Tag Archives: baby

Simplicity

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Simplicity

 By: Bob Segress, 1.cbn.com

“I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

A young mother brought her baby in for evaluation to my counseling office because she was worried that her beautiful little one might be retarded. She hardly ever cried, even when she was hurt. It was as if she didn’t feel pain, all she did was grimace a bit and then smile. She hardly ever cried during the day and the mother thought her child wasn’t normal.

After testing, observation, and evaluation, I had good news for the worried mother. The results revealed that the little one was an alert, brave, happy little warrior. Surprisingly, this news didn’t make the mother as happy as I expected. She expected a baby more like herself. She was a shy and fearful young lady who had turned out just as her dominating mother had desired. I realized that we had a generational problem.

The little one had a simple view that life was just fun even if it was painful at times. She was going to be a challenge for her young mother.

I thought of Einstein’s opinion about simplicity: “Any intelligent fool can make things more complicated, it takes the touch of genius to move in the opposite direction.” Other thoughts swept through my mind — Isaac Newton: “Truth is ever found in simplicity, not in multiplicity.” Fredric Chopin: “Simplicity is the final achievement.” God: “Your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity in Christ.”

Jesus is simply all we need. He is our Savior, Shepherd, and Friend (John 15:5). The simple reality about The Lord Jesus Christ is that He is “The Way, The Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Completeness is found in the Son of God: Creation, Christmas, Cross.

Jesus gave His children five “Me” verses that reveal how to live “the simplicity in Christ.”

“Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) first, and consistently. When we come to Jesus it provides the relationship we find with the Son of God.

“Follow Me” (Matthew 4:19). We come to Jesus and because of our relationship, we follow Jesus. He is our Shepherd; what could be more natural than for sheep to follow their shepherd, who is their protector and provider?

“Love Me” (John 14:15). Any time we love someone, our personality is modified; sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, depending on how healthy that love is. Jesus is our “first love” (Rev. 2:4), the only divine love we will ever have.

“Ask Me” (John 14:14 NASB). A key to the simplicity in Christ is talking to Him. Only a simple, trusting, optimistic soul loves enough to ask Jesus with confidence. The “serpent” wishes to rob that confidence from every brave and smiling face.

“Abide in Me” (John 15:4) Life becomes very simple and effective when we relax in our relationship with Jesus. Just abiding in Christ is the simple solution to life and success.

The serpent is the master of seduction; we must resist his advances by obeying the five Me verses our Lord has given. He has told us with a compassionate voice: “If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love.” John 15:10.

 

Simplicity

C. H. SPURGEON,

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”- Jhn 1:11-13.

EVERYTHING here is simple; everything is sublime. Here is that simple gospel, by which the most ignorant may be saved. Here are profundities, in which the best-instructed may find themselves beyond their depth. Here are those everlasting hills of divine truth which man cannot climb; yet here is that plain path in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, need nor err, nor lose his way. I always feel that I have no time to spare for critical and captious persons. If they will not believe, neither shall they be established. They must take the consequences of their unbelief. But I can spare all day and all night for an anxious enquirer, for one who is blinded by the very blaze of the heavenly light that shines upon him, and who seems to lose his way by reason of the very plainness of the road that lies before him. In this most simple text are some of the deep things of God, and there are souls here that are puzzled by what are simplicities to some of us; and my one aim shall be, so to handle this text as to help and encourage and cheer some who would fain touch the hem of the Master’s garment, but cannot for the press of many difficulties and grave questions which rise before their minds.

Let us go to the text at once, and notice, first, a matter which is very simple: “As many as received him… even to them that believe on his name”; secondly, a matter which is very delightful: “to them gave he power to become the sons of God”; and thirdly, a matter which is very mysterious: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I. Here is, first, A MATTER WHICH IS VERY SIMPLE; receiving Christ, and believing on his name. Oh, that many here may be able to say, “Yes, I understand that simple matter. That is the way in which I found eternal life”!

The simple matter of which John here speaks is receiving Christ, or, in other words, believing on his name.

Receiving Christ is a distinctive act. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” The very people you would have thought would have eagerly welcomed Christ did not do so; but here and there a man stood apart from the rest, or a woman came out from her surroundings, and each of these said, “I receive Christ as the Messiah.” You will never go to heaven in a crowd. The crowd goes down the broad road to destruction; but the way which leadeth to life eternal is a narrow way; “and few there be that find it.” They that go to heaven must come out one by one, and say to him that sits at the wicket-gate, “Set my name down, sir, as a pilgrim to the celestial city.” They who would enter into life must fight as well as run, for it is an uphill fight all the way, and few there be that fight it out to the end, and win the crown of the victors.

 

Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29 :18).

Waiting upon God is necessary in order to see Him, to have a vision of Him. The time element in vision is essential. Our hearts are like a sensitive photographer’s plate; and in order to have God revealed there, we must sit at His feet a long time. The troubled surface of a lake will not reflect an object.

Our lives must be quiet and restful if we would see God. There is power in the sight of some things to affect one’s life. A quiet sunset will bring peace to a troubled heart. Thus the vision of God always transforms human life.

Jacob saw God at Jabbok’s ford, and became Israel. The vision of God transformed Gideon from a coward into a valiant soldier. The vision of Christ changed Thomas from a doubting follower into a loyal, devout disciple.

But men have had visions of God since Bible times. William Carey saw God, and left his shoemaker’s bench and went to India. David Livingstone saw God, and left all to follow Him through the jungles of dark Africa. Scores and hundreds have had visions of God, and are today in the uttermost parts of the earth working for the speedy evangelization of the heathen.
–Dr. Pardington

There is hardly ever a complete silence in the soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, then we hear the whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on.
–F. W. Faber

“Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hushed my heart to listen
In expectancy.

“Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.

“For the words Thou speakest,
‘They are life,’ indeed;
Living bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!

“Speak, Thy servant heareth!
Be not silent, Lord;
Waits my soul upon Thee
For the quickening word!”

Thirst No More

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How Thirsty Are You?

By: Bill Gaultiere, 1.cbn. com

thirsty man hiking

Have you ever been so thirsty that you had “cotton mouth” and your saliva balled up like tiny balls of cotton? That happened to me all the time as a kid playing football. Back then, no one carried a water bottle. Cotton mouth is uncomfortable, but it’s no big deal — at least that’s what my football coach always said!

But what about becoming so dehydrated that your whole body gets the chills, aches, and is about to collapse with exhaustion?

That’s happened to me twice while hiking in the high sierras with my son. The first time, he was 16-years-old and we were with his Boy Scout troop. We had hiked 12 miles that day, climbed over 5,000 feet, and had set up camp close to Mount Langley, a near “Fourteener” (a mountain peak that was 20 feet under 14,000 feet high).

There it was, a great mountain peak just a few miles and 4,000 of elevation gain away — I felt I had to climb it. It was late in the afternoon and no one wanted to go with me. So, I filled my camelback with water, grabbed a couple of bars, and headed for the peak, planning to be back for dinner.

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought. I ended up hiking in the dark with just a flashlight and I got lost. And I got altitude sickness. I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so thirsty and weak I could hardly walk. When I got back to camp at 8:30 pm, just before a search crew was going to look for me, the first thing I did was drink water!

Thirst for God!
What if we thirsted for God like that? David did. He prayed:

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1ESV)

His prayer resonates with us because this world is a dry and weary desert with no water. I often use his prayer to remind myself of how thirsty I am for God. One way I’ve done this is to paraphrase portions of Psalm 63 into a “Thirsty for Jesus” prayer.

Remember Jesus’ wonderful invitation to us who are thirsty:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39, ESV)

Ahhh! Yes. When we open our hearts to Jesus we don’t just get a sip of water — his Spirit enters us and we gush forth with rivers of living water!

It All Ends Alright with God’s Promises

Praying the Promises | God's Promises in Unshakable Hope by Max Lucado

In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. — Romans 8:28 NIV

Haman had it out for the Israelites. We read about his story in the book of Esther. A few hundred years earlier, the Israelites had defeated Haman’s people, the Amalekites. Haman was an Amalekite carrying a huge grudge and vendetta on his shoulders. It just so happened that Haman was promoted to a very influential position by King Xerxes of Persia. With this access to power, Haman planned to completely exterminate the Jews on Adar 13, a date somewhere around the months of February and March on our calendar.

Yet, there was another storyline developing that would eventually collide with Haman’s story in a big way: King Xerxes selected a new queen, Queen Esther, who was Jewish.

What situation are you facing right now that stirs in you the same kind of fear the Jews had for Adar 13? Illness? Not enough money? Then take a tip from Esther. She used her influence as queen to talk to King Xerxes. She asked him to allow her people to defend themselves on Adar 13. He agreed. Because of this, when the day came, the Israelites were victorious and Haman was executed.

Early in his dealing with mankind, God promised to bless obedience:

If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. — Deuteronomy 28:13 NIV

Esther did what was right. She took a step of faith, and God blessed her obedience. He will do the same for you. No matter what situation you find yourself in today, God will ultimately win.

Promises from God

This God — how perfect are His deeds! How dependable His words! He is like a shield for all who seek His protection. The Lord alone is God; God alone is our defense. He is the God who makes me strong, who makes my pathway safe. — Psalm 18:30-32 GNT

We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall. — Proverbs 16:33 NLT

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? — 1 John 5:4-5

Praying God’s Promises

Almighty God, You have promised to honor obedience. Help me walk steadfastly in Your Word and in Your promise. Remind me of Your power. Give me the courage to take steps of faith, remembering that everything will end all right.

Thank You that even if my circumstances may cause me to fear, I have the final victory in Christ. I only have to do what is right and place my trust in You. You are my hope. You are my victory.

 

Streams IN The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good” (1 Sam. 3:18)

See God in everything, and God will calm and color all that thou dost see!” It may be that the circumstances of our sorrows will not be removed, their condition will remain unchanged; but if Christ, as Lord and Master of our life, is brought into our grief and gloom, “HE will compass us about with songs of deliverance.” To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say, in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath, taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us, and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring us. Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts.
–H. W. Smith

“Give me a new idea,” I said,
While musing on a sleepless bed;
“A new idea that’ll bring to earth
A balm for souls of priceless worth;
That’ll give men thoughts of things above,
And teach them how to serve and love,
That’ll banish every selfish thought,
And rid men of the sins they’ve fought.”
The new thought came, just how, I’ll tell:
‘Twas when on bended knee I fell,
And sought from HIM who knows full well
The way our sorrow to expel.
SEE GOD IN ALL THINGS, great and small,
And give HIM praise whate’er befall,
In life or death, in pain or woe,
See God, and overcome thy foe.

HE made the day shine clear and bright;
I saw HIM in the noontide hour,
And gained from HIM refreshing shower.
At eventide, when worn and sad,
HE gave me help, and made me glad.
At midnight, when on tossing bed
My weary soul to sleep HE led.
I saw HIM when great losses came,
And found HE loved me just the same.
When heavy loads I had to bear,
I found HE lightened every care.
By sickness, sorrow, sore distress,
HE calmed my mind and gave me rest.
HE’S filled my heart with gladsome praise
Since I gave HIM the upward gaze.

‘Twas new to me, yet old to some,
This thought that to me has become
A revelation of the way
We all should live throughout the day;
For as each day unfolds its light,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.
Life will, indeed, a blessing bring,
If we SEE GOD IN EVERYTHING.”

–A. E. Finn

God Is With You In Suffering

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How to Suffer Without Grumbling

WHY I LOVE THE APOSTLE PAUL

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I am drawn to people who suffer without murmuring. Especially when they believe in God but never get angry with him or criticize him. It seems to me that not murmuring is one of the rarest traits in the world. And when it is combined with a deep faith in God — who could alter our painful circumstances, but doesn’t — it has a beautiful, God-trusting, God-honoring quality that makes it all the more attractive. Paul was like that.

Brought to the Brink of Death

Paul tells of the time when his faith was put to the test in a way that brought him to the brink of despair and death:

We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10)

Three things are remarkable here. First is the severity of the suffering: “We felt that we had received the sentence of death.” Second, there is purpose or design in this suffering: “That was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” Third, this purpose was God’s purpose. It could not have been Satan’s, since Satan certainly does not want Paul to rely on God.

So, the truth that Paul believed about his suffering — no matter how severe — was that it came ultimately with God’s purpose, and the purpose was that Paul would trust himself less and trust God more, every moment of his life, especially as death approached.

A Key to Not Murmuring

This, it seems, is how Paul could be free from murmuring in his suffering. He knew God was in charge of it, and that God’s purposes were totally for Paul’s good. Paul fleshes this truth out in several other places:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5)

Again, the basis of Paul’s freedom from murmuring — indeed, the presence of his rejoicing — was his confidence that God was at work doing something crucial in Paul: producing endurance and God-saturated hope.

Suffering at the End of Earthly Life

But what about suffering that leads only to death and not to a new chapter of life on earth where reliance on God (2 Corinthians 1:9) and deepened character and hope (Romans 5:4) might be increased? Paul was keenly aware of this question and gave his answer in 2 Corinthians 4:16–18:

We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The issue here is the gradual wasting away of human life — through affliction and sickness and aging. In other words, the next chapter after this suffering is not a season of greater faith and hope on earth. The next chapter is heaven.

So, is there any point in the increased suffering that comes with the approach of death? How do those of us who have only a few years left not murmur at our aches and pains and the onrush of death? Paul’s answer is that this life’s afflictions — if we endure them by trusting Christ — actually produce greater measures of glory in heaven. “This . . . affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.”

Secret to Contentment

Therefore, even though Paul’s life was one of seemingly unremitting sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:23–33), there is scarcely a hint of murmuring, and none against God. He could get angry at destructive error and its teachers (Galatians 1:8–95:12). And he could express his pressures and burdens (2 Corinthians 11:28). Nevertheless, his contentment through it all was unusual.

He said he had learned the secret of contentment:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13)

This “secret” seemed to be the all-satisfying presence and worth of Christ (Philippians 3:8), together with the confidence Paul felt in the merciful sovereignty of God that would work all things for his good (Philippians 1:12Romans 8:28). Watching Paul maintain his humble, God-dependent, Christ-cherishing contentment through all his sufferings causes me to stand in awe of this man.

 

Real. Not a Religion.

by Inspiration Ministries

“Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? … You have not lied to men but to God” … Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. – Acts 5:3-5 NASB

Many people’s faith was largely a set of rules or traditions. Some brought this perspective when they responded to the Gospel.

Consider the attitude of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira. On the surface, they might have seemed like model believers. But in fact, in their hearts, they were deceptive.

Believers demonstrated the depth of their conviction by sharing resources during this time. Some sold land “and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (v. 2).

Ananias and Sapphira appeared to share that commitment. But other believers did not know that Ananias “kept back some of the price for himself” (v. 3). However, Peter, inspired by the Spirit, knew that they had been under satanic influence.

The price they paid was severe: Both Ananias and Sapphira died as the result of their deception. The church was shocked. And with their death, “great fear came over all who heard of it.”

Believers were learning that following Jesus was not a religion or a set of rules. This was not about appearances or getting praise. This was about a real relationship with God. He was serious about their lives. Lying to other believers and to the Holy Spirit was, and is, a serious sin.

These are critical lessons every believer should learn today. Always remember to be honest with God. Be humble before Him. Develop a personal relationship with Him. Be sure that you are in tune with His Spirit.

 

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

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The papers fell off the kitchen table and onto the floor. My children were running and playing as they usually do, completely unaware of anything besides the fun they were having. But in that moment, as I watched whatever little work I had accomplished journey to the floor from the breeze my children created, defeat overtook me.

I’d been trying to get sensible words on those pages for hours, and nothing seemed to make sense. I thought the papers’ descent was my sign to just let it all go. Maybe try again another day, or at another time.

Sinking further into the chair and wondering what to do next, I watched my children play. They were in the moment, having the best time, laughing, chasing and simply enjoying one another. They couldn’t care less that the toy box had fallen over, the play dough was stuck to the floor or that the caps were off half of the markers.

But there I sat, feeling stuck in the thick of things, unable to accomplish any of my goals. The laundry, fresh out of the dryer, was waiting to be folded. The pile of dishes in the sink from breakfast needed to be washed. And those fallen pages still needed to have words on them.

How could my children block out everything and maintain so much joy in the middle of what felt like mayhem to me?

From my chair, I began to breathe deeply, whispering my need for God along with heartfelt thanksgiving for His presence in the midst of it all and a request for meaningful words to flow onto those pages.

My tension began to shift. And as only God can do when you slow down, surrender control and  embrace the stillness, He revealed my lesson.

The children were focused on having fun, and wherever I decided to place my attention determined what I would experience as well.

What I needed to do was adjust my focus, placing it solely on God and trusting that He had everything under control. Only when I made God the center of my focus did I begin to experience the truth of Isaiah 26:3, which says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Shifting my attention enabled me to experience His peace, joy and hope even in the midst of the chaos surrounding me.

No matter what’s going on in the world, your home or your life, you can choose to focus your heart and mind on God. When you choose Him above all else, you can experience His perfect peace in every situation.

I thought about how much time I wasted feeling defeated. How by allowing discouragement to take over, I opened the door for other toxic thoughts and emotions to distract me from the blessings right in front of me. God was right there with me all along, patiently waiting for me to choose Him.

He’s always the best option and is delighted when you seek His face. So, no matter how many people, piles and projects need your attention, you can rest knowing peace can be found by simply keeping your mind stayed on God.

Dear God, as my children play, the piles of laundry and dishes await my attention and the deadlines loom, help me keep my mind stayed on You. Perfect peace is found in Your presence, and it’s where I long to be. Continue to guide me in Your truth, no matter what’s going on around me. In Jesus’ Na

Jesus Is Always Near

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In the Midst

Heidi & Rolland Baker,, Authors: 1.cbn.com

I used to think most of the Christian walk was about “toughing it out” — enduring suffering, living with disappointment and struggling through hardship. But I have realized something very precious, especially in the last year, as God has been teaching me and training me.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

Suffering has purpose. Understanding this changes how we feel about undergoing it.

Having joy because of trials in this way bears so much fruit. It actually leads us to a place where we are truly mature in Christ and lack nothing. Joy fills in the gaps.

In 2 Corinthians 8:2 , Paul writes, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (NIV)

Joy doesn’t change circumstances, but it does change our attitude toward what we face. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is part of the Holy Spirit’s character (see Galatians 5:22). He loves to bring “the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).

What about you? Are you a carrier of joy or misery? How would people describe you? Would they say you lighten the atmosphere around you, or do you add to the heaviness? Being joyful is not the same as being happy. Happiness depends on outward things, but joy wells up from within.

All of us can feel relief and contentment when we have come through a hard time. We can rejoice and praise God for how He has brought us out of it. But the challenge is, how joyful are we in the midst of it?

 

Adoption

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Ephesians 1:5

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 9:10-24

It is at once a doctrine of Scripture and of common sense, that whatever God does in time he predestined to do in eternity. Some men find fault with divine predestination, and challenge the justice of eternal decrees. Now, if they will please remember that predestination is the counterpart of history, as an architectural plan, the carrying out of which we read in the facts that happen, they may perhaps obtain a slight clue to the unreasonableness of their hostility. I never heard any one among professors wantonly and wilfully find fault with God’s dealings, yet I have heard some who would even dare to call in question the equity of his counsels. If the thing itself be right, it must be right that God intended to do the thing; if you find no fault with facts, as you see them in providence, you have no grounds to complain of decrees, as you find them in predestination, for the decrees and the facts are just the counterpart one of the other. Have you any reason to find fault with God, that he has been pleased to save you, and save me? Then why should you find fault because Scripture says he pre-determined that he would save us? I cannot see, if the fact itself is agreeable, why the decree should be objectionable. I can see no reason why you should find fault with God’s foreordination, if you do not find fault with what does actually happen as the effect of it. Let a man but agree to acknowledge an act of providence, and I want to know how he can, except he runs in the very teeth of providence, find any fault with the predestination or intention that God made concerning that providence.

For meditation: Some talk as if the doctrine of predestination is the enemy of the Christian. Scripture lists it as one of the “all things” that work together for good to them that love God and which prove that God is for us (Romans 8:28-31).

 

Fellowship with God

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.’ 1 John 1:3

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11–6:1

That which is the Father’s employment is our employment. I speak not of you all; he knows whom he has chosen. We cannot join with the Father in upholding all worlds, we cannot send forth floods of light at the rising of the sun, we cannot feed the cattle on a thousand hills, nor can we give food and life to all creatures that have breath. But there is something which we can do which he does. He does good to all his creatures, and we can do good also. He bears witness to his Son Jesus, and we can bear witness too. The ‘Father worketh hitherto’ that his Son may be glorified, and we work too. O Eternal Worker! it is his to save souls, and we are co-workers with him. You are his husbandry, you are his building; he scatters the seed of truth, we scatter it too; his words speak comfort, and our words comfort the weary too, when God the Spirit is with us. We hope we can say, ‘For me to live is Christ;’ and is this not what God lives for too? We desire nothing so much as to glorify him, and this is the Father’s will, as well as Jesus Christ’s prayer, ‘Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.’ Do you not see, brethren, that we stand on the same platform with the eternal God? When we lift our hand, he lifts up his eternal arm; when we speak, he speaks too, and speaks the same thing; when we purpose Christ’s glory, he purposes that glory too; when we long to bring home the wandering sheep, and to recall the prodigal sons, he longs to do the same. So that in that respect we can say, ‘Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.’

For meditation: The essential first step in doing the work of God is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:28–29). Faith in him is not only the route to salvation, but also an appointment as God’s fellow-worker (John 14:122 Corinthians 6:1). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12), and so are his followers (Matthew 5:14).

Nothing Can Change God’s Love For You

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When You Believe in God But Aren’t Sure He Loves You

God is love.

Several years ago, I was having lunch with a man I had just met. For some reason, he opened up to me about his struggling marriage. When I asked him how God fit into his marriage, his countenance darkened, and he cut me off: “I don’t believe in God, and I don’t want to talk about religion.”

Not wanting to push too hard, I respected his stance and continued to talk about his marriage without mentioning anything more about God. He interrupted me again, repeating that he didn’t believe in God and that he didn’t want me to push religion on him.

I stopped in puzzlement, then resumed the conversation, all the more resolved not to mention God. A third time he blurted out, “I don’t want to talk about God. I don’t believe in God.”

Finally it dawned on me: This hurting man really did want to talk about God. Since he wouldn’t drop the subject, I asked carefully, “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in.” He was happy to oblige. He said he didn’t believe in a God who was angry, always waiting to catch people doing wrong, and who delighted in sending people to hell.

This time I interrupted: “That’s really interesting. I don’t believe in that God either.”

He looked confused. “But I thought you were a pastor.”

Seeing a slightly open door, I explained, “I believe in a good God who takes a personal interest in all of us. My God loved the world so much that He was willing to send His Son, Jesus, to die for us. I believe in a God who loves you more than you could ever imagine.”

The man looked at me sadly, obviously carrying a heavy load of spiritual pain. After a moment, he said, “I wish I could believe in that God, like you.”

This honest man’s words give voice to a reality that many of us experience daily in silence. My whole life I’ve heard the phrase “God loves you.” I’ve seen it on bumper stickers, heard it in sermons, and listened to it in songs on Christian radio. It’s one thing to hear this with our ears, and another to understand it with our hearts.

This is the root of a challenge for many Christian Atheists: belief in God doesn’t automatically result in the belief — the genuine heart conviction — that God loves us.

Oddly, our disbelief doesn’t necessarily question whether God can or does love people. We Christian Atheists can easily believe that God loves other people; we just can’t comprehend

how or why He’d love us. We hide our real selves from other people to ensure they won’t reject us. How much more we hide from God! There’s just no way God could love someone as undeserving and evil as I am.

Undeserved Love

When Amy and I were first married, we purchased a tiny home that was built in 1910. Unfortunately, there were only two shoebox-sized closets in the entire house — enough space to hang a dozen shirts, but no place to hang guests’ coats, hide a plunger, or store a bag of dog food. Thankfully, we could store things in the basement, which worked great until our first big rainstorm.

Our realtor neglected to mention that the basement flooded several times a year, which unfortunately we discovered one day when driving home through a torrential rain. It was raining not only cats and dogs but also billy goats and llamas. After about an hour of downpour, we arrived home to find the basement flooded with three feet of water. What few valuables we owned were, to our dismay, trying their best to make like sponges.

I leaped into the torrent and found myself standing waist deep in water. Amy, peering safely from four steps up, helpfully reminded me that the previous owners had left a sump pump in the basement. I remembered seeing it, so I felt around until I found it. And its power cord. (Can you see where this is going?) Looking around for an outlet, I noticed the end of an extension cord dangling from a rafter directly overhead. Standing waist deep in water, one cord in each hand, I had a spark — so to speak — of inspiration: if I plug this in really, really, really quickly, maybe I won’t get shocked.

I pressed the two metal prongs of the pump cord into the corresponding slits in the extension cord. When they connected, I saw into another dimension. My body became a pathway for billions and billions of teeny tiny electrons, an open channel for the power currents that coursed through the cords. The piercing shock triggered certain neurons in the language center of my brain, where a long-unused word — a very bad word — was stored.

Milliseconds later, the sheer force of the electrical current pushed the foul word toward the front of my face and out of my mouth. I remember looking up to see the horror on my new wife’s face. Her preacher-husband had just shouted the mother of all bad words. She also was certain it would be the last thing he ever said.

Obviously, I lived to see another day. And the pump worked. But that moment shocked me in more ways than one. How could the same heart that speaks of the love and glory of Christ utter such filth? And more important, how could God love someone as bad as I was? You might be thinking, That’s nothing! And you’d be right. I’ve done so many worse things.

But that was in my old life. Now I was a pastor. I was newly married and still trying to prove to myself that I was worthy of Amy’s love. And God’s.

I felt bad about myself and distant from God because of my sinfulness. Job, the man who lost everything, said,

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself. — Job 42:5-6

Have you ever felt like that?

The closer I get to God, the more I realize just how bad I am. Even the apostle Paul — who penned two-thirds of the New Testament — had some seriously negative feelings about himself. He wrote,

I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. — 1 Corinthians 15:9

If Paul felt that way, it’s no wonder that I’ve wondered how God could love someone as bad as I am. It isn’t only our sense of guilt that prevents us from believing that God loves us — sometimes it is a simple sense of insignificance.

When Christian Atheists look at the world — famine, drought, epidemics, AIDS, war, poverty, human trafficking, genocide — we wonder why God would love people as

insignificant as we are. Six billion people inhabit this planet; how could God love us all? That doesn’t seem possible, let alone likely, and surely God has bigger things on His mind.

It turns out that many people in the Bible battled similar feelings of insignificance. When God asked Moses to deliver God’s people out of slavery, Moses responded,

Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? — Exodus 3:11

King David, who was described as a man after God’s own heart, asked that very same question:

But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to You? — 1 Chronicles 29:14 NLT

When an angel of the Lord encouraged Gideon to take on the Midianites, he immediately offered his not-so-impressive resume to prove why he wasn’t up for the task. The insecure warrior said,

But Lord… how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family. — Judged 6:15-16

If these stories tell us anything, it’s that we’re in good company if we’ve ever felt like we’re not good enough or important enough to be loved by God.

I didn’t begin to understand how God could love so many people equally until I had more than one child. In 1994, Catie, our first child, was born. From the moment she smiled, Catie had me wrapped around her little finger, the classic daddy’s girl. When we found out we were having a second daughter, I remember wondering, “How could we love another as much as the first?” It seemed impossible. Then Mandy was born. She is Catie’s opposite in many ways, and yet I found more love in my heart. I love her just as much, but with an individual kind of love. Three years later, Anna was born. Again, I discovered an untapped reservoir of love that I didn’t know I had. The same was true with Sam, then later Stephen, and finally with Joy. God gave us six very different children. I love them all equally, but I love them each as individuals.

That’s how God loves you.

You are one of His children. He’s crazy about you. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you less. Love is not something God does. It is who God is. And because of who He is, God loves you. Period.

Dare to claim the truth of John 3:16 for yourself:

For God so loved [insert your name] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Why would God love you? Because that’s who God is: He’s love. And that makes you who you are: beloved.

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The Crown of Life

 

Scripture Reading — Revelation 2:8-11

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. . . . Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” — Revelation 2:10

Jesus knows his church communities completely. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He also knows our sufferings.

In his letter to the church in Smyrna, Jesus reveals that he knew the afflictions of his followers there. He also knew that their suffering of injustices would grow worse. He composed this short letter to give hope and encouragement to their church community.

Suffering even more for their faith in Jesus would not be easy. Jesus described the enemies of the church as followers of Satan, the great deceiver who wants to destroy God’s people and all of God’s creation. Some of the Christians in Smyrna would be put in prison, Jesus said, and they would suffer persecution. John himself was being punished for his faith by being exiled to Patmos. Some others, like Polycarp of Smyrna, who was taught by John, were later executed for speaking out, teaching that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world. Like those early Christians, we too are called to “be faithful, even to the point of death.”

Suffering tests the character and strength of our faith in Jesus. We may also suffer terrible illness, grief, or financial loss—and find that it challenges our faith. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” because, even though our enemy, the devil, may seem to have the upper hand, God will give us life forever with him.

Prayer

Strengthen us, Lord, that we may be faithful to you always. Amen.

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Streams In The Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

The cross which my Lord bids me take up and carry may assume different shapes. I may have to content myself with a lowly and narrow sphere, when I feel that I have capacities for much higher work. I may have to go on cultivating year after year, a field which seems to yield me no harvests whatsoever. I may be bidden to cherish kind and loving thoughts about someone who has wronged me–be bidden speak to him tenderly, and take his part against all who oppose him, and crown him with sympathy and succor. I may have to confess my Master amongst those who do not wish to be reminded of Him and His claims. I may be called to “move among my race, and show a glorious morning face,” when my heart is breaking.

There are many crosses, and every one of them is sore and heavy. None of them is likely to be sought out by me of my own accord. But never is Jesus so near me as when I lift my cross, and lay it submissively on my shoulder, and give it the welcome of a patient and unmurmuring spirit.

He draws close, to ripen my wisdom, to deepen my peace, to increase my courage, to augment my power to be of use to others, through the very experience which is so grievous and distressing, and then–as I read on the seal of one of those Scottish Covenanters whom Claverhouse imprisoned on the lonely Bass, with the sea surging and sobbing round–I grow under the load.
–Alexander Smellie

“Use your cross as a crutch to help you on, and not as a stumblingblock to cast you down.”

“You may others from sadness to gladness beguile,
If you carry your cross with a smile.”

Do All To The Glory Of God

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God Goes Where You Go

By: Martha Noebel, 1.cbn.com

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

How comforting it is to know that wherever we go, God is there with us. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations and wonder if God is paying attention. We may feel so alone and even depressed. We can’t feel God’s presence, and we need His guidance and help.

Sometimes friends, spouses, and parents don’t really understand what we are going through. But God does and He cares. God told Joshua to be strong and to have courage. Then He told him a wonderful truth: “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Yes, that’s right… wherever! We don’t have to feel all alone. God is with us. He is working out the problems, and we don’t even realize it.

But now … the Lord who created you … says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done. Isaiah 43:1-3, 13 NLT

God is with us, leading us, guiding us, loving us, providing for us — all with His unlimited resources. What do we need? Do we need strength, peace, love, joy, or hope? He has it all. He is longing to pour out His favor and blessing upon us. We need to be open to Him and to trust Him. We need, by faith, to receive what He has for us. It is essential we realize how much He loves us and that He has a good purpose and plan for us.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Ephesians 3:14-16 NLT

This Scripture is awesome. There is nothing that God doesn’t know and can’t do for us. He walks with us every moment of every day. We need to speak these Scriptures to our hearts. The devil can’t stand it when we, in confidence, speak God’s Word. It builds faith in us and gives us the strength to stand.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! Psalms 139:1-6 NLT

Like David let us declare:

Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. Psalms 25:4-5 NLT

You can trust God. No matter what is going on in your life, He is there! God goes where you go.

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36 NLT

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Whatever You Do

By: George Young, reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Colossians 3:15-17

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus …
Colossians 3:17 —

N. C. Wyeth, whose paintings gave us unforgettable images of the heroes of stories like The Yearling and Treasure Island, unfortunately felt compelled to write on the door of his studio, “I will not have Good Fortune or God’s Blessing let in while I am working.”

Exodus 31 tells quite a different story, of how God chose Bezalel and Oholiab and filled them with his Spirit. He gave them extraordinary artistic ability to make beautiful carvings, tapestries and cast gold, silver, and bronze furnishings for the tabernacle, the tent in which God lived among his people Israel.

When the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, he gives us gifts to serve God. No calling in life is meant to be separate from God. Brother Lawrence, a lowly monk, “practiced the presence of God” while washing dishes in a monastery kitchen. The prophet Zechariah describes the world transformed by the coming of the Lord: “On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses … Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 14:20-21).

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Everything in life is made fruitful, beautified, sanctified, and brought into balance when we do it for the Lord.

Prayer

Lord, keep us from thinking we can separate our faith from the rest of life. May all we do bring glory to you. In Christ, Amen.

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Grace in the Morning – Streams in the Desert – September 13

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Come up in the morning . . . and present thyself unto me in the top of the mount (Exod. 34:2).

The morning is the time fixed for my meeting the Lord. The very word morning is as a cluster of rich grapes. Let us crush them, and drink the sacred wine. In the morning! Then God means me to be at my best in strength and hope. I have not to climb in my weakness. In the night I have buried yesterday’s fatigue, and in the morning take a new lease of energy. Blessed is the day whose morning is sanctified! Successful is the day whose first victory was won in prayer! Holy is the day whose dawn finds thee on the top of the mount!

My Father, I am coming. Nothing on the mean plain shall keep me away from the holy heights. At Thy bidding I come, so Thou wilt meet me. Morning on the mount! It will make me strong and glad all the rest of the day so well begun.
–Joseph Parker

Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.

As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean,
The image of the morning-star doth rest,
So in this stillness, Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.
When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eyes look up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose, beneath Thy wings o’er shadowing,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

–Harriet Beecher Stowe

My mother’s habit was every day, immediately after breakfast, to withdraw for an hour to her own room, and to spend that hour in reading the Bible, in meditation and prayer. From that hour, as from a pure fountain, she drew the strength and sweetness which enabled her to fulfill all her duties, and to remain unruffled by the worries and pettinesses which are so often the trial of narrow neighborhoods.

As I think of her life, and all it had to bear, I see the absolute triumph of Christian grace in the lovely ideal of a Christian lady. I never saw her temper disturbed; I never heard her speak one word of anger, of calumny, or of idle gossip; I never observed in her any sign of a single sentiment unbecoming to a soul which had drunk of the river of the water of life, and which had fed upon manna in the barren wilderness.
–Farrar

Give God the blossom of the day. Do not put Him off with faded leaves.

Prayer From The Heart Can Change Things

 

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My Prayer for the Furnace

How I Ask God to Heal

Article by

Pastor, Flower Mound, Texas

All of us are only a phone call away from our life changing forever. We will get sick. We will lose loved ones. Trials will come. And we don’t know when suffering will hit us.

For me, it was Thanksgiving morning in 2009. I walked into our living room at home to give my youngest, Norah, her bottle. I burped her. I took her back to her Johnny Jump Up. I turned. And then I woke up in the hospital. I’d had a brain seizure, and I was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor, facing immediate surgery, chemo, and radiation — and an estimate of a few years to live.

In that season, I found that my Christian friends tended to fall into one of two camps. The first camp was all about the will of God, and praying for the will of God. The second camp believed that if I had faith and believed that the Lord would heal me, then I would be healed.

Those two camps often do not play too well together, but I actually believe they can help one another more than they realize. One tells us how to pray for healing, and the other tells us how to respond when God doesn’t heal. We need both. We see that need played out in at least one familiar Old Testament story.

A Prayer for the Furnace

You may well remember the characters Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from felt boards in Sunday school, but this story has direct implications for how we think about healing and how we pray for healing.

To recap, king Nebuchadnezzar made a golden image and demanded that the people of God, who had been exiled to Babylon, worship it. Three of God’s servants, who had been put in a place of authority in Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — refused. When the king threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace because of their disobedience, they responded by saying,

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:17–18)

In other words, our God can save us, we believe that the Lord will save us, and even if he doesn’t, we will still praise the name of the Lord. This should be our default position, regardless of what we’re walking through, but especially when we’re walking through the valley of suffering.

THE LORD CAN HEAL

God is sovereign. “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). He is the Creator of all things and the Sustainer of all things, and he has the power to do whatever he wills. Colossians 1:16–17 says of Christ, “By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Whatever suffering we are facing, we know that God has the power to intervene, and we know he has the power to redeem and heal whatever pain and brokenness we experience.

THE LORD WILL HEAL

God is not only all-powerful; he is also personal, and he will heal all our diseases. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:1–3). The question for his children is not if he will heal, but only when and how. One way or another, he will deliver us — from suffering, from sin, from death. God loves us and cares about us (1 Peter 5:6–7). He bends his ear to the cries of his people. Psalm 34:17 says, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” God invites us to pray to him, and tells us that he will answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7–8).

IF HE DOESN’T HEAL NOW

God is good. We can see throughout the Scriptures, as he reveals who he is and what he is about, that God is a loving Father who knows what’s best and wants what’s best for his children. As Jesus pointed out, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). We can trust that if God chooses not to heal us for now, he knows something we don’t know — and that one day he will end suffering and death once and for all.

How to Go About Praying

The Bible frees us up to pray boldly and courageously for healing — not to simply pray for God’s will — because we know that he can heal, that he will heal, and that ultimately his will will be done in every circumstance (Ephesians 1:11). We’re not setting low bars for God to step over. We cannot set a bar too high for him. We come to him believing that he will heal, and believing that if he does not, it will be because he has a better plan and a higher aim in mind.

The Bible calls us to pray and plead with the Lord, asking him to bring healing. I’m going to ask, believing that Jesus Christ is going to heal me and heal the people I’m praying for, but then I’m going to open my hands, entrusting myself and others to the will of my God. That’s the example Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego give to us, and that’s how we pray in our trials:

Lord, I know you can heal. Lord, I believe you will heal. And Lord, if you don’t heal now, bring glory to your name and keep my faith in you.

The Power of a Simple Prayer

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.” Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

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Want to see a father’s face ashen or hear a mother gasp? Then sit nearby as they discover three words on the box of a new toy: “Some assembly required.” What follows are several late night hours of squeezing “A” into “B,” bolting “D” into “F,” and hoping no one notices if steps 4, 5 and 6 are skipped altogether.

Parents want a gift for their child. What they get is a project – sometimes a project for life.

“Some assembly required.” It’s not the most welcome sentence, but it’s an honest one. Marriage licenses should include those words, in large print. Job contracts should state them in bold letters. Babies should exit the womb with a toe tag: “Some assembly required.”

Life is a gift, albeit disassembled. It comes in pieces and sometimes falls to pieces. Part A doesn’t always fit Part B. The struggle seems large and inevitably, something is missing.

It’s such a common problem. Who among us doesn’t have an area of life that isn’t working? How do you respond when the pieces don’t fit? In frustration? In anger? In prayer?

I’d like to say I always respond in prayer. The truth? I am a recovering prayer wimp. I doze off when I pray. My thoughts zig, then zag, then zig again. If attention deficit disorder applies to prayer, then I am afflicted.

But I also know there’s power in prayer, even simple prayers. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew this too.

Maybe you’ve heard the story. A couple thousand years ago there was a common wedding in Cana. The bride wasn’t the daughter of an emperor. The groom wasn’t a prince. Apart from one detail, the event would’ve been lost in time. But we remember it because Jesus was on the guest list.

While Jesus was there, the wedding party ran out of wine. Enter Mary, mother of Jesus. For my nickel, she appears too seldom in Scripture. After all, who knew Jesus better than she did? So, on the rare occasion she speaks, we perk up. “The mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine'” (John 2:3b, NKJV).

Consider this prayer of Mary. The pieces didn’t fit, so she took the problem to Jesus. Mary wasn’t bossy. She didn’t say: “Jesus, they are out of wine. So, here is what I need. Go down to the grove at the corner. Accelerate the growth of some Bordeaux grapes. Turn them into wine.” She didn’t try to fix the problem.

Nor was she critical. “If only they had planned better, Jesus. People just don’t think ahead. What is society coming to?”

Nor did she blame Jesus. “What kind of Messiah are you? If you truly were in control, this never would have happened!”

She didn’t blame herself. “It’s all my fault, Jesus. Punish me. I failed as a friend. Now, the wedding is ruined. The marriage will collapse. I am to blame.”

None of this. Mary didn’t whine about the wine. She just stated the problem.

Then, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever he says to you, do it'” (John 2:4-5, NKJV).

Apparently Jesus had no intention of saving the wedding banquet. This wasn’t the time nor the place He had planned to reveal his power. But then Mary entered the story: Mary, someone He loved, with a genuine need.

So what did He do? Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, and that water became wine the entire party enjoyed.

Problem presented. Prayer answered. Crisis avoided. All because Mary entrusted the problem to Jesus. Her simple request prompted a divine response!

Like me, you might think if you take your problems to Jesus every time you have one, you’ll talk to Jesus all day long. I think that’s the point. After all, the writer of Philippians reminds us in our key verse, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers” (Philippians 4:6).

When life doesn’t fit, it’s easy to worry or be critical or try to fix it. But let’s let Mary be our model. She took her problem to Jesus and she left it there. She stated her problem simply, presented it faithfully and trusted Him humbly.

Father, You are good. I need help to lay my problems at Your feet. Help my friends to do the same. Thank You for hearing my cries for help and being faithful to respond in love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Streams in the Desert

By: L.B. Cowman

Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” (S. of Sol. 8:5).

Some one gained a good lesson from a Southern prayer meeting. A brother asked the Lord for various blessings–as you and I do, and thanked the Lord for many already received–as you and I do; but he closed with this unusual petition: “And, O Lord, support us! Yes support us Lord on every leanin’ side!”

Have you any leaning sides? This humble man’s prayer pictures them in a new way and shows the Great Supporter in a new light also. He is always walking by the Christian, ready to extend His mighty arm and steady the weak one on “every leanin’ side.”

“Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
‘I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.’
Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds the government of worlds.
Yet closer come: Thou art not near enough.
I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it.
Doubt not then;
But Loving Me, lean hard.”

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit

 

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It Starts At Home

RUTH CHOU SIMONS

 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Deuteronomy 6:6 (ESV)

Given a choice, I’d rather go to a faraway country than clean out my pantry. I’d rather dig wells for other people, seeing progress and visible fruit, than work through math problems again with my child. Truth be told, sometimes I esteem the value of ministry to others over the often unseen ministry within my own home.

“Send me, Lord!” — as long as it’s not to the hard soil of difficult extended family relationships, or to the unnoticed work of sowing truth within the walls of my own home.

Recognizing that my home is a mission field — equal to a remote land or culture — changes the way I think about the people and places before me and why God has placed me there.

When I became a mom, I marveled that babies didn’t come with owner’s manuals. As parents, we look for blueprints to ensure success — a method, paradigm or routine that will make it easier. We wonder why we must repeat things over and over, why it feels so unrewarding at times, and whether or not we’re even making a difference.

God went to great lengths to instruct His children about instructing their children. He helped the Israelites make a connection we need, too:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV).

What we choose to repeat at home, practice as a family, and speak about directly affects our knowledge of the presence of God and our ability to recall God’s faithful works. God’s greatness and redemption story don’t automatically appear in our families. They’re made known in and through us by deliberate praise and practice.

God instructed His people to persevere in their work at home while keeping their eyes on their future home (as seen in Deuteronomy 6:10-12). They were to recount and rehearse the faithfulness of God in every way possible with those in their care so future generations would remember to give God the glory when He brought their journey to completion.

When we point to Jesus with our praise and practice, we make it known that it is God who saves and rescues us from our heaviest burdens.

Mother Teresa famously said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

One of the most loving things we can do as parents is to love our children with the full truth of the gospel — not a watered-down story, a feel-good pep talk, or a behavior-manipulating gospel of self-help. That’s not the good news of grace. Jesus loved and saved us while we were His enemies, paid the ultimate price to pluck us out of slavery to sin, and made us welcome in His presence. This is the gospel.

When we speak of this amazing grace in the ordinary routines of our days, we take the good news of the gospel with us to car lines, dinner prep, laundry and even errands during rush hour — which may as well be the ends of the earth. We are missionaries to our people, right where we are … from the first moments of the day to the moment we turn off the lights at night.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have called me to fix my eyes on You and to deliberately teach my children the truth of who You are. Help me faithfully rehearse the truth of the gospel to myself and to my family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

The Wonderful News of the Spirit-Filled Life

Many Christians simply don’t know.

We live in a broken world, where rejection— even from fellow Christians— could be just around the corner. But there is good news as we wait in expectation for God’s ultimate redemption! And that is Jesus. Jesus brought with Him a love that remains . . . is constant . . . stays the same.

No person’s rejection can ever exempt me from God’s love for me. Period. No question mark. The most beautiful love story ever written is the one you were made to live with God.

Imagine how differently you might approach each day by simply stating:

God is good.

God is good to me.

God is good at being God.

And today is yet another page in our great love story.

Nothing that happens to you today will change that or even alter it in the slightest way.

Lift your hands, heart, and soul, and receive that truth as you pray this prayer:

A Prayer for When You Feel Rejected

My whole life I’ve searched for a love to satisfy the deepest longings within me to be known, treasured, and wholly accepted. When You created me, Lord, Your very first thought of me made Your heart explode with a love that set You in pursuit of me. Your love for me was so great that You, the God of the whole universe, went on a personal quest to woo me, adore me, and finally grab hold of me with the whisper, “I will never let you go.”

Lord, I release my grip on all the things I was holding on to, preventing me from returning Your passionate embrace. I want nothing to hold me but You. So, with breathless wonder, I give You all my faith, all my hope, and all my love.

I picture myself carrying the old, torn- out boards that inadequately propped me up and placing them in a pile. This pile contains other things I can remove from me now that my new intimacy- based identity is established.

I lay down my need to understand why things happen the way they do.

I lay down my fears about others walking away and taking their love with them.

I lay down my desire to prove my worth.

I lay down my resistance to fully trust Your thoughts, Your ways, and Your plans, Lord.

I lay down being so self- consumed in an attempt to protect myself.

I lay down my anger, unforgiveness, and stubborn ways that beg me to build walls when I sense hints of rejection.

I lay all these things down with my broken boards and ask that Your holy fire consume them until they become weightless ashes.

And as I walk away, my soul feels safe. Held. And  truly free to finally be me.

Amen.

 

Paul’s desire to depart

By: Charles Spurgeon

“Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” Philippians 1:23

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 8:14-30

Here we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from Eschol. There we shall be in the vineyard. Here we have the manna falling small, like coriander seed, but there shall we eat the bread of heaven and the old corn of the kingdom. We have sometimes on earth, lusts, ungratified desires, that lack satisfaction; but there the lust shall be slain and the desire shall be satisfied. There shall be nothing we can want; every power shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of joy.There will be a full and lasting fruition of Christ, and last of all upon this point there shall be a sharing with Christ in his glory, and that for ever.“We shall see him,” yes, and let us have the next sentence, and “shall be like him when we shall see him as he is.” Oh Christian, anticipate heaven for within a very short time thou shalt be rid of all thy trials and thy troubles; thine aching head shall be encircled with a crown of glory; thy poor panting heart shall find its rest and shall be satisfied with fulness as it beats upon the breast of Christ. Thy hands that now toil shall know no harder labour than harp-strings can afford. Thine eyes now filled with tears shall weep no longer. Thou shalt gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendour of him who sits upon the throne. Nay, more, upon his throne shalt thou sit. He is King of kings, but thou shalt reign with him. He is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, but thou shalt be a priest with him. Oh rejoice! The triumph of his glory shall be shared by thee; his crown, his joy, his paradise, these shall be thine, and thou shalt be co-heir with him who is the heir of all things.

For meditation: Being with Christ must be far better, because we will then be with Christ who is far better. God has prepared something far better for the believer (Hebrews 11:40).

Keep Going By Faith In God

 

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Keep Going!

By: Byron Bohnert, 1.cbn.com

This past Sunday, my parents, grandparents, and I were on the road home from a family reunion. During our four-hour trip we encountered the worst thunderstorm I’ve driven through in a long time.

The rain was so intense we could only see a few feet in front of us. Other drivers were slowing down, putting on their flashers, and some were even stopping on the side of the road. Along with the heavy rain, the wind was also whipping against everyone’s vehicle.

The experience was a little chaotic; however, I gained total peace from seeing how my dad, who was driving, reacted to the situation. There he was with his eyes fixed on the road while we were all frantically yelling stuff at him like, “Pull over, Slow down, Watch out!”

Despite all the commotion, he kept on driving right through the storm. According to his thinking, he wasn’t going to stop and risk having a bad accident or getting stuck because of a few fearful passengers.

When we are going through a storm, it’s easy to want to quit. There is no reason to keep going when all the signs show the road ahead to be too dangerous. Or is there?

Some people stop at the first site of adversity because they don’t think they have what it takes to survive the storm. When in all actuality God has infused us with every bit of strength we need.

According to 2 Corinthians 3:5,

“We don’t have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do.” (CEV)

Even if you find yourself in a difficult situation like my dad and everyone is yelling at you to stop, don’t listen to them; listen to what the Lord is saying. He alone is the one who can help us refocus our attention, calm our anxiety, and steady our course.

The beginning verse in Psalm 91 describes what happens for those of us who dwell in God’s secret place:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].” (Psalm 91:1, AMPC)

Two words that really stick out to me in this verse are stable and fixed. Yes, it is possible to move forward in a storm and stand firm on the inside at the same time. Why? Because wherever we are in this world we’re covered under the shadow of Almighty God. His shadow follows Him constantly just as our shadow follows us. We could go to the ends of the earth and still not escape the shadow that follows.

David knew exactly where he was supposed to be in times of trouble. Crouching down in fear is not the proper place for men or women of God.

We have to have the same boldness and resolve to pray as David did in Psalm 57:1,

“Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed.” (AMPC)

Another key factor for surviving life’s storms is staying in close company with some godly leaders. True godly leaders are visionaries and they can see beyond the struggles we face. As John C. Maxwell writes,

“Leaders see life as it could be. They are always seeing a little farther, a little more, than those around them.”

If it were not for leaders like this in my life, I would have stopped many times short of God’s desired best for me.

So, it is a guarantee that storms will come and they will pass. But it is what we do in the middle of them that makes us victorious. And if fear tries to take over, we can just look unto our Heavenly Father and we will gain the peace we need to go through any storm.

 

How Happiness Happens: Accept One Another

 

It’s hard to know the best way to respond to people who represent your “opposite you.” Do you ignore them? Leave the room when they enter so you don’t say something you later will regret? Share a meal and discuss your differences? Dismiss your differences? How do you find and show acceptance toward someone when you would rather show them the door? The answer can be found in this admonition:

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. — Romans 15:7

Opening Reflection

We are creatures of comfort and creatures of habit. We like the familiar and predictable. We like agreement over conflict. Peace over disruption. These are the things that make us feel happy, content, at rest. And all these things — comfort, familiarity, agreement — are achievable as long as we interact only with people who are just like us. People who are part of the same political party, church denomination, ethnic group, or country. People who like what we like and dislike what we dislike.

This is all fine and good, but there is one problem.

To live in the world we live in today, we are bound to interact with someone who is different from us.

A coworker, someone next to us on the bus, a neighbor, classmate, teacher, or pastor. We have been created equal, but we have not been created alike. For this reason, if our happiness depends on being surrounded by people who agree with us all the time, we won’t feel happy very often.

In this week’s study, we will be looking at Romans 15:7, where Paul wrote,

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Note that Paul did not specify to the Roman church whom they should accept. He did not say accept the people you like or accept the people who look like you or accept the people who think the same way as you think. He left it general and open-ended. Accept whom? One another.

Could it be we are called to accept the Democrat and the Republican? The Midwesterner and Southerner? The immigrant and the native? The Catholic and the Protestant?

Further, Paul instructs us to accept one another as Christ accepted us. How did Christ accept us? He loved us so much that he made the greatest sacrifice for us. He died for us. Rose from the grave for us. Left the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Christ welcomed us into the family of God. And this, the Bible says, is how we are to welcome others.

So open your mind and your heart as you explore today’s topic. Discover how accepting one another can make happiness happen in your own life — and for those you accept as Christ accepted you.

 

 

Awe, Wonders, Signs

by Inspiration Ministries

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. – Acts 2:43 NASB

Were the disciples superhuman? No. In fact, they were ordinary people. But, because they had been transformed by the Spirit, through them “many wonders and signs were taking place.”

Jesus had said that those who believed in Him would do “greater works than these … because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). The apostles proved that this really was true!

As they witnessed these transformed men and women, the crowds were amazed, and filled with “awe.” Seemingly unsolvable problems were solved. People with incurable diseases were healed. These untrained men spoke articulately with supernatural wisdom.

What would the disciples do if they were alive today? Would they be content with the ordinary? We almost can hear them tell us not to limit what God can do! In fact, we should expect “many wonders and signs” in our lives!

Is this possible for you? Absolutely! But what will it take?

Like the disciples, start with your personal relationship with Jesus. Spend time with Him. Pray. Listen to His voice. Grow in your knowledge of the Word. Be a faithful servant. Like the disciples, wait for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Let Him guide you.

Don’t be content with a mediocre faith. Be like those early disciples: humble, filled with faith, unafraid. Always be ready and available for the leading of the Spirit. You serve the God of miracles! For Him, nothing is impossible! He has not changed. He never will!

Streams in the Desert – September 10

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me (Ps. 138:8).

There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.

It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, “Why hast thou forsaken me ?”

The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.

Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus.
–Soul Food

The great thing is to suffer without being. discouraged.
–Fenelon

“The heart that serves, and loves, and clings,

Hears everywhere the rush of angel wings.”