Tag Archives: devotion

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.

Keep God’s Commandments

13  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 
15  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.…

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Sweet Company

From: Our Daily Bread

Sweet Company

The Spirit of truth . . . lives with you and will be in you. John 14:17

The elderly woman in the nursing home didn’t speak to anyone or request anything. It seemed she merely existed, rocking in her creaky old chair. She didn’t have many visitors, so one young nurse would often go into her room on her breaks. Without asking the woman questions to try to get her to talk, she simply pulled up another chair and rocked with her. After several months, the elderly woman said to her, “Thank you for rocking with me.” She was grateful for the companionship.

Before He went back to heaven, Jesus promised to send a constant companion to His disciples. He told them He would not leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit to be in them (John 14:17). That promise is still true for believers in Jesus today. Jesus said that the triune God makes His “home” in us (v. 23).

The Lord is our close and faithful companion throughout our entire life. He will guide us in our deepest struggles, forgive our sin, hear each silent prayer, and shoulder the burdens we cannot bear.

We can enjoy His sweet company today.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Spirit as our constant companion.

The Christian’s heart is the Holy Spirit’s home

 

Lysa TerKeurst July 27, 2017
Make Your First 5 Count
LYSA TERKEURSTFrom: Crosswalk.com

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you … then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1,5 (NIV)

Have you ever felt something stirring in your spirit that wouldn’t go away?

I had one of those things on my heart a few years ago. And it all started with my middle daughter Ashley.

Ashley is a driven and responsible girl. Three years ago, she went off to college and while she had always excelled academically, the same couldn’t be said for her spiritual life.

As her mom, my heart broke over her struggle in her relationship with the Lord. I just couldn’t understand it — she grew up going to church, learned Bible lessons and saw me read Scripture each day.

But no matter what we did or said, we just couldn’t make it connect for her.

If you’re in that place right now with your child or your own walk with the Lord, I understand. I think for Ashley, the Bible felt complicated and disconnected from her everyday life issues.

As I cried out to the Lord on behalf of my daughter, the word that kept coming to mind was poverty. “Poverty” might seem strange for this situation, but when I saw the lack of spiritual nourishment in Ashley, parallels from physical to spiritual lined up.

I chased down this thought a little more — what causes poverty? A lack of opportunity. So many people around the world simply don’t have access to the nourishment they need to survive.

But this wasn’t the case with Ashley. Good gracious, we’re like most Americans with multiple copies of the Bible under our roof. The poverty I sensed was not a lack of opportunity.

So what was it? As I wrestled with this, God brought me to the book of Proverbs.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5)

One word in this passage is repeated over and over: understand! Solomon says if we want the fear of the Lord and knowledge of God, then we’ll crave understanding.

Meanwhile, at school, Ashley found herself in a Bible study, challenged by her leaders to just spend the first five minutes of her day in the Word.

After admitting she hadn’t been reading her Bible and hearing her friends talk about the benefits they were getting, she finally gave it a try. Each day, little by little, her interest in the Bible grew. Her life and attitude was being transformed.

Then one day, when I visited her at college, I could hardly believe my eyes.

She was a completely different girl.

At one point during our time together, I asked, “What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?” She said, “Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to read the Bible was unrealistic. But as I kept doing it, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of Truth, I had so much more joy.”

I can hardly type these words without crying.

As Ashley began to share what was happening, I also had a light switch go on. Her spiritual poverty wasn’t caused by a lack of access, but rather a lack of understanding.

In that moment, the burden on my mama heart turned to a vision for a hurting world.

What if Proverbs 31 Ministries could help every mom recommend a tool to really facilitate their kids getting into God’s Word for at least five minutes every morning?

What if we could bring the Word of God to busy college students, parents, business owners and grandmothers across the globe in a way that made the first minutes of every day life-changing? So, the minute they pick up their phones in the morning, instead of getting distracted by other things, they’re invigorated with Truth.

With God’s vision and your help, we created a free app that would help bring life and Truth to the first five minutes of every day. And I’m excited to say we’re now celebrating the two-year anniversary of the First 5 app!

How full this makes my heart.

Two years of providing a healthier alternative to hopping on social media in the first moments of our day.

Two years of equipping people all over the world to better understand the Word of God. Because when we know the truth and live the truth, it changes everything.

What beautiful reasons to celebrate.

If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, I would love to invite you to today by clicking here.

Yes, we must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. Instead of immediately checking in with social media with the first moments of our days, we can truly make God first by giving Him our first thoughts.

Dear Lord, I want to get into Your Word and let Your Word get into me. Help me understand and apply what I’m reading as I study the Bible, so I can help others do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do You Want to Be Well?

From: CBN, and Kathy Thomas, author

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“Do you want to be well?” The question pierced me. I pondered the past several years of my life, filled with exhaustion, pain, dizziness, and confusion; all the result of an accidental arsenic poisoning. Our family had inhaled the fumes of a series of fires containing pressure treated wood and other toxic garbage. I had become so ill that I couldn’t even remember my address when I was filling out paperwork at my doctor’s office. For months, I had swallowed 72 pills a day with gallons of water to detoxify my body.

I had diligently researched the long term effects of arsenic poisoning, and one article had wedged itself into my mind; playing over and over in the shadows of my thoughts, influencing my every decision. An entire small community had somehow also suffered arsenic poisoning. Eighty percent had developed multiple Cancer within eight to 10 years. A vast majority were terminal. Eight to 10 years? It seemed like such a long time when I first read the article, but it was now year number nine for me. Not just for me, but for my children, too.

I had already begun to develop multiple sores and cysts of various shapes and sizes throughout my body; some leading to biopsies, while others painfully ruptured. All had been benign … so far. The closer I came to the eight to 10-year mark, the more I became predisposed to drop my sword and surrender each time a new cyst or sore developed, or some part of my body malfunctioned. I felt like I was bracing for an inevitable crash. In my mind, doom was certain. It was not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.” I felt like I was living on borrowed time.

Then, one Tuesday morning, we were studying the gospel of John:

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’

The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.” (John 5:2-8 NKJV)

I was struck by the man’s answer to Jesus’ question because I realized that I had been answering his question the same way for nine years. I had spent so much time dwelling on why I was sick, that I had simply been laying on my mat, waiting for impending doom.

I had a revelation that morning. Jesus wanted me to walk in the waiting; to pick up my mat and keep moving forward. He had already determined the number of my days. Each day was a gift, and I was wasting them sitting on my mat, by the pool of Bethesda.

It was time to pick up my mat and walk in faith with hope for the future. Now, I see lumps as nothing more than speed bumps. I will not live my life waiting to die. I will live my life “well.”

“Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16 NKJV)

Do you want to be well?

 

Can God change your life?

It Is Jesus That Saves Us

Jesus Walks on the Water  – John 14

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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Out of the Deep

From: Our Daily Bread

Out of the Deep

He reached down from on high and took hold of me. 2 Samuel 22:17

I scanned the water intently, on alert for signs of trouble. During my six-hour shifts as a lifeguard, I watched from the side of the pool to ensure the safety of those swimming. Leaving my post, or even becoming lax in my attentiveness, could have grave consequences for those in the pool. If a swimmer was in danger of drowning due to injury or lack of skill, it was my responsibility to pluck them from the water and return them to safety on the pool deck.

After experiencing God’s aid in battle against the Philistines (2 Sam. 21:15–22), David likens his rescue to being drawn out of “deep waters” (22:17). David’s very life—and that of his men—was in serious danger from his enemies. God buoyed David as he was drowning in disaster. While lifeguards are paid to assure the safety of swimmers, God, on the other hand, saved David because of His delight in him (v. 20). My heart leaps for joy when I realize that God doesn’t watch over and protect me because He’s obliged to but because He wants to.

When we feel overcome by the troubles of life, we can rest in the knowledge that God, our Lifeguard, sees our struggle and, because of His delight in us, watches over and protects us.

Thank You, Lord, for seeing my struggles and standing ready to save me. Help me to trust Your rescuing love more fully.

God delights in saving His children.

 

 

Ashlee Gadd July 26, 2017
When You Feel Invisible
ASHLEE GADD

From: Crosswalk

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these stars? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 (NIV)

We were six months into parenthood when my father-in-law passed away.

If I close my eyes, I can picture the moment we found out. Five missed calls. My husband stood in the driveway saying, “Don’t say that, don’t say that,” over and over again into the phone.

I knew.

A lump formed in my throat, as I unbuckled our baby boy from his car seat. We were 90 miles away. I remember the sun was shining, even though it shouldn’t have been. I remember standing in the driveway, while my husband and I cried with a baby sandwiched between us. I remember the drive — we stopped for roast beef sandwiches — and I remember walking into my mother-in-law’s house and calmly placing my blue-eyed baby — my only offering, 15 pounds of innocence — in her arms.

It’s a strange thing to experience birth and death so close together. My son’s first year of life will always be marked by the deepest grief our family has ever known. Our whole lives became walking contradictions. One day, the baby giggled at his reflection in the mirror. The next day, we stood in a room full of caskets. How can you be joyful and devastated all at once? When is it okay to laugh? When is it okay to cry?

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 tells us there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens, but how can grief and delight possibly coexist?

My first year of motherhood was entirely consumed by two things: learning to take care of a baby and learning to support my husband through a life-shattering loss. I didn’t know who I was outside of those responsibilities. I tip-toed around my own house, desperate to keep everything and everyone intact. It was just another contradiction: Even though I had a baby glued to my hip, I’d never felt so alone.

“I feel invisible,” I confessed to my husband one night. “I feel like I am trying to be everything to everyone, but nobody is trying to be anything to me.”

“I feel depressed,” he confessed in return. “When my dad died, it’s like a part of me died, too.”

We ping-ponged confessions back and forth that night through tears, until I was struck with a startling realization.

I couldn’t rescue my husband. And he couldn’t rescue me.

We each wanted so desperately to be healed, loved, noticed and understood in that season, but our eyes were turned sideways instead of upward. We were both looking for a Savior, something we would never find in each other.

There is no substitute for Jesus. When we look to a spouse, a friend, a child or an Internet audience for the love, healing and recognition only a Savior can offer, we’ll always, always come up short.

Are you feeling invisible today? Unnoticed and unseen, desperate for someone to meet you exactly where you are?

Take comfort in today’s key verse, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these stars? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Whether you’re crying in the bathroom at 7 a.m. or folding the ninth load of laundry at 7 p.m. or rocking your baby at 3 a.m., please rest in this: God sees you, God notices you, God loves you.

Every single minute of every single day, you are fully known and loved by Him. After all, if God calls out every star in the sky by name, how much more must He know and love you?

Lord, thank You for seeing me when I feel invisible and for loving me when I’m broken. Please keep my eyes upward, on You, and remind me that I am forever and always Your child. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Living For Jesus

From: Our Daily Journey

Living For Jesus

Read:

Romans 12:1-2
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice . . . . This is truly the way to worship him (Romans 12:1).

“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.

We can better understand the apostle’s description of believers as living sacrifices if we understand the two kinds of sacrifices commonly offered by the Israelites. Atoning sacrifices were required sin and guilt offerings—animals slain to make amends for sin (Leviticus 4:1-57:1-6). For “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Thanksgiving sacrifices were offerings of gratitude voluntarily given to God in response to His blessing. They were made in response to His mercy and grace and to offer thankfulness, gratitude, love, and joyful worship to God (Leviticus 7:11-1522:29Psalm 50:14,23).

The sacrifice of animals failed to solve the problem of sin, just as we could never be an atoning sacrifice for it. Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was the ”perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14), the only one who can “remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).

But we can, by His strength, be a thank offering in response to what Jesus has done, “a living and holy sacrifice—the kind [God] will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1). Today, let’s live for Jesus as He leads us, for that’s “truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:2).

God Supplies All Our Needs

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  Psalm 37:25
18   As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 
20   And at once they left their nets and followed Him.…
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What We Bring Back

From: Our Daily Bread

What We Bring Back

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  Psalm 37:25

John F. Burns spent forty years covering world events for The New York Times. In an article written after his retirement in 2015, Burns recalled the words of a close friend and fellow journalist who was dying of cancer. “Never forget,” his colleague said, “It’s not how far you’ve traveled; it’s what you’ve brought back.”

Psalm 37 could be considered David’s list of what he “brought back” from his journey of life, from shepherd to soldier and king. The psalm is a series of couplets contrasting the wicked with the righteous, and affirming those who trust the Lord.

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither” (vv. 1–2).

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (vv. 23–24).

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (v. 25).

From our experiences in life, what has God taught us? How have we experienced His faithfulness and love? In what ways has the Lord’s love shaped our lives?

It’s not how far we’ve traveled in life, but what we’ve brought back that counts.

Dear Lord, thank You for walking with me throughout my life. Help me to remember Your faithfulness.

As the years add up, God’s faithfulness keeps multiplying

Getting Along

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  Psalm 133:1

I can still remember what it was like to take our family on vacation, only to have the kids in the backseat mar the joy of it all by their bickering and complaining. Who doesn’t remember the disruptive effects of “Dad, she touched me!” or “Mom, he won’t give me a turn!”

If you’ve had that kind of experience, you can imagine how God feels when His children quarrel and complain. Getting along is important to God. Jesus prayed that we would “be one” so that the world would believe He came from the Father (John 17:20-21). And to disciples who were prone to quarreling, He commanded that they love and serve one another (John 13:34-35Matt. 20:20-28). It should also be noted that among the seven things God hates, He includes “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19).

So I’m not surprised that the psalmist tells us that when brothers dwell in unity, it’s like “the precious oil upon the head, running down on . . . the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments” (Ps. 133:1-2). In ancient times, the oil of anointing was full of fragrant spices that graced the environment wherever the anointed one went. May the unity that comes from our love and service to one another fragrantly grace our families, churches, and friendships!

When love and kindness rule our lives,
And we are seen as one,
The fragrance of our unity
Has no comparison.  —Sper

Christians who get along with each other spread the sweet aroma of Jesus.

 

Karen Ehman July 25, 2017
Everybody’s Got Somethin’
KAREN EHMAN

From: Crosswalk.com

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” >Proverbs 19:11 (ESV)

My intense irritation at my husband’s actions didn’t show visibly. Since his mother was in the backseat of our car, I was careful to remain calm. However, I did sneak a darting glance toward him — a dagger that accurately conveyed how very much I hated what he’d just done.

His dire offense?

Failure to use his blinker when changing lanes.

I am a by-the-books driver. My kids chuckle when I dutifully use my blinker before turning into our driveway, even when no one is around — which is nearly 99 percent of the time, since we live near the end of a road with a cul-de-sac. Therefore, it aggravates me when my dear husband sometimes behaves as if turn signal usage is completely optional.

This particular day, we were shuttling my mother-in-law to her doctor’s appointment. As I sat in the waiting room, my mind began to tally, one-by-one, other perfectly irksome things I didn’t like about my man’s behavior.

He leaves the closet and cupboard doors open. Open! He didn’t return the stapler to its proper place when he finished using it the other day. That time we bumped into his co-worker, he didn’t even introduce me. He never remembers the details of our conversations. As each scenario popped into my mind, I grew more and more annoyed.

Across from me sat a chatty elderly woman. The weather reports were calling for an ice storm later that afternoon. She spoke of some people all in a tizzy about the impending inclement weather, declaring they needed to remember one important fact, “Everybody’s got somethin’.”

I asked her just what she meant by that. “Well,” she elaborated, “when we lived in Kansas, it was dust storms and tornadoes. Then, the few years we lived in southern Florida, we had to prepare for hurricanes. And, when we were stationed in California, oh what a drought we had that one year. Like I say,” she restated, “Everybody’s got somethin’.”

My waiting room friend’s atmospheric observation spiritually snapped me to attention that day. Why, oh why, do I let certain aspects of my husband’s personality and conduct bother me so easily? Surely I do things that drive him equally crazy? Undoubtedly, I sometimes irk or offend him with my behavior? In fact: “Everybody’s got somethin’” — some behavior, quirk, practice or habit that wreaks havoc on others, tempting them to become slightly irritated or even all-out furious.

Today’s key verse states that “good sense makes one slow to anger” and that it is a person’s “glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). In the original Hebrew language, the word “glory” conveys “beauty, honor, splendor” and even “adornment.” The original essence of this verse unearths for us this line of thinking: Our patience in passing over an offense — refusing to speedily go from zero to furious over the actions of others — adorns us with true beauty and honors them.

I’m not saying it’s easy. However, it is the right — and righteous — thing to do. Why? Because we mirror the gospel when we overlook another’s unpleasant behavior and love them anyway.

So how about it? Is there someone in your life who sometimes gets on your nerves or under your skin — or maybe even both? Does your response to their behavior leave no doubt about your level of frustration? How about we try a new approach — intentionally overlooking irritating behavior? Yes, that means we keep our cool. Don’t say a word. Smile instead, and love despite.

In other words, reflect the gospel to a watching world. More importantly — to a watching loved one.

Father, may I learn not to let the little quirks or even the bigger missteps of my loved ones provoke me to instant anger. Teach me to overlook an offense as I remember how much You’ve forgiven me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Share The Promise Of Christ Jesus

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The churches here represent the community of faith.
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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.  

Building Community

From: Our Daily Bread

Building Community
 
 

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 3:6

“Community” is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives, says Henri Nouwen. Often we surround ourselves with the people we mostwant to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.

The Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. The apostle Paul waxed eloquent on this “mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God.” By forming a community out of diverse members, Paul said, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of the world and even the supernatural world beyond (Eph. 3:9–10).

In some ways the church has sadly failed in this assignment. Still, church is the one place I visit that brings together generations: infants still held in their mothers’ arms, children who squirm and giggle at all the wrong times, responsible adults who know how to act appropriately at all times, and those who may drift asleep if the preacher drones on too long.

If we want the community experience God is offering to us, we have reason to seek a congregation of people “not like us.”

Lord, remind us that the church is Your work, and You have brought us together for Your good purposes. Help us extend grace to others.

The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world.  G. K. Chesterton

 

Find Your Joy

From: CBN.com, Gene Marklund

I remember the song from Children’s Church, ”The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the verse of laughter when they sing, “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha,” and so on. What a blessing, hearing the pure unadulterated joy and laughter coming from those precious children as they rejoice in the Lord. Yes, the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NLT).

But do we as adults share the joy? How long has it been since we’ve recognized His joy in our own lives, and how does that joy manifest itself?

I remember the story in the Bible when King David was returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The joy King David felt as he ushered in the presence of the Lord was almost more than he could contain.

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns” (2 Samuel 6:14-15, NLT).

It goes on to say that King David leaped and danced before the Lord. In those days, the presence of the Lord, the God of the universe, rested upon that one spot, the Ark of the Covenant. Today, that same presence of the Lord rests within us. Oh the joy that comes when we recognize this fact.

I’ve personally seen this joy manifested when a person humbly asks Jesus to forgive their sins, and come into their heart. I have seen people shout for joy upon receiving their salvation, and praise God upon coming out of the water after baptism.

“Then I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be glad because he rescues me” (Psalm 35:9, NLT).

I remember as a boy of seventeen, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the joy that He brought into my life. I spoke in tongues and laughed the rest of the night!

Some churches have exuberant praise and worship services where people sing, clap, dance, laugh, and release themselves to rejoice in their Lord’s presence, regardless of what onlookers might think. The Lord loves to see their joy and love for Him displayed in such a manner. But He also enjoys the person whose joy is so deep and personal, that it’s expressed by sitting quietly as they bask in their joy, which resides deep within.

Sometimes the cares of life will weigh us down, and it would appear that joy is nowhere to be found. And yes, there is a time for grief and sorrow. Even the Lord Jesus experienced it as He wept over Jerusalem. But when the day is done, the house is quiet, and you relax in the comfort of your dimly lit room, turn your thoughts away from the cares of the day and toward your Lord who lives within you.

Realize that the very presence of God, before whom King David danced, is with you and has shared this day with you. Rejoice, for you possess the Lord, and He possesses you. The communication and fellowship that you have with the Lord is your secret treasure. No one can understand or share in the intimacy that is yours and His alone. The sacredness of this treasure, the presence of God in and with you, is your source of joy and strength. This is not joy as the world knows it, but it’s the kind of joy that comes only from God through the Holy Spirit, “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8 NLT).

 

Bekah DiFelice July 24, 2017
Traveling Toward the Unknown
BEKAH DIFELICEFrom: Crosswalk.com

“But Ruth said, ‘Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me GOD — not even death itself is going to come between us!’” Ruth 1:16-17(MSG)

When I think of major transitions in my life, I think of road trips that involve a big yellow moving truck and a sense of home fading in the rearview mirror.

Nearly a decade ago, I moved away from my hometown after marrying my high school sweetheart, to begin his career in the military.

He was being stationed in Yuma, Ariz.

Do you know where that is?

Yeah, I didn’t either. (And if you do, good for you!)

I soon learned it was a town on the Mexican border known for its oppressive heat, Cracker Barrel location and historical prison preserved from the Wild West.

A newlywed’s dream, right?

Leaving home was a hard choice. In fact, when we stopped at a gas station, I spent a moment on the curb crying and whispering to my new husband, “I don’t think I can go on. Maybe this is a terrible idea.”

And I think that’s often what big transitions feel like: an enormous, sacrificial choice; an act of faith that begs of God, “You won’t abandon me, right?”

Change involves movement — old to new, known to unknown, native to foreign. It always requires a road trip of sorts.

We see this theme in the book of Ruth. It opens with Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, leaving their hometown to settle in Moab. A few verses later, after Naomi’s husband and sons die, she moves again, but this time with her daughters-in-law.

Somewhere on that road trip back to Bethlehem, Naomi encourages Ruth and Orpah to turn back. She gives them an easy out, essentially saying, “You don’t have to do the hard thing here. You can go home.”

Stunningly, Ruth chooses sacrifice. She tells Naomi, “Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live” (Ruth 1:16b).

Ruth didn’t just choose Naomi, she chose the God of Israel (“your God is my god”). The same is true for all of us in the midst of hard decisions. We aren’t just choosing the destination; we are choosing to believe in the trustworthy nature of God. We are binding ourselves to His provision.

Like Ruth, we’re often compelled to go somewhere new without knowing what waits on the other side. Rarely do we have a divine explanation as to how this moment will work out when we travel toward the unknown. Still, we walk toward the promise that God is good, even when the circumstances are unclear.

Oftentimes, God draws people to Himself by drawing them out of their comfort zones first. When we’re estranged from comfort, we gain clarity on His redemptive work in our lives. Our faith grows roots when we lack tangible stability.

The book of Ruth concludes with a testimony to how even the most painful transitions can be redeemed for good. Ruth opens with famine and death but ends with fulfillment — Boaz marrying Ruth and Ruth giving birth to Obed.

But the redemptive story doesn’t end there. From Ruth and Boaz’ union and lineage came David. And through David came the Savior of the world.

If you’re making a hard choice or facing a tough transition today, be encouraged. Ruth’s story serves as evidence that even the most painful interruptions can double as God’s provision, that God is present and active in our midst and that no road trip can ever lead us to a place where God hasn’t already arrived.

Thank You, Lord, for the way You’ve guided my life, though at times it’s been hard to see the providence for all the plot twists. Help me to trust You, regardless of where the story takes me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

God Sees Your Good Works

 

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

Proverbs 15:22  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

Proverbs 19:2  Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 28:26  Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

Proverbs 24:6  For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

 

(Great inventors who did good works to help all of us.)

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Didn’t Get Credit?

From: Our Daily Bread

Didn't Get Credit?
Read: Colossians 4:7–18 | Bible in a Year: Psalms 33–34; Acts 24

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Hollywood musicals were wildly popular during the 1950s and 1960s, and three actresses in particular—Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, and Deborah Kerr—thrilled viewers with their compelling performances. But a huge part of the appeal of these actresses was the breathtaking singing that enhanced their acting. In fact, the classic films’ successes were actually due in large part to Marni Nixon, who dubbed the voices for each of those leading ladies and who for a long time went completely uncredited for her vital contribution.

In the body of Christ there are often people that faithfully support others who take a more public role. The apostle Paul depended on exactly that kind of person in his ministry. Tertius’s work as a scribe gave Paul his powerful written voice (Rom. 16:22). Epaphras’s consistent behind-the-scene prayers were an essential foundation for Paul and the early church (Col. 4:12–13). Lydia generously opened her home when the weary apostle needed restoration (Acts 16:15). Paul’s work could not have been possible without the support he received from these fellow servants in Christ (vv. 7–18).

We may not always have highly visible roles, yet we know that God is pleased when we obediently play our essential part in His plan. When we “give [ourselves] fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58), we will find value and meaning in our service as it brings glory to God and draws others to Him (Matt. 5:16).

Lord, help me to obediently do my part in the role You have chosen for me.

The secret of true service is absolute faithfulness wherever God places you.

 

Sanctification (2)

From: Utmost.org

Sanctification (2)

The Life Side. The mystery of sanctification is that the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted as a gift to me, not gradually, but instantly once I enter by faith into the realization that He “became for [me]…sanctification….” Sanctification means nothing less than the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life.

The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you…” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word?

Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “…kept by the power of God…” (1 Peter 1:5).

Born Free

From: Get More Strength

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

I remember one commute when I ended up following a busted-up pickup truck that sported a bumper sticker proudly announcing, BORN FREE. As I thought about the announcement on the bumper, it seemed to me that whoever was sitting behind the wheel was speaking for a lot of us. For some strange reason, we feel that personal freedom is a birthright. As Eric Clapton sings, “I was born with a raging thirst . . . a hunger to be free!” And it’s that hunger that fires up the celebration of our own independence and the crowning of “me” as final authority. But not all hunger is good hunger. Our hunger to be free is why we end up, as Clapton admits, down so many dead-end streets, lonely and disappointed.

Think for a minute about people who are addicted to things like drugs, alcohol, or pornography. If you asked how they ended up in bondage to their desires, they would tell you that it started as a need to be free to do whatever they wanted to do. Don’t miss the point: If all we have is the right to be free, then our thirst for freedom may end up making us slaves. Beware! A life guided by the “I’ll-do-whatever-I-want-to-do” formula inevitably ends up not being free at all. Left to ourselves, we make a lot of lame choices that end up leaving us in the chains of regret, guilt, and brokenness.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be free. The great news is that God wants us to be free. It’s just a matter of how and where we can find true freedom.

Becoming free starts with deleting the thought that you and I are born to be free. The reality is that we are born sinners already in the grip of Satan, the cruel master of our souls. David admits, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). And Paul adds that before we came to Christ we were “slaves to sin” (Romans 6:17). So we need to get it right. We were born slaves of sin. In order to be free, we need someone to overthrow the regime that enslaves us.

That’s exactly why Jesus came. He came to set us—the captives—free! Jesus Himself said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He taught us that freedom is not an inherent right of birth after all but rather the result of obeying the truth: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

In one sense, we are born to be free—born again to be free. And that freedom is experienced when we commit our lives to living by God’s truth and following the guidance of Jesus. When we forgive, as He has taught us, we are free from the bondage of bitterness and free to move into the future instead of being stuck in the past. When we manage our relationships according to God’s Word, we are free from the regrets and brokenness that comes from using others instead of serving others. When we let Jesus direct our desires and passions, we are free from the bondage of guilt and addiction. His truth is the path to true freedom.

There is a great hymn that proclaims, “My chains fell off, my heart was free! I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!”

Jesus died to set you free. Those who follow Him are free indeed!