Monthly Archives: June 2019

They Have Seen A Great Light

 

 The people kwho walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of ldeep darkness,

on them has light shone.


16  vthe people dwelling in darkness

have seen a great light,

and for those dwelling in the region and wshadow of death,

on them a light has dawned.


18 rto open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from sthe power of Satan to God, that they may receive tforgiveness of sins and ua place among those who are sanctified vby faith in me.


I Am the Light of the World

12 lAgain Jesus spoke to them, saying, mI am the light of the world. Whoevernfollows me will not owalk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

 
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When the Lights Go Out

By: Paul Linzey, cbn1.com

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It was Friday night, we’d gone out for dinner and barely made it back into the garage before the downpour.

When the power went off, I was writing at my computer and my wife was reading an e-book on her tablet. The plan was to watch a movie a little later, but there we were with no electricity, no lights, no internet, and no television.

“What do we do now?” she asked.

I reached into the desk drawer for the flashlight that doubles as a cell phone power source, plugged in my phone, and turned on the mobile hotspot so we could maintain internet connection. Then I walked over to the kitchen pantry where we keep two battery-operated camping lanterns, pulled one out, and placed it on the kitchen counter, where its light sprayed throughout the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Not a lot, but enough.

For the next hour, rain poured from the sky as if God had picked up the Atlantic Ocean and was dumping it on us. Linda took the lantern over to the couch to read; my laptop had plenty of charge for me to finish the work I was doing.

Although the rest of the house was dark, and the temperature grew warmer because the air conditioner was off, we didn’t have a crisis when the lights went out. During the previous weekend, we had checked the batteries in those emergency lamps and charged my mobile power back-up. Because we were ready, there was no emergency when the storm caused a blackout. We didn’t panic and there wasn’t a crisis.

The same can be true if something terrible happens and life itself comes to an end. If we’ve taken time to prepare in advance, even death isn’t a crisis, and we don’t have to panic.

In Philippians 1:21 the Apostle writes, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That doesn’t sound like a man who is afraid of the dark or of death. He was prepared for whatever might happen.

Job is another who had a deep confidence when facing the storms of life. Despite all the pain and ugliness that he faced, he still declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job 19:25

When the lights finally came back on, we watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie starring James Stewart and Doris Day. It was a lovely evening—despite the storm raging on the outside.

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 Streams In The Desert

By: L. B. Cowman

“There was silence, and I heard a still voice” (Job 4:16, margin).

A score of years ago, a friend placed in my hand a book called True Peace. It was an old mediaeval message, and it had but one thought–that God was waiting in the depths of my being to talk to me if I would only get still enough to hear His voice.

I thought this would be a very easy matter, and so began to get still. But I had no sooner commenced than a perfect pandemonium of voices reached my ears, a thousand clamoring notes from without and within, until I could hear nothing but their noise and din. Some were my own voices, my own questions, some my very prayers. Others were suggestions of the tempter and the voices from the world’s turmoil.

In every direction I was pulled and pushed and greeted with noisy acclamations and unspeakable unrest. It seemed necessary for me to listen to some of them and to answer some of them; but God said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Then came the conflict of thoughts for tomorrow, and its duties and cares; but God said, “Be still.”

And as I listened, and slowly learned to obey, and shut my ears to every sound, I found after a while that when the other voices ceased, or I ceased to hear them, there was a still small voice in the depths of my being that began to speak with an inexpressible tenderness, power and comfort.

As I listened, it became to me the voice of prayer, the voice of wisdom, the voice of duty, and I did not need to think so hard, or pray so hard, or trust so hard; but that “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit in my heart was God’s prayer in my secret soul, was God’s answer to all my questions, was God’s life and strength for soul and body, and became the substance of all knowledge, and all prayer and all blessing: for it was the living GOD Himself as my life, my all.

It is thus that our spirit drinks in the life of our risen Lord, and we go forth to life’s conflicts and duties like a flower that has drunk in, through the shades of night, the cool and crystal drops of dew. But as dew never falls on a stormy night, go the dews of His grace never come to the restless soul.
–A. B. Simpson

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Men chosen—fallen angels rejected

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” Hebrews 2:16

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 2:4-9

Adam broke the covenant of works; he touched the accursed fruit, and in that day he fell. Ah! What a fall was there! Then you, and I, and all of us fell down, while cursed sin triumphed over us; there were no men that stood; there were some angels that stood, but no men, for the fall of Adam was the fall of our entire race. After one portion of the angels had fallen, it pleased God to stamp their doom, and make it fast and firm; but when man fell, it did not so please God; he had threatened to punish him, but in his infinite mercy he made some the object of his special affection, for whom he provided a precious remedy, and secured it by the blood of his everlasting Son. These are the persons whom we call the elect; and those whom he has left to perish, perish on account of their own sins, most justly, to the praise of his glorious justice. Now, here you notice divine sovereignty; sovereignty, that God chose to put both men and angels on the footing of their free-will, sovereignty, in that he chose to punish all the fallen angels with utter destruction; sovereignty, in that he chose to reprieve, and grant an eternal pardon to a number, whom no man can number, selected out of men, who shall infallibly be found before his right hand above. My text mentions this great fact, for when properly translated it reads thus:- “He took not up angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”

For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ witnessed Satan’s expulsion from Heaven, and as surely guarantees the believer’s entrance into Heaven (Luke 10:18,20).

Contentment Is Found In Christ Alone

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The Hot Shot Café

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

The Hot Shot Café in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the locals used to hang out for good old home cooking. Several years ago, I had the chance to eat there. The meal was delicious, and as I was paying my bill, I noticed a shelf full of shiny new Hot Shot Café mugs. It may sound weird, but I love heavy porcelain mugs with nifty logos. Over the years I have collected so many you would think I have enough, but at the time I thought I needed just one more. It was a compulsion I couldn’t resist. So, I forked over a few extra bills and left with the mug.

If it were only about the mugs in our lives—or the teddy bears, CDs, or shoes—it wouldn’t really be a big deal. The thing is, it’s about more than that. It’s about this inner dynamic where we need just one morething all the time. The technophile needs the fastest computer processor; the fashionista must have the latest open-toe sandals; the car enthusiast yearns for the perfect low-profile tires.

I think the issue behind our constant craving for more and more, for the latest and greatest, is contentment. It is easy to let our longings for possessions, relationships, and experiences shape our lives. The danger is, when we’re constantly on the hunt for the next thing, our life circumstances become pumped up with importance, while our Bibles collect dust on the shelf.

When we let the passion to consume crowd out the contentment we have in Christ, the result is an endless chase for the proverbial carrot on a stick. Since we can never have “enough” of what we crave, the emptiness makes us vulnerable to aloneness, and that leads us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the “next big thing” only to find that we still aren’t satisfied. Jesus alone gives the power to live a life where inner contentment abounds, regardless of our circumstances.

In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Paul listed some of his life circumstances. He was beaten with whips and rods, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. He survived a night and a day in the open sea, rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, and false brothers. He had often gone without sleep, food, water, clothing, or heat. And, he lived every day with concern for the churches he planted. He doesn’t even mention the fact that he wrote most of the New Testament from a jail cell!

Despite all of this, Paul wrote these words in the last chapter of Philippians. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12).

What was Paul’s secret for contented living? I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t his mug collection and certainly not his life circumstances. It was his deep awareness of the supernatural presence of Christ in his life, and an abiding sense of all that Jesus alone provided for him.

The next time you’re at a place like the Hot Shot Café, or wherever it is that you’re tempted to reach for “just one more thing,” remember that Christ alone provides the relaxing peace of contentment. Having Him, we have it all!

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Hatred without cause

By: Charles Spurgeon

“They hated me without a cause.” John 15:25

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19

Take care, if the world does hate you, that it hates you without a cause. If the world is to oppose you, it is of no use making the world oppose you. This world is bitter enough, without my putting vinegar in it. Some people seem to fancy the world will persecute them; therefore, they put themselves into a fighting posture, as if they invited persecutions. Now, I do not see any good in doing that. Do not try and make other people dislike you. Really, the opposition some people meet with is not for righteousness’ sake, but for their own sin’s sake, or their own nasty temper’s sake. Many a Christian lives in a house—a Christian servant girl perhaps; she says she is persecuted for righteousness’ sake. But she is of a bad disposition; she sometimes speaks sharp, and then her mistress reproves her. That is not being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There is another, a merchant in the city, perhaps; he is not looked upon with much esteem. He says he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake; whereas, it is because he did not keep a bargain some time ago. Another man says he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake; but he goes about assuming authority over everybody, and now and then persons turn round and reproach him. Look to it, Christian people, that if you are persecuted, it is for righteousness’ sake; for if you get any persecution yourself you must keep it yourself. The persecutions you bring on yourself for your own sins, Christ has nothing to do with them; they are chastisements on you. They hated Christ without a cause; then fear not to be hated. They hated Christ without a cause; then court not to be hated, and give the world no cause for it.

For meditation: The apostle Paul knew what suffering for Christ’s sake really means (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). It was something he avoided when he could appeal to the law, (Acts 22:25-29) and he did not pretend to be persecuted when he brought trouble upon himself (Acts 23:1-5).

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Finding Christ Between The Calm and The Crisis

By: Jasmine Williams

“But Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.’” 1 Kings 17:13 (NLT)

Another morning trudging out of bed with an unfinished to-do list still haunting me from two days ago, I manage to stop hitting the snooze button and begin my day, hoping it will be more productive than yesterday.

The sounds of toy blocks clicking together and little feet running through the kitchen tell me all three kids are up and hungry. Here we go, I think, anticipating another fast-paced morning.

Guilt creeps in when I tell myself I should’ve gotten up an hour earlier to spend time with God and enjoy coffee with my husband.

Then suddenly, just before I let those feelings define my mood, I’m reminded of the mother in 1 Kings 17:13 who was asked to put God first — in a much more desperate situation. Amidst a drought, with only enough food left for one more meal, she was asked to feed the man of God first. Imagine her thoughts … How could I possibly feed him first, when we’re in need as well?

Perhaps you’ve never had to make such a decision about food, but how about your time, feeling like you have zero extra minutes to spare? With all that’s going on today, how could I possibly spend time with God first?

It can seem challenging to grow in your relationship with Christ when life is so demanding. As Elijah instructed, though, “… do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first” (1 Kings 17:13b). God isn’t asking us to abandon our responsibilities. He just wants a little time with us first. That can be morning, midday or evening. “First” is a posture of the heart, not a time of the day.

Just as the woman was abundantly blessed after obeying Elijah’s request, we’ll be so enriched when we push through the fear of not having enough time and just give God our best. Some days that’s tougher than others, so here are three ideas to help set your gaze on the Father when you only have a few minutes (and sometimes less!) between the calm and the chaos:

  1. Start with Scripture. For whatever season of life you’re in right now, there’s a verse that will speak to your needs. Find that verse, and put it on your nightstand or bathroom mirror (or any place you’ll see regularly). Psalm 1:2 instructs us to meditate on God’s Word day and night. When the moment isn’t long enough to fully dive in, even just a snippet of God’s Word can give us the courage we need to walk in grace and love.
  2. Prepare beforehand. Before going to bed at night (or before you leave for the day if you have time with God in the evenings), place a journal, a pen, and your Bible nearby. Sometimes I don’t use any of these as I make my way from my blanket to my bathroom, but having them within arm’s reach gives me the freedom to jot down any prayer topics or Scriptures that come to mind before a million other thoughts do. You can revisit them later when you have a moment to yourself.
  3. Worship and declare. When there’s not a lot of time, I try to find a quiet place to simply worship God and express gratitude. In a brief prayer, we can strengthen ourselves in the Lord, like David did in 1 Samuel 30:6. We can speak life over our day and declare peace over our homes. Take just a minute to partner with God and proclaim victory for your loved ones as you each begin the day!

Connecting with God, even for just a moment, can make all the difference in your spirit. Whether that’s early in the morning or during a lunch break, give Him a little time “first,” and be encouraged for what the day may bring.

Lord, I know when I connect with You, You give me godly energy to keep going. You’ve entrusted me with certain responsibilities, and I’m better at them when I’m closer to You. Help me prioritize You in my life every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I’m A New Creation In Christ

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I’m a New Creation … Why Don’t You Believe Me?

By: Anne terrell, cbn.1

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How could her husband trust her? Why should he believe her? Those were the concerns my friend expressed to me as we sipped our coffee. It had been only six months since she ended her affair. She knew her relationship with Jesus Christ was real. She knew she was different. She knew there was no going back, but how could her husband know it too? She was living proof of 2 Corinthians 5:17,

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT)

Her husband told her he forgave her; however, it became evident he was still skeptical. She accepted the fact it would take time to rebuild trust, but she was eager to show him her transformation was real.

I told her she needed a Barnabas. Looking puzzled, I shared the story of the Apostle Paul. Just before his conversion on the road to Damascus when his name was Saul, the Bible says he “was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the LORD’S followers.” Acts 9:1 (NLT)

However, as Saul walked, the LORD revealed Himself and set Saul on a life-changing journey where he would never be the same. God gave him a new name: Paul. The Bible tells us right after his conversion, the Apostle Paul immediately began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues. Again, understandably, the people were skeptical. They even questioned, “isn’t this the same man who caused the devastation in Jerusalem?” Eventually, he traveled to Jerusalem and tried to meet with people, but everyone was afraid. They did not believe he was for real. Then Barnabas!

“Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the LORD on the way to Damascus and how the LORD had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.” Acts 9: 27 NLT

Barnabas advocated for Paul. Like Paul, my friend needed an advocate to help her husband know she was serious about her new faith in her Savior. If only there was a person to speak to her husband on her behalf, he might believe. She knew just the person. Their pastor. They had met with him many times. He knew her story, and he had helped her through her confession, healing, and restoration.

They set up a meeting. Having their pastor verify her remorse and sorrow over her bad decision helped her husband understand her conversion was sincere. The pastor counseled them. There were tears of joy and reconciliation as her husband saw true transformation.

It has been 20 years. Their marriage is stronger than ever. People can change. Saul changed. My friend changed. While transformations can be genuine, people from our past may be reluctant to believe change is real. We may need a Barnabas, an advocate to verify our change and good standing.

Once my friend’s pastor convinced her husband to trust her, there was no stopping the restoration of their marriage. Once Barnabas convinced the apostles to trust Paul, there was no stopping the growth of the new church.

“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the LORD. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.” Acts 9:31 NLT

It all began when Barnabas declared to the disciples what had taken place. The Apostle Paul went on to spend the rest of his life teaching, preaching, and baptizing.

For anyone who has had a transformation, they know they are a new creation. They know their past is gone. Having others see and believe the change may take some time, and it might help to find a Barnabas!

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

A door opened in heaven (Rev. 4:1).

You must remember that John was in the Isle of Patmos, a lone, rocky, inhospitable prison, for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. And yet to him, under such circumstances, separated from all the loved ones of Ephesus; debarred from the worship of the Church; condemned to the companionship of uncongenial fellow-captives, were vouchsafed these visions. For him, also a door was opened.

We are reminded of Jacob, exiled from his father’s house, who laid himself down in a desert place to sleep, and in his dreams beheld a ladder which united Heaven with earth, and at the top stood God.

Not to these only, but to many more, doors have been opened into Heaven, when, so far as the world was concerned, it seemed as though their circumstances were altogether unlikely for such revelations. To prisoners and captives; to constant sufferers, bound by iron chains of pain to sick couches; to lonely pilgrims and wanderers; to women detained from the Lord’s house by the demands of home, how often has the door been opened to Heaven.

But there are conditions. You must know what it is to be in the Spirit; you must be pure in heart and obedient in faith; you must be willing to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ; then when God is all in all to us, when we live, move and have our being in His favor, to us also will the door be opened.
–Daily Devotional Commentary.

God hath His mountains bleak and bare,
Where He doth bid us rest awhile;
Crags where we breathe a purer air,
Lone peaks that catch the day’s first smile.
God hath His deserts broad and brown–
A solitude–a sea of sand,
Where He doth let heaven’s curtain down,
Unknit by His Almighty hand.


