation in the sound of the word, ‘he was.’ Is it not rather a knell for the dead, than a name for the living? Nor does our Lord God speak of himself as the ‘I shall be,’ for that might lead us to imagine that he is not now something which he is to be in the ages to come: whereas we know that his being is perfect, his essence infinite, his dominion absolute, his power unlimited, and his glory transcendent. Development is out of the question; he is all today that he will be in the future. Of the Lord Jesus we read that he is the everlasting Father, and yet he has the dew of his youth. Childhood, manhood and old age belong to creatures, but at the right hand of the Most High they have no abode. Growth, progress, advancement, all these are virtues in finite beings, but to the Infinite the thought of such change would be an insult. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow belong to dying mortals; the Immortal King lives in an eternal today. He is the I AM; I AM in the present; I AM in the past; and I AM in the future. Just as we say of God that he is everywhere, so we may say of him that he is always; he is everywhere in space; he is everywhere in time. God is today in the past; he is today already in the future; he is today in that present in which we are.

For meditation: The fact that God never changes is absolutely fundamental and essential to the wellbeing and survival of his people (Malachi 3:6; Mark 12:26–27; Hebrews 13:5,8;James 1:17).

Sermon no. 447
26 April (Preached 27 April 1862)

Reaping What You Sow (Matthew 13:1–9)

In this haunting parable, Jesus depicts four different groups of people exposed to the Word of God. First come the insensitive. They hear the Word, but it does not speak to them interiorly. The unseen world does not exist for the thinking man. The tales of the Bible are nice for children but not for mature adults. Faith is an outdated conception for those behind the times, a relic of the Middle Ages. After all, you can’t pay the rent with religion . . .

Next, Jesus describes the superficial.

These are the open people—too much so. They are ready to receive everything, but nothing takes root. You meet them at every level of the church’s life, exponents of change for the sake of change. Ardent champions of renewal and reform with a lusty contempt for anything written before 1963. These are the butterfly types who sip on a thousand different blossom cups . . .

The third group are the defeated. They may have fought long and struggled honorably for their faith. They had principles they wanted to live by. A Christian ethic was presumed, a week without worship unthinkable. Their high ideals, however, ran into competition from “the real world.” Love of God got swallowed up in mundane concerns. The thorny preoccupations are many—career, romance, military induction, geographical displacement, progeny, security . . .

Finally, Jesus speaks of the victorious—the seeds that fell on rich soil. But even here Jesus distinguishes three levels of productivity for the kingdom, three different degrees of faith commitment among genuine hearers of the Word of God.

Taken from NIV Ragamuffin Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

 

 

Be Prepared To Share Your Faith

 

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“Ready in Season”

From: Utmost.org

Many of us suffer from the unbalanced tendency to “be ready” only “out of season.” The season does not refer to time; it refers to us. This verse says, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.” In other words, we should “be ready” whether we feel like it or not. If we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would never do anything. There are some people who are totally unemployable in the spiritual realm. They are spiritually feeble and weak, and they refuse to do anything unless they are supernaturally inspired. The proof that our relationship is right with God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.

One of the worst traps a Christian worker can fall into is to become obsessed with his own exceptional moments of inspiration. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you tend to say, “Now that I’ve experienced this moment, I will always be like this for God.” No, you will not, and God will make sure of that. Those times are entirely the gift of God. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. If you say you will only be at your best for God, as during those exceptional times, you actually become an intolerable burden on Him. You will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously aware of His inspiration to you at all times. If you make a god out of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life, never to return until you are obedient in the work He has placed closest to you, and until you have learned not to be obsessed with those exceptional moments He has given you.

 

APRIL 24, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts
LEAH DIPASCAL

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

I saw the blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror, and knew it was not a good sign. A quick glance at the speedometer revealed I was going faster than intended.

I quickly began to build my case as I pulled over to the side of the road. With my two toddlers in the back seat, I was sure this would be an easy fix. After all, once the police officer heard my reasons for being distracted, he would certainly let me off the hook with a simple warning, a gentle smile and a cheerful, “Have a good day, ma’am!”

That’s not exactly how it went down.

Despite my attempts to explain, the police officer didn’t budge. It didn’t matter that I was lost in an unfamiliar section of town. It didn’t matter that my friend had just given birth to her second child, or that I’d spent hours preparing a meal for her family.

I was secretly hoping the lingering aroma of chicken fettuccini would prove my point. But despite all my good intentions and lengthy explanations, the officer proceeded with four words no one wants to hear: “License and registration, please.”

Five minutes later, I was back on the road with a nasty speeding ticket sitting on my dashboard. It might as well have been a neon sign flashing the words: loser, busted, cursed.

We cried the whole way home. My kids cried because they knew Mommy was veryupset. I cried — not because I was sad or embarrassed — but because I was angry.

What kind of officer gives a ticket to a good person who prepares a meal for a friend in her time of need? Sure, I was guilty of going a tad over the speed limit, but the consequences seemed harsh and I felt completely justified.

As the day went on, my anger mounted and my invisible stress barometer climbed to new heights. I couldn’t stop thinking about our brief and aloof conversation. Over and over, I mentally replayed alternative dialogues: I should have said this … What if he’d said that? …

By the end of the day, I had a fierce headache, a knot in my stomach and a “don’t-go-near-her attitude.” All the over-analyzing, replaying and mental back talk created a toxic mess in my mind and body, making an unfortunate situation worse.

My choice to speed produced the hefty consequence of a ticket and a marked driving record. But choosing to fixate my thoughts on the problem was like dousing gasoline on a tiny spark. That spark had become a consuming fire, distracting me from the real blessings God had for me that day — like the little ones in the back seat of my car and getting home safely.

In today’s key verse, Moses challenges the people of Israel to choose between life and death, a blessing and a curse. How? By choosing wisely. To love God, obey His commands and place Him above all else in their lives.

Today, we’re faced with the same challenge. Will we love God and choose His way to experience life and blessings, or will we choose our way and set ourselves up for some potentially explosive consequences?

Our words, actions and reactions are a direct result of our thought life. Left to our own sinful nature, we can easily find ourselves in a cycle of toxic thinking, choosing and reacting.

To be women who choose wisely, we have to go to the Source of all wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).

Freedom doesn’t come in making our own choices. Freedom comes by seeking God’s perfect wisdom to choose wisely in every area of our lives.

Friend, where are your choices taking you today? Are your thoughts, words, actions and reactions reflecting who you are in Christ? Let’s encourage one another to choose wisely and live in the blessed freedom that God has already made available to us.

 

Streams in the Desert

And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre (Matt. 27:61).

How strangely stupid is grief. It neither learns nor knows nor wishes to learn or know. When the sor rowing sisters sat over against the door of God’s  sepulchre, did they see the two thousand years that have passed triumphing away? Did they see any thing but this: “Our Christ is gone!”

Your Christ and my Christ came from their loss; Myriad mourning hearts have had resurrection in the midst of their grief; and yet the sorrowing watchers looked at the seed-form of this result, and saw nothing. What they regarded as the end of life was the very preparation for coronation; for Christ was silent that He might live again in tenfold power.

They saw it not. They mourned, they wept, and went away, and came again, driven by their hearts to the sepulchre. Still it was a sepulchre, unprophetic, voiceless, lusterless.

So with us. Every man sits over against the sepulchre in his garden, in the first instance, and says, “This woe is irremediable. I see no benefit in it. I will take no comfort in it.” And yet, right in our deepest and worst mishaps, often, our Christ is lying, waiting for resurrection.

Where our death seems to be, there our Saviour is. Where the end of hope is, there is the brightest beginning of fruition. Where the darkness is thickest, there the bright beaming light that never is set is about to emerge. When the whole experience is consummated, then we find that a garden is not disfigured by a sepulchre.

Our joys are made better if there be sorrow in the midst of them. And our sorrows are made bright by the joys that God has planted around about them. The flowers may not be pleasing to us, they may not be such as we are fond of plucking, but they are heart-flowers, love, hope, faith, joy, peace–these are flowers which are planted around about every grave that is sunk in the Christian heart.

‘Twas by a path of sorrows drear
Christ entered into rest;
And shall I look for roses here,
Or think that earth is blessed?
Heaven’s whitest lilies blow
From earth’s sharp crown of woe.
Who here his cross can meekly bear,
Shall wear the kingly purple there.

 

April 25

Joshua 7:1a, 4-5a (NIV) 1But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things…4So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, 5awho killed about thirty-six of them.

Everything in Jericho belonged to the LORD. He gave the victory, and as a sign of faith that the LORD would deliver the rest of their enemies into their hands, they were to give everything to God. One man, Achan, kept some of the spoils of war. He buried it under his tent. He must have thought that no one would ever know the difference.

When Israel went to the next battle, they chose a small city named Ai. They sent just 3,000 soldiers, for they thought the size of the city would warrant no more than that. To their surprise they were defeated and lost 36 men. Why? After such a miraculous victory over a much larger city, what went wrong?

Joshua fell on his face and cried out to God. God told him to get up and deal with the sin of Israel. There is a principle here that relates to us today. Because God is holy, He does not bless hidden sin. He cannot overlook rebellion. Achan was just one man, but he held up the whole nation. His actions indirectly caused the death of those 36 men. God said Israel had sinned, when in fact it was one man. Until that sin was dealt with God would not bless their actions.

The same can be true in our life. One area cannot slide by in rebellion and we still have the blessing of God. It is true for our families, for our churches, our cities, and our nation. We need to allow God to expose the sin, so that we can forsake it, find forgiveness, and be blessed. 13He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)

Consider: Have I done something that would stop the blessing of God?

Evening

April 25

Luke 1:46-49 (NIV) 46And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.

The angel Gabriel shared a secret with Mary. He told her that her cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Mary, now pregnant herself, went to see her. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby in her womb jumped. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke a word of revelation. She knew that Mary was the mother of her Lord! She told Mary she was blessed among women.

Then Mary uttered her song of praise. She acknowledged the blessing God had given her, the greatness of the miraculous conception. Then she added that God’s name is holy. Yes! He is utterly apart from creation and yet He is imminently present. He is completely pure, and yet He even became physically present to redeem fallen man.

In the womb of Mary, tiny hands were forming. Those hands had designed Mary. They had set the earth in motion. They had thrown the stars in space. This was the miracle of all miracles, that God could become physically manifest. It was the greatest expression of love ever seen. It would culminate in the cross and ultimately resurrection. If you can accept this miracle, all the other miracles are only natural results of this one. Either this story is the greatest lie the world has ever known and Christmas is a total distortion of history, or God became a man to redeem you and me. If it is true, and the life of Jesus verified it, then we had better heed the words of the God who physically manifested Himself for our sake.

In a metaphoric way, the baby growing in Mary’s womb is like Christ being formed in us. As time marches on, more and more of the life of Christ should be formed within us, until He is manifested in our lives.

Consider: Let that life in you be expressed in all His fullness.

Give Jesus Your Tithes Joyfully

 

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400 × 266 – newhorizonministry.com
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The Warning Against Desiring Spiritual Success

From: Utmost.org

Worldliness is not the trap that most endangers us as Christian workers; nor is it sin. The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success; that is, success measured by, and patterned after, the form set by this religious age in which we now live. Never seek after anything other than the approval of God, and always be willing to go “outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). In Luke 10:20, Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view— we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others.

Unless the worker lives a life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), he is apt to become an irritating dictator to others, instead of an active, living disciple. Many of us are dictators, dictating our desires to individuals and to groups. But Jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “if,” never with the forceful or dogmatic statement— “You must.” Discipleship carries with it an option.

 

A Worthy Offering

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. —Genesis 4:7

I was delighted when a mutual friend gave my neighbor a Bible. But my neighbor told me she stopped reading it because she couldn’t understand why God would be so unfair as to reject Cain’s offering. “After all,” she said, “as a farmer, he simply brought to God what he had. Did God expect him to buy a different kind of sacrifice?” Sadly, she had missed the point.

It wasn’t that God didn’t like vegetables. Rather, He knew that Cain’s offering was masking an unrighteous attitude. Cain wasn’t fully committed to God, as expressed by the fact that he wasn’t living according to God’s ways.

It’s easy to worship God on the outside while stubbornly keeping territory from Him on the inside. Jude writes about outwardly religious people who use religious activities to cover the reality of their sinful lives: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain” (Jude 1:11). We can faithfully serve God, sing His praises, and give sacrificially to His work. But God doesn’t want any of that without our hearts.

Does the Lord take priority over our plans and dreams? Is He worth more than the sin that tempts us? When we express to Him that He is more worthy than anything or anyone else in our lives, it’s an offering He won’t refuse.

Lord, may our worship and our praise,
From hearts surrendered to Your ways,
Be worthy offerings of love
For all Your blessings from above. —Sper

God won’t refuse a heart that is surrendered to Him.

 

From: Streams in the Desert

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see (Heb 11:1).
True faith drops its letter in the post office box, and lets it go. Distrust holds on to a corner of it, and wonders that the answer never comes. I have some letters in my desk that have been written for weeks, but there was some slight uncertainty about the address or the contents, so they are yet unmailed. They have not done either me or anybody else any good yet. They will never accomplish anything until I let them go out of my hands and trust them to the postman and the mail.
This the way with true faith. It hands its case over to God, and then He works. That is a fine verse in the Thirty-seventh Psalm: “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He worketh.” But He never worketh till we commit. Faith is a receiving or still better, a taking of God’s proffered gifts. We may believe, and come, and commit, and rest; but we will not fully realize all our blessing until we begin to receive and come into the attitude of abiding and taking.
—Days of Heaven upon Earth
Dr. Payson, when a young man, wrote as follows, to an aged mother, burdened with intense anxiety on account of the condition of her son: “You give yourself too much trouble about him. After you have prayed for him, as you have done, and committed him to God, should you not cease to feel anxious respecting him? The command, ’Be careful for nothing,’ is unlimited; and so is the expression, ’Casting all your care on him.’ If we cast our burdens upon another, can they continue to press upon us? If we bring them away with us from the Throne of Grace, it is evident we do not leave them there. With respect to myself, I have made this one test of my prayers: if after committing anything to God, I can, like Hannah, come away and have my mind no more sad, my heart no more pained or anxious, I look upon it as one proof that I have prayed in faith; but, if I bring away my burden, I conclude that faith was not in exercise.”

 

Morning

By: Charles Spurgeon, Biblegateway

“And because of all this we make a sure covenant.”
Nehemiah 9:38

There are many occasions in our experience when we may very rightly, and with benefit, renew our covenant with God. After recovery from sickness when, like Hezekiah, we have had a new term of years added to our life, we may fitly do it. After any deliverance from trouble, when our joys bud forth anew, let us again visit the foot of the cross, and renew our consecration. Especially, let us do this after any sin which has grieved the Holy Spirit, or brought dishonour upon the cause of God; let us then look to that blood which can make us whiter than snow, and again offer ourselves unto the Lord. We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called “crowning mercies” then, surely, if he hath crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel. If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we should not so often smart under the rod. Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected? Has the Lord put our feet in a large room? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar, and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even forever.” Inasmuch as we need the fulfilment of new promises from God, let us offer renewed prayers that our old vows may not be dishonoured. Let us this morning make with him a sure covenant, because of the pains of Jesus which for the last month we have been considering with gratitude.

