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Invest In The World To Come

Are You Investing in Heaven? Earthly investments stay here when you leave, but eternal investments will be with you forever.

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Treasures in Heaven  Matthew 6:21
20  “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21   for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Eternal Investments

From: Get More

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19

Madame Blueberry, Veggie Tales heroine of materialism, loves shopping at the “Stuff-mart.” Her problem, however, is that her treetop cottage soon becomes so overstuffed that the tree collapses under the weight of it all.

We can experience a similar situation. Our families suffer if we place material gain above spouses and children. When the day is done, our energies may be spent and little time may be left to pour out at home.

The strength of the work of Jesus may be compromised as well. The promise of quick credit and plastic cash leaves us in bondage to debt, which disables our support of the kingdom of God. Living for financial and material gain means living for the realm of empty treasures, where “moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19)—leaving few leftover resources to support worthy causes. Sometimes too late, we realize that precious things have collapsed under the weight of our own greed.

Thousands of missionaries retire each year. Who is going to replenish the mission fields? All over North America, our children are growing up just like us, choosing their careers based on how they can make the most money and on what will help them achieve the highest standard of living as quickly as possible. What of the many workers who will be needed to win the world to Jesus? Who will go? Who will support them?

We need to be on guard lest our pursuit of a hollow prosperity threatens to weaken the supply line of eternity. Jesus calls us to live above earthly things, to treasure the eternal things of His kingdom. When we pour our resources into His kingdom, it’s the best investment we can make. No matter what the world may tell us, eternal investments yield better dividends.


  • What treasures have I stored up on earth?
  • How can I pursue God’s kingdom rather than my own?





Headed in the Wrong Direction

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

I anxiously glanced at the clock thinking, If I leave now I’ll still make it on time.

This wasn’t a meeting I could comfortably slip into if I were late … because I was the speaker!

Grabbing my purse, I headed for the garage door when I thought I heard bleating. Yes, bleating, as in a noise coming from a very small animal.

What in the world? I have no idea what that is, but I’m late! Trying to put the strange noise out of my mind, I kept heading toward my car. But try as I might, my heart wouldn’t let me ignore the sad sound, no matter how late it was going to make me.

I turned around and made my way closer to the tiny cry. There, next to our backyard gate, stood the tiniest of fawns. This precious little thing couldn’t have been more than a couple hours old, as it wavered on tiny legs.

On the other side of the fence stood the object of the baby’s sorrow — his mother. They were separated by the fence, and the baby was trapped. He couldn’t get to her and she had no way of getting him out of our backyard.

This wasn’t the first time a little one has been born in our yard. I believe deer spot the cool shade of our woods and decide our yard is the perfect place to give birth. But our yard is not as it seems. When the baby is born and the mother hops back over the fence, her fawn is trapped, alone and without care and protection.

Our yard may appear safe and peaceful to an adult animal, but to an infant it is anything but. I wondered: How many times have I unknowingly jumped into a situation I deemed safe only to get caught where I should not have been?Things like:

… Entering benign conversations, where my speech takes a wrong turn and I find myself gossiping.

… Bored or stressed, as I make my way to my pantry only to indulge in foods that harm, rather than help, my body.

… Wanting to guide my child, when I speak words meant to bring discernment, but instead bring damage.

Today’s key verse warns us, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Sometimes, we can feel like we’re doing the right thing, like the mother deer, when in fact, we’re heading in a wrong direction. How can we know what’s right?

Jesus promised us in John 16:13, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (NIV).

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We need Him. We need His guidance to make wise choices and not become trapped by sin that hurts us and damages our relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us, available all day long, with the wisdom we need to live the rich and satisfying life Jesus wants for us. Our part is to listen for His direction.

After making a few phone calls to animal experts, I was instructed to pick up the fawn and lift him over the gate to safety. He didn’t struggle as I gently lifted him from the ground and delivered him back to his mother. I am so thankful that in my life, as I listen to the Holy Spirit, He too, lifts me up and helps deliver me out of the traps I get myself in.

And yes, thankfully, I did make my speaking engagement just in time.

Holy Spirit, I invite You today, to guide and instruct me. Help me not simply choose what seems best to me, but teach me to listen for Your guidance so I can make wise choices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Streams in the Desert

“Not much earth” (Matt. 13:5).

Shallow! It would seem from the teaching of this parable that we have something to do with the soil. The fruitful seed fell into “good and honest hearts.” I suppose the shallow people are the soil without much earth–those who have no real purpose, are moved by a tender appeal, a good sermon, a pathetic melody, and at first it looks as if they would amount to something; but not much earth–no depth, no deep, honest purpose, no earnest desire to know duty in order to do it. Let us look after the soil of our hearts.

When a Roman soldier was told by his guide that if he insisted on taking a certain journey it would probably be fatal, he answered, “It is necessary for me to go; it is not necessary for me to live.”

This was depth. When we are convicted something like that we shall come to something. The shallow nature lives in its impulses, its impressions, its intuitions, its instincts, and very largely its surroundings. The profound character looks beyond all these, and moves steadily on, sailing past all storms and clouds into the clear sunshine which is always on the other side, and waiting for the afterwards which always brings the reversion of sorrow, seeming defeat and failure.

When God has deepened us, then He can give us His deeper truths, His profoundest secrets, and His mightier trusts. Lord, lead me into the depths of Thy life and save me from a shallow experience!

On to broader fields of holy vision;
On to loftier heights of faith and love;
Onward, upward, apprehending wholly,
All for which He calls thee from above.

–A. B. Simpson



By: Charles Spurgeon

“I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”
Jeremiah 33:3

There are different translations of these words. One version renders it, “I will shew thee great and fortified things.” Another, “Great and reserved things.” Now, there are reserved and special things in Christian experience: all the developments of spiritual life are not alike easy of attainment. There are the common frames and feelings of repentance, and faith, and joy, and hope, which are enjoyed by the entire family; but there is an upper realm of rapture, of communion, and conscious union with Christ, which is far from being the common dwelling-place of believers. We have not all the high privilege of John, to lean upon Jesus’ bosom; nor of Paul, to be caught up into the third heaven. There are heights in experimental knowledge of the things of God which the eagle’s eye of acumen and philosophic thought hath never seen: God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy, “By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us.” Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to Carmel, and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessing, and earth with floods of mercy. Prevailing prayer bears the Christian aloft to Pisgah, and shows him the inheritance reserved; it elevates us to Tabor and transfigures us, till in the likeness of his Lord, as he is, so are we also in this world. If you would reach to something higher than ordinary grovelling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.


“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment.”
Revelation 4:4

These representatives of the saints in heaven are said to be around the throne. In the passage in Canticles, where Solomon sings of the King sitting at his table, some render it “a round table.” From this, some expositors, I think, without straining the text, have said, “There is an equality among the saints.” That idea is conveyed by the equal nearness of the four and twenty elders. The condition of glorified spirits in heaven is that of nearness to Christ, clear vision of his glory, constant access to his court, and familiar fellowship with his person: nor is there any difference in this respect between one saint and another, but all the people of God, apostles, martyrs, ministers, or private and obscure Christians, shall all be seated near the throne, where they shall forever gaze upon their exalted Lord, and be satisfied with his love. They shall all be near to Christ, all ravished with his love, all eating and drinking at the same table with him, all equally beloved as his favourites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as servants.

Let believers on earth imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. Let us on earth be as the elders are in heaven, sitting around the throne. May Christ be the object of our thoughts, the centre of our lives. How can we endure to live at such a distance from our Beloved? Lord Jesus, draw us nearer to thyself. Say unto us, “Abide in me, and I in you”; and permit us to sing, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.”

O lift me higher, nearer thee,

And as I rise more pure and meet,

O let my soul’s humility

Make me lie lower at thy feet;

Less trusting self, the more I prove

The blessed comfort of thy love.

Practice Pity and Mercy

Pity the Nationless, and the homeless as they are on the move to a new place foreign to them.

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The Eternal Question

From: Strength for the Journey, By: Joe Stowell

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:19

Life has a way of driving our faith dangerously close to the edge. What we expect from God so often seems to contradict what we experience in life. We find ourselves wanting to ask: If God is good, then why did this happen? If God is all-powerful, then where is He now? If God loves me, why am I not happier? Richer? Why don’t I have fewer problems and more peace? If God is pleased with me, why don’t I experience more pleasure?

Unanswered questions like these threaten our enthusiasm and heartfelt commitment to Christ. We find our faith growing more stoic, our view of God less emotive. We develop a kind of Christianity that shrugs its shoulders and says, “Well, that’s just the way it is.”And since the stakes are too high to deny God, we just decide to buck up, grin and bear it, and hope that no one ever asks us these kinds of questions. In fact, we may even come to believe that in order to maintain spiritual sanity we need to park our brains and questions outside the door of faith and separate the spiritual realm from the realities of life. At this point, faith itself becomes unreal and irrelevant.

We are left to slug it out on our own, believing that the only relevant resources are in this present world.

A disintegrating faith creates a resigned, despairing Christianity that lacks vibrancy and enthusiasm for God and His Word. Our edge is dulled, leaving us passionless and pessimistic. This decline of confidence in and commitment to God may be why there is something dreadfully wrong and out of sync with us.

The fault is not with God; it is with us. We have assumed that this world should be a pleasant and friendly place and that the answers to the troublesome questions of life can be found in the temporal realm. We have assumed that the answers to life’s dilemmas lie somewhere within us, among us, or within the realm of the immediate world around us. We are wrong.

Thankfully, redemption has put us back in touch with the eternal world beyond and has placed eternity in our hearts. Saving grace has blown down the walls that obscured our view of eternity and has given us a present relationship with Christ the King of eternity, who now lives within us.

If you sense that you are missing something—that you had expected more—then perhaps you have neglected the pressing preeminence of the world to come and its first-wave expression in the person of the King who dwells in the world that is in our hearts. It is only when we actively embrace the world beyond and the world within in their proper perspectives that we become capable of finally coping with and conquering our fleeting experience in this present world.

