Category Archives: Uncategorized

Love God Not The World

 

Do Not Love the World    I John 2:15

14  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

15   Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world,the love of the Father is not in him.

16   For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world.…

 

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She Loves Me, . . . She Loves Me Not

From: Get more Strength

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

Did you ever try to figure out whether or not someone you loved, loved you in return? Who knows when, but a long time ago some romantic had the idea that you could solve the dilemma by pulling petals off of a daisy. Remember how it works? “She loves me, she loves me not . . .” When you got to the last petal, you’d have it figured out. And, the beauty of it was, if you didn’t like the outcome, you could grab another flower and start over!

Sometimes I wonder if that’s how God feels about our love for Him. We know from Scripture that God’s love toward us is faithful, undaunted, and unchanging (Lamentations 3:22-23). But, quite frankly, our love for Him is often fickle and erratic. One day it’s “we love Him,” and a couple of days later it looks like “we love him not.” And while we would never say it that way, sometimes that’s really what it is! One day we resonate with intimacy toward God, and the next, we feel distant and disconnected.

I suspect that part of the problem is our understanding of the word love. We use the same English word to speak about so many things. I could say, “I love the Chicago Cubs; I love deep-dish pizza; I love the family dog; and I love my wife” using the same word for all, but meaning dramatically different things. Then we take that same word and say, “I love God.” No wonder the meaning gets lost!

That’s why I’m thankful for the writings of the apostle John. He moves the discussion about our love for God from the realm of our fickle feelings to tangible, practical ways that we can express our love to God regardless of how we feel. John tells us that God feels loved by us when we surrender to Him and obey (1 John 5:3). He also tells us that loving God is expressed to Him by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:21). And in today’s verse we see that our love for God is also proven when we choose to love God more than the world! “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

So, thankfully, our love for God doesn’t need to rise and fall on how we feel on a given day. Loving Him is about our choice to put Him first and care about the things He cares about! And that is something we can do on a regular basis regardless.

If you’ve been caught in a “petal-pulling” love relationship with Jesus, set yourself free by choosing to express your love to Him in concrete ways every day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the good feelings follow your good choices!

 

Covenant Relationship

From: Our Daily Journey

Covenant Relationship

Read:

Malachi 2:10-16
So guard your heart (Malachi 2:16).

Two different friends from different spheres of my life—one a man, one a woman—told me about their unfaithful spouses during the same week. Both felt betrayed and angry. They wondered if they would ever feel whole again.

The book of Malachi is about another broken relationship. As part of the line of Abraham, the people of Judah shared a covenant—a special agreement of commitment—with God (Genesis 12:1-3; Malachi 2:10). They were meant to show the world what it looks like to love and serve Him, but they were straying. Additionally, some of Judah’s men were committing adultery. Malachi speaks of their two betrayals at the same time, using their adultery to help them understand the severity of their sin against God (Malachi 2:11-14).

Can the same thing be said of some followers of Jesus? Am I sometimes the same as the people of Judah? Do I strive after things that lead me away from God?

Jesus calls His followers out of faithless living and into a covenant relationship with Him (Hebrews 10:16-18; 1 Peter 2:9-10). He also equips His followers to serve Him and promises that the Holy Spirit will indwell them (John 14:15-17). If you’re a disciple of Jesus, He truly has these things for you.

In a counterintuitive way, today’s passage reminds us of what a covenant relationship with God looks like. Judah’s disobedience helps us understand God’s faithfulness. Their corruption illumines God’s holiness (His perfect, transcendent nature), and their betrayal underscores His righteousness.

Worship God because He has—and always will—keep His covenants. “Guard your heart,” confess any sin that lingers, and enjoy the peace and love of a committed relationship with God today (Malachi 2:16).

 

The Ministry of the Inner Life

From: Utmost.org

The Ministry of the Inner Life

By what right have we become “a royal priesthood”? It is by the right of the atonement by the Cross of Christ that this has been accomplished. Are we prepared to purposely disregard ourselves and to launch out into the priestly work of prayer? The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our “hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” although we say, “What a wonderful victory I have!” Yet there is nothing at all in that which indicates the miracle of redemption. Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief that the redemption is complete. Then don’t worry anymore about yourself, but begin to do as Jesus Christ has said, in essence, “Pray for the friend who comes to you at midnight, pray for the saints of God, and pray for all men.” Pray with the realization that you are perfect only in Christ Jesus, not on the basis of this argument: “Oh, Lord, I have done my best; please hear me now.”

How long is it going to take God to free us from the unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus. Once we are there, we have to pour out our lives for all we are worth in this ministry of the inner life.

Point The Way To Salvation

God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Show people the way to Jesus Christ for salvation.

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Finding the Way Out

From: Our Daily Bread

Finding the Way Out

God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

There’s a street with an intriguing name in the city of Santa Barbara, California. It’s called “Salsipuedes,” which means “leave if you can.” When the street was first named, the area bordered on a marsh that sometimes flooded, and the Spanish-speaking city planners dubbed the location with a not-so-subtle warning to stay away.

God’s Word cautions us to stay away from the “wrong road” of sin and temptation: “Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Prov. 4:15). But Scripture doesn’t just say “leave if you can.” It offers assurance and tells us where to turn: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

The promise that God will not allow us to be tempted above our ability to withstand is an encouraging reminder. When we turn to God in the moments when temptation comes, we know He is more than willing to help us stay away.

The Bible affirms that Jesus is able “to empathize with our weaknesses.” But He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus knows the way out of every temptation. He will show us as we run to Him!

Thank You, Lord, for Your promise to be faithful to me and provide a way out whenever I face temptation. I praise You that You are willing to give me all the strength I need!

God promises to help us when we are tempted.

 

Faith and Love

From: Our Daily Journey

Faith and Love

Read:

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, 2:1-14
As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

As we drove past a semi on the highway, my father mentioned that some large trucks have an extra set of wheels. Heavily loaded trailers require additional weight distribution over an increased number of wheels. So, when needed, the retractable set is lowered. When the trailer is empty, however, the additional wheels are raised to improve fuel efficiency and decrease wear and tear on the tires. The wheels are always available, yet their true purpose and value is only revealed when the truck is fully loaded.

Just as additional wheels are essential to pull a loaded truck trailer, so too faith and love are necessary for believers in Jesus to keep moving forward in their walk with God. The early church leaders regularly commended the believers for these two spiritual qualities (Ephesians 1:15; Colossians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). They’re often mentioned in relation to what is required to face trials and persecution. Faith and love grew strong and carried the early church through difficult times, spurring them on in their walk with God and in their effectiveness as His “true ministers” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7).

Although Paul, Silas, and Timothy suffered opposition to the good news of Jesus Christ in Thessalonica, there were those who received the message, accepted, and believed it as coming from God (1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:13). The apostles applauded the believers for their “faithful work . . . . loving deeds, and . . . enduring hope . . . because of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, emphasis added). These actions flowed from genuine faith.

As believers in Jesus, may we grow in faith and love as He works through us to establish His kingdom on earth.

 

Taking Possession of Our Own Soul

From: Utmost.org

Taking Possession of Our Own Soul

When a person is born again, there is a period of time when he does not have the same vitality in his thinking or reasoning that he previously had. We must learn to express this new life within us, which comes by forming the mind of Christ (see Philippians 2:5). Luke 21:19 means that we take possession of our souls through patience. But many of us prefer to stay at the entrance to the Christian life, instead of going on to create and build our soul in accordance with the new life God has placed within us. We fail because we are ignorant of the way God has made us, and we blame things on the devil that are actually the result of our own undisciplined natures. Just think what we could be when we are awakened to the truth!

There are certain things in life that we need not pray about— moods, for instance. We will never get rid of moodiness by praying, but we will by kicking it out of our lives. Moods nearly always are rooted in some physical circumstance, not in our true inner self. It is a continual struggle not to listen to the moods which arise as a result of our physical condition, but we must never submit to them for a second. We have to pick ourselves up by the back of the neck and shake ourselves; then we will find that we can do what we believed we were unable to do. The problem that most of us are cursed with is simply that we won’t. The Christian life is one of spiritual courage and determination lived out in our flesh.

Only God Satisfies Your Soul

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2

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Intimacy That Satisfies

From: Get More Strength.com

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2

In my opinion, intimacy is a really attractive word. Deep down inside, all of us long for meaningful connections that satisfy our souls and chase away the shadows of aloneness. But if we’re not careful, we may be looking for true intimacy in all the wrong places. Thoughts of intimacy often conjure up mental pictures of close encounters of the physical kind or the shallow, shabby offers of alluring lingerie, one-night stands, colognes, video titles, evenings of candlelight and red wine, or voyeuristic exchanges on the Internet. More innocently, your thoughts of intimacy may be about just finding a good friend that can be a soul mate. But even deep friendships can be sometimes fleeting and fickle.

It’s easy to be lured into counterfeit offers of intimacy only to find that they are not what our soul really craves. In fact, every time we dip into these buckets, we eventually come up empty, disappointed, and frequently left with shame and regret. Accept no substitutes! Don’t stop looking until you have found the soul mate that will truly satisfy.

You ask, “Who would that be?” Search no more, the offer of fulfilling intimacy is found in a deepening relationship with God Himself. After all, you were built for intimacy with Him. That’s what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden until sin blocked access to God. But thankfully, God didn’t give up on His desire for intimacy with you. He stepped in and removed the barrier through the death of His Son so that intimacy with Him could be restored! And now He welcomes you to Himself by saying, “Come near to [me] and [I] will draw near to you” (James 4:8) and “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20). He’s wanting and waiting to come in and dine with you!

God is the only One perfectly suited to satisfy and sustain us. The joy of true intimacy is ours as we grow more deeply conscious of, connected to, and confident in God—and Him alone—as our unfailing resource in life.

As in any relationship, intimacy with God has some dynamics that make it grow. We don’t experience His nearness by just telling Him that we love Him, as important as that is. Intimacy is cultivated by drawing near to Him in obedience; by loving what He loves and hating what He hates; by sharing our deepest desires and struggles with Him in prayer; and by expressing our love to Him by acts of loyalty, sacrifice, and service to others. These attitudes and actions all say to God, “I love you!” in clear and compelling ways. Hebrews assures us that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Indeed, intimacy with God will reward your spirit with peace, confidence, a sense of direction and purpose, and the blessing of knowing that you are loved, really loved, by the one who promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you!

Intimacy with God can’t be bought at the corner newsstand. Nor can it be purchased at the mall, found on an exotic vacation, or acquired in developing the most impressive of social calendars. When it comes to the joy of intimacy, these things are the small talk of life compared to the deep satisfaction that comes from the privilege of knowing that “in a love that cannot cease, I am His and He is mine!”

 

Arlene Pellicane November 23, 2016
How to Turn Around a Downhill Day
ARLENE PELLICANE

“The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him — may your hearts live forever!” Psalm 22:26 (NIV)

When was the last time you had one of those days?

Sometimes that downhill day teaches us a lesson that sticks with us forever. For me, a pivotal day like that happened a few years ago. I walked into the post office mid-morning with my preschooler. It wasn’t the holidays, so I expected to get in and out quickly.

It turned out lots of people must’ve had the same thought because the post office was packed. The line was to the door and moving slowly. Two post office clerks worked as swiftly as they could, but there were just too many people.

“Did you bring a snack?” my little Lucy asked immediately.

Usually I was stocked like a well-appointed pantry for long outings, but I thought the post office would be a quick errand. I didn’t have a cracker to my name.

Lucy whined, “I’m hungry, Mommy!”

A few minutes turned into 25. Lucy and I were both unhappy campers. My day’s schedule was thrown out of balance. Later in the day, it was time for Lucy’s afternoon nap. She is usually great about taking her naps. But of course, on this non-perfect post office kind of day, she resisted. Protested. Fought. Struggled.

Finally, Lucy was sleeping soundly.

I work from home, but there was not any work getting done that day. Once Lucy was asleep, I turned toward the kitchen to prepare dinner.

I’m not really a cook; I’m more of a food assembler. But on this particular day, I had planned to make a casserole. Standing at my kitchen counter, chopping up pieces of chicken, I again realized why I don’t cook complex recipes (read here: things with more than five items). They take too much time!

I felt incredibly irritated about my wasted day.

My husband James was in the next room practicing his guitar. He’s a beginner, so insert creaky chords here. He was learning a praise song and without even thinking about it, I began to sing along.

Within just a few minutes of singing praises to God (I’m still chopping chicken), my whole demeanor changed.

The unfulfilled to-do lists and the burdens of the day lifted off my shoulders.

I was filled with gratitude instead of grumbling.

My irritation disappeared.

Instantly I was at peace. All my striving could not produce happiness, but when I looked to Jesus and sang praises to Him, all of a sudden, everything was made right.

I was satisfied just like the key verse says, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise him” (Psalm 22:26a).

When you praise God for who He is, even when the day has left your soul poor and hungry, you turn that downhill day around. God has given us the gift of song to praise Him. Our key verse of praise from Psalm 22 is sung even when everything is going wrong in the writer David’s life.

Psalm 22:1 opens the chapter with painful words that will be quoted by Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (NIV)

But the perspective shifts in verse 3, “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.” (NIV)

“Yet you …”

Let those two little words grab a hold of your heart today. You may be working in a dead-end job. You may be in a cloud of sadness. You may feel stuck in the kitchen or a crazed post office line: “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One”(Psalm 22:3a, NIV).

Jesus Christ is worthy of all praise. The first verse of Psalm 22 speaks of despair. But the last verse, Psalm 22:31, speaks of praise and victory: “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!” (NIV)

That day at my kitchen counter, I learned praise was the key to turning a downhill day around. Don’t use your circumstances to measure your days. Instead turn your eyes upon Jesus Christ.

When you praise Him, no matter what’s happening in your life, He will give you divine perspective. Peace. Calm. Joy. Even when you’re chopping chicken.

Dear Jesus, I worship You because You are worthy of praise. You have defeated death, and You can turn around my downhill days. Dominion, power, glory and blessing belong to You alone. Set my soul free from anxiety as I praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

Fame and Humility

From: Our Daily Bread

Fame and Humility

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2:8

Many of us are obsessed with fame—either with being famous ourselves or with following every detail of famous people’s lives. International book or film tours. Late-night show appearances. Millions of followers on Twitter.

In a recent study in the US, researchers ranked the names of famous individuals using a specially developed algorithm that scoured the Internet. Jesus topped the list as the most famous person in history.

Yet Jesus was never concerned about obtaining celebrity status. When He was here on earth, He never sought fame (Matt. 9:30; John 6:15)—although fame found Him all the same as news about Him quickly traveled throughout the region of Galilee (Mark 1:28; Luke 4:37).

Wherever Jesus went, crowds soon gathered. The miracles He performed drew people to Him. But when they tried to make Him a king by force, He slipped away by Himself (John 6:15). United in purpose with His Father, He repeatedly deferred to the Father’s will and timing (4:34; 8:29; 12:23). “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).

Fame was never Jesus’s goal. His purpose was simple. As the Son of God, He humbly, obediently, and voluntarily offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

You are to be celebrated, Lord, above all others. You have been highly exalted and given a name that is above every name. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that You are Lord.

Jesus came not to be famous, but to humbly offer Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

 

The Distraction of Contempt

The Distraction of Contempt

What we must beware of is not damage to our belief in God but damage to our Christian disposition or state of mind. “Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16). Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. There are certain attitudes we should never dare to indulge. If we do, we will find they have distracted us from faith in God. Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives.

Beware of “the cares of this world…” (Mark 4:19). They are the very things that produce the wrong attitudes in our soul. It is incredible what enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention away from God. Refuse to be swamped by “the cares of this world.”

Another thing that distracts us is our passion for vindication. St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, “I must explain myself,” or, “I must get people to understand.” Our Lord never explained anything— He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves.

When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block our fellowship with God. God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

Fill Your Life With Goodness

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36 (NIV)

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Karen Ehman November 15, 2016

From: Crosswalk.com
Your One-Sentence Eulogy 
KAREN EHMAN

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.” Acts 9:36 (NIV)

My kitchen contains some of my favorite things.

My big red Dutch oven where a batch of cheesy potato-corn chowder simmers. A watercolor painting of a bowl of fruit, purchased at an estate sale. And my aqua hand mixer. Because, well, I like to bake, and I love the color aqua! But the object I adore most is a lettered sign my mother-in-law gave me, made from rustic barnwood and stenciled with this simple phrase: “Scatter Kindness.”

I hung this inspiring inscription above the kitchen door that leads to the garage, so I’m sure to see it every time I exit my home. We live in a world filled with turmoil, sadness and despair. Of course, there are pockets of happiness too. On many days, though, it feels like the sadness overshadows the joy. It doesn’t take much looking around to find a soul in need of a little encouragement or a healthy dose of hope.

I was once told that there are two types of people in the world: those who enter a room full of people and announce, “Here I am!” and those who walk into a room, seek out another soul and lovingly declare, “Oh … there you are!” It makes me wonder, someday — when I am long gone — will I be remembered as someone who sought to encourage others or sought only to make herself known? Which one will be said of you?

The Bible tells detailed stories of the titans of the faith: Abraham, Joseph, Esther and Mary, to name a few. But sometimes it gives us an intriguing glimpse of some lesser-known characters, sketching their stories in a simple sentence or two. One such character is the New Testament woman named Tabitha.

We meet Tabitha in Acts, where the story of the birth of the Christian church is recorded by a doctor named Luke. Acts also introduces us to the founders of the church, including Peter and Paul. But tucked away in its pages we also find a portrait of a woman who demonstrated how to put others first and scatter kindness. I love her one-sentence description: “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36, emphasis added).

What a beautiful and unusual introduction! While most personal descriptions mention relationships (such as “a wonderful wife and mother”) or career accomplishments (“a dedicated nurse”) this woman was known for continually looking for ways to scatter kindness. Concerned about the poor, she actively worked to make their lives better. In fact, her actions so radiated Christ’s love that the author of Acts recorded these words for us to read 2,000 years later in our Bibles.

One reason we know about Tabitha today is because she died, and Peter raised her from the dead. But as glorious as her resurrection was, her character is what impresses me: “She was always doing good and helping the poor.” Oh, how this one sentence shakes my soul and stirs my heart!

If someone were going to record a one-sentence eulogy about us, what would they say? Would they observe about us — like Tabitha — that we were “always doing good” to others? Were we on the lookout for those who had a much harder row to hoe, or were we more concerned about our own safety and comfort, giving little thought to others?

While sometimes we may think our life is boring, could we see our humble and common circumstances as an opportunity for God’s eternal purposes, just as Tabitha did? Could we seek to scatter kindness, discovering an important and fulfilling ministry as we do?

Years from now, how will you be remembered? As a, “Here I am!” person or as an, “Oh … there you are!” sort of soul?

What will be your one-sentence eulogy?

Father, may I make it my aim today to scatter kindness as I go through life, reflecting to others Your kindness to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

From: Streams in the Desert

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. (2 Cor 1:8)

But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. (2 Cor 12:9)

God allowed the crisis to close around Jacob on the night when he bowed at Peniel in supplication, to bring him to the place where he could take hold of God as he never would have done; and from that narrow pass of peril, Jacob became enlarged in his faith and knowledge of God, and in the power of a new and victorious life.

God had to compel David, by a long and painful discipline of years, to learn the almighty power and faithfulness of his God, and grow up into the established principles of faith and godliness, which were indispensable for his glorious career as the king of Israel.

Nothing but the extremities in which Paul was constantly placed could ever have taught him, and taught the Church through him, the full meaning of the great promise he so learned to claim, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

And nothing but our trials and perils would ever have led some of us to know Him as we do, to trust Him as we have, and to draw from Him the measures of grace which our very extremities made indispensable.

Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith. When hindrances confront us in the path of duty, we are to recognize them as vessels for faith to fill with the fullness and all-sufficiency of Jesus; and as we go forward, simply and fully trusting Him, we may be tested, we may have to wait and let patience have her perfect work; but we shall surely find at last the stone rolled away, and the Lord waiting to render unto us double for our time of testing.
A. B. Simpson

Sweeter Than Honey

From: Get more Strength.org

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

I wonder how many of us got tired of hearing our moms tell us, “Eat this, it’s good for you!” And you can bet that if it required a lot of coaxing, it wasn’t the most appetizing dish on the table!

Thankfully, there are a few items on the good-for-you menu that go down a little easier than eggplant or brussels sprouts. Like honey, for example. Who doesn’t love a glob of honey slathered thickly on buttered toast? And not only does it taste good, but scientific studies show that honey has great medicinal value. For one thing, it helps reduce cholesterol. It’s loaded with antioxidants that help fight cancer. And a bit of honey and lemon mixed with hot water has a sure soothing effect on a sore throat. In food world, there’s nothing else quite like honey. No wonder the psalmist David used it to describe God’s Word when he exclaimed, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).

If we’re honest, our attitude doesn’t usually match up to David’s. Can we really say that God’s Word is “sweet” or, for that matter, “sweeter than honey”? Usually it’s more like, “Oh, I guess it’s good for me, so I have to read it.” When we engage the Bible with that attitude, it’s no wonder that it seems like a bland, flavorless experience.

So let’s start reading the Word expecting to have a meaningful, personal encounter with God. For me, it cannot be just an exercise in reading through the Bible in a year or making sure I read a chapter a day, or any other system that allows me to put a tic mark on my spiritual checklist next to the “Bible reading” obligation. Each encounter with Scripture has to be a search for something that is relevant to my life. I need to read until I hear Him speak in a way that reaches to the core of me. If it comes quickly, I may not need to read further. But if it takes more time than I had planned, I need to keep reading until my soul, heart, and mind have been revitalized.

When I read about the fact that God is sovereign and fully in control of everything that is happening in my life (Jeremiah 10:23) and ultimately manages the whole universe (Colossians 1:16-17), how sweet is that? When I read that He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), and that He works everything to a good conclusion (Romans 8:28), it settles my spirit with a sweet taste. When I read that this world is not my home (1 Peter 2:11) and that my home is heaven, a place where God will wipe away every tear (John 14:3Revelation 21:4), there could be nothing sweeter!

The more we read the words and promises that fill our hungry hearts and provide healing antidotes to our wounded souls, the more we will understand the psalmist’s enthusiasm for God’s Word. I’m telling you right now, when your life goes south, when you are confused and don’t know what to do, your next best meal is not going to help you at all. But the words of God will be just what you need. So, go ahead—eat it—not only is it good for you, it’s sweet!

Whatever your approach, reading the Bible should be a dynamic experience that is alive with flavor and excitement. As you continue to connect with God through His Word, relish every morsel. After all, His words are sweeter than honey!

 

“What Is That to You?”

From: Utmost.org

One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.

Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.

Say Yes To God’s Will

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.     Luke 1:38

Mary the mother of Jesus said this in agreement to God’s will. Mary showed great faith to believe God. God gave her the greatest blessing a woman could have. That blessing was the Son of God. Wonderful blessings come through saying yes to God.

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Lynn Cowell August 26, 2016

He Said Yes
LYNN COWELL

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

The day had finally come and it was none too soon! My husband and I had stalled on making needed repairs to our backyard, and I was happy to see the repair crew arrive.

As the workers sweated away outside, inside, I typed away in my office. I ended the article I was working on with this challenge: “Today, let’s you and I look for someone who needs our prayers.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Almost immediately, I looked back out into the yard and noticed a new worker, so I headed out.

That’s when I struck up a conversation with Johnny.

After exchanging greetings, it didn’t take long to learn Johnny was fairly new to our community. We swapped stories of what brought us to the area and how we both had to make major life adjustments when we moved.

Then that nagging, I’ve got to get back to work feeling crept in my mind. Just as I was about to say goodbye and make my way back into the house, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit in my heart: Pay attention to the person in front of you.

I spent a few more moments listening to Johnny before heading inside to locate our checkbook. As I began writing the check, I noticed my pen that had our church information on it.

Ask Johnny to church came a second nudge in my heart. Honestly, this one scared me, so I told God, “I’ll ask Johnny to church if I see him again.”

After writing the check, I looked around but there was no Johnny. I’m sorry to say I felt relieved. I don’t have to do the hard thing, I thought.

I stepped back into our home and my eyes saw something through the windows to our front yard. Johnny’s truck. He was still at our home, packing up his tools.

You can see Johnny, I felt the Holy Spirit pointing out to me.

I needed to obey.

“How am I going to do this, Lord? It’s so unnatural to just walk down there and start talking to him?”

Then the idea came: Go down the driveway, get the mail and start a conversation. And that’s what I did.

“Johnny, you said you were new here. Have you found a church, because you should check out mine?” I blurted, as I stuck out my pen.

Johnny looked at the pen. He looked at me. Then, like a volcano oozing lava, Johnny poured out his heart. He’d been hurt by a relationship in his church, but he wanted to believe God was still good. He was searching for God to speak to him.

I was stunned. To think I had almost missed this opportunity because of fear and my preoccupation with my own affairs!

After a few minutes, I attempted to wrap up our talk when I sensed God wasn’t finished yet.

You didn’t pray for Johnny. I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to my spirit.

“Here, Lord? In the middle of my cul-de-sac? What if my neighbors see me and wonder what I’m doing talking to a man?”

That’s for me to deal with, I felt Him reassure me.

So, I simply said, “Johnny, can I pray for you?”

He said, “Yes!”

And right there, in my cul-de-sac, God showed me what happens when we look not only to our own interests, “but also, to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Friends, if we will slow down, stop and listen, we will see that God has an assignment for us today. Let’s look for someone who needs us to pray for them. May our eyes and ears be open to the Holy Spirit and boldly ask the question: “Can I pray for you?”

Father, those five words, “Can I pray for you?” seem so intimidating. Yet when spoken, they can open doors for You to do Your work through us. Empower us, Holy Spirit, to be brave and be bold today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Are You Ever Troubled?

From: Utmost.org

Are You Ever Troubled?

There are times in our lives when our peace is based simply on our own ignorance. But when we are awakened to the realities of life, true inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus. When our Lord speaks peace, He creates peace, because the words that He speaks are always “spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Have I ever received what Jesus speaks? “…My peace I give to you…”— a peace that comes from looking into His face and fully understanding and receiving His quiet contentment.

Are you severely troubled right now? Are you afraid and confused by the waves and the turbulence God sovereignly allows to enter your life? Have you left no stone of your faith unturned, yet still not found any well of peace, joy, or comfort? Does your life seem completely barren to you? Then look up and receive the quiet contentment of the Lord Jesus. Reflecting His peace is proof that you are right with God, because you are exhibiting the freedom to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself. Allowing anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you either causes you to become troubled or gives you a false sense of security.

With regard to the problem that is pressing in on you right now, are you “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and receiving peace from Him? If so, He will be a gracious blessing of peace exhibited in and through you. But if you only try to worry your way out of the problem, you destroy His effectiveness in you, and you deserve whatever you get. We become troubled because we have not been taking Him into account. When a person confers with Jesus Christ, the confusion stops, because there is no confusion in Him. Lay everything out before Him, and when you are faced with difficulty, bereavement, and sorrow, listen to Him say, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:27).

 

Honorable Living

From: Our Daily Bread

Honorable Living

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. 1 Peter 2:9

While delivering a well-publicized speech, a respected leader and statesman got the attention of his nation by declaring that most of his country’s honorable Members of Parliament (MPs) were quitedishonorable. Citing lifestyles of corruption, pompous attitudes, unsavory language, and other vices, he rebuked the MPs and urged them to reform. As expected, his comments didn’t go well with them and they dispatched counter-criticisms his way.

We may not be public officials in positions of leadership, but we who follow Christ are a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9). As such, our Lord calls us to lifestyles that honor Him.

The disciple Peter had some practical advice on how to do this. He urged us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (v. 11). Although he didn’t use the word honorable, he was calling us to behavior worthy of Christ.

As the apostle Paul phrased it in his letter to the Philippians, “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Indeed, these are the characteristics of behavior that honor our Lord.

Lord, when we are honest with You, we understand how often we fall far short of honorable behavior. We know how much we need You. By Your Spirit, help us replace any selfish thoughts, words, and actions with things that please You and draw others to You.

We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father and live like His children.

Godly Women Are To Be Praised

Proverbs 31

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

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 A WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO GODLINESS

From: Crosswalk.com

Author: Dr. Richard G. Lee  

“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”  Proverbs 31:10

 

What is a godly woman? Proverbs 31 describes the value of a godly woman as “far above rubies.” Simply put, to her husband and children, to her friends and even to society as a whole, a godly women is of priceless value. But such value is gained only along the road to godliness, a journey that continues throughout a lifetime. While each woman’s journey is unique and personal, here are a few vital steps that lead to godliness.

1. The journey begins with a personal encounter with God through Jesus Christ.

The first step on the journey to become a godly woman is to have a personal encounter with God through Jesus Christ, His Son. As Christians, we believe what is written in Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

For us to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ means we recognize that we are sinners and believe the declaration of the Scriptures that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sins through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. We then repent of our sins, commit our lives to Christ, and confess faith in God’s willingness to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

2. A godly woman embraces the freedom from her past and her new beginnings in Christ.

The promise of God in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is that at the moment we have a personal encounter with God, everything is new. It tells us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have

become new.” What a glorious promise! No matter what we have done in our past, God sees us as new people through Jesus Christ. Imagine! The Creator of heaven and earth sees you as pure and holy through Jesus. As the writer of the book of Isaiah put it, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” We do not have to hold on to our pasts. We can let it go and know without a shadow of a doubt that we are forgiven and look forward to a brand new beginning in Jesus Christ.

3. A godly woman becomes intimately familiar with the Holy Spirit, who is her Guide.

A journey is pointless unless it has a destination and road map to get there. The journey to godliness requires more than head knowledge about God or a sincere desire to follow Christ. The pursuit of godliness is a daily yielding to the direction of God’s Holy Spirit who is within the believer’s heart guiding her to joy and spiritual prosperity. Jesus proclaimed this truth in John 14:16, 17. “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth . . . you will know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Also, John 16:13 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth . . . and will tell you things to come.”

4. A godly woman surrounds herself with friendships of strong believers.

There is no more powerful influence in our lives than that of the people we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. Jesus recognized the power of friends and acquaintances when He said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). It is important for both new believers and mature women in God to continually surround themselves with others who are firm in their faith. In both the good times and in the difficulties of life this circle of influence is vital to the foundation and growth of a godly woman.

More often than not among Christians, friendship with mature believers is found by becoming a member of a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. The church is often referred to as the “family of God.” It is the local body of believers who come together to worship God that is enormously important to every person’s journey of growth in faith.

The local church is also important for uplifting each other and encouraging one another in opportunities to do good works together. As Hebrews 10:24-25 explains, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another.”

 

Keep Recognizing Jesus

From: Utmost.org

Keep Recognizing Jesus

The wind really was boisterous and the waves really were high, but Peter didn’t see them at first. He didn’t consider them at all; he simply recognized his Lord, stepped out in recognition of Him, and “walked on the water.” Then he began to take those things around him into account, and instantly, down he went. Why couldn’t our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves, as well as on top of them? He could have, yet neither could be done without Peter’s continuing recognition of the Lord Jesus.

We step right out with recognition of God in some things, then self-consideration enters our lives and down we go. If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where He engineers your circumstances. The things surrounding you are real, but when you look at them you are immediately overwhelmed, and even unable to recognize Jesus. Then comes His rebuke, “…why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Let your actual circumstances be what they may, but keep recognizing Jesus, maintaining complete reliance upon Him.

If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, “Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?” Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.

 

Defeat or Victory?

From: Our Daily Bread

Defeat or Victory?

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.1 John 5:4

Each year on June 18 the great Battle of Waterloo is recalled in what is now Belgium. On that day in 1815, Napoleon’s French army was defeated by a multinational force commanded by the Duke of Wellington. Since then, the phrase “to meet your Waterloo” has come to mean “to be defeated by someone who is too strong for you or by a problem that is too difficult for you.”

When it comes to our spiritual lives, some people feel that ultimate failure is inevitable and it’s only a matter of time until each of us will “meet our Waterloo.” But John refuted that pessimistic view when he wrote to followers of Jesus: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

John weaves this theme of spiritual victory throughout his first letter as he urges us not to love the things this world offers, which will soon fade away (2:15–17). Instead, we are to love and please God, “And this is what he promised us—eternal life” (v. 25).

While we may have ups and downs in life, and even some battles that feel like defeats, the ultimate victory is ours in Christ as we trust in His power.

Lord Jesus, Your ultimate victory in this fallen world is assured, and You ask us to share in it each day of our lives. By Your grace, enable us to overcome the world through faith and obedience to You.

When it comes to problems, the way out is to trust God on the way through.

 

 

 

Surrender to God’s Will

9“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11‘Give us this day our daily bread.…
Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

Psalm 68

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. A song.

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
    may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
    as wax melts before the fire,
    may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
    and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,[c]
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

When you, God, went out before your people,
    when you marched through the wilderness,[d]
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
    before God, the One of Sinai,
    before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
    you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
    and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

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Garden Talk

By: Joe Stowell

“Not what I will, but what you willMark 14:36

Okay, I have to confess . . . I like gardening. There, I said it. Sorry guys, but I do! So, liking gardens, I have often thought about how wonderful the Garden of Eden must have been. Absolute satisfaction and joy in the most fragrant and lavishly beautiful place the world has ever known! And add to the beauty of it all the unhindered intimacy that Adam and Eve, in perfect harmony, enjoyed with each other and their God. In spite of the fact that there were no high-tech toys, sports, or flashy cars there, it’s safe to say that what went on in that garden was an experience beyond our fondest dreams.

But as you probably know, something bad happened, and the super-blessed pair were left with a fallen world full of weeds and pain—all kinds of weeds and pain if you know what I mean.

But the God who lost His prized possession on that day planned to someday reclaim Eden and its unhindered joys. In Revelation 21:1-27, He describes this new Eden in terms of the “new heaven and new earth.” Everything in this old fallen place will be gone and there will be a new city where God will dwell, where we will be His people and He will be our God. There will be no more tears, no death, no mourning or crying, and no pain. All of that will have passed away. PTL! The tangled thorns of broken relationships, sickness, pain, and sin will be no more. And, better than the first garden, in this Eden there will be no possibility of failing and losing it again. By His grace we will all be locked into righteousness—forever.

But between the experience of these two gardens, there is another garden. A garden where the new Eden became a certain reality—a reality in which we can find hope and courage in the fact that this creepy, fallen world is not all that we have, that there is a better world to come! It is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized over going to the cross. And it was His surrender in that garden that makes the coming Eden an assured reality for all who embrace the Jesus of Gethsemane as Savior and Lord.

Recently it occurred to me that, like Jesus, we live between the two gardens—in a hostile and threatening world full of weeds and pain. And between the two gardens, “surrender” is still the password that produces the victory we long for in the midst of the weeds of fallen relationships and personal failure. Surrender to a forgiving spirit. Surrender to patience and long-suffering. Surrender to God’s principles even in the face of rejection and misunderstanding. It’s surrender that keeps the weeds from choking out the strength and joy in our hearts.

So let me ask you: When was the last time you knelt at the rock by Jesus’ side, knowing that God’s will for you was a tough assignment, and heard your heart say with His, “Not my will but yours be done”?

That’s garden talk!

 

 

 

The Compelling Force of the Call

From: Utmost.org

The Compelling Force of the Call

Beware of refusing to hear the call of God. Everyone who is saved is called to testify to the fact of his salvation. That, however, is not the same as the call to preach, but is merely an illustration which can be used in preaching. In this verse, Paul was referring to the stinging pains produced in him by the compelling force of the call to preach the gospel. Never try to apply what Paul said regarding the call to preach to those souls who are being called to God for salvation. There is nothing easier than getting saved, because it is solely God’s sovereign work— “Look to Me, and be saved…” (Isaiah 45:22). Our Lord never requires the same conditions for discipleship that he requires for salvation. We are condemned to salvation through the Cross of Christ. But discipleship has an option with it— “If anyone…” (Luke 14:26).

Paul’s words have to do with our being made servants of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us as broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be “separated to the gospel” means being able to hear the call of God (Romans 1:1). Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains— “…separated to the gospel…” Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him. The Bible Training College exists so that each of you may know whether or not God has a man or woman here who truly cares about proclaiming His gospel and to see if God grips you for this purpose. Beware of competing calls once the call of God grips you.

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

 

 

Leave a Legacy

From: Our Daily Bread

Leave a Legacy

Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.

Mark 10:45

When a road-construction foreman was killed in an accident, the love of this man for his family, co-workers, and community resulted in an overwhelming sense of loss. His country church couldn’t accommodate all the mourners, so planners moved the service to a much larger building. Friends and family packed the auditorium! The message was clear: Tim touched many lives in a way uniquely his. So many would miss his kindness, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for life.

As I returned from the funeral, I thought about the life of King Jehoram. What a contrast! His brief reign of terror is traced in 2 Chronicles 21. To solidify his power, Jehoram killed his own brothers and other leaders (v. 4). Then he led Judah into idol worship. The record tells us, “He passed away, to no one’s regret” (v. 20). Jehoram thought that brute force would ensure his legacy. It did. He is forever commemorated in Scripture as an evil man and a self-centered leader.

Although Jesus also was a king, He came to Earth to be a servant. As He went about doing good, He endured the hatred of those who grasped for power. In the process, this Servant-King gave His life away.

Today, Jesus lives along with His legacy. That legacy includes those who understand that life isn’t just about themselves. It’s about Jesus—the One who longs to wrap His strong, forgiving arms around anyone who turns to Him.

Lord, in Your death as well as in Your life, You did the will of Your Father and served others. In some small way, help us to serve others with our lives today.

A life lived for God leaves a lasting legacy.

 

 

 

Sally Clarkson FEBRUARY 2, 2016

The Power of Ordinary Celebrations
Sally and Sarah Clarkson

“This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

Funny the way some childhood memories are etched in pinpoint clarity against the Impressionist background of our years. There’s one memory whose significance I never question; its setting was a blustery Sunday evening in the midst of a very dreary March. I know exactly why it remains so deeply etched in my thoughts, for in a dark, windy moment, I (Sarah) glimpsed the power of ordinary celebration — workaday beauty — to invade and redeem a moment of possible despair.

To set the scene: a small, brick house in Texas, my mom wrapped in a sweater at the open front door, waving to my dad as his car, headlights eerie in the light rain, pulled away from us into the night. My three younger siblings pressed against her, waving too. I stood slightly behind, reserved in my new on-the-cusp-of-adulthood self-consciousness, quiet because of the dread that unexpectedly filled my heart.

I was just old enough to perceive this was a difficult moment for my mom. On this, the fourth Sunday of its kind, she was waving goodbye to my dad as he left again for five days of work at a distance too far to cover each evening. We wouldn’t see him again until Friday.

The keeping, feeding and entertaining of four children was in her lone hands — as was the housework, the driving to lessons, the making of meals. Beyond this was the fact of my baby sister’s nocturnal asthma and the newly diagnosed health condition that caused Mom to become intensely dizzy at the most inopportune of moments.

I was freshly aware of the fact that life can be very hard, not in dramatic ways, but in small, daily realities. The ripening of adulthood had stolen the blessed innocence that is the gift of childhood. I was aware of myself as confronting something, responsible for grappling with it in a way I never had been before. I had no idea what to do.

From behind, I surveyed my mother’s shoulders, saw the momentary sag as my sister asked to be carried with sweet, clutching little hands. I couldn’t see Mom’s face, but I waited, sure that when she turned I would behold a set of tired eyes or a resigned face that would mean a hushed evening, an early bedtime and maybe a strained week to come.

I heard the sigh as my mother firmly closed the front door. She turned. “I think we need a party tonight. Cookies, burgers and a movie. We can pile on my bed and have an indoor picnic.”

I think I smiled, but I was too startled for it to be much more than a wondering half-smile at first. My mom certainly smiled, patting each of my brothers on the head. The boys cheered. Three-year-old Joy clapped her little hands. And the moment of farewell — that wistful, slightly frightening moment of watching my dad depart — was transformed by one sentence into a moment of possibility.

As everyone moved toward the kitchen, my mom put her hand on my arm. “It’s going to be a good week, Sarah. Don’t worry. Would you make the cookies?”

The rest of the evening passed in what can only be described as merriment. There was plenty of sibling squabbling and jostling for the prized seat next to my mom. But there were also our favorite cheeseburgers, fresh oatmeal crispies and lemonade in the gem-toned plastic sippy cups whose battered presence was constant throughout my childhood. There was an old Haley Mills movie and a raucous amount of shouted laughter with a bedtime a little too late after an evening enjoyed to the hilt.

And there was a next morning — still rainy, still gray, still March at its worst, but all of us with filled hearts from the celebration the night before.

In looking back at that memory, it remains with me because that moment profoundly shaped the way I encounter the difficult ordinary of life in a fallen world.

Nearly 20 years later, I am deeply aware of the gift my mother gave me when the face she turned to a moment of real despair was one of hope.

In her choice that night, she modeled what it means to look at life in a fallen world, every day, and meet it with a creative joy born of the Holy Spirit.

 

Do Everything To God’s Glory

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What On Earth Are We Doing?

From: Getmorestrength.org

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

“What on earth are you doing?!” You may have heard that phrase when your mom told you to clean your room and found you playing with your toys instead, or maybe when your teacher caught you passing notes in class.

But if God were to ask you this question, how would you respond?

Paul tells us that as followers of Jesus we have been put on this earth to bring glory to God in everything we do. So what should that look like?

God’s glory is the manifestation of all that He is in His unsurpassed, stunning perfection. It is His amazing love, His wide mercy, His deep grace. His glory is seen in His truth, justice, wisdom, and power. To glorify Him means that we have the high privilege of showing Him off in a world that is totally unaware of what He is really like. Acts of mercy to the undeserving, grace to the needy, forgiveness to an offender, living wisely according to His will—all give glorious visibility to the character and quality of our God.

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about God. It’s our job to let others see what He is really like. And, when they like what they see, let’s be sure to let them know who taught us to live like that. It’s not a good idea to steal God’s glory!

May our lives be a “show and tell” for God’s glory.

 

 

 

From: Streams in the Desert
My Father is the husbandman (John 15:1).

It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to, us, as a heavenly messenger, bringing us something from God. In its earthly aspect it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual out-working it yields blessing. Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world’s greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world’s greatest sorrow. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife is deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, “My Father is the husbandman.”

Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, “When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result.”

There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.

There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering.
–Dr. Miller

“I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

“I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me.”

 

 

Called to Craftsmanship

From: TGIF Devotions

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.'” Exodus 31:1-5

Bezalel was called by God to perform a most important work for Him. I am sure that Bezalel believed that he was naturally gifted with his hands to make fine crafts with gold, silver, and bronze. He probably did not associate it with God’s work. But the Scripture tells us that God chose him and filled him with God’s Spirit to enable him.

Does God call men and women into their vocations to fulfill His purposes – to fulfill that which needs to be accomplished throughout the world? Have you ever thought about how many occupations there are in the world? How did that balance of interest among each human throughout the world happen? Did it just happen? Was it by chance that we have only so many doctors, only so many accountants, only so many geologists?

Your interest in your vocation is not born of your own making. So many workplace believers and even pastors have made the mistake of encouraging us who have a deep desire to walk with Christ in the workplace to pursue vocational ministry. To remove us from the workplace where the greatest harvest is yet to occur would be to remove us from where God called us. Do not take this bait. Serve the Lord in the workplace where He has gifted you and called you.

I almost made this same mistake when God drew me to Himself when I was 28 years old. I concluded that I must be called to be a pastor. I took steps to fulfill this by leaving my job and entering a Bible school for training. Upon completion, I took a job as an assistant pastor in a church. But God’s mercy allowed me to be removed from that position only three months into it. I was “forced back into business,” where God wanted me in the first place. It was a great lesson. I was never cut out to be a pastor in a church, but a “pastor” in the workplace.

TGIF, Today God Is First. Copyright © 2015 by Os Hillman. All rights reserved.

 

September 19

From: Through the Bible Daily

Job 19:25-27 (NIV) 25I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27I myself will see him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Job’s friends continued to insist that Job face up to the sin that had caused his miserable condition. Job continues to tell them he can’t find one. Of course he was not perfect, nor is anyone. He couldn’t find an issue to repent of. There are times when we suffer the consequences of other’s sins. There are times when there may be a heavenly battle over us, such as this case with Job. What did Job cling to through it all? What kept him from following his wife’s advice and cursing God? He trusted in the perfect character of God.

He knew that God was his Redeemer. That is the Gospel. Though these ancient people had only oral tradition to go on, Job knew God was his Redeemer. He also knew that one day his Redeemer would physically stand upon the earth. Even though he died and rotted away, he believed he would see that day. He longed for it, because then he knew he would then understand what it was all about.

You may have sorrow in your life that you cannot find the reason or plan of God in. You can’t see any good that comes from it. Do as Job did and put your hope in the day when you will see God. God will ever be perfect and just. You can be sure that there are reasons for all things, and that they are good reasons. He is sovereign over all. Evil is not without boundaries. All things will have meaning and purpose. Place your hope in the day you will see Him face to face and all your questions answered.

Consider: Your Redeemer lives. Does your heart yearn for that day?

Evening

September 19

Galatians 2:19-21 (NIV) 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

When Peter came to Antioch, he laid aside his strict Jewish customs and ate with the Gentile Christians. Later, when men were sent there from James, Peter ate only with the Jews for fear of being reprimanded by the law keepers. Other Jews followed his example. Paul confronted him, reminding him that they were made right with God through faith in Christ Jesus, not in keeping the law. They received the Spirit because of faith in Jesus, not because they kept the law.

Paul went on to explain that it was through the law that he died to the law so that he might live for God. The law promised a new covenant and the indwelling Spirit of God. The law promised the coming Messiah who would reign in our hearts. Paul died with that Messiah, Jesus, on the cross. His life was the life of Christ in him. He lived that life not by the law, but by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him. It was no longer Paul trying to be good and obey rules, but Paul yielded to the life of Christ in him. The righteous things he did were not his effort, but the life of Christ manifested in his mortal body.

Many Christians today try to please God by doing the things that good Christians should do. It is not so different from the Jews trying to please God by keeping the Jewish laws. We can never please God with our own effort. The way to please God is to die with Christ and let the life of Christ reign in you. Remember, God said He was well pleased with His Son. Are you in Christ? Then God is well pleased with you. Just let His life be expressed through you as He directs moment by moment.

Consider: If we could please God by trying, why did Jesus go to the cross? He died as a sacrifice for your sins, so that you might receive the Spirit. Let His life, in all its goodness and holiness, be expressed through you. Is He living through you?

Remember Jesus Every Day

 

Top of the List

Strength for the Journey, By: Joe Stowell

Sep.10 2015

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

When my wife Martie says, “Could you run to the grocery store for me?” I always want to know what it is she wants me to get. After asking the question, my mind is usually already off to something else as she tells me the list: “Bananas, bread, bacon, milk, and butter.” Inevitably, I get to the store and pick up the bananas, bread, and bacon, but end up forgetting the other two things. When I get home, I’ve got to go all the way back to the store because I forgot the milk and butter.

Tell me I’m not alone! It’s easy to forget to pick up the clothes at the drycleaners, or even the kids at daycare. The point is, in our humanness we’re all prone to forget. And it gets worse with age! We get preoccupied and distracted.

Unfortunately it’s not just the little, everyday things that we forget. It’s easy to overlook the big things, like the peace in the midst of stress and the power against great odds that are both available to us through prayer. When we’re not having a good day, it’s easy to forget the joy of our salvation. We even forget the death of Jesus for us—the very reason that we can live with undefeatable hope and assurance. Which means that forgetting about Jesus may open the door of your heart to the tormentors of hopelessness and insecurity.

It’s hard to believe that Christians could ever forget Christ and Calvary. It’s at the heart of everything we have and believe. And yet, in the hours before the crucifixion at the Last Supper, Jesus warned the disciples that they might forget Him and His work on the cross for them. This seems remarkable to me, because the disciples watched Him do all sorts of miracles like restoring sight to the blind and even raising Lazarus from the dead! How could they ever forget Christ after seeing those events firsthand? Still, in Luke’s account of the Last Supper, he quotes Jesus as saying: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 ESV). In essence: Don’t forget Me! In Greek, the word remember means to deliberate—to keep it on your mind. And it is often used in the sense of remembering something for your good.

So, why is it good for us to remember Jesus and His work on the cross? Jesus knew that if we were to forget, we might lose our love for Him and be seduced into loving lesser and even harmful things. Without the cross continually before us, we might become bitter or angry when He allows suffering to come into our lives. We might forget that He suffered for us to accomplish great things and that deep in our suffering the hand of God is busy doing great things through our pain. Forgetting the agony of His death, we might begin to take sin lightly and think more of ourselves than we should!

There’s an old song that goes something like this: “The cross before me, the world behind me . . . No turning back, no turning back.” What are you doing to keep the cross of Christ on your mind? Make a list of the stuff you might forget, and check it twice. Are Jesus and His wonderful work for you on the top of the list?

 

From: Streams in the Desert

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me (Ps. 138:8).
There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, “Why hast thou forsaken me ?”
The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.
Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus.
–Soul Food
The great thing is to suffer without being. discouraged.
–Fenelon
“The heart that serves, and loves, and clings,
Hears everywhere the rush of angel wings.”

 

 

From: Devotions by Christine Caine

Read Psalm 18:19

The psalmist tells us that our Father God must often rescue us from our good intentions.

God Delights in Me

When I was in my late 20s, I was the head of a community-based youth center and on the way to leading a major Christian youth movement in Sydney, Australia. I was passionately serving God and so busy that my weeks literally felt like one long day with a series of naps (and these were rare). It was a very exciting time for me. God had given me gifts of leadership and speaking, and many doors of opportunity were opening. I felt like I was living the dream, yet when I would get home and lay my head on my pillow at night—well, actually, in the early hours of the morning—I felt like I was dying inside.

When everything was quiet and it was just God and me, the success from the day would fade away and all that would be left was what felt like a gaping chasm in my heart. I was not a happy girl. No matter how much I accomplished or achieved, I just couldn’t seem to find contentment and joy. In order to fill this void, I kept working harder and harder, keeping longer and longer hours, hoping sooner or later that my heart would feel fulfilled.

Eventually, the stress and intensity of my schedule took its toll on my body, and I collapsed. Quite literally, in fact. I threw my back out, and my life came to a screeching halt. For the next three weeks (which felt like an eternity!), my days were spent lying on the couch, keeping very still to avoid the pain of movement. I was forced to stop doing and simply be still.

As I lay there feeling like a completely useless Christian, I picked up my Bible. As I flipped through the pages, I came across a verse in Psalms that I had probably read more than a hundred times, but that day these words came alive in a new way and arrested my heart: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Ps. 18:19, NIV). It was like God had a megaphone and was screaming to get my attention: “Christine, I delight in you. Not just the thousands of young people you minister to, not just in all that you accomplish in my name, but in you, my own precious daughter.” God delighted in me—in me with all my faults, me with all my failings, me with my broken past . . . me immobile on a couch!

POINT TO PONDER

Do you know that God delights in you, with all your faults and failings, just as you are? What you do for God will never be as important as who you are to God—his precious child.

Devotions by Christine Caine copyright © 2012 by Christine Caine and Equip & Empower Ministries.

 

Day 39

In prayer we go to our enemies, to stand at their side. We are with them, near them, for them before God. Jesus does not promise us that the enemy we love, we bless, to whom we do good, will not abuse and persecute us. They will do so. But even in doing so, they cannot harm and conquer us if we take this last step to them in intercessory prayer. Now we are taking up their neediness and poverty, their being guilty and lost, and interceding for them before God. We are doing for them in vicarious representative action what they cannot do for themselves. Every insult from our enemy will only bind us closer to God and to our enemy. Every persecution can only serve to bring the enemy closer to reconciliation with God, to make love more unconquerable.

How does love become unconquerable? By never asking what the enemy is doing to it, and only asking what Jesus has done. Loving one’s enemies leads disciples to the way of the cross and into communion with the crucified one.

Biblical Wisdom

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

Questions to Ponder

  • Why should we․in intercessory prayer․do for our enemies what they cannot do for themselves? What can’t they do for themselves?
  • Where does one get the strength to love, bless, and do good to their enemies knowing that they will most likely be abused and persecuted in response?
  • Why would Bonhoeffer say that: “Loving one’s enemies leads disciples to the way of the cross and into communion with the crucified one”?

Psalm Fragment

In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid.
What can a mere mortal do to me?
My vows to you I must perform, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of life. Psalm 56:10-13

Journal Reflections

  • What emotions surface within you when you think of interceding on behalf of your enemies?
  • Does your community of faith actively seek to love, bless, and do good for enemies? If so, how? If not, how could you encourage the practice?

Intercessions

Name your enemies, picture them in your mind, “stand at their side” before God, pray for them.

Prayer for Today

Lord of peace and justice, let me not so much want victory over my enemies as true and mutual reconciliation with them.

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint ofAugsburg Fortress.

 

 

A Dose of Cheer (Proverbs 17:22)

What makes a cheerful heart? Ask a parent, and they will say what makes a cheerful heart is a home filled with laughter where the people are getting along and love each other. That’s a single sentence to read and write, but oh how challenging it is to live out.

First, a home filled with laughter. Someone has to keep a light-hearted spirit in the midst of various family styles. A tone must be established that keeps a home a fun place to be. People have to practice loving and be engaging to keep a family cheerful and fun. It takes effort. Second, a place where people get along. As personalities develop and differences arise, it will be more difficult to get along. Find the commonalities among the family members and spend time there. It will encourage people getting along and enjoying each other. Third, simply love each other. Love is patient and kind. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love is willing to see views other than its own.

These are the ingredients that will keep the home cheerful, and the verse says a cheerful heart is good medicine. In other words, we all get sick and need these remedies. Let’s practice them at home.

PARENTING PRINCIPLE

Kids like to take medication if it tastes sweet. Cheerfulness is that kind of good medicine.

POINTS TO PONDER

  • Is your home full of cheer?
  • What could you do to improve the tone in your house?
  • Do your children respond favorably to laughter in the home? What can you do to generate more?

Taken from Once a Day Nurturing Great Kids

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing