Tag Archives: character amazon

God Gives Courage to Answer His Call

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God Prepares the Heart to Answer His Call

By: Kathy pearson, 1cbn.com

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I gave a speech at a church in Indianapolis where they requested one of my speeches titled, “You Want Me to Do What?!  God’s Call and Your Response.”

I had not given that speech in several years, so it brought back many memories. It’s my story of when God called me 11 years ago to leave a teaching job I loved, to go into full-time Christian writing, speaking, and teaching.

When I first felt the call, I was in a total panic. I called my pastor in tears and said, “I think God wants me to leave my job! I don’t want to do that! I love my job!”

She calmed me with these words:  “If you have no desire to leave your job right now, then I don’t think God is calling you to do that YET.”

I must be pretty slow on the uptake because that little word tacked on at the end of her sentence, YET, didn’t register. The dictionary definition of that three-letter word is:  “at a future time.”

I pretended for months that I didn’t understand what that meant. After all, I told myself, I was certain God had called me to the teaching job I loved. (I’m still certain of that.) But slowly over the next nine months, an amazing thing happened. God changed my heart. It was like the nine-month gestation period preparing a baby to be born. Eleven years ago I was literally an infant in Christ, not YET spiritually ready for such a drastic life change. But God graciously provided an incubation period to prepare me.

God showed me the perfect Bible passage to express this idea. The Apostle Paul addressed the church at Corinth with these words:

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.”1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV)

There’s that little word again:  YET.  Paul was saying the church members at Corinth were still too attached to the world and not mature enough in their faith. Therefore, they needed to be fed like infants. They were not YET ready for solid food, but with the implied promise that they would be ready at a future time.

I still cried when I wrote my resignation letter. I grieved at leaving something I loved, but at the same time, I experienced great joy. God changed my heart until I wanted what He wanted more than anything else in the world. Finally, I was ready to take solid food instead of infants’ milk.

His plan was for me to go in a new, different and exciting direction. In that process, I discovered something wonderful:  God’s call on your life can change. After all, Scripture promises:

Answering God’s Call

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Where Is Your Treasure?

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Where Is Your “Treasure”?

From: thenivbible.com

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21

If something is of genuine value to you, there’s no disguising it. The worth you place on the various things in your life is evident by your priorities. That which means the most to you will get the lion’s share of your time and attention.

That which you treasure, you treat like a treasure.

When your idea of a treasure aligns with God’s idea, life-changing things happen. And the Bible certainly is his idea of a treasure. Consider these characteristics of treasure –

Treasure requires some digging.

Not all of Scripture’s riches are obvious. Some are buried below the surface and can be discovered only through careful study and research. You have a variety of tools at your disposal, from online concordances and dictionaries to websites devoted to specific theological topics.

If the lifting gets too heavy for you, ask a trusted Christian friend or church leader to help you. Drawing on the resources of others is a great way to increase your own spiritual wealth.

Treasure has lasting value.

Conventional treasure is valuable only as currency—or perhaps for display purposes. Once it’s been spent or enjoyed, it loses its luster. The wealth of Scripture, by contrast, lasts a lifetime—with no depreciation at all.

In the Bible’s pages you’ll find everything you need to know about

• Building a personal relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe
• Making wise decisions in every area of your life
• Using your God-given gifts and abilities to their fullest extent
• Repairing broken relationships

The bounty of God’s Word will be as valuable to you when you’re 100 as it was when you were 10!

For Reflection:
With great wealth comes great responsibility. Do you know someone facing difficulties? Perhaps a friend going through a relationship crisis? Someone facing indecision with a major life decision? Maybe a relative is struggling with feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness. You have a wealth of encouragement, inspiration and guidance in your possession. Find ways to share the treasure you have with others in your life.

Where Your Treasure Is

SEPTEMBER 17, 2010

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19 (NLT)

I was on my own at 17. I worked two jobs while attending a small community college and eventually left college because I ran out of funds. Three years later I married my husband. Over the next few years babies were born, with medical expenses incurred. Then I got sick: Cancer. It probably won’t surprise you that because of these circumstances, there was a huge need in my life for financial stability.

I pinched pennies. I calculated paychecks to the last dime. I made lists of our debt month after month, figuring out how to pay them off quicker. I think financial gurus would say I was on the right track, but can I be honest? In the midst of my calculations and my overwhelming need for security, pinching pennies became not just a means to meet my goal and take care of our family, but it started to reflect my heart spiritually in the area of giving.

Even after I was secure. Even after our financial status was stable.

We tithed. We gave to others, even sacrificially. But my heart wasn’t in it. As I placed a tithing envelope in the offering, I thought: What about our savings? Shouldn’t we be building it? What about buying something new for us? Our car is older. The miles are racking up.

Friends would have been surprised at the battle that raged inside me. I was ashamed of it. They would have called me generous, but I knew the truth. I had worked so hard for such a long time that I had come to count on Suzie. I obeyed God in this area, but did I trust Him?

I desperately wanted a generous heart, no matter how much was in our bank account. The first thing I felt God asking me to lay down was worry. As I prayed, I went back to all the times God had liberally cared for me. As an unsure young girl alone at 17, His love led me day by day. As a young mom overwhelmed at times, He wrapped me in security and grace. As a 31-year-old woman diagnosed with cancer, He filled me with faith that could only come from Christ.

My confidence in Him had nothing to do with money, but rather His presence in my life. I put worry down, asking for the strength to abide in Him instead of fear.

The second thing I felt God asking me to lay down was resentment. Oh, Father, such a hard word. Are you sure that is the condition of my heart? And yet, there it was. Hidden from others, but clear as day to me and my Savior.

It’s been years since that pivotal moment between me and Jesus. Recently I was talking with one of my daughters. “Remember when you used to worry about money?” she asked. I nodded, smiling. “You seem to be so different, Mom, and yet I know that you and Dad live on a strict budget, especially now that he’s back in school. Do you have money I don’t know about?” she teased.

Yes, baby, I do. But it has nothing to do with my bank account. It’s a different kind of treasure, one that acknowledges how rich I am to have food on the table, a car that starts every time I turn the key, a family that loves me like crazy, and faith that runs deep. It’s a treasure that is nestled inside, that is filled with joy when I drop off books at a shelter, or send a check to sponsor my beautiful Compassion International child, or respond to God’s leading to give more than a tithe. It’s a treasure that is a deep confidence in who God is.

In many ways I’ll always be that 17-year-old girl wanting to be secure, but I’ve found a different kind of security. I may never be wealthy, but believe me when I say this: I’m rich beyond belief. I’m blessed, blessed, blessed.

 

The Treasure of Your Heart

By: Rob Toornstra,  today.reframemedia.com

 

Scripture Reading — Matthew 6:19-24

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … for where

your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:20-21 —

At the deepest part of our being lies a longing. A hope. A dream. Something more important to us than anything else. Whatever it is that we treasure most, we will build our lives on it. Whether it is our job, our wealth, our standing in the community, our looks, or something else, we will go to great lengths to gain this treasure. Money and wealth are particularly dazzling treasures that hypnotize many into chasing after its false promises and empty security.

Sadly, much of what we treasure is like a mist. Some treasures are gone in an instant, and others slip away over a lifetime. But only one treasure lasts forever. Jesus wants to be the treasure of our hearts. He wants to be the unrivaled Master that we serve wholeheartedly.

