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True Love Is No Accident

 

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

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Love Is No Accident

From: Our Daily Journey

Love Is No Accident

Read:

Ezekiel 20:30-44
I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness (Ezekiel 20:44).

One rainy autumn day, my son’s vehicle left the road, went airborne at 70 mph (112 km), and found a lone tree beyond a drainage ditch. For the next hour, rescue workers toiled to pry him from his shredded car. By God’s grace, he survived.

While processing that event with friends, I shared a bit about my own youthful indiscretions. “Do you feel this accident is God judging you for your sins when you were young?” one asked. “No,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt God’s judgment.”

That got some attention. But if by judgment my friend meant punishment, I stand by my statement.

The ancient prophets show God pleading with His people to return to Him so they wouldn’t suffer judgment. Yet God still permitted them to go their own way. They chose idolatry and sexual sin over His life-giving commands. “I let them pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them,” God said (Ezekiel 20:26). But He didn’t leave them there. “Go right ahead and worship your idols, but sooner or later you will obey me,” God told them (Ezekiel 20:39). Invasion, destruction, and exile were coming. Yet they would one day return to Him.

Sometimes accidents are just accidents. Sin, however, always carries a high cost. When we suffer the inevitable consequences, we may think we’re receiving God’s judgment. In reality, it’s His love.

God sometimes permits me to slam into the results of my sin. He pulls me out of the wreckage, brushes me off, and sets me back on my feet. I sense Him gently say, “Let’s go this way now.”

Our son for the time being is walking with a cane. I look at that cane and watch those painful steps. I observe his resilient, God-given spirit. And I see a clear metaphor for my own walk with God.

 

Prayer in the Father’s Honor

From: Utmost.org

Prayer in the Father’s Honor

If the Son of God has been born into my human flesh, then am I allowing His holy innocence, simplicity, and oneness with the Father the opportunity to exhibit itself in me? What was true of the Virgin Mary in the history of the Son of God’s birth on earth is true of every saint. God’s Son is born into me through the direct act of God; then I as His child must exercise the right of a child— the right of always being face to face with my Father through prayer. Do I find myself continually saying in amazement to the commonsense part of my life, “Why did you want me to turn here or to go over there? ‘Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ ” (Luke 2:49). Whatever our circumstances may be, that holy, innocent, and eternal Child must be in contact with His Father.

Am I simple enough to identify myself with my Lord in this way? Is He having His wonderful way with me? Is God’s will being fulfilled in that His Son has been formed in me (see Galatians 4:19), or have I carefully pushed Him to one side? Oh, the noisy outcry of today! Why does everyone seem to be crying out so loudly? People today are crying out for the Son of God to be put to death. There is no room here for God’s Son right now— no room for quiet, holy fellowship and oneness with the Father.

Is the Son of God praying in me, bringing honor to the Father, or am I dictating my demands to Him? Is He ministering in me as He did in the time of His manhood here on earth? Is God’s Son in me going through His passion, suffering so that His own purposes might be fulfilled? The more a person knows of the inner life of God’s most mature saints, the more he sees what God’s purpose really is: to “…fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ…” (Colossians 1:24). And when we think of what it takes to “fill up,” there is always something yet to be done.

 

Chrystal Evans Hurst August 8, 2017
How I Know That It’s Never Too Late
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

From: Crosswalk.com

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (NIV)

Twenty-five years ago, I held a newborn baby in my arms.

She was beautiful, tiny.

Mine.

And I was young — 19 to be exact.

I was a unmarried teenage mom and a sophomore in college. The year of my daughter’s birth was one of the most difficult years of my life. It was hard — very hard.

A positive pregnancy test set off a string of new realities in my life, one of which was a strong feeling of a lack of worth. I had messed up and disappointed the people I loved. I was on my way to being “mom” in a season of life where I planned on being a kid. I was no longer the “good girl” I’d once tried to be.

I wondered, sometimes out loud, Does God still love me?

Pain mixed with a little shock, a ton of remorse, and lots of uncertainty left me feeling unlovable, unredeemable and out of God’s good graces.

I knew He loved me, but didn’t feel it. Instead I felt alone, in the dark and cold.

During one of those lonely moments, I reached for my Bible and searched for reassurance of God’s love for me. I believed God loved me no matter what, yet I just needed proof. I needed a reminder to rest in and rehearse so I wouldn’t forget or doubt the reality of His love in my life.

I wrote one verse down on a sheet of notebook paper. That one verse became two, then five, then over time became two pages of Scripture to remind me how God loved me.

I kept those notebook papers with me at all times — folded in my pocket or my purse or my backpack as I went to class.

Over time, I’ve learned to believe God’s love for me is unconditional. While He does indeed desire for me to obey His Word and walk in righteousness, His acceptance of me does not ride or die on whether or not I measure up. Consequences ebb and flow with my choices, but His everlasting love does not.

As I rehearsed those verses that represented a lifeline to His love, I learned to believe in His love for me in a very deep and real way. And the more I understood His love, the more I wanted to live a life that exemplified the love I desired to offer to Him in return, just as our key verse reminds us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

I recently dug out those pieces of paper. They’re still intact, though they’ve yellowed with time. As I held them in my hands, I was overcome by the gift of God’s love to an imperfect person like me.

Not only does God love me unconditionally, He loved and always loves me first. God doesn’t wait on me to come to Him ready with everything together or with all my ducks in a row. He’s loved me — and continues to love me — to live the life of the girl He created me to be.

Since those college days, I have had my fair share of hard times. But one thing hasn’t changed.

I know He loves me. And I’ve learned more deeply over time to believe in my value to God and trust what He thinks of me, regardless of where life has led me thus far. I understand more about how He wants me to live my life, knowing He has made me beautiful, strong and powerful in Him.

As long as I still have breath in my lungs, it’s never too late to choose to live her life … the life of the girl who feels lost. Or forgotten. The girl who’s made mistakes.

Or the life of the girl who simply needs to stop wasting time and move forward with what she knows she should do.

How do I know it’s never too late to know the love of God? Because it wasn’t too late for me.

And here’s what I know — it’s never too late for you to seek His Word, His face, His heart and His hopes for the life of the girl in you.

Dear Father, sometimes I struggle to believe You love me and You can redeem my story and life, however it’s played out thus far. I want to be exactly who You created me to be. Give me the confidence to believe in Your love for me and Your plan for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Abundant Life Through Christ

 

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

 
Matthew 6:33

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Psalm 16:11   You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
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.

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Life to the Full

From: Our Daily Bread

Life to the Full

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 

When I stopped by to visit my sister’s family, my nephews eagerly showed me their new chore system, a set of Choropoly boards. Each colorful electronic board keeps track of their chores. A job well done means the kids can hit a green button, which adds points to their “spending” account. A misdeed like leaving the back door open results in a fine being deducted from the total. Since a high-points total leads to exciting rewards such as computer time—and misdeeds deduct from that total—my nephews are now unusually motivated to do their work and to keep the door closed!

The ingenious system had me joking that I wished I had such an exciting motivational tool! But of course God has given us motivation. Rather than simply commanding obedience, Jesus has promised that a life of following Him, while costly, is also a life of abundance, “life . . . to the full” (John 10:10). Experiencing life in His kingdom is worth “one hundred times” the cost—now and eternally (Mark 10:29–30).

We can rejoice in the fact that we serve a generous God, One who does not reward and punish as we deserve. He generously accepts our weakest efforts—even welcoming and rewarding latecomers to His kingdom as generously as old-timers (see Matt. 20:1–16). In light of this reality, let us joyfully serve Him today.

Lord, help us to remember there is great meaning in following You and that it is all so worth it.

Following Jesus is the way to a rich and satisfying life.

Overcoming Evil

Overcoming Evil

Read:

James 2:14-26 
It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it (James 4:17).

In his book Hitler’s Cross, Pastor Erwin Lutzer shares these heart-wrenching words from a man who lived in Germany during the Nazi Holocaust: “We heard stories of what was happening to the Jews, but we tried to distance ourselves from it, because, what could anyone do to stop it? A railroad track ran behind our small church and each Sunday morning we could hear the whistle in the distance and then the wheels coming over the tracks. . . . We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.”

This Christian man and other members of his church felt helpless to overcome the widespread evil occurring at the hands of the Nazis. They knew they ought to act, but did nothing (see Romans 12:21).

Reflecting on this story, and on my own life, reminded me of James 4:17, “It is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” And if we don’t know what to do, then we can seek God’s guidance through prayer, through Scripture, and from trusted believers in Jesus (Proverbs 15:222 Timothy 3:16James 1:5). Once we know what we ought to do, we should then act. As James wrote, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (James 2:14).

Often I struggle with wondering if my efforts make any difference. No matter—I must do what I know I ought by faith (James 2:18). I can’t let evil, fear, or worry over the effectiveness of my actions keep me from doing what I know is right. Even if I can’t save the world, I can do something by God’s guidance and power.

 

 

Sippy Cup Lessons

From: CBN, and author Sherrie Brouhard

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Red, green, yellow, and blue were the colors of our first set of Tupperware bell tumblers with the white sipper seal tops. When my two older sons were toddlers, I always gave the oldest boy, Nathanael, the green cup, and his little brother, Nicholas, the yellow one. When their baby brother, Jonathan, was old enough to drink out of a cup, I let him alternate between the blue and red ones.

To this day, even though they are both in college, Nathanael’s favorite color is green and Nicholas’ is yellow. For years, Jonathan did not have a specific favorite color. I wonder if it was because he didn’t always use the same colored cup. However, he has since decided green is his favorite.

These brightly colored cups have been with us for many years. In a day’s time they might travel from the breakfast table, to the occasional lunchtime picnic in the backyard, and back to the dinner table for dinner. Of course, they were always topped with those wonderful sipper seals that often saved the floor from a milk bath.

The sipper seals have been gone for years, no longer needed. Those children who may have spilled their juice or milk have grown up. Yet the cups are still around. They are great for mixing up fruit and yogurt or filling with granola for a quick snack. Every now and then, as I notice one of these cups, I recall my baby sitting in a highchair, little hands holding one and lifting it up for a sip. Those cups have been with us for 20 years or so, and the little children who drank from them are grown.

A lasting color identification began with those cups. When we drove through the teller window at the bank, each child chose the same color lollipop as their favorite Tupperware cup. It prevented a lot of problems. When school began, and the pack of new pencils was opened, we always knew who got which pencils. They were equally divided, automatically personalized, and easily identified. After all, they were the same colors as the cups.

I don’t usually reach for one of those little cups, unless for water to swallow my vitamins. A cup is a small thing, yet it can be filled many times to nourish and quench thirst. Those cups provided much of that for my children over the years. Now they provide a quick memory; a flashback to three little boys around our table.

I am reminded that each of us, no matter what age, needs spiritual nourishment, so we can grow in our relationship with the Lord. We never outgrow that. We need to drink from the Living Water.

Jesus answered and said until her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. John 4:10 KJV

Our times with God need to be not just a memory of something we recall in our past, but a daily occurrence. As we spend time with Him regularly, it will affect our character and growth in relationship with our Lord. He needs to be the One we drink from and from Whom we receive nourishment. He needs to be what we desire more than anything or anyone. He must be favored above all.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. Psalm 73:25 KJV

Reflecting God’s Love

 

Luke 6: 31-35

31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

 

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Reflecting God’s Love

From: Our Daily Bread

Reflecting God’s Love

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. Exodus 34:29

I had the privilege of serving as my mom’s caregiver during her treatments at a live-in cancer care center. Even on her hardest days, she read Scripture and prayed for others before getting out of bed.

She spent time with Jesus daily, expressing her faith through her dependence on God, her kind deeds, and her desire to encourage and pray for others. Never realizing how much her smiling face glowed with the Lord’s loving grace, she shared God’s love with the people around her until the day He called her home to heaven.

After Moses spent forty days and forty nights communing with God (Ex. 34:28), he descended Mount Sinai. He had no idea his intimate connection with the Lord actually changed his appearance (v. 29). But the Israelites could tell Moses had spoken with the Lord (vv. 30–32). He continued meeting with God and influencing the lives of those around him (vv. 33–35).

We might not be able to see how our experiences with God change us over time, and our transformation will definitely not be as physically apparent as Moses’s beaming face. But as we spend time with God and surrender our lives to Him more and more each day, we can reflect His love. God can draw others closer to Him as the evidence of His presence shows in and through us.

Our intimate moments spent with God can change us and direct others to His love.

 

The Cross in Prayer

From: Utmost.org

The Cross in Prayer

We too often think of the Cross of Christ as something we have to get through, yet we get through for the purpose of getting into it. The Cross represents only one thing for us— complete, entire, absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ— and there is nothing in which this identification is more real to us than in prayer.

“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Then why should we ask? The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him. If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God. We receive an answer every time we pray, but it does not always come in the way we expect, and our spiritual irritation shows our refusal to identify ourselves truly with our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove that God answers prayer, but to be living trophies of God’s grace.

“…I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you…” (John 16:26-27). Have you reached such a level of intimacy with God that the only thing that can account for your prayer life is that it has become one with the prayer life of Jesus Christ? Has our Lord exchanged your life with His vital life? If so, then “in that day” you will be so closely identified with Jesus that there will be no distinction.

When prayer seems to be unanswered, beware of trying to place the blame on someone else. That is always a trap of Satan. When you seem to have no answer, there is always a reason— God uses these times to give you deep personal instruction, and it is not for anyone else but you.

 

A God Like Jesus

From: Our Daily Journey

A God Like Jesus

Read:

Colossians 2:6-9
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body (Colossians 2:9

For decades I’ve had a fascination with Scotland. Perhaps it’s the depiction of William Wallace’s heroics in the movie Braveheart or the scenery of the Highlands. Maybe it’s because my dad once talked about the Scottish clan from which we trace our family history. I’ve thought often of the place and carried numerous perceptions about the people and the land. However, perceptions and reality are always different. I had to put my feet on that lush soil, hear the cadence of the language, and eat Scottish food in order to know what the place is truly like. To know anything true, we have to experience the reality—not merely read or think about it.

Similarly, Scripture insists that if we want to know the reality of God, we must encounter Jesus Christ. God is not a vague, distant idea associated only with dusty stories and brittle commandments. He’s the One revealed to us as flesh and blood in the person of Jesus. God also isn’t a disembodied religious principle, for “in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (Colossians 2:9). If we want to know what God is like, we must look to Jesus. He’s God in the flesh.

So we listen to Jesus’ words in Scripture, and we hear how God sounds. We watch Jesus’ actions, and we see what God does. In Jesus, we catch God’s heart, God’s hopes, God’s posture. In Jesus, we see how He weeps over those in grief or sorrow (John 11:33-35). In Jesus, we see how He refuses to condemn but rather welcomes (John 8:1-11). In Jesus, we see how God gets angry when powerful people abuse their authority and pursue greed (Matthew 21:12-17).

“Let your roots grow down into [Jesus]” (Colossians 2:7). He reveals God’s heart toward you and toward the world.

A Swan’s Story

Leviticus 11:18 Context

15  Every raven after his kind; 

16  And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,

 17  And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, 

18  And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, 

19And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. 

20  All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. 

21  Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goes upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth;

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A Swan’s Story

CBN, and author Dorcas Zuniga

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“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT

At a gathering of family and friends, one of my “Aunties” voiced her observation of the woman I had become. “Look at Dorcas. She’s beautiful now. Imagine!” In other words, Who would have thought?

At a different occasion, I was reunited with one of my mother’s best friends. After an affectionate hug, she pulled back, shook her head in wonder and gushed, “Oh Dorcas. The ugly duckling became a swan!”

Like most young girls, I always wanted to be thought of as pretty. But for a good part of my childhood I felt ugly. My poor self-image came from the cultural perceptions of my parents’ native country of what beauty looked like. And it didn’t look like me. As a result of my discontent, I walked around with a perpetual scowl on my face.

My outlook changed when I entered my teen years. Through the love and encouragement of my family and close friends, my Heavenly Father, *Yahweh, removed the hurt from my heart and revealed the gifts He had chosen especially for me. When I embraced His purpose for my life, His Spirit changed me from the inside out.

Proverbs 15:13 NIV states, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

At our reunion, those dear ladies didn’t see a beauty queen. Far from it. They saw the new me – a young woman who had grown up from an insecure little girl to a confident daughter of the King of Kings. Yahweh filled my heart with a joy that transformed my outward appearance and made me glow with the beauty of His Spirit within.

In Hans Christian Anderson’s story, the other animals ridiculed and harassed the “ugly duckling” because he didn’t look the way they thought he should look. But he wasn’t even a duckling. He was actually a cygnet that finally grew up into what he was always meant to be — a beautiful swan.

Too often we let the opinions of other people influence our perception of ourselves and mold us into who they think we should be. We let our spirits get crushed when we don’t meet their expectations. But it’s not what others think that matters.

Paul says in Romans 8:19 NCV: “Everything made is waiting with excitement for God to show his children’s glory completely.”

Each one of us is made for a purpose and only the Master Designer knows what that is. We might truly be “ducks” or we might be “swans.” One thing is for certain—when we let Yahweh bring about that transformation in His Way and in His Time, we will become His masterpieces.

Dear Yahweh, True beauty comes from You and Your holiness. Continue to transform me so that my words and actions let Your beauty shine through my life.

Writer’s Note: *Yahweh is the Hebrew name of God the Father.

 

Showing Grace

From: Our Daily Bread

Showing Grace

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

The US Masters Golf Tournament began in 1934, and since then only three players have won it two years in a row. On April 10, 2016, it appeared that twenty-two-year-old Jordan Spieth would become the fourth. But he faltered on the last nine holes and finished in a tie for second. Despite his disappointing loss, Spieth was gracious toward tournament champion Danny Willett, congratulating him on his victory and on the birth of his first child, something “more important than golf.”

Writing in The New York Times, Karen Krouse said, “It takes grace to see the big picture so soon after having to sit through a trophy ceremony and watch someone else have his photograph taken.” Krouse continued, “Spieth’s ball-striking was off all week, but his character emerged unscathed.”

Paul urged the followers of Jesus in Colossae to “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:5–6).

As those who have freely received God’s grace, it is our privilege and calling to demonstrate it in every situation of life—win or lose.

Dear Lord, help me by Your Spirit to be gracious and kind to others and to represent You well.

Gracious words are always the right words.

What Has He Done For You Lately?

From: Get More Strength

“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Psalm 34:1

My friend Frank Tanana, who pitched the Detroit Tigers into the American League Championship Series, has an interesting take on baseball fans. He pitched a stellar game against the Toronto Blue Jays to win the final game in the division playoff. His picture was front page and he was, hands down, the town hero in Detroit. But when his turn in the rotation put him on the mound in the ALCS, his performance was not so stellar, and the Tigers lost their chance to go to the World Series. I asked Frank how he handled being town hero one day and “tarred and feathered” a few days later. I’ll never forget his quick reply. He said, “I learned a long time ago that with baseball fans it’s ‘what have you done for me lately’ that counts!”

I’ve often thought about Frank’s answer when it comes to how we feel about God. Going to a small group meeting where everyone else is telling about how God has supplied for their needs and miraculously answered prayer can make a lot of us pretty grumpy about God because it seems like He doesn’t do much for us. We still have long-awaited, unanswered prayers on our lists and unfulfilled expectations that seemingly have gone unnoticed while He has been busy blessing others. But be careful. This kind of spiritual grumpiness will make you ungrateful, unworshipful, and ready for a major fall into the spiritual dumpster.

So, for all of us who tend to be out on God for His seeming lack of living up to our expectations, let me help you out of your grumpiness with a list of how wonderfully good He is to you every day.

  • If He never does anything else but save your soul from hell and guarantee you an eternal home with Him in heaven, He has already done far more than you or I deserve and enough to keep us grateful to Him for the rest of our lives.

But thankfully there’s more . . .

  • If it is true that He never leaves you nor forsakes you, then you have a lot to be thankful for (Hebrews 13:5).
  • If you can be sure that His mercies are new to you every morning, then you can make it through the day as weak and frail as you are (Lamentations 3:22-24).
  • If He guards our lives so that nothing comes in that is not ultimately for His glory and our good, then we are among the truly blessed ones (Romans 8:28).
  • If, when you put your head on your pillow at the end of the day, you think He didn’t show up for you, think about all the things you don’t know that He kept from you which may have “done you in” had He permitted them (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • If He gave you His Word to guide, comfort, inspire, convict and assure you of His unfailing love and mercy, then you have enough to cancel your grumpiness and make you grateful (Psalm 119:97-103).
  • And, since He is far more than we ever bargained for or deserved, we have the high privilege of demonstrating to our world that our God is worthy to be trusted, worshiped, adored and praised—regardless (Job 13:15)!
  • So the next time you start wondering what He has done for you lately, check the list. There’s a lot to be thankful for! Which leaves only one more question: Is He wondering what you have done for Him lately?

Training For Life

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Training for Life

From: Our Daily Bread

Training for Life
Read: Psalm 66:8–12 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 66–67; Romans 7

My training for the long-distance race was going badly, and the latest run was particularly disappointing. I walked half the time and even had to sit down at one point. It felt like I had failed a mini-test.

Then I remembered that this was the whole point of training. It was not a test to pass, nor was there a grade I had to achieve. Rather, it was something I simply had to go through, again and again, to improve my endurance.

Perhaps you feel bad about a trial you are facing. God allows us to undergo these times of testing to toughen our spiritual muscles and endurance. He teaches us to rely on Him, and purifies us to be holy, so that we become more like Christ.

No wonder the psalmist could praise God for refining the Israelites through fire and water (Ps. 66:10–12) as they suffered in slavery and exile. God not only preserved them and brought them to a place of great abundance, but also purified them in the process.

As we go through testing, we can rely on God for strength and perseverance. He is refining us through our toughest moments.

Lord, I know that You allow me to go through trials so that I will be strengthened and purified. Teach me to keep relying on You for Your strength to endure.

Faith-testing times can be faith-strengthening times.

 

 

The Bewildering Call of God

From: Utmost.org

The Bewildering Call of God

God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. And Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death, leading every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken. His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God’s. But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose.

This bewildering call of God comes into our lives as well. The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature. The call of God is like the call of the sea— no one hears it except the person who has the nature of the sea in him. What God calls us to cannot be definitely stated, because His call is simply to be His friend to accomplish His own purposes. Our real test is in truly believing that God knows what He desires. The things that happen do not happen by chance— they happen entirely by the decree of God. God is sovereignly working out His own purposes.

If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are. As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose. A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities. If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.

 

 

Living Truth

From: Our Daily Journey

Living Truth

Read:

2 John 1:1-6
The truth lives in us and will be with us forever (2 John 1:2).

Ever wanted to live like a monk? Thirty-four young adults did, accepting an offer from the Archbishop of Canterbury to embrace a counter cultural, monastic way of life for ten months. From varied nations and denominations, the group formed a community that studied the Scriptures, prayed, and served together. At the end of their time, one participant stated, “We’ve spent time growing in intimacy with God, learning from Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit.”

The apostle John wrote of the importance of believers in Jesus living in communities growing in both God’s truth and love. He said that he loved others “in the truth . . . because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 1:1-2). This truth includes the knowledge of Christ and the importance of faithfully following His teachings, but it also means living out the very presence of God within us. As Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you” (John 14:15-17).

As we come to know and love Jesus, His truth is made alive within us. And as we live “according to the truth,” we find that “love means doing what God has commanded us . . . to love one another” (2 John 1:4-6). One commentator wrote, “Love and truth originate in God. Like him, they endure without changing, and their splendor never fades.”

May we live out our faith for Jesus, aglow with the beauty of truth and love that reflects Him and His ways.

Laboring For Good Brings Joy

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus    2 Timothy 2, 1-10
1  Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.
 2  You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
3  Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 
4  Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 
5  And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 
6  And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 
7  Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
8  Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 
9  And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 
10  So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.
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Wall-Bangers Anonymous

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. —James 1:2

I’ll never forget the time during college when, after I had finished writing a big paper that was due the next day, I heard a loud commotion in the room across the hall. My neighbor was in a state of panic, throwing stuff around his room looking for his paper. Frustrated, he banged his fist against the closet and shouted, “Thanks a lot, God. You make life one big laugh!”

I might have given him an A+ for theology—at least he knew that God was ultimately in charge—but an F for his response to the problem.

For those of us who get mad at God when life takes a wrong turn, we need a good dose of biblical therapy. So, welcome to “Wall-Bangers Anonymous”—a two-step program toward a positive, God-honoring response to pain.

Step One: Think straight about trouble. It’s not only inevitable, it’s indiscriminate. Trouble comes in all shapes and sizes. “Various trials” (James 1:2) affect our health, our careers, our relationships. Once we understand the facts, we can begin appreciating their significant value in our lives.

Step Two: Trade resistance and resentment for receptivity and rejoicing. “Count it all joy” (James 1:2). The joy is not in the presence of pain but in the knowledge that God is using our pain to refine us and make us better, not bitter.

If we embrace adversity,
Accepting every pain,
Then we will learn what we should know;
Our grief will turn to gain. —Sper

God chooses what we go through; we choose how we go through it.

 

 

Brooke McGlothlin August 1, 2017
Why Your Mess Matters
BROOKE MCGLOTHLIN

From: Crosswalk.com

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 (ESV)

He looked at me with questioning eyes and said, “Mom, are you really mad about something else?”

My over-reaction to a spilled glass of chocolate milk gave my boy insight into my heart. I actually was upset about something else. The spilled chocolate milk was just one more mess to clean up in the larger mess of my life.

Several months before, our family had moved back to our hometown without my husband. We believed he would get transferred within three to four months, but it hadn’t happened.

Before we moved, I promised my children nothing would change. “It’ll just be a new location,” I said. “Everything else will be the same.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Eleven months later, I was forced to admit everything had changed. Not only had my husband still not received a transfer, but my boys, homeschooled their entire lives, found themselves in school for the first time.

Add to that demanding sports schedules, the stress of new friendships, the financial and emotional strain of having a family in two different places — and it was plain to see mama lied … albeit unintentionally.

And me? I felt like a single mom most of the time. My husband was with us as much as his schedule allowed, but most of the day-to-day stress — stress I had never before endured alone — fell on me.

On my knees, scrubbing chocolate milk from my family room floor, I asked myself these questions:

Where is Jesus in this?

How do I help others see Him in me when life feels like a constant struggle to survive?

How can I make Jesus look good when everything’s falling apart?

We all want to be the mom who thrives, juggles everything well and is a perfect picture of motherhood — no matter what her circumstances bring. We want it, because it’s easier when things go well. But as Christians, we also want to thrive so others, especially our kids, can see Jesus in us. We long to rise above the noise so our lives draw others to Christ.

Don’t we have to be attractive in order to attract? No.

As a mom who’s lived through the “survival” season (and circled back more often than I’d like), I find other moms who are real about how hard motherhood is to be the most attractive thing in the world.

Knowing that you’ve asked for forgiveness as you mop up the chocolate milk, watching you slosh your way through the day while trying your best to honor God with your life, seeing you worship Jesus while you struggle … those are the things that draw me to you … and ultimately to Jesus within you.

Your mess matters to me.

Our lives capture constant rolling footage, illustrating to those around us whether we truly believe God is worth following … especially in the hard times.

According to our key verse, God has called us to live with other people in mind. Why? Because what we do with the circumstances we’re given — how we talk about them, act because of them and trust or distrust God through them — influences others.

Motherhood IS great, rewarding and worth every second of hardship and heartache. But it’s also messy, humbling and the most challenging thing we’ll ever put our hands (and heart) to.

Instead of hiding our truth from the world in hopes they’ll see Jesus in some fake story about a girl who has it all together, let’s tell the real one.

Let them see Jesus at work in the trial, even when we want to give up. Let others see Jesus in our mess, so they know they’re not alone.

Let your life be the story Jesus uses to draw others to Him.

Lord, You see the real us. Help us keep our eyes on You, and give us strength for the struggle. Use our lives to draw others to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

You Are Invited to Pray

From: CBN, and by: Merle Mills

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“This is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard. Our flight today will reach a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. The weather looks good and we should arrive at our destination in approximately one hour and 20 minutes. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.”

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight? I had not flown since January 1999, more than 16 years ago. In 16 years, there were many negative airline incident reports. My trust had been destroyed, replaced by fear.

For the next 80 minutes, my life would be guided by the hands of a captain I did not know, nor knew me. Dependent on his skill and wisdom, there was nothing I could do in my own strength. I felt helpless. Fear gripped my soul. Seat-belted in, feeling trapped at 33,000 feet in the air, I breathed a prayer.

“Heavenly Father, help me.”

“Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 KJV

Have you ever felt there was nothing you could do in your own strength, helpless? Gripped by fear, or trapped?

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:3 KJV

Prayer has no limit. We can pray, morning, noon, or night, silently from the heart, whispered, spoken aloud, or from any location. It has the ability to defeat fearful thoughts, and transform them into moments of strength, wisdom, peace, and hope.

David, fearful and running from Saul, took refuge and fled to Cave Adullam. According to Thompsons Chain Reference Bible, “there was a strange, secluded wildness about the place.”

David’s prayer breathed from this “secluded wildness place” was:

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusts in You: yea, in the shadow of Your wings, will I make my refuge, until these calamities have passed.” Psalm 57:1 KJV

Jonah prayed with seaweed wrapped around his head (Jonah 2:5) out of the belly of a whale:

“I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me.” Jonah 2:2KJV

Peter prayed on a housetop:

“Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour.” Acts 10:9 KJV

Hannah prayed for a child and our Heavenly Father gave her a son:

“Give unto your handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life.” 1 Samuel 1:11 KJV

King Hezekiah prayed to be healed:

“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.”2 Kings 20:5 KJV

Jesus whipped, beaten, pierced, and nailed to the cross prayed for His persecutors:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 22:34 KJV

Today, if you are you feeling helpless, gripped by fear, or trapped, you and I have a Captain who wants to guide our life. A Captain who knows us, and One we can trust. One who invites us to pray, with the promise that our prayer will be heard.

“Call unto me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land.”  We were arriving at our destination 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.  Fear before prayer had almost denied me the joy of a relaxing flight.

Prior to deplaning, I had the opportunity to speak with and compliment the captain. He had over 35 years flying experience. My life had been in capable hands.

We too are in capable hands. Our Captain has been guiding lives eternally.

“Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Psalm 90:2 KJV

Heavenly Father, every day, in every situation, or circumstance of our lives, may we always remember Your invitation to pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be A New Creature

 

ll Corinthians 5: 14-21

14 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

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A “New Man”

From: Our Daily Bread

A “New Man”
Read: Colossians 1:3–14 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 54–56; Romans 3

Continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:23

As a group of teenagers visited a home for the elderly in Montego Bay, Jamaica, one young woman noticed a lonely looking man at the end of the room. He appeared to have little left in this world but a bed to sleep on—a bed from which he could not move because of his disability.

The teen began right away to share the story of God’s love for us and read some Bible passages to him. “As I shared with him,” she would say later, “I started to feel his eagerness to hear more.” Responding to his interest, she explained the wonder of Jesus’s sacrificial death for us. “It was hard for this man, who had no hope and no family,” she recalled, “to understand that Someone he’s never met would love him enough to die on the cross for his sins.”

She told him more about Jesus—and then about the promise of heaven (including a new body) for all who believe. He asked her, “Will you dance with me up there?” She saw him begin to imagine himself free of his worn-out body and crippling limitations.

When he said he wanted to trust Jesus as his Savior, she helped him pray a prayer of forgiveness and faith. When she asked him if she could get a picture with him, he replied, “If you help me sit up. I’m a new man.”

Praise God for the life-changing, hope-giving, available-to-all gospel of Jesus Christ! It offers new life for all who trust Him (Col. 1:5, 23).

Lord, thank You for the new life we have in Jesus Christ. Help us to share the hope of that new life with others so they can be made new as well.

Jesus offers new life.

 

Lynn Cowell July 31, 2017
Courage to Be the True You
LYNN COWELLFrom: Crosswalk.com

“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Ephesians 4:14 (NLT)

Climbing the stairs, it felt like I was going on an adventure to the past, but I was only heading to the attic.

It had been so many years since I’d cleaned my attic, and I was looking forward to going through all the boxes filled with memories. It didn’t take long to discover a box from my childhood, and there on the top was my little, gold diary.

Did you have a secret diary growing up? If so, I wonder if you’d find in yours what I found in mine: a girl struggling not to worry about what others would think of her.

Here are some of my swirling thoughts from sixth grade:

March 23: Right now, I don’t think much about boys. I may act like it, but I don’t.

March 26: John called and asked me to “go” with him. I didn’t want to, but my best friend told him I said “yes.”

March 27: Today, nothing much happened. I don’t know how my friend got me in this mess with John, and I don’t know what to do. Lord, get me out!

March 28: I broke up with John. Boy, am I glad I did. But he asked me to go out with him again. Ugh!

What a struggle! Although that trouble was with a boy, there were other times I wrote about frustrated feelings with friends and family, and confusion about what to do.

Do you know what the real issue was with many of my problems? I was fearful of people.

I wasn’t sure of the girl I was, or the girl I wanted to be. I often found myself acting all sorts of ways so I could be the person I thought my friends and family wanted, instead of being true to myself.

As I’ve grown, I’ve come to understand more of the truth in God’s Word. He has shown me I don’t have to spin like the Tilt O’ Whirl at an amusement park — trying to be everything to everybody. I don’t have to get on that emotional and exhausting ride. I’m becoming more and more brave every day to be the one He’s created me to be.

Ephesians 4:14 tells us: “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Paul is teaching that we don’t have to believe all the things people say about God. We need to believe what God says about Himself in His Word. That is where truth can be found.

The same is true when we spin this way and that, believing things that aren’t true about ourselves, then trying to be someone we’re not. It makes us shaky inside — insecure. God can give us the strength, bravery and confidence we need to believe who He says we are. And as we become mature in our faith and self-worth, we can then help others, such as our children, as they grow into adulthood.

God can help them, too, so their lives don’t feel constantly pushed one way and then the other. He has the power to make us all brave. God can give you the courage to be the true you.

Dear Jesus, I don’t want to do what I think is right; I want to do what You say is right. Help me learn to be brave and ask You for wisdom instead of feeling like I’m constantly being pushed around by people and by my ever-changing emotions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Who’s in the Spotlight?

From: Get More Strength

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

If you’ve been around the world of golf for long, you know that winning the coveted “Green Jacket” at the Masters is arguably the most coveted accomplishment in golf. As I was watching the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament in 2007, I was thrilled to hear the winner give credit to Jesus for the gifts and abilities the Lord had given him. With much of the world watching, he turned the spotlight from himself to Jesus!

It brought to mind the year that Bernhard Langer won the Masters. In the Butler Cabin afterward, before millions watching on TV the interviewer said to him, “Winning the Masters must be the greatest moment in your life.” To which the champion replied, “This is no doubt the greatest moment in my golf career, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that 2,000 years ago today my Lord and Savior rose from the dead to give me eternal life!”

I was off my couch, ecstatic that Jesus and what He has done for us was getting such global recognition!

This is exactly what it means to glorify God and to live with enough biblical sanity to know that all we have and all we are is directly attributable to God’s grace and provision in our lives. Think about it. Where would you be today if God had not given you the mental horsepower to figure stuff out, the opportunities for education and promotion, the talents to do things well, the spiritual gifts to participate successfully in His work, the income to keep food on the table, or the wisdom of His Word to help you know how to live? The list is long when it comes to what God has graciously given you. To say nothing of the gift of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection! The fact is that you and I would be nothing if it weren’t for God’s generous and undeserved supply.

So, since all we have is from God, it’s important that we don’t act like we are self-made people. In fact, when King Nebuchadnezzar took God’s glory for himself, he was banished to eating grass in the field like an animal until he got the picture straight about who should get the glory for his power and position (Daniel 4:29-34). And Herod was eaten by worms and died for letting the people call him god (Acts 12:21-23). God takes it seriously when we rob Him of His glory!

Granted, it’s not always easy to know just what to say when you want to transfer the applause from yourself to God. But just knowing that it’s important to give credit where credit is due is a good beginning. Every once in a while, someone will tell me what a great sermon I preached, and in that moment I am keenly aware that what I do with the spotlight is very important. I have to tell you, when I take the compliment for myself I end up feeling small and disloyal. But when I acknowledge that I had no idea what they needed to hear, I can say with confidence, “We both know where the blessing came from!” and I love to tell people that if they were blessed by the sermon it’s a sure sign of how much God loves them. Every time I turn the spotlight where it belongs, I end up feeling grateful to God and joyful that I was able to give Him the glory.

So take the Bible’s advice: Keep the spotlight on Jesus—then know the joy of what it means to live for His glory.

All Generations

Luke 13:6-9

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.

 And he said to the vine dresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?

And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

 

Matthew 24:32-34

 

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

 

 

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All Generations

From: Our Daily Bread

All Generations
Read: Psalm 145:1–13 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 51–53; Romans 2

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. Psalm 145:13

My parents married in 1933 during the Great Depression. My wife and I are Baby Boomers, part of the dramatic increase in births following World War II. Our four daughters, born in the seventies and eighties, belong to Generations X and Y. Growing up in such different times, it’s not surprising that we have different opinions about many things!

Generations differ widely in their life experiences and values. And this is true among followers of Jesus. But no matter what we wear or the kind of music we enjoy, our spiritual connection is stronger than those differences.

Psalm 145, a mighty song of praise to God, proclaims our bond of faith. “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. . . . They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness” (vv. 4, 7). Within a great diversity of age and experience, we come together by honoring the Lord. “They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might” (v. 11).

While differences and preferences could divide us, shared faith in Jesus Christ the Lord brings us together in mutual trust, encouragement, and praise. Whatever our age and outlook, we need each other! No matter which generation we belong to, we can learn from each other and together honor the Lord—“So that all people may know of [His] mighty acts and the glorious splendor of [His] kingdom” (v. 12).

Lord, unite Your people from all generations to honor and praise You as we bear witness of Your love.

God’s kingdom is alive and active in all generations.

Connectedly Challenged

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4

I’ll never forget the time I bought a new stereo system. I brought the boxes home and carefully unwrapped each piece of equipment. I spread everything out on the floor. There it was—wires and all. But halfway into the assembling project I realized I needed some serious help. Believe me, I am a technological idiot; when it comes to connecting in digital world, I’m in serious trouble!

Most of us are a lot like that spiritually. We have all the equipment we need to connect to an intimate and fulfilling relationship with the only One who is tailor-made to make great music out of our lives. But most of us never quite seem to get it figured out. So here are some pointers.

The intimacy with God we were built to enjoy begins by realizing that our relationship with Jesus is the key to getting connected. As He said in John 14:6, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And then in John 15:1-27 he paints a profound picture of what that looks like (I find pictures are really helpful in set-up manuals), by telling us that we are like branches and that He is the vine. All the resources we need to prosper and bear fruit come from entwining our entire being—mind, will, intellect, emotions, and attitudes—into Jesus. And then He concludes the connection instructions by telling us that the key to letting the music flow is our unflinching obedience to Him in every aspect of our lives.

Jesus says, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10). The payoff of finally getting connected is that we will experience the deep-down joy that only He can give as a reward for obediently staying wired to Him. He assures us, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Perhaps you can imagine the joy I felt when a friend came over to get me out of my digital mess. And the music was spectacular!

When you think of your spiritual journey, I wonder if you feel frustrated and wound up in wires that go nowhere, leaving you disappointed and doubting if your Christianity will ever work? Check in with the “intimacy expert.” Jesus welcomes you to listen to His advice for your life and then to hook up by obeying all of His directives. Directives about how to deal with your enemies, your family, your finances, your weird boss, and anything or anybody else that crosses your path. As it is with digital equipment, there are no alternatives. If the wires aren’t plugged into the right place, it just won’t work.

And, one other thought: When I can’t get something to work I always know that it’s not the manufacturer’s fault. They knew just how to make the equipment. So if God seems far away and there is little or no music in your heart, it’s not God’s fault. We were pre-wired to fellowship with Him in harmonious obedience!

 

Spirited

From: Our Daily Journey

Spirited

Read:

Mark 2:23-27
The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Four-year-old Seth had a penchant for adventure, and the sight of an empty laundry basket at the top of the stairs proved just too inviting. Climbing in, he launched himself down the sixteen steps, tumbling into the door beyond the landing. His mother raced to investigate.

“Don’t you ever slide down the stairs in a laundry basket!” she scolded. “Okay,” he agreed.

Minutes later his mother heard the telltale bump-bump-bump-bump as somethingtobogganed down the stairs. Again she scurried around the corner to find Seth picking himself up.

“I told you never to do that again!” she yelled in exasperation.

“I didn’t,” he replied. “I used cardboard this time.”

Seth found a loophole in his mother’s instructions that she never intended. A different mistake would have been for him to define the rule too narrowly—such as if he had chosen to avoid staircases altogether.

In Exodus 35, God instructed His people on the importance of Sabbath rest. “You have six days each week for your ordinary work,” He told them, “but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest” (Exodus 35:2). Over the centuries, religious leaders had made too much of this law. When Jesus’ disciples picked some grain to eat on the Sabbath, the Pharisees demanded to know why they were breaking the law. Jesus defended His disciples and said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

God wasn’t trying to limit the Israelites; nor was Seth’s mother attempting to ruin his fun. When we understand and follow the spirit of the law, we gain the freedom to fully enjoy God’s gifts to us—like Seth’s gift of a spirit of adventure.

Christ Is Our Access To Heaven

John 10:7

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

 
John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Romans 5:2

through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Ephesians 2:18

for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

Hebrews 9:8

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing,

 

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Privileged Access

From: Our Daily Bread

Privileged Access
Read: Hebrews 12:18–24 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 49–50; Romans 1

You have come . . . to the church of the firstborn. Hebrews 12:22–23

Even though it was just a replica, the tabernacle set up in southern Israel was awe-inspiring. Built life-size and as close as possible to the specifications laid out in Exodus 25–27 (without actual gold and acacia wood, of course), it stood tall in the Negev desert.

When our tour group was taken through the “Holy Place” and into the “Most Holy Place” to see the “ark,” some of us actually hesitated. Wasn’t this the holiest place, where only the high priest was allowed to enter? How could we enter it so casually?

I can imagine how fearful the Israelites must have felt as they approached the tent of meeting with their sacrifices each time, knowing that they were coming into the presence of the Almighty God. And the wonder they must have felt, whenever God had a message for them, delivered through Moses.

Today, you and I can come straight to God with confidence, knowing that Jesus’s sacrifice has torn down the barrier between us and God (Heb. 12:22–23). Each of us can talk to God any time we want, and hear from Him directly when we read His Word. We enjoy a direct access that the Israelites could only dream of. May we never take it for granted and cherish this awesome privilege of coming to the Father as His beloved children every day.

Thank You, Father, for this wonderful privilege that Jesus has given us, to be able to come before You knowing we have been forgiven and cleansed by Christ’s blood. May we never forget how big a sacrifice it took.

Through prayer, we have instant access to our Father.

 

July 29

From: Through The Bible

1 Chronicles 22:19 (NIV) 19Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD.”

David had prepared the way for Solomon to reign in several ways. He had subdued the enemies of Israel. He asked the leaders to assist Solomon, and as we saw yesterday, he prepared everything for the building of the Temple. There was one last thing Solomon needed. David gave him the single most important thing he needed to reign, the instruction to devote his heart and soul to seeking the LORD. Unless that was done, all the other preparation would not help him.

If our heart’s great desire is to know the LORD and His will, it is devoted to seeking the LORD. That only comes about when we value the things of God more highly than the things of the world. It is always an exercise in faith, for it is the desire for the unseen over the visible. David asked Solomon to set his compass toward the LORD.

The second great burden on David’s heart was to see the Temple built, so he charged Solomon to get started. Once the Temple was built, the Ark of the Covenant could be placed along with the sacred articles. The presence of God would fill the place, and the people’s hearts would turn toward the LORD.

Every group of worshippers needs the same thing. They need leadership who have devoted their hearts to seeking the LORD. Since they are the temple, they need the presence of God in them. They need the tools (gifts and abilities), with which to carry out that which God would direct.

Consider: Are all of those things in place in those with whom you worship? If not how can you work toward that end?

Evening

July 29

Acts 16:25-26, 33 (NIV) 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

The Holy Spirit guided Paul and Silas through a night vision by forbidding them to go certain directions and guiding them to go another. In Philippi, they found some Jewish women who accepted the Word and believed.

After Paul had cast a spirit of divination out of a young lady, those who had used her to make money stirred up the town against them. They were whipped and thrown into prison. The prisoners must have been amazed to hear these men who had been beaten and sat in stocks singing praise to God. At midnight an earthquake opened the prison doors and their chains came loose. The guard was about to kill himself. Losing a prisoner meant his life would be forfeited. Paul stopped him by telling him all the prisoners were still there.

Most people would be looking for a way to escape. Paul and Silas were looking for opportunities to share Jesus. The grateful soldier washed their wounds and gathered his family to hear their testimony about Jesus. He and his whole family believed and were baptized before one o’clock in the morning! I don’t think anyone slept that night. Most of us would wonder if God had made a mistake by allowing them to be thrown in prison. Paul and Silas praised God in everything and were given the opportunity to lead this Roman family, and probably many of the prisoners, to Jesus. God planned a midnight earthquake to establish a church in Philippi.

Consider: When circumstance leads you down a road that is not one you would have chosen, look for God to be working in or through your life. Your importunity is God’s opportunity. Praise Him for it, and watch for His hand.

 

Do You See Jesus in Your Clouds?

From: Utmost.org

Do You See Jesus in Your Clouds?

In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

“…they were fearful as they entered the cloud” (Luke 9:34). Is there anyone except Jesus in your cloud? If so, it will only get darker until you get to the place where there is “no one anymore, but only Jesus …” (Mark 9:8; also see Mark 2:7).

“Forgiven” Is A Wonderful Word

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.

 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable:

 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 

and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

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Forgiven!

From: Our Daily Bread

Forgiven!
Read: 1 John 1:1-10 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 46–48; Acts 28

I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant. Psalm 119:176

My friend Norm Cook sometimes had a surprise for his family when he arrived home from work. He would walk through the front door, and shout, “You’re forgiven!” It wasn’t that family members had wronged him and needed hisforgiveness. He was reminding them that though they doubtless had sinned throughout the day, they were by God’s grace fully forgiven.

The apostle John supplies this note about grace: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin [no inclination to sin], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7–9).

To “walk in the light” is a metaphor for following Jesus. Imitating Jesus with the Spirit’s help, John insists, is the sign that we have joined with the apostles in the fellowship of faith. We are authentic Christians. But, he continues, let’s not be deceived: We will make wrong choices at times. Nevertheless, grace is given in full measure: We can take what forgiveness we need.

Not perfect; just forgiven by Jesus! That’s the good word for today.

Lord, I know I’m not even close to being perfect. That’s why I need You and Your cleansing in my life. I’m lost without You.

Monitor your heart daily to avoid wandering from God’s wisdom.

 

God’s Purpose or Mine?

From: Utmost.org

God’s Purpose or Mine?

We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.

 

Liz Curtis Higgs July 28, 2017
The Prodigal Cat
LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

From: Crosswalk.com

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (NIV)

We have two cats at our house: twin gray tabbies named Sam and Bo, adopted from an animal shelter. Our early years together were filled with lavish attention on my part and copious purring on theirs. Then, one dark and stormy October morning, the unthinkable happened.

My husband Bill and I were headed to the airport for a predawn flight to New England. Rain was coming down in sheets as we dragged our luggage to the back door and fumbled with our umbrellas.

When I flung open the door, Bo — the smaller, faster, more rebellious brother — appeared out of nowhere, slipped through my legs and plunged into the darkness without a backward glance.

Suitcases forgotten, we tore after him, but Bo remained maddeningly out of reach — bounding forward, doubling back, then taking off again. Finally, we had to leave for the airport. Had to.

I was soaking wet and inconsolable. How could I abandon poor Bo to the elements? Yes, our daughter-in-law would arrive at our doorstep in a couple of hours. Yes, Bo would no doubt take shelter in the nearby bushes and be safely back inside the house before our plane landed in Boston.

But what if he got lost? Got hurt by another animal? Got hit by a car? My stomach was tied in knots, thinking of the terrible possibilities.

Phone calls and text messages flew back and forth. Our grown children put a rescue operation in motion. Sympathetic friends on Facebook offered suggestions: “Put his food bowl outside.” “Put his litter box outside.” “Put your pajamas outside.” Apparently the familiar scents were meant to woo him home.

Nothing worked. When we returned from our trip and still no Bo, my heart grew heavier. Was anyone feeding him, caring for him? Or was Bo starving to death, alone and shivering, far from home? Meanwhile, Sam wandered from room to room, searching for his lost brother, his mournful meow adding to my guilt.

After 12 long days, I stood on our back steps, prepared to try one last suggestion: “Go outside at midnight when the air is still and call out his name.” So I did, as loudly as I could, not caring if our neighbors thought I was daft. “Bo!”

Then I heard it. The faintest meow.

Bo!” I cried out. Another plaintive meow. Like a mother who knows her baby’s cry, I knew this was my cat. Knew it.

I hurried across our backyard, calling his name, so agitated that I forgot about our back fence until I nearly fell over it. “Bo!” I shrieked, thinking he might come to me. But, no. The same sad meow was still a hundred feet away.

Minutes later, armed with a cat carrier and a bowl of food, I opened the back gate and tiptoed across the grass toward a dark shape beneath our neighbor’s deck. When Bo meowed again, but didn’t budge, I shook his bowl, hoping the sound and scent would coax him out. He extended one tentative paw. Then another.

The second he got close enough, I threw my arms around him, stuffed him in the cat carrier, and ran back to the house, my heart in my throat. My dear boy wasn’t dead; he was alive! He wasn’t lost; he was found!

I watched him dart around our brightly lit kitchen, tears of joy and relief pouring down my face, and thought about our heavenly Father, who’d once watched my own escape into darkness. He, too, had waited. Called my name. Came looking for me, knowing I was too scared to come to Him. Wrapped His arms around me and carried me home.

It’s the same with the story Jesus told of the prodigal son in Luke 15:20“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Just as Bo is a changed cat — he comes whenever I call and lets me scratch his head for hours — I am definitely a changed woman. When God calls, I come running, knowing His love alone has tamed my rebel heart.

Lord, Your love for us is endless, Your patience with us is boundless, and Your willingness to save us is beyond understanding. Thank You for pursuing us, rescuing us and welcoming us home. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.