Paul had it right when he said: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19


Streams in the Desert

“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1).

This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.

And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.

My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.
–George Matheson

If Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he had never been Egypt’s governor. The iron chain about his feet ushered in the golden chain about his neck.



Forty Day Journey

(Bonhoeffer’s view of a life among enemies was formed in the Nazi Germany of the 1930s, a situation that was becoming increasingly hostile to Christians.)

The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.

Biblical Wisdom

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Mathew 10:16

Questions to Ponder

  • How would you define the “enemies” Christians are to live “in the midst of”?
  • What is the “mission” or “work” of Christians toward these “enemies”?
  • Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Does this fit with the reading from Bonhoeffer for today? How, or how not?

Psalm Fragment

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long. Psalm 23:5-6

Journal Reflections

  • As a Christian, do you find yourself living “in the midst of enemies”? How, or how not? If so, who are they? How do you feel about them?
  • What do you understand to be your personal mission or work in the midst of these enemies?

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, give me the faith, the courage, and the love to live faithfully in the midst of enemies as you did.

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


Undeserved (Luke 7:37–39)

I am sinful, yet God calls me righteous. Is there anything I can do to thank him?


One day a Pharisee asked Jesus to come to his house to eat. “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner’ ” (Luke 7:37–39). The incredible thing is that Jesus did know what kind of woman she was. But that didn’t stop him from loving her.


Like the woman, we all stand before Jesus with a spiritual rap sheet that is miles long. At this very moment, he sees every area of our lives that needs refining. Yet despite our sin, he loves us anyway. Dearly. That doesn’t make sense. But God’s love doesn’t make sense. We can’t figure it out.


Let grace amaze you. Ponder it. Dwell on it. Feel the intensity of God’s love behind it. The woman had it right. She was well aware of her sinful past—she had lived it. And when she found the Savior who knew her completely and still offered acceptance and forgiveness, she could do nothing else but fall on her knees and pour out her praise on him.

When your messiness runs into Jesus’ perfection and you find him there loving you, be like the woman with the alabaster jar. Just love him. Pour out your praise; drench him in worship. Stand in awe of the One who gave it all. He is worthy of every ounce of your praise.

Taken from The Great Rescue Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

rejoice is what we should do



Philippians 4:4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Psalms 67:4

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness And guide the nations on the earth. Selah.


Psalms 96:1

Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.


Psalms 100:1

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.


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From: Streams in the Desert

As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Sorrow was beautiful, but her beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the wood, and making little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss below. When Sorrow sang, her notes were like the low sweet call of the nightingale, and in her eyes was the unexpectant gaze of one who has ceased to look for coming gladness. She could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to rejoice with those who rejoice was unknown to her.

Joy was beautiful, too, but his was the radiant beauty of the summer morning. His eyes still held the glad laughter of childhood, and his hair had the glint of the sunshine’s kiss. When Joy sang his voice soared upward as the lark’s, and his step was the step of a conqueror who has never known defeat. He could rejoice with all who rejoice, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to him.

“But we can never be united,” said Sorrow wistfully. “No, never.” And Joy’s eyes shadowed as he spoke. “My path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom for my gathering, and the blackbirds and thrushes await my coming to pour forth their most joyous lays.”

“My path,” said Sorrow, turning slowly away, “leads through the darkening woods, with moon-flowers only shall my hands be filled. Yet the sweetest of all earth-songs–the love song of the night–shall be mine; farewell, Joy, farewell.”

Even as she spoke they became conscious of a form standing beside them; dimly seen, but of a Kingly Presence, and a great and holy awe stole over them as they sank on their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of Joy,” whispered Sorrow, “for on His Head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. Before Him all my sorrow is melting away into deathless love and gladness, and I give myself to Him forever.”

“Nay, Sorrow,” said Joy softly, “but I see Him as the King of Sorrow, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great agony. I, too, give myself to Him forever, for sorrow with Him must be sweeter than any joy that I have known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in gladness, “for none but He could unite Joy and Sorrow.” Hand in hand they passed out into the world to follow Him through storm and sunshine, in the bleakness of winter cold and the warmth of summer gladness, “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

Should Sorrow lay her hand upon thy shoulder,
And walk with thee in silence on life’s way,
While Joy, thy bright companion once, grown colder,
Becomes to thee more distant day by day?
Shrink not from the companionship of Sorrow,
She is the messenger of God to thee;
And thou wilt thank Him in His great tomorrow
For what thou knowest not now, thou then shalt see;
She is God’s angel, clad in weeds of night,
With ‘whom we walk by faith and not by sight.’


Who’s Setting Your Priorities?From: Encouragement for Today

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

Could my cell phone affect my to-do list? Could this little bit of gadgetry redirect my day, causing me to miss God’s best for me? I think so, and here’s why.

Growing up, we had a house phone. Just one.There was no call-waiting beep or answering machine. And of course, no email or texting. So if you wanted to reach me, you had to keep calling until you got through. Or maybe head to my house and actually knock on my door. Quite frustrating when “someone” spent hours talking to a friend!

Basically, the burden to communicate was on the person with the message to share.

Today the responsibility to communicate has shifted. No longer is it your burden to reach me; all you do is type-type-type a message, hit send and all the responsibility floats through cyberspace and lands firmly on me.

Multiply this by every which way people can reach me, and before I even wake up, I’m behind.

This shift has silently affected all of us. A typical day starts with checking some sort of communication device to see who might have emailed, posted or texted. Then, before we begin to handle what’s most important to us, our day begins by responding to what’s most important to others.

Without a concerted effort to stop this pull, we are drawn into the day’s rushing current like a tiny raft on a whitewater river. And rather than being proactive, our days are spent in reactive mode.

Sound familiar? If so, you’ve probably also experienced the too-long to-do list that comes with it. After we’ve given the best of our time and energy to others, there’s little left to address God’s priorities for us. Consequently we put-off, delay and procrastinate our priorities.

After years of shortchanging myself and my family, and often dishonoring God with disobedience, I realized I had things upside down! Things that mattered least replaced things that mattered most in my schedule. And work that would make the greatest impact on my life often fell to the bottom of my lists, then transferred to the next list until I either completed it with a fraction of my ability or abandoned it entirely.

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to figure out our best work. It sounds so easy to say, “Identify your priorities, and do those first.” However, when we face multiple demands we can often feel helpless. And helplessness can lead us to escape, avoid or numb.

When those feelings start to overtake me and I don’t know what to do, rather than make a self-defeating choice, it’s time to press pause. Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing … except seek direction and wisdom from the One who knows what our best is.

Given the chance, others will set our priorities for us. Yet God specifically has a calling for each of us that will only come from Him. To discern this, we need wisdom. Without God’s wisdom, we make decisions on facts and feelings. And the fact that I have 100 emails to answer and feel overwhelmed does not mean it’s wise to do so now.

To find wisdom, I need to silence the demands of many, to hear the commands of One.

God is faithful, and His Word promises we can receive wisdom. In fact, it’s a gift from God. Here is what James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

As my life becomes more interconnected with others, my priorities are harder to identify. There will always be new demands rising to the tops of my to-do list, giving me reasons to delay tackling my own priorities.

There is hope. When we take our tiny raft out of the raging river, and sit on the banks with our Heavenly Father, He will give us wisdom for what to do next. Sometimes it’s answering an email, but it might be something else He has planned for today.


From: 40 Day Journey

Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. “Our action is in vain.” The world remains world and we remain sinners “even in the best of lives.” Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture…to live a different life under grace from that under sin…

Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

Biblical Wisdom

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18

Questions to Ponder

  • Why is it that the church so often proclaims and dispenses “cheap grace”?
  • What happens to the “saltiness” of disciples in a church that “conveys such [cheap] grace upon itself”?
  • What does it mean to say that cheap grace is “grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ”?

Psalm Fragment

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12


The Father’s Discipline (2 Chronicles 36:15–23)

The waitress refilled the coffee, and Josh took a sip from his cup. “So, Ian, how are the kids?” he asked after she had stepped away.

“They’re testing my patience,” Ian answered.

“Causing trouble?”

“I told them not to do it. Their mother warned them. And what did they do?”

“Let me guess.”

Ian shook his head. “I said, ‘You have a choice,’ and, well, they chose wrong.”

“So, what did you do?”

Ian sighed and sat back in the booth. “They’re grounded, just like we warned them. They’re spending the weekend helping Mrs. Chamberlain fix up her yard.”

“I’ll bet they don’t like that.”

“Well, neither do I. We had a surprise trip planned for them, but now that has to wait.” Ian paused a moment, lost in thought. His mouth tightened in a smile. “They’re basically good kids. I love them. They just have a lot to learn about how life works. We’ll see how they do after the weekend.”

If you have kids, this probably sounds familiar to you. And since you were a kid at one time, you also know what it means to disobey and then face the consequences. The Israelites messed up too. They repeatedly ignored God’s warnings and failed to follow the rules he set for them. Finally, God punished his people by sending them into exile in Babylon. Yet even in his discipline God provided a note of hope: Although the temple was destroyed, it would be rebuilt. Although they were in exile, God’s people would again live in the promised land. Despite their disobedience they would receive another chance to do things right.

God loves his people, and he “disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12). But discipline isn’t the end of love! It’s just the beginning of a long story of grace and mercy, forgiveness and rebuilding on top of the ruins of past mistakes.

As God’s children, we all have much to learn. God loves us. He’s firm, but also patient and kind. He wants us to grow into spiritually mature men. And, like a good Father, he’ll see us through.

Taken from NIV Men’s Devotional Bible

Happiness Comes Through Obedience

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As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:9-11

A Worthy Pursuit

From: Strength for the Journey, By: Joe Stowell

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Let’s face it, if you are a follower in a world that celebrates leaders, you don’t feel all that good about yourself. Walk into any bookstore, and you will note that many of the bestsellers are about how to be a great leader or how to make something of your life. Bestsellers are written by people who became successful by doing their own thing. Entrepreneurs are lauded for their independence and “out of the box” thinking. But nobody seems to notice followers, which makes being an authentic Christian an interesting challenge.