The way to be free from chasing worldly treasures is through worship. In worship we treasure the infinite value of Jesus, who gave his life for us. In worship we delight in the goodness and mercy of our God. We set our hearts on the beauty of our Savior, who loved us when we were unlovable.

When our hearts treasure Jesus through prayer, meditation, song, and Scripture, we are reoriented to what is truly priceless for us. We make an investment that will last forever.

What does your heart treasure?

Launching Out Into Deep Water

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Launching into Deep Water

by Inspiration Ministries

He said to Simon, put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. Luke 5:4 NASB

Simon Peter had been fishing in waters where he had considerable experience. He knew what to expect, and he felt safe and comfortable. He fell back on conventional thinking and did what everyone thought was normal.

But Jesus challenged him to think differently, to take a new approach.

Jesus wanted Peter to experience the kind of bountiful blessings only possible in the Kingdom of God. Not just adequate results, but an overwhelming harvest. Not just the ordinary, but the extraordinary. It was meant to be a life filled with miracles.

But this required going out into the deep water (v. 4). Peter had to leave behind his rational thinking, years of experience, and human expectations. By faith he had to enter the realm of faith where he would be stretched, needing to trust God every step of the way.

Because he trusted Jesus and went into deeper water, Peter received a bountiful catch that was far beyond his comprehension and expectation.

Today, ask yourself,  Am I content with the normal, the average, the expected? Or do I want to experience the extraordinary? Am I willing to step out in faith in order to receive the full measure of God’s Kingdom?

In God’s Kingdom, there are greater blessings and impact, more power, anointing, and miracles. But you will need to be ready to leave the ordinary and normal behind.

How far are you willing to trust God? He beckons you onward and deeper and deeper.

 

Obey the commands of Jesus

By: John Piper, desiringgod.org

When Jesus told Simon in verse 4 to push out into the deep, “Simon answered and said, ‘Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets’” (v. 5). If Simon had not obeyed, there would probably have been no catch. Jesus could make the fish jump into the boat. But he doesn’t usually act that way. He calls us to be his instruments in man-fishing. And he gives us Peter as an example. Not a perfect one. But a good one.

Peter is not brimming with faith. “Master, we worked all night. We know fishing. You don’t. This place is fished out. Besides, we are exhausted. We were up all night.” Oh, how many are the excuses we find for not man-fishing. But isn’t it encouraging that the Lord does not pitch Peter overboard, but accepts his half-hearted obedience and does the miracle anyway. I have heard dozens of testimonies to this effect. I was tired. It didn’t seem like a very good time to speak of Christ . . . but I did it, and the great, never-weary Christ acted. One of the brothers at the Friday morning prayer meeting told us of a remarkable circumstance in which he led someone to Christ this week. The time is never perfect. And our hearts are never perfect. But Christ honors simple efforts to obey him.

That’s the second mark of a man-fisher. He obeys Jesus. Here’s the third: Those who do man-fishing . . .

. . . humble themselves.

When Peter and the others saw the blessing Jesus had given them – the way he had used them to gather the fish in spite of their half-hearted obedience – verse 8b says, “Simon Peter . . . fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ Oh, how we need to see this and experience it.

It’s the opposite of saying: “Wow, look at the way we get blessed when we follow Jesus! Biggest catch of fish we’ve ever had. We could market this! Let’s get a movement going. Call it, ‘Trust Jesus, get fish!’ Hey, hey! Let’s go to Roseville!’ No, Peter looked at grace – pure grace – and felt utterly unworthy and said so. That is a good place to start in evangelism. Cocky witnesses contradict the message of grace. So let’s waken to the fact that what is moving to Roseville is a band of half-hearted, imperfectly obedient justified sinners who feel utterly unworthy of every blessing we have, especially salvation. Then we may be ready to fish.

Oh, that all Bethlehem attenders would read Jonathan Edwards’ book, The Religious Affections, especially the chapter on “Evangelical Humiliation,” where he says,

A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior. (Religious Affections, Yale, 1959, pp. 339f.)

Now we have seen three marks of faithful man-fishers: they teach the word of God, they obey Jesus’ commandments, they humble themselves. Now, finally, fruitful man-fishers . . .

. . . treasure Christ above all.

In verse 10b “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Because he knows that he will one day die for Peter’s sin (Mark 10:45), Jesus takes the paralyzing fear out of his humility and leaves in its place a lionhearted meekness and bold brokenness. Peter and James and John respond with hearts overflowing with the value of knowing Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” This is what it means to follow Jesus: he is more valuable to us than everything (see Luke 14:33). I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

So here is my prayer as half of us get ready to leave familiar and comfortable surroundings and go north to worship – not a very great sacrifice: May the power and authority of Jesus Christ move multitudes of people into eternal kingdom blessings by means of his disciples at Bethlehem who teach the word of God, obey the commands of Jesus, humble ourselves, and treasure Christ above all.

 

Spurgeon’s Devotional on Luke 5:4

“Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”

Luke 5:4


We learn from this narrative, the necessity of human agency. The draught of fishes was miraculous, yet neither the fisherman nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle were ignored; but all were used to take the fishes. So in the saving of souls, God worketh by means; and while the present economy of grace shall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. When God worketh without instruments, doubtless He is glorified; but He hath Himself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which He is most magnified in the earth. Means of themselves are utterly unavailing. “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing.” What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their special calling? Verily, they were no raw hands; they understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskillfully? No. Had they lacked industry? No, they had toiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all the night. Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master came, they swam to the net in shoals. What, then, is the reason? Is it because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Jesus? “Without Him we can do nothing.” But with Christ we can do all things. Christ’s presence confers success. Jesus sat in Peter’s boat, and His will, by a mysterious influence, drew the fish to the net. When Jesus is lifted up in His Church, His presence is the Church’s power–the shout of a king is in the midst of her. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Let us go out this morning on our work of soul fishing, looking up in faith, and around us in solemn anxiety. Let us toil till night comes, and we shall not labour in vain, for He who bids us let down the net, will fill it with fishes.

 

Practice Doing God’s Will

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What Are You Doing Here?

By: Gene Markland, cbn1.com

man sitting at bar staring into his glass

Once there was a minister who was lonely, depressed and feeling defeated in his life and ministry. One night in his despair, he found himself in a bar on the seedy side of town. With his head bowed low in shame, he walked across the dimly lit room and took a seat at the bar. He sat staring into his drink, a drink he had never had before, and pondered his life and his failures.

Suddenly, a man sitting two seats to his right, a man who had obviously been drinking heavily, turned to him, looked at him with piercing eyes and said, “What are you doing here?”

The minister was shocked and thought to himself, “Do I know this man? Does he know me? All the while the man stared at him with those piercing eyes awaiting an answer. An answer he already knew. This minister did not belong there.

Immediately, he rose from the bar stool and left the building. As he sat behind the wheel of his car he thought to himself, “Lord, what has brought me to this low point in my life?” It was as if the Lord had spoken through that man.

As he pulled out of the parking lot he asked for forgiveness. In his beaten and defeated condition, he went back to his home, to his family, and to his ministry. Ashamed of himself, he put one foot in front of the other, and went through the motions, feeling unworthy yet determined to try again. The Lord restored him and he continued his ministry.

There was a man in the Bible, a prophet named  Elijah, who also reached a point in his life when he felt defeated and wanted to give up.

“Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.’” 1 Kings 19:3-4 (NLT)

“But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” 1 Kings 19:9-10 (NLT)

Even the great prophet Elijah reached a point in his life when he felt so defeated that he just wanted to die. The Lord asked him again “What are you doing here Elijah?” Then he was given instructions on what to do next.

There may be a time in your life when you were brought low, a time that only you and the Lord know about. Do not let that define you. Do not let that set your course for a lifetime of defeat. Instead, put one foot in front of the other — and though you feel unworthy, determine in your heart to try again. The Lord will hold you up with his strong right arm. He will set your course and make straight your path. Defeat will humble a person, but with the help of the Lord, there is hope, restoration, and a victorious future.

 

What Is God’s Will?

  

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.” Matthew 5:14 (MSG)

I used to think it was crucial for me to know God’s will. If I knew His grand plan for at least this season of my life, then I could direct all my decisions to fall in line.

Is it His will for me to stay in this job or change to that one?

Is it His will for me to send my kids to that school or make another choice?

Is it His will for me to teach that Bible study, serve on that committee or go on that mission trip?

I ponder and pray. I ask friends. I read the Bible. I look for confirmations that point in one direction or the other.

I assume there is one correct choice and in order to stay in God’s will I must figure out that exact choice.

That’s a lot of pressure for a simple girl like me. After all, I’m choosing between one good thing and another good thing. So I fret and wonder, which of these things is God’s will?

But what if I’m wrong?

What if God’s will is more simple than that?

It’s great to ask friends and look for confirmations. But what if God is more concerned with us looking for Him than looking for answers?

We want big directional signs from God. God just wants us to pay attention.

Yes, pay attention to Him and ask Him what is our Best Yes in the midst of all the choices.

Recently I heard a story that shook me to the core. It had been a busy day at a restaurant with lots of customers coming and going. But at one point a guy came up to the manager and handed her a card. He told her, “This is for your staff.” And with an emotional catch in his throat, he said, “I just wanted to make sure they knew.”

The customer then turned and left as the manager tucked the card into her apron pocket.

A little while later, she had time to open the card.

It was a note directed to the staff thanking them. It wasn’t for their service or for the food. It was for their smiles.

He explained in the letter that he’d made plans to take his life that day. But their gift of simple conversations with simple smiles gave him the gift of hope.

As I heard the story, I cried.

Something stirred deep inside of me.

I got this overwhelming feeling that this was a beautiful picture of how God’s will works. He intersects our lives with people who need His hope and whispers to us, “You have the hope they need … give it to them.”

Maybe it’s to offer them a little of our time. Maybe it’s to share a little of our story. Or maybe, like with this customer, it’s to simply offer a smile. And when we listen, a shift happens. It’s like the world splits open with each of our simple acts of obedience to God and His light breaks apart the world’s darkness. This is a Best Yes. This is us paying attention.

In our key verse, Matthew 5:14, we’re instructed to be the light to those around us, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept.” God wants us to let our light shine. This is His will. This is His plan. This is His instruction.

And when we get in the habit of obeying His instruction today, we’ll develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.

The more we pay attention to these moment-by-moment instructions by God, the more our thinking starts to line up with God. Our mind gets in a new rhythm of seeing what He wants us to see, so that we can do what He wants us to do.

 

God’s Plan Triumphs

  

Scripture Reading — Acts 22:30-23:35

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” — Acts 23:11

The religious leaders were trying to stop Paul. They were willing to do whatever it took, even agreeing to a plot to kill him. More than forty people had taken an oath not to eat or drink till they had killed Paul. It seemed as if this could be the end of Paul and his earthly ministry.

But the Lord had encouraged Paul the night before, saying that he would also bring the good news of Jesus in Rome. God would provide a way for Paul. It might not be the way Paul initially thought it would be, but God’s plan could not be stopped.

God’s plans always triumph over the plans of people— especially when it comes to plots of destruction and death. God’s plans may sometimes appear to be frustrated or even defeated, but there is always more to the story when people think they can do as they please, ignoring God or believing he has no power. Eventually and finally, God’s plans prevail.

In the next few chapters, we will see Paul testify about Jesus in places and to people where he would not normally have an audience. As a prisoner under the protection of Rome, he may be in chains, but he is free to preach about Jesus and his love.

 

Be Ready For Christ’s Return

 

3 Things We Should Be Doing as We Wait for Christ’s Return…

I remember reading this passage when I was in high school and it terrifying me.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…”- 2 Peter 3:10

I don’t know about you, but I’m not fond of surprises…

I like knowing what to expect…the time of the event, the date…you know, the exact details.

Yet, here we see Jesus promise He will come back and when He does it will be sudden and without warning…but no exact details are listed.

Though, we are not given a day and time…we do know as each day passes, we are one day closer to His final return.

For this reason, I earnestly pray and fast for my family and friends who are not saved.

Taking this truth to heart, how are we to live our lives? Peter tells us in verse eleven and twelve…

“You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming..” 2 Peter 3:11-12

1. We should live holy and godly lives…

“Christians should be different, not odd. When you are different, you attract people; when you are odd, you repel them.”- Warren Wiersbe

We are called to live “holy” lives…lives that are set apart for God.

We are called to live “godly” lives…lives devoted to pleasing God out of our love for Him. Lives that desire to love God with all our mind, heart and soul. Every area of our life is focused on seeing the world through His eyes and loving out of the overflow of His heart.

 

2. We should look forward to Christ’s second coming…

Realizing Christ is returning should make us invest our precious days in what truly matters….God and others.

Everything else….all the possessions we have worked so hard for will be destroyed, only what is eternal will last.

That’s why we need to run our race well now.

That’s why we need to stay focused on what is truly important in this life and not get sidetracked by “things” that won’t go with us into eternity.

We need to be earnestly watching and working toward our Beloved’s return…thanking Him for His patience as He waits for our dear friends and family to repent and turn to Him.

 

3. We should be active in praying for His second coming…

“…and speed it’s coming.” 2 Peter 3:12

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…” we are invited to pray and participate in the ushering of Christ’s return.

“If God’s work today is calling out a people for His name (Acts 15:14), then the sooner the church is completed, the sooner our Lord will return.”- Warren Wiersbe

 

Ohhh friends, what an amazing future we have to look forward to. Let’s not waste our lives on the temporal…let’s invest our days wisely, pouring our lives into others, sharing Christ and putting our faith into action.

A world is watching and we don’t have much time…what if THIS is the generation when Christ returns?

_____________________________________

 

God Is Working In Your Waiting

 

By: Jade Mazarin, desiringgod.org

Most parents would agree that their children don’t want to wait for anything. The last thing kids
want to hear is Mom say, “Not now.” It can prompt anger, frustration, even hopelessness. This
“dis-ease” of waiting follows most of us into our adult years. We may not respond with the same
emotional outbursts as children, but most of us still hate waiting for what we want.
And our modern society just makes it worse. We want everything done quickly — and new devices constantly spring up to meet those demands and encourage our impatience. We are not used to waiting, and the more our technology caters to our immediate desires, the less we feel willing to wait.

Such is our dilemma as Christians. While society makes every attempt to make our life easier and faster, God works on a very different timetable. In his mind, nothing is wrong with waiting. In fact, waiting can actually be a positive good that he often uses to make us more like his Son.

God Works While We Wait

Something actually happens while nothing is happening. God uses waiting to change us.

“There is actually something happening while nothing is happening. God uses waiting to change us.”

The story of Adam and Eve is a story of rebellion against God. Once they believed that God didn’t have their best interests in mind, they decided to go ahead without God and do what they wanted. They became, in effect, their own god. Too often, this is exactly what we do today. When God tells us to wait, we don’t trust him, but go ahead and find ways to accomplish what we want to happen.

This tendency to push God to the side goes against his plan for us. It creates distance in our relationship with him. It causes us to get into trouble and brings pain. What good is it to gain the whole world now — whatever it is we think we want — and forfeit our souls’ intimacy with God (Mark 8:36)?

God wants us to learn how to follow him and put down our demanding selves — to calm that screaming child in us. One way he helps us do this is to say, “Wait.” That miserable, uncomfortable, sometimes painful state of silence is one of God’s most powerful tools to set us free.

If we are willing, that is.

Choosing at the Crossroads

We don’t start out willing to wait. Our natural response to waiting is often anger or doubt. Fortunately, God is gracious and merciful, understanding of our tendencies. Simply feeling deep, complex emotions in waiting — especially for significant things, like a pregnancy or a job — is not necessarily sinful in itself. But we can decide where those emotions take us.

We can decide to exalt these feelings. We might act on them by taking matters into our own hands. Or perhaps we will not act, but we’ll make an idol out of the good for which we are waiting — every passing day is another log on the fires of bitterness, impatience, ingratitude, perhaps even resentment against the God who won’t give us what we want.

Or, by God’s grace, we can choose to wait as he intends. “Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of running ahead of the Lord, and it’s the opposite of bailing out on the Lord,” writes John Piper. “It’s staying at your appointed place while he says stay, or it’s going at his appointed pace while he says go. It’s not impetuous, and it’s not despairing.”

We have the choice, then, to take a deep breath, release our clenched hands, and let God be God. And we are invited to continue hoping in his greatness.

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WAITING IN READINESS FOR CHRIST’S RETURN

BY BRAD BAURAIN

 

In his classic book Waiting on God, Andrew Murray explained the bottom line of godly waiting: “The giver is more than the gift; God is more than the blessing; and our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Himself. Oh, if God’s children only knew what a glorious God they have, and what a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with Himself, then they would rejoice in Him, even when He keeps them waiting.”

Jesus taught in today’s parable the importance of waiting in this spirit or with this attitude. One might say the whole purpose of the Christian life is to be ready for Christ’s return! In the story, the “virgins” were the bride’s friends, or as we might say, bridesmaids (v. 1). The “lamps” were torches and burned olive oil. According to the NIV Study Bible, the oil would have had to be replenished every 15 minutes, suggesting that bringing along enough oil was a rather challenging responsibility.

The parable’s first lesson is vigilance or watchfulness (v. 13). The Bridegroom could come at any time! The second lesson is wisdom through readiness. We’re ready for Christ’s return if we’ve trusted Him for salvation. The third lesson is consequences. Having or not having enough olive oil sounds small, but symbolically it means being in or out of the kingdom of heaven (vv. 10–12).

This parable captures several themes from our month’s study, as the wedding metaphor is a rich one: Something good and joyful will happen, guaranteed. Our waiting centers on the coming of the Bridegroom (see John 3:29). The event itself is largely about promises made and kept, and the theme of consummation is involved. Finally, our waiting is not passive, but requires active watchfulness and preparation.

The Good Samaritan

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Luke 10:25-37  (Who is my neighbor)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

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

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

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

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

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

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

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

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What is the meaning of the Good Samaritan?

From: gotquestions.org

The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. That road was treacherously winding and was a favorite hideout of robbers and thieves. The next character Jesus introduces into His story is a priest. He spends no time describing the priest and only tells of how he showed no love or compassion for the man by failing to help him and passing on the other side of the road so as not to get involved. If there was anyone who would have known God’s law of love, it would have been the priest. By nature of his position, he was to be a person of compassion, desiring to help others. Unfortunately, “love” was not a word for him that required action on the behalf of someone else. The next person to pass by in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is a Levite, and he does exactly what the priest did: he passes by without showing any compassion. Again, he would have known the law, but he also failed to show the injured man compassion.

The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The “Good Samaritan” saw only a person in dire need of assistance, and assist him he did, above and beyond the minimum required. He dresses the man’s wounds with wine (to disinfect) and oil (to sooth the pain). He puts the man on his animal and takes him to an inn for a time of healing and pays the innkeeper with his own money. He then goes beyond common decency and tells the innkeeper to take good care of the man, and he would pay for any extra expenses on his return trip. The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need.

Because the good man was a Samaritan, Jesus is drawing a strong contrast between those who knew the law and those who actually followed the law in their lifestyle and conduct. Jesus now asks the lawyer if he can apply the lesson to his own life with the question “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36). Once again, the lawyer’s answer is telling of his personal hardness of heart. He cannot bring himself to say the word “Samaritan”; he refers to the “good man” as “he who showed mercy.” His hate for the Samaritans (his neighbors) was so strong that he couldn’t even refer to them in a proper way. Jesus then tells the lawyer to “go and do likewise,” meaning that he should start living what the law tells him to do.

By ending the encounter in this manner, Jesus is telling us to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct; i.e., we are to show compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities. We are to love others (vs. 27) regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need. If they need and we have the supply, then we are to give generously and freely, without expectation of return. This is an impossible obligation for the lawyer, and for us. We cannot always keep the law because of our human condition; our heart and desires are mostly of self and selfishness. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, failing to meet the law. We can hope that the lawyer saw this and came to the realization that there was nothing he could do to justify himself, that he needed a personal savior to atone for his lack of ability to save himself from his sins. Thus, the lessons of the Parable of the Good Samaritan are three-fold: (1) we are to set aside our prejudice and show love and compassion for others. (2) Our neighbor is anyone we encounter; we are all creatures of the creator and we are to love all of mankind as Jesus has taught. (3) Keeping the law in its entirety with the intent to save ourselves is an impossible task; we need a savior, and this is Jesus.

There is another possible way to interpret the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and that is as a metaphor. In this interpretation the injured man is all men in their fallen condition of sin. The robbers are Satan attacking man with the intent of destroying their relationship with God. The lawyer is mankind without the true understanding of God and His Word. The priest is religion in an apostate condition. The Levite is legalism that instills prejudice into the hearts of believers. The Samaritan is Jesus who provides the way to spiritual health. Although this interpretation teaches good lessons, and the parallels between Jesus and the Samaritan are striking, this understanding draws attention to Jesus that does not appear to be intended in the text. Therefore, we must conclude that the teaching of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is simply a lesson on what it means to love one’s neighbor.

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The Parable Of The Good Samaritan: 5 Lessons Learned

The Parable Of The Good Samaritan: 5 Lessons Learned

By: Joe Plemon, crosswalk.com

England’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once observed, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions – he had money too.” Of course the Good Samaritan was not an actual historical figure; he was a fictional man in a story that Jesus told to a religious legalist who was trying to justify his unwillingness to walk the walk. The story goes like this:

Here are 5 Lessons we can learn from the Good Samaritan Story

1. The good samaritan was willing to get involved.

We may quote scripture and recite platitudes on love and God, but unless we are willing to get involved in the lives of others, we are only blowing smoke. The Samaritan treated and bandaged the wounds. He set the injured man on his donkey. He took him to an inn and cared for him throughout the night. The Samaritan could have said to himself, “I give regularly to my church.  I donate to the Salvation Army every Christmas. I have done my part.” But he didn’t. As the scriptures say, he had compassion…and he acted on it.

2. The good samaritan ignored racism.

Even though he was considered a “despised Samaritan,” he rose above such shallowness to care for a fellow human being. I compare the Samaritan’s actions to an American 19th century slave showing compassion to a plantation owner or a Jewish prisoner demonstrating concern for a Nazi guard during WWII.

3. The good samaritan had money.

Margaret Thatcher was absolutely spot on: this was a man who managed his money. He undoubtedly lived on a budget, spent less than he made and maintained a contingency fund for unexpected expenses. My wife and I fully realize that we need to be very intentional if we are going to have such a giving fund, so we place cash into a “bless envelope” every month. Knowing that money is there has raised our antennae to the needs around us.

4. The good samaritan had a good name.

One wonders if the Samaritan had been to that inn before, perhaps paying for some other needy person’s stay. We know this:  the innkeeper trusted the Samaritan, probably because he had proven himself to be trustworthy.

5. The good samaritan was generous.

The Samaritan didn’t know how long the injured man would be laid up, but I am guessing (because the text said the attack left him “half dead”), that it could be a prolonged stay. At any rate, the wellbeing of this stranger was more important to our Good Samaritan than whatever the cost might be. Again, this generosity would never have been possible if he hadn’t had money in the first place.

The central message of this story is that, if we are to be good neighbors, we need to be more like the Samaritan. The implied message is to get strong financially and stay strong financially so we can have the means to act on our good intentions.

Jesus concludes with this admonition, “Go and do likewise.” When we learn this lesson, we, and the world around us, will be better for it.

How will you follow Jesus’ challenge to “Go and do likewise”? What additional lessons from the Good Samaritan can you think of? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

There Is Power In Prayer

 National Day of Prayer,  May 2nd

This is the prayer that  Jesus taught us:

The Lord’s Prayer

(traditional words to the Our Father)

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, 
The power, and the glory, 
For ever and ever. 
Amen.

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OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD

By: E.M. Bounds, biblebelievers.com

“But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behavior, and the fewness and fullness of his words have often struck even strangers with admiration as they used to reach others with consolation. The most awful, living, reverend frame I ever felt or beheld, I must say, was his prayer. And truly it was a testimony. He knew and lived nearer to the Lord than other men, for they that know him most will see most reason to approach him with reverence and fear.” – William Penn of George Fox

THE sweetest graces by a slight perversion may bear the bitterest fruit. The sun gives life, but sunstrokes are death. Preaching is to give life; it may kill. The preacher holds the keys; he may lock as well as unlock. Preaching is God’s great institution for the planting and maturing of spiritual life. When properly executed, its benefits are untold; when wrongly executed, no evil can exceed its damaging results. It is an easy matter to destroy the flock if the shepherd be unwary or the pasture be destroyed, easy to capture the citadel if the watchmen be asleep or the food and water be poisoned. Invested with such gracious prerogatives, exposed to so great evils, involving so many grave responsibilities, it would be a parody on the shrewdness of the devil and a libel on his character and reputation if he did not bring his master influences to adulterate the preacher and the preaching. In face of all this, the exclamatory interrogatory of Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” is never out of order.

Paul says: “Our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The true ministry is God-touched, God-enabled, and God-made. The Spirit of God is on the preacher in anointing power, the fruit of the Spirit is in his heart, the Spirit of God has vitalized the man and the word; his preaching gives life, gives life as the spring gives life; gives life as the resurrection gives life; gives ardent life as the summer gives ardent life; gives fruitful life as the autumn gives fruitful life. The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God’s Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river.

The preaching that kills is non-spiritual preaching. The ability of the preaching is not from God. Lower sources than God have given to it energy and stimulant. The Spirit is not evident in the preacher nor his preaching. Many kinds of forces may be projected and stimulated by preaching that kills, but they are not spiritual forces. They may resemble spiritual forces, but are only the shadow, the counterfeit; life they may seem to have, but the life is magnetized. The preaching that kills is the letter; shapely and orderly it may be, but it is the letter still, the dry, husky letter, the empty, bald shell. The letter may have the germ of life in it, but it has no breath of spring to evoke it; winter seeds they are, as hard as the winter’s soil, as icy as the winter’s air, no thawing nor germinating by them. This letter-preaching has the truth. But even divine truth has no life-giving energy alone; it must be energized by the Spirit, with all God’s forces at its back. Truth unquickened by God’s Spirit deadens as much as, or more than, error. It may be the truth without admixture; but without the Spirit its shade and touch are deadly, its truth error, its light darkness. The letter-preaching is unctionless, neither mellowed nor oiled by the Spirit. There may be tears, but tears cannot run God’s machinery; tears may be but summer’s breath on a snow-covered iceberg, nothing but surface slush. Feelings and earnestness there may be, but it is the emotion of the actor and the earnestness of the attorney. The preacher may feel from the kindling of his own sparks, be eloquent over his own exegesis, earnest in delivering the product of his own brain; the professor may usurp the place and imitate the fire of the apostle; brains and nerves may serve the place and feign the work of God’s Spirit, and by these forces the letter may glow and sparkle like an illumined text, but the glow and sparkle will be as barren of life as the field sown with pearls. The death-dealing element lies back of the words, back of the sermon, back of the occasion, back of the manner, back of the action. The great hindrance is in the preacher himself. He has not in himself the mighty life-creating forces. There may be no discount on his orthodoxy, honesty, cleanness, or earnestness; but somehow the man, the inner man, in its secret places has never broken down and surrendered to God, his inner life is not a great highway for the transmission of God’s message, God’s power. Somehow self and not God rules in the holy of holiest. Somewhere, all unconscious to himself, some spiritual nonconductor has touched his inner being, and the divine current has been arrested. His inner being has never felt its thorough spiritual bankruptcy, its utter powerlessness; he has never learned to cry out with an ineffable cry of self-despair and self-helplessness till God’s power and God’s fire comes in and fills, purifies, empowers. Self-esteem, self-ability in some pernicious shape has defamed and violated the temple which should be held sacred for God. Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much — death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own soul. Crucified preaching only can give life. Crucified preaching can come only from a crucified man.

 

Psalm 85

A Prayer for the Nation

For the director of music. A psalm of the sons of Korah.

Lord, you have been kind to your land;
    you brought back the people of Jacob.
You forgave the guilt of the people
    and covered all their sins. Selah
You stopped all your anger;
    you turned back from your strong anger.

God our Savior, bring us back again.
    Stop being angry with us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you stay angry from now on?
Won’t you give us life again?
    Your people would rejoice in you.
Lord, show us your love,
    and save us.

I will listen to God the Lord.
    He has ordered peace for those who worship him.
    Don’t let them go back to foolishness.
God will soon save those who respect him,
    and his glory will be seen in our land.
10 Love and truth belong to God’s people;
    goodness and peace will be theirs.
11 On earth people will be loyal to God,
    and God’s goodness will shine down from heaven.
12 The Lord will give his goodness,
    and the land will give its crops.
13 Goodness will go before God
    and prepare the way for him.

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.

 

 

Obedience Is Greater Than Sacrifice

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Call to Obedience

By: Curt Selles,  today.reframemedia.com

  

Scripture Reading — Isaiah 6:1-10

I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips . . . and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. — Isaiah 6:5

Occasionally I burn my fingers on our backyard grill. It’s usually not serious, but it definitely stings. Can you imagine the sting of a burning coal touching your lips? That’s what happens to Isaiah in his vision of heaven.

In the same year that Uzziah the king died, the prophet had a vision: he saw the King, the Lord Almighty, high on a throne, and his robe filled the temple. Hebrew tradition taught that no one could see God and live. Isaiah lamented his own uncleanness and that of the people of Israel. Then a seraph, an angel who ­attended God’s throne, used tongs to take a live coal from the temple altar. Touching it to the prophet’s lips, he cleansed Isaiah for service.

Purified, Isaiah could now answer God’s call. “Here am I. Send me!” His passion inspires us. But the rest of the passage is bleak. The people, still impure, hear God’s call, but their hearts remain callous and closed.

Still, there is hope for repentance; there is hope for the people to “turn and be healed.” And the holy seed of God’s faithfulness remains, and from that “stump in the land” a shoot will grow. Jesus, coming from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), will restore God’s people.

Do you hear his call today? By the purifying fire of Christ and his Spirit, we can serve and glorify God wherever he calls and sends us.

 

Obedience to God

From:  allaboutfollowingjesus.org

QUESTION: How important is obedience to God in my daily walk?

ANSWER:

Obedience to God is very important in your Christian growth. No one in this life will ever become sufficiently sanctified to the point where they are always obeying the law, but we can honor and maintain obedience to God by pondering on, or meditating on, the words of Jesus. The term “to ponder” means to weigh in the mind, to think or reflect, especially quietly and deeply. To ponder on something is like meditation which implies a definite focusing of one’s thoughts on something in order to understand it deeply. The author of Proverbs 14:15 makes a good point: “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.”

The greatest commandment is to love God by keeping His commandments. Matthew 22:36-38 says, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.'”

You ask, “How important is obedience to God?” In the gospel of John, obedience to God is underscored time and time again. John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

The great commandments are reiterated in Matthew 22:36-40 which says, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'”

Jesus is very concerned about us and He wants us to do more than participate in good works, He wants us to believe in Him. He wants us to come up higher and be “like” Him. When we are being obedient to God, we are doing just that: knowing Him, loving Him, and having a personal, intimate relationship with Him. To do this, we must be attentive to God’s laws. This is not an option, because you can’t have an intimate relationship with Jesus and trample on the words He taught. Being obedient to God is not the same as sticking to the speed limit because you get a fine if you disobey. Obedience to God is living God’s Word because you want to and enjoy being filled with the love of Jesus.

We must believe in Jesus, we must have faith in Him, and we must trust Him! Calling ourselves a Christian on its own won’t do. Following the commandments step wise won’t do. Reading the Bible diligently won’t do. We have to take the Word into our hearts. When we make the transition from calling ourselves a good Christian to being someone who is having a deep personal and intimate relationship with the Lord, then we can have the highest of joys, the deepest of peace, and receive the fullest measure of God’s love and power each and every day of our lives.

We need to enter into God’s rest and be less concerned with worrying about what else we could do to make Jesus love us more. Hebrews 4:10 says, “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” It would be invaluable if you were to spend time reading God’s Word and ponder on one aspect as you walk. Step into the scene, imagine what it might have been like to be there, create Jesus in your mind, feel the love, and experience a deep intimate relationship with the Lord.

 

A Sermon
(No. 2195)
Delivered on Thursday Evening, August 21st, 1890, by
C. H. SPURGEON,  blueletterbible.org
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

“By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”- Hbr 11:8

THE part of the text to which I shall call your attention lies in these words, “By faith Abraham obeyed.” Obedience-what a blessing it would be if we were all trained to it by the Holy Spirit! How fully should we be restored if we were perfect in it! If all the world would obey the Lord, what a heaven on earth there would be! Perfect obedience to God would mean love among men, justice to all classes, and peace in every land. Our will brings envy, malice, war; but the Lord’s will would bring us love, joy, rest, bliss. Obedience-let us pray for it for ourselves and others!

“Is there a heart that will not bend
To thy divine control?
Descend, O sovereign love, descend,
And melt that stubborn soul! “

Surely, though we have had to mourn our disobedience with many tears and sighs, we now find joy in yielding ourselves as servants of the Lord: our deepest desire is to do the Lord’s will in all things. Oh, for obedience! It has been supposed by many ill-instructed people that the doctrine of justification by faith is opposed to the teaching of good works, or obedience. There is no truth in the supposition. We preach the obedience of faith. Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience. Men obey not Cod till they believe him. We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience. To disbelieve is to disobey. One of the first signs of practical obedience is found in the obedience of the mind, the understanding, and the heart; and this is expressed in believing the teaching of Christ, trusting to his work, and resting in his salvation. Faith is the morning star of obedience. If we would work the work of God, we must believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Brethren, we do not give a secondary place to obedience, as some suppose. We look upon the obedience of the heart to the will of God as salvation. The attainment of perfect obedience would mean perfect salvation. We regard sanctification, or obedience, as the great design for which the Saviour died. He shed his blood that he might cleanse us from dead works, and purify unto himself a people zealous for good works. It is for this that we were chosen: we are “elect unto holiness.” We know nothing of election to continue in sin. It is for this that we have been called: we are “called to be saints.” Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.

Don’t Forget God

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Don’t Forget

By: joe Stowell, Strength for the Journey

“Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 6:12

We all have little slips in our memory once in a while, right? I love the story about the guy who decided to do something about his increasing forgetfulness. This poor chap decided to attend a seminar on how to increase his ability to remember things. And, to his great delight, the seminar worked! A few weeks later he sat in his living room, chatting with a friend about his newly improved recall ability.

“You won’t believe it,” he gushed, “This memory seminar really has helped me remember things better. I have a whole new lease on life!”

“That’s great,” his friend replied. “How does it work?”

“Well, you simply think of a common object that helps you build a link to whatever you need to remember. If you can remember the common object, then you’ll remember the other object.”

“Wow!” said his friend. “You know, to be honest, my memory’s slipping a little. What’s the name of the seminar? I think I might sign up for it.”

“Okay,” the guy replied. “Let’s see, think of a flower with red petals . . . long stem . . .  thorns . . .  rose.” Then he yelled to his wife in the next room, “Hey, Rose, what was the name of that seminar I went to?”

In Deuteronomy 6:12, Moses is talking to the Israelites about the danger of memory loss when it comes to forgetting God. God’s people were standing on the edge of the Promised Land, ready to enter a land with great cities they did not build, houses full of good things they did not fill, and vast and lush vineyards they didn’t plant. And, as good as the prospect of all this prosperity was, there was a danger lurking under the blessing. Moses knew that in good times it’s easy to forget God. The people were in danger of forgetting that it was God who had given them this land flowing with milk and honey; forgetting that it was God who went before them in each battle; forgetting, in fact, that it was only through God’s gracious choice of them as His people that they were enjoying the blessings of their new home and country. And, when we forget God, we become unthankful, proud, and self-sufficient—the kinds of things that are offensive to the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

So the solution for Israel—and for that matter, for us—is keeping God in mind! The book of Deuteronomy is actually a memory seminar about God’s goodness to His people. Moses reminds the Israelites of the law that was given on Mount Sinai. He tracks the Israelites back over the ways God miraculously provided for them—battles won, food given, shoes that didn’t wear out—the list of God’s providing work is long.

So, here’s the lesson. Beware! When God is abundantly good to us we are in great danger. We are in danger because in good times it’s easy to forget God. It’s easy to be so consumed with the gifts that we forget the Giver! And if we do that, we end up worshiping the blessings and not the One who in His amazing grace has blessed us.

The benefit of keeping God in mind is that it keeps our hearts grateful, appropriately humble, and delighted in our God for His goodness to us. Believe me, delighting in Him beats being consumed by the stuff that He has given us.

Memory lapses in our daily routines may be normal for us. But remembering God’s goodness in our lives is something we can’t afford to forget!

 

Don’t Forget to Remember!

By I Gordon ,jesusplusnothing.com

Introduction

This study is pretty simple… It’s about the importance of remembering, or being reminded, of the truth. When I preached this message recently, I decided to start by giving a little quiz comprising of questions from what I had spoken about in the last two sermons. Without saying how they went (ok, they were abysmal! [1] ) let’s just say that the results of the quiz greatly enforced what I then went on to speak about – the importance of remembering, and being reminded of the truth. So let’s start with a few questions for you that have all been mentioned in the preceding studies of 2nd Peter…

  1. What year did Peter write ‘2nd Peter’?
  2. What year did Peter die?
  3. What was the key thought in the first study on 2nd Peter 1:1-4?
  4. What was the key thought in the second study on 2nd Peter 1:5-11? [2]

Easy questions I’m sure! Now the key word in the last study that we did was ‘diligence’. The key word in this study would be ‘remember’. So let’s have a look at the first verse.

Remember what you know!

2nd Peter 1:12 ‘Therefore I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.’ (NASB)

So Peter starts off in 1:12 with a ‘therefore’. Now the golden rule when you see a ‘therefore’, is to ask yourself what is it ‘there for’? In this case, Peter is saying that he will always be ready to remind them because of the eternal consequences of this truth. In the verse preceding this one, we see the importance of putting into practice the truth of God, and how it will lead to an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord. So Peter is willing to remind them, and remind them, and remind them once again.

Why is it, do you think, that we need this constant reinforcement and reminding of the truth? Simply put, we have leaks! While you may know the truth, you will still be bombarded with worldly philosophies everywhere you turn. As I said in a previous study, the Christian life is one of swimming against the tide. And so, being reminded of the truth is critical! [3]

Before moving on, there are two points that I want to make about this verse.

  1. They needed to be reminded even though they already knew the truth Peter was speaking about. Sometimes you can listen to a sermon, or read a Christian book and think ‘Come on, I know that! Get on with it.’… ‘I’ve heard that already!’… And switch off spiritually. Peter says that it is still important to be reminded of that which you already know.
  2. It wasn’t a new truth that Peter was bringing to them. He knew, even if some of us don’t, that there is nothing wrong with the gospel. We just need to let it take a grip on our hearts. [4]

Do you need a stir up?

2nd Peter 1:13 ‘I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder.’

Peter says in this verse that a person may have heard the truth, been established in the truth, but not be stirred by the truth. And that, my friend, is a scary place to be in because it leads to spiritual apathy! We need to remember the importance of what we believe. We need to be stirred up, and gripped by the reality of it. It may be that you need to go back to the Lord again and ask Him to speak and open your eyes to the truth of His word. Especially the things that Peter has been talking about in 2nd Peter 1:1-11. You see, the Christian church is very little different from the nation of Israel. And when you look at the history of Israel, you see a constant repetition… a constant cycle… of forgetting to remember the ways of the Lord. Let’s just look at one example, from Deuteronomy chapter 8.

Remember, my people!

Deut 8:1-3 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today , so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands . He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD .

Deuteronomy chapter 8 is a very important chapter and I would encourage you go away and read it. Go on, go do it now… It’s better than this study! It is very important because it was written at a critical point in Israel’s history. The 40 years of wandering in the wilderness was behind them… the land of promise stands before them. And I would suggest to you, that Moses’ words in this chapter would prove to be prophetic of not only Israel’s future history, but of Christian history as well.

So what does Moses say first? Easy… ‘ Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today’. So what is the first command? Still easy… ‘ Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way’. At this important point in their history, Moses is saying ‘Israel, you have got to remember. Don’t forget how God has led you… there have been many difficulties, many trials, many humbling times…God was testing you and teaching you His way. Don’t forget this!’ This is important for us. You may be feeling tried and stretched right now. You must remember! Don’t forget that the path of God does involve testings and trials. And also never forget verse 16 of this chapter. Any testing, and humbling, any trial from God, is ‘to do good for you in the end’.

And if you’ve got it easy…

So maybe what I have described above isn’t you at the moment. Maybe everything is going very nice and easy thank you very much! Maybe you’re having a nice little time of ease and prosperity. If that it you, then here is my verse for you from Deut 8 –

Deut 8:10-18 ‘When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God , who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth , and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

And that prophetic portion of scripture my friend, has been proven to be sadly accurate in the lives of many in Israel and the Church. How many have ‘slipped away’ as prosperity increases? Remember the Lord your God! Do not let the ‘deceitfulness of wealth’ choke your life so as to forget the Lord (see Matt 13:22.) Do not forget [5] to remember! [6] Deuteronomy chapter 8 is placed in the Bible to remind you of Israel’s history, the reasons why they fell, and to serve as a warning for your own Christian life.

And Finally… Back to Peter

2 Pet 1:13-15 ‘ I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.’

There are a couple of things that made Peter very focused…. The first is mentioned above and it is that He knew that his time on this earth was nearly up. The second is found in verse 16 (not shown above) and that will be the focus of the next study. So Peter knew that his time was short… Tell me, what would you be doing different in your life if you knew that the time of your departure from this life was at hand? Probably make you pretty focused on the things that really matter now wouldn’t it? The problem that we have is that we think we’ve got all the time in the world… and so we become hazy and unfocused on the things of eternity.

Well let’s gain some clarity from a man who was focused. What was Peter focused on? He was focused on using his time to remind Christians of the truth of God’s word… and specifically the key truths that he writes about in this little book of 2nd Peter. May we too be reminded, and remind others, of these things.

DON’T FORGET WHAT GOD HAS DONE IN YOU

shortdailydevotions.com

PSALM 103:2-5 –

Daily Devotional Bible Verses

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5 ESV)

The other day, my son went to the junior high with me to pick up my daughter. He is a sophomore, and watching all the junior high kids come out of school, he says to me, “Mom, they all look so young!” I tell him he looked just like them. “No way!” he replies. So, we get home, and he looks at his old year book and exclaims, “Mom! I looked so young!” Yep. You sure did son.

Like my son, I think we forget what we used to look like in junior high. We sometimes forget the great work God has done in us. Where He brought us, and what He delivered us from. King David often reflected on what God had done in His life personally and in the lives of the children of Israel.

Now, I’m not telling you to dwell on your past or your past mistakes and sins, but I am telling you that it is beneficial to remember the good works that God has done in your life. It is beneficial to encourage yourself in the Lord. You can get so caught up in not being where you want to be, that you forget how far He has brought you. Remember how He had blessed you. Remember where He found you. Remember how He adopted you, and plucked you out of the muck. Washed you whiter than snow. Set you upon a Rock. Lifted you up in the presence of your enemies.

Responding To Trials In Your Life

 

 

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Responding to Life’s Trials

By: Diane Markins,   www1.cbn.com

Two women I know are going through difficult times. One (we’ll call her Jen) lost her 32-year-old son to suicide, experienced the death of her beloved father-in-law and her husband of nearly 40 years, all within the past few months. Over the years she has known other hardships, including the loss of both parents and personal health issues.

The other woman (“Judy”) has also known grief. She waited many years before finding “the right man” to marry, but after fighting valiantly to make it work, her marriage ended. Single most of her life, she is a consummate career woman; battling for position, security and survival. She has endured a physical problem that causes her to feel self-conscious and she too lost both parents. Most recently, she faced the death of a cherished pet.

So much in common, but their responses are polar opposites. Jen is sort of in a grief haze. She is desperately sad and lonely and is struggling to get through each day, but she keeps moving forward. She has invested in the lives of family and friends throughout her life; and they are rallying by her side. While she doesn’t understand how all this loss could come to her, she doesn’t blame God or turn her back on Him because she’s been in a loving relationship with Him all her adult life. She knows Him and that He’s still with her. He will take her through this trial.

Psalm 63:7-8 says,

“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Jen has experienced this and relies on it as truth for this difficult trial.

Judy bounced back from her latest loss fairly fast; but doesn’t have the same vast array of friends and family around her as Jen. She is often alone and lonely. She is angry in general and specifically toward God; even questioning whether she still wants to call herself a Christian.

Jen is taking her time as she processes and experiences the pain, allowing it to come in measured doses each day, then doing her best to take grief breaks.

Judy plunged into the pain and immersed herself there for a week or so, then got back up and is working at closing the door on her hurting soul. She puts on a happy face and appears to be coping well.

We all have tragedy invade our lives; big and small, short-term and sustaining, just as Peter says,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

Our response to those awful times can define us and shape our future. If we don’t properly deal and heal from a deep gash in our spirit, all our actions and relationships are impacted. We are less able to be honest and committed if we hold back and protect ourselves.

When crisis and pain hit, we need to walk through the fire instead of looking for a way out or around it, denying it or disguising it (alcohol, anger, etc). God’s promises can sustain us, like the one in 1 Peter 5:10,

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

The Benefit of Trials

From: truthforlife.org

My grace is sufficient for you.

 2 Corinthians 12:9

If none of God’s saints were poor and tried, we should not know half so well the consolations of divine grace. When we find the wanderer who has nowhere to lay his head who still can say, “I will trust in the Lord,” or when we see the pauper starving on bread and water who still glories in Jesus, when we see the bereaved widow overwhelmed in affliction and yet having faith in Christ–oh, what honor it reflects on the Gospel.

God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring–that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace.

There is a lighthouse out at sea: It is a calm night–I cannot tell whether the edifice is firm. The tempest must rage about it, and then I shall know whether it will stand. So with the Spirit’s work: If it were not on many occasions surrounded with tempestuous waters, we would not know that it was true and strong; if the winds did not blow upon it, we would not know how firm and secure it was. The masterworks of God are those men who stand in the midst of difficulties steadfast, unmovable– Calm mid the bewildering cry, Confident of victory. The one who would glorify his God must be prepared to meet with many trials. No one can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts are many.

If, then, yours is a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will be better able to display the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it–hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now should be trusted to the end.

 

God Works Through Trials (James 1:1-13)

 From: bible.org

Introduction

As I have reflected over the events of the past few days and months I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way.

  • The good that has come from trials.
  • The comfort we can have in trials.

So this passage speaks to us to help us in our time of trial when we need understanding and comfort. And yet in a real way I have also thought that the life of our friend and loved one actually was a living example of this passage:

  • As she and her family demonstrated before us the reality of this portion of God’s Word.
  • I shall never be able to read these verses without thinking of (Name) and how her life reflected this passage.

So for a few minutes, think with me as we look into God’s Word. (Read verses 2-4) The Lord would first of all have us know that there is. . .

Purpose in Trials
(verses 2-4)

1. When difficult times come into our lives and we find ourselves unable to comprehend/to understand; the enemy is quick to throw doubts/questions into our minds.

2. We find ourselves questioning God’s goodness/God’s wisdom in allowing these things to happen.

3. We may even be bitter and angry with God for allowing this to happen to us and wonder if He really understands.

4. But God’s word confidently reminds us that God does understand . . .

  • Things do not just happen haphazardly to the Christian.
  • With no meaning/no purpose.

5. God is in control and as Paul reminds us no one or nothing can separate us from God’s love. Rom. 8–even the most difficult of circumstances.

6. James reminds us that God wants us to trust Him in the trials of life.

  • For as we trust Him in the trials God can use the difficult trial to mold us:
  • To mature us.
  • So that we will be more like Jesus Christ our Savior.

7. Isaiah the prophet said in trying to comprehend God’s ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9)

8. God would have us trust Him in the difficult trials:

  • For even though we cannot understand He loves us and He is in control.
  • He will use this trial to help us grow spiritually and to help us mature and become more like Jesus Christ.

9. Trust Him! Keep your eyes on Him! And God will use even this trial for His glory.

10. But James goes on to tell us that not only does God have purpose in trials–but also that God gives wisdom in trials.

Wisdom in Trials
(verses 5-11)

(Read verses 5 and 6)

1. James recognizes that we may not always be able to see the purpose in trials or see the good that can come from trials.

2. When we find ourselves unable to see the good and the purpose in trials we are to:

  • Keep on asking Him for wisdom.
  • In faith.
  • And our God who loves to give will respond so that we can see the good and the purpose in trials.

3. Then James illustrates and says:

  • That even a poor man has much good in his trial of poverty if he knows God–the owner of the universe.
  • And a rich man through he lose everything can rejoice in the good of having learned not to place his faith in riches which quickly pass away.

4. God has been very good to us in allowing us to see the good even in this difficult trial.

  • For so much good has already come from this trial:
  • As a church family we are growing spiritually and united together.
  • As individuals we have seen faith in action and we have learned lessons we shall never forget.
  • As we have seen at least three people come to Jesus Christ through faith. (As NAME shared her vital faith with Jesus Christ with others)

5. Yet in the days to come we will continue to need wisdom to see the purpose and the good in this trial.

  • James exhorts us to keep on asking God in faith for wisdom.
  • And our generous loving God will give us the wisdom needed.

(But finally James reminds us that not only does God have a purpose in trials; and gives wisdom in trials but thirdly there is comfort in trials.)

Comfort in Trials
(verse 12)

(Read verse 12)

1. James here reminds us that this life is not all there is to life.

  • That right will be commended.
  • That due reward will be give for faithfulness.

2. We often live as if we are the living on the way to the dying.

3. But God’s word makes it very clear that we are the dying on the way to the living.

4. What is in store then for one who knows Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and passes from this life?

  • Phil. l tells us that when a Christian departs he is with Christ.
  • II Cor. 5 tells that when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord
  • And I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 tells us that someday that body which for the present sleeps in the grave will be resurrected and united with our soul/spirit and in this glorified state we will be with the Lord forever.
  • And there rewards will be given for endurance through trials and for faithfulness to God in difficult times.

5. So today we sorrow – but we sorrow not as others who have no hope.

  • We have the assurance of the word of God that (name) is with Christ.
  • (Name) had trusted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior from sin.

6. But I cannot help but think that perhaps some of you are not prepared to face death and you are not prepared to meet Jesus Christ face to face. Nor are you ready to face a trial like (Name) has faced with peace in your heart.

  • The strength that enabled this dear one to face her trial with confidence and assurance was not her own.
  • It came as she allowed the life of her Savior to live His life through her. It came from a confidence that she was ready to meet her Savior.
  • She had made her peace with God through faith in Christ and desired above all else to glorify Him with her life.

7. I invite you right where you are sitting to invite Christ into your life as your Savior from sin.

  • Jesus Christ died as your substitute paying the penalty for your sin.
  • But He asks you ;by an act of your will to trust Him as your personal Savior from sin.
  • If you do this, on the authority of God’s word you are a new creature/born again and prepared to meet your Savior.