Monthly Archives: August 2019

God Is Full Of Love and Grace

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Walk the Endless Shore of His Smile

By: Greg morse

Why God Delights to Love You

Article by

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

Rumor has it that when one aging pastor and renowned theologian was asked what was the highest theological peak he had reached in his years of study and preaching, he answered simply: Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Initially, I smiled at the preacher’s cleverness. Later, however, I wondered over the preacher’s answer. Something about it stuck with me.

After a life of exploring mountain ranges men like me have never seen, savoring Christ in ways I have not, speaking of nuances in theology I do not yet understand — after all his decades of travel in the Christian life — this preacher imparted no higher souvenir than can be found on the lips of children. With all his twists and turns, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, he had not escaped the nursery of God’s gospel love. This love stood as crib walls for the childlike heart.

Would I have answered similarly?

God Delights in Me?

When we hear that God loves us, we can imagine strange things. We call it an ocean; we sing songs about it; but too often we float at its surface preferring the more practical, more current, more insightful. A world remains unexplored. But God desires to give full lyric to our nursery song. He says to his people through Isaiah,

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. . . . You shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:3–5)

“To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people.”

God likes you. He delights in you. He smiles at you — and not because he sees someone smarter, taller, better looking, or holier standing just behind you. He looks each redeemed child in the eye and tells him of his love for him in his Son. This is who our God is towards us. Not because of our worth, but because of Christ’s.

Your inheritance in Christ shatters all of earth’s piggy banks: God’s smile. He delights to see you, he rejoices to have you, as every smiling groom at the end of the aisle foretells. The God who spoke the cosmos into existence sings over you:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Have you been quieted by his love of late? Have you simply sat singing to yourself: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so? Have you submerged beneath the surface to discover the heart of God towards his bride? The pastor found God’s affection for him to be a bottomless sea to explore. His maturity did not graduate to other seas; it went scuba diving.

He Wants You Where He Is

Some of us think about God’s love in so many clichés and platitudes that we come to think of it as the kiddie pool of the Christian faith. It gives us no pause, therefore, to leave the lyric behind us to higher, weightier things. We forget to marvel as C.S. Lewis does in his famous sermon “The Weight of Glory”:

To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son — it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

How different we would pray, how different we would evangelize, how different we would worship and explore his word, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near. If we worshiped the God of Scripture who summons us under his wings (Luke 13:34).

The pastor knew that our Father does not roll his eyes as he gives the kingdom to his children. Instead, he says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). From such a heart he anticipated the holy commendation at the end of his race: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). If we too only realized that Jesus died to keep us from hell and from some remote corner of heaven — that he died to bring us to himself: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

He wants us near because he delights in his people. Do we fellowship with this happy God, a God in whom enough joy cascades to submerge his people for an eternity?

A New Smile Every Morning

John Piper has given his life to proclaiming, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And how shall we be satisfied in him? Go deeper in his satisfaction of you in Christ. Stare, without excuse or extensive qualification, at how he desires us; how truly happy he is in his redeemed people. No one forced him to adopt us.

“How different we would pray, if we believed that the God whom we sought actually wanted us to draw near.”

Perhaps many of us are not happier in our Christian lives because we assume God is as disappointed in us as we can tend to be in ourselves. Children cannot long delight in a father that stares indifferently at them — and we have not outgrown this. Children love to be delighted in. They love to cry, “Daddy, watch me!” and see his smile when they complete the somersault. Although we can still displease him with our sin, grieving the Spirit he placed within us, the Father’s smile replaces his displeasure as the sun replaces the moon each morning. His laughter, as with his mercy, is new every morning.

To smile more before God, we must rediscover the weight of his smile, his unveiled happiness in his people that bids us be as merry as we humanly can be — in him. In this is joy: not that we have delighted in God, but that he first chose to delight in us. We will never outlaugh our heavenly Father. His smile, his happiness, not ours, founds the universe. We who desire for God to get the glory due his name will learn to dwell on this regularly. When we do, perhaps a few more of us might near the end of the world’s road and say behind us with a smile, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

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Witnesses

by Inspiration Ministries

It is not for you to know times or epochs…you will receive power…you shall be My witnesses. – Acts 1:7-8 NASB

In their last meeting with Jesus before His resurrection, the disciples wanted to know if the time had come to restore “the Kingdom to Israel” (v. 6). In essence, they wanted information.

But Jesus told them that, instead of information, they would be given a new dimension of power “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (v. 8). With this power, He called them to be His “witnesses.”

The Greek word here (source of the English word martyr) describes telling what they had seen or heard. In short, their mission wherever they went was to tell what had happened to them.

This also becomes our calling. This does not mean that it is wrong to seek understanding, or that God cannot increase our knowledge.

The fact is that anyone can be an effective witness. Anyone can share what they have seen and heard, what Jesus has done for them and the changes He has made in their lives.

Others may disagree with our conclusions and argue with our information, but they cannot change the reality of what we have witnessed. They can reject our testimony or question our perception, but they have a more difficult time questioning our sincerity, the conviction of our heart, and the confidence of our experiences.

What has Jesus done for you? What have you seen and heard? As He opens the door, prepare to tell your story to others.

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Prayer and the Grace of God

By Dave Jenkins Mar 27, 2018

Many Christians struggle to pray. Whether it’s with feelings of guilt or shame, the struggle often becomes the question: “why pray at all?”

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” – Hebrews 4:16

Hebrews 4:16 provides the answer to why Christians are to persevere is the High Priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ministry of Christ reconciles God’s people to God and opens Heaven’s chest of grace, which makes possible the vast resource of prayer. To approach the throne of God in prayer on the basis of Christ’s High-Priestly ministry is to come to His propitiating sacrifice and present intercession. By telling God’s people to come before His throne, the author of Hebrews reminds God’s people that it is the place where blood has been offered, the mercy seat where God calls sinners to meet with Him.

Spurgeon and Coming Before the Grace of God

In a great sermon on this text, Charles Haddon Spurgeon worked out some of the implications for how Christians are to approach God in prayer. Firstly, Christians must come in humble reverence. If Christians show great respect in the courts of earthly majesty—in the White House, or Buckingham Palace—then surely God’s people will come with even greater reverence before the throne of heaven. There is no place for pride or vanity here. If God’s people could see what truly is before them in Christ, they would tremble at His awesome majesty. Spurgeon writes, “His throne is a great white throne, unspotted, and clear as crystal. Familiarity there may be, but let it not be unhallowed. Boldness there should be, but let it not be impertinent.”

Secondly, Christians should come to God in prayer with great joy. Christians come with great joy before the throne of God’s grace because of the favor that has been extended to them is a high privilege. Instead of judgment, Christians find themselves as favored children—invited to bring their requests to the King of Heaven.

Finally, Christians should come to God with confidence. Christians come to the throne of God’s grace favorably received as adopted sons and daughters of the King. They can speak freely with the King because of the grace they have received from their great High Priest who has gone ahead.

Summoned Before the Throne

The key to prayer—to praying often, openly, boldly, and freely with gladness of heart—is to know that one is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christians are invited to His saving ministry, purchased by His precious blood, and anticipated by His sympathetic intercession.

This means that when God’s people come, their sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, along with any faults are looked upon with compassion. Stumbling prayers are not criticized, but are received with kindness.

God requires His people to persevere in faith through the trials of the Christian life. To this end, He gives His people a great reason to press on: the saving work of the great High Priest Jesus Christ,  able to save His people to the uttermost. Prayer is a great resource God gives His people, one that must not be neglected if they are to grow strong in the faith and persevere through the difficulties of life. Therefore, let God’s people draw near to God with reverence, joy, great expectation, and especially with confidence that belongs to sons and daughters of the King of heaven and earth.

Spurgeon provides us a fitting conclusion about the difference God’s grace makes for God’s people:

“I could not say to you, “Pray,” not even to you saints, unless it were a throne of grace, much less I could talk of prayer to you sinners; but now I will say this to every sinner here, though he should think himself to be the worst sinner that every lived, cry unto the lord and seek him while he may be found. A throne of grace is a place fitted for you: go to your knees, by simple faith go to your Savior, for he, he it is who is the throne of grace.”

God Is Doing Glorious Things

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The Lord Is Great and Does Wondrous Things

By: John Piper

    Scripture: Psalm 86:8–10    Topic: The Glory of God

    There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like thine. All the nations thou hast made shall come and bow down before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great and doest wondrous things, thou alone art God.

    The text has three verses 8, 9, and 10. Verse 10 says, “For you are great and do wondrous things, you alone are God.” Notice it is given as a reason (“For you are great . . . “). When you say, “I bought a bagel, for I was hungry,” you mean that your hunger was the reason you bought the bagel. So when David says, “For you are great and do wondrous things,” he means that God’s greatness is the reason for verse 9—that “all the nations will come and bow down before him and glorify him.” And his greatness is the reason for verse 8 too—that there is none like him among the gods, nor any works like his. In other words, God’s greatness makes him stronger than all the gods of the universe and God’s greatness makes him stronger than all the nations of the world. He rules the gods and he rules the nations, FOR (because) he is great and does wondrous things; he alone is God. God over all gods and God over all nations.

    The Greatness of God Is Central to All Life

    One of the things that your pastor, Brent, and I have in common is the overwhelming persuasion that God is great. God is very great, and his greatness is unsearchable. But not only that. Every pastor and every Christian would agree with that—that God is great. What Brent and I believe is that this is central to all of life. This is relevant to everything we think and feel and do. The unparalleled, incomparable, unequalled, unrivaled greatness of God is utterly important in the ministry—in building a church and caring for people and spreading the gospel. We believe that, even when people don’t know it, what they need most and are most starved for is a vision of an awesomely great God, and fellowship with an infinitely great God.

    The Greatness of God Is Utterly Relevant

    It is utterly relevant for everything in life.

    • If we saw the greatness of God, we would not be so greedy and covetous.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, our eyes wouldn’t stray after lustful images and thoughts.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t get angry at our children so easily.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t pout and get hurt so easily in our marriages.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t worry about our looks so much.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t spend time watching mindless and sordid and defiling television programs.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t get so discouraged with the evil and godlessness of our culture.
    • If we saw the greatness of God, we wouldn’t give in to our appetites and overeat in boredom and depression.

    And there are a hundred other unforeseen good effects that would come into our lives if we could keep the greatness of God in the front of our minds and be gripped by his awesome reality. In other words, just like the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, if we saw the greatness of God—the glory of God—we would be changed from one degree of glory to the next.

    Have You Seen the Greatness of God?

    What the Seward neighborhood needs more than anything else from Immanuel Baptist Church is to see the glory of God. And don’t think that your smallness is an obstacle to that. A telescope is a very small instrument, but it helps people see stupendous realities in the sky. God loves to magnify his greatness by shining through vessels of clay. “My power is made perfect in weakness,” Jesus said. The issue is not smallness. The issue is: have you seen the greatness of God? Have you been taken captive as it were by the glory of his power and knowledge and love, in such a way that all human power and all human knowledge and all human love lose the power of their attraction? That’s the issue of your impact in this neighborhood and on the mission field. Have you seen the greatness of God?

    So let me point to the two ways that God’s greatness is shown in this text and illustrate it from what God is doing, and is willing to do right here.

    The One Who Sat There

      

    Scripture Reading — Revelation 4:2-6a

    The one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. — Revelation 4:3

    In John’s vision of heaven we soon see that the focal point is the one who sits on the throne. Here Revelation brings us into the awesome presence of the Lord God Almighty.

    This is not the first time the Bible tells of someone standing before the Lord Almighty (see Isaiah 6:1-8Ezekiel 1Daniel 10). But since the time of Jesus’ ascension to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), this is the first sustained and detailed description of “the one who sat on the throne.” Even so, we are not given a full description of the Lord.

    This revelation is not for satisfying our curiosity. The Lord God opens heaven’s door and has us stand in his presence so that faith in him may spring to life, grow in conviction, and be sustained in hope.

    In our world of mixed emotions and situations—joy and sorrow, doubt and conviction, success and failure, health and sickness—God wants us to see that our world is centered in him.

    The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus’ ministry began with the words “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). And here in Revelation we see that Jesus’ mission continues as he is seated on the throne.

    Hallelujah! Our God reigns!

     

    Surrounding the Throne

     

    Scripture Reading — Revelation 4:4-8

    Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones. . . . In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures. . . . — Revelation 4:4,6

    We meet interesting and intriguing characters close to the Lord God and encircling his throne. We might wonder, “Do these elders and creatures help us understand what living in heaven will be like?” It turns out they do more than that; they also show us how to live in God’s kingdom today.

    The twenty-four elders, seated on thrones around God’s throne, have long been understood to represent God’s people. Twelve of them represent the people of God in the Old Testament: the twelve tribes of Israel. The other twelve elders represent the church formed under the shepherding care of Jesus’ twelve apostles. The presence of the elders shows that God has given his people a special place in his kingdom; we will rule and reign with God.

    Along with the twenty-four elders, we also meet “four living creatures.” They too encircle God and his throne. The living creatures represent “everything that has breath” (Psalm 150:6; see Genesis 2:7) in God’s whole creation. Wild animals, domesticated animals, human beings, and all other creatures have a place of honor and service in God’s throne room.

    God’s redemptive care covers his entire creation. As the people who will one day rule and reign with God, God calls us to exercise dominion by loving and caring for all he has made.

    The Coming Glory

     

    Scripture Reading — Haggai 2:1-9

    We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

    After about 70 years in captivity, a remnant of God’s exiled people in Babylon returned to the land of Judah. Persia had taken over Babylon, and now Zerubbabel, a descendant of King David (Matthew 1:13), was appointed governor to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem.

    When the temple’s foundation was laid, many of the people shouted with joy, but the older ones wept. Why? Because they had seen the former temple in its glory (Ezra 3). What could compare to that? God encouraged Zerubbabel to be strong and to keep working. One day God would shake up the world again, and the glory of the Lord’s temple would outshine even the old temple that had been destroyed.

    How could that be? The Bible gives us two answers. First, Jesus, the Son of God, became one of us to reveal the glory of God’s grace and truth (John 1:14). He whose very body is the temple of God (John 2:21) came to give us eternal life.

    Second, when Jesus returns, with “the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,” there will be no temple, “because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:222). And all whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will live there (21:27). Trust in Jesus, the Lamb of God, as your Savior, and you too will see the glory of the Lord!

    Sow The Gospel Seed Where You Are

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    Sow the Seeds Where You Are

    By: Carla G. Pollard

    Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary credited with opening China to the gospel, said of his labors, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Hudson Taylor worked for many years before the people of the Orient were open to hearing about Jesus. Some say he was a special man who accomplished a special work. He spread the seed of God’s word to any who would listen. He trusted God to cause the seed to spring up in each hearer’s heart.

    When I heard Hudson Taylor’s story, I thought, “I could never be a missionary.” I was so sure God would call me to another country where I would have to learn a new language and deal with some difficult situations and hardships. But I soon learned the call to His missionary work is not left to a few chosen men and women. Jesus calls us all.

    Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, He said,

    “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” Mark 16:15(KJV).

    His call to action may never lead you to some faraway land. Your mission field may be within the four walls of your home. Or on your job. Or in the supermarket. Or to the couple next door. Our commission is to tell our sons and daughters, husbands, co-workers and neighbors all the great things Christ has done for us.

    We have been given the amazing task of sharing the Good News that Jesus, God’s own son, died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day so that we could be forgiven and receive newness of life. Hurting, lonely, and sin-sick people all around us need to hear God’s message of hope. We have been blessed with the great task of spreading the seed of God’s word. We don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to fulfill our calling to the mission field. All we need to do is sow the seed right where we are.

    It may not be comfortable to be a seed-bearer. Psalm 126:6 shows us that seed-bearing may cause tears,

    “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed …”

    But it carries the promise of an abundant harvest,

    “… shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6 (KJV)

    Jesus said,

    “… Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35 (KJV)

    No travel required. Just eyes to see the open doors, ears to the hear the Great Commission, and a heart to answer his call. Will you accept your call today and look for someone to share his message of redemption with? “Lift up your eyes”, Jesus said, and welcome to your mission field.

     

    Streams IN The Desert

    By: L.B. Cowman

    And he went out carrying his own cross (John 19:17).

    There is a poem called “The Changed Cross.” It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose an other instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. “Ah, this I can wear with comfort,” she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.

    Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.

    At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.

    God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.
    –Glimpses through Life’s Windows

    If thou, impatient, dost let slip thy cross,
    Thou wilt not find it in this world again;
    Nor in another: here and here alone
    Is given thee to suffer for God’s sake.
    In other worlds we may more perfectly
    Love Him and serve Him, praise Him,
    Grow nearer and nearer to Him with delight.
    But then we shall not any more
    Be called to suffer, which is our appointment here.
    Canst thou not suffer, then, one hour or two?
    If He should call thee from thy cross today,
    Saying: “It is finished-that hard cross of thine
    From which thou prayest for deliverance,
    “Thinkest thou not some passion of regret
    Would overcome thee? Thou would’st say,
    “So soon? Let me go back and suffer yet awhile
    More patiently. I have not yet praised God.”
    Whensoe’er it comes, that summons that we look for,
    It will seem soon, too soon. Let us take heed in time

    That God may now be glorified in us.
    –Ugo Bassi’s Sermon in a Hospital

     

    The Parable of the Sower

    By Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    The Parable of the Sower

    “And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: a sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” — Luke 8:4-8

    In Our country, when a sower goes forth to his ork, he generally enters into an enclosed field, and scatters the seed from his basket along every ridge and furrow; but in the East, the corn-growing country, hard by a small town, is usually an open area. It is divided into different properties, but there are no visible divisions, except the ancient landmarks, or perhaps ridges of stones. Through these open lands there are footpaths, the most frequented being called the highways. You must not imagine these highways to be like our macadamized roads; they are merely paths, trodden tolerably hard. Here and there you notice bye-ways, along which travelers who wish to avoid the public road may journey with a little more safety when the main road is infested with robbers: hasty travelers also strike out short cuts for themselves, and so open fresh tracks for others. When the sower goes forth to sow he finds a plot of round scratched over with the primitive Eastern plough; he aims at scattering his seed there most plentifully; but a path runs through the center of his field, and unless he is willing to leave a broad headland, he must throw a handful upon it. Yonder, a rock crops out in the midst of the ploughed land, and the seed falls on its shallow soil. Here is a corner full of the roots of nettles and thistles, and he flings a little here; the corn and the nettles come up together, and the thorns being the stronger soon choke the seed, so that it brings forth no fruit unto perfection. The recollection that the Bible was written in the East, and that its metaphors and allusions must be explained to us by Eastern travelers, will often help us to understand a passage far better than if we think of English customs.

    The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature — to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the cry of Esaias, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters. Let men’s hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the highway as well as in the ploughed field. I shall now address myself to the four classes of hearers mentioned in our Lord’s parable. We have, first of all, those who are represented by the way-side, those who are “hearers only”; then those represented by the stony-ground; these are transiently impressed, but the word produces no lasting fruit; then, those among thorns, on whom a good impression is produced, but the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of the world choke the seed; and lastly, that small class — God be pleased to multiply it exceedingly — that small class of good-ground hearers, in whom the Word brings forth abundant fruit.

    Don’t Limit God

     

     

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    Limiting God

    By: Charles Spurgeon

    “They… limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41

    Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 3:13-28

    He is not limited to means—to any means, much less to one of thy choosing. If he deliver thee not by calming the tempest, he has a better way in store; he will send from above and deliver thee; he will snatch thee out of the deep waters lest the floods overflow thee. What might Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have said? Suppose they had got it into their heads that God would deliver them in some particular way. They did have some such idea, but they said, as if to prove that they trusted not really to their thought about the deliverance—“Nevertheless, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not worship thy gods, nor bow before the image which thou hast set up.” They were prepared to let God have his will, even though he used no means of deliverance. But suppose, I say, they had conferred with flesh and blood, and Shadrach had said, “God will strike Nebuchadnezzar dead; just at the moment when the men are about to put us into the furnace the king will turn pale and die, and so we shall escape.” O my friends, they would have trembled indeed when they went into the furnace if they had chosen their own means of deliverance, and the king had remained alive. But instead of this, they gave themselves up to God, even if he did not deliver them. And, though he did not prevent their going into the furnace, yet he kept them alive in it, so that not so much as the smell of fire had passed upon them. It shall be even so with you. Repose in God. When thou seest him not, believe him; when everything seems to contradict thy faith, still stagger not at the promise. If HE hath said it, he can find ways and means to do it.

    For meditation: Our ways are not God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Where our ways can multiply complications, his ways can humble us by their straightforward simplicity (Numbers 11:21-23,312 Kings 5:10-14Luke 9:12-17). How are you limiting God?

     

    Living with Suffering

    By: L. B. Cowman

    There he proved them (Exod. 15:25).

    I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in the great ship, building, or bridge. He knew this because his testing room revealed it.

    It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel, able to bear twisting and crushing to the uttermost without collapse.

    He wants us to be, not hothouse plants, but storm-beaten oaks; not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind, but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms. To make us such He must needs bring us into His testing room of suffering. Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith.
    –J. H. McC.

    It is very easy for us to speak and theorize about faith, but God often casts us into crucibles to try our gold, and to separate it from the dross and alloy. Oh, happy are we if the hurricanes that ripple life’s unquiet sea have the effect of making Jesus more precious. Better the storm with Christ than smooth waters without Him.
    –Macduff

    What if God could not manage to ripen your life without suffering? 

     

    The Victorious Life

     

    Editor’s note: Today’s selection is from the beloved & bestselling devotional Jesus Calling. Written by author Sarah Young, Jesus Calling features devotions written as if Jesus Himself is speaking directly to each reader and are based on Jesus’ own words of hope, guidance, and peace within Scripture. Each entry is accompanied by Scripture for further reflection and meditation. A new edition has just been released, featuring a textured gray cover designed specifically with men in mind.

    *

    You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness, that you learn to rely on Me.

    True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you. I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal. Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life through deepening your dependence on Me.

    The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
    Psalm 34:17–18

    Happy Songs From Grateful People

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    Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?

    SINGING. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up on groups like the Swingle Singers, Association, and Beach Boys and sang in or accompanied choirs throughout high school and college. I was involved with the vocal group GLAD for thirty years and have been leading corporate worship for even longer. I can’t imagine my life without singing.

    Maybe you share my love for song. Then again, maybe you don’t. You might be someone who patiently endures the singing on Sunday mornings until you hear what you really came for — the message.

    If that’s where you’re at, Martin Luther wants to have a few words with you. Luther loved congregational music and considered music next to theology in importance. He also had no problem saying what was on his mind. In a foreword to a collection of songs arranged for multiple voice parts, he wrote the following:

    When man’s natural ability is whetted and polished to the extent that it becomes an art, then do we note with great surprise the great and perfect wisdom of God in music, which is, after all, His product and His gift; we marvel when we hear music in which one voice sings a simple melody, while three, four, or five other voices play and trip lustily around the voice that sings its simple melody and adorn this simple melody wonderfully with artistic musical effects, thus reminding us of a heavenly dance where all meet in a spirit of friendliness, caress, and embrace. . . . A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard it [music] as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs. (Luther, “Preface to Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae iucundae,” LW 53, cited by Buszin in “Luther on Music,” The Musical Quarterly 32, no. 1 [1946]: 85)

    We may not want to imitate Luther’s attitude, but we do want to imitate his passion for singing — because God himself is passionate about singing.

    God’s Passion for Singing

    God’s heart for setting words to melodies is evident from even a casual reading of the Psalms.

    Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:1–2)

    Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (Psalm 47:6)

    In just four verses we’re commanded to sing seven times.

    All told, the Bible contains over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing. The longest book of the Bible, the Psalms, is a book of songs. And in the New Testament we’re commanded not once, but twice, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another when we meet (Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16).

    Why does God so often tell us not simply to praise him but to sing his praises when we meet? Why not just pray and preach? Why sing? Why are God’s people throughout history always singing? Why words and music and not just words alone? Why does God want us to sing? One reason is that God himself sings. In Zephaniah 3:17 God exalts over his people “with loud singing.”

    On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus sang hymns with his disciples (e.g., Matthew 26:30). Hebrews 2:12 applies Psalm 22:22 to Jesus when it says, “In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And Ephesians 5 tells us that one effect of being “filled with the Spirit” is “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (verses 18–19).

    We worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.

    How Music Relates to Words

    There’s more to say about why God wants us to sing, but first I want to make a few general comments about how music relates to words. When it comes to combining music and words, Christians tend to fall into one of three categories.

    Some Christians think that music supersedes the Word, both in its significance and effect. They think that words without music — and that’s usually a certain kind of music — are dry, unaffecting, and unimportant. They say things like, “Music speaks to me better than words can,” or, “I can’t worship unless I hear the style of music I like.” For these folks, the impact of words is not only helped by music; it’s dependent on it.

    “We worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.”

    Other Christians think that music undermines the Word. As far as they’re concerned, any time you combine music with words in the church, you’re asking for problems. They fear the power that music seems to have over people, so they want to restrict its use.

    Augustine acknowledged that struggle in his own soul. In his Confessions he wrote:

    I am inclined — though I pronounce no irrevocable opinion on the subject — to approve of the use of singing in the church, so that by the delights of the ear the weaker minds may be stimulated to a devotional mood. Yet when it happens that I am more moved by the singing than by what is sung, I confess myself to have sinned wickedly, and then I would rather not have heard the singing. (Augustine, Confessions, XXXIII.50)

    Augustine was conscious of how music can distract us from the Word and potentially even undermine the Word. Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss pastor who lived in the sixteenth century, went even further. He was so concerned about music’s power that for a time he banned music from his meetings.

    But music and the Word aren’t meant to be in conflict with each other. God himself wants them together. That’s why he tells us in Psalm 147:1, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” God didn’t intend that music supersede the Word or that music undermine the Word. He gave us music to serve the Word. When that relationship is understood and appreciated, music becomes a powerful gift from God that complements, supports, and deepens the impact of the words we sing.

    I’m going to take the rest of this chapter to describe three ways singing serves the Word and what difference it should make in our lives and our churches. My prayer is that by the end you’ll understand better why God tells us so many times to sing to the Lord.

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    Holy Songs From Happy Saints

    By: Charles Sourgeon

    “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved.”- Isa 5:1

    IT was a prophet who wrote this, a prophet inspired of God. An ordinary believer might suffice to sing, but he counts it no stoop for a prophet, and no waste of his important time, to occupy himself with song. There is no engagement under heaven that is more exalting than praising God, and however great may be the work which is committed to the charge of any of us, we shall always do well if we pause awhile to spend a time in sacred praise. I would not wish to prefer one spiritual exercise before another, else I think I would endorse the saying of an old divine who said that a line of praise was better than even a leaf of prayer; that praise was the highest, noblest, best, most satisfying, and most healthful occupation in which a Christian man could be found. If these may be regarded as the words of the Church, the Church of old did well to turn all her thoughts in the direction of praising her God. Though the winning of souls be a great thing, though the edifying of believers be an important matter, though the reclamation of backsliders calls for earnest attention, yet never, never, never may we cease from praising and magnifying the name of the well-beloved. This is to be our occupation in heaven: let us begin the music here, and make a heaven of the Church, even here below. The words of the text are, “Now will I sing,” and that seems to give us a starting word.

    I. THE STRAINS OF THE SOUL’S SONG.

    “Now will I sing.” Does not that imply that there were times when he who spake these words could not sing? “Now,” said he, “will I sing to my well-beloved.” There were times, then, when his voice, and his heart, and his circumstances were not in such order that he could praise God. My brethren, a little while ago we could not sing to our well-beloved, for we did not love him, we did not know him, we were dead in trespasses and sins. Perhaps we joined in sacred song, but we mocked the Lord. We stood up with his people, and we uttered the same sounds as they did, but our hearts were far from him. Let us blush for those mock psalms; let us shed many a tear of repentance that we could so insincerely have come before the Lord Most High. After that, we were led to feel our state by nature, and our guilt lay heavy upon us. We could not sing to our well-beloved then. Our music was set to the deep bass and in the minor key. We could only bring forth sighs and groans. Well do I remember when my nights were spent in grief, and my days in bitterness. It as a perpetual prayer, a confession of sin, and a bemoaning of myself, which occupied all my time. I could not sing then, and if any of you are in that condition to night, I know you cannot sing just now. What a mercy you can pray. Bring forth the fruit which is seasonable, and in your case the most seasonable fruit will be a humble acknowledgement of your sin, and an earnest seeking for mercy through Christ Jesus. Attend to that, and by and by you, too, shall sing to your well-beloved a song. Brethren in Christ Jesus, it is now some years ago since we believed in Christ, but since then there have been times when we could not sing. Alas! for us, there was a time when we watched not our steps, but went astray, when the flatterer led us from the strait road that leads to heaven, and brought us into sin; and then the chastisement of God came upon us, our heart was broken, until we cried out in anguish, as David did in the 51st Psalm. Then if we did sing, we could only bring out penitential odes, but no songs. We laid aside all parts of the book of Psalms that had to do with Hallelujah, and we could only groan forth the notes of repentance. There were no songs for us then, till at last Emmanuel smiled upon us once more, and we were reconciled again, brought back from our wanderings and restored to a sense of the divine favour. Besides that, we have had, occasionally had, to sorrow through the loss of the light of God’s countenance. It is not always summer weather with the best of us. Though for the most part:

    “We can read our title clear,
    To mansions in the skies,”

    yet we have our fasting time when the bridegroom is not with us. Then do we fast. He does not intend that this world should be so much like heaven that we should be willing to stop in it; he, therefore, sometimes passes a cloud before the sun, that we in darkness may cry out, “Oh! that I knew where I might find him! I would come even to his seat.” Even the means of grace at such times will bring us no comfort. We may go to the throne of mercy in private prayer, but we shall perceive but little light even there. If the Lord withdraw himself, there is no merry-making in the soul, but sadness, darkness, and gloom shall cover all. Then we hang our harps upon the willows, and if any require of us a song we tell them we are in a strange land, and the king hath gone-how can we sing? Our heart is heavy, and our sorrows are multiplied. Once more, we cannot very well sing the praises of our well-beloved when the Church of God is under a cloud. I trust we are such true patriots, such real citizens of the new Jerusalem that, when Christ’s kingdom does not advance, our hearts are full of anguish. My brethren, if you happen to be members of a church divided against itself, where the ministry appears to be without power, where there are no additions, no conversions, no spiritual life-then, indeed, you will feel that whatever the state of your own heart, you must sigh and cry for the desolations of the Church of God. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning.” This is the view of every true citizen of Zion, and however our own hearts may flourish, and our souls be like a well-watered garden, yet if we see the place of worship neglected, the Lord’s house dishonoured, the Church diminished and brought low, the gospel held in contempt, infidelity rampant, superstition stalking through the land, the old doctrines denied, and the cross of Christ made to be on none effect-then, again, we feel we cannot sing; our hearts are not in tune, our fingers forget the accustomed string, and not then can we sing to our well-beloved a song.

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    Singing to the Lord

    by Inspiration Ministries

    “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19 NASB

    In many ways, slaves in 18th century America seemed to live a hopeless existence. Yet many had discovered how to have hope. Through faith in Christ.

    Rev. John Davies, who had a ministry among slaves, was amazed by the spiritual maturity and hunger many demonstrated. He described how “whenever they could get an hour’s leisure” many of these slaves hurried to spend time reading. They were most eager to read “the Psalms and Hymns,” since they particularly loved the message.

    He recalled seeing many slaves in his kitchen at any hour of the night. “Sometimes when I have awakened at two or three in the morning, a torrent of sacred psalmody has poured into my chamber.” Some even spent whole nights singing and praising God. They just couldn’t stop their praises.

    The owner of a factory in 1843 had the same reaction. “What is remarkable, their tunes are all psalm tunes and the words are from hymn books; their taste is exclusively for sacred music; they will sing nothing else.” And most of these slaves were actively involved in a local church.

    This passion for psalms and singing characterized many slaves. They may have faced physical bondage, but nothing could keep them from praising God. They simply could not contain the joy they found in Christ, and their love for God’s Word.

    If these slaves could sing with such enthusiasm, why can’t you?

    Today, no matter what you are going through, you can sing unto the Lord. He has given you psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to help remind you of His faithfulness, to give you joy. No matter your level of musical talent, sing and make melody in your heart to Him

    God Gives Second Chances

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    The Gift of a Second Chance

    By: Karen O’connor, 1.cbn.com

    hanging-flower-baskets

     

    Every day I walked along the concrete walkway that led from our condominium unit to the stairway. And each day I was annoyed by the sight of a bedraggled, overgrown plant hanging over the edge of the walkway above, down to the second floor where I lived at the time.

    “Why doesn’t Lois do something about that thing?” I asked half aloud. “It’s an awful sight and it’s practically dead anyway.”

    I complained to my husband about it.

    “Don’t look at it,” he said. “It’s hers. Leave it be.”

    I should have listened, but I didn’t.

    Later that week, I could no longer resist the urge to clip, clip! So I did. I reached over the railing with my pruning shears and snapped them shut around the ailing limb. It dropped into my free hand and from there I sent it down the trash chute! I felt better–almost heroic. I had put this poor thing out of its misery.

    I went on with my day. About 11:00 I returned home from some errands, picked up our mail, and ran up the stairs, suddenly stopped by the sound overhead of a woman crying. Then I heard the soothing words of another woman. I looked up and there stood Lois, my neighbor on the third floor. Her neighbor Nancy stood with her, as the two commiserated about the plant that had been pruned.

    I felt like a criminal. My heart pounded so fast, I could hardly talk. But I knew what I had to do. I had to confess or someone else in the building, and I knew who it might be, would receive the blame for something I had done.

    I ran up to the third floor, breathless. “Lois,” I said, “I’m the culprit. I’m the one who cut your plant. I’m so sorry. I should have asked first. But I thought it would be okay to prune it a little since it was hanging over the railing all the way down to the second floor…and….”

    I couldn’t stop. I was mortified, embarrassed, apologetic, and defensive all at the same time! How right the Bible was in reminding me that

    “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 (NIV).

    Lois stood listening with eyes wide in disbelief. And Nancy didn’t know what to say. I stopped. Lois spoke. She told me how she had worked so hard to get that little plant going. She couldn’t imagine why anyone would be so cruel. Of course she was right. It was a cruel thing to do–even though I didn’t see it that way at the time. I was so caught up in my opinion of what looks good that I took action regardless of how it might affect another person. I certainly did not consult with the Lord about what to do. I simply had done what I wanted to do.

    I apologized profusely, hoping Lois would understand that I wasn’t motivated by spite (though I wasn’t sure at that point). I was only tidying things up a bit!

    She thanked me for being honest, dried her eyes, and we parted. The rest of the day was pure misery for me–not so much because of the plant. I knew it would keep growing. I hadn’t destroyed it. But I had hurt a neighbor. Someone I like. A person who lives close by.

    I couldn’t let it rest. I prayed about what to do. And the Lord spoke clearly. I needed to make amends. There was no second guessing his guidance. I ran downstairs, jumped in the car, and drove directly to the local nursery. I spent some time selecting a beautiful, thriving, flowering plant that looked similar to the one I had cut. I bought it, wrote a note on a card, acknowledging my fault once again, and asking for Lois’ forgiveness.

    Within moments of leaving the gift at her doorstep, I received a phone call. Lois accepted my apology and thanked me for such a thoughtful gesture. I was stunned at how easy–and how difficult–that experience had been.

    That day had turned out differently than I expected, but still, it had turned out. I had made things right when I had been wrong—by asking for and receiving forgiveness–and in turn, my neighbor did something for me. She, like the Lord, gave me the gift of a second chance.

    “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” Luke 6:37 (NIV).

     

    Second Chances

    JUNE 24, 2019

    “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” Numbers 20:12 (NIV)

    Pinterest ImageMy daughter Noelle and I were giddy with excitement! We were about to see one of our favorite Christian bands in concert. Amazingly, I was able to get backstage passes to meet the band before the concert. I walked up to the special guests table and gave them our names.

    The lady looked skeptically at us. “Nope,” she said. “I don’t see your names. You have to have your names on the list to get backstage.”

    I quickly texted my contact to try to remedy the problem. The “Promised Land” of going backstage was rapidly closing.

    Perhaps this was a small glimpse of how Moses might have felt when he was denied access to the Promised Land. I’m sure he was far more disappointed than we were! We find Moses’ sad tale in Numbers 20. The people of Israel were contending with Moses yet again, wishing they would have died as slaves in Egypt instead of trekking through the wilderness.

    God specifically commanded Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water. Instead, Moses proclaimed, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10b), and he lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, completely ignoring God’s command to speak to the rock.

    Our key verse reveals the consequence of Moses’ disobedience and disbelief: “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them’” (Numbers 20:12).

    It was a terrible, heartbreaking blow for Moses. There was a list of people — an entire nation — who would walk into the Promised Land. Moses was not on that guest list.

    But thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.

    In the Gospels, we read about the Transfiguration of Jesus. Who was on that high mountain with Jesus Christ? Moses! Matthew 17:2b-3 speaks of the Transfiguration of Jesus: “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (NIV).

    Moses might have been denied a backstage pass to the Promised Land, but here he was in full color standing on the mountaintop with Jesus Himself. Moses represented the law, and now here he is with Jesus, the fulfillment of the law.

    Moses’ life on earth ended on a disappointing note in Numbers (and in the next book of the Bible, Deuteronomy), but here he stands in the New Testament as a friend of God. What a glorious second chance! There was a very short guest list at the Transfiguration … and Moses was on it.

    Maybe you’ve felt left off a “guest list” before. Your marriage isn’t as happy as your friend’s. Or maybe you’re single, and you wish you weren’t. You’ve been passed over for a job promotion that you felt you deserved. You’ve sinned, and you’re not sure how to relate to God now. Take heart. We serve a God of second chances.

    By the way, my daughter Noelle and I did get a second chance to get backstage. Our names were added to the list, and we eventually got to meet one of our favorite bands after all. The hassle made that special opportunity even sweeter. Let’s believe God for second chances in life and give thanks ahead of time.

    The Gift of a Second Chance

    By: Rob Toornstra, today.reframemedia.com

      

    Scripture Reading — Zechariah 1:1-6

    “Return to me … and I will return to you.”
    Zechariah 1:3 —

    The clock counted down to midnight, and the partygoers cheered the beginning of a new year. While everyone was enjoying themselves, one woman engaged in a moment of self- reflection. “Everyone needs a second chance,” she said.

    She was right. We’ve all spoken words we want to take back. We’ve made decisions that we wish we could change. Maybe we look back over our life and are filled with regrets.

    God promises a second chance! Zechariah ministered to God’s people as they restarted life in the promised land. He warned the people that if they wanted to thrive in the land, they had to be careful not to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors. So Zechariah called God’s people to a life of repentance. He urged them to renew their commitment to God and his Word. When Israel turned back to God, they would enjoy a renewed relationship with him!

    God extends his promise to us as well. We have all failed in the past, but God assures us that repentance brings renewal. When we turn from our sin and look to Christ, God forgives us and gives us a new beginning. We begin to enjoy the presence of God in our life, and we begin to live the way God desires.

    Have you discovered the joy that comes from beginning again with God?

     

    Faithfulness To God

    • The Lord Keeps His Word Devotional

      Lamentations 2

      Our Creator never fails to keep His promises. Even when the fulfillment of His Word seems slow in coming, we can nevertheless be assured that He has not forgotten it. We must also never be so prideful as to think that God only means part of what He says in Scripture and that He needs us to figure out what we should take seriously. If we pick and choose like the ancient false prophets did, then we will be well on our way to destruction. Let us believe all of God’s Word. View Resource

    • Taking Joy in the God of Salvation Devotional

      Habakkuk 3:17–19

      Believing God when “the chips are down” is one of the most difficult things that we will ever be called to do. Yet if we trust the Lord only when things are going well, then we do not really trust Him at all. When things are good, let us thank God for His blessings, but also ask Him to sustain our faith if we face real hardship. As we walk through dark times, let us ask Him to help us rejoice in Him and remember that He is our exceedingly great reward (Gen. 15:1). View Resource

    • Unfaithful Children Devotional

      Hosea 1:4–11

      One commentator has pointed out that Hosea likely endured much grief because of the names of his children. Every time an Israelite spoke to No Mercy and Not My People, he would have been reminded of the prophet’s words against the nation. That certainly did not win him any popularity contests. Similarly, we can experience trouble when we are faithful to the Lord. But let us not allow the prospect of suffering to keep us from following God’s Word. View Resource

    • Covenant Conditionality Devotional

      Genesis 17:1-2

      Though we must meet certain covenant conditions, salvation is ultimately all of grace because God elects only some to salvation, giving them the ability to trust Him, which is not ours by nature as Adam’s fallen children. Nevertheless, the elect of God prove their election when they repent and trust in Christ for salvation. If we don’t have faith and repentance, we cannot presume that we are elect, and if we are elect, we will have faith and repentance (Acts 13:48). View Resource

    • Serving God in the Here and Now Devotional

      1 Corinthians 7:17–24

      If our primary concern in life is to change our present situation, then we will have little room to serve God wherever we are. It is not inherently wrong to seek a change in circumstances, and, indeed, a change may be what we are called to seek. But we are never to do so at the expense of serving God faithfully. Let us pray daily that the Lord’s will would be done and that we would seek this will so that we would be reckoned as His good and faithful servants. View Resource

    • Goodness and Faith Devotional

      Psalm 37:3

      We will continue to sin until we are in the direct presence of God, so there will always be occasions when we disbelieve the Lord and transgress His law. Our need for perfection has been met in Christ, and He alone is the One in whom we will stand before the Father unafraid. In the meantime, the Lord desires faithfulness from us, namely, an effort to know His law, love His law, and repent when we fail to do His law. View Resource

    • Turning Adversity to Good Devotional

      Romans 8:28

      Dr. R.C. Sproul comments on the origin of evil and what Scripture has to say about it: “How sin got here we do not know, but it is here. The good news of Scripture is that there is redemption from sin” (Truths We Confess, vol. 1, p. 182). This redemption includes more than just the forgiveness of our own transgressions. It also means that the Lord will ultimately redeem every sin and tragedy for His glory and the good of His people. View Resource

    • Entrust Your Soul Devotional

      1 Peter 4:18–19

      Today’s passage, which also says that the righteous are scarcely saved, does not warn us that salvation can be lost. Rather, as John Calvin says, it tells us that no one enters the kingdom without experiencing hardship. Even in our trouble, Calvin writes, it is “certain that we are guided by God’s hand, and that we are in no danger of shipwreck as long as we have him as our pilot.” Whatever your troubles, remember that God is in control and strive to do what is right. View Resource

     

    Life Changes, But God’s Faithfulness Does Not

    APRIL 24, 2018

    “Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:3-4 (NKJV)

    Pinterest ImageLast year was a year full of change and transitions, none of which were easy.

    I reached a milestone birthday. I began working full-time after being a stay-at-home mom for 12 years. I got divorced. I became a single parent and provider. I turned into an empty nester as I sent my youngest off to college.

    I’ve always heard that the only thing guaranteed in life is change, and we all know that to be true. But that doesn’t make dealing with unwanted or difficult changes or new seasons of life any less trying.

    But instead of surrendering to pouting, I intentionally dedicated myself to praying and positive thinking, reminding myself daily that although life changes, God’s faithfulness never does.

    Psalm 37:3 reminds us of this when the writer says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”

    When we dwell on God’s faithfulness and let it nourish our hearts, our faith and trust in Him grows. When we focus on doing good things, our thoughts won’t stay parked on the changes we don’t like. Instead of allowing our minds to wish things were like they used to be or feeling discouraged or upset over a hard season of life, we can place our trust in Him and live with peace and joy, not stress and distress.

    Psalm 37:4 then says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

    Being delighted with God means our hearts find peace and fulfillment in Him, regardless of our season of life or the changes we’re facing. When we look back to see how He has been faithful and trustworthy in the past, which delights us, we can better trust He will be faithful now and in the future, too.

    With each new day I faced last year, I continually sought God to fill my life with His peace and joy. I asked Him for new opportunities and to help me fill up this season of an empty nest and an empty house. I prayed for Him to take away the loneliness and purposelessness and fill my life with people and purpose. To trust in His wise plans for my future, instead of doubting if He actually had any.

    Over many months, I began to see His faithfulness and answered prayers.

    • Existing friendships blossomed, and new friends came into my life as well.
    • Friends and family continually helped me feel loved, wanted, supported, included and less alone.
    • New doors opened for me to do ministry, which not only gave me new purpose, but also new direction and excitement about what lay ahead.
    • I watched God miraculously provide for and protect my children and me in this new season.

    Over a period of many months, I felt my heart begin to heal and my faith strengthened. The more I saw His faithfulness shining through, the less I worried about the hard changes.

    God has divinely allowed every season of our life with His sovereign wisdom, and those seasons may include some type of hard change. We can fight change, or we can trust God has a plan and purpose for it and allow our trust in His faithfulness to be the foundation for joyful living.

    If you change the way you think about change, the way you’re looking at that change just might change.

    Lord, change is hard. I don’t always ask for it, much less like it. Please help me focus on Your past faithfulness so I can strengthen my trust in You for future faithfulness and embrace whatever lies ahead — changes and all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Lessons From The Woman At The Well

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    The Woman at the Well

    From: Ligonier ministries.com

    “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water’” (John 4:10).

    – John 4:1–45

    When Assyria carried away the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, not every citizen was taken. Many remaining Israelites married into the people whom the king of Assyria resettled in the area (2 Kings 17; 2 Chron. 30:10–12). Because of this, many new identities emerged. Also, Jewish authorities who tried to quash the influence of Greek culture in Judea during the intertestamental period prompted its sympathizers to flee to Samaria, the area that had been resettled by Assyria.

    The majority of Jews were essentially racist toward Samaritan society because of its religious practices and ethnic descent. Many of them saw the Samaritans as renegades, for they received only the Pentateuch into their canon and worshiped on Mount Gerizim instead of Mount Zion. In fact, when the Jews journeyed between Judea and Galilee during the first century, most would not take the direct route through Samaria but would instead take a circuitous detour around this “unclean” region.

    This background explains why the Samaritan woman was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water (John 4:7–9). For a Jewish rabbi to accept a drink from a Samaritan woman, much less speak to her, would have been unthinkable. Not surprisingly, after the woman expresses amazement at this, Jesus responds to her question with a few words about His identity (v. 10).

    An idolater who served physical pleasure (she was an adulteress, vv. 16–19), the woman is unaware at first of the meaning of Jesus’ words. She focuses first on physical thirst (v. 15), and then on worship after He calls her out on her sinful lifestyle (vv. 16–20). Yet Jesus does not grow impatient with her, He continually brings the focus back to Himself as the source of living water and as the one who will expand true worship into all nations (vv. 14, 21–26).

    No liquid can forever satisfy our physical thirst, but Jesus will quench the spiritual thirst of all who repent, obey His lordship, and thereby drink of Him (John 4:13–14). And so the Samaritan woman was thus satisfied when grace found her, and she became an integral witness to the fact that Jesus really is the Savior of the world (John 4:39–42).

    Leaving the Well, Leading the Way

    By Misty Wilson, 1.cbn.com

    Leaving the Well, Leading the Way

    “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:39)

    The story of the Samaritan woman at the well has to be one of my all time favorites. There is so very much that we can learn from this passage of scripture. One of the most overlooked lessons we can learn from this woman is the impact she had on her own community. She left the well that day a new woman. She had sipped from the wellspring . . . living water. She had met the Christ.

    I can almost imagine how refreshed her face must have appeared to all of the people. If you study this scripture, the people immediately responded to what she said by going out of the town and making their way toward Jesus (verse 30). The Woman at the Well made her neighbors, her community a priority and led them to Jesus.

    Many times we hurry through our lives missing the great opportunity to minister to our own neighbors in our own communities. It is so sad that our communities of long ago are disappearing. Neighbors rarely even know each other, much less share in each others lives. Webster’s dictionary defines share as “to partake of, use, experience, or enjoy with others.” Sharing our lives with others is a great way to minister. The word “minister” seems so stuffy and preachy (if that is even a word) sometimes. The truth is that ministry begins with sharing our lives with others.

    My family and I recently moved to a new town with all new faces. We did not know anyone except our real estate agent! The first few months were very tough sometimes, and often very lonely. God placed some “ministers” in my path. He sent people who opened up their hearts, their lives, and their community to me and my little family. These new friends did not have to preach to me or even discuss church, they ministered to me by sharing. They shared tips on doctors, restaurants, garbage pick up days, community events, lawn service, and school information. These people, this community, appeared refreshed to me . . . just like the Woman at the Well. These people have impacted me, their neighbor. I have no doubt that these same people have shared the love of God through their simple actions many, many times. They have all chosen to make their neighbors, their community a priority. I praise God for them!

    Do you know your neighbors? Just start by saying “hi!” The Woman at the Well was so touched by Christ that she impacted an entire town. You can too. You don’t have to say a word. They will see it in your face and experience it as you decide to share a little of your life with them. Reach out today in some little way to the community around you and watch as that “Living Water” begins to flow all around you!

     

    Streams In The Desert

    By: L.B. Cowman

    I have all, and abound (Phil. 4:18).

    In one of my garden books there is a chapter with a very interesting heading, “Flowers that Grow in the Gloom.” It deals with those patches in a garden which never catch the sunlight. And my guide tells me the sort of flowers which are not afraid of these dingy corners–may rather like them and flourish in them.

    And there are similar things in the world of the spirit. They come out when material circumstances become stern and severe. They grow in the gloom. How can we otherwise explain some of the experiences of the Apostle Paul?

    Here he is in captivity at Rome. The supreme mission of his life appears to be broken. But it is just in this besetting dinginess that flowers begin to show their faces in bright and fascinating glory. He may have seen them before, growing in the open road, but never as they now appeared in incomparable strength and beauty. Words of promise opened out their treasures as he had never seen them before.

    Among those treasures were such wonderful things as the grace of Christ, the love of Christ, the joy and peace of Christ; and it seemed as though they needed an “encircling gloom” to draw out their secret and their inner glory. At any rate the realm of gloom became the home of revelation, and Paul began to realize as never before the range and wealth of his spiritual inheritance.

    Who has not known men and women who, when they arrive at seasons of gloom and solitude, put on strength and hopefulness like a robe? You may imprison such folk where you please; but you shut up their treasure with them. You cannot shut it out. You may make their material lot a desert, but “the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
    –Dr. Jowett

    “Every flower, even the fairest, has its shadow beneath it as it basks in the sunlight.”

    Where there is much light there is also much shade.

     

     

    Living A Powerful Life In The Spirit

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    Keys to Powerful Living: Repentance

    How a Change of Mind Can Change Your Life

    If you have ever changed your mind about anything, then you understand the basis of one of the most important spiritual principles in the Bible: repentance.

    What is Repentance?

    Repentance implies a change in direction, a 180-degree course correction in our relation with God. It begins with a decision to turn from sin and surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And it’s vitally necessary for anyone desiring to draw near to the Lord and walk with Him every day.

    That’s because every person is born with a sinful nature that finds expression in sinful actions. This sin creates a chasm between God and man that cannot be bridged by our human efforts (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

    Our sin, however, is not the end of the story. In fact, God works through everything that happens in our lives, including our sin, to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44, 45; 14:6; Romans 8:28, 29).

    No matter what you have done, God has made a way home — through his Son, Jesus Christ. His death on the cross and triumphant resurrection secures for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness. All you have to do is repent and turn your life over to Jesus (Acts 3:19)

    This is what the Bible calls being “born again” of the Spirit of God (John 3:3,5). We enter into the born-again experience by repenting of our sin, yielding our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and trusting in faith that He will forgive and cleanse us from all sin (Romans 3:23; 10:13; 1John 1:8,9John 1:12).

    A Daily Walk

    Repentance is also the key to growing daily in your relationship with Christ. That’s because the Christian life is a journey — we are not perfected in an instant. For the rest of your life, you will contend with the sinful and selfish tendencies of your flesh. The only way to overcome this ongoing struggle with sin is through repentance.

    Some attitudes and actions are obviously sinful. The Bible calls these the “works of the flesh” and they include: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissension’s, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, etc. Such works of the flesh, if not repented of, results in spiritual death (Gal. 5:19-21James 1:15).

    In fact, anything that is not a faith-filled response to our circumstances and relationships is sin (Romans 14:231 John 5:17James 4:17). Anxiety, worry, fear, bitterness, depression, pride, resentment and anger all have their roots in sin. Also, anything that takes the place of trusting in the Lord — such as fortune-telling, psychics, horoscopes, numerology, astrology, — needs to be repented of.

    Finding Faith to Repent

    If you have been struggling with a besetting sin, repentance may seem like a difficult thing. But consider that the Bible says “the kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Another verse lets us know that God is patiently waiting for us to repent (2 Peter 3::9).

    Your heavenly Father is not looking for ways to punish you. Yes, God is just, but He is also a loving Father searching for the lost coin or the one lost sheep — willing to leave 99 in the safe pasture to find the one that has gone astray.

    One of the most powerful portraits of God’s love can be seen in the parable of the prodigal son. After the son changed his mind and headed home, the Bible says, “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). This is God’s heart toward you when you come to Him in repentance.

    As You Pray

    God is patiently waiting with open arms, for His sons and daughters to come home. All it takes is humility on our part and faith to believe that a loving Father will hear our honest pleas and cleanse us of our sin.

    Take a moment right now to repent — to change your mind and turn from whatever is separating you from God and those around you. “Father, I believe You love me. Your Word says that it is your patience and kindness that leads me to repentance. So I come to You humbly, and confess my sin. I thank You that You forgive me by the blood of Jesus, and ask for a fresh cleansing of my body, soul and spirit. Teach me how to walk honestly before You in repentance every day. In Jesus name. Amen.”

    We must trust Jesus Christ to forgive our sins and determine to obey Him for the rest of our lives. That way we can know God and find peace again.

    Power for Living

    By: Arie Leder, today.reframemedia.com

      

    Scripture Reading — Deuteronomy 33:1-526-29

    “Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?”
    Deuteronomy 33:29

    —Positive thinking has transformed the lives of men and women in all stations of life. Its power lies in the ordinary ability of people to take control of their situations. Once you learn about this basic wisdom, it seems obvious that negative thoughts deplete personal energy. But then wisdom is always obvious to the wise, isn’t it?

    You’d think positive thinking might have been tre­men­dously helpful to Israel, a pea-sized nation in the midst of vast, powerful empires that used their own brand of positive thinking to intimidate others. For example, the field commander of the great Assyrian army once wrote to the king of Judah, “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (2 Kings 18:33). But then an angel of the Lord visited the Assyrian camp and put to death 185,000 soldiers (19:35). All it took was for King Hezekiah of Judah to place the letter of positive Assyrian thinking before the Lord (19:14).

    God’s people are nothing special, except for their Lord and the power of his blessing. That’s what is need­ed. “Blessed are you, O Israel!” declares Moses. “Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?”

    Do you want power for living? Seek the blessing of the God who sent the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s positively transforming-and the wisest thing to do.

     

    How to Love the Life You Have Even If It’s Not the Life You Wanted

    By: Tracie Miles, proverbs31.com

    AUGUST 1, 2018

    “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10b (ESV)

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    There came a time when I had to accept that my life had not turned out the way I thought it would, and no amount of wishing it were different could change it.

    Sometimes we come across an unexpected bump in life, causing our plans to derail and our hopes to shatter. Or maybe we simply wake up and realize the life we’re living isn’t the one we expected, much less the one we wanted. As a result, we feel unhappy, joyless and discontent.

    Perhaps you can relate.

    Maybe you had a dream crushed after years of pursuing it. Perhaps you stayed at a job for years building your retirement fund, only for the company to go bankrupt and take your life savings with it. Perhaps you’ve experienced the heartbreak of infertility when you planned on having a full house. Maybe you had a loved one die far too soon, leaving you feeling alone and lost. Maybe you were struck with an illness that limits your abilities and independence. Or by now, you thought you’d be married but are still single, or maybe you invested years in a marriage that ended painfully in divorce.

    Or possibly, nothing earth-shattering has happened at all, and life is the same as it has always been. Same ol’ circumstances, different day. And therein lies the problem: Surely there has to be more to life than this.

    Regardless of your reason for feeling unhappy with your life, maybe you think loving the life you have is impossible unless circumstances change.

    Trust me, friend, I understand.

    The last several years have brought unexplainable sorrow, fear, disappointment and crushed dreams. There were countless days, months in fact, I thought I would never be able to feel truly happy again, much less love my life.

    Yet over time, through a lot of faith and tears, God helped me accept that although I couldn’t change the circumstances I found myself in, I could change how I reacted to them. I realized I’ve been given one life to live — this life — and I could either continue to allow adversities to have power over my happiness, or I could embrace God’s promise for abundant life and make it a reality in my own. The choice was mine.

    In John 10:10a, Jesus explains there’s a thief who seeks to steal, kill and destroy us. But in John 10:10b, Jesus declares He came to earth so we could not only live life but live it abundantly despite the thief’s intentions. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). Here we see the contrast between the destroyer of happiness and the Giver of joy.

    Jesus was explaining He is the answer to experiencing the best life possible despite what life throws at us. He is what gives our lives meaning and joy.

    Choosing to learn to love my life, even if it wasn’t the life I had imagined, was the best choice I’ve ever made. It wasn’t always easy, but as I intentionally chose to let Jesus be the source of my joy, even in the midst of less-than-joyful circumstances, my perspectives and feelings changed for the better.

    The life you have today, and all it includes or doesn’t include, is the life God has given you. It’s the life you’re supposed to love, despite what it looks like. It’s the only life you have, and the only life you’re going to get. You can live it abundantly with joy based on Christ alone or let life pass you by as you allow problems, disappointments or drudgery to steal your zest for living.

    Sweet friend, no matter what you’re going through, loving life is a choice, not a by-product of everything going our way. Our peace, joy, contentment, fulfillment and overall happiness depend on the choice we make.

    I now realize it was not only within my reach to love my life again and live it abundantly, but 100 percent within my control, as it is for you.

    Your happiness is up to you.