When Jesus called His inner circle to join His cause, He didn’t lure them by offering them great positions of leadership and notoriety. In fact, quite the opposite: He recruited them to be followers. And it needs to be noted that in spite of the bad press that following gets, He had no trouble building His team. He was so compelling that rugged fishermen, a greedy tax collector, a tough member of the resistance force, capable women, and many others left everything to become His followers. When He called them, He offered no conditions. No negotiations. No particulars. No contractual exceptions or arrangements. All He asked was that they follow. Those who responded to the call never saw it as a demotion. For them it was an honor!

But would it be an honor for you? After all, it sounds more like losing than winning. It feels like losing control, like losing the potential of managing your own life the way you want to manage it.

That’s exactly what following Jesus is all about! When He called the disciples, He framed it like this: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Note the formula. In essence He is saying, “Follow me, and let me make something of your life.” Most of us want to make something of our lives on our own terms, and are happy to fit Jesus into the picture now and then. But that’s not the way it works, and thankfully so. Left to ourselves, we tend to mess things up. Or, if we succeed, we become proud and consume time and energy reaching for the next golden ring, only to find that ultimately “the good life” is either illusive or unfulfilling.

It makes a lot of sense to give Jesus His well-deserved chance at being in charge. After all, He is smarter than we are, and since He has already proven how much He loves us, we know we can trust Him implicitly. He has our best in mind.

So what does following Jesus look like? It’s like the old “follow the leader” game we used to play as kids—with the Leader out in front, and His followers walking behind Him, doing whatever He does and going wherever He leads. We are to be following His example of forgiveness, truth, righteous attitudes and actions, honesty with ourselves and others, integrity, serving even at risk and loss to ourselves, loving our enemies, caring for the needy and the poor, loving the losers, and generously extending grace and mercy to the undeserving.

Letting Jesus make something of our lives is a plan worth implementing. The outcomes are so rewarding that it makes following a worthy pursuit. Your relationships, family, career, and even your leisure will all be more successful if you approach every situation as an opportunity to be a follower of Jesus. And, by the way, those who are called to lead are not exempt. Leadership that begins by following Christ is far more effective.

When He looks over His shoulder, be there!



From: Streams in the Desert

Thou remainest (Heb. 1:11).

There are always lone hearth-fires; so many! And those who sit beside them, with the empty chair, cannot restrain the tears that will come. One sits alone so much. There is some One unseen, just here within reach. But somehow we don’t realize His presence. Realizing is blessed, but–rare. It belongs to the mood, to the feelings. It is dependent on weather conditions and bodily conditions. The rain, the heavy fog outside, the poor sleep, the twinging pain, these make one’s mood so much, they seem to blur out the realizing.

But there is something a little higher up than realizing. It is yet more blessed. It is independent of these outer conditions, it is something that abides. It is this: recognizing that Presence unseen, so wondrous and quieting, so soothing and calming and warming. Recognize His presence–the Master’s own. He is here, close by; His presence is real. Recognizing will help realizing, too, but it never depends on it.

Aye, more, immensely more, the Truth is a Presence, not a thing, a fact, a statement. Some One is present, a warm-hearted Friend, an all-powerful Lord. And this is the joyful truth for weeping hearts everywhere, whatever be the hand that has drawn the tears; by whatever stream it be that your weeping willow is planted.
–S. D. Gordon

When from my life the old-time joys have vanished,
Treasures once mine, I may no longer claim,
This truth may feed my hungry heart, and famished:
Lord, THOU REMAINEST THOU art still the same!

When streams have dried, those streams of glad refreshing–
Friendships so blest, so rich, so free;
When sun-kissed skies give place to clouds depressing,
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Still my heart hath THEE.

When strength hath failed, and feet, now worn and weary,
On gladsome errands may no longer go,
Why should I sigh, or let the days be dreary?
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Could’st Thou more bestow?

Thus through life’s days–whoe’er or what may fail me,
Friends, friendships, joys, in small or great degree,
Songs may be mine, no sadness need assail me,
Lord, THOU REMAINEST! Still my heart hath THEE.

–J. D. Smith


The Great Purpose of Christian Stewardship

From: The Stewardship Bible

1 Chronicles 16:23–36

Retired missionary Paul R. Lindholm begins a reflection on what he views as the overriding purpose of Christian stewardship—glorifying God—with a humorous vignette:

A church choir director asked a clerk in a music store for a copy of an anthem with the title, “The Glory of the Lord.” The clerk called to the person working in the storage shelves for a copy. Finding none, the clerk called down: “The Glory of the Lord” is out of print.

In print and in thought, the shekinah glory of our Lord does not have the prominence nor attention it should have.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism highlights this subject in its very first question and answer:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

What a mind-boggling thought: God created us for the purpose of glorifying and enjoying him! Are you tempted at first glance to question God’s motivation? The fact is that God is a spiritual being who is social. Certainly he enjoys intimacy within the Godhead and among the angels. But beyond that, he desires authentic and voluntary fellowship with the beings he created to be in relationship with him. The enjoyment part is reciprocal (see Zep 3:17). And Psalm 8:4–5 even proclaims that God crowns us with a measure of glory and honor. When we think of stewardship, how readily does this aspect occur to us? Lindholm goes on:

Before Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, his father King David had the Ark of the Covenant that contained the two stone tablets on which were engraved the Ten Commandments brought there.

The Ark was the symbol of the presence of God. When the Ark was first placed in the tabernacle in Jerusalem many offerings were made. Then a long hymn of thanksgiving was sung with the chorus accompanied by a large instrumental band. In the hymn were the lines:

Declare his glory among the nations … Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name (1Ch 16:24,29).

The words, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” [appear] many times throughout the Psalms.


  • Going back to Lindholm’s opening anecdote, how readily do we think of proclaiming and reflecting back the glory of our Creator as key to our God-ordained stewardship role?
  • In what ways has proclamation of the shekinah glory gone “out of print”?
  • What role does praise play in your daily prayers?



I praise you and worship you. Thank you for your mighty works and deeds!



The Great Purpose of Christian Stewardship

1 Chronicles 16:23–36

Retired missionary Paul R. Lindholm begins a reflection on what he views as the overriding purpose of Christian stewardship—glorifying God—with a humorous vignette:

A church choir director asked a clerk in a music store for a copy of an anthem with the title, “The Glory of the Lord.” The clerk called to the person working in the storage shelves for a copy. Finding none, the clerk called down: “The Glory of the Lord” is out of print.

In print and in thought, the shekinah glory of our Lord does not have the prominence nor attention it should have.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism highlights this subject in its very first question and answer:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

What a mind-boggling thought: God created us for the purpose of glorifying and enjoying him! Are you tempted at first glance to question God’s motivation? The fact is that God is a spiritual being who is social. Certainly he enjoys intimacy within the Godhead and among the angels. But beyond that, he desires authentic and voluntary fellowship with the beings he created to be in relationship with him. The enjoyment part is reciprocal (see Zep 3:17). And Psalm 8:4–5 even proclaims that God crowns us with a measure of glory and honor. When we think of stewardship, how readily does this aspect occur to us? Lindholm goes on:

Before Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, his father King David had the Ark of the Covenant that contained the two stone tablets on which were engraved the Ten Commandments brought there.

The Ark was the symbol of the presence of God. When the Ark was first placed in the tabernacle in Jerusalem many offerings were made. Then a long hymn of thanksgiving was sung with the chorus accompanied by a large instrumental band. In the hymn were the lines:

Declare his glory among the nations … Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name (1Ch 16:24,29).

The words, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” [appear] many times throughout the Psalms.


  • Going back to Lindholm’s opening anecdote, how readily do we think of proclaiming and reflecting back the glory of our Creator as key to our God-ordained stewardship role?
  • In what ways has proclamation of the shekinah glory gone “out of print”?
  • What role does praise play in your daily prayers?



I praise you and worship you. Thank you for your mighty works and deeds!


From: Forty Day Journey

Thus there remains only one path for those who in following Jesus want to truly serve God in worship, and that is the path of reconciliation with their sisters and brothers. Anyone who comes to the word and sacrament with an unreconciled heart stands judged by doing so. Such a person is a murderer in God’s sight. That is why you must “first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” It is a difficult path Jesus imposes on his disciples. It includes much humiliation and dishonor for the disciples themselves. But it is the path to him, our crucified brother, and thus, it is a path full of grace. In Jesus, service to the least brother or sister and service to God became one. He went and was reconciled to his human kindred, and then he came and offered himself, the one true sacrifice, to his Father.

Biblical Wisdom

“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Questions to Ponder

  • Bonhoeffer states that: “It is a difficult path Jesus imposes on his disciples.” What makes it difficult?
  • He also states that, “it is a path full of grace.” Where is the grace?
  • How did Jesus model the truth that, “service to the least brother or sister and service to God became one”?

Psalm Fragment

O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you. Psalm 25:20-21

Journal Reflections

  • Is there someone with whom you need to be reconciled? Write about the circumstances that led to alienation from this person.
  • What step(s) might you take to begin the process of reconciliation?

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, thank you for reconciling me to yourself; now make me a reconciler.

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



No Strings (Ephesians 2:8–9)

It’s hard to believe that God knows everything I’ve done and still accepts me.


Our acceptance in God’s eyes is a no-strings-attached gift. It isn’t a reward for our good behavior. It’s not something we can pay God back for by doing all the things we think he wants us to do. God gave us our salvation. Jesus paid a high price for it, so it wasn’t free; but it’s free to us. It’s a gift that he wanted us to have because he is good and loving.

Paul said it like this: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).


God’s grace is hard to grasp because in the world nothing comes for free. Grace is the way of God because that’s how deep his love goes. The awkwardness we feel when we realize Jesus died to save us and there’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation is a glimpse of how deep God’s love and goodness goes. It’s almost awkward to be loved this deeply. This is intense, overwhelming love. It’s love beyond anything we could ever repay. It’s too much. It’s too good. And, well, that’s who God is. He is too good. He is too much. He is overwhelming love.


When you sin, return to God. But remind yourself of what Jesus did in order for you to do so. Then, even though it’s difficult, bring your sin and guilt to God and receive the love that he offers in exchange. Sit in the intensity of the moment; don’t run from it.

As you experience all kinds of feelings, know this: You’re experiencing the intensity of God’s love. This is God’s heart. He is audaciously loving, shockingly kind and unfailingly forgiving. Let it sink in to your heart that this is who he is and what his heart is like. He is so incredibly good.

Taken from NIV The Great Rescue Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing




Who Is My Neighbor?


Luke Chapter 10

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

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Got Any Neighbors?

From:, By: Joe Stowell

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

Jesus’ life and ministry dramatically demonstrated that the word prejudice is not in His vocabulary. In fact, He hates prejudice in any form. He detests racism, classism, and religious snobbery. Why? Because it defies who He is and what He came to do. No one escaped the embrace of His love and concern. And He calls us to love as He did—without limits. But prejudice blocks our ability to love as he did and denies us the privilege of being like Him in our world.

When the Pharisee hoped to embarrass Jesus by asking Him to name the greatest commandment, Jesus answered that we should love God with the totality of our being. And although it was more than the scheming lawyer had asked for, Jesus added the second most important command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Not “second” meaning less important, but sequentially. In other words, the authenticity of our love for God is measured by our attitudes and acts of love for others.

Ironically, the Pharisees prided themselves in mastering their love for God but were dreadfully lacking in love for their neighbor—which, in Jesus’ book, would break the first command. Their prejudices—often supported by their self-constructed theology and traditions—reduced their circle of involvement to people who were a lot like themselves. When the “expert in the law” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus’ concern was not identifying who our neighbor is, but whether or not we are acting in a “neighborly” way to others regardless of who they are.

The important dynamic in the story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan is not that the religious passersby were too busy to help the dying victim. It is rather that they were the true victims. The priest and Levite, trying to avoid ceremonial defilement, were victims of a distorted view of righteousness. And that distorted view disabled them from keeping the law’s most fundamental command about loving those in distress regardless of who they are.

Which should give us modern folk pause about any thoughts or attitudes that might blind us to the needs of others outside our usual circle of concern. Because quite simply, if we can’t love them, we can’t love Jesus!


AUGUST 18, 2015From:

How to Live a Satisfied Life

“Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life.” Genesis 25:8a (NASB)

I was lying in bed one morning, my sweet daughter Caroline tucked in close, as I rubbed her head.

She had come down a few minutes earlier to snuggle. It was early, 5:30 a.m., but the sun shone through my bedroom window, gently easing me awake.

As I stroked her soft hair, I kept thinking about how much I love her and how she is growing up so fast. Six years old now.

Four years ago I wrote about how exhausting it is to tend to little ones, especially at bedtime when you’re spent and just need a break. But how yet, even in the crazy hardness of it all, God made it so that our little ones would need us. Close, and soothing and available. I find that those words are just as true today. She still needs me, pulled in close, surrounding her with comfort and love.

And so I do this. I let her get into bed with me in the early-morning hours because I don’t want to miss it — this precious time, this cuddly, sleepy, warm, tender time. I know it is only for a season, and one day, it will be gone. But I have the here and now; I have today to take it in and enjoy.

And this is how I want to live, taking in these moments so that I can look back on my life and not regret that I missed them.

Every day I get the opportunity to start new. Every day I can begin again. Maybe I missed it yesterday. Maybe I got too busy or I got sucked into Facebook, or I just didn’t want to play with my kids. Those are the moments that keep me up at night. Those are the moments I need God’s grace to cover me so I can start over. I need His help every day.

This loving, this mothering, this living that I’m doing requires sacrifice and work, and I need daily reminders of this truth, or I will let the days carry me off, one rolling into another. I don’t want to regret my days because I don’t want to regret my life.

Here’s the thing about regret: We can’t escape it because we can’t escape sin.

We will have things and times and decisions we will regret over the course of our lives. The key to really living, to living unregrettably, is not to have no regrets, it’s to know and choose to begin again. It’s to be fully awake to our decisions. It’s to choose the direction of our lives the best that we can, with who we are and where we are. It’s to trust God, walking forward in faith, knowing that He delights in us as we delight in Him and the good things He gives us.

We can live in such a way that at the end, we can die satisfied with how we lived.

Satisfied. Not perfect.

Abraham died satisfied with his life, but we know that he sinned and made poor decisions in his life. He didn’t live perfectly, but He followed God by faith, and he lived a well-spent life. He diedsatisfied.

When we sin or fail or botch up something again, we can decide to move forward, learning from it, and beginning again and again and again. This is how we keep on.

This is how we live a satisfied life.

From: Streams in the Desert

Alone (Deuteronomy 32:12).

The hill was steep, but cheered along the way
By converse sweet, I mounted on the thought
That so it might be till the height was reached;
But suddenly a narrow winding path
Appeared, and then the Master said, ‘My child,
Here thou wilt safest walk with Me alone.’
I trembled, yet my heart’s deep trust replied,
‘So be it, Lord.’ He took my feeble hand
In His, accepting thus my will to yield Him
All, and to find all in Him.
One long, dark moment,
And no friend I saw, save Jesus only.
But oh! so tenderly He led me on
And up, and spoke to me such words of cheer,
Such secret whisperings of His wondrous love,
That soon I told Him all my grief and fear,
And leaned on His strong arm confidingly.
And then I found my footsteps quickened,
And light ineffable, the rugged way
Illumined, such light as only can be seen
In close companionship with God.
A little while, and we shall meet again
The loved and lost; but in the rapturous joy
Of greetings, such as here we cannot know,
And happy song, and heavenly embraces,
And tender recollections rushing back
Of pilgrim life, methinks one memory
More dear and sacred than the rest, shall rise,
And we who gather in the golden streets,
Shall oft be stirred to speak with grateful love
Of that dark day when Jesus bade us climb
Some narrow steep, leaning on Him alone.

“There is no high hill but beside some deep valley. There is no birth without a pang.”
–Dan Crawford


From: Stand Strong Through the Storm

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple…Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:4, 6

Brother Zhang, a young medical doctor and preacher in Zhejiang, China, refused to join the government Three Self Patriotic Church. He was arrested and spent eighteen years in prison eating poor food, being beaten and drowning in the stench of cellmates. He shares this testimony:

“The eighteen years were a tremendous spiritual challenge, which brought great blessings I never before thought possible in my life. Prison officials ordered me to empty the camp night-soil pit, the prison’s cesspool. While I had little experience of physical labor, its hardship and suffering did not frighten me. Although most of the other prisoners dreaded night-soil pit duty as the most difficult task in prison, I accepted this assignment without complaint. The pit stored all the human excrement, both liquid and solid, from the entire camp. Once the pit was full, its human waste steeped until its foul contents were ripe enough to be used as fertilizer. Not only did I walk into this disease-ridden mess to remove it, but I had to breathe its stench as I scooped away each successive layer and dropped hundreds of shovel loads into collection buckets for others to carry to the fields.

“The night-soil pit’s pungent odors lingered with the digger at least three days, literally surrounding him with an almost maddening stench. All the guards and other prisoners avoided the night-soil pit digger to escape being overcome by the lingering odor. One reason I could enjoy working in the night-soil pit was the solitude. Surrounded only by foul air and human waste, I could sing music of praise to God as loudly as I wanted. And the guards were never close enough to protest this otherwise objectionable behavior!

“One of my favorite songs during those days was ‘In the Garden.’ My Chinese night-soil pit was hardly the garden that the composer of that hymn had in mind! But God delivered great happiness to me to be able to sing His praises in such earthly misery.”


From: 40 Day Journey

“You are the salt”․not “You should be the salt”! The disciples are given no choice whether they want to be salt or not. No appeal is made to them to become the salt of the earth. Rather they just are salt whether they want to be or not, by the power of the call which has reached them. You are the salt․not “you have the salt.” It would diminish the meaning to equate the disciples’ message with salt, as the reformers did. What is meant is their whole existence, to the extent that it is newly grounded in Christ’s call to discipleship, that existence of which the Beatitudes speak. All those who follow Jesus’ call to discipleship are made by that call to be the salt of the earth in their whole existence.

Biblical Wisdom

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Matthew 5:13

Questions to Ponder

  • What are the qualities of salt that make it an apt metaphor for Jesus’ disciples?
  • If Christ’s call to discipleship changes our whole existence, in what ways should the disciple’s life be different from those who have not heard or ­accepted the call?
  • Is there any area of a disciple’s life that is exempt from the call to be the salt of the earth? Explain.

Psalm Fragment

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:34-37





God Helps You Fight Adversity

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Battling Adversity (Matthew 8:23–27)

At least four of Jesus’ disciples—Peter, Andrew, James and John—made their living as fishermen. Certainly they knew of Galilee’s infamous storms. Yet on one occasion, they panicked when a storm arose. Jesus woke from his nap, rebuked them for lacking faith and then calmed the storm. For us, storms can rise quickly as well: a dark spot shows up on an X-ray; a pink slip lands on our desk at work; a kid gets in with the wrong crowd at school; a parent dies; the stock market tanks. When these “winds” rise, remember Jesus. Trust him first—no matter how overwhelming the storm appears.

Reflect & Pray:

  • What storms in life do you find most difficult to face?
  • Why do most of us struggle with trusting God first?
  • When you’ve trusted God during difficult times, what has resulted? How can those experiences help you place your trust in him during the next trial you face?

Taken from NIV Busy Dad’s Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing



Like There’s No Tomorrow

From: Joe Stowell,  Get More Strength

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” James 4:14

I expected some challenges when I took on the presidency of Moody Bible Institute, but I never expected a death threat.

It happened during my first year at Moody. For reasons completely unknown to me, a convicted murderer decided that the world would be better off without me. And so, from prison, he let me know his feelings by sending a death threat. My colleagues and I immediately consulted with the Chicago Police, and they advised me, based on this guy’s past criminal history, that he might very well have the connections and criminal bent to pull it off. We needed to take this seriously.

It’s amazing how quickly news like that reshuffles your priorities. There were lots of tasks planned and my schedule was packed. But suddenly the important meetings didn’t seem quite so important and the urgent, pressing items demanding my attention didn’t seem quite so urgent and pressing. In fact, as I pondered the thought that my life was apparently in danger, my mind moved to two items that I had been trying desperately to avoid: shopping and bowling.

Under normal circumstances, shopping and bowling would be dead last on my task list. I particularly loathe shopping for clothes, especially when it involves standing in a cramped changing room trying on pair after pair of pants. And bowling? Well . . . I’ve just never been a big fan. But both of these activities, in that moment of considering my own mortality, represented opportunities to express love to those who counted most in my life.

My wife, Martie, had been asking me for quite a while to take our school-age son to do his back-to-school shopping. I knew that would involve traipsing from mall to mall, with hours (or what would seem like hours) of helping Matt in the dressing room. I had found every excuse to delay the pain! And Matt had also been asking me for weeks to go . . . you guessed it . . . bowling!

So when I got home that day, with the death threat looming over my head, I proposed that we spend the evening bowling and shopping for school clothes. Matt and mom were both stunned. Matt had no idea why I had experienced such a change of heart; he just happily jumped in the car! And off we went on a productive evening.

Well, obviously—and thankfully—I lived to see another day. And now, if I ever go bowling again, it will no doubt be with my grandkids! But I wish that I would always live as though today would be my last. Priorities get clear real fast when that’s our perspective!

It’s what James is getting at when he says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow . . . You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). What difference would it make if we truly grasped the fact that there are no guarantees about what tomorrow holds?

I suspect we would be a lot quicker to forgive. I think we would be much more apt to consider the needs of others around us. We’d say “I love you” more often and prioritize people over things and duties. I think we would spend a lot less time pursuing earth-side stuff and care a lot more about eternity and the lostness of people around us.

Count on it . . . we’d all be a lot better off if we heeded the words of James!



JULY 24, 2015From:

How to Finally Stop Procrastinating

“The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.” Proverbs 13:4 (NRSV)

My husband and I used to laugh and say if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. Then we’d stay up all night to finish a project due the next day, or make the whole family stressed because of our stress. It wasn’t funny.

I laughed it off at the time because I didn’t really think it was a problem. Everyone procrastinates on something, I reasoned. Plus, what more could I do? The problem certainly wasn’t with me.

On the surface, there were always reasons why I couldn’t get everything done. Good, solid reasons. Like I’d taken on too much work. Or my family needs were too demanding. And the technology which should have made my life easier, actually made it harder sometimes. Who couldn’t understand that? I reassured myself.

Then faced with a deadline, I snapped at everyone, stayed up late and rushed to finish what needed to be done. Consequently, everything suffered. My family was shortchanged, my work was sub-par and I became a person I didn’t like very much.

Those issues affecting me were all legitimate. But there was still another issue afoot. One that took some soul searching to identify. And that was an internal desire for ease rather than challenge.

This truth about myself hit hard when I read Proverbs 13:4, today’s key verse: “The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.”

At first, I didn’t think this verse applied to me. How could I be lazy when I’m always busy?

In fact, I didn’t know any woman around me who was lazy. So why did we all tend to complain about not being able to get important things done?

But then it hit me, faced with a choice between two tasks, my tendency is to choose whichever seems easier. I tend to put off what’s difficult until I “feel more like it.” But that day never comes because I never feel like organizing my tax information or tackling projects that highlight my weak areas.

So my days were filled, but filled with less challenging work.

And my to-do list got longer, overflowing with tasks and projects I’d much rather avoid. The crazy thing is I will even avoid good things if I think it will make me address an issue I’d rather not face … like clothes shopping and having to admit my size isn’t what it once was.

Eventually I got around to doing my work, but usually with a wrong heart, with a shadow of the quality I could produce or with so much frustration that it affected everything else. Some fabulous opportunities I just abandoned, because how could I follow a dream if I couldn’t even keep my kitchen counters clear?

I even realized I was disobedient to God in some areas. Of course, they were the hard things God asked me to do. I’d much rather obey God in the easy areas … but step out and take a risk? I’ll do that another day, thank you very much.

Sometimes an “aha” moment is exactly what we need to change. When I realized my tendency to avoid discomfort, to choose ease over challenge, I felt like I could finally address my procrastination.

Each time I caught myself thinking “I’ll do that later,” I tried to identify my resistance for each task and face it. It wasn”t always easy, because my reasons for procrastinating were often complicated and overlapping. Like when my perfectionist tendencies collided with my fear of failure.

But each time I addressed my resistance, and didn’t give in to it, I got stronger. It’s just like going to the gym and lifting weights. It might hurt, but the only way to strengthen anything is to face resistance.

God’s Word did reveal a lazy tendency in me. And honestly, it’s still there. But with His help, I’m not avoiding it any more. And with His strength in me, I can face it and get more of the right things done.

Procrastination is not a label of failure. Only a sign that God’s got more work to do in me. And that is great news!


July 26

From: Through the Bible

1 Chronicles 21:16-17 (NIV) 16David looked up and saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown. 17David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O LORD my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”

After David numbered the people of Israel, a sign of his heart turning away from God and depended on strength in numbers, the LORD sent his prophet to tell David the nation would suffer for this sin. He had three choices. He had to choose between 3 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing before their enemies, or 3 days of a plague from God. David knew God is more merciful than man. He chose the last option.

The plague swept through Israel killing 70,000 people. When the angel that brought the plague stood over Jerusalem, David could see him. David interceded for the city by pleading that the sword of the angel fall on his own home, since he was the guilty party. God’s judgments are always just Surely the people’s hearts had gone the same direction as David’s, trusting in their numbers instead of the LORD.

In this plea from David, we see his genuine shepherd’s heart. He would rather take the blow than have it fall on his people. This is the heart of an intercessor that cares enough to place his own life on the line for others. We saw it in Moses, and now in David, and ultimately in Jesus, the Great Shepherd. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (continued)

Consider: Let God increase your love for the people in your life until it becomes like His.


July 26

Acts 13:1-3 (NIV) 1In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Antioch was one of the first churches to be established after the persecution in Jerusalem. It was here that believers in Christ were first called Christians. According to Ephesians 4:11, the prophets and teachers were leaders in the church. They were probably the elders of that congregation.

This is an important passage, because it shows us how they functioned. They gathered together to worship and fast. How many times have you heard of the leaders of a local church or city gather just for that purpose? As they did so, the Holy Spirit gave them instructions. The passage doesn’t say whether it was an audible voice or a still small voice in each of their hearts or a word through one of them that was confirmed in the hearts of the others. It is probably good for us that we don’t know or we would insist that He always work the same way. One thing we do know, they all realized the same thing.

They were to separate out Barnabas and Saul for a special work. This was their call, to go out on a mission of spreading the Gospel. They didn’t stop their fasting once they had heard, they continued in prayer and fasting and laid hands on them. They were asking the blessing and anointing of God for the work He had called them to. Once they heard the voice of the Spirit directing them, they didn’t just say goodbye to these brothers. They did their part praying for them to be empowered for their mission. God invites us to participate in His work.

Not many are called in this fashion today. Perhaps if we had more of this all out worship with fasting we would see the Holy Spirit move in ways that we unanimously discern to be the hand of God.

Consider: When was the last time you worshipped God in fasting and prayer?

Your Life’s Spiritual Honor and Duty

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Hebrews 12:1-2

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My Life’s Spiritual Honor and Duty


Paul was overwhelmed with the sense of his indebtedness to Jesus Christ, and he spent his life to express it. The greatest inspiration in Paul’s life was his view of Jesus Christ as his spiritual creditor. Do I feel that same sense of indebtedness to Christ regarding every unsaved soul? As a saint, my life’s spiritual honor and duty is to fulfill my debt to Christ in relation to these lost souls. Every tiny bit of my life that has value I owe to the redemption of Jesus Christ. Am I doing anything to enable Him to bring His redemption into evident reality in the lives of others? I will only be able to do this as the Spirit of God works into me this sense of indebtedness.

I am not a superior person among other people— I am a bondservant of the Lord Jesus. Paul said, “…you are not your own…you were bought at a price…” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul sold himself to Jesus Christ and he said, in effect, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the gospel of Jesus; I am free only that I may be an absolute bondservant of His.” That is the characteristic of a Christian’s life once this level of spiritual honor and duty becomes real. Quit praying about yourself and spend your life for the sake of others as the bondservant of Jesus. That is the true meaning of being broken bread and poured-out wine in real life.


JULY 15, 2015From:

How We Answer Our Own Prayers

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1 (ESV)

A group of teenagers and I sat cross-legged on the church lawn, soaking in the warm summer sunshine. We’d just taken a break from a group game to sip something cold and visit. One of the girls had just returned from a mission trip in a developing nation and I couldn’t wait to hear about her experience.

“So, Renee, tell us about your trip.” I inquired. “What is the one thing you think you will remember the most?”

I imagined her answer would have something to do with a child who captured her heart with a sweet smile. Or a church service she attended that was so very different from ours. Neither of these guesses were right.

“Oh, that’s easy. I will always remember it was on this trip when I learned how easy it is in our culture to answer our own prayers.”

Her statement stunned me for a moment. I wondered, What in the world did she mean by that? Answer our own prayers? Only God answers prayer, right? But before I could pipe up and ask her to explain further, she continued.

“You see, here in America, we bow our heads and say grace and ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And then? We hop in our cars, run down to the grocery store and buy a loaf or two. We ask Him to keep us safe and warm. Then parents buy their kids the best car seats available, and we crank up the furnace whenever we feel chilly. It is so easy in our culture to provide the answer to our own prayers. But the people I met on the trip? They pray God will give them their daily bread, not knowing if they will have enough food to feed their families that night. Their prayers are bold. They ask God for things they can’t always provide for themselves.”

I had never thought of this concept before and it caused me to think about two things.

First, I want to use my abundance to help answer someone else’s prayers. To share the privilege I have been given with others.

Second, I need to learn to pray bold prayers, asking God for the things that only He can bring about. That is if they are in accordance with His will. To pray for requests in my life beyond the, “Lord, keep us safe and warm and well-fed. Amen.” routine we can often fall into.

Today’s key verse from Luke 11 gives me hope that I’m not alone in thinking my prayer life could use a makeover. Luke 11:1 reminds us that even the disciples wanted help learning how to pray. They saw Jesus praying and desired to follow His example.

Ephesians 3:20-21 tells us God can do things we can’t even dream of. Even provide answers to questions that we often hesitate to even ask. This suggests we can be daring when we pray, asking God for great things done only in His great strength.

My little chat with this spiritually sensitive teen changed me. I began to work into my prayers not only requests that God would help me be attentive to those who need my help, but also that He would help me make bold requests I can’t possibly answer myself. And then, that I would stand back and — in faith — watch Him work.

How about you? Is your prayer list full of items you can cross off yourself? Perhaps it’s time you, too, began to ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Father, teach me to pray more boldly. May I be both generous in giving and faith-filled in my prayers. Help me pray more confident prayers that can’t be answered on my own and can only happen through Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


From: Streams in the Desert


This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (1 John 5:4).

It is easy to love Him when the blue is in the sky,
When summer winds are blowing, and we smell the roses nigh;
There is little effort needed to obey His precious will
When it leads through flower-decked valley, or over sun-kissed hill.
It is when the rain is falling, or the mist hangs in the air,
When the road is dark and rugged, and the wind no longer fair,
When the rosy dawn has settled in a shadowland of gray,
That we find it hard to trust Him, and are slower to obey.
It is easy to trust Him when the singing birds have come,
And their canticles are echoed in our heart and in our home;
But ’tis when we miss the music, and the days are dull and drear,
That we need a faith triumphant over every doubt and fear.
And our blessed Lord will give it; what we lack He will supply;
Let us ask in faith believing–on His promises rely;
He will ever be our Leader, whether smooth or rough the way,
And will prove Himself sufficient for the needs of every day.

To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hair-breadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand; to wait patiently, ready to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail–such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed.
–George MacDonald


From: Through the Bible

July 15

2 Kings 23:3 (NIV) The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

When Josiah heard the words read to him from the Book of the Law, he was responsive and humbled himself. He gathered the elders of Israel and the people of Jerusalem and read to them the words of the covenant. When something from God’s word has gripped our hearts, we should share it with others and not keep it to ourselves.

Then Josiah took the first step. He renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD. He didn’t miss the words “with all your heart and soul”. He was pledging himself to be the servant of God and to live in complete obedience to every requirement the LORD had given Israel. Once he did, the people followed, pledging themselves too. When someone stands up and does what is right in a world engulfed in compromise, it can have a great affect on all who see them. It touched the heart of the nation and gave them one last great revival.

It was too late to save the nation though. The sins of the kings before Josiah had to be accounted for. There was too much evil sown in the land and in the hearts and minds of the nation. Judgment had to come as God had promised. Was the revival in vain? Sin causes havoc in the present life and judgment in the life to come. All that turned from idolatry were spared from the consequences of the sins they would have committed. Revival is never in vane, even though judgment must still come. It gave people one more chance to turn to God before it arrived.

Consider: It is never too late for you to set an example for others to follow.


July 15

Acts 1:3, 7-8 (NIV) 3After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus didn’t leave them questioning whether or not His resurrection truly happened. He gave many convincing proofs. None of the over 500 people who saw Him questioned the fact that He had risen from the dead. We don’t have any of the words about the kingdom of God that He spoke to them during that time, but we can be sure it was similar to what He had already taught them before His death. Death would profoundly alter the way we see things, but that is not true for the Son of God. He never changes.

When someone we love passes, we treasure the last words they spoke to us. Verses 7 and 8 were Jesus’ famous last words before His ascension. The last question the disciples asked was if it was the time for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Jesus did not say that would never happen. He told them that it was not for them to know the times or dates the Father has set. By this statement we can learn much. All our guessing and predicting is a waste of time and contrary to Jesus’ instruction. The time is set already. The Sovereign God of all has determined the perfect time.

In the mean time, verse 8 is our call to arms. We must be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then we are to be witnesses of Christ from our homes to the ends of the earth. The word for ‘witness’ in Greek is the word from which we derive our word martyr. It was used in the legal, historical, and ethical sense. Those to whom Jesus was speaking were to tell of the historical facts of what He said and did so that we would have a record. Today we can still share those facts with those who have never heard. A witness can tell of Jesus’ legal right before God to free us from the slavery of sin, because He paid our debt. Ethically, the apostles and all believers are to demonstrate the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Consider: Have you received the power to be a witness?


Don’t Plan Without God

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Don’t Plan Without God


Don’t plan without God. God seems to have a delightful way of upsetting the plans we have made, when we have not taken Him into account. We get ourselves into circumstances that were not chosen by God, and suddenly we realize that we have been making our plans without Him— that we have not even considered Him to be a vital, living factor in the planning of our lives. And yet the only thing that will keep us from even the possibility of worrying is to bring God in as the greatest factor in all of our planning.

In spiritual issues it is customary for us to put God first, but we tend to think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary to put Him first in the practical, everyday issues of our lives. If we have the idea that we have to put on our “spiritual face” before we can come near to God, then we will never come near to Him. We must come as we are.

Don’t plan with a concern for evil in mind. Does God really mean for us to plan without taking the evil around us into account? “Love…thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Love is not ignorant of the existence of evil, but it does not take it into account as a factor in planning. When we were apart from God, we did take evil into account, doing all of our planning with it in mind, and we tried to reason out all of our work from its standpoint.

Don’t plan with a rainy day in mind. You cannot hoard things for a rainy day if you are truly trusting Christ. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). God will not keep your heart from being troubled. It is a command— “Let not….” To do it, continually pick yourself up, even if you fall a hundred and one times a day, until you get into the habit of putting God first and planning with Him in mind.


From: Streams in the Desert

I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness…And I will give her her vineyards from thence (Hosea 2:14-15).

A strange place to find vineyards–in the wilderness! And can it be that the riches which a soul needs can be obtained in the wilderness, which stands for a lonely place, out of which you can seldom find your way? It would seem so, and not only that, but the “Valley of Achor,” which means bitterness, is called a door of hope. And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth!

Yes, God knows our need of the wilderness experience. He knows where and how to bring out that which is enduring. The soul has been idolatrous, rebellious; has forgotten God, and with a perfect self-will has said, “I will follow after my lovers.” But she did not overtake them. And, when she was hopeless and forsaken, God said, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”

What a loving God is ours!

We never know where God hides His pools. We see a rock, and we cannot guess it is the home of the spring. We see a flinty place, and we cannot tell it is the hiding place of a fountain. God leads me into the hard places, and then I find I have gone into the dwelling place of eternal springs.



Kill the Messenger

From: Biblegateway

Exodus 6:1–13

Recommended Reading: John 15:1–4; Acts 2:1–47; 1 Corinthians 15:10

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three of the most dangerous occupations in the United States are those of a logger, an airline pilot and a fisherman.

Of course, a logger deals with the tremendous weight and unpredictable nature of falling trees. A pilot faces the danger of working tens of thousands of feet above the ground. And a commercial fisherman constantly runs the risk of drowning.

In the ancient world the job of messenger might have topped this list. Like most people, ancient rulers hated getting bad news. However, unlike most other people, they had the power to do something about it, and they did—by executing the person who delivered the news! When the Roman emperor Tiberius received an astrological prediction he didn’t like, he hurled the messenger off a cliff.

So who can blame Moses for being reluctant to deliver the news to Pharaoh that the Israelites, his slave laborers, were hitting the road? God gave Moses an assignment no one would envy. And like most unenthusiastic recruits, Moses tried to talk his way out of the job. He pointed out that Pharaoh probably wouldn’t listen to him. And Moses reminded God that public speaking wasn’t his forte.

Moses didn’t realize that the success of his mission didn’t depend on his skills; it depended on his faithfulness. God could have sent anyone to deliver the message to Pharaoh—even one of Moses’ sheep. But God picked Moses instead. And he gave Moses the strength and skills he needed to complete the assignment.

That’s important to remember when it comes to the things God calls us to do. Just as it was for Moses, it’s easy for us to reason and argue with God. “But God, I don’t have the skills to be a leader at church.” Or, “God, why don’t you send someone else? No one will listen to what I have to say.”

Yet what we see as our own weaknesses shouldn’t stop us from carrying out our God-given assignments, because with our marching orders come God’s strength and assistance. Remember, the success of our mission doesn’t depend on our skills. It depends on our faithfulness.

To Take Away

  • What can you do to increase your trust in God’s strength?
  • When have you stepped out in faith even though you didn’t feel prepared for an assignment from God?
  • Do you feel God leading you to do something for which you feel you’re not qualified? Pray about it today and ask for God’s empowerment and courage in your life.



From: Biblegateway

Nahum 1:1–15

Every schoolyard has them. They’re the nemesis of every 43-pound weakling and pig-tailed girl with lunch money. They are the menaces of the playground. It seems they never get caught—and there are very few who can or will stand up to them.

At this time in history, the biggest bullies on Israel’s block were the Assyrians. The Ninevites, who lived in the capital city of Assyria, were vicious and arrogant. Hearing their name made the Israelites cringe and whimper. One hundred years earlier, Jonah had tried to run away from them, and for good reason. Their war crimes were legendary.

And dear Nahum, whose name means, “comfort,” brings Israel some good news: The big bully is finally going to get his due. And who will avenge them? God himself. Jonah had demonstrated God’s compassion toward the bullies and had given them a chance to change. Now, a century after their short-lived revival, Nahum lets them have it.

Nahum draws a terrifying cosmic portrait of the God who can make short work of any bully, no matter how big and pushy. God is slow to anger; he is not impulsive. But when he has waited with infinite patience for the guilty to change, watch out! The most powerful forces of nature—the whirlwind, the storm, the earthquake and the flood—are but a shadow of God’s awesome power; they are his tools, as a hammer is the tool of a worker. The real force is the strength behind the hammer. And this worker, Israel’s God, has declared of the bullies, “They will be destroyed and pass away” (verse 12).

But Nahum’s portrait is a study in contrasts and mystery: God is also “good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (verse 7). God is both stern and kind, just and loving.

The world is full of bullies. Maybe they’ve never looked at Nahum’s portrait of God. The sight should strike as much terror in their hearts as looking up into the eye of a whirlwind. But as for you, keep Nahum’s portrait in mind the next time you face a bully. God sees injustice and, in his time, will avenge the helpless and the innocent. If Jonah’s story reminds us that their day may not be today, then Nahum assures us that their day will certainly come.


  1. Do you have experience with being “bullied”? Describe what it feels like.
  2. Describe what it is like to finally have someone stick up for you.
  3. Who are the “big bullies” in your present circumstances? Ask God to deal with them and be your “refuge in times of trouble.”

Nahum 1:3
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.


So Why Do We Suffer?


2 Corinthians 4:16–18

Additional Scripture Readings: Romans 8:28–29; 1 Peter 4:12–13

What purpose does an all-powerful, loving God have in allowing suffering among the very people he created in his image and then died for? Tough question, isn’t it?

Noted theologian A.H. Strong wrote, “God can do all that he wills, but he will not do all that he can.” That helps some.

Two implications of this truth help us cope with the incomprehensible suffering all around us.

First, God’s power is always conformed to his purpose. Our God endures for a time the sinful condition of our world so that eventually he can accomplish his higher purpose of redeeming the human race.

Second, God clothes his power in love. It is in the form of a man—born in a cattle shed, walking the shores of Galilee, mocked and spit upon and killed on a cross—that God extends his power. His power never stands naked. It is always clothed with love.

God can do all that he will, but he won’t do all that he can—because his power is conformed to his purpose and clothed in his love.

Be Ready When God Says Move


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Luke 9:62

But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 Deuteronomy 5:32

“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left

Joshua 1:7

“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

Get Moving! (1)


In the matter of determination. The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ. I then have to build my thinking patiently to bring it into perfect harmony with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus— I have to do it myself. I have to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “Abide in Me”— in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. Our lives are not made up of only one neatly confined area.

Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances by saying that it will only serve to hinder my fellowship with Him? How irrelevant and disrespectful that is! It does not matter what my circumstances are. I can be as much assured of abiding in Jesus in any one of them as I am in any prayer meeting. It is unnecessary to change and arrange my circumstances myself. Our Lord’s inner abiding was pure and unblemished. He was at home with God wherever His body was. He never chose His own circumstances, but was meek, submitting to His Father’s plans and directions for Him. Just think of how amazingly relaxed our Lord’s life was! But we tend to keep God at a fever pitch in our lives. We have none of the serenity of the life which is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Think of the things that take you out of the position of abiding in Christ. You say, “Yes, Lord, just a minute— I still have this to do. Yes, I will abide as soon as this is finished, or as soon as this week is over. It will be all right, Lord. I will abide then.” Get moving— begin to abide now. In the initial stages it will be a continual effort to abide, but as you continue, it will become so much a part of your life that you will abide in Him without any conscious effort. Make the determination to abide in Jesus wherever you are now or wherever you may be placed in the future.



“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.” Psalm 100:1

I’ll never forget my conversation with Erin, who is an accomplished violinist. As we were talking about violins, I asked her whether or not the coveted violins made by Stradivarius were really all that different. As you may know, on the very rare occasion when one becomes available it will sell for amounts of well over a million dollars. Because she had heard a Stradivarius played, she affirmed that the difference between a Stradivarius violin and even the best of the others was significant. Which then led me to ask her, “What makes the sounds from the Strads so great?”

Erin explained that Stradivarius lived in a small Italian village in the 1700s. Since he was too poor to buy fine wood for his violins, he pulled his wood from the polluted harbor of his village. Three hundred years ago, the harbors were the equivalent of our town dumps. They were a smelly, dismal stew of trash, human and animal waste, and garbage.

As experts analyze the wood from these famous violins, they discover that microbes in the contaminated water had eaten away the inside of the cells in the wood. The only thing left of the cells was the superstructure. So, when a violinist plays a Stradivarius violin, it’s like an organ with thousands of sound chambers, each reverberating the sound of the bow moving across the strings.

What a great picture of what Jesus has done for us! Valueless and lost in the soul-rotting disease of our own sin, Jesus came and pulled us from the sludge. As the Bible puts it, He loved us while we were sinners. In other words, even though we had been eaten hollow by sin, He reached down from the cross and wiped us clean. And then He crafted us into priceless instruments to resonate the strong and distinct sounds of His love and grace and glory.

No wonder David wrote, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!” (Psalm 100:1 ESV). And Paul reminds us that with the indwelling Spirit in control, our lives should be filled with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). Our lives should resound with gratitude and not grumpiness, thanksgiving and praise regardless of our life circumstances. When Paul and Silas sang in jail, believe me, the jailor had never heard anything like it before! Like the Stradivarius violin, the sound quality of the song that Jesus puts in our restored souls should be noticeably different than the other “violins” around us. The song we sing with our lives should be joyful and glad. And this difference is not just for our benefit, or the benefit of those around us—it’s for the listening pleasure of the Master Creator.

Just as Stradivarius must have smiled at the sound of melodies played on his instruments, God delights in the beautiful songs that His instruments create when our lives are tuned to sing His praise.


From: Streams in the Desert

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)
Christian, take good care of thy faith, for recollect that faith is the only means whereby thou canst obtain blessings. Prayer cannot draw down answers from God’s throne except it be the earnest prayer of the man who believes.
Faith is the telegraphic wire which links earth to Heaven, on which God’s messages of love fly so fast that before we call He answers, and while we are yet speaking He hears us. But if that telegraphic wire of faith be snapped, how can we obtain the promise?
Am I in trouble? I can obtain help for trouble by faith. Am I beaten about by the enemy? My soul on her dear Refuge leans by faith.
But take faith away, then in vain I call to God. There is no other road betwixt my soul and Heaven. Blockade the road, and how can I communicate with the Great King?
Faith links me with Divinity. Faith clothes me with the power of Jehovah. Faith insures every attribute of God in my defense. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies. But without faith how can I receive anything from the Lord?
Oh, then, Christian, watch well thy faith. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
—C. H. Spurgeon
We boast of being so practical a people that we want to have a surer thing than faith. But did not Paul say that the promise was, by FAITH that it might be SURE? (Romans 4:16)
—Dan Crawford.
Faith honors God; God honors faith.

Day 14

From: Biblegateway

Jesus’ followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”Matthew 5:9

Questions to Ponder

  • What impact would it have on our culture of violence if individual Christians and churches were to “renounce violence and strife” as a mark of true discipleship?
  • How might being “silent in the face of hatred and injustice” be compatible with non-violent resistance to evil?
  • Why can violence never help the cause of Christ’s kingdom?

Psalm Fragment

Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.Psalm 34:12-14

Journal Reflections

  • Have you ever thought deeply on the fact that your call to follow Jesus is a call to peace? Reflect in your journal on how that realization makes you feel. Any actions suggest themselves?
  • Think of any people with whom you are in conflict or tension. Reflect on what might happen if the next time you met them you greeted them with a “greeting of peace.”
  • What experiences of peacemaking have you had? Reflect on what it felt like to be a peacemaker.


Pray for all politicians and government leaders that they might “renounce violence and strife” and embrace peacemaking as a priority at all levels of government.

Prayer for Today

God of peace, you give me peace, now teach me to be a peacemaker.

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


Blooms of Love (Isaiah 27:1–6)

My husband makes our yard look good. Both of his thumbs must be green, because we have an explosion of color around our house. I have flowers in the house virtually the whole year round. In the late winter David forces early daffodils and tulips in our little greenhouse. That’s followed by a constant parade of garden flowers—irises, peonies, poppies, roses, dahlias, asters and the like—until the first freeze in late fall.

Gardening takes a lot of work. David regularly waters our flowers. Sometimes he takes a minute or two to quickly yank up a pile of weeds. Other times he’ll set aside a whole morning or afternoon for yard work and for making a mysterious concoction of fish guts, mouthwash and dish soap that he sprays over his plants so that the bugs and bunnies will leave them alone. His blooms look good enough for the county fair.

It’s a blessing for me that my husband cares as much for cultivating the fruitfulness of our marriage as he cares for cultivating the fruitfulness of our garden. Some of this cultivation takes place in a couple of minutes of “pulling weeds,” making sure we’re on the same page on financial decisions or parenting issues. We build our relationship in daily courtesies, affection, attention and joint prayer. Sometimes we give a whole evening (date night!) to marriage cultivation.

In Isaiah 27, God talks about cultivating the fruitful garden that is his chosen people. He keeps an eye on that garden. He waters it. He makes sure that nothing can harm it. His intention to go beyond protection and provision to fruitfulness is evident.

David and I like to share our garden blooms. This year flowers from our garden helped make a glorious, enormous Easter cross of flowers for our church sanctuary. Flowers from our garden end up on coworkers’ desks, neighbors’ kitchen counters and sickroom bedside tables. People walking their dogs wander up our driveway to get a glimpse into the backyard.

We don’t want to be stingy with the fruit of our marriage either. The point of cultivating our marriage goes beyond simply protecting ourselves and our togetherness. We want our marriage to bear fruit. Some of the fruit it’s now bearing is the secure, God-directed home environment that we’re creating for our children. But our marriage bears fruit in our careers too; neither of us would have the creativity and energy required for work if we were emotionally drained by a damaged marital relationship. Our marriage also bears fruit in our church family life, as we live a testimony of faithfulness before others and as our support for each other enables us to serve in various ways.

David and I are determined to take time, whether it’s five minutes or five evenings, to cultivate a marriage that keeps bearing fruit.

—Annette LaPlaca

Taken from NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

Christ’ Victory Gives Us Courage



2 Timothy 2:4

No soldier in active service entangles himself in  the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

Ephesians 6:13

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

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John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, so that  in Me you may have peace In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

2 Samuel 22:2-4


He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. “I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.


A Boost of Courage

From:, written by: Joe Sowell

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. —Hebrews 12:2

When my son Joe was a child, I took him to the local YMCA for swimming lessons. I could almost see an Olympic gold medal swinging around his neck.

To my chagrin, Joe didn’t “wow” the class. Instead, he took one look at the water, one look at the instructor, and started bawling.

I thought, Oh, no, I’ve fathered a coward! To make matters worse, the instructor motioned for me to take Joe back to the locker room. In the midst of his sobs and pleas to go home, I gave him a little pep talk: “You can do it, Joe! I’ll come to all your lessons, and we’ll have a signal. When you get scared you can look up at me, and when I hold my thumb up you’ll know it’s going to be okay because I’m here cheering you on.” Joe finally agreed, and today he can swim circles around me.

How often we too face situations that seem overwhelming and impossible. It’s in those times that we need to find our confidence in Jesus. Our first instinct may be to back away in fear. But that’s exactly when we need to look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), who will raise His nail-scarred hand and say, “Stay with it. Run the race. I’ve run it before you, and in My power you can win. You can do it!”

Hold fast to Christ and He will give
The will to see you through;
And if you keep on keeping on,
Your strength He will renew. —D. De Haan

Christ’s victory in the past gives courage for the present and hope for the future.


JUNE 12, 2015From: Crosswalk.comWhen You Need Help … but Don’t Want to Admit It.

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NIV)

As a single woman in my twenties, I took a trip to San Francisco for my job.

Not only did I work, but I made time to play. My favorite part of the trip was a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I rented a bike, complete with a helmet and a map, and set off down the coast.

I rode the few miles to the bridge, cruised across the bay, sailed mostly downhill towards the tiny, quaint town of Sausalito, then caught the ferry back to the mainland.

A few years later, I made the trip again to San Francisco with a few friends to relive the wonderful memory of that ride and build some new memories as well.

We rode the few miles to the bridge, cruised across the bay and made the right turn to sail with ease towards Sausalito.

It only took a few seconds for us to pick up speed as we biked downhill. But then I sensed I was going a tad too fast. So I tapped on my brakes.

Seconds later, I only remember the dawning realization that I was in the middle of the road and needed to crawl to the shoulder for safety.

While my friends rushed toward me, I sat dazed, trying to piece together what had happened and figure out what should happen next.

All I could think was I needed to get myself together so I could get back on that bike and head toward Sausalito. I had come to San Fran on a mission and I wanted to finish the journey.

But that finish would not come.

Not long after, a paramedic approached me from the ambulance someone had called and squatted down on his haunches to ask me if I knew my name and the day. You know … the type of questions asked of an injured person who has just been thrown from their bike. I tried to convince him I was okay.

I told him I thought I could still finish. I told him that after I’d completed my goal of biking to Sausalito, then I would go to the hospital to figure out what was wrong with my body. Needless to say, he advised against my gallant ideas.

I needed help. I didn’t want it, but I needed it.

Sometimes life is like that. We are cruising along and something goes wrong. We sit dazed, trying to piece together what has happened and what we should do next, not realizing we are hurt and in need of help.

We may not want it, but we need it. We may try to convince others we are okay, when it’s clear we are not.

I reluctantly agreed to get into the ambulance and take the ride to the local emergency room where I later realized I had a broken finger, a fractured elbow and a sizable puncture in my chin.

That ambulance. The beautiful thing about that ambulance is it arrived quickly when I was in trouble.

In the same way, God is a very present help when you are in trouble. When you call Him, He will be there. Right where you are. Even if you are on the side of the road.

And just like I found refuge in the ambulance and at that hospital, you can find refuge in God.

You may be reluctant to admit you need help. Or you may be reluctant to pause and give God your situation so He can help you. Can I encourage you today to let God help?

He can soothe you with His Word, send reinforcements through His people and provide answers to your prayers.

Seek Him today. He loves to help those who are in trouble and He is an expert at fixing the source of pain and setting the hurting on a path to healing.


Streams in the Desert

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. (John 14:27)
Two painters each painted a picture to illustrate his conception of rest. The first chose for his scene a still, lone lake among the far-off mountains.
The second threw on his canvas a thundering waterfall, with a fragile birch tree bending over the foam; and at the fork of the branch, almost wet with the cataract’s spray, sat a robin on its nest.
The first was only stagnation; the last was rest.
Christ’s life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that ever lived: tempest and tumult, tumult and tempest, the waves breaking over it all the time until the worn body was laid in the grave. But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there.
At any moment you might have gone to Him and found rest. And even when the human bloodhounds were dogging Him in the streets of Jerusalem, He turned to His disciples and offered them, as a last legacy, “My peace.”
Rest is not a hallowed feeling that comes over us in church; it is the repose of a heart set deep in God.
My peace I give in times of deepest grief, 
Imparting calm and trust and My relief.
My peace I give when prayer seems lost, unheard; 
Know that My promises are ever in My Word.
My peace I give when thou art left alone—
The nightingale at night has sweetest tone.
My peace I give in time of utter loss, 
The way of glory leads right to the cross.
My peace I give when enemies will blame, 
Thy fellowship is sweet through cruel shame.
My peace I give in agony and sweat, 
For mine own brow with bloody drops was wet.
My peace I give when nearest friend betrays
Peace that is merged in love, and for them prays.
My peace I give when there’s but death for thee
The gateway is the cross to get to Me.
—L. S. P.


The restoration and conversion of the Jews

From: Charles Spurgeon

‘Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.’Ezekiel 37:5–6

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 11:1–12

Israel is to have a spiritual restoration or a conversion. Both the text and the context teach this. The promise is that they shall renounce their idols, and, behold, they have already done so. ‘Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols’ (Ezekiel 37:23). Whatever faults the Jew may have besides, he certainly has no idolatry. ‘The Lord thy God is one God,’ is a truth far better conceived by the Jew than by any other man on earth except the Christian. Weaned for ever from the worship of all images, of whatever sort, the Jewish nation has now become infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy. She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion: she is to love her God. ‘They shall be my people, and I will be their God’ (verse 23). The unseen but omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by his ancient people; they are to come before him in his own appointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected; coming into covenant relation with God, for so the context tells us—‘I will make a covenant of peace with them’ (verse 26), and Jesus is our peace, therefore we gather that Jehovah shall enter into the covenant of grace with them, that covenant of which Christ is the federal head, the substance, and the surety. They are to walk in God’s ordinances and statutes, and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who has given them peace. All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God, and that this conversion is to be permanent.

For meditation: Do you find time in your theology and prayers for the Jews? Join the apostle Paul and pray (Romans 10:1) that more and more Jewish people will accept the new covenant which God has made, that he will be their God and that they will be his people (Hebrews 8:8,10).

Sermon no. 582
13 June (Preached 16 June 1864)


Hope in Hard Times (Hebrews 6:18–19)

I suppose there has never been a marriage between two honest, self-examining people that at some time has not reached a seemingly irredeemable low point. There have been moments in my own marriage when the wall between my wife and me seemed too high to hurdle, too thick to break. We found it hard to muster hope. It was not easy to be confident that somehow the barriers blocking our oneness could be removed . . . . Too many unhappy spouses claim promises that God never made as their foundation of hope. They trust that if they do all they can, God will change their spouses into the loving Christians they should be. But a reason to live never consists of a guarantee that “Things will get better” or that “God will save your husband and help him stop drinking.” The hope of the Christian is far deeper than a mere change in someone else. The hope of the Christian is inescapably bound up in the grace of God.

It would be easy to quote a few verses from Hebrews (especially 6:18–19), and speak glowingly about the sure hope in Christ that serves as an anchor for our souls. But if you are plagued by chronic despair that results in a “Why bother” attitude, then prayerfully consider the following.

The Lord has not promised to put your marriage together for you. The hope of the Christian is not that one’s spouse will change or that one’s health will improve or that one’s financial situation will become good. God does not promise or rearrange our worlds to suit our longings. He does promise to permit only those events that will further his purpose in our lives. Our responsibility is to respond to life’s events in a manner that pleases the Lord, not to change our spouses into what we want. Even if we respond biblically, we have no guarantee that our spouses will respond in kind. Though they file for divorce or continue to drink or nag all the more, there is reason for us to persevere in obedience.

Certainly if both partners build on the foundation of hope and strive earnestly to live biblically, even the worst marriage can be turned around. Either way, there is reason to hope. This reason is bound up in the grace of God.

In God’s presence, there is never cause for despair. Our spouses may not do what they should to restore our marriage to happy, fulfilling relationships. But if we remain faithful to God, pouring out our emotions before him, renewing our commitment to seek him, trusting him to guide us in our responses, then he will sustain us through our trials and provide rich fellowship with him. There is reason to go on. There is hope. God’s grace is sufficient.

—Dr. Larry Crabb

Taken from NIV Couples’ Devotional Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing