Tag Archives: business

God Comes To Our Aid

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

From: Our Daily Bread

Life and Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

From: Crosswalk.com

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

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

I totally understand.

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

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

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

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

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

Amazing letters.

Dreams-come-true letters.

Letters that turned into book contracts.

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

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

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

I wrestled and I processed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know it. Believe it. Live it.

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

 

Connecting the Dots

From: Our Daily Journey

Connecting the Dots

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Get Stuck

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

From: Get More Strength.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

From: Utmost.org

Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I can do? Pray. And wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ, we have all that we need.

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

You Are A Priceless Stone

Daniel 11:38

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

1 Corinthians 3:12

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

Revelation 18:12

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

Revelation 21:11

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

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Naming Rights

From: Get More Strength.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

From: Utmost.org

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

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

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

 

Bearing Good Fruit

From: Our Daily Bread

Bearing Good Fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time For A Change

  • Jeremiah 29:11

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

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

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

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Management

From: Our Daily Bread

Image Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Brutiful”

From: Our Daily Journey

“Brutiful”

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

Renew Personal Purity

 Renew your personal purity just as these things are pure.

 

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

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

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

 

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

From: Utmost.org

Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

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

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

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

 

Price Tags

From: Get More Strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The First Day—Again

From: Our Daily journey

The First Day—Again

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

The Middle

 

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

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(The middle is a tough place to be).

The Middle

From: Get More Strength.org

 1 Thessalonians 5:23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Not the One

From: Our Daily Bread

Not the One
 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Clueless at the Light

From: Our Daily Journey

Clueless at the Light

Read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

We Will See Him

Heavenly Faces

Genesis 32:30

So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

Red Faces

Jeremiah 6:15

“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.

Shining Faces

Numbers 6:25

The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;

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His Wonderful Faces

From: Our Daily Bread

His Wonderful Face

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  1 Chronicles 16:11

My four-year-old son is full of questions, and chatters constantly. I love talking with him, but he’s developed an unfortunate habit of talking to me even when his back is turned. I often find myself saying, “I can’t hear you—please look at me when you’re talking.”

Sometimes I think God wants to say the same thing to us—not because He can’t hear us, but because we can tend to talk to Him without really “looking” at Him. We pray, but we remain caught up in our own questions and focused on ourselves, forgetting the character of the One we’re praying to. Like my son, we ask questions without paying attention to the person we’re talking to.

Many of our concerns are best addressed by reminding ourselves of who God is and what He has done. By simply refocusing, we find comfort in what we know of His character: that He is loving, forgiving, sovereign, graceful.

The psalmist believed we ought to seek God’s face continually (Ps. 105:4). When David appointed leaders for worship and prayer, he encouraged the people to praise God’s character and tell stories of His past faithfulness (1 Chron. 16:8–27).

When we turn our eyes toward the beautiful face of God, we can find strength and comfort that sustain us even in the midst of unanswered questions.

Lord, let the light of Your face shine upon us.

Seeking the face of God can strengthen our faith.

 

Glynnis Whitwer March 24, 2017
I Want to Be Right!
GLYNNIS WHITWER

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17 (NIV)

My desire to be right is strong. Something in me always wants to prove my point, not make mistakes or let others see my weaknesses.

For years I gave into that prompting. But rather than making me look good, it had the opposite effect. It resulted in too many last words, over-quick responses and a guarded heart. It affected my relationships, because while it looked like righteousness to me, it appeared as judgement to others, unloving and self-centered.

Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to be right. Last year, I attended a conference where a speaker described three markers in our lives that guide our decisions: We want to look good, feel good and be right.

This was confirmed a few weeks ago when I fell down while leaving church. I was talking with my husband, looking up at him, when my foot hit a raised crack in the sidewalk. I had no chance to catch myself and went down hard … knees, arm, then face. The walkway was crowded and lots of people stopped to help.

Thankfully I was more embarrassed than hurt. My husband helped me up, apologizing for not catching me, and we left to join our kids for lunch. Other than a slightly red cheek, no one could tell I was hurt. But at lunch, I told my kids about the fall, and one of my son made a comment that confirmed this innate desire to look good.

He didn’t ask how I felt, or if I was in pain, he asked, “Did anybody see you?”

I had to laugh, because that was exactly what embarrassed me: Other people witnessed my fall.

Years ago I wouldn’t have laughed. My pride would have been so bruised, I probably would have ruined the lunch. But I knew my son cared about me, and his question was an honest one. It’s what we all think when we goof. Who saw it?

The Lord has done an amazing work in my life. He’s revealed my desire to always be right is based in pride, and that pride always sets itself up against others — first God, then those around me. It’s been a complicated process to uncover pride, but with God’s help, I’m learning to identify it and confess it quickly.

I’ve learned the hard way; God hates pride. Jesus’ harshest words were for those religious leaders who always wanted to be right and appear right. He knew their hearts were in the wrong place, and He called them out.

Jesus didn’t scold those whose weaknesses were evident. He didn’t shame the prostitute or the beggar. He didn’t publicly correct those struggling with sin. Instead, He welcomed them to come to Him and receive mercy and forgiveness. Jesus always led with love.

This longing to be right surely was put there by God. Except we were meant to desire being right with God more than man. Even then we mess it up by trying to do follow every rule, and make sure others do too. That’s not the kind of “right” God wants.

Jesus introduced the kind of rightness God wants and it is through faith, not works. As our key verse says, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).

Faith must come first if we are ever to be free of this unhealthy need to be right. When we stop striving to control every circumstance, and simply trust God as the Provider for all our needs, it becomes less about us, and more about others. Then we can love generously as Jesus did.

Whew! What a relief that is. It’s exhausting always needing to be right. And while there is a place to do things correctly (as in editing, which is my job) I can separate that kind of right, from the pride-tinged “right” and choose to live by faith in Jesus.

Lord, thank You for removing the expectations that I need to be right. Help me lead with love in every situation and put others before my need to look good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Hurry Up and Wait

From: Get more Strength.org

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly” Proverbs 14:29

One of my all-time favorite school teacher stories is about a kindergarten teacher who at the end of an exasperating day had to put boots on all 31 of her students before she sent them out in the snow. As she struggled to lace up the last boot on the foot of the 31st student, the child looked at her and said, “These aren’t my boots.” Thinking that she would have to go back and re-boot the whole class, she furiously ripped off the boots only to hear the kindergartener say, “They’re my sister’s boots, but my mom let me wear them today.”

Does life ever try your patience? Of course it does. There is just something about being born on this planet that makes us vulnerable to snap, often destructive, responses to life’s inevitable stress.

What is it that pushes you to the edge? Is it that guy who keeps cutting you off in heavy traffic or your daughter who keeps snapping her bubble gum every 10 seconds? It’s different for all of us, but we’ve all experienced that temptation to explode when somebody or something stomps on our frayed nerves.

I hate to up the pressure, but it’s in moments of near-nuclear explosions that we find out how closely we’re walking with the Lord. Galatians 5:22 says, “And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience.” When life takes us to the edge, it’s easy to tell if we are being controlled by the Holy Spirit, or whether our old nature is going to step up to manage the situation.

Being patient doesn’t mean that we morph into milk-toast people for Jesus, with no fire in our belly. But the kind of patience that the Spirit wishes to produce does bring restraint to our anger. Anger always clouds good judgment while patience helps us stand back and evaluate the tension in a constructive way. As our text says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

Patience says “no” to our “gut reaction” to do the first thing that comes to mind. When your gut reaction is: “I’m quitting this job right now!” patience says, “Why don’t you give it a few days and pray about it. Think about how this will affect your future and your family.” Patience gives you the space you need to make better decisions. An impulsive “I’m heading to the dealership right now to buy that new car!” may need patience to slow you down long enough to ask yourself, “What’s wrong with the car I have? Is there anything better that God would want me to do with the money?”

And, patience may just get your anxious little self out of the way so that God can accomplish what He has in mind through the trial that has you so frazzled. The psalmist helps us when he says, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14 NASB).

And Isaiah assures us that “those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31 NASB).

So all together now: Let’s take a deep breath, step back, and patiently wait for Him to manage your response. No wonder patience is called a virtue!

Jesus Is Building His Church

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18
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Gate Crashers

From: Get More Strength.org

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18

Several years ago, the Pentagon built warships designed to fight terrorism. This class of battleship could carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. Interestingly, one of the fleet, the USS New York, was built with 24 tons of scrap metal from the wreckage of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Talk about turning the tables on terrorism–the fallout of one of the most horrific acts of terrorism was used for fighting against evil!

But it’s no better than the idea that our God had when He took us, scraped and trashed by the terrorism of sin, and processed us through a redemptive meltdown to re-tool us for war against the terror of hell. As Paul said, we are a new creation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), having been delivered from the grip of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13)!  Why the meltdown and re-creation? To equip us to aggressively go against the forces of darkness in our world. To crash the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)!

I remember my wrongheaded thinking about this verse. When Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His church, I always pictured His words as a statement about how safe we are from the power of hell. It probably was a mindset leftover from the fortress mentality of my early days in church. Back then we spent a lot of time talking about how hellish our world was and encouraged each other to hunker down ’til Jesus comes. But Jesus never intended that we would hunker down. Christ’s words mean that we are to pummel the gates of hell by aggressively taking its territory with the superior power of acts of righteousness.

In a world where we have forgotten how to treat each other, we crash the gates of division and alienation with acts of kindness and the healing power of forgiveness. We cleanse the toxic dumps of prideful acts and self-serving agendas with the power of humility and servanthood. Into a world run by the hellish treachery of genocide, oppression, and greed, we are to become advocates for the abused and the poor. In the face of prejudice and injustice, the church is to rise up with open arms to all people regardless, and seek to bring justice to bear on behalf of the marginalized and maligned. And, for those captives still chained in sin, we storm the gates to set the captives free with the power of the gospel!

Amazing, isn’t it?! Taken from the scrap pile of hell, we former captives have been melted down and recreated in the likeness of Jesus, who as our champion leads the charge and guarantees the victory!

While the Pentagon is building new warships, Jesus is busy building His church. And while I don’t know if we can win the war on terror, I do know this—if we will follow our leader, hell doesn’t stand a chance!

Cradled in Comfort

From: Our Daily Bread

Cradled in Comfort

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13

My friend entrusted me with the privilege of holding her precious, four-day-old daughter. Not long after I took the baby into my arms, she started to fuss. I hugged her closer, my cheek pressed against her head, and began to sway and hum in a gentle rhythm to soothe her. Despite these earnest attempts, and my decade and a half of parenting experience, I couldn’t pacify her. She became increasingly upset until I placed her back into the crook of her mother’s eager arm. Peace washed over her almost instantaneously; her cries subsided and her newborn frame relaxed into the safety she already trusted. My friend knew precisely how to hold and pat her daughter to alleviate her distress.

God extends comfort to His children like a mother: tender, trustworthy, and diligent in her efforts to calm her child. When we are weary or upset, He carries us affectionately in His arms. As our Father and Creator, He knows us intimately. He “will keep in perfect peace all who trust in [him], all whose thoughts are fixed on [him]” (Isa. 26:3 nlt).

When the troubles of this world weigh heavy on our hearts, we can find comfort in the knowledge that He protects and fights for us, His children, as a loving parent.

Lord, help me to look to You for my comfort in times of distress.

For help in finding God’s comfort, read The Lord Is My Shepherd: Rest and Renewal from Psalm 23 at discoveryseries.org/hp952.

God’s comfort soothes us perfectly.

 

Everyone Has a Story

From: Our Daily Journey

Everyone Has a Story

Read:

Philippians 2:1-18
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too (Philippians 2:4).

The speaker at our conference asked us to gather in groups of three with people we had never met. He told us to each take one minute to tell the others about ourselves and share the story of one person we wanted God to bless. One man said he wanted God to bless his wife who was battling cancer while she cared for her invalid mother. Another praised God for healing his wife’s cancer but said he was concerned for his adult son who was far from God.

If this had been a typical session, we would have left as we came in—as strangers. But because the speaker asked us to share something personal, we made an immediate and intense connection.

I left the session wondering what other stories are out there. Most people are struggling with something significant while also rejoicing about something else. Everyone needs prayer—either to celebrate God’s goodness or to seek God’s grace. It isn’t wise for us to walk up to strangers and demand that they open up, but we can be aware that each person has unexpressed yearnings. May we learn how to “share [these] burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

One way to prepare to share others’ burdens is to humbly put them first, reflecting Jesus’ humility. Rather than trying to impress others with our own stories or witty comments, may we ask questions and then really listen to what they have to say (Philippians 2:3; James 1:19). If they’re hesitant to share, may we remain “patient with everyone,” permitting each to open up at their own pace (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

As we actively seek to hear the stories of others, we can grow to truly love and care for them—relying on God to help us imitate His ways.

Be An Example Of God’s Grace

1 Peter 4:10

10    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful
stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

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R.G. LeTourneau and his family are committed Christians. His many works include philanthropies to many struggling institutions and Churches. He has given us a good example of how to live a fruitful Christian life.

 

A Tongue That Moves Dirt

From: Get More Strength.org

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving equipment company, often told this story: “We used to have a scraper known as the Model G. Somebody asked one of our salesmen what the ‘G’ stood for. The salesman promptly replied, ‘Well, I guess the G stands for gossip, because like gossip, this machine moves a lot of dirt, and moves it fast!’”

Have you ever had “the dirt” on someone? Through some turn of events, maybe you know of another person’s misfortune or mistake, and the news is burning a hole in your tongue. Is it okay to tell others? Is it okay to tell someone so that both of you can pray more intelligently about it? Or is telling it to anyone just plain old gossip?

Gossip is defined as idle chatter that can injure another’s integrity and reputation. This category of verbal sin does not always have malicious intent, but it’s always damaging. Closely linked with gossip is the idea of whispering. One of the Hebrew words for gossip means “whispering that is damaging.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for gossip is pronounced beginning with the sound “p-s-s-s,” which is often how gossip is communicated. Gossip can be true information but is always information that is not in the best interests of those who it is about or those who are hearing it.

So, why is it so tempting to look both ways, and then whisper juicy tidbits into the ear of the person next to us? Perhaps it’s because gossip is a way of promoting ourselves. Having the latest news means that we are on the inside track—that we have “the scoop.” It has been said that if a person known as a gossip doesn’t know about it, it’s not worth knowing—which isn’t a compliment! Gossip makes us the center of attention; all ears are tuned in to our frequency. Having and spreading information about others gives us a sort of power—or at least the illusion of it. In the spirit of self-promotion, gossip neutralizes our failures by making sure that others know the failures of someone else. To put it bluntly, we like to gossip because it makes us feel good. But then, a lot of sins make us feel good. Like poisoned sugar, gossip seems sweet but is deadly.

The problem with gossip is that it often backfires. Proverbs 11:13 says: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” If you like to gossip, you probably have friends or acquaintances who wonder if they can trust you with confidential information. Or, you can understand why they might think: If they are telling me about that, who are they talking to about me? It’s no wonder that Proverbs tells us that a gossiper separates the best of friends (Proverbs 16:28).

We should also note with concern that gossips are listed among the defiled people who are “God-haters” (Romans 1:28-30). That’s a serious charge!

It may be true, it may be hot, and it may be interesting, but if it’s not constructive and helpful, it’s gossip. And it’s a problem! If you have to tell someone, take it to the Lord in prayer. Everyone else is out of bounds.

Gateway of Hope

From: Our Daily Journey

Gateway of Hope

Read:

Hosea 2:11-15
I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope (Hosea 2:15).

You have to stick with that movie, even when it gets rough.” My friend pulled The Shawshank Redemption from the DVD player as he spoke. “The rough stuff is what makes the ending so hopeful.”

In a similar way, the stoning of Achan and his family has always been a troubling story for me—part of the “rough stuff” of the Bible. During the destruction of Jericho, Achan stole treasures that belonged to God. After his sin was discovered, he and his family were taken to the Valley of Achor and stoned to death (Joshua 7:16-26).

The name Achor means “trouble.” Yet Hosea records for us that God didn’t want the story to end there. Years after Achan’s death, God announced that He would redeem the site of the man’s betrayal. “I will return her vineyards to [Israel] and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity” (Hosea 2:15).

God has the power to transform. A site of betrayal became a door to hope and future restoration. A place of judgment becomes a place of growing vineyards. Years later Jesus proclaimed to His followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus is our hope—the way of growth and transformation.

Only God is capable of bringing hope out of betrayal. Only God can take the site of an execution and transform it to a place of grace. May He forgive us of our betrayals, and may we turn to Him today for transformation of the “rough stuff” in our lives.

 

 

Heather Avis March 22, 2017
Finding Beauty in the Mess
HEATHER AVIS

From: Crosswalk.com

“To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness …” Isaiah 61:3a (TLB)

“Heather, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but it seems as though you will not be able to have children naturally.”

My doctor’s words pierced my already wounded heart and quickly made their way through my body threatening to consume me. He continued to explain how the previous tests and procedures had led him to this conclusion, but I’d already heard all I needed to hear … I wanted to get out of there. The next thing I remember was walking through the sea of pregnant women in the waiting area and rushing for the door.

Once my feet hit the sidewalk, I gasped for air, crying hysterically. I made my way to my car, the world before me a hopeless blur. When I arrived home I collapsed on my bed, desperate for God, but too broken to pray.

Three years on this painful path of infertility lead me to a seemingly hopeless place. I was certain there was only one way for me to become a mother. With the confirmation of my broken womb, I mourned the loss of my fertility and watched my dreams burn up around me until all that remained was a pile of ashes … it was my worst-case scenario.

But here’s the thing about our worst-case scenarios: They are powerless against an all-powerful God.

Ten years have passed since that dark day.

This morning, like most mornings, the pitter-patter of tiny feet making their way across the hardwood floors woke me. I sat up in bed and was promptly tackled by my curly haired, sparkly girl: “Good morning mommy!”

Before I could respond, two more sets of happy eyes and wiggly limbs climbed onto my bed, forcing me to lie back down for morning snuggles.

You see, I thought there was only one way for me to become a mom. But in the ashes of my pain and desperation, small bright green buds began sprouting up all around me. As God set me on a path toward adoption, I soon found strength in place of my fear.

Over the years, as I brought not one, not two, but three children home to be mine, the gladness of motherhood overshadows the mourning of infertility. And on days like today, as I lie in the very bed where I once wept out of desperation, I am overwhelmed with peace.

The truth is: This one beautiful life we get to live is messy. So often we trip over our hopes and desires, only to fall into the messes we’ve been avoiding all along. What I’m discovering is when we fall into the very mess we hoped to avoid, we often find God’s goodness there.

My three children may not have my eyes, but they do have my heart and call me Mom. And they have shown me that my finite plans will always be overshowed by an infinite God.

Maybe today you find yourself sitting in a pile of ashes, feeling desperate. While our hopes and desires and plans for our lives are finite, an infinite God Who loves us can take our messiest messes and make something beautiful.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the hope I have knowing You take my messy life and make it beautiful. Give me the patience I need to wait on You and eyes to see the masterpiece taking shape. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Understanding The Cost Of Salvation

 

John 19:18

There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.

 
1 Corinthians 2:2

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Jesus Stock PhotosDramatic Lighting on Christian Easter Cross As Sto Royalty Free Stock Photo

Family at the Cross of Jesus Christ Stock PhotoJesus on cross Stock ImagesJesus Royalty Free Stock Photos

Do you fully understand the cost of your salvation?

 

Identified or Simply Interested?

From:Utmost.org

Identified or Simply Interested?

The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ….” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him” —but— “I have been identified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished in me. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“…it is no longer I who live….” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.

“…and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh— the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God….” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits— a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

 

Philip Flunked

From: Our Daily Journey

Philip Flunked

Read:

John 6:1-15
[Jesus] was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do (John 6:6).

In college, I had the, ahem, joy of taking a class about the history of the English language. The professor would ramble on and on about his life and all kinds of odd facts during his lectures. We listened intently, however, because his tests were famously difficult. He didn’t simply ask us to recall facts, he required us to think differently. The questions were designed to ensure that we could apply our knowledge in unique ways.

Jesus had something similar in mind when He tested Philip. Jesus asked him where they could buy enough bread to feed the thousands of hungry people who had followed them (John 6:5). Would Philip simply focus on the bare facts of the situation, or apply all that he knew about Jesus?

Unfortunately, Philip flunked the test.

He tallied up the money the disciples could earn and then compared it to the estimated grocery bill for the food that would nourish the crowd. His calculations led him to believe that the situation was hopeless (John 6:7).

Jesus knew that Philip would “fail” the test by overlooking His miracle-working power. He knew the disciple would miss an obvious hint: The crowd was there because they’d seen the miracles Jesus had performed (John 6:2). Still, the Lord supernaturally multiplied the food in a little boy’s lunch until it was enough to feed everyone present (John 6:12).

Could it be that some problems we face are designed to test our faith? God already knows the results we’ll achieve, but He wants us to grow in our faith by relying on what we know about Him—not simply focusing on our circumstances. God is able to “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). That’s the right answer for any test!

 

T. Suzanne Eller March 21, 2017
Crying Over Answered Prayers
SUZIE ELLER

From: Crosswalk.com

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.’” Exodus 14:15 (NIV)

I pulled out an old prayer journal and there it was, written in my handwriting. It was a prayer request I had prayed for years.

The words blurred as I traced them, tears falling.

The answer to this prayer was in the process of unfolding. Good news, right? Except, five minutes earlier, I was worrying because it felt so big. That morning I questioned my husband like a lead investigator:

Are you sure we can do this?

Are we making the right decision?

I peppered him with questions, trying to iron out every single detail even though we were in the beginning stages. In the night, when I should have been sleeping, I crunched numbers in my head.

It was exhausting.

Seeing my prayer request in the journal reminded me I had asked God for this very thing, and He was graciously opening the door. Rather than rejoicing, I was fretting.

In today’s passage, Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt after centuries of slavery. They were at the mercy of their captors and worked endless hours making bricks from straw. Generations had prayed for freedom, and the answer had come! Thousands left Egypt and headed for the Promised Land. Not too far into their journey, Pharaoh sent his men after them and the Israelites panicked.

They started to complain. They cried out to Moses.

“They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 14:11)

They were so focused on the obstacles, that they forgot how many times they’d asked God to release them from slavery. And now — on the brink of stepping out of Egypt completely free for the first time in generations — they complained. After listening to their murmuring, Moses petitioned God on their behalf.

God responded instantly: “Tell the Israelites to move on” (Exodus 14:15b).

As I traced the faded prayer request with my fingers, I admit I was so fixated on the obstacles that I was a little stuck.

Keep moving, Suzie.

Rarely does answered prayer mean it’s smooth sailing all the way.

We pray for that prodigal child to come home, and they do. Yet there’s work to be done in the relationship.

We pray for God to help us achieve a dream. He does, and it’s more difficult than we imagined.

We pray for a promotion, and there’s a learning curve.

Move on. Keep going.

He answered our prayers, and He’ll be with us every step of the way. We can get caught up in the challenges, or celebrate where God is taking us.

I pulled out that old journal and wrote a date beside my prayer request — along with the word “answered.”

Then I listed the hurdles God had demolished in this answered prayer. As I read them, my attitude completely shifted. The obstacles were there, yes, but so was God.

I closed my journal and lifted my hands to thank Him. It was time to stop crying over answered prayers, rejoice and move on.

Heavenly Father, I have been so focused on the obstacles that I lost sight of what You did for me. Thank You for answering my prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.