Evening

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”
Song of Solomon 2:12

Sweet is the season of spring: the long and dreary winter helps us to appreciate its genial warmth, and its promise of summer enhances its present delights. After periods of depression of spirit, it is delightful to behold again the light of the Sun of Righteousness; then our slumbering graces rise from their lethargy, like the crocus and the daffodil from their beds of earth; then is our heart made merry with delicious notes of gratitude, far more melodious than the warbling of birds–and the comforting assurance of peace, infinitely more delightful than the turtle’s note, is heard within the soul. Now is the time for the soul to seek communion with her Beloved; now must she rise from her native sordidness, and come away from her old associations. If we do not hoist the sail when the breeze is favourable, we shall be blameworthy: times of refreshing ought not to pass over us unimproved. When Jesus himself visits us in tenderness, and entreats us to arise, can we be so base as to refuse his request? He has himself risen that he may draw us after him: he now by his Holy Spirit has revived us, that we may, in newness of life, ascend into the heavenlies, and hold communion with himself. Let our wintry state suffice us for coldness and indifference; when the Lord creates a spring within, let our sap flow with vigour, and our branch blossom with high resolve. O Lord, if it be not spring time in my chilly heart, I pray thee make it so, for I am heartily weary of living at a distance from thee. Oh! the long and dreary winter, when wilt thou bring it to an end? Come, Holy Spirit, and renew my soul! quicken thou me! restore me, and have mercy on me! This very night I would earnestly implore the Lord to take pity upon his servant, and send me a happy revival of spiritual life!

Experience The Power Of Prayer

 

I Thessalonians 5: 16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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There is power in worship and prayer!

 

Do You Worship The Work?

From: Utmost.org

Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.

But the opposite case is equally true– once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing– to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

 

 

APRIL 23, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Did I Hear God Wrong?
LYSA TERKEURST

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?

I understand. Thoughts of doubt crossed my mind daily when I began to listen to the promptings on my heart to write.

The International Christian Retail Show is a big book convention where publishers, authors, agents, media and bookstore owners all gather to talk shop. Books are pitched. Books are sold. Books are talked about a lot!

I went to this conference years ago when I was a wannabe writer with a book proposal and a dream. Recently, as I signed pre-release copies of my new book, two thoughts went through my mind.

First … thank You Jesus, that people actually came to my book signing. Because there’s nothing quite like standing there with a big stack of free promotion books, a permanent marker and not a soul interested.

So when people actually came, I just wanted to hug every single one of them. Seriously. And if I had lots of money, I would’ve bought them all a steak dinner. I’m not kidding.

The second thought was … look for those desperate for your encouragement.

Many who came through my book signing line were interested in writing a book. I remember being there.

I know what it feels like to walk around with a tote bag full of book proposals and a heart full of nervous hope.

I know what it feels like to consciously choose to live every day “by faith, not by sight” like our key verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 instructs. Honestly, it’s hard to hold on to God’s promises when all that’s staring back at you is a pile of rejection letters from publishers.

That calling we once felt so strongly starts to feel more like a fairytale than a future reality.

So, I felt the weight of responsibility to give them the encouragement I so desperately needed when I was in their shoes.

Maybe you are there right now, looking to actively pursue your dreams or the things God has called you to. But whether it’s the hope of being an author or another dream you have bumping around in your heart, here’s what I’ve learned:

Rejection from people doesn’t mean rejection from God.

If God has gifted you to write, write! You don’t need a book deal to have an impact with your writing. The same is true with other dreams. If you’re called to sing, create, teach, paint, develop — use your gifts right where you are to bless others.

Most overnight success stories are years in the making.

Value the daily discipline of small steps of faith, hard work, honing your craft and putting in time learning and developing. Take classes. Be mentored. Push through those moments you want to slack off. And do it over and over, year after year.

Be a blessing to others.

Don’t keep your work to yourself. Find people who could be blessed with your work. I love to write. But what I love more than writing is seeing my writing help other people. That’s where I find the encouragement to push through the hard times.

Expect opposition.

The challenges and disappointments and setbacks are all part of it. And honestly, these hard times serve a great purpose. I’ve learned much more from my failures in writing than my successes. Use these lessons … don’t waste them by giving up too soon. And remember to glorify Him whether it’s a struggle or a success. God uses all things for good.

Look for the small open doors right in front of you.

I always scratch my head when I meet people who tell me they want to write and speak but aren’t willing to teach a small Bible study first. If God is calling you to do something, He’ll have a door open in front of you. But it might be a small door. Look for the small door and walk through it.

Actually … dance through that door with great joy because He will always do great things with people willing to be faithful in the small!

 

April 23

From: Streams in the Desert

Not of the Extraordinary

“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside, of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exod. 3:1,2).

The vision came in the midst of common toil, and that is where the Lord delights to give His revelations. He seeks a man who is on the ordinary road, and the Divine fire leaps out at his feet. The mystic ladder can rise from the market place to Heaven. It can connect the realm of drudgery with the realms of grace.

My Father God, help me to expect Thee on the ordinary road. I do not ask for sensational happenings. Commune with me through ordinary work and duty. Be my Companion when I take the common journey. Let the humble life be transfigured by Thy presence.

Some Christians think they must be always up to mounts of extraordinary joy and revelation; this is not after God’s method. Those spiritual visits to high places, and that wonderful intercourse with the unseen world, are not in the promises; the daily life of communion is. And it is enough. We shall have the exceptional revelation if it be right for us.

There were but three disciples allowed to see the transfiguration, and those three entered the gloom of Gethsemane. No one can stay on the mount of privilege. There are duties in the valley. Christ found His life-work, not in the glory, but in the valley and was there truly and fully the Messiah. The value of the vision and glory is but their gift of fitness for work and endurance.
–Selected

 


A divine challenge

From: Charles Spurgeon

“Thus saith the Lord, let my people go, that they may serve me.” Exodus 8:1

Suggested Further Reading: James 3:3-6

Moses goes to Pharaoh yet again, and says, “Thus saith the Lord, let my people go, that they may serve me.” And at one time the haughty monarch says he will let some go; at another time he will let them all go, but they are to leave their cattle behind. He will hold on to something; if he cannot have the whole he will have a part. It is wonderful how content the devil is if he can but nibble at a man’s heart. It does not matter about swallowing it whole; only let him nibble and he will be content. Let him but bite at the fag ends and be satisfied, for he is wise enough to know that if a serpent has but an inch of bare flesh to sting, he will poison the whole. When Satan cannot get a great sin in he will let a little one in, like the thief who goes and finds shutters all coated with iron and bolted inside. At last he sees a little window in a chamber. He cannot get in, so he puts a little boy in, that he may go round and open the back door. So the devil has always his little sins to carry about with him to go and open back doors for him, and we let one in and say, “O, it is only a little one.” Yes, but how that little one becomes the ruin of the entire man! Let us take care that the devil does not get a foothold, for if he gets but a foothold, he will get his whole body in and we shall be overcome.

For meditation: Beware of giving Satan a window of opportunity (Ephesians 4:27), it is amazing how much damage can be caused by something apparently little (1 Corinthians 5:6; Hebrews 12:15).

Sermon no. 322
23 April (Preached 22 April 1860)

 

Luke 15:7

If Jesus were to tell the parable of the lost sheep today, he might make it the parable of the lost dog. The idea is the same. If your dog runs off, you search for it until you find it. And when you bring it home, your family celebrates.

The next story is better understood with a bit of historical explanation. Palestinian women traditionally received a set of 10 coins as a wedding gift. These coins were carried around in a purse or on a chain and held a significance similar to a modern-day wedding ring. As such, these coins held sentimental value that went well beyond their monetary value. No wonder this woman would search so fervently to find the lost coin, and no wonder she would want to celebrate after finding it!

We might even be able relate to the third story. Imagine that you’re a parent and your son leaves home with as much money as he can pull together. He sets out for a big city like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. He is on his own. But instead of working and being responsible, he blows every cent on drugs, sex and alcohol and ends up on the street, homeless and hungry.

As his parent, you worry about him. Every time the phone rings, you hope it’s him. One day you open the front door, and there he stands! Relief is immediate. You throw your arms around him. Words can’t express the joy you feel. Your son who was lost is home!

These three stories express how God feels about every spiritual explorer. And it’s how he feels about you. He’s looking for you because he loves you. God is eager to forgive you, and all of heaven is ready to celebrate your return. But, like the son in the third story, you must decide to come home to his waiting arms.

Taken from NIV The Journey Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The Light of Christ Never Fails

 

Darkness Can Not Stand Against Light

 

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John 1: 1-3

 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Light That Never Fails

From: Utmost.org

A servant of God must stand so very much alone that he never realizes he is alone. In the early stages of the Christian life, disappointments will come— people who used to be lights will flicker out, and those who used to stand with us will turn away. We have to get so used to it that we will not even realize we are standing alone. Paul said, “…no one stood with me, but all forsook me….But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…” (2 Timothy 4:16-17). We must build our faith not on fading lights but on the Light that never fails. When “important” individuals go away we are sad, until we see that they are meant to go, so that only one thing is left for us to do— to look into the face of God for ourselves.

Allow nothing to keep you from looking with strong determination into the face of God regarding yourself and your doctrine. And every time you preach make sure you look God in the face about the message first, then the glory will remain through all of it. A Christian servant is one who perpetually looks into the face of God and then goes forth to talk to others. The ministry of Christ is characterized by an abiding glory of which the servant is totally unaware— “…Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him” (Exodus 34:29).

We are never called on to display our doubts openly or to express the hidden joys and delights of our life with God. The secret of the servant’s life is that he stays in tune with God all the time.

 

Abandoned

From: Get More Strength

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6

If you were ever a freshman in college, you may remember how cool you felt if an upperclassman showed some interest in you.

T. J. Evans lived across the hall from me my freshman year. He was a self-assured upperclassman with that I’ve-got-it-all-together swagger in his walk. It didn’t take long to realize that he was a big man on campus. So you can imagine how flattering it felt when he took an interest in the freshmen on our floor.

Well, take an interest in us he did. But we were soon to find out that he had a sinister agenda up his sleeve. After curfew, he would hang out with us and suggest brilliant pranks that we could pull off under the cover of darkness. He’d help us design the strategy and off we’d go, only to get caught and find ourselves in a lot of trouble. When we got caught, we always noticed that T. J. was nowhere to be seen. He had sent us off and stayed in his room taking great delight in seeing us freshmen end up in a heap of trouble. In retrospect, I can’t believe we let him do that to us—not just once but we were dumb enough to have it happen a lot! It’s the old, “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me!” routine.

When I think about it, T. J.’s delight in getting us in trouble is not much different than Satan’s interest in you and your life. He comes along with nifty schemes that look like fun—things he assures will make you happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. When someone hurts you, he has anI don’t get mad, I just get even strategy that makes you feel really good about not being taken advantage of. Instant trips into pleasure-land and debt-increasing spending sprees offer quick kicks of adrenalin. If you have a need, if you have a desire—believe me, he has a plan! But when you execute his strategy, he’ll be nowhere to be found. He won’t be there to deliver on his promise that you will be happy and fulfilled. He won’t even have the decency to help you pick up the pieces and to apologize for messing up your life. In fact, all the time he had a sinister agenda up his sleeve! He loves to see our lives complicated with shame, guilt, and regret. He is the master of ruined lives. As Peter warns us, he’s on the prowl looking for someone he can devour (1 Peter 5:8)!

We should have known. When he lured Adam and Eve with an offer they found hard to refuse, he didn’t stay around to make good on his promise but slithered off leaving them fearful, ashamed, and full of regret. And that strategy was so good that he continues to find it useful in your life and mine thousands of years later.

Peter Berger said it well when he wrote:

He who sups with the devil had better have a long spoon, because he who sups with the devil will find that his spoon gets shorter and shorter until that last supper in which he is left alone at the table with no spoon at all and an empty plate. But the devil, one may guess, will have then gone on to more interesting company.

Fool us once, shame on Satan! Fool us twice, shame on us!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Think about a specific time when you fell to a suggestion of Satan in your life. Which of the following did you experience in the aftermath of your decision: Shame? Regret? Guilt? All of the above?
  • Is there a plan of Satan that you consistently fall for? Why?
  • Select an area of your life where you repeatedly fail and find Scriptures that address the issue. What plan can you put in place so that you’re not fooled by Satan in that area again?

 

From: Streams in the Desert

God Knows My Way

He knoweth the way that I take (Job 23:10).
Believer! What a glorious assurance! This way of thine–this, it may be, a crooked, mysterious, tangled way–this way of trial and tears. “He knoweth it.” The furnace seven times heated–He lighted it. There is an Almighty Guide knowing and directing our footsteps, whether it be to the bitter Marah pool, or to the joy and refreshment of Elim.
That way, dark to the Egyptians, has its pillar of cloud and fire for His own Israel. The furnace is hot; but not only can we trust the hand that kindles it, but we have the assurance that the fires are lighted not to consume, but to refine; and that when the refining process is completed (no sooner–no later) He brings His people forth as gold.
When they think Him least near, He is often nearest. “When my spirit was overwhelmed, then thou knewest my path.” Do we know of ONE brighter than the brightest radiance of the visible sun, visiting our chamber with the first waking beam of the morning; an eye of infinite tenderness and compassion following us throughout the day, knowing the way that we take?
The world, in its cold vocabulary in the hour of adversity, speaks of “Providence”–“the will of Providence”–“the strokes of Providence.” PROVIDENCE! what is that? Why dethrone a living, directing God from the sovereignty of His own earth? Why substitute an inanimate, death-like abstraction, in place of an acting, controlling, personal Jehovah?
How it would take the sting from many a goading trial, to see what Job saw (in his hour of aggravated woe, when every earthly hope lay prostrate at his feet)–no hand but the Divine. He saw that hand behind the gleaming swords of the Sabeans–he saw it behind the lightning flash–he saw it giving wings to the careening tempest–he saw it in the awful silence of his rifled home.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Thus seeing God in everything, his faith reached its climax when this once powerful prince of the desert, seated on his bed of ashes, could say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.”
–Macduff

April 22

Joshua 5:11-12 (NIV) 11The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.

Israel celebrated their first Passover in the Promised Land. As soon as they ate the food of that land, the manna stopped. I wonder if the next morning they got up by habit to go out and collect it. For forty years God had provided angels’ food for them on a daily basis Now that they are home, they can eat of the good of the land that God has given them.

God provides for us. He is Jehovah Jireh, “the LORD provides”. He won’t give us too much, but He will give us enough to sustain us. As we travel through this life, as long as we have a need, the LORD will provide. We can count on our daily manna. As long as we go out to gather it and don’t try to keep it over night, we will always be able to fill our jars. We will have just enough.

But that land to which we are going will have an abundance and variety. The Lord is still our portion and our cup, but instead of coming from above, He will be all around us. One day, the angel of the second death will pass over us because of what Jesus did in our place. Then we will be home and eating freely of the abundance of the land.

Meditation: I’m on my way to something better. This world is not my home.

Evening

April 22

Mark 15:21-23 (NIV) 21A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

The beatings and Roman scourging had so weakened Jesus that He could not carry the crossbeam to the site of the crucifixion. Jesus was at the end of physical ability. A man who had journeyed from North Africa to celebrate the Feast of Passover, Simon, was forced to carry the beam. His children later became well known in the early church. This encounter with Jesus would change his life.

There is some debate about where the crucifixion site is. Two popular ones exist in Jerusalem, but no one can say for sure which, if either, is authentic. It would have been near a gate and beside a road. The Scriptures tell us He was brought to a hill, not on a hill. It was probably a place used regularly for executions.

A group of Jewish women regularly met those who were to be crucified to offer a pain deadening mixture of strong wine and myrrh. When Jesus tasted it, He refused it. He had promised not to drink the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with the disciples in the Kingdom. The women pitied Him, but He grieved for them; He knew they were rejecting their only hope. Their pity was a mere human sentimentality. His pity was that of both the suffering Jerusalem was about to endure and an eternal perspective. We would have welcomed anything to deaden the pain. Jesus met death head on, determined not to flinch but to conquer it for us.

There is a lesson in His determination. We often skirt our trials, looking for the easy way out. Jesus faced them with faith in His Father. He knew that total reliance on the Father would see Him through anything, even if it meant obedience unto death. That is faith!

Prayer: Lord, when we are faced with the trials that inevitably come from obedience to You, help us to face them with Your resolute determination.

Full redemption

“There shall not an hoof be left behind.” Exodus 10:26

Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 20:1-10

A man once wrote a book to prove the devil a fool. Certainly, when all matters shall come to their destined consummation, Satan will prove to have been a magnificent fool. Folly, magnified to the highest degree by subtlety, shall be developed in Satan. Ah! Thou trailing serpent, what hast thou now after all? I saw thee but a few thousand years ago, twining around the tree of life, and hissing out thy deceptive words. Ah! how glorious was the serpent then—a winged creature, with his azure scales. Yes, and thou didst triumph over God. I heard thee as thou didst go hissing down to thy den. I heard thee say to thy brood,—vipers in the nest as they are,—“My children, I have stained the Almighty’s works: I have turned aside his loyal subjects; I have injected my poison into the heart of Eve, and Adam hath fallen too; my children let us hold a jubilee, for I have defeated God.” Oh, my enemy; I think I see thee now, with thy head all broken, and thy jaw-teeth smashed, and thy venom-bags all emptied, and thou thyself a weary length of agony, rolling miles afloat along a sea of fire, tortured, destroyed, overcome, tormented, ashamed, hacked, hewed, dashed in pieces, and made a hissing, and a scorn for children to laugh at, and made a scoff throughout eternity. Ah! well, brethren, the great Goliath hath gained nothing by his boasting: Christ and his people have really lost nothing by Satan. All they lost once, has been re-taken. The victory has not simply been a capture of that which was lost, but a gaining of something more. We are in Christ more than we were before we fell. “Not a hoof shall be left behind.”

For meditation: Victory over Satan will be celebrated with joy (Revelation 12:10-12;Romans 16:20) but for the moment we must remain on our guard against him (1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 4:27; 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:6,7; 1 Peter 5:8,9).

Sermon no. 309
22 April (1860)

Don’t Hurt The Lord

When you hurt others, you hurt God.

When you hurt yourself, you hurt God.

 

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Don’t Hurt the Lord

From: Utmost.org

Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us— astounded at how “un-simple” we are. It is our own opinions that make us dense and slow to understand, but when we are simple we are never dense; we have discernment all the time. Philip expected the future revelation of a tremendous mystery, but not in Jesus, the Person he thought he already knew. The mystery of God is not in what is going to be— it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event. We have no reluctance to obey Jesus, but it is highly probable that we are hurting Him by what we ask— “Lord, show us the Father…” (John 14:8). His response immediately comes back to us as He says, “Can’t you see Him? He is always right here or He is nowhere to be found.” We look for God to exhibit Himself to His children, but God only exhibits Himself in His children. And while others see the evidence, the child of God does not. We want to be fully aware of what God is doing in us, but we cannot have complete awareness and expect to remain reasonable or balanced in our expectations of Him. If all we are asking God to give us is experiences, and the awareness of those experiences is blocking our way, we hurt the Lord. The very questions we ask hurt Jesus, because they are not the questions of a child.

“Let not your heart be troubled…” (14:1, 27). Am I then hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? If I believe in Jesus and His attributes, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to disturb my heart, or am I allowing any questions to come in which are unsound or unbalanced? I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.

 

APRIL 21, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken
Michelle McKinney Hammond

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” Genesis 39:20b-21 (NIV)

When I was a little girl growing up in Barbados with my grandmother, I loved to watch her make sausage.

First, she would take big chunks of meat and slowly squeeze them into a machine known as a sausage stuffer. Before long, the meat would break down and come out the other side all gushy and floppy.

I used to feel so sorry for that meat.

Next my grandmother would add zesty spices and meticulously squish the meat into encasements. And you know what happened? Some of the best sausage you can imagine was formed. It had a wonderful flavor and a long shelf life.

As you can see, sausage making is quite the process! But the process had a purpose.

Have you ever felt like that sausage? I have.

The process of being squeezed and uncomfortable can break us down, making us feel helpless, alone and sometimes even good for nothing.

We can question, God, where are You? Or, Let’s hurry this discomfort along, OK? (I’m famous for that!) Or even wonder, God, I thought You loved me. What did I do wrong?

Let me remind you of something, friend. Being squeezed by outside pressure doesn’t indicate God’s rejection, abandonment or that He made a mistake. Sometimes in His great sovereignty and love, God allows for our character to be refined. God reminded me of this recently when I was studying the life of Joseph.

You may remember Joseph and his coat of many colors. As a teenager, Joseph had big dreams; however, a series of unfortunate events seemed to circumvent those aspirations. He faced difficult and disappointing times — more than once — and was even sold into slavery by his very own brothers.

Can you imagine going from favored child to slave? I wouldn’t have had a very good attitude about that. “I’m supposed to mop this floor? Don’t you know I watched people mop the floor of my house?” Dear God, get me out of this mess!

But not Joseph.

Time and time again Joseph’s plans went differently than expected, yet he ultimately chose to follow God every step of the way. Regardless of outside pressures and demands — slavery, slander, abandonment or imprisonment — Joseph chose to be excellent. The Bible tells us he advanced because of his positive attitude, and he experienced God’s kindness and favor in the midst of struggles and disappointments.

In our key verse, Genesis 39:21 tells us, “The LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

Let’s be honest. The refining process isn’t easy or comfortable. Prison was a dark place, a place where Joseph really didn’t want to be … a place where he saw no way out.

But throughout Joseph’s story, God reminds us, very diligently, that no matter how awful and appalling the circumstances, He was still with Joseph.

Want to hear some good news?

He’s still with us, too.

So, friend, if you feel like my grandmother’s sausage, squeezed and broken down, please remember, our God has great purpose in His refining process. He uses whatever He can to form the character He desires for us, His dearly loved kids.

In many ways God works like my grandmother — squeezing and squishing until there’s nowhere else to turn but up. And when God adds the fruit of the Spirit to our lives, then encases us in the shell of holiness, purity and sound character, we too will have a longer shelf life … a life that glorifies Him.

 

The missionaries’ charge and authority

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ Matthew 28:18–19

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 13:1–13

There are some young men who get the idea into their minds that they would like to go into foreign lands; but these are frequently the most unfit men, and have not the power and ability. I pray that the divine call would come to some gifted men. You who have, perhaps, some wealth of your own, what could be a better object in life than to devote yourself and your substance to the Redeemer’s cause? You young men, who have brilliant prospects before you, but who as yet have not the anxieties of a family to maintain, why, would it not be a noble thing to surrender your brilliant prospects, that you may become a humble preacher of Christ? I have questioned my own conscience, and I do not think I could be in the path of duty if I should go abroad to preach the Word, leaving this field of labour; but I think many of my brethren now labouring at home might with the greatest advantage surrender their charges, and go where their presence would be as valuable as the presence of a thousand such as they are here. And I long that we may see young men out of the universities, and students in our grammar schools—that we may see our physicians, advocates, tradesmen and educated mechanics, when God has touched their hearts, giving all they have, that they may teach and preach Christ. We want Judsons and Brainerds over again. It will never do to send out to the heathen men who are of no use at home; we must send the highest, and best.

For meditation: Missionary work depends not upon the call of adventure but upon the call of God. Christ’s apostles were properly prepared and stood the test of time (Mark 3:14; Luke 22:28; John 14:9; Acts 11:25–26; Galatians 1:15–18). John Mark became very useful in later years (2 Timothy 4:11) but appears to have gone out originally before he was called and ready (Acts 13:13; 15:38).

Sermon no. 383
21 April (1861)

 

True Servanthood (Luke 12:25–30)

A profound mystery: God becomes a slave. This implies very specifically that God wants to be known through servanthood. Such is God’s own self-disclosure. Thus, when Jesus describes his return in glory at the end of the world, he says, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them” (Luke 12:37).

Jesus remains Lord by being a servant.

The beloved disciple presents a mind-bending image of God, blowing away all previous conceptions of who the Messiah is and what discipleship is all about. What a scandalous and unprecedented reversal of the world’s values! To prefer to be the servant rather than the lord of the household is the path of downward mobility in an upwardly mobile culture. To taunt the idols of prestige, honor and recognition, to refuse to take oneself seriously or to take seriously others who take themselves seriously, to dance to the tune of a different drummer and to freely embrace the servant lifestyle—these are the attitudes that bear the stamp of authentic discipleship.

Taken from NIV Ragamuffin Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing