Monthly Archives: May 2019

Pursue Holiness

 

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Holiness Has An Edge

By: Joe Stowell, Strength for the Journey

May
31
2019

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2

All of us who have kids have been guilty of ending an argument about why they should or shouldn’t do something with the conversation stopper: “Because I said so.” The reply is powerful because it has an edge to it. There are times when God is edgy with us. We’d like to stand there and argue with Him, but He keeps saying things like, “Because I said so” or “You be holy, because I am holy.” His call to holiness in our lives has that edgy sound.

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to bring that kind of holy edge to His people, He showed up in a place called the temple. God’s holiness came from another world and engaged with yours and mine. Jesus’ birth was a holy invasion—it came with an edge—from another place, another world, another reality. It cut through pretense by coming as a peasant baby born in a stable surrounded by sheep and goats. It cut into religious and political agendas by displaying genuine humility as a way to power. It sliced through the stuffy, hot air of classicism by first announcing His arrival to lowly shepherds working the third shift outside the city limits. It carved away centuries of religious oppression and hypocrisy by showing the power of quiet innocence. Holiness in God’s terms has an edge.

And it’s not only edgy in its essence; it’s also edgy in its demands. Because we represent Him, we are called to live with a holy edge. To live with a holy edge means to live differently—to make daily choices that square with God’s holiness; to stand for right in a wrong-headed culture; to preserve honesty, justice, and integrity no matter what. It means to replace greed with generosity and to forgive the cruelest offense. To serve others instead of ourselves, and to use our power to bless others instead of using it to advance our own agendas. It’s that kind of edgy living that makes a huge statement about the distinct difference that a holy God makes in our world.

When God first spoke to His people through Moses, He told them to live in and enjoy the land He had promised to them. But they were to live with a holy edge. They were to live differently than their pagan counterparts, uniquely reflecting the Holy difference of the true and living God.

Don’t lose your edge! Holiness sets you wonderfully apart in an increasingly unholy world. It’s no wonder that He said we should be holy because He is holy!

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How We Must Fight for Holiness


Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

There is a practical holiness without which we will not see the Lord. Many live as if this were not so.

There are professing Christians who live such unholy lives that they will hear Jesus’s dreadful words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). Paul says to professing believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13).

So, there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And learning to fight for holiness by faith in future grace is supremely important.

There is another way to pursue holiness that backfires and leads to death. Paul warns us against serving God any other way than by faith in his enabling grace. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Any effort to serve God that does not, in that very act, depend on him as the reward of our hearts and the power of our service, will dishonor him as a needy pagan god.

Peter describes the alternative to such self-reliant service of God, “Whoever serves, [let him do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Romans 15:18; see also 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Moment by moment, grace arrives to enable us to do “every good work” that God appoints for us. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

The fight for good works is a fight to believe the promises of future grace.

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Should We Seek Holiness or Happiness?

DECEMBER 12, 2018

By: Alli Worthington

“How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways!” Psalm 128:1 (HCSB)

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All my life I’ve wanted to be happy, but I felt low-grade guilt over seeking happiness. Weren’t Christians just supposed to strive to be holy, not happy?

For too long, I believed the lie that joy was godly and spiritual, and happiness was shallow and selfish. But as I kept walking with Jesus, I came to understand that seeking to follow God and seeking happiness can go hand-in-hand.

There’s nothing in the Bible that separates the concept of joy and happiness — they have the same meaning according to the original languages of Scripture. God tells us repeatedly in His Word to be happy. Commands such as “rejoice,” “be of good cheer,” and “give thanks” are all ways of telling us to be happy.

God designed us to seek happiness in Him and to want the source of our happiness to be in Him. As a woman of God, I now believe we should seek Holy Happiness.

As I continued studying Scripture in light of the truth that God’s commands for us are a recipe for happiness, I discovered that happiness in our lives is directly connected to two things: our connection with Him and others, and our contentment. As I focused on the quality of my connections and leaned into contentment, I found my happiness.

We find this reminder in Psalm 128:1, “How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways!”

And I discovered that by adding small, simple habits in my life, I became a little happier every day. I’ve found these three things help build happiness:

  1. Focus on gratitude.

At the end of every day, I ask my boys what their three wins for the day are. I ask them in this way because when I tried to ask my sons what they were grateful for each day, they looked at me like I had three heads.

But when I ask my boys what their wins are, I trick them into practicing the discipline of gratitude with me! By looking for the wins, they identify things that are good, and those are the things they are grateful for.

This practice of gratitude is not just for the boys, but for their momma, too!

  1. Find your Battle Buddies.

A friend told me that in the Army, they have something called “battle buddies.” A battle buddy is someone who supports you and looks out for you in and out of battle.

Don’t we all need a couple of great battle buddies on our journey with us?

Just as a blacksmith will use metal on metal to form it for its intended purpose, God will use certain people in our lives to sharpen and mold us into who He is making us to be. (Proverbs 27:17)

Identify your battle buddies who look out for you, encourage you, and are there for you when life looks more like a battlefield than we’d like!

  1. Talk to yourself in a manner worthy of you.

Jesus says our mouths speak from the overflow of our hearts. (Luke 6:45) If we truly believe we are His workmanship and are loved by our Father, our words will reflect that truth, both to ourselves and others.

The Lord has done a great work in you. Don’t let your own mouth be a tool the enemy can use against you to steal your happiness and confidence. You are fearfully and wonderfully made — created in God’s image!

Make a promise to God and to yourself that you will only speak to yourself in a manner worthy of God’s image-bearer.

As women of God, let’s be the ones who do the Kingdom work of fighting for authentic, holy happiness and teach our families, friends and communities by our example.

The Ascension Of Christ Into Heaven

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The Ascension of Christ

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The Ascension of Christ

“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”—Ephesians 4:7-12

     Our blessed Lord and Master has gone from us. From the mount of Olives, the place where in dread conflict his garments were rolled in blood, he has mounted in triumph to his throne. After having shown himself for forty days amongst his beloved disciples, giving them abundant evidence that he had really risen from the dead, and enriching them by his divine counsels, he was taken up. Slowly rising before them all, he gave them his blessing as he disappeared. Like good old Jacob, whose departing act was to bestow a benediction on his twelve sons and their descendants, so ere the cloud received our Lord out of our sight, he poured a blessing upon the apostles, who were looking upward, and who were the representatives of his church. He is gone! His voice of wisdom is silent for us, his seat at the table is empty, the congregation on the mountain hears him no more. It would be very easy to have found reasons why he should not have gone. Had it been a matter of choice to us, we should have entreated him to tarry with us till the dispensation closed. Unless, peradventure, grace had enabled us to say: “Not as we will, but as thou wilt,” we should have constrained him, saying, “Abide with us.” What a comfort to disciples to have their own beloved teacher visibly with them! What a consolation to a persecuted band to see their leader at their head; difficulties would disappear, problems would be solved, perplexities removed, trials made easy, temptations averted! Let Jesus himself, their own dear Shepherd be near, and the sheep will lie down in security. Had he been here we could have gone to him in every affliction, like those of whom it is said, “they went and told Jesus.”

     It seemed expedient for him to stay, to accomplish the conversion of the world. Would not his presence have had an influence to win by eloquence of gracious word and argument of loving miracle? If he put forth his power the battle would soon be over, and his rule over all hearts would be for ever established. “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.” Go not from the conflict, thou mighty bowman, but still cast thine all-subduing darts abroad. In the days of our Lord’s flesh, before he had risen from the dead, he did but speak, and those who came to take him fell to the ground; might we but have him near us no persecuting hand could seize us; at his bidding, the fiercest enemy would retire. His voice called the dead out of their graves; could we but have him still in the church his voice would awaken the spiritually dead. His personal presence would be better to us than ten thousand apostles, at least, so we dream; and we imagine that with him visibly among us the progress of the church would be like the march of a triumphant army.

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Focus on Jesus and Don’t Look Down

Focus on Jesus and Don't Look Down

Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31

Each of us carries a word in his heart, a “no” or a “yes.” ~ Martin Seligman

For in Him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The first time I ever skied was in the Swiss Alps. A friend who ran a winter sports camp flew my wife and me from Scotland, where we were living on the meager funds of a graduate fellowship, paid for our ski rentals, and bought us lift tickets. After two trips down the bunny slope, I told my wife, an avid skier, that I was ready for something more adventurous. We got on a chair lift, and it quickly rose hundreds of feet off the ground. My wife, you may remember, does not like heights. She grabbed the metal pole that stood between us and wrapped herself around it like a boa constrictor.

“Honey,” she said, paraphrasing Ken Davis. “I love you. You’re my husband, and I’d do anything for you. But do you see this post? This is my post. If you touch this post, you’ll meet Jesus today.”

“Don’t look down,” I suggested.

We got off the chair lift and took something called a T-bar up the final ascent. Unfortunately, when we were almost to the top of the mountain, we fell off the T-bar. For a while we lay in the snow, waiting for the St. Bernard who never came. Dozens of skiers whizzed up the Alp beside us, yelling advice to us in German. The only word I could make out was “Dumköpf.”

Another couple fell off (or jumped out of pity) at the same point. Hans could speak a little English, and he guided us an hour through hip-deep snow to the nearest slope. The slope was marked by a black diamond with skull and crossbones. It went downhill at an angle of about eighty-five degrees.

Hans then gave me the only skiing lesson I have ever had. “Don’t look down,” he said. “You will be frightened by the slope and overwhelmed by the distance. When new skiers look down, they panic; and when they face straight ahead on a slope this steep—” He made a whistling sound and a motion with his hand that was not encouraging; it was vaguely reminiscent of the “agony of defeat” guy on the old television program Wide World of Sports. “I think you can make it.” (The word think bothered me a little.) “Just remember one thing: Don’t look down.”

Don’t look down became the number one rule in my life.

I would not look down for anything. Six-year-old skiers would ski between my legs to try to tempt me to watch them go down. I set a record for Most Zigzag Turns that day. People would ski past me, take the chair lift up, go past me again – just to see how many times they could lap me. I suspect I pulled off the ugliest ski run that particular Alp had ever seen. Even when making snowplow turns, I would arrange whenever possible to execute them in front of small children so they could break my fall if necessary.

I got only one thing right: I never looked down. I became the world’s expert at not looking down. It wasn’t pretty, but it got me to the bottom of the hill.

When Peter was walking on the water, the text does not tell us whether Jesus said anything to him or not. But if He did, I imagine it being along these lines: Peter, whatever you do – don’t look down. Keep going, one foot in front of the other. Think light thoughts! Just remember, whatever you do – don’t look down. I imagine that Peter’s eyes were locked on Jesus – that during this experience an awareness of Jesus simply dominated Peter’s mind. Like master, like disciple.

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Ascension Day – Acts 1:1-11

Acts 1:1-11

Why did Christ ascend into heaven?  Out of all the important things Jesus did, it’s one of the few that we recite every week in the Creeds.  But Ascension Day itself is often forgotten, sandwiched in on a Thursday (40 days after the Resurrection) and overshadowed by Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.

I want you to put yourself in the disciples’ place this morning.  Jesus, the Messiah died, but then He was resurrected.  You saw Him, and He taught you on and off for 40 days about the Kingdom of Heaven.  And then He tells you to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, and He ascends into heaven.  And now He’s gone.

You might be forgiven for continuing to stare into heaven for a long time.  (Of course you stop the minute the angels embarrass you by asking “Why do you gaze up into heaven?”)

As His disciples, we might pause a minute and think about the meanings of the Ascension of our Lord.  Too often I think we skip from the Resurrection to the Second Coming in our thoughts and imaginations, and we don’t adequately meditate on or grasp the importance of what in the world Jesus is doing now.

We left the disciples, gazing up into heaven, standing in awe of and probably in confusion over their ascended Lord.  The angels ask them, “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven?” with the implication that they should not continue to do so.  And I want to ask you all, as disciples of Jesus Christ, “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven?”  Because if you’re like me, you do that.   As disciples of Jesus Christ, there is a sense in which we should and a sense in which we should not be continually gazing up into heaven.

Why should we stand gazing up into heaven?  The first response of the apostles in Acts 1:10 was to look steadfastly into heaven.  The first response to God’s glory and rising up into heaven should be to humble ourselves and fall down before Him in worship.  More specifically, we find just such a response in Luke 24:52.  There we find that they worshiped Him because of His kingdom and power and glory.  They returned to Jerusalem with great joy: they went home with joy.  What a contrast to the Crucifixion, after which they return home with emptiness and meaninglessness.

In Luke 24:53, they praised God because of what He had done for His Son, and for what was therefore promised to them.  And they blessed God.  This is, of course, after Jesus had first blessed them in Luke 24:50.  God blesses us so that we can bless Him.  In all things, that is, they followed Christ.  They suffered with Him, and one day they would be raised with Him.

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We Shall Be like Christ

 

I John 3:2

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

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Changing

by Inspiration Ministries

We are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2 NASB

Our perspective on life changes when we realize that we are the children of God (v. 2). Like children, we constantly are developing. Growing. Changing. Like children, we are not in a final state but are constantly learning through a variety of experiences.

In this process, we will sometimes make mistakes and do the wrong thing. Like a good father, God does not give up on us when we make mistakes. He knows our nature, and He wants us to learn from our experiences.

As our Father, God looks at us with love, seeking ways to protect us, to guide us, and to shape our development. We should not be surprised when He disciplines us and helps us recognize areas where we need correction or improvement.

Our ultimate nature will not be clear until we are present with Him. Then we will be like Him (v. 2). Until then, we will continue to change.

Always remember that it has not appeared as yet what we will be. You are not in your final form. In fact, you can’t even imagine what you will be. That is something only God knows.

God is shaping you. He is constantly teaching you and helping you mature and become more like Jesus. He is helping you impact more lives.

Make sure you cooperate. Trust Him and obey His Word. Surrender your life anew to Him, because He is your loving Father.

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2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Transformed from Glory to Glory

  From: abideinchrist.com

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 Transformed from Glory to Glory

Every believer in Jesus Christ is an open letter, a walking living advertisement, for Christ. It is an awesome responsibility because the world is watching and judging Christianity by our attitudes and actions.

You may ask who is adequate for such a responsibility? The apostle Paul declared, “It is He who is all–sufficient who has made me sufficient for this task.” He always thought of God as making him adequate to live and minister the Christian life. Only the Holy Spirit can change our human nature, therefore God calls us to an intimate relationship with Himself. The new covenant we have with Christ produces in us a greater splendor that will never fade. He calls us to an ever-growing intimate love relationship with Himself that never fades away.

The Christian looks upon the unveiled, the unhidden glories of the Lord, and are transformed into the same image from glory to glory. It is through faith that we look upon Him and are changed y the Holy Spirit.

Where do we get our vision of Him? It is as we are occupied with Him in His Word. As we study the Bible we understand and comprehend what He is like.

Who are those individuals in the Bible who have seen the glory of the Lord and been transformed?

GLORY OF GOD IN THE OLD COVENANT

Seeing God in the Old Testament was a serious matter. The angel of the Lord often mediates him. Those who saw the angel of the Lord understood the sight as practically the same as to seeing God. The message is clear, “No one can see Me and live.” One old saint said with a pure heart, “Then let me see Him and die.”

Glory of God like a consuming fire

Moses is unique in the Old Testament. In Exodus 24:15-17 we are told Moses went up to the mountain and the cloud of glory covered the mountain. “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai . . . and He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.”

God met Israel on the mercy seat in the holy of holies (25:21-22). It was there a holy and righteous God came down to where man was for fellowship.

Moses longed to be in the presence of God

Moses enjoyed deeply personal communion with Yahweh. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). There is universal agreement among scholars that Moses is expressing intimacy with God and not literally in His face. He is preparing his readers for the deeply personal conversation that follows. In Exodus 33:18-23 Moses makes it very clear that sinful man cannot see the glory of God and live. “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (v. 20, cf. v. 23). It is not a contradiction, but a clarification. What happens when Moses came into the presence of God is amazing.

Moses reflected the presence of the glory of God in his face

In Exodus 34:29-35 we are told that after Moses fasted on the mountain forty days and nights that “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him” (v. 29). “The skin of his face shone” and the people were afraid to come near him (v. 30). His face had a general irradiation and illumination about it. His whole face was irradiated in a strange and wonderful way, unusual manner in which those familiar with him had never seen it irradiated before. Moses face was transfigured. The word is used in Hebrew for a sunrise. This was new spiritual illumination for Moses, so mighty, so powerful that it irradiated his countenance. His spirit was in a new fellowship with God. His whole person being was mastered, captured, and illuminated by fellowship with God. Moses had a supreme consciousness of God. It would be needed for the job before him.

He called the people together and communicated to them what God told Him on the mountaintop. “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him” (vv. 33-35).

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GLORY TO GLORY

How does one change? Do you want to change? You, with the WWJD bracelet. Do you want to be righteous? Do you want to resemble Christ in all you think, say, and do? I will tell you how to be transformed. I will show you the way to soul reformation. But it is simple and I fear you will miss it if I do not prepare you.“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (ESV)

So, are you ready?

Here it is.

Look. Look to God. Behold His glory. Focus your attention on Him. Take in His splendour and majesty. And as you witness it you will become the glory that you seek.

The religious skeptic interjects: “No, it cannot be that simple! Merely looking at something never changed the world. It takes action! Hard work! We need to DO! WWJD!” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 seems to indicate otherwise, however

Behold. Take Him in with a reverent awe and wonder. You will notice that when you begin to look there is still very much an intention and purposefulness in the act of looking. It takes a bending of the will to look. Many other things flash and beg and lure. But the key to moving from one degree of glory to another — ever shifting into the likeness of Christ — is in the looking, in reverent, awe-filled focus upon He who is glorious.

We hear Jesus saying, “Do not put your veil back on, child. I tore the veil, the religious symbol of separation. I made a way. I am the intercessor, the bridge between heaven and earth. Through me you are made righteous to behold glory.”

You Are Never Alone

 

Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

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Never Alones

By: Patricia Lake, seedsofthekingdom.org

It’s something of wonder that the Almighty who threw the stars in space, and created the universe and everything in it, has promised always to be with us, and to never, never leave us. The Amplified version expresses it like this: “for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”. No other god does this.

He, who never sleeps or slumbers, and watches over us day and night, won’t relax His hold on us. He knows the way ahead, and the pitfalls of life, and He knows exactly where we are at this moment in time. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

It is comforting and reassuring to know that our Heavenly Father is watching over us, and once we’re assured in our hearts with the knowledge that “He knows” – then we can rest in Him. We don’t have to go through life, facing life’s challenges on our own. He guards our footsteps as we trust Him.

At the beginning of time God walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and even when they were deceived by the enemy, and, as a result, chose to disobey God, He still looked out for man’s welfare. Up till then they hadn’t known what it was like to be separated from God. But He swung into action with His wonderful plan of redemption, to restore and cover man, and to teach him that he wouldn’t have to fend for himself. Adam and Eve learnt what a huge mistake it was to listen to the deceiving voice of the enemy instead of trusting and obeying God. Man wasn’t meant to walk through life’s journey alone. God has always wanted to walk with the man whom He created – and still does.

God reassured Joshua that He’d be with him as He was with Moses, so he could face Israel’s enemies. From his own experiences with God, David was able to reassure his son Solomon that God would be with him in the building of the Temple, and through life, if he chose to obey God. Before He ascended back into Heaven, when He gave the great commission to ‘Go into all the world … and make disciples’, Jesus reassured His disciples, saying “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). And God sent His Holy Spirit to be with all Jesus’s disciples, when Jesus went back into heaven, so that they’d know that God was with them through the highs and lows of life, and would equip them for the task ahead. Those same promises are for us today in our generation, for God is always faithful to His promises, and ‘He watches over His Word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).

So whatever lies ahead, we can rest in the knowledge that God is true to His Word. Know this – we’ll never walk alone, for God will never abandon us. All He asks is that we trust and obey Him.

You are Never Alone

JUNE 24, 2014

“Now he had to go through Samaria … and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” John 4:4, 6-7 (NIV)

Alone again. That’s what she must have thought as she walked alone to the well that day. No friend laughed by her side. No small fist gripped her skirt. No sister to help pass the time.

Maybe it was better that way. Being alone was easier than hearing the condemning words and seeing the scornful looks of others. But she wasn’t alone for long. She didn’t know who He was and couldn’t help but wonder why He was talking to her, a Samaritan woman.

When He spoke, she heard gentleness in His voice. Kindness and humility in His simple request for a drink. In His eyes she saw acceptance, not judgment. Love, not hate.

Many of us know her as the Samaritan woman, but I like to call her Sam. It makes her feel more like the real woman she was. A woman who struggled with hurt, rejection and loneliness.

Today’s key verse says Jesus “had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Yet theologians would tell us Jews considered Samaritans to be the scum of the earth and would do everything to avoid them. In fact, usually they would travel around Samaria — but not Jesus.

He had to go through Samaria. Could it be because He knew Sam would be there?

Typically women traveled together to the well in the cool of the day, escaping the heat of the sun since they carried heavy jars filled with water back to their homes. But Sam walked by herself during the hottest part of the day.

Instead of avoiding the scorching sun, many believe she went to the well at noon to avoid the scorching pain of others’ rejection and judgment. Sam had been married five times, and now she was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

The weight of the water-filled jar in the heat must have been almost unbearable, but the weight of her neighbors’ words, reminding her of her failed marriages, was more than she could take.

When Jesus met her, Sam was running an errand and running from those who knew of her failures, shame and imperfections. Pursuing her with His perfect love, Jesus timed it so she would run into Him.

He initiated conversation and asked her for the one thing she had to offer: water. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Sam stopped and listened. She let Him speak words of assurance and acceptance into the broken, insecure, empty places of her heart.

In the same way Jesus intentionally pursued Sam in one of the loneliest parts of her day, He is there in the midst of your sometimes lonely, imperfect life. He is there when your disappointments and failures leave you empty and make you doubt your worth and purpose.

He is there when you’re going through the motions, aware of what needs to be done but unaware of how you’re going to do it all.

He is there during endless days filled with projects, diapers or laundry when you’re wondering if you’ll ever find meaning in the monotony.

He is there when you’re criticizing yourself and questioning whether you have what it takes to be a godly woman.

He sees you. He notices all you do, and He knows what you long for. In fact, Jesus is the only One who can meet your deepest need to be known, accepted and pursued simply because of who you are.

Today He is pursuing you with His gift of perfect love — love that is patient and kind, love that keeps no record of your wrongs, love that won’t give up on you or me.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, He is there. Will you take time to stop and talk to Him and then quiet your thoughts so you can listen to His voice?

 

You Are Never Alone

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Do you ever feel lonely?

Recently, I was at an event full of people. Everyone else seemed gabby and was effortlessly making easy connections with others. I just felt out of sorts. Someone had said something to me earlier that day that hurt my feelings and knocked me off kilter. It was one of those “I would really like to be at home alone, in a bubble bath, eating something chocolate” kind of nights. But I had to go to this outing, so here I was — lonely.

I politely smiled my way through the evening and finally got to go home. As I crawled into bed that night, I asked Jesus, “Why am I letting some thoughtless comment someone made affect me like this?”

There was no deep explanation. There was no Bible verse that instantly popped into my head. There was no sudden rush of peace through my heart. There was only a very gentle reminder in the depths of my soul that Jesus loves me — insecurities and all.

Jesus loves me.

Simple but so powerfully profound, that one statement grounds me in the truth of who God says I am. Friends can’t make you feel accepted all the time. Accomplishments will never truly make you feel secure. Having lots of people around you does not mean you won’t ever feel lonely. And chocolate, while it is deliciously distracting, is just a little too temporary.

So I turn to the One who is Everlasting, Prince of Peace, and Immanuel — God with us.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. — Isaiah 7:14

I draw close to Him so He can help me separate solid truth from shifting emotion. [tweet this]

And I’m reminded by the writer of the book of Hebrews that God says,

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. — Hebrews 13:5

Memorial Day Remembrance

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. — John 15:13

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NO GREATER LOVE

We are to show unconditional, selfless love to others—just as Jesus did for us.

Most people would define love as an emotion—affection, passion, or tenderness. The Bible, however, describes love in terms of sacrificial actions. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). While it’s rarely necessary to die for the sake of another, genuine love usually involves some level of sacrifice. As Christians, we are to show unconditional, selfless love to others—just as Jesus did for us.

The Pattern Christ SetJesus gave His followers a new challenge to love, one based on obedience to Him and commitment to fellow believers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

In Leviticus 19:18, Jews were commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So how was Jesus’ command new? The people of God understood the word “neighbor” to mean a fellow Israelite or Gentile who had converted to Judaism. Jesus’ command has no such limitations.

To answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?,” Christ told the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In Jesus’ day, relations between Jews and Samaritans were quite tense. Samaritans were despised for having intermarried with Gentiles and having adopted heretical religious beliefs.

  • According to the Good Samaritan story, who is your neighbor?

Jesus’ instruction is also new because it raises the standard. Loving others as ourselves means following the pattern He set for us, and putting the needs of others above our own.

How does Jesus love us? He offers Himself freely to all who call on Him—whether rich or poor, good-looking or unattractive, charming or irritating. He loves needy, immature, disobedient believers just as much as He does stronger, more mature, and faithful believers.

  • Meditate on the paragraph above. How does it make you feel?

Jesus intended love to be the defining characteristic of Christians: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

  • Why would our love for other believers demonstrate that we are Christ’s disciples?

The Father and the Son love us unconditionally, while we are unworthy of love. Read Romans 5:6-10 and answer the following:

  • How are people without Christ described in verse 6?
  • Why do you think the Bible describes unbelievers as “enemies” of God (v. 10)? (See Colossians 1:21 and Romans 8:7 if necessary.)
  • In what way were you an enemy of the Lord before you accepted His gift of salvation?
  • Contrast man’s love (v. 7) with God’s (v. 8).
  • Why do you think the passage mentions our need to be saved from the Lord’s wrath (v. 9)? (See Ephesians 2:1-5 if necessary.)

To “justify” (v. 9) means “to be regarded and treated as if innocent; or acquitted from the consequences of guilt from God’s perspective.” “Reconcile” (v. 10) means “to restore harmony between two persons at variance, by the removal of existing obstacles.”

  • How do these terms apply to our relationship with God?
  • The Lord has justified and reconciled us, but not on the basis of anything we have done. How, then, should we treat people who have wronged us, or those who are otherwise difficult to love?

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Friendship: No Greater Love

 

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. — John 15:13

What’s the most famous friendship in the history of pop culture? My money is on Captain James T. Kirk and his Vulcan first officer, Mr. Spock, from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Where the rugged captain played from his gut, often finding unique solutions to dangerous encounters, Spock was his ever-logical and supremely faithful counterpart.

Whether they were facing Romulans or Klingons or nemeses like Khan Noonien Singh, together they made a whole. And their relationship has endured since the original television show premiered in 1966.

It is no small thing when in 1982’s movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Mr. Spock faces his final moments separated from his friend by a clear wall. How does he end up stranded and alone? The wounded Enterprise is desperately trying to escape an exploding nebula, but without warp speed, they’ll never make it.

Spock quietly disappears from the bridge and descends to the engine room, where he restores the warp drive, knowing the leaking radiation will be fatal to him.

With the ship out of danger, now-Admiral Kirk rushes down to his friend but cannot even hold him as he dies, because of the radiation that has flooded the engine room.

“Spock!” Kirk cries.

“The ship… out of danger?” asks his friend.

“Yes.”

“Don’t grieve, Admiral,” Spock says weakly. “It is logical.

The needs of the many outweigh —”

“— the needs of the few,” supplies Kirk.

“Or the one…”

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.” Spock holds up his hand in the iconic Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”

Spock’s dying statements to his friend mirror those found in Scripture. It is essentially the same message Jesus gave us in John 15:12–13, where He commanded us to love one another “as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Friendship is  a gift that God gives to us, just as He gave it to David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1: “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul”. These men were friends to the end, and after Jonathan was killed in battle, David took his friend’s son into his household to raise as his own child.

Is your life rich with friendships? If you are one of the luckiest of us, you may have a friend whom you love as your own soul. Be sure to nurture that relationship and consider yourself a blessed person.

A Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for friends. Help me appreciate them and not take them for granted. Show me who to offer my friendship. Amen.

Take Action

• Is there someone new in your community? Reach out the hand of friendship and welcome her or him.

• Do you have old friendships you’ve allowed to wither away for lack of time? Reenergize them with a quick phone call, a Facebook message, or an e-mail, letting them know you’re thinking about them.

• Is there someone in your church or elsewhere in your daily life who doesn’t have many friends because he or she is socially awkward  or shy? Offer your friendship, and you may be surprised what a delight you are to that person.

Memorial Day: A Day To Remember Sacrifices

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A Day to Honor Life

By: Beth Patch, 1cbn.com

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Memorial Day – to some it’s merely the beginning of summer and to others it’s a solemn day to remember those who have passed from this life. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts.

When we look into the eyes of those who still mourn these once vibrant men and women, we often sense their loneliness and pain. We hear them choke back tears as they simply say the ranks and names of their military brothers and sisters at a Memorial Day service. White gloves, dress uniforms, rigid posture, and perfectly precisioned salutes represent the reverence and respect flowing from within. Those who have been personally affected by war understand and appreciate this day of remembrance.

What should we say to those who sincerely honor this day? “Happy Memorial Day” doesn’t seem fitting. “I’m sorry for your loss” may be closer to appropriate. What would the fallen soldier want from their comrades and the rest of the country on this day?

In an often quoted Memorial Day speech given in 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the speaker ended his address with these words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

The American soldier who gave his or her life for U.S. citizens to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness won’t be telling us how to observe the holiday. But I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” would honor the fallen soldier. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus Christ laying down His life for our freedom. It’s selfless love for others – not so others can mourn forever, but live!

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

Notice that in scripture and in military service, the willingness to give up one’s life is not dependent on the worthiness of the people who benefit from the honorable act. In a perfect world, all who receive freedom and grace would be worthy of such a sacrifice and full of gratitude. But that’s not the way it is anywhere on Earth or in Heaven.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

We are blessed to be living in a free society. May we honor our American soldiers for the liberty we have in this country. May we also give thanks to Almighty God for the freedom we have to spend eternity with Him because of His gift of forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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A Prayer for Memorial Day 

Prayer for Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Have Fought for Our Freedom
By Debbie McDaniel, crosswalk.com

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Freedom is a gift, it’s a treasure.  And though we all may agree on that truth, it’s often easy to take for granted the greatest gifts that God has given us in our lives.

But those most precious gifts are never free. They came with a price. With sacrifice. They were worth fighting for. And are still worth fighting for today. Many brave men and women were willing to face hard battles in order for us to enjoy that gift of freedom today.

For all those who have protected our nation, for the men and women in uniform, together, we say “Thank You.”

We take time to remember today, and say a prayer of gratefulness for the many who have been willing to pay a great price for our freedom.  May God help us to live so courageously, may we follow the brave examples of those who have gone before us…

Thank you for reminding us that there’s incredible love and sacrifice displayed when one is willing to stand strong and fight for freedom

This service of love and sacrifice on behalf of all people, points us directly to the greatest love of all, the very gift and sacrifice of Christ.

Our Savior was willing to pay the ultimate price, so that we can live free. Forever.

A Prayer for Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Have Fought for Our Freedom.

 

Dear God,

We thank you for the freedom you have given to us, and for the price that was paid by Christ so that we could live free. We remember today. The cost of it all. The great sacrifice for freedom.

We thank you for the brave men and women who have fought, and continue to fight, so courageously for our nation. We ask for your covering and blessing over them and their families. We pray that you would be gracious and encircle them with your peace. We pray for your great favor and goodness to be evident in their lives.

Please be with all those who wear the uniform, who serve our communities and nation every single day. We ask that you provide your protection, that you would be their guiding force who leads the way, and their rear guard who keeps them safe from behind. We ask that you would draw them to yourself amidst the dangers they face in a dark world, for you are the Truth, you are the Way, you are the Light.

Help them to walk wisely. To stay covered in your armor. Give them godly discernment. Make them constantly aware of what lurks close by. Help them to be men and women of prayer, realizing that this is where their greatest help comes from. Help them to stay united and strong, bold and resolute, determined and unwavering.

Bless their families. Bless those they love. Give them your great favor, this day, and every day.

Thank you that in our nation today, we are free to worship. We are free to pray. We are free to read your Word.  We are free to speak.  We are free to share. For this, we are incredibly grateful. Yet, we understand how quickly these freedoms can be taken away. Give us an increased awareness of the spiritual battle we’re in. Help us to stand strong in you and for your purposes.

Thank you that as believers, we can be assured, you will never leave us, and are with us always, in this life, and the next.

Thank you for your truth that says, who the Son sets free is free indeed! We know that in you alone, true freedom is found.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,


Monuments and Memorial Day: Remembering Who We Are

Flags mark the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, thousands of American flags dot

Arlington National Cemetery—one for each
grave marker. Red, white and blue dominate
the green landscape.

 

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who’ve died serving in the U.S. military. Civil War veteran General John A. Logan called in 1868 for Americans to decorate the graves of those who fell during the “War Between the States;” the holiday has grown in scope since then and now commemorates the fallen from each of America’s wars.

Though Memorial Day is an American holiday, nations across the world have their own traditions for remembering the sacrifices of their soldiers. There’s something uniquely powerful about communal remembrance—gathering together as a family or nation to reflect on significant people and events of the past. It’s no surprise that memorial celebrations—military and otherwise—are common to many cultures throughout history, including the people of the Bible.

A famous example of a memorial celebration in the Bible can be found in Joshua 4:2-9. God commands the Israelite leader Joshua to set up a memorial to mark the event of the Ark of the Covenant crossing the Jordan River, to remind future generations of what had happened there:

“Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” — Joshua 4:2-9 (NIV)

In this case, God wanted the Israelites to remember his deliverance. The stone memorial served as a physical reminder of a shaping event in their history. Sometimes the memorial took the form not of a physical monument, but a shared activity, as in the case of the Israelite’s commemoration of their escape from Egypt.

Christians observe their own memorial celebrations, most notably in the “breaking of bread” that recalls Christ’s sacrifice—a ceremony that we observe with frequency:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” — Luke 22 (ESV)

Reminders, bitter or sweet, are important to our culture and our history. They remind us where we’ve come from, and whose work got us to where we are. The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes,” and we see this pattern throughout the Bible. Time and time again, when the Israelites “forgot” the Lord, they stumbled and were punished. See Psalm 106:10-14 for an example:

He saved them from the hand of the foe;
from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
The waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them survived.
Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test. — Psalm 106:10-14 (NIV)

It’s important that we remember who we are and where we’ve come from. Americans make a point of remembering on Memorial Day. And as Christians, every day is a good day to remember, reflect on, and give thanks for what the Lord has done for us.

Salvation Comes To A Jailer

 

Acts 16

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

 

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THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

From: wordforlifesays.com

“There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus; no not one, no not one!” the one that Paul and Silas sang?  No!  But, we can be assured the praises and melodies they were singing before the Lord was just as spiritually moving.

That’s one of the dramatic things about this night.  After being beaten with rods and receiving many stripes these songs of praises could not be silenced. Some of it fell on deaf ears yet, some were listening.  If it were just Paul and Silas, then they could have quietly worshipped and kept it to themselves.  But, they were not alone in this prison, on this night.  Other inmates needed to believe that there is still a reason to rejoice in the midst of these darkest times.

Not everyone was attentive.  The melodious tune was not picked up by all as a listening pleasure.  The jailer, whom earlier was given the charge to keep the prisoners locked up securely (Acts 16:23), was fast asleep.  So deep was his slumber it took the earth to begin to quake to rouse him from his midnight dreams.

Once awakened, the dreams dissipated and the reality of all that appears to have transpired sets in.  The prison doors are not only unlocked, but they are fully opened giving free course of exit to any who wished to leave.  After all, it is a prison and who would rightly want to stay beholden by chains.

The jailer knew the vehement attitude the multitudes had against the two who were bound in the inner prison.  The charge to contain them at all cost was serious.  So serious, the jailer thought, “Since I have fallen asleep on my duty and have given the opportunity of freedom to them that were bound, I must now seal my failure with my own death.  For surely, when the magistrates come and find out my fault, I shall pay with my life anyway.”

Determined not to let this go any further, the jailer drew his sword to perform the unthinkable.  When out of the dark, a voice arose above his desperation and called out, pleading with him to spare his own life.

What would it have been like?  What would it have been like to walk in the Philippian jailer’s shoes on that night?  One moment, he is captured by failure and facing death to sighing audibly a cry of relief at the voice of deliverance.

The law was the law and had he not heard that calling voice, he would surely be dead by now.

Unbelief demands evidence.  Grabbing the closest light, he runs back into the depths of the prison walls and comes face to face with the convicted.  “But, what’s this?  Why didn’t they flee?  The shackles are loosed; the doors are opened, and yet, they remain?”  He thought, “Why?”

The jailer found out that though these men were convicted and sentenced by law, they carried a deeper conviction in their souls.  Beaten, yet they sit.  “Surely, this can’t be possible?” his mind racing, trying to grasp everything at once and take it all in.

Then, as if a new page was turned in a book, a new chapter began in his life.  “Whatever faith and conviction these men have is superior to that which we have learned under Roman rule.”

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

What would it have been like to be the Philippian jailer, you ask?  Though we are not guards during the ancient rule, any of us can associate with the lost state of the jailer on that night.  He was condemned physically because of his failure.  He was condemned spiritually because, as David said, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” (Psalm 51:5, KJV).  The reality for the need of this salvation these men possessed pressed on the jailer as it did on us.

At one point or another, we have all had to run to the proverbial “altar” seeking, “What must I do to be saved?” as the jailer did.  Therefore, though much time has passed between him and us, the same cry of heart gets the attention of the same God.

How many times had he kept guard of the convicted?  How many times had he led the bound to their deaths?  We don’t know.  But, we do know that it only took one time for him to come face to face with his own mortality to realize there has to be a change in his life.

“Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  And immediately he and all his family were baptized,” (Acts 16:32-33, NKJV).  The humbleness of all that happened in those few short hours promoted an attitude of service and repentance.  He was ready to be cleansed and made whole from the inside out.  “Who knows what tomorrow would bring, but tonight, I have to get right with God,” he must have thought as he contemplated it all.  And, the Bible tells us that he was baptized!

You ask, what would it have been like?  My response, “Don’t you know already?”  To be surrounded by death every day, and as quickly as one comes up out of the water, they have crossed the threshold into the newness of life.

That’s the epitome of salvation for the jailer and for us.  “Having believed in God,” (Acts 16:34, NKJV), and have our whole lives turned around.  The jailer may have been the guard on duty that night, but he was the one set free!  For that’s what salvation does for all that come to Him.

What would it have been like?  I think we already know.  The circumstances may be different but the salvation is the same.

In the end, it all worked out.  The jailer may have wondered what tomorrow would bring.  After all, he wouldn’t feel right about locking these men back up, would he?  At the same time, their freedom still meant his death.  The Bible tells us, “When it was day, the magistrates sent officers, saying, ‘Let those men go,’” (Acts 16:35, NKJV).

Could it be that God allowed Paul and Silas to go through all of that to save one soul, one household?  Using pure speculation here, I’d say, “Could be!”  To the reader it would appear so for the Bible doesn’t talk about anyone else making a life changing conversion on that dramatic night.

The jailer may have sighed with relief when hearing the voice call out in the night, but now he really experiences what it feels like to be free.  God spared his life physically (again) and spiritually (forever).

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened after the jailer received new life.  Does he stay on working as a guard?  Did he give it all up to spread his testimony of what God had done in his life?  We don’t know.  But, what we do know is that like us, his life was never the same again.

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Joy Beyond Amazing

by David Jeremiah,inspiration.org

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. They were beaten; they were imprisoned; and who knew what would happen to them the next day? “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

The kind of joy that gets you singing in jail at midnight with your back bleeding and your life hanging by a thread that’s joy worth cultivating!

In our culture of instant gratification and constant amusement, it’s hard to understand the suffering the apostles endured for the sake of the Gospel. We’ll do anything to avoid trials and tribulations.

But often, in an attempt to keep anything uncomfortable from touching us, we miss the very thing God wants to use to lead us to greater joy in Him. We can’t avoid difficulties, but in the midst of all our troubles, there is God and His effervescent love.

This doesn’t mean we are to deny or disguise our feelings. Nor does it mean we can or should shrug off pain or disappointment, or try not to feel sorrow when we have good cause. It means we place our trust in God, and He opens the door to a joy beyond anything we can know on our own: the joy of knowing we are in His hands forever.

Our Joyful Savior

When we’re in a right relationship with God, He rejoices. And it’s only through that relationship that we experience joy in its fullness.

Jesus was completely comfortable at joyous events. In fact, Jesus’ first miracle took place at a wedding celebration. It was performed in a setting of rejoicing, not a setting of mourning; it was a wedding, not a wake or a funeral.

Throughout the New Testament, the Lord generously imparted His joy to others. One day He healed a crippled woman. She stood straight up and began praising the Lord (Luke 13:13). The Samaritan leper healed by Jesus returned to thank him, “praising God in a loud voice” (Luke 17:15 NIV). When the lame man at the Beautiful Gate was healed, he got up and went into the temple, “walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

We must get better at living life joyously!

Describing joyous moments like these, Paul wrote: “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) Many Christians have the righteousness part down and maybe even the peace part. But they’re clueless when it comes to joy. Instead of enjoying the Christian life, they seem to merely endure it.

The Day God Has Made

I speak for many who are Christ-followers: We must get better at living life joyously! Jesus experienced and expressed joy in life, and so should we.

When I wake up in the morning, I often repeat these words of the psalmist, taking liberty to replace we with I: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Try it. Write down this verse, and keep it by your bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. Say it aloud or in your heart to yourself and to God.

Trust me. This one small act will begin opening your heart to joy.

 

God Has A Better Plan

Jeremiah 29:11

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

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When God Interrupts Your Plans

By: Christina Fox, .desiringgod.org

We were recently on a vacation when God interrupted my plans. My family and I had traveled hundreds of miles to stay at a hotel on the beach. I had made arrangements to spend one day visiting with friends. But then, in the middle of the night, the night before my scheduled day out, one of my kids woke up sick. I spent the whole next day stuck inside, staring out the hotel window at the long stretch of beach that was just outside of my reach.

An Interrupted Life

My life is filled with interruptions, inconveniences, frustrations, and unexpected events. Things break. Accidents happen. The phone rings just as I climb into bed. Traffic makes me late. Just when we don’t need another added expense, an appliance breaks. Unexpected illnesses change my carefully crafted plans. I could go on and on. You probably could too.

The problem is, I usually handle these interruptions to my life poorly. I react with frustration and anger. Like a young child, I want to stomp my feet and say, “It’s not fair!” I blame others for inconveniencing me. I’ll even throw my own pity parties.

“Small frustrations and interruptions give us opportunities to rely on God.”

Though these interruptions are unexpected and catch me off guard, they do not catch God off guard. They are not random, meaningless events. In fact, these interruptions are divinely placed in my path for a reason. God uses these interruptions to change me to be more like Christ.

Slow traffic, a sick child, or a costly home repair may not seem like important tools in our sanctification, but they are. We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we often won’t have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way. We won’t be called to build an ark or take an only child up Mount Moriah. Rather, it’s in these small frustrations and interruptions, the little things in our life, where we are given opportunities to rely on God, to obey him, and to bring him glory.

Paul Tripp puts it like this:

You and I don’t live in a series of big, dramatic moments. We don’t careen from big decision to big decision. We all live in an endless series of little moments. The character of a life isn’t set in ten big moments. The character of a life is set in ten thousand little moments of everyday life. It’s the themes of struggles that emerge from those little moments that reveal what’s really going on in our hearts. (Whiter Than Snow, 21)

Interruptions of Grace

These ten thousand little moments come in the form of our children asking us to play a game with them when we are tied up with something else. They are moments like when we get stuck behind a school bus when we’re already late to an appointment, or when we have a flat tire on the way to work. They are in all those moments all throughout the day when things don’t go our way, our plans fail, and our life is interrupted.

It’s these moments where the rubber meets the road — where our faith is stretched and we look down to see whether we are standing on rock or sand. Do we really believe that God is in control of all the details of our life? Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient to get us through the day? Do we really believe that the gospel of Christ is powerful enough not only to save us for eternity, but also to sustain and strengthen us in the midst of life’s interruptions? Do we really believe that Christ is enough to satisfy all the deepest needs of our heart?

These interruptions are acts of God’s grace. They force us to work through these questions. They make us face our sin. They are God’s way of taking off our blinders and making us see that we need the gospel in every moment of the day. They are a light that shines on the darkest recesses of our heart, revealing the truth of what’s really there — the sins and idols that we’ve pushed off into the corner, thinking that if we can’t see them, they must not exist.

The Reminder We Need

These interruptions remind us that we don’t have life figured out and that we can’t do it on our own. They are like the Shepherd’s rod, pulling us back from our wandering ways, back to our Great Shepherd. We need these interruptions. Like nothing else, they push us to the cross of Christ where we must remember the gospel and receive his grace and forgiveness.

“Christ cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort.”

It’s hard to see all the little frustrating events and interruptions in our day as divinely placed opportunities to grow in grace, but they are. And seeing them as such helps us take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Christ, who cares more about our transformation than about our daily comfort. Rather than giving us a life of ease, he interrupts our lives with grace and shows us what we need most of all: himself.

How about you? Is your life filled with interruptions? Do you see God’s hand at work in them?

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God Has Not Forgotten You

By Leslie Barner, familylife.com

Facing tragedy, or life storms of any kind, can be extremely difficult. But in the midst of heartache and pain, you can find the hope and courage to go on. With God’s help, the help of caring family members and friends, and the encouragement found in the Bible and other resources, you will receive the necessary strength to overcome.

You may be thinking, I don’t know how I could ever get through this. Or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger. These are all normal responses to tragedy.

But as difficult as this life storm may be, you are not alone. God is with you always. He loves you, and cares about what is going on in your life. He hears your cries and sees your pain. Moreover, He understands.