Prayer—the forerunner of mercy

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock.” Ezekiel 36:37

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Samuel 22:9-23:5

First, I enquire what the promise is. I turn to my Bible, and I seek to find the promise whereby the thing which I desire to seek is certified to me as being a thing which God is willing to give. Having enquired so far as that, I take that promise, and on my bended knees I enquire of God whether he will fulfil his own promise. I take to him his own word of covenant, and I say to him, “O Lord, wilt thou not fulfil it, and wilt thou not fulfil it now?” So that there, again, prayer is enquiry. After prayer I look out for the answer; I expect to be heard; and if I am not answered I pray again, and my repeated prayers are but fresh enquiries. I expect the blessing to arrive; I go and enquire whether there is any tidings of its coming. I ask; and thus I say, “Wilt thou answer me, O Lord? Wilt thou keep thy promise. Or wilt thou shut up thine ear, because I misunderstand my own wants and mistake thy promise?” Brethren, we must use enquiry in prayer, and regard prayer as being, first, an enquiry for the promise, and then on the strength of that promise an enquiry for the fulfilment. We expect something to come as a present from a friend: we first have the note, whereby we are informed it is upon the road. We enquire as to what the present is by the reading of the note; and then, if it arrive not, we call at the accustomed place where the parcel ought to have been left, and we ask or enquire for such and such a thing. We have enquired about the promise, and then we go and enquire again, until we get an answer that the promised gift has arrived and is ours. So with prayer.

For meditation: Asking comes in two shapes—questions and requests. God is able to give us all the answers we need (Luke 11:9,10).

Get Into The Game

Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

 

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Get In The Game

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” —Colossians 1:29

I love going to professional sporting events. There’s nothing quite like cheering for your favorite team alongside thousands of other fans. I can’t help but think, however, that Christianity has become a lot like professional sporting events, with a select few in the game being watched by thousands of their fans. While we may be cheering for those who are in the game, it’s not God’s game plan for His people to merely watch the action on the field. He wants us to climb out of the stands, get out there, and join the team in action!

If you are wondering what good you can do on the field, wonder no more. What about your financial resources? Jesus can take your “silver and gold” and use it to accomplish great things for His glory. But more than just getting out your checkbook, you have gifts you can contribute. God has given each of us spiritual gifts that can help advance His kingdom. Whether it’s teaching, encouraging, serving, showing hospitality, or extending mercy, each ability can yield great dividends. Let’s follow the example of Paul, who tirelessly served on God’s field for the joy of being used by Him (Col. 1:28-29).

Believe me, it’s far more rewarding to be on the field than to sit in the stands!

Start where you are in serving the Lord,
Claim His sure promise and trust in His Word;
God simply asks you to do what you can,
He’ll use your efforts to further His plan. —Anon.

Don’t just sit there… be part of the action!

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Boldness

by Inspiration Ministries

They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you … bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. Luke 21:12-13 NASB

Peter Cartwright was converted through one of the camp meetings that swept throughout the United States in the early nineteenth century. He later became an evangelist known for boldness and powerful preaching. He often spoke three hours at a stretch several times a week. He had a booming voice that brought conviction. Thousands were converted under his ministry.

Cartwright did not compromise his message. Once he warned General Andrew Jackson (who later became a US President) that he would receive no special treatment before God. His earthly power and accomplishments did not change his need to humble himself and repent of his sins, like any other person.

A pastor who heard these words apologized to Jackson for this bluntness. But Jackson defended Cartwright. He said that Christ’s ministers ought to fear no mortal man, adding that he wished he had a few thousand officers like Peter Cartwright.

Many Christians fail to have this boldness. They react with fear just thinking about witnessing for Jesus. Yet He told us that we have an obligation to share our testimony. In fact, we should look forward to the opportunity to tell others about Him. He also told us that we should not worry about what to say and would be given the “utterance and wisdom” we need (v. 15).

Ask God to give you a spirit of boldness. Do not compromise your faith. Stand firm. Be ready to give your testimony to anyone at any time.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

The Lord hath sent strength for thee (Ps.68.28, PBV).

The Lord imparts unto us that primary strength of character which makes everything in life work with intensity and decision. We are “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” And the strength is continuous; reserves of power come to us which we cannot exhaust.

“As thy days, so shall thy strength be”—strength of will, strength of affection, strength of judgment, strength of ideals and achievement.

“The Lord is my strength” to go on. He gives us power to tread the dead level, to walk the long lane that seems never to have a turning, to go through those long reaches of life which afford no pleasant surprise, and which depress the spirits in the sameness of a terrible drudgery.

“The Lord is my strength” to go up. He is to me the power by which I can climb the Hill Difficulty and not be afraid.

“The Lord is my strength” to go down. It is when we leave the bracing heights, where the wind and the sun have been about us, and when we begin to come down the hill into closer and more sultry spheres, that the heart is apt to grow faint. I heard a man say the other day concerning his growing physical frailty, “It is the coming down that tires me!”

“The Lord is my strength” to sit still. And how difficult is the attainment! Do we not often say to one another, in seasons when we are compelled to be quiet, “If only I could do something!”

When the child is ill, and the mother stands by in comparative impotence, how severe is the test! But to do nothing, just to sit still and wait, requires tremendous strength.

“The Lord is my strength!” “Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5from The Silver Lining.

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The conversion of Saul of Tarsus

By: Charles Spurgeon

“And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” Acts 26:14

Suggested Further Reading: John 15:16-25

When you were first pricked in the heart, how personal the preacher was. I remember it well. It seemed to me that I was the only person in the whole place, as if a black wall were round about me, and I were shut in with the preacher, something like the prisoners at the penitentiary, who each sit in their cell and can see no one but the chaplain. I thought all he said was meant for me; I felt persuaded that some one knew my character, and had written to him and told him all, and that he had personally picked me out. Why, I thought he fixed his eyes on me; and I have reason to believe he did, but still he said he knew nothing about my case. Oh, that men would hear the word preached, and that God would so bless them in their hearing, that they might feel it to have a personal application to their own hearts. But note again—the apostle received some information as to the persecuted one. If you had asked Saul who it was he persecuted, he would have said, “Some poor fishermen, that had been setting up an impostor; I am determined to put them down.” “Why, who are they? They are the poorest of the world, the very scum and dregs of society; if they were princes and kings we perhaps might let them have their opinion; but these poor miserable ignorant fellows, I do not see why they are allowed to carry out their infatuation, and I shall persecute them. Moreover, most of them are women I have been persecuting—poor, ignorant creatures. What right have they to set their judgement up above the priests? They have no right to have an opinion of their own, and therefore it is quite right for me to make them turn away from their foolish errors.” But see in what a different light Jesus Christ puts it. He does not say, “Saul, Saul, why didst thou persecute Stephen?” or “Why art thou about to drag the people of Damascus to prison;” No—“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

For meditation: What a personal Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is! He personally calls his people to himself (Luke 19:5) and he takes it personally when they are persecuted (Luke 10:16).

The Great Connection

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The Great Connection

By: Wally Odum, cbn1.com

Our goal is to live godly lives. Those of us who have tried to do that know how hard it is to accomplish in our own strength. We have made promises to God we failed to keep. We have disciplined ourselves with rules we have broken. It’s not an easy thing to be godly when we try to do it by ourselves.

God knows that and He has an answer.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

The power for godly living doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. It comes through our knowing Him. When we know Him, He gives us the divine power we need to live like Him.

The problem we often have is we forget His power is our source and we take on the burden of godliness. That can only produce a religion that ends in failure and frustration. It is fruitless to attempt living the Christian life without the resource of God’s power.

Dr. A. J. Gordon pastored in New England and was founder of Gordon-Conwell College and Seminary. He loved to take walks in the crisp morning air. One morning he saw a man behind a farmhouse pumping an outdoor water pump furiously. He was amazed the man could pump so fast without stopping.

He became so absorbed with the scene he wandered across the field to get a closer look. He saw it was not a man at all, but a wooden cut-out that looked like a man. The elbow was a hinge and the hand was wired to the pump handle. The man wasn’t pumping the pump handle. It was an artesian well and the pump handle was pumping the man. That is what it is like to serve the Lord.

Too many people believe we have to supply the power for living the Christian life. We simply attach ourselves by faith to the One who has all the power we need. That eliminates any room for pride. Our success in godly living is due to the fact that we are connected to Him.

Dr. Manford Gutzke, in one of his sermons, told of an old sculptor who was ill. He was recuperating during the summer at his son’s home. His son bought him a block of marble to work with and placed it in a shaded corner of the backyard. The grandson watched his grandfather work in the early days of summer but then lost interest. That fall, the grandson was in the shaded part of the backyard and saw a marble angel on a marble pedestal. He was puzzled for a moment, then grinned and looked at his grandfather. “You knew he was in there all the time.”

Jesus knows what He can make of us when He first calls us. After all, when we were really messed up He called us. That’s because He knew what He could make of us with His divine power. Our godliness is not because we are perfect. It’s because He is perfect and He empowers us. We get blessed and He gets the glory.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Rom. 3:3).

I think that I can trace every scrap of sorrow in my life to simple unbelief. How could I be anything but quite happy if I believed always that all the past is forgiven, and all the present furnished with power, and all the future bright with hope because of the same abiding facts which do not change with my mood, do not stumble because I totter and stagger at the promise through unbelief, but stand firm and clear with their peaks of pearl cleaving the air of Eternity, and the bases of their hills rooted unfathomably in the Rock of God. Mont Blanc does not become a phantom or a mist because a climber grows dizzy on its side.
–James Smetham

Is it any wonder that, when we stagger at any promise of God through unbelief, we do not receive it? Not that faith merits an answer, or in any way earns it, or works it out; but God has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms of gift.
–Rev. Samuel Hart

Unbelief says, “How can such and such things be?” It is full of “hows”; but faith has one great answer to the ten thousand “hows,” and that answer is–GOD!
–C. H. M.

No praying man or woman accomplishes so much with so little expenditure of time as when he or she is praying.

If there should arise, it has been said–and the words are surely true to the thought of our Lord Jesus Christ in all His teaching on prayer—if there should arise ONE UTTERLY BELIEVING MAN, the history of the world might be changed.

Will YOU not be that one in the providence and guidance of God our Father?
–A. E. McAdam

Prayer without faith degenerates into objectless routine, or soulless hypocrisy. Prayer with faith brings Omnipotence to back our petitions. Better not pray unless and until your whole being responds to the efficacy of your supplication. When the true prayer is breathed, earth and heaven, the past and the future, say Amen. And Christ prayed such prayers.
–P. C. M.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.

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Let us go forth

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ Hebrews 13:13

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:14–18

The Christian is to be separate from the world as to his company. He must buy, and sell, and trade like other men in the world, but yet he is not to find his intimate friends in it. He is not to go out of society and shut himself up in a monastery; he is to be in the world but not of it; and his choice company is not to be among the loose, the immoral, the profane, no, not even among the merely moral—his choice company is to be the saints of God. He is to select for his associates those who shall be his companions in the world to come. As idle boys were accustomed to mock at foreigners in the streets, so do worldlings jeer at Christians; therefore the believer flies away to his own company when he wants good fellowship. The Christian must come out of the world as to his company. I know this rule will break many a fond connection; but ‘be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.’ I know it will snap ties which are almost as dear as life, but it must be done. We must not be overruled even by our own brother when the things of God and conscience are concerned. You must follow Christ, whatever may be the enmity you may excite, remembering that unless you love Christ better than husband, or father, or mother, yes, and your own life also, you cannot be his disciple. If these be hard terms, turn your backs, and perish in your sins! Count the cost; and if you cannot bear such a cost as this, do not undertake to be a follower of Christ.

For meditation: Godly King Jehoshaphat of Judah seemed incapable of learning this lesson. Note the contrast with wicked King Ahab of Israel (2 Chronicles 17:3–61 Kings 16:30–33), his compromise with him (2 Chronicles 18:1–3), the chastisement it caused (2 Chronicles 19:1–3) and the correction this brought (2 Chronicles 20:1–4). But the continuation of the account is salutary—Jehoshaphat fell for the same trick again (2 Chronicles 20:35–37) and again (2 Kings 3:6–7)! ‘I am as thou art’ is a false and foolish attitude for a Christian to adopt towards a non-Christian.

 

Is Jesus In Your Loop

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Finding Jesus in the Loop

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

My friend Craig Phillips was a 27-year-old rising star in Chicago’s corporate world. His natural drive and determination landed him a premium position at a Fortune 500 company in the Loop—Chicago’s business district. Early in his career, he encountered Jesus on the way to work.

In his own words, Craig says, “One morning I was on my way to my beautiful corporate office with my nice clothes and my nice tie on and my expensive shoes, and I walked by this alley and saw this broken man lying underneath an elevator vent where the hot air was coming out for some warmth.” Chicago, like most metropolitan centers, is a curious mix of the very elite and the very poor, so Craig had encountered poverty and brokenness every day on the way to work. But this time, something stopped him in his tracks.

“I couldn’t go any further,” Craig continues. “I turned around and walked back in the alley. I went up to that man and asked, ‘Is that you, Jesus?’ I knew it wasn’t Jesus, but I knew that that is where Jesus would be.”

That encounter transformed Craig’s understanding of what it meant to walk with Jesus, freeing him from materialism and focusing him on the eternal. It sparked a life of service to Jesus, leading Craig to found two churches and compelling him for decades to volunteer at the Wayside Cross Mission in the suburbs of Chicago.

He had discovered a truth that, quite frankly, we can only realize if we take the instruction given in Matthew 25:31-46 seriously. In profound, yet simple words, Jesus tells His disciples that in their service to the broken and marginalized—the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, and the naked—they will encounter Him. Think about that. The moment a lovingly prepared sandwich or cup of hot soup is passed to a homeless person in Christ’s name, the service is rendered to Jesus Himself!

If we could grasp this truth, I think it would radically reconfigure the way we view opportunities for service. When we see the stranded motorist with a flat tire, we would ask the question Craig asked, “Is that you, Jesus?” Or to the single parent in our neighborhood who needs some assistance with childcare we would say, “Is that you, Jesus?” The individual who is physically ravaged by illness would hear us ask, “Is that you, Jesus?” Service in the name of Christ no longer is a duty to be checked off our spiritual task list. It is an opportunity to encounter and minister to our Savior!

By the way, Craig was a regular volunteer with the Wayside Cross Mission in the southwest suburbs of Chicago until he went to be with the Lord in his late eighties. During those years he often sent me letters about his ministry and reminded me that our call to know Christ through service has no time limit or expiry date. “Love causes us to have no bars and no exclusions when we see someone hurting,” he wrote.

It’s something that Craig discovered in the Loop one day and has been living out ever since. Jesus is ready and waiting all around us. All we need to do is stop in our tracks, reach out, and serve in His name.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exod. 14:15).

Imagine, O child of God, if you can, that triumphal march! The excited children restrained from ejaculations of wonder by the perpetual hush of their parents; the most uncontrollable excitement of the women as they found themselves suddenly saved from a fate worse than death; while the men followed or accompanied them ashamed or confounded that they had ever mistrusted God or murmured against Moses; and as you see those mighty walls of water piled by the outstretched hand of the Eternal, in response to the faith of a single man, learn what God will do for His own.

Dread not any result of implicit obedience to His command; fear not the angry waters which, in their proud insolence, forbid your progress. Above the voices of many waters, the mighty breakers of the sea, “the Lord sitteth King for ever.”

A storm is only as the outskirts of His robe, the symptom of His advent, the environment of His presence.

Dare to trust Him; dare to follow Him! And discover that the very forces which barred your progress and threatened your life, at His bidding become the materials of which an avenue is made to liberty.
–F. B. Meyer

Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind,
He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
And His hand will lead you through—clear through–
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dry shod
In the path that your Lord will make.
In the morning watch, ‘beneath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
You shall be no more afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.
–Annie Johnson Flint

 

The sound in the mulberry trees

By: Charles Spurgeon

“When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:24

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-19

If any of your acquaintance have been in the house of God, if you have induced them to go there, and you think there is some little good doing but you do not know, take care of that little. It may be God has used us as a foster mother to bring up his child, so that this little one may be brought up in the faith, and this newly converted soul may be strengthened and edified. But I’ll tell you, many of you Christians do a deal of mischief, by what you say when going home. A man once said that when he was a lad he heard a certain sermon from a minister, and felt deeply impressed under it. Tears stole down his cheeks, and he thought within himself, “I will go home to pray.” On the road home he fell into the company of two members of the church. One of them began saying, “Well, how did you enjoy the sermon?” The other said, “I do not think he was quite sound on such a point.” “Well,” said the other, “I thought he was rather off his guard,” or something of that sort; and one pulled one part of the minister’s sermon to pieces, and another the other, until, said the young man, before I had gone many yards with them, I had forgotten all about it; and all the good I thought I had received seemed swept away by those two men, who seemed afraid lest I should get any hope, for they were just pulling that sermon to pieces which would have brought me to my knees. How often have we done the same! People will say, “What did you think of that sermon?” I gently tell them nothing at all, and if there is any fault in it—and very likely there is, it is better not to speak of it, for some may get good from it.

Obey The Voice Of God

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Hearing Clearly

by Inspiration Ministries

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7 ESV

The entire city of Cremona, Italy, recently was ordered to keep quiet. Everyone was urged to avoid any “sudden and unnecessary sounds.”

The purpose was to record accurately the sounds of instruments made by Antonio Stradivarius and other craftsmen. Elaborate procedures assured an atmosphere of absolute silence and pristine conditions to record each instrument.

This care was necessary because over time, the distinctive sound of these instruments had been fading.

The curator of the Cremona museum devoted to musical instruments observed that each Stradivarius had “its own personality.” But their distinctive sounds “will inevitably change,” and could even be lost within just a few decades. “After they reach a certain age, they become too fragile to be played and they ‘go to sleep,’ so to speak.”

The dedication of the people of Cremona illustrates the importance of having ears to hear. They created conditions so sounds could be heard clearly and each instrument was allowed to speak in its own voice.

These principles apply in our spiritual lives. The world can be a noisy place. How critical it is that we find times and places when we can fellowship with God to clearly hear His still, small voice. Only then can we learn from Him and receive the guidance and direction He has prepared for each of us.

Today, seek to make time for God, a time to hear from Him and the words He has just for you.

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How to Hear God’s Voice Above the Noise

 

Have you ever wondered how to hear God’s voice above the noise of daily life?

Sometimes we hear people say, “God told me such-and-such,” and we secretly wonder, How did you know that was God?

Elizabeth Alves wrote,

‘God spoke to me’ is one of the most misunderstood phrases among His people; it can create misunderstanding, confusion, hurt, rejection, jealousy, pride and other negative responses. Perhaps you have run into someone who feels he or she has an edge on hearing from God . . . If you are unfamiliar with the phrase ‘God told me,’ or you do not understand how to hear God’s voice, you might feel inferior, thinking God never speaks to you.

If you’ve never heard God speak to you through the Holy Spirit, don’t worry. I believe you’ll begin to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit as your prayer life becomes more active and powerful. You may hear the Spirit speak within your mind and heart as your communion with God deepens. The development of active listening skills and a quiet, expectant spirit are keys to hearing from the Lord.

We battle busyness and distractions as well as emotional stresses, such as exhaustion, depression, fear, anger, grief, and anxiety. Satan loves to ratchet up the emotional chaos in our lives to keep us from walking in fellowship with God. He jam-packs our days with noisy distractions in his efforts to get us to tune God out.

 

Why are we so addicted to activity and noise?

Because we’re afraid to be alone with our own thoughts. We’re afraid of quiet and solitude. We avoid peaceful fellowship with our Savior because we fear that we might not be good enough without all our “stuff.” We’re afraid of what God might say to us or ask us to do if we sit still long enough to hear Him speak. We’re not quite sure how to handle the sacred responsibility of being still and knowing that He is God (see Psalm 46:10).

At certain times in Scripture (especially in the Old Testament), God spoke clearly and audibly to His people. According to Job 40:6, God once spoke to Job out of a whirlwind. Habakkuk knew the sound of God speaking to him (Habakkuk 2:2). Elijah described the sound of God speaking as “a still small voice” in 1 Kings 19:12.

God has already spoken to us through natural revelation (His creation) and through special revelation (His Word). He may also choose to communicate with us at times through other methods, such as books, movies, videos, sermons, our conversations with other people, and our personal experiences.

When we’ve been faithfully praying for God’s answer, we may hear that answer in the most unexpected way, at a spontaneous and surprising time. Sometimes God speaks to us in what seem to be the strangest and most chaotic moments. His “voice” (the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking within our hearts) cuts through the noise inside our souls as He makes His will and His message clear.

I’ve never heard God’s voice audibly, but I’ve heard the Holy Spirit “speaking” within my heart. It’s unmistakable.

Hearing God’s voice has happened to me most often when I was in the middle of a period of waiting, praying about an important issue in my life or the lives of my children, or transitioning from one life stage to the next.

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Hearing God’s Voice

From:  allaboutprayer.org

 

Hearing God’s Voice – Are You Ready to Listen?
Hearing God’s voice is something we all long for-but did you know that it’s not hard to do? In fact, God wants you to hear His voice! He doesn’t speak to us through a quiver in our liver or through vibes or mediums. Hearing the voice of God is as natural as hearing your best friend talk to you. What’s more, we can hear Him everyday and not just on special occasions or by chanting special incantations. He speaks to us in the natural moments of life. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then you must be ready to listen.

 

Hearing God’s Voice – Why Do You Want to Hear Him?
Why do you want to hear God’s voice? That may sound like a silly question, but motives are important in anything we do. The Bible says this about God’s Word: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Do you want to hear God’s voice? If you do, it’s possible you’re hearing Him already, for He may be the one giving you the longing to hear Him.

Hearing God’s Voice in the Bible
In his book Knowing God, J. I. Packer says, “God has spoken to man, and the Bible is His Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.”

The Bible itself declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In another place, we read: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

You may hear people say that the Bible is just a book written by men, but the Bible itself claims to be God’s Word! Can we rely on it? The evidence of history, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy and personal testimony over thousands of years is overwhelming that the Bible is, indeed, God’s Word. Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then read the Bible. Find a good daily reading plan, and stick to it.

Hearing God’s Voice through Prayer
When you want to have a conversation with someone, how do you begin? Do you stand in front of the person and hope they will talk to you? That might work, if the other person is outgoing enough, but usually we begin a conversation by opening our own mouths and talking, engaging the other person’s attention. It’s the same with God! He loves to hear us talk to Him, and it’s in those moments that we prepare ourselves to hear the voice of God. Prayer is like saying, “Hello, God, it’s me. I believe You created me and that You know way more about how I should live my life than I do. I’d like to get to know You better. Here’s what’s going on in my life, and I’d sure like Your thoughts on how to handle it. Would You please speak to me about this today?”

In an ordinary conversation, we speak, then listen for the response of the other person. It’s the same with God! Once we’ve prepared our hearts to listen through prayer, we’re more likely to hear the voice of God. Does He speak to us through an audible voice? Some claim He does, but usually that’s not the case. We may not actually “hear” the voice of God, but He speaks to us in many ways. Here are some of them:

  • God speaks through His Word
  • God speaks through our thoughts
  • God speaks through conversations with others
  • God speaks through circumstances

Jesus Teaches About Life After Death

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The Accused

By: Anne Ferrell Tata, cbn1.com

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Jesus answered, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.” Matthew 22:29 (GW)

When I think about the many years I spent beating myself up for just about everything, I want to cringe. For years, I marched to the drumbeat of voices in my head telling me: “I’m not good enough. I’m a terrible person because I have terrible thoughts. God would not love me because of the choices I made. God could not forgive me because of the things I had done.”

On and on the self-condemnation went. I believed God loved others, but I simply could not believe He loved me.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I understood I had an enemy. I knew his name. What I did not quite comprehend was the accusations I heard loud and clear were essentially from my enemy. Satan must have been delighted knowing one of God’s Covenant daughters was being consumed daily by the weight of a self-imposed guilty verdict.

When Jesus declared to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:29, “You’re mistaken because you don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power,” His declaration was meant for me as well. I was mistaken about the way God thought of me. I did not know the Scriptures nor God’s power.

In the Matthew 22:23-32 passage, Jesus was speaking to the Sadducees about resurrection and the afterlife. The Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus. They didn’t quite understand whom they were talking to. Jesus’ point was appropriate for my situation. How many times do we believe the loud and lying voices we hear in our head? How many times do we worry or fear or fret because we either don’t know or don’t believe in God’s power?

God gave us His Word. He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. He made covenants and promises, but if we don’t get to know Him by spending time with Him or in His word, we may live out our lives believing lies.

Things began to change for me when I met a more mature Christian sister. She walked alongside me and encouraged me to get to know God personally by studying His word. The more I studied, the more my eyes opened to truths.

I was overjoyed when I learned the truth of what God thinks about me.

I am “His beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased,” Matthew 3:17 (NLT)

“I am accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV)

I am “the apple of His eye.” Psalm 17:8 (NLT)

As the “apple of His eye,” I am greatly cherished and thoroughly protected.

I found new freedom when I learned “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Over time I learned my battles were not “of flesh and blood,” and I must fight with the weapons of God’s word!

When I was assaulted with a reminder of some sin, I responded to the thought with, “yes, that is true, but the Blood of my Savior Jesus Christ redeemed me, and He told me in Isaiah 43:25, …”

“I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” (NLT)

I witnessed “when my enemy came in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord raised up a standard against it.” Isaiah 59:19 (NKJV)

When voices try to tell me, I am unworthy or unwanted, I now say, No! I reject that thought! I remember the truth,

“Even before God made the world, God loved me and chose me … and decided in advance to adopt me into his own family through Jesus Christ … and it gave Him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4,5 (NLT)

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Proving the Resurrection

Matthew 22: 33  The Sadducee’s question Jesus about life after death.

By: .biblegateway.com

This story line would make some sense in a variety of cultures. Levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-6; compare Gen 38:8-26) and widow inheritance (see Belkin 1970; as in Ruth 3:12-13) perpetuate the name of the deceased and serve to provide for widows in many traditional societies where women cannot earn sufficient wages for sustenance (for example, Mbiti 1970:188-89). Yet many ancient hearers would assume a woman who had outlived seven husbands was dangerous (Mart. Epig. 9.15; t. Sabbat 15:8). The Sadducees borrow the story line of a woman with seven husbands from the popular Jewish folktale in Tobit 3:8; they want to illustrate the impossible dilemmas they believe the doctrine of resurrection creates.

The Sadducees were known for their opposition to the doctrine of the resurrection (Acts 23:6-8; perhaps Jos. Ant. 18.16; War 2.164-65). When Jesus declares that they deny the power of God (compare 2 Thess 3:5), he may evoke the traditional Jewish view that God expresses his power most visibly in the resurrection of the dead, a view attested in the second of the regularly prayed Eighteen Benedictions (abbreviated as “Power”; compare m. Ros Hassana 4:5; see also Rom 1:4).

Most Jewish people agreed that angels did not eat, drink or propagate (1 Enoch 15:6-7; Test. Ab. 4, 6A; ARN 1, 37A). Some Jewish traditions also compared the righteous after death with angels (1 Enoch 39:5; 104:2-4; 2 Baruch 51:10-11). Since angels did not die (unless God destroyed them), they had no need to procreate. Jesus’ statement about lack of marriage and procreation in heaven (Mt 22:30) follows largely from the logic of the resurrection, to which he now turns (vv. 31-32).

Early Jewish teachers regularly argued apart from the Bible with Gentiles or scoffers, but from Scripture for those who knew Scripture (Moore 1971:2:381). When debating the views of Sadducees who doubted the resurrection and demanded proof from the law of Moses, later rabbis found ample proof for this doctrine in the Bible’s first five books (Sipre Deut. 329.2.1; b. Sanhedrin 90b). One later rabbi went so far as to say that all texts implied the resurrection if one simply had the ingenuity to find it (Moore 1971:2:383; Sipre Deut.306.28.3); however, this often meant reading it into the text! As an expert Scripture interpreter, Jesus here exposes his opponents’ lack of Scripture knowledge with his standard formula, have you not read . . . ? (v. 31; see 12:3; 19:4; 21:42, 46).

Jesus may be arguing for God’s continuing purposes with an individual after death, which for many Palestinian Jews would imply ultimate resurrection. He implies that God would not claim to be the God of someone who no longer existed (compare Doeve 1954:106; Longenecker 1975:68-69); he also evokes God’s covenant faithfulness to his people, which Palestinian Jewish prayers regularly associated with the “God of the fathers,” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Jeremias 1971:187). If God was still God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and if his power was unlimited, then he would ultimately fulfill his promise to them-not only corporately through their descendants, but personally to them. The crowds are again astounded by Jesus’ quick wit (compare 7:28; 22:22), just as they are by his signs (8:27; 9:8; 12:23).

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The God of the Living: Past & Present – Matthew 22:23-33

From:  gracebibleny.org

 

Matthew 22:23-33

This morning we continue our study of Matthew 22 and come to the second of three questions posed to Jesus in His confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders. The Chief Priests and Elders began the day by challenging Jesus’ authority to do all the things He has done, including cleansing the temple from the merchants and money changers as well as teach with such authority and perform so many miracles. Jesus’ responded with three scathing parables that demonstrated the wicked hearts of these men. They feigned to be followers after God and the teachers of righteousness, but in fact were followers only of themselves and the teachers of self-righteousness. They were not only the blind leading the blind, but rebellious too in killing the prophets of God throughout the ages past and currently plotting how they might destroy God’s Son.

Previously we saw the Pharisees attempt to discredit Jesus by sending their disciples, along with the Herodians, (See: The Secular and the Sacred) to pose a question that was sure to get Jesus in trouble with either the people or the Romans. “Is it lawful to pay the poll-Tax?” If Jesus says, “yes,” the people will reject Him for they despised the poll-tax. If Jesus says, “no,” the Herodians would accuse Him of insurrection against Rome. They thought they could entrap Jesus, but you can not trap God. Jesus answer not only astounded them, but clarified for all of us the relationship we have with human government and God.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” To Caesar belongs submission, civil honor and taxes for that is His due. It is God that sets up human governments for the restraint of evil and so it is only fitting that the people pay for the benefits received and follow the laws set up. The power of God is seen in that He can even use wicked people and systems of government for His own purposes. However, we are not to give to human governments that which does not belong to it. Our obedience is not necessary when it commands us to do or not do things contrary to God’s commands. We can not submit to laws that command us to do evil or prohibit us from walking in righteousness. We submit to human government, but our allegiance is only to God Himself. Jesus’ response was a double edged sword to the Pharisees because they did not want to submit to the government nor was their allegiance to God.

We must be mindful ourselves to make sure we understand the Scripture’s command in this area. Christians should be the best citizens of any country having the greatest patriotism and love for their nation and be even willing to lay down their lives for its preservation. They should be among the greatest supporters of the government by obeying its laws and defending its right to exist and rule since they understand that those rights and authority come from God Himself. At the same time, Christians should be the most independent force within any nation because their allegiance is not to man, but God. Their true citizenship is in heaven and they are more than willing to suffer whatever may come in order to promote godliness within that nation.

How does such a thing work out in our own country? We pay our taxes without grumbling, we obey the laws that have been set forth, but at the same time we work hard to promote laws that reflect Godliness and repeal laws that do not. We give to those holding government offices the proper honor and respect do them as those in authority, while at the same time we boldly speak out for righteousness and will even rebuke those in authority as needed, but always speaking the truth in love (And remember, love can be bold as was Nathan to David). Obviously President Clinton is not popular with Christians because he has so openly promoted that which the Bible calls evil. We know were the policies he is promoting will lead us and our children and that causes fear and anger to well up inside us. But how do we react? If we descend into name calling and vilification of the man we are not following the Scriptures commands and so are no better than he. Do we pray for his soul and the salvation of those in his administration? Do we focus on the issues and show to people how and why Biblical principles should be applied, or do we regress into accusations. Do we promote godliness in what we do, and how we present our views or do we become simply another demonstration of the degenerate nature of man. Fulfill your duty to pay Caesar what belongs to him, but even more importantly, fulfill your responsibility to obey God first and foremost in everything.

 

Learn To Share Your Faith

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

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Making Your Mission Field

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 (NIV)

My two sisters and I always wanted brothers.
Prayed for brothers.
Begged our parents for brothers.
So when the decision was made to adopt two boys from Africa, my sisters and I were in awe the miracle was happening! Our mom and dad assured us it was real and God was behind it all-He had tugged at their hearts, He had prepared these boys and our family, and He had called us all to say “yes.”
Our saying yes to God as a family to adopt our brothers made me want to say yes to Him in all areas of my life.
That’s when I promised God my life would be His mission field and I’d be sold out to serving anywhere He sent me.
When I was 14 years old, I went on my first mission trip to Nicaragua. I fell in love with the whole experience. Even though I had happily said yes, the trip was difficult. I was totally outside my comfort zone. But any initial craziness and chaos gave way to great joy and peace.
The following summer I went to Ethiopia where I got to see a different way of life on the other side of the world. I experienced jitters being in a foreign land with a language, culture, and food I didn’t understand, but the adjustment time was short and my passion grew great.
Since that trip I have taken several more to Nicaragua, including one where I helped run a foot-and-shoe clinic. We welcomed everyone who visited the clinic, washed their feet, prayed for them, and then helped them choose a pair of shoes. It was incredibly humbling to serve the people from these two countries.
They are grateful for their lives. Very few have anything of material value, yet their gratitude and joy flows without ceasing. They laugh, sing, dance, and give generously without holding back … even to a stranger like me. I went to give. Yet, I was the one who received.
I’ve found that when I say yes to God, a joy fills me and motivates me to be close to Him and to walk in His will. It makes me want to keep asking Him how He can use my life as a mission field, any where from my home to my hometown to around the world.
We don’t have to go overseas to do missions work. Opportunities are all around. Who has God placed in front of you that needs help? Who in your family needs support? Which friend has been struggling with a temptation or a broken heart?
When God works through us to meet the needs of others-that’s missions.
Let’s turn our everyday life into God’s mission field. I think we’ll be amazed at what He does as we step out of our comfort zone and partner with Him!
Dear Lord, I want You to use me to love and bless someone today. Show me exactly how I can serve Your people, even if it’s in the smallest way. I’m trusting You to move in my heart and in the hearts of those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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May We Look Upon the World as Our Parish

By: Anne Ferrell, cbn1

In the early 1700s, a small group of religious fugitives formed a village in a part of Germany called Moravia. They named their village Herrnhut which means “The Lord’s Watch.” While Herrnhut had become a community of religious exiles, many spoke different languages and creeds. There were Lutherans, Separatists, Reformed, and others, living side by side. Disagreements developed. Relationships deteriorated.

The community was on the way to ruin when the people decided to “give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (see Acts 6:4) They began to study the Bible, hold all-night prayer vigils, and confess their sins to one another.

On August 13, 1727, an amazing miracle happened. There was a baptism and communion service, and the Holy Spirit moved through the room. A spirit of love came over the attendees. Differences dissolved, and they all embraced one another in love and forgiveness.

They established a 24-hour around-the-clock prayer vigil which lasted 100 years. Their vision was based on the passage in Isaiah 62:1-7.

“O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.” Isaiah 62:6 NLT

The influence of the continual prayer was far-reaching. Their burden for mission work was birthed. Missionaries were sent all over the world. Many people were influenced by the dedication and commitment of the Moravians including John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church and William Carey, missionary to India.

The early church understood continuous prayer was necessary because spiritual warfare is continuous. Prayer became their priority. Shortly after Pentecost, the number of disciples multiplied as did their obligations. It became clear the disciples needed help with responsibilities like taking care of the widows. Instead of sacrificing the ministry of prayer, deacons were chosen to care for the church and its people. The ministry of prayer was paramount, and as the church grew, they understood even more prayer was needed.

The same is true for us today. The ministry of prayer and the ministry of the Word should be a top priority. Can you imagine if we all made prayer a priority? Can you imagine if we all committed to the ministry of the Word? What would our families or communities look like if we all “gave ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word?”

Knowing Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever inspires me to look back and see the work of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am encouraged and motivated to continually pray and seek opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley said, I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.”

Let us adopt the calling, “all the world is our parish.” The world is hurting. The world needs the good news of Jesus Christ. Continual prayer and ministry of the Word is the answer. We can learn from the early church. We can grow as the Moravian Church. We are here for such a time as this, and the more we continually seek God through prayer, the more He will accomplish His purpose through us.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of our responsibility in 2 Corinthians 5:20,

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (NLT)

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The Three R’s In Evangelism

By: Charles Spurgeon

A few months ago, I led my church in a community evangelism effort. Our outreach was a little old-fashioned: we knocked on doors and talked to people, hoping the Lord would draw some to himself through the gospel.

Executing door-to-door, “cold call” evangelism has many challenges in the modern context. Rejections of the gospel run the gamut from angry to flaky: One man told me that he hated religion, hated religious “zealots” like us, and believed hell was built especially for those of our ilk. Another woman said that she adhered to Jewish religion in which her father taught her that faith in any object, “even a rock,” would punch her ticket to heaven. None of my questions about the monotheism of the Old Testament and the Torah’s prohibition of worshiping idols made a dent in her rejection of Christ. I even told her that the Scripture called Jesus the rock, but she at last politely said goodbye and returned inside the door to her cats.

Still, I am thankful that God’s gospel can subdue the rebellious heart, whether seething or silly.

Use of Means 

For training purposes, Christian leaders have long sought a good outline to help us recall the gospel when we are witnessing to lost people. Indeed, many thoughtful, careful, and biblical outlines have been used effectively—Two Ways to Live and Evangelism Explosioncome immediately to mind, and I know there are others.

But recently, in my regular reading of C. H. Spurgeon’s sermons, I have discovered an excellent and pithy approach to the gospel, one that is fully biblical and establishes both man’s universal dilemma and God’s antidote in Christ: Spurgeon’s “Three R’s”: ruin, redemption, and regeneration. I like Spurgeon’s outline for several reasons: it is simple, the alliteration makes it easy to remember, the biblical texts all surround the number three (another aid to memory for the throes of nerve-busting, face-to-face evangelism).

Also, the three R’s cover three things a gospel presentation needs to establish: the problem, the solution, and the response. Spurgeon told young students in his pastor’s college that these three doctrines must permeate their evangelism and preaching. I agree and thus commend it to modern readers. Spurgeon was a gifted, tireless evangelist whom God used to win untold thousands to Christ.

Three Core Doctrines of Evangelism 

Spurgeon called them “three doctrines that must be preached above all else,” and he drew as texts for them “three third chapters (of Scripture) which deal with the things in the fullest manner.” Let’s consider Spurgeon’s three R’s.

Ruin (Gen. 3:14-15). This is what man has done. “How did man get in this miserable condition?” Spurgeon asks. R. C. Sproul frames it another way, and his question is one I hear often in gospel conversations: “Saved from what?” In our post-postmodern culture, we must begin here with creation and the fall. Biblical illiteracy appears to be spreading, thus many have never considered that there is something desperately wrong in our world. Beginning here establishes the problem into which God has launched his rescue mission: Man has rebelled against his maker, broken his law, and now lives under a curse that will one day incur the white-hot, unmediated wrath of God. But in the second half of verse 15, we hear the faint promise of God’s solution, one that will grow louder as history advances and as the redemption story of the Bible unfolds. The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent. The serpent will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring, but this promised one will deal the death blow to the snake, killing him as one must a serpent: a smashed head. As Spurgeon pointed out, this background leads quite naturally to the good news of God’s rescue mission.

Redemption (Rom. 3:21-26). This is what God has done. This is the good news that trumps the bad news. In the scope of five verses, Paul articulates what some commentators have called the thesis of Romans or the magna carta of salvation. In these glorious verses, Paul establishes the demands of God’s law, the futility of salvation by works, the law’s definition of sin, the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ, justification by faith through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and his satisfaction of God’s wrath against sin. This paragraph contains the entire matrix of the work of Christ that he accomplished on the cross, work that provided full pardon from the guilt of sin for every sinner who believes. It is perhaps the most glorious paragraph in human history.

Regeneration (John 3:1-8). This is what God must do in sinners to enable them to believe. Spurgeon, along with Reformed evangelicals throughout the ages, taught that regeneration precedes faith. In other words, God changes the sinful human heart, sets it free from bondage to sin, and enables it to believe that Jesus is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Regeneration, like the entire work of salvation, is a unilateral work of grace. It was a central theme of Spurgeon’s preaching and evangelism, and it must be foundational to ours as well, particularly as we think through issues of “results” in evangelism. The reality of regeneration urges us to call sinners to repentance and faith while resting in the work of God who alone opens blind eyes and unstops deaf ears. It removes the pressure from us and frees us to boldly share the gospel while knowing that the results are in the hands of a sovereign, benevolent God. Out of a biblical understanding of regeneration, we may call on sinners to repent and be reconciled to God while leaving the results to him. Thus, I hold out hope for the lady with the Jewish background and all others whom I have engaged over the years.

Spurgeon’s “Three R’s,” whether you use them or not, should undergird all our evangelism. And like Spurgeon, pastors today should make certain that these three doctrines regularly appear in the diet of biblical exposition they feed to hungry sheep.

The Cure For Envy

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The Cure for Our Envy

A friend sent a text to share with me about an amazing restaurant she went to. She described the wonderful meal she enjoyed and included a photo. I began to text back, “I’m so jealous!” but paused, then hit delete and changed it to “I’m so envious!” before hitting “Send.”

Jealousy vs. Envy

Jealousy and envy. They are two words that I’ve often used interchangeably. Whether I admired a friend’s new purchase from the mall, compared my rambunctious children to a friend’s well-behaved children, or wished my ministry was as successful as another’s, I’ve often considered my responses to be a form of jealousy. But they are not.

You might think, “What does it even matter?” Let me first say that I’m not part of the police squad for how we use the English language. This isn’t just a matter of semantics. There is a subtle, yet real difference between jealousy and envy and it’s a difference that matters to us spiritually. When we understand the difference, it helps us better identify and repent of the sin in our lives. But more importantly, knowing the difference helps us understand the love of Jesus who has saved us.

But first, let’s look at jealousy. In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges defines jealousy as “intolerance of rivalry” (149). A common reason for jealousy might be if someone were to try and win your spouse’s affections. This type of jealousy is right. A husband and wife ought to protect their marriage from intruders. An example of sinful jealousy is when Saul was jealous of David’s military success. If you remember, the women sang in the streets, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul responded in angry jealousy because David’s popularity had grown in the eyes of the people. They honored David above Saul, making David a rival in Saul’s eyes.

Envy on the other hand occurs when we are resentful of an advantage someone else has. We look at the job, car, house, wealth, experience, or success of another and resent that they have something we don’t. When envy’s roots dig deep and are well nourished, it grows into covetousness. This is when we want and desire the advantage of another, such as a friend’s car, well-behaved kids, or success in ministry. Such covetousness is what God forbids in the tenth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21).

But the biggest difference between jealousy and envy is this: God is often jealous but never envious.

A Jealous God Pursues Our Envious Hearts

Our God is a jealous God. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath” (Zechariah 8:2). He is jealous for our affections. He is jealous for our love, our worship, and our heart. This is why the greatest commandment says we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He wants all of us. When our hearts are turned to other things, looking to them to take the place of God, using them as substitute loves, God responds in a righteous and holy jealousy. Scripture actually calls God jealous by name in Scripture, “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

“God is jealous for our love, our worship, and our heart.”

In the Old Testament, Israel was often compared to a Bride and God as her husband. Over and over in the Old Testament, Israel wandered from God. She envied the lives of other nations. She envied their gods and their sinful ways. She flirted with the other nations and played the harlot with other gods. In his holy jealousy, God sent her away into captivity.

But God promised there would be a day when Israel would return as his bride. He promised to make her pure and radiant and restore her back to him as his bride. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19–20).

God fulfilled his promise in Jesus. In his jealous love, Jesus pursued, redeemed, bled, died, and rose again for his Bride, the Church. He is now sanctifying her, making her holy and pure and readying her for her wedding day. And one day he will return and gather us all together, from the four corners of the earth to celebrate his grace in the Great Wedding Feast. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

Constant and Unwavering

When we are envious of what others have, when we desire something that doesn’t belong to us, it’s because our hearts have turned from our one true love. We think that if we just had the success, opportunities, experiences, or fortune of another, we’d be happy. In our envy, we are chasing after the inferior pleasures of his world instead of looking to Jesus. In effect, we’ve forgotten whose we are.

Only the righteous jealousy of Jesus can cleanse our envious hearts.

The only cure for our envy is the love and grace of our jealous Husband as found in the gospel. Only the righteous jealousy of Jesus, seen in the redeeming grace of the cross, can cleanse our envious hearts. Time and again, he forgives our wandering ways. No matter how far our hearts might go, his grace can go farther. While our love for him ebbs and flows and is often fickle, his love is constant and unwavering. When we find our heart wandering in envy, we need to remember and return to him, the One who is always jealous for his Bride.

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 The Cure for Envy

APRIL 17, 2015

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.

Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.

Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.

Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.

The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague who’d been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. “It’s not fair, Lord!”

His response was swift. “Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?”

Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters – women who love and serve the Lord – I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, “I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one person’s work above another, if not absorbing the world’s way of doing things?”

Her words echo the Apostle Paul’s: ” … For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.

Today’s verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, here’s the way out:

Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth” (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.

Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over John’s place in Jesus’ ministry, and asked, “‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘ … what is that to you? You must follow me'” (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).

Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15a, NIV).

Be patient. Many a career or ministry has collapsed under too much, too soon. Embrace the tasks you’ve been given, rather than longing for something bigger, better or faster. Success isn’t money or fame – it’s love for one another. By definition, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).

Befriend your rival. As one of our sisters explained, “A woman was brought in on a fast track executive management program at my corporation. At our first meeting, I thought, ‘Well, here’s my rival.’ Then I heard God say, ‘She is smart, energetic and sharp – just like you. You could become best buddies.'” And, they did.

Count the cost. Behind every successful woman is a host of sacrifices we never see.

The truth? We’re seldom jealous of all the work a person does – just the outcome. Whether building a tower or building a career, the Bible cautions us, ” … Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money” ? or time or energy ? “to complete it” (Luke 14:28b, NIV).

Lean on the Lord. He stands ready, willing and able to overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Spirit. “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).

Heavenly Father, we know envy and jealousy are no match for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us when we grumble over how You bless others, and help us be grateful for all the ways You have kindly blessed us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Envy

By:  Henry Kranenburg,  today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — 1 Samuel 18:1-9

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Proverbs 14:30 —

When you compare yourself to others and decide that you don’t measure up, you can easily fall into envy. And that can make you rotten inside.

Envy is not the same as jealousy, in which a person has no tolerance for rivalry or unfaithfulness. In fact, I can be rightly jealous for my wife’s love, just as God is rightly jealous for the faithfulness we owe him. But not all jealousy is right.

Envy comes in when we feel we have a right to something that someone else has—and we feel they shouldn’t have it at all. Envy has led people to steal or kill to make sure the thing they wanted was not enjoyed by someone else.

Saul was envious of David. David was more successful, and he received more praise. When that happened, Saul—who had his own successes—no longer heard the songs sung for him, but only the songs sung for David. And it made him rot on the inside.

I know some envious people. They have a hard time praising others and hearing praise for those they envy. In the end, it can hurt them more than anyone else, for it can rot the soul.

In contrast with envy, wisdom calls us to rejoice in the good that others do, and to praise God for the blessings and gifts he provides others.

Prayer

Lord, sometimes I fall into envy when I make comparisons. Help me to be joyful about the gifts you give to others, and to appreciate all you have given me. Guide me to serve you faithfully. In Jesus’ name, Amen.