Category Archives: Trust

Don’t Keep God’s Word A Secret

 If you had known…in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. —Luke 19:42

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“If You Had Known!”

From: Utmost.org

Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly and the city was stirred to its very foundations, but a strange god was there– the pride of the Pharisees. It was a god that seemed religious and upright, but Jesus compared it to “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).

What is it that blinds you to the peace of God “in this your day”? Do you have a strange god– not a disgusting monster but perhaps an unholy nature that controls your life? More than once God has brought me face to face with a strange god in my life, and I knew that I should have given it up, but I didn’t do it. I got through the crisis “by the skin of my teeth,” only to find myself still under the control of that strange god. I am blind to the very things that make for my own peace. It is a shocking thing that we can be in the exact place where the Spirit of God should be having His completely unhindered way with us, and yet we only make matters worse, increasing our blame in God’s eyes.

“If you had known….” God’s words here cut directly to the heart, with the tears of Jesus behind them. These words imply responsibility for our own faults. God holds us accountable for what we refuse to see or are unable to see because of our sin. And “now they are hidden from your eyes” because you have never completely yielded your nature to Him. Oh, the deep, unending sadness for what might have been! God never again opens the doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut– doors which had no need to be shut. Never be afraid when God brings back your past. Let your memory have its way with you. It is a minister of God bringing its rebuke and sorrow to you. God will turn what might have been into a wonderful lesson of growth for the future.

A Heart of Compassion

From: Our Daily Bread

A Heart of Compassion

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Seven of us were attending a musical production at a crowded amusement park. Wanting to sit together, we tried to squeeze into one row. But as we did, a woman rushed between us. My wife mentioned to her that we wanted to stay together, but the woman quickly said, “Too bad,” as she and her two companions pushed on into the row.

As three of us sat one row behind the other four, my wife, Sue, noticed that the woman had an adult with her who appeared to have special needs. She had been trying to keep her little group together so she could take care of her friend. Suddenly, our irritation faded. Sue said, “Imagine how tough things are for her in a crowded place like this.” Yes, perhaps the woman did respond rudely. But we could respond with compassion rather than anger.

Wherever we go, we will encounter people who need compassion. Perhaps these words from the apostle Paul can help us view everyone around us in a different light—as people who need the gentle touch of grace. “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). He also suggests that we “bear with each other and forgive one another” (v. 13).

As we show compassion, we will be pointing others to the One who poured out His heart of grace and compassion on us.

Your compassions never fail, Father. May we mirror Your heart by showing compassion to others.

Compassion is understanding the troubles of others.

 

We Are at War

From: Our Daily Journey

We Are at War

Read:

Ephesians 6:10-20
Put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm (Ephesians 6:13).

My great-grandfather was a Romanian sailor on the King Carol I warship during World War II. On October 10, 1941, he was one of twenty-one sailors who lost their lives when the ship hit a mine and sank near Varna, Bulgaria. Until the beginning of World War I, King Carol I had served as a cruise ship. Once the war started, the ship was transformed into a warship with guns and special armor for launching mines and grenades. While I’m proud and thankful for the legacy my great-grandfather left, I know that I am also engaged in war. It is a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Just as King Carol I was especially armored for war, I need to arm myself for the spiritual battles I face.

When we answered the call of Jesus to follow Him, we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Obviously, this infuriated the evil one. So it should be no surprise to us when Satan wants to steal our joy and peace and attempt to destroy God’s plan for our lives. The apostle Paul alerted the Ephesians that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against . . . mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Nevertheless, we don’t need to worry! God has already told us how to get ready for battle. Paul said to “put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil” (Ephesians 6:13). This verse does not imply that the time of evil might come, but states that it will come. We must expect it and be prepared so that “after the battle [we] will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13).

 

Has God Chosen You?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . . For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” Ephesians 1:3-4
There is great honor in being chosen of God. The rewards are great for those chosen of God.
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Chosen

From: Get More Strength.org

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . . For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” Ephesians 1:3-4

A recent journey through the book of Genesis got me thinking about Abraham. Ever stop to realize how significant Abraham is to literally billions of people around the world? Jews claim him as their national, cultural, and spiritual father. Muslims revere and respect him as a great prophet. And Christians realize that through Abraham, God provided the seed of the Messiah.

So as I was reading about Abraham—specifically about God’s call and Abraham’s response in Genesis 12:1-20—the question struck me. Why Abraham? Out of all of the people on the globe at that moment, why did God choose him?

It wasn’t because of his spiritual merits or extraordinary abilities. God didn’t hold some kind of “Ur of the Chaldeans Idol” competition in which early patriarchs lined up for the chance to strut their spiritual stuff before the Almighty and a few celebrity judges. On the contrary, from what we know of Ur, Abraham was living in a sophisticated, yet pagan, idolatrous society, and, most likely, he himself was an idolater. So why on earth did God choose him?

Here’s my stunning, biblically educated answer: I don’t have a clue.

It’s just one of God’s mysterious ways.  He chooses people. The pages of biblical history are packed with stories of God’s choices—people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David—all handpicked by God, for reasons known only to Him.

God’s choice had huge ramifications. They became the recipients of some phenomenal promises—spelled out in the covenants that God made with them. To Abraham and his heirs, God promised land, a national heritage, and the blessing of countless descendants. God’s choice of Moses included the promise of His presence and the revelation of His holiness and character through the law. And David, chosen out of the seeming obscurity of wandering the hills of Bethlehem as a shepherd, was promised an eternal kingdom in which his descendants would reign forever! Why would God do that? It’s just His way.

God’s choice also gave them the phenomenal privilege of participating in His plans. Think about it. God could have created a nation, revealed His law, and provided a Messiah entirely independent of man’s assistance or participation. And yet God chooses Abraham to be the father of a nation. He picks Moses to meet Him on top of Mount Sinai, returning to the Israelites with God’s law. And He selects David and his descendants to lay the groundwork for the Son of God’s appearance in this world.

Which brings us to this amazing promise in the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He stuns those of us who are followers of Christ with the revelation that, before the creation of the world, we were chosen by God—just like Abraham. Just like Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. That’s very elite company!

And, just like them, our chosen status makes us recipients of His covenant promises—the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and hope and meaning for this life and the promise of eternity in heaven for the next. Like the patriarchs, we’re given the privilege of participation in His plans. We become His messengers and ambassadors—agents of reconciliation as we share His good news. He doesn’t need us, but He willingly chooses us! He actually desires us—desires us to join Him in the advance of His cause.

Which brings me back to the same question I had about God’s choice of Abraham: Why? Why would God choose little ole’ me? Actually, I don’t need to know. All I know is, it’s just His way. Which should make all of us humble, grateful, and happily obedient for the rest of our days!

 

The Details of Love

The Details of Love

Read:

Exodus 25:8–26:14
You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you (Exodus 25:9).

When my wife and I chose her engagement ring, I suggested she pick out whatever setting she wanted. But I asked her if I could select the center stone, so that I could personally choose a special representation of my love for her. I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to her with a beautiful symbol of our life together that she would cherish—just as we both celebrate the relationship God has given us.

Thinking about the meaning of her engagement ring helped me understand the meticulous detail with which God described the blueprint for building the tabernacle. He said, “You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:9). Although those details might at first seem to have no relevance to us today, they would have been very meaningful to an ancient Israelite—pointing towards a deep relationship with God.

The words, “so I can live among them” in verse 8 make clear that the relational character of God is at the heart of the tabernacle’s design. For example, the ark of the covenant containing the Ten Commandments would always remind Israel of their covenant with God and the way He revealed Himself to them on Mount Sinai. The rings on the side of the ark, making it portable, would remind them that God’s presence would move with them. The lid of the ark, called the “mercy seat,” would remind Israel of their need for God’s forgiveness.

With the coming of Jesus, Immanuel (“God with us”), we no longer require the tabernacle to experience God’s presence (Matthew 1:23). But there are countless signposts in the world reminding us of the God who loves us and is with us.

 

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

Your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. Daniel 10:12

My daughter sent a text message to a friend, in hopes of having a question answered quickly. Her phone’s messaging service showed that the recipient had read the message, so she waited anxiously for a reply. Mere moments passed, yet she grew frustrated, groaning her annoyance at the delay. Irritation eroded into worry; she wondered whether the lack of response meant there was a problem between them. Eventually a reply came and my daughter was relieved to see their relationship was fine. Her friend had simply been sorting out the details needed to answer the question.

The Old Testament prophet Daniel also anxiously awaited a reply. After receiving a frightening vision of great war, Daniel fasted and sought God through humble prayer (10:3, 12). For three weeks, he received no reply (vv. 2, 13). Finally, an angel arrived and assured Daniel his prayers had been heard “since the first day.” In the meantime, the angel had been battling on behalf of those prayers. Though Daniel didn’t know it at first, God was at work during each of the twenty-one days that elapsed between his first prayer and the angel’s coming.

The confidence that God hears our prayers can cause us to become anxious when His reply doesn’t come when we want it to. We are prone to wonder whether He cares. Yet Daniel’s experience reminds us that God is at work on behalf of those He loves even when it isn’t obvious to us.

Lord, help me to trust Your care for me even when I can’t see it.

God is always at work on behalf of His people.

Saying No Can Save Heartache

Drawing Near to God           James 4:7
6    But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
8    Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.…
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When Yes Means No

From: Our Daily Bread

When Yes Means No

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me. Psalm 120:1

I thanked God for the privilege of serving as my mom’s live-in caregiver during her battle against leukemia. When medicines began to hurt more than help, she decided to stop treatment. “I don’t want to suffer anymore,” she said. “I want to enjoy my last days with family. God knows I’m ready to go home.”

I pleaded with our loving heavenly Father—the Great Physician—confident He could work miracles. But to say yes to my mom’s prayers, He would have to say no to mine. Sobbing, I surrendered, “Your will be done, Lord.”

Soon after, Jesus welcomed my mama into a pain-free eternity.

In this fallen world, we’ll experience suffering until Jesus returns (Rom. 8:22–25). Our sinful nature, limited vision, and fear of pain can distort our ability to pray. Thankfully, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (v. 27). He reminds us that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him (v. 28), even when His yes to someone else means a heartbreaking no for us.

When we accept our small part in His greater purpose, we can echo my mom’s watchword: “God is good, and that’s all there is to it. Whatever He decides, I’m at peace.” With confidence in the Lord’s goodness, we can trust Him to answer every prayer according to His will and for His glory.

Our Daily Bread welcomes writer Xochitl Dixon!

Meet Xochitl and all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.

 

I Trust God

From: Streams in the Desert

Though he slay me, yet will I trust him (Job 13:15).

For I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
‘I trust in Thee.’

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses.
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
‘I do not doubt,’ so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.

“In fierce storms,” said an old seaman, “we must do one thing; there is only one way: we must put the ship in a certain position and keep her there.” This, Christian, is what you must do.

Sometimes, like Paul, you can see neither sun nor stars, and no small tempest lies on you; and then you can do but one thing; there is only one way. Reason cannot help you; past experiences give you no light. Even prayer fetches no consolation. Only a single course is left. You must put your soul in one position and keep it there.

You must stay upon the Lord; and come what may–winds, waves, cross-seas, thunder, lightning, frowning rocks, roaring breakers–no matter what, you must lash yourself to the helm, and hold fast your confidence in God’s faithfulness, His covenant engagement, His everlasting love in Christ Jesus.
–Richard Fuller

 

 

Helpful or Heartless Toward Others?

From: Utmost.org

Helpful or Heartless Toward Others?

Do we need any more arguments than these to become intercessors– that Christ “always lives to make intercession” (Hebrews 7:25), and that the Holy Spirit “makes intercession for the saints”? Are we living in such a relationship with others that we do the work of intercession as a result of being the children of God who are taught by His Spirit? We should take a look at our current circumstances. Do crises which affect us or others in our home, business, country, or elsewhere, seem to be crushing in on us? Are we being pushed out of the presence of God and left with no time for worship? If so, we must put a stop to such distractions and get into such a living relationship with God that our relationship with others is maintained through the work of intercession, where God works His miracles.

Beware of getting ahead of God by your very desire to do His will. We run ahead of Him in a thousand and one activities, becoming so burdened with people and problems that we don’t worship God, and we fail to intercede. If a burden and its resulting pressure come upon us while we are not in an attitude of worship, it will only produce a hardness toward God and despair in our own souls. God continually introduces us to people in whom we have no interest, and unless we are worshiping God the natural tendency is to be heartless toward them. We give them a quick verse of Scripture, like jabbing them with a spear, or leave them with a hurried, uncaring word of counsel before we go. A heartless Christian must be a terrible grief to our Lord.

Are our lives in the proper place so that we may participate in the intercession of our Lord and the Holy Spirit?

Go Toward God And Safety

 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” —John 6:68

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Running In The Right Direction

.[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” —John 6:68

One of the most difficult experiences in my years as a pastor was telling a member of our church that her husband, her son, and her father-in-law had all drowned in a boating accident. I knew the news would shatter her life.

In the days following their tragic loss, I was amazed as she and her family responded with unusual faith. Sure, there was deep brokenness, haunting doubt, and confusion. But when nothing else made sense, they still had Jesus. Rather than deserting Him in the midst of their desperately difficult days, they ran to Him as the only source of hope and confidence.

This reminds me of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus. After some of them “went back and walked with Him no more” because He was hard to understand (John 6:66), Jesus turned to His inner circle, and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Peter got it right when he responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Whatever you face today, be encouraged by the words of Peter and by the example of a family who went through the fire with their faith intact. As long as you’re running in the right direction—to Jesus—you’ll find the grace and strength you will need.

Jesus is the One to run to
When our lives bring grief and pain;
He provides His strength and guidance
With a peace we can’t explain. —Sper

When all is lost, remember that you haven’t lost Jesus. Run to Him.

Heedfulness or Hypocrisy in Ourselves?

From: Utmost.org

Heedfulness or Hypocrisy in Ourselves?

If we are not heedful and pay no attention to the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other people are failing, and then we take our discernment and turn it into comments of ridicule and criticism, instead of turning it into intercession on their behalf. God reveals this truth about others to us not through the sharpness of our minds but through the direct penetration of His Spirit. If we are not attentive, we will be completely unaware of the source of the discernment God has given us, becoming critical of others and forgetting that God says, “…he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” Be careful that you don’t become a hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right with God before you worship Him yourself.

One of the most subtle and illusive burdens God ever places on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning others. He gives us discernment so that we may accept the responsibility for those souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them (see Philippians 2:5). We should intercede in accordance with what God says He will give us, namely, “life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” It is not that we are able to bring God into contact with our minds, but that we awaken ourselves to the point where God is able to convey His mind to us regarding the people for whom we intercede.

Can Jesus Christ see the agony of His soul in us? He can’t unless we are so closely identified with Him that we have His view concerning the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ will be completely and overwhelmingly satisfied with us as intercessors.

 

Protected and Safe

From: Our Daily Journey

Protected and Safe

Read:

Genesis 3:1-15
He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15).

Molly DeLuca was playing in her backyard with the German shepherd her family had recently adopted. Suddenly, the canine leaped in front of her and began jumping up and down. He was protecting Molly from a rattlesnake that had slithered onto the scene. Later, the dog was rushed to the veterinarian where the family learned that he’d been bitten three times by the reptile. Amazingly, he made a complete recovery.

When Eve encountered Satan disguised as a snake in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1), her body wasn’t poisoned by venom, but her mind was infected by Satan’s lies. She became convinced that satisfaction awaited her if she ignored what God said and ate the forbidden fruit.

Eve took a bite and Adam followed her example (Genesis 3:6). Later, when God confronted their sin, He spoke prophetically. To the snake, He said, “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Thousands of years later, this prophecy came true when Jesus was crucified. He suffered temporarily, but His resurrection permanently broke “the power of the devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).

Unfortunately, Satan still has some power. Like a snake in the grass, he strikes by tempting us. If he’s successful, he swaggers up in front of God and accuses us of our sin. Jesus, however, intervenes and stands up for His followers (1 John 2:1-2). He comes to our rescue, declaring that His blood has already paid for our sin.

Satan’s accusations are dispelled by God and His power. We’re safe forever in Him—our Protector who is alive and well!

God Comes To Our Aid

Like the faithful ambulance, God comes to our rescue. God is faithful and true. He is full of love and compassion.
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Life and Death

From: Our Daily Bread

Life and Death

I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid. Genesis 50:24

I will never forget sitting at the bedside of my friend’s brother when he died; the scene was one of the ordinary visited by the extraordinary. Three of us were talking quietly when we realized that Richard’s breathing was becoming more labored. We gathered around him, watching, waiting, and praying. When he took his last breath, it felt like a holy moment; the presence of God enveloped us in the midst of our tears over a wonderful man dying in his forties.

Many of the heroes of our faith experienced God’s faithfulness when they died. For instance, Jacob announced he would soon be “gathered to [his] people” (Gen. 49:29–33). Jacob’s son Joseph also announced his impending death: “I am about to die,” he said to his brothers while instructing them how to hold firm in their faith. He seems to be at peace, yet eager that his brothers trust the Lord (50:24).

None of us knows when or how we will breathe our last breath, but we can ask God to help us trust that He will be with us. We can believe the promise that Jesus will prepare a place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2–3).

Lord God, Your dwelling place will be with Your people, and You will be our God, wiping away our tears and banishing death. May it be so!

The Lord will never abandon us, especially at the time of our death.

 

Lysa TerKeurst March 30, 2017
Her Success Doesn’t Threaten Mine
LYSA TERKEURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“These were his instructions to them: ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’” Luke 10:2 (NLT)

Have you ever wondered if there’s any need for you and the dreams tucked in your heart, when there are already so many successful people out there in the world?

I totally understand.

Several years ago, I remember pouring out all the best words I had through a pixelated letters-turned-pages-turned-book proposal. I tucked my heart and dreams into a purple Office Max binder and hoped for the best.

That summer, I gave my proposal to several acquisitions editors. For months after sending out my proposal, I would dream about the day some publishing house would say yes.

I can’t tell you the number of afternoons I’d stand at my mailbox, holding my breath, praying there would be good news inside. When the rejection letters started coming, I tried to keep up the hope that surely there would be one positive answer. I just needed one publisher to say yes.

Soon, I’d received a “no” answer from all but one. And when I got that final rejection, I felt so foolish for thinking I could actually write a book. My dream was nothing but a sham. I had no writing skills. And I must have heard God all wrong.

At the same time, I had other writer friends who were getting different letters from the publishers.

Amazing letters.

Dreams-come-true letters.

Letters that turned into book contracts.

In my better moments, I did the right thing and authentically celebrated with them. But then there were other moments. Hard moments.

Moments where I felt my friends’ lives were rushing past me in a flurry of met goals, new opportunities and affirmations of their callings from God. It seemed the world was literally passing me by. And in those moments I said on the outside, “Good for them.”

But on the inside, I just kept thinking, Ouch … that means less and less opportunity for me. The raw essence of honest hurting rarely produces pretty thoughts.

I wrestled and I processed.

And I decided to get still. Refusing to believe I’d been left out and left behind. And starving my scarcity thinking.

Those times of being still are good and necessary when your thinking needs to be swept all into one pile. Then it’s much easier to identify treasures to keep, from the trash that should be tossed.

Then I could see new and life-giving realities. Her success does not threaten yours, nor mine. When she does well, we all do well. All tides rise when we see a sister making this world a better place with her gifts.

When I finally started believing this, my stillness turned into readiness. And that was 20 published books ago.

This is what Jesus reminds us: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Luke 10:2b).

And this is where we have a choice to make today.

We can look out and see the unlimited, abundant opportunities God has placed before us. To create. To write. To serve. To sing. To be and become.

Or we can stare at another person’s opportunity and get entangled in the enemy’s lie that everything is scarce. Scarce opportunities. Scarce supply. Scarce possibilities. And we start seeing another person’s creations as a threat to our own opportunities.

Oh, sweet sister, there is an abundant need in this world for your contributions to the Kingdom … your thoughts and words and artistic expressions … your exact brand of beautiful.

Know it. Believe it. Live it.

Lord, thank You for reminding me how You created me on purpose and with purpose. I don’t have to live this life feeling threatened by the success of others. Today, I’m asking You to bless the women around me doing what I long to do. Stir even more hearts with a deep passion to make You known. And continue to settle my heart with the truth that this world really does need my exact brand of beautiful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Connecting the Dots

From: Our Daily Journey

Connecting the Dots

Read:

Joshua 3:14-17
Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by (Joshua 3:17).

In the 1850s, cholera was a global scourge capable of devastating entire cities. When a particularly terrible outbreak hit the Soho neighborhood of London, Dr. John Snow realized that the outbreak centered around a certain water pump. Snow then noticed that rather than this being an isolated case, the fiercest outbreaks always seemed to focus around these water sources. By connecting the outbreaks to infected pumps, Dr. Snow was able to establish that cholera was spread by contaminated water—a landmark step towards eradicating its terrible effects.

Connecting the dots resulted in something good by helping to thwart a disease. We can also connect the dots to see the work of our good God.

As the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, they could have perceived it as an extraordinary but isolated miracle—a one-time example of God’s intervention (Joshua 3:17). But as they passed through the water, they surely were reminded of their earlier crossing through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22). God’s providence could no longer be seen as an isolated occurrence but part of a long history of faithfulness. And after they passed through, they erected a monument of twelve stones as a reminder of that faithfulness (Joshua 4:19-23).

Often I perceive God’s work in my life as nothing more than isolated and disconnected occurrences—random situations where things work out in a way I could have never imagined. But as with the Israelites, this isn’t the case at all. God’s faithfulness in my present is connected to all the moments of His faithfulness in my past. And connecting these experiences, one to another, helps remind me that God isn’t just faithful in the here and now. He can be trusted to be faithful in the future and forever!

Don’t Get Stuck

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16
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Don’t Get Stuck

From: Get More Strength.org

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

I had just landed in Phoenix for some meetings when the clerk at the rental car desk told me they were all out of cars except for one expensive luxury car that he would give me for the compact rate.

Admittedly, I was a little worried that someone seeing me drive up in this cool over-the-top auto would think that I had lost any sense of good stewardship. But it was, take the car or walk. So I took the car! And, I must admit, I loved driving the car—until my trip back to the airport.

Gliding down the highway in style, I heard an ominous thumping noise and knew immediately that it was a flat tire. I was stuck, and regardless of how nice the car was, I was going nowhere and would probably miss the plane. You probably know the feeling. You need to get somewhere and suddenly you’re stuck in a snowdrift or a muddy ditch—or you get a flat tire. No matter what, getting stuck is not a good thing.

And as bad as it is when you’re traveling, it’s even worse if you get stuck spiritually. You probably know what it’s like. Someone special to you wounds you with their words or actions, and rather than forgiving and turning the other cheek you get stuck in a fight with them only to realize that the more you try to get even the more stuck you become. Or perhaps in the midst of difficult circumstances, seeds of disappointment and bitterness take root and you get stuck in discouragement land. To say nothing of the fact that the spiritual blow of unconfessed sin can completely immobilize us.

All of this makes me love what I read in Hebrews 11: 6-16 . Real people, living in a world like yours and mine, refused to get stuck by the disappointing and discouraging circumstances of their lives. The common thread woven through these individuals is the fact that they saw themselves as “aliens and strangers” in this world, on their way to a “better country—a heavenly one.” Simply put, they caught sight of the fact that they were on a journey and that something greater awaited them. Nothing, or no one, would deter them from keeping their eyes on where they were headed. They refused to get stuck! And in Hebrews 11:16, we get a glimpse of God’s pleasure and delight in the way they persisted in their journey when we read that He is not “ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

So, the next time someone’s words or actions threaten to mire you down—the next time life’s circumstances give you an excuse to blow out and get stuck—remember who you are and where you’re headed. There isn’t a person or thing in your life that is worth getting stuck for! You’re headed home. They can duke it out by themselves if they choose!

 

Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

From: Utmost.org

Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.

If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.

 

Ann Swindell March 29, 2017
When Waiting Wears You Down
ANN SWINDELLFrom: Crosswalk.org

“The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.“ Lamentations 3:25-26 (NIV)

I sat on the bed and unclenched my hands, trying to pray. From my perspective, the past season had gone painfully wrong.

My work was overwhelming, with deadlines that came too fast and too often. My womb had filled with life and then emptied twice in a handful of months, as we suffered two miscarriages back-to-back. Our daughter visited the ER for a sickness that lingered and broke up our sleep like shattered chalk, and I was wrestling with a physical condition that wore me down every day.

Then, unexpectedly, we found ourselves moving a week before Christmas, which meant a broken lease and high fines, as well as transitioning to a city where friendships would have to be built afresh.

Externally, I was busier than I’d ever been, but on the inside, my soul was barely limping along.

So I did what I always do — I tried to figure out how to fix everything. Maybe if I rearranged my work calendar, or if we saw a specialist or made more money or could get my daughter healthy — maybe then, things would get better. Easier. More hopeful.

But the more I tried to figure things out, the more overwhelmed I became. I started crying out to the Lord, asking the unanswerable question of why: Why were things so hard? Why was there such loss? Why did I feel so stuck?

God answered me, but not in response to my whys.

As I sat and prayed, God reminded me that all the things I was so desperately trying to secure — life, health and provision — come from Him. I can’t heal myself or my daughter. I can’t sustain life in my womb. I can’t force friendships or provide for our family. God alone gives us what we need.

All I can do? Pray. And wait.

I pushed out a hard breath as the tears slowed. Waiting is a recurrent theme in my life, but it has never gotten easier. It’s always painful, because it forces me to remember — again — that I’m not in control. I can’t give myself what I need; I can only ask God to heal, renew and provide.

I sat and prayed that God would change our circumstances, and then I turned to the Word and read verses that declare that I already have all that I need in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 4:19). Sitting on that bed, I came to terms with the fact that the Lord has never promised me another child, an easy life, a full bank account or perfect health. But He has promised me more of Himself.

I may have to wait for everything else, but I never have to wait for God.

But why is waiting still so hard? If I have all that I need in Christ, why do I try to fix things instead of waiting for God’s timing? I think it’s because waiting reveals our hearts and how much we want to have control. And in order to wait well, we have to give up that control and stop striving to fix things — and seek Him instead.

Our key verse in Lamentations declares that “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” It’s not easy, but “it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” — to have to wait for God to move on our behalf.

Our difficult circumstances may not change easily or quickly, but as we wait on God and put our hope in Him, rather than hoping in a change of situation, we’ll find that He Himself is more than enough for us.

In Christ, we have all that we need.

Dear Lord, it’s hard for me to wait on Your answer to my prayers, but I declare the truth that I already have all I need in Christ. Help me to trust You and wait with the hope that You are working out all things for my good and Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You Are A Priceless Stone

Daniel 11:38

“But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures.

1 Corinthians 3:12

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

Revelation 18:12

cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble,

Revelation 21:11

having the glory of God Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.

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Naming Rights

From: Get More Strength.org

“To him who overcomes . . . I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

Is there anyone out there as excited as I am that it’s baseball season again? Some questions were once brewing about “the Friendly Confines”—the home field of my beloved Chicago Cubs. When the ownership of the team once changed hands, fans wondered if the historic ballpark at Clark and Addison would continue to be called Wrigley Field, or whether the “naming rights” might be up for auction to the highest bidder who could then change the name to identify the old ballpark with his or her name. In the bigger picture, of course, it’s not a life-or-death issue (except maybe to some diehard Cubs fans). But the debate brings up an interesting topic.

When we come into this world, our parents give us a name. It goes on our birth certificate, gets written across the top of our school papers, and serves as a means of identification throughout our whole life. But our given name is just the beginning.

Almost immediately, we begin acquiring nicknames. Some are just abbreviated versions of our official name. I’m rarely called Joseph (unless I’m in trouble) and was branded with Joe early on. Other nicknames, pleasant or not so pleasant, are descriptive of our characteristics or actions—and if you’re a guy, you hope for something like Slugger or Champ! Throughout our lives we will probably end up with a couple of very specific nicknames from a loved one, such as Honey, Princess, or Sweetie. Nobody else uses those nicknames; they’re just for that special person.

Scripture tells us that God is going to eventually give us a new name. Hey, if you aren’t so thrilled with the name your parents gave you, take heart, a new one is on the way! But more important, think of the level of relationship this implies. There is a name that is going to be just between you and God. It is His special name for you! And while Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how God chooses a new name, we do know that every time He changed a name in Scripture—like Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, and Jacob to Israel—it was to remind someone of a new way He was going to work in their lives. In other words, it was a positive, encouraging change.

John shares another important detail about this new name in Revelation 2:17. Quoting Jesus, he writes, “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it.” Before you start picturing this as something like a plaque or a mini-license plate from a gift shop with your name on it, you have to understand an important custom from New Testament times. In those days, an invitation to a special, exclusive event would arrive in the form of a white piece of marble with your name engraved on it. On the day of the gala event, you would present that piece of marble at the door as your means of access to the celebration. So Jesus is actually saying, “The day is coming when I’m going to give you a new name, known only to you and me, engraved on a white piece of stone as your entry and invitation into eternity.” Wow! Incredible!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out my new name. After all, He bought the naming rights for my life!

 

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

From: Utmost.org

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says. That is a dangerous view, and it is never right to think that my obedience to God’s directive will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying Him. To put my view of His honor ahead of what He is plainly guiding me to do is never right, even though it may come from a real desire to prevent Him from being put to an open shame. I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29). But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

Are you debating whether you should take a step of faith in Jesus, or whether you should wait until you can clearly see how to do what He has asked? Simply obey Him with unrestrained joy. When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honors Him and what doesn’t. Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5).

 

Bearing Good Fruit

From: Our Daily Bread

Bearing Good Fruit

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season. Psalm 1:3

The view from my airplane window was striking: a narrow ribbon of ripening wheat fields and orchards wending between two barren mountains. Running through the valley was a river—life-giving water, without which there would be no fruit.

Just as a bountiful harvest depends on a source of clean water, the quality of the “fruit” in my life—my words, actions, and attitude—depends on my spiritual nourishment. The psalmist describes this in Psalm 1: The person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord . . . is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season” (vv. 1–3). And Paul writes in Galatians 5 that those who walk in step with the Spirit are marked by “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (vv. 22–23).

Sometimes my perspective on my circumstances turns sour, or my actions and words become persistently unkind. There is no good fruit, and I realize I haven’t spent time being quiet before the words of my God. But when the rhythm of my days is rooted in reliance on Him, I bear good fruit. Patience and gentleness characterize my interactions with others; it’s easier to choose gratitude over complaint.

The God who has revealed Himself to us is our source of strength, wisdom, joy, understanding, and peace (Ps. 119:28, 98, 111, 144, 165). As we steep our souls in the words that point us to Him, the work of God’s Spirit will be evident in our lives.

God’s Spirit lives in His people, in order to work through them.

It’s Time For A Change

  • Jeremiah 29:11

    11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • Joshua 1:9

    9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11

    11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
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Time For A Change

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner. —Luke 7:39

A friend once told me, “In my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of things change, and I’ve been against them all!” Perhaps he overstated the point, but many of us would agree that we don’t like change—especially if it involves altering our habits and attitudes.

That’s one reason Jesus was so unpopular among the Pharisees. He challenged their long-established system of good works and self-righteous living. Consider the incident when the town “sinner” entered the home of the town “saint” in Luke 7:36-50. Simon the Pharisee wasn’t impressed with the woman’s lavish display of affection for Jesus. Reading Simon’s self-righteous thoughts, Jesus immediately challenged his flawed perception of his own goodness by telling the story of two debtors—one who owed much to his master and one who owed less. “Which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked (Luke 7:42). Obviously, the one who had been forgiven more. Speaking to Simon’s I-feel-pretty-good-about-myself attitude, Jesus said, “to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47).

The challenge is clear. Lulled into thinking how good we are, our love for Jesus wanes because we have forgotten that we too are among the ones “forgiven much.” And when that happens, ready or not, it’s time for a change!

Forgive us, Lord, for failures past,
Then help us start anew
With strength and courage to obey
And closely follow You. —Sper

When God starts changing things, He usually begins with changing us.

Nicole J Phillips March 27, 2017
Fight About It Tomorrow
NICOLE J PHILLIPS, COMPEL Member

“When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace.” Mark 11:15-16 (NLT)

I was 41 years old and fighting with my dad like I was 14.

My father wasn’t feeling well and (in my opinion) was a little crabby. I was sore and tired from a 10-hour car ride with three children, so I suppose it’s possible I was a little crabby, too.

We were in the kitchen having breakfast and looking through vacation photos when he started complaining about how he hates looking at photos on phones. “Why can’t people just print off pictures like they used to?”

I reminded him we still live in a world of color printers: “If you want, I’d be happy to make real, live copies for you to hold in your hands.”

Now, that would have been fine. I could’ve stopped there. But no. Since my mouth was already open, I decided to carry on and tell him how terribly negative I thought he’d been for the past week. “Why are you so focused on the bad things, Dad? It’s exhausting. How about trying to comment on the good for a change?”

I continued, and so did my dad. The decibel level got so loud that my husband walked into the room. After about five minutes, I “won.” He apologized and said he would try to be more positive.

But I didn’t win. Because two days later, my dad had a major stroke. He spent a week lying in a hospital bed, then months in a nursing home, unable to move one side of his body or name most of the people who walked into the room.

The guilt was overwhelming. Why didn’t I lead with kindness?

I took my grief to God and opened to a Bible passage I had never noticed before. I realized God was about to teach me through this trial.

Mark 11:11 says, “So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left …” (NLT)

Four verses later, otherwise known as the next morning, the story continues: “When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the table of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace” (Mark 11:15-16).

Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t unleash his fury the first time he saw the Temple. He scoped out the situation, slept on it and then went in the next day with the roundhouse kick.

Raising our voices isn’t out of line. The problem is often our timing. We need to take time to search for the right words so the wrong words — in the wrong decibel — don’t sneak up on us. I don’t know about you, but my relationships would be a whole lot sweeter if I would assess each situation and take the time to decide if it’s worth fighting about. If it is, it’ll still be there tomorrow.

God is good at teaching — and redeeming. My dad is once again well enough to share a meal, breathe words of wisdom into his daughter’s sometimes chaotic life, and even look at photos on a cellphone. Although he still prefers the printed version, we sure don’t fight about it anymore.

Heavenly Father, we are in awe of the way You can take every trial and turn it into a teaching opportunity. Lord, give us the wisdom to hold our words until we are certain we are in the center of Your will. Thank You for Your forgiveness when we fail or fall short. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Image Management

From: Our Daily Bread

Image Management

You are precious and honored in my sight, and . . . I love you. Isaiah 43:4

To celebrate Winston Churchill’s eightieth birthday, the British parliament commissioned artist Graham Sutherland to paint a portrait of the celebrated statesman. “How are you going to paint me?” Churchill reportedly asked the artist: “As a cherub, or the Bulldog?” Churchill liked these two popular perceptions of him. Sutherland, however, said he would paint what he saw.

Churchill was not happy with the results. Sutherland’s portrait had Churchill slumped in a chair wearing his trademark scowl—true to reality, but hardly flattering. After its official unveiling, Churchill hid the painting in his cellar. It was later secretly destroyed.

Like Churchill, most of us have an image of ourselves we want others to have of us also—whether of success, godliness, beauty, or strength. We can go to great lengths to conceal our “ugly” sides. Perhaps deep down we fear we won’t be loved if the real us is known.

When the Israelites were taken captive by Babylon, they were seen at their worst. Because of their sins, God allowed their enemies to conquer them. But He told them not to fear. He knew them by name, and He was with them in every humiliating trial (Isa. 43:1–2). They were secure in His hands (v. 13) and “precious” to Him (v. 4). Despite their ugliness, God loved them.

We will find ourselves less motivated to seek the approval of others when such a truth truly sinks in. God knows the real us and still loves us immeasurably (Eph. 3:18).

God’s deep love means we can be real with others.

 

“Brutiful”

From: Our Daily Journey

“Brutiful”

Read:

Hosea 1:2–2:1
In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—“My people.” And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—“The ones I love” (Hosea 2:1).

During my sister-in-law’s lengthy hospital stay, battling an advanced form of cancer, our family spent many hours in a “family room” just down the hall from her room. We befriended a family whose mother had been diagnosed with the same disease. When both women entered hospice within days of each other, the two families shared tears and hugs. As I talked with a daughter of the mother, she said their experience had been “brutiful”—both brutal and beautiful. Similar to my family’s experience, God’s love and light had consistently peeked through the darkness of their family’s grief and pain.

The people of Israel experienced a chilling darkness in their relationship with God due to the deadly spiritual disease of idolatry (Hosea 1:2). The prophet Hosea’s relationship with his wayward wife provided a real-life portrait of his nation’s rebellion against their Lord. When Gomer, the prophet’s wife, had three children, God told Hosea to name them Jezreel (“for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel”), Lo-ruhamah (“not loved”), and Lo-ammi (“not my people”) (Hosea 1:4,6,9). Not exactly a happy trio of names!

But happiness was on the horizon, for God said, “What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land” (Hosea 1:11). Not only was Jezreel’s name redeemed, but God transformed the other two children’s names too: Ammi (“my people”) and Ruhamah (“the ones I love”).

God alone has the power and grace to allow us to experience beauty even when things are brutal. He alone allows us to see light and life as it peeks through the darkness. Seek Him and His “brutiful,” transforming ways even in the midst of your most difficult days.

Renew Personal Purity

 Renew your personal purity just as these things are pure.

 

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God    Psalm 51:10
9   Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.

10   Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11   Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.…

 

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

From: Utmost.org

Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

Purity is not innocence— it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. Our life with God may be right and our inner purity unblemished, yet occasionally our outer life may become spotted and stained. God intentionally does not protect us from this possibility, because this is the way we recognize the necessity of maintaining our spiritual vision through personal purity. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything else aside until we make it right. Remember that spiritual vision depends on our character— it is “the pure in heart” who “see God.”

God makes us pure by an act of His sovereign grace, but we still have something that we must carefully watch. It is through our bodily life coming in contact with other people and other points of view that we tend to become tarnished. Not only must our “inner sanctuary” be kept right with God, but also the “outer courts” must be brought into perfect harmony with the purity God gives us through His grace. Our spiritual vision and understanding is immediately blurred when our “outer court” is stained. If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become unacceptable for us.

A practical help in keeping your personal purity unblemished in your relations with other people is to begin to see them as God does. Say to yourself, “That man or that woman is perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend or that relative is perfect in Christ Jesus!”

 

Price Tags

From: Get More Strength

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” Philippians 3:8

You may have heard the story about the pranksters who broke into a hardware store. Strangely enough, they didn’t steal a thing. Yet what they did created chaos of epic proportions—they switched all the price tags!

The store owner was unaware of anything amiss until the first customer stepped to the cash register with a hammer that rang up at $199.95. Naturally, the customer’s jaw dropped. “What’s that thing made of?” he demanded. “Platinum?”

On further inspection, employees noticed that a big screen TV in the appliance section was selling for $14.95. The goods were all the same, resting on the same shelves as the night before, but the assigned values were hopelessly jumbled.

I can’t help but think that Satan likes to pull the same stunt with us. Unaware of his stealth work, we go through life with mixed-up price tags on our accomplishments and accolades. We assign the wrong value to who we are and what we have—not to mention the lack of value we assign to God who unequivocally deserves the highest value.

Paul had the price tags right when he wrote to the Philippian believers: “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. . . . I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him” (Philippians 3:7-8, The Message).

There’s Paul at the cash register, looking at all the price tags attached to his experiences, achievements, and treasures. He’s got a red pen in his hand, and all those things that used to be so valuable, so precious, so terribly important to him have been slashed down to zero. In fact, Paul’s loading them up in boxes, headed for the dumpster out back.

I find it interesting that this same Paul who once assigned no value to Jesus at all—and in fact hated Him—now can’t even put a price on the privilege of experiencing Him. After his unforgettable personal encounter with the living Christ (Acts 9), Paul’s whole world was reordered, and he never looked back. The value of his relationship with Jesus became “priceless.” What’s more, he lived like he really meant it.

And for us, it’s more than just giving mental or verbal assent to the “surpassing value” of knowing Jesus. Many of us have been doing that for a long time—and then we go on to live like He is eighth or ninth on the list. Unfortunately in this glitz-and-glamour world, we are far too prone to place great value on all that is temporal and seductive. And believe me, we pay a high price for that. It means that we miss out on the most valuable asset of all—the joy of a deep, abiding relationship with the only One who can meet all of our needs and fill us with His joy. His invitation still stands: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Find time for Him and make His will and His ways your greatest treasure! For what you value will capture your heart (Matthew 6:21)!

 

The First Day—Again

From: Our Daily journey

The First Day—Again

Read:

John 20:1-10
Early on the first day of the week (John 20:1 NIV).

Imagine you’re a Jewish child, nourished from a young age by the words of the Torah. You can recite the Torah’s opening lines describing how, just before the dawn of God’s magnificent acts of creation, darkness covered the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2). Those mysterious words signaled that something stunning was about to happen. God was doing something new. You’d hear the story of that first day of creation, the inauguration of God’s creation week when He said, “Let there be light”—and light flooded the earth (John 20:3). Adam and Eve in the garden, beginning the great adventure of human life. What stunning possibilities, what hope! You would know well this story—the story of how God’s new world began to flourish.

And now imagine yourself, years later, stooped and grayed, carrying the weight of many decades on your shoulders, the weight of so many losses and disappointments. Your eyes, once young and bright, are now milky and dim. You’ve forgotten the old fire, the old hope.

Then someone begins to read from John’s gospel. You hear again about another garden, where friends buried Jesus after His violent crucifixion (John 19:41-42). Then you hear familiar words: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . . Goose bumps surface—even on such wrinkled, leathery skin. You feel you’ve returned to childhood wonder.

Is something magnificent about to happen again? Is God on the move? Is God’s kingdom expanding? You lean in. You’re not missing this story. You’ll soon hear of Jesus’ resurrection. Energy surges again. The old hope and the old stories erupt with vigor and fresh possibility. God is doing something new, again.

The Middle

 

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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(The middle is a tough place to be).

The Middle

From: Get More Strength.org

 1 Thessalonians 5:23

I am a passionate fan of Oreo cookies. The mere thought of a tall, ice-cold glass of milk and a huge stack of Oreos is enough to induce some major hunger pangs. And I refuse to pay attention to the fine print on the back of the Oreo package that delineates the calories and fat content. When it comes to Oreos, I’m ready to throw all caution to the wind!

Which reminds me of their ad campaign that addressed that classic Oreo-eating technique in which you pull the chocolate cookie halves apart to get to the creamy frosting in the center. The ad gave this stern reproof to Oreo eaters everywhere: “Don’t fiddle with the middle!”

I’m sure the people at the Oreo factory would be pleased to know that their advice still sticks in my mind. But it’s not about their cookies. Let me explain.

All of us are aware that getting cleaned up for Jesus is an important thing. But most of the time we think about cleaning up all the visible stuff. You know, the stuff on the outside. We try to behave so that others will see that we are “good Christians.” It’s important to us that people in our small groups know that we are having our devotions. We volunteer in the church world, we make sure to put something in the offering plate as it goes by, and we have learned to say all the nice words and do all the right things at all the right times.

And while I’m not “out” on any of that, I do have a problem if your Christianity is only about the externals. Jesus stung some of the best-acting, spiritually spit-polished people of His day with the charge that they were like whitewashed tombs—all cleaned up on the outside but carrying the stench of death within (Matthew 23:27). To Jews who believed that death and defilement were the same thing, this was a serious charge.

It’s scary to think that the better you get on the outside, the worse you might become on the inside. Behaving really well can easily make you proud of yourself, and we all know what God thinks about pride in our hearts: He resists it (1 Peter 5:5), and, in fact, a proud look makes the list of the seven things that are an abomination to Him (Proverbs 6:16-19). Being really good can make a “finger-pointer” out of you real fast. It’s amazing how easy it is for us to carry attitudes in our hearts that stink while we carry our Bible into church. So let’s not forget that while man might applaud us for what’s on the outside, God still looks at the heart! He knows all about that well-protected sin, that self-sufficient attitude, and those resentments we nurse. Like oranges that have been out of the fridge too long, you get no credit for looking good in the fruit bowl if there’s something rotten on the inside.

This is what I like about Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He reminds us that it is God’s plan to sanctify us through and through. In other words, God wants to fiddle with your middle! As Paul says in our text, authentic Christianity is about renewing our spirit, our soul, and then our body from the inside out. It’s not a facelift—it’s a heart transplant!

“Don’t fiddle with the middle” may be good advice for Oreo eaters, but it’s a terrible thing to say to God!

 

Not the One

From: Our Daily Bread

Not the One
 
 

Do as you promised, so that it will be established and that your name will be great forever. 1 Chronicles 17:23–24

David had drawn up the plans. He designed the furniture. He collected the materials. He made all the arrangements (see 1 Chron. 28:11–19). But the first temple built in Jerusalem is known as Solomon’s Temple, not David’s.

For God had said, “You are not the one” (1 Chron. 17:4). God had chosen David’s son Solomon to build the temple. David’s response to this denial was exemplary. He focused on what God would do, instead of what he himself could not do (vv. 16–25). He maintained a thankful spirit. He did everything he could and rallied capable men to assist Solomon in building the temple (see 1 Chron. 22).

Bible commentator J. G. McConville wrote: “Often we may have to accept that the work which we would dearly like to perform in terms of Christian service is not that for which we are best equipped, and not that to which God has in fact called us. It may be, like David’s, a preparatory work, leading to something more obviously grand.”

David sought God’s glory, not his own. He faithfully did all he could for God’s temple, laying a solid foundation for the one who would come after him to complete the work. May we, likewise, accept the tasks God has chosen for us to do and serve Him with a thankful heart! Our loving God is doing something “more obviously grand.”

Father, we want our hopes and dreams and our hearts to align with Yours. Teach us to praise You when we are tempted to doubt Your goodness.

God may conceal the purpose of His ways, but His ways are not without purpose.

 

Clueless at the Light

From: Our Daily Journey

Clueless at the Light

Read:

Proverbs 22:17-25
Don’t . . . associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them (Proverbs 22:24-25).

Ahead of me, two rows of cars waited for the traffic light to turn from red to green. Beside us, in the turn lane, a third line of vehicles awaited a green arrow so they could turn left.

The turn-lane arrow turned green. Our light remained red. But both vehicles in front of me (the two cars not in the turn lane) proceeded as if the green arrow applied to them! The horn-honking from opposing traffic was, shall we say, emphatic. Both drivers had been influenced by the driver in the turn lane—and each other—without a clue that their light was still red.

Whether intentional or otherwise, we do influence each other. And how easily we’re swayed when uncertain of the truth!

Among the “thirty sayings” he left for his son, King Solomon said this about influence: “Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart” (Proverbs 22:17-18). Then he noted the importance of choosing good friends. “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).

It’s important to be discerning when choosing friends. At times, however, even trusted friends will display negative behaviors. So whose lead should we follow? Well, it’s hard to go wrong when we keep our eyes on the One who is the Truth. As the apostle Paul said, “Imitate me just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

The more we follow leaders with integrity, heed wise counsel, and surround ourselves with friends who truly care about us, the less likely we’ll be swayed by a complaining coworker, popular opinion, or our own doubtful heart. Jesus can shape and lead us through others who are close to Him.