Category Archives: Devotion

“Forgiven” Is A Wonderful Word

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.

 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable:

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 

and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

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Forgiven!

From: Our Daily Bread

Forgiven!
Read: 1 John 1:1-10 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 46–48; Acts 28

I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant. Psalm 119:176

My friend Norm Cook sometimes had a surprise for his family when he arrived home from work. He would walk through the front door, and shout, “You’re forgiven!” It wasn’t that family members had wronged him and needed hisforgiveness. He was reminding them that though they doubtless had sinned throughout the day, they were by God’s grace fully forgiven.

The apostle John supplies this note about grace: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin [no inclination to sin], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7–9).

To “walk in the light” is a metaphor for following Jesus. Imitating Jesus with the Spirit’s help, John insists, is the sign that we have joined with the apostles in the fellowship of faith. We are authentic Christians. But, he continues, let’s not be deceived: We will make wrong choices at times. Nevertheless, grace is given in full measure: We can take what forgiveness we need.

Not perfect; just forgiven by Jesus! That’s the good word for today.

Lord, I know I’m not even close to being perfect. That’s why I need You and Your cleansing in my life. I’m lost without You.

Monitor your heart daily to avoid wandering from God’s wisdom.

 

God’s Purpose or Mine?

From: Utmost.org

God’s Purpose or Mine?

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.

 

Liz Curtis Higgs July 28, 2017
The Prodigal Cat
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

From: Crosswalk.com

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (NIV)

We have two cats at our house: twin gray tabbies named Sam and Bo, adopted from an animal shelter. Our early years together were filled with lavish attention on my part and copious purring on theirs. Then, one dark and stormy October morning, the unthinkable happened.

My husband Bill and I were headed to the airport for a predawn flight to New England. Rain was coming down in sheets as we dragged our luggage to the back door and fumbled with our umbrellas.

When I flung open the door, Bo — the smaller, faster, more rebellious brother — appeared out of nowhere, slipped through my legs and plunged into the darkness without a backward glance.

Suitcases forgotten, we tore after him, but Bo remained maddeningly out of reach — bounding forward, doubling back, then taking off again. Finally, we had to leave for the airport. Had to.

I was soaking wet and inconsolable. How could I abandon poor Bo to the elements? Yes, our daughter-in-law would arrive at our doorstep in a couple of hours. Yes, Bo would no doubt take shelter in the nearby bushes and be safely back inside the house before our plane landed in Boston.

But what if he got lost? Got hurt by another animal? Got hit by a car? My stomach was tied in knots, thinking of the terrible possibilities.

Phone calls and text messages flew back and forth. Our grown children put a rescue operation in motion. Sympathetic friends on Facebook offered suggestions: “Put his food bowl outside.” “Put his litter box outside.” “Put your pajamas outside.” Apparently the familiar scents were meant to woo him home.

Nothing worked. When we returned from our trip and still no Bo, my heart grew heavier. Was anyone feeding him, caring for him? Or was Bo starving to death, alone and shivering, far from home? Meanwhile, Sam wandered from room to room, searching for his lost brother, his mournful meow adding to my guilt.

After 12 long days, I stood on our back steps, prepared to try one last suggestion: “Go outside at midnight when the air is still and call out his name.” So I did, as loudly as I could, not caring if our neighbors thought I was daft. “Bo!”

Then I heard it. The faintest meow.

Bo!” I cried out. Another plaintive meow. Like a mother who knows her baby’s cry, I knew this was my cat. Knew it.

I hurried across our backyard, calling his name, so agitated that I forgot about our back fence until I nearly fell over it. “Bo!” I shrieked, thinking he might come to me. But, no. The same sad meow was still a hundred feet away.

Minutes later, armed with a cat carrier and a bowl of food, I opened the back gate and tiptoed across the grass toward a dark shape beneath our neighbor’s deck. When Bo meowed again, but didn’t budge, I shook his bowl, hoping the sound and scent would coax him out. He extended one tentative paw. Then another.

The second he got close enough, I threw my arms around him, stuffed him in the cat carrier, and ran back to the house, my heart in my throat. My dear boy wasn’t dead; he was alive! He wasn’t lost; he was found!

I watched him dart around our brightly lit kitchen, tears of joy and relief pouring down my face, and thought about our heavenly Father, who’d once watched my own escape into darkness. He, too, had waited. Called my name. Came looking for me, knowing I was too scared to come to Him. Wrapped His arms around me and carried me home.

It’s the same with the story Jesus told of the prodigal son in Luke 15:20“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Just as Bo is a changed cat — he comes whenever I call and lets me scratch his head for hours — I am definitely a changed woman. When God calls, I come running, knowing His love alone has tamed my rebel heart.

Lord, Your love for us is endless, Your patience with us is boundless, and Your willingness to save us is beyond understanding. Thank You for pursuing us, rescuing us and welcoming us home. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep God’s Commandments

13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 
15  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.…

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Sweet Company

From: Our Daily Bread

Sweet Company

The Spirit of truth . . . lives with you and will be in you. John 14:17

The elderly woman in the nursing home didn’t speak to anyone or request anything. It seemed she merely existed, rocking in her creaky old chair. She didn’t have many visitors, so one young nurse would often go into her room on her breaks. Without asking the woman questions to try to get her to talk, she simply pulled up another chair and rocked with her. After several months, the elderly woman said to her, “Thank you for rocking with me.” She was grateful for the companionship.

Before He went back to heaven, Jesus promised to send a constant companion to His disciples. He told them He would not leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit to be in them (John 14:17). That promise is still true for believers in Jesus today. Jesus said that the triune God makes His “home” in us (v. 23).

The Lord is our close and faithful companion throughout our entire life. He will guide us in our deepest struggles, forgive our sin, hear each silent prayer, and shoulder the burdens we cannot bear.

We can enjoy His sweet company today.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Spirit as our constant companion.

The Christian’s heart is the Holy Spirit’s home

 

Lysa TerKeurst July 27, 2017
Make Your First 5 Count
LYSA TERKEURSTFrom: Crosswalk.com

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you … then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1,5 (NIV)

Have you ever felt something stirring in your spirit that wouldn’t go away?

I had one of those things on my heart a few years ago. And it all started with my middle daughter Ashley.

Ashley is a driven and responsible girl. Three years ago, she went off to college and while she had always excelled academically, the same couldn’t be said for her spiritual life.

As her mom, my heart broke over her struggle in her relationship with the Lord. I just couldn’t understand it — she grew up going to church, learned Bible lessons and saw me read Scripture each day.

But no matter what we did or said, we just couldn’t make it connect for her.

If you’re in that place right now with your child or your own walk with the Lord, I understand. I think for Ashley, the Bible felt complicated and disconnected from her everyday life issues.

As I cried out to the Lord on behalf of my daughter, the word that kept coming to mind was poverty. “Poverty” might seem strange for this situation, but when I saw the lack of spiritual nourishment in Ashley, parallels from physical to spiritual lined up.

I chased down this thought a little more — what causes poverty? A lack of opportunity. So many people around the world simply don’t have access to the nourishment they need to survive.

But this wasn’t the case with Ashley. Good gracious, we’re like most Americans with multiple copies of the Bible under our roof. The poverty I sensed was not a lack of opportunity.

So what was it? As I wrestled with this, God brought me to the book of Proverbs.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5)

One word in this passage is repeated over and over: understand! Solomon says if we want the fear of the Lord and knowledge of God, then we’ll crave understanding.

Meanwhile, at school, Ashley found herself in a Bible study, challenged by her leaders to just spend the first five minutes of her day in the Word.

After admitting she hadn’t been reading her Bible and hearing her friends talk about the benefits they were getting, she finally gave it a try. Each day, little by little, her interest in the Bible grew. Her life and attitude was being transformed.

Then one day, when I visited her at college, I could hardly believe my eyes.

She was a completely different girl.

At one point during our time together, I asked, “What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?” She said, “Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to read the Bible was unrealistic. But as I kept doing it, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of Truth, I had so much more joy.”

I can hardly type these words without crying.

As Ashley began to share what was happening, I also had a light switch go on. Her spiritual poverty wasn’t caused by a lack of access, but rather a lack of understanding.

In that moment, the burden on my mama heart turned to a vision for a hurting world.

What if Proverbs 31 Ministries could help every mom recommend a tool to really facilitate their kids getting into God’s Word for at least five minutes every morning?

What if we could bring the Word of God to busy college students, parents, business owners and grandmothers across the globe in a way that made the first minutes of every day life-changing? So, the minute they pick up their phones in the morning, instead of getting distracted by other things, they’re invigorated with Truth.

With God’s vision and your help, we created a free app that would help bring life and Truth to the first five minutes of every day. And I’m excited to say we’re now celebrating the two-year anniversary of the First 5 app!

How full this makes my heart.

Two years of providing a healthier alternative to hopping on social media in the first moments of our day.

Two years of equipping people all over the world to better understand the Word of God. Because when we know the truth and live the truth, it changes everything.

What beautiful reasons to celebrate.

If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, I would love to invite you to today by clicking here.

Yes, we must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. Instead of immediately checking in with social media with the first moments of our days, we can truly make God first by giving Him our first thoughts.

Dear Lord, I want to get into Your Word and let Your Word get into me. Help me understand and apply what I’m reading as I study the Bible, so I can help others do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do You Want to Be Well?

From: CBN, and Kathy Thomas, author

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“Do you want to be well?” The question pierced me. I pondered the past several years of my life, filled with exhaustion, pain, dizziness, and confusion; all the result of an accidental arsenic poisoning. Our family had inhaled the fumes of a series of fires containing pressure treated wood and other toxic garbage. I had become so ill that I couldn’t even remember my address when I was filling out paperwork at my doctor’s office. For months, I had swallowed 72 pills a day with gallons of water to detoxify my body.

I had diligently researched the long term effects of arsenic poisoning, and one article had wedged itself into my mind; playing over and over in the shadows of my thoughts, influencing my every decision. An entire small community had somehow also suffered arsenic poisoning. Eighty percent had developed multiple Cancer within eight to 10 years. A vast majority were terminal. Eight to 10 years? It seemed like such a long time when I first read the article, but it was now year number nine for me. Not just for me, but for my children, too.

I had already begun to develop multiple sores and cysts of various shapes and sizes throughout my body; some leading to biopsies, while others painfully ruptured. All had been benign … so far. The closer I came to the eight to 10-year mark, the more I became predisposed to drop my sword and surrender each time a new cyst or sore developed, or some part of my body malfunctioned. I felt like I was bracing for an inevitable crash. In my mind, doom was certain. It was not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.” I felt like I was living on borrowed time.

Then, one Tuesday morning, we were studying the gospel of John:

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’

The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, 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.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” (John 5:2-8 NKJV)

I was struck by the man’s answer to Jesus’ question because I realized that I had been answering his question the same way for nine years. I had spent so much time dwelling on why I was sick, that I had simply been laying on my mat, waiting for impending doom.

I had a revelation that morning. Jesus wanted me to walk in the waiting; to pick up my mat and keep moving forward. He had already determined the number of my days. Each day was a gift, and I was wasting them sitting on my mat, by the pool of Bethesda.

It was time to pick up my mat and walk in faith with hope for the future. Now, I see lumps as nothing more than speed bumps. I will not live my life waiting to die. I will live my life “well.”

“Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16 NKJV)

Do you want to be well?

 

Can God change your life?

It Is Jesus That Saves Us

Jesus Walks on the Water  – John 14

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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Out of the Deep

From: Our Daily Bread

Out of the Deep

He reached down from on high and took hold of me. 2 Samuel 22:17

I scanned the water intently, on alert for signs of trouble. During my six-hour shifts as a lifeguard, I watched from the side of the pool to ensure the safety of those swimming. Leaving my post, or even becoming lax in my attentiveness, could have grave consequences for those in the pool. If a swimmer was in danger of drowning due to injury or lack of skill, it was my responsibility to pluck them from the water and return them to safety on the pool deck.

After experiencing God’s aid in battle against the Philistines (2 Sam. 21:15–22), David likens his rescue to being drawn out of “deep waters” (22:17). David’s very life—and that of his men—was in serious danger from his enemies. God buoyed David as he was drowning in disaster. While lifeguards are paid to assure the safety of swimmers, God, on the other hand, saved David because of His delight in him (v. 20). My heart leaps for joy when I realize that God doesn’t watch over and protect me because He’s obliged to but because He wants to.

When we feel overcome by the troubles of life, we can rest in the knowledge that God, our Lifeguard, sees our struggle and, because of His delight in us, watches over and protects us.

Thank You, Lord, for seeing my struggles and standing ready to save me. Help me to trust Your rescuing love more fully.

God delights in saving His children.

 

 

Ashlee Gadd July 26, 2017
When You Feel Invisible
ASHLEE GADD

From: Crosswalk

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these stars? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 (NIV)

We were six months into parenthood when my father-in-law passed away.

If I close my eyes, I can picture the moment we found out. Five missed calls. My husband stood in the driveway saying, “Don’t say that, don’t say that,” over and over again into the phone.

I knew.

A lump formed in my throat, as I unbuckled our baby boy from his car seat. We were 90 miles away. I remember the sun was shining, even though it shouldn’t have been. I remember standing in the driveway, while my husband and I cried with a baby sandwiched between us. I remember the drive — we stopped for roast beef sandwiches — and I remember walking into my mother-in-law’s house and calmly placing my blue-eyed baby — my only offering, 15 pounds of innocence — in her arms.

It’s a strange thing to experience birth and death so close together. My son’s first year of life will always be marked by the deepest grief our family has ever known. Our whole lives became walking contradictions. One day, the baby giggled at his reflection in the mirror. The next day, we stood in a room full of caskets. How can you be joyful and devastated all at once? When is it okay to laugh? When is it okay to cry?

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens, but how can grief and delight possibly coexist?

My first year of motherhood was entirely consumed by two things: learning to take care of a baby and learning to support my husband through a life-shattering loss. I didn’t know who I was outside of those responsibilities. I tip-toed around my own house, desperate to keep everything and everyone intact. It was just another contradiction: Even though I had a baby glued to my hip, I’d never felt so alone.

“I feel invisible,” I confessed to my husband one night. “I feel like I am trying to be everything to everyone, but nobody is trying to be anything to me.”

“I feel depressed,” he confessed in return. “When my dad died, it’s like a part of me died, too.”

We ping-ponged confessions back and forth that night through tears, until I was struck with a startling realization.

I couldn’t rescue my husband. And he couldn’t rescue me.

We each wanted so desperately to be healed, loved, noticed and understood in that season, but our eyes were turned sideways instead of upward. We were both looking for a Savior, something we would never find in each other.

There is no substitute for Jesus. When we look to a spouse, a friend, a child or an Internet audience for the love, healing and recognition only a Savior can offer, we’ll always, always come up short.

Are you feeling invisible today? Unnoticed and unseen, desperate for someone to meet you exactly where you are?

Take comfort in today’s key verse, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these stars? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Whether you’re crying in the bathroom at 7 a.m. or folding the ninth load of laundry at 7 p.m. or rocking your baby at 3 a.m., please rest in this: God sees you, God notices you, God loves you.

Every single minute of every single day, you are fully known and loved by Him. After all, if God calls out every star in the sky by name, how much more must He know and love you?

Lord, thank You for seeing me when I feel invisible and for loving me when I’m broken. Please keep my eyes upward, on You, and remind me that I am forever and always Your child. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Living For Jesus

From: Our Daily Journey

Living For Jesus

Read:

Romans 12:1-2
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice . . . . This is truly the way to worship him (Romans 12:1).

“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.

We can better understand the apostle’s description of believers as living sacrifices if we understand the two kinds of sacrifices commonly offered by the Israelites. Atoning sacrifices were required sin and guilt offerings—animals slain to make amends for sin (Leviticus 4:1-57:1-6). For “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Thanksgiving sacrifices were offerings of gratitude voluntarily given to God in response to His blessing. They were made in response to His mercy and grace and to offer thankfulness, gratitude, love, and joyful worship to God (Leviticus 7:11-1522:29Psalm 50:14,23).

The sacrifice of animals failed to solve the problem of sin, just as we could never be an atoning sacrifice for it. Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was the ”perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14), the only one who can “remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).

But we can, by His strength, be a thank offering in response to what Jesus has done, “a living and holy sacrifice—the kind [God] will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1). Today, let’s live for Jesus as He leads us, for that’s “truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:2).

God Supplies All Our Needs

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  Psalm 37:25
18   As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 
20   And at once they left their nets and followed Him.…
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What We Bring Back

From: Our Daily Bread

What We Bring Back

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  Psalm 37:25

John F. Burns spent forty years covering world events for The New York Times. In an article written after his retirement in 2015, Burns recalled the words of a close friend and fellow journalist who was dying of cancer. “Never forget,” his colleague said, “It’s not how far you’ve traveled; it’s what you’ve brought back.”

Psalm 37 could be considered David’s list of what he “brought back” from his journey of life, from shepherd to soldier and king. The psalm is a series of couplets contrasting the wicked with the righteous, and affirming those who trust the Lord.

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither” (vv. 1–2).

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (vv. 23–24).

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (v. 25).

From our experiences in life, what has God taught us? How have we experienced His faithfulness and love? In what ways has the Lord’s love shaped our lives?

It’s not how far we’ve traveled in life, but what we’ve brought back that counts.

Dear Lord, thank You for walking with me throughout my life. Help me to remember Your faithfulness.

As the years add up, God’s faithfulness keeps multiplying

Getting Along

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“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.

 

Karen Ehman July 25, 2017
Everybody’s Got Somethin’
KAREN EHMAN

From: Crosswalk.com

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” >Proverbs 19:11 (ESV)

My intense irritation at my husband’s actions didn’t show visibly. Since his mother was in the backseat of our car, I was careful to remain calm. However, I did sneak a darting glance toward him — a dagger that accurately conveyed how very much I hated what he’d just done.

His dire offense?

Failure to use his blinker when changing lanes.

I am a by-the-books driver. My kids chuckle when I dutifully use my blinker before turning into our driveway, even when no one is around — which is nearly 99 percent of the time, since we live near the end of a road with a cul-de-sac. Therefore, it aggravates me when my dear husband sometimes behaves as if turn signal usage is completely optional.

This particular day, we were shuttling my mother-in-law to her doctor’s appointment. As I sat in the waiting room, my mind began to tally, one-by-one, other perfectly irksome things I didn’t like about my man’s behavior.

He leaves the closet and cupboard doors open. Open! He didn’t return the stapler to its proper place when he finished using it the other day. That time we bumped into his co-worker, he didn’t even introduce me. He never remembers the details of our conversations. As each scenario popped into my mind, I grew more and more annoyed.

Across from me sat a chatty elderly woman. The weather reports were calling for an ice storm later that afternoon. She spoke of some people all in a tizzy about the impending inclement weather, declaring they needed to remember one important fact, “Everybody’s got somethin’.”

I asked her just what she meant by that. “Well,” she elaborated, “when we lived in Kansas, it was dust storms and tornadoes. Then, the few years we lived in southern Florida, we had to prepare for hurricanes. And, when we were stationed in California, oh what a drought we had that one year. Like I say,” she restated, “Everybody’s got somethin’.”

My waiting room friend’s atmospheric observation spiritually snapped me to attention that day. Why, oh why, do I let certain aspects of my husband’s personality and conduct bother me so easily? Surely I do things that drive him equally crazy? Undoubtedly, I sometimes irk or offend him with my behavior? In fact: “Everybody’s got somethin’” — some behavior, quirk, practice or habit that wreaks havoc on others, tempting them to become slightly irritated or even all-out furious.

Today’s key verse states that “good sense makes one slow to anger” and that it is a person’s “glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). In the original Hebrew language, the word “glory” conveys “beauty, honor, splendor” and even “adornment.” The original essence of this verse unearths for us this line of thinking: Our patience in passing over an offense — refusing to speedily go from zero to furious over the actions of others — adorns us with true beauty and honors them.

I’m not saying it’s easy. However, it is the right — and righteous — thing to do. Why? Because we mirror the gospel when we overlook another’s unpleasant behavior and love them anyway.

So how about it? Is there someone in your life who sometimes gets on your nerves or under your skin — or maybe even both? Does your response to their behavior leave no doubt about your level of frustration? How about we try a new approach — intentionally overlooking irritating behavior? Yes, that means we keep our cool. Don’t say a word. Smile instead, and love despite.

In other words, reflect the gospel to a watching world. More importantly — to a watching loved one.

Father, may I learn not to let the little quirks or even the bigger missteps of my loved ones provoke me to instant anger. Teach me to overlook an offense as I remember how much You’ve forgiven me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Share The Promise Of Christ Jesus

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The churches here represent the community of faith.
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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  

Building Community

From: Our Daily Bread

Building Community
 
 

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 3:6

“Community” is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives, says Henri Nouwen. Often we surround ourselves with the people we mostwant to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.

The Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. The apostle Paul waxed eloquent on this “mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God.” By forming a community out of diverse members, Paul said, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of the world and even the supernatural world beyond (Eph. 3:9–10).

In some ways the church has sadly failed in this assignment. Still, church is the one place I visit that brings together generations: infants still held in their mothers’ arms, children who squirm and giggle at all the wrong times, responsible adults who know how to act appropriately at all times, and those who may drift asleep if the preacher drones on too long.

If we want the community experience God is offering to us, we have reason to seek a congregation of people “not like us.”

Lord, remind us that the church is Your work, and You have brought us together for Your good purposes. Help us extend grace to others.

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world.  G. K. Chesterton

 

Find Your Joy

From: CBN.com, Gene Marklund

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 seventeen, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the joy that He brought into my life. I spoke in tongues and laughed 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” (I Peter 1:8 NLT).

 

Bekah DiFelice July 24, 2017
Traveling Toward the Unknown
BEKAH DIFELICEFrom: Crosswalk.com

“But Ruth said, ‘Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me GOD — not even death itself is going to come between us!’” Ruth 1:16-17(MSG)

When I think of major transitions in my life, I think of road trips that involve a big yellow moving truck and a sense of home fading in the rearview mirror.

Nearly a decade ago, I moved away from my hometown after marrying my high school sweetheart, to begin his career in the military.

He was being stationed in Yuma, Ariz.

Do you know where that is?

Yeah, I didn’t either. (And if you do, good for you!)

I soon learned it was a town on the Mexican border known for its oppressive heat, Cracker Barrel location and historical prison preserved from the Wild West.

A newlywed’s dream, right?

Leaving home was a hard choice. In fact, when we stopped at a gas station, I spent a moment on the curb crying and whispering to my new husband, “I don’t think I can go on. Maybe this is a terrible idea.”

And I think that’s often what big transitions feel like: an enormous, sacrificial choice; an act of faith that begs of God, “You won’t abandon me, right?”

Change involves movement — old to new, known to unknown, native to foreign. It always requires a road trip of sorts.

We see this theme in the book of Ruth. It opens with Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, leaving their hometown to settle in Moab. A few verses later, after Naomi’s husband and sons die, she moves again, but this time with her daughters-in-law.

Somewhere on that road trip back to Bethlehem, Naomi encourages Ruth and Orpah to turn back. She gives them an easy out, essentially saying, “You don’t have to do the hard thing here. You can go home.”

Stunningly, Ruth chooses sacrifice. She tells Naomi, “Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live” (Ruth 1:16b).

Ruth didn’t just choose Naomi, she chose the God of Israel (“your God is my god”). The same is true for all of us in the midst of hard decisions. We aren’t just choosing the destination; we are choosing to believe in the trustworthy nature of God. We are binding ourselves to His provision.

Like Ruth, we’re often compelled to go somewhere new without knowing what waits on the other side. Rarely do we have a divine explanation as to how this moment will work out when we travel toward the unknown. Still, we walk toward the promise that God is good, even when the circumstances are unclear.

Oftentimes, God draws people to Himself by drawing them out of their comfort zones first. When we’re estranged from comfort, we gain clarity on His redemptive work in our lives. Our faith grows roots when we lack tangible stability.

The book of Ruth concludes with a testimony to how even the most painful transitions can be redeemed for good. Ruth opens with famine and death but ends with fulfillment — Boaz marrying Ruth and Ruth giving birth to Obed.

But the redemptive story doesn’t end there. From Ruth and Boaz’ union and lineage came David. And through David came the Savior of the world.

If you’re making a hard choice or facing a tough transition today, be encouraged. Ruth’s story serves as evidence that even the most painful interruptions can double as God’s provision, that God is present and active in our midst and that no road trip can ever lead us to a place where God hasn’t already arrived.

Thank You, Lord, for the way You’ve guided my life, though at times it’s been hard to see the providence for all the plot twists. Help me to trust You, regardless of where the story takes me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

God Sees Your Good Works

 

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

Proverbs 15:22  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 19:2  Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 28:26  Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Proverbs 24:6  For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

 

(Great inventors who did good works to help all of us.)

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Didn’t Get Credit?

From: Our Daily Bread

Didn't Get Credit?
Read: Colossians 4:7–18 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 33–34; Acts 24

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Hollywood musicals were wildly popular during the 1950s and 1960s, and three actresses in particular—Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, and Deborah Kerr—thrilled viewers with their compelling performances. But a huge part of the appeal of these actresses was the breathtaking singing that enhanced their acting. In fact, the classic films’ successes were actually due in large part to Marni Nixon, who dubbed the voices for each of those leading ladies and who for a long time went completely uncredited for her vital contribution.

In the body of Christ there are often people that faithfully support others who take a more public role. The apostle Paul depended on exactly that kind of person in his ministry. Tertius’s work as a scribe gave Paul his powerful written voice (Rom. 16:22). Epaphras’s consistent behind-the-scene prayers were an essential foundation for Paul and the early church (Col. 4:12–13). Lydia generously opened her home when the weary apostle needed restoration (Acts 16:15). Paul’s work could not have been possible without the support he received from these fellow servants in Christ (vv. 7–18).

We may not always have highly visible roles, yet we know that God is pleased when we obediently play our essential part in His plan. When we “give [ourselves] fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58), we will find value and meaning in our service as it brings glory to God and draws others to Him (Matt. 5:16).

Lord, help me to obediently do my part in the role You have chosen for me.

The secret of true service is absolute faithfulness wherever God places you.

 

Sanctification (2)

From: Utmost.org

Sanctification (2)

The Life Side. The mystery of sanctification is that the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted as a gift to me, not gradually, but instantly once I enter by faith into the realization that He “became for [me]…sanctification….” Sanctification means nothing less than the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life.

The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you…” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word?

Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “…kept by the power of God…” (1 Peter 1:5).

Born Free

From: Get More Strength

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

I remember one commute when I ended up following a busted-up pickup truck that sported a bumper sticker proudly announcing, BORN FREE. As I thought about the announcement on the bumper, it seemed to me that whoever was sitting behind the wheel was speaking for a lot of us. For some strange reason, we feel that personal freedom is a birthright. As Eric Clapton sings, “I was born with a raging thirst . . . a hunger to be free!” And it’s that hunger that fires up the celebration of our own independence and the crowning of “me” as final authority. But not all hunger is good hunger. Our hunger to be free is why we end up, as Clapton admits, down so many dead-end streets, lonely and disappointed.

Think for a minute about people who are addicted to things like drugs, alcohol, or pornography. If you asked how they ended up in bondage to their desires, they would tell you that it started as a need to be free to do whatever they wanted to do. Don’t miss the point: If all we have is the right to be free, then our thirst for freedom may end up making us slaves. Beware! A life guided by the “I’ll-do-whatever-I-want-to-do” formula inevitably ends up not being free at all. Left to ourselves, we make a lot of lame choices that end up leaving us in the chains of regret, guilt, and brokenness.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be free. The great news is that God wants us to be free. It’s just a matter of how and where we can find true freedom.

Becoming free starts with deleting the thought that you and I are born to be free. The reality is that we are born sinners already in the grip of Satan, the cruel master of our souls. David admits, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). And Paul adds that before we came to Christ we were “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:17). So we need to get it right. We were born slaves of sin. In order to be free, we need someone to overthrow the regime that enslaves us.

That’s exactly why Jesus came. He came to set us—the captives—free! Jesus Himself said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He taught us that freedom is not an inherent right of birth after all but rather the result of obeying the truth: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

In one sense, we are born to be free—born again to be free. And that freedom is experienced when we commit our lives to living by God’s truth and following the guidance of Jesus. When we forgive, as He has taught us, we are free from the bondage of bitterness and free to move into the future instead of being stuck in the past. When we manage our relationships according to God’s Word, we are free from the regrets and brokenness that comes from using others instead of serving others. When we let Jesus direct our desires and passions, we are free from the bondage of guilt and addiction. His truth is the path to true freedom.

There is a great hymn that proclaims, “My chains fell off, my heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!”

Jesus died to set you free. Those who follow Him are free indeed!

At Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

 
Galatians 6:9

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

2 Corinthians 6:2

for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”–

Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven–

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At Just The Right Time

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son. —Galatians 4:4

Why is being on time so challenging for some of us? Even when we start early, something inevitably gets in our way to make us late.

But here’s the good news: God is always on time! Speaking of the arrival of Jesus, Paul said, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4). The long-awaited, promised Savior came at just the right time.

Jesus’ arrival during the Roman Empire’s Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) was perfect timing. The known world was united by one language of commerce. A network of global trade routes provided open access to the whole world. All of this guaranteed that the gospel could move rapidly in one tongue. No visas. No impenetrable borders. Only unhindered access to help spread the news of the Savior whose crucifixion fulfilled the prophecy of the Lamb who would be slain for our sins (Isa. 53:1-12). All in God’s perfect timing!

All of this should remind us that the Lord knows what time is best for us as well. If you’re waiting for answered prayer or the fulfillment of one of His promises, don’t give up. If you think He has forgotten you, think again. When the fullness of time is right for you, He’ll show up—and you’ll be amazed by His brilliant timing!

Not ours to know the reason why
Unanswered is our prayer,
But ours to wait for God’s own time
To lift the cross we bear. —Anon.

God’s timing is always perfect.

 

Streams of Mercy

From: Our Daily Journey

Streams of Mercy

Read:

2 Peter 3:3-10
[God] does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

The council in Cassandra Boyson’s Seeker’s Trilogy was responsible for maintaining law and order in the name of the “Great One.” Instead, they were corrupt, singling out people they deemed different for cruel treatment. Slowly the surrounding society began to decay—reflecting the council’s immoral ways. Yet in a surprising twist, the Great One righted the wrongs of that world by providing a river that transformed all who came into contact with it.

Like that river offering transformation without cost, Scripture abounds with examples of God extending undeserved mercy to people in surprising ways. Though Jonah did everything in his power to prevent it, God showered mercy on a wicked Assyrian nation when they chose to repent and turn to God (Jonah 3:10). Jesus gently but firmly silenced the accusers of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), and He shocked onlookers by associating with the hated tax collectors—even choosing one to be in His core group of twelve disciples (Matthew 9:9-11).

People may ridicule believers in Jesus for their hope in Jesus’ return, saying “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? . . . Everything has remained the same since the world was first created” (2 Peter 3:4). But Peter reminds us that the timing of Jesus’ second coming is designed to allow repentance for as many as possible. He urges us not to “forget this one thing: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

His streams of mercy continue to flow today.

 

Sanctification (1)

From: Utmost.org

Sanctification (1)

The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. Sanctification requires our coming to the place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid. There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized— something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate…his own life…he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death. Am I willing to be myself and nothing more? Am I willing to have no friends, no father, no brother, and no self-interest— simply to be ready for death? That is the condition required for sanctification. No wonder Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us falter. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ on this point. We say, “But this is so strict. Surely He does not require that of me.” Our Lord is strict, and He does require that of us.

Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply “me”? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself? Am I willing and determined to hand over my simple naked self to God? Once I am, He will immediately sanctify me completely, and my life will be free from being determined and persistent toward anything except God (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

When I pray, “Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts in me— it is Himself in me (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

Dressed Up

Matthew 6:25-34
30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. 
33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 
34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
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Dressed Up

From: Our Daily Bread

Dressed Up

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 13:14

In her book Wearing God, author Lauren Winner says our clothes can silently communicate to others who we are. What we wear may indicate career, community or identity, moods, or social status. Think of a T-shirt with a slogan, a business suit, a uniform, or greasy jeans and what they might reveal. She writes, “The idea that, as with a garment, Christians might wordlessly speak something of Jesus—is appealing.”

According to Paul, we can similarly wordlessly represent Christ. Romans 13:14 tells us to “clothe [ourselves] with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” What does this mean? When we become Christians, we take on Christ’s identity. We’re “children of God through faith” (Gal. 3:26–27). That’s our status. Yet each day we need to clothe ourselves in His character. We do this by striving to live for and to be more like Jesus, growing in godliness, love, and obedience and turning our back on the sins that once enslaved us.

This growth in Christ is a result of the Holy Spirit working in us and our desire to be closer to Him through study of the Word, prayer, and time spent in fellowship with other Christians (John 14:26). When others look at our words and attitudes, what statement are we making about Christ?

Dear Lord, we want to be a reflection of You. Help us to look more like You each day. Grow us in godliness, love, joy, and patience.

When others see us, may what they see speak well of the Savior.

 

No Floating

From: Our Daily Journey

No Floating

Read:

Micah 5:1-5
He will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace (Micah 5:4-5).

I was power-trimming weeds beneath a large tree in our backyard when I felt a painful, burning jab to the back of my skull. Turning, I noticed several hornets buzzing around me. Having been already stung by one, I fled the scene. Later that night I discovered I had bumped the hornets’ watermelon-sized nest with my head! A sting had snapped me out of my clueless state, one that could have resulted in me being swarmed and stung repeatedly.

The prophet Micah was called to do something similar—to wake God’s people out of their clueless state. They had their heads down—ignoring God and His call—living unjust, self-centered, spiritually apathetic lives (Micah 1:52:2). As one commentator put it, “With passionate forthrightness, [Micah] attacks the social evils [religious corruption, social oppression, economic injustice, etc.] of his day. His stubborn refusal to float on the tide of his social environment, and his courageous stand for his convictions of God’s truth, must commend Micah to . . . every age.”

Micah brought God’s stinging words: Judgment was coming through their enemies the Assyrians (Micah 5:1). But he also gave them hope in One who would come from Bethlehem and “be the source of peace” (Micah 5:2,5). The prophet’s words described a “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)—revealing to the people of that age and ours that One would come and “lead his flock” and “be highly honored around the world” (Micah 5:4).

Jesus, the One who fulfilled that prophecy, provides what we need to passionately swim against the currents of social ills today. This is no time for floating. Let’s lift our heads and find our voice as Christ gives us the power and strength to live out His justice, truth, and love.

 

Tondi Wheat July 21, 2017
My Husband Wanted Me to Be Like Someone Else
TONDI WHEAT, COMPEL Member

From: Crosswalk.com

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

I have always struggled with insecurities, and being married didn’t change that.

Those feelings of insecurity hit every part of my life and thoughts:

If my kids had a fun mom, they would be happier.

I’m failing my kids as a homeschool teacher.

If I were more organized, my house wouldn’t be such a mess all the time.

My husband would be happier with someone else.

Something must be wrong with me if they don’t want me to help in this ministry.

The thoughts of never being good enough consumed my mind.

A few years ago, I felt distant from my husband. The thoughts of him being happier with someone else raced through my mind.

With my arms crossed and head bowed, I took a deep breath and courageously said, “I feel you wish I were like someone else.” My heart began to race as I braced myself for his answer. The thoughts began again, Will he tell me who it was, or would he keep it secret?

He looked up from what he was doing and said, “Yes, I do.”

My heart sank. All my insecurities became real, and my thoughts began to swirl. My husband didn’t want me. He wanted someone else.

Holding back tears, I uttered, “Who?”

As his eyes met mine, I knew his answer would impact me forever. His tone was concentrated, caring and thoughtful. He said, “I wish you were more like Jesus.”

I wasn’t expecting that answer. I had wondered about many people, but never Jesus. My husband didn’t want me to be prettier, more active or more organized. He wanted me to focus more on God.

All the things I worried about were furthest from his thoughts.

That day, I decided to be more of who my husband wanted in a wife … more of the person I should be. I began to study the “manual” (God’s Word through the Bible) for being a better wife, mother, person and Christian.

Paul’s writings really stood out to me. To the Galatians, he wrote today’s key verse, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

It is still true today. When we accepted Christ into our hearts, we died to self. Our “self” includes our sins, habits, thoughts and even our insecurities.

When I’m insecure, then I can’t fully be Christ-like.

I want to be Christ-like. Not because that’s what my husband wants, but because Jesus gives a new life. Having insecurities is almost debilitating at times. Focusing on God instead of my insecurities has freed me.

It’s not always easy to push away the thoughts that have invaded my mind for years.

God reminds me, sometimes daily, that those thoughts are negative and not from Him. Just because we accept Christ into our hearts doesn’t mean Satan stops putting the negative thoughts into our minds.

What it does mean is that Jesus will help us through those negative thoughts. Sometimes He even uses a loved one to help.

Dear Lord, You formed me in my mother’s womb. You know my strengths and challenges. Open my heart to be like You. Help me to focus on You and what You want in me. Your way is perfect and just. Guide and direct me as to what You want me to be. Thank You for changing me and giving me new life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A Time To Seek God

Acts 17:27

that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

 
1 Chronicles 16:11

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

1 Chronicles 22:19

“Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD.”

Psalm 14:2

The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God

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A Time for Everything

From: Our Daily Bread

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

While flying recently, I watched a mother and her children a few rows ahead of me. While the toddler played contentedly, the mother gazed into the eyes of her newborn, smiling at him and stroking his cheek. He stared back with a wide-eyed wonderment. I enjoyed the moment with a touch of wistfulness, thinking of my own children at that age and the season that has passed me by.

I reflected, however, about King Solomon’s words in the book of Ecclesiastes about “every activity under the heavens” (v. 1). He addresses through a series of opposites how there is a “time for everything” (v. 1): “a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (v. 2). Perhaps King Solomon in these verses despairs at what he sees as a meaningless cycle of life. But he also acknowledges the role of God in each season, that our work is a “gift of God” (v. 13) and that “everything God does will endure forever” (v. 14).

We may remember times in our lives with longing, like me thinking of my children as babies. We know, however, that the Lord promises to be with us in every season of our life (Isa. 41:10). We can count on His presence and find that our purpose is in walking with Him.

Lord God, You lead me through the seasons, and whether I’m laughing or crying I know You are with me. May I reach out to someone with Your love today.

God gives us the seasons of our lives.

 

Dependent on God’s Presence

From: Utmost.org

Dependent on God’s Presence

There is no thrill for us in walking, yet it is the test for all of our steady and enduring qualities. To “walk and not faint” is the highest stretch possible as a measure of strength. The word walk is used in the Bible to express the character of a person— “…John…looking at Jesus as He walked…said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ ” (John 1:35-36). There is nothing abstract or obscure in the Bible; everything is vivid and real. God does not say, “Be spiritual,” but He says, “Walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).

When we are in an unhealthy condition either physically or emotionally, we always look for thrills in life. In our physical life this leads to our efforts to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit; in our emotional life it leads to obsessions and to the destruction of our morality; and in our spiritual life, if we insist on pursuing only thrills, on mounting up “with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31), it will result in the destruction of our spirituality.

Having the reality of God’s presence is not dependent on our being in a particular circumstance or place, but is only dependent on our determination to keep the Lord before us continually. Our problems arise when we refuse to place our trust in the reality of His presence. The experience the psalmist speaks of— “We will not fear, even though…” (Psalm 46:2)— will be ours once we are grounded on the truth of the reality of God’s presence, not just a simple awareness of it, but an understanding of the reality of it. Then we will exclaim, “He has been here all the time!” At critical moments in our lives it is necessary to ask God for guidance, but it should be unnecessary to be constantly saying, “Oh, Lord, direct me in this, and in that.” Of course He will, and in fact, He is doing it already! If our everyday decisions are not according to His will, He will press through them, bringing restraint to our spirit. Then we must be quiet and wait for the direction of His presence.

 

Lysa TerKeurst July 20, 2017
A Life with Extraordinary Impact
LYSA TERKEURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” Judges 3:31 (NIV)

I am a woman who wants to make a difference for Christ in the world. I want my life and legacy to count for something with eternal significance. I want to stand before God one day knowing I fulfilled the purposes He had for me.

But there’s always this nagging sense inside of me that the world’s problems are too big, and I’m too small.

Can you relate? That’s why I’m so fascinated with Shamgar.

We learn who Shamgar is in one small verse hiding at the very end of the third chapter of Judges … “After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.” (Judges 3:31)

Tucked into this one verse, we see three things Shamgar did that resulted in his life having extraordinary impact:

1. He offered God his willingness.
2. He used what God had given him.
3. He stayed true to who he was.

And in doing those three things, it was enough. God used him to save the nation of Israel.

Oh, how Shamgar’s story stirs my soul. He was an ordinary person, in an ordinary place, doing an ordinary job. The thing that made him extraordinary wasn’t anything external. It was his internal drive to do the right thing and be obedient to God, right where he was. His job was to be obedient to God. God’s job was everything else.

The same is possible for us. If we are obedient to God in the midst of our ordinary lives, extraordinary impact is always possible.

I doubt Shamgar ever expected to be used by God to save the nation of Israel. When we take a closer look at his life, we see several things that could have left him feeling like the wrong man for a “Deliverer of Israel” job title.

First is the matter of his background. “Shamgar” is a name with Canaanite roots, not Hebrew. This fact has led some scholars to believe it’s entirely possible Shamgar was both Jew and Gentile. And since God had commanded His people not to intermarry with Gentiles, Shamgar’s lack of a pure bloodline from his parents could have easily led him to label himself an unlikely candidate for a mighty work of God.

Then there is the matter of his occupation. Shamgar’s use of an oxgoad (another word for a cattle prod) to kill the Philistines implies he may have been a farmer. Can we just stop and process that for a moment?

He was a farmer. Up against an organized army. Of 600 men. If I had been Shamgar, I imagine I’d have been raising my hand with a few questions for the Lord. Questions like, “Are You positive You’ve got the right person??”

And we can’t skim over Shamgar’s choice of weapon. Talk about unlikely and ordinary. An oxgoad was typically used to prod oxen, not wage war. But since the Philistines would not allow the Israelites to have any weapons (1 Samuel 13:19-22), they were forced to use whatever they had on hand. So Shamgar simply sharpened what he had and offered it to the Lord.

I love that God’s hand is never limited by what we have in ours.

Do you long to live a life that has extraordinary impact? I pray you will grab hold of the encouragement found in Shamgar’s story.

Offer God your willingness. Even if you feel small … even if you feel unlikely … even if everything in you is screaming you’re not someone who can be used by God … simply offer Him your willingness.

Use what God has given you. What’s in your hand, sweet friend? What gift, what talent, what ability? Whatever it is, take time to sharpen it. And choose to believe God can use it when you humbly offer it up to Him.

Stay true to who you are. God didn’t ask Shamgar to be anyone other than a farmer. He’s not asking you to be anyone other than who He designed you to be, either. You do you, and then watch with humble amazement as God uses your willing, obedient, ordinary life to accomplish extraordinary things in His name.

Lord, thank You for reminding me that You can use anyone and everyone. I willingly offer You all that I am and all that I have — choosing to believe that who I am is enough to be used by You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Mightier Than All

Psalm 33:6 – “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

Isaiah 44:24 – “This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.”

Romans 4:17 – “As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”

Hebrews 1:3 – “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

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Mightier than All

From: Our Daily Bread

Mightier than All
Read: Psalm 93 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 23–25; Acts 21:18–40

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. Psalm 93:1

Iguazu Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina, is a spectacular waterfall system of 275 falls along 2.7 km (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Etched on a wall on the Brazilian side of the Falls are the words of Psalm 93:4, “Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!” (rsv). Below it are these words, “God is always greater than all of our troubles.”

The writer of Psalm 93, who penned its words during the time that kings reigned, knew that God is the ultimate King over all. “The Lord reigns,” he wrote. “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity” (vv. 1–2). No matter how high the floods or waves, the Lord remains greater than them all.

The roar of a waterfall is truly majestic, but it is quite a different matter to be in the water hurtling toward the falls. That may be the situation you are in today. Physical, financial, or relational problems loom ever larger and you feel like you are about to go over the falls. In such situations, the Christian has Someone to turn to. He is the Lord, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20) for He is greater than all our troubles.

Lord, I know that You are powerful and greater than any trouble that might come my way. I trust You to carry me through.

Never measure God’s unlimited power by your limited expectations.

The Submission of the Believer

From: Utmost.org

The Submission of the Believer

Our Lord never insists on having authority over us. He never says, “You will submit to me.” No, He leaves us perfectly free to choose— so free, in fact, that we can spit in His face or we can put Him to death, as others have done; and yet He will never say a word. But once His life has been created in me through His redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a complete and effective domination, in which I acknowledge that “You are worthy, O Lord…” (Revelation 4:11). It is simply the unworthiness within me that refuses to bow down or to submit to one who is worthy. When I meet someone who is more holy than myself, and I don’t recognize his worthiness, nor obey his instructions for me, it is a sign of my own unworthiness being revealed. God teaches us by using these people who are a little better than we are; not better intellectually, but more holy. And He continues to do so until we willingly submit. Then the whole attitude of our life is one of obedience to Him.

If our Lord insisted on our obedience, He would simply become a taskmaster and cease to have any real authority. He never insists on obedience, but when we truly see Him we will instantly obey Him. Then He is easily Lord of our life, and we live in adoration of Him from morning till night. The level of my growth in grace is revealed by the way I look at obedience. We should have a much higher view of the word obedience, rescuing it from the mire of the world. Obedience is only possible between people who are equals in their relationship to each other; like the relationship between father and son, not that between master and servant. Jesus showed this relationship by saying, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The Son was obedient as our Redeemer, because He was the Son, not in order to become God’s Son.

 

Sheila Walsh July 19, 2017
Who Are You Looking For?
SHEILA WALSHFrom: Crosswalk.com

“She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. ‘Dear woman, why are you crying?’ Jesus asked her. ‘Who are you looking for?’” John 20:14-15a (NLT)

As Labor Day approached last year, I was bone-tired.

Finances were tight, and we hadn’t taken a vacation in some time, so I asked God if He could open a door. I prayed, and I waited. A couple of days later, a friend mentioned the people who’d booked their condo might be canceling their reservation. If they did, he wanted me to use it.

That night I prayed, If this would be a good thing, Lord, please open the door. If not, slam it closed.

The following morning, my friend called and said it was all mine. I was so excited. I would be relaxing for a week, rent-free, no makeup, no high heels — just T-shirts and a ball cap. My husband Barry had some things to take care of at home and offered to stay with the dogs while I rested and prayed. He kissed me goodbye as I set off the following morning.

An hour into the journey, things began to go wrong.

The air conditioning in my car quit on a day stretching into the high 90s. I turned the dial to the max to see if it might kick back in, but it didn’t. I turned it off and kept driving, but after an hour, sweat dripped off my forehead into my eyes. I rolled down the windows, hoping fresh air would dry me out. And it did — until the storm hit. The sky dumped bucket after bucket of hot water, and before I could roll up my window, I was soaked. Traffic came to a stop, and cars turned on their hazard lights.

I alternated between windows down with large buckets of water coming in, and windows up and large buckets of sweat pouring down. Nine hours later, I arrived, soaking wet and tired but still excited about the next day to relax. The following morning, I brewed some coffee and drove straight to the local drugstore for some sundries.

Less than an hour later, I found a deserted area outside and situated my chair and belongings. Paradise! But as soon as my body hit the chair, it collapsed on top of me. I was trapped — quite literally.

Apart from a large dog that bounded out of nowhere and kept licking my feet, I couldn’t see anyone else in the distance. I couldn’t figure how to get out of my predicament. By the time I dug myself out, my legs were bruised and scraped, and it started to rain — not just rain, but storm! My canine friend wagged his tail, and I left him the soggy towel before I headed back to the condo. The week was not going as planned, and after another string of mishaps — which would take too long to describe — I decided to abandon the trip and drive home through the storm in my incapacitated car. Barry met me at the door with a sympathetic hug and a large stack of towels.

Nothing had turned out the way I thought it would.

It hadn’t been the worst experience in life, and it certainly wasn’t the end of the world, but it had definitely been disappointing.

Don’t you find it’s the little things that push you over the edge? You cope with the harder things in life, and then the dryer breaks when you need to get laundry done and you end up crying a bucket of tears. Or your child doesn’t get the part in the school play she hoped for, or your friend cancels plans to have coffee just when you really needed to talk.

None of this is life-altering, but it’s disappointing and can catch us off guard.

When I find myself struggling with these kinds of disappointments, I choose to hear Jesus ask me the question He asked Mary Magdalene on that resurrection morning as seen inJohn 20:15a, “Who are you looking for?

When we look for Jesus in the middle of what’s not working, we discover He’s always there, bringing peace and comfort. We can sit with Him for as long as it takes to be reminded of what’s always true, no matter what might be true for a moment. He loves us. He is with us. He is here.

Father, things in my life don’t always go as planned. I confess it’s easy at times to lose heart over the ups and downs, even if they are small. Thank You for the comfort and peace You offer in the middle of my mess when I choose to focus my heart again on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.