Monthly Archives: July 2019

Let God’s Light Shine Through You

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Who’s in the Spotlight?

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For the Journey

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

If you’ve been around the world of golf for long, you know that winning the coveted “Green Jacket” at the Masters is arguably the most coveted accomplishment in golf. As I was watching the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament in 2007, I was thrilled to hear the winner give credit to Jesus for the gifts and abilities the Lord had given him. With much of the world watching, he turned the spotlight from himself to Jesus!

It brought to mind the year that Bernhard Langer won the Masters. In the Butler Cabin afterward, before millions watching on TV the interviewer said to him, “Winning the Masters must be the greatest moment in your life.” To which the champion replied, “This is no doubt the greatest moment in my golf career, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that 2,000 years ago today my Lord and Savior rose from the dead to give me eternal life!”

I was off my couch, ecstatic that Jesus and what He has done for us was getting such global recognition!

This is exactly what it means to glorify God and to live with enough biblical sanity to know that all we have and all we are is directly attributable to God’s grace and provision in our lives. Think about it. Where would you be today if God had not given you the mental horsepower to figure stuff out, the opportunities for education and promotion, the talents to do things well, the spiritual gifts to participate successfully in His work, the income to keep food on the table, or the wisdom of His Word to help you know how to live? The list is long when it comes to what God has graciously given you. To say nothing of the gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection! The fact is that you and I would be nothing if it weren’t for God’s generous and undeserved supply.

So, since all we have is from God, it’s important that we don’t act like we are self-made people. In fact, when King Nebuchadnezzar took God’s glory for himself, he was banished to eating grass in the field like an animal until he got the picture straight about who should get the glory for his power and position (Daniel 4:29-34). And Herod was eaten by worms and died for letting the people call him god (Acts 12:21-23). God takes it seriously when we rob Him of His glory!

Granted, it’s not always easy to know just what to say when you want to transfer the applause from yourself to God. But just knowing that it’s important to give credit where credit is due is a good beginning. Every once in a while, someone will tell me what a great sermon I preached, and in that moment I am keenly aware that what I do with the spotlight is very important. I have to tell you, when I take the compliment for myself I end up feeling small and disloyal. But when I acknowledge that I had no idea what they needed to hear, I can say with confidence, “We both know where the blessing came from!” and I love to tell people that if they were blessed by the sermon it’s a sure sign of how much God loves them. Every time I turn the spotlight where it belongs, I end up feeling grateful to God and joyful that I was able to give Him the glory.

So take the Bible’s advice: Keep the spotlight on Jesus—then know the joy of what it means to live for His glory.

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You’re Shining for Jesus Wherever You Are

DECEMBER 3, 2014

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

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The news headlines drifted in from the living room as I sat at my desk. The story of yet another tragedy contrasted so sharply with what I was writing that I stopped, sighed and leaned back in my chair. A sense of despair washed over me.

“Lord,” I silently prayed, “is there anything I can do about the darkness in this world? It seems so overwhelming.”

I sensed a gentle whisper within my heart replying, “The only way to get rid of the darkness is to add more light.”

Darkness is the absence of light. Trying to go after it directly is like chasing your shadow. You can’t bag it up and throw it away. Only light is powerful enough to make the darkness disappear. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that we are the light of the world. We are called to shine. But the light we share is not our own.

From the very beginning of creation, God has been the source of light both spiritually and literally. Genesis 1:2b-3 says, “Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (NIV).

Imagine a world full of darkness. Then with four small words, light blazes forth. Every living thing in our world relies on light for its existence – plants, animals and people. The God who brought light to the world also brings it to our lives. As 2 Corinthians 4:6a says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts” (NIV).

The best part of all is that we don’t have to be like the light bulb that said, “I have to find a way to shine!” The light bulb went to a self-help meeting to learn about its inner capacity for light. It read books about how to get brighter. Each morning the light bulb would get up and recite positive affirmations. “I am a light bulb. I believe in myself. I will shine!” But nothing happened.

Eventually the light bulb became weary and discouraged. It began to doubt who it was and what it could do. It almost burned out completely. Fortunately, one day the light bulb was carefully placed in a fixture. Light burst forth and filled the room. The light bulb finally understood. The key was not to try harder but to plug into the source.

Trying to shine on our own can be exhausting. Instead, we’re simply called to be closely connected to God and remain in Him. When we do, His light pours forth through us in powerful, brilliant ways that change the world. The ways we shine might not make the news, but they make even more of a difference than we can see.

Lord, thank You for being the light within us so we can shine brightly for the world around us. When it seems darkness is crowding in, use us to make a difference. We ask that You will help us share Your love, joy and peace – especially this time of year. You are the hope we need and the One light that will never burn out, be overcome or fade away. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

David cared for them with pure motives; he led them with skill.  Ps 78:72

When you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one…Meanwhile keep on as you are, and consider the absence of indication to be the indication of God’s will that you are on His track…As you go down the long corridor, you will find that He has preceded you, and locked many doors which you would fain have entered; but be sure that beyond these there is one which He has left unlocked. Open it and enter, and you will find yourself face to face with a bend of the river of opportunity, broader and deeper than anything you had dared to imagine in your sunniest dreams. Launch forth upon it; it conducts to the open sea.

God guides us, often by circumstances. At one moment the way may seem utterly blocked; and then shortly afterward some trivial incident occurs, which might not seem much to others, but which to the keen eye of faith speaks volumes. Sometimes these things are repeated in various ways, in answer to prayer. They are not haphazard results of chance, but the opening up of circumstances in the direction in which we would walk. And they begin to multiply as we advance toward our goal, just as the lights do as we near a populous town, when darting through the land by night express.
—F. B. Meyer

If you go to Him to be guided, He will guide you; but He will not comfort your distrust or half-
trust of Him by showing you the chart of all His purposes concerning you. He will show you only
into a way where, if you go cheerfully and trustfully forward, He will show you on still farther.
—Horace Bushnell

As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea,
Great waves beat o’er her side, as north wind blows;
Deep in the darkness hid lie threat’ning rocks and shoals;
But all of these, and more, my Pilot knows.

Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out,
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes;
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours,
My distant goal, I’m sure, my Pilot knows.

—Thomas Curtis Clark

The Lord Restores My Soul

Psalm 23  (NKJV)

The Lord the Shepherd of His People

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not [a]want.
He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures;
He leads me beside the [c]still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will [d]dwell in the house of the Lord
[e]Forever.

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He Will Restore Your Soul

Article by

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

King David wrote Psalm 22 and Psalm 23, but if we weren’t told that, we might not believe it. These two ancient songs of the faith are about as different as they could be. The first few verses of each psalm capture its tone. Here are the first two verses of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1–2)

Now, read the first three verses of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)

In Psalm 22, David feels forsaken by an unresponsive God. In Psalm 23, David feels shepherded by an ever-attentive God. In Psalm 22, David’s soul is in restless agony. In Psalm 23, David’s soul is restored to a trust-fueled rest in the Good Shepherd’s care.

Two Perspectives on Reality

It is a beautiful and merciful providence that these two starkly different psalms are placed right next to each other, authored by the same person. Because they illustrate the diverse ways we experience the strange reality that is the life of faith in our world. If we live long enough, we all experience the occasional agonizing phenomenon of God’s apparent silence. And we all will also experience God’s kind restoration, peace, and protection. In fact, we eventually come to realize that what felt like abandonment was a merciful nearness and shepherding of a kind we hadn’t previously understood or perceived. We discover that God’s promises are infinitely more substantial and reliable than our perceptions.

But there’s an even deeper beauty and mercy in this poetic and thematic juxtaposition. Both psalms are messianic — they foreshadow and prophesy of Jesus. And in this profound realization, we discover that the order in which these psalms appear is no accident.

Jesus Was Forsaken

We know Psalm 22:1. Its first sentence is among the most famous in the Bible. For Jesus screamed them out while in unfathomable agony on the cross: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (Matthew 27:46).

Stop and think over this sentence. Delve into it as deep as you can. You will never get to the bottom of it.

There was a moment, at the crux of history, when God was God-forsaken. To we who are not God, and who are only able to experience a few dimensions of reality, this is mysterious. But it was not a mystery; it was horrifyingly real. God the Son, the eternal delight of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact imprint of the Father’s nature, and the Father’s earthly visible image (Hebrews 1:3Colossians 1:15) became in that incomprehensively dark moment unholy sin — our unholy sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And while that moment lasted, the holy Father and the Holy Spirit could not abide the holy Son made unholy. God became the object of God’s wrath. A terrible, once-for-all-time fissure rent open between the Father and Son.

For Jesus, it was a truly hellish moment, which is why, in the words of R.C. Sproul, Jesus’s Psalm 22:1 scream “was the scream of the damned. For us.” Out of a love for us we have hardly begun to fathom, he took upon himself our damnable curse, becoming the propitiation for our sins (Galatians 3:131 John 4:10). And he did it for us so that our curse would be eternally removed and we might become the objects of God’s eternal mercy, clothed forever with the holiness and righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Psalm 22 does far more than give us words to pray during our seasons of spiritual desolation. It gives us words to grasp the desolation God the Son experienced to purchase our peace and restoration.

So That You Will Never Be Forsaken

This restoration, the great messianic restoration, is what made David sing for joy in Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd, having laid his life down for the sheep (John 10:11), gives his sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will be able to snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28).

No one. Not “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,” the great Shepherd of the sheep — even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Romans 8:38–39Hebrews 13:20Psalm 23:4).

Our great Shepherd has walked through this valley before us and for us. In this valley, he was stricken and afflicted, betrayed, beaten to a bloody pulp, and brutally crucified by evil. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). He was smitten and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:4Psalm 22:1).

And he did this for us so that he might say to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

He Will Restore Your Soul

In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). The Bible’s portrayal of tribulation is realistically horrible. Psalm 22 is a description of David’s tribulation, and it was severe. But it is also a description of Jesus’s tribulation, which was infinitely more severe than David’s — or ours.

Do you feel forsaken by God? Jesus understands. He truly understands more than you know. We can feel forsaken by God; Jesus was forsaken by God. We feel lonely; Jesus was, for a horrible moment, truly alone. As our Great High Priest, he is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses, since he was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus does far more than sympathize with us. As our great sacrificial Lamb, he atoned for every sin we commit in all our weak, faithless stumbling, removing our curse forever by becoming our curse. And as our great Shepherd, he is leading us through every tribulation — no matter how severe — to eternal restoration.

That is the promise of Psalm 23, purchased by the price of Psalm 22: your Good Shepherd will restore your soul forever. He was forsaken by God, scorned and mocked by men, and his hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16–716) for your sake. So that he could guide you through every evil valley, honor you before every evil enemy, pursue you with goodness and mercy every dayof your earthly life, and bring you to live with him in his house forever (Psalm 23:4–6).

Psalm 22 may be your song for a brief night, but Psalm 23 will be your song for an eternal morning (Psalm 30:5).

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Full Restoration

By: Rob Jansons, today.reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Luke 15:17-24John 8:31-36

“A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” — John 8:35

The depth of God’s grace is startling. He is not a reluctant forgiver, stingy with grace. God is eager to wipe the slate clean of sin and fully restore his lost children. In the parable of the lost son, everything the father does from the moment he sees his son returning is a clear sign of not only forgiveness but also complete restoration.

The father interrupts his wayward son’s speech by saying, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” All these things are signs of full restoration to the family. The son will not become a slave, a servant, or a hired worker. He will live with the father as his son, with all of the inherent privileges of being part of the family. The son is welcomed back to the family not as a slave or a hired worker but as a fully restored son.

The guilt and shame of our childish rebellion was transferred to Jesus on the cross. He provided the way out for us. By his suffering and death for our sake, we are spared the sentence of death for our sin and offered forgiveness—full and free. When we receive Christ as our Savior, we become fully restored as children of God. Jesus was crucified with open arms because the Father’s arms are wide open, waiting for us to come home.

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God Can Restore What’s Been Lost and Broken

MARCH 13, 2018

“… the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!” Job 42:10b (NLT)

In a short period of time, and due to circumstances beyond my control, life changed dramatically.

As a result, the financial situation for my three children and me went from secure and life-giving to unsecure, unpredictable and insufficient to sustain even our basic needs. Desperate fears of how to provide for my family pulled me into a pit of fear and despair.

But one night I had a dream, and all that changed.

In this dream, I was slumped over. Tears pouring down my face. Sobbing out loud. Rubbing my eyes. Completely broken and spent. My waking emotions playing out in my sleeping subconscious. Then I noticed a figure slowly entering the room. Yet I wasn’t alarmed; in fact, I felt totally at peace.

Rather than fear, a strange sense of calm and safety washed over me. I immediately knew in my spirit it was Jesus. He spoke softly and gently with a deep, yet tender, and loving voice: “Why didn’t you come to Me earlier? I will restore all that has been lost and broken.”

Hearing His voice startled me into consciousness, and I abruptly awoke — fully believing I’d experienced a divine encounter with my heavenly Father. His words kept echoing over and over in my mind, “I will restore all that has been lost and broken.” Words I had longed to hear. Words that reaffirmed He saw me and was watching over me. Words that gave me great hope and reassured me He not only had the power to restore all that had been taken from my life, but indeed He had plans for it.

But what about hearing Jesus whisper, “Why didn’t you come to Me sooner?”

This was perplexing, because I honestly believed I had come to Him. A million, gazillion times in fact. However, what I had not brought to Him was my total surrender and trust. Instead of surrendering my problems to Him, I just told Him about them constantly then continued trying to solve them on my own.

Rather than trusting for miraculous provision, I fretted and worried whether He would come through or not. I continually felt crushed and hopeless under countless adversities — much like Job in the Bible when he faced great loss and calamity.

In one day, Job lost his 10 children along with all his possessions and wealth. Shortly after, he was afflicted with a horrible skin disease. (Read chapters 1-2 in the book of Job to get the full story.)

Job didn’t understand why he had to suffer so much. So, throughout the book of Job, we see him expressing heartache and anger at the pain and suffering God was allowing. We also see evidence of his impatience regarding how long it was taking God to bring about restoration.

Yet through it all — and despite his human emotions — Job never doubted that full surrender and trust was necessary. In Job 1:21b he even says, “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” Despite his suffering, he trusted God’s will for his life and continued to praise Him. As a result, not only did Job’s faith soar, but his life did as well.

Eventually in Job 42, we read how God blessed Job and his faithfulness in every way. Today’s key verse, Job 42:10b, says, “… the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!” God gave Job a double portion of all he’d lost, restored his marriage and many relationships, gave him a new household of children and allowed him to live happily to a ripe old age.

Whether it’s our hearts, finances, relationships or lives that need mending, God always has a plan to heal and restore. Although I don’t know God’s exact plans for my future, I do know He is good, and I fully believe restoring my heart and my life are on His holy to-do list.

Total surrender and faithfulness will always open the door for God’s restoration to begin.

Nature’s Undeniable Invitation

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Nature’s Undeniable Invitation

By: Tim Bishop, 1.cbn.com

Idaho Forest and river

Riveted by the resonance of rushing mountain waters, I looked up to see the magnificent evergreen forest touch the pale blue sky. Debbie’s head turned upward too. Without a word between us that might shatter the spellbinding ambiance, we soaked in the greenery and breathed in the scents of pine, spruce, and fir. Meanwhile, golden sunshine and a gentle breeze garnished the pleasant July day.

How could the tallest of trees point heavenward with such majesty, as if sculpted by an artist’s brush? What kept their aim true and prevented them from toppling over? The real mystery of Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest, however, was its power over us.

Why does the eye find such pleasure in the triangular symmetry of thousands of trees in salute? Why do they grow that way, reaching to the sun and beyond in perfect harmony, as if to maximize the pleasure of those who notice them?

Not to be outdone, the nearby river drew us. With whitecaps breaking over rocks and current carving through the forest downstream, why did the turbulent waters bring such peace to our souls? They shouted with unequivocal force yet brought such calm. How? And why? We hadn’t experienced the same feeling when motorcycles blared by. Nor had their fumes captivated us.

Is our sensory perception hard-wired? After all, most people relish certain stimuli while other sensations repulse them. Why do kids love chocolate but turn up their noses to Brussels sprouts?

With a profound purpose and effect, our synergistic surroundings couldn’t have happened by chance. They left us dumbfounded.

As we mounted our bicycles for the long ascent toward Lolo Pass, the mesmerizing tranquility would continue uninterrupted for hours. We had been escorted to a place, yes, but more so to a state of being where we could contemplate what really mattered, to not only marvel at the One who brought our experience to bear but to actually feel it deep within our souls. Our own insignificance had washed away with the adjacent current. How was it that we had been treated to that grandeur, and who were we to deserve it? The truth was we weren’t worthy.

Such an encounter with creation cries out for communion. It’s impossible not to respond. For it pierces to the heart and announces something monumental. The logical reaction is to pay homage, that is if we can divorce self-absorption long enough to recognize what is happening. One way or the other, we’ll respond. Even an oblivious indifference disowns the Creator, revealing the soul is amiss.

In Romans 1:18-20 (TLB), the Bible talks about the consequences when we decline God’s screaming invitation from nature:

“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, evil men who push away the truth from them. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.”

If you’ve missed the glory of God around you, it’s not necessary to bicycle along the Lochsa River in Idaho to experience it. However, you do need to slow down and look around with open eyes, a clear head, and a receptive spirit. If that alignment eludes you, consider a field trip away from the hubbub and responsibilities of everyday life. Even Jesus did that (Luke 5:16).

When was the last time God overwhelmed you with His creation, and how did you respond?

 

Discovering the Presence of God in Nature

By:  seeingcreation.com

_DSC6845I’ve recently come across two quotations from a couple of my favorite spiritual writers—C. S. Lewis and Thomas Merton. The subject matter is amazingly similar.  Lewis writes, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.  He walks everywhere incognito.  And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate.  The real labor is to remember, to attend.  In fact, to come awake.  Still more, to remain awake.”  I’m not sure where all Lewis had in mind as places where we can find God incognito but I have no doubt he would have included nature.  The Scriptures are clear that God’s presence can be found in Creation.  This, in fact, seems to be one of God’s best hiding places.  But for those with eyes to see and ears to hear it is not hard to discover God there.  But Lewis is right, the difficult part is remembering to “attend” or pay attention.  It takes great discipline to become and “remain awake.”

_DSC6725How, then, can we pay better attention and learn to remain awake? One answer is prayer.  Thomas Merton, who I am convinced did a good job of paying attention and remaining awake to God in nature, prayed a prayer that no doubt helped.  It reads, “Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all.”  If we turn to the world in silence and solitude, with a poverty of spirit, it will be impossible not to experience the presence of God.  Like C. S. Lewis, Merton believed God could be found everywhere and when one comes to see God in all places and spaces then all the world becomes a prayer.

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Lessons From Nature

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats, and the rooks for the conies.”-Psalm 104:17-18.

THIS PSALM IS ALL through a song of nature, the adoration of God in the great outward temple of the universe. Some in these modern times have thought it to be a mark of high spirituality never to observe nature; and I remember sorrowfully reading the expressions of a godly person, who, in sailing down one of the most famous rivers in the world, closed his eyes, lest the picturesque beauties of the scene should divert his mind from scriptural topics. This may be regarded by some as profound spirituality; to me it seems to savor of absurdity. There may be persons who think they have grown in grace when they have attained to this; it seems to me that they are growing out of their senses. To despise the creating work of God, what is it but, in a measure, to despise God himself? “Whoso mocketh the poor despiseth his Maker.” To despise the Maker, then, is evidently a sin; to think little of God under the aspect of the Creator is a crime. We should none of us think it a great honor to ourselves if our friends considered our productions to be unworthy of admiration, and rather injurious to their minds than improving. If when they passed our workmanship they turned their eyes away, lest they should suffer injury by looking at it, we should not regard them as very respectful to ourselves; surely the despising of that which is made is somewhat akin to the despising of the Maker himself. David tells us that “The Lord shall rejoice in his works.” If he rejoices in what he has made, shall not those who have communion with him rejoice in his works also? “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of them that have pleasure therein.” Despise not the work, lest thou despise the worker.

This prejudice against the beauties of the material universe reminds me of the lingering love to Judaism, which acted like a spell upon Peter of old. When the sheet knit at the four corners descended before him, and the voice said, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,” he replied that he had not eaten anything that was common or unclean. He needed that the voice should speak to him from heaven again and again before he would fully learn the lesson, “What God hath cleansed that call not thou common.” The Jew thinks this and that unclean, though Christ has cleansed it; and certain Christians appear to regard nature as unclean. The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, the glorious sunrise and sunset, the snow-clad Alps, the ancient forests, the mysterious glaciers, the boundless ocean, God hath cleansed them: call them not common. Here on this earth is Calvary where the Savior died, and by his sacrifice, offered not within walls and roofs, he made this outer world a temple wherein everything doth speak of God’s glory. If thou be unclean, all things will be unclean to thee; but if thou hast washed thy robe and made it white in the blood of the Lamb, and if the Holy Spirit hath overshadowed thee, then this world is but a nether heaven; it is but the lower chamber of which the upper story glows with the full splendor of God, where angels see him face to face, and this lower story is not without glory, for in the person of Christ Jesus we have seen God, and have communion and fellowship with him even now.

It appears to me that those who would forbear the study of nature, or shun the observation of its beauties, are conscious of the weakness of their own spirituality. When the hermits and monks shut themselves out from the temptations of life, foolish persons said, “These are strong in grace.” Not so, they were so weak in grace that they were afraid to have their graces tried. They ran away from the battle like the cowards they were, and shut themselves up because they knew their swords were not of the true Jerusalem metal, and they were not men who could resist valiantly. Monasticism was the confession of a weakness which they endeavored to cover with the vain show of humility, and the presence of superior sanctity. If my graces are strong, I can look upon the outward world, and draw forth its good without feeling its evil, if evil there be; but if my religion is mainly fictitious, then hypocrisy dictates to me the affectation of unusual spirituality, or at any rate I have not grace enough to rise from a contemplation of the works of God to a nearer fellowship with God himself. It cannot be that nature of itself debases me, or diverts me from God; I ought to suspect a deficiency in my self when I find that the Creator’s handiworks have not a good effect upon my soul.

Do All To The Glory Of God

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V.I.P Treatment

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” Deuteronomy 6:6

A quick read through the Old Testament leaves no doubt that God wants His people to take His Word seriously. The Jews were told to write the commands on their doorposts and teach them to their children. They wore phylacteries—leather pouches that contained God’s commands—bound to their left hand and forehead. I suppose it would be like writing verses on Post-it notes and sticking them on yourself! And while most of us would not be ready to do that, the point is clear—God’s people take His Word seriously when it comes to living by its standards.

The psalmists had a good handle on this. In fact, the very first psalm recorded for us paints a clear picture of the value of God’s Word. It says that the key to a blessed life involves meditating on God’s Word day and night (Psalm 1:2).

Unfortunately, the value of meditation has been lost on modern Christians, perhaps because we have allowed the New Age movement to steal the word from our vocabulary. But all through Scripture we are called to meditate on the Word and works of God—to stop long enough to smell the biblical roses. To get alone, be quiet, and take it all in. To run His words through our minds over and over again.

If you’re among those who love God’s Word, here’s how to give it the VIP treatment in your heart.

Visualize it. Take a relevant principle from Scripture and visualize what it would look like if you lived it out. What would be the outcome of praying for your enemies? What if you gave your money to a worthy cause rather than buying that thing you’ve been wanting? Think about what it would look like if you lived out God’s Word.

Internalize it. The best way to meditate on God’s Word is to memorize it. When we get it inside our heads, it enables the Spirit to bring it to mind in “clutch” situations.

Personalize it. Don’t just think of the Scripture in vague terms, but insert personal pronouns and pray the passage back to God using “I” and “me” so that His Word is directed right to your heart.

Soon you will find yourself saying with the psalmist, “Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97).

 

Coming on the Clouds of Heaven

By: Curt selles,today.reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Mark 14:53-62

You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. — Mark 14:62

Do you know the word nadir? It means “the lowest point.” It’s hard for us to recognize our own nadir, since it may seem that things can always get worse. Though most of us don’t use this word every day, it fits this scene in Mark’s gospel. This scene shows the world’s condemnation of the Savior promised through the Jesse Tree.

God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to seek and save the lost. The people living in darkness, however, didn’t recognize God’s Son. In fact, they condemned him to die a shameful death on a cross, here in this scene in the high priest’s courtyard.

But in this rock-bottom moment in history, Jesus himself points beyond his humiliation and death to an entirely different future, to his glorification. When the high priest asks him if he is indeed “the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One,” Jesus responds, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Here we have the full story of the Jesse Tree. It points to Christmas, which points to Easter, when Jesus rose from the dead. And Easter points to the second coming of Jesus on the clouds of heaven to live with us forever (Revelation 2122).

Do you believe in this Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Is he the Lord of your life?

 

Hardened

by Inspiration Ministries

Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 ESV

Not all steel is the same. Some special grades are distinguished by being called “hardened steel” because they undergo intense heat treatment. As a result, this steel lasts much longer and can be used in more extreme settings.

Many other materials can be “hardened.” This takes place in the kitchen as foods are changed into more solid forms. Hardening takes place in the body as blood vessels harden and no longer are responsive.

The Bible tells us that hardening is a spiritual term. Ideally, we are to be soft and pliable, sensitive to the Spirit, ready to be changed as God directs. But we also can be hardened. This means resisting God’s work, being set in our ways and blind to our weaknesses.

The Bible warns that we can be “hardened” by the deceitfulness of sin. The Greek word indicates that we can become stubborn, obstinate, and refuse to recognize the need to change.

This is the impact sin can have on our hearts and minds. Specifically we can be deceived into thinking that certain acts or thoughts are harmless or even beneficial. But they can make it harder for us to see the truth, to serve God, and to have the right perspective.

Be on guard against the deceitful impact of sin. Surrender your heart and mind to Jesus. Make Him your Lord. Seek to remain sensitive to the Spirit. Be a source of encouragement to others.

 

The faultless assembly

By: Charles Spurgeon

“They are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:5

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

We need not go far without seeing that there is, among Christians, a want of love to one another. There is not too much love in our churches; certainly, we have none to give away. We have heard that:

“Whatever brawls disturb the street,
There should be peace at home.”

But it is not always as it should be. We have known churches where the members can scarcely sit down at the Lord’s table without some disagreement. There are people who are always finding fault with the minister, and there are ministers finding fault with the people; there is among them “a spirit that lusteth to envy,” and “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” We have met with people among whom it would be misery to place ourselves, because we do not love war; we love peace and charity. Alas! How continually do we hear accounts of disputings and variance in churches! O beloved, there is too little love in the churches! If Jesus were to come amongst us, might He not say to us, “This is My commandment, that ye love one another; but how have you kept it when you have been always finding fault with one another? And how ready you have been to turn your sword against your brother!” But, beloved, “they are without fault before the throne of God.” Those who on earth could not agree, are sure to agree when they get to heaven. There are some who have crossed swords on earth, but who have held the faith, and have been numbered amongst the saints in glory everlasting. There is no fighting amongst them now; “they are without fault before the throne of God.”

For meditation: The very best of Christians may have fallen out with one another (Acts 15:39), but the Bible entreats disputants to agree in the Lord (Philippians 4:2). It is beautiful when brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133:1), but perplexing when they wrong each other (Acts 7:26). May God help us to do “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Trading Beauty For Ashes

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Trading Beauty for Ashes

By: NIna Keegan, 1.cbn.com

beautiful landscape in Scotland

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. Job 42:12(NIV)

The long, winding security line at the airport was in a complete standstill. The international terminals were taking longer than domestic, and I could sense growing frustration and impatience in many fellow travelers as we baby-stepped our way through the winding line.

This trip would be very significant for me. You see, a few months ago I finalized a very long, difficult, and tumultuous divorce that left me feeling sucker-punched (to say the very least). Feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and pain sped through the most diabolical year I ever faced. Constant arrows and fiery darts aimed recklessly and with acute accuracy at my already scorched heart and soul. As these prolific bullets clamored to extinguish any last morsel of peace, I would receive a word, a prayer, a call, a voice, a standout scripture… all imploring me to trust God and not give up or give in. I would read promises of restoration, peace, joy, and a double portion of blessing. I would stand on these promises that in the natural seemed impossible and intangible, and let them consume me.

Coincidentally, and even more significant was the fact that I just-so-happened to be flying on my birthday. There was just something very metaphoric about that to me. I was jetting off (in a sense) to that latter part of my life; forgetting what lies behind and looking forward to all the future blessings God had been stock-piling for me – the pile containing my beauty for ashes and the double portion for all the enemy tried to steal from me. I had a new hope and new excitement knowing that God was in charge and so brilliantly faithful. He was knitting me back together. But when He restores, He always multiplies. God is good all the time! James 1:16-18

And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Finally, after a 10-plus hour flight, I arrived in Scotland. The beauty of this land is unmatched in the glorious creativity of our Heavenly Father. Breathe! Time to breathe! This was it… I felt the promises of God everywhere saying, “Here you go my daughter! This will be a time of restoration and rejuvenation.”

My travels also took me to London, the English countryside, and to Paris. I was joined sometimes by my amazing sons and sometimes by my wonderful friends. God’s peace was in every laugh, tear, train, plane, cab, and every glorious croissant or cafe au lait. As I gazed upon the city of Paris from the summit of the Eiffel Tower, I gasped as I visualized God smiling His radiant love.

I am reminded that we sometimes must go through the tough times in life to get to the good stuff. God has to prune things from our lives that rob us of all He has for us. The Bible says we must share in God’s suffering that we might also share in His glory. We are never immune to heartache, trials, or devastation. But what we do have is a Loving Father who will never leave us! His blessings have no deadline, no expiration date. They are infinite, endless, and beyond comprehension. He will perfect ALL of our concerns.

Action Steps: Speak victory over your life, rise above your circumstances and surrender it all with praise and thanksgiving. Let all that hurts you be covered forever in the blood of Jesus! Through His blood shed – We Win!! He always causes us to be victorious; even when it seems utterly impossible. He is the God of possible! God is who He says He is. Hold On. Your Good is coming and your BEST days are still out in front of you. Receive it!

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A Lenten Prayer for God to Bring Beauty from Ashes

By Debbie McDaniel,  www.crosswalk.com

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa 61:3

As we walk through this season of Lent, we’re reminded again that sometimes… life is hard.

Sometimes it hurts.

Sometimes it’s dark.

And it leaves its mark, like ashes of grief, in the deepest parts of our souls, where no one but God can really see.

Yet even in times of ashes and struggle, even when we think we’ve been forgotten in our seasons of waiting, God is still there. And He is bigger.

As believers, we can still hold on to hope.

For He never intends for us to stay stuck in our sin, pain, or deep sorrow. He heals and restores, He calls us onward, He reminds us that in Him, we have great purpose and hope.

There’s beauty and greatness behind every mark of darkness. The ashes will fall away, they don’t stay forever, but His greatness and glory shine forever through every broken place and flaw we’ve struggled through.

Jesus conquered death. He lives forever. He reigns in glory. And we have victory in Him.

Take courage dear friends who are facing deep battles. He is greater than any enemy we face in this life. We overcome because He has overcome and our lives are hidden in Christ. May God cover you with peace, may He bring healing in the face of hard news, may He bring deep, abiding joy that makes no sense to the world, may He bring comfort and care as He wraps you in His arms. The God of miracles fights for you today, and He is Mighty.

There’s still beauty ahead…straight out of ashes.

Christ redeems.

Grace.

Dear God,

In this season of Lent we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstance can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face, and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

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BEAUTY FROM ASHES

By: Sharon Allen,  womensministryleader.com

Last year, in an area about 20 miles from our home, a devastating fire sped through the hills destroying everything in its path. All bushes, grass, and most trees were completely annihilated and the highway through the area was closed for days. A week or so after the last fire truck left the region my husband and I went to view the damage from the road. There were remains of fallen power and fence lines running parallel to the highway. All ground foliage and low tree branches were gone. The higher branches on the few trees that remained were charred. Even the boulders were speckled with black and white ashes. The entire region looked as if it had been cleared by a horde of locusts.

It’s been almost a year since the fire swept through the area.

So imagine my surprise when my husband took me for a drive on the same stretch of road last week and for miles along the road and on the hillsides were acres and acres of purple and white lupines and gold and yellow poppies. I was awestruck. We got out of the car and took photo after photo. Other passers-by had the same reaction evidenced by the crowd of people with cameras who gathered around us and every other small pull-off along the narrow road.

As I stood there amazed at the sight, I marveled at God’s creativity. I wondered what the view must be from heaven and whether God enjoyed the fragrance and vision as much as all of us did. Then I thought, “How like God. While we were all bemoaning the loss of plant life the summer before, God was planning this extraordinary display of color and scent that could not have happened without the fire.”

On the ride home I continued to ponder the meaning of what I’d seen and realized how often God refines us and those around us with situations that burn like fire. Sometimes the pain is so intense we feel like we cannot survive, as though our lives are totally devastated. But we do survive, and in time we emerge changed and surprisingly beautiful, a more accurate reflection of our Lord.

The changes that come about in our thinking patterns and habits as a result of the refining fire make our lives more attractive to the people around us, those in our sphere of influence. We even begin to emit a fragrance that is pleasing to God.

While I wouldn’t invite the fire into my life, after it has passed I am grateful for the beauty that arises from the ashes.

Jesus Can Make You Whole Again

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over
him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick,
and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
—James 5:14-15

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DO YOU WANT TO BE WHOLE?

When we’re broken, it’s hard to imagine being complete. But Jesus calls us into the fullness of life with Him.

f you’ve ever had a loved one trapped in an addiction, you know that unless there’s a desire to be released from the vise grip squeezing life from one’s bones, little will change. I have a friend whose history includes a long series of awful choices: poor nutrition, no exercise, erratic sleep, and repeated engagement in stressful activities. All this has slowly deteriorated her body and soul. She’s encountered a number of health scares and stern words from doctors. For a few weeks she’ll say she’s making radical adjustments. Inevitably, though, she returns to her usual ways. The fact is, she does not truly want anything different. She wants her unhealthy life more than she wants to be well. I cannot cast stones. At times I see this pattern in my own story.

The plain truth is that if we are to be well (whether health for our body or restoration in our family or renewed vigor in our life with God), then we have to want to be well. We have to nurture our cravings for God and goodness; these deep desires aren’t ancillary—they are essential. Augustine of Hippo said, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire.” Jesus had much to say about the importance of paying keen attention to the affections of our heart, stoking the flames of good hunger while squelching every false fire.

The fifth chapter of John’s Gospel recounts for us the story of Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. There, the infirm hoped to receive one of the healings that reportedly transpired whenever an angel miraculously churned the waters. The name of the pool gives a hint of the encounter that was about to take place. In Aramaic, Bethesda means “house of grace” and in Hebrew, “house of mercy.” Whenever Jesus arrives, mercy and grace are sure to arrive as well.

WE OFTEN ABANDON OUR DESIRE FOR WHOLENESS BECAUSE WE ARE DEEPLY AFRAID.

A man, ill for 38 years, had long been lying beside the pool, crippled and waiting for the slim possibility that his life might change. In the first century, to be crippled meant you were unable to earn a living for your family and were often ostracized from your community. To endure chronic ailments or disabilities was not only a physical hardship, but also an impenetrable barrier to a normal life.

When Jesus arrived, He found the man and asked him the most basic question: Do you want to be well? Or as older translations put it, “Will you be made whole?” The crippled man’s response surprises me. I would expect a quick and unequivocal Yes! More than anything! Now! However, the beleaguered man’s reply gives evidence of the many years of disappointment, the decades of waiting until his optimism had been bled dry. “Sir,” he replied, “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me” (v. 7). We hear little hope in the man’s sad reply. No anticipation that Jesus might help him. Decades of pain and dashed possibilities brought him to the place where all he could see was a sealed fate, a grim future.

There are many reasons why we find it difficult, in our broken places, to stay connected with our desire for something more. To hope for (to live with the deep desire for) healing can itself be an excruciating act. It is painful to hold to our desire for friendship when the lack of it only accentuates our aching loneliness. It is painful to stay attuned to our hope to be free of anger or fear or self-righteousness when it means we must dismantle our sinful behaviors or reckon with the lies we’ve employed to manage our life.

We often abandon our desire for wholeness because we are deeply afraid. While the reality of our life may be far less than what we had expected, over time we make a certain kind of détente with our brokenness. It becomes what we know. It’s a fearful thing to surrender the security of the present (no matter how disappointing or painful it may be) for the uncertainty of the future.

Calling the Great Physician

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Mark 2:17 (NIV)

Recently I came down with an infection. After ten days of misery, I finally went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis. Feeling much better after a few days of antibiotics, I wished I had sought out a physician’s help sooner, preventing all those days of unnecessary suffering!

As I considered my stubbornness in deciding to call on a doctor, I thought about how our walk with Christ is often just like that.

For example, we have problems in our lives, but we think we are qualified to handle them ourselves. We have burdens, but we assume we can carry the weight on our own. We have questions, but don’t really trust God to supply the answers. We need help, but stubbornly refuse to ask.

Some people call God the “The Great Physician.” Although we think of this in terms of physical healing, Jesus walked the earth to provide something more: spiritual healing.

In Mark 2:13-17, the Pharisees asked Jesus why He was eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus explained that He came so we would know Him, and be healed from the inside out. You see, if the world were a righteous place, there would have been no need for a Savior. But God knew just how much we needed a Great Physician. Out of compassion for us, He sent His Son to fill that role. In order to tap into His healing power, we simply have to seek Him. And the sooner, the better.

In another recent situation, I quickly and desperately sought God’s intervention. A few days later, I happened to notice I felt a peace I could not explain. In fact, I was confused as to why I was so calm. I thought to myself, “Why am I not obsessing about that problem every second? Why am I not more distraught and worried?”

Then God quickened my heart and reminded me that I had turned that problem over to Him. He had taken the weight off of my shoulders. He had given me spiritual healing in the form of peace.

I had sought a cure from the Great Physician, and He had provided it. Not a cure for the problem, but a cure for my heart as I dealt with the problem under His care.

If you need a physician who knows your suffering, understands how you are feeling, and has the cure, make an appointment to spend time with God today.

Dear Lord, forgive me for sometimes coming to You for help only after I have exhausted all efforts to handle the problem on my own. Please fill me with a peace that surpasses all understanding in the situations I am facing. Grant me spiritual healing, and help me see You working in and through me. Thank You for always being available and on call. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Healing Promises from God

by Inspiration Ministries

While most people today accept disease and death as “normal” parts of life, they were never God’s original intention. When the world was first created, the Bible records, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Disease and death only entered the world after Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord and allowed satanic forces to gain a foothold on humankind (Genesis 3).

When Jesus came to earth, He announced that God’s Kingdom was at hand. He healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the multitudes and raised the dead. All of this was a demonstration of the blessings God intended at His original creation.

If you or a loved one is in need of healing today, remember that Jesus is your Great Physician. When He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, He healed “ALL kinds of sickness and ALL kinds of disease” (Matthew 4:23). So no matter what kind of healing you might need, Jesus is ready to be your Healer!

 

Your Promises from God’s Word

 

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”
—3 John 1:2

“Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” 
—Matthew 9:35

“The whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” 
—Luke 6:19

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
—Hebrews 13:8

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.” 
—Psalm 103:2-3

“He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
—Isaiah 53:5

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.”
—Jeremiah 17:14

“If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.”
—Exodus 15:26

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”
—Proverbs 4:20-22

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
—Psalm 107:20

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
—James 5:14-15

“These signs will follow those who believe…They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
—Mark 16:17-18

Brotherly Love Promotes Unity

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Getting Along

By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

I can still remember what it was like to take our family on vacation, only to have the kids in the backseat mar the joy of it all by their bickering and complaining. Who doesn’t remember the disruptive effects of “Dad, she touched me!” or “Mom, he won’t give me a turn!”

If you’ve had that kind of experience, you can imagine how God feels when His children quarrel and complain. Getting along is important to God. Jesus prayed that we would “be one” so that the world would believe He came from the Father (John 17:20-21). And to disciples who were prone to quarreling, He commanded that they love and serve one another (John 13:34-35Matt. 20:20-28). It should also be noted that among the seven things God hates, He includes “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19).

So I’m not surprised that the psalmist tells us that when brothers dwell in unity, it’s like “the precious oil upon the head, running down on . . . the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Ps. 133:1-2). In ancient times, the oil of anointing was full of fragrant spices that graced the environment wherever the anointed one went. May the unity that comes from our love and service to one another fragrantly grace our families, churches, and friendships!

When love and kindness rule our lives,
And we are seen as one,
The fragrance of our unity
Has no comparison.  —Sper

Christians who get along with each other spread the sweet aroma of Jesus

 

Getting Along Is Essential

By: George Vink, today.reframemedia

  

Scripture Reading — 1 Corinthians 1:4-17

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. — 1 Corinthians 1:9

Paul diligently taught that God is faithful, calling people into fellowship with his Son. And for the sake of being faithful witnesses for Christ to the world, it’s essential that all who are called into this fellowship live in unity and harmony.

But things weren’t going that way in the church at Corinth. And Paul minced no words in addressing the problem in this letter to the believers there.

He began his letter noting his thanks to God for the grace and spiritual gifts given them. And after reminding them of God’s faithfulness in calling them into fellowship, Paul appeals to them “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He calls them to “agree with one another,” and he admonishes them, demanding an essential unity of “mind and thought.” There was to be no room for divisions. Instead, love, unity, and harmony are to be the signs of Christ’s ­presence.

When believers forget what unites them, they focus on externals such as who baptized whom, or who follows which leader, or who comes from what nation, or who has what skin color, or who has the most money. Our harmony is not to be based on our common preferences or interests. Ego-driven divisions have no place among us. Our allegiance to Christ must be expressed in our love for one another. It’s essential!

 

Spiritual Supplements

From:  devotionsbychris.com

If you’re like me, you have no shortage of friends who either take supplements or sell them. I have friends who take supplements to lose weight, to gain weight and muscle, to be healthier and to fight off infections. There are supplements for just about everything. My friends who take them talk about the benefits they receive constantly. They understand that to get the complete nutrition their body needs, they have to take these supplements. It’s not so different with our faith.

We constantly need to be giving our spirit nutrition through God’s Word, books that help us grow and godly fellowship. Peter understood that in order to grow our faith, we needed to supplement it. In II Peter 1:5-7 he said, “Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self control, and self control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” That’s a lot of supplements.

I love how he said to supplement your faith with a generous provision. That means we shouldn’t hold back on these. We need to load up on them. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more of any of these. The first thing he said to add to our faith was moral excellence. One version of the Bible translated that as goodness. Be good to others. Show the love of Christ through your actions. The next was knowledge. I believe we are to be knowledgeable in the Word of God as well as other areas of life. In order to be a more effective witness for Christ, you have to be more knowledgeable about what others believe and why.

The next one isn’t one many of us like to add. Self control is a tough pill to swallow. We expect it out of others, but rarely hold ourselves accountable for it. Having self control helps us to live more effective lives. He coupled self control with patient endurance. Those two work together. We need to be patient as God is working in our lives. It’s not easy and often it hurts, but the end result is beautiful. Don’t run from what God is doing. Exercise self control and patiently endure all that a God is doing. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your faith.

Next, Peter said to supplement our faith with godliness. He saved the harder things for last I think. It’s important that we live godly lives so others can see a difference in how we live. A life with supplemented faith lives differently than a life of no faith. To that, he told us to add brotherly affection. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. It’s time we quit arguing with other believers on our differences and started finding the common ground we share. When we do that, we will begin to replace the arguments with brotherly affection.

Peter capped off all of this with an important one. The final thing in this list to supplement our faith with is love for everyone. We’ve got to find ways to demonstrate the love that Jesus showed those who didn’t agree with Him and put Him on the cross. He didn’t go to the cross yelling about how they were going to Hell. Instead, He was praying for their souls and offering to meet them in Paradise. We’ve got to find a way to show that kind of love to those who don’t agree with our faith or lifestyle. That’s how we will win them over. We get to that point by taking spiritual supplements.

 

Find Joy Through Faith In Christ

Image result for picture verses on joy in ChristImage result for picture verses on joy in Christ 

Image result for picture verses on joy in ChristImage result for picture verses on joy in Christ 
Image result for picture verses on joy in ChristImage result for picture verses on joy in Christ 
Image result for picture verses on joy in ChristImage result for picture verses on joy in Christ

Image result for picture verses on joy in ChristImage result for picture verses on joy in Christ

 

Find Your Joy

By: Gene Markland, 1.cbn.com

I remember the song from Children’s Church, ”The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the verse of laughter when they sing, “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha,” and so on. What a blessing, hearing the pure unadulterated joy and laughter coming from those precious children as they rejoice in the Lord. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)

But do we, as adults, share the joy? How long has it been since we’ve recognized His joy in our own lives, and how does that joy manifest itself?

I remember the story in the Bible when King David was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The joy King David felt as he ushered in the presence of the Lord was almost more than he could contain.

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” 2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NLT)

It goes on to say that King David leaped and danced before the Lord. In those days, the presence of the Lord, the God of the universe, rested upon that one spot, the Ark of the Covenant. Today, that same presence of the Lord rests within us. Oh, the joy that comes when we recognize this fact.

I’ve personally seen this joy manifested when a person humbly asks Jesus to forgive their sins and come into their heart. I have seen people shout for joy upon receiving their salvation and praise God upon coming out of the water after baptism.

“Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because he rescues me” Psalm 35:9 (NLT)

I remember as a boy of 17, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the joy that He brought into my life. I spoke in tongues and laughed for the rest of the night!

Some churches have exuberant praise and worship services where people sing, clap, dance, laugh, and release themselves to rejoice in their Lord’s presence, regardless of what onlookers might think. The Lord loves to see their joy and love for Him displayed in such a manner. But He also enjoys the person whose joy is so deep and personal, that it’s expressed by sitting quietly as they bask in their joy, which resides deep within.

Sometimes the cares of life will weigh us down and it would appear that joy is nowhere to be found. And yes, there is a time for grief and sorrow. Even the Lord Jesus experienced it as He wept over Jerusalem. But when the day is done, the house is quiet, and you relax in the comfort of your dimly lit room, turn your thoughts away from the cares of the day and toward your Lord who lives within you.

Realize that the very presence of God, before whom King David danced, is with you and has shared this day with you. Rejoice, for you possess the Lord, and He possesses you. The communication and fellowship that you have with the Lord is your secret treasure. No one can understand or share in the intimacy that is yours and His alone. The sacredness of this treasure, the presence of God in and with you, is your source of joy and strength. This is not joy as the world knows it, but it’s the kind of joy that comes only from God through the Holy Spirit, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8)

Don’t let anyone steal your joy. Jesus said,

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11 (NLT)

It is His will that you live and breathe in the overflow of joy that comes from Him. Acknowledge and encourage His presence to be with you in word and in Spirit so that joy, His joy in you, becomes a lifestyle. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 (NLT)

Allow the fruit of joy to grow and manifest itself in your life. Your joy in the Lord is your great source of strength, and no bad report, circumstance, or person can take it away from you!

“So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!” Psalm 32:11 (NLT)

 

Where Can I Find JOY?

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)

My daughter’s journey with scoliosis was a heart-breaking time for me as a mother. There were days I couldn’t see past Lauren’s extreme physical pain and my wondering heart questioned, why hasn’t God healed her yet?

Through those years, I struggled. I felt empty … void of hope … void of joy. I knew what God’s Word said about joy: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2 NLT). But in the midst of Lauren’s circumstances, her broken heart and wounded body, it was hard to follow that command.

How could I obey this scripture and find joy when someone I loved was in such pain? God graciously answered the cry of my heart by revealing to me these three words … Jesus Only You.

I noticed the first letter of each of those words spelled J O Y. And it clicked with me. Jesus is our joy!

When God says in James 1:2 to consider trials as opportunities for joy, He’s not talking about the joy found in earthly things. Circumstances turning out how we desire, possessions and positions, and even good health only offer happiness. They are temporary. What God longs for us to have is deep, lasting joy found in Jesus.

The King James Version says we are to “count it all joy” when we walk through trials. This word “count” means “evaluate.”

When trials come, we must evaluate them in light of God’s truths and promises. It’s not the trial itself we consider a joy. Rather, it’s the results that will come from the trial that we consider pure joy.

This involves trusting that God is actively working for our good even in the midst of painful circumstances. And as we trust Him, we will find an inner gladness rooted not in our circumstances, but in the reality of the living God who transcends our circumstances.

After years of praying, asking God to heal my daughter, He did. It still hurts to remember the excruciating pain Lauren suffered. But God was and is faithful. God didn’t heal my girl in the miraculous way I was expecting. Instead, she endured a seven-hour surgery to place two rods in her spine. She missed nearly six weeks of school and labored through months of relearning how to sit and walk and move. She had to quit competitive cheerleading. But in and through that time, God did a new thing.

Looking back, I can see how He held us up, deepened Lauren’s faith, and drew our family closer to each other. In real and personal ways, God showed us His tender, loving care. And He taught me the meaning of true J O Y.

Jesus alone is the source of our joy.

When discouragement comes and you feel you cannot take one more step, remember these three words, Jesus Only You!

Jesus came so that I . . . so that you . . . can experience His joy fully and completely in us through any and all circumstances.

 

Joy: True Happiness

Joy: True Happiness

I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. — John 15:11

Remember Eeyore and Tigger in the Winnie-the Pooh-books? For Eeyore, no matter what amazing circumstance came his way, doom and gloom remained the focus. For Tigger, bouncing through life without a care in the world, he never perceived anything to go wrong. In our daily lives, it is easy to have the attitude of Eeyore while wishing we could have the outlook of Tigger — two quite extreme viewpoints of life.

The biblical brand of joy is not simply overcoming our inner Eeyore, nor is it strolling through life in ignorant bliss; rather, it is to be found in facing each day’s ups and downs through the contentment Christ offers.

KEY QUESTION: What gives us true happiness and contentment in life?

The first order of business is to identify the difference between joy and happiness. For many folks today, being happy is fully dependent on whether life is “all good.” If someone asks, “Rate your life right now on a scale of 1 to 10,” often the number given is based on the number of problems present. Happiness slides up and down the scale, based on the perception of negative issues going on at the time. Problems rise; happiness goes south. Troubles begin to go away; the happy scale starts to climb. Joy, however, is not dependent on circumstances, and, in fact, ironically, can become strongest when trouble comes. The psalmist reminds us of the reality of joy that comes when we rest in God’s presence:

You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. — Psalm 16:11

KEY IDEA: Despite my circumstances, I feel inner contentment and understand my purpose in life.

Joy has more to do with remaining in the presence of Jesus than with avoiding problems and struggles in our lives. Harkening back to John 15, we know that joy is always available to us when we remain in Christ, through whatever life brings. Let these statements guide you to see how true joy differs from mere happiness.

  • Happiness is a state of mind, while joy is a mind-set.
  • Happiness comes and goes, while joy can be constant.
  • Happiness is dependent, while joy is independent.
  • Happiness is conditional, while joy is unconditional.

The apostle Paul had learned the secret to the joy found in Jesus:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13

James drives home the definition of joy in the kingdom of God as having nothing to do with eliminating negative outward circumstances, but rather with embracing them as opportunities to strengthen faith and gain resolve:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

Note the end result of choosing eternal joy — being mature and complete in Christ. Joy becomes the fuel for the believer on this road to maturity. Only Jesus can make our lives flourish in the midst of trouble. In him, joy is strengthened when life is challenging.