The Bible says, “And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God … For since He himself has now been through suffering … He knows what it is like when we suffer … and He is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:17-18 TLB). Whatever we endure, His care is certain, His love is unfailing, and His promises are secure.

God Has Not Forgotten You is a 31-day devotional with inspirational readings that contain life application steps to draw you closer to God and to encourage you to rely on Him to bring you safely through this present “storm” in your life. The following 7-day devotional is a portion of the full version; if you find this free sample encouraging, we recommend you work through the entire resource, which you can find by visiting our online store and searching for: God Has Not Forgotten You.

It is our prayer that this devotional will provide comfort, strength, encouragement, and healing for you and your family, and that through its pages you will discover extraordinary hope and the blessing of victory that only He can give. May God bless you and keep you always in His care, on this journey and beyond.

Day 1: You Are Not Alone

For he himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5c)

On the morning of October 29, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States faced their worst nightmare … “Superstorm Sandy.” This post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds and its unusual merge with a frontal system affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, leaving death, injuries, and utter destruction in its wake. Families everywhere, especially in hard hit New Jersey and New York, were jolted out of normalcy and the comfort and security of the homes and communities they once knew. They were thrust suddenly and unwillingly into the darkness and despair of loss.

If you and your family have ever been affected by a natural disaster like this, you may feel as if you’ve been abandoned by God. However, if trouble has hit your life in some other disaster or form of tragedy—the death of a loved one, a dreaded medical diagnosis, the loss of home and property, or the loss of your job, you are experiencing your own superstorm. You may feel as if your whole world has been turned upside down and wonder how you can possibly survive the loss. In times like these, you can feel very much alone.

But you are not alone. In the midst of unspeakable sorrow, God is with you. Even if you do not feel Him near, God is there. He promises to never leave you alone. Therefore, wherever you are, God is. He is with you before, during, and after the storm, never losing sight of you, or your suffering. Even as you ponder how you will begin picking up the pieces of your life, God is there … loving you beyond understanding, holding you up, and making a way where it seems there is no way. Reach out for Him today. He is a very present help in times of trouble (see Psalm 46:1).

Jesus Is The Light Of The World

 John 8

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

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Light of the World

By: Paul Linzey, 1cbn.com

sunrise-mountain-light_si.jpg

When the queen of England knighted Sir Isaac Newton, it was the first time a scientist was honored this way. He was a brilliant scholar with a wide range of interests: from mathematics to natural philosophy, from the laws of motion to the laws of gravity, from the study of optics to the study of theology.

His first series of lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, was on optics. Other scientists had begun the scientific revolution, and the study of light was a central theme. Newton made significant contributions to the scientific understanding of white light and color. He even built the first reflecting telescope.

Light is indeed a fascinating topic, and because it’s so significant, Jesus used it as a metaphor for himself when he made the statement,

“I AM the light of the world” (John 8:12).

There are at least five reasons why light is important, and these factors provide insight as to what the Lord was saying.

First, light is essential for vision. Have you ever noticed as the sun goes down late in the day, shadows grow darker, and it’s more difficult to see? If the moon and the stars aren’t in the night sky, by the time it’s pitch black you see nothing.

Light is also essential for color. As the light dims, colors fade. For this reason, light is a necessary ingredient for beauty in the world.

Third, the earth’s food chain depends on light. Photosynthesis is the process whereby plants use the energy of light to produce food. In other words, without light, there is no life.

It’s also worth noting that for a lot of people, light is a key element of happiness. Many studies have shown higher levels of depression where there is less natural light. This seems to be true for some who work indoors, as well as for those who live in areas where there are seasonally shorter days.

One more observation is that light can drive away fear. When our son was five years old, we’d put him to bed at night, singing a song and praying with him before turning out the light. In a few minutes, we’d hear him yelling, “There’s a wolf!”

“No, son. There’s not a wolf.”

“Yes, there is. Would you leave the light on?”

When the light was on, he could see, so he wasn’t afraid. But in the dark, his imagination went into gear, and he was afraid.

The impact when Jesus comes into a person’s life is similar to what light does in the natural world. He opens our eyes, giving us vision. He adds color and beauty to our lives. He brings life and happiness, and drives away fear. Our Creator already knew what Sir Isaac Newton and other scientists took years to figure out, because he created light.

In Matthew 5:14, he who is the Light of the World turns to his disciples and in a stunning plot twist tells them, and us,

“You are the light of the world” (HCSB).

We are called to be Christ to our world. The effect of our interacting with people and the planet should add vision, beauty, life, and happiness. And, wherever there’s a Christian presence, there should be less fear.

In the same way “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,” but to save. John 3:17 (NKGV), he sends us into the world with the same mission. When we represent the Lord the way he hopes we will, that’s when the church is at its best, becomes most productive, remains relevant, and changes the world.

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Looking unto Jesus

“They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” Psalm 34:5

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

See there he sits in heaven, he has led captivity captive, and now sits at the right hand of God, for ever making intercession for us. Can your faith picture him today? Like a great high priest of old, he stands with outstretched arms: there is majesty in his demeanour, for he is no mean cringing suppliant. He does not beat his breast, nor cast his eyes upon the ground, but with authority he pleads, enthroned in glory now. There on his head is the bright shining mitre of his priesthood, and look you, on his breast are glittering the precious stones whereon the names of his elect are everlastingly engraved; hear him as he pleads, hear you not what it is?—is that your prayer that he is mentioning before the throne? The prayer that this morning you offered before you came to the house of God, Christ is now offering before his Father’s throne. The vow which just now you uttered when you said, “Have pity and have mercy,”—he is now uttering there. He is the Altar and the Priest, and with his own sacrifice he perfumes our prayers. And yet, mayhap, you have been at prayer many a day, and had no answer; poor weeping suppliant, you have sought the Lord and he has not heard you, or at least not answered you to your soul’s delight; you have cried unto him, but the heavens have been as brass, and he has shut out your prayer, you are full of darkness and heaviness on account of this, “Look to him, and be lightened.” If you do not succeed, he will; if your intercession be unnoticed, his cannot be passed away; if your prayers can be like water spilt on a rock which cannot be gathered up, yet his prayers are not like that, he is God’s Son, he pleads and must prevail.

For meditation: The prayers of the true seeker and of believers are not a waste of effort; they are not like letters lost in the post, but reach the throne of God (Acts 10:4Revelation 5:8). But only praying in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is accepted; prayers addressed to saints, to false gods or to the dead are always turned away—“not known here.”

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B.Cowman

At their wit’s end, they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out” (Ps. 107:27, 28).

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember–at. “Wit’s End Corner”
The Burden-bearer stands.
Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who faileth not:
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is the “God who is able” proved.
–Antoinette